9) Swans - The Seer: The second-best psych freakout of the year actually works as something like the flip side to Lonerism. A demanding two hour-long bad trip that is somehow disturbing, uplifting, and revelatory.
8) Passion Pit - Gossamer: Pop music! With the help of Nico Mulhy you get something like Jonsi, the Polyphonic Spree, and ABBA in a blender. The lead singer is mentally ill, and the lyrics reflect that. I don’t know how much longer he’ll last. Better get in while the getting’s good.
7) The Amazing - Gentle Stream: Sax solos! Really. So pretty, so fragile... Did you know that this was released in Sweden in 2011, so it was in last year’s top 15, too? Well, now it’s a 2012 US release, and I like it more.
6) Frank Ocean - Channel Orange: I believe this is a first for a top ten list (since I wasn't doing these in the 1970s), an actual R&B album, and perhaps the most interesting one since Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information at that.More here.
Guilty Simpson, murdering a Radiohead-driven horn section:
2012 was an okay year for music. I thought there was much "good," but little "great," and I wonder how many of these albums I'll be listening to a few years from now. I also worry that when it comes to music I'm becoming a grumpy old man. However, it was a great year for beer, as DC saw another brewery open, one that I put a bit of elbow grease into. Three Stars Brewing's coffee porter, dubbed the Pandemic (as in "two for $5!") is a keeper, and I'm a fan of the rest of their output as well. About 15 minutes away, DC Brau continues to impress, resurrecting grätzer; a hoppy, smoked wheat ale native to what was once Prussia, then part of Germany, and now part of Poland.
Speaking of which, three other canned beers caught my eye in 2012. Two are lagers. New Belgium's Shift is a pale lager hopped with one of my favorites, Nelson Sauvin, from New Zealand, while just up the road in Fredrick, MD, Flying Dog came out with Underdog, another hoppy, pale offering. Like Premium, all lend themselves to sessioning. Both Shift and Underdog use hops in the same way, delivering fruit flavors, gooseberries and apricots, respectively, as opposed to piney or pithy bitterness. The third canned beer that is Brewery Vivant's Escoffier. It is, to my knowledge, the first canned beer to use brettanomyces, obtained via New Belgium. It's a wonderful red ale that uses brett for tropical funk as opposed to dryness, and I'd love to see more of it in our area.
Other standouts include New Glarus' Serendipity, an accidental fruit ale born out of a shortage of cherries in the midwest. New Glarus wisely added apples and cranberries to this beer to compensate, oaked it, and then used their house brett strain (sense a trend?). For the hop-heads, Williamsburg Alewerk's Bitter Valentine was a crushing blast of tropical fruit flavors, pine, and grapefruit pith. One of the better double IPAs I've had.
Beyond that aforementioned canned Premium, 2013 should bring us more options in terms of growler fills, and hopefully a few new breweries as well. Though we'll no doubt miss SAVOR, I'm also looking forward to the Craft Brewers Conference and the surrounding hoopla that's planned.