Alright, now for the ground rules. I have no conceit that this list is "the best music of 2012, no arguments allowed". This is a collection of the music that I most enjoyed in 2012 and will continue to enjoy. It reflects my taste, and what I've heard. And to a great extent, what I've heard reflects what I was looking for. Even the casual music fan will have to concede that I haven't paid much attention to the "best of" lists compiled elsewhere in the industry. The albums are grouped into two pods for your browsing convenience. The pods are ranked. but the albums are listed alphabetically within their assigned pods. There are 51 albums in all, but I'm pretending that there are 50 because I had imposed a 50 album limit and I hate to disappoint myself.
By the way, a post about notable singles, EPs and labels will follow next week.
scottPod 1 (my 20 favorites, in alphabetical order)
Allah-Las, Allah-Las (Innovative Leisure) - This is a perfect distillation of British Invasion and California rock, supporting well-written (perhaps surprisingly dark) songs. It is one of those albums I just want to keep listening to. So I do. Our review here.
Being There, Breaking Away (Young and Lost Club) - A happy meeting of '90s indie guitar rock and the modern fuzz pop of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Veronica Falls. An unknown gem of an album from some guys with loads of promise. I don't want to overburden them with expectations, but I hear a bit of Teenage Fanclub. Our review here.
The Blakes, Art of Losses - The Blakes glide convincingly through various rock and pop styles while creating excellent songs of personal loss. I remain perpetually puzzled that these guys aren't famous. Our review here.
Boomgates, Double Natural (Bedroom Suck Records) - This collective of worthies from other respected Melbourne bands decided to hang out and try their hands at making music together. The result is a quintessentially Australian indie rock gold nugget that is among my five favorites this year. The songs range from energetic rockers to more reflective tunes, but all are distinctive and, somehow, manage to sound comfortingly familiar. Our review here.
Cats on Fire, All Blackshirts to Me (Soliti Music/Matinee Recordings) - This Finnish band is one of the best guitar pop acts in the business--the complete package of songwriting, musicianship and vocals. If I were ranking albums in order, this one would be in the top five. Our review here.
The District Attorneys, Slowburner (This Is American Music) - Powerpop and California rock through a southern rock filter. A great recipe and a great album. Our review here.
Dot Dash, Winter Garden Light (The Beautiful Music) - This album of masterful jangly power pop/punk was one of the truly pleasant surprises of the year. I really liked this DC band's 2011 debut, but the guys took it up another whole level with this record. Our review here.
Exlovers, Moth (Young and Lost Club) - I expect a lot of bands take a long time to hone their sound and develop songs worthy of a debut LP of note. But rare is a triumph such as this. Delightfully jangly pop songs of joy and melancholy that strikes one more as a greatest hits album from this London band than a first effort. Our review here.
Grimes, Visions (4AD) - No, it isn't the stuff I usually cover, but in retrospect I feel that I was wrong in not highlighting this album when it was released. And if this is the spot where I match the "major" lists, then I'll take that hit. The melodies and beats are varied and interesting and the haunting, swooping vocals top notch. Canadian Claire Boucher has created the electro-pop album of the year.
Jesus H. Foxx, Endless Knocking (Song, By Toad) - Electric folk jams usually aren't my first choice, but on this Edinburgh band's collection the intelligence is palpable, the rhythms infections and the overall atmosphere captivating. As I said in my review, touring through the songs in this album is like going from room to room in a house party full of lively, interesting people. Our review here.
Laurence and the Slab Boys, Lo Fi Disgrace (Grumpy Records) - A beautiful, guitar-driven expression of isolation by the former Cinematics guitarist and Glasgow native Larry Reid and his mates. Dream pop layered with fuzz and distortion and a big dose of muscle. That more people haven't heard of this album is a big shame. Our review here.
The Mallard, Yes On Blood (Castle Face Records) - If you aren't familiar with The Mallard, you haven't been reading this blog, as I've been championing their music since some time in 2011. The music defies easy characterization. The lazy description is garage/surf, but that only hints at the roots. With loads of delightful effects and time changes, these well-crafted songs simultaneously boast an murky mystery and head-bobbing rhythm while reflecting a sense of adventure. And despite the "garage" label often applied, this is a very disciplined unit. Yes, this is a top five album for me. There will be a new album in 2013, but you would be cheating yourself if you ignored this one. Our review here.
The New Tigers, The New Tigers (Soliti Music) - I liked every Soliti Music band I heard this year, but the fuzzed out new wave of The New Tigers was second only to label-mates Cats on Fire as my top selection from Finland. The song provided below, "World's Greatest Actor", seems to be three great songs in one. Our review is here.
Mummy Short Arms, Old Jack's Windowless Playhouse (Flowers in the Dustbin) - An album of wonderfully performed, western influenced, half-way-to-psychotic tunes that stretch "alt rock" to the outer limits. In a single year together this Glasgow gang has crafted a multi-layered trippy tour down alleys and by-ways of whisky-soaked nightmares. James Allan's voice is distinctive, even startling, but it matches the material and is an essential part of the atmosphere. Have a good time! Our review here.
Opposite Sex, Opposite Sex (Fishrider Records) - "Oh Scott" you say, "tell us you aren't putting a debut, somewhat accidental, album by three New Zealand college students who can't even fund a tour on their own island on your top 20 list?" Why yes, -- yes I am. Subversive, feral, naive, a bit sly -- when it is done well this is what indie is about. The review will be here next week, but we won't let a little thing like an unfinished review keep us from lauding Opposite Sex.
"La Rat" by Opposite Sex from Fishrider Records on Vimeo.
PAWS, Cokefloat (FatCat Records) - An unselfconsciously assured combination of punk pop and Sonic Youth power, these Scottish lads provided a very welcome surprise in their debut LP. Our review here.
The Raveonettes, Observator (Vice) - I'll admit to liking everything that The Raveonettes have released, and last year's album was a top ten choice for me. Observator signals that the Danish masters of dark fuzz pop are not relinquishing their title anytime soon. Our review here.
Terry Malts, Killing Time (Slumberland) - This offshoot of Magic Bullets created a garage punk masterpiece that wonderfully celebrates the mundane and everyday weirdness of life. And it sounds so very, very good. For me, this is one of the most infectious albums of the year. Our review here.
Ty Segall and White Fence, Hair (Drag City) - Two prolific artists, Ty Segall and White Fence (Tim Presley), who are comfortable with rock, garage, punk and psychedelic, serve up garage/psych perfection in eight tracks. Our review here.
(scottPod 1 Notes: Four from Scotland (counting Larry Reid, who may now be in Manchester or Berlin); two from Finland on the Soliti label; two more from other parts of Scandinavia: two from London label Young and Lost Club; three from California; two from the Southern Hemisphere)
scottPod 2 (a baker's 30 in alphabetical order)
Allo Darlin', Europe (Fortuna Pop/Slumberland) - Sweet, affecting twee pop the way twee pop was meant to be played -- only better. Our review here.
The Babies, Our House on the Hill (Woodsist Records) - I triumphant debut LP from the Brooklynites. That the album reminds the listener more of the west coast than the east coast is part of the charm. Good stuff, and only ragged where it is meant to be ragged; that's my kind of record. Our review here.
Baby Grand, Arts and Leisure (Test Pattern Records) - Classic Sarah Records-style indie pop with jangling and chiming guitars and female vocals. Our review here.
Banana and Louie, Alphabet Soup (Vollwert-Records) - Delightful chamber pop with reverential nods to Belle and Sebastian and the Beach Boys. Our review here.
Black Twig, Paper Trees (Soliti Music) - An electric guitar-lover's album - droning psychedelia, noisy power pop and full scale rock from one of Finland's top groups. Our review here.
Cancel the Astronauts, Animal Love Match - Masters of the fast-paced pithy and wry indie pop song, this debut from the Edinburgh-based band has a wealth of them. Our review here.
Chris Devotion and the Expectations, Amalgamation & Capital (Armellodie Records) - Swaggering rock and punk pop with a frontman who could grace a Stax/Volt record. Our review here.
The Colourful Band, The Colourful Band - What I want from a singer-songwriter is a distinctive voice, good stories, good guitar and the balls to rock out the song when given the chance. Enter Ian McKelvie and his Colourful Band. Our review here.
Dignan Porch, Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen (Captured Tracks) - If you are following the return of psychedelic guitar music, you would be depriving yourself of an essential piece if you ignored Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen by London's Dignan Porch. Our review here.
Django Django, Django Django (Because Music/Ribbon Music) - Two Scots, an Englishman and an Irishman who met in art school in Edinburgh, formed a band and moved to London. Their debut, which earned them a Mercury Prize nomination, is an electro-rock album with swagger and a great sense of fun. Our review will be published soon.
Emotional, Feeling (Gnar Tapes) - Absolutely gorgeous hazy, fuzzy California guitar pop from Brian Wakefield of Melted Toys. Our review here.
Evans the Death, Evans the Death (Slumberland) - The songwriting and instrumental performances alone could have put this debut album from the UK's Evans the Death on this list, but given the contributions of the female vocal find of the year, there is no justification for leaving them off. Our review here.
Flutes, Flutes - London-based Scottish expats deliver a fine album of tunes that build to a soaring climax. A couple of my favorite songs of the year are on this one. Our review here.
The Henry Clay People, Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives (TBD Records) - One of the few current bands that the WYMA executive editorial board could collectively endorse as a house band for the blog, THCP looks through the threshold leading to adulthood and tells us about how things look forward and backward. Our review here.
The Just Joans, Buckfast Bottles in the Rain (weePOP! Records) - A concept album with 11 coming of age stories told with a deep Scottish accent over indie pop/music hall arrangements. Our review here.
La Sera, Sees the Light (Hardly Art) - Breakup, disappointment and regret wrapped in really tasty, sugary sounds. Katy Goodman's solo effort makes a good impression here. Our review here.
Lenzie Moss, Introducing Lenzie Moss - Classic guitar pop from singer-songwriter Finlay MacDonald, whose prior credits include stints with Music and Movement, Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and Speedboat. Our review here.
Milk Maid, Mostly No (FatCat Records) - Hooky garage rock with plenty of distortion and volume. Our review here.
Nick Waterhouse, Time's All Gone (Innovative Leisure) - Throwback roadhouse R&B from California guitar-slinger and ace producer Waterhouse. Our review here.
Olympic Swimmers, No Flags Will Fly - Melodic, sophisticated, multi-layered indie pop featuring excellent musicianship and stellar vocals from a promising Glasgow band. Our review here.
The Pollies, Where the Lies Begin (This Is American Music) - I suppose that from a modern Muscle Shoals super group, you would expect good stories, excellent musicianship and soulful vocals. Yup, all here on this debut. Our review here.
The Puddle, Secret Holiday/Victory Blues (Fishrider Records) - George D. Henderson and his mates have been delivering psych and garage inflected pop for three decades. If you don't know about them, it really isn't your fault, but you are missing out. This album is available on Bandcamp at a very attractive price point, so treat yourself. Our profile here.
Radar Eyes, Radar Eyes (HoZak Records) - Dense, psychedelic garage from Chicago. It was an early 2012 favorite of mine and continues to earn a spot on the year end list. Our review here.
Seapony, Falling (Hardly Art) - Few bands have the jangle pop/dream pop sound dialed in as well as Seattle's Seapony, and this album hits all the right spots and fails nowhere. Our review here.
The Silver Factory, If Words Could Kill (Elefant) - Perfectly executed retro jangle pop from the UK. Our review here.
Strawberry Whiplash, Hits In The Car (Matinee Recordings) - A concept album regarding the trajectory of a relationship from first meeting via a car crash ("Do You Crash Here Often") to break-up, told with female vocals over Laz's jangly and fuzzy guitars. Our review here.
The Twilight Sad, No One Can Ever Know (FatCat Records) - With less emphasis on guitars and heavy use of chilly synths, the mournful Scots have produced another dark gem. Our review here.
Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse (In The Red Records) - Recording with his live band, Segall lets it all hang out in punk/garage style. Our review here.
The UV Race, Racism (In the Red Records) - Melbourne collective twists pop tunes through punk, post-punk and glam, with winks and sneers. If you want something euphorically different, you've found it. Our review here.
White Fence, Family Perfume (Woodsist) - Tim Presley's admittedly overstuffed solo effort contains more than enough gems to earn a spot on the top fifty (his second, in fact as his joint project with Ty Segall is in the top 20). Our review here.
Woods, Bend Beyond (Woodsist) - Brooklyn-based band delivers an excellent folk and rock album played with energy and confidence. Our review here.