Rather than cloud the airwaves with even more reviews, I feel like it's a time to take a pause and reflect on the greatness that has already been given to us this year. Given that 2012 is half-way over, I've decided to share with you 10 of my favorite albums of the year so far. There were several other albums that could've made this list, but ultimately I just made some quick edits to get it down to ten. However, over the next six months, some of these are likely to fall off, while some of those edited might creep back on. For that reason, it seemed like an even better reason to share these with you now, since they are all worthy even they don't end up on my best of the year list. Enjoy.
Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself: The newest album by Andrew Bird is on the grande scale one has come to expect from the chamber folk maestro. The album feels slightly more intricate than some of his more recent work and somehow more personal too. There's a solid folk song structure that hangs over the songs, giving them a truly beautiful feel. "Give it Away," "Lazy Projector," and "Near Death Experience Experience" make up the middle core of the album are pure perfection.
Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light: J. Spaceman returns with his first album since 2008, and easily his best since 1997's Ladies and Gentleman... This album really blew me away upon first listen. It captures the desperation that is familiar with all of Spiritualized work, but is more complicated musically than some of the latest albums. It simply soars with heartache, but with the upbeat summer melodies that make it a joy to listen to over and over.
Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO: The new album from the kings of lo-fi is probably their best in over a decade. Reminiscent of their their 90's masterpiece Bee Thousand, this album seems to vary tone and structure with each song, yet they flow seamlessly together. There really isn't a bad track on here, which is impressive considering there are 21 of them, though most are under 3:00 minutes in length.
The Wooden Sky - Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun: This Toronto alt-folk band has been a favorite band of mine over the past five years, and with this, their third album, they've done nothing to lessen their standing. The songs are well-crafted and affecting. Sung with a mid-western twang, the songs have a country feel that serves them well. "Angelina," "Take Me Down," and "City of Light" are real standouts on a terrific album.
Mars Volta - Noctourniquet: Thankfully I didn't have to wait long between the first single and the full-length. The band's first album in three years is just as expansive and complex as one would come to expect from the true heroes of the new progressive rock movement. It's slightly more focused however than their previous album, with shorter, more aggressive songs. All in all, another excellent album and worth the wait.
Nacho Picasso - Lord of the Fly: On the Seattle rapper's second album in less than a year, he is once again paired up with Blue Sky Black Death. The previous effort, 2011's For the Glory is nothing short of the best hip hop album I've heard in a long time. This album feels like a continuation of that one. It has the same fantastic spooky beats that Blue Sky Black Death does better than anyone else. Nacho's flow is impeccable. It's a slightly darker record, and while it's pretty incredible, I do miss a little of the fun from the first record.
Jack White - Blunderbuss: The first solo album from arguably the most influential figure in rock over the past decade. After fronting three bands that all posted bestselling albums, it's about time that Jack White released something that was from him and only him. Upon first listen, the album is solid, though it boasts no real surprises. I'm not sure that's the album's fault or just due to the fact that we've heard Jack do just about everything over the past 12 years or so. Well, I shouldn't say no surprises, because he does incorporate a rockabilly feel to some songs that up until now he's only really favored in songs by others which he has produced. After the initial listen, I finally let myself get caught up in the songs and truly love this record more and more each time I hear it. There's a joy in the making of the music that somehow seems to have been missing for some time. Great stuff.
Ruby Throat - O'Doubt O'Stars: As regular readers know, my love of all things Katie Jane Garside knows no bounds. Ruby Throat is a side-project by the Queenadrenna/ Daisy Chainsaw front woman. For this, their third album, the release is limited to 500 hand made copies and I was lucky enough to get mine last week. This could be one of her best albums to date. Recorded while navigating the waterways north of London, the album has an isolated feel, combined with the richness of fairy tales and despair. It is absolutely beautiful and easily the best album I've heard in over a year.
Mount Eerie - Clear Moon: The newest album by Phil Elverum is a fine example of what he is best known for, lo-fi psychedelic folk. This album is a little closer in feel to his former band The Microphones masterpiece The Glow Pt. 2, though certainly without the epic scope, than other Mount Eerie releases that I've heard. The album feels a bit like wandering through somebody's dream, with all the disjointed confusion that would entail. A wonderful record for anyone, who like me, is into this kind of esoteric music.
O. Children - Apnea: This is the London band's second album, following 2010's self-titled. Their sound harkens back to goth greats like Bauhaus, but incorporates the darker, heavier pulse of recent Scandanavian rock bands. They take a big step forward on this record. The songs feel more focused and more complex. It took a few listens before I truly loved this album, but I find myself listening to it quite often now.