2012 | Ryan D's Top Albums of the Year


1. Jack White – Blunderbuss

[M]y friends and family are probably not surprised by my pick for the number one album of the year, nor should they be. I do not hide my love for all things Jack White and his first solo album Blunderbuss has been playing pretty much nonstop in my house, and in my head, since it was released back in April. Setting off on his own, freed from the expectations of his previous work,  Jack recorded an all out rock n’ roll album that highlights everything great from his past while charting a new path to his future…. as the king of music! A bit much? Sure… but this is my top album list and I can be a fanboy all I want.


2. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

[S]liding into a very close second place is the super-swoon album of the year, Fear Fun, by J. Tillman aka Father John Misty. If Mr. White had not released anything in 2012 Fear Fun would have been right at the top. Every song on this album is a lot of fun so there really isn’t anything to fear, except for perhaps never pressing stop and dancing yourself into the grave. It’s amazing what a talented artist can do when he steps out of his comfort zone, in Tillman’s case the drum set behind Fleet Foxes, and strides right into the frontman spotlight. The best way to experience the Misty genius is to catch him live. His stage swagger alone is enough to make any too-cool-for-school music snob drop his/her guard and get their dance freak on.


3. Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful

[S]outh Carolina husband and wife duo Micheal Trent and Cary Ann Hearst took the moniker Shovels & Rope from their debut album released back in 2008 under their own names. With a few years of touring as S&R behind them Trent and Hearst released the foot-stomping, hand-clapping goodness know as O’ Be Joyful the summer of 2012 and have been on the road pretty much non-stop, their popularity growing with each new show. Opening for Jack White at Agganis Arena in September, a few scant weeks after playing a sold-out show in a much smaller venue in town, speaks to the joy that O’ Be Joyful has bought to the music loving crowd in Boston. As with Father John Misty the best way to experience Shovels & Rope is live and you will get a chance next year when they take the stage at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on February 1st. If you find them playing a show in your town…be there!


4. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

[T]here are huge icons in the music world and then there is David Byrne, the icon that all others look up to when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty of songwriting and showmanship. The former Talking Heads frontman may not be known for being the easiest to get along with when it comes to being in a band, but you would not be able to tell with this collaboration with his musical, avant-garde counterpart Annie Clark. Love This Giant perfectly combines the unique style that each musician brings to the table and makes for one hell of an enjoyable album from start to finish. This isn’t just a Bryne project with St. Vincent as a sidekick, or vice versa, it is the sound of two extremely talented people working together in harmonious fashion.


5. The Lumineers – Self-titled

[S]ure everyone and their mom has caught wind of the Lumineers and you can now hear them mixed in with today’s throw away music on some throw away radio station, that doesn’t mean that their self-titled, debut album is any less amazing. I still remember the day Music Savage’s very own Kyle Mitchell gave me the album followed by the words “you need to hear this!” The Lumineers have come such a long way in such a short amount of time that it is kind of overwhelming, and I am certain the band feels the same way. The first part of 2012 finds the band playing to a room big enough for 100 or so, the last part of 2012 finds them opening for Dave Matthews at the Garden! They deserve all the accolades being piled upon them, let’s just hope they bypass the dreaded sophomore slump…. this writer thinks they will.


6. Of Monster & Men – My Head is an Animal

[I]celand has long been known as “the place where Bjork is from” in the music world, but with the release of My Head is an Animal Of Monsters & Men have taken over as the artist in that not very imaginative statement. Here we find yet another band that started off 2012 as relative unknowns, in the US anyway, and the end of 2012 we now find the 5-piece standing at the top of the indie-folk mountain. “Little Talks” is one of the catchiest songs of the year,  and just when you think there couldn’t be a better single they release “Mountain Sound” for the win. With the decline of modern radio as we know it I always find it refreshing that there are still music directors out there in pop-radio land willing to take a chance on debut albums from obscure artists. Thanks to them Of Monsters & Men are no longer the obscure band from the obscure part of the world, they are a much loved band from Iceland.


7. Darlingside – Pilot Machines

[T]here are times when a band comes along and records an album that makes you sing the praises of your town, and Cambridge’s very own Darlingside have done just that with the release of their debut album Pilot Machines. Moving here from Austin, otherwise known as the music capital of the world, I thought I had left behind the one place I had found where good local music was as close as the nearest trendy dive bar. Thankfully I was wrong, and thankfully I can share with the Music Savage readers outside of Boston that there is more to the area than the amazing musical past that brought us the Pixies, Buffalo Tom, and Galaxie 500 just to name a few. Pilot Machines is a collection of songs that gets better with each listen and is the kind of album that puts talented bands like Darlingside on the map. Go Cambridge!


8. Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats

[P]laying the piano is tough. Making a stellar career out of it is tougher. Unless you happen to be Regina Spektor and have a number of great, piano-driven albums to your name, as well as a pretty stellar career. What We Saw from the Cheap Seats is a highlight in the Regina Spektor library of music and finds our favorite Russian songstress pushing herself to explore different types of sound while staying true to her own unique style. Cutting her chops on the mean streets of New York City has helped create a buzz that has been going strong since 1999, with no signs of stopping any time soon. Each release is more personal and introspective than the last and What We Saw from the Cheap Seats sounds like an artist in command of her genre.


9. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

[D]ancing around to Hot Chip albums is very easy and this June the British electro-rock band released In Our Heads, their most dance-tastic album to date. With a clear understanding of how to deftly combine rock with disco and punk, Hot Chip have been darlings of the English music scene going back to 2004 and broke ground in the States with a Grammy nomination in 2009 for “Ready for the Floor,” the second single from their breakthrough US album Made in the Dark. For some reason In Our Heads was left of the 2013 nominations but that doesn’t make it any less of an amazing album. It did reach the top spot on the US Dance/Electronic charts which means that Americans still know a good dance album when they hear it. Give it a spin and make In Our Heads part of your regular running-man rotation. Don’t act like you don’t have one!


10. Cat Power – Sun

[C]han Marshall has had quite a career and her music has been as emotional a roller coaster as you would expect from someone not comfortable with the praise that her talent as a songwriter has garnered her throughout the years. This past June Chan released her 9th Cat Power album, Sun, and then removed herself from that spotlight for health and financial reasons. It is a sad state of affairs that someone with the amazing track record of Cat Power can’t even afford health insurance despite the amount of work she has put into her art, but that is perhaps a topic for another post. For now we have the beautiful, and highly acclaimed, Sun which is Cat Power’s strongest record to date. I can’t think of any other musician that wears her emotions so clearly on her sleeve and belts out such raw feeling on each song time and time again.