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Bolachas’ Top 40 Albums of 2012

Check this out, a best of 2012 list that actually wasn’t posted until the year ended! A typical characteristic of a list like this – composed of the individual lists of some people whose music tastes I enjoy enough to ask them to contribute to the blog – is a certain conservatism (although there are some newcomers ranking pretty high, like Hundred Waters, Purity Ring, alt-J or Point Reyes) with some albums that manage to sneak into the top 10 despite not being the artists’ top moments (GY!BE, Spiritualized, Andrew Bird). Was 2012 that boring or are we the boring ones who only listen to boring music? Have your say in the comments section and post your own lists. Enough with the small talk…

40. M. Ward, A Wasteland Companion [Merge]

39. A.C. Newman, Shut Down the Streets [Matador / Last Gang / Fire]

38. Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes [Vagrant]

37. David Byrne & St. VincentLove This Giant [4AD / Todo Mundo]

36. Twin Shadow, Confess [4AD]

35. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes [Warp]

34. Will Stratton, Post-Empire [Big Oil Rec.]

33. Neneh Cherry & the Thing, The Cherry Thing [Smalltown Supersound]

32. Mount Eerie, Clear Moon [P.W. Elverum & Sun]

31. John Talabot, ƒin [Permanent Vacation]

30. The Magnetic Fields, Love at the Bottom of the Sea [Merge / Domino]

29. Mac DeMarco, 2 [Captured Tracks]

28. Chuck Prophet, Temple Beautiful [Yep Roc]

27. Beach House, Bloom [Sub Pop]

26. Hundred Waters, Hundred Waters [Elestial Sound/OWSLA]

25. Diamond Rugs, Diamond Rugs [Partisan]

24. Purity Ring, Shrines [4AD]

23. Point Reyes, Golden [Big School Records]

22. alt-J, An Awesome Wave [Canvasback]

21. Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory [Carpark]

20. Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves [Caldo Verde]

19. Lambchop, Mr. M [Merge / City Slang]

18. Beachwood SparksThe Tarnished Gold [Sub Pop]

17. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill [Warner Bros.]

16. Grizzly Bear, Shields [Warp]

15. Swans, The Seer [Young God]

14. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city [Interscope / Aftermath / Top Dawg]

13. Sonny and the SunsetsLongtime Companion [Polyvinyl]

12. Black BombaimTitans [Lovers & Lollypops]

11. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan [Domino]

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10. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! [Constellation]

The Canadian powerhouse unexpectedly and finally released their first album since 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O and they didn’t disappoint: how could the studio versions of classic unreleased tracks like “Albanian” (now “Mladic”) and “Gamelan” (“We Drift Like Worried Fire”) be bad? Probably not their best effort ever, but a solid one. – DSS

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9. Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself [Bella Union / Mom & Pop]

Andrew Bird’s albums are always a very enjoyable listen and this one is no different. It may not be his best, nor as popular as the formers Noble Beast and Armchair Apocrypha, only there is definitely something about Break It Yourself that makes it special on its own. And although Bird has got us used to a high standard, we are still surprised by the thought provoking lyrics and enthralled by the intricate multi-layered soundscapes. Yet there is still room for the whistling, consistent smart pop songs amidst the singer-songwriter maturing introspection. Add that to the lovely voice of Annie Clark (St. Vincent)and you’ll get a beautiful, charming album. – SMF

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8. Bill Fay, Life is People [Dead Oceans]

Thank you David Tibet for letting me know about Bill Fay [via Current 93’s version of “Time of the Last Persecution”]. Thank you Jeff Tweedy for helping bring Bill Fay’s music to the masses [via playing “Be Not So Fearful” on stage]. Those two individuals that happen to be two of my favorite artists alive (top 5 material), along with the precious help of one of my favorite labels (Dead Oceans) made it sure that Fay would be back to recording music and releasing a proper solo album since 1971’s Time of the Last Persecution. Life is People isn’t just one of the best albums of the year – it’s the comeback of the year, and only time will tell if it will rank among the best albums of the decade, but I bet my entire music collection (I’m talking CDs and vinyl, not my external HDD) that people will still be amazed by “Never Ending Happening” or the life-changer “Be At Peace With Yourself” ten, twenty years from now. – DSS

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7. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel… [Epic]

What an uncanny career is ms. Fiona’s. Starting big, with her commercial breakthrough album “Tidal” back in 1996, the promise of an Alicia Keys’-like sucessful pop jazz star soon was broken. This problematic skinny piano diva gained the chutzpah of releasing a provocative following album, most known as that album with the longest title ever, instead of following a single-friendly path. And guess what? She was getting somewhere musically. The follower only came by the year 2005(!), Extraordinary Machine, and suddenly here we are, 2012 and waiting for what would be her fourth(!!!) album in already a sixteen-year career. I mean, hugest expectation on a fourth release? Probably and deserved. Fiona got minimal and planted a basic piano, drums and contrabass set, resulting in some limpidly raw songwriting, ambulating between anti-folk and jazz/pop ballads. And her voice, god, it aged stupendously. Heck, even the lyrics, this is the class level on post-break-up songs, and I’m not even much of a lyrics guy. “Left Alone” is the riff winner (the finnisher loop-sectioner “Hot Knife” is swag nevertheless), “Werewolf” the love song winner, and the rest gets pretty close to both the awards. Apple’s peak moment? I dare to negate, let’s quietly wait for another chapter in this outstanding discography. – BSC

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6. Calexico, Algiers [Anti- / City Slang]

Another solid release – from start to finish – from a band who can do no wrong. “Epic”, “Para” and “Puerto” are all masterpieces. Do I really need to describe their music here? Yes, it’s more of the same: there are Mexican-inspired horns everywhere, Spanish lyrics here and there, and just awesome songwriting from Burns, Convertino & co. all around. I’ll focus on other stuff then: be sure to grab the 2CD edition that includes a live CD called Spiritoso. If you don’t know Calexico is even better live, we suggest you try and get all their live albums, bootlegs, everything you manage to get your hands on, including a ticket to actually see them in concert. They’ll be playing the Portuguese music festival Paredes de Coura on August 17. Do you really need a better reason to finally visit (or come back to) Portugal and its best festival? – DSS

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5. Matt Elliott, The Broken Man [Ici d’Ailleurs]

No one manages to capture the essence of human life (with an emphasis on failure and despair) these days like Matt Elliott. Judging from the raving reviews from hip and not-so-hip web and magazines, The Broken Man is probably his most successful album to date and we can only hope it draws attention to his back catalogue, both as Matt Elliott and as The Third Eye Foundation. If the monumental live rendition of “Dust Flesh and Bones” on his concert in Aveiro last May was surely one of the moments of the year for those who had the luck of attending the show, imagine how the organizers of the concert must have felt. (We’re talking about ourselves, of course). – DSS

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4. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light [Fat Possum / Double Six]

Along with Andrew Bird’s album, this is probably the biggest surprise among the top 10. Sweet Heart Sweet Light surely doesn’t fare as one of the best records Jason Pierce has ever released. But hey: how can a Spiritualized album be bad? I have two theories about the high spot of their latest album in this list: a) 2012 was really shitty or b) being a Spiritualized fan is imperative for anyone willing to belong to the Bolachas team. – DSS

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3. Damien Jurado, Maraqopa [Secretly Canadian]

Mr. Jurado has been writing increasingly good songs (and albums) since the early 90s. Most songwriters would have probably passed their creative peak 20 years after the start of their careers; this isn’t the case. “Museum of Flight” and “Working Titles” are among his greatest songs, and Jurado knew that keeping Richard Swift as the producer after the amazing Saint Bartlett would only work in his favor, giving his songs a whole new dimension. There’s a tear in my eye every time I try and imagine how good Damien Jurado will be when his peak comes. – DSS

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2. Father John Misty, Fear Fun [Sub Pop]

Let’s admit it: Joshua Tillman’s past solo albums (as J. Tillman) were just plain boring and I’d laugh at anyone who said he would be the new Jason Molina. Most people gave his solo albums a chance because he was a drummer for the Fleet Foxes, and not because the records were that good. Fortunately for all of us, Tillman decided put his past behind him, quit Fleet Foxes and turned into this almighty creature named Father John Misty, a witty entertainer born and raised in Laurel Canyon who can’t write a bad song. Our team couldn’t decide which of the 12 songs on Fear Fun is the best – each one of us has a favorite song – which generally means an album is top 3 material. It is. – DSS

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1. Sharon Van EttenTramp [Jagjaguwar]

At last, Tramp brought SVE the recognition she deserved since the release of her excellent debut album, Because I Was in Love. Special appearances by indie demi-gods Aaron Dessner (who also produced the album) and Zach Condon made sure her third album would be appealing to any indie rock fan and probably pissing off some of the purists who loved her acoustic guitar-based earlier work. Their loss: songwriting-wise, Tramp is as good as its predecessors, songs like “All I Can” really benefit from the presence of a full fledged backing band and I’m pretty sure this was the last tour she was playing shows for less than 1000 people. Say goodbye to Cat Power, all hail the new songwriting princess. – DSS

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