This was an amazing year for new music all across the board, and there was some amazing new collections of music to be had. There was truly a lot to offer everyone, and there will be a lot of debate over what the best album to be released this year. Here’s my picks for the best:
25. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension
Coheed and Cambria produce and fantastic first part to their two part story, The Afterman. There is great production on here and the band seems to be hitting a creative peak musically. Only time will tell if the series will live up to the fans’ expectations, but the first half is certainly worth checking out.
Highlights: “The Afterman”, “Subtraction”
24. Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
It’s a solid album. There’s no real surprises here for long time fans of the band, but it’s very open to the first time listener, and that makes for a great experience. It’s not the best record they’ve ever made, but it’s still a very good record.
Highlights: “Knock Knock”, “Shut-In Tourist”
23. Sliversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods
From beginning to end, Silversun Pickups deliver on, in my opinion, their most consistent album in their career. It’s loud, it’s raw, it’s melodic; it’s everything you come to expect from a band that only seems to be getting better as time goes on.
Highlights: “Skin Graph” , “The Pit”
22. Corin Tucker Band – Kill My Blues
Corin Tucker’s solo effort has been amazing so far, and this record put the stamp on it that this band she’s put together is legit. Every song is good, and Corin’s singing better than ever. At worst, it’s a great way for Sleater-Kinney fans to pass the time until they come off hiatus.
Highlights: “Kill My Blues”, “I Don’t Wanna Go”
21. Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour
Hard rockin’ blues is not dead. Band of Skulls’ 2nd effort proved it with an album that improved their first album’s formula. This is a band that’s really coming into their own, and we could be hearing a lot more about them very, very soon.
Highlights: “Sweet Sour”, “You Ain’t Pretty But You Got It Going On”
20. Matt and Kim – Lightning
“Say what you wanna say, make it mean everything,” wails Matt on the band’s opening track, “Let’s Go”. Matt and Kim did exactly that on this album. Their brand of happy pop-laced jams never seems to get old, and whether you want to or not, you’ll learn all the words to all the songs.
Highlights: “Let’s Go”, “It’s Alright”
The punk rock/classic rock mixture produced by Japandroids on Celebration Rock is phenomenal; it’s a great hard rocking album and is gonna be one of those albums people will listen to in a few months and realized they almost missed out.
Highlights: “Evil’s Sway”, “The House That Heaven Built”
18. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
The Boss continues to put out great record after great record, and Wrecking Ball was no exception. It’s got all that great songwriting prowess you come to expect from The Boss, and there’s just nothing wrong with the album. Great production all the way around.
17. Heavy Blanket – Heavy Blanket
16. Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Imagine Dragons’ debut LP provides all that sultry indie pop goodness that we could ask for and then some. There’s so much potential in this album, and if they continue to perfect their sound, Imagine Dragons is going to be around a long, long time.
Highlights: “Radioactive”, “It’s Time”
15. Ty Segall – Twins
The 3rd of 3 albums released by Segall this year, Twins is a heavy dose of garage attitude without any overdoing; it’s lo-fi production at it’s very best. Segall’s guitar playing here is awesome, and he leaves us with hoping he releases at least 4 albums next year.
Highlights: “Thank God For Sinners”, “Inside Your Heart”
14. OFF! – OFF!
A masterpiece of punk legends led by Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks) gives us hope that as long as our legends are alive and well, punk rock will never die. Plus you gotta love an album that has 16 tracks and is pressed as a 12′ 45 RPM record. Also, it wins my Album Cover Art of the Year Award.
Highlights: “Elimination”, “Feelings are Made to Be Hurt”
13. Shovels and Rope – O’ Be Joyful
Happy Gulf Coast-tinged indie folk songs from a husband-wife duo from South Carolina? Don’t mind if I do. Some of the best folk tuneage I’ve heard in a really, really long time, and their voices are just so made for each other and made for this kind of music.
Highlights: “Birmingham”, “Keeper”
12. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
While I still think the comparisons to Arcade Fire are a bit out there, Of Monsters and Men did provide us with an amazing indie rock album this year. There must be something up there in Iceland. This is a great sing along album that you can get multiple repeated listens out of. Very solid.
Highlights: “Little Talks”, “Mountain Sound”
11. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Tame Impala made a really unique and creative album this year in Lonerism, that built upon their previous effort and just flat out sounded amazing. One of the major things I really enjoyed about the album is how well the production was and just how much the album touches the senses. It’s an incredible album front to back.
Highlights: “Apocalypse Dreams”, “Elephant”
10. Stellar Young – Everything at Once
NY’s own Stellar Young provides us with one of the best debut’s of the year. It’s got the perfect mix of indie, punk, and pop and it makes for a seemless wave and bend. Also, amazing production work, and an amazing attention to detail. A well constructed, well-executed release all around.
Highlights: “The Universe is a Bully”,”We Own Nothing”
9. Gaslight Anthem – HandwrittenThe brand of blue collar, Springsteen-esque roots punk the Gaslight Anthem puts out is so good, and Handwritten is the perfect album for their sound. From beginning to end, I was completely entraced. What an amazing record. I hope that things go even more up as these guys are one of my new favorite bands.
Highlights: “Handwritten”, “Biloxi Parish”
8. Bob Mould – Silver Age
In a year where it seemed like a lot of our old legends took a step sideways or even backwards, Bob Mould went forward. This albums screams the power pop goodness we are so used to from a legend like Bob. Yes, there are hints of Husker Du and Sugar present, but there is only going forward; exactly the direction Bob Mould goes with this album.
Highlights: “Star Machine”, “Sliver Age”
7. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Grizzly’s return from a brief six-month hiatus was well worth the wait. The record is smooth flowing and has a subtle statement that Grizzly Bear is here to stay, and that the band is only getting better. While the album may not have the same “umph” as their previous releases, the album makes up for it with amazing melodies and hooks.
Highlights: “Sleeping Ute”, “The Hunt”
6. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Dinosaur Jr’s I Bet on Sky continues the run of great albums that the original lineup has put out since their reunion in 2005. Of the 3 albums put out since then, IBoS is definately the band’s most “rocking” album. J Mascis’ continues his flawless guitar solos and riffs to the Dinosaur formula machine, and I was especially impressed with Mascis’ lyric writing on the record.
Highlights: “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know”, “Rude”
5. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
Hooked. From beginning to end, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “album-within-an-album” had me hooked from the opening note to the the final chord. The Smashing Pumpkins answer the question that they are for real and Billy Corgan’s songwriting is as good as it ever was. It’s got the classic Pumpkins sound but it doesn;t sound outdated or old. It’s loud. It’s awesome.
Highlights: “Quasar”, “The Celestials”
4. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Deftones put out record, Canaan amazed at how consistently great record is, Canaan wonders why he surprised at how great record is when it shouldn’t surprise him. That’s basically it. The Deftones have really outdone themselves with Koi No Yokan, it’s one of the hardest hitting records of the year by an “active rock” band and it’s sets the tone for all other albums coming from mainstream rock radio for at least 2013.
Highlights: “Leathers” , “Poltergeist”
3. Soundgarden – King Animal
The return of one of the 90’s best bands, Soundgarden, comes to us as the band members have grown up; They’ve aged, they’ve done other projects (Audioslave, anyone?), and they’ve realized that’s it’s good to be back together; together enough to put out one of the year’s best albums. The album sounds exactly like a Soundgarden album released in 2012 should sound like, even if they had never broken up. Great songwriting, Cornell sounds better than ever, Thyail hasn’t lost a step, and the rhythm section is still going strong.
Highlights: “Been Away Too Long”, “Rowing”
2. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
Loud garage rock is alive and well, my friends. Ty Segall Band put out exactly what a garage rock album is supposed to sound like: Loud guitar, loud vocals, lo-fi production. They follow the format perfectly. There’s so much to love about this album. Ty Segall is one of the scene’s hottest up and coming names, and if he continues to put out stuff like this, he will cement himself as one of the best and a big name in no time.
Highlights: The whole album.
1. Jack White – Blunderbuss
The album of the year is the album that had the most intrigue. When Jack White announced he was releasing a solo album, it was almost inconceivable: what will this sound like? Will it be a pseudo-White Stripes record? Will it be a compete turnaround from what we come to expect of him?
Instead, what we got was the most complete album of 2012. The guitar. The lyrics. The singing. The rhythm section. Backup singing. Production. Everything was so compete; perfect, right down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Every song on the album is single-ready; heck, even the B-sides from the album could be singles. One of the year’s biggest releases, surrounded in the most intrigue, the most question, the most clout, gave us the most complete album that we heard all year. And, simply the best.
Highlights: The whole album.