Troy's Top Twenty-Five Of Twenty-Twelve

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- Troy Hatfield 

In the past couple years, I’ve realized my capacity to digest music is pretty high.  I listen to a lot of music and make decisions quickly.  So when it comes time to decide on my favorite albums every year, the list is quite long and tough to narrow down.

So here are my 25 favorite albums of 2012 (with another 25 honorable mention available by request).

25.  Band of Horses – Mirage Rock  (a fuller realized version of this band’s great songwriting and evocative singing.)

24.  Grizzly Bear –  Shields  (loads of textures and well-used vocal harmonies – don’t be afraid to let this album grow on you.)

23.  Chromatics –  Kill For Love  (dark and moody and hypnotic female-voiced, noisy at times electronica.)

22.  Family of the Year  –  Loma Vista  (I’m a sucker for male/female harmonies – this is good upbeat Left Coast pop that uses nonsense syllables well.)

21.  Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics  –  It’s About Time  (a really great throwback R&B album – big horn soul and attitude-rich female vocals)

20.  Here We Go Magic  –  A Different Ship  (this is a band who knows how to sing and play their songs – if you’re looking for a live band sound, this record is a great one!)

19.  Niki & the Dove  –  Instinct  (if you’re looking for a synthpop record with Swedish female vocals, this record is a great one!  It makes me want to put down all my guitars and become a keyboard hero.)

18.  Divine Fits  –  A Thing Called Divine Fits  (indie supergroup – really hook-y effort from a couple veterans sounding confident and unconcerned with others’ opinions.)

17.  Liars  –  WIXIW  (a great record to listen to on headphones!  It’s textured and layered with vocal deliveries that help songs to still feel human.)

16.  Grimes  –  Visions  (A record that is tough to define – certainly dramatic – dark and schizophrenic – and all done in Apple’s Garageband.)

15.  Lianne La Havas  –  Is Your Love Big Enough?  (loads of soul from this killer female singer.  The production keeps this from feeling like just another folk-soul album.)

14.  Jenny Owen Youngs  –  An Unwavering Band of Light  (a big step forward – more powerful and courageous production.  Really great drumming pushes these strong songs ahead.  This is the sound I hoped for from Brandi Carlile’s newest album…)

13.  Michael Kiwanuka  –  Home Again  (This is my favorite acoustic album of the year!  Soulful and acoustic – a really killer debut from this Brit.)

12.  David Byrne & St. Vincent  –  Love This Giant  (With tons of brass and “not rock” sounds, this record helps to pair two unique voices convincingly.  I do wish there was more of Annie Clark’s vocals though)

11.  The xx  –  Coexist  (Once again this band makes music that is courageously sparse.  The male/female singing is captivating – but the songs make me crave sunshine and a good joke once the album is done.)

10.  Fiona Apple  –  The Idler Wheel…  (This long-titled record is definitely worth the wait since her last offering.  Brave arrangements and less party-tricks sonically.  Her creative wordplay forces you to listen closely.)

9.  The Maccabees  –  Given to the Wild  (A group of South Londers who refuse to be easily categorized as a “guitar band.”  At times atmospheric, others epic, still others tender – this band is hitting its stride and made a killer record.)

8.  The Temper Trap  –  The Temper Trap  (This is a great sophomore album.  It’s moodier while continuing to be creative with arrangements, not following pop radio conventions.  This is my favorite album to sing along with of 2012.)

7.  The Vaccines  –  Come of Age  (This record is full of strong pop songs dressed in punk clothing.  It’s tongue-in-cheek and energetic – the singing employs a variety of styles and approaches.  Plus – they rhyme with Frankie Avalon!!)

6.  El Perro Del Mar  –  Pale Fire  (the unfortunately named Sarah Assbring returns with a more sonically realized chill out album.  This is one record I strongly disagree with the many critics about – I’m loving virtually every track on this collection.)

5.  The Big Pink  –  Future This  (This was my first favorite record of 2012.  It reminds me of being young, pouring over lyric sheets, convinced I could be friends with the band.  This electro-rock record has been played more than any other this year.)

4. ∆ (pronounced “Alt-J”)  –  An Awesome Wave  (This debut won the Mercury Prize and deserved it!  This album is diverse but accessible.  It’s literary and sophisticated, but it’s catchy enough and not overcomplicated.  I hope more people listen to this record.)

3.  Bobby Womack  –  The Bravest Man in the Universe  (The first album in 12 year for this Rock-n-Roll Hall of Famer.  Damon Albarn – of Blur and Gorillaz – co-produced Womack’s 27th album – it’s got a strange album cover and is an amazing collision of sounds and styles.  An stunning R&B record with modern production.)

2.  Lord Huron  –  Lonesome Dreams  (Maybe the most surprising album of the year for me.  It’s a record I can listen to in any mood.  It’s very relaxing but also ends up being uplifting and, dare I say, inspiring.  This record renews my belief in the acoustic singer/songwriter genre.

1.  Stars  –  The North  (For the first time in years, my favorite album isn’t British, but Canadian.  There’s great story-telling, as usual, from this band.  Hushed male-female vocals, a smart use of synth and electronic elements, all dipping into a wide variety of styles for influence.  If you don’t know this band, take a chance and buy it immediately.) 

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Troy is Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, where he’s been on staff since 2004. A musician, Anglophile, voracious reader and owner of more black clothing than anyone he knows, Troy has also recently married Lis, a violinist and lover of every member of the animal kingdom. Follow Troy on twitter @tr0yisbald.