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Music 2012

At this point, I'm almost completely digital when it comes to music. Yes, I did buy a handful of CDs this year but I don't expect to anymore going forward. While I do still play CDs in the car, I will just as often plug in my iPhone and listen to a podcast or an album I have only in mp3 format. I was also able to listen to a wider variety of music this year thanks to Spotify. Here's what I liked the most...

1. Ben Kweller/Go Fly A Kite - This is an album I've seen on exactly no best-of lists but it's the album I listened to the most this year and with good reason - it's full of great power pop. It's the album I was hoping for after his self-titled album back in 2006 (Changing Horses, while good, didn't quite fulfill that need). It has 11 songs that are a ton of fun to sing along to and I sang along plenty.

2. The Shins/Port of Morrow - A lot of critics shrugged their shoulders at this album but I think it's more a case of group critical backlash than giving the album any real chance. These are great pop songs, both in the classic Shins mode ("September") or something a little different ("Port of Morrow"). "Simple Song" is one of the songs of the year.

3. Aimee Mann/Charmer - Speaking of great pop songs, this album delivers them in spades. I think this is Mann's strongest outing since Lost In Space and I've really liked the albums in between. There is plenty of synthesizer here, especially on the title track, but also some great guitar ("Soon Enough") and a great duet with James Mercer from The Shins. If you don't know Mann's work, this is a good a place as any to start.

4. Japandroids/Celebration Rock - Sure, Justin, this list sounds like your usual suspects, you may have been thinking and you weren't wrong. Here's something new, though. This album is 8 songs that just rock. I have done more air drumming to these songs than anything else and it was a good soundtrack to several runs. "The House That Heaven Built" is a way in - hear that one and you're hooked.

5. Father John Misty/Fear Fun - J. Tillman put out a number of solo albums and was the drummer in Fleet Foxes but this album is different. It's built on top of classic rock but takes things in a direction you don't quite expect. It's fun but it makes you think. Three songs you need to hear - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," "Only Son of the Ladiesman," and "Now I'm Learning to Love the War."

6. Divine Fits/A Thing Called Divine Fits - This is a new group featuring Britt Daniel from Spoon (one of my favorite bands ever) and Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade (who I went back to listen to via Spotify and will explore more). Their debut album is great and while it shares some similarities with Spoon, it definitely is its own entity. Listen to that baseline in "Would That Not Be Nice" and try not to groove along.

7. A.C. Newman/Shut Down the Streets - I listened to this album before it came out and it didn't grab me but then I saw some video of him performing the songs live with Neko Case and it opened up to me. Newman has a pretty consistent record as a songwriter and this set of songs proves it all over again. It's a quieter record but bursting with melody and some more direct lyrics than he is typically known for. "I'm Not Talking" will get lodged in your head but I love his song for his son, "There's Money in New Wave," most of all.

8. Bob Mould/Silver Age - Like Superchunk a couple years ago, this album is the roaring return of a rock icon. This really was the year of Mould - his autobiography came out in late 2011 and the Sugar catalog was reissued by Merge - and this album proved his vitality. "Keep Believing" indeed.

9. Kelly Hogan/I Like To Keep Myself In Pain - For her first album in 11 years, Hogan asked her friends to write her songs. They wrote really good ones and she sang the hell out of them with a crack backing band that included Booker T. A winning formula.

10. The Walkmen/Heaven - Great guitar work, Hamilton Leithauser's crooning, and a batch of relaxed songs that still have an edge made this album a favorite this year.

Albums That Could Have Made It If I Hadn't Just Gotten Them
Ty Segall/Twins
Tame Impala/Lonerism

Speaking of Superchunk
Their single, "Last Summer," was killer and featured a great cover of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" on the flipside.

Speaking of Covers
The Afghan Whigs turned in 2 great ones - "See and Don't See" by Marie "Queenie" Lyons and "Lovecrimes" by Frank Ocean


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