IGIF’s Overlooked Albums of 2012

2012 albums

We decided to forgo the traditional best/favorite albums list this year for one essential reason that seems more obvious every time I think about it: Our job with IGIF has always been to help bands reach an audience they can’t otherwise reach, and to help our readers discover music they don’t get through traditional channels. So why, then, do we throw away that central focus at the end of the year and arbitrarily rank the albums everyone’s already talking about?

This year, and for each subsequent year, we’ll highlight the albums that everyone’s unfortunately been overlooking. These albums didn’t fit the genre of the year. They aren’t on that hot new label. They didn’t get Pitchfork’d and buzz-blog’d. The machine didn’t collectively grind its gears in their endless favor. They’re just great albums, plain and simple, from great musicians. So here’s what you may have missed in 2012:

au-bothlights

Every once in a while even a straight arrow needs to get a little kinky. AU is that theatrical kink I’ve been missing since the year left Patrick Wolf, Sufjan Stevens and Of Montreal by the wayside. It’s all sorts of wild, a bit campy, incredibly over the top musically, but somehow almost universally engrossing from front to back without being overbearing. It’s got just the right balance of bizarre theatrics and down to earth pop conventions… and it doesn’t hurt that the vinyl record has an embossed metallic ink jacket. Hashtag awesome. – Connor

conveyor-st

Conveyor are an incredible live band. Highly energetic, impeccably performed, every time. So it goes without saying that their highly groomed jangle-pop debut, which they performed note-for-note-perfect every time I’ve seen them, would be equally as excellent? For the most part, yes, which makes their debut album one of the most unfortunately overlooked of the year. – Connor

featherjohnmisty-fearfun

I guess “overlooked” might be a bit overstated here, but nevertheless Father John Misty’s Fear Fun festered in my ears like a bad case of mono… except I wanted to makeout with everyone and infect them too! This is one of the strongest releases of the year, hands down, and offers so much diversity in production, textures, and songwriting… it never got old once. – Nathaniel

houseofwolves-foldintothewind

Earnest, soul-warming songs from Rey Villalobos are peppered throughout his House of Wolves debut. I was pulled in by the too-cute album opener “50’s” (where Villalobos commands, “Kiss me like it’s the 50’s), but the remaining songs’ simple Americana and minimalist chord progressions recall the archetypal singer-songwriter debut, which 2012 was certainly missing (unless you consider rappers “singer-songwriters”, and yeah, I guess, but seriously don’t get me started on that). – Connor

hundredwaters-st

It’s very, very difficult to write about Hundred Waters without getting hyperbolic. I say with all seriousness that this is a band, more specifically a debut album, that I’ve seen only a handful of times in the seven or eight years of covering this scene on IGIF. It’s the sort of album you wait years to find. A&R teams exist to discover this band and produce this album. Labels are launched with collections of songs like this one, and needless to say, bands’ careers inevitably take off into the stratosphere. Hundred Waters isn’t great because of its originality, or because of the undeniable talent of its creators, or because of its hooks or its challenges or its endless replay value. It’s great because it has all of those things, sweetly woven into a beautiful, organic canvas that the entirely anti-corporate, innately personal “debut album” blueprint provides. – Connor

landsandpeoples-popguilt

Here’s one that’s been a long time coming, and in that long time found a way to deliver on every promise made by precursory demo songs, cassettes and singles. Baltimore’s Lands & Peoples crafted the kind of prototypical debut album most bands dream of: a near perfect balance of pop hooks, bizarre breaks and the band’s true meditative form. If this is their idea of “pop guilt”, I can’t wait to hear what comes next as they develop the unwavering fan base they deserve. – Connor

levek-lookalittlecloser

Given the variety in his style and approaches to recording, Levek could have made about five different debut albums over the course of the three years that Look A Little Closer was brewing. And while each would be a grab bag of compositional complexities, sounds, textures and emotions, they would have at least this much in common: an immensely high quality, uncommon lyrical and thematic density, and a purity that permeates even his most thickly layered compositions. I suggest to you the title of this album is no accident; it takes more than a passing glance to realize and appreciate what Levek offers on his debut. – Connor

lotusplaza-spookyaction

I think 2011 was super lo-fi heavy and 2012 wasn’t. Lotus Plaza crafted a fantastic lo-fi record that didn’t make anyone go, “Where’s Bradford?” This band does a great job of condensing decades worth of reverbed emotion into a cohesive album, one that is driven by so many melodies it’s impossible to take it in from a distance. – Nathaniel

mesita-thecoyote

James Cooley is a masterful songwriter, something he demonstrates with nearly every song on The Coyote. There isn’t an entirely cohesive theme or genre to this album, but that hardly matters when the songs, like highlight “William Cannon” and album closer “On Through The Dark”, are so deftly composed. Docked points aside for incongruity, Mesita’s crafted one of the sleekest indie rock/pop/folk albums of the year, one which really has something for everyone. – Connor

nicolemiglis-st

Nicole Miglis, frontwoman for Hundred Waters, shows her own solo talents on her self-titled EP. Five songs (and a beautiful a cappella intro), framed mostly by piano or light acoustic guitar plucking, lull sweetly and calmly as her most mastered instrument — her stunning, often arresting vocals — shine from beneath. Unlike Hundred Waters, where she and her bandmates buoy much further into the ether creatively and artistically, her solo work is straightforward, simple even, but this isn’t just for fans of that band. Regina Spector has had more than a decade on the scene, and Nicole Miglis just about blows her away in five songs. – Connor

Continue to the next 10 albums »

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