Peter’s Top 10 Albums of the Year

As finals week approaches and winter break comes within arm’s reach, it’s clear that 2012, and potentially the world as we know it, is coming to a close. With the end of the year approaching, I’d like to reflect on some of my favorite music releases from the past year.

While there have been many albums this past year that I obsessed over and played to exhaustion, I narrowed it down to 10 albums that really left a strong impression on me. Give these albums a chance if you’ve missed any of them this year.

1. Cloud Nothings, “Attack on Memory”: In what is easily my favorite album of 2012, the Cleveland rock band Cloud Nothings add some serious muscle and grit to their previously scrappy sound, resulting in a hefty album of raucous yet surprisingly catchy post-hardcore. From the moody opener “No Future/No Past,” to the harrowing epic “Wasted Days,” to the infectious pop punk of “Stay Useless,” Cloud Nothings manage to put together equal amounts of angst, passion, and hooks to create a masterpiece, in all of its loud, soar-throated glory.

 2. Mount Eerie, “Clear Moon / Ocean Roar”: Though a “singer-songwriter” by nature, Phil Elverum, who records atmospheric folk music  as Mount Eerie, uses his songwriting abilities to try and capture the majestic yet powerful essence of nature, while simultaneously searching for his place among it. His two back-to-back releases this year, in this sense, act as something of a yin and yang: The soothing, graceful beauty of “Clear Moon” both matches and contradicts the feral brutality of “Ocean Roar.” Though they are separate releases, it’s hard to imagine the two without one another.

3. Royal Headache, “Royal Headache”: On their debut album, the Australian garage-rock band Royal Headache charged through the door with a raw, poppy collection of punk tunes that sound like they’re straight from the sweatiest basement club.  It’s hard to deny the infectious riffs and relentless energy of tracks like “Psychotic Episode” and “Girls,” but what really makes the group special are the soulful vocals supplied by Shogun, adding a nostalgic and almost romantic feel to the groups buzzing punk rage.

4. Baroness, “Yellow & Green”: Though previously known for crafting loud, sludgy, and intricate metal, the Georgia metal troupe Baroness took a big chance this year with their latest, an ambitious double album that mostly cleans up the groups sound with folk, psychedelic, and more traditional rock influences.  Songs like “Take My Bones Away” prove the band can still be as heavy as ever, but their new approach helps transform “Yellow & Green” into a sprawling adventure of a double album that helps Baroness transcends metal and rock music in general.

5. Beach House, “Bloom”: Beach House has been making beautiful, dreamy indie pop their entire career, but on “Bloom,” the band takes their signature sound and fires it into the stratosphere, only to let it explode in a brilliant flash in a starry night sky. With monolithic tracks like “Lazuli” and more understated gems like the elegant “On the Sea,” Beach House successfully push their sound to epic heights while sticking firmly to the guitar/keyboard dynamics the group has always favored.

6. Death Grips, “The Money Store”: I can safely say that this may be the most jarring entry on my list, but it is also the most unique by far. A schizophrenic blend of rap, rave, punk, and noise, “The Money Store” sounds completely other-worldly while also totally destructive. Vocalist MC Ride raps like a rabid wolf on many of the albums tracks, but its futuristic rave romps, like “Get Got,” “I’ve Seen Footage,” and the brilliant “Hacker,” give the album a necessary pop edge.

7. Japandroids, “Celebration Rock”: Though featuring nothing more than a guitarist and a drummer, the two members of Japandroids put enough power, passion, and energy into their music to completely transcend their limitations, and their latest, “Celebration Rock,” is no exception to this. With fiery fuzz-rock songs like “Fire’s Highway,” “Evils Sway,” and the glorious “House That Heaven Built,” Japandroids approach each track on “Celebration Rock” like they know it will be their last, making sure each riff is more massive than the next.

8. PS I Love You, “Death Dreams”: It’s hard to imagine rock music as loud, overdriven, and fuzzed out as this sounding like fun, but PS I Love You pull it off effortlessly with their latest, “Death Dreams.” Despite being a very morbid album thematically, high-octane blasts of guitar-pop like “Sentimental Dishes” and “First Contact” sound massive and triumphant, featuring some of the most impressive, blistering guitar playing skills that I’ve heard all year.

9. Grizzly Bear, “Shields”: With their latest album, Grizzly Bear continues their path of dominance in the indie music world with one of their strongest efforts yet. Though not as bombastic or outright mesmerizing as their past two albums, “Shields” instead works with subtle details and a greater focus on space to create an album that covers more broad landscapes, both internally and externally. Despite this, songs like “Yet Again” and “Half Gate” still manage to leave room for plenty of surprises.

10. Flying Lotus, “Until the Quiet Comes”: On his excellent new album, instrumental hip hop artist Flying Lotus crafts a dreamy, almost subconsciously affecting alternative to his more spastic and energetic past efforts. Tracks like “Getting There” and “Tiny Tortures” utilize subtle hip-hop beats and soft undercurrents of bass that you float along rather than pump your fists to, but there are moments, like the sub-woofer destroying “Sultans Request” and the sputtering “Putty Boy Strut,” that manage to keep things varied.