Matt Zimmerman — Favorite Music of 2012

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Released: 12/31/2012

I have abandoned the tag “best of…” because I hardly had a chance to listen to and evaluate EVERY piece of music released this year but nonetheless, here’s what I enjoyed this year…

Alt-J came on strong at the last second due to a tremendous push by my wife and her incessant replaying of this album (thanks darling!). There was no voice that plucked my heartstrings quite like Mr. Kiwanuka’s. Circa might have suffered more from tracklisting issues than song selection but a strong effort nonetheless. It was great to hear mewithoutYou & Panic Division’s respective returns. Ed Sharpe was a hipster delight but could’ve used a little more bounce. fun. may have strayed a little too far left on a few of Some Nights’ songs but who can argue with the year they had!? Bat for Lashes was so intoxicating, there were moments I feared an OD was just around the corner. Delta Spirit and Gold Motel were both solid fun.

20) Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
19) Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
18) The Panic Division – Eternalism
17) fun. – Some Nights
16) Gold Motel – Gold Motel
15) mewithoutYou – Ten Stories
14) Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes – Here
13) Circa Survive – Violent Waves
12) Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
11) Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

10) Reubens Accomplice – Sons of Men
Reubens Accomplice silently went on challenging Chinese Democracy since pre-orders for this album began in EARLY 2009! Well, grumblings aside, the album finally made the light of day in 2012 and I couldn’t have been happier for the wait. A great mix of midwestern emo, country, folk and whatever other labels you’d like to throw in, it boils down to one thing: a fantastic collection of tunes.

9) Further Seems Forever – Penny Black
Can the cliche “it’s like riding a bike” still apply after it’s been 10 years?! The original members of FSF proved it’s more than applicable on this year’s Penny Black. While not rehashing the past note-for-note, they still brought the fire and emotion that made The Moon Is Down so special. Not, it doesn’t live up their masterwork but they didn’t get back to recreate a moment in time, they got back together to rock and they succeeded in spades.

8) Deftones – Koi No Yokan
They’ve been doing it longer and better than most any on-going bands out there today and they show why on this latest collection. The band stretches its wings a little further than they did on 2010’s “Diamond Eyes” without losing any of their brute force. But then again, that’s what this band has always done best (and in the same breath, better than almost anyone else).

7) Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
David Longstreth has never made music that was easily digestible but, chock it up to old age (or whatever you’d like), this album marks a turning point for this merry bunch of asymmetrical musicians. While still farther out there than most casual listeners could handle, this album pulls back much of the crazy-for-crazys-sake and stands as a collection of great, eclectic tunes and perhaps my favorite to-date.

6) David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Annie Clark produced one of my favorite albums of 2011 and now came back for seconds bringing along a musical icon in David Byrne. These two powerhouses team up for a straight down the middle partnership corralled by a brass band which leads to a circus-style amalgam that gels perfectly on record. David sounds reminiscent of his beloved Talking Heads’ days which Annie plays the minimalist cheese to his wine.

5) The Shins – Port of Morrow
James Mercer blew up his beloved band after their last album in 2007 and explored a couple other projects before reforming with a new lineup and a spectacular new album. Rather than looking back as most do on “comeback” albums, this album picks up where Wincing The Night Away left on and then some. Anchored by personal favorites “It’s Only Life” and the title track, the album is a tour-de-force from beginning to end.

4) Good Old War – Come Back As Rain
One of the most consistently consistent bands of the past half-decade, this trio from Philly released their most polished piece to date. They embody the cliche “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Some of my favorite songs from the band (“Better Weather,” “Amazing Eyes”) are found on this new collection of harmonic folk-pop.

3) Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Josh Tillman was getting bored of his J. Tillman moniker and decided to strike out on an unmistakably new trail; one that led him to the hills of Laurel Canyon on a drug-infused trip. Or so he says… regardless of the truth versus fiction, fact is that this album is a hidden gem of 70’s jangly pop that found its way to 2012. Full of tall tales and soulful swooning, this album was the surprise of the year.

2) Deep Sea Diver – History Speaks
Many of the biggest names in music (Conor Oberst, Beck Hansen, Karen O, James Mercer) have utilized her talent but this year Jessica Dobson finally struck out on her own and released her debut full length. Peaking at only 9 songs, this album isn’t lacking one ounce of anything. It’s got upbeat danceable numbers (“You Go Running”), sorrowful ballads (“Tracks of the Green Line”) and catchy tunes about the world’s end (“NWO”).

1) Grizzly Bear – Shields
Indie chameleons Grizzly Bear have been redefining their sound each go-around and this iteration might just be their best yet. Their vibrancy increased on Yellow House, they got more boisterous on 2009’s Veckatimest and Shields has added a more visceral tone. They bring that all together on their latest as every second is optimally utilized and every peak & valley are placed just so combining for this year’s favorite album that entered my rotation.

Honorable Mentions
Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram [40th Anniversary Reissue]

Other Fantastic Albums of 2012
Menomena – Moms
Vacationer – Gone
Sharks – No Gods
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Jack White – Blunderbuss
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Maps & Atlases – Beware and be Grateful
Biceratops – Biceratops
Dry the River – Shallow Bed
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Rot Gut, Domestic
Dr. Dog – Be the Void
The Helio Sequence – Negotiations
Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
Athletics – Who You Are Is Not Enough
Thenewno2 – Thefearofmissingout

Favorite Extended Plays of 2012
Cut Teeth & Daniel Rossen are opposite ends of the spectrum but released some of the best music in their respective genres regardless of album length. Sam Means put a bounce in my playlist’s step that few can replicate. Peace’d Out just rocked my socks off as did North Korea. Crosses was a blast of 80’s fun. Jjuujjuu droned their psychedelic ways into my ear. St. Vincent went for the jugular on her two new tracks.

Cut Teeth – Televandalism
Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile
Sam Means – Nona
Peace’d Out – Peace’d Out
††† (Crosses) – ††
North Korea – Basement Tapes, Vol. 2
Jjuujjuu – FRST
Handshakes – Villains & Crooks
O’Brother – Basement Window
St. Vincent – Krokodil/Grot 7”

Favorite Songs of 2012
David Byrne & St. Vincent “I Should Watch TV”
Father John Misty “I’m Writing a Novel”
Deftones “Tempest”
Good Old War “Amazing Eyes”
Person L “Ok”
Sam Means “Long Way Down”
Vacationer “Trip”
Daniel Rossen “Saint Nothing”
Deep Sea Diver “Weekend Wars”
Grizzly Bear “Half Gate”
Reubens Accomplice “No Motion”
Good Old War “Better Weather”
Melanie Martinez “Toxic (Britney Spears cover)”
fun. “Carry On”
Michael Kiwanuka “Home Again”
Wild Belle “Keep You”

Most Played Artists in 2012
1 Deep Sea Diver (289)
2 Good Old War (266)
3 Sam Means (200)
4 The Beatles (178)
5 O’Brother/The Shins (157)

Favorite Vocals of 2012
Michael Kiwanuka
Grizzly Bear
Good Old War

Favorite Album Art of 2012
Shields (Grizzly Bear)
Port Of Morrow (The Shins)

Most Underrated Artists of 2012
Deep Sea Diver
Reubens Accomplice

Biggest Surprises of 2012
Father John Misty
Michael Kiwanuka

Albums I Missed Out On in 2011
Beirut – The Rip Tide
Feist – Metals
Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Most Anticipated Albums of 2013
Local Natives – Hummingbird
North Korea
Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground – III
The Black Keys
The Fling
We Barbarians
Yellow Red Sparks
Happy Body Slow Brain
City and Colour
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare, Vol. 3
Portugal. The Man
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Janelle Monáe
Paramore – Paramore

Matt Zimmerman

I have a bachelors in music enthusiasm with an emphasis on physical collection. If you'd like to know more about my major, see what I'm listening to at:

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  • Dave Giumara

    I don’t know how I forgot that The Panic Division was released this year. Shame on me.

    Also really glad to see you include the Michael Kiwanuka album. It’s a very nice heartfelt record that got overlooked by many this year.

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