Monday, December 10th, 2012


Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2012


I’ve always said when compiling my year-end list that I don’t choose my favourite albums of the year so much as they declare themselves to me. If it requires too much thought, it’s probably more a case of trying to justify adding something that I know probably doesn’t belong. But those albums that do pass muster are not, as you might think, necessarily the albums that I can’t stop listening to. Rather, they’re often the ones that I try to listen to the least, or at least sparingly, lest that intangible magic that I feel within its notes should evaporate with growing familiarity and what I thought was special turns out to be more ordinary. This happens more often than I’d like, but then there are those that don’t only sparkle on the surface, that offer up more the further you delve into them, the records that contain multitudes.

These are not ten of those records. Some of them are, but to expect more than a handful of those a year to cross my path and get the attention they demand/deserve would be asking too much. The rest are simply albums that, be they challenging or comforting, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year. Which ones are which is for me to know and you to guess – as always, they’re ordered alphabetically rather than by rank – but were the world to indeed end in a couple of weeks like the gullible and lunatic among us believe, they’d comprise ten records that I’d be content clutching as the skies rained down fire upon us.

And I tried to do something more ambitious with the graphic treatment of this year’s list, but as it turns out my Photoshop skills – which have always kind of sucked – are actually getting worse. So alas, this is all we get.

Allo Darlin’ / Europe (Slumberland)

Europe had the inside track on making this list due to my discovering Allo Darlin’s self-titled debut too late for my 2010 list, but it didn’t need the handicap. The London-based quartet are musically and lyrically less cutesy and more sophisticated here than they were on its predecessor, but their ability to imbue their songs with buoyant melody and wistful sentiment is undiminished. Easily the finest indie-pop release of the year.

Album review / Live review

Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Capricornia”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Northern Lights”
Video: Allo Darlin’ – “Tallulah”
Stream: Allo Darlin / Europe

Bat For Lashes / The Haunted Man (Parlophone)

This is the only one of these records that I haven’t formally reviewed yet, but I intend to get to that soon so I won’t use up any of my bon mots here. Sufficed to say, it’s a record that dials down Bat For Lashes as a character/artistic persona and dials up Natasha Khan as a singer and songwriter, and the results are remarkable.

MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Oh Yeah”
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Laura”
MP3: Bat For Lashes – “Marilyn”
Video: Bat For Lashes – “All Your Gold”
Video: Bat For Lashes – “Laura”

Chromatics / Kill For Love (Italians Do It Better)

Chromatics like to posit their albums as soundtracks to movies that don’t exist, but in truth they’re fully-realized, wholly-immersive, aurally cinematic worlds that don’t require any accompanying visuals or narratives to feel complete. Kill For Love is the sound of neon reflected in chrome, long shadows cast by headlights, and the memory of unmade beds. And it’s my album of the year.

Album review

MP3: Chromatics – “Kill For Love”
Video: Chromatics – “Into The Black”
Video: Chromatics – “Lady”
Video: Chromatics – “Kill For Love”
Stream: Chromatics / Kill For Love

Evening Hymns / Spectral Dusk (Shuffling Feet)

Those who can’t directly relate to the intensely personal emotional content of Spectral Dusk should count themselves lucky, but they need not count themselves out of being to the expansive production and intimate performances that went into creating it. Spectral Dusk is a weighty and weightless final communique from son to father.

Album and live review

MP3: Evening Hymns – “Arrows”
Video: Evening Hymns – “Family Tree”
Stream: Evening Hymns / Spectral Dusk

Japandroids / Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

How did a band that I never gave the time of day to and who were just about broken up before they decided to make one more record end up making one of the best balls-out rock records of the year? By remembering what it was to be young, fearless, and high on life, and channeling that feeling through a drum kit and Telecaster run through a wall of amps turned up to eleven.

Album review / Live review

MP3: Japandroids – “Younger Us”
MP3: Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
MP3: Japandroids – “The Nights Of Wine And Roses”
Video: Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
Stream: Japandroids / Celebration Rock

Jens Lekman / I Know What Love Isn’t (Secretly Canadian)

In which the wry narrator opts not to sublimate heartbreak through characters and stories, as he’s typically done, but run it directly through his most lushly-arranged and produced songs to date. To some, the results may not have the same humour and lightness of touch that they’ve come to expect from Lekman, but for others – myself included – the bare honesty of it all makes it his strongest work to date. And come on, it’s still catchy as hell.

Album review / Live review

MP3: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Become Someone Else’s”
Video: Jens Lekman – “I Know What Love Isn’t”
Video: Jens Lekman – “Erica America”

Perfume Genius / Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador)

Mike Hadreas has taken the skeletal confessionals of his first album and given them flesh, blood, and sinew – and a touch of lipstick. Incorporating facets of gospel and contemporary R&B into its composition, the emotional nudity contained therein is less discomfiting than it was, and more a thing of beauty; even glamour.

Album review / Live review 1 / Live review 2

MP3: Perfume Genius – “Hood”
MP3: Perfume Genius – “Dark Parts”
MP3: Perfume Genius – “All Waters”
Video: Perfume Genius – “Take Me Home”
Video: Perfume Genius – “Dark Parts”
Video: Perfume Genius – “Hood”
Stream: Perfume Genius / Put Your Back N 2 It

Saint Etienne / Words and Music By Saint Etienne (Heavenly)

I got acquainted with the veteran English synth-pop act’s latest at the same time I was exploring their whole of their discography by way of their best-of compilations. That the new material, celebrating the intersection of youth and music in one’s life without becoming overly nostalgic, was able to stand right alongside the very best material of their entire career really says it all. Pop music of the highest calibre.

Live review

Video: Saint Etienne – “I’ve Got Your Music”
Video: Saint Etienne – “Tonight”

Shearwater / Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

Fixtures of my year-end lists right up until their last record, the Austin trio forced their way back on by subverting expectations with their most visceral, stripped-down, and unabashedly rocking record to date. The avian concerns that typically inform Jonathan Meiburg’s writing were traded, at least on this outing, for something with claws, teeth, and hunger.

Album review / Live review 1 / Live review 2

MP3: Shearwater – “You As You Were”
MP3: Shearwater – “Breaking The Yearlings”
Video: Shearwater – “Immaculate”
Video: Shearwater – “Breaking The Yearlings”

Jessie Ware / Devotion (Island)

The slick amalgam of R&B, electronic, and rock styles on her debut album have already made Ware a confirmed rising star in the UK, and for good reason – it’s immediate without being ingratiating, stylistically diverse while maintaining its own distinct voice. And it has ten songs almost as good as “Wildest Moments”. Expect to see this on no shortage of these lists in 2013 in the wake of its North American release next year.

Album review

Video: Jessie Ware – “Night Light”
Video: Jessie Ware – “Wildest Moments”
Video: Jessie Ware – “110%”
Video: Jessie Ware – “Running”

And if we were to to an honourary mention category, artist of the year would be Greg Dulli on account of all the Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers I’ve listened to all year – far more than any other artist – and single of the year would be First Aid Kit’s “Emmylou” because my god that chorus.

Video: First Aid Kit – “Emmylou”

By : Frank Yang at 8:30 am
Category: Year-End List

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post15 Responses.
  1. DumbingAmerica says:

    RT @fyang: chromewaves post: Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2012

  2. musicforants says:

    @fyang great list frank! Glad someone recognized that shearwater album (which is called Animal JOY actually)

  3. musicforants says:

    RT @fyang: chromewaves post: Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2012

  4. markzohar says:

    RT @fyang: chromewaves post: Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2012

  5. Scott says:

    Excellent list, as always… going to (belatedly) give Evening Hymns a listen – your description here sounds too compelling to miss…

  6. shootingsound says:

    RT @fyang: chromewaves post: Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2012

  7. shootingsound says:

    @fyang Nice list. Really like the Perfume Genius and Jens picks as I feel like they’re getting overlooked a little. Great albums.

  8. Daniel says:

    Definitely have to agree with the Japandroids album. Rock and Roll album of the year and their performance at Lee’s this summer was one of the best of 2012. Looking forward to see what they bring to The Phoenix tomorrow night after being on the road for 7 months straight.

  9. Kate says:

    (yawn) Boring. Sorry.

  10. Frank Yang says:

    perfect, that’s what I was going for.

  11. Chris says:

    “And I tried to do something more ambitious with the graphic treatment of this year’s list, but as it turns out my Photoshop skills – which have always kind of sucked – are actually getting worse.” – the year you did the hockey cards was awesome… hard to top that in my estimation. Happy 2012, Frank.

  12. Michael says:

    You summarized exactly my thoughts about Japandroids until this album. Fortunately they had such a stellar single getting radioplay on The Edge that drew me
    in to actually want to hear the rest of the album.

  13. andrew says:

    nice list! glad to see some recognition for shearwater(actually the first list i’ve seem them on and i’ve seen quite a few) and perfume genius.

    going to check out evening hymns…haven’t heard much about them here in the US

  14. lantz45 says:

    namasté lantz45

  15. Joe says:

    Great list and sounds! Love the Jessie Ware’s songs..