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.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
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. . .