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.
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
Like any good potboiler worth its salt, Fuminori Nakamura’s The Gun wastes no time setting up its premise: “Last night, I found a gun. Or you could say I stole it, I’m not really sure. I’ve never seen something so. . .