Kyle’s Favorite 25 Albums of 2012

Hey there everyone, my name’s Kyle and I’m the Alternative Rock director over here at WCDB Albany. I’d like to preface this list by saying that I’m by no means a qualified music critic, I’m solely a college kid who loves music and has a lot of access to it. This being said I’ve been looking forward to making this list forever because comparing albums to each other is an amazingly fun process for me. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to high five me or question if I have ears in the comments below!

25. Dinosaur Feathers- Whistle Tips

Release Date: April 10, 2012

Genre: Indie Pop

Top Tracks: Young Bucks, Untrue, Certain Times

Dinosaur Feathers strike gold twice on this album with “Young Bucks” and “Untrue”, the two best songs to represent an album based off of mistrust that gets expressed through pop. Those are the tracks that dragged me back to Whistle Tips months after the original release date, and really played a large part in me growing to enjoy the album. I’d admit there’s a problem with consistency on the album, but the more listens I give this album the more I enjoy it. 

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24. Brainstorm- Heat Waves

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Genre: Experimental Pop

Top Tracks: Flat Earth, Forms Without a Frame, The Crown Caves In

I swear I had someone from a record label call me/email me every week to ask how this album is doing. Luckily Heat Waves was loved by a few of us at CDB so I was usually able to give some good news. Brainstorm is the type of band that needs help from stations like ours in order to get more known, now that they’ve released a product that’s so worthy of being played  we can only hope they reap the rewards. 

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23. Allo Darlin’- Europe

Release Date: April 17, 2012

Genre: Indie Pop

Top Tracks: Wonderland, Capricornia, Northern Lights

It’s a really cute form of pop, this record is like a more easily relatable The Only Place. Elizabeth Morris is a surprisingly good storyteller for how poppy the music sounds, and I’ve got a lot of respect for how much effort they put forth to connect with their fans. They only have two albums released, but Allo Darlin’ is constantly touring, releasing EPs/singles, and even interacting with fans on music forums.

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22. Guided By Voices- The Bears For Lunch

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Genre: Alternative Rock

Top Tracks: You Can Fly Anything Right, Walking Up the Stairs, She Lives In An Airport

I’ve changed my stance on Guided By Voices place in today’s music scene in the past year a bit. Last year I got frustrated by how frequently Pollard continued to release music that led to unspectacular albums with good tracks selectively placed. I wanted him to be more patient, choose the songs that were the most developed and conceptually interesting and make that an album. But that’s not realistic for Pollard because he writes to much for that mindset, and the albums legitimately feel like finished products to him. On this one I’d be inclined to agree with him, my favorite of the three GBV records released in 2012 presents a relaxed rock sound that brings back some nostalgic memories of what the current lineup used to produce.

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21.Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls

Release Date: April 9, 2012

Genre: Rock, Soul

Top Tracks: Hold On, I Found You, I Ain’t the Same

It’s a rock album but this is truthfully all about the southern aspect of the music and the soul qualities of Brittany Howard’s voice. She’s got a great talent to get emotionally involved in every track she sings on while also being obviously sincere. This is probably what makes their live shows something special and also probably contributed to the success of the band on the billboard charts.

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20. Hot Chip- In Our Heads

Release Date: June 6, 2012

Genre: Electronic Pop

Top Tracks: Let Me Be Him, Don’t Deny Your Heart, These Chains

This is a fun album because it’s danceable and happy, but they’re still able to work some of the serious messages into it. This is kind of surprising given some of the cheesy effects on the album(background noises to “Don’t Deny Your Heart”, the chorus to “Night and Day”), but Hot Chip saves the product in songs like “Motion Sickness”, “Flutes”, and “Let Me Be Him”. These songs add the substance to the album that allows it to succeed as dance pop while still holding it’s own as an album. “Let Me Be Him” is out of place on the album in terms of sound but it’s perfect just where it is, it hits you like a sudden realization and works as the standout moment of the album.

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19. Titus Andronicus- Local Business

Release Date: October 22, 2012

Genre: Punk

Top Tracks: In A Big City, Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With the Flood of Detritus, Ecce Homo

It’s not as angry or hateful as the self-appointed saviors of punk were in The Monitor, but that was to lofty of an expectation from the start. That album is one of the best from the last decade, and puts the energetic, screaming Patrick Stickles in the middle of the Civil War. Still, Local Business is a good punk album that captures many of the best good qualities of Titus Andronicus, and it’s probably an accurate predictor of what the future holds for the band.

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18. Animal Collective- Centipede Hz

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Genre: Experimental Pop/Experimental Rock

Top Tracks: Applesause, Monkey Riches, Moonjock

This was the album a lot of us at the station were anticipating the most. It’s the followup to Feels, Strawberry Jam, and Merriweather Post Pavillion (all 3 of which were at least AOTY contenders in their respective years) so the expectations for this were insanely high. Centipede Hz isn’t in that realm, but even a disappointing album from these guys is highly enjoyable as a stand alone product. I view it in a similar fashion to King of Limbs last year by Radiohead where it gets viewed poorly just because it isn’t insanely good, but there are still some distinctive Animal Collective sounds; Avey Tare’s screaming in “Monkey Riches”, The flow of “Wide Eyed”, and the undeniable catchiness of “Applesauce”.

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17. Kishi Bashi- 151a

Release Date: April 10, 2012

Genre: Orchestral Pop

Top Tracks: It All Began With a Burst, Bright Whites, Manchester

Kishi Bashi is a man who has helped Of Montreal in recordings and touring before, but 151a was his first time creating an album of his own, and he had an ambitious vision for it. There’s a ton of the overlapping qualities that you’re accustomed to if you enjoy Kevin Barnes’ music with multiple vocal choruses occurring simultaneously , but 151a stays away from the chaotic factors to focus on harmonic pop. It’s a tremendous success for a first album and a testament to the man’s talent.

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16. Passion Pit- Gossamer

Release Date: July 20, 2012

Genre: Electronic Pop

Top Tracks: It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy, Constant Conversations, Cry Like a Ghost

For me the lead up to Gossamer was all about the problems that Michael Angelakos went through, and the dark Passion Pit album that was coming out. This album doesn’t really represent that to me. The openeing track suggests Angelakos just takes a walk whenever the bad news hits. “I’ll Be Alright” goes a bit into the drugs he struggled with, but the song is less sad than upbeat and poppy, and even the troubling lyrics end with him claiming he’s fine. My favorite track on the album goes by the name of “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy”, which plays a large part in my overall interpretation of the album.  Gossamer is a really good pop album, and it serves as proof that Passion Pit is going to be a significant alternative pop band for a long time, but I’m not convinced that they could write a sad album. To my perspective it’s kind of like we heard Manners, then some bad stuff happened, then he started to feel good again and this is where we hear Gossamer.

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15. Frankie Rose- Interstellar

Release Date: February 21, 2012

Genre: Dream Pop/Synthetic Pop

Top Tracks: Pair of Wings, Interstellar, Night Swim

Interstellar was made to present itself as a journey through space, and it really does make you feel sometimes like you’re in a shuttle with no choice but to observe everything occurring around you. Frankie Rose has some good upbeat pop songs here, but I love the album at it’s simplest moments like”Pair of Wings” where Frankie Rose offers to expose herself even if it means she could get hurt now and the opening to “Interstellar” where you’re given the impression of speechlessness while something great is occurring. 

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14. The Raveonettes- Observator

Release Date: September 11, 2012

Genre: Indie Rock, Shoegaze

Top Tracks: Young and Cold, The Enemy, Downtown

This album was created based off of the people Sune Rose Wagner met while abusing some substances in Venice Beach trying to escape depression and find inspiration. Knowing the backstory it feels like each song gets assigned to an observation made about a particular person and their story, whether it’s the truth or just what’s been assigned to them. The album’s shoegaze qualities make it a smooth listen, and I’d call “Young and Cold” the best opening track of the year.

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13. Dinosaur Jr.- I Bet On Sky

Release Date: September 13, 2012

Genre: Alternative Rock

Top Tracks: Watch the Corners, Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know, What Was That

I should start this off by saying that I have no qualification to compare this to other Dinosaur Jr. albums. They’re a band I know I’m going to love based upon my interests in music and their 2012 release, but I just haven’t had the time to dive into their discography yet. This being said, I’m really excited to do it because I Bet On Sky is right up my alley. It rocks but the sound is so smooth that it feels natural, and that’s true for the guitars and vocals, add in how thoughtful and consistent the songs are and this becomes one of the better rock albums of the year.

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12. Grimes- Visions

Release Date: January 31, 2012

Genre: Electronic Pop

Top Tracks: Infinite Love Without Fulfillment, Genesis, Vowels Space and Time

Grimes is fascinating. She’s made and marketed pussy rings which spread to cover about a two inch wingspan along the back of your fingers. She sent out a tweet that read  that she was looking for “hot girls who can dance & r willing to be zombie angels and blow up cars and televisions.” She constructed a boat so that she could try to sail it down the Mississippi river to New Orleans, and made sure that live chickens were aboard the boat. Fortunately the album is a lot more accessible than you’d believe given those stories, it got cleaned up a lot I’m sure, and you’re just left with interesting, sophisticated and pleasant pop.

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11. Sufjan Stevens- Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Folk, Electronic

Top Tracks: Baracarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree), Christmas in the Room, Christmas Unicorn

Should it be lower because most of the songs are only relevant during the Christmas season and there are some misses within the fifty-eight song, five EP package? Should it be higher because of the creativeness of the song restructuring and the thought put into the box set’s gift potential with a poster, stickers and temporary tattoos celebrating Christmas? I don’t know. But it is a product that I enjoy a lot, between hearing classic Christmas songs get reworked into indie pop and a few excellent original holiday tracks with some gems mixed in. I’d argue that outside of a child’s view of Christmas, Stevens has the best one available, and it’s a joy to share with him.

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10. Sharon Van Etten- Tramp

Release Date: February 7, 2012

Genre: Indie Folk

Top Tracks: We Are Fine, Give Out, I’m Wrong

Sharon Van Etten actually had a pretty big presence in Albany this year, opening for Conor Oberst at the Egg over the summer and returning to be the headliner for Rest Fest in the Fall. The album’s all about her self doubts and problems with social anxiety, issues that a lot of us suffer with to some extent, but I give her a ton of credit for opening herself up as much as she did on this album. The highlight is a track named “We Are Fine” where Van Etten plays the Ukelele rather than Beirut’s Zach Condon who joins the track to sing about their shared issue of social anxiety.

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9. The Men- Open Your Heart

Release Date: March 6, 2012

Genre: Rock

Top Tracks: Open Your Heart, Turn It Around, Candy

Surprisingly versatile album because the best tracks are so different from each other. “Open Your Heart” has this sense of urgency in it the second it begins, “Oscillation” relies on a steady buildup for the anticipation and response, and “Candy” is a borderline country track (This summer I played it back to back with The Kinks’ track “Oklahoma USA” frequently, they mesh well.) Really nice album, and behind The Mountain Goats, The Men were the artist I was most interested in seeing at CMJ if I’d gone.

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8. Slam Dunk- Welcome to Miami

Release Date:  November 13, 2012

Genre: Rock

Top Tracks: Fantasy, Dying Breed, Horse Bumper

A hard album to place and probably benefiting from a recency effect, but you know that feeling you see an opening band you never heard before and they completely blow you away? Welcome to Miami captures that essence to the point where every time you listen it feels like a huge surprise, and something to be grateful for. Welcome to Miami is energetic and begs you to scream along, qualities that turn it into a tremendously fun album.

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7. Purity Ring- Shrines

Release Date: April 23, 2012

Genre: Synthetic Pop

Top Tracks: Saltkin, Crawlersout, Ungirthed

This album would be even higher except it goes a bit outside of my usual music tastes in it’s dubstep qualities. It’s a beautifully constructed album where the tracks flow into each other seamlessly while still being fantastic individually. This is an album where almost everyone who I asked about it said they loved it, and one where I’d suggest giving it a listen even if you wouldn’t expect to enjoy it.

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6. Beach House- Bloom

Release Date: May 15, 2012

Genre: Dream Pop

Top Tracks: Myth, Other People, Wishes

Beach House went through a period for a few months this year where they were THE band, and that happened because of Bloom. More so than any other album this year, just listening to select tracks doesn’t do this album justice as the sum is greater than the parts. It’s easy and relaxing like Teen Dream, and doesn’t have the dull moments that plagued Devotion, this is a great album that has a lot of lasting power.

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5. Oberhofer- Time Capsules II

Release Date: March 27, 2012

Genre: Pop

Top Tracks: Gold, Away Frm U, oOoO

I’ve been a huge supporter of Oberhofer since Time Capsules II arrived at our station. From start to finish there are  so many good pop songs that are fun to sing along to that it becomes an awesome summer album. This being said there are definitely reasons to be critical of Oberhofer and their future releases: They rely to much on gimmicks and Brad Oberhofer doesn’t seem to be good  enough of a story teller right now. Oberhofer has to find a way to keep the pop sensibility without whistling, playing the xylophone, and singing “oooo”‘s in every song; they have to progress to more meaningful songs. In other words, give more lyrics like “And the city’s feeling queer and crass, with beer cans growing blades of grass, to look like something new” from “oOoO” and  less like the lyric kind of blindly added in a minute later in “And I know that you like my shoes!”. Even within this gigantic block of criticisms though, it shouldn’t be lost that I love Time Capsules II and it’s wide array of catchy summer tunes, I just think it’s the sort of thing you can only get away with once.

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4. Cloud Nothings- Attack on Memory

Release Date: January 24, 2012

Genre: Grunge Rock

Top Tracks: Cut You, Fall In, Stay Useless

A lot of people forgot about how awesome this album was viewed in the first half of the year. It’s an album with a mindset: methodical but violent, simple but powerful. Frontman Dylan Baldi isn’t your typical lead singer in that his best quality is how his raspy voice grows louder and more broken through every song’s realization, whether it’s “I thought..I would..Be more..Than this” from “Wasted Days” or the “No Future! No Past!” cries in the album’s opener. It can be a rough listen but the album’s a grower, and there are some awesome accessible rock tracks there in “Fall In”, “Stay Useless” and my personal favorite “Cut You”.

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3. Of Montreal- Paralytic Stalks

Release Date: February 7, 2012

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

Top Tracks: We Will Commit Wolf Murder, Ye Renew the Plaintiff, Spiteful Intervention

I’m in the minority on this one, but I think this album’s the second best Of Montreal release behind Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? I say this a lot in reference to Of Montreal, but artists differ in terms of whether they’re releasing music for their fans or for themselves. This isn’t to suggest the travesty of releasing music for the sake of just having people buy it, but Paralytic Stalks is a reflection of Kevin Barnes exploring his own head and allowing the chaotic factors to remain. It hurts in that it’s less accessible, and it can be hard to make it through 7 minute spans that seem dedicated to making the song die in the most slow and painful way possible, but it’s part of the Of Montreal mindset. And Barnes does have an amazing ability to make melodic music among the chaos, and this is displayed very well in the opening six tracks on the album, in the middle of which is one of my favorite tracks of the year in “We Will Commit Wolf Murder”.

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2. Tame Impala- Lonerism

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Genre: Psychedelic Rock/Pop

Top Tracks: It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Mind Mischief, Apocalypse Dreams

This album has drawn comparisons to Lennon and the Beach Boys by critics(or perhaps more importantly, fellow WCDB DJs!). It definitely ties back to the time period, but the album in the present is an exercise in relaxation. Nothing gets forced and everything just kind of glides by, making the album cover of being the guy stuck behind the gate extremely fitting. The whole separation vibe is interesting throughout the album, but there are some thoughts Kevin Parker has that just seem perfect, like the moment in “Mind Mischief” when they arrive at “She remembers my name…” and the chorus of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”.

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1. Japandroids- Celebration Rock

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Genre: Rock

Top Tracks: Younger Us, The Night Of Wine & Roses, The House That Heaven Built

The feel good album of the year ends up being my actual album of the year. It’s exactly what the album says it is, music for the sake of celebrating: whether it’s youth, love, or just the current state you’re in. The youthful aspect here is key though as they dive back into that mentality on multiple songs, like the album’s opening lines of “Long lit up tonight, and still drinking! Don’t we have anything to live for? Well of course we do but til they come true, we’re drinking!” or the energy in the lines of “Younger Us” that read “Remember that night you were already in bed, said f*** it got up to drink with me instead!”. It’s urgent, anthemic, and wonderfully idealistic, and I view it as the best album of 2012.

About kylewcdb

Blog Editor for Airwaves, former alternative rock director of CDB and current host of "Trust the Wizard" on WCDB Sunday nights from 10pm-midnight.
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4 Responses to Kyle’s Favorite 25 Albums of 2012

  1. Louis says:

    Finally, I’ve been scouring year-end-lists looking for someone to place of Montreal in the best of the year category. Mission accomplished. New blog added to my feeder.

  2. Broly says:

    I’d be willing to put Of Montreal on Number 1 of the year, but I also completely understand why barely anyone puts them in the top 50, it’s not the most accessible album!

  3. Pingback: Oberhofer- Nostalgia EP | Airwaves

  4. Pingback: Kyle’s Best of 2013 | Airwaves

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