Rankstravaganza: My 15 favorite albums of 2012

collage of album coversLate, late, late. Here we are, one week into 2013, and I’m still posting postmortems on the music of 2012. And I used to be so good at meeting deadlines.

I’m sharing this anyway, because I think the albums on this list are deserving of more recognition, wherever they can get it. The No. 1 album, in particular, didn’t get nearly enough love form critics, despite the fact that the band was also featured at the top of both my mid-year and year-end lists of best songs. In fact, once again, there’s not that much difference between the bands featured on My 30 Favorite Tracks of 2012 and this list. What can I say? My favorite albums contain my favorite songs. Go figure.

Still to come: I might publish a list of my favorite tracks by Bay Area musicians of 2012. It should be up by 2014.

Half Poison, Half Pure by Matt Jones & The Reconstruction15. Half Poison, Half Pure, Matt Jones & The Reconstruction

For fans of … Michigan chamber folk, bonfires, Great Lakes Myth Society, six-song albums with one bonus live track and one joke track, sawing cellos and martial drums

A Thing Called Divine Fits, Divine Fits14. A Thing Called Divine Fits, Divine Fits

Spoon, Wolf Parade, Spoon + Wolf Parade, indie supergroups, tight grooves, dark New Wave keys

13. Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen

For fans of … the Occupy movement, protest songs, The Boss’ The Seeger Sessions album, folk + gospel + arena rock + Celtic music + hip hop + New Orleans brass + everything but the kitchen sink

Paralytic Stalks, Of Montreal12. Paralytic Stalks, Of Montreal

For fans of … early 20th century American composer Charles Ives’ experimental tone poem “The Unanswered Question” (really), messiness, The White Album, funk basslines, multitracked vocals, songs about impotence

11. Break it Yourself, Andrew Bird

For fans of … whistling solos, pizzicato violin, duets with St. Vincent, indie folk at its most adventurous, perfectly pleasant harmonies, Sufjan Stevens, neologisms

Blunderbuss, Jack White10. Blunderbuss, Jack White

For fans of … The White Stripes (duh), guitars (all sorts), The Who, Led Zeppelin, a little bit of folk, a lot of the blues, metaphors that immediately stick in your brain, playfulness, longing, romance, bitterness

The Clearing, Bowerbirds9. The Clearing, Bowerbirds

For fans of … nature, Arcade Fire, songs that gradually build and add layer upon beautiful layer, indie folk, ambitious arrangements, Andrew Bird, scarves

New Multitudes8. New Multitudes, Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames

For fans of … Son Volt (duh), My Morning Jacket (duh), alt-country dream teams, Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue albums, writing tunes for old Woodie Guthrie lyrics, gazillion-part harmonies, America

Not Your Kind of People, Garbage7. Not Your Kind of People, Garbage

For fans of … the ’90s, reunions, female vocalists, trashy production … um, Garbage

Who's Feeling Young Now?, Punch Brothers6. Who’s Feeling Young Now?, Punch Brothers

For fans of … virtuosity, acoustic instruments, Nickel Creek, stretching the limits of bluegrass, the song breaks between segments on All Things Considered because half the time it’s something from this album

Sorry to Bother You, The Coup5. Sorry to Bother You, The Coup

For fans of … the Occupy movement, political hip hop with a sense of humor, Oakland, hilarious album covers, Das Racist and Killer Mike (who both guest on the final track), dope rhymes, funky beats, eclectic instrumentation up to and including accordion

The Idler Wheel, Fiona Apple4. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, Fiona Apple

For fans of … Percussion, sparse arrangements, coming unhinged, ridiculously long album titles, taking chances, vocal polyphony

3. Shields, Grizzly Bear

For fans of … crazy time signatures, composition, complexity, Animal Collective, music that washes over you, the more lively and direct moments of Veckatimest, bass clarinet

2. The Sound of the Life of the Mind, Ben Folds Five

For fans of … the ’90s, reunions, Robert Sledge’s fuzzed out bass tones, diminished harmonies, shout-outs to Studs Terkel, rocking like a mother, middle-age ennui, Bacharachian piano pop, nerds and outcasts, Fraggle videos

1. Animal Joy, Shearwater

For fans of … nature as a awesome and brutal force, Okkervil River, distinctively rich vocals, making the jump to Sub Pop, post-“It’s My Life” Talk Talk, expansive sounds as big as an Antarctic glacier or the Serengeti, choruses that repeat the phrase “trail of suffering,” indie rock that is serious without crossing over into pretension


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