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Great Albums From The Last 20 Years: “2012”

In some unkept record stores these albums might even have a “new release” sticker still slapped on top. We are very close to present day and a lot of these songs might be pumping through you’re headphones on a daily basis. It was a great year for Canadian music, expanding over many different genres; from hardcore to dream-pop, 2012 had it all. These albums are in no particular order and are just a few of the great albums from 2012.

Grizzly Bear – Shields

Grizzly Bear released their 4th studio record Shields on September 18, 2012. The LP was written and recorded after a 6 month break from all things Grizzly Bear. The band moved to Marfa, Texas to begin the recording process with Chris Taylor once again taking on the production duties. After recording an entire new album of material, the band knew something wasn’t right and the majority of their work was scrapped. They started fresh back in singer Ed Droste’s mother’s house where they recorded Yellow House. This record is louder and clearer with a “very in-your-face” approach, said Droste. The album was a hit amongst critics worldwide.

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory


The 2nd studio record but their 3rd LP overall, Attack On Memory was released on January 24, 2012. It’s the first album to include frontman Dylan Baldi’s live band as full time members and contributors. This helped the record achieve a heavier and darker sound compared to the power-pop tracks we’ve heard in the past. Baldi said he was bored of the pop songs that he’d done before and wanted to create something different. The album was produced by Steve Albini in his Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago, and he took a very hands-off approach, not adding in any of his own ideas so the band would not be influenced. The fresh sound from the group had critics very pleased, being named to many year-end lists including the #6 slot on Stereogum’s Top 50 Albums of the Year compilation.

Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

Two very prominent names came together to create this record and this band. Fronted by both Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner and Spoon’s Britt Daniel. When something like this happens, there is a large amount of hype in anticipation. The two met in 2007 at a Handsome Furs’ show and in 2011 Boeckner suggested they start making music together. Daniel wrote the song “What Gets You Alone” and sent it to Boeckner in February 2011, he recorded vocals over top of it and decided to go to California the following year to focus on the band. Alex Fischel and Sam Brown were asked to join the band which added keys into the mix. The record was looked at as a fresh sound that no one had done with their other bands previously. Rolling Stone has the record listed at the 23rd Best Album of the Year.

The Shins – Port Of Morrow


The fourth studio record to come from the James Mercer-fronted Shins, was released on March 20, 2012. Mercer brought songs into the studio that were written as far back as 2007, including the lead single “Simple Song”. Producer Greg Kurstin encouraged Mercer to experiment a little more on this record. Their is spacey 70s sounding keyboards that were inspired by Steely Dan and Chicago and trumpet solos making the record a little brighter than what we had received from The Shins in the past. The instrumental arrangements on Port of Morrow were done in many layers to keep the songs “as interesting and engaging as possible”. 


Tame Impala – Lonerism

Lonerism is the sophomore release from Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala and was released on October 5th, 2012. The album’s recording process was very similar to what happened with their last release Innerspeaker. Frontman Kevin Parker once again took on the lead role for production and was mostly produced in the same studio they used last time in Perth. The process kicked off almost immediately after their debut LP was finished, with Parker recording vocals and guitar all over the world while on tour. Half the album was recorded and uploaded to Parker’s iPod but at some point on tour it was lost. The band panicked that the album was just going to appear on the internet but the device was later returned. For the second time they won the Rolling Stone award for album of the year and they also took home the J Award for Australian Album of the Year.

Beach House – Bloom


The Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House released their 4th studio record Bloom on May 15, 2012. The LP was recorded at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas and was co-produced yet again by Chris Coady, who worked with the band on Teen Dream. Beach House chose to work on the new album in Texas after really enjoying the area while resting there on tour. It took them 7 weeks to lay down the new tracks, and Victoria Legrand described the record as “an abstraction of many feelings.” Their ambient, hazy sounds came through yet again, the familiar soothing vocals and soft synths came across but managed to sound fresh. Bloom was included on many publications’ year-end lists, with Pitchfork ranking it 7th best album of the year.


Alt J – An Awesome Wave

An Awesome Wave was the debut record coming from the experimental indie rock quartet Alt-J and was released on May 25, 2012. The group built a generous amount of awareness from music fans after releasing their 4 song EP . They went back into the studio and continued to layer their influences on top of one another to create the unique, folky, alternative dub pop sound that was earned them success. The record was finished within the first three weeks of 2012 with the band adding 6-7 songs to a pile of already tracked material. The album made it on to charts in the UK, Belgium, France, Netherlands and Switzerland and won the 2012 British Barclaycard Mercury Prize.  

Japandroids – Celebration Rock


This two piece nearly met their demise before their last record was released but lucky for us, they continued their musical career. Celebration Rock was released on May 29, 2012 and there were plenty of people waiting to get their ears on it. The duo continued to mix their classic rock influences with the sounds of the punk acts they cherished. They took off the majority of 2011 to work on new material then hit the studios in Vancouver to start recording. The goal was to capture the energy of their live shows and they managed to do it with their simplistic recording approach. They didn’t focus on overdubbing and re-tracking; the went live from the floor and it help them exceed the already high expectations from many different critics. The record was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize and was nominated for Alternative Album of the Year at the Junos.


Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls


The screamingly southern debut record from Alabama shakes was released on April 9, 2012. Immediately the band caught the attention of fans and critics and the LP peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200. It’s an emotionally charged record focusing on heartbreak and relationships. Singer Brittany Howard’s soulful vocals loop over the sharp and twangy riffs throughout the record, making it very easy to love.


Metric – Synthetica

Metric premiered Synthetic in what they called “Synthetic Hide + Seek”, where you’d search for hidden tracks on their website. The LP was recorded in both Toronto and New York City and saw its release on June 12, 2012. The 11 track album includes a song called “The Wanderlust” which features long time indie hero Lou Reed, ultimately becoming his very last appearance on an original recording. Frontwoman Emily Haines said, “Synthetica is about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection.” The record was received well by critics, finding its way on to the shortlist for the year’s Polaris Music Prize and being named the 13th best album of the year by Spin magazine. 


Grimes – Visions

Claire Elise Boucher aka Grimes released her 3rd studio record, Visions, on January 31, 2012. The entire record was recorded on the Apple program GarageBand in Grimes‘ Vancouver apartment over three weeks. It was then mixed by Grimes and her manager Sebastien Cowan at La Brique Studio Space. The recorded crosses dark synthscapes but has the light and beautiful voice of Grimes to contrast the sound and balance the record perfectly. Pitchfork ranked the record as the 6th best on their Top 50 list and it won the 2013 Juno for Electronic Album of the Year.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is the fourth record to come from Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor and it was released on October 1, 2012. The album was released in a peculiar way; it happened somewhat silently during a concert in Boston. The record was met with very positive reviews, noting the band’s ability to reform after taking a break and still be able to create meaningful music. Although it didn’t mean much to them, they were awarded with the Polaris Music Prize in 2013. 


Purity Ring – Shrines

Shrines is the debut record from the Canadian electronica duo Purity Ring and it was released in the summer of 2012, on July 24. It reached number two on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart. The group found early success with their 1st single “Ungirthed” and were quickly signed to Last Gang Records in Canada and 4AD worldwide. Their EDM anthems struck a chord with fans so much that when they released a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy”, enough people went to download it that it crashed their site. Shrines ended up being shortlisted for the year’s Polaris Music Prize.

Crystal Castles – III

In 2012, the duo announced they had relocated to Warsaw, Poland to begin recording their third album. There was a change in both style and the instruments for this record; the usual digitally charged synths had been replaced with the ever popular analogue models that seemed to be taking over the genre. After the first few songs leaked onto the web, it was clear the core sound of Crystal Castles remained in tact. There was a bigger and glossier sound to the album but it still had their haunting vibes pulsating through. Alice’s voice shine on this LP as well, becoming very clear that it’s not just about what’s going on behind her.

METZ – Metz

Toronto’s hardcore/punk trio Metz bursted onto the scene with their aggressive self-titled debut on October 9, 2012. The group’s sound has been compared to early 90s grunge with a little more edge to it. Essentially, everything you would want to hear review wise for a debut record, was said to them. The very large sounding three piece put together an LP that embodies their live shows; thumping drums, crunching guitars and screaming vocals. The record got the Best New Music stamp from Pitchfork and was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.

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