By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
2012 was the most whirlwind year for me, jam-packed with some of the most triumphant moments of achievements and some rock-bottom failures I’m happy to say goodbye to as we creep into 2013. Any interesting story should have a bitchin’ soundtrack, and this is some music released in past 12 months that made exactly that. But picking a favourite album is difficult, so the following are based on two main criteria: I loved the whole album, and I listened to it a lot.
5. Centipede Hz (by Animal Collective, released September 4)
While a lot of diehard fans—and fans of good music the world over—hailed Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) as the band’s opus, I’d be lying if I said I’ve even listened to that entire album. I assumed that the band was too glitchy and noisy to become a staple, so when I was obligated to listen to Centipede Hz for work earlier last year, I was pleasantly surprised. The first few listens were indeed awkward, with no particular songs emerging as memorable or even distinct from each other; I heard a cacophony of digital instrumentation that kind of stressed me out. But around the fourth time through, lead singer Avey Tare wailing, “I don’t want to knock you down” on “Monkey Riches” got stuck in my head. And then “wide eyed/wide eyed/wide eyed” on the track of the same name. And then every other song. Centipede Hz crept up on me, and I’m glad I gave it the chance.
4. Mean Sun (by Brasstronaut, released May 15)
The band’s second LP, Mean Sun, is a culmination of meticulously composed and written orchestral pop. From the shimmering trickling intro of the sitar-esque loop on the first 35 seconds of opening track “Bounce,” through the eerie ominous title track “Mean Sun,” to the light, up-tempo “Falklands,” the Vancouver sextet meld trumpet, keys, EWI, and, on occasion, even glockenspiel, that carries through 10 tracks of addictively catchy highs and gruesomely moving lows. Lead singer Edo Van Breemen narrates the story with heartfelt vocals: with “Our love grew slow like coral reefs beneath the warming waves of the ocean,” (“Bounce”) to getting “blackout wasted all the time,” (“Mean Sun”) and finishing with “send me out to sea” on closer “Mixtape,” accompanied by guest Rakel Leifsdottir. Big bonus if you pick up the vinyl, which contains a glowing, semi-translucent orb—a sun, perhaps, but anything but mean.
3. 12:34 (by Needles//Pins, released July 1)
I love this album heaps, and I know it’s partially because it’s relative. There are so few rock or punk albums—basically anything not mostly electronic or hip-hop—made in recent years that leave me inspired or wanting more. So when this Vancouver trio dropped 12:34, a title taken for the time of day that’s become a good omen to drummer Macy Budgell, I ripped through all 25 minutes of all 11 tracks twice in a row. Albums like this reinforce my faith in the alt-rock I was obsessed with as a teenager; while it’s pop-punk, it’s still the standard three-piece arrangement of grungy, catchy guitar riffs, thumping fast bass, and snappy, clashing drums. Production weekends at Discorder magazine frequently begin with blasting 12:34 to get our heads out of the morning fog, my favourites being opener “I Don’t Mind,” “I Heart Your Drugs,” and “Drop It.” The lyrics lament about shitty girls, breakups, getting drunk, smoking, and partying, and carry a distinctive doo-wop, sing-along-with-us feel. Listen to it and bug out.
2. In Our Heads (by Hot Chip, released June 6)
This was the quintessential soundtrack to the summer that made every bike ride to the beach, every late night dance party, windows-down drive out of town that much brighter. Anthemic opener “Motion Sickness” evokes a sense of yesteryear with a string of lyrics asking to “remember when…” to the tune of a step-touch-dance tuba line; “Flutes,” begins with a chopped up child-like chant that grows into a full-on techno dance-floor banger; and “Look At Where We Are” is a lovely, melodic ballad that could possibly mend the most fractured of breakups. It’s lovely. And no matter how fast or slow it goes, there’s a definite theme of feel-goodery and positive vibes throughout. My only negative I have surrounding this band and this album in 2012 is missing not one, but both of their shows at the Commodore in September.
1. WIXIW (by Liars, released June 4)
One listen to WIXIW’s (pronounced “wish you”) first single, “No. 1 Against The Rush,” and I was hooked. When an album has a single that strong, it’s hard to imagine the rest of it being far behind; this is a great example of that. Although other Liars’ albums have been more in the vein of experimental rock, WIXIW is heavily electronic; it’s a contrast similar to Radiohead’s transition between The Bends and Kid A.
It’s a creepy, haunting, almost gothic ride, and on first listen you might think lead singer Angus Andrew is the only human behind the project: it feels somewhat mechanical. Drum machines, samples, and loops are prevalent on the murky tracks, and his vocals cut a glaring beam of light through each. And if a measure of an album’s success is that it ingrains the listener with its themes, making us feel how they feel and understand somehow, then WIXIW gets an A-plus. Every time I listen to it, I feel those feelings—longing, isolation, missing, and essentially and appropriately, wishing-–yet all in an exciting and uplifting way.
See you here next week when student contributor Adam Tatelman continues our “Top five of 2012” lists with his picks for video games!