Favorite Albums 2012

So finally, my own, personal list of favorite albums of 2012. Anyone new to the list knows: a) this is a poor excuse for a music blog since I post once a year and I haven’t even been able to do that the last couple of years (hopefully made up for that with last night’s posts on 2010 and 2011 favorites), b) this isn’t a “best” albums because how the hell would I know…it’s more like my favorite of the increasingly limited number of albums I’m able to wrestle with every year (although I bet I’m still listening to more albums than most folks I know), and c) I do this to organize my thoughts (I like lists almost as much as I like parenthetical commentary within my own regularly scheduled commentary), and to motivate and incite you, my 6 or 7 readers, to tell me what you think – to comment here and/or in person about what I turned you on to, what sucks on my list (in your misguided mind), and what I missed…what were some of your favorites that didn’t show up here?

Over promise time – check back from time to time this year for posts I’m intending including best songs of 2012, best albums that didn’t make my 2012 list (driven largely by the comments you leave here), best albums of my first 10 (ok 11) years posting on this space, some of my early favorites of 2013, etc.

Ok, here goes…my favorite albums of 2012:

Top Ten Albums (alphabetically):

Beach House – Bloom

Another impressive knock out from Beach House, quickly becoming one of the bands I trust to consistently press albums I’ll listen to from start to finish, over and over throughout the year. It’s moody, layered, and gorgeous…almost as good as their Teen Dream two years ago. And, if you’re less indie and more mainstream, this might be the best investment you make in my list this year. It’s a big leap from the more mainstream sounds of Dr. Dog and Lumineers (supreme in their own right, but way more derivative than Beach House for you), but may be more “accessible” and immediately likable to you than some of the other albums on this list  (you know, because if you’re mainstream you’re lazy and you like it to come easy…this will come as easy to you as it does to me).

Cat Power – Sun

The snobbiest of my music pals put me on to her some time ago – she’s a beloved indie mainstay – but this is my favorite of her albums, and the first time she’s made my list; a detail that will probably render my views here flawed from the outset in their minds. Then again, one of my favorite parts of this list it to piss Matt B. off with my brain bending inconsistency. For the love of Lovie Smith, look at the name of my blog. Check out Cherokee, and Nothing But Time for standouts..

Dr. Dog – Be the Void

Love it when I disagree so strongly with so many of the popular year-end lists and get to give a shout out to such an excellent band. Fun album this year with one of my favorite lyrics of the year – I don’t wanna fight/but I’m constantly ready…I don’t rock the boat/but it’s always unsteady. Here’s betting you’ll find something in this one that hits home for you, too.

Father John Misty – Fear Fun

Fleet Fox alert – J.Tillman put that project aside for this one and struck gold. A little stranger than Fleet Foxes, but no less big sky, singing to the heavens. A late entrant thanks to a call for entries late in the year on Facebook – a few old reliable buds came through with this reco for me early just this month and they were right on. Hope it’s just as good a find for you.

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

“Big, important” rap album of the year no. 1, we’ve been told. This guy made it to SNL for god’s sake…and John Mayer played some anonymous guitar next to an Asteroids machine in the background. So I guess that means he’s got a broad appeal and fan base, right? Thing is, he delivers on an even better album than his debut last year, which I also loved. All the heartfelt thoughtfulness an sensitivity here never hints at cheeseball, and outwardly belies the grandiose proclamations and rabid hype that’s propelled his rise all year.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Here’s a rocker. Theses guys punch the throttle down as usual…a nice loud standout in this year’s list. At a time when everyone seems to be working so hard craft and polish and squeeze every once of refinement, beauty and precision into their albums as they can, Celebration Rock…celebrates rock (!). It’s load. It’s a little obnoxious. It’s got some great big balls. It’s not sloppy, thoughtless or pompous, but it’s still a mess in all the right ways.

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

The other big important rap album of the year. Kendrick’s from Compton but takes the Compton sound somewhere fresh and new; proving that there’s plenty of room for fresh and new there after all. Much less dark…sort of a call to arms for hope and optimism and encouragement..but nearly as hokey as that sounds. Nice to see the genre still has plenty of wonderful places to go and promise moving forward. Backseat Freestyle is an unbelievably fun romp – but as NSFW as it gets.

The Lumineers – the Lumineers

So apparently these guys crashed on a bud’s floor in Chicago earlier this year. And yeah, I was invited to hang and watch these guys do their thing and maybe hang with the band after. “Um…don’t know them, no. And oh, man, work’s got me by the beans. I’m out. Sounds like fun,” Damn, I blew that, huh, Matt and Piper? Really good, “American” rock – reminds me of the Avett Brothers, Delta Spirit, Dawes, and American Mumford & Sons in a way, etc. You may have heard “Hey, ho!” Good stuff.

The Walkmen – Heaven

Just such a solid, smart, tight U.S. rock band. These guys are craftsmen and bang out good album after good album every time. Completely incapable of a dud. The track Heaven is one of my 5 favorite songs of the year.

The XX – Coexist

Album number two from one of the big new bands of 2009 is every bit as rich, textured and and beautiful start to finish. They take great care with every part of this album, but strip it all down to what I think is a really unique sound.

Ten More (ok, 12) I liked:

Andrew Bird – Break it Yourself
Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Delay Trees – Delay Trees
Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Heartless Bastards – Arrow
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Menomena – Moms
Metric – Synthetica
Mumford & Sons – Babei
Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves


2011 Favorite Albums – also belated


Since I’ve put off taking the time to publish 2010 and 2011 lists until the end of 2012, I decided to abandon the write-ups I usually do for each album in favor of, you know, actually finally PUBLISHING them at all. So without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2011 (as originally posted on Facebook in 2011):

Top Ten (alphabetically):

Black Keys – El Camino

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

Cults – Cults

Dawes – Nothing is Wrong

The Head and the Heart – the Head and the Heart

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Frank Ocean – Nostalgia Ultra

Okkervil River – I am Very Far

Wilco – the Whole Love

Ten more I liked (alphabetically):

Blind Pilot – We are the Tide
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jr. – It’s a Corporate World
Decemberists – The King is Dead
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch the Throne
Kendrick Lamar – Section 8
Radiohead – the King of Limbs
Rutal Alberta Advantage – Departing
the Weeknd – House of Baloons

2010 Favorite Albums – Belated

My first child, Lucas, was born in 2009. Which meant that I was lucky to LISTEN to new albums, let alone rate them, let alone post them to my little record of such things, this meek little thing I call my blog.

But, alas, I DO have a handful of favorite albums from 2010 that I’d like to finally post now. I’m happy, and surprised, to say that for me, many of these have held up just fine with the passing of the last couple of years.

Top Ten (alphabetically):

Arcade Fire – the Suburbs
Beach House – Teen Dream
Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Delta Spirit – History from Below
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
the National – High Violet
Tallest Man on Earth – the Wild Hunt
Tamme Impala – Innerspeaker

Ten More I liked (ok, 11) (alphabetically):

Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
Big Boi – Shutterbug
Black Keys – Brothers
Caribou – Swim
Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Dreams
Girltalk – All Day
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
Local Natives – Gorilla Mannor
Janelle Monae – the ArchAndroid
Sleigh Bells – Treats
the Walkmen – You & Me

Yeasayer – Odd Blood

Favorite Albums 2009

My take on the best albums of 2009. Post a comment and tell me what I missed. No, really. I’ll spend the winter listening to reader’s recommendations and even reviewing a few as the cold Chicago winter weeks slowly tick away.

I read this on Pitchfork’s list of honorable mention albums (a classification I found pleasing, since it’s always so damn satisfying to have a favorite album not worthy of top 100 consideration in Pitchfork’s eyes):  “…unvarnished vocals, rickety orchestration and good ol’ fashioned heartland yearning…the sparest of songs are where Hometowns hits the hardest.” I guess that’s why they get paid advertisers and if you’re reading this you’re probably just my mom (hi, mom) – because I couldn’t have described this album better myself. I guess the difference is it hit me in just the right spot. Thank you, Canada.

2. THE XX – the XX
First ever album for this band out of south London hailed so frequently this year as brilliant, flawless, etc. – so I’m already sad about whatever crappy sophomore effort they rush to put out next year. Here’s something pretentious Cokemachineglow wrote about it: “…the album’s explication of its own interest in contrast and conversation is perhaps its greatest virtue.” I have no idea what that means. So think of XX as sort of easy to swallow dreamy teen melancholy that’s not as nearly as annoying as you’d expect.

– I and Love and You

The Onion: “Shamelessly sentimental, effortlessly beautiful songs in a warm, inviting mellow rock package.” Me: Gorgeous songwriting. Dry, intimate, warm. These guys have been around a while, I’m told, and have just recently gone major label. I’m looking forward to digging into their catalog later this winter. Seems a perfect pastime for the harsh bite of my cold Chicago winter.

4. PHOENIX – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
A Versailles-based band’s take on NY garage rock with a major 80’s synth-rock ring to it. Sounds great beginning to end…and I’m doubly impressed that to me, these guys just seem to keep getting better with every new album (vs. my prediction for XX above).


5. GRIZZLY BEAR – Veckatimist
I hate Grizzly Bear. I really do. Never got it. Just sounds, texture and words that, to me, never came together. Oh I’ve got buds who’ll say this is just more evidence of how shitty a judge of truly good music I am. But hey, that’s this music blog’s point of difference – I embrace my shitty. Funny thing is, whenever an artsy indie band only the top 1% of the most seriously snobby indie snobs can get into finally comes out with something I actually like, those 1%’ers are quick to tell me that said album is said band’s worst ever. Didn’t happen this time. Even the Grizzliest of Grizzlies are spinning this one with the vigor of a screen door in a cyclone.

– Merriweather Post Pavilion

I hate Animal Collective (see Veckatimist review above except replace sounds, texture and words with odd sounds, strange texture and inaudible words and Grizzliest of Grizzlies with Animal-est of Animals). Honestly, Veckatimist and Merriweather Post Pavilion do truly stand out as almost unbelievably ahead of their peers in ways you won’t miss on even a first listen. In my opinion, they deserve they every bit of the 2009 love they’ve gotten.

7. YEAH YEAH YEAHS – It’s Blitz
Let it be known that I am in love with Karen O. It’s Blitz is equal parts finesse and grind like only the YYYs can do for me. It’s intimate but it’s glamorous. It’s dancy but it’s badass. It’s so Karen O.  Congratulations YYYs, you’ve proven to be one of the best bands of the 2000’s with another excellent album. If you don’t know their whole catalog, you can go all the way back to the 2002 EP and you’ll find the goods every step of the way.

8. YACHT – See Mystery Lights
Sometimes called a feel-good party rocker for indie dance nerds, See Mystery Lights harkens a summer time feel no matter what time of year you take it for a spin. It’s the 2009 version of 2008’s instant hipster classic from Hercules and Love Affair. I’m in Love with a Ripper, Psychic City and Summer Song are Yacht at it’s techno-poppy best.

I’m bracing for the backlash on this one. Not because it’s not a beautiful album, but BECAUSE it’s a beautiful album, I guess. This isn’t normally my cup of tea. The edge I look for when I settle into my earphones comes from a much different place than I’m used to finding it. Regina’s music is eccentric and tempestuous…I was suddenly and very oddly drawn to it – start to finish – from the very first listen.

10. GIRLS – Album
Lust for Life (first track) is an instant classic in my mind. New Music Express: “…genuine dropouts, bona-fide freaks.” NYTimes: “…devastatingly fresh reframing of the pop songbook.” Described as heartbreaking, elusive, fascinating. A big-hype band for 2009 mostly worthy of it’s high praise.


11. Japandroids – Post-nothing
12. Real Estate – Real Estate
13. Wilco (the Album)
14. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
15. Pearl Jam – Backspacer
16. Decemberists – Hazards of Love
17. Camera Obscura – Carried to Dust
18. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
19. Metric – Fantasies
20. St. Vincent – Actor

2008 Favorite Albums – FAO Addendums

We’re just not like a lot of other music blogs. For one, we’re not joyless, self-important, pretentious pricks whose vocation hinges on a sworn oath to never admit to appreciate an album as undeniably likable as the Ting Tings ’08 release “We Started Nothing.” If you’ve listened to this album and don’t like it, you’re lying to yourself like I lied to myself about Rex Grossman for three years.

A couple other ways we’re different than some of those other guys:

  • We really don’t know much about music
  • Nobody ever reads us/nobody knows we exist
  • Nobody’s ever offered to post advertising here
  • We listen to 1/50th of the albums they do in a typical year (1/100th?)
  • If we held a music festival of our favorite bands, none of them would return our calls

Um…I totally forgot my point and just sort of feel cold and lonely now. Oh yeah, how we’re different…

..we’re also different because we can admit our mistakes. We think one of the best reasons to make a list of our favorite albums and share it with the world (or, ok, 890 people as of this post) is to hear back what we missed. Thanks to fao readers for turning us on to a few 2008 albums we love that we may never have gotten around to hearing without you (watch for a revised 2008 top 10 soon). Namely:

My favorite thing about Dr. Dog’s sound is that it’s just as perfectly suited for a small bar in an unassuming corner of an emerging neighborhood in an overlooked city as it is the Bowery Ballroom or Lollafreakingpalooza. They sound like a band with an old soul. With a sound from the 60s that still sounds tight and new and rich. The album is deep but if The Breeze (track 1) doesn’t suck you in you are dead inside and I am sorry for you and your sad, soulless life. From there, Hang On and The Ark are two more standouts, but it was hard to choose just a couple to highlight here. Oh, and hey, if you’re in Chicago, try not to miss these guys April 10 at the Double Door.

Delta Spirit’s 2008 debut Ode to Sunshine is one of those albums that you just know brings the whole crowd (newcomers and loyals alike) along with it for the ride when it’s played live. It’s classic upbeat barroom pop with pounding drums, easy acoustic guitar, infectious piano riffs and catchy upbeat choruses (“…if you feel what I’m feeling come on/all you soul searching people come on”). While that all must sound aggravatingly happy…you know, a little happy can’t hurt these days, right?

Blind Pilot may be the next big little band out of Portland if uber-influential radio station KCRW has anything to do with it. Seems the buzz-maker radio station out of Santa Monica has BP on a permanent rotation for the last few months. Thank god for the internet. My friend Matt in Dallas (who also introduced me to the best record store in America: Good Records in the Lower Greenville area) originally mentioned these guys to me a month or so ago, but its still tough to find anybody who’s ever heard of them. Even a mutual friend of ours, John, who lives in Portland and is supposed to be all on top of this shit is clueless. And he hasn’t heard of BP yet, either.

Thanks, now help me out.

Thanks for all the support of the site. We’ve received a good response to the albums that made our 2008 “best of” list, and a number of recommendations for albums that didn’t make the cut…much appreciated – it’s my favorite part of sharing the list in the first place. So far Delta Spirit and Dr. Dog rank among my favorites of those you suggested.

Vote below for what you think the best albums NOT to make FAO’s year end list was. You can vote for more than one, but for heaven’s sake, be discerning, will you? I’ll post my thoughts on the top three vote getters very soon.

A blog with a large heart, indeed…

So I noticed an unexpected number of hits to today’s posting and realized that Largeheartedboy picked it up and included it on their list of year end lists. Thanks Largeheartedboy. Head over there and check it out: