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Best Records of 2012

Best Records of 2012

This year was a big year for new music. Tons of releases by great bands, and piles of new bands making their name with debut records. Here are a few I think are worth listening to!

Check out some of my favorite songs on my Best of 2012 Spotify Playlist!

The Top 10

The Life and Times – No One Loves You Like I Do
I don’t know that a TLAT record taking the top spot will shock anyone. Each TLAT release seems to be the exact thing I want to listen to when it comes out. Their sound seems to mature in parallel with my tastes. Day 9 and Day 11 are in strong contention for Song of the Year. Mathy, melodic, and layered, with progressive leanings.

Hidden Hospitals – EP002
HH made the records of the year list last year with their debut, EP001. The followup picks up right where they left off, and takes it up a notch. I love everything about this band. Their branding is exemplary, their sound is refined, their live show is flawless, and most importantly, their songs are terrific. They are the total package, and have quickly become one of my favorite bands out there. Mathy / technical / alt rock.

Cloudkicker – Fade
This feels like the 5th year in a row with a Cloudkicker release in the top 5. This release is decidedly more post-rock than his metal reputation. It just shows how versatile he is as a songwriter and musician. Additionally, it’s his best engineered record to date. The mix and tones are great. I listened to this exclusively for well over a week, which is pretty much unheard of at my place. Here’s to hoping we see another release next year!

Town Portal – Chronopoly
Another band who found themselves on the list for 2011. Personally, I think this followup tops it, which is quite the feat. An indie instrumental band with mathy riffs, creative chord progressions, and progressive structures. READ: the foundation for a band I’ll love. The mix and production of this record is spectacular as well. I seem to jog further and faster when this is the playlist. Awesome.

Anakin – Random Access Memories
This falls somewhere between Weezer, Failure, Hum, and Reggie and the Full Effect. Heavy riffs, huge drums, synth melodies, with nice vocals sitting on top. The production is massive on this record. The songwriting is very consistent from track to track, and when in the mood, this record just hits the spot.

Cut Teeth – Televandalism
Despite coming out in 2012, this record brings me back. It feels like a perfect blend of old ATDI, Cursive, Drive Like Jehu, and just walking into venues in Chicago a decade ago. Textured riffs, tight drumming, and abrasive vocals done in a fashion that we just don’t hear enough anymore.

Minus the Bear – Infinity Overhead
This is not the Minus The Bear of old. The pop is more polished than ever, and the songwriting is just spectacular. The flashy riffage and creative fx usage serves the song more often than it takes the forefront, and it really works. Matt Bayles’ production may be my favorite work of his with MTB to date.

Hot Water Music – Exister
This is not what I expected from the return of HWM. This is less punk and more rock, and it works so well. The production is wonderful, and makes me want to listen to every record that comes out of The Blasting Room. “Drag My Body” is also on my list for Songs of the Year. If I had a list for best bass fill, it would be on that list as well.

Why Bother – Some Songs
This is my buddy Nick’s solo record. It’s a simple 4 song EP, but it’s great. If you didn’t know it was programmed drums and a pocket-pod for guitars, you likely wouldn’t notice. It’s a great high energy mathy rock record that almost reminds me of an old Rocket From The Crypt release.

Deftones – Koi No Yokan
I almost feel guilty for having this in the top 10, as it’s only been out for a couple weeks. Then I remember how awesome it is, and I don’t feel bad anymore. These guys have picked things up where they left off with Diamond Eyes. Just a great blend of heavy and melodic. I don’t really need to describe the deftones in 2012, do I?

Runners Up:
Arctic Sleep – Arbors
Imagine if HUM tuned to B.

British Theatre – ep
Members of Oceansize with a slight electronic leaning.

With Knives – Schadenfreude
Joe from Fallout Boy and Josh from Shiner tip their caps to Queens of the Stone Age.

Baroness – Yellow & Green
As close to a modern ‘classic rock’ record as I’ve ever heard.

The Jealous Sound – A Gentle Reminder
A very polished and streamlined version of my favorite indie / emo band of 2003.

Circa Survive – Violent Waves
Pretty much par for the course with this release. A fun proggy listen.

Honorable Mention:
The Casket Lottery – Real Fear
Jack White – Blunderbuss (I’m as surprised as you are).
The Sword – Apocryphon
Coheed & Cambria – Afterman
El Ten Eleven – Transitions
Sundrone – Burial Waves (former CodeSeven)
Sundiver – Vicious EP
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Caspian – Waking Season
Sigur Rós – Valtari
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
How to Destroy Angels – Omen

Biggest Disappointment
Further Seems Forever – Penny Black
I had modest expectations for this record, and it missed on all of them. The songs just aren’t good. Despite being the original lineup, there wasn’t a single aspect of this record that made you think these guys wrote ‘The Moon is Down’ (one of my all time favs).

Local Releases:
Life Long Laser – Pipedream
Somewhere between Minus the Bear, Broken Social Scene, and Brand New.

Two Star – Lover, Our Lips Have Left Us
As solid as a record as I’ve ever heard by a local band. Modern indie power pop. So good.

Best Record Not From 2012
Butch Walker & the Black Widows – The Spade
I’m glad I missed this record in 2011, because, it came to me at the perfect time in 2012. It was a refreshing listen, and EXACTLY what I was looking for. It’s one of the smartest, funnest pop records I’ve ever heard. The songwriting is impeccable, and the musicianship is unreal. If that wasn’t enough, the production absolutely KILLS. The tones are huge, the mix is flawless, and the performances are on point. Additionally, you don’t hear enough records with banjolin these days!


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