Without further ado, my 10 favorite albums of 2012:
10. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
Somehow choosing #10 on this list was harder than the first nine. First Aid Kit managed to edge out the rest of my honorable mentions with some charming Swedish folk and a tenderness to their voice and sound. Plus they did a great Tiny Desk Concert.
9. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
This was a shining example of what a super group can produce. With Britt on vocals it ran the risk of sounding overly Spoon-y (not that I would have minded that), but Divine Fits definitely have a sound of their own. I'm particularly fond of their slow-build jam "Shivers."
8. The Walkmen - Heaven
While more subdued than say, Bows + Arrows, this album is similarly full of passionate sentiment if not fervor. It certainly has some of the songs that have stuck in my head this year more than anything else.
7. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
It really feels like these guys came out of nowhere. And thank god. Soulful in a truly genuine way. One of my regrets of the year is that I never saw them live.
6. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant
Love them individually, love them together. It was a match made in off-beat rocker heaven, and a long time coming. Lots of horn-filled goodness. My only complaint is that I wish there was more of Annie's guitar because she's just so awesome.
5. Hospitality - Hospitality
I listened to this album a lot this year, particularly pre-fall. It's that sort of indie pop where things sound bright and sunny, but their lyrics are actually bleakly realistic when you pay attention. They were pretty charming when I saw them play at the South Street Seaport, too.
4. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
One of the most lauded albums of the year, and for good reason. It's hard to separate praise for his album from his personal narrative this year in coming out, which certainly adds some context. However, even without that piece of information, he has still created a beautiful album that has the power to resonate with anyone. His performance of Bad Religion on Jimmy Fallon still haunts me.
3. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
I really slept on getting into this album. It came out when I was in a very female-vocalist / folky phase of the year, so I passed over it initially. But really, it's kind of perfect and amazing. You get exactly what the title promises: celebration rock. Its high energy level reminds me of high school, except it's so much better than most of what I listened to back then.
2. Passion Pit - Gossamer
It felt like Passion Pit toured on their first album f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I was growing skeptical of whether they could avoid the 2nd album slump, but they matured lyrically in a really positive way. And added a little more...shall I say groove to their sound. The interview with Michael Angelakos on Pitchfork (ugh, sigh) was one of the more interesting and candid discussions of an artist's mental health that I've read in a while, and gives a lot of great background on how his being bipolar played a role in the creation of this album.
1. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
I cannot, will not, get over how great this album is. Seeing her at BAM allowed me to make a strong connection between her and her work - it feels like a perfect reflection of who she is. And yeah, I have a slight bias towards artists who collaborate with the guys in The National, but even without the Dessner-boost, Sharon Van Etten is special. Her voice has that fragile-yet-powerful, haunting quality which gets me every time.
Listen to them all at once (if you have several hours available...):
Honorable mentions: Jack White - Blunderbuss, The Shins - Port of Morrow, Tame Impala - Lonerism, Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal, Father John Misty - Fear Fun, Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself.