Even so I did manage to hear a lot of great new music over the year, thanks in no small part to many trusting musicians and a handful of record labels who kept my album review pile overflowing. Some of those albums made it onto my Top 10 of 2012 list. Which is as follows, thusly:
1. John K Samson - ProvincialThe debut solo album from the literary mastermind behind the Weakerthans, Provincial is filled with the sorts of musical gems that we have come to expect from John K Samson - poetic, thoughtful and highly infectious songs that marry intimate details with themes of greater historical or social significance. The fact that Provincial has at its core the central theme of Manitoba highways makes this album essential listening for anyone from the keystone province. Truth be told, this album should be in absolutely everybody's music library. Better yet would be two copies, because the first is bound to get worn out from constant rotation.
2. First Aid Kit - The Lion's RoarThe close vocal harmonies of the sisters Söderberg, and the way their achingly beautiful voices embrace such a folksy feel, send chills up my spine every time I hear this album. It's hard enough to believe that a record of this quality could be made by a 22 and an 18 year old, never mind that this is their third recording. The Lion's Roar was a strong contender for my album of the year, but in the final tally, the Winnipeg poet won out over the Swedish phenoms. But just barely.
3. Great Lake Swimmers - New Wild EverywhereI have yet to find a Great Lake Swimmers album that I don't like, thanks in large part to Tony Dekker's haunting voice - at once full and rich, but with a fragile ache that can make the angels weep. New Wild Everywhere takes Great Lake Swimmers to new territory, with a bolder and more sweeping sound, thanks to the addition of violin and cello. Still achingly lovely, but with more gusto.
4. Jack White - Blunderbuss
After years of resisting the genius (there I said it) of Jack White, I happily admit to being bowled over by Blunderbuss. It's an album that feels like the culmination of all his musical explorations to date. Awesome shit.
5. Beach House - Bloom
Perfect dream pop, always lovely, always note perfect. Beach House just keep getting better and better and Bloom is a must have in any music lover's collection.
6. The Avett Brothers - the Carpenter
Strong alt-country sensibility with solid rock chops, The Carpenter figures prominently on many best of lists, and with good reason. I think it's the Avett Brothers' best effort to date.
7. Fort Atlantic - Fort Atlantic
I first heard Jon Black (aka Fort Atlantic) on a NoiseTrade sampler that included his stunning track Let Your Heart Hold Fast. I had to hear more. I ordered his self-titled album and was gobsmacked to discover that every song was equally as solid. Soaring choruses, building crescendos, mixed with a little electronic experimentation, Fort Atlantic was a smorgasboard of everything I love in music.
8. Josh Ritter - Bringing in the Darlings
I am cheating a bit by including this one, as it is an EP, but it's so lovely and it is tiding me over until Josh Ritter releases a full-length album in the new year. And every song includes the word "darling". Awww.
9. The Sumner Brothers - I'll Be There Tomorrow
This album came to me out of the blue, offered to me by the Sumner Brothers of Vancouver prior to their recent tour. Real-life brothers Bob and Brain Sumner tag team on lead vocals, Bob with a compellingly heartbreaking catch in his emotive voice, Brian with an authoritative baritone that hearkens back to the heyday of Johnny Cash. The Sumners serve up a beautifully soulful brand of alt-country that you need to hear.
10. Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky
They disbanded and then reunited, but these guys just don't quit. I Bet on Sky sounds exactly the way it should, and that's good enough to give it placement in my favourites list.
What were your favourite albums of the year?