Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012:

Pop and Rock, Part Two

> Dec 17 2012

Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: - Pop and Rock, Part Two
By Exclaim! StaffWe left you hanging on Friday (December 14) with 30 through 16 on the Pop and Rock list. Now, we're unveiling the rest of our top 30, from 15 all the way to our number one album. Let the arguing begin!

Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: Pop and Rock, Part Two:

15. How to Dress Well
Total Loss

Is How to Dress Well indie rock or R&B? Does it even matter? In a year where the lines between the two genres became more blurred than ever, Tom Krell, the falsetto-voiced brainchild behind the project, sidestepped the debate entirely and created the year's most deeply personal album with Total Loss. Musicians regularly use their craft to explore inner turmoil, but rarely does the listener get the complete journey offered on Krell's sophomore effort. From the album's opening line, "You were there for me when I was in trouble," repeated again on "Struggle," to acknowledge the figurative loss of his sick mother and actual loss of a friend, Krell lays bare his greatest fears and insecurities. Set to minimalist piano, pounding drums and washes of sound, Total Loss takes the sonic template he established on his debut and creates a dynamic and tightly wound narrative, culminating with the ode to the living, "Set It Right." That he managed to pen a bona-fide pop jam with "& It Was U" in the process is just icing on the cake.
Ian Gormely

14. David Byrne & St. Vincent
Love This Giant

If you aren't a fan of a horn section, then David Byrne and Annie "St. Vincent" Clark's collaborative album might have left you cold. Having been asked to create an evening of new music for a Housing Works charity event, Clark brought the idea of using a brass band rather than a traditional rock band to the table. Within these constraints the pair set about crafting a set of songs that, through emails, occasional meetings and spare studio time over two years became Love This Giant. The challenge was clearly one that both partners in the project thrived on, each bringing out the best in the other: Clark's fine guitar work is allowed to shine, while Byrne's delivery veers from delicate croon to paranoid mania. From low-end bass drones to churning raw funk, swaggering horn battles between the Dap Kings and Antibalas to the delicate closing passage of "Outside Space and Time," Byrne and Clark explore the full capabilities of their chosen set-up. The role of long-time St Vincent collaborator John Congleton cannot be underestimated either — his beats, buzzes and electronic hits form a vital part of the record, provided for Byrne and Clark to pick apart and reconstruct as necessary. Most importantly, Love This Giant isn't simply some dry experiment, but a record with the power to make you move, be it head-nodding, feet-shuffling or whatever you call the dance move they were doing in the video to lead track "Who." Quite where they go from here is another question, but we can only hope that this isn't a one-off collaboration.
Ro Cemm

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Thanx for another lackluster year end list. You guys are starting to turn into Pitchfork. Unreliable, pretentious and flavour of the week were never attributes I would associate with Exclaim. But 2012 has proven my monthly excitement for your issue was energy wasted. Sigh.
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BIG time Steven! Worst list ever! These albums will be forgotten about in 2 years.
Just because Mumford & Sons are popular doesn't make them any less relevant. The Gaslight Anthem and Alabama Shakes had huge years and there albums will stand the test of time at least.
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Dirty Projectors SUCK!
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Just wanted to echo the sentiments of the other commenters and thank you guys for taking the time to put together a thoughtful array of year-end coverage with dim prospects of gratitude or appreciation from your readership. While many of the choices on the above list don't quite chime with my own, I understand that listeners possess varying frames of reference, which dramatically color what we hear when we hear certain pieces of music. And hey, you guys probably listened to a hell-load more albums than I did, right? Ha ha ha. Anyway, keep up the good work guys, and here’s hoping next year’s list is comprised entirely of albums I have heard and approved of, because then the world would be a really interesting place... kidding! xoxoxoxo
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Alabama Shakes got some love on our best folk/country albums list, as well as in our coverage of the year in folk/blues, etc. You can read that here: exclaim.ca
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The two new records by the Swans and Godspeed were hardly "flavour of the week" or "pretentious" by any way, shape or means. While I don't agree with all of the choices on the list (who would want to?) some of them do have merit - simply saying "Dirty Projectors SUCK!" gets us nowhere.
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what do you guy's expect? music journalism is a joke now, NOW, The Grid, Exclaim, CULT (MTL) are full of hipster pretentious journalist who start bands, so they can write about themselves and their own bands. This list is pretty bad, of course Grimes is number 1, of course Dirty Projects are on this list. Until music journalist start doing their jobs, everyone should relax and accept that the art of music journalism is in the shit.
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Erik: I write for Exclaim! I'm not in a band, nor am I a "hipster." Your definition of music journalists leaves me out in the cold. Please come up with another sweeping generalization that includes everyone who contributes to Exclaim!
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Good list.
Have any of these commenters even seen a "best of" list before ? "Pretentious"? Hahaha. I like Exclaim because they are consistently one of the more eclectic music mags out there and their coverage has a good balance for all tastes. Of course no one will agree with every choice on any given list, but that's the beauty of having a variety of music outlets to choose from. If you need a list with your precious Mumford & Sons on it, head to Rolling Stone, bros. Or make your own.
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Erik -- None of the bands on this list write for Exclaim, or write at all.
Ian â€" Why are you upset that a band you're already familiar with isn't on this list? Why not take the opportunity to discover something new?
Steven â€" These "flavours of the week" are, with the exception of one or two artists, all represented by their second album or later.

The point of music criticism is to incite discussion. If the best you can come up with is that we're hipsters that suck, maybe you should evaluate the extent to which you're contributing to an interesting and meaningful discussion. To those giving insightful and meaningful feedback â€" thank you for being a breath of fresh air.
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Those weird symbols were m dashes. - - -
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As an Exclaim writer, here's the Top 10 Pop/Rock albums I submitted:
1. Pepe Deluxé - Queen of the Wave [Asthmatic Kitty]
2. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do [Epic]
3. Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose [Mute]
4. Chelsea Wolfe - Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs [Sargent House]
5. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant [4AD]
6. The Luyas - Animator [Paper Bag/Dead Oceans]
7. Delicate Steve - Positive Force [Luaka Bop]
8. Deerhoof - Breakup Song [Polyvinyl]
9. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse [In The Red]
10. Patrick Watson - Adventures In Your Own Backyard [Domino]

As you can tell, most of them didn't make the list. Granted, the Exclaim list not all that surprising, but such is the nature of group lists: consensus vs. individuality. I hated Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, and How To Dress Well, and found Dirty Projectors disappointing, but I liked Grimes, GY!BE, Tame Impala, and several others I didn't vote for, so it seems pretty even to me, even if some of my faves didn't make this list (or any list). Also, I don't play in a band.

"Don't hate the media; become the media." - Jello Biafra
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Now that I'm in my 40s, I consider myself too old to shive a git anymore about whether the music I happen to like is "mainstream" or "hipster" or "pretentious" or whatever other adjective people will use to dismiss the music they don't personally care for. I like the stuff I like for all kinds of reasons, and have better things to do with my time and energy than to whine about the fact that somebody else might like something different.

And at any rate, I not only expect a music magazine to come up with a year-end list that doesn't precisely replicate my own personal tastes, I actually *depend* on it as a tool to help me identify stuff I might have missed over the course of the year. And if I try a new album from the list and don't like it, I just chalk it up to "different people have different tastes" and move on, instead of complaining about how insert accusatory adjective here the magazine is for having liked it more than I did.
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there's not much east coast in this list considering 2012 was an insane year for east coast rock/pop music.
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As someone who listens to way more electronic music than "rock/pop" I thought this list was pretty damn good. Excited to check out the records I haven't heard on here!
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and to those of you complaining about Mumford and Sons: s3-ec.buzzfed.com
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@philipjamesdevr also released one of the year's (or at least Canada's) best electronic albums.
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Why get pissed at the magazine for its opinion. Its not like we are forced to go out and buy these albums. Personally I would have included Dinosaur Jr I bet on Sky, but Im not going to call exclaim! writers names for not sharing my exact feelings. What I love about exclaim! is that it continues to provide insight to music beyond the radio. It is one of if not the best music mag (online and print) that you can get your hands on and if given the chance I would consider it an honor to contribute for them.
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I won't slam you for the subjective views you're entitled to, that strikes me as silly. I'm just disappointed by how the year end reviews get pruned down each year. Ideally I'd love to see each individual reviewer's top 10 album list with insightful commentary for each selection. As a fan of many musical genres and as one who is excited and fascinated by music, I really enjoy the analysis and explanation of what makes an album great in someone's opinion. Sometimes my eyes are opened to something I overlooked, sometimes my sentiments are echoed, and sometimes I enjoy disagreeing with a review.

I won't argue about how this could be undertaken in the publication, but certainly the space is limitless on the website. I'm just annoyed because so much of the media has concerned itself with pandering to the perceived attention deficits of the masses. I want depth and substance and well articulated reviews.

Dis Pitchfork all you want, especially for their douchie rating system (they deduct or award tenths of a point to albums inexplicably). However, their reviews are well written, detailed, knowledgeable, and it's clear why a given album is well or poorly received. Also, who even cares if they're hipsters, there are some great albums and artists that gain exposure from their site-- isn't that what it's about?
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