Arcade Fire made the best album of the year and Savages released the top debut I heard. Mikal Cronin recorded pure pop bliss, while the new Deerhunter album reminded me how lucky we are to have Bradford Cox churning out intriguing music. See the full list for the year’s top 10 albums below.
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. The latest from Arcade Fire is far more diverse and imaginative than the Grammy-winning album The Suburbs. Produced by James Murphy, Reflektor mixes disco, Caribbean, dub and other styles. There is more than a nod to the Clash’s Sandinista!
2. Savages – Silence Yourself. This is an aggressive debut from a U.K. female quartet that pays homage to earlier post-punk bands. Think of Siouxsie and the Banshees only tougher.
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII. Cronin makes great music, but he really over achieved on this hook-laden record. Irresistible pop from Ty Segall’s collaborator.
4. Deerhunter – Monomania. Even by Deerhunter standards, this album is pretty edgy and raw. It’s one of the more overlooked albums this year.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me. The latest from the National doesn’t hit you in the face. But the depth of the songs will pay off after repeated listens.
6. Bill Callahan – Dream River. Callahan more often resembles a poet than a singer, speaking through his songs in his deep, impassive voice.
7. Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Daze. As meditative as this album sounds at points, Vile lays down some serious guitar licks. An original musician with a distinctive sound, he sometimes reminds me of mid-70s Neil Young.
8. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt. This is a personal-sounding album from Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The songs and music are reminiscent of the very best parts of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
9. The Men – New Moon. While New Moon explores a hodgepodge of styles, the new love for country rock stands out. Maybe because the album was recorded in a cabin?
10. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Some day, I expect Thee Oh Sees will make the No. 1 album of the year (at least on my list). Frenetic, infectious rock ‘n’ roll. Sheer enjoyment.
Rounding out the top 20:
11. Superchunk – I Hate Music. Elder indie rock statesmen make a record to keep your head nodding and feet moving. A strong offering from a band who has been going for almost a quarter century.
12. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. This has to be one of the most fun albums of the year from guys who take a real tongue-in-cheek approach to ’60s and ’70s genres.
13. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others. Here is an excellent collection of songs from a great singer-songwriter. If you pare it down to the very best tracks, this would be a top 10 album.
14. Polvo – Siberia. What a great comeback for these ’90s noise warriors. Essentially, they stick to the same formula but it sounds fresh today.
15. Ty Segall / Fuzz – Sleeper / Fuzz. We again see the two sides of the prolific Bay-area rocker. With its slow to mid-tempo acoustic and electric numbers, Sleeper is similar to Segall’s 2011 release Goodbye Bread, while his new band Fuzz pays tribute to stoner rock from four decades ago.
16. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More. If you listen to just the upbeat, soulful music, you’ve got a great dance party. Underneath, Khan wants to make a statement about the wretched world we live in after battling his personal demons.
17. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork. I really didn’t think Josh Homme had another good album in him (at least not as Queens), but Like Clockwork is a rollicking good time.
18. The Love Language – Ruby Red. Listening to the full sound of Ruby Red, you wouldn’t know the Love Language originally started as a guy making bedroom recordings. Stuart McLamb created a powerful pop album that’s also a blast.
19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II. The second album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is quirky, funky and sometimes breezy like its predecessor but I like the songs better on this one.
20. Wavves – Afraid of Heights. The latest album from Nathan Williams doesn’t stray far from King of the Beach (2011). Afraid of Heights is tighter and rocks harder.
Honorable mention. Here are some other albums you should check out: Majical Cloudz, Impersonator; Swearin’, Surfing Strange; Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion; Iceage, You’re Nothing; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; No Age, An Object; Yo La Tengo, Fade; Fidlar, Fidlar; Suuns, Images Du Futur; and Charles Bradley, Victim of Love.
HEY THERE! All the Young punks has a new home. Read this article and others at alltheyoungpunks.com.
Time to get those bongs out as Ty Segall and friends take you on a hazy journey back to the days of hard rock jams and the sweet stench of tasty buds. It’s the heavy sound of early ’70s rock, the kind that played on turntables in shag-carpeted rooms to the accompaniment of bubbling bong water.
The eight songs on Fuzz’s just-released self-titled debut album are a contrast to Segall’s latest release from August, Sleeper. That album features a lot of strumming and a slowed-down tempo, at least compared with many of Segall’s other albums and projects. While Sleeper recalls last year’s Twins (a 2012 favorite), it is much more comparable to the 2011 album Goodbye Bread.
Fuzz, on the other hand, is a sometimes bombastic ode to the grandfathers of heavy metal. It’s a fun album, for sure, and recommended. Fuzz is three players and, though he sings, Segall actually puts his guitar aside to be the band’s drummer. Joining Segall on guitar is his longtime buddy and touring band mate Charlie Moothart, who also appeared on the Ty Segall Band’s epic Slaughterhouse. Roland Cosio rounds out the band, playing bass.
Fuzz is scheduled to open for the Men at Logan Square Auditorium October 18. The video below is for the song This Time I’ve Got a Reason, off an EP released earlier this year.
The new release schedule is revving up a little early this year with some big indie artists coming out before the heavy fall schedule of albums. For me, this is a super Tuesday with releases from Superchunk, Ty Segall and No Age.
I’ll elaborate on each individual album later but I’d say the common thread is that each of these artists keep a foot in the familiar while stretching a bit. So far, I like and recommend all three. Ty Segall’s album Sleeper matches up closest with the 2011 album Goodbye Bread. No Age taps the brakes on An Object. Going strong for almost a quarter century, Superchunk’s I Hate Music actually is the most adrenaline-fueled release of the three new albums.
Other releases of note out today: Zola Jesus’ Versions and Crocodiles’ Crimes of Passion.
Mikal Cronin sets up his new album, MCII, nicely with the first song, Weight, a bouncy power pop number. That song sets the stage for an enjoyable collection of fuzzy, melodic tunes. Perhaps Cronin is still best known as Ty Segall’s collaborator and traveling band mate but the guitarist shows on his sophomore album that he is a highly entertaining solo artist as well.
There is an interesting movement in California that is resulting in excellent music from artists who are (mostly) influenced by ’60s psychedelia, ’70s classic rock and metal, and yet they produce very relevant music today. Cronin, Segall, Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps all largely draw from the same well but they’re also producing some of the finest music.
Cronin’s album is highly recommended.
Garage rocker Ty Segall treated his fans to three albums last year. Last month, two early Segall albums were reissued, including the self-titled release from his surf-punk band Traditional Fools. The second reissue, Reverse Shark Attack, is Segall’s release with longtime bandmate Mikal Cronin. Segall has come a long way as an artist since those earlier recordings but I still enjoy listening to these raw tracks. If you’re a Segall completist, you’ll want to pick up the reissues.
I Wear Black is the first song on Reverse Shark Attack. The video above was shot at Permanent Records in Chicago.
“Where we surf, there’s always waves.” This Traditional Fools video gives you a good idea what the band sounded like. The song, Street Surfin’, is not on the recently reissued album.
Here are the 10 best albums of 2012 as rated by yours truly. I feel strongly that a year-end list shouldn’t be swayed by the most buzz or suckered by the heaviest promotions. I listened to almost 100 albums in 2012 and these 10 stood out to me. I hope you find at least one you like in my list.
10. Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. Nada Surf is power-pop bliss. This is a great comeback album for these guys, who have been making music since the early ’90s. Stars, the first new album for the band in four years, has an incredibly infectious sound.
9. Frankie Rose – Interstellar. Frankie Rose is a veteran of indie groups, including Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls. While her 2010 release (recorded as Frankie Rose and the Outs) showed glimpses of what was to come, she also stuck with that ’60s girls group genre that made her former bands popular. Here, Rose puts out a highly original album that draws liberally from ’80s pop.
8. The Men – Open Your Heart. The Men made one of the best rock albums of the year, hands down. The spirit and energy of these guys reminds me of the Replacements in their heyday. Like those classic Mats albums, Open Your Heart, takes some cool twists and turns, including the country-influenced Candy, to help pace an otherwise frenetic album.
7. Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold. With the popularity of Sub Pop labelmates Fleet Foxes, I’m surprised Beachwood Sparks didn’t generate more interest. This easy-going alt-country gem represents another comeback, the first release in 11 years for Beachwood Sparks. Fans of Jayhawks and early Wilco will want to get this album.
6. Grizzly Bear – Shields. Grizzly Bear picks up where it left off with the stunning 2009 release Veckatimest. If you liked that release, there’s a very good chance you’ll dig Shields as well. I’ve always found Grizzly Bear’s sound hard to describe. The oft-used term chamber pop doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Shields is full of dramatic flourishes, which I think makes for a very exciting album even though it’s not exactly rock.
5. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon / Ocean Roar. Released separately, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar are companion albums from the brilliant Phil Elverum, an artist who self releases his music. Elverum makes quiet music that builds into intense landscapes of sound. Both albums were recorded in a vacated church in Washington state where Elverum says he contemplated his own existence. It’s an atmospheric journey marked by many musical peaks and valleys.
4. Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth. There’s a petition pushed by fans of Mountain Goats to make the band’s principal John Darnielle a U.S. poet laureate. I can’t say that I’ve ever been so fanatical about Darnielle or his longtime band, but I do know a great album when I hear one. And Darnielle made one that musically stands up to his thoughtful lyrics.
3. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan. Frontman David Longstreth said Dirty Projectors’ most recent album was influenced by Lil Wayne, Neil Young, Guided by Voices, Rod Stewart and Blind Willie Johnson. No one makes music quite like Dirty Projectors. Harmonized female vocals are often as prominent (or even more dominating) an instrument as the guitar. But no worries — there are guitars on this album, including on the big opening song, Offspring Are Blank. Once compared to prog rock, Longstreth reportedly pointed out in an interview that he wasn’t a big fan of Yes.
2. Ty Segall – Twins. He made three albums in 2012 and they were all really good. Twins is a solid collection of songs from one of the most exciting rock musicians working today. Year-end album lists tend to leave out the best and most fierce rock albums. That’s a shame. Inspired by Stooges, T-Rex and others famous many years before this rocker was born, Segall’s sound is a bit anachronistic and yet his music is so fresh.
1. Woods – Bend Beyond. And speaking of anachronistic… With its psychedelic sound, Woods draws on an earlier era of rock music. When played live, the band extends the excellent title track to 10 minutes (more than double the album length for the song). But you certainly don’t have to be fan of jam bands or psychedelic ’60s to appreciate Woods. I’ve been listening to this band for years and I’d say this is its most accessible album yet. There’s not a bad song in the bunch. It’s very compelling and highly recommended.
Do you want more? Check out my list for the rest of the top 40 here.