As a supplement to this week’s “Favorite Music of 2012” podcast, we’ll be posting top 10 album lists from all four participants over the course of the day. Here’s Nate’s list.
Best Album from Late-2011, but It Still Counts ‘Cause I Say So
Tom Waits, Bad As Me
Like Tom Waits? Sputtering carnival barkers? Tom Waits? Tight three-minute songs, featuring a host of guest musicians? Tom Waits? Good! This one’s pretty self-explanatory (Tom Waits). And, as a bonus, Tom Waits’s first studio album in seven years comes with a Grammy nomination—which is something they still give out! In case you’re not already on the Tom Waits bandwagon, don’t lose hope. Have a visual taste of Tom Waits in all his Tom-Waits-y glory:
Album that Best Represents What Goes on in Chad’s Brainspace
Dan Deacon, America
Like some electronic music? But you don’t want to completely lose real instruments, either, right? Get a bit apprehensive whenever someone recommends another “electronic” album (whatever that means these days)? Looking for something that feels more composed than the rest? Good! Dan Deacon’s America is deeply layered and textured with electronic sound, while still requiring an orchestra to record. It can be charging and frantic, and it can be sweepingly grandiose. It’s America, man.
Best Album Whose Songs Would Have Been Hits on an 80s Movie Soundtrack
Oberhofer, Time Capsules II
Need to step back from the electronic brink sometimes? Miss hearing something that’s not only guitar-based, but sounds refreshingly analog? Like the greatest hits of the 80s, but don’t know what to do because listening to the Breakfast Club soundtrack is just too depressing to bear? Good! There’s practically a movement within independent music, now, to blanket your songs with an 80s throwback vibe—except it’s nearly all found in the world of synth/dance-y stuff. Oberhofer’s got the guitar-based hit singles you’ve been missing from the 80s soundtracks that never existed.
Favorite Album from an Icelandic Band
Of Monsters and Men, My Head Is an Animal
Best Album That Really Gets Going in the Middle
Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man
Hear a lot of albums this year? There are a lot of songs on those albums, huh? So many of them were just dull, right? And so many of the “nice” songs were, in the end, unremarkable? Good! This album seems like one of those, at first. Often slow and atmospheric, it may come off, initially, as a bit too agreeable . . . a bit to cool. Just before the middle, though, if it didn’t hit you earlier, the emotional resonance begins settling in, if you’ll let it.
Best Album from a Band with a Symbol for a Name
∆ (Alt-J), An Awesome Wave
Only just finished editing/producing the music podcast? It takes a long time, doesn’t it? Are you realizing you don’t have much time for these write-ups before it goes live? Good! Me, too. Then, you won’t mind if I just leave this video as the testament to this album. If you don’t like this song, frankly, there’s no chance you’ll like the album.
Best Album That I’m Surprised None of these Other Jerks Picked
Kishi Bashi, 151a
Like Animal Collective sometimes? Like Sigur Rós sometimes? Like Owen Pallet sometimes? Like multi-instrumentalists who release an album that reminds you, alternatingly, of the best of each of those groups, yet not derivative of any of them? Good! K Ishibashi’s first full-length gives you a lot. There are songs you’re going to favorite on first listen. On second and third listen, you’ll have some new favorites. On fourth and fifth listen . . .
Best Album with Exactly the Rock for Which I was Looking
Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror
Wanna rock? Good!
Best Album That I Initially Wrote Off As Redundant
Cat Power, Sun
Like Cat Power? Maybe only some of Cat Power, though? Honestly, maybe you’re a little tired of Cat Power these days? Good! Because this particular Cat Power album is filled with restraint—thus, the initial feeling that it was merely warmed over versions of songs she’d already written before. On closer inspection, though, it’s that same restraint which allows all the subtly wonderful melodies and intricate production details on this album to shine through spectacularly.
Best Album That I Don’t Like, but, on Which Is One of My Favorite Songs of the Year
Brendan Benson, What Kind of World
Like songs? Sometimes just a certain song? And sometimes the rest of the album doesn’t work for you? But that one song, right? It’s addictive and on your playlist for months? Good! This one’s for you. As long as you can let your guard down long enough to be a sucker for a semi-sincere power ballad, then you’re gonna love this.
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .