By: Laura Stanley
1. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
As the front man for his new band Father John Misty, ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman has had an incredible year thanks to their debut record Fear Fun, which, yes, is all kinds of fun. With Mick Jagger like dance moves highlighting their live shows and sweet 70’s inspired sounds flooding the record, Fear Fun is both a melodious (see “Nancy From Now On”) and an adventure telling (“I’m Writing a Novel”) record, easily one of the best from 2012.
2. The Daredevil Christopher Wright – The Nature of Things
An example of indie-pop at its finest, see my record review here, trio The Daredevil Christopher Wright are one of the most under recognized bands out there right now. Best known for their affiliation with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, The Nature of Things combines The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s flawless harmonies with catchy melodies. Showing both their more acoustic and organic side in “I and Thou” and “The Birds of the Air and the Flowers of the Field” and the previously mentioned indie-pop sound in “We Fold Inside of Us” and “The Animal of Choice,” The Daredevil Christopher Wright have made a sophomore record that’s hard to resist.
3. John K. Samson – Provincial
The Weakerthans’ frontman and one of the strongest lyrical voices in Canadian music right now, John K. Samson finally released his long awaited full-length solo record at the beginning of 2012. Both a collection of new songs and of revamped previously released ones, Provincial is more folky than his work with The Weakerthans, though not entirely without a rock-tinge thanks to the very clever “When I Write My Master’s Thesis,” allowing listeners to fully absorb the mastery of his lyrics.
4. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
On the short list for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize, this marking her fourth record, and with a hearty Canadian fan base, Kathleen Edwards is no stranger to positive attention but it’s in Voyageur where she’s truly outdone herself. A breakup album to its core, Edwards has written an album that tells the brutal truth about her past relationship all in a revamped music style that successfully moves away from her folk-country sound.
5. Aidan Knight – Small Reveal
Victoria B.C.’s Aidan Knight garnered some serious attention in 2010 with his sunny, folk-filled hit “Jasper” and the rest of his easy to love first record, Versicolour. In his sophomore release, Small Reveal, Knight reveals to listeners a new, but equally loveable, lush baroque-folk-pop style, marking a major maturity of sound for the singer. Highlighted by the big time opener “Dream Team” and the heartbreaking closer “Margaret Downe,” if you’re not familiar with Aidan Knight already, you better get to be.
By: Chris D’Alessandro
1. Mumford and Songs – Babel
The follow up to Mumford and Son’s smash-hit album Sigh No More is exactly the way that most fans want to see a band grow. Mumford manages to stay true to their indie-folk roots, never straying from what sounds familiar. However, there is some notable advancement here with a faster, bolder rhythm section, harder vocals and a decidedly more polished feel. All of the slow, plucky stuff is still very much present and accounted for, but it’s encouraging to see a band that’s seen the kind of success that Mumford has sweat a little bit, instead of just resting on their laurels.
2. Rush – Clockwork Angels
The long awaited Clockwork Angels signifies the return of the concept album for Rush. From the band that’s done some of the most infamous concept albums, including 2112 and Hemispheres, the anticipation from fans was understandable. The great part is that the album delievers. Even better is that Rush continues even now to grow and move forward musically, even though this a return to a previous style of album. At the end of the day, who can resist a Neil Peart song-story ark?
3. Metric – Synthetica
Synthetica earns a place on the charts simply because it works so well as an album. You can sit down and listen to it from “Artificial Nocturne” to “Nothing But Time” and take it in as an entire experience. In a world of singles and individual songs being released on iTunes, it’s rare that something comes along that you can put on headphones, relax and just listen to all the way through.
4. Jack White – Blunderbuss
What can you say about Blunderbuss that isn’t stating the obvious? It’s this year’s gauntlet to rock and roll evangelism. Blunderbuss is a fitting title as well; this is like blunt-force trauma in the face of everything pop. You could probably release this album anytime in the last 50 years and it would still be relevant. Just listen to the latest single, “I’m Shakin,” and tell me I’m wrong.
5. Cancer Bats – Dead Set on Living
I think I want the words ‘Dead Set on Living’ tattooed on me. I really miss this whole punk-metal screaming type of music. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t hear a lot of songs out there like “Bricks and Mortar” anymore and that’s sad. You need something you can blast on the radio in your car when you pull up next to someone playing One Direction in their BMW, just to fuck up their day a little. This is a niche that Cancer Bats seems to be filling within mainstream alternative music.