Musical Top Ten for 2012

It’s not strictly the silver cinema for the RowThree staff. We do have some other interests as well. And since it’s that time of year, nothing easier than throwing together a quick top ten of quite possibly our second favorite art form around here: tunage. Adele might be artist of the year, but apparently the third row doesn’t see this. It seems Jack White might hold that prestigious honor with five mentions out of seven in the lists below; including two number one slots.

Outside of Mr. White, there are a couple of duplicate mentions below but for the most part it’s clear music distribution continues to outwit even some of the most die hard of music buffs as it’s virtually impossible to follow every single artist and new release out there. From local bar bands to stadium mega-rockers, it’s easy to find anything in any of the cracks the internet has to offer.

Here are the lists from some of the staff at RowThree. How about you? What have you got for us to listen to in 2013?



Jandy Hardesty

10. CrocodilesEndless Flowers
I first heard Crocodiles live opening for someone else, and was like, yeah, they’re alright. Little on the loud, screamy side, but whatevs. When I saw they had a new album out, I figured, what the heck, give it a go. It’s no longer loud and screamy (perhaps that’s just their live vibe), but fits right in the indie-rock-with-a-bit-of-noise that hits my sweet spot. Turns out Crocodiles’ lead singer is dating Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls (whose EP this year would’ve been on this list if I’d let myself include EPs), and it’s probably no surprise that my favorite song on this album is “No Black Clouds for Dee Dee.”

9. Norah JonesLittle Broken Hearts
I’ve always enjoyed listening to Norah Jones on a casual basis, but I’ve never really considered myself an actual fan, but this album is something else. She’s still got her gorgeous voice, of course, and shows it off on several down-tempo jazzy numbers, as expected, but there are also cuts on here of a more dangerous nature, showing a side of her I hadn’t noticed before.

8. M. WardA Wasteland Companion
Admittedly, I come at M. Ward by way of She & Him, but my enjoyment of this album probably has as much to do with my new-found appreciation for a certain kind of rock-infused folk/country. But okay, the appearance of Zooey Deschanel on a couple of tracks doesn’t hurt, either!

7. Titus AndronicusLocal Business
Pulling away from the almost concept-like nature of their previous album and going for a more straight punk vibe, Titus Andronicus here make an album that’s immediately catchy and enormous fun to listen to. It often takes me a few listens to really get into an album (which is one reason that many albums on this list are from early in the year), but this one grabbed me immediately.

6. The Magnetic FieldsLove at the Bottom of the Sea
My husband has been a huge fan of The Magnetic Fields for a long time, but I had never listened to them until he gave me a mix CD of his favorite songs of theirs, then this album came out. Not tied to a concept like many previous Magnetic Fields albums (69 Love Songs, i, Distortion), this one harks back to elements of many of them while remaining itself quite varied. I don’t usually latch on to lyrics immediately when listening to music, but in this case, the lyrics are easily the strongest element – immensely clever and often funny, but with a bittersweet undercurrent that cuts just as you come close to laughter.

5. The RaveonettesObservator
The Raveonettes, like Metric, might as well just claim their permanent place on my list every time they come out with an album. This one throws back a bit to their earlier, noisier style, though it also doesn’t entirely eschew the cleaner sound that pervaded most of Raven in the Grave. The combination works quite well, making an album that, while I don’t love it as much as In & Out of Control or Lust Lust Lust, still held its own for many repeated listens this year.

4. Heartless BastardsArrow
Erika Wennerstrom’s throaty growl grounds this band’s sound as somewhere between garage rock and alt-country, a sound that somehow became an instant hit with me this year. The raw emotion she gets across is irresistible, and if choosing a single favorite song from 2012, it would likely be “Parted Ways” from this album, though every cut is pretty strong.

3. MetricSynthetica
I’d probably say that Metric is my #1 favorite band currently still playing together. That doesn’t necessarily mean every individual album is going to be at the top of my list (apparently), but in terms of loving their overall sound and consistency, yeah. They’re it. Calling their new album “Synthetica” was almost a no-brainer, as the band’s reliance on a 21st century update of New Wave synths is one of their trademarks, but predictably, singer and songwriter Emily Haines isn’t content with just that obvious meaning, but weaves the idea of synthetic (i.e., fake) facade vs. real life subtly throughout every song. The combination of her thoughtful lyrics and the band’s driving music is what keeps me coming back, and this, their fifth studio album, doesn’t disappoint.

2. First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar
A much more folksy sound than I usually like, but Swedish sibling duo Johanna and Klara Soderberg managed to capture both my ears and my heart this year with their plaintive album. It’s got its fair share of upbeat numbers, too, but never loses those soaring yet relatable vocals nor the throwback to a kind of country that I actually like, even namechecking the famous classic country duos Johnny Cash/June Carter and Emmylou Harris/Gram Parsons in the best song on the album “Emmylou.”

1. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
I’ve moved this album up and down on this list throughout the year, but ultimately, it had to come out on top. I became a big White Stripes fan sometime after they split up, unfortunately, and have checked out most of the projects Jack White’s been involved with since. While I enjoy them to various degrees (Raconteurs more, Dead Weather less), I’ve never felt the same excitement that I get from The White Stripes – until Blunderbuss. White growls and twangs his way through these songs, every one of them solid and different from the others, and the results are positively thrilling.

GoldfrappThe Singles (which would’ve been top ten if I included Best Of/re-release type albums)
La SeraSees the Light (1/3 of the Vivian Girls going solo)
One Little PlaneInto the Trees
StarsThe North (usually Stars are Top Ten material, but this one didn’t grab me quite as much as usual)
HowlerAmerica Give Up
Two GallantsThe Bloom and the Blight
Sleigh BellsReign of Terror
CursiveI Am Gemini
California WivesArt History




Bob Turnbull

10. Grizzly BearShields
As much as I liked the band’s slow paced approach to their previous effort Veckatimest, this year’s album feels more like a set of songs. Less languid, more focused and more accessible (meant in the best sense of the word), Shields signals to me that the band is figuring how to parlay their strong suits into a consolidated creative whole.

9. MetricSynthetica
The songs on Synthetica feel simple – almost too simple at times – and when I try to break them down into component parts, I can’t seem to find anything overly unique about them. But when I just listen to the damn tunes, I easily get caught up in their grooves and melodies. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity.

8. AstraThe Black Chord
A fantastic entry into the genre of Space Rock by a band that likely has a good chunk of Hawkwind’s ’70s output in their collection. It’s not all retro though as many modern day space and neo-psych bands (Quarkspace, Ozric Tentacles, Melting Euphoria, etc.) slide into the unique mix. Chock full of grooves, the music is meant to suck you in, whirl you around and transport you to the prone position on your couch.

7. The Temper TrapThe Temper Trap
The only reason I can think of why this album doesn’t seem to be getting as high praise as its predecessor (2009’s Conditions) is that there’s a strong sense of drama through the songs which naysayers would likely label as “melodrama”. Fine by me since melodrama – when done well and not arching over into a desperate plea for emotion – is terribly effective at sinking its hooks into you. And yes, I meant that play on words since both “Trembling Hands” and “The Sea Is Calling” are two of my most played songs of the year.

6. Aimee MannCharmer
Despite a strong cynical bent and some lovely snark, you still have to be deliriously happy after listening to an Aimee Mann album. Her songs tend to be immediately catchy and feel like you’ve known them all your life after a couple of spins, but they also manage to grow stronger and dig deeper on repeated listens – it appears that Mann has discovered the law of amplifying returns. Though it may be frustrating that such a great pure singer/songwriter doesn’t deliver more frequent albums, at least they can withstand countless playbacks.

5. Moon DuoCircles
Feeling like a more focused and consistently up-tempo Spiritualized, Moon Duo’s Circles is a joyful psych album that pulsates through its wall of noise. Kind of like a Krautrock power pop band.

4. Oresunds Space CollectiveGive Your Brain A Rest From The Matrix
I’m pretty sure these guys release new lengthy improvisations on an almost weekly basis that are just as riff-tastic and spaced out as their albums. I haven’t ventured to seek them out yet, though, as I might never be able to crawl back out of the deep grooves and quite wonderful guitar swirls they create. I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad way to go though…

3. GalacticCarnivale Electricos
The monstrous Galactic serve up yet another fantastic collection of their New Orleans stew with a focus towards the party and parades of Mardi Gras. Along with the standard soul, blues and funk ingredients, this time a good chunk of the recipes and spice come through Brazil. It’s an obvious match once you hear it and I defy you to sit still during any track on this rambunctious record (yes, DEFY!). It solidifies them in my mind as simply one of the best bands on the planet.

2. WitchcraftLegend
Pretty much the best RAWK album of the year – heavy but not really metallic; bordering on stoner rock, but too head-bopping to drift off with; steeped in power chords and riffs, but ever mindful of melody. The smooth and slightly Swedish accented vocals have to work through some odd lyrics (not really cringeworthy, but just occasionally awkward and not overly meaningful), but all is forgiven when the music kicks posterior as wickedly good as this entire album does. You’ll wear out your air guitar.

1. RushClockwork Angels
Call me a fanboy, I don’t care. I love this band. Always have, always will. They sound downright vital on this record. Can I say that? I don’t care, I just did. This isn’t one of those “Yeah they sound pretty good for old guys” albums – this is a full-fledged Rush album with some of the finest tracks they’ve recorded. Damn if they don’t sound half their ages as they power through this cycle of songs. I can only hope that means they aren’t even close to being done yet.

Sonny LandrethElemental Journey
Smashing PumpkinsOceania
Dinosaur JrI Bet On Sky




Scott Olson

10. DeftonesKoi No Yokan
– Encompasses everything that makes Deftones great. Soaring vocals, heavy guitars, and melody.

9. Frank OceanChannel Orange
– The inevitable Stevie Wonder comparisons will be made over and over again, and they fit perfectly. The interludes get a little cumbersome, but an original work that will be seen as a classic. Not many make R&B at this level anymore.

8. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
– What else is there to say about this guy? Everything he touches turns into greatness. White Stripes are missed, but i’m glad he’s continuing to expand his sound. The two different live bands within the same show, (one all male and one all female) is certainly an inventive dynamic.

7. JapandroidsCelebration Rock
– That ridiculously large sound you’re hearing? It’s two Canadians who almost didn’t follow up their first release. Following in the tradition of great garage rock twosomes, they make a great, glorious noise.

6. Smashing PumpkinsOceania
– The dramatic rebirth of a tragically under-appreciated band. Manages to capture the essence of what made the early albums great, while not aping them and adding to the legacy. Best reviewed album they’ve made, which is hard to believe considering the earlier works.

5. Father John MistyFear Fun
– Favorite part of this one? That piano/organ and those backing vocals. Rarely done this well. Subtle and completely infectious.

4. Sea WolfOld World Romance
– Alex Church’s terrific songwriting drives this album. He also drives everything else. Self produced from top to bottom. I’m always stunned by this kind of rare talent.

3. LuceroWomen & Work
– I knew of Lucero, but never really knew them until hearing a cover of “The War” by The Gaslight Anthem a while back. The song was so haunting I had to look up the original found on “Nobody’s Darlings”, which inevitably made me a rabid fan and led me to this release. Some may find Ben Nichols whiskey soaked voice a tough listen. I find tons of character in every note.

2. Tame ImpalaLonerism
– About as retro as it gets, top shelf psychedelia done as well as it can be done.

1. Passion PitGossamer
– The music itself is uplfting and exciting, yet the whole is darkened with lyrical themes of despair, stress, and heartbreak.




Andrew James

10. Heartless BastardsArrow
– Probably not for everyone. It’s just good, solid, indie rock with a dose of a southern feel to it. It’s an album that showed up on the radar fairly early in the year and I never got bored with it. It just sort of stuck with me.

9. Jonathan CaleShifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
– Apparently he’s been around forever, so this was nothing new to anyone else. For me, this was a surprise find and “Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood” has enough of an energetic, orchestral quality to its retro sound that it feels rather fresh in my playlist.

8. King CharlesLoveBlood
– Everybody limbo! By all accounts I should hate this touristy, Caribbean luau crap but dammit it’s just too darn catchy and easy to listen to to ignore. Having a bad day? Listen to this and think again.

7. The Helio SequenceNegotiations
– I tend to match my music albums up with a certain time of year very often. Usually it’s because the music just “sounds like spring” (or autumn or whatever). Sometimes it’s simply because an album is released in a particular season and therefore I associate it with that time of year. With “Negotiations,” I think it’s both, as the album just feels like a summer winding down early autumn record. I admit there’s nothing overly special about the record but it’s got some great soaring vocals mixed with prog-rock and even psychedelia at times. But overall it’s just a simple album that reminds me of the end of summer and the start of school. And that’s just shiny.

6. The xxCoexist*
– If you promise not to be lulled to sleep by the warm beats and soothing melodies (with a just a dash of shoe-gazing), let this little record seep into you on a late night drive by yourself. It could change your life.

5. FunSome Nights
– Is it Nate Ruess’ Freddy Mercury-like vocal qualities? Is it the unique instrumentation and march-like cadences? Or is it the stadium rock anthems that became instant hits in clubs and cubicles at the exact same moment? Whatever it is, for fans of “Queen,” Fun seems to have picked up right where May and Mercury left off (and yes I know that technically Queen still exists).

4. Mumford and SonsBabel
– It’s at the top of a million different lists this year (including NPR’s listener’s favorites) and for damn good reason. 2009’s “Sigh no More” won accolades across the board and “Babel” has pretty much surpassed all expectations. There is definitely no “sophomoritis” with this one as it is arguably better and richer than their previous effort – which was stellar.

3. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
– #Jackwhitefuckyeah!

2. MuseThe 2nd Law
– Listening to this album on day one I thought, “welp, this’ll make my top three.” And not shockingly, here it is. Muse is really trying some new things throughout this record. It’s still undoubtedly Muse, but there’s so much mild experimentation going on here that the record just keeps a listener guessing at every corner. The influences are clear (Queen, Radiohead, INXS, U2, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sabbath and is that… John Carpenter I can hear?) which puts the album all over the sub-genre map – yet still rocks the proverbial house. People on the train look at me with strange looks as I publicly fist-pump my way through this one. Of all current musical acts still touring, Muse is the one band I’m most disappointed in myself for not having caught live yet.

1. KeaneStrangeland
– This is the most fun I’ve had with a record in a long time. Keane has always been at the forefront for me whenever they release an album. One of very few new artists whose albums I still go back and listen to over and over and over again. This year’s release was no different. It’s catchy, bright and conjures memories of late 80’s U2 but with The Edge on the keys rather than guitar. Don’t believe it? Listen to the first track and tell me you’re not reminded of Bono and company singing “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the Vegas strip. Other signature tracks include “Sovereign Light Cafe,” and “Neon River.”

– Passage
Sea Wolf – Old World Romance
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser… (it’s definitely an acquired taste. Took about 5 listens before I really started to get it)
Hot Chip – In Our Heads (sick of the 80s aesthetic, but damn if this is fun and energetic listen)
Kishi Bashi – 151a (worldly, catchy, chimey – sounds like a Christmasalbum yet nothing remotely “holiday” about it at all)




Jonathan James

10. The KillersBattle Born

9. Of Monsters and MenMy Head is an Animal

8. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss

7. Leonard CohenOld Ideas

6. Silversun PickupsNeck of the Woods

5. White RabbitsMilk Famous

4. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZeroesHere

3. MuseThe 2nd Law

2. CalexicoAlgiers

1. Mumford & SonsBabel




David Brook

10. The xxCoexist

9. Grizzly BearShields

8. Hot ChipIn Our Heads

7. Jessie WareDevotion

6. Animal CollectiveCentipede Hz

5. Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls

4. Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel Is Wiser…

3. alt-JAn Awesome Wave

2. Dirty ProjectorsSwing Lo Magellan

1. Jack WhiteBlunderbuss

Sigur Ros
Sleigh BellsRein of Terror
Passion PitGossamer
Dan Romer & Benh ZeitlinBeasts of the Southern Wild

Video Game Soundtracks & Chiptunes:
After picking up a few albums through the Humble Indie Bundle I’ve become kind of obsessed with video game soundtracks and chiptunes this last 6 months; helped by the fact that many of them are freely available online. Here are 5 of the best new releases I’ve heard this year and links to take a listen:
LifeformedFastfall: Dustforce OST –
Jake “virt” KaufmanFX4 –
DVABotanicula Soundtrack –
Jessica CurryDear Esther Soundtrack –
Austin WintoryHorn Soundtrack –




Ross Miller

10. Passion PitGossamer

9. Mumford and SonsBabel

8. Hot ChipIn Our Heads

7. Norah JonesLittle Broken Hearts

6. Of Monsters and MenMy Head is an Animal

5. The xxCoexist

4. Two Door Cinema ClubBeacon

3. Regina SpektorWhat We Saw From the Cheap Seats

2. The KillersBattle Born

1. Sigur RósValtari



Row Three Staff Row Three Staff
The Conglomerate in Action