Hello and thanks for sticking around for another year! Skatterbrain is seven years old now—how the time flies! It’s certainly been a decidedly pop-heavy affair around here for a majority of those years, but it wasn’t perhaps until this year that I realized a terribly important thing: POP is POP. Period. With that in mind, these are my favorite records of the year! I loved them proudly and loudly and I’ll continue to do so. Questions/concerns/short-sighted arguments about anything on this list? Ask me about it!
Bonkers ‘100 Favorite Songs of 2012’ extrava-mix coming later this week!
01. Swearin’ ‘Swearin” // Salinas Records
No surprise here. Swearin’s self-titled debut LP is the perfect blend of emotion and hooks. You come for the effortless catchiness of “Fat Chance”, but you stay for the daily 20+ listens in a row to “Empty Head” that kept you from falling apart the first half of the Summer of 2012. But it’s more than that. It’s so much more than that.
02. Evans The Death ‘Evans The Death’ // Slumberland Records
But! No one had more hooks than these kids this year. Some of the brightest and inventive guitar pop songwriting of 2012 lies inside this record. Dan’s melodies paired with Katherine’s distinctly incredible vocals are an unstoppable force whether leading into a soaring solo (“Telling Lies”) or lulling you to sleep (“You’re Joking’). Look no further than the last minute of “Morning Voice” for inarguable proof that Evans The Death are one of the best things going right now. Also, “I’m not afraid of catching your cold” might be one of the best lines of the year.
03. Taylor Swift ‘Red’ // Big Machine Records
‘Red’ had a profound effect on me in a manifold of ways, but none more than the fact that it pushed me to let down my guard in terms of music in a personally unprecedented way. I related to it, danced to it, I screamed it at the top of my lungs in the car, I annoyed everyone at work with it, I learned how to play four of the songs, I bought the t-shirt, I made countless .gifs, I started a blog, and I HAD A LOT OF FUN! And I still do. You can’t argue with fun. Unless it’s Fun.
04. Shrag ‘Canines’ // Fortuna POP!
‘Canines’ is, without a doubt, Shrag’s best record yet. They’ve always had some of the best group harmonies in the game, but GOOD GOD. This record is basically a how-to on harmonizing for maximum emotional impact. And that’s just the topping on a record so packed with gems that the lead single “Tendons In The Night” might actually be it’s weakest moment. The record’s highlight, for me, is the almost New Order-y “On The Spines of Old Cathedrals”: Beginning as bassline-led Shrag standard fare, it all eventually gives way to a shining sea of synths, then guitars, then ALL OF THOSE DAMN VOCAL TRACKS; all adding up to an outro fit for a king.
05. Hospitality ‘Hospitality’ // Merge Records
The self-titled debut from NY’s Hospitality might be better titled ‘Everything You Knew About Your Mid-to-Late 20s, But Were Afraid To Hear’. Despite its sea-faring cover art, this is a record to be enjoyed walking to or from, but definitely alone, and definitely surrounded by buildings tall and old. It’s a damn fine guitar pop record with an even finer—and certainly wiser (“Liberal Arts”, thanks for twisting the knife, Amber Papini)—voice that finds a relatively new band sounding like they’ve been doing it forever.
06. Echo Lake ‘Wild Peace’ // Slumberland Records
Last year’s number one night drives/in bed album was Minks self-titled debut; this year it’s unquestionably Echo Lake’s ‘Wild Peace’. It’s a modern pop masterpiece of sorts, pulling hypnotic, semi-psych guitar melodies and Linda’s ghostly reverbed vocals into something as tremendous and composed as the mountains gracing the record’s empyrean cover art.
7. Burning Hearts ‘Extinctions’ // Shelflife Records
Despite having Burning Hearts’ sophomore LP shelved away for two seasons of the year, it remained one the most impressively beautiful and engaging records I heard all year. the arrangements are complex and calculated, but not cold, or robotically so—more majestic and carefully woven than anything. Jessika Rapo and Henry Ojala have an uncanny gift for writing these brilliant songs where imagined worlds and invented creatures come to life and it’s simply stunning how immersive it all becomes. There’s something very cinematic about ‘Extinctions’. You can almost pull those animals right off the cover and put them wherever your imagination desires.
08. Young Prisms ‘In Between’ // Kanine Records
‘In Between’ is cold and hazy and mesmerizing. It’s a record with a lot of layers—mostly guitars—but layers nonetheless, and I spent a lot of time uncovering them. This year a lot my most focused music listening took place during my walks to and from work during the week. While Hospitality soundtracked many a morning walk, ‘In Between’ was a constant go-to for the darker walks home. Little things like that great wobbling bassline in the chorus of “Floating In Blue” really stick to you when all you’ve got are the sidewalk and the night sky to focus on.
09. Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Kiss’ // School Boy Records
As criminally good as “Call Me, Maybe” is, CarJeps has so many more tricks up her big red sleeves; each of them an even brighter shade of bubblegum than the pink of the record’s cover. While probably still existing as merely a meme to a much more discerning public, ‘Kiss’ is actually a seriously great pop record that I proudly danced along to all year long. Also, it’s the official number one DTCB record of the year.
10. Melody’s Echo Chamber ‘Melodys Echo Chamber’ // Fat Possum Records
Blending elements of psych, dreampop, and Radiophonic Workshop-esque sound oddities, the debut from Melody’s Echo Chamber sounds a lot like the cover art looks. If Julian House’s Ghost Box label liked melodies, THIS is the record they would release. A little more Guryan than Margo and a little more Design than Free, it comes off sounding like a more organic Broadcast. But Melody is no Trish—not yet. I fell asleep to this a lot.
11. The Garlands ‘The Garlands’ // Shelflife Records
12. Eternal Summers ‘Correct Behavior’ // Kanine Records
13. Neighbors ‘John In Babeland’ // Lost Sound Tapes
14. Hollows ‘Vulture’ // Trouble In Mind
15. Amanda Mair ‘Amanda Mair’ // Labrador Records
16. Sourpatch ‘Stagger & Fade’ // Happy Happy Birthday To Me
17. Tender Trap ‘Ten Songs About Girls’ // Fortuna POP!
18. Prissy Clerks ‘Bruise Or Be Bruised’ // Forged Artifacts
19. Boomgates ‘Double Natural’ // Bedroom Suck Records
20. Weird Dreams ‘Choreography’ // Tough Love Records
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