Fiona Apple made like D.B. Cooper over recent years. Who knew what happened to the diminutive diva? But she returned after a seven-year hiatus with ‘Idler Wheel,’ which tops a terrific 2012, which is filled with an abundance of deep, catchy and innovative songs.
1.Fiona Apple ‘Idler Wheel’ (Epic)
It took a few spins to get Apple’s rich, rewarding ‘Idler Wheel.’ There are no singles. There aren’t songs that jump out at you immediately, which makes for a contrast from her first three albums. But the spare, compelling ‘Idler Wheel’ may be Apple’s best, which is an extraordinary endorsement, considering where her prior work stands. It’s Apple’s exquisite set of pipes, adventurous piano playing, a crack band and a collection of well-written songs, which makes this album so special.
2.Japandroids “Celebration Rock’ (Polyvinyl)
The title of the Vancouver based duo is apt. The songs are fist-waving, swaggering pure, unadulterated rock songs cut from the Gaslight Anthem cloth but only better.
Brian King and David Prowse are exceptional at coming up with rousing, urgent, guitar-driven anthems. ‘The House That Heaven Built’ is a visceral punch to the gut that you can play ad nauseum without any burn factor.
3. Best Coast ‘The Only Place’ (Mexican Summer)
Perhaps it’s due to producer Jon Brion’s suggestions since Best Coast upped their game dramatically. The California based band offers jangly, sunny pop-rock tunes and pretty, dreamy ballads. ‘The Only Place,’ the duo’s ode to its home state, is the single of the year.
4. Polyphonic Spree ‘Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays, Vol. 1’ (Kirtland Records)
It’s a natural fit for the bright and perky Polyphonic Spree to record a holiday album but it’s a rarity for such a project to make a top ten list but the wonderfully psychedelic and quirky album is that stunning. Check out the choral-pop act’s trippy version of ‘Silver Bells.’ The songs are a wonderful alternative to the stale old Christmas songs heard every year. P-Spree brings great joy to re-arranged versions of classics and add Tim DeLaughter’s ‘A Working Elf’s Theme’ to the list of unforgettable Christmas cuts. Best holiday album in a generation.
5. Passion Pit ‘Gossamer’ (Columbia)
Michael Angelakos’ sugary sweet pop is difficult to pass up. The electronic dance-pop is stylish but ambitious. The album is filled with singles.
6. The Shins ‘Port of Morrow’ (Columbia)
It’s the most eclectic bunch of Shins songs ever put on one record. James Mercer is one of the finest writers in rock. ‘Simple Song’ is one of the best cuts of the year and the other nine tunes on the album are nearly as strong. Mercer has been very consistent since the release of 2001’s ‘Oh, Inverted World.’
7. Dinosaur Jr. ‘I Bet On Sky’ (Play It Again Sam)
More than 20 years after its peak, Dinosaur Jr., surprisingly delivers a gem whether it’s rocking hard or dialing it down with a piano-driven tune. The white-haired J. Mascis and co-conspirator Lou Barlow still have it.
8. Cornership ‘Urban Turban: The Singhles Club’ (Ample Play)
No act makes music like Cornershop. The latest album is a delight thanks to trippy, quirky and innovative tracks. Only the leadoff cut ‘What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag’ is conventional.
9. Santigold ‘Master of My Make-Believe’ (Atlantic)
Philly’s Santigold aka Santi White is a star, who came straight out of Germantown. White’s love of Siouxsie and the Banshees is evident. Catchy, dark electronic rock tunes abound.
10. Metric ‘Synthetica’ (Mom & Pop Music)
The Canadian band follows in the footsteps of their exceptional 2009 album,’ Fantasies.’ Massive arrangements, big hooks and endless synth-rock make this album almost as pleasing as its predecessor.