MTAF’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

The year is nearly through, the world didn’t end on December 21st (did people actually believe it would?) and Christmas is right around the corner, which means family gathering after family gathering!  If Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll have to somehow strategically avoid creepy uncles, cheek-pinching great-aunts, boozy mother-in-laws, and dreadfully annoying younger cousins. Fortunately, my family is void of any of the above, but my sympathies go out to those whose family gatherings play out like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Nevertheless, the end of the year also signals these lists. People tend to like reading lists, I know I do. I like reading them and then disagreeing and pleading my case as to why my choices are superior to the list creator’s selections. I hope that you read my Top 10 Albums of 2012 list and know that these are simply my favourites from the year.  It doesn’t mean I think my list is a be-all-end-all kind of list and would be surprised if anyone agreed with all 10 spots. (Also, if you’ve read my blog before, or follow me on Twitter, this list won’t be much of a surprise)

Unfortunately, there are many albums I just didn’t get the chance to listen to in entirety this year (due to a lack of both time and money), such as Grizzly Bear, Hannah Georgas, Father John Misty, Dry The River, Japandroids, Mumford & Sons, etc, etc, etc. I’m sure some of those albums could have quite possibly made their way on this list, but I’ll have to consume them in the new year because it’s just too late now.

So with that spoiler alert…. if you’re actually still reading and haven’t impatiently scanned through the list already, I give you MoreThanAFeeling Music’s Top 10 Albums of 2012: Happy Festivus!

 

Yellow Ostrich - Strange Land
10. Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land — This fun trio from New York released Strange Land earlier in 2012, and after hearing tracks Marathon Runner and The Shakedown via a Noisetrade sampler, I knew this was going to be a special album. Though the band only consists of the rock’n’roll standard instrumentation (drums, bass, guitar), layered vocals and guitars, and tumbling drum lines give Yellow Ostrich a much bigger, more dynamic—and truly unique—sound. Strange Land wades in unfamiliar waters but continuously delivers with tracks like Elephant King, Marathon Runner, The Shakedown, and Daughter. Do yourself a favour and give a listen.

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Zeus - Busting Visions
9. Zeus – Busting Visions — Being constantly referred to as “Jason Collett‘s backing band” may get old, but the boys from Zeus were/are exactly that; however, unlike The Band (who were Bob Dylan‘s original backing band), they were able to come up with a band name that not only untangles them from Collett’s name but outright suggests their rock “god” status. Rightfully so, too. Busting Visions is the follow-up to the brilliant debut, Say Us.With each member involved in the songwriting and vocal duty, each individual tune has its own individuality which makes for unique stylistic changes reminiscent of Sloan‘s Navy Blues, but somehow manages to blend together like a musical rubik’s cube.  Obviously inspired by rock of the ’60s and ’70s, ZeusBusting Visions is predominantly vintage with a new millenium flare here and there. Check out tracks Strong Mind, Are You Gonna Waste My Time, Hello Tender Love, Love/Pain, and Cool Blue (And the Things You Do).

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Said The Whale - Little Mountain
8. Said the Whale – Little Mountain — Vancouver’s “little band that could” released Little Mountain in March, proving their prowess for writing viciously catchy indie rock with a pop flare is only becoming that much more honed and perfected. Little Mountain also captures the ‘traveling band’ essence of Said the Whale splendidly as songs about people and places are consistently found on their albums, with this 2012 release being no exception. Jesse, AR and Big Sky, MT are two prime examples of a consistent “people and places” theme, but even more so, these tunes are examples of fun, catchy tracks that made this album a lock on this list. The album also finally features We Are 1980, one of the band’s live staples for a while, and hadn’t yet found a home on any albums until now. It kicks the album off in the right direction, and the album closer Seasons finishes it off beautifully as drummer Spencer sings accompanied solely by a piano.  Boasting 15 tracks, Little Mountain delivers consistently holding nothing back, leaving no man or woman behind. Said The Whale have truly hit their stride. Notable tracks: We Are 1980, Big Sky MT, Heavy Ceiling, Lucky

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Jack White - Blunderbuss
7. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss — “The Godfather of garage rock is back.” Is that not a just statement? Jack White has spent the past 12 years or so building a musical empire in the form of the White Stripes, The Dead Weather, and The Raconteurs. It seems as though everything Mr. White touches turns to gold, so after the announcement of the finality of The White Stripes in 2011, it was only natural to assume Jack would be back sooner or later.  Safe to say I didn’t expect a solo album from him, and was hoping for a third Raconteurs effort as the first two were so damn good. But Blunderbuss failed to disappoint—not for a second—from the first 6 organ notes of Missing Pieces to the final cymbal crash of Take Me With You When You Go.  Not only is Blunderbuss a mixology of White’s past—Sixteen Saltines is classic White Stripes while Weep Themselves To Sleep would fit right in on a Raconteurs album—the solo debut brings an unheard-yet-still-familiar side of White to the table, so to speak, with Blunderbuss and  I’m Shakin, the latter a 1960 cover of Little Willie John. Notable tracks: see previously mentioned tunes.

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Hands & Teeth - Hunting Season
6. Hands & Teeth – Hunting Season — With only 8 tunes to boast, Hunting Season is a quick delve into the eccentric psyche of the 5-piece that call themselves Hands & Teeth. A mixture of male and female vocals along with multiple song arrangements, dynamic instrumentation and a flare for the obscure, Hunting Season—however brief—makes it’s mark as one of the best and quite possibly under-appreciated albums of 2012 (and yes, I classify it as a full-length effort and not an EP as it falls under the Polaris Music Prize song quantity and length requirements of 8 tracks running a minimum of 30 minutes).  Every song on the LP is a showcase of sorts, and those dynamics make for a very well-rounded debut full-length effort (see my full album review HERE). Notable tracks: Le Petit Voleur, Missing, Parallel States, Hunting Season. 

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Amos The Transparent - Goodnight My Dear...I'm Falling Apart
5. Amos The Transparent – Goodnight, My Dear…I’m Falling Apart — By geniusly blending together two previously released 4-song EP’s—one titled Goodnight, My Dear, and the other I’m Falling Apart—and adding another 6 new tunes, Amos The Transparent masterfully concocted a gem of an LP with Goodnight My Dear…I’m Falling Apart.  The album mixes heavier sounds (You Were So RightConvince The Mayor) with acoustic rock numbers (Sure As the Weather; Greater Than Consequence; Goodnight My Dear) and always keeps you guessing as to where each song is going.  I was introduced to this album in late 2012, but would surely have spun it regularly throughout the year had I known about it since it’s February release.  If walls of harmony and melody steeped with rock, folk and a tinge of country are your deal, then Amos The Transparent‘s Goodnight, My Dear…I’m Falling Apart is your deal. Get the album FREE here.


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Yukon Blonde - Tiger Talk
4. Yukon Blonde – Tiger Talk — These former Kelowna boys are now calling Vancouver their home and writing solid tune after solid tune. Tiger Talk is living, breathing, walking proof.  The band’s second full-length hook-laden LP is an indie pop-rock sonic discharge that leaves no note unturned.  The lead-off single, Stairway, could be heard all over the country in 2012, and not only on radios but on television where it was featured in a Toronto Bluejays TSN promo this spring.  Now, the success of an album doesn’t automatically grant it credential, but in the case of Tiger Talk, said success is merited as the album fails to falter (my complete album review HERE).  Tiger Talk is likely the most up-tempo and, arguably, most playful album on this list, and with cuts like My Girl, Radio, Iron Fist, and Breathing Tigers make it hard to eject out of the CD player. Or skip on your iPod. Or whatever the kids are using these days. Notable tracks: Guns, My Girl, Stairway, Six Dead Tigers.

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Wintersleep - Hello Hum
3. Wintersleep – Hello Hum — Wintersleep hit it big with their 3rd(?) studio album Welcome To the Night Sky, mostly thanks to the acoustic Canadiana hit Weighty Ghost.  Since then, the band has had a little trouble breaking back into the mainstream.  As someone who tends to veer from the mainstream, I didn’t mind their back-road venture that was New Inheritorsregardless of the fact it didn’t spawn a radio hit. Then in 2012, the Haligonian 5-piece rock ensemble released the unpredictable Hello Hum, and were quickly back in the spotlight.  With In Came the Flood as the lead-off single, the album had my immediate attention, and it wasn’t long before it was in my possession. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with songs like the beautifully obscure intro Hum, or the existentially plaintive Permanent Sigh, or the ballad-ish Nothing Is Anything (Without You). Wintersleep’s most mature effort has proven that they still have a few tricks up their sleeve, and hopefully a few more albums, too (see my complete album review HERE). Notable tracks: Zones, In Came The Flood, Permanent Sigh, Resuscitate.

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Plants and Animals - The End Of That
2. Plants and Animals – The End of That — Back at the beginning of March, about one day after I purchased it, I took a picture of this album, posted it on Instagram and dubbed it ‘Album of the Year’.  As you can see by it’s placing on this list, I was wrong, but not by much.  Plants and Animals‘ 3rd studio album, The End of That, is another evolution of the band and a little bit of the best bits from their previous efforts (see my full album review HERE).  Songs like Before and HC are reminiscent of the band’s Parc Avenue days, while Control Me and 2010 bring to mind the big sound of La La LandThen there are the tunes that morph the band P&A used to be with the one they are now, and this is, in my opinion, where the band is best.  The album’s first single, Lightshow, is one of the top-shelf tunes on the album and bounds in a different direction than anything they have done before.  Song For Love, No Idea, and title track The End of That are also conclusive evidence of this awesome transformation, and worthy of listen after listen. One thing lead singer Warren Spicer does effectively is express the human experience into lyrics with a brutal honesty, as he has done in the past and continues to do.  Although some [read: Pitchfork] have called said lyrics trite and contrived, I find his lyrical renditions genuine, simple, and honest. Notable tracks: Before, Lightshow, Song For Love, The End Of That….actually, the whole album is notable.

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Patrick Watson - Adventures In Your Own Backyard
1. Patrick Watson Adventures In Your Own Backyard — Let it be known this wasn’t an easy decision.  My top 4 or 5 could have very easily been decided with coin flips or dice rolls and I would have likely been satisfied with the outcome as I feel all of these albums contain elements of what a number 1 album should possess. That being said, this is still a list and the number 1 position is not a spot for Russian roulette, and it had to be decided.  Those who have heard Patrick Watson‘s elegant soundtrack that is called Adventures In Your Own Backyard know of its brilliance.  The reason Patrick Watson‘s 2012 release snuck it’s way to #1 is mostly for 2 simple reasons:

  1. I did not hold any specific expectations for this album, and
  2. After about 6 months of listening, I still have not tired of it in the least.

Some may argue that low or no expectations for an album is poor justification for doling out high merit, and I’d agree, but I also would argue had I held high expectations for this album, these expectations would surely have still been surpassed. I don’t care that Adventures In Your Own Backyard was the first Patrick Watson record not to place in Polaris Prize‘s Shortlist, and I don’t care that some people didn’t like it.  All I know is that I’ve been listening to it steadily for 6 months and it still gets me every time. Watson doesn’t just pen songs, he pens art. Every song on Adventures is something of a masterpiece, even the 2 instrumentals.  From the apocalyptic opener Lighthouse to the curious trills of Blackwind to the introspective and lonesome The Quiet Crowd, to the emphatic reverie of Into Giants, to the title-track [sort of] closing signature, Patrick Watson crafts a raft and all the listener has to do is hop on lay back, close their eyes and, flow down the magical, meandering, musical river that is Adventures In Your Own Backyard. That’s it, that’s all.

-Dylan

~ by whet_hopped on December 22, 2012.

One Response to “MTAF’s Top 10 Albums of 2012”

  1. Aw, missed out on Yukon Blonde on my list, and still haven’t given Amos The Transparent a good amount of attention! A solid list of items to check out

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