2012 was yet another great year for music, with plenty of quality music making these lists particularly difficult to finalize. Be sure to check out What’s Good In 2012 and share what you liked in the comments!
Go Radio put out my favorite record of 2011, and this one just might be better than that one. Taking a slight left turn, Close The Distance showcases the well-established writing talents of Jason Lancaster in a more radio-friendly setting, incorporating more piano and sticking close to mid-tempo throughout. “Go To Hell” is, structurally and melodically, as good as anything the band has ever put out, and “What If You Don’t” rivals “Why I’m Home” in terms of sheer emotion and intimacy. If/when “Over Me” finally hits the airwaves, this band will blow up. It’s easy to see how some might resist the changes made in the short time between records, but ignoring that resistance leaves you with what is easily the best straightforward pop-rock album of 2012. I really hope they keep up this pace and make another run for my top spot in 2013. If any band could do it, it’s Go Radio.
It’s rare for a band to write a truly career-defining record, and it’s almost unheard of for a band to write two. Anberlin has accomplished number two with Vital. Incorporating electronic elements masterfully while simultaneously bringing forth more aggression than we’ve heard from any of their past material, the band surpassed absurdly high expectations and put out an album that is both true to who they are and refreshingly new. “Someone Anyone” might be my favorite song the band has ever put out, while “Self-Starter” and “God, Drugs, & Sex” make strong cases for best opener and closer of any Anberlin album to date. The songwriting and musicianship throughout the record is unquestionable, but the return to Aaron Sprinkle is one of the best decisions the band made with Vital. Everything sounds great, and the spark is back. This is a band at their prime, and you can’t beat that.
If I were to say this was anything but John Mayer’s best, I’d have some sort of moral dilemma concerning my law school’s honor code prohibition of lying. I can’t say with certainty that this has taken my top spot away from Heavier Things, but any grounds for denying that assertion fade more with each subsequent listen. This record is just close enough to the type of music I make that it makes me want to not even bother recording anything, because I know it will never be as good. I’m not implying that I make music that sounds like John Mayer, but I sign and play acoustic guitar and this album has a lot of those two things put together phenomenally. Born And Raised signals a new era of a more grounded, more mature John Mayer, and if he follows through on his hints of another record in this vein for 2013, you’ll be sure to see it on my year-end list in twelve months.
When I reviewed this record a few months back, I gave it a 9/10, and I sold it short. When I listened to it more than almost any other record in 2012, I sold it short. I’m putting it at number two out of the over 250 records I listened to this year, and I feel like I’m selling it short again. There is literally nothing I don’t love about this album, and I’m using “literally” correctly. The lyricism on this record is striking and magnetic; the instrumentals abrasive and enthralling. I want to put this record on repeat, and there are maybe two other records ever that I want to do that with. When Jake from Pure Noise told me I was going to love this record, I don’t think even he knew how hard it was going to hit me or exactly how incredible this collection of songs is. I’m not even quite sure I know how incredible this collection of songs is. All I know is that I always want more of it.
In what was essentially a six-way tie for my top spot, Some Nights comes out on top for one reason: it makes me feel. I know that word gets thrown around a lot in response to emotional music, but this record makes me have actual physical reactions nearly every time I listen, and even moreso with each listen. Nate Ruess’s voice and words have a lot to do with it, but there’s more to it than that. It’s rare to see a record sequenced so perfectly as to increase the quality of each song simply by being next to the two beside it. When arguably the biggest single of the year is in the bottom half of the songs on its record, a band’s on to something. When a bonus track is my favorite song of the year, a band’s on to something. Some Nights gives me chills, and fun.’s certainly on to something. Giving it anything other than my top spot would just be wrong.
11. Green River Ordinance – Under Fire
12. Boys Like Girls – Crazy World
13. Neon Trees – Picture Show
14. The Spill Canvas – Gestalt
15. The Early November – In Currents
16. Pierce The Veil – Collide With The Sky
17. Anchor & Braille – The Quiet Life
18. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood Of Colour
19. Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved
20. Passion Pit – Gossamer
Top 5 EPs:
1. Anthony Raneri – New Cathedrals
2. s / s / s – Beak & Claw
3. The Weathers – The Weathers
4. I Call Fives – Someone That’s Not You
5. Sleeping With Sirens – If You Were A Movie, This Would Be Your Soundtrack
Top 10 Songs:
1. “Out On The Town” – fun., from Some Nights
2. “Stay In The Sun” – Make Do And Mend, from Everything You Ever Loved
3. “How Long” – The Tower And The Fool, from How Long
4. “Someone Anyone” – Anberlin, from Vital
5. “Thinkin Bout You” – Frank Ocean, from Channel Orange
6. “Safe For Now” – The American Scene, from Safe For Now
7. “Just Give Me A Reason” – P!nk (Ft. Nate Ruess), from The Truth About Love
8. “Antarctica” – Hands Like Houses, from Ground Dweller
9. “Love Actually” – Cady Groves, from “Love Actually” Single
10. “Clique” – Big Sean, Jay-Z, & Kanye West, from Cruel Summer
I listened to over 2,500 songs this year, be sure to check out my top 25 in this convenient Spotify playlist:
Best Album Art: Anberlin – Vital.
Just an incredible image. Describes the record perfectly. Dark, dynamic, beautiful.
Favorite Live Show: Bayside/Senses Fail/Sleeping With Sirens/Mayday Parade/Every Time I Die/Make Do And Mend/Anthony Raneri/Squid The Whale/Transit – Warped Tour, July 12th at First Niagara (Post Gazette, never forget!) Pavilion in Burgettstown, PA.
Biggest Surprise: The American Scene – Safe For Now.
I enjoyed their previous release, but this one completely floored me.
Biggest Disappointment: Broadway – Gentlemen’s Brawl.
Too little, too late. There are positives and negatives, but I hope their next album steps it back up.
Best New Discoveries:
1. The Tower And The Fool
2. Hands Like Houses
3. From Indian Lakes
5. Walk The Moon
1. Modest Mouse (It’s actually going to happen this year; it has to.)
4. Sleeping With Sirens
5. Senses Fail
6. A Rocket To The Moon
7. Bring Me The Horizon
9. Mayday Parade
10. Sufjan Stevens
Oh, and if you’ve ever got 16 hours to kill, here’s almost everything I liked this year, in one handy playlist: