Andrew Bird – ‘Break It Yourself’
Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.
Biffy Clyro – ‘Blackened Sky B-sides‘
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the band’s first album, a huge deluxe vinyl edition of ‘Blackened Sky’ was released earlier this year. The second disc (also available for download) is all rare B-sides, most previously unreleased and all expectedly amazing.
Mumford & Sons – ‘Babel‘
The band didn’t break particularly new ground with this release, but when the previously broken ground is so great, maybe it’s not necessary. ‘Babel‘ is tried and true folk songwriting genius, and I love it.
Guster – ‘On the Ocean‘ EP
This is only 6 songs, but I love Guster so much that it still makes the top 10. Guster was once a little indie jam band from Massachusetts, who I discovered circa my 17th birthday by stumbling across an unmarked mix CD in a McDonalds parking lot. They are pretty famous now – especially if you’re into granola and eco-friendly tour buses.
Fleetwood Mac – ‘Preaching the Blues’
I made this little discovery (thanks Spotify) and haven’t stopped listening since. The album is a live recording of a Fleetwood Mac concert in February 1971 (post- Peter Green, pre- Stevie Nicks), but it’s all straight blues. The sound quality is amazing, but I think Best in Show goes to Christine McVie on the keys.
Fun – ‘Some Nights’
My pop music guilty pleasure of the year. The album is full of exuberant harmonies and over-enthusiastic percussion, even if the lyrics might be a little on the melancholy side. It feels a little like a modern day, ultra-light version of Queen (minus the searing guitar solos).
Paul Simon – ‘Graceland‘
While this amazing album probably makes my lifetime top 10, it makes this year’s list because a special 25th anniversary extended edition was released earlier in 2012. With a few previously unreleased demos and bonus tracks, as well as a short audio clip about the making of the title track, the new release is most likely worth the hype.
The Dandy Warhols – ‘This Machine‘
I fall in and out of love with the Dandy Warhols, but this album is pure awesome. It varies from track to track, with elements of glam-era Bowie and grunged up Marcy Playground – and always that token Dandy Warhols weirdness. My personal favourite is their cover of “16 Tons,” a 1940’s Americana ‘mountain song’ about the life of a coal miner.
Led Zeppelin – ‘Celebration Day’
This album is the audio recording from Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion show at London’s O2 Arena. Since I tried desperately and failed miserably to get tickets to that show, it was a given that I’d go for this when it was finally released in 2012. The track listing is pure greatest hits (my favourite “Good Times Bad Times” as the opening track), and John Bonham’s son Jason did all the drumming.
Tallest Man on Earth – ‘There’s No Leaving Now‘
This album is simply unmissable; singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson is a Sweden-based mountain of talent. If you listen to one song, make it the title track – it best showcases his unique voice, stellar songwriting, and penchant for recording everything live, as opposed to on isolated tracks. I loved the live sound of the vocals and guitar on the album, but it also means just a little bit more (to me) that each astounding vocal is one continuous take, and not spliced to perfection like most modern tracks. I hesitantly name this my MVP of the year, if only in the hopes that you will all go listen to it right now.