SIMGE’s Top 50 Albums Of 2012

Chris Rotolo December 31, 2012 Features 18 Comments

As we enter the final hours of the year SIMGE has finally succumbed.  We’ve officially closed our books on 2012 and, in keeping up with tradition, present to you our year end list of top albums at the latest possible moment.  We’ve sifted through the Indie-Rock underground and the commercial realm, compiling what we feel is the most complete collection of works that have inspired, intrigued, affected, and provided a much needed and adored distraction from insetting psychosis brought on by the monotonies of the everyday. Or something like that.

We thank you for following along and taking an interest in SIMGE, as well as the artists who provided us with new music in this old year.

Thus, as we ready ourselves for a long night of celebration and looking ahead at what’s to come, wash down our 50 favorites from 2012 with your Champagne wishes.

Here’s to further successes in 2013.


Chris Rotolo, Mike Mehalick, and the rest of the SIMGE staff

50) Cold Specks – I Predict A Graceful Expulsion

On her debut full-length release, the London-based singer-songwriter resides in a self-spawned realm known as Doom-Soul, a more than appropriate heading for her haunting collection of broodingly beautiful compositions driven by sparsely stroked piano riffs, which dress this siren’s lush and captivating croon in stirring emotion. – Chris Rotolo


49) Moon Taxi – Cabaret

Following the Kings of Leon model of success minus the cheese and grating attitude, Nashville natives Moon Taxi took everything that made once made the former great with their own unique injections on Cabaret. All throughout their latest Moon Taxi rides a prog-jam wave that intertwines with smart pop sensibilities and structures.  “Mercury”, “All The Rage”, and “Whiskey Sunsets” serve as calling cards to the band’s funneled brand of southern, good ol’ boy rock with anthems and slow burns that give Moon Taxi a range that may already have them swimming in waters occupied by the likes of My Morning Jacket. – Mike Mehalick


48) Jeff The Brotherhood – Country Life

Jeff The Brotherhood’s seventh studio release since 2002 is a celebration of life, an ode to living fast with youthful exuberance, and a payment of homage to burning the proverbial candle at both ends.  It’s the soundtrack to a listener’s pursuit of a shaded tree stump in an isolated field to lean upon while sparking a bowl and swigging a PBR.  Or maybe frontman Jake Orall says it best in the title track melodiously orating allowed “I can’t wait ’til I turn 29…I wonder if I’ll run out of time.”  If you’re only as old as you feel, then records like Country Life are the music lover’s equivalent to Ponce de Leon’s elusive fountain of youth. – CR


47) Die Antwoord – Ten$ion

The Cape Town, South Africa rap duo comprised of Ninja and Yolandi Visser managed to transcend their image as a Youtube shock sensation on their second effort. Ten$ion finds Die Antwoord in their most natural setting after rejecting their major label advantages to expand upon their brand of brash, visceral hip hop. Eclectic, EDM beat backdrops soar as the Ninja and Yolandi dynamic swaps the spotlight from track to track as they explore their inner, freakier Outkast. -MM


46) Thomas Wesley Stern – American Pain

The inclusion of drum-work, squeals from a lightly plucked electric six-string, and the melodious moan of woodwind accompaniment that’s found strolling through the rugged whiskey-soaked soundscape of pistol-toting outlaws and outlanders that is American Pain makes for a much fuller sound than what was experienced on the group’s 2011 debut EP, Hope Folk.  However, what’s not lost is the sense of community induced by these campfire singalongs, the same principle at the heart of every Thomas Wesley Stern production. – CR


45) Reptar – Body Faucet

You’d be hard pressed to pin Reptar down to one particular genre as evidenced on their exuberant rookie outing, Body Faucet. Their brand of danceable electro-rock rides the curl of life affirming ecstasy as call and response cuts like “Houseboat Babies” sits in the middle of ingeniously simple layering on “Isoprene Breath” and “Sebastian”. Graham Ulicny’s amorphous and evocative voice allows the album to expand and contract from line to line as delicate instrumentations set up barrier bashing crescendos that ebb and flow like the tide coming in over your toes. -MM


44) Breathing Blue – Inner Animal

Though the Asbury Park-based collective recently changed its name to Graviteer, the band’s final release under the Breathing Blue heading features the outfit’s signature blistering guitar leads and soaring vocals, courtesy of front man Justin Sanford.  Inner Animal is a relentless, high-energy rocker that further solidifies the group as one of the most promising young bands on the Jersey Shore…regardless of its name. – CR


43) Twin Shadow – Confess

On Twin Shadow’s first foray Forget we were given a sense of George Lewis Jr.’s chivalrous, chauvinistic self-image. With Confess the artist’s slicked hair, black leather jacket clad visage greets the listener on the cover which should be clue enough that Twin Shadow is ready for his close up. The 80’s anthem orchestrations and motorcycle revving proclamations of love welcomes the listener to a dark, powerful soundscape. On his second endeavor, Twin Shadow has put his better foot forward and crafted a linear, guitar-driven intimacy worthy of Prince’s more subdued back catalogue. -MM


42) Bad Books – II

The arranged marriage of Kevin Devine’s solo exploits and Manchester Orchestra’s eruptive Indie-Rock back in 2010 was less a side-project and more the successful adjoining of two power houses, as both Devine and Andy Hull’s prowess for Pop backed poetics and acoustic meanderings saturated with lucid imagery were placed on full display.  The collective’s second effort is a more cohesive one with even larger, more lingering arrangements like “Forest Whitaker,” that stick in the thick of the mind for days. – CR


41) Chairlift – Something

It becomes immediately apparent mid-way through album opener “Sidewalk Safari” that Caroline Polachek is ready to move in a new direction. After the departure of original member Aaron Pfenning, Chairlift churns on as a duo with Patrick Wimberly sliding in and complimenting the band’s most complete release in Something. Stylistic shifts stay at home as they’re contained within shimmering, synth-rock, and Polachek’s forays into love and espousals against complacency. -MM


40) Bob Mould – Silver Age

A few adjectives hovering about Bob Mould’s musical career are jagged, sharp, and snarling, descriptors that have eluded the legendary Husker du frontman’s work for nearly two decades after his more radio friendly venture with Sugar’s Copper Blue (1992) and his turn of the millenium expeditions into the Electronic music realm with Modulate and Long Playing Grooves.  Thankfully, with the assistance of long time collaborator and touring bassist Jason Narducy (Husker du, Sugar, Guided By Voices) and stick wielder Jon Wurster (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats) Mould has returned to form on Silver Age, with such scathing explosions as “The Descent,” “Briefest Moment,” and “Star Machine.” – CR


39) Polica – Giving Up The Ghost

Forming as an offshoot of the Gayngs project, Polica managed to elude any sort of practical categorization with their remarkable debut. Ryan Olsen and Channy Leaneagh craft an intimately powerful, otherworldly atmosphere on Giving Up The Ghost with the rhythm sections holding precedent over the electro elements. This attention to detail and warmth in Polica’ sound humanizes Leaneagh’s auto-tuned, love sick croon. -MM


38) Baroness – Yellow & Green

Baroness’ double LP is as much an example of the group’s growth as songwriters as it is a survival tool.  Once an explosive Metal-coated sludge collective from the Swamps of Savannah, the band’s evolution toward the electronically charged Hard-Rock compilation that is Green & Yellow has preserved Baroness’ longevity, as John Baizley has traded his barbaric vocal styling of yesteryear for a more subdued take on these melodic, and somewhat Pop-directed, offerings. – CR


37) Father John Misty – Fear Fun

J. Tillman is an old, restless soul. Rising to prominence as the drummer for Fleet Foxes, the ambitious songwriter made the always-risky move of departing from his established moneymaker and committing to striking out on his own after several solo releases. The result? The sum of Tillman’s wayward soul and pastoral incantations sit at home under his latest assumed moniker Father John Misty and his debut Fear Fun. Harmonious hymns highlight the west coast, Gram Parsons influenced psych-folk with standout single “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” serving as the essential introduction and one of the best songs of 2012. -MM


36) Ruby The Hatchet – Ouroboros

Ruby The Hatchet’s debut full-length LP is an exemplary collection of seductive Stoner-Rock with the Asbury outfit’s lead single, “Wicked Ones,” leading the explosive and bewitching offensive, as the slowly trudging riff-driven composition utilizes flame-licked sex appeal to contort the listener’s psyche, before shattering it to pieces with each emblazoned series of circular fret-work. – CR


35) Big Boi – Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors

Adapt or die, so goes the saying. What could conceivably be viewed as Big Boi’s third solo album, Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors builds on the old school funk throw down that dominated his previous venture, and adds layers with a little help from some new friends. In essence, Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors features all the hallmarks of a contemporary rap album; skits, guests, and plenty out shout outs to home cities. What puts Big Boi’s latest over the top is the defined growth in the artist’s tastes and instincts as he entrusts a lot of the atmospheric heavy lifting to relatively young acts like Wavves and Phantogram. This creative, collaborative gamble frees up the MC to focus on what he does best and comes together to continue the forward progression as Big Boi as his own primary attraction outside of that other stuff he’s know for. -MM


34) Ghost Pal – Nathan Jones Is Dead

The Brooklyn-based psychedelia-laced Pop-collective moves from a cavernous crawl to blistering sax-backed velocities on Nathan Jones Is Dead, constructing captivating crescendos at will throughout this haunting and cohesive collection. – CR


33) King Tuff – King Tuff

From the outset, King Tuff’s Sub Pop debut establishes its garage-guitar intentions with the irresistible lines laid down on the appropriately titled “Anthem”. The remainder of King Tuff plays like a label mix tape which allows Tuff and his band to spread their evil wings and fly across eclectic skies. “Alone & Stoned” and “Bad Thing” gives contemporary surf-rock the kick in the ass its been sorely lacking, with the retro charm never concerning itself with anything outside of the garage. -MM


32) The Babies – Our House On The Hill

The lo-fi Pop-Rock found upon The Babies sophomore full-length release resonates like a batch of raucous Indie-Rock put to rest on a bed of fuzzy jubilation, drawing firm distinctions about what each of the outfit’s brainchildren, Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls) and Kevin Morby (Woods), brought to the table when this side-project took root in a Brooklyn apartment back in 2008.  Skip ahead four years later and what you have is an entire collection of single-worthy compositions, from the expedited and sugar-coated batch of self-loathing, “Alligator,” to the smoked out “Get Lost.” – CR


31) Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

It’s hard to believe but in ways many have not seemed to notice, Silversun Pickups have become one of the larger rock bands out there despite not having a crossover radio hit. The comparisons to the Smashing Pumpkins by now are fairly obvious, and never has that accusation held true more than on the Pickups’ Neck of the Woods. Singer-guitarist Brain Aubert comes through with his most complete thought to date as his intense guitar-work sets a heavy, dark tone not unlike the unmistakable chords established by Pete Townshend on his band’s concept records. Tracks like the Radiohead inspired “Mean Spirits” and the radio-friendly “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” reach for the arena rafters in different capacities, while always working within the established theme making Neck of the Woods one of the more rewarding rock listens back to front in a long while. -MM


30) Bouncing Souls – Comet

To truly cut to the heart of the Bouncing Souls’ eighth full-length release, the first on Rise Records, you’ll have to skip to the final track of this 10-song collection titled “Going Down With The Ship,” an acoustic guitar-driven composition that showcases a spirit and set of principles that have carried the storied Punk collective through its 23rd year of operation.  “With every peak and valley,” expounds Greg Atonito, “With every white knuckled fist/With everything I’ve lost and learned/I won’t let go of this grip/With every storm we weather/I would never miss/I won’t give up, I won’t let go/I’m going down with the ship.”  Here’s to hoping it stays afloat for years to come. – CR


29) David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

The indie-rock Watch The Throne? The celestial pairing of former Talking Heads front man and St. Vincent seemed like a match made in Williamsburg heaven when their collaborative LP Love This Giant was announced back in June. So it was a pleasant surprise hearing the opening brass blasts that open the album on lead single “Who” signal that the two solo artists found a common ground and decided to challenge themselves in writing around instruments they’re hardly masters of. That element alone isn’t worthy of praise if not put into practical application which Bryne and Annie Clark arrange amidst programmed backbeats and the latter’s virtuoso guitar work. -MM


28) Modern Baseball – Sports

The new generation of acoustic guitar-driven Punk is emerging with the likes of New Jersey’s own Front Bottoms and Philadelphia’s Modern Baseball as its flag bearers.  What’s so appealing about Sports is very much what slotted the Garden State duo’s debut as SIMGE’s top ranked record of 2011: An accessibility to the poetic lyricism, to the situations being described, and the conversational fashion in which it’s all being expressed.  The addition of melodic refrains you can toss a fist too coupled with subtle Motion City Soundtrack references make it that much more enjoyable. – CR


27) Animal Collective – Centipede HZ

It’s nearly impossible to follow up a mid-career masterpiece like Merriweather Post Pavilion, and one of the best things that can be said about Centipede HZ, and Animal Collective in general, is that it never tries to. Animal Collective is notorious for touring behind mostly unreleased material, so when they premiered much of what would become Centipede HZ during their summer 2011 tour it became immediately apparent that the re-united four piece had taken the summery vibes of their previous endeavor underground into a cave rich in reverb. Centipede HZ plays like a pirate radio stream from an unknown nation calling out for an arms-length connection. New, exciting experiments like “Monkey Riches” blend seamlessly amidst percussive thumpers such as “Father Time” that provide the faintest twinge of the familiar as Animal Collective moves endlessly ahead. -MM


26) B. Hamilton – Everything I Own Is Broken

The Oakland-based B. Hamilton overwhelms the speaker system with various walls of sound on Everything I Own Is Broken, a 12-track debut collection that recalls the work of the band’s soulful Pop-Rock predecessor Young The Giant…if the group was smothered in snowy electrical storm of fuzzy amplification.  The record, which features such alluring compositions as the tumultuous “Me And Margaret Counting Countdowns,” and the southern-fried “Miss Carolina,” and the twangy “Gold Tooth,” includes the trippy illustration of an airplane crashing through a house in the sky, and no better description of this album can be penned. – CR


25) Crystal Castles – III

Subdued is never a word that one could associate with Crystal Castles except in immediately relative terms. Gone are the ticking EDM snares and corresponding computer glitches that dominated much of Crystal Castles’ II replaced by a more insular approach that puts Alice Glass’ haunting vocal at the forefront. That doesn’t mean that Crystal Castles have gone soft, not even close. Glass turns in some her most disturbing, apocalyptic lyrics yet while Ethan Kath programs a dissident world for them both to hide in with his dark synth and beat programming enveloping rather than stabbing. -MM


24) Screaming Females – Ugly

On the Screaming Females’ fifth full-length release since 2006, buried beneath layers of grit, grime, staggering fret-work from the Marissa Paternoster’s flame-licked finger tips, and a series of barbarous instrumentals resides a subtle set of lyrics easily overlooked by the unassuming, but quite possibly of a prophetic nature.  “I want to learn all your letters/and rewrite all the books,” Paternoster admits on “Help Me,” almost unveiling herself to the Rock N’ Roll masses as an embedded axe-wielding secret agent bent on tearing down the industry from the inside out.  With the pint-sized songstress at the helm, and Ugly as the outfit’s hallowed scriptures, Screaming Females may accomplish such a feat, preaching and practicing a DIY ethos established in the beer-drenched basements of New Jersey’s artistic underground until the “impenetrable” walls securing this commercialized business are nothing more than fiery rubble. – CR


23) Death Grips – The Money Store

Absolutely and unequivocally, Death Grips’ The Money Store was the most arresting and confounding record released in the last calendar year. From the explosive inception of “Get Got” to the mind-numbing swell on “Hustle Bones” and beyond, Death Grips establish themselves as the great punk savoir hip hop never knew it needed. Throwing the most aggressive elements of traditional rap and beat-making into a blender, The Money Store manages to make old concepts new again with an frenetic, progressive approach to production and nearly never a vocalized mention of mansions, cash, or sexual prowess. -MM


22) Underwater Country Club – Summer Blood

The Garden State’s own Underwater Country Club released one of the most overlooked and sonically pleasing records of the year in Summer Blood, a 10-track collection with more alluring hooks than a Jersey Shore bait shop.  Such Indie-Pop offerings as “Distractions,” “Keep The Silence,” and “Snow” make imprints in the mind’s tundra that last throughout season and well into the warm caress of Spring and Summer, the time of year this phenomenal production is meant to be experienced. – CR


21) Beach House – Bloom

Picking up right where breakout success Teen Dream left off, Beach House followed up with a similar yet smarter approach on Bloom. The dreamy synth, lush soundscape format is still the primary modus operandi as Bloom marks Beach House’s most clean cut production to date. Victoria Legrand’s unmistakable and undeniable voice is finally given the room to soar which sets up the band’s delicate instrumentations and gorgeous bursts with room and expand to move in the background instead of the usual vice versa. -MM


20) Sun Club – SUN CLUB

Sun Club’s debut LP is the result of many a late Maryland evenings spent expanding the mind both chemically and sonically, soaking up heavy doses of unmentionables and the catalogues of both Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend to present its own style of Strawberry-Fusion-Indie-Pop, a self-coined, long-winded, hyphen-infested synonym for the phrase “disturbingly seductive.” – CR


19) Metric – Synthetica

It’s not too often that a band releases their breakout album already a decade plus into their existence. Like The Black Keys proved with Brothers, if you keep building and improving than a larger audience will find you. With Synthetica Metric have filled out from their earlier pop works and progressed towards an approach that gives the record a seamless cohesion and polish. Emily Haines turns in fiery, mournful vocals as she looks for inspiration for a generation and herself. “I’m just as fucked up as they say, I can’t face the day time,” are the first words uttered on Synthetica, establishing the personality crisis’ that fill the album and the heads of anybody who feels unable to relate to popular opinion or pre-established societal pressure. -MM


18) Jeff Rosenstock – I Look Like Shit

Shut away in a crude studio, the mastermind of Bomb The Music Industry! and Arrogant Sons Of Bitches shed all collaborative ties to cut this solo release in which Rosenstock expands upon his Punk palette, but only slightly, taking short promenades through the acoustic Folk genre (“The Internet Is Everywhere”) and the cover song art form, tackling Pulp’s “Dishes” and “I Don’t Wanna Die” by Japanese Punk outfit Ging Nang Boyz, while producing several key-laced essentials such as “Twinkle” and “Amen.” – CR

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17) Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

Surely by now we’ve all heard the various staples of the Frank Ocean mythos. Outside of the hype and hyperbole is a masterfully arranged R & B coming of age story that, aligned with Ocean’s ambitions, would be easily translatable to a novella on par with Bret Easton Ellis’ prodigious Less Than Zero. Transcending the chaos that found Ocean swaying in the Odd Future background, the tender voiced narrator of California coastal restlessness tackles the struggles of complacency and drugs both chemical and emotional. Although it’s never entirely clear whom Ocean is trying to save with his various proclamations, himself or his love interests or both, it’s immediately apparent that he’s revolutionized a genre for a new generation. Whether he’s comfortable with all this is another story yet to be told. -MM


16) Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

The Gaslight Anthem fled its old New Jersey haunts to Nashville for the recording of its fourth full-length release seemingly in an attempt to rid itself of any association with the great Garden State, going so far as to cut a shout out to Asbury Park from “Biloxi Parish” that was included on an early live recording that surfaced last summer.   It just goes to show that you can take the bohemian greasers out of the highway diner, but you can’t take the Turnpike out of these Jersey Shore beach combers…or something like that.  Save for the inclusion of some hackneyed “Woah Ohs” and Roy Orbison-esque “Sha la las,” Handwirtten exemplifies everything we’ve come to love about the soulful New Brunswick-bred Rock collective. – CR


15) Jack White – Blunderbuss

Arguably, Blunderbuss may not be Jack White’s first solo endeavor with plenty of his back catalogue largely attributed to him alone. What cannot be argued, however is that Blunderbuss is the first LP to feature Jack White’s name on the spine allowing the songwriter some space to really wear his heart out on his sleeve. The presence of an exposed nerve on tracks like “Love Interruption” and “Sixteen Saltines” details White’s ongoing fascination and frustration with the fairer sex aligning with his most recent divorce from Karen Elson. Paired alongside White’s stunning and wide-ranging guitar-work and arrangements, Blunderbuss give its author a new soapbox without him straying too far from being the same boy you’ve always known. -MM


14) Lost In Society – Let It Sail

Upon Lost In Society’s latest full-length effort rested a large responsibility, an onus of sorts placed on this LP by its players to properly exhibit their growth as songwriters and maturation as musicians.  The 11-track collection was a transitionary work, a necessary career move which aimed to pull the group past its Greenday, Foo Fighters, and Nirvana comparatives by carving out its own definitive sound and stomping its own boot mark in history’s damp cement…and the Asbury outfit succeeded. – CR


13) Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

Always stewing underneath the mainstream consciousness was Compton born MC Kendrick Lamar as major labels tripped over themselves to latch onto his unique flow. Whereas Section 80 was Lamar’s calling card, good kid, m.A.A.d city is his life story illustrated in colorful and rapidly changing vignettes. Backed by obsessive, flawless production, Lamar bares his soul past and present as he combats hangers on with “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and cautions against the allure of inebriants with the on the surface misunderstood “Swimming Pools (Drank)”. Although always concerned with his origin tale, Lamar indulges and showcases his chameleon delivery prowess in his “A Milli” style showcase “Backseat Freestyle”. good kid, m.A.A.d city separates itself and Lamar from the single-schlockers and serves up a much needed wake up call to the established order in contemporary rap. -MM


12) Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

Dylan Baldi and his Cleveland-based Noise-Rock outfit paced itself on the group’s 2012 LP, shedding the speed and abundance associated with the archetypal Punk record for true quality.  The result was an impressive ability to strip away the facade constructed the parents of his peers who brainwashed a generation into thinking they could be whatever they wanted without putting in the work.  The Cloud Nothings front-man boils down that rude, post-college awakening into one simple refrain on “Wasted Days” with the strained repetitive declaration “I thought/I would/Be more/Than this.” – CR


11) Grizzly Bear – Shields

Something strange and grand must have transpired since the events of Vecatimest to Grizzly Bear’s latest album Shields. The opening progression that welcomes in the dreamy, searing cacophony of “Sleeping Ute” sets up the four-piece to indulge in the best of their influences and talents. “A Simple Answer” makes the best use of Grizzly Bear’s dynamic vocal abilities as Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen switch off and play the other’s devil’s advocate while “Yet Again” stands as the band’s most instrumentally complex, and possibly best, work. -MM


10) Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Glen Rock, NJ’s champions of independent art used its third full-length release as a banner to celebrate independent business…but that manta of support was only record sleeve deep as the basement quaking Punks kept their aptitude for extended musical metaphors in the bag for Local Business, trading out the 14-minute Cicil War ship battle epic for more Classic-Rock influenced cuts infused with Pop hooks.  However, if you’re one that can’t accept a Titus Andronicus record with an overarching theme, it appears Patrick Stickles and company had a goal of elegantly disheveled accessibility in mind.  Mission accomplished. – CR


9) Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Spanning a discography that could be labeled anything other than “predictable”, Dirty Projectors channeled their triple barrel vocal chamber into their most focused and accessible work. Swing Lo Magellan finds Projectors founder Dave Longstreth looking outward at the world surrounding and directly in front of him. Lamentations are offered to the lazy or uninspired as well as those dealing with problems not of their own machination. What truly makes Magellan shine outside of the flawless choir vocals evident on previous releases, is Longstreth and Amber Coffman’s thematic construction and sparkling guitar work which finds the quieter moments later mixed with the orchestral bombast a welcome advancement. -MM


8) Elevator Art – Martian Diver

The Toms River, NJ outfit’s latest artistic endeavor transforms the temporal lobe into a tightly wound trampoline distributing varied styles of song writing, instrumental exploration, and conceptual interpretations across the anatomical plain to tickle nerve endings and stimulate sensory neurons in mass.  Utilizing a dueling vocal scheme that couples the quivering lead of front-man Daimon Santa Maria with Maureen McGowan’s thunderous croon, while the outfit’s trademark amalgamation of Metal-coated Folk ideology, Southern-Rock six-string meandering, and electrically-charged Jazz flute manipulation resides at the backbone of this transcendent beast…all that and a single-worthy tune titled “Bear 141″ that has less to do with the Timothy Treadwell-munching grizzly it’s named for, and more the chronicling of a romantic rescue effort accentuated by Liz Dayback’s flame-licked fret-work and Santa Maria’s woodwind prowess. – CR

7) Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

The simplest thing that can be said about the imminently beguiling Fiona Apple’s latest effort is that it was worth the seven year wait leading up to its release. Outside of that you are left with the inner-musings and experiences of a wunderkind songstress moving into middle age with grace under internal turmoil. Ditching the complex studio orchestrations present in her previous works, Ms. Apple turns in her most self-effacing work as she lays herself bare both lyrically and musically.  “Anything We Want” stands out in-between the consternation inward and outward as a non-linear, aching ode to the one that you wish you had known and that you wish you could know forever. This may define a part of the impossible desires that keep Apple’s creative motor running, and her music relevant and challenging no matter which year she emerges to see her shadow. -MM


6) Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

The Alabama-based quartet recorded this soulful collection of Blues-coated Southern-Rock in a Nashville studio named The Bomb Shelter…and it connects just like that.  Brittany Howard’s explosive croon thunders across the instrumental battlefield like a wayward mortar shell, resonating throughout the mind’s trenches, causing cuts like “Hold On,” “Hang Loose,” and “Rise To The Sun” to catch. – CR


5) Grimes – Visions

Every now and again a particular sound or style encapsulates the contemporary zeitgeist while also moving in its own unidentifiable path. Nobody this side of Lana Del Ray garnered more raised eyebrows than Canadian songwriter Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes. Throughout Visions Boucher harnesses the power of her infinitely expanding palette, showcasing her own takes on pop (“Oblivion”) and EDM inspired witch-house (“Nightmusic”). Not unlike every great piece of art, Visions is open to everyone’s interpretation.  On her latest and greatest, Grimes manages to turn the focus back on us all, as the interpreters become the interpreted through the worldview of one of the more exciting artists to zoom up through the Internet music culture. -MM


4) River City Extension – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

Toms River, NJ’s River City Extension followed up it’s 2010 debut LP, The Unmistakable Man, with a more subdued and mature collection that reads like the published journal of a founding father that uprooted from the comfortable confines of  his community and took to the roads less traveled formulating detailed sketches and poetic discourses for the discoveries made about friends, family, religion, and himself during this great exploratory venture. – CR


3) Tame Impala – Lonerism

I got my first taste of Tame Impala’s Lonerism while standing up against a rail at Lollapalooza. Appropriately, the unbearable heat lent itself to the continued psychedelic endeavors of the Aussie four-piece as their pedals literally melted and warped onto the stage. Simply put, Tame Impala have followed up their debut with a gorgeously crafted walk in the woods on LSD. The comparisons between singer/guitarist Kevin Parker and John Lennon are unavoidable and ignored as Tame Impala tread alongside the pop-psych greats of yesteryear while managing to never have their sound enter into the land of parody. Lonerism comes across as a complete thought without sacrificing dynamic forays into different territories as the sun drenched “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and the thundering, hypnotic “Elephant” shuffle from landscape to landscape as a new adventure unfurls from start to finish. -MM


2) The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

“I’ve been having a horrible time/Pulling myself together/I’ve been closing my eyes to find/The old familiar failures.”  That piece of brooding lyricism lifted from the leading composition, “Good Thing,” commences the Philadelphia outfit’s saga of self doubt, deprecation, and unfulfilled dreams do to untimely departures on the side of Saw Mill Road in the twisted wreckage of a classic American muscle car.  But moments of simple beauty within these uproarious offerings aren’t omitted as Tom May and Greg Barnett paint poetic landscapes of love found in a diner and grown over a common bond between cigarette smokers (“Gates”), and of two lost souls building bonds and killing boredom with bong rips (“Ava House”).  However, the escapist anthem that is “Casey” speaks to a generation of misplaced 20-somethings searching for away out, looking to start a life they can take pride in, providing the same heart, aggression, and passion Springsteen’s “Born To Run” once carried. – CR


1) Passion Pit – Gossamer

There was no more jarring one-two album opening punch set out last year than the “Take A Walk”/”I’ll Be Alright” combo that heralded the formal sophomore effort of Passion Pit. Equally as rattling were the advancing demons that danced amid the squeaky clean synths and sparkling, bouncy instrumentation. The same juxtaposition that was present on Manners advances in every…manner imaginable as tighter song structures allow mastermind Michael Angelakos to deflect attention away from his endless catharsis for those not paying close attention. The furthered tonal irony may be another cruel maneuver by Angelakos to combat the growing festival crowds that take his music at face value, further outlining the troubled singer’s struggle. On “I’ll Be Alright” and “Constant Conversations” Angelakos does not paint himself as a favorable protagonist or one that’s even attempting to appear that way. Gossamer is what happens when life locks a door behind you and forces you to walk forward while grasping desperately to the handle. If only you could open that door again, if only you hadn’t had that extra drink, if only you had told her how you really felt. Then everything would be alright. -MM

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About The Author

Chris graduated from The College Of New Jersey in May of 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in both Journalism/Professional Writing and Communication Studies. He's held down a position in the Asbury Park Press’ Sports Department since September of 2010 and is a contributor to the outlet’s Arts & Entertainment section as well as Consequence of Sound (


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