I, for one, think this was a fine year for music. I've been called out for giving out too many B+'s amongst my album grades over the last few months, but, if you think about it, it makes sense: at this point, I'm not going out of my way to listen to albums I think are going to be horrible. There are at least, what, 40-50 acts every year that are going to put out albums that I'm going to listen very closely to just based on my previous history enjoying the work of said acts; the rest of the stuff I end up hearing is based on either a (well-informed, I'd like to think) hunch or ideas from friends (usually Beafvy and Bricer). Again, it's not like I'm going around listening to the new Danielson or Grizzly Bear or Best Coast or Vivian Girls or whatever just so I can write something snarky and rubber stamp a "D-" on that garbage. Believe it or not, my time is actually worth more than that.
When 2012 was all said and done, I heard nearly 80 albums, with the final one being the EP Mogwai sneakily released this morning (spoiler alert: it's not worth spending actual money on). The majority of the albums listed below reached double digits in my play count on iTunes.
So, here's the list, unadorned by such frivolities as relevant information about the albums, cover art, or helpful links that would make it easier to locate the individual album reviews, wherever they may be on this site. [EDIT: fixed that.] I'd love to dress this post up and make it a little less bare-bones, but I'll be heading towards JFK in a few short hours, so yer on yer own.
So that's it for now, and I'll check in with y'all before Phish's upcoming 4-night run at MSG (unofficially titled "Four Bros, Four Shows"). HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
I've got 10+ months to catch up on here (and about 90 2012 albums I've heard thus far this year), so let's get right into this. I will be reviewing this year's albums in the order that I heard them so we begin with four albums from much earlier in the year:
Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory -- WELCOME BACK UNCLE BOB!!! Of course, it's not like Robert Pollard actually 'went' anywhere after retiring the Guided by Voices moniker on New Year's Eve '04 / '05, it's just that his always-prodigious output became... less inspired? I will go out on a limb and say that each and every single solo Robert Pollard record released between 2007 and the present day has been absolute fucking garbage. There, I said it. What's more, Boston Spaceships, the proper 'band' that he fronted during this same period, put out a number of great songs, but overall their catalog is spotty at best.
So, Pollard fans - and fans of great Rock and Roll in general - can rejoice now that the GbV flag is once again flying high, to the tune of the 3 full albums they've released in 2012. Although this material doesn't quite match up to Bob's stellar mid '90s run of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Under the Bushes Under the Stars and Mag Earwhig, it's still better than 99.9 percent of the garbage that everyone else puts out these days.
Best songs - "Old Bones," "The Head," "Spiderfighter," "The Unsinkable Fats Domino," "Waves," "Hang Mr. Kite."
Chairlift - Something -- Unlike their very entertaining debut, 2008's Does You Inspire You, this one lacks any real standout singles. All is not lost, though; Something is still a solid run-through of indie synth pop tropes new and old.
Best Song: "Guilty as Charged."
The Big Sleep - Nature Experiments -- 90s-ish riffy alterna rock. Moody but still fun.
Best songs: "Ghosts in Bodies," "Valentine."
A Place to Bury Strangers - Onwards to the Wall EP -- A bit of a regression from their previous work - the songs just aren't as immediate and catchy. But, to be sure, this EP is nowhere near as disappointing as the polished turd of an album they dropped later in the year. [Spoiler alert!]