Much of my 2012 consisted of my best friend making fun of me for being a hipster thanks to my interest in local DIY cassettes. Screw you, buddy! Here are the albums that I listened to while I was waiting for my tape deck to rewind.
With punk shouts, jagged-glass guitar leads, and the odd earworm of a chorus hook, Sorry is 19 minutes of pure, pulse-racing adrenaline. If you felt like getting sweaty and bloodied up in a mosh pit at any point in 2012, this was the perfect soundtrack.
With a sublime blend of atmospheric folk, ambient synth textures, stoner-metal noise-mongering, and nature-obsessed lyrics, Pacific Northwest songwriter Phil Elverum not only created the best album of the year…
…he created the best two. As the title indicates, Ocean Roar is a little stormier and heavier than its counterpart, Clear Moon, but the waves of distortion are every bit as gorgeous as the strummed acoustic guitars.
“Remember that night you were already in bed, said ‘Fuck it,’ got up to drink with me instead.” That lyric, taken from the alt-rocking “Younger Us”, sums up the live-in-the-moment spirit of the Vancouver duo’s triumphant sophomore disc. After I’m done writing this, who wants to find a party to crash?
The former White Stripes frontman has been living in Nashville for a few years now, and the Music City influence shines through on his first-ever solo album. Blunderbuss takes timeless country elements and gives them a weirdo twist thanks to dizzying song structures, screeching guitar leads, and the occasional garage-rock face-melter.
Shut Down the Streets
A.C. Newman’s Shut Down the Streets is what happens when a power-pop mastermind settles down, has a son, and grieves the passing of his mother. It’s significantly mellower than what we’re used to hearing from the New Pornographers leader, but this autumnal foray into ornate folk is his best album in years.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Is Ariel Pink a musical genius or an utter moron? The answer, of course, is “Both.” Somehow, ridiculous excursions like “Schnitzel Boogie”—a baffling tribute to Pink’s favourite breaded meat—make glorious pop nuggets such as “Only in My Dreams” all the more satisfying.
Music for Keyboards Vol. II
This free digital mix tape employs an undeniably silly concept, as all 14 tracks are instrumental noodles roughly based on Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” What’s unexpected is how blissfully serene the results are. If Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker had geared their music toward spa patrons instead of suburban youths, the original version of the song might have sounded more like this.
Frankie Rose has served time in Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, but her greatest career accomplishment to date is shedding the fuzz of her past bands and embracing the Cocteau Twins for this cosmically inclined daydream of a record.
The bleary, reverb-swathed indie-pop tunes on Oshin sound about two years behind the times, but Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith’s jangling guitar licks are fantastic, so who cares? Eat your heart out, Real Estate.