Now that we’ve taken a look at songs and collaborations, I thought a fun way to warm up for the discussion of 2012’s best albums would be to recognize the ones I’ve been drooling over since other people’s year-end lists started hitting the interwebs. Given a little more time, any or all of these albums may very well have wiggled into my own list of favorite albums. (Quick side note: I know I’m ridiculously late to the party on some of these — COUGHKishiBashiCOUGH — but what can I say? A group of wise men once sang that “You do what you can, when you can, where you are.” Words to live by, as far as I’m concerned.)
Without further ado…
Patrick Watson — Adventures In Your Own Backyard
A little while back, Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear posted a fantastic tweet that went a little something like this:
I loved this, in part because it’s fraternal twins with the way I feel about how the term “think piece” is sometimes used to describe articles or blog posts that pass the 1000-word mark. It opens the door for an insidious distinction — that thinking about a project too much places it into some separate category. So why did I think of Rossen’s tweet when I sat down to write this blurb? I guess it’s because Adventures In Your Own Backyard does feel brainy to me, but not in a removed or abstracted way. Rather, it’s the kind of music that begs equal left- and right-brain attentiveness. Its technical beauty is readily apparent — with melodies that linger long after they fade out and blissful instrumentation — but I feel like I’ve only scratched the collection’s emotional surface, and I can’t wait to find out what a more balanced appreciation reveals.
Kendrick Lamar — good kid, m.A.A.d city
I had a fantastic first-listening experience with good kid, m.A.A.d city, on a drive with Mrs. YHT from Rockville, MD to Philadelphia, PA a few weeks ago. With some time on pause for phone conversations, the bonus track-laden deluxe version lasted almost the whole ride, turning what could have been an acrimonious battle with I-95 into a happy episode. All visits to Philly should start out that well. I haven’t spent much time with good kid, m.A.A.d city since, but I plan on making it the first thing I queue up when we hit the road for the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January, and I’m sure the Amish ladies at the apple dumpling booth will be bumpin‘ the same thing when we get there.
Kishi Bashi — 151a
The beginning of 151a is too good. I’m serious. As serious as the tiger staring you in the face right now. I keep playing the second and third tracks over and over in an act of criminal track list neglect. They’re like a traffic jam, except sublime and life-affirming instead of miserable and soul-sucking. Eventually the congestion will ease up, as it always does (and I already know from limited exposure that the rest of I-151a is a beautiful stretch of road), but I’ll always remember “Manchester” and “Bright Whites” as the best traffic jam I ever sat in.
Matt Ulery — By A Little Light
I wrote about NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2012 a couple times, and I even thought about including a 5×5 post about my favorite year-end lists so I could link to it again. A big contributor to my enthusiasm was By A Little Light, which jumped off the (web)page in spite of its earth-tones-y album art. In the short time Matt Ulery’s album and I have known each other, I’ve been an incredibly boozy acquaintance, binge-listening in an attempt to soak in as much as possible in a short amount of time. I can’t say it hasn’t been fun, but Ulery’s work doesn’t belong in a bottlecan. There’s so much to absorb here, with interesting melodic relationships and moments of subtle complexity throughout, and I pledge to savor By A Little Light more responsibly in the weeks and months to come. I also pledge to stop drinking beer that comes in bottlecans.
Just kidding, Mrs. YHT.
Read more about Matt Ulery here.
Tame Impala — Lonerism
Have you ever avoided a band because you didn’t know how to pronounce its name? If no, please skip the next paragraph, because I’m embarrassed enough already.
To those of you who said yes… it’s a weird situation, right? A friend recommended Tame Impala to me a few years back via some form of text-based communication, and I still don’t know how to pronounce the first part of their name correctly. For whatever reason, my first thought was “TAH-may,” like how a well-to-do Brit might say goodbye to the fifth month of the year. No clue why. I’m not even 100% sure that’s wrong, because research on how to decipher Wikipedia’s phonetic representation — tɛɪm ɪmˈpɑːlə — led me to a page entitled “Phonological history of English high front vowels” that started stressing me out about two lines in. I know it’s dumb, but this kind of thing bugs me, and I’m still recovering from when I found out I’d been saying Sufjan Stevens’ name wrong for years. Ugh.
Even though it took me an unreasonable amount of time get on board with Tame Impala, I’m so glad I finally did, because my experience so far with the group’s latest effort has been unambiguously awesome. Of the 5 albums on this list, I’m probably least familiar with Lonerism, so its inclusion here is a testament to how impactful the short time I’ve had with it has been. “Elephant” has already made its way into heavy rotation, and from what I’ve heard of the other tracks, I expect more will follow suit shortly.
5×5 keeps rolling tomorrow, so don’t be a stranger.