35. The Walkmen – Heaven – The Walkmen have consistently dropped a fine record every two years, in 2010 it was Lisbon, and in 2012 it is Heaven. Their sound on Heaven has grown up as the messy rockers too have grown up into men, they’ve reinvented their sound rounded the edges a bit, and made great music. “Dad rock,” might be the term some are using to describe this record, but ultimately this record just weighs heavier on the responsibility of getting older, its a great concept for anyone who’s been listening to this band for the last 12 years. Listen: The Walkmen – Heaven | Buy: Heaven
34. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp – Van Etten continues her strong tradition of elegantly minimal folk music interlaced with deep emotions on Tramp. This record finds a way, to evolve her sound to be all that more epic, soaring vocals, building choruses, it feels as though a triumph of self-discovery, which is ever so on display on standout “All I Can.” This is Van Etten maybe at her best, but I guess we won’t know until the next record.
Listen: Sharon Van Etten – Serpents | Buy: Tramp
33. Maps & Atlases – Beware and Be Grateful – Chicago based Math rockers follow up to their 2010 Perch Patchwork is a joy to listen to, at times on Perch Patchwork you might have thought the band was noodling too much, or they were too techincally savvy, often outthinking the casual listener with some of their sound. But Beware and Be Grateful is a great blend, reducing rather than ultimately removing, the sound now still has that sophistication but the songs are approachable, wonderfully melodious, and fits well into a post rock meets folk music. It’s a diverse album that’s both nerdy and immediately listenable. Listen: Maps & Atlases – Fever | Buy: Beware And Be Grateful
32. Bowerbirds – The Clearing – It’s clear the Bowerbirds’ new record was a shift for the band, as the band’s pillars Moore & Tacular got back together in the years that separate The Clearing from Upper Air, their sound shifted slightly, a sparse record focused mainly on Moore’s songwriting and vocals, they create a wide, expansive and lush sound using strings, pianos, and percussions that are eclectic as they are beautiful.
Listen: Bowerbirds – Tuck the Darkness In | Buy: The Clearing
31. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light – Using Captain Beefheart and Iggy Pop as musical guide and influence on Sweet Heart Sweet Light, Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized made one of the best coming of age records (there seems to be a lot of them this year) and after near-death experiences Pierce’s Sweet Heart hits on all cylinders, stitching together woozy chemical induced rock numbers and the faith one can develop from living through traumatic events. Give a listen to britpop “Hey Jane,” the opening track that rings in at 9 minutes or so, and asks the question “Hey Jane, are you gonna die?” Listen: Spiritualized – Hey Jane | Buy: Sweet Heart Sweet Light