Top pop albums of 2012

Courtesy PhotoNot since vintage Michael Stipe-Peter Buck R.E.M. collaborations has a vocalist (Justin Young) conversed so colorfully with a guitarist (Freddie Cowan). It’s every bit as exhilarating as last year’s debut.

Courtesy PhotoNot since vintage Michael Stipe-Peter Buck R.E.M. collaborations has a vocalist (Justin Young) conversed so colorfully with a guitarist (Freddie Cowan). It’s every bit as exhilarating as last year’s debut.

Musically, 2012 wasn’t easy to pigeonhole. There were no sweeping musical trends, save the gradual ascension of electronic trailblazers such as Skrillex and Deadmau5. Or the ubiquity of the latest carefully incubated Simon Cowell boy band, One Direction. No post-Adele flurry of dazzling divas — just singles. Lots of memorable smash hits like “Gangnam Style.”

Who can forget the song that launched 1,000 spoofs, Carly Rae Jepsen’s addictive “Call Me Maybe”? Or Australian artist Gotye’s quirky “Somebody That I Used to Know,” featuring vocalist Kimbra? Then there was the truly irresistible “We Are Young,” from that unstoppable pop trio fun., backed by Janelle Monae, and its Queen-operatic
follow-up “Some Nights.”

But for an album’s worth of consistency, you really had to dig. The true gems were hidden. Here, then, are this writer’s unearthed treasures, in reverse order.

10. Shoes“Ignition”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After 18 long years, this brainy little power-pop combo from the Midwest returned with a fizzy, homemade knockout. (Black Vinyl)

9. Graham Parker and The Rumour “Three Chords Good”

No sooner had this legendary pub rocker put his old backing band back together than he was cast in Judd Apatow’s new comedy “This is 40.” But that’s not the news here — this razor-sharp comeback is. (Primary Wave)

 

8. J.D. McPherson “Signs & Signifiers”

This Broken Arrow, Okla., native got the retro-R&B/rockabilly sound right. More than right — call it perfect. (Rounder)

7. Alex Winston “King Con”

For some reason, this artsy New Yorker didn’t catch on with her symphonic-rock bow. So it may take another album, but she will be a star. (Island)

 

6. Howler “America Give Up”

Speaking of stars, here’s another one just waiting to happen — Replacements-savvy songwriter Jordan Gatesmith and his propulsive outfit Howler.  (Rough Trade)

5.  Keane “Strangeland”

An unexpectedly majestic pop gem from this sorely underrated British combo. Tom Chaplin is easily one of the best voices in modern music. (Geffen)

4. Bruce Springsteen “Wrecking Ball”

As he did on the 9/11-themed “The Rising,” Springsteen astutely tapped into the Occupy Wall Street zeitgeist for this passionate, rabble-rousing set.  (Columbia)

3. Lana Del Rey“Born to Die,” “Paradise”

Sure, there was that awkward “Saturday Night Live” debacle. But on her debut and the new “Paradise” EP, there’s something dark, almost “Blue Velvet”-creepy happening. Reconsider her. Now. (Interscope)

2. Sleigh Bells “Reign of Terror”

A cathartic blast from this noise-pop group was inspired by personal tragedy — sad, yes, but pain never felt so viscerally good.  (Columbia)

 

1. The Vaccines “Come of Age”

Not since vintage Michael Stipe-Peter Buck R.E.M. collaborations has a vocalist (Justin Young) conversed so colorfully with a guitarist (Freddie Cowan). It’s every bit as exhilarating as last year’s debut. (Columbia)

artsBruce SpringsteenentertainmentPop Music & JazzVaccines

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Scenes from an SFO-bound BART train on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the day California fully reopened for business after the COVID pandemic. (Al Saracevic/SF Examiner)
SF reopens: BART riders dreading the end of the pandemic

‘I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be packed like sardines’

Visitors walk through the western span of the Ferry Building the morning of Tuesday, June 15. (Ida Mojadad/SF Examiner)
Masks still a common occurrence at the Ferry Building

‘It’s more a mental thing than a science thing’

Azikiwee Anderson of Rize Up Bakery pulls and twists sourdough into shape on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s Rize Up Bakery serving up sourdough with a call to action

Azikiwee Anderson wakes up most mornings just before dawn to start cooking… Continue reading

Although The City has been shut down and largely empty, people have enjoyed gathering in places such as Dolores Park. <ins>(Al Saracevic/The Examiner)</ins>
Come back to San Francisco: The City needs you now

Time to get out of the house, people. The City’s been lonely… Continue reading

A surveillance camera outside Macy’s at Union Square on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Is the tide turning against surveillance cameras in SF?

Crime-fighting camera networks are springing up in commercial areas all around San… Continue reading

Most Read