The best music of 2012: The ballots

The best music of 2012: The ballots



Our main list
 of the year’s best albums doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s tallied from ballots by a group of writers, each of whom is given 100 points to distribute over no more than 20 of their favorite records. The maximum number of points a writer can award an album is 15; the minimum is one. Below are the individual ballots, plus some personal commentary on discs that didn’t make the big list, as well as other thoughts on the year’s best music. 

THE BALLOTS

Marah Eakin Jason Heller Steven Hyden
Chris Mincher Genevieve Koski Chris Mincher
Josh Modell Noel Murray Sean O'Neal
Keith Phipps Kyle Ryan Evan Rytlewski
Annie Zaleski

THE BALLOTS

MARAH EAKIN
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (15)
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory (15)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (10)
Swans, The Seer (5)
Metz, Metz (5)
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (5)
Beach House, Bloom (5)
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (5)
Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse (5)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (5)
The Men, Open Your Heart (5)
Passion Pit, Gossamer (5)
Titus Andronicus, Local Business (5)
Om, Advaitic Sounds (5)
Baroness, Yellow & Green (5)

Songs and records played on my work iTunes a disproportionately high number of times this year
(Full discretion: I’m a compulsive deleter and life streamliner, so a lot of stuff I liked or listened to the most just exists on my iPhone or Spotify or on LP in my house.)

Enrico Caruso, “La Favorita, opera: Act 4: Sp” from 21 Favorite Arias (This is writing music. The rest of the record is up there, too.) Telekinesis, 12 Desperate Straight Lines Benjamin Gibbard, “Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)” from Former Lives
Calexico,
Algiers
Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills [#1’s Edit]” from Playlist: The Very Best Of Destiny’s Child
Yuck, “Get Away,” from Yuck
The Avett Brothers, “The Once And Future Carpenter” from The Carpenter
Kendrick Lamar, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” from Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold
The Books, “Read, Eat, Sleep” and “All Bad Ends All” from the 2011 Thought For Food remaster
Charlie Poole With The Highlanders, “Under The Double Eagle,” “Flop Eared Mule”
Dead Boys, Young, Loud, And Snotty
Dominick Fernow’s 90s Mix ST (Fernow is a member of Cold Cave and Prurient, and this mix kicks ass. It blends a bunch of terrible ’90s favorites like Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” and Gin Blossom’s “Found Out About You” with better—relatively speaking—tracks like Hole’s “Violet” and Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.”)

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JASON HELLER
The Men, Open Your Heart (11)
Swans, The Seer (11)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (6)
Metz, Metz (6)
Screaming Females, Ugly (6)
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill (6)
Death Grips, The Money Store (6)
Heartless Bastards, Arrow (6)
Cult Of Youth, Love Will Prevail (6)
Rush, Clockwork Angels (6)
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (6)
Chelsea Wolfe, Unknown Rooms (6)
The Evens, The Odds (6)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, ’Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (6)
Bob Mould, Silver Age (6)

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STEVEN HYDEN
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel … (7)
Japandroids¸ Celebration Rock (7)
Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action At A Distance (7)
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory (7)
Usher, Looking 4 Myself (7)
Torche, Harmonicraft (7)
Rush, Clockwork Angels (7)
Ty Segall and White Fence, Hair (7)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (7)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (7)
The Fresh & Onlys, Long Slow Dance (3)
Mac DeMarco, 2 (3)
Diiv, Oshin (3)
Tame Impala, Lonerism (3)
Taylor Swift, Red (3)
Woods, Bend Beyond (3)
Todd Snider, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (3)
Baroness, Yellow & Green (3)
Horisont, Second Assault (3)
Blackberry Smoke, The Whippoorwill (3)

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GENEVIEVE KOSKI
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel… (15)
P.O.S., We Don’t Even Live Here (15)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (10)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (10)
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream (10)
Angel Haze, Reservation (10)
El-P, Cancer For Cure (5)
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (5)
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (5)
Punch Brothers, Who’s Feeling Young Now? (5)
Ellie Goulding, Halcyon (3)
Rye Rye, Go! Pop! Bang! (3)
Lady Leshurr, 2000 And L (2)
Grimes, Visions (2)

The next four:
Azealia Banks, 1991 EP
Santigold, Master Of My Make-Believe
Poliça,
Give You The Ghost
Niki And The Dove, Instinct

Best victim of timing: Solange Knowles, True
True was released the day before the deadline for our best-of ballots, so I didn’t feel I had enough time to process it, but if I’d had it for an extra week or two, it almost certainly would have made my main list. The excellent single “Losing You” should have been enough of an indicator that the seven-song EP from Beyoncé’s hipper, more rebellious younger sister would be great, and it is. Devoid of filler, the album is full of shimmering, slinky R&B that embraces retro and futuristic sounds in equal measure, with Knowles’ rich voice—less ostentatious than her sister’s, but equally evocative—grounding the whole endeavor in real, palpable emotion.

Best victim of classification: Tenacious D, Rize Of The Fenix
I struggled with whether to put Rize Of The Fenix on my music or comedy ballot, but ultimately settled on the latter because there were too many more deserving music releases. (Lonely Island’s 2011 album Turtleneck And Chain provided a similar conundrum.) But “Roadie” and the title track are among my most-played tracks of the year, and the whole album is incredibly fun—and great for livening up long, tedious car rides.

Best beats compilation: DJ Burn One, The Ashtray
Atlanta producer DJ Burn One has supplied beats for artists like Yelawolf and Gucci Mane, but his free mixtape The Ashtray stands on its own as an instrumental album. Bluesy, laid-back, and just a teensy bit sinister, the Southern-fried tracks on The Ashtray are more than just beats to be rapped over; they’re great songs in their own right. 

Biggest Carly Rae Jepsen earworm: “Guitar String/Wedding Ring”
This was the year of “Call Me Maybe,” an inescapable earworm that insinuated itself into the fabric of pop culture thanks to the Internet’s unwillingness to let it die. That single’s ubiquity overshadowed the release of Jepsen’s full-length album, Kiss, a big ol’ wad of ’80s-indebted bubblegum that has a lot more going for it than its best-known single. See: “Guitar String/Wedding Ring,” which is written by the same songwriters behind “Call Me Maybe” and outdoes that song in terms of both affable corniness and head-bobbing catchiness. Anyone nostalgic for the heyday of ’80s mall-pop—you know who you are—should eat it up.

(A Spotify playlist with my favorite tracks from most of these albums can be found here.)

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CHRISTOPHER MINCHER
Dion, Tank Full Of Blues (13)

Dan Deacon, America (12)
Merging frenetic electronics and lush orchestration, Dan Deacon’s America is a thoughtful and adventurous affair, using a sprawling array of emotions to tackle his broad theme. Built atop his characteristic layers of jittery bleep-bloops, the record is a beautiful collection of majestic compositions and wide-open soundscapes; at times, however, his songs turn introspective, pulsing with confusion and discontent. America will mean different things to people of different perspectives, but it’s an empowering experience to all.

David Byrne and St. Vincent, Love This Giant (10)
As quirky, aloof observers of humankind, David Byrne and St. Vincent have filled a similar niche in each of their musical generations. While the two may be obvious thematic companions, it’s a bit surprising how stylistically compatible they are on Love This Giant. Expanding on Byrne’s angular, brass-infused structures—effortlessly fused with St. Vincent’s bubbling electronics, orchestral splash, and guitar stunts—the record explores the curious conventions of living with a catchy, creative flair.

Pink, The Truth About Love (10)
Pop megastars’ images are constructed to perpetuate, no matter what changes life brings (see Madonna, whose public presentation has been obliviously static for 30 years). After reconciling with her husband and having a child, Pink isn’t interested the facade. She wears many hats on The Truth About Love—dance-floor queen, flawed spouse, smug glam rocker, caring mother, anguished balladeer—making it a recklessly uneven mess of a record that’s also uncommonly honest and mature.

Carina Round, Tigermending (10)
On the subtly complex Tigermending, Carina Round lures listeners from delicate pop melodies to darkly foreboding anthems and uneasily back again. Such transitions make for an unsettlingly unpredictable journey, one that simultaneously entrances with its mysterious atmosphere and surprises with flourishes of eclectic innovation. In pushing boundaries while retaining a punkish aesthetic, Round confidently moves beyond the PJ Harvey references into her own wonderfully weird sonic space.

Paul Weller, Sonik Kicks (10)
As indicated by its title, Sonik Kicks is a flurried assault of ideas, a no-holds-barred stylistic barrage that tries anything and never loses momentum. From mod rock, electro-punk, folk, and soul, Paul Weller throws a lot at the wall to see what sticks, and most of it does—even half-baked material has something to offer. Immersed in its experiments, with meticulous attention to detail, Sonik Kicks leaves much to explore well after delivering its thrills.

Alejandro Escovedo, Big Station (9)
It doesn’t take much to make good roots-rock: Throw together a fat bass line and a jangly guitar melody, add energetic chants, sprinkle with handclaps, voila. That keep-it-simple approach defines Big Station, Alejandro Escovedo’s fantastically fun return to the basics. With tight, disciplined songwriting and an effortless knack for hooks, Big Station brims with the music of blue-collar dives, tailgate parties, and heartland highways—and is best heard anywhere with room to tap a foot.

Grizzly Bear, Shields (9)

The Henry Clay People, Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives (9)
Nothing is more destructive to rock ’n’ roll than time—it’s what turns teenage Megadeth diehards into 40-something John Mayer fans, what compels Gene Simmons to plug Dr Pepper with a little person. Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives fights back, as The Henry Clay People keep alive their bratty, ramshackle sound despite creeping disillusionment. Brashly unpolished and self-aware, it’s a record with a pure love of rock, even if it is all a waste of time.

Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas (8)

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JOSH MODELL
The Walkmen, Heaven (15)
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (15)
Future Of The Left, The Plot Against Common Sense (15)
Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (10)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (10)
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel… (10)
Titus Andronicus, Local Business (10)
Cat Power, Sun (5)
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (5)
The Evens, The Odds (5)

14 great songs from albums that didn’t make my list
Bloc Party, “Octopus”
Retribution Gospel Choir, “The Stone (Revolution!)”
Sigur Rós, “Varúð”
Divine Fits, “Shivers”
Pink, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”
Dinosaur Jr., “Pierce The Morning Rain”
Frightened Rabbit, “Boxing Night”
A.C. Newman, “There’s Money In New Wave”
Black Moth Super Rainbow, “Dreamsicle Bomb”
Damien Jurado, “Maraqopa”
Beth Orton, “Magpie”
Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Wild Belle, “Keep You”
Nicki Minaj featuring 2 Chainz, “Beez In The Trap”

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NOEL MURRAY
Field Music, Plumb (15)
(see main list)
Top tracks: “Guillotine,” “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing”

Lee Fields & The Expressions, Faithful Man (10)
A veteran of the R&B scene since the ’70s, Lee Fields found new life thanks to the retro-soul movement of the ’00s, keeping him around long enough to record his most fully realized LP: a 10-song plea to a wayward lady from a man who wants her to know how good he could be to her. Musically, Fields and his band, The Expressions, have grown from low-budget James Brown imitations to the more cinematic drama of Isaac Hayes and the romantic swoop of Marvin Gaye. Faithful Man combines Fields’ sweet, conversational entreaties to an absent lover with The Expressions’ lithe arrangements of horn, strings, and funk guitar, all in service of the notion that this world is just one romantic coupling away from being perfect.
Top tracks: “You’re The Kind Of Girl,” “It’s All Over (But The Crying)”

The Amazing, Gentle Stream (10)
Guitarist Reine Fiske and singer-songwriter Christoffer Gunrup make a good team, capable of finding unity between musical styles that range from Pink Floyd-style space-outs to Crazy Horse crunch to airy Al Stewart folk. On The Amazing’s second album, Gentle Stream, Fiske spins little webs around his bandmates’ trance-y rhythms, while Gunrup sings in a quavering monotone, sounding a lot like the humming organ that runs through much of this record. Gunrup writes The Amazing’s songs, giving them structure and flow, but he’s smart enough to let Fiske and the rest of the band take over for the jammy codas, which roil and erupt periodically—explosive, but never out of control.
Top tracks: “Gentle Stream,” “Flashlight”

Japandroids, Celebration Rock (8)
Maybe it’s because Vancouver duo Japandroids haven’t exactly flooded the market with product in their six years of existence, but every one of the eight songs on Celebration Rock feels like a little gift, lovingly crafted to produce enough joy in the listener to bridge any gaps between this and the band’s next release. When the guitars are surging, the drums are pounding, the boys are shouting, all that noise comes together into one righteous push forward, so powerful that it’s hard to understand why anyone would want rock ’n’ roll to sound any other way.
Top tracks: “Fire’s Highway,” “The House That Heaven Built”

The Fresh & Onlys, Long Slow Dance (7)
Prolific San Francisco psych-rockers The Fresh & Onlys sound like an accomplished, big-time rock band on their fourth album, Long Slow Dance, offering complexly constructed, deftly arranged, impressively hooky songs with a sense of permanence about them. Over their past few releases, The Fresh & Onlys have been building out from their original raw style, adding the occasional synthesizer or touch of country-folk twang. Long Slow Dance has something new and ear-catching happening every few seconds: It rocks hard and pops brightly. 
Top tracks: “Dream Girls,” “Presence Of Mind”

Lambchop. Mr. M (6)
Lambchop has never made even a mediocre album, let alone an outright bad one, but the band has had its higher highs. Mr. M is in the same class as Nixon, Is A Woman, and Damaged, in that it’s unified and purposeful, combining what Lambchop already knows how to do with some tricks the band hasn’t really attempted before. Specifically, Mr. M is more open with its arrangements, introducing more vamps, drones, and lengthy instrumental passages to play against the band’s supple easy-listening music and Kurt Wagner’s “poetry of the everyday.” From the minimal-but-lush strings on Lambchop’s Mr. M to the dapper gentleman on the cover, the record carries itself with a certain old-fashioned grace and dignity.
Top tracks: “Gone Tomorrow,” “Mr. Met”

Rufus Wainwright, Out Of The Game (6)
Easily Rufus Wainwright’s most accessible album, the eclectic, melodic Out Of The Game finds Wainwright and power producer Mark Ronson varying their approach from track to track, weaving elements of R&B and club music into Wainwright’s ’70s style roots-pop. Out Of The Game features guest appearances by members of The Dap-Kings, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Wilco, and Ronson emphasizes the immediacy of these performances in his production, which reveals the clack of accordion keys, the vibration of every strum, the rattle of the snare, and the not-always-perfect harmonies of the background choirs. This all frames Wainwright well, as he speculates, recalls, pines, gossips, and regrets.
Top tracks: “Jericho,” “Montauk”

Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits (6)
The pairing of Spoon’s Britt Daniel with Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner in Divine Fits is one of those collaborations that few would’ve predicted, even though the two musicians’ gifts are so obviously complementary, given their mutual interests in anxious, beat-driven rock. A Thing Called Divine Fits isn’t as good as the best Spoon and Wolf Parade albums, but it’s not some tossed-off side project, either; Daniel, Boeckner, drummer Sam Brown, and keyboardist Alex Fischel sound inspired as they generate dark, danceable grooves to sputter and growl over.
Top tracks: “Would That Not Be Nice,” “Baby Gets Worse”

Royal Headache, Royal Headache (6)
Released in the U.S. this year after coming out in 2011 in its native Australia, Royal Headache’s self-titled debut LP is 26 minutes of pure garage-rock pleasure, combining the frenzied fuzz and backbeats of previous generations of mop-headed DIYers with the “maximum R&B” attitude of the long-forgotten British mod acts of the ’60s and ’70s. There’s nothing new here—just a recombining of older elements that belong together like biscuits and butter.
Top tracks: “Surprise,” “Psychotic Episode”

Bob Dylan, Tempest (5)
(see main list)
Top tracks: “Duquesne Whistle,” “Tempest”

Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship (5)
Fulfilling the promise of his early solo albums, Luke Temple leads his hazy folk ensemble through a set of atmospheric songs that producer Nigel Godrich breaks down into their individual components, accentuating the tactility of every sound. A Different Ship could be written off as just another indie-rock mood-piece—something that exists in overabundance these days—but Temple has actual songs, not just vague ideas masquerading as same.
Top tracks: “Make Up Your Mind,” “I Believe In Action”

Kelly Hogan, I Like To Keep Myself In Pain (4)
One of the best vocalists in alt-country (as well as pop, rock, and jazz, for that matter), Kelly Hogan hasn’t had the career that friends like Neko Case and Patterson Hood have enjoyed, but at least she’s been able to call on her pals to help her record albums as tuneful and personable as I Like To Keep Myself In Pain, a collection of (mostly) covers that showcases Hogan’s expressive voice and wry humor. She’s a delightful person to spend time with: a singer who invests every song with the heart and wit of a great storyteller.  
Top tracks: “Daddy’s Little Girl,” “Sleeper Awake”

Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves (4)
The news that Mark Kozelek’s fifth Sun Kil Moon album would be another mostly acoustic set initially wasn’t that encouraging to fans who’ve been anxious for him to return to the more energized electric rock of Ghosts Of The Great Highway and Red House Painters. But Among The Leaves is a real treat, featuring some of Kozelek’s most agreeably casual (and funniest) songs, letting listeners in on his anxieties over the state of his career as its autumn approaches. And contrary to advance reports, Kozelek even plugs in on a couple of tracks, enough to ease the monotony that had settled in on the previous few Sun Kil Moon and solo albums. Among The Leaves is his best since Ghosts, and one for the “essential Kozelek” list.
Top tracks: “The Moderately Talented Yet Attractive Young Woman Vs. The Exceptionally Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man,” “Not Much Rhymes With Everything’s Awesome At All Times”

Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (4)
As always, Springsteen uses the studio to document the state of the world today, and then continues the conversation through concerts and TV appearances meant to remind people how good it can feel to be part of something larger—and to remind people of the responsibilities that come with that communal warmth. The difference this time out is that Wrecking Ball features some of Springsteen’s most rollicking and passionate songs in years, treating arena rock and old-timey folk music as two sides of the same coin, equally capable of delivering a message.
Top tracks: “Death To My Hometown,” “We Are Alive”

Air, Le Voyage Dans La Lune (4)
Written and recorded quickly as a soundtrack to the restored version of Georges Méliès’ 1902 science-fiction classic A Trip To The Moon, Le Voyage Dans La Lune sounds like a pastiche of past Air albums, mixing familiar dreamy, cinematic orchestration with dark, stormy electronica. The result is one of the band’s most playful records, as the duo matches Méliès’ handmade H.G. Wells fantasies with spacey atmospherics and cool-sounding mechanical clank, meant to lead the listener on a journey as whimsical and weird as the one Méliès led more than 100 years ago. 
Top tracks: “Astronomic Club,” “Seven Stars”

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SEAN O’NEAL
Swans, The Seer (10)
Grizzly Bear, Shields (10)
Andy Stott, Luxury Problems (10)
How To Dress Well, Total Loss (10)
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (10)
Liars, WIXIW (5)
Actress, R.I.P. (5)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (5)
Clams Casino, Instrumentals Mixtape 2 (5)
Trust, TRST (5)
Eraas, Eraas (5)
Beach House, Bloom (5)
El-P, Cancer For Cure (5)
Chromatics, Kill For Love (5)
Poliça, Give You The Ghost (5)

The next 10:
Lower Dens, Nootropics
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory
The Walkmen, Heaven
Metz, Metz
Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits
The Soft Moon, Zeros
Uptown XO, The Color Grey
Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music 
White Rabbits, Milk Famous
Brian Eno, Lux

EPs
Daniel Rossen, Silent Hour/Golden Mile
Burial, Kindred
DropxLife, Furthur
Beaumont, Never Love Me
First Person Shootr, Mobility For Gods
Beacon, For Now

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KEITH PHIPPS
Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves (10)
Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself (9)
Bob Dylan, Tempest (8)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (8)
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (8)
A.C. Newman, Shut Down The Streets (7)
Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits (7)
Dr. John, Locked Down (7)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (6)
Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes (5)
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (5)
Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats (5)
Titus Andronicus, Local Business (5)
The Raveonettes, Observator (5)
Best Coast, The Only Place (5)

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KYLE RYAN
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (15)
Bob Mould, Silver Age (14)
Pilot To Gunner, Guilty Guilty (13)
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory (12)
P.O.S., We Don’t Even Live Here (10)
Metric, Synthetica (9)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (8)
Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind (7)
Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits (7)
Titus Andronicus, Local Business (5)

My alternate top 10 
1. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (10)
2. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (10)
3. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (10)
4. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (10)
5. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (10)
6. Bob Mould, Silver Age (10)
7. Bob Mould, Silver Age (10)
8. Bob Mould, Silver Age (10)
9. Bob Mould, Silver Age (10)
10. Bob Mould, Silver Age (10)

My list, continued:
11. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
12. The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth
13. OFF, OFF!
14. Motion City Soundtrack, Go
15. Hospitality, Hospitality
16. Matt & Kim, Lightning
17. The Evens, The Odds
18. Cursive, I Am Gemini
19. The Coup, Sorry To Bother You
20. El-P, Cancer For Cure

Albums I listened to exclusively on Spotify, but I’ll buy them, I promise:
Metric, Synthetica
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
Motion City Soundtrack, Go
Matt And Kim, Lightning
El-P, Cancer For Cure

Artists who made my previous years’ lists, but not this year:
Silversun Pickups, Neck Of The Woods
Bloc Party, Four

The most played 2012 songs in my work computer iTunes:
1. OFF!, “Wiped Out” (30 plays) (Seriously? That seems wrong.)
2. Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built” (13)
3. Lucero, “On My Way Downtown” (11)
4. Simian Mobile Disco, “I Waited For You” (11) (Wha?)
5. Japandroids, “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” (8)

(A Spotify playlist with my favorite tracks from most of these albums can be found here.) 

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EVAN RYTLEWSKI
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory (10)
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (10)
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas (10)
Grimes, Visions (10)
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream (10)
Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music (7)
100s, Ice Cold Perm (7)
Rick Ross, Rich Forever (7)
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (7)
Big K.R.I.T., 4eva N A Day (7)
Nas, Life Is Good (3)
Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (3)
Cat Power, Sun (3)
Gucci Mane, Trap Back (3)
Marissa Nadler, Sister (3)

These are wonderful, too:
Meyhem Lauren, Respect The Fly Shit
Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
Death Grips, The Money Store
Rich Kidz, Everybody Eat Bread
Waka Flocka Flame, Shoot Me Or Salute Me 4
The Men, Open Your Heart
Melanie Fiona, The MF Life
Dawn Richard, Armor On
Beach House, Bloom
Dinosaur Jr., I Bet On Sky
Katie Kim, Cover & Flood
Action Bronson and Party Supplies, Blue Chips
Smashing Pumpkins, Oceania
Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits
Code Orange Kids, Love Is Love//Return To Dust
Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 2

Two perfect songs unrepresented above:
Usher, “Climax”
Future, “Same Damn Time”

I find no redeeming value in either of these awful albums:
Chris Brown, Fortune
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Most encouraging trend of 2012:
Gucci Mane got great again.

Most discouraging trend of 2012:
Lil Wayne did not.

Greatest dropped trend of 2012:
Between fantastic early-year albums from The Men, Ceremony, Cloud Nothings, and Japandroids, 2012 was shaping up to be the year that indie-rock became loud and vital again. And then not so much.

Most “meh” trend of 2012:
Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, and The XX all released strong, sometimes even great follow-ups to important, widely loved albums this year. Not a single one of them was better than its predecessor. This was a strong year for music overall, but for indie-rock’s elite, it was a year of diminishing returns.

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ANNIE ZALESKI
Shearwater, Animal Joy (5)
John K. Samson, Provincial (5)
Nada Surf, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (5)
Rush, Clockwork Angels (5)
The Twilight Sad, No One Can Ever Know (5)
Cat Power, Sun (5)
Maximo Park, The National Health (5)
Bob Mould, Silver Age (5)
Ben Folds Five, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind (5)
Gary Clark Jr., Blak And Blu (5)
Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory (5)
Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (5)
Frankie Rose, Interstellar (5)
Now, Now, Threads (5)
Adam Lambert, Trespassing (5)
Ladyhawke, Anxiety (5)
Patti Smith, Banga (5)
Crocodiles, Endless Flowers (5)
Simian Mobile Disco, Unpatterns (5)
Corin Tucker Band, Kill My Blues (5)

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