Top Albums of 2012

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30. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
It can’t be easy following up on one of the most celebrated albums of the past five years. But on Centipede Hz, AnCo yet again raised the bar on music that can be simultaneously challenging and danceable. From the seamless one-two punch of “New Town Burnout” and “Monkey Riches”, to the rickety carnival rave of closer “Amanita”, Centipede Hz contains a few contenders for some of the Collective’s finest songs. (Adam)

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29. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Jack Tatum’s second album under the dream-pop moniker Wild Nothing was an immediate hit. Where his last album Gemini was rooted in a wash of chillwave talk and 80’s nostalgia, Nocturne expands itself into a fresh sound wistfully being reinvented by Tatum and his labelmates on Captured Tracks. (Adam)

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28. Janiva Magness – Stronger For It
Simply put this is Janiva Magness’s best album to date, and album of the year in my book. There isn’t a track on here that isn’t worth listening to over and over again. (Matt)

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27. Disclosure – The Face
This EP along with the chart & genre obliterator “Latch” (and a selection of great remixes) have helped the hype about Disclosure skyrocket. It was Disclosure which helped solidify 2012 as the year underground garage became serious. This EP is filled with typical UK House & Garage sounds, with a brilliant vibe that makes the anticipation for their album release early next year all the more excruciating. (Nick)

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26. Human Spirit – Dialogue
This is a smokin’ live album of incredible Seattle jazz musicians. Playing mostly original tunes, the group’s sound is incredibly tight. (Tom)

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25. The Chariot – One Wing
This band, featuring the former singer of Norma Jean, released quite possibly the weirdest hardcore album this year. One Wing is equally as technical as it is ferocious, but more reminiscent of Botch than say, Converge. It’s a crazy and chaotic listen to put on between geeking out over time signatures and punching holes through your walls. (Ross)

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24. Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
Lord Huron’s debut album is full of worldly, tropical folk music. Each song is full of eclectic influences all reminiscent of a summer road trip. For KZUU DJs and staff who live on the West side of Washington, Lonesome Dreams was this year’s perfect soundtrack to a long, lonesome drive home. (Staff)

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23. Teen Suicide – I Will Be My Own Hell Because There is a Devil Inside My Body
Along with the DC Snuff Film EP and the as of yet unreleased Waste Yrself LP, 2012 has been a busy year for Maryland lo-fi noise pop band Teen Suicide. This, their third LP, adds a string section along with songs that develop more than the straightforward doo-wop jams of last year’s Bad Vibes Forever. What’s left is an incredibly enjoyable album that makes a point to never take it’s heavy title and disheartening lyrics too seriously. (Adam)

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22. Grimes – Visions
I was immediately obsessed with Visions from the first time I listened to it. It was basically all I listened to in the whole month of February. It’s upbeat and never fails to put me in a good mood and get me dancing. This is some futuristic electronic music at its best. (Erin)

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21. YYU – TIMETIMETIME&TIME
Everything about TIMETIMETIME&TIME doesn’t make sense. A lot of the songs have vague or unconventional rhythms, nearly every song ends in the middle of a note or beat, and most of the song titles look like a broken computer trying to speak. But the combination of indescribable freak folk with choppy beats reminiscent of James Blake or Mount Kimbie makes this one of the most original albums of the year. (Adam)

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20. Murs & Fashawn – This Generation
LL member Murs and new era west coast MC Fashawn team up with K-Salaam and Beatnick for the album for our generation. This album proves that hip-hop is very much alive. (Bryce)

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19. Onuinu – Mirror Gazer
Portland’s Onuinu released a brilliant synth-pop album with a ton of fun and experimentation. The beats are great, the voice is phenomenal. It is hard not to enjoy every second of this album. (Nick)

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18. Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color
Ali ain’t stopping anytime soon but making this stand at being one of the “greatest of all time”. Mourning In America focused on the current state of the US, digging through the good and bad, with a brighter horizon in the future. Brother Ali sums of what hip-hop is meant to be and why this music truly moves people. (Bryce)

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17. DIIV – Oshin
I remember the first time listening to this album, I was sitting in my room and couldn’t stop smiling through the entire thing. I’m pretty sure said “yesss” out loud a few times. I’ve always been a big Beach Fossils enthusiast so I already knew this side project was going to be something I would be into. Oshin stands out from other similar lo-fi dream pop albums because it focuses more on the drumming and guitar chords while the vocals just play off of and accentuate the music. This album flows together flawlessly, making it a soothing listen from beginning to end. (Erin)

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16. Patrick Watson – Adventures in Your Own Backyard
In this day and age, it seems like an oxymoron to be both an innovative musician and a singer/songwriter. Patrick Watson’s Adventures In Your Own Back Yard proves that you don’t need to resort to samplers, drum-kits, and synthesizers to craft a unique collection of songs. Watson’s delicate melodies coupled with mystifying production touches create a sound that at times, seem fitting for a Tim Burton film. Adventures In Your Own Back Yard makes what seems to be predictable song structures, unpredictable. (Brennan)

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15. The Koffin Kats – Our Way & The Highway
The hardest working band in psychobilly has put out yet another great album. These guys are the best. They bring a unique style of psychobilly that appeals to everybody who is a fan of aggressive, party rock’n’roll. (Ross)

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14. Burial – Kindred
The secluded nature of William Bevan makes every release of his seem awash in mystery and harrowing creepyness. Following his great collaboration with Massive Attack last year, Burial released this three track EP, and it delivered. One one hand, you get his distinctive 2-step drum progression and his lurching bass intertwined with vocal samples, but on the other hand it’s hard not to listen to these three masterpieces and not get the feeling of difference, a brilliant result of Burials creative genius. These tracks can chill you right to the bone, with twists and turns in every track. Few other albums of 2012 gave this complex of a vibe, and even fewer did it this well. (Nick)

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13. Beach House – Bloom
As I assume most at KZUU has, I’ve loved Beach House for a long time. But I believe this album to be their best yet. A beautiful expansion upon their dreamy sound. (Jasmine)

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12. How to Dress Well – Total Loss
Tom Krell’s infectiously soulful falsetto was buried under layers of tape hiss on his incredible 2010 debut Love Remains, so while Total Loss clearly sounds more polished, it loses none of the emotional pull that made his debut so affecting. On “How Many?” he croons over a thick, snapping beat that rides along a watery piano sample that sounds like it was pulled from a cell phone with a poor connection. Total Loss works so well because it pushes itself forward while still retaining the traits that made the How to Dress Well project so endearing in the first place. (Adam)

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11. Angel Olsen – Half Way Home
Falling for this album was not a hard thing to do, and it will be on repeat all through winter. Angel has imperfections in her songs and an eerie voice, which are two things that are beautiful to hear from a folk musician. (Andi)

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10. Sam Lachow – Avenue Music & 5 Good Reasons (with Raz Simone)
When I thought it could never get better than Brand New Bike, Sam Huckleberry Lachow brings his best to date with 2 solid EPs. Sam interviewed twice on KZUU in 2012, bringing his total to 3 in this career. No one is having more fun with music these days than Sam and his crew of talented musicians. “We Ride For the Town, Cuz the Town Raised Us” (Bryce)

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09. Odesza – Summer’s Gone
Washington natives Odesza have made an eclectic album that was released perfectly in time for the oncoming cold winds of the Pacific Northwest winter, aptly titled Summer’s Gone. Many of the songs will either chill you, or warm you, all with a happy and thoughtful vibe. It was easily the biggest musical surprise for me this year, and their house beats and samples, along with whimsical synths made every song on the album such a joy to listen to over, and over, and over, and over again. (Nick)

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08. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon / Ocean Roar
The meditative folk music of Mount Eerie has often been about a fight between order and turmoil. Clear Moon is one of the few Phil Elverum albums to stay consistently delicate throughout. The delicacy though, isn’t a matter of control, it’s more like being paralyzed by the coldness of night. The explosion of doesn’t occur right until the end of the last track, which segues beautifully into the more black metal influenced companion album Ocean Roar, released later in the year. Both pieces together reflect two polarizing forces of nature: one, a quiet cold night illuminated by the moon, the other a thrashing, bubbling ocean. (Adam)

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07. Alt-J (∆) – An Awesome Wave
What can I say? This album is unlike any I’ve heard before. Joe Newman’s vocals are so unique, with beats I never would have thought of. I loved it the first time I heard it. And hey, if you don’t believe me, they won the 2012 Mercury Prize, the award given to the best British release of the year. So I’m not alone here. (Jasmine)

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06. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble
Phenomenal album, awash in creativity resulting in a fantastic blend of electronic power accompanied by a wonderful voice. It gives off a house vibe, but not without 80s synth pop, acid and garage making their presence known. Equally astonishing is the vocal ability of Orlando Higginbotton to sing in a variety of ways, ranging from playful to mournful, wistful to thoughtful, and everything in between. (Nick)

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05. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance
Lockett Pundt is mostly known for his contribution of masterful guitar work and blissful pop melodies in Deerhunter. In comparison, his side project Lotus Plaza is where these contributions combine in a flawless collection of indie rock gems. Spooky Action at a Distance is not only one of the best indie rock albums of the year, it amplifies the indie rock genre to be accessible while still maintaining a raw energy. Each track exemplifies a mini symphony, in particular, “Monoliths”  which relies on an infectious guitar loop that progresses into a thrashing yet emotional rock ballad, accompanied by the rarity of Pundt’s front-and-center vocals. Putting aside the never-ending music trends that occur within non-commercial music, theres nothing like a sincere indie rock album to reinforce why I love independent music in the first place. (Brennan)

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04. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
A really personal sophomore album from the West coast native. The buzz made it seem like the next Illmatic, and it lived up to the hype. This is some seriously important music. Kendrick spills his soul on these tracks and paints truly horrifying pictures of life in the hood. The beats sound great, but at it’s heart, good kid, m.A.A.d city is the work of a rapper of immense skill venting all of his struggles. Incredible work. (Daniel)

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03. Laurel Halo – Quarantine
Nothing this year has felt as necessary as Laurel Halo’s Quarantine. While we’ve spent the better part of 2012 asking our iPhones where to get a good burrito and ignoring how terrifying the future is, Quarantine explored the merging of human and computer, often times quite literally. Like on “Carcass” where her voice cracks and squeaks with Björk-like digital blips over a pulsing bass. But we’ve been so conditioned to endorsing reverb, echo, and auto-tune that Halo’s raw voice here seems ugly. What does it say when the only human element of a song feels the most mechanical? With a computer in each pocket and drones in the sky, it means we’re all part machine now too. Quarantine is the beautiful and anxiety-filled soundtrack to the digital uncanny valley, the inevitable Midgar dystopia, and our ever approaching techno-apocalypse. (Adam)

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02. Death Grips – The Money Store / NO LOVE DEEP WEB
Death Grips were easily the musical event of 2012. Between their intense industrial noise hip-hop and the controversy surrounding the release of NO LOVE DEEP WEB (and it’s, ahem, album cover) and their subsequent drop from their record label, Death Grips essentially turned the entire music industry up on it’s head. The Money Store takes some serious getting used to before it starts to make sense, but once you’ve let the excruciatingly loud noise and instruments burrow into your skull, their dystopian vision starts to make sense. Through their unpredictable behavior and schizophrenic music, they simultaneously reinvented the hip-hop rule books and gave the middle finger to one of the world’s biggest record labels.  In a year when most hip-hop seemed concerned with nostalgia and reinventing classic themes, Death Grips dared to let us know its okay to “be the freak you wanna see.” (Staff)

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01. Purity Ring – Shrines
From the first time we heard the track “Lofticries” way back when, we instantly knew this was something special. On their debut album Shrines, this Canadian duo latch on to a unique style of electronic pop that takes cues equally from last years’ witch house trend and the supersonic rise of bass-heavy EDM.  Their eerie homemade electronic instruments and lights and Megan James’ haunting, evocative lyrics made Purity Ring not only one of the most interesting musical acts of the year, but one of the most enthralling live musical experiences in recent memory. If such a bold and innovative record can help pave the way for a new wave of DIY electronic musicians, our most certain post-apocalyptic future looks bright. (Staff)

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