Best Music of 2012

Top 50 Albums of 2012

on December 14, 2012, 1:00am
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a thing called the divine fits Top 50 Albums of 2012

20. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

Sharp guitars bounce between Spoon’s Britt Daniel’s irresistible howl as he tells us, “She waited for me like ice cream” on A Thing Called Divine Fits’ sugary tenth track. The song feels like the album cover’s plump red cherry sitting atop an 11-song sundae of collaborative goodness.

While Daniel effortlessly shines on “Flaggin’ A Ride”, “Would That Not be Nice”, and “Civilian Stripes”, it’s former Wolf Parade frontman Dan Boeckner who elevates the Fits, both on the record and in concert, as he sings and strums with a sense of urgency — specifically on “Baby Get Worse” or “For Your Heart”.

The two are joined by The New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown on drums and Alex Fischel on keys – the adventitious result of Daniel’s request to join forces with Boeckner. Daniel’s return to Spoon is imminent, but he’s since promised that this project will remain a “real band,” and we’ll gladly wait like ice cream for more of this thing called Divine Fits. -Amanda Koellner

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 Top 50 Albums of 2012

19. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

The stark cover shot of a nude Natasha Khan carrying a naked, seemingly lifeless man on her shoulders, his limbs artfully preserving her modesty, sets up the unlikely expectation of a new minimalism in her music. Unlikely because of the band’s track record for lushly layered soundscapes, and the fantastical imagery that is bedfellow for Khan’s Bat for Lashes persona. Her core fans should not be worried that Khan has opted for the fully stripped away on The Haunted Man.

The textural density is still present in the music. but it’s more distilled and refined, even in “Laura”, where the perils of celebrity require no more dressing than a piano, delicate orchestration, and cry-out vocal clarity. There is still drama aplenty in Khan’s voice, swooping, soaring, dispensing belief while a certain worldly wisdom shows a distinct development from the otherworldliness of her past work. The Haunted Man is blessed with inspirational melodies, simply vocalized or embellished with imaginative orchestration, intense rhythms, and unexpected bridges. Its sense of theater demands your attention and richly rewards it. There may be no seismic shift in style, yet, to return to that cover image, Natasha Khan’s strength is that her music reveals all. -Tony Hardy

Buy: Amazon
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miguel kaleidoscope dream cover 1 Top 50 Albums of 2012

18. Miguel – Kaleidoscopic Dream

Claps abound in pop music today. The ear garnish is so common that we forget it used to be kind of cheesy, but Miguel restores our faith on his scintillating second full-length album. The slow clap heard on the luscious “The Thrill” is enough to bring a tear to one’s private eyes. And like Hall & Oates, Miguel worships two things: rich girls (“Let my love adorn you,” he entreats) and soul music. Also like Hall & Oates, he’s better off sticking with the latter. In the ‘80s, Hall & Oates used soul to interpret new wave, and similarly, Miguel applies soul to electronic/R&B music. Synthetic or not, this divine foundation draws us – and the palms of our hands – closer with every beat.

The bass lines on Dream manifest as background for Miguel’s multiplicity of personalities, from supernatural predator (“Don’t Look Back”) to pleading prey (“Use Me”). The deep tones bolster all the instrumental and emotional risks that take place. Synths shift beneath vocals that spew angelic falsetto and dirty-talk tutorials at the same time. Achieved is a sound that’s staccato, yet lush, which matches his emotional tenor. It’s more mature than simply “hot” and “cold” — it’s “passionate” and (as a consequence) “afraid.” The closer, “Candles in the Sun”, dithers about bureaucracy and government aid – an R&B folk song that’s both brooding and self-aware. It sounds like Liz Phair called shotgun in Miguel’s Little Red Corvette. That image is emblematic of Miguel’s work and portrays the spectrum of musical possibilities he sees in his riveting kaleidoscope dream. -Sarah Grant

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grimes visions albumartwork Top 50 Albums of 2012

17. Grimes – Visions

Grimes is the funnest act of 2012. Whether she’s selling “pussy rings” on Tumblr, singing to herself at the varsity football game, or just charming the clothes off an audience with fem-glam insanity, it’s easy to see why Claire Boucher is the artist this generation deserves. Grimes is less refined, more street-savvy, and embodies a DIY entrepreneurial spirit which more mainstream acts wish they could exploit. Visions sights Grimes stepping into the spotlight, like a robotic Kate Bush on a steady diet of Adderall and dusty Nintendo cartridges. This musical ADHD makes the album one of the least predictable listens in recent memory.

Tracks like “Genesis”, “Oblivion”, and “Circumambient” start at point A and end at points unknown. But listeners find solace by clinging to the soft, sweet harmony of their blissful tour guide’s looped vocals that echo off the periphery and simultaneously transform into coy, synthesized confessions and cries for help with lyrics like “I need someone now / To look into my eyes and tell me / Girl you know you’ve got to watch your health.” I challenge anyone to sit through this album and not smile. Or, if feeling so bold, position yourself in the center of five streaming laptops and play the day’s top ten YouTube videos simultaneously; I promise, one experience will be a cathartic mish-mash of youthful girliness and poppy heartthrob, while the other is just a bunch of lame webcam videos. -Dan Pfleegor

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deathgripslpcover Top 50 Albums of 2012

16. Death Grips – The Money Store

“The whole concept was to piss and shit and cum into this thing.” Death Grips drummer and beatmaker Zach Hill’s comment to The Stool Pigeon perfectly sums up The Money Store, a raw smear of punk hip-hop that sounds drenched in the bodily fluids of its creators. Whereas many great rap albums are man vs. nature or man vs. man, chronicling a protagonist’s war with a menacing urban environment, The Money Store is mostly man vs. himself, pin-balling inside the veins, tubes, and plagued skull of vocalist Stefan Burnett a.k.a. MC Ride. The inward retreat makes room for plenty of horrifying surreal imagery.

These are stream-of-consciousness spews, not well-honed narratives. “Bangin’ bones on Roland / Jungle rottin’ / Chicken skeletal system bombin’ / Unidentified genre abductor.” “I got this pregnant snake / Stay surrounded by long hairs / A plethora of maniacs and spiral stairs.” This is the stuff nightmares are made of, made all the more nightmarish by the barrage of junk percussion and junkie electronica that backs every track. No posturing, no bragging, no self-aggrandizing. You won’t remember these lyrics after first hearing the album. Hell, you probably won’t remember what any individual song sounds like right away, save for maybe “Ive Seen Footage”. But The Money Store will leave you feeling energized, assaulted, and, whether you like it or not, soaked. -Dan Caffrey

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