Nate’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

Intro by Fense: Each year I look forward to posting Nate’s top album picks. First, he uses phrases like “silly-good.” But it’s mostly because he always has a different perspective, sometimes finding obscure items to drop in or checking out albums I wanted to hear but didn’t have a change to for some reason or another, other times dropping in albums from genres I typically ignore (um… hip hop). This year he went one step further and gave us his top 15 local songs as well. (BONUS!!!) Read on and let us know your favorite pick of 2012!

Nate, Senior Traffic Coordinator for KEXP, gave us permission to re-post the following list. Originally, the post was published here. And don’t forget to tune in to KEXP Sundays from 2:00 to 6:00 AM PST for Nate’s show!

Above photo copyright John Deininger.

The rest of this post is by Nate

Nate’s Top 15 Local Songs of 2012

I’ve always been an ALBUMs kinda guy, but over the last couple/few years I’ve been succumbing to the pop-cultural reality that SONGs rule the musical landscape these days. It proved too difficult to winnow down my favorite songs of the year, so I went local… and even then it was tough to get to 10, so here are my 15 Favorite Local Songs of 2012 (no more than one song per artist, otherwise Erik Blood and Don’t Talk To The Cops! each might have had more than one song on the list):

15. “Moon6” by Fungal Abyss from Ball Of Wax Volume 27
14. “Continuous Thunder” by Japandroids from Celebration Rock
13. “A Summer At Sea” by Oh Osiris from Homegrown
12. “With Age Wisdom” by Levi Fuller from Ball Of Wax Volume 27
11. “Repeat” by wimps from demo
10. “Tattoo My Name” by Don’t Talk to the Cops! from Let’s Quit
9. “You’re Right” by Unnatural Helpers from Land Grab
8. “Rumpshaker” by Sera Cahoone from Deer Creek Canyon
7. “The Comet Stapled Sip” by Sip’s Odyssey from 1 Outta 6 Ain’t Bad (When I Still Loved You)
6. “QueenS” by THEESatisfaction from awE naturalE
5. “Get With It” by SPURM from SPURM [3]
4. “Thinking Thieves” by Absolute Monarchs from 1
3. “Amputee” by Erik Blood from Touch Screens
2. “The Entertainer” by The Intelligence from Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me
1. “WAQ” by Lozen from Para Vida

And now on to my top 10 ALBUMs of 2012:

10. The Seer by Swans (Young God)

Swans: The SeerThe definition of “art” I gravitate toward involves reactions, making the audience feel something. With The Seer, New York City’s Swans created a sprawling double-disc of progressive music as art, spanning myriad genres and styles, some more accessible than the rest. And based on a very small sample size, it has been the most polarizing record I’ve experienced in quite a long time; to wit, a few weeks ago I played the title track, a 32:16 (yes, 32 minutes 16 seconds) magnum opus in its own right. One of the two emails I received regarding this song came about 20 minutes in, and the subject was basically “TURN THIS SONG OFF RIGHT NOW”. I’m not sure if the other emailer was ‘for’ or ‘against’ the song, but at about 28 minutes in she simply asked something like “How much more of this is there??” which doesn’t sound particularly positive, but she also didn’t change the station, and she clearly felt something…those might even be frightened question marks. So one person hated it, one might have been scared of it, and I love it, and am also kind of scared of it; the album cover sets the tone for question marks and fear. “Tour de force” and “masterpiece” are clichés always, but not exaggerations here.

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9. awE naturalE by THEESatisfaction (Sub Pop)

Thee Satisfaction: Awe Naturale(I don’t want to be that guy, but) I’ve been wondering “Why isn’t THEESatisfaction on a record label yet??” since June 5, 2010. One of Seattle’s best labels finally pulled the trigger on one of Seattle’s best groups. They make excellent soul-fi space-hop.

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8. Touch Screens by Erik Blood (self-released)

Erik Blood: Touch Screens2012 was a busy year for Seattle’s Blood – he worked on recordings from The Soft Hills, Crypts, Stephanie, Champagne Champagne, and #9 above – but he saved the best for himself. This concept album happens to be about pornography, and it spawned two of my favorite songs of the year.

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7. Zammuto by Zammuto (Temporary Residence)

Zammuto ZammutoThis first solo album from Nick Zammuto, formerly of The Books, shines a light on the main mind behind his old band’s sound: at times, Zammuto sounds just like a new The Books album, complete with processed vocals and chopped-up cassette samples. The main difference? This rocks harder and has more soul, as the group is expanded and fleshed out with a more traditional rock band instrumentation, including silly-good drummer Sean Dixon.

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6. Cobra Juicy by Black Moth Super Rainbow (Rad Cult)

Black Moth Super Rainbow: Cobra JuicyKickstarter helped Pittsburgh’s finest psychedelic dream pop band fund their latest album of vaguely-menacing vocoder sounds and catchy tunes for $125,000+, almost triple what they asked to make it happen. Based on 2009’s Eating Us, which includes a couple of my favorite songs over the last several years, I chipped in $50, which might top my Best Value of 2012 list, if that was a thing.

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5. Clockwork Angels by Rush (Roadrunner Records)

Rush: Clockwork AngelsThe Canadian power trio’s 19th studio album is their best music in 16, or maybe even 30, years. While the sonic palette is basically the same as their last two albums, these songs are simply much better. “The Garden” boasts my favorite Alex Lifeson guitar solo I can think of – it’s not a technical or speedy shred-fest, it’s simply a bunch of well-placed notes that serve the song perfectly.

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4. Dusty Rainbow From The Dark by Wax Tailor (Le Plan)

Wax Tailor: Dusty Rainbow From The DarkAs mentioned above, I tend to dig concept albums. Not all concept albums, but the fact an album has a unifying theme tends to coax points from me rather than demerits. Dusty Rainbow From The Dark is the most explicit concept album listed here – between songs, a voiceover narrates a multifaceted story of imagination, creativity, and vinyl. While that lack of subtlety might ruin projects from lesser creators, here it’s required, as French producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoût seamlessly scores the melancholic story like a mini-radio drama of olden days. “Heart Stop”, featuring Jennifer Charles (of Elysian Fields and Lovage) is my favorite song of 2012, a year bulging with great tunes.

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3. De Vermis Mysteriis by High On Fire (E1 Music)

High On Fire De Vermix MysteriisFor Matt Pike and company’s latest, I’ll start at the beginning – the drummer in me says “This is the best beginning to an album ever.” And actually, the rest of the album also has epic-display-of-stamina pummeling action from the rhythm section, and the obligatory almost-flying-off-the-rails guitar solos. One rank higher in 2012 than HOF placed in 2010. Also, turns out it’s kind of a concept album (I’m a sucker for concept albums; see #4, #5, #8, etc.) about Jesus Christ’s dead time-traveling twin baby brother → stoner metal achieved!

Warning: Consider the following video NSFW just to be safe

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2. Para Vida by Lozen (Silent Queef Records)

Lozen Para VidaOften with these top 10 lists the most difficult decision is the difference between numbers 10 and 11. Not so in 2012 – the race for #1 and #2 was so tight, the tie-breaker had to simply be the album I actually listened to more. (Note: While I love categorizing and rating stuff generally, ranking artistic endeavors is mostly unfortunate.) But, hot damn, this EP is so full of raw energy and riffage it’s easy to overlook the fact this Tacoma outfit is a mere duo: Hozoji Matheson-Margullis plays guitars here, and Justine Maria Valdez pounds the drums with abandon, especially during the sprawling tribal “Dig Deep”. It’s not all loud rock all the time, though – various dynamics are used effectively, most notably during the Spanish guitar-drenched “ballad” “Menos Mal”. Both Matheson-Margullis and Valdez sing, trading verses and choruses almost as one voice, or as their entire Facebook biography indicates: “siamese twins split at birth”.

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1. I Love You, It’s Cool by Bear In Heaven (Hometapes/Dead Oceans)

Bear In Heaven: I Love You, It's CoolThis psych-tinted synthpop rock album is the one I played the most this year, including at work, at home, and in the car…great driving music, especially during high-speed window-down conditions. Super-catchy while also being deceptively rhythmically tricky at times.

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