Well, the world didn't end, so I guess I need to get my year-end list up. Like in previous years, I aim to make this list a mix of what I enjoyed and spun the most as well as what also was good, technically-speaking, in my opinion. I think people often put far too much weight behind what a year-end list contains, as if what's listed at #5 or #1 is the God's honest truth. If you thought Carly Rae Jepsen's album was the best album of the year, right on. For as much as music writers critique the year's various releases, it really comes down to a matter of opinion -- though I'll admit there are some things out there that are just legitimately bad, and you know what I mean.
2012 was a year of changes for me, and, therefore, for Mixtape Muse, as well. I'd be lying to you if I said I heard all of the year's buzzed about releases -- let alone a bulk of them. But of the ones I did have the pleasure of hearing, this is what I dug the most.
Here are my top 10 releases of 2012, arranged in an order because people expect that. While initially proclaiming I'd probably just scrap write-ups for each pick altogether, I tried to write a blurb for every one.
Lots of other records were favorites in 2012. See them all here.
10) Surgeons In Heat - Surgeons In Heat
One of the most overlooked records of 2012, hands down. So much so, I'd say it's criminal. Imagine if Steely Dan came about in the mid-'50s/early '60s, scrapped the brass, studied a lot of garage rock/pop from the era, and stuck to making the slickest indie pop you can imagine. That's my best attempt at describing the magic of this band. I'm definitely missing another side of what they do entirely with my description. Bottom line, this is some of the best pop-infused classic sounding rock 'n' roll of the past year.
9) Bravestation - Giants & Dreamers
I wish I could say I've been with these Canadian dudes since day one, but I came late to the party with their 2010 EP. I couldn't be prouder of what they accomplished with their debut album, as it's both a testament to their creativity, development, and the limitless potential of their future. More words on this one in my review.
Listen to Giants & Dreamers here.
8) Scuba - Personality
2012 was a year I found myself getting more into electronic, dance-oriented music. I can hardly call myself well-versed in the associated genres, but I can say with certainty that this record was a standout. It's a perfect soundtrack for rainy days, dawn, or twilight. There's something to be said for records geared towards club type scenes that still possess a great amount of substance, or depth, and are able to stand on their own as head trips. This record is good for pretty much any occasion.
7) Chromatics - Kill For Love
There are few bands around today that put as much attention to detail and arrangement like Chromatics seem to do. But the Portland group never gets lost in their own headspace, winding up with songs that are accessible, immensely enjoyable, and quite enrapturing in their own ways. Kill For Love is mysterious, ethereal, blissful, and subtly self-assured.
Listen to Kill For Love here.
6) Xenia Rubinos - Magic Trix
Talk about a hit out of nowhere. I had never heard of Xenia Rubinos before this record, and after I heard the first few measures of "Hair Receding" I wondered how I hadn't heard of her already. There aren't too many souls like Rubinos out there, and her music reflects that. It's an amalgamation of jazz, avant garde, pop, and post-punk that is constantly twisting and evolving without losing its identity. There isn't a whole lot out there right now that toys with convention and succeeds at such a high level, but Xenia Rubinos is an exception.
Listen to Magic Trix here.
5) Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
What can I say about this album? What can I say about Sharon Van Etten? Not afraid to admit I have a crush on both. Tramp is the very essence of beautiful. Heartbreaking, soaring, inspiring, sobering, haunting, timeless, honest, profound...the list of adjectives goes on. Tramp is one of the best singer/songwriter releases of recent memory, and that's simply because Van Etten is one of this generation's greatest songwriters. Don't agree? I'll fight you. Ok, no I won't, because that's not what music is about. But I'll certainly be sad if you don't hear what I mean. I mean, c'mon, listen to that voice!
4) Father John Misty - Fear Fun
I'd throw heaps of praise upon this album, but Father John Misty (aka J Tillman) would probably think I was being hyperbolic or maybe missing the point entirely. Whatever the case, I have to say that in a modern world of over-produced rock 'n' roll records, Fear Fun sounds natural as well as classic without trying to be. It's made up of songs that sound serious but don't take themselves too seriously; it's dark but lighthearted, humorous but serious in a way. Simply put, it's just damn good. Tillman does as he pleases, and this album sounds effortless -- which can only mean Tillman is superhuman or just incredibly talented. More words on this one in my review.
3) Frank Ocean - channelORANGE
Arguably a modern day classic. Ocean has proved himself to be a true artist in every sense of the word, and channelORANGE is a reminder of the magic of a true album. This is a story and a journey, not simply a collection of songs that could rule the radio. It's real, pensive, adventurous, smooth, sensual, and incredibly honest. Its mix of jazz, soul, pop, and R&B makes channelORANGE a richly layered experience that is nothing short of enthralling and memorable. This is something special because Ocean writes from personal experience rather than fictionalized tales of what was, what is, and what will be. He's a product of himself, of his roots, not of an industry machine -- refreshing seeing as how he was the talk of the industry for most of the year.
2) Death Grips - The Money Store
There is nothing like Death Grips. After a stellar debut with last year's Exmilitary, the group promised two new studio albums in 2012. They delivered on that promise, after purposefully getting dropped by their label, Epic -- which always surprised me seeing as how Death Grips seemed like the last group in the world to sign with a major. But if there's one thing they proved this year, it's that they do what they want and don't care what happens, because they're always looking ahead at what's next. The Money Store would be the band's only release on Epic, with the second being the leaked/self-released NO LOVE DEEP WEB. The latter release took a bit to sink in, but The Money Store remains the standout for me. I probably listened to this record more than anything else this year outside of maybe my number one pick.
Listen to The Money Store here.
1) Japandroids - Celebration Rock
For anyone who actually follows this site, this shouldn't come as a surprise. When I reviewed the record, I called it a classic and awarded it 5 M's, which I've never done for any record I've reviewed. I can't say enough good things about this record because it just makes me that happy. This is the kind of record people bond over, build friendships on, get pumped on, get inspired from, get confidence from, and bruise their knees to because the knees were the air drum kit of choice. From start to finish, Celebration Rock never lets up and remains consistently strong throughout. More on why I feel this album is great can be found in my review, where I sound a lot more eloquent.
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Cheers to you and 2012!