Another year has come and gone and while I could explain in vivid detail all the wonderful things I did (snorkeled with angry manatees) and the horrible things I did (snorkeled with angry manatees) I think it would be best if I just went straight to the point of this post: The Best albums of 2012. To be frank (instead of Keith), for awhile I thought this year was disappointing musically. As is usually the case though, I was wrong. 2012 was an incredible year for music that saw great bands release equally great records. It should also be noted that while bands on my list have reserved a tender spot in my heart for some time now, there are also a whole slew of bands that I never heard before. Some as early as two weeks ago. So, now, let’s get to the list: The best albums of 2012*.
*This list is completely opinion based and there is no science behind it. Except for the science of alcohol. I did drink a good deal this year. And it was wonderful.
20. Daytrader-Twelve Years
Daytrader released a great EP last year in Last Days of Rome. With the release of Twelve Years they managed to continue the success. Take a listen to the beautiful track, “Firebreather”. It’s rocking and the build and the emotion in the vocals is wonderful.
19. Hop Along-Get Disowned
Let’s get sexist here for a moment (this is a horrible sentence and I swear I’m not actually sexist). I have trouble relating to female fronted bands. I don’t know why that is. I suppose it could be that, being a male, it’s just easier to relate to a dude who is singing even though emotions are all equal when it comes to the two sexes. I bring this up because Hop Along is a female fronted band out of Philadelphia and lead singer Frances Quinlan is amazing. Her vocal ability is just the tops. How she can go from sweet croon to yelps is fantastic. Listen to “Tibetan Pop Stars” and see for yourself. One of the best songs of the year.
18. Green Day-¡Uno!
It’s a Green Day album that isn’t a concept record about America! I like this since despite enjoying American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown I love Dookie and Nimrod so, so much more. Hell, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown are my least favorite Green Day albums. So seeing a return to form of their pre American Idiot output makes me happy and makes for a more enjoyable and less exhausting listen.
17. Matt Pryor-Still There’s a Light
Matt Pryor is the lead singer of one of my favorite bands of all time, The Get Up Kids. He was great when he started making music and fronting the band The New Amsterdams. He released solo albums in the form of a normal direction for a lauded front man and also released some children’s albums under the moniker of The Terrible Twos. And when The Get Up Kids got back together they released one of the best albums of 2011 in There Are Rules. So why not have Pryor release this solo record and have it also be a wonderful experience? It recalls the softer moments of his work with The New Amsterdams and that’s fine with me.
16. Say Anything-Anarchy, My Dear
I was pretty damn excited for this album. In fact, I get excited for all of Say Anything’s releases. Ever since the album …Is a Real Boy in 2004 I’ve been hooked. This record is a different experience than Boy but it seems like an obvious direction for the band. They create rock songs that are incredibly danceable and have a bounce to them. It’s an enjoyable listen.
15. Cheap Girls-Giant Orange
Cheap Girls are a college rock band out of Lansing, Michigan. They’re very much a rock band in the classic sense of rock. While they haven’t changed the formula of their earlier records, they have increased the precision of writing awesome hooks. And, hey, if something ain’t broke why fix it?
14. Title Fight-Floral Green
Punk rock is an ever changing sound. For me, when a band changes their sound a bit I tend to enjoy it. Why record the same record all the time? (I see this is completely contradictory to what I said above about staying the course. Please excuse my faulty logic.) Title Fight have released the best thing they have released to date and it’s an invigorating listen. Check out the restraint and force in the opening track “Numb, but I Still Feel It” and the beautiful “Head In The Ceiling Fan”.
13. Japandroids-Celebration Rock
Remember when I said there were some bands on this list who I just started listening to about two weeks ago? Well, here’s an example of that. Japandroids is a duo out of Vancouver and it’s pretty remarkable to hear how loud a band with two members can be. It’s not loud for the sake of being loud though. Well, maybe a little. But all the same there’s a phenomenal sense of direction behind all the fuzz. This is also probably the best feel good album of the year. It makes you want to dance and high five your friends. People still high five, right?
12. Bad Books-II
Andy Hull and Kevin Devine* are great. They’re two of the bigger voices in their scene and with Bad Book’s second release they show why they are. Not that they had anything to prove, but it’s great to see them come into their own as a group rather than two guys who happen to have other musical projects. It showcases the best both have to offer. From the wonderfully catchy “Forest Whitaker” to the hushed strain of acoustic “Pyotr” to the lovely “Ambivalent Peaks” II is a great addition to an already incredible career for these two gentleman.
*I share a striking resemblance to Mr. Devine and I may actually be him and not even know it.
11. MxPx-Plans Within Plans
There are some bands that will always be special to you and MxPx is one of those bands. Like many people MxPx are largely responsible for getting me into punk. After being together for as long as they have they still manage to put out incredible pop punk. They also have one of the best drummers in music today in Yuri Ruley. Listen to album closer “Nothing’s Gonna Change” and hear it for yourself.
10. Right Away, Great Captain!-The Church of the Good Thief
The Church of the Good Thief is the last chapter of the trilogy put out by Right Away, Great Captain! The band is really just Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra and Bad Books. All three albums tell the story of a 17th century sailor who goes to sea and see’s his wife having sex with his brother. What encompasses the records is the thoughts of a man scorned and betrayed and the feelings that come with that. Sadness, anger, alcoholism, strength, and more sadness. In the final record we find the resolution of the story and while it may not be as strong as the first two, it is still a wonderful well written and perfectly performed listen.
9. Make Do and Mend-Everything You Ever Loved
Make Do and Mend, a rock band out of Hartford, Connecticut have released a wonderful follow up to 2010’s great End Measured Mile. While Everything You Ever Loved is a bit poppier than their previous release but it doesn’t lose any of the edge. With that being said it would be hard to see how songs like “St. Anne” would fit on End Measured Mile. That’s not a bad thing though. It’s a good progression and I’m excited to see where the band goes next.
8. Matt Skiba and the Sekrets-Babylon
Silly spelling of secrets asides, Babylon is a great listen. It is truly a Matt Skiba record. Encompassing everything you love about his work in Alkaline Trio and his love of bands such as The Cure, Skiba weaves an album that is full of hooks and bouncy morose tunes. While I await the new Alkaline Trio album due out in 2013 I am fine with having this tide me over while I wait.
7. Coheed and Cambria-The Afterman: Ascension
Coheed and Cambria are musically the best band out there today. They are technically sound and Claudio Sanchez is the best guitar player in music. The group has never released anything bad and they continue with that trend with The Afterman: Ascension. It’s a great release. I don’t think when it first came out I gave it a proper listen, but through the year I kept on going back to it.
6. Sundials-When I Couldn’t Breathe
So remember when I said I didn’t listen to some of these bands till two weeks ago and I said how that one band was tone of those bands? Well, this is another. Sundials is a great, great band that plays the perfect kind of indie rock. It also helps that When I Couldn’t Breathe was released on Asian Man records, a true DIY record label. Seriously, what has Mike Park done that you don’t like? Sundials is worthy of being released by such an esteemed (in the punk community) label. Take songs such as “When I Couldn’t Breathe” and “Some Kinda Time”. They’re great.
5. The Sidekicks-Awkward Breeds
The Sidekicks are a band I probably should have gotten into awhile ago. They play a fantastically enjoyable type of rock that is pretty damn similar to Weezer (my second favorite band). They’re not a rip off of any band but they do wear their influences on their sleeves and in the case of Awkward Breeds this is a good thing. On the fourth track, “Incandescent Days”, you hear a band who is able to go from soft rock to a rip roaring good time. It works. Very, very well.
4. Craig Finn-Clear Heart Full Eyes
Craig Finn is the lead singer/guitarist of The Hold Steady, a band that only releases great things. He’s one of the best storytellers in music today and The Hold Steady is the band that defines my generation. So what does the chief songwriter of the voice of a generation do? He writes a solo album that just furthers the point. Clear Heat Full Eyes is a great record. It keeps with the themes that The Hold Steady are known for, love, drugs, recovery, religion, ect…and is able to expound on them in a way that makes none of those topics get old. The more country tinged sound of the album helps differentiate this release with the catalogue of The Hold Steady. At the same time it’s not a gigantic departure from the sound people have come to love.
3. The Mountain Goats-Transcendental Youth
The Mountain Goats released the best album of 2011. Considering that John Darnielle is the most prolific songwriter in music today why would anyone expect him not to release an even better album this year? Transcendental Youth is an amazing accomplishment of storytelling and John Darnielle continues to show why he is unmatched at writing a song that will draw you right in. The themes of the record have to do with people who can’t seem to make the right decisions in life and yet continue on, yearning to persevere even if they’re going about it in the wrong way. It makes for a beautiful record that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
2. The Menzingers-On the Impossible Past
This year it was tough to pick which album I considered to be the best of the year. I picked up The Menzingers album when it was first released at a local record store, Vintage Vinyl (the best record store in New Jersey). I recall going and them not having the album because it was sold out. Which makes sense considering they’re getting the respect they absolutely deserve. Chamberlain Waits, they’re previous full length in 2010 was a remarkable record. It was my favorite of the year and I still listen to it regularly. That might be the best thing about On the Impossible Past, no matter what else I’m listening to I always go back to this. It is constantly in rotation of the albums I listen to and it never gets old.
1. The Gaslight Anthem-Handwritten
The Gaslight Anthem nailed it. Again. It seems like the band from New Jersey can do no wrong. Their debut, Sink or Swim, took people by storm. The following year they released Senor and the Queen and it showed the band keeping the foot to the pedal. This was cemented when they released The ‘59 Sound which is one of my favorite albums ever. They went on to record American Slang which although not as good as their previous work was still well worth the listen and showed a progression with the band into a more alternative sound. Handwritten see’s the band embrace their earlier punk sensibilities and combine them with their more radio friendly sound and it just clicks. It’s an amazing piece of music that everyone should listen to. A lot.