By The Spinning Platters Staff
Every website has a Top XX albums of the year list. This one is ours, and there is nothing by The xx on it. I mean, I really like The xx’s Coexist. There were just 20 records that came out this year that were better. Maybe you’ll find something that you missed?
20. Jack White: Blunderbuss
19. Deftones: Koi No Yokan
18. Grimes: Visions
17. Danielle Ate The Sandwich: Like A King
16. Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellen
15. Django Django: Django Django
14. Converge: All We Leave Behind
13. Kendrick Lamar: Good Kid, mAAd City
12. Kim Baxter: Tale Of Me & You
11. Soundgarden: King Animal
10. David Byrne & St Vincent: Love This Giant
There were two ways this record could have gone: it could have been a horrendous clashing of egos, or a brilliant meeting of the minds. This record, happily, ended up becoming the latter. This album is more than an excellent David Byrne or St Vincent record. Bryne and Annie Clark (nom de plume of St Vincent) put together managed to make a record that sounded like nothing either artist had ever made before. This is a record is beautiful, triumphant experiment in brass and beats. Each song is a unique surprise, like opening a series of gifts on your birthday, where everyone gave you something you never knew you wanted or needed, yet changed your life in ways you’d never imagine. And every time I’ve listened to this record, it feels like my birthday all over again. (Dakin Hardwick)
9. Tennis: Young and Old
As much as I’d like to believe Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could write a fun and inspired lo-fi indie pop record, I’m pretty sure that a certain wundercouple comprised of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley might have get a referee to call that idea out of bounds. Almost a more fun and energetic parallel universe counterpart to Beach House, produced by the Black Key’s Patrick Carney, Young & Old delivers exactly on its name. Alaina’s 1950’s inspired sweet but love-longing vocals fuse effortlessly with Patrick’s fuzzy guitar and organic poppy key riffs. There’s something so familiar, heart-warming and so right about these songs upon first listen, I swear I was singing along straight from the start. Most records wane with repeated listens, but the more I hear it, the more I want burst into dance. Tennis a top 10 album of 2012? Game, set, match. (Raffi Youssoufian)
8. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
After an isolated seven-year hibernation, the inimitable Fiona Apple emerged triumphantly in 2012 with her fourth and most uncompromising studio album. Co-produced by Apple and her touring drummer Charley Drayton, The Idler Wheel‘s ten meticulously realized tracks stand as the starkest open-wound documents of emotional rawness anywhere this year. In a pop landscape increasingly constructed on contrived expressions of difference and otherness, Apple towers as one of the last true weirdos; she truly has no idea how to be any other way than how she is. From her unguardedly exposed promotional interviews to her explosive live-wire concerts, and even in her Texas marijuana arrest and her heartfelt tour cancellation letter to care for her dying dog, Apple has never been more publicly present or at home in her skin. As she sings in “Every Single Night,” The Idler Wheel…’s opening manifesto, “I just want to feel everything.” To quote Frank Sinatra’s praise of another fearlessly self-lacerating vocalist, Judy Garland: “Every time she sings, she dies a little. That’s how much she gives.” And no artist this year gave more of herself than Fiona Apple. (Jason LeRoy)
7. Deep Sea Diver: History Repeats
The reverb-ed guitar skitters in, followed by the clacking tempo, drifting like high light fog. By the time that the beat kicks in, your hips are already swiveling.
You can dig it.
Deep Sea Diver distinguish themselves through their inertia and their lack of fear. Tempos and song styles shift seamlessly from cheery guitar rockers that bound like a cheery Labrador mutt to sweet sparkling piano ballads — and throughout it all, whether warbling like a chanteuse or bouncing over an afrobeat-based hipshaker, Jessica Dobson’s voice yearns and yearns and yearns with an earned confidence. There is a central ambition to this shape-shifting sound. A gentle inertia. Whether pleading for arms to hold or for a laying-on of hands, these songs pine confidently. And from the first part of the first song, it’s impressive. (Chris Rogers)
6. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: The Heist
One of my favorite things to say is “I know nothing about hip hop.” Considering I’d heard less than 15 of Rolling Stone’s recent All Time Top 50 Hip Hop songs, this is absolutely, unquestionably true. So what the heck am I doing with a hip hop album right at the top of my albums of the year list?
Because I know good music when I hear it; I know good lyrics when I hear them. Macklemore writes about a myriad of subjects — thrift shopping, the poor treatment of homosexuals in hip hop culture, not giving up on your dreams, alcoholism, shoe collecting, the music business — and Ryan Lewis wraps his intelligent and thoughtful words in music that punctuates it perfectly with the proper emotion for every moment. This album is fun, thought provoking, and at times beautiful. If more hip hop were like this, I’d want to know a lot more about hip hop. (Gordon Elgart)
5. Beach House: Bloom
I remember the exact moment I heard Beach House for the very first time. Their sophomore effort, Devotion, was released on my 30th birthday and the following weekend, I found myself nursing a post-party hangover in Sugarlump when “Gila” came on over the coffee house’s speaker system. I was confounded by how Alex Scally’s laconic tone was so beautifully intriguing; I was drawn in immediately.
Shortly after, I got acquainted with their debut. And while I never thought anything could ever possibly eclipse the perfection that was 2010’s Teen Dream, it’s apparent that Scally and Victoria LeGrand keep building on their unique version of intricate chord progressions that distinguish them from thousands of other would-be mainstream dream-pop acts.
Bloom is their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. What does this mean? For anyone familiar with Wilco’s back-story, YHF was the album that got the group shelved at Reprise Records because it didn’t have a “radio-friendly” hit single or commercial hooks, if you will. This album doesn’t, either – especially upon the initial spin. But given another chance, or two, the delicate nuances and thoughtfully crafted layers, that build up into one breathtaking congruence after another, ingrain themselves into your consciousness. Tracks like “Wishes” and the slow-burning finale “Irene” especially make a lasting impact as the duo’s finest and most darkly sophisticated work to date. The same can be said for this entire effort. One can only hope that they keep refining their craft, and delighting their ever-expanding fan base, in the process.
Oh, and because it’s a New Year, you might enjoy this aptly-titled video. (Kara Murphy)
4. Alex Clare: Lateness Of The House
When I first heard Alex Clare’s The Lateness of the Hour I liked it but it took multiple listens for me to fully understand it’s subtle, yet intense beauty and originality. It is a deep soul record hidden in electronic dance music. It is Stevie Wonder in the 70’s mixed with dubstep. It is a record combining genres so smoothly and convincingly it takes a little while to fully soak in the complexity of it all. Clare’s moving words and the bass in my chest when I am blasting The Lateness of the Hour in my car makes it so easy to feel what he is feeling and, most importantly, it makes me want to feel it again and again and again. (Marie Carney)
3. Father John Misty: Fear Fun
Technically his whopping eighth solo release since 2005, J. (Joshua) Tillman, taking on a new moniker, fully departed from his formal self with a fully new descriptive vocal narrative. Knowing he had more to say and too much talent to waste, his time in 2008 with the Foxes were more than Fleeting. Sometimes rock, sometimes country, sometimes folk, sometimes loving, often times gloomy and disillusioning, but sometimes compassionate, Fear Fun is filled with twelve songs that seem to tell the story of twelve extended stops of a long road trip. But the more you listen the more you realize he might have been in Los Angeles the whole time. Taking the next step and writing fully developed, thoughtful, and complete songs, if Father John Misty keeps up putting out albums like this, he can call himself whatever he wants. (Raffi Youssoufian)
2. fun.: Some Nights
Four years after the demise of The Format, Nate Ruess and his cohorts in fun. have finally struck gold with a marvelous pop record. Its soaring melodies, widespread songwriting leaps, and sweet-but-smart sensibilities have an irresistible pull — such that it stole the coveted top spots of the Billboard charts back from the sirens and hip hop mavens that dominate them. Some Nights is unafraid of being a pop album, but fun. is most definitely a rock band, and the often dark and bleak lyrics clash wonderfully with the uplifting major chords and chorusing vocals that dominate their songs. Each song jumps between a casual, catchy tune and a monstrous, sprawling epic without batting an eye, making each track an experience unto itself. If this is where pop music is headed, it’s off to a fantastic start. (Jonathan Pirro)
1. Japandroids: Celebration Rock
“We don’t cry for those nights to arrive / We yell like hell to the heavens” – So begins the unequivocal joy that roars into existence with the first explosive notes of Japandroids’ truly triumphant, and aptly named, Celebration Rock. Every inch of the record is bursting with energy, a canyon of dynamite packed into a suitcase, with tales of epic journeys, chaotic memories, and a gleeful middle finger to all naysayers woven throughout Brian King’s festive shouting. It’s mindblowing to think that this level of sound — a torrential rain of densely-layered guitars over the thunderstorm of drummer David Prowse — is achieved by a band of only two musicians, and yet it seems delightfully effortless in its unbridled passion. For a year so full of predictions for the end of the world, it’s nice to hear one record that was ready to take hold of the apocalypse and fuse it into their own brand of one hell of a final party. Japandroids haven’t just kicked the door down on their way into the musical world, they’ve obliterated it — and left a glorious pile of shimmering ash for us to dance in with gusto. (Jonathan Pirro)