My list of top 10 albums of 2012 was published in the Press & Dakotan today. I present the list here for you with Spotify links.
What a difference Spotify makes.
This year marked my first full year using the streaming music service, and it has definitely had an effect on my listening habits.
It serves as my Google of music, allowing me to dig up most any song that comes to my mind.
And so 2012 was a year spent listening to a lot of music from my formative years. Remember “Stars” by Hum? How about Urge Overkill’s “Sister Havana”? The list goes on …
However, I did still manage to engage with my share of new music. Spotify changed my regular habits in that regard, too.
Whereas I used to listen to entire albums on my mp3 player, Spotify made it much easier to select my favorite tracks and put them in a single playlist.
The argument has been made by some that streaming music services make music more disposable than ever, and I can’t entirely disagree with that. Instead of letting something grow on me with repeated listens, I’m much more likely to simply move on to the next song or album. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’m not entirely ready to say.
All that being said, I still treasure a good album. This year had it’s share of those.
Here are my picks for the top 10 albums of 2012:
10. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti — “Mature Themes”
Ariel Pink comes up with some great, catchy tunes. But what really makes me enjoy “Mature Themes” is its sense of humor. The title track, in particular, is a great sing-a-long about wanting to talk about “taboo things.”
9. The Soft Moon — “Zeros”
The Soft Moon sets a bleak tone that does not let up through all of “Zeros.” The gothic post-punk electronica reminds me of some of the early work of The Cure, a sound that will always warm my cold heart.
8. Cursive — “I Am Gemini”
“I Am Gemini” is much more than an album. It is a rock musical — but without all the glitz and glam. It’s just straightforward guitar and drums rock ‘n’ roll with an elaborate story to tell. “I Am Gemini” is a story of two male twins separated at birth. One is good, and one is evil. They find themselves face to face, and the drama plays out beautifully. As a long-time Cursive fan, this was the hardest of their records for me to totally uncover and appreciate. I’m glad I took the time to do it, because now I can sing along to the entire musical!
7. The Raveonettes — “Observator”
“Observator” opens up with the despair of “Young and Cold” and the lyrics, “I get a shiver from broken hearts/I like the sun when it don’t shine/I make it hard on anyone/So many restless souls/I don’t wanna be young and cold.” It maintains that kind of mood, which sounds just right to my ears.
6. VCMG — “SSSS”
There once was a band named Depeche Mode that had within its ranks two great songwriters. One — Vince Clarke — left the group very early on, and the other, Martin Gore, went on to write most of Depeche Mode’s biggest hits. Clarke became part of Yazoo and Erasure. The two former bandmates hadn’t worked together since the early 1980s, but they came together for a dance album perfect for when the clubs close. I may have spent more time with “SSSS” than any other album this year.
5. Soulsavers — “The Light the Dead See”
While we’re on the subject of Depeche Mode, the lead singer of the band paired up with Soulsavers in 2012 for a criminally under-appreciated collaboration. David Gahan’s bluesy voice is perfect for the sometimes spaghetti Western, sometimes gospel and sometimes rock music created by Soulsavers. Introspective and beautiful.
4. Beach House — “Bloom”
I think this album is a culmination of everything Beach House has been working toward since first releasing an album six years ago. Hazy, transcendent dream pop at its finest.
3. Frank Ocean — “Channel Orange”
You’ve heard the hype about this young artist. It’s all true. I didn’t quite get “Channel Orange” in its entirety when it came out, but later in the year it clicked and I’ve been listening to it relentlessly since. Smart lyrics. Beautiful voice. And some good tunes.
2. Icky Blossoms — “Icky Blossoms”
I would never have guessed that an electronic dance/rock band from Omaha would end up on my top 10 list at the beginning of the year, but here it is. Icky Blossoms’ debut album is solid from beginning to end. I highly recommend seeing them live, too.
1. Crystal Castles — “III”
Sure, a part of me wanted Crystal Castles to release an album filled with the kind of pop perfection displayed on “Not in Love,” their collaboration with Cure frontman Robert Smith. Instead, they produced an angry, bleak and obfuscatory album that continues to intrigue me. In a way, it captures life in 2012 — even if the world didn’t end.