Miya T: Top Albums of 2012

Philadelphia, PA

Does anyone actually sing anymore? Well, a few people do, and they tend to cluster in the upper half of my list. I like dreampop and sensitive singer-songwriters as much as the next person, but so many albums this year were filled with whispers, coos, and murmurs. I’ll take excellent cooing over insipid, cynical projects any day, but in 2012 the songbirds stuck out. That said, nothing grabbed me and shook me like PJ Harvey’s falsetto did last year. Also appreciated: sounds from Arctic ghost towns.

top ten albums

10Beach House: Bloom

I always thought Beach House had a pleasant sound, but as with a lot of dreampop, I found it just a tad limp. They finally found a pulse with this album.

Standout Track(s): Wild

09Karriem Riggins: Alone Together

In music, as in academia, interdisciplinarty is a risky thing. Is there anything more obnoxious than hearing, “my work actually transcends traditional disciplinary categories” or, “my work examines the intersections of medieval French poetry and molecular biology”? (EXCEPTION: Contemporary Dude Studies is one area in which critical work is being done, especially in the subfields of Bro Theory and Choctch Criticism). But in music, as in academia, when someone can pull it off, it can be amazing. Which is how I feel about Riggins’s blend of jazz and hip hop.

Standout Track(s): Matador

08Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas

This is not Cohen’s best album, but Cohen can still school the majority of singer-songwriters with his shopworn croak and lady backup singers. He may be “a lazy bastard in a suit,” but why learn more than three chords if that’s all you need?

Standout Track(s): Going Home

07Sharon van Etten: Tramp

Perhaps this is Noise Narcs heresy, but this album took several listens as well as David’s intense lobbying to grow on me. But it did, so here it is.

Standout Track(s): Serpents

06Twin Shadow: Confess

Anything that reminds me of how much I loved Depeche Mode in high school gets on this list.

Standout Track(s): You Call Me On

05Iris DeMent: Sing the Delta

There was a lot of essaying this year about whether we live in an age of irony or sincerity. DeMent’s album makes a strong case for the latter. Also, a twang for the ages.

Standout Track(s): Mama Was Always Tellin’ Her Truth

04Bat for Lashes: The Haunted Man

This album is sparer and less noisy than her previous work but maintains its trademark lushness. Doing the same or better with less–the definition of elegance.

Standout Track(s): Lilies, Laura

03Cat Power: Sun

David claimed that this Cat Power album would surprise me, and it did in the best way.

Standout Track(s): Cherokee, Silent Machine, Manhattan

02Trixie Whitley: The Engine EP

In praise of soulful singing.

Standout Track(s): My Favorite Stranger

01Efterklang: Piramida

This is an album made by Danes, inspired by their trip to the island of Spitsbergen, near the North Pole, and would be my no. 1 even if I weren’t living in Denmark and writing an article that is partly about 17th-c. exploration of the Arctic region, including Spitsbergen.

Standout Track(s): Sedna

honorable mentions

The xx, “Coexist”; Frankie Rose, “Interstellar”; Metric, “Synthetica”, Fiona Apple, “The Idler Wheel…”; Andrew Bird, “Break It Yourself”

similarity to overall top ten: 11.67%, 3 matches

top songs

10The xx, “Coexist”; Frankie Rose, “Interstellar”; Metric, “Synthetica”, Fiona Apple, “The Idler Wheel…”; Andrew Bird, “Break It Yourself”

07Grimes, “Oblivion”

06Bat for Lashes, “Lilies”

05Frankie Rose, “Pair of Wings”

04Killer Mike, “Reagan”

03Andrew Bird, “Give It Away”

02Cat Power, “Silent Machine”

01How to Dress Well, “& It Was U”

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