2012 proved to be a great year for veteran bands and upcoming ones alike. Jack White made his solo debut, The Smashing Pumpkins returned after a 6 year hiatus, The Killers returned from a 4 year absence, and a little band called Godspeed You! Black Emperor shocked the world by releasing their first album in a decade completely out of the blue. On the other end of the spectrum, bands like Of Monsters and Men, Pond and Tame Impala have fine-tuned their sounds and are quickly making a name for themselves in the music industry.
Which ones were my personal favorites? It was extremely hard to pick, and the order of this list changed quite a few times before I finally came to the conclusion. Some bands just missed, while others cemented themselves quickly with little chance that they would drop out of the top 10. Without further ado, I present you with my 10 favorite albums of 2012.
10. Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim
If you’re a fan of Tame Impala, or even just psych rock in general, this is an album you need to check out. Pond delivers 13 tracks of psychedelic bliss that I found myself returning to over and over and over. Their sound is definitely one that is easily recognizable, but the band is so talented at their craft that any creative shortcomings are easily overlooked. Beard, Wives, Denim is the sound of a band comfortably in their own groove, playing music for the enjoyment of it rather than for meeting a certain expectation. Not many bands have that sense of freedom, and it’s that inner-peace and contentedness that makes Pond such a joy to listen to.
9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor delivered the shock of the year by releasing their first album in a decade without any notice. I had never listened to anything by this band before, but I had always meant to and I was pretty excited to give this a listen to finally see what all the buzz was about.
Let’s just say I now see what all the buzz was about; this music is epic. The music gradually changes but the instrumentation has so much tension that you never start to zone out. The two longer tracks are the definite highlights, as both are epic post-rock tracks.The two shorter tracks aren’t bad either, but they’re more just breathers from the other two songs. This isn’t music you hear all that often, but I highly recommend checking this out as it is instrumental music on a completely different level.
8. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is an Animal
A fantastic debut album from this indie folk band. They combine male/female vocals, emotional lyrics, and lush instrumentation to create an album that is fun but at the same time deep. Many people compare them to Mumford & Sons, but I say these guys are better. They seem much more honest and heartfelt in what they’re saying, not just singing to get people on their feet. I can’t wait to see where this band goes with their sound.
7. The Killers – Battle Born
A great comeback from The Killers. It’s much more focused than Day & Age, and has a nice mixture of everything the band has tackled up to this point. Runaways is a knock-out single, and I’m glad to say the album followed-suit.While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of their first two albums, there are songs on here that are some of the best they have ever done, such as “Flesh and Bone” and “Battle Born”. You should also get the deluxe edition because it contains a track called “Carry Me Home” which is phenomenal, and it’s mind-boggling how it didn’t end up on the final tracklisting when songs that aren’t nearly as good did. Still, the albums fine without it.
6. Dope Body – Natural History
This was one of the new bands I heard in 2012, and let’s just say I’ll be checking out their earlier stuff. They mix really aggressive and raw vocals with some extremely catchy and sometimes even danceable rock songs. The drums are pummeling, the guitars heavy and the vocals rough, yet it is always offset by accessible and friendly instrumentation. It’s hard to really explain what these guys are doing on this album, so I suggest you just hear for yourselves!
5. The Walkmen – Heaven
These guys know how to make extremely catchy and emotionally lush rock songs extremely well. So many of these songs are beautiful from a lyrical and instrumental standpoint. It deals with themes like tradition, friendship, and loss. The vocals are phenomenal; Hamilton Leithauser has an amazing voice that conveys emotion effortlessly. Damn it, even the guitar tones are perfect! They’re so light and they just kind of float around each track with such a mellow but gorgeous sound. These guys having been going strong for over a decade now and show no signs of letting up.
4. The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
The Smashing Pumpkins were having a rough time for the past decade, bouncing around line-up changes and negative reviews for the last couple albums. The band returned in 2012 and proved that they still have a lot left to offer. Billy Corgan has made what is perhaps the most instrumentally lush Pumpkins album yet. Most every song is immensely melodic and backed up with such instrumental depth that you just kind of get swept away by it all. I hope this puts them back on track for good because they’re one of my favorite bands and their 90’s output is simply incredible.
3. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
One of the most anticipated albums of the year also ended up being one of the most divisive albums of the year. The production is very different from the bands previous album, going for more abrasive and in your face music rather than the clean and polished Merriweather Post Pavilion. It has some duds, but this is an album that gets better and better the more I listen to it. The song “Amanita” has quickly become one of my all-time favorite tracks from this band. Shout out to Deakin for getting a song on the album! DEAK!
2. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Jack’s debut album (if you can call it that) blew me away. It’s the culmination of everything he has tinkered with up to this point, all thrown in a more personal (obviously) yet playful tone. He uses more of his (fantastic) piano skills on this album, and the songwriting is some of his best yet. Some people complain about there not being enough guitar, but seriously, if he was gonna make another guitar album, he would have found a way to continue the White Stripes or he would do it with The Raconteurs. This is everything a Jack White solo album should be: different, honest, and most importantly, awesome.
1. Tame Impala – Lonerism
I knew this was my favorite album of 2012 as soon as I heard it. No other band this year has made such a consistently stunning album. Kevin Parker once again does all of the vocals and instrumentation, which makes it even more impressive. This is psychedelic rock that you might find similar to music in the late 60’s, but Parker adds his own twists to the formula that make seem somehow really fresh. The songwriting is phenomenal and even the vocals are catchier than they were before. He improved in almost every way possible over the debut album which is an amazing achievement, and thus it is my favorite album of 2012.
And that wraps it up! 2012 introduced me to some great new bands and saw some of my favorites
reminding me why I loved them so much in the first place. I’m not sure if 2013 will be able to top 2012, but there is definitely the potential for some greatness to come in the next 12 months. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the list.