These are my favorite albums of 2012. I stick to my rules that a release has to have come out in the calendar year and that I have to have listened to it a lot over the past twelve months. It's better to keep such a list as an honest reflection of what you were excited about playing repeatedly. There's no need to cram a bunch of stuff on there just so you can feel up to date with all the other critics. If it is a good album in 2012, it will still be a good album next year and hopefully many years down the road. Music takes time to understand. Just because something earns a lot of critical acclaim at the end of the year, doesn't make it an important album. It doesn't mean it's horrible either.
It's hard to come up with stuff about the records you like without sounding dumb.
The list goes band/album/label for those with questions of that nature.
Aphid Palisades - III - Hooker Vision
This is the duo of Ryan Connolly and Lee Tindall. They play the type of warm, blissed out drone that totally fascinates me. I sometimes fear that maybe I'm buying the same record over and over made by different people, but as long as I keep liking it, I'm not concerned. Hooker Vision is a mostly tape label run by Grant and Rachel Evans. They are putting out some amazing music right now.
Black Thread - Dead Antlers - Tusco/Embassy
I've been revisiting the music of Flying Saucer Attack over the last six months and realizing how far ahead of the game they were in the 1990s. I liked what they did with their lo-fi home recordings and use of feedback. The description on the Tusco/Embassy website included a FSA reference so I figured I should buy the tape. I made the right choice as Dead Antlers is a great cassette full of manipulated tape drones and electronics.
Cotton Museum - Hatching Extraction - Tasty Soil
In addition to making some sick and twisted noises, Chris Pottinger is an artist who draws all sorts of sick and twisted creatures. He even included an exact drawing of his live set up with the art for this album. That right there is brilliant. I think he might have taken your typical person standing at a table full of samplers, synths, and effects pedals to the next level by physically moving the table around the room during a show. I'm not positive on that, but it sure felt like something different was happening he played Buffalo.
Drainolith - Fighting - Spectrum Spools
Alex Moskos, the former AIDS Wolf guitarist, cranked out a killer slab of whatever happens next. For as much as I hate the blues, this might be described as some sort of post-blues. I'm not sure exactly how to easily sum up Fighting and I think that's a big part of the appeal. It also might be the exact record a person would need to make after AIDS Wolf ended.
Dick Neff - Dork Morph - self released cassette
Dick Neff is the one man band of Lance Simmons. He plays drums and analog synthesizer run through guitar effects pedals. The music is reminiscent of early Lightning Bolt in ways, but that might be picking the easiest way to describe it. The songs are energetic and fun. There's also not much in the way of web presence, which makes Dick Neff even cooler. You have to experience the show in the real world and buy a tape from Lance.
Grass Widow - Internal Logic - HLR
I still like the idea of early 1990s indie rock and Grass Widow made a record that references that time nicely without being needlessly nostalgic.
Moon Pool & Dead Band - Human Fly - Not Not Fun
Moon Pool & Dead Band is the effort of Nate Young from Wolf Eyes and Dave Shettler. They play all sorts of synths, drum machines, and other assorted electronic devices that make sound. I've been really getting into records made with analog synths over the last couple years and this fits nicely into that category.
Moth Cock - s/t - Tusco/Embassy
Doug Gent and Pat Modugno from Kent, Ohio created this backwoods type of noise that could only come from the mysterious parts of the Buckeye State. They use a variety of woodwinds and horns run through a bunch of effects pedals. They also throw in chirps, bloops, and bleeps to add to the weirdness.
Outer Space - Akashic Record (Events: 1986-1990) - Spectrum Spools
John Elliott is the man behind the analog synthesizers of Outer Space. He runs the Spectrum Spools label. He also works 40 hours a week in factory. Basically, he's awesome.
Pak - License - Price Tapes
Somewhat reminiscent of Metalux, Pak is music made from tape loops and effects with a few vocals. I don't know much about the band and I'm fine with that. Price Tapes has a digital download option on their website which gives you the convenient way to get the music from a tape to your iPod so I've been listening to License a lot when I go for a walk.
People Of The North - Steep Formations - Brah/Jagjaguwar
Sparse. Atmospheric. Static. Repetitive. Wonderful.
Running - Asshole Savant - Captcha Records
Running are a trio from Chicago that play skuzzy and noisy punk rock. I randomly bought their first album at Spiral Scratch in Buffalo earlier in the year. I found out they had a new album out when I asked a friend in Chicago about the band. They stopped by Buffalo in November on a tour with Cave and did a pretty good job at tearing things up.
Pete Swanson - Pro Style - Type
The former Yellow Swan resurfaced last year with three releases, I Don't Rock At All, Man With Potential, and Man With Garbage. As many in the noise world have done recently, Swanson has started to explore techno. This is the most finely tuned of his explorations and feels like older Yellow Swans type stuff with beats. It's also coupled with the more atmospheric nature of what that band evolved into. It's a smooth ride. Gabriel Mindel Saloman, the other half of the Yellow Swans, has a record out this year called Adhere on Miasmah. It's music for a dance piece by choreographer Daisy Thompson.
Windy & Carl - We Will Always Be - Kranky
I've been listening to Windy & Carl for years now and this might be their best album ever. It's very consistent from start to finish and has that warm drone sound that I mentioned earlier as liking a whole bunch.
Zaïmph - Imagine Yourself Here - Yew
I was a little late getting into the work of Marcia Bassett, but I've been correcting that problem lately. This was the first release on her new label Yew. It's a sprawling two song record of soundscapes built from electronics and guitar textures with some haunting vocals thrown in for good measure.
The Honorable Mention Pile:
I didn't get a bunch of these albums until December and I wouldn't feel right about including them in my best of the year list. I normally avoid shopping for tunes at the end of the year, but this year I did with some great results.
Chrome Jackson - Chrome Forest - Skin Graft
Container - LP - Spectrum Spools
Blues Control - Valley Tangents - Drag City
Aaron Dilloway - Modern Jester - Hanson
Femminielli - Carte Blanche Aux Desirs - Night People
Koi Pond - So Higher - Sonic Meditations
Lightning Bolt - Oblivion Hunter - Load
Normal Love - Survival Tricks - ugExplode
Pedestrian Deposit - Kithless - Arbor Infinity
Sand Circles - Motor City - Not Not Fun