2012 Albums Of The Year (25-1)

25. American Aquarium - Burn. Flicker. Die.
It's no surprise a band named after a Wilco song would make my top albums list. This album falls nicely in line with other alt-country stuff I love like Drive-By Truckers, Lucero and Dawes. Especially notable since another favorite of the genre, Jason Isbell, was the producer of Burn. Flicker. Die.

American Aquarium - 'Burn. Flicker. Die.'

24. Sigur Rós - Valtari

Sigur Rós really went more and more towards conventional pop songwriting on the two albums following ( ), but their newest album Valtari seems like a return to that early form. This is definitely an album that begs to be listened to straight through and definitely rewards repeat listens. I should also mention that Sigur Rós are a must-see live band and if they come back through KC you'll read it here.

Sigur Rós - 'Varúð'

23. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action At A Distance

In 2010 my album of the year was Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest and one of the main reasons I loved that album so much were the songwriting contributions by Lockett Pundt. Now we are lucky enough to get a second album from his side project, Lotus Plaza where his songwriting takes center stage for the entire album.

Lotus Plaza - 'Strangers'

22. Daughn Gibson - All Hell

There is something about a voice like Daughn Gibson's that instantly pulls me in. When it also has a dark tone and vibe like All Hell does throughout, there is even more for me to love. One of my biggest regrets of the year is missing his show at The Replay in Lawrence in November.

Daughn Gibson - 'In The Beginning'

21. The Walkmen - Heaven

One of my consistently favorite bands of the past 10 or so years, The Walkmen are another group that you can count on to put out great album after great album. Although Heaven isn't as good as their past couple, it's still one of the better albums of 2012.

The Walkmen - 'The Love You Love'

20. Beach House - Bloom

There is a legitimate knock against Beach House that they've essentially released the exact same album as 2010's Teen Dream. That could be a big complaint for some but the fact is I loved Teen Dream and Bloom is just as beautiful.

Beach House - 'Lazuli'

19. Hot Chip - In Our Heads

I fell in love with Hot Chip when I first heard their 2006 album, The Warning. Since then they've released a couple of good, but not great albums.  That changed this year with the release of In Our Heads, arguably the best Hot Chip album ever.

Hot Chip - 'How Do You Do?'

18. Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Not only were Murder By Death responsible for one of my favorite shows of 2012, they also released one of my favorite albums of the year. I've posted this a couple of times already but I highly recommend checking out their NYE show at the Granada in Lawrence. It should be a fantastic time.

Murder By Death - 'Straight At The Sun'

17. Tame Impala - Lonerism

Australians Tame Impala are a band I've been paying attention to since their debut came out in 2010.  I liked that album but didn't really love them until this years fantastic album Lonerism. The album is making many year end best of lists so if you haven't already check these guys out to see what you're missing!

Tame Impala - 'Apocalypse Dreams'

16. Capybara - Dave Drusky

The highest ranking local album on my list comes from KC's Capybara. I'd probably also have to put this on my list of favorite local albums ever. It's just really brilliant indie pop and I'm not really quite sure why they haven't broken big nationally. Dave Drusky is full of songs just as good as most of the stuff Pitchfork gushes over every year.

Capybara - 'Late Night Bikes'

15. Grizzly Bear - Shields

Yet another band that can be classified as consistently great with the release of their third amazing album in a row Shields. Grizzly Bears main draw for me is the absolutely lush songwriting and beautiful vocals from both Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen. I was able to catch a few songs of a set of theirs back in 2008 at Lollapalooza, but their another band I hope to catch in town soon (if they ever make their way here, that is).

Grizzly Bear - 'Sleeping Ute'

14. M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion

I'll admit that I'm a fan of almost everything M. Ward does. Monsters of Folk, She & Him and his solo stuff is all pretty amazing. His solo output is where he shows what a truly gifted musician he is though. Not to mention that he's also probably one of my favorite vocalists around these days. Put that together with fantastic songwriting and you've got a complete package. Now if only he'd come through town sometime to play a show!

M. Ward - 'The First Time I Ran Away'

13. Wild Nothing - Nocturne

Probably the most unexpected album on my list this year is the second full length album from Wild Nothing. I loved their debut album and Nocturne is a great step forward. If you like hazy, dreamy indie pop music then I can't recommend Wild Nothing highly enough.

Wild Nothing - 'Paradise'

12. Chromatics - Kill For Love

This album spent a good deal of time in my top 5 but got pushed down just a bit as the year went on. I still listen to this album pretty frequently as it's more of an "album's album" rather than a collection of great songs. That is rare for an electro-dance pop group like Chromatics. I hate to make this comparison, but if you're a fan of the movie soundtrack for Drive that got so much attention recently, you definitely need to hear this album.

Chromatics - 'Kill For Love'

11. A.C. Newman - Shut Down The Streets

I'm not a musician or a songwriter but I still find it incredibly hard to understand how A.C. Newman is able to write so many brilliant pop songs. He's responsible for the lion's share of five brilliant New Pornographers albums as well as three really great solo album. His newest, Shut Down The Streets, is definitely my favorite solo effort of his and a nice change of pace for Newman.

A.C. Newman - 'I'm Not Talking'

10. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

This album held the number 1 spot on my list for most of the first half of 2012. Who knows if it would have been higher if it had came out later in the year (I tend to over-rank albums on first listen).  Regardless, this is still one of the top albums of 2012. Something about piano heavy, melancholy music paired with beautiful vocals really gets me. This album can be emotionally heavy at times, but not too much that it weighs down my enjoyment of the album.

Perfume Genius - 'Take Me Home'

9. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill

I'm really disappointed that I'm not seeing this album on more year end lists. Maybe it's the song lengths that kept people from digging into this album with 3 songs pushing past 15 minutes and the opening track just short of a half hour. Regardless, the songs don't get stale or boring at all. In fact, this is probably the best Neil Young album since Harvest Moon.

Neil Young - 'Ramada Inn'

8. Mac DeMarco - 2

This was probably the latest addition to my albums of the year list. Not because it came out recently, but I wasn't familiar with it until a friend recommended his stuff to me about a month ago. I instantly fell in love with Mac DeMarco's second album of 2012, aptly titled 2. I'm not sure how to categorize his music either, stoner-pop maybe? At times he reminds me of the artist responsible for my favorite album of 2011 in Kurt Vile, which could be a large part of my draw to Mac.

Mac DeMarco - 'Ode To Viceroy'

7. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

No surprises finding this on my or anyone else's year end list as it seems to be almost universally enjoyed. I've been paying close attention to Frank Ocean when he was brought into the Odd Future fold. It always seemed like an odd pairing and Ocean has skyrocket past the rest of OFWGKTA this year. My only complaint about this album was the tracklisting seemed odd. Once someone sent me their suggested song order for the album is suddenly clicked for me in a way it hadn't before.

Frank Ocean - 'Thinking Bout You'

6. How To Dress Well - Total Loss

Although this could technically be classified as R&B next to Frank Ocean's album, the two are worlds apart sonically. Pairing his falsetto with some really minimalist beats & loops, Tom Krell really hit a home run with his second full-length album Total Loss. There is always an album really high on my year end lists that I'm not sure anyone else reading this blog would enjoy much.  This year it's How To Dress Well. If you do dig it, however, you're in for a treat.

How To Dress Well - 'Cold Nites'

5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Lovers of exclamation points, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have always been a band that borders on über pretentious. Heavily political, 20+ minute songs and no vocals doesn't make for a accessible music experience. However, if you love post-rock stuff like Explosions in the Sky, MONO and Mogwai then you'll probably love GYBE as well. Put these guys at the very top of my list of bands I've never seen that I'm dying to see.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Mladic'

4. Father John Misty - Fear Fun

I've been a fan of J. Tillman's solo work as well as his work with Fleet Foxes for a few years. When I heard he was now recording under the moniker Father John Misty and had signed to Sub Pop, I got really excited. Turns out my excitement was justified as it's one of the best albums of 2012. The album also produced my favorite track of 2012 with 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings'. The rest of the album has more of an alt-country feel to it but that's not a bad thing as it's chalk full of amazing tunes.

Father John Misty - 'Nancy From Now On'

3. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid M.A.A.D. City

Another album that seems to be universally praised and has been listed as the number 1 album on many year end lists is Kendrick Lamar's second album Good Kid M.A.A.D. City. Rarely outside of Kanye West does commercial rap work as well in a full album format as it does with Lamar's new album. There are so many great tracks on this album it's hard to pick a favorite, and that is always the sign of a great album.

Kendrick Lamar - 'Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst'

2. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

I have a very strong affinity for female singer/songwriters and Sharon Van Etten has quickly climbed my list of favorites with her new album, Tramp. This is another album where I really love every song on the record. Seeing her at The Riot Room was another concert highlight of 2012 (although I'm just now realizing I left her off my post of favorite concerts of the year). I can't recommend this album highly enough as I think most music fans would enjoy the hell out of it.

Sharon Van Etten - 'Give Out'

1. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

As much as I enjoyed Japandroids first album Post-Nothing, I never expected their follow-up to resonate with me as much as Celebration Rock has. This album is complete fist in the air, middle finger to everyone kind of rock 'n roll that takes me back to being a teenager. There is no doubt in my mind if I heard this album when I was 16 it would be in the running for my favorite albums of all-time. So if you haven't already, queue this album up and get ready to be 16 again.

Japandroids - 'The House That Heaven Built'


2012 Albums Of The Year (50-26)

I'm currently working on writing up my top 25 favorite albums of 2012, but to kick off the list here are numbers 50-26.

50. High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
49. Liars - WIXIW
47. Schoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions
46. Ab-Soul - Control Systems
45. Corin Tucker Band - Kill My Blues
44. Shovels & Rope - O' Be Joyful
43. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
42. Yeasayer - Fragrant World
41. Baroness - Yellow & Green
40. Bear In Heaven - I Love You, It's Cool
39. Sam Billen - Places
38. Chairlift - Something
37. The Sword - Apocryphon
36. Stars - The North
35. Calexico - Algiers
34. The xx - Coexist
33. Twin Shadow - Confess
32. Bob Mould - Silver Age
31. Chad Valley - Young Hunger
30. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
29. Diiv - Oshin
28. Swans - The Seer
27. 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
26. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

Stay tuned for a post of my top 25 favorite albums of 2012 in the next few days.


Favorite Concerts of 2012

This is by no means a list of the best concerts that occurred in the KC & Lawrence area because I didn't even hit a fraction of the shows I'd have liked to attend.  Out of the few dozen shows I did make it to, these are the ones that stood out the most.

Radiohead @ The Sprint Center, March 11th

My second time seeing Radiohead, but the first time at a proper headlining show instead of a festival. Even though the band was touring behind my least favorite album of theirs (King Of Limbs) it was still one of the best shows of the year. Even the lukewarm tracks from KoL's sounded great live. There is a reason why Radiohead is considered one of the few transcendental live music experiences around right now.

Murder By Death @ The Beaumont Club, April 6th

Part of the second of three nights of the Middle Of The Map fest in Westport brought JoC favorites Murder By Death through town for the first time in 2012. Another perennial favorite for live band of the year, Murder By Death seem to get better each time I see them. Just a reminder that if you haven't caught them before they'll be at The Granada in Lawrence to celebrate New Years Eve. Don't miss it.

Fucked Up @ The Riot Room, April 7th

The last show I saw of the final night of Middle Of The Map fest in Westport was none other than Fucked Up. No other band blends hardcore with melody quite like they do. Few other bands have such a memorable front man either. Their most recent album, David Comes To Life, is one of the best concept albums in recent memory, and their live show is a non-stop tour de force.

M83 @ The Granada, May 1st

One of my "bucket list" bands as far as bands I'd never seen live that I really wanted to was crossed off when M83 came through Lawrence in May. M83 have been one a favorite of mine on record since Before The Dawn Heals Us, but after seeing them they've proven they can easily translate the lush sound on their albums to a live show.

My Morning Jacket @ Starlight Theatre, August 6th

I've seen My Morning Jacket a half dozen times now and I never get tired of them. Even when I don't completely love their studio stuff, their live shows always blow me away.

Merle Haggard @ Knuckleads, August 30th

The man is a living legend so I probably don't have to explain this one too much. Even if you hate most country music, the classics like Merle are impossible to be denied. Playing for over 90 minutes at his age is no small feat, but luckily Merle travels with a seasoned live band. This will truly go down as one of the most memorable shows I've ever been lucky enough to attend.

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band @ The Sprint Center, November 17th

The best concert I went to in 2012 happens to also be in the top 5 or 10 shows I've seen in my entire life. I've been waiting many years to finally get a chance to see The Boss and he didn't disappoint. Dollar for dollar, minute for minute there isn't more bang for your concert dollar than Bruce Springsteen. The shows he puts on at 63 Years old would put people half his age to shame. Even if you're a average fan, this is one show you should make sure you catch.


Favorite Songs of 2012

I'm currently putting together my posts for my 50 favorite albums of 2012, but I thought I'd start off with a post about my favorite tracks of the year.

In alphabetical order:

Father John Misty - 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings'

This is easily my favorite song of 2012 and possibly my favorite video as well.  Father John Misty is also known as J. Tillman, who had a pretty good gig drumming for Fleet Foxes before he started recording under the moniker Father John Misty.  His album will also be pretty high on my year end list.  Make sure you check him out at The Bottleneck in Lawrence on Monday, January 7th.

First Aid Kit - 'The Lion's Roar'

There has been a horrible trend in popular music recently that I squarely blame on Mumford & Sons. That trend is an increase in pop music relying heavily on stringed instruments and group vocals.  I could do without hearing another track from The Lumineers, Of Monsters & Men and the like for a very long time.  One group that might fall into that category that I can still get behind is First Aid Kit. Check out the title track from their debut album to hear why.

Daughn Gibson - 'Tiffany Lou'

I've got to admit that Daughn's voice is the primary reason this song and album resonated so much with me in 2012.  The album is one of the most underrated of the year and if you like this track I highly suggest checking out the rest of the LP.

Grizzly Bear - 'Yet Again'

Grizzly Bear have quickly turned into one of those bands that you know are going to continue to release fantastic album after fantastic album.  The best track off their most recent album, Shields, is 'Yet Again', another contender for best song of 2012.

Hot Chip - 'Motion Sickness'

Another band that released a fantastic album in 2012 that I haven't seen at the tops of many best-of lists.  The first track off their new album In Our Heads is everything I love about the band.  Seeing them play an amazing show in Lawrence back in 2007 with Tortoise keeps me hoping they come back through KC or Lawrence again one day.

How To Dress Well - 'Set It Right'

Something about the sound & vibe of the second full length How To Dress Well album really does it for me. The standout track on that album is the single 'Set It Right' which sets Tom Krell's falsetto vocals over a triumphant sounding loop.

Japandroids - 'The House That Heaven Built'

It was really hard just picking one track off Japandroids brilliant second album for this list.  I ended up going with 'The House That Heaven Built' but any of the albums either amazing tracks could have made this list.  I recommend a lot of albums but Japandroids Celebration Rock is far and away the best rock album of the year.

A.C. Newman - 'I'm Not Talking'

I'm a huge fan of The New Pornographers and subsequently  A.C. Newman's solo stuff.  I've always found his previous solo work to sound like mellow NP songs, so it was a pleasant surprise when I heard his new album, Shut Down The Streets.  The new album has a different sound to it and it's incredibly refreshing.

Frank Ocean - 'Pyramids'

If you haven't heard the new Frank Ocean album yet and have even the most remote interest in R&B music, you need to check it out immediately.  The highlight of the album is the track 'Pyramids', which also has a pretty great video to go with it (fair warning, the video is NSFW).

Perfume Genius - 'Hood'

Released very early in 2012, Perfume Genius' second album Put Your Back N 2 It has stayed near the top of my favorite albums list for most of the year.  I still get chills whenever I listen to this track.

Sigur Rós - 'Varúð'

Although I really enjoyed the most recent Sigur Rós album, I found it to be more of a complete listen type of album as opposed to an album with a few standout songs.  The one exception is the hauntingly beautiful track  'Varúð'.  As with most Sigur Rós songs, it's accompanied by an equally captivating video.

Tame Impala - 'Feels Like We Only Go Backwards'

Already on many "best of" lists for 2012, I'll put in my .02 that Tame Impala released one of the better albums of 2012 in Lonerism.  This is another album where a half dozen songs could have made this list, but I had to settle on just one.

The xx - 'Angels'

I've never understood all the hype surrounding The xx, but man do they have flashes of utter brilliance The first single 'Angels' from their second album is proof of that.


Upcoming Show: Murder By Death on NYE

If you don't have plans for New Years Eve yet, I highly recommend heading to the Granada in Lawrence to see Murder By Death, one of the best live bands around. I've been lucky enough to catch them a few times over the years and their live shows just get progressively better.

They're touring behind their fantastic new album Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon which is surely to be pretty high on my Best Albums of 2012 post coming in the next weeks.  You can purchase the album in whatever format you desire from their label's site HERE.

Opening the show are local favorites Cowboy Indian Bear.

Murder By Death - 'Lost River'