Given my love for really bad rap and shameless pop songs, I make no claims that the albums I enjoyed the most this year were “the best of 2012.” For that, you’ll have to go to SPIN, NPR, and Get Bent. Instead, here are 10 albums that I loved the shit out of this year. They’re not organized in any real order, except that I would probably name Oberhofer’s Time Capsules II, JEFF the Brotherhood’s Hypnotic Nights, and Ke$ha’s Warrior as my top three albums of the year. Full album streams are posted when available– enjoy! And since I don’t plan on doing a separate post for singles: the #1 song I loved the shit out of this year was “Amen” by Meek Mill. Chuuuuurch.
Here’s to 2013 and the music of the future!
Time Capsules II – Oberhofer
Sometimes I make mistakes. Like, when I repeatedly see an artist on Hype Machine and, instead of downloading a song to see why they’re so blog-hot, I dismiss them as a buzz band. Which is how I missed the boat with blog babe Oberhofer. Thankfully, this also meant that I fell in love with his album when it came out. Most of the people who are cooler than me and listened to all these songs before they were released think this album is way overproduced and, having gone back and listened to the demos, I can see where they’re coming from. There’s a soft intimacy in his demos that isn’t really heard in this album. And yet, it’s too late to convince me that this album is anything other than perfect. This is what being in love sounds like: joyful, bursting, radiating, vulnerable, all-encompassing, hyperbolic , bashful, and cute as fuck. All the ups and downs, from “I hope you notice / that I’m in love” and “I wish it never hurt / to tell you the way I / want you by my side” to “I could walk for miles / I don’t know where to / But I could go somewhere with you” and “Oh, I can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t get enough of your love.” Sometimes all at the same time, like when he goes full-pitiful-puppy during the line “I wanna build a house with you, a house with you, a house with you, a home.” This album can also claim the second most romantic song of all time, “Landline.” (The #1 spot going to “Teenage Dirtbag,” of course.) Xylophones. Toy pianos. Ooooohs. I could go on and on. I am hardcore crushing on this album and, frankly, I may never get over it.
Check out: “Landline,” “Haus,” “Gold,” every song, just, ugh, omg
Hypnotic Nights – JEFF The Brotherhood
This album defined my summer and not just because I had to deal with all the pre-orders at Infinity Cat. (That’s my disclaimer.) I literally refused to listen to anything else for about a month after I heard this album. For the couple weeks that I could listen to a copy at the Cathouse but couldn’t bring one home, I honestly thought I was gonna die because I couldn’t play it in my car. It’s crunchy. It’s catchy. It’s “grunge” or “garage” or whatever, but it’s actually more of your classic rock & roll. It’s sincere. It’s ridiculous. All in one! Take “Hypnotic Mind,” for example. Easily the best song on the album, it jumps from “don’t want to pay the price / I just want to be nice / even when you’re not ” to “sometimes I wish that someone might / punch me in the throat,” both of which are oddly relevant lines and, like, too close to home in the greatest way. “I know what you mean, man,” I yell at this album on a disturbingly regular basis. Everything is covered in “woooooo”s and “oooooh”s, which makes for great sing-alongs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve screamed “it’s so hot in this tiny room- SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SOOOOOO HOT, OOOOOOH-WAAAAAAH” at innocent passerby. My only complaint about this album is that no one asked whether the sax in “Region of Fire” was influenced by the boys’ love for Katy Perry, which is more of a complaint about journalism. Cuz this album is just too hypnotic for words– and oh-so-spiritual, bb.
Check Out: “Hypnotic Mind,” “Staring at the Wall,” “Leave Me Out,” the rest of the album, honestly it’s not even that long ok
Warrior – Ke$ha
What can I say about K-baby’s new album that I haven’t already drunkenly rambled about? This is the Ke$ha album that we Animals have been waiting for since long before we were collectively called “Animals.” Which isn’t to say that Animal or Cannibal weren’t good albums — don’t get it twisted; I lived and died for those albums — but Warrior blows them out of the water. Even the most “typically Ke$ha” songs (i.e., the first 3-4 songs) are more anthemic, more badass, more catchy than anything she’s released to date. Then there’s “Crazy Kids,” which is part half-assed whistling over acoustic guitar and part white girl rap over a “Like a G6”-esque beat. (FYI: Her flow’s gotten better, both in technicality and in level of ridiculousness; for God’s sake, she rhymes “Gucci” with “coochie” and “cardiac” with “Cognac,” and if you don’t think that’s brilliant, then there’s no hope for your relationship with pop music.) There’s the absurdly fun Iggy Pop duet, “Dirty Love,” which is only surpassed by bratty glam-rock salute “Gold Trans Am.” There’s the club-ready “Supernatural,” a song about having sex with a ghost. There’s the jaunty “Only Wanna Dance With You,” a song about falling in love outside a 7-11 and a duet with Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. There’s “Last Goodbye,” with it’s oddly specific lyrics about a love ending (“When I was lost, I found you / When I was broke, you bought me shoes”). There’s “Past Lives,” with its oddly tender lyrics about a love reincarnating (“Then we made it through the Ice Age / But I lost you in the Crusades / I built the pyramids for you, babe / Just to see your face”). Warrior is an honest-to-God pop masterpiece.
Check Out: “Crazy Kids,” “Dirty Love,” “Only Wanna Dance With You,” every other song, and all of the bonus tracks, seriously get the deluxe version
Coexist – The xx
If Time Capsules II is the sound of love, then The xx’s Coexist is the sound of goddamn heartbreak. The kind of heartbreak that rips your soul apart, that lingers with you too long. It’s sparse and empty in a way that is truly beautiful. Nothing seems to last very long; lines, riffs, and melodies float in and out like absent thoughts and yet the album as a whole is hypnotic and draining, in the same way that staring at the same spot on the wall for hours can be. It’s a gorgeously well-crafted album, the kind that benefits from repeat listens so that you get how the main riff from “Angels” seems to carry on in “Missing,” but slower, twisted into something hopeless. This is an album full of all the questions you couldn’t ask: Did I hold you too close? Is it something you miss? Do you still believe? How long should I wait? Alcohol not recommended.
Check out: “Angels,” “Missing,” “Our Song.”
Super Treatment – Heavy Cream
Yes, this is another Infinity Cat album, but loooooook. The first time I put this album in my car, it blew out my speakers. I shouldn’t even have to write anything other than that. You should just know now that you have to go buy this album right now. With lyrics like “I called my mom cuz I’m in jail” and “I’d rather stick my head in the oven / than live one day without his lovin’,” it’s unapologetically bratty punk album with a fierceness that cuts deep. Between the lyrics spit out like poison and the crunchy, violent guitars, it’s like listening to someone set fire to their ex’s house. There’s just something absolutely savage about it that makes me want to spit up blood. Or punch someone. Or start a riot. I can’t even concentrate enough to type anything right now because I just discovered that I have all this pent-up energy go buy this album now right now right right now or else just go
Check out: “Bad Genes,” “The Jam,” “Deadbeat”
The Only Place – Best Coast
Whatever. I get it. You either like Best Coast or you really really hate them. You either think that it was good idea to unbury Bethany Cosentino’s voice from all that fuzz or you think she has a smaller range than Zooey Deschanel. You either think her songwriting improved with this album or it got “too emo.” You’re either a Beatles girl or a Stones girl– I get it. This album is brilliant. I have a weakness for sad pop songs and oh, does Bethany Cosentino know how to write a sad pop song. It’s an album full of 50’s bubblegum pop covered in fuzz and reverb. Every song seems to center on one thought, repeated endlessly: Cause there’s no one like you. I don’t want to be how they want me to be. Do you love me like you used to? I want to see you– forever and ever. But it’s repetitive in a dreamy sort of way, like a slow dance at prom, somewhere between love and insecurity. If I could live in any album on this list, I’d probably choose to snuggle up inside this one forever.
Check out: “No One Like You,” “How They Want Me To Be,” “Better Girl”
12:34 – Needles//Pins
There’s been a hole in my heart ever since The Exploding Hearts came to an untimely end and for nine years, I thought nothing would ever ease the pain. And then I discovered the bratty power-pop of Needles//Pins. With only one song clocking in over 2:30 minutes and yelping, whiny vocals, this is one of the catchiest bands I’ve heard in a long time. Their lyrics are joyfully pessimistic (“Your favorite song / I listen to it all day long… / And I know that you’re gonna hate me / But you know that it drives me crazy / when you go”) and often repetitive in that self-centered, hypnotic, wayward youth way. I can’t think about anything more than you, I can’t think about anything more than you. And why should I? This album is the soundtrack to a summer riding around in your friend’s shitty car, falling in love with the wrong people, huffing paint, and giving yourself homemade tattoos in some stranger’s garage. Perfection.
Check out: “Best Friend,” “I Heart Drugs,” “Hale Bop”
Remember When – The Orwells
My first introduction to The Orwells was their “Halloween All Year” video via Pitchfork (judge as you see fit), which got me with its dreamy prom-night-gone-wrong vibe. But it wasn’t hooked until I saw them live for the first time and watched frontman Mario Cuomo writhe on stage like he was in throes of an exorcism, not even a week after he’d gotten arrested. And then I was hooked. That is punk as fuck, you guys. All of their songs are about sex and drugs and violence. The whole album sounds disaffected, snide, filled with the type of ennui that you can only have when you’re in high school and simultaneously too old and too young for this shit. They do not care what you think. They are bored of you. They are kind of wise. They use radio clips and horror movie screams as transitions, which is pretty cool. Judging by their song about getting suspended, they probably didn’t learn much in high school beyond how to make a damn good rock & roll album and I think that’s great. I hope they never go to college. I hope they keep making records like this.
Check out: “Mallrats (La La La),” “In My Bed,” “Like No One Else”
Dark Party – D Watusi
Every few years, the words “garage rock” get thrown around so much that they start to lose a lot of their meaning and endure the wrath of hipsters everywhere. But while D. Watusi started as your standard — though enjoyable — Roy Orbison-idolizing rock & roll band, they’ve become a monstrous force of true 60s Nuggets-style garage/psych rock. From name-dropping “Judy” in a heroin-esque tune to the instrumental surf-rock closer “Dark Party,” everything in this album is designed to bring you back to a time when music was meant something, man. Frontman Dillon Watson’s vocals are sneered and screamed and his guitar-playing is equally frantic. The Wurlitzer (courtesy of Ex-Black Belle Christina Norwood) keeps things playful and danceable in the way that only real rock & roll can be. (The horns on opener “You Walk” are a nice touch too.)
Check out: “Brother & Sister,” “Made My Kind,” “Dark Party”
channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean
If this doesn’t win a Grammy, I’m out. The man wrote a ten-minute epic about both historical Cleopatra and a stripper named Cleopatra, a song that doesn’t ever get boring or feel contrived. He sampled a Playstation and Street Fighter II before launching into “Thinkin’ Bout You,” which may be one of the most beautiful and poignant snapshots of unrequited love ever set to music. Except for maybe “Bad Religion” because wow, the way he murmurs “I could never make him love me” over and over again is just heartbreaking. He sampled Elton John in a song called “Super Rich Kids.” He wrote a cheerful forty-second jingle that’s basically a poop joke. He made John Mayor seem less douchey. If that doesn’t deserve an award, I don’t know what does.
Check out: “Thinkin’ Bout You,” “Pyramids,” “Bad Religion”
Miscellaneous thoughts on other albums that I was pretty into this year:
- Allah-Las – Allah-Las: jingle-jangle reverb-filled 60s-inspired pop– stellar
- Attack On Memory – Cloud Nothings: yo, Dylan Baldi got angsty; “Cut You” and “Separation” are underrated tracks
- An Awesome Wave – alt J: most well-crafted album of the year
- An Unwavering Band of Light – Jenny Owen Youngs: Jenny Owen Youngs is a babe and everything she touches turns to gold
- Butter – Turbo Fruits: “Sweet Thing” is the best song ever; also, that song that sounds like the Phantom of the Opera, though
- Future This – The Big Pinks: STAY GOLD GOLD– super happy live band for such a deceptively moody album
- Gossamer – Passion Pit: admittedly, liked it more post-Pitchfork interview, but also “I’ll Be Alright,” “Carried Away,” and the line “just believe in me Kristina”
- Ice Level – Ava Luna: like, some crazy art rock R&B soul shit idk; they have a great Twitter, also
- I Don’t Wanna Go into the Darkness – Juiceboxxx – “Like a Renegade” and “Pump It,” though– NEVER SURRENDER FOREVER
- Kids Raising Kids – Kopecky Family Band: songs to cry to (“Change”) + songs to play tambourine to (“Angry Eyes”)
- Reign of Terror – Sleigh Bells: “Road to Hell” was my jam for a straight two weeks
- Shrines – Purity Ring: best hip hop album of the year
- Take The Kids Off Broadway – Foxygen: hey, these dudes may like Bowie even more than me! am I in a time machine?
- Visions – Grimes: I have no concept of this album as individual songs, too dreamy & hypnotic