2012's Best Rock, Pop, Folk, & Electronica Albums, Pt. 2


Just because I gave you the best dozen first, don't think that Part 2 can be skipped. Albums 13-25 get more interesting, because they're less obvious choices.  

13. Chris Smither: Hundred Dollar Valentine (Signature Sounds)

Veteran folkie with bluesy leanings makes yet another superb album, for the first time using only his own songs. Review here. 

14. Raymond Byron and the White Freighter: Little Death Shaker (Asthmatic Kitty)

Castanets frontman's more rockin' project still plumbs emotional depths. Review here.

15. Kathleen Edwards: Voyageur (Zoe/New Rounder/Concord)

"[M]oodily bittersweet songs with catchy melodies, sung with tightly coiled intensity by a woman with a haunting voice." Review here.

16. Grizzly Bear: Shields (Warp)

Brooklyn favorites who went national a few years ago follow up not by playing it safe, but by using an edgier production style that retains their strengths while providing more challenging and compelling listening.

17. Frankie Rose: Interstellar (Slumberland)

The noise, the thick guitar washes, the fuzz, and the pounding drums of Rose’s debut album are mostly replaced with spacey synthesizer, sonic clarity, and many gorgeous layers of harmony vocals.

18. Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)

Working in the interstices of multiple electronica styles, Steven Ellison creates sunny yet wistful sound collages that have just enough rhythm to be popular but not pandering.

19. Krallice: Years Past Matter (Krallice)

Art metal that sacrifices none of the power of its non-arty models.

20. Antibalas: Antibalas (Daptone)

New York's top Afropop band took a few years off from recording while being featured in the musical Fela!, so this is its first full-length in four years. It's also their tightest and funkiest album yet.

21. Vaura: Selenelion (Wierd)

When I reviewed this in The Big Takeover, I called it "a hard band to pin down stylistically…heavier than the Darkwave Wierd generally issues; some tracks have the crunching power of early/recent Killing Joke, but with occasional moves into metal," and said, "Vaura projects a haunting melodicism that seems all the more hard-earned for what it rises out of."

22. Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory (Wichita)

Cloud Nothings has certainly not abandoned its lo-fi/DIY roots, but by moving in multiple directions -- sometimes quieter and more subtle, sometimes more bludgeoning, sometimes exactly how it has always sounded -- without abjuring a little sonic polish (here courtesy of Steve Albini), the quartet has avoided predictability and become more intriguing.

23. Ruby on the Vine: King's Highway (Ruby on the Vine)

The second album by the current band of Myrna Marcarian (ex-Human Switchboard) is full of bittersweet, jangly songs of undeniable catchiness. Review here. 

24. Sigur Ros: Valtari (XL)

Yeah, they're repeating themselves, but it's such a good formula….

25. Black Crystal Fuck Wolf: My Little Droney (MechaBenzaiten)

Glitchy and, yes, droney electronica that alternately soothes and disturbs. Review here. Website here.

Steve Holtje


Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based composer, poet, and editor. His song cycle setting five of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach can be heard here.