The Self-Hating Hipster’s Top 12 Albums of 2012

24 Jan

2012 Albums

Year-end articles always seem rather arbitrary and questionably pointless, but one thing is for certain…this year-end article is late.  It’s already the fourth week of January 2013!  To make the list even more arbitrary I decided to do the Top 12 of 2012 (I did the Top 11 of 2011 last year) and you can expect the Top 52 Tracks of 2012 soon.  I refuse to make honorable mentions as that defeats the purpose.  I hope that you deem this article worthy of reading despite its tardy release.

Aside:  The delay is a product of a number of factors: my busy season at work, the holidays, sloth, alcohol and frequent writer’s block to name a few.  One thing that I can say about this list is that it does contemplate the entire year in music whereas most music publications have their year-end lists done by the last week in November.  I was listening to new music straight through the third week in December while higher profile music zines were hashing out who was going to review February 2013 releases.

Initially, 2012 seemed like a 40 watt bulb of a year in music.  Then I started to compile my year-end lists some weeks ago (more weeks than originally anticipated).  I was stunned to discover that I had 40+ albums flagged for the Top 12 slots (a number of which are pictured above) and well over 600 songs to be narrowed down to the Top 52 tracks (dozens and dozens of other records not pictured).

There were more than a few surprises this year.  Montreal, Quebec turned out to be the new indie pop capitol of the world whereas Copenhagen, Denmark kept punk’s embers bellowed.  Cat Power got a bit sunnier and The Magnetic Fields returned to synth.  Lo-fi legends like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices both released records (three for the latter).  Frank Ocean came out and likely doubled his album sales as a result.  Animal Collective defied hipster logic by releasing and album that was only average.  Dexys Midnight Runners reformed as Dexys and put out a decent record after almost three decades of silence.  Post-rock became seriously cool again (as if it ever slipped into obsolescence).  Rap & Hip-Hop had strong releases on the West Coast, East Coast and the South.  European pop artists sounded more American and American pop artists sounded more European.

All in all it’s encouraging that 2012 was not nearly as dismal a year in music as I thought it was and these twelve records are irrefutable evidence.  Enjoy!

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Glacial - On Jones Beach album cover12.  Glacial – On Jones Beach

3 Lobed

Glacial is an impressively eclectic trio: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo on guitar, The Necks’ Tony Buck on drums and Highland Bagpipes’ contributor David Watson on, well, bagpipes.  The fact that this album is dominated by a 48-minute track, it’s an instrumental and bagpipes are involved might immediately sound like a kitschy experiment but rest assured, On Jones Beach transcends the realm of mere novelty.

Glacial makes total sense when broken down by musician.  Ranaldo has been an inventive and influential guitar guru alongside Thurston Moore in one of the most important bands of the past three decades.  Buck has exhibited his percussive fortitude in numerous mile-long productions with The Necks.  David Watson, aside from being an accomplished bagpiper, co-founded Braille Records which championed the experimental music scene of New Zealand. Three pieces to a strange and yet fitting puzzle and so Glacial’s success with On Jones Beach should not come as a surprise.  This album, though a bit of a commitment at first, is one of the more impressive instrumentals in recent memory.

Click here for my full review.

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John Talabot - ƒIN11.  John Talabot – ƒIN

Permanent Vacation

The album title and the artist’s last name (despite “John” vs. “Jean”) had me assuming an early 2000′s Parisian house throwback.  Barcelona’s John Talabot does incorporate elements of house in his debut, ƒIN, however it is far from sounding dated.  The musical chronology is intentionally skewed with track titles like “Destiny” (implying future), “When the Past Was Present” and “So Will Be Now…”

Talabot, like some of his other talented, contemporary electronic genre-benders in Sepalcure and Memory Tapes, savvily blends deep house, world music, disco, funk, club and dub-steppy indie pop into one easy-to-swallow pill.  ƒIN may be the most inappropriate title for John Talabot’s debut as it is about as strong a beginning as anyone could hope for.

Click here for my full review.

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Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes10.  Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

Warp

Great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, Steven Ellison, alias Flying Lotus, has once again successfully melded hip hop, electronica and jazz among other genres to create a sound that would be entirely his own if he wasn’t being aped by other contemporary Left-Field Hip-Hoppers.  Until the Quiet Comes is just as complex and engaging as his bombastic Cosmogramma, but far less aggressive in its presentation. Whereas Cosmogramma tasers its listeners, Until subdues.

Until the Quiet Comes is an album shrouded in mystique.    Numerous spins answer some questions but reveal countless others.  Its moodiness and wide range of genre exploration, instrumentation and tonality assure it a spot as one of the most impressive albums of this year, and though some fans of Cosmogramma might find Until to be a “retreat record,” it would be difficult to argue its enhanced accessibility over the former.

Click here for my full review.

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Swans - The Seer9.  Swans – The Seer

Young God

Swans’ second studio record after nearly fifteen years of silence, The Seer, is a terrifying spectacle.  No Wave pioneer, post-rock perfectionist and Swans’ multi-instrumental frontman Michael Gira creates an album that is both representative of Swans’ oeuvre and yet never once feels like a cheap revisitation.  Gira growls “I see it all!” again and again in the title track and The Seer is evidence of his panoramic view of a thirty year career in music.

The Seer spans two hours of sadomasochistic wonder (durationally reminiscent of 1996’s Soundtracks for the Blind) and reinforces Gira’s penchant for grotesquely visceral lyrics and pitting gorgeously diverse instrumentation against pummeling percussion.  Opener “Lunacy” prepares the listener for a warped sermon with its Gregorian-like chanting compliments of Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker.  Five minutes of panted gasps in “Mother of the World” and the title track, which is an expansively dark, instrumental parfait, affirm the suspicion of a mass in the nether-realm, or perhaps an exorcism in progress.  Following the title track, “The Seer Returns” is the strongest “song” on the album; “The Seer Returns,” “The Daughter Brings the Water” and “Song For a Warrior,” a pretty folk song with guest vocals by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O. (Gira’s feminine cipher), are the self-contained minorities on an album dominated by tempestuous sonic maelstroms.

What makes The Seer so fantastic is that it is as listenable as any record on this list while simultaneously dwarfing them in length and aiming to go as far as sound can to puncture an eardrum and then apply a healing salve.   The coda “Apostate” could core one’s brain, but the heart of the record, and perhaps Gira’s artistic vision, seems to be embodied by the sweetly sung conclusion to “Song For a Warrior”: “destroy…then begin again.”  The Seer, album and beast, sees everything, but a large part of what it sees is innumerable sonic constructs, leveling and reconstruction.

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Death Grips - The Money Store8.  Death Grips – The Money Store

Epic

The first time that I listened to The Money Store I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be laughing or cowering in fear.  TMS was the first time I was exposed to Death Grips and their sound was unlike anything I’d ever heard and admittedly not at all inviting at first.  Music critics have attempted to arbitrarily classify them; DG have been referred to as punk rap, rap rock, avant rap.  The common denominator seems to be rap which is likely a product of vocalist Stefan Burnett going by MC Ride and his occasionally rhyming lyrics.  Sacramento’s Death Grips, put simply, combine the incendiary howling of Burnett and the spastic electronic production/percussion of Andy Morin and Zach Hill.  With their uniquity of sound and tortuous MO, Death Grips is the first musical artist since Rage Against the Machine that has me scratching my head and asking myself why are they so angry, what do they want and why do I like it so much?

Death Grips’ first release, the Exmilitary mix-tape, was enough to grab the attention of Epic Records of all labels.  The Money Store was the first of two studio albums recorded while they were signed to Epic in 2012.  It starts fast with “Get Got” and by the time you reach “Hustle Bones” it’s a full on sprint from one great track to another.  The pace is broken briefly by “The Cage” before the awesome “Punk Weight” which accelerates once again.  The album concludes with “Hacker,” a track where Burnett aggressively barks “I’m in your area!” and there’s no doubt of his pride in successful infiltration.

Infiltration seems to play a part in Death Grips’ cryptic agenda.  After all, they were able to infiltrate the commercial music industry using Epic.  As mentioned previously, Death Grips had an Epic contract.  The band cancelled touring dates  in 2012 to record their second album to Epic’s (and fans’) chagrin.  When Epic told them that they had a number of grievances with the album’s material and pushed its release date out into 2013, Death Grips leaked the new album entitled NO LOVE DEEP WEB on the internet, complete with a cover showing an erect penis with the title written on it in Sharpie, along with the disclosure of personal emails between the artist and Epic executives.  Needless to say contracts were breached, ties were severed and not at all amicably.

What’s interesting is that Death Grips, though havoc-obsessed, have remained committed to their craft aesthetically and seem unfazed by the response to their actions which could ultimately strangle their commercial existence.  There is something be said for this bizarre zeal, but I’m at a loss for words.  It would likely take a creature with a enough hands to fill a room with middle fingers.

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!7.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Constellation

The announcement of a new record, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, came as a total surprise months ago as Godspeed You! Black Emperor hadn’t released an album in a decade!  The album’s first track, “Mladic,” begins with a sampled vocal loop “With his arms outstretched!” immediately exemplifying the album’s reach and engaging the listener.  If any track exhibits ascension it’s “We Drift Like Worried Fire” which is arguably Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s best work to date.  “We Drift…” is another world to attentively immerse oneself in, a track that climbs, plateaus, climbs, rests and then bounds.

The greedy listener may wish for a third gargantuan closer, but it might be overkill for an LP.  Where other post-rockers may find themselves meandering during longer tracks, the well-seasoned Godspeed You! Black Emperor present two cohesive epics and two contemplative segues.  For a band that had laurels to rest on,‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! acts as a down comforter.  If GY!BE never release another record they have nothing to apologize for, but if they choose to continue to record and release, godspeed and God bless.

Click here for my full review.

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Beach House - Bloom6.  Beach House – Bloom

Sub Pop

Beach House have come a long way since the sincere yet immature Casio-under-the-blanky dream pop of their self-titled debut.  Don’t get me wrong, the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have always been charming, but it wasn’t until their third album, Teen Dream (not to be confused with the shitty Katy Perry song “Teenage Dream”), that they established themselves an indie pop powerhouse.  Fans were equally excited and petrified at the prospect of a new album’s release.

Despite the skeletal beat of synth maracas and cowbell in the album’s first seconds, Bloom begins with one of their grandest achievements to date in “Myth.”  Once again working with co-producer Chris Coady, Beach House are able to build on the sound that they established on Teen Dream and the songs reach out as opposed to hugging themselves tightly which was indicative of their earlier work.  Scally’s plucked arpeggios cascade and twinkle on “Myth” like innumerable patterned stars which makes the album cover’s simple beauty seem totally appropriate.  In typical Beach House fashion they bury heartache in lines like “You came rolling down the cheek / You say just what you need” below the shimmering pop surface.  Legrand asks a few seconds later “What comes after this momentary bliss?” almost rhetorically and likely in reference to a specific relationship, but taken in the context of the album and its songs, the bliss of “Myth” is not fleeting–it permeates the album.

Unlike Teen Dream, Bloom is an album that lacks “singles” or immediate snares like “Zebra” and “Walk in the Park.”  Bloom is an instance of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; it plays like an album, not a collage of songs.  Though after repeated listens, Bloom’s dreamy pop glow that first allowed listeners’ to get comfortably lost in gives way to lyrical recognition and hum-worthy hooks that seemingly come out of nowhere.  Like delicate flowers, these tracks bud, blossom and bloom given some time.

“Wild,” “Other People” and “The Hours” continue in the same wondrous yet subliminally melancholic vein of “Myth.”  All three tell tales of sorrow obscured by their rich harmonic cover-ups.  The narrator of “Wild” is rescued from a troubled home by a friend only to realize that it is impossible to pretend that the home isn’t waiting for their eventual return.  “Other People” recounts the inevitability of losing touch with old friends at first apathetically but then becomes accusatory when someone’s efforts to maintain a friendship are never “quite enough.”  The message of “The Hours,” the track which most resembles a single, is confusing; a pair of “frightened eyes” are told in the same chorus that they will be protected and yet they shouldn’t have any care for their guardian.

“Wishes” may be an important clue to solving to the emotional conundrum that is Bloom.  In the song the wishes are on a wheel.  At the very top of the wheel one might convince oneself that their wish is to be granted without question, but as soon as the wheel is set in motion there is no way to answer “How’s it supposed to feel?” because a moment later one’s wish would be beneath the wheel.  Mathematically speaking, if a wish were a fixed point on a wheel in motion and its pattern were to be graphed, it would be sinusoidal, representing the emotional peaks and valleys of everyday life.  But, Legrand goes on to sing “One in your life. / It happens once and rarely twice.” which suggests that this wheel may have only one go-round, denying the inherently cyclical nature of its subject.

Aside:  Like you, I’ve grown tired of my review/summary turned pretentious dissertation on the record and so I will attempt to provide a brief conclusion complete with a stupid simile which came to me by way of being a car owner in the wintry Northeast.

Like the refrain of “Irene,” Bloom is very much a “strange paradise.”  It plays like warm breath against the interior of a cold windshield, slowly forming a panorama of frosted foliage backlit by a night sky.

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Grizzly Bear - Shields5.  Grizzly Bear – Shields

Warp

In 2009 Grizzly Bear could have boasted (if they weren’t such humble guys) to be one of the only “do-no-wrongs” to emerge in the 2000s music scene, an era of numerous successful debuts and subsequent failures to launch. Grizzly Bear’s fourth album, Shields, had fans tweaking with ached anticipation.  Would the new album potentially risk indie rock credibility and become a “sell-out” record dominated by poppy fare?  After all, “Two Weeks” found its way onto college bar soundtracks a few years ago sandwiched in between MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and Animal Collective’s “My Girls.” Shields isn’t challenging per se, but it certainly doesn’t have a one-spin snare like “Two Weeks.”  This, however, should not discourage the listener.

Shields is an album that builds on itself with multiple listens.  At first it might seem like an average rock record, but a few listens through and one will notice innumerable production intricacies.  As per usual, Grizzly Bear has an incredible introductory track.  Shields begins with “Sleeping Ute” which sounds like a not-so-distant cousin of Jeff Buckley’s “So Real.”  Bear’s quirky time signature and Rossen’s dainty little riffs and finger-picking are at the forefront with jarring percussion at every turn.  “Sleeping Ute” forecasts much of what is to come on the album: angelic guitar work, fluid major to minor shifts and rich, sprawling soundscapes.

Like their awesome intros, Grizzly Bear is also wont to have epic finales (think of the wondrous monument “Colorado” at the end of Yellow House).  “Sun in Your Eyes” is a testament to Grizzly Bear’s ability to build a song from a simple piano chord progression and snare-tick to an absolutely grandiose ballad.  “So bright / So long / I’m never coming back,” the lyrics backed by the staccato piano boom with all the power of an Icarus death-cry; but unlike Icarus, Grizzly Bear’s wings don’t melt away and they instead soar off like a shrinking spec into a distant, blinding light.  Shields isn’t indie rock perfection, but it’s the closest that anyone has gotten in some time.  It is well-orchestrated, well-executed and well, worthy of your attention.

Click here for my full review.

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Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city4.  Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

Interscope

Kendrick Lamar’s debut received so much hype that it became a record that I wanted to hate on just because.  After all, hipsters can be entirely vindictive when an album earns nigh universal acclaim; and it’s also tough to sit back and passively listen to analogies being made to Nas’ Illmatic (my favorite rap album) when the new kid in question only has a few mix-tapes under his low-riding belt.  Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, I realized putting this album down out of spite would not only be vindictive, it would be downright stupid.

good kid, m.A.A.d city allows the listener the unique opportunity to grow up with the artist.  The album’s subtitle is “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar” which is fitting as the short skits and voice mails which bookend the tracks build a film-like narrative.  good kid starts with a junior year Kendrick with one thing on the brain (the same thing that plagues most teenage male minds), in his case Sherane.  “Backstreet Freestyle” two tracks later is incredibly catchy in spite of the fact that it intentionally sounds like a talented kid reclaiming the most ubiquitous rap tropes of money, drugs and women.

Kendrick’s tone matures on tracks like “Peer Pressure” and “Swimming Pools (Drank).”  Without paying much attention the songs sound like a thug heist and crunk track respectively, but delving slightly below the surface reveals that the narrator, though flawed, is really just a good kid who has been thwarted by his friends and hometown image.  The real message isn’t revealed until “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and “Real.”  Twelve minutes long, “Sing About Me” begins with an elegy for a fallen brother and ends with an elderly matriarch leading a group of young men in prayer, urging the spiritually parched to abandon their anger.  “Real” finishes off with a stern voice mail from the father character; being “real” isn’t about vengeance, “Real is responsibility.  Real is takin’ care of your mother-fuckin’ family.  Real is God.”

The album’s swan song “Compton” features the one and only Dr. Dre.  The beat finds Dre at his best (complete with the vocal filter of 2Pac’s West Coast classic “California Love”) and carries all the energy of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”  At the same time that it’s a hometown track which reinforces the positive message of giving back to one’s city, a torch-passing is referenced and it’s clear that Dr. Dre endorses Compton’s new young prince.  good kid, m.A.A.d city is an amalgamation of young libido, Domino’s pizza (“Did somebody say Dominoes???”), liquor, tragedy, hope and faith.  Although this debut doesn’t top The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do it Better, Biggie’s Ready to Die, Nas’ Illmatic, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, blah blah blah…Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is an instant classic.

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Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...3.  Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Epic

If you told me ten years ago that I would ever own a Fiona Apple record I would have likely shrugged it off.  If you told me ten years ago that I would not only own one of her records but also place it in the top three records for that year AND spend a good amount of money to see her in concert I would have laughed in your face (if I chose to be so nice).  I never disliked Fiona Apple.  I liked her radio singles, or at least “Sleep to Dream” and “Criminal.”  I thought she was cute in that dark, wafey, possibly evil but probably just repeatedly heartbroken pixie sort of way.  I was unsure as to why she thought the world was “bullshit” but was “cool with” me anyway.  Basically, I was twelve-years-old and confused in 1997.

I heard the radio singles a few years later from When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts, but only in passing as I had literally tuned out all but two radio stations and embraced what was then glowingly referred to as Alternative Rock.  Fiona took six years to make her third album, Extraordinary Machine, and I was none-the-wiser.  I purchased The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (**gasp, deep breath**) after numerous recommendations from friends.  It was no wonder that the name Fiona Apple seemed like a musical relic; The Idler Wheel… came seven years after its last release that I never even knew existed.  I hadn’t heard the name Fiona Apple since 1999!  Shame on me.

With The Idler Wheel, Fiona Apple once again defied the short-term memory of pop music fans by taking her/a very long time to assemble a record and remain relevant.  She was also brave enough to strip the instrumentation down to her [wonderful] voice, piano and percussion compliments of Charley Drayton.  It’s so bare that songs like “Periphery” are accented by foot-scrapes for a beat…and she sounds better than she ever has!  When I saw her in concert some months ago, she  bounded across the stage like a possessed nymph, a singer/songwriter dynamo in a 90 lb. frame.

Aside:  Please eat, Fiona.  I worry.

As with her previous releases, Fiona Apple’s real talent is the ability to deliver gut-wrenching tales of heartache with the raw grace of her voice, but The Idler Wheel allows one to focus more on her sometimes poignant and other times darkly funny lyrics.  She pleads “Don’t let me ruin me.  I may need a chaperon!” on “Daredevil,” a quirky cry for help.  On “Jonathan” Fiona sings “You’re like the captain of a capsized ship.  But, I like watching you live.”  Jonathan must have been a real douchebag.

Fiona admits “I could liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead, but then again I provided a full moon.” in the first line to “Werewolf.”  On “Every Single Night” she sings “I-I-I-I-I-I just wanna fee-ee-ee-ee-ee-eel everything,” but it’s clear that she wants her listener to feel it all too.  And they will.  Listening to this album six months after its release has me realizing that Fiona’s still the hot knife to my butter.

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Grimes - Visions2.  Grimes – Visions

4AD

Montreal native, Claire Boucher, released her third LP as Grimes this year on the ever-growing, (seemingly) do-no-wrong British label 4AD.  Visions is Grimes’ most cohesive and impressive work to date and shows a limitless potential for the one-woman operation.

In an interview with, um, Interview Magazine, Boucher dubs her work “post-internet” as opposed to limiting her sound to a genre or genres.  Boucher explains that she and her age demographic were exposed to myriad pop stimuli in the “age of the internet” and so there is an inherent ubiquity to her sound.  Grimes does pull from anywhere and everywhere. At a first listen, Visions is poppy, silly and sensually chilling.  The second and third listens plant hooks in your ears and you pick up on little, pop Easter eggs that you likely never noticed before.  Boucher cites a handful of inspirations in the interview: “crap like” Disney soundtracks, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey among others.  The Mariah Carey is obvious in the sometimes shrill but beautiful range on tracks like “Circumnambient” and “Skin,” though it sounds like Carey collaborated with Gary Numan and Depeche Mode.

Visions doesn’t have a single track to apologize for.  2012 ushered in a new pop/terminator princess!  If you don’t believe me listen to “Oblivion.”

Click here for my full review.

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Tame Impala - Lonerism1.  Tame Impala – Lonerism

Modular

Tame Impala are likely to be written off by some as pointless late 60s psychedelic regurgitators.  There are [at least] two critical camps involved:

1)  Those who would reference Tame Impala as a “revivalist” band.  Revivalism is a pejorative genre which implies that there is little or no creativity associated with the mimicking or replication of sound with modern technology, filters and instrumentation.  Bands branded as revivalists have a critical credibility just exceeding that of a cover band.

2)  Those who would reference Tame Impala as a “neo-psychedelic pop/rock” band.  These critics recognize the obvious homage but appreciate how the artist is able to bend the sound or put their own aesthetic spin on the music.

I belong to the second camp.

At first their second LP, Lonerism, does sound as though it could have been pulled out of a time capsule from the late 60s; however, to chalk Tame Impala up as cheap imitators would be wrong.  There is something to be said for emulation versus imitation and the modern effects, multi-layered production and mixing of the record are proof that although Tame Impala may be tipping a very heavy hat at times, they are no Beatles cover band.  Sure, Lonerism is an unmistakable throwback to 60s psychedelia, but songwriter and lead singer, Kevin Parker, is a very capable songwriter and he has excelled beyond some of the guitar-heavy plodders on his debut, Innerspeaker.

Though Tame Impala is a three-piece, Kevin Parker started the whole production on his own and is the purposely isolated mastermind behind the band.  His inclusion of synth on Lonerism is an integral part of Tame Impala’s sonic evolution.  Where the debut felt like John Lennon was at the helm of a British Invasion band turned Prog-Rock, the focus on synth and subsequently more balanced melodies assist Parker in establishing a Fab Four sound (namely McCartney’s influence) as a Fab One.  Lonerism was also mixed once again by production guru and founder of Mercury Rev, David Fridmann.  The result is a modern masterpiece.

The lead-off track “Be Above It” breathes new life into the lungs of psych pop, albeit spastic breaths.  The refrain of “Gotta be above it!” becomes the backbone to the beat and despite Parker’s Lennon Revolver-era delivery, the track could not have existed in 1966; the looped undercurrent is too modern.  In a similar fashion “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” owes its sound as much to The Beatles as it does to The Strokes.

Like the debut album, Lonerism also radiates a feeling of estrangement, but it isn’t the same exact feeling expressed on Innerspeaker‘s “Solitude is Bliss”: “There’s a party in my head and nobody’s invited.”  Parker is quite content to be lost in his own mind but the listener is compelled to climb between his ears invitation or not.

“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a song that neo psych-poppers dream about writing.  Parker sounds eerily akin to John Lennon in his echoed vocals.  This of course would give some credence to those revivalist critics mentioned above, but screw them.  “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a corker.  Like the narrator who hears his named being called by his beloved in his head all day, it’s nigh impossible to get this track off your brain.

Aside:  I’m an admitted psych-pop shill; a frequent revisitor of period Quicksilver Messenger Service, Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Electric Prunes and a the neo-psych of the Elephant 6 Collective and the like, but “Feels Like We Only Going Backwards” is the best psychedelic track since The Apples in Stereo’s “Strawberryfire” and has warranted over 150 listens in the past six months!

The organ on separated pair of “Keep On Lying” and “She Just Won’t Believe Me” evoke a bit of The Zombies’ Odyssey & Oracle, the latter reminiscent of “Butcher’s Tale.”  “Elephant” is a mercilessly catchy blues chug that could have been on the A-Side of Abbey Road before “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”  The song’s character tries to portray himself as a big swinging [trunk] who “pulled the mirrors off his Cadillac / ’cause he doesn’t like it looking like he looks back” and yet humorously ends up crying as soon as somebody grabs his collar.

There is a brief sample on “Nothing That Has Happened So Far” where a girl asks a guy “Hey, what are you doing up here?” to which he replies “Thinking about everything at once.”  In a way that’s a perfect fit because Lonerism is a trippy reflection of decades of music, and like every good trip the album ends with the sun coming up and a sleepy haze.

With Lonerism, Tame Impala has produced the most compelling neo-psych pop experiment since The Olivia Tremor Control’s awesome Dusk at Cubist Castle.

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So that wraps up albums in 2012.  Some readers will likely find the list predictable, but I hope that a handful of you take away at least one or two tips and give them a listen.  As I mentioned previously, there were a bunch of records that were very close and given the time and energy I might have even considered writing about them.  That being said, you’ll likely find songs off of those albums that just missed the cut on my forthcoming Top 52 Tracks of 2012.  With any luck I’ll have it done by June…just kidding…I hope!

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3 Responses to “The Self-Hating Hipster’s Top 12 Albums of 2012”

  1. Funk February 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Well-written and informative article, but that’s no surprise. It succeeded in piquing my interest in many artists I hadn’t even heard of before, particularly Grimes, Death Grips, Kendrick Lamar and Swans. Kendrick Lamar actually performed on SNL the same weekend I read your article, and I really dug this one:

    I really want to listen to that Nas Illmatic album too.

    The Fiona album is definitely her most consistent from beginning to end, the Tame Impala album is just the same- though I’m still debating if I like Lonerism or InnerSpeaker more- they’re neck and neck, InnerSpeaker has 3 songs I loved at almost first listen… Beach House’s Bloom is on its way to me in the mail right now.

    Looking forward to your Top 52 tracks, particularly those that are from these Top 12 Albums. Thanks for turning my attention to all the good music I was missing out on last year!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Self-Hating Hipster’s Top 52 Tracks of 2012 « the self-hating hipster - February 8, 2013

    […] this list is all over the place.  I could have picked two or three songs off of each album on my Top 12 Albums of 2012, but that would have taken up over half of the list.  So it became my intention to spread the love […]

  2. The Self-Hating Hipster’s Top 50 Albums of 2013 | the self-hating hipster - March 26, 2014

    […] ago (and change) I compiled a list of  the Top 11 Albums of 2011.  Last year I put together the Top 12 Albums of 2012.  Both articles were compiled of selections culled from lists of approximately 40 albums […]

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