10 Favorite Albums of 2012
Comments adapted from my blog.
Frida Hyvönen – To The Soul
One of the greatest pop songwriters since her countrymen Andersson and Ulvaeus, but less indebted to a disco beat.
Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
The album that scared me most, so beautiful I could sometimes hardly bear to listen to it, as if to look away was to preserve it.
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
“I’m not sure why I’m infatuated with death.” Someone my age is thinking about his own, but not in any way that’s tragic, self-fulfilling, depressed, or anything. Instead he’s imaginative, expansive when he holds his dream of death and wonders how he’ll perceive himself at the moment it finally already comes.
Frankie Rose – Interstellar
Only in music and animation do humans create the laws of physics. Behold a gleaming, weightless city, one that never had to be built, that never crushed anyone, as perfect as a drawing of itself. How else to explain such a serene album being made in Brooklyn?
Ken Stringfellow – Danzig in the Moonlight
Except for maybe Frosting on the Beater, a Posies album is never perfect, trading consistency of inspiration for consistency of sound, but every time one of these guys makes a solo album, they trade back and produce a masterpiece. Danzig is Stringfellow’s third great solo venture, even more stylistically varied than 2004’s Soft Commands, but shot through with a beautiful somberness that holds it together.
Chromatics – Kill For Love
It pushes me back to important primordial experiences of committed music listening, in a way I never expected might happen again. I’m lying in a bed, alone in a dark room, with headphones on. The only time I know is the album’s time, and there’s no other version of time I’d rather surrender to.
Grimes – Visions
Triumph of the non-musician. She’s probably worked out a solution by now, but I read a while back about Grimes’ GarageBand origins, and the difficulty she had in replicating live songs that had been built in private. I’m happy to add her to the small list of people who, by painstaking, backwards, impractical means, can produce something so accomplished.
Julia Holter – Ekstasis
Triumph of the musician. Nowhere else this year but in Ekstasis and the best rap mixtapes did I encounter a sense of space that might be said to bear some relation to reality, with the artist surrendering part of her wide ambient world and allowing foreign parties, elements, humidity to infringe on something that’s usually supposed to be just between herself and the listener. The year’s best live album.
Himanshu – Nehru Jackets
It starts with a bad remembrance of Paula Cole, but the density of inspiration across 25 tracks obscures and eventually elevates any lesser moments. Among the great moments are Ravi Shankar talking about the elixir of life, followed by a song about drugs, and, per the juxtaposition, ambivalence or guilt?; the rattling intensity that keeps increasing from “Swate” through “NYC Cops” to “You Have to Ride the Wave,” the latter featuring one of Danny Brown’s greatest entrances.
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
An album about feelings of futility and frustration that’s also an endorsement of hard work: Idler Wheel’s best qualities are also signs that it could so easily never have been made. But it was made, and then, we imagine, the feelings returned and the sense of relief was small and quick, but at least we got a small, quiet classic out of seven years’ worth of all that shit that builds up that either you have to tell, or do nothing.