Dan's Top 50 Albums of 2012: Part 1

Whether or not you spent this whole year thinking that the world was going to end five days ago or not (I really hope you didn't), you have to admit that there was something very special about 2012.  Some kind of subtle change seems to be taking place in the world, and every person seems to know it on some level.  I have my theories.  We all do.  Some people probably think I'm crazy for saying this, but I think they feel it too.  Either way, it was an excellent year for music and art.  Whether you think it's because musicians and artists are all weird hippies and believe in the Mayan apocalypse (they aren't and don't), or you think they are just more tapped into this subtle shifting in the world because they are more spiritual by nature (that's kind of what I think), or if you just think it's a big coincidence, you can't deny a lot of good things happened in music.  So, when I sat down to write out my list of the best albums of 2012, I found myself putting a lot of effort into it.  Like Todd said with our official list, it was almost a pain to choose.

I was originally just going to list all the albums in my preferred order and be done with it.  But, I had a lot of free time the past several days so I started writing.  This whole year I've been trying to improve as a writer, putting more effort into every little thing I write about on Oh So Fresh.  So that's what I did with this list.  I ended up writing A LOT, but I'm proud of the writing I did.  I tried to be as honest and forward as possible about not only why I like these albums, but also how they made me feel listening to them, and what thoughts they provoked.  For me personally, I felt that this very special year in music deserved this kind of effort.  Keep in mind that this is all my opinion and your's is equally as important.  So here it is, my novel--Er, I mean list of the Top 50 Albums of 2012: 50-26. Check back tomorrow for my Top 25.

50. The Chariot - One Wing
One Wing is The Chariot’s most ambitious, experimental and, at times, just plain random album yet.  Some of the new things they try on this album don’t work, but enough of it does to keep me coming back for more.  The ending was so epic.

49. Five Minute Pop Promo - Brand New Adults EP
A new, relatively unknown pop folk band from London that I heard about through the Soundcloud grapevine, Five Minute Pop Promo are great songwriters who aren’t afraid to try something new.  Their debut EP is fun and catchy as hell with some great production.

48. Rae Cassidy - Dreamt Beneath The Cassidy Tree
I love listening to the young singer-songwriter Rae Cassidy for her beautiful, unique voice alone, but she also writes some really great songs.  On this album, she combined her penchant for music full of romantic longing, fairytale imagery and mystery with some really engaging experimentation.

47. Lower Dens - Nootropics
I love Lower Dens’ music for its simplicity and minimalism.  Despite this album’s dark, apocalyptic nature, I enjoyed every minute of it.

46. The Shins - Port Of Morrow
Was never much of a Shins fan, but this album really won me over.  There are some really stunning songs on here and it works well as a whole.  Also, it has some of my favorite production this year.

45. Diiv - Oshin
This album is a beautiful, dreamy work of art.  It might as well be instrumental because the vocals are just another texture, but that’s fine.  What it lacks in lyrical substance it more than makes up for in good vibes, and it’s perfect for lazy summer days.

44. Twin Shadow - Confess
Confess is an improvement in every way from George Lewis Jr.’s previous album as Twin Shadow.  The rebel-without-a-cause theme works well with his music even if that cover is incredibly cheesy.

43. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
This was my first Japandroids experience and I now understand why people love them so much.  Celebration Rock is a great rock record for its use of minimal instrumentation to evoke maximum feeling.

42. Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend
If Panda Bear had a more agile singing voice and wanted to make a straight-forward pop record, it might sound a lot like this.  This album is full of great songs fleshed out with nice experimental electronic production, and there’s not a dull moment.  “Unless You Speak From Your Heart” is easily one of my favorite jams of 2012.

41. Wild Nothing - Nocturne
Another 80s-influenced indie pop record … haven’t we had enough of those?  Oh wait, this is really good.  There’s not a single bad song on here.  The production is awesome.  Well, I guess not.

40. Metz - Metz
This album is so extreme, loud and heavy it sounds like its suffocating itself from within.  I love it.

39. Frankie Rose - Interstellar
Frankie Rose single-handedly pushed the envelope of beautiful, epic dream-pop this year.  Interstellar is stunningly beautiful.

38. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
I didn’t know I was missing a good hard rock record in my life until I heard this.  I guess we always have some angst no matter how grown-up we get, and this is a perfect, awesome-sounding adult angst record.  I also have to thank Cloud Nothings for one of the most epic live music experiences of my life at Pitchfork Music Festival this year when, during the song “Wasted Days”, the rain literally ebbed and flowed in intensity with the music.  By the time the song reached its chaotic climax, the sky was gushing and I interpreted it as a testament to the force of Cloud Nothings just as much as the force of nature.

37. Crystal Castles - III
Crystal Castles’ albums are always great, but flawed in my opinion.  I loved their first album, but there were songs that seemed unnecessary.  I loved all the songs on the second, but some of them were unnecessarily long.  On this album, however, they trimmed all of the fat and I have no complaints.  There’s nothing but 12 brief, intense, scary, emotional, danceable songs (i.e. 12 good Crystal Castles songs).

36. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
I, like most people, hadn’t heard of Miguel until this album, but I was instantly hooked by his excellent R&B tunes and Kaleidoscope Dream’s awesome production.  Miguel’s personality is the best part of his music though.  I like to picture him as The Weeknd and Frank Ocean’s equally talented, but less serious buddy.

35. Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
Flying Lotus never disappoints.  This album is just as consistently good as Los Angeles and Cosmogramma, even if it’s not as ambitious or grandiose.  It’s good to tone it down and chill out every once in awhile.  I feel like that’s what this album is all about … that and FlyLo just having some fun.

34. Nas - Life Is Good
Nas still has it even when he’s pushing 40.  He’ll never make another Illmatic and I think this album is so good because he’s not even trying to equal his past work.  It’s a testament of where he’s at right now, which actually might be more interesting than where he was back in ’94.  Either way, like always, it’s worth the time to listen to what he has to say and the incredible way he says it.

33. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
This album is an unrelenting beast in the production department, and while I’m not crazy about El-P’s cryptic rapping on all of it, he sounds at home in this strange, strange world he’s conjuring.  Oh wait, he’s just talking about our world.  Yeah, it all makes more sense now.

32. James Blake - Love What Happened Here EP
Didn’t expect to see James Blake on here did you?  I think almost everyone has forgot about this lovely little EP he released way back in January.  But, I haven’t and I still play it on the regular.  These three tracks find Blake doing what he does best while also trying some new things.  If you missed it or haven’t heard it in awhile, now is a great time to listen.  The first track almost sounds like a Christmas tune to my ears.

31. Lone - Galaxy Garden
On Galaxy Garden, Lone’s Matt Cutler improves on his hypnotic dance tunes in every way.  This is a perfect follow up to Emerald Fantasy Tracks which made my list last year.  It also gets bonus points for having one of the coolest album covers I’ve seen.

30. Julia Holter - Ekstasis
This is one album that, no matter how many times I hear it, I can never fully understand it.  But, I still love it.  Beautiful, mystical, psychedelic, disorienting, experimental--all of these words can be used to describe this album, but really, the only word that captures its full meaning is its title.  This is Ekstasis.

29. Cat Power - Sun
Cat Power’s Chan Marshall took on a pretty heavy load with this album.  Sun was made for us, for the whole human race as it is in 2012, and no album better captured the essence of our rapidly changing times as this one.

28. Grimes - Visions
This album sure is interesting, and good.  I was a critic of the “hype” that surrounded Claire Boucher earlier this year.  Then, I read an article where she said she doesn’t even look at her own press coverage.  For some reason, before I read that, I had this perception of her as an attention-seeking extremist who will wear crazy things, and basically do anything to get internet famous.  I realize now she’s just doing her and everyone else can’t help, but watch and listen.  This album is the perfect explanation of why and so much more.

27. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
I never thought a hardcore album would make it this high on my list, but this album was a perfect reminder for me of why I loved hardcore so much in high school and why, when it’s done really well, I still do.  “Done really well” doesn’t even begin to describe this album, however.  It’s one of the best hardcore albums I’ve ever heard.  It also contains some of the best technical instrumentation of the year.

26. John Talabot - ƒin
John Talabot really knows how to make a good dance tune, and make it his own way.  No one makes electronic music that sounds quite like this.  Each song on here conjures up a world of its own and together they make the galaxy that is ƒin.

Check back tomorrow for my top 25!



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