Best Music of 2012: The year the world wouldn't end

Best Music of 2012: The year the world wouldn't end
This was the only photo to capture them that wasn't a blur.

For a few weeks now I’ve been having the same debate with a good friend (I think we’re still friends) over what should be the Album of the Year for 2012. It’s a toss-up between two bands — we agree they’re both phenomenal — but he says I’m crazy for picking the one I’m about to over the other.

Nobody ever said things were normal here.

We can all agree that the crop of young bands this year was astounding (with two freshman and one sophomore effort sweeping my top 3 albums). Proving again that, like the human race, rock ‘n’ roll marches on.

For now…

Best Album of 2012:

My winner kept hitting hard all year until the body-blows knocked me on my butt: it’s Reptar and their debut LP Body Faucet (listen to it at the YouTube page).

The album boasts terrific energy and tripped-out, driving tracks. They’re Vampire Weekend times Rusted Root rhythm plus ’80s guitar divided by some sweet psychedelic twists.

Body Faucet dropped back in the spring (May 1) and I gave it a pretty solid review. After that I saw them open for Grouplove (also in May) and was completely blown away (by both bands).

Then I saw this KEXP session they recorded in September. Even the DJ can barely contain her burgeoning fangirl love.

Reptar is a young explosion of talent and creative energy. It’s got me mosh-pitting the walls. I can’t ask for much more out of a record. Trippy? Check. Funky guitars? Check. Drums plowing ahead? Yes. The rhythm of the record doesn’t let up. “Sebastian” is an intriguing opening tune that defies you to not fall in love with Graham Ulicny’s unique singing style. The first five songs are all winners (with shout-along party song “Houseboat Babies” leading the pack), and just when you think Reptar has taken the tempo back down, tracks 8-11 make you move again (“Sweet Sipping Soda” is my trip-rocking fave of this group, with “Three Shining Suns” getting a gold star as the weird-tender-ballad of the album). Great. Solid. Record.

Props, Reptar. I am too old to be in your band.

Taking top Jam Room honors in 2012 is quite an achievement (in my head), considering recent faves like the Dandy Warhols and Ben Kweller dropped long-awaited new albums (This Machine and Go Fly A Kite, respectively). Those LPs had several good songs, but lacked the consistency I’d come to expect (and with no startlingly new direction). I actually quite like most of the Dandy’s record, they just didn’t top themselves like they always have in the past (always). We haven’t heard the last of any of those kids — stellar live acts, btw — though.

Other Best Albums:

It was also a huge achievement (if I repeat it, you’ll believe it) to beat out this next band, who I had tabbed for Best Album all year long. Another debut that had the band sounding like seasoned vets – Gonna go all the way back to February and land on Alabama Shakes’ Boys and Girls. These blues rockers came with something very fresh and right. A CCR revival with a twist felt very timely. All the pain, soul and hope in Brittany Howard’s spectacular voice still rings through, listen after listen.

Everybody knows the Shakes’ major hit single by now. Two others that blow me away are the fast-paced southern-rock jam “Hang Loose” and the sing-it-girl! track of the year “Rise to the Sun” (if you can figure out what blues chords they’re playing, sweet jeebus, let me know. We wanna cover it).

What spectacular group of freshman rockers we fell into in 2012. Their highly-anticipated second records just might give our alien overlords reason to spare Earth a few more years (hah?). Reasonable as any other theory…

Japandroids’ Celebration Rock pulls in after that. The Canadian duo’s second LP brought a lot of very real, passionate rock energy. And to think – they almost broke up before the first even released. These two dudes are bare bones rock that hits Local H heavy.

I’ve also made Japandroids’ unbelievable track “The House That Heaven Built” my unofficial Cubs rebuild song. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll get why.

Jack White (Blunderbuss) sneezed and tossed a bunch of cool tunes towards the Earth, like he always does — “Love Interruption” and “I’m Shakin” topping them.

Hot Chip’s In Our Heads was another top-notch installation in a great career for those guys. Immanently danceable and great headphone music. “Flutes” is the key track there.

In other notable music, Dispatch released Circles Around the Sun, which was surprisingly cool and upbeat after 12 years. And Good Old War (Come Back as Rain) also had some great tunes.

Trampled by Turtles grew bigger and dropped the tender jam “Alone.” Dig those guys, but this year’s album was a little slow for me.

There may be no year-in-review written for 2012 that doesn’t mention The Lumineers and fun.. And I gotta say I do love a couple of those tunes. The Lumineers’ “Stubborn Love” is really good, if you’ve worn out the grooves on your “Ho Hey” Mp3. As for fun., they probably get my girlfriend’s vote, and I am currently digging “Some Nights”.

Song of the Year: Rolling Stone gave this award to Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” which I can’t disagree with. That song is gonna be on our own classic rock stations 30 years from now. Personally, Reptar’s “Houseboat Babies” makes it a tie for me (1-A: Best Drinking Song). And that Japandroids tune is really close.

Best Live Act: Grouplove. Caught them at The Metro in May and the magic was with me for days. Christian and Hannah at the helm are really something else. Mad positive energy and a cool light show to boot. I love bands where everybody sings (jam party!). The kids in the crowd jumped and loved every song (even the ones besides “Tongue Tied”). Reptar did a brilliant job opening. What a night.

I also must give props to the local Pink Floyd tribute band, In The Flesh! (The Facebook page). We saw them at Chicago City Limits and what a setlist! From all the hits to “Dogs” in its entirety (do I ever love that Animals album!). Go see those dudes whether you are a casual or hardcore Floyd fan.

In Local News: Chicago bands Sons of the West (find it at bandcamp) and JIP ( both released big-time EPs. Solid rock energy, loaded with talent. I also caught a few shows from local rock-blues band Blue Line ( that were stellar jams. It’s fun to discover that local music is still rocking the hell out in the vein of Local H, Smashing Pumpkins and all those blues legends.

Surprises NOT From This Year: “Weightless” from last year’s Universal Pulse album has become one of my favorite go-to 311 songs (top 10). And I’ve been a 311 fan since 1993. Good to know that older gentlemen can still rock.

What a great year full of surprises and fun new bands.

May 2013 be even better.

Cheers. Merry Holidays! And Happy Everything Else!

Rock and/or roll.

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