Okay okay okay. I’m late. We’re well into 2013 and I’m finally getting around to posting my favorite records from 2012. No excuses. I got kidnapped by a bear. That’s not an excuse, it’s just what happened. Luckily, I managed to escape. And then I ran immediately to the Internet and started typing up this list because one thing I will never do is let some traumatic incident with a stupid old grizzly bear stop me from writing about the records I love. That’s a promise.
13. Internet Forever – Internet Forever
I first heard “Break Bones” by Internet Forever forever ago in Internet time, back in 2009. It was catchy and charming and great, so I went onto this search engine thing I know about called Google and found 2 other songs by them, both of which were also catchy and charming and great. Here are 2 of those 3 songs.
And then I didn’t hear much about them for two years until I finally saw they had a full-length coming out in 2012. I don’t know why they needed two years to make their album. It sounds like these songs were recorded into the built-in mic on their Casiotone. But when the album came out, I totally bought it on vinyl because everyone knows vinyl is the only way to properly listen to songs that were recorded in someone’s garage. Have you seen my indie-cred? It’s like twenty business cards long.
And the songs are great, even though three of them are the three songs I’d already heard, only rerecorded to make them sound less lo-fi, which kinda takes away from some of the charm. But it’s still an excellent twee pop record, which is always welcome, and I sincerely hope they sell “Cover the Walls” to a paint company and make a million dollars, because what use is a great pop song that never appears in an ad for paint?
12. First Aid Kit – First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit are from Sweden. They sound like a female Midlake. Midlake sound very American, even though they sound like Fleetwood Mac who are mostly English. Also, a lot of Fleetwood Mac sounds nothing like Fleetwood Mac because there are like seventeen incarnations of Fleetwood Mac and most of those did not feature Stevie Nicks who is pretty much what you think of when you think of Fleetwood Mac.
This whole album is full of insanely gorgeous vocals and but this song is like wow:
How great is that song? That’s pretty much as good as music gets, right? Although I don’t know how I feel about them dropping those first names like that in the chorus. You can’t just leave off someone’s last name when their last name is essential to establishing their identity. Elvis, fine. He’s a one-namer. But Gram? If I told you someone sounded like Gram you’d never be like, “oh, sure, Gram Parsons.” It makese sense in context, sure. But you’re still treading in dangerous territory, First Aid Kit. Keep an eye on that. Still, that “little darling” is just perfect. If the women from First Aid Kit sang “little darling” to me like that I’d probably explode into 100,000 doves and fly off to heaven.
And in case you’re one of those people who are like, “oh, that’s just production,” here they are KILLING THE SONG TWICE AS HARD live:
11. The Fresh and Onlys – Long Slow Dance
I loved the last Fresh and Onlys record a lot, and this is another record by them that is good. They’ve got kind of a 60s pop influence, but with this nice sparse guitar sound, kinda surfy, with a little bit of a new wave feel, and maybe a tiny smattering of the Pixies? Hey, look at me! I’m some kind of fancy music critic!
Ugh. This video’s the worst, though. No wonder I’m the only person in America who likes them. J/K you guys! Loves you!
10. Plug 1 and Plug 2 – De La Soul’s Plug 1 and Plug 2 present First Serve
So. De La Soul consists of three dudes—MCs Posdnous (Pos-da-noose) and Trugoy the Dove, and DJ Pasemaster Mase. Posdnous is sometimes referred to as Kelvin Mercer, which is coincidentally his real name, and Trugoy is sometimes just called Dave. Other times they call themselves Plug 1 and Plug 2. I don’t know what it all means. But I do know this: Mase is not on this record. So it sounds a little bit different than a regular De La Soul album but not really that different because good ol’ Dave and Posdnous are still serving up a heaping helping of that rock co. cane flow.
De La is the best there ever was, period. Every new release is cause for celebration. With First Serve they’ve made the best hip-hop opera ever recorded and still they do not get the respect they deserve. Admittedly the competition is not very stiff. But still. De La Soul is a national treasure and if you don’t recognize you better stop being a jerk and recognize.
9 – Japandroids – Celebration Rock
The only things I know about Japandroids I know from looking at their album covers, both of which look almost exactly the same. Japandroids is two dudes. One of them has curly hair. They seem like older dudes. Or at least they’ve been through some life. I think I only say that because of that song “Younger Us.” Which is like the BEST SONG EVER for putting on your headphones and listening to when you’re on visiting New York and coming home on the train at 2 o’ clock in the morning and you just spent the evening with your old friends and you’re kinda drunk and wanting to feel the same way you did back when you didn’t have anything to worry about.
I gotta wiki this.
Huh. They’re younger than me.
Okay, never mind. I hate them.
8 – Grimes – Visions
The cover of this album is the worst. Pitchfork listed it as one of the best album covers of the year, which is weird, because they also list the worst album covers of the year, and this album cover was nowhere to be seen on that list. But I hope the hideousness of the cover does not turn you away from the music. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or an album, even though most of the time you probably can.
But this time don’t! Because Grimes is not a Norwegian black metal band or some kind of Satanic lounge techno as the cover might lead you to believe. It is a collection of crazy catchy atmospheric electronic pop songs by a Canadian woman named Claire Boucher who is only 23 and, ugh, I really need to stop looking these bands up on Wikipedia.
7 – Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Yes, I wrote out the entire title. What, I have to save column space? Give the lady some respect. Fiona Apple wants to name her album a poem then more power to her. She’s earned it. I mean, I guess she’s earned it. By being better than she needed to be in relation to how pretty she was? Is that what it means to earn it?
Whateves, the important thing is that Fiona Apple released an album—only her fourth!—after 7 years, and it was as good as anything she’s done, which is all mostly very good. Fiona Apple takes her sweet time doing things, and more power to her, as long as the result is as worth listening to as this.
The record starts with the first single, “Every Single Night,” which is truly strikingly gorgeous and menacing and sort of makes me wonder if I should call the suicide prevention hotline and send the authorities over to make sure Fiona’s doing okay. And then there’s “Daredevil,” with that cracked vocal in the middle that sounds like maybe she was slapping herself in the face while she was singing it. Now that I’m thinking about it, this record is pretty upsetting. And I know she’s a naturally skinny person but she really looks like she’s wasting away in all the pictures and videos I’ve seen. You guys, I’m worried about Fiona.
6 – Nude Beach – August
Oh! I’m not worried anymore! Because here comes Nude Beach to set me right with some hot rock and roll licks! Nude Beach is Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty and Big Star and sunshine and car radios and keg parties and everything you want to hear in the summer unless what you want to hear in the summer is Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” in which case, may God have mercy on your soul. Even if you’re from Michigan, which I am. That’s no excuse. Seriously, stop listening to that dude.
5 La Sera – Sees the Light
La Sera is Katy Goodman from Vivian Girls. She put out one album in 2011 and another album in 2012 and they’re both so good! Her music has a sort of 60s pop influence with girl group vocals … kinda like Vivian Girls, I guess, although less switchbladey.
One pop hit after another, this record. I don’t know why this didn’t show up on more best of the year lists. I actually didn’t see it on any best of the year lists. Which is why the wait for mine has been so incredibly worth it, because here you go! Hot stuff!
4 – Royal Headache – Royal Headache
I know nothing about Royal Headache and after my ill-fated adventures Googling Japandroids and Grimes I’m not going to put myself through the trauma of learning something that inadvertently makes me feel bad about myself.
Royal Headache make a filthy, raucous pop noise that sounds like it’s spent the last 40 years buried in Little Steven’s basement. It’s self-consciously lo-fi but not in a Times New Viking way, which I cannot get past the production with those dudes. In this case, the production adds a nice flavor of grime that enhances the aesthetic. Or is the aesthetic. Someone stop me before I kill the English language again, please.
3 – Frankie Rose – Interstellar
When I put these lists together I always start by going through the albums I bought that year and ranking them. And then as I start writing up the descriptions, I listen to the records and try to figure out what I should say about them. And inevitably, I have regrets when I get to the top of the list, because one record will suddenly sound better than another record and before you know it, it’s February. It’s hard to listen to something like Royal Headache, which is super primitive garage rock, followed by something like Frankie Rose, which is very polished electro-pop, and try to figure out which is better. Don’t fight, you guys! I think you’re both great!
Frankie Rose is another former Vivian Girl. She wrote “Where Do You Run To?” which is clearly the best Vivian Girls song. So obviously, she knows something about making music that is good to listen to. And here she has crafted an album full of songs that are good to listen to. From the first one to the last one, they are all songs that sound like songs are supposed to, with good music parts and wonderful vocals. I’m writing this and pretending that I’m doing a book report on a book where the only thing I know about it is the cover.
Frankie Rose sounds like the 80s meets . . . the 80s, I guess. Frankie Rose sounds like the 80s. I remember when bands started doing retro 80s kinds of songs, and everyone who was a kid in the 80s was now old and we were all like, “psh, I’ve heard this before,” without realizing that all the music we revere is just as ripped off from another era with the only difference being that when you’re a kid things are more immediate and you feel like everything’s happening for the first time ever. Which is why Republicans are always droning on and on about how life was so much better back in the old days. Yeah, because you were a kid. You could fart around all day and no one gave you the business. Clearly, life is better now.
Haha, just kidding, life sucks and we’re all going to die.
2 – Twin Shadow – Confess
Speaking of the 80s, here’s Twin Shadow! I told my wife that Twin Shadow sounded like Prince and she got really excited. And then she heard him and said, “this doesn’t sound anything like Prince,” and I said, “it sounds like a certain kind of Prince,” and she said, “It sounds like the kind that isn’t very good.”
I dunno. I hear Prince. A lot more than on that Miguel record, which people keep comparing to Prince and I’m like, “huh?” The thing about Prince, or Prince & the Revolution, really, is that they were a pop band with elements of r&b, not an r&b band with elements of pop. And that’s exactly what’s going on with Twin Shadow. It’s new romantic synth songs with a little bit of funk. Insanely good production, too. This record is this year’s M83 . . . the indie album that has no right being as big as it is. Great songs, great vocals, great vibe.
But hahaha! This is the dumbest video I’ve ever seen!
1 – Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
I’m still on eMusic. It’s like a dirty secret. I pay $20 / month so I can download MP3 records that I probably wouldn’t bother to buy otherwise. Like, I just got the first Echo and the Bunnymen record, which I could just as easily have listened to on Spotify for free as many times as I will listen to it on my own computer. Which will be maybe twice. And then it’ll just sit there taking up space on my hard drive until they come up with some new music file and all those terrible-sounding MP3s I’m paying $240 / year for the privilege of downloading are totally obsolete.
This Parquet Courts record came out on eMusic in November. I downloaded it then and fell in love. Parquet Courts sounds like Pavement, the Fall, (Pavement sounds like the Fall, though, so maybe that’s redundant), Wire, Guided by Voices, the Feelies, Television, Jonathan Richman (all 3 of those sound alike, too) and every other rock band from about 1976-1997. 15 songs, and only 3 of them are longer than 3 minutes. The best song is only 1:08. That’s how you do it, man. In and out. Make your hook, put it down, get out of there before the cops show up.
Clearly, I don’t mind when a band wears its influences on its sleeve, just so long as they can do those influences justice. And Parquet Courts just fucking brings it. There is not a dead moment on this record. One indie rock gem after the next.
Oh, but the point about eMusic was that I guess this record came out on eMusic early, or something? And it came out in 2013 everywhere else? Which puts me in a weird position, because here I am calling it the best album of 2012 and if most people couldn’t even hear it until 2013 then I’m operating under a false timetable and the whole list is thrown off. Which means Twin Shadow is really the best album of the year, and ick, I can’t let that happen! So let’s pretend Parquet Courts came out in 2012 and PHEW, there, done.
Also apparently they don’t make videos, which is cool, I guess.
Good God that took a long time. If you’d like to hear these records in their entirety, please visit my playlist on Spotify. To the future! May God have mercy on our souls.