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 Will Cleveland’s list.
1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
The Canadian post-rock icons returned with their first album in 10 years, and it proved that they are still the best. This album is huge, symphonic, and breathtakingly beautiful. I was lucky enough to experience them live in concert this year in Buffalo. Here is a video I shot at the show of the opening song.
2. Kowloon Walled City, Container Ships
The Bay area quartet delivers sludge-y bummer jams. The music is beautifully produced and it beautifully recorded. The bassist, Ian Miller, is one half of the Productive Outs baseball podcast/blog. It is one of my favorite spots on the internet, and his musical endeavors are every bit as awesome as his baseball ones.
3. The Evens, The Odds
This is the first new album from the Evens in six years. I love the vocal interplay between husband and wife duo of Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina. And the contrast between Farina’s inventive drumming and MacKaye’s baritone guitar is excellent. Here’s a sample.
4. El-P, Cancer 4 Cure
El-P is the master. His space-y, science fiction-influenced beats are both schizophrenic and beautiful. I’ve love El-P since his Company Flow and Def Jux days. His production on Cannibal Ox’s “The Cold Vein” still stands as my single favorite hip-hop album of all-time. As a rapper, he is both brutally honest and slightly abstract. In a year full of great rap releases, this one stands out the most to me.
5. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
The Odd Future crooner hit new heights for me this year. His “nostalgia, ULTRA” mixtape found its way into my top 10 last year, and he really surpasses it with his debut. I was lucky enough to see him live in Toronto over the summer. And in the live setting, his voice is untouchable. The performance was both intimate and grandiose. I love his unique vision of old school soul.
6. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
I’ve loved Miguel since his contributions to Blu and Exile’s “Below the Heavens.” That album is a masterpiece. And while Miguel’s debut album didn’t really resonate with me, his second one truly does. Like Frank Ocean, Miguel delivers R&B goodness with honesty and aplomb.
7. Joey Bada$$, 1999
At just 17 years old, Brooklyn’s Joey Bada$$ is insanely talented. His “1999” mixtape highlights his uniquely old school sensibility. Bada$$ and his entire Progressive Era family give rap music an exciting new voice. I am really stoked to see where he goes next.
8. Flying Lotus/Captain Murphy, Until the Quiet Comes/Duality
It’s really hard for me to separate the dual releases from Steven Ellison this year. FlyLo’s release is his most muted to date, but it sits along his two earlier albums in terms of innovation and beauty. And when Captain Murphy surfaced earlier this summer, blogs were ablaze, trying to figure out the rapper’s true identity. Speculation ran from Tyler, the Creator to a slew of others. But when Ellison revealed himself as Captain Murphy, it all made sense. The Murphy project is a new stoner-rap-like outlet. It features a number of great beats from FlyLo and contributions from Earl Sweatshirt. It’s one of my favorite releases of the year.
9. The xx, Coexist
Just watch The xx perform with the BBC Philharmonic live earlier this year and you can begin to understand my love of them. Their second album is a thing of beauty.
10. Clams Casino, Instrumentals Mixtape 2
Beats like “Palace” and “I’m God” show that this New Jersey hip-hop producer is the new master. His second self-released collection highlights his unique ability to mine interesting vocal samples and overlay them in his woozy, thumping productions.
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. . .
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. . .