Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Top Ten Albums of 2012


I remember it finally happened one Saturday back in February.

It happened with no prior notice that it was going to happen.

It was February and it was a Saturday and I had just finished watching “30 Century Man,”  which is a documentary about Scott Walker. I mean Scott Walker the musician, of course. Not Scott Walker the Wisconsin governor.

I remember I finished watching “30 Century Man,”  and then I sat there, thinking, “I should really go and buy a CD by this Scott Walker guy!”  I could not fathom how I had missed him all of these years. The thing is, when I got into my van to go to Cactus Records and/or Sound Exchange and/or Sound Waves and/or Vinal Edge, I could not bring myself to turn the key. Cactus Records was not going to have a Scott Walker album, or at least not a Scott Walker album I wanted. Neither was Sound Exchange. The thing is, I knew I was about to spend the better part of my day driving around Houston for an album I would end up ordering off of Amazon.

I wanted the album now. Well, not now now. I mean right there and then now, when this happened, which was one Saturday back in February.

In the end, I wound up downloading Scott Walker's The Drift off of iTunes, which is the whole reason I am telling you this story. I promised myself this was a one-time thing. I promised myself I would not make a habit of it. I promised I would not tell anyone what I had done. I was too good for mp3 music downloads. But for just this one time, I would make an exception.

Of course, thats not what ended up happening. At all. Of my Top Ten favorite albums of 2012, I only possess three on CD. Three of them were never even released in CD format! (For those of you living in the twenty-first century, “CD”  stands for “compact disc,”  which was a sort of optical disk that your grandparents used to store digital data like music.)

So here they are. The bestest CDs, LPs, and digital downloads I got in 2012.

10. Swans – The Seer
The Seer is a rock album that can bend sound into impossible shapes while hovering in midair. The Seer is a rock album that can freeze time. And of course, with three songs that crash on beyond the 20-minute mark, The Seer had sure better be able to freeze time.





9. Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Standing in line to get into the Aesop Rock concert this past summer, I got a little nervous at the number of white suburban kids in Wu Tang shirts I was seeing around me. Uh oh! Not to worry, though: Aesop is a hell of an entertainer. The guy transcends genre, and he sure deserves a wider audience.





8. Scott Walker – Scott 3
This one is from 1968, and Scott’s playing the part of a spaced-out crooner. There are a couple psychedelic ambient tracks, a couple Jacques Brel covers, and even a patriotic ditty (complete with fireworks!). I don’t know exactly what this is, and that’s okay, too. I listen to a lot of damn music, so if it should so happen that I am unable to categorize an album, it’s gotta be a strange beast indeed.




7. Joseph Arthur – Redemption City
Finally, a decade and a half into his recording career, Joseph Arthur tries his hand at some loftier themes. Somehow, it works. Twenty-four tracks of this guy rapping about drugs and Christianity and Wassily Kadinsky, and it works! “Touched”  might just be the best thing he has ever done.






6. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
“If I look / Or if I don’t look / Clouds are always / Passing over.”  I want to live inside of a Mount Eerie album.  I think this one would be as good a home as any for me. It’s a moody mental trip from the city to the sea, and the analog synths even add a little light to the landscape.






5. Robin Williamson – Skirting the River Road
With Skirting the River Road, Robin Williamson - formerly of the Incredible String Band - enters a VERY exclusive club indeed. He is one of only six artists to have gotten TEN separate albums into my Top Ten of the Year list over the years. I even made him an award in commemoration of this, but he has yet to come pick it up. Dirty hippie bastard...





4. Mount Eerie – Ocean Roar
For quite a while now, Mount Eerie’s music has mostly sounded like a little boy humming quietly to himself as a thunderstorm overhead threatens to crush him like a bug. But Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum has really perfected that sound this time out. I just can’t be objective when it comes to Phil Elverum. The guy can do no wrong in my book.




3. Xasthur – Subliminal Genocide
This is one spooky black metal album. It sounds like the sound of some ghosts left out in the rain overnight who have woken up crying about it, just over the edge of the horizon. Yeah... Yes, that is precisely what this album sounds like.




2. Scott Walker – The Drift
In any other year, this one would have ended up at number one. It’s smart, it’s challenging, and it does not really sound like anything else you have ever heard. The thing is, it is also a miserable listening experience: sort of the sonic equivalent of having all your skin chewed off slowly. Which – don’t get me wrong! – is a remarkable accomplishment for an artist. I mean, you try doing that. But in the year 2012, I did not need this much help at feeling bad.


1. Aesop Rock – Skelethon
This is a hip hop album about cats, death, and eating your vegetables. It’s dark: Kimya Dawson does a nursery rhyme calling her dead best friend “meat inside a box” (“Crows 1”) and Aesop Rock raps about mummifying a pet cat (“How to Make a Homemade Mummy”). It’s goofy: “Racing Stripes” and “Grace” would be embarrassing if they were not surrounded by such brilliance. Aesop Rock raps about “autophagy,” about “a misanthrope vying for affection,” and about “bootlegs of Hawkwind.”  I’d call it a masterpiece, but that would probably scare you away.


Now it is your turn. Tell me: What did you put in your ears this year?

63 comments:

  1. Nothing Katy, not a single download, not a single CD. I am ashamed. Maybe I will take your list to the cool record on the square in Denton to rectify the situation.

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    1. Some of these could exist in Denton. Aesop Rock, Swans, and maybe Scott Walker.

      College town or no, you will not be able to find the others there.

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    2. My best friend Greg and I used to listen to some funky stuff in our mispent youth. Our favorite was the Siegel Schwall band. It was pretty out there, even in the late 70's. (Yes I am old enough to be your father.)

      I will hit the record store this weekend to see if I can fine Aesop Rock. Shame on me for not pursuing sooner. Any Peter Gabriel recommendations?

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    3. I am not familiar with the Siegel Schwall Bans. I will have to try a taste.

      If you're considering Aesop Rock, definitely go for "Skelethon." I get less and less out of his albums the further back in his catalog I go.

      With Peter Gabriel... I love Peter Gabriel #3 (his first three albums are all called "Peter Gabriel"). Peter Gabriel #3 has his face melting on the front cover. It's my favorite of his pop albums. I like "Up" (as opposed to "Us"), too. But the melting face album is pretty fantastic.

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    4. I recall that album cover very well. Every so often the oldies... I mean the classic rock station plays a Peter Gabriel song. I am always struck at how tight the sound is. The only song of his I didn't like was "Sledghammer" but it was the 80's so it can be forgiven. At least I am hoping most of what happened in the 80's is forgiven/forgotten.

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    5. Hi, Brent! Everybody sounded bad in the Eighties. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Lou Reed... For some reason, there were about 5 years there when everybody thought that canned drums did not sound canned. It all sounds so dated now.

      Tom Waits might be the only older artist who did not fall victim to the canned drum sound at any point.

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  2. I tend not to buy CD's. However, I make exceptions. My last was REM's "Green". The one before that was from Metric. Those were the only two I bought this year.

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    1. Hi, Jon. I don't have "Green." I have "Document," "Out of Time," and "Automatic for the People," though. "Green" came out right in the middle of all of those.

      The thing with REM is that I'm always suspicious of getting their albums because of pop songs like "Stand" or "Shiny Happy People." But even on their more pop-oriented albums like "Out of Time," they'll have these weird little songs in minor keys. On "Out of Time," the whole second side is creepy.

      I'm not familiar with Metric, but I see they fed into the band Broken Social Scene, which is cool.

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  3. I love finding new music to love...and even though I'm initially bummed when I find out I've been missing out on something for years, I get over it when I realize that there are all those years if music that I don't have yo wait for. Yes I know, I'm a huge dork. It's cool.

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    1. Tom Waits once said, "Music isn't produce. It doesn't go bad on the shelf if you don't get around to it for a while."

      I don't mind missing things for a while. I mean, I want to be 80 and still finding good music, so no rush.

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  4. mostly q tips with the occasional finger. I did however put a few new ( i.e. old) cameras in front of my eye

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    1. And some nearly-naked women in front of those cameras, best I can tell!

      How do you get them to do that? Because I can go get a camera...

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    2. that's definitely the first part...go get a camera, the rest just seems to happen

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    3. The clothes just start falling off of the women once the camera comes out?

      I have been looking for an invention like that for YEARS!

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    4. I know, fantastic device isn't it? Almost as good as the see through glasses I ordered from the back of a comic book when I was eight.

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    5. I think women realize we're on a time clock when it comes to society's view of good looks. Everyone should have some photographic proof that they were sexy once.

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  5. Just for clutter reasons I don't buy CDs. But can you imagine how difficult it is for me to find cassettes? THEY'LL BE COOL AGAIN ONE DAY! Right? I like a lot of your choices. Aesop Rock is great. Not to be confused with Asap Racky, also good, but in a different way. I'll have to check out Mount Eerie and I too hadn't heard of Scott Walker (musician not politician) until this post.

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    1. I love cassettes! I still think of albums in "sides" - kind of like an Act One and Act Two sort of thing.

      These digital downloads don't allow me the most personal experience I used to have with albums: Putting on the music, lying down on my bed, and staring at the cover art while listening to the thing for the first time.

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  6. Major, major points for appreciating the music of Kimya Dawson.

    If I was thirty years younger, I'd wanna date Kimya Dawson. Or maybe just hang out with her. See if there were some odd licks she could teach me. On the guitar, like.

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    1. I'd never given Kimya Dawson much thought because of, you know, "Juno."

      But she does a great job on an old Mount Eerie album AND on this Aesop Rock album, so I bought "Thunder Thighs" this year, which is pretty great in an of itself. "Thunder Thighs" in turn made me go buy a Cat Stevens album and a John Green novel, because Dawson tends to just tell you her influences...

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  7. My discovery of the year is A Forest of Stars. Their sound apparently is called psychedelic black metal, but it's more far-ranging than that. It's wonderful music, that's for sure! So far I've heard two albums: Opportunistic Thieves of Spring (2010 - http://bit.ly/YOqxBs) and A Shadowplay for Yesterdays (2012 - http://bit.ly/YOqtBF).

    Dramatic, rich, varied, progressive, serious. Love it.

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    1. Psychedelic black metal sounds promising.

      I basically took a year off metal. I seem to be doing metal in the odd-numbered years. I did get that great album by Xasthur this year, and I liked the new High on Fire as well.

      A Forest of Stars is on my list!

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  8. Replies
    1. I don't know. His tour is over, though, so you might want to try him at his house.

      I like the Frank Ocean album. Just wasn't in my favorite ten for the year.

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  9. Katy, in that picture of you wearing your headphones you look like one of THE hottest and most gorgeous young sex-pots i`ve ever seen ! ! !.

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  10. otis rampaging heterosexualityDecember 5, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Katy, whats lovely and cuddly and fluffly and cosy and Christmassy about this ! ?. I want to see some Christmas magic on this site and i want to see it NOW ! ! !.

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  11. Katy, whats your favourite Scott Walker song ?, "Joanna" or "The Country Girl", it has to one of those obviously, they are both masterpieces.

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    1. He's sort of an album artist, so I'm not sure I have a favorite track by him.

      I like "Clara" and "Jesse" off of The Drift.
      I like "30 Century Man" off of #3 and "Seventh Seal" off of #4.
      "It's Raining Today" is really good, too.

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  12. Okay, so the only one I've heard of is Aesop Rock. And I like him, so we're good there. As for the rest...I'm going to have to do some digging and some listening. I'll report back. Thanks for the recommendations though...I always like to know what cool people are listening to.

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    1. I have never had a hip hop album as my fave album of the year before.

      There's a political avant garde hip hp act called Dalek that I love, but not even Dalek had my fave of the year.

      A lot of the stuff on this list is so idiosyncratic that it should probably be listened to by no one.

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    2. Ideosyncratic is great. I like lists where people honestly and sincerely list their favorite albums of the year, however popular or obscure or weird. I did a top 10 albums of the year for my blog (back when I blogged) a few years ago, and it was full of stuff I personally liked, but also stuff I felt like I had to mention because it was popular, and stuff I mentioned because I really liked the bands and they had a release, even though I didn't think it belonged in any kind of top 10. In other words it was a terrible list; almost useless. This is much better.


      Anyway, if I do actually manage to sample all of the bands listed here and I find even one track that I like, then to me this list is a total success (easy for me to say of course since I didn't have to write the post.) I love learning about bands that I won't find out about anywhere else.

      Also, does anybody know how to change my settings so that when I select "google account" it uses my actual name and not my pseudonym. Because I think now I've been leaving comments as two different people on your blog.

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    3. I noticed that about your comments last time. I have no idea how to fix that, but maybe someone else around here will!

      The thing with my top ten, of course, is that it is made up of the albums I got into - which includes lots of albums not released this year. "Scott 3" is from 1968 and "None Shall Pass" is from 2007. But I never heard these albums in 1968 or 2007, so it seems silly not to have them on my list when they were relevant to ME!

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    4. I like the whole "these are the top ten albums I found out about this year" concept way better.

      By the way, listening to the Scott Walker now and...I'm kinda digging it.

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    5. Scott Walker has undergone a strange sort of transformation over the past 45 years. His early stuff sounds nothing like his newer stuff.

      I'm not sure what to make of it.

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    6. Just FYI, I did in fact listen to at least two or three tracks off of everything. I like Mount Eerie. The only thing is I'm in a weird phase where the only stuff that sticks right now is classical and electronic music, but I fully expect to move out of it at some point at which I'll revisit them.

      Thanks!

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    7. I sort of go through phases, too. Haven't been in an electronic phase in a long time. But I always cycle back through eventually...

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  13. The John Williams Superman theme. That's all I listen to... ever. ;)

    "Dirty hippie bastard..." That's how I felt after getting ripped off of everything after working on the Woodstock 40th Anniversary.

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    1. Robin Williamson (the dirty hippie bastard) played the original Woodstock with the Incredible String Band, so your comment went full circle.

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    2. Oh, WOW, man. Like, that's messin' with my mind BIG time. ;)

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    3. I think your brain is just frozen this morning.

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    4. Well, it did go down to 28°F out here now that you mention it.

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  14. I see no mention of Nicki Minaj or Kanye West so I'm chalking that up to the fact that it's been a tough year for you and you just left them out on accident. I mean, yes, Aesop Rock is "talented," but Kanye West is a "freekin jeenyus." If he wasn't, why else would he remind us so often that he is?

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    1. Maybe Kanye's talent just intimidates me. "I like to bring up the fact that I can't sing, dance or play an instrument, but somehow I made it to the mountaintop of music."

      Actually, Drake's "Take Care" was a really good album, and he's done stuff with both Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. Of course, he is a Canadian Jew who used to be on "DeGrassi," so maybe I just find him less intimidating than the other two!

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  15. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 6, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Robin Williams is an embarrass-girl-t to himself and the rest of hu-girl-ity, he must be eradicated with malice-a-fore-thought and extreme prejudice. He ruined "Hook" (1991) simply by being in it (as did Bob Hoskins for simply being British rubbish).

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    1. Robin Williams (the "comedian") is not the same person as Robin Williamson (the musician). Williamson is Scottish, though, so I'm sure that is relevant to your comment in some way...

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  16. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 6, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Katy, whats that Tattoo on your right arm ?.

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    1. The picture is actually FLIPPED. That's the tat on my left arm.

      Or maybe they switch arms sometimes.

      Delete
  17. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 6, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    I hate January, that bastard is always waiting in the wings to spoil everyones Christmas magic, i want the magic and joy of Christmas to go on forever, cant somebody murder January, that month really has got nothing to offer.

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  18. this is the second post that I have read today that confirms that I live in the past...

    I did not have a clue about any of this music. I get my modern music from my daughters Facebook page.... How sad is that?

    I get my music fix from YouTube that enhances my blogs and comments. This morning I posted "It's The End Of The World as we know it" http://youtu.be/Z0GFRcFm-aY

    and Popeye theme songs

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    1. I just want to point out that this is the second REM reference people have made to my top ten list.

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  19. sort of the sonic equivalent of having all your skin chewed off slowly

    yeah we got the end of the world stuff going on, drugs, spaced-out crooners, spooky black metal and other weird stuff

    Nancoke (the dancing dog) and myself would like to make you feel good. so... we are posting this flick to brightening your day

    http://youtu.be/oUMwu_gXK7Q

    BTW - it's fun being and old Popa

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    1. There are worse things than getting old.

      Not living long enough to get old, for instance.

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  20. Katy, are you hetero-phobic ?.

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    1. Scared to death of breeders, obviously!

      Everybody knows that about me.

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  21. Scared, understandably perhaps, but you dont actually hate straight people specifically because of their heterosexuality, do you ! ?.

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  22. Katy, a specific question was put to you and you haven`t replyed to it my dear ! ? ! ?.

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    1. Because whenever I start getting the suspicion that it is YOU commenting on my blog, I have the overwhelming urge to ignore it.

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  23. I didn't know Xasthur was still around. I did however put a q-tip or a few in my ears this year!

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    1. I don't think he is/they are. This was an old album from 2005 or 2006. I had never heard anything by them before this year, though.

      I was watching a "Fringe" marathon last weekend, and there was an ad that aired about 250 times during the commercial breaks. It informed me that doctors recommend you DON'T stick q-tips in your ears. There is some other product you can order that will clean out your ears, instead.

      Sorry, no COD's.

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  24. I thought Rafa was Cat Stevens ! ! !.

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  25. your obedient internet rodent, servant, and educatorDecember 11, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    So Katy, you have the overwhelming urge to ignore it whenever you suspect that it is me com-girl-ting on your blog. Katy my dear, let me explain something to you (again), its important for you to always remember that the ONLY reason you might be supposedly offended by anything i say on here is because you were unfortunate enough to be born into "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" (like hundreds of millions of other poor bastards around the world), 20 or 30 years from now when "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" has been brought to a thankful and merciful end those things wont be offensive to anyone. Every day i curse "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" and curse even more the fact that i was born into it. By the way Katy, i`d still be interested to know w-HEATHER or not you hate heterosexual people specifically because of their heterosexuality ! ? because if you do thats obviously another direct product of "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" and all the absurd prejudices that go along with it, 30 years from now everybody will be literally fucking everbody else 24 hours a day. Imagine if "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" had never cursed the planet what a perfect sex-based world we would all be enjoying now, instead its gonna` be those lucky bastards 30 years from now who`ll be having all the fun ! ! !.

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Go ahead and comment, even if it is just to tell me that you think this post sucked. What have you got to lose?