If 2011 was the year of female vocalists and fuzzed-out power pop, 2012 was the year of Garage Pop. (Is that even a thing? Who knows.) The point is that there was a massive (and welcome) influx of raw, indie, power pop bands in 2012 who absolutely destroyed my iPod. In fact, in putting these mixes together, I was stunned by the fact that there’s a steady stream of tracks on Gas that could very well have been recorded by the same band. Now, I realize some might argue that similarities of this sort are a bad thing, in that there’s a lack of originality to distinguish one band from the next. But like I always say when it comes to music, good is good. All I care about is the bottom line. I have no problem with a band being derivative provided said band does its thing well. And in the case of 2012, plenty of bands did it well, so much so that I was able to craft a top 20 albums of the year (of sorts).
In addition to the Garage Pop and, once again, strong female vocalists who seemed to rule the 2012 landscape, I’d be remiss if I failed to point out the unbelievably prolific nature of one of my all-time favorite bands, Guided By Voices, who dropped three — three! — new records on our collective asses in 2012. The albums — Let’s Go Eat the Factory, Class Clown Spots a UFO, and The Bears For Lunch (released in that order) — seemed to blend together at times, but I found that somehow comforting. Featuring GBV’s “classic” line-up, all three records managed to capture their early Matador sound so often recognized on, say, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. By no means am I saying these new contributions are akin to those classics; rather, there’s a sensibility in these new releases that’s akin to those early releases that put GBV on the indie map. Do I have a favorite among the 2012 triumvirate Of course. Do I like all three records? Damn straight.
So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the music that meant something to me in 2012…
The Album Cover of the Year:
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
The Best Vocal Moments/Lyrics of the Year:
Swearin’ – “1” (At the 0:21 mark of the opening track of their self-titled album, I knew Swearin’ had me. There’s 20 seconds of spastic fade in before 23-year-old Allison Crutchfield unleashes the record’s initial lyrics, “Blood on the road / I’m asleep in the back seat.” You can check this track out below.)
Daughn Gibson – “The Day You Were Born” (At 1:27 in, Daughn Gibson sings in his weird, truck driver, country-tinged voice, “Anger, I’ll tear you asunder.” That line stuck with me all year. Both witty and amazing.)
The Song I Heard Once and New Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:
The Men – “Open Your Heart” (heard below)
The Most Overrated Record of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:
Cat Power – Sun
The Four Best Videos of the Year:
Chairlift – “Met Before“
El-P – “The Full Retard“
Explosions in the Sky – “Postcard From 1952” (Note: the song is from 2011; the video is from 2012)
Aimee Mann – “Labrador“
The Top Ten Honorable Mentions of 2012 (in Alphabetical Order):
Angel Olsen – Half Way Home
Dusted – Total Dust
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Guided By Voices – The Bears for Lunch
Guided By Vices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory
Hospitality – Hospitality
Howler – America Give Up
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
La Sera – Sees the Light
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
The Top Ten Records of 2012:
10. AU – Both Lights
9. PAWS – Cokefloat!
8. Guided By Voices – Class Clown Spots a UFO
7. Dan Deacon – America
6. Wintersleep – Hello Hum
5. Islands – A Sleep & A Forgetting
4. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
3. The Men – Open Your Heart
2. Royal Headache – Royal Headache
1. Swearin’ – Swearin’
Was the self-titled record by Swearin’ really the best record of 2012? I don’t know. I don’t care, really. All I know is that no other album made me prick up my ears more quickly. Upon my initial listen, I was hooked. The Brooklyn/Philly band had me and never let go. There’s something so completely Doug Martsch-esque of Kyle Gilbride’s vocals, as the record reeks of equal parts Built to Spill and Superchunk. I can’t recommend it enough.
As always, I made two CDs worth of music this year, which meant omitting a lot of deserving candidates. As I do every year, I began putting 2012 music aside in January of 2012. I have no idea how many albums I listened to this year, but I sifted through nearly 7 hours of “Best of” contenders before narrowing it down to the 46/47 finalists on Gas and Brake. Now, why do I write “46/47″? Simple: I cheated. That is, I combined two songs into one for one of the tracks on Gas, because I simply couldn’t conceive of one being there without the other. As far as I’m concerned, “1″ and “Here to Hear” by Swearin’ combine to form one fluid track. To omit either one felt like cutting the song in half, and I simply refused to do that.
As for the tracks below, I linked to both the album versions of the songs and some live/alternate versions of the songs that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. This, as you’ll see, is the case for songs like Dan Deacon’s “USA: I. Is a Monster,” in which I included a gripping live performance of the track. Additionally, I should point out that the link to Dan Deacon’s “USA: III. Rail” on Brake links to the entire USA suite, which makes up the second half of his album. While I only included “Rail” on the mix, I thought it would be nice to link to the entire four-part suite so you can listen to it in its entirety. Again, I apologies to all of those great, great songs I had to omit for the sake of space. It’s a cruel world we live in. Where are those 150-minute blank CDs already?!
With that, I give you the 46/47 songs that comprise my 2012 mixes…
Gas front cover.
Gas interior artwork.
Brake front cover.
Brake interior artwork.
Gas (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2012):
1. AU – “Epic” (Both Lights)
2. King Tuff – “Anthem” (King Tuff)
3. The Men – “Open Your Heart” (Open Your Heart)
4. Mind Spiders – “You Are Dead” (Meltdown)
5. Howler – “This One’s Different” (America Give Up)
6. Japandroids – “Younger Us” (Celebration Rock)
7. Swearin’ – “1” / “Here to Hear” (Swearin’)
8. Royal Headache – “Never Again” (Royal Headache)
9. PAWS – “Bloodline” (Cokefloat!)
10. Titus Andronicus – “Ecce Homo” (Local Business)
11. Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless” (Attack On Memory)
12. Eternal Summers – “Wonder” (Correct Behavior)
13. The Babies – “Moonlight Mile” (Our House on the Hill)
14. La Sera – “Please Be My Third Eye” (Sees the Light)
15. Hospitality – “Friends of Friends” (Hospitality)
16. The Spinto Band – “Keep Them Alive” (Shy Pursuit)
17. Fang Island – “Asunder” (Major)
18. Whirr – “Home Is Where My Head Is” (Pipe Dreams)
19. Islands – “Never Go Solo” (A Sleep & A Forgetting)
20. Guided By Voices – “Class Clown Spots a UFO” (Class Clown Spots a UFO)
21. The Mountain Goats – “Cry for Judas” (Transcendental Youth)
22. Wintersleep – “In Came the Flood” (Hello Hum)
23. Sleigh Bells – “Born to Lose” (Reign of Terror)
24. Dan Deacon – “USA: I. Is a Monster” (America)
Brake (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2012):
1. The Men – “Country Song” (Open Your Heart)
2. Daughn Gibson – “Dandelions” (All Hell)
3. Dusted – “Dusted” (Total Dust)
4. The Avett Brothers – “Live and Die” (The Carpenter)
5. Damien Jurado – “So On, Nevada” (Maraqopa)
6. Angel Olsen – “The Waiting” (Half Way Home)
7. The Spinto Band – “Cookie Falls” (Shy Pursuit)
8. La Sera – “I Can’t Keep You In My Mind” (Sees the Light)
9. The Babies – “Mess Me Around” (Our House on the Hill)
10. Swearin’ – “Kenosha” (Swearin’)
11. Royal Headache – “Honey Joy” (Royal Headache)
12. PAWS – “Sore Tummy” (Cokefloat!)
13. Times New Viking – “Middle Class Drags” (Over & Over EP)
14. The Mountain Goats – “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1” (Transcendental Youth)
15. Divine Fits – “Shivers” (A Thing Called Divine Fits) (NOTE: Here’s the original version of “Shivers” by Boys Next Door.)
16. Wintersleep – “Rapture” (Hello Hum)
17. Guided By Voices – “Waving at Airplanes” (The Bears For Lunch)
18. Islands – “This Is Not a Song” (A Sleep & A Forgetting)
19. AU – “Get Alive” (Both Lights)
20. Heartless Bastards – “Marathon” (Arrow)
21. Screaming Females – “It’s Nice” (Ugly)
22. Dan Deacon – “USA: III. Rail” (America)
Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2012. A shit-ton of work, as always, went into this year’s edition. Now, then, I encourage – nay, demand – you to do four things:
- In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2012. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with?
- Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2012 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
- If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 2011, 2010, 2009, etc.
- You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
Until the Best of 2013, have at it, you vultures!