Indie Rock: 12 For 2012

For the purpose of this list, “Indie Rock” will be a very broad term. What this list will not include is Rap and R&B, even though these genres saw stellar releases from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, El-P, Death Grips, Macklemore, Schoolboy Q, Frank Ocean, Jessie Ware and Miguel. It is hard enough to compile a list of albums falling under the indie rock umbrella without considering these other genres. As far as the indieverse goes, it was as good a year as ever. The most surprising trend was the dominance of Indie folk bands like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and Of Monsters and Men. In an age where club pop comprises most of the charts, it was nice to hear a guitar every once in a while on the radio. The guitar also had a bit of a comeback in the underground space of indie rock too (Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, Woods, Screaming Females, The Men), which in the past couple years has shifted more to an electronic revival vibe. Realistically though, it is very hard to judge the musical landscape without some distance from it; what I can say for sure is that the twelve records on this list are well deserving, and they warrant your full attention from start to finish. And as a side note, this list was originally a top ten. But I felt terrible for shafting Grizzly Bear, so yeah.

Honourable Mentions:

Tame Impala (Lonerism), Freelance Whales (Diluvia), Animal Collective (Centipede Hz), Daughn Gibson (All Hell), The Lumineers (S/T), The Shins (Ports of Morrow), Divine Fits (A Thing Called the Divine Fits), Cat Power (Sun), Dan Deacon (America), The Men (Open Your Heart)

12. Grizzly Bear- Shields

Grizzly Bear are often mentioned in the upper echelon of indie rock, and it’s because of albums like this. Shields is the type of album where any song on here could easily be someone’s favourite. My personal favourite song has shifted from listen to listen as a different track reveals itself to me. These songs rarely follow traditional structure, which means that it might take a while to really appreciate the album. But when you do, this becomes its strength because it stays fresh far longer than most records, which become repetitive and boring when listened to a lot. Who knows, if you gave me another month this album might rank a lot higher on this list.

11. Yeasayer- Fragrant World

I wrote a review for this album a couple months ago, and not much has changed in how I think of it. This album offers you a unique sound that you won’t find anywhere else.



10. Liars- WIXIW

This is a record that takes time to enjoy. I had it for months without really getting into it. Then I listened to it walking home in the middle of a cold night; it was the perfect soundtrack. Every interesting sound made sense; every Radioheadesque moan from singer Angus Andrew seemed to push the album to a deeper resonance. This is a dark, dismal, paranoid record, but it’s worth it.


9. Hot Chip- In Our Heads

With In Our Heads, Hot Chip improved on everything I loved about them. This is their most consistent, catchy, and upbeat album ever. It’s like bubble gum that never loses its flavour.



8. The Mountain Goats- Transcendental Youth

John Darnielle, lead singer of The Mountain Goats, is a machine. He has released fourteen full-length albums since I was born. This would not be nearly as impressive if he was not so consistently brilliant. Transcendental Youth is another quality release showcasing his excellent lyricism; this time with the accompaniment of horns, making this the most varied album (instrumentation-wise) Darnielle has ever recorded.


7. mewithoutYou- Ten Stories

This and Good Kid M.A.A.D. City are without a doubt the two best concept albums of the year. Ten Stories tells a unique tale from the perspectives of escaped circus animals. It is much deeper and interesting than one would think. The fact that they accomplish this complicated and interesting narrative while also makings the songs enjoyable to listen to is amazing.


6. Ben Howard- Every Kingdom

Ben Howard has been labelled by many as just another artist trying to capitalize on the resurging popularity of folk. Honestly, I don’t give a shit. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Howard sounds much more natural in his approach. He has a great voice and you get the feeling that the emotion he pours into every song is genuine.


5. Passion Pit- Gossamer

The interesting thing about this album is how misunderstood it is. This is a very sad record. Its songs touch on attempted suicide, mental breakdowns, and poverty while at the same time sounding like they should be blared out your car windows on a sunny day. Any way you look at it, these songs are well written. Even when the dismal subject matter hits home, you can’t help but tap your foot.


4. Japandroids- Celebration Rock

The title pretty much sums this album up: Celebration Rock. These guys are so energetic that it’s hard not to get sucked in. Sing-a-long choruses, catchy riffs, and stupidly rebellious lyrics contribute to 2012’s most meaningless record. But that’s kind of the point; it’s not meant to be dissected, it’s meant to be listened to at high volumes with a fist pump and a hoarse voice.


3. Alt-J- An Awesome Wave

The Mercury Prize-winning debut from Alt-J is a very cool record. Showing aspects of experimentation while still staying accessible is An Awesome Wave’s strength. Playing with bass, a cappella, and some instrumentation that I can’t even identify, makes this a really interesting album that experiments without alienating.


2. Woods- Bend Beyond

One of the most satisfying albums I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to it at least once a week. The songwriting is superb, and its diversity creates a cohesive yet constantly interesting record. It’s the kind of album that can be appreciated with close inspection but can also serve as pleasant background music that draws a passive listener in.


1. Cloud Nothings- Attack On Memory

Despite its run time of just over thirty minutes, it’s hard to imagine what could be added to this album to improve it. It covers all the stops. From the slow-building “No Future/No Past”, to the indie pop sensible “Fall In”, to the instrumental “Separation”, to the impressive jam session “Wasted Days”, this record has it all. It is comprised entirely of lean muscle, with no fat to trim. And on top of that, it works in a cohesive message. People are ignorant of what came before them, especially within the realm of art, hence the title: Attack On Memory. I hope they’re wrong, because this album deserves to be remembered.

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