Maybe I shouldn’t feel heat from a self-imposed deadline for a post that a handful of people will read, but I will kick myself later if I don’t document my favorite jams of the year. With an hour left in 2012, I’m getting this list of 2012 music out the door in the nick of time. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of annual best-of lists, this one might be the last to be filed. And, if you hadn’t already figured out my low-key New Year’s celebration, it mostly involves blogging at home.

Last year I wrote about a sea change to the way I procure and listen to music. I’m sold on Spotify from the perspective of the consumer; I can’t deny that it’s more or less a music-lover’s Utopia. As for artists, I understand that the tiny-fraction-of-a-penny-per-stream model is not sustainable. The way I reconcile these interests as a listener is to support artists in other ways, which includes paying for downloads, live shows, and a little merch. I also do my best to talk up the recordings I like the best to friends and family throughout the year.

This year I added two Sonos Play 5 speakers to my home audio setup. Sonos is compatible with Spotify, which means I can play anything from the Spotify catalog in the kitchen and living room (a stereo effect in our house) or different songs in each room, all from the controller app on my phone. Moving the music to my bedroom is as easy as unplugging a speaker and carrying it upstairs.

2012 was also the first year I attended the Hopscotch festival in its entirety, as much as I could do so without teleporting from venue/band to venue/band in downtown Raleigh. With my brother and cousin in tow, we saw 14 bands in three nights. Katie went along with us the final night of the festival. I also took Jackie to a day party on Martin Street. The experience was magical; I plan to soak it in for the same full festival weekend in the future just as I did this year. Hopscotch 2012 deserves its own post (which won’t happen), but the highlights for me were somewhat surprising: The Future Kings of Nowhere, Thee Oh Sees, Hiss Golden Messenger, Zola Jesus, and Danny Brown. I should note that my cousin Matt led the moshing at the TOS show (I’m a tough guy), and I cried a little during the ZJ show (with a sensitive side). Here’s some Danny Brown and Matthew E. White with a full ensemble:

Danny Brown at CAM Raleigh during Hopscotch 2012

Danny Brown at CAM Raleigh during Hopscotch 2012

Matthew E. White and friends at Fletcher Opera Hall

Matthew E. White and friends at Fletcher Opera Hall

Last but perhaps most importantly, McLain had his first spontaneous sing-along to something other than kids music. Fittingly (because they share the same initials), it was the My Morning Jacket song Wordless Chorus. I love how that, perhaps coincidentally, the song kind of matches his personality, just as Jackie’s personality matches her first sing-along to Daddy’s jams — Grizzly Bear’s While You Wait for the Others. I didn’t see a page in their baby bo0ks to document this specific “first”, so I’m putting it here for posterity.

Below are jams that made me happy this year.


A few quick notes about my experience with new albums in 2012:

  • There are no jazz albums included in the following list, but a few of the ones I got to know this year are flat-out gorgeous. By a Little Light by Matt Ulery and friends is an outstanding record, and at night, if I’m lucky, I hear this song in my dreams:

Another jazz release that  I really liked was  Gregory Porter’s record from earlier in 2012…especially this song:  Gregory Porter – Be Good (Lion’s Song).

  • For me, 2012 was an better-than-average year for hip-hop. I’d guess that you could classify one-third of what I listened to this year as rap. Although I included only three rap albums in my top 20, I’d probably include Captain Murphy, Nas, Roc Marciano, Odd Future, and El-P if I stretched it out to my top 30.
  • Let’s suppose that you had an internet connection and a love of hip-hop and EDM, but no money to spend on music. If you were smart, you’d wait with bated breath for every mix that Ryan Hemsworth shares with the world. I listened to this one in particular about a hundred times throughout November.

These are my 20 favorites of the past year, classified in four tiers. Underneath those are my favorite EPs of the year.

Tier One

Tame Impala – Lonerism
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D. city
Grizzly Bear – Shields

Tier Two

Royal Headache – Royal Headache
John Talabot – Fin
Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
Daphni – Jiaolong
The Men – Open Your Heart

Tier Three

Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Dr. John – Locked Down
Lower Dens – Nootropics
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Tier Four

Purity Ring – Shrines
Heaven – The Walkmen
Spider Bags – Shake My Head
Grimes – Visions
Baroness – Yellow & Green

Best EPs

Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
Burial – Kindred
Todd Terje – Its The Arps
AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It


My 75 favorite songs of 2012 are listed below, and here’s the link to the Spotify playlist. Or, you can use the player below.

  1. Pyramids – Frank Ocean
  2. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings – Father John Misty
  3. Climax – Usher
  4. Brains – Lower Dens
  5. Stay Useless – Could Nothings
  6. Inspector Norse – Todd Terje
  7. Between Friends – Captain Murphy feat. Earl Sweatshirt
  8. November Skies – Tomas Barfod feat. Nina Kinert
  9. Yet Again – Grizzly Bear
  10. There He Go – Schoolboy Q
  11. Igoyh – Kwes.
  12. Get Free – Major Lazer
  13. Hurting (Tensnake Remix) – Friendly Fires
  14. Gun Has No Trigger – Dirty Projectors
  15. Heaven – The Walkmen
  16. Oblivion – Grimes
  17. Nancy From Now On – Father John Misty
  18. Know Me – Frankie Rose
  19. Oldie – Odd Future
  20. A Simple Answer – Grizzly Bear
  21. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala
  22. & It Was U – How To Dress Well
  23. I Belong In Your Arms – Chairlift
  24. Werewolf – Fiona Apple
  25. Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar
  26. Shape I Was In – Spider Bags
  27. Hole in the Ocean Floor – Andrew Bird
  28. Lay Your Cards Out – POLICA, Mike Noyce
  29. Really In Love – Royal Headache
  30. Ivory Coast – Pure Bathing Culture
  31. I’ve Seen Footage – Death Grips
  32. Default – Django Django
  33. This Heat I Hold – Electric Guest
  34. Lupine Dominus – Thee Oh Sees
  35. One Second of Love – Nite Jewel
  36. Back From the Grave – Chromatics
  37. Brodermordet – War
  38. Lost – Frank Ocean
  39. Monoliths – Lotus Plaza
  40. Why Won’t They Talk to Me? – Tame Impala
  41. The Reflection Of You – Bear In Heaven
  42. Open Your Heart – The Men
  43. You Know You Like It – AlunaGeorge
  44. Hood – Perfume Genius
  45. Give Out – Sharon Van Etten
  46. Cos-Ber-Zam Ne Noya – Daphni
  47. Unless You Speak From Your Heart – Porcelain Raft
  48. All Of Me – Tanlines
  49. Let Me Be Him – Hot Chip
  50. Lord Knows – Dum Dum Girls
  51. Tiffany Lou – Daughn Gibson
  52. Breezeblocks – alt-J
  53. Ashtray Wasp – Burial
  54. Untitled – Killer Mike feat. Scar
  55. Adorn – Miguel
  56. Betty Wang – Hospitality
  57. Getaway – Dr. John
  58. Down The Lane – Royal Headache
  59. Baby – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  60. Locked – Four Tet
  61. Grown Up – Danny Brown
  62. Black Treacle – Arctic Monkeys
  63. Losing You – Solange
  64. I Bought My Eyes – Ty Segall Band
  65. 76 – Roc Marciano
  66. Simple Song – The Shins
  67. Duquesa – Las Malas Amistades
  68. Only You – Taken By Trees
  69. The Full Retard – El-P
  70. Sinful Nature – Bear In Heaven
  71. The House That Heaven Built – Japandroids
  72. Slow Down – Poolside
  73. Compton – Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre
  74. Candy – The Men
  75. March to the Sea – Baroness