Just in time for Spring – My Favorite Music of 2012

I saw the first Best of 2012 Music list a few days before Thanksgiving . It seemed premature and incomplete as there were 6 weeks left to go and I still had plenty of listening to do before I could even get my head around a year’s worth of music. Typically, I hit publish between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Not this year, not even close. Before 2012 is forgotten forever let’s get this one out the door so I can focus on the music of 2013.

Every year I hope to offer up the music that mattered to me as opposed to a balanced, definitive list of what we’re supposed to like. Plenty of other folks can do that. LargeHeartedBoy.com compiled over 1000 Best Of lists if you really want to dig deep into any genre and discover the music that defined 2012. I just want to share some great music and hear about what you liked. Oddly enough a record from 2011 informed and shaped the listening path I took last year. The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World set the tone with its quiet, otherworldly beauty and texture. Much of what I sought out in 2012 featured longer songs, older music, drones, repetition and less emphasis on guitars and individual songs.


Godspeed You Black EmperorAllelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

It’s been 10 years since Yanqui U.X.O. and I had almost forgotten about the sprawling majesty of this band and their epic sonic assaults. I have most of their catalogue and it amounts to a mere 19 tracks, yet each record requires repeated, attentive listening. Allelujah! is an immersive journey best played loud. Two cascading guitar driven cathartic sound collages and two layered, scouring drones This is beautiful noise.

SwansThe Seer

Another epic from a band that could be hitting their peak (or maybe that was Children of God) after 30 years. Swans split in 1997 and leader Michael Gira focused on solo work, Angels of Light and running Young God Records. In 2010 Swans reconvened with the solid My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky. The Seer combines the best of the band’s pummeling, punishing earlier sound and adds light and space to an uncompromising, incredible two hours of music.

John Talabot – fIN

Combining deep house, retro techno, found sounds and samples, plus a strong pop undercurrent, Spanish DJ John Talabot has created a record that bubbles and percolates across 11 gorgeous tracks. He’s been around in various incarnations for over a decade but fIN is his proper debut.

Moon DuoCircles

Fantastic drugged-out psychedelia with a propulsive Krautrock undertow, Moon Duo’s music is driven intoxicating guitar noise barely masking groovy pop sensibilities. Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson is three albums deep into what seemed to start as a side project, but is now definitely much more.


With a sound reminiscent of early Echo and the Bunnymen or pre-Starfish Church, DIIV do dream-pop with sweet jangling guitars and vocals that ebb and flow across the songs. A few individual tracks stand out, but this all works together better as a blissful whole.

Andy StottLuxury Problems

Stott’s two 2011 records were my introduction to his bass-heavy, pulsating production. Both were stellar releases that revealed more and more with each successive listen. Luxury Problems slows down the tempo and adds layers of gorgeous vocals and textures to create something new and incredible beyond its dub, techno, house foundations.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiMature Themes

Mr. Pink can be a bit polarizing. His lo-fi subversive twist on 60s and 70s pop isn’t for everyone. There’s a little Zappa darkness lurking under the bright, sunny tunes. His vocals take a bit getting used to and you always feel like he is playing an elaborate prank on his fans. However, it is difficult to deny the songs. If you hated it the first time, give it a second listen.

The ChromaticsKill For Love

The Chromatics defy easy description. As soon as you think you’ve pinned them down, they head off in a different direction. Combining synth-pop with disco, post-punk, indie rock and moments of icy minimalism, this album kicks off with a thrilling deconstruction of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) and just gets better from there. It had been five years since their last album, but it was worth the wait.

Field Music – Plumb

On their fourth album the Brewis brothers draw on both lush melodic pop and prog-rock, but strip the sound down to its essence. The clever songwriting, sharp musicianship and tight harmonies make this my favorite batch of songs since their debut.


The Darcys take one of the most highly-polished, perfectly produced pop albums of all time and deconstruct it as a post-rock homage to Steely Dan’s masterpiece. Their tense, sparse take on the original material helps it transcend the novelty and stand on its own.


Advance BaseA Shut-In’s Prayer Sadness and cynicism from Owen Ashworth who did the same as Casiotone For The Painfully Alone.

PinbackInformation Retrieved Better living through precision. They do what they do and they do it well.

Scott WalkerBish Bosch Difficult listening at its finest. Rumbling, clattering, caterwauling majesty.

YeasayerFragrant World The difficult third album from a band that nobody can agree on.

ShackletonMusic for the Quiet Hour Dub and darkness on an epic sonic journey to the center of your mind.

Grizzly BearShields It’s all about the details. Listen, listen and listen again.

Demdike Stare – Elemental Parts 1 & 2 Sloooowww, dark and droning. The low end will rattle your brain.

Lotus PlazaSpooky Action at a Distance Deerhunter guitar player, Lockett Pundt, creates an elegantly restrained album of gauzy, dreamy, indie pop.

Dan DeaconAmerica He shoots for the title of “serious composer” and scores.

ScubaPersonality Techno as an escape hatch from the world of dubstep

What were your favorites? I am interested in what YOU liked.

Coming soon – Best 2012 reissues and compilations, maybe just in time for summer.

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Clearing the Archives – Best Music of 2009

In my ongoing efforts to cram more music on my list every year, for 2009 I divided my favorites up in 3 groups.

1 Stuff other folks turned me on to
2 Stuff I liked
3 Stuff that everybody seemed to agree on

avett brothers
wooden shjips
elvis perkins
falty dl
department of eagles
atlas sound
crystal antlers

phantom band
fuck buttons
big pink
twilight sad
volcano choir
wild beasts
neon indian

passion pit
animal collective
pains of being pure at heart
grizzly bear
yo la tengo
bill callahan
camera obscura
cass mccombs
flaming lips

Clearing the Archives – Best Music of 2010

Top ten
Foals – Total Life Forever
Radio Dept – Clinging to a Scheme
Das Racist – Shut Up Dude
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Black Angels – Phosphene Dream
Liars – Sisterworld
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Ten more well worth hearing
Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
Toro y Moi – Causers of This
Sun Airway – Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandeliers
Scuba – Triangulation
The Chap – Well Done Europe
Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’
Junip – Fields
Field Music – Measure
Owen Pallett – Heartland
Gonjasufi – A Sufi and a Killer

Three best reissues
Robert Wyatt – Box Set
The Fall – The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall
Orange Juice – Coals to Newcastle

Clearing the Archives – Best Music of 2011

John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Tycho – Dive
Austra – Feel it Break
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Real Estate – Days
Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder
The Field – Looping State of Mind
Wild Flag – Wild Flag
Hospital Ships – Lonely Twin
War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Cults – Cults
Cut Off Your Hands – Hollow
Brown Recluse – Evening Tapestry
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Gold-Bears – Are You Falling in Love?
The Men – Leave Home
Man Man – Life Fantastic
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Antlers – Burst Apart
Demdike Stare – Triptych

Clearing the Archives – Best Music of 2003

TOP 20
Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
Calexico – Feast of Wire
Crooked Fingers – Red Devil Dawn
Delgados – Hate
Fire Theft – The Fire Theft
Grandaddy – Sumday
Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
Ted Leo/Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
Long Winters – When I Pretend to Fall
Mull Historical Society – Us
My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves
Nada Surf – Let Go
New Pornographers – Electric Version
Pernice Brothers – Yours, Mine and Ours
Josh Rouse – 1972
Shins – Chutes too Narrow
Super Furry Animals – Phantom Power
Thrills – So Much for the City
Wrens – Meadowlands

just bubbling under
Yo La Tengo – Summer Sun
BRMC- Take Them on Your Own
Blur – Think Tank
Nick Cave – Nocturama
Coral – Magic & Medicine
Decemberists – Her Majesty
Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers
East River Pipe – Garbageheads on Endless Stun
Eels – Shootenanny
Enon – Hocus Pocus
Wire – Send
GBV – Earthquake Glue
Idlewild – The Remote Part
Lilys – Precollection
Stephen Malkmus – Pig Lib
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
Postal Service – Give Up
Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love
Shazam – Tomorrow the World
Sloan – Action Pact
Spiritualized – Amazing Grace
Starlight Mints – Built on Squares
British Sea Power – The Decline of British Sea Power
Travis – 12 Memories
Tyde – Twice
Rufus Wainwright – Want One

Clearing the Archives – Best Music of 2007

Going back and posting my favorites from years past

Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Okkervill River – The Stage Names
Apples in Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
Beirut – The Flying Cup Club
Caribou – Andorra
The Besnard Lakes – Are the Dark Horse
Menomena – Friend and Foe
The Mabuses – Mabused
The National – The Boxer
David Kilgour – The Far Now

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings
Sloan – Never Hear the End of It
Pelle Carlberg – In a Nutshell
Jose Gonzales – In Our Nature
Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Battles – Mirrored
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
Thurston Moore – Trees Outside the Academy
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Sank
The Fall – Reformation/Post TLC
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Architecture in Helsinki – Places Like This
Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs
Rogue Wave – Asleep at Heaven’s Gate