Top 5 Albums of 2012

Top 5 Albums of 2012

AS another year passes it’s time to look back over a year where we survived an apocalypse (and yes, you can lump the “Gangnam Style” craze into that category), and enjoyed a stellar year of great music what seems to be an ever increasing pool of genres.

As with the past couple of years (I smell a tradition forming!), I have gathered together a merry band of fellow music lovers and friends and asked them to reflect back over the musical year that was, and share some thoughts on their individual favourite 5 album releases of 2012.

There’s quite the eclectic spread of selections listed below, which means there’s bound to be something there that you may not have heard of before and can perhaps now go and explore. To help you out, there’s links at the bottom of the post to playlists I have set up on both Rdio and Spotify which you can subscribe and listen to at your leisure.

You’re very welcome!

MICHELLE DAVIES (@michd10)

Michelle Davies

1. HERE – EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS

I want to burn patchouli, invest in a tambourine and hit the road in a VW van (with Edward Sharpe and his posse). Nothing else out there sounds like this… it’s the ultimate summer campfire sing-a-long album.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Man on Fire”, “That’s What’s Up”, “Child” & “I Don’t Wanna Pray”.

2. BLOOM – BEACH HOUSE

I liken this album to the lemon pot de crème at Fable. It’s gorgeous. And while it’s one of those albums that takes a little while to ease into, somehow there’s enough whimsy to balance out the heartbreak.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Myth”, “Lazuli” & “On The Sea”.

3. BABEL – MUMFORD & SONS

I fought this one a bit because it’s so obvious, but I can’t deny that this album is brilliant from start to finish. Topping “Sigh No More” didn’t pose an easy task, but I’d argue they’ve done just that.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “I Will Wait” & “Whispers in the Dark”.

4. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS

From the first “Ho Hey” I heard, I was a fan. This is one of those albums you can play and play… and not get sick of. I’m proof. Still diggin’ it.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Ho Hey”, “Flowers in Your Hair” & “Dead Sea”.

5. WALK THE MOON – WALK THE MOON

My dark horse pick for 2012 – I saw them at a small venue in the fall and their live show blew me away. I’m seriously considering joining them on the road. Their album is fun but not kitschy, there’s some real depth throughout. I highly recommend checking them out, they’re my favourite “find” of the year.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Anna Sun” & “I Can Lift A Car”.

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

November 26, 2012 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band @ Rogers Arena, Vancouver

My second time seeing “The Boss” live was yet another reminder of how few artists there are nowadays who have that “thing” -> a true appreciation for their craft, an ability to hold 19,000+ fans in the palm of their hand, and the talent and cohesiveness with their band that they can drop into singles they haven’t played together for years.

They are having FUN. At 63 years old, Bruce Springsteen still has an energy, enthusiasm and stamina that few artists in their 20’s boast. When he had his roadies bring an 80-year-old down from her seat to join him for “Dancing in the Dark”, he sealed my vote for best live show of the year.

HONOURABLE MENTION

September 10, 2012 Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros @ Malkin Bowl, Vancouver

See love for album above. Now plunk Edward and his village of musicians in a small venue surrounded by trees on a summer night with Palm Bays and great friends. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

RYAN ASHTON (@rwashton)

Ryan Ashton

Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly “in the know” as it relates to new music in 2012. I reviewed the usual high profile “best of” lists for 2012 and didn’t recognize a heck of a lot. I guess having two kids tends to bump new music discovery from the iPod in favour of Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram. But I digress.

The albums on my Top 5 of 2012 all share a common theme. Music features strongly in my household, with my wife and two young daughters, and more often than not when we’re home on a Saturday or Sunday the house is filled with the sounds of our own favourite artists – Amos Lee, Ray Lamontagne, Brett Dennen and James Taylor, to name but only a few.

Included in the rotation of regular tracks from this past year are these five new albums that I was able to unearth and declare as my own hidden gems that provided the soundtrack to my life at home these last twelve months. Here they are, in no particular order – I hope you enjoy.

1. BARCHORDS – BAHAMAS

The second full-length release from Ontario’s own Afie Jurvanen won me over, not because of the catchy, smile-inducing “Caught me Thinking” (which is a very fine track in its own right), but because of the first cut on the album, titled “Lost in the Light.”

“Lost in the Light” features strongly as the backdrop for the short film “Sunday Dinner” currently streaming when you land on Bahamas’ website; the unscripted insight to Afie’s family life on the farm in Northern Ontario gives this track a new level of honesty and appreciation that made it the standout on the entire album.

Speaking of which – let’s not forget the remaining tracks on this beauty, including “Okay Alright I’m Alive” and “I Got You Babe.” Made for a quiet Sunday morning, it’s a solid press-play-and-forget-it type of album that sits unassuming in the background, keeping you smiling and enjoying every single minute of it.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Lost In The Light”

2. BOREDOM & JOY – JETS OVERHEAD

Jets Overhead flew onto my radar (see what I did there?) after seeing them at the Commodore with Masey well over five years ago. While they didn’t overwhelm me at the time, Rob picked up one of their albums and hooked me up with a copy; after I had given it a few spins I knew he was on to something.

Fast forward to 2012’s Boredom and Joy – their third full-length release – and the folks from Victoria, BC continue to impress. While not a turn-it-up-to-eleven mix of tracks, it’s still a solid collection of alt-rock tunes that gets serious play on my living room SoundDock every weekend.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Butterflies” and “Time and Place” are two solid tracks, but the highlight for me has to be “Love Got in the Way”. It’s such a standout track for a couple of reasons – the beat is such a departure from the rest of the album, and the vocals from Antonia Freybe-Smith are just too good to ignore. And if you’re up for it – check out a full list of user-generated remixes that some fans have put together for the same song.

3. THE CARPENTER – THE AVETT BROTHERS

I’d been into The Avett Brothers off and on over the past few years with a few tracks sprinkled in among the recesses of my iTunes library, but I never really spent much time on a full album at any given time. But as any music-loving concert-goer is apt to do, I started diving a bit deeper into their stuff when I learned that they’d be opening for DMB at The Gorge over the
Labour Day weekend. I’m glad I did.

Sure, The Carpenter has an influence of some of the twangy, Mumford-and-Sons-esque stylings that have been a mainstream hit this past year, but to me it offers a more honest and down-to-earth style that I’ve come to appreciate.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): While you can’t ignore “Live and Die” for its appeal as a toe-tapping ditty that hooks you early on in the album, my favourite track has to be “Pretty Girl from Michigan” – a folk-anthem (if there is such a thing) that has stood out for me as the highlight of the bunch.

4. BLUNDERBUSS – JACK WHITE

I can’t say enough about this album. Although I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with Jack White’s music over the years (other than a few tracks from The White Stripes and The Raconteurs), I was always a fan of his abilities as a musician. A few months ago, I had a chance to watch the documentary “It Might Get Loud” (with Jimmy Page and The Edge), and got a glimpse into his roots in Detroit and his influences as a guitarist. Learning what I did, I figured I should give this album a go. Good thing I did.

I love this album as it’s Jack White on his own – rolling solo and showing off his individual talent that has influenced so many other musicians over the years. It’s an album that I want to sink myself into with a pair of headphones, to really experience what Jack White has to offer.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): Two tracks on the album stand out for me: “I’m Shakin'” & “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”.

5. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS

While I battled with myself whether to include this album in my top five for 2012, in the end, I just couldn’t leave it off. Despite the radio-friendly single “Ho Hey” being played almost much as Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” this past year, the rest of the album has so many things going for it.

Stand out tracks: This album has featured heavily on my Sunday-morning coffee playlist this past year, and provides a perfect blend of sit-back-and-relax tracks mixed in with some great foot-stomping, hand-clapping tracks. If you can get past
the overdoneness of “Hey Ho” (and you should try), I think you’ll find cuts like “Stubborn Love,” “Flowers in Your Hair” and “Morning Song” to be honest and approachable folk rock songs that stand up on their own.

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

September 1, 2012 The Avett Brothers/Dave Matthews Band @ The Gorge, Washington

Fortunately, it’s a hands-down winner this year. After spending the past three years in Ontario, we hadn’t had a chance to make the annual trip to The Gorge Amphitheatre for a concert since taking Peyton to see Coldplay (her first show) in 2009. This year, having moved back to BC, we weren’t about to miss out again. This time, though, it was a family affair as I packed Corrie, 3-year old Peyton and 4-month old Kennedy into the truck for a long-weekend of camping, great weather and an epic night of The Avett Brothers and the Dave Matthews Band.

For those of you who have taken the trek down to Washington State for a weekend at The Gorge, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Even after having been there for 6 or 7 shows over the past decade, there’s something magical about the venue; the view as you crest the ridge to take in the concert stage with the Columbia River as a panoramic backdrop is nothing short of breathtaking.

The show itself was no slouch either. The Avett Brothers played a full set of great tracks from their entire library, with the highlight being an acoustic version of their heartfelt “Murder in the City” track off of their album “The Gleam II.”

DMB didn’t disappoint either, with their usual 3-hour set of mind-blowing songs. Add to that being able to see the show with a couple of fellow music-loving mates in Michelle and Masey, and it was the recipe for quite the unforgettable weekend.

KATIE DRECHSEL (@kat_drex)

Katie Drechsel

1. BROKEN BRIGHTS – ANGUS STONE

No brainer. This was easily my most played album of the year. Easy-on-the-ears and full of songs j’adore like “Monsters” and “Only A Woman”.

Angus has a unique ability to add brightness and colour to even the most downbeat tales. His live show was one of the top shows I went to this year – loved hearing the stories behind his writing.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Bird on the Buffalo”

2. COLOURS – GRAFFITI6

Colours is the definition of easy listening. It’s hard to pinpoint the sound, but there’s a faint retro vibe throughout.

This album made my list because you can tell it was written and produced as a complete album – the songs complement each other so nicely.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Stone In My Heart” – kicks the album off the album with fantastic energy.

3. LIVING ON THE EDGE OF TIME – YUKSEK

My French love! Living on the Edge of Time is much more pop compared to Yuksek’s first album.

Words that come to mind when describing this album: synth, catchy, electronic – dance-pop at its most enjoyable.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “On A Train” – play it LOUD!

4. IDEA OF HAPPINESS – VAN SHE

Hat tip to Rob for introducing me to Van She. This album is full of overwhelming tropically inclined rhythms, starburst crescendos, and synths.

When I listen I feel it sparkle. It sounds like someone’s idea of bliss… if bliss includes wafting from a disco ball-equipped cabana.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Jamaica”

5. IN OUR HEADS – HOT CHIP

Hot Chip are so underrated, in my opinion. I’ve loved their albums for years.

They produce music with great sense of rhythm & positivity that isn’t afraid to get deep. A reminder that any band, album or song – can be your life, even for just a moment.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Flutes” – this was THE song for me, during many moments this year.

CONCERT(S) OF THE YEAR

March 16, 2012 Of Monsters & Men @ SXSW/W Hotel Austin, Texas

Of Monsters and Men (almost made my top 5 albums) at a “pop up” concert on the roof top of the W Hotel at SXSW in Austin.

HONOURABLE MENTION

January 19, 2012 City & Colour @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver

ROB MASEFIELD (@masey)

Rob Masefield

Every year I kick off this little project it quickly becomes apparent how hard it is to whittle down your favourite albums from the past 12 months down to a shortlist of just 5.

While the following listed albums definitely rise to the top of my mind, it’s fair to give mention to the likes of artists such as “St Lucia”, “The Temper Trap”, “The Art of Sleeping”, “The Lumineers”, “Mumford & Sons” and “Missy Higgins” to name just a few – all of who released more than worthy candidates throughout the year.

1. MORNING PARADE – MORNING PARADE

Once again a relatively unknown (in Australia) British act has put its hand up and grabbed my attention in 2012. “Morning Parade”, a 5-piece indie rock act from Essex have burst onto the scene with their debut, self-titled album which, from the outset for me at least, offered hints of fellow UK indie favourites “The Kooks” and “Stereophonics”.

If toe-tapping indie rock tunes are your thing, then I can confidently suggest you add this one to your next streaming queue – it’s a beauty!

STAND OUT TRACK(S): It’s a tough call, but the piano driven awesomeness of “Running Down The Aisle” does it for me every time!

2. PORT OF MORROW – THE SHINS

My biggest musical regret in 2012 was missing out on seeing “The Shins” play a “Splendour in the Grass” side show in Brisbane back in May this year. By all reports it was an amazing performance showcasing the band’s uncanny ability to match and even extend their studio sound.

From their popular hit “Simple Song”, right through to the acoustic simplicity of “September” this is just an easy listening, dependable, winner of an album.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “The Rifle’s Spiral”

3. MEDICINE MAN – THE BAMBOOS

2012 was easily a year in which I rediscovered the coolness of soul/funk music thanks to a couple of Aussie bands – namely the up-and-coming “Saskwatch”, and the band applauded here, “The Bamboos”.

Featuring more than competent cameos from the likes of Megan Washington, Aloe Blacc and Aussie favourite Tim Rogers (of “You Am I” fame), the furiously funk-filled “Medicine Man” is equally the PERFECT accompaniment to a Sunday session on the back deck or your next road trip to… who cares where!

To prove how good these guys are, check out their cover, with the awesome Kylie Auldist on vocals, of Frank Ocean’s 2012 hit “Lost”, performed as part of Triple J’s ultra-popular “Like A Version” show.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “I Got Burned”

4. TO YOU – BATTLESHIPS

Of all the Triple J Unearthed artists that made their way into my life this year, the unique vocals of Jordan Sturdee cemented the 4-piece Sydney band “Battleships” at the top of my “bands to watch” list, and for good reason. From the atmospheric “In Retrospect” to the guitar driven “Your Words”, “To You”, a 7-track mini-album if you will, offers something different with every song making this, the band’s debut release, a pleasure to listen to, time and time again.

Keep an eye out for these lads in 2013!

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Coming Back To You” – Haunting. Memorable. Perfect.

5. IDEA OF HAPPINESS – VAN SHE

Following in the indie-pop footsteps of amazing bands like Hot Chip, M83 and Chromeo, Australia’s “Van She” have produced a tropical tinged winner in “Idea of Happiness”. This coveted last selection in my list came down to one thing alone: which album contained the most amount of ear-pleasing fodder from beginning to end??

Sorry “The Temper Trap”. It was a HUGE year for you guys and you came up with some AMAZING tracks, but if it’s a COMPLETE album I’m judging here then “Van She” gets the nod. “Idea of Happiness”, “Calypso”, “You’re My Rescue”, “Jamaica”, “Sarah”… LOVE ‘em all!

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Jamaica”

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

Coldplay @ Suncorp Stadium

November 21, 2012 Coldplay @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

A select few bands/acts in this world get to play Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, considered by many to be Australia’s premiere sporting venue next to Melbourne’s MCG. I’m talking the likes of “U2″, “Bon Jovi”, “Robbie Williams”, “The Police” and, in 2012, easily one of the best touring show’s on the planet right now, “Coldplay”.

Bringing their “Mylo Xyloto” tour to town, Chris Martin and the boys belted out anthem after pyrotechnic-singed, butterfly-confettied, laser-penetrated anthem, to a sold out crowd that hung on their every note.

With an equally entertaining opening set provided by arguably Australia’s most commercially successful band in 2012, “The Temper Trap”, the night felt a lot like a “double bill” kinda night, ‘cept Coldplay got to use all the cool “bells and whistles” with their set.

To check out my featured blog post covering the night, including images, video and setlist, CLICK HERE.

HONOURABLE MENTION

May 09, 2012 City & Colour @ Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane

Dallas Green is a genius. Period.

MEGAN GORSCH (@gorschtown)

Megan Gorsch

1. MUSEUM – BALL PARK MUSIC

This Brisbane band just keep coming up with the goods. The songwriting is some of the best I’ve seen come out of Australia in recent years, and its great to see their star rising.

Triple J have supported them heaps this year, which has helped get these catchy tunes out to the peoples… and the peoples do likes what they hears.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Surrender”

2. NIGHTFLIGHT – KATE MILLER-HEIDKE

Kate Miller-Heidke has to be seen live to be believed. This gorgeous girl, again hailing from Brisbane, has one of the most unique & wide ranging voices you’ll ever hear. And despite being pint sized, she has the biggest stage presence I’ve ever seen too.

“Nightflight” sees Kate’s music maturing & evolving in all the right ways. Classically trained as an opera singer, she incorporates her BIG voice seamlessly into a bunch of beautiful songs. And her songwriting… as always… mwaah!

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Sarah”

3. NOINEEN NOINY NOIN – STEVE POLTZ

A “best of” list from me wouldn’t be complete, or right, without a cheeky wink to my all time fave, Mr Steven Joseph Joshua Poltz. Hell, he’s possibly my favourite human being on the planet!

Recorded in Perth, Australia, “Noineen Noiny Noin” (a nod to how this Canadian/American hears the Australian accent) is the classic mix of Poltz favourites with some new gems thrown in to keep things fresh. No one else on the planet has the ability to both tug on my heartstrings & leave me rolling around in fits of laughter all in the time it takes to check the daily emails.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Croatia”

4. BY THE HORNS – JULIA STONE

I always love hearing what Julia Stone comes out with next. Her first solo record “The Memory Machine” is sterling, and while this offering took me a little longer to come around to, once again it is beautiful in its simplicity.

My only gripe is that she keeps shying away from penning the odd upbeat tune. Whenever she does speed the tempo up a notch, its always a winner.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “It’s All Okay”

5. BLESS THIS MESS – LISA MITCHELL

I have to admit, I kinda hated this record when it first came out. I thought we had lost Lisa to the pixies. But going back & hearing the songs again, I now see a definite maturation to her music.

Production on this record is exquisite & her songwriting is always original & intriguing. Her voice is unique & compelling. I do still hope she brings herself back to loving a good hook again in the future though.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Bless This Mess”

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

April 17, 2012 Steve Poltz @ The Round, Brisbane

Ommigawd! Any Poltz gig is the sure fire highlight of my year. I love this man with all my heart. “The Round” was an awesome setting for this great Poltz gig, and after finding myself a nice little spot right up the front I sat back (& quite often forward) and just breathed in his fabulousness.

As always Steve gave 100% of himself to his audience, he never gives anything less. I have seen & met Poltz many times over the years, but I have to say… this gig felt different to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it feels like Steve has found a serenity he’s long been searching for. His voice is richer than ever; his joy for life is infectious. I’d be surprised if anyone left this gig not wanting to be a better person after having experienced his music up close & personal.

Maybe its just me, finding my religion… Poltzology.

JENNIFER MCKENZIE (@jlmckenzie)

Jennifer Mckenzie

1. STRANGELAND – KEANE

I am a huge Keane fan but haven’t been completely sold on their direction since 2004’s “Hopes and Fears”.

With Strangeland, Keane definitely reverts back to a sound similar to “Hopes and Fears” which is why I love it. Some may say they took a step backwards, but for me it brought me back to what drew me to them in the first place.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “You Are Young”

2. BORN & RAISED – JOHN MAYER

I want to hate John Mayer but I can’t… especially after seeing him in concert a few years ago and even more so after listening to “Born and Raised”. It is a lazy Sunday listen.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “If I Ever Get Around To Living” and “Queen Of California”

3. SOME NIGHTS – FUN.

This was the soundtrack to my summer (and a good summer it was). It has tunes that I constantly find myself singing to. For that, it is on my list.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “We are Young” and “Some Nights”

4. MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL – OF MONSTERS & MEN

I love being introduced to new music and this band tops my list for new finds of 2012. I missed my chance to see them live this year, so listening to the album will have to suffice for now. I am not sure what more to say other than take a listen and you will not be disappointed.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Little Talks” and “Dirty Paws”

5. PORT OF MORROW – THE SHINS

Has it really been 5 years since The Shins last put out an album? Good thing they came back with a bang! This album is amazing. Enough said.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Simple Song” and “No Way Down”

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

April 13th – 15th, 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Indio CA
Attending Coachella was on my bucket list and was thrilled to be able to tick this one off the list. Three days of non-stop music and so many memorable moments. Stand outs: Azealia Banks, The Shins, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Girl Talk (who knew they would be so much fun!), Gotye, Florence & the Machine, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog.

I get tired again just thinking about it!!!

HONOURABLE MENTION

September 3, 2012 Keane @ The Centre, Vancouver
Not shocking that they would be one of my favourites of the year. This show was my 4th time seeing them. There is no other way to describe their shows other than they just make me happy. And this one was particularly special, because I was pregnant. I like to think of it as my babies first concert!

MATT BURGESS (@therealburgo)

Matt Burgess

1. THROUGH THE DEEP DARK VALLEY – THE OH HELLOS

I have a lot to thank The Oh Hellos for. 2012 saw me lose faith in the music blogging gig, and they were the band that managed to pull me back out of a serious “blogging funk”, with their release “Through the Deep Dark Valley” – which is easily one of the most sincere celebrations of pure music I’ve ever heard.

There’s something about this album that is at once totally accessible (in some respects, it sounds like a band you might have had playing on your block), while at the same time unspeakably beautiful. It’s a weird thing that I’m probably not explaining very well, but the music is… friendly. Warm. Welcoming.

I simply cannot believe that “Through the Deep Dark Valley” is the first full-length album from siblings Maggie and Tyler Heath. It’s just so emotionally rich, with a seamless story, it’s like they’ve been spinning these tales their whole life. An album that really does need to be listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate, I really mean it when I say, “Please listen to this”. Damn near to album of the year for me.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): This is really a tough one, because, as a concept album, each song builds on the other. But if I had to pick one, I’d go for “Second Child, Restless Child”.

2. HANDWRITTEN – THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM

Straight up, straight forward, chest-beating rock tunes. And “45” is pretty much a masterclass for bands on how to open an album. It’s just… well, perfect.

Brian Fallon has one of my favourite voices in contemporary music, and on “Handwritten”, he’s in amazing form; sounding even more raw and honest than on “The ’59 Sound” (which, incidentally, was in my “Best Albums of the Decade” post for 00-09, so their track record so far is pretty good with me).

There’s one thing that the Gaslight Anthem do so well, and I love them for it: when you’ve loved and lost, but want to pick your chin up and take on the whole world… this is the album for you.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Here Comes My Man”

3. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS

I don’t know what it is with Americana, but it seems to be the genre of music that just skips my head and instantly connects with my heart. I remember the first time I heard Whiskeytown, it was like that. And the same thing happened with the Lumineers. I heard “Flowers in your Hair”, and as soon as the percussion kicked in about 60 seconds into the tune, I was in love.

It absolutely freaks me out to think of this as a debut album. It’s just ridiculously accomplished. More than any band on this list, I think The Lumineers have an incredibly tough job ahead of them. Where they go from this album, I have no idea.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Stubborn Love”

4. STRANGER IN THE FIRST PLACE – ROBERT FRANCIS

You know, the lack of recognition for Robert Francis still boggles my mind. I first wrote about him 5 years ago, when I heard his debut album, “One by One”. At the time, the guy was just 19, and inspired something close to hero worship in me.

The guy is now 25 (24 at the time of this album’s release), and still writing songs that are well beyond his years, telling his stories with a dusty road and jack daniels soaked tinge.

“Strangers in the First Place” probably isn’t going to be for everyone, and I accept that by now; but, to my mind, it’s probably one of the best alt-folk records of the last 5 years.

If there was one dude I wanted to be in my own musical career on this list, it’s Robert Francis. The guy is a musical titan.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Some Things Never Change”

5. CHANNEL ORANGE – FRANK OCEAN

You know, to be honest, I’ll be very surprised if this album isn’t on 90% of the lists in this post. Frank has always been the most intriguing member of OFWGKTA to me, and when I heard “Channel Orange”, I knew there was a reason.

This album is just so, so ambitious. And there are really 100 reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. But it just does. The thing I love about Frank Ocean’s stuff is that the guy just clearly knows so damn much about music and the shared history of genres… and he somehow takes that knowledge, tips his hat to tradition, and then steps on, pushing boundaries into places where no one else has the guts (or vision) to go.

I dunno. I guess what I’m trying to say is: this is creativity, pure and simple. And it completely blows me away. And while other albums may resonate more for me in terms of playability and comfort, this is – without question – album of the year for me. The scale of what this kid has accomplished is, quite frankly, unfathomable.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Pyramids”

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

June 5, 2012 Josh Ritter @ The Old Museum, Brisbane

This was a tough one, as James Vincent McMorrow was another magical night, but in the end I had to plump for Ritter. The Old Museum is one of my favourite venues of all time, and seeing Simone Felice and Josh Ritter perform live there was just such a special experience. As I said in my write up of the night, I honestly believe that Ritter is the songwriter of our generation. Hearing “Monster Ballads”, live… well, it was all I could do to keep the lump in my throat down.

NOTE:

Burgo has his own brilliant music blog which is worth keeping your eyes on throughout the year.

SARA DEARING (@smallmemoires)

Sara Dearing

1. ST LUCIA – ST LUCIA EP

Probably one of the most memorable musical game changers for me – a new found introduction to the depth, talent and mood-boost of pop music. Now one of my most loved genres, this album will always hit a special note for me. The layered, building, bursting effect of St. Lucia consistently left me wanting more.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “All Eyes On You” – So tough to narrow it down to just one but it is definitely the one I play the most. If I was able to mention a second, then “Closer Than This” is just as amazing.

2. THE LION THE BEAST THE BEAT – GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS

I had this album on repeat for a good month. Talk about a woman able to make every note ache with sexual tension. Her conviction in the way she sings is what got me the most – her deep, at times hoarse voice, carrying on and building up her story, is just so satisfying.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Timekeeper”

3. BORN TO DIE – LANA DEL RAY

I had quite the obsession with this one. Her vintage style and sound, her ability to find beauty in such dark places, is quite memorable.

Lana just painted a picture so out of the ordinary. This album is haunting.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Video Games” – Despite having quite a few of her songs on repeat this one is still the one that lingers with me the most.

4. THIS FIRE EP – BIRDS OF TOKYO

This EP was great on so many levels and I was quite torn between a few tracks on this album.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “The Lake” – will take the cake though.

5. THE TEMPER TRAP – THE TEMPER TRAP

Always loved these guys. Though I found the sound on many of the tracks on this album departed from their usual creations, I still found myself instantly connecting with the feeling they charge their talented music with.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Miracle”.

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

July 23, 2012 Coldplay @ Air Canada Centre, Toronto
I can’t describe the energy these guys bring to the venue. They are so interactive with their audience, so passionate on the stage.

I could not take my eyes of Chris Martin. I felt so alive and such a part of it all. I would have gone again the next night… in a heartbeat!

DAMIEN HILL (@damienhill)

Damien Hill

1. DJANGO DJANGO – DJANGO DJANGO

One of those albums that defines a new genre of music. Some are calling it folktronica or avant-pop but I don’t really care, it makes my ears happy.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Default”

2. FEAR FUN – FATHER JOHN MISTY

I’ve listened to some of Josh Tillman’s earlier stuff but never really got hooked. This new album’s upbeat sound is as dramatic a change as his new stage name, and it’s definitely for the better.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”

3. AN AWESOME WAVE – ALT-J (∆)

A mixed bag of genres on this album result in some fantastic tracks. Usually it take me a few listens to get into experimental sounds like this but “An Awesome Wave” strikes the right balance.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Tessellate”

4. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS

Folk music is popular again thanks to the success of Mumford and Sons. The Lumineers is everything folk rock should be: simple, raw, catchy songs sung by storytellers wearing hats. Bonus: if you dig this stuff check out The Head and the Heart’s self-titled EP (2010).

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Stubborn Love”

5. MY HEAD IS AN ANIMAL – OF MONSTERS & MEN

I can’t pronounce any of their last names but I know most of the lyrics to this album by an indie-folk band out of Iceland. Rolling Stone think they’re the next Arcade Fire… I wouldn’t go that far but they definitely deserve a listen.

STAND OUT TRACK(S): “Dirty Paws”

CONCERT OF THE YEAR

March 16, 2012 Bon Iver @ Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane
I’ve always imagined a Bon Iver concert to be a stripped back acoustic set; just Justin Vernon with his guitar, voice and raw emotion. But that wasn’t the concert I went to.

Instead there were about 12-15 musicians jamming to songs from the new and old albums. The Tivoli stage looked fantastic and with the large band, awesome lighting and crowd joining in, Bon Iver took it to another level.

The playlists

A massive thanks goes out to all the crew who contributed this year. Your involvement is, as always, greatly appreciated and always welcomed.

As mentioned earlier, to give you all an easily accessible way to sample some of the great tracks from the selected favourite albums in 2012, I’ve set up a couple of playlists on both Rdio and Spotify. I’ve added as many of the contributors fave tracks as possible, when available. Simply click on the links below to load them up, and enjoy the awesome ear-candy!

Rdio Top 5 Albums of 2012 Playlist
Spotify Top 5 Albums of 2012 Playlist


See you all next year!

 Image credits: Background & lead image by photosteve101 (Flickr).

10 Comments

  1. Ryan Ashton says:

    I see “The Lumineers” debut album checks in with three inclusions this year. I loved the album but didn’t see that coming!

    Thanks again for letting me contribute mate.

  2. Matt says:

    Crazy mix from contributors this year… surprised (although pretty happy) to see Lumineers as one of the constants from the rest of the contributors.

    Shocked to see the lack of Channel Orange references though, looks like I was way off base with my expectation of “90%” :)

    Thanks for putting this together Rob. I think, the thing that stands out for me, is that 2012 was a year without “that” album. You know, the album that everyone just swoons at. But at the same time, it had some killer variety.

  3. Thanks for including me Rob. I love the process of selecting my top 5 albums. :)

    It was so hard for me to leave Silversun Pickups, St.Lucia and Of Monsters & Men off my list. And I tried really hard to be brief in my write ups this year…

    My fave blog post of the year. :)

    • Matt says:

      Ooh, ooh… if we’re listing “near misses”, here are mine:

      Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
      First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
      Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
      The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

      ;)

    • MΛSΞY says:

      At least y’all kept your “cheating” to the comments section this year! :P

  4. Michelle says:

    I must echo all the sentiments above – I so enjoy this and appreciate you including me as a contributor. I struggled so much leaving Of Monsters and Men off, glad to see I’m not the only one who struggled there. ;)

  5. Toby says:

    I love the albums that are listed here. I’m counting the hours until I see the Lumineers at the Ogden here in Denver on NYE. I know it will be amazing, but I just can’t wait to soak it in.

    A big “Thank You” to all who have contributed here. I’ve definitely added a few more artists to my list thanks to your reviews. Having been a devoted “Best of Michelle Davies” for the past 5 years, this just puts double-chocolate frosting on top of it!

    Great work Masey and friends! Cheers to 2012 and to an even better 2013! – Tobes

  6. Hazel says:

    Can’t believe Frank Ocean only got one shout out!

  7. Toby says:

    Thoughts on the newly released Coachella lineup for 2013?

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