Please let me know if you have any comments, recommendations or your own top 10 list. Top 10 lists are such a great way to close out one great year of music and head into another one. I'm hoping 2013 proves as fruitful as 2012.
10. Allo Darlin' - "Europe"
Definitely one of my surprises of the year since I hadn't heard a note from this UK band prior to this album. They remind me a lot of Camera Obscura. They write great pop songs; just replace Tracyanne Campbell with lead singer Elizabeth Morris and stir.
9. Aimee Mann - "Charmer"
I've always been a big Aimee Mann fan and this album certainly did nothing to change that. Probably my favorite of hers since her classic "Bachelor #2."
8. The Avett Brothers - "Carpenter"
I think my hopes were too high for this one after how much I loved "I and Love and You." But there are definitely some great songs on the album including the first two, "The Once and Future Carpenter" and "Live and Die."
7. The Lumineers - "The Lumineers"
I do love the indie-folk or roots revival or whatever the new term is called. And this debut from Denver-based the Lumineers fits the bill quite nicely. Beautifully crafted songs with earnest vocals.
6. Father John Misty - "Fear Fun"
J. Tillman, former drummer in Fleet Foxes and Saxon Shore, released this excellent album. Part country, part folk with Beatles-esque melodies, there were times this year when I couldn't stop listening to this album.
5. Kathleen Edwards - "Voyageur"
Had you asked me last January what would be my pick for the best album of 2012, I would have unequivocally answered Voyageur. The fact that it comes in at #5 is more a testament to the quality of the music that followed it in 2012 rather than for any flaws of the album. Kathleen Edwards is one of the most underrated singer-songwriters working today.
4. The District Attorneys - "Slowburner"
The DAs are an Atlanta-based band that has been toiling in obscurity in the South for several years. Their second album was released in 2012 on the This is American Music label. The songs pleasantly amble along with great melodies and harmonies. Check out "California Fire," "The End" and "Boomtown."
3. Gold Motel - "Gold Motel"
I adore the New Pornographers and with no new NPs album released in 2012, Gold Motel proved the perfect elixir for my ears. Excellent pop songs with punchy chords, terrific melodies and great vocals. Their show at the Firebird cemented my love for these songs. Listen to "Cold Shoulders" to hear one of my favorite songs of the year.
2. Field Report - "Field Report"
I heard the leadoff single "Fergus Falls" on a blog early in the year and fell in love with it. I couldn't wait for the release of the entire album and I was certainly not disappointed. Field Report is led by Christopher Porterfield, a musician from Minnesota who was in a Wisconsin band called DeYarmond Edison in the early 2000s when the band relocated to North Carolina. He subsequently left the band, and the remaining members -- Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and members of Megafaun -- each went their own ways to much success. Back to Field Report: Christopher Porterfield (Field Report is an anagram of his last name) continued writing songs and finally started recording his album in 2011, releasing it early in 2012. The beautiful but sparse arrangements highlight the songs perfectly. And the detail and specificity of the lyrics seem to fit each song to the letter. For example, in "Fergus Falls" lyrics like "I was concealing his kid under a crew neck state school sweatshirt" transport me exactly to that place. I can't wait to hear the follow-up.
1. Nada Surf - "The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy"
Nada Surf won the Bittersweet Melody triple crown in 2012 (no offense Miguel Cabrera). This album, chock full of melodic, crunchy songs is easily my favorite album of the year. Nada Surf break no new ground with the album, but the band's songs just shine with sunny melodies that you can't get out of your head (or maybe that's just me). Add to that the fact that "When I Was Young" wins my prize for Song of the Year; it's a bittersweet tune about the disconnect between viewing the world as a child and an adult. Finally, their show at the Old Rock House in early summer was my favorite show of the year. Based on the energy of their live show, you'd never guess these forty-somethings have been around since the early '90s when they burst onto the scene with "Popular." Here's hoping they continue creating terrific albums well into the future.