Amanda’s Best of 2012 Picks

December 29th, 2012 · 4 Comments · By

So, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Amanda, the calendar gal for Nailgun. If you want an event to be placed on the calendar, just say “please”. Though I normally  stay silent on the site I decided to share what I thought the best albums of 2012 were. Comment, disagree, list your favorites – also, go check out the other lists by actual Nailgun writers. Well, here it goes!


Top 20 Albums of 2012:

1. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

I tried to avoid Sharon Van Etten for a very long time. A friend had described her as a “sad lady playing guitar and singing” and after three years as a moody middle school girl, I didn’t think I needed any more sad ladies in my life. However, thanks to my internship at WXPN this summer I was able to get some tickets to her show in Philadelphia. She started her set with “All I Can” and I was hooked. Her album captures all the emotion of her live shows and features one of my favorite songs of 2012, “Serpents”.

2. Dan Deacon – America

I’ve always loved Dan Deacon’s live shows but I never could make it through listening to an entire album. However, America is a beautifully crafted album that is extremely listenable. The first half of the album consists of classic Dan Deacon jams – danceable singalongs. The second half of the album shows off Dan Deacon’s classical composition chops.

Also, this is one of my favorite music videos of the year.

3. Lower Dens – Nootropics

Nootropics was a perfect continuation from Twin-Hand Movement, the awesome first release by Lower Dens. Though the album is very mechanical (the drums on “Brains” and “Stem” are so precise and robotic), there are touches of glam-rock to it. On “Lion In Winter Part 2”, lead singer Jana Hunter sounds like an alien singing over a futuristic dancey beat and tons of synth. This album is a lot darker than Twin-Hand Movement, lacking a “cutesy” track like “I Get Nervous”. Each track transitions beautifully into the next to create one of the best albums of 2012.

4. Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms

I hopped on the Chelsea Wolfe train really late, so placing Unknown Rooms on this list is my way of noting that she was one of my favorite artists of the year. Chelsea Wolfe plays doom-folk-goth-art-drone and her albums and live performances are slightly terrifying but at the same time extremely beautiful. This acoustic album reaches heavily into her folk roots while also touching on Renaissance-sounding choral elements. She sounds both completely vulnerable and vicious at the same time – something I still don’t fully comprehend.

5. Grizzly Bear – Shields

Shields seemed to both get too much attention and not enough attention at the same time. What Grizzly Bear had developed in the past was simply amplified on this album. “A Simple Answer” was Grizzly Bear’s first successful attempt at a non-cheesy happy song, a substantial change from “Knife” and “Two Weeks”. Ed Droste doesn’t play any instruments on this album but his vocals are calm, mature, and straight-up beautiful. Chris Bear amplifies his drums and Chris Taylor’s guitar parts fill in every gap, making Shields an densely textured album. Grizzly Bear is an extremely collaborative band and Shields shows the results of this collaboration.

6. Colleen Green – Milo Goes To Compton

Colleen Green really isn’t innovative. Her first song on the album is a Descendants Cover, the second song is a pseudo-Ramones cover. On most tracks it’s just Colleen’s layered vocals, fuzzy chords, and a drum machine. But man, this album sure is catchy. I’m not usually a fan of the lazy California lady rocker, (see: Best Coast), but her lyrics are more complex, her guitar parts are more distorted, and her songs are so danceable that this album is just great. It’s short, fun, and makes me wanna be friends with Colleen Green, so I think it’s a success!

7. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

This album had all the elements of a party-rock album: singalong lyrics, loud guitars, and pronounced drumming. The House that Heaven Built sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song if Bruce had a lot more anger and a lot more alcohol. The singalong “OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH-OH” and lyrics of “if they try to slow you down tell ’em all to go to hell” on that song are great emotional releases – we all need something to shout-sing during times of frustration. Celebration Rock was the loud rock album I needed this year.

8. The Bird Calls – Church of the Bird Calls

The Bird Calls is Sam Sodomsky of Syracuse, NY by way of Wyomissing, PA (home of Taylor Swift!). Church of the Bird Calls is his longest album so far, and definitely his most complex. Sam has a way of singing with conviction even if he hasn’t experienced what he’s singing about. In “Real Sacrifice” his sacrifice appears to be passing around a bottle of alcohol- not something we would consider a real sacrifice on the scale of human experiences. However, the song, and entire album, show The Bird Calls’s gospel-like belief in the subject matter. Sam’s been making music for years and Church of the Bird Calls functions as a confirmation of his accomplishments so far.

9. Wild Nothing – Nocturne

10. DIIV – Oshin

11. Julia Holter – Ekstasis

12. Liars – WIXIW

13. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

14. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

15. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior

16. Angel Olsen – Half Way Home

17. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse

18. Grimes – Visions

19. Wolf//Goat – In Watermelon Sugar

20. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Also, here are my top shows of 2012. This was one of my favorite years for live music and I think I was able to see every band I wanted to see except for Quilt and Colleen Green. So if you’re reading this Quilt and/or Colleen Green, please come to Charlottesville.

1/25-Invisible Hand/The Babies-Tea Bazaar
3/2-Dinosaur Feathers/Grandchildren-Tea Bazaar
4/4-Real Estate/Twerps-Ottobar
6/13-Radiohead/Caribou-Susquehanna Bank Center
6/21-Sharon Van Etten-Union Transfer
7/5-Slutever/TacocaT-Death By Audio
7/21-Lower Dens-XPoNential Music Festival
7/22-Work Drugs/Diego Garcia-XPoNential Music Festival
7/25-Frank Ocean-Union Transfer
8/9-Grimes/Wild Nothing/DIIV-River Rocks
8/11-Real Estate/R. Stevie Moore/Andrew Cedermark-Webster Hall
8/16-Cursive/Titus Andronicus/Love as Laughter/Joyce Manor-House of Vans
9/7-Dan Deacon-Pour House at Hopscotch
9/8-Wye Oak-Lincoln Theater at Hopscotch
9/8-Sunn O)))-Memorial Auditorium at Hopscotch
9/21-Grizzly Bear/Unknown Mortal Orchestra-9:30 Club
9/24-Cate Le Bon/The Fire Tapes-The Southern
9/27-Eternal Summers/Bleeding Rainbow/Left & Right-Tea Bazaar
10/23-Bruce Springsteen-John Paul Jones Arena
10/25-Titus Andronicus/Ceremony-Strange Matter
10/26-Dinosaur Jr.-The Jefferson
11/1-Woods/Widowspeak/Wolf//Goat-Strange Matter
11/15-Angel Olsen-Tea Bazaar
12/7-Danny Brown-Student Activities Building at UVA

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Reid // Dec 29, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Where’s the rap

  • 2 Vijith Assar // Dec 29, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Amanda!!! I’d have killed for a “calendar girl” back when I was working on music coverage for the Hook, so the fact that you even exist at all is wonderful. And you are totally right about “Serpents” and “Celebration Rock,” perhaps others as well (I haven’t heard everything on your list).

  • 3 James // Dec 29, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Reid- presumably, it’s on Mingsley’s list.
    (if we were doing a best of 2002 or best of 1992, there would be tons of rap on my list, but then again I’m a cranky old man).

  • 4 Jacque // Dec 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Shoot–I came so close to watching you watch your favorite album of 2012 unfold on stage/ ruining your evening by crying all over your face.