Once again, my year was filled with great new music. If you believe 2012 did not have great new music, you are a doo doo head. For me, this year was hyper-focused on all my beloved California-based garage/psych/punk favorites; it's really what I kept going back to, but a few outliers got their hooks into me, too.


S/T by King Tuff (Sub Pop): This is a good album, but "Anthem" stands out as majestically rock n' roll perfect, somehow spanning decades seamlessly. From the Keith Moon-style drums to the vaguely-Scottish-bagpipe guitar to the baby-voiced sing-song-y melody, it just soars above the rest in fist-pumping, lighter-flicking glory.

King Tuff, "Anthem"

Port Of Morrow by The Shins (Columbia): Upon first listen, I was disappointed in Port Of Morrow. Nothing grabbed me, and although James Mercer remains an incredible vocalist, I wondered if he was reaching the recycling-own-work point as a songwriter. But with "September," he breaks through by crafting with elegant, exquisite poetic detail a heart-on-sleeve love song for wife Marisa Kula. It arguably stands with the best work by McCartney, or Tweedy, or really, anyone.

The Shins, "September"


Lonerism by Tame Impala (Modular): Tame Impala's sophomore album didn't receive the almost-universal enthusiastic notice that 2010's Innerspeaker did; a common musical career occurrence, but often undeserved. Lonerism is a solid record: clever, very listenable, and very unique.

Tame Impala, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"


2 by Mac DeMarco (Captured Tracks): A twisted weirdness permeates DeMarco's second album, like if one decided to take mid-'70s Top 10 AOR pop songs and dement them with wobbles and stretches and a bizarre surf tremolo. It sets your brain a little askew, like if you took too much cold medicine and watched hours and hours of old reruns of "Adam-12."

Mac DeMarco, "Cooking Up Something Good"


Shields by Grizzly Bear (Warp): I think you have to be in a mood to listen to Grizzly Bear, or at least I do. Their work is centered on pretty melody and intense, smart lyrics, with backing ranging from dramatic orchestral statement rock to simple acoustic folk. It's excellent music to write a thesis by; not so much for playing a game of "Twister."

Grizzly Bear, "Half Gate"


Researching the Blues by Redd Kross (Merge): The first new Redd Kross album since 1997?? YES! And, man, they really did it up right here. The production is tighttighttight, the songs consistently good throughout, and the whole thing is just is a ton 'o fun. Sounds amazing live, too, so like, WHAT MORE WOULD YOU WANT? PRO!

Redd Kross, "Stay Away From Downtown"

Butter by Turbo Fruits (Serpents & Snakes): This lovely bunch of boys from Nashville deliver their garage rock with tiny little touches of country picker, early-'60s balladry, the Velvet Underground, late '70s cowpunk, and, yes, Deep Purple. If you listen to "Butter," I believe you will LIKE IT.

Turbo Fruits, "Sweet Thang"


S/T by Sic Alps (Drag City): The grooviest of my groovers, Sic Alps offers up a kaleidoscopic wonderland -- kinda sweet, kinda dirty, a floaty haze punctuated by overdrive guitars. The more I listen to it, the lovelier I think it is.

Sic Alps, "God Bless Her, I Miss Her"

Putrifiers II by Thee Oh Sees (In The Red): This is a fact, people: Thee Oh Sees are one of the best, if not thee best, live band playing out these days. Seriously, if you haven't seen them, you are missing out, because it is always hardcore crazy fun. What you don't get to hear at an Oh Sees show is their quieter  and more experimental songs. Putrifiers II is the band showing all of what they do, and I might almost decide to call it downright artistic. This album deserves to be on everyone's Top List this year. "Flood's New Light" is as damn catchy as any song you'll hear.

Thee Oh Sees, "Flood's New Light"

Family Perfume Vols. 1 & 2 by White Fence (Woodsist): These albums, released a few weeks apart, are 80 minutes of liquid light show psychedelia, both embraced and distorted, trippy and irreverent. Throughout, Tim Presley constructs songs that have the feel of a multi-level puzzle; you hear something new in the pieces each time you listen. There is no one else like him.

White Fence, "Swagger Vets and Double Moon"

Hair by Ty Segall & White Fence (Drag City): WHAAA? An album collaboration by TWO of my MOST FAVORITE MUSICAL PEOPLES??? HOW DOES LIFE GET BETTER?? Originally the two got together to put together a single but the session went so well that they just kept writing and recording and ended up with an album's worth of coolness. They dig each other, and you can hear it.

Ty Segall & White Fence, "Scissor People"

Slaughterhouse and Twins by Ty Segall (Drag City): It was certainly the year of SONGS SONGS SONGS for both White Fence and Ty Segall, both releasing three (three!!) albums in 2012. It was my total pleasure this year to be able to see Segall perform multiple times this year, and to hear the growth in the band and the songs happen in leaps and bounds REAL TIME was just an amazing experience for me. Ty gets better and better, and already started out great, so, YES. What a talented guy, talented band...rock n' roll not only lives, but thrives here.

Ty Segall, "I Bought My Eyes"

Ty Segall, "You're The Doctor"


Everybody's Got It Easy But Me by The Intelligence (In The Red): My iTunes stats do not lie -- this album was by far the one I listened to the most this year. Why? Because the Intelligence are, well, intelligent. Lars Finberg's lyrics never fail to spark up my brain with the unexpected, whether drily funny, wicked in observational clarity, or sometimes heartbreakingly hopeless. As the band moves from dense and blown-out lo-fi production values to a more-accessible and cleaner sound, we get to actually sing along with the cool lyrics whilst rocking out. I love the whole damn thing.

The Intelligence, "Hippy Provider"

Thank you, musicians, for making life better. Here's to 2013!