Ah, music. I got tons of it this year and a significant portion was even released in 2012. My wife complained that a lot of the music I've been listening to has been 'samey' which is her usual complaint for plaintive indie rock. In truth, I definitely wanted to listen to a particular sound this year and with few exceptions I was able to find what I was looking for.
5) Dr. John: Locked Down. Dr. John has been around awhile, and has produced a kind of jazzy funk Zydego for most of his career. This album, produced with assistance from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys accomplishes a nifty trick, simultaneously retro and futuristic in sound. Only a few of the songs really stand out on their own but the whole album latches on with tobacco stained teeth and will not let go.
4) Cate Le Bon: Cyrk. I've listened to this album repeatedly and not been able to get to the center of it. It's not exactly mysterious, just off-kilter. The Lou Reed guitars chime along to Le Bon's flat elven speak-sing narratives about mill-town drudgery and mill-town girls. The sound is desolation but oddly inviting. One of the few albums I got this year I put on infinite repeat just so I could figure out what was really going on.
3) The Shins: I liked this album quite a bit but mostly I'm putting it up here because I couldn't get "A Simple Song" out of my head. Yeah, it's an ear-worm, but an emotionally honest and insistent one.
2) The Walkmen: Another band trading in emotional honesty. "Heartbreaker" was my favorite cut but "We Can't Be Beat," is a great opening song.
1) Grizzly Bear: Shields. My pick for album of the year. More adventurous than Vectimest but also more confident and coherent. "Sleeping Ute" and "Speak in Rounds," set the cryptic rolling mood but it takes until "A Simple Answer," before the tension resolves around resignation. "No wrong or right/Just do whatever you like."
Honorable Mention: Staff Bendi Belili's Bouger le Monde! Cuban rhythms from a Kinshasa street band.