It seems like everyone else is doing this list, so I figured I might as well.
*Also, this a subjective list of my favorite albums and not an objective list of the best albums of 2012.
17 Delta Spirit- Delta Spirit
I’m compelled to put this on the list because I’m such a big Delta Spirit fan, but I’ll be honest it disappointed me slightly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good album. It’s just different.
If you were expecting something similar to Ode to Sunshine or History From Below, like me, you were in for a surprise. The band moved away from the roots rock approach on its previous albums. Delta Spirit is more polished and obviously more produced.
That being said, “California” is a great song, even if it’s no “Golden State.” (See what I did there? Jokes!)
16 Dr. Dog- Be The Void
I love Dr. Dog because they have a knack for creating catchy, layered songs that keep you humming. Up until Be The Void came out, Shame, Shame, their last album, was my favorite. However, I think Be The Void has replaced it.
Despite being very catchy, sometimes their songs, and therefore their albums, can feel a bit drawn out. But this one didn’t feel like that at all. It felt intimate, and maybe a little darker, but fun nonetheless.
The baselines and hooks in “That Old Black Hole,” “These Days” and “How Long Must I wait” will grab you immediately.
15 Zeus- Busting Visions
Pretty much everything I just said about Dr. Dog applies to Zeus as well. They’re like the Canadian Dr. Dog. Actually, they might be catchier.
14 Nada Surf- The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
Wait, the guys that sang “Popular” are still around? I’m sure that’s what you’re saying, and, yes, they are.
Currently, there seems to be a disturbing lack of rock bands doing the power-pop thing. Since Teenage Fanclub stopped making albums, and since this whole scene seemingly died with the 90s, I had to find my fix elsewhere. I had to look no further than Nada Surf.
I dare you not to feel good listening to “Teenage Dreams.”
13 Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls
The Black Keys and The White Stripes had a monopoly on blues-based rock for several years but not anymore. Alabama Shakes’ debut is simple and earthy and flat-out wonderful.
And holy shit Brittany Howard’s voice!
12 Divine Fits- A Thing Called Divine Fits
Let’s call a spade a spade and just agree this is a Spoon album with a different lineup. Yeah, there are more synth and electronica influences but if you mixed these songs in with a Spoon playlist no one would notice.
Thankfully, Spoon rules.
11 Ceremony- Zoo
Ceremony is a hardcore band, so that’s enough for most people to dismiss them.
But Zoo is unlike any hardcore album I’ve ever heard. It takes risks and tries to so something out of the norm, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
10 King Tuff- King Tuff
Holy hell this album is fun!
“Bad Thing” is particularly infectious. I feel like everyone should be having beers and trading stories with friends whenever this is playing.
9 Sundials- When I Couldn’t Breathe
These guys probably aren’t on your radar, but they should be. They weren’t on mine until Jonah Ray from the Nerdist podcast mentioned them.
They have a sound that channels various 90s bands like Superchunk and Superdrag, but their lyrics have an honesty to them that is closer to bands like The Promise Ring, Texas is the Reason and Mineral.
8 Allah-Las- Allah-Las
If I played you a song from this album and asked you to guess the artist, it’s doubtful you would say Allah-Las unless you were already hip to them.
No, you’d probably say The Byrds or The Zombies or any number of other 60s-era, west-coast bands. The video for “Tell Me (What’s on Your Mind)” even acknowledges the band’s pedigree.
I love this kind of music–new or old. It’s melodic. The guitars are jingly-jangly. There’s reverb for miles.
7 Mission of Burma- Unsound
I’m just happy these guys are still making music. The Boston post-punk band initially broke up in 1983 after a few short years due to Roger Miller’s worsening tinnitus. But in 2002 they reunited (with Miller often playing in ear muffs designed for firing ranges).
They came back after decades and blew the damn doors open. Unsound is everything you’d want in a Mission album–complex arrangements, distinct hooks, samples, anthemic lyrics and noise. A wall of noise.
6 Dinosaur Jr.- Bet on Sky
Speaking of coming back…Dinosaur Jr. called it quits in 1997 after more than a decade as a band. In 2005, they got back together and started making new albums in 2007.
Mitch Clem already said this in his best albums of the year post, but I don’t know how you can just stop playing together for 10 years, come back and be this freaking good.
I’m continually amazed at the huge sound Dino Jr. gets out of a three-piece.
5 Bob Mould- Silver Age
Bob Mould fronted Husker Du, which is tremendous in and of itself. After they broke up, he started Sugar, an influential alternative band in the 90s. And after that chapter was done, Mould struck out on his own.
I can’t get enough of his solo albums. The guitars and arrangements on Silver Age are reminiscent of a Sugar album. But going solo has also allowed Mould complete emotional freedom in his lyrics.
If you’re a Husker Du fan, you know that he and Grant Hart started to feud over creative control toward the end of the band’s lifespan.
4 The Whigs- Enjoy the Company
Maybe this is hangover from 2010’s In the Dark, but I loved this album. I don’t know how you could dislike this band.
They play straight-up, fun rock n roll music, which is something that is sorely lacking in today’s musical landscape. I also love how sincere they are.
None of the three members has an ironic bone in their bodies. They keep their hair long, wear old band shirts, jean jackets and trucker hats–not because of the blue-collar chic thing that’s going on right now–because that’s what they always did growing up in Georgia.
3 Titus Andronicus- Local Business
I think at this point it’s safe to assume I will like any band that comes out of New Jersey or Long Island.
I know this is blasphemy since this album doesn’t really sound like their others, but Local Business is my favorite Titus album. All I know is that I played one track and I had to hear more.
2 Japandroids- Celebration Rock
Celebration Rock is fast, raucous and in-your-face. It’s everything that initially attracted me to punk rock when I was a teenager.
The guitars are driving, the drums are pounding and the lyrics are mostly shouted with reckless abandon.
1 Cloud Nothings- Attack on Memory
It’s hard to go into a studio with Steve Albini and come out with a bad album, but Attack on Memory surpassed expectations. It’s only eight songs but these guys aren’t messing around. The album is no less and no more than it needs to be. Eight perfect songs.
When I heard “Stay Useless” for the first time, I thought “This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Attack on Memory is fuzzy and fast and so obviously influenced by the punk rock I grew up listening to.
It’s only $7.92 on iTunes. Buy it and thank me later.