Frontier Psychiatrist

The Top 30 Albums of 2012 (So Far): 10-1

Posted on: June 27, 2012

(All week we’re counting down our favorites of the year to date.  To check out albums 30 through 11 on our list, click here)

10. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

Birdman’s best disc since 2005’s Mysterious Production of EggsBreak It Yourself finds the string virtuoso giving equal attention to expanding and restraining his unique songwriting style. Perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon, Break It Yourself is as expertly produced as it is written, giving Bird fans a more rewarding listen than any of his interim discs. Extra points for the inclusion of Annie Clark. -PTL

9. Daughn Gibson – All Hell

In May, my main man Tim Myers’ described All Hell as “a reflection of the postmodern condition,” and we wholeheartedly agree. In his attempt to reconcile the open spaces of traditional Americana with the 21st century construct of sample-based pop, Daughn Gibson’s warped mixture succeeds on mood and theme alone. While he’s not fit to dust the keys off James Blake’s synth keys, All Hell is a sign of JBs looming presence just one year removed. -PTL

Daughn Gibson – “In The Beginning”

8. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?

At the ripe old age of 31, the absurdly acclaimed and accomplished Chris Thile is prepared to show his maturity by creating the freshest and tightest record of his career. Clearly a group effort, Who’s Feeling Young Now? show the brothers at their most comfortable and in control, content to write expertly crafted pop songs rather than opuses. The result is not only stunning, but also the most enjoyable of their three (or four) albums. -PTL

7. Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions

No matter how hard I think about it, I can’t understand why a hard-working, well-educated, success-driven individual would be so attracted to an artist whose most memorable lyric is “Weed and brew/weed and brew/life for me is just weed and brew.”  But damn is this guy good.  -LVL

Schoolboy Q feat. A$AP Rocky – “Hands on the Wheel”

6. Chromatics – Kill for Love

Kill for Love is a commitment, a massive enterprise that took 5 years to record, a 77-minute opus that dwarfs all of the other records on this list.  And yet it all goes by too quickly.  I will concede that the record will not appeal to all tastes, but for sheer, unadulterated beauty, I am hard pressed to think of a more meritorious record this year.  As Keith Meatto wrote earlier this year, the record seems as if it starts at midnight and ends at dawn.  And you’ll be hoping that you never wake up.  -LVL

Chromatics – “Kill for Love”

5. Killer Mike & El-P – R.A.P. Music/El-P – Cancer for Cure

In May, Tim Myers penned an epic piece about the role of El-P in the return of the rap underground.  Like Jordan returning to MSG after toiling in minor-league obscurity, the mastermind behind Funcrusher Plus and The Cold Vein dropped a double-nickel on the music world this spring with this pair bone-rattling records.  Driven by Killer Mike’s charismatic growl, R.A.P. Music is the best southern rap record since Underground Kingz and the best political rap record since who the fuck knows (Fear of a Black Planet?).  Cancer for Cure, on the other hand, is classic El-P, filled with claustrophobic, paranoid beats tightly packed, cleverly syncopated rhymes that will leave you straining to keep up.  Long live the king. -LVL

4. The Men – Open Your Heart

If rock and roll is a dead horse, can we keep on beating it? The Men’s second release on Sacred Bones find the Brooklyn punkers easing off the hardcore flourishes of last year’s Leave Home, and expand their sonic scope to include pub rock, grunge and Sonic Youth-esque psychedelia. Somehow, The Men are completely content to copy almost verbatim fantastic rock songs through history (Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love/Rolling Stones – Dead Flowers), and yet they still come out sounding the most original of the new class. Looking to get rowdy, be it at a party or on your earbuds? Look no further. -PTL

3. Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips

By December, our list of the year’s best hip-hop albums might look a bit different.  Habits & ContraditcionsR.A.P. Music, and even Nehru Jackets are truly outstanding, and I can’t say that they won’t usurp Blue Chips after another six months.  But for now, Action Bronson’s indomitable flow and side-splitting (if occasionally repulsive) rhymes take top prize.  That fact is that at this time there is no rapper in the American underground more capable of carrying an entire record with the strength of his on skill and personality than Queens’ own Bronsoliño.  When he hit the scene last year, everything written about the man referenced his similarity to Ghostface Killah.  In 2012, he’s carved out a space all his own.  -LVL

Action Bronson – “9-24-11”

2. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

Sharon Van Etten reminds me of the narrator of Mandy Keifetz’s new novel Flea Circus, a tough, yet fragile Jersey girl who moves to Brooklyn and tries to makes sense of her pain. I first saw Van Etten in January 2011 at the Bowery Ballroom, a show that marked the start of her swift rise to the big leagues. In December 2011, I caught her uptown at the far larger Beacon Theater, where she shared the stage with The National and St. Vincent. And in February, she released Tramp, which catapulted her to national prominence, including a marquee spot at South by Southwest. Compared to her first two records, Tramp is longer, louder, sleeker, and more musically sophisticated. Both Because I Was In Love and Epic sound one step up from the coffeehouse, centering on Van Etten’s pretty, yet gritty voice and workmanlike acoustic guitar. Thanks to producer Aaron Dessner (guitarist for The National), the album has professional polish, with layered vocal harmony, electric and acoustic guitars, organ, ukulele, and drums, and a guest appearance by pseudo-Balkan Zach Condon of Beirut. Van Etten can be shaky live, as I saw at SXSW and heard on a recent NPR show. But on record and when she hits her stride on stage she’s got all the stuff of a star. –KLM

Sharon van Etten – “Serpents”(feat. Aaron and Bryce Desner of TheNational, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, and Thomas Bartlett of Dovemna)

1. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

As the darling of the music press this year so far, there’s likely not much we can say about this album that hasn’t been expressed in other publications. It’s loud, angry, young, emo, poppy, huge, short, awesome and produced by Steve Albini. The remarkable thing about this album, however, is the state it puts you in. While the music certainly takes more from the emo and post-hardcore punk of the early and mid-90s, Dylan Baldi’s nihilistic stance on nostalgia is refreshing. Yes, I am a member of that generation, and yes I get flashbacks to fake parking lot mosh pits and basement shows. The great thing is thatAttack on Memory is a sign that the next generation can have the same angst-filled fun I had, in a completely new fashion. -PTL

Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless

Check back tomorrow for our top 30 songs of 2012 so far.  

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4 Responses to "The Top 30 Albums of 2012 (So Far): 10-1"

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[…] whose set ranged from spastic to spacey. Their title as one of the best touring bands is upheld. -The Men -Real Estate -Kendrick Lamar -AraabMuzik – The greatest surprise of the weekend. After what […]

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