We’re about five months into the year and “Best of 2012” lists are starting to spring up in places like Amazon and Stereogum. Close observers will note that short of mentioning a few upcoming releases, I haven’t chimed in with any 2012 tracks yet… until now, that is.
Fact of the matter is that there have been very few albums I’ve liked so far this year. In fact, I’m not sure I could put together a list of the year’s top ten albums thus far, it’s been so weak. Andrew Bird’s new album is more of the same from him and that works for me. The Cloud Nothings’ debut album is pretty good and earned top billing from Stereogum. Over at NPR, I took a first listen to the Regina Spektor album that comes out next week and on first listen, that sounds pretty good too.
But so many of the albums I’ve heard so far have been pretty meh. It’s not necessarily that everything out there is bad; there’s nice, listenable albums from Tennis, Hospitality, the Shins, Frankie Rose, Grimes, Imperial Teen, Kathleen Edwards and a few others, but most of these just aren’t particularly compelling albums that I want to listen to time and time again. There’s also a lot of albums out there with one or two good tracks and lots of filler, which makes for a nice “song highlights of 2012” playlist, even if it doesn’t portend a great year for music.
If there’s any comfort to be taken in the grim landscape so far this year, it’s that I thought last year looked pretty bad around this time as well, and in retrospect, it turned out pretty well. The caveat to that, however, is that by this point in 2011, I already thought more of the albums from Mogwai, Bibio, Cults and TV on the Radio than I do of anything this year, with the Decemberists, tUnE-yArDs, Bill Callahan and Explosions in the Sky soon to follow. This year’s best just isn’t a shallower pool, it’s weaker at the top as well. The other good news is that there’s still a good seven months left for this year to turn it around, so for now, we’ll keep our fingers crossed… and we’ll enjoy some of the year’s better tracks so far, like “Genesis” from Grimes.