Top 10 albums of 2012 critics' picks: Vivian Pencz

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This was a strange year for music. Luckily, it was a strange year for me too, so I always had the perfect soundtrack when I needed it.

Liars
WIXIW
These experimental art-rockers went electro for their latest output. The results were equal parts beautifully understated (the shadowy twilight of “No. 1 Against the Rush”) and delightfully shameless (the club-ready earworm “Brats”).

  

Grizzly Bear
Shields
Ed Droste sings with the smooth, reverb-dipped warble of a crooner in an underwater cave, while waves of gorgeous instrumentation comb back and forth and crash around each song’s melodic core. Music to weep discreetly to.

 

Grimes
Visions
Claire Boucher was all but crowned queen of the hipsters this year, but there’s nothing insincere about the otherworldly talent her third effort embodies. Haunting, unorthodox, and not easily defined, it really is the refreshing future of pop.

 

Father John Misty
Fear Fun
I defy anyone to resist a voice so rich and pure belting out the lyrics, “Oh, pour me another drink and punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy.” Although Josh Tillman has been recording albums for years, with Fear Fun and his name and game change, he’s proven himself to be one of the most charismatic songwriters around.

 

Flying Lotus
Until the Quiet Comes
Based on the concept of a musical journey through the subconscious, Flying Lotus’s fourth album is dreamy, ethereal, and one-of-a-kind. A heartbeat pulse runs throughout, each sonic flutter and fluctuation adding to the unpredictable charm of these electro-jazz compositions.

 

White Lung
Sorry
With an album as inventive and catchy as Sorry, it’s no wonder these guys are the darlings of Vancouver’s underground punk scene. Standout rabble-rousers “St. Dad” and “Bag” make you want to start your own band, or at least jump around knifing things.

 

The Darkness
Hot Cakes
I get the feeling I’ll be mocked extensively for this, but whatever. The Darkness may be a real-life Spinal Tap, but it’s also a band with genuine chops and a knack for epic and moving melodies, as evidenced by irresistible tunes like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” and “Living Each Day Blind”.

 

Mode Moderne
Strange Bruises
It can’t seem to escape comparisons to Joy Division and the Smiths, but Mode Moderne has definitely made a name for itself with this infectious EP. Armed with clever dark-pop hooks and more of a sense of humour than it gets credit for, the local quintet just keeps getting better and better.

 

Deftones
Koi No Yokan
With their seventh album, the genre-bending Deftones have again put out a solid effort with emotional introspection and metal-flecked venom. If you don’t get the embarrassing urge to start moshing when Chino Moreno screams with his sexy rasp on “Leathers”, you might have to check your pulse.

 

Angel Haze
Reservation
On her debut EP, Angel Haze delves into her traumatizing past and her relationships with both men and women with a fierce intelligence and unstoppable flow. Best lyric: “I’m Satan, and I’ma take your ass to church now.” An apparent cult and sexual-abuse survivor, the poison-tongued 21-year-old rapper may be the most compelling new artist of the year.

 

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