This year it seems I only purchased eight albums. Well, that makes choosing a bit easier, doesn't it? Let's see what I purchased, eh?
8. The Hello People -- s/t (1967)
This one wouldn't have made the list if I'd purchased a couple more albums, but I'll work with what I've got. The Hello People would eventually become Todd Rundgren's back-up band in the early 1970's, but first they made a name for themselves as the world's first mime rock band. The music is pretty straightforward for the era, but these guys performed in full mime costume and in lieu of witty banter between songs (which, since I know you're wondering, actually do have sung lyrics), just did mime routines. The band was founded by producer Lew Futterman who had learned to mime from the French great Étienne Decroux and decided to teach some other musicians how to as well. They're really something that needs to be seen live, so check them out here on a show called Teen Time.
7 & 6. Men at Work -- Business as Usual (1981) and Cargo (1983)
In the wake of flautist and saxophonist Greg Ham's death I picked up the first two Men at Work albums and started singing Who Can it Be Now at karaoke. Long time readers will remember that Pat thinks this band is incredibly underrated, which is probably true. For what it's worth, the albums are pretty great.
5. Mates of State -- Crushes: The Covers Mixtape (2010)
I've fallen away from Mates of State's newer releases in the last few years, even though I still listen to My Solo Project every so often. I ran across Crushes in a used record store and picked it up in part because when I am the only customer in a store I feel awkward leaving without spending money. I'm glad I did. Crushes isn't as great as a fresh new album could be, but the husband and wife duo obviously enjoyed doing the covers, and I enjoy hearing them
4. John Vanderslice w/ The Magik Magik Orchestra -- White Wilderness (2011)
Many years ago I heard The Walkmen's We've Been Had on a car commercial and went searching for more of them. Following an old link on a surely now defunct blog I ended up on a download page for Tiny Telephone. There were no Walkmen mp3's but there sure were a lot from the studio's owner, John Vanderslice, so I downloaded them all. I bought Time Travel is Lonely (and Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, for that matter) shortly thereafter. White Wilderness is different, mainly because instead of the normal multi-layering Vanderslice pulls in the studio he's got a live orchestra backing him up. It's amazing and gorgeous and over far to quickly.
3. Justin Townes Earle -- Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel about Me Now
See, I did buy albums actually made this year. In fact the rest of the list is just that. This latest offering from Justin Townes Earle is another album on the list that feels far too short. Earle is an amazing songsmith in the vein of Guthrie and his father Steve Earle. These songs are classic Americana.
2. Gotye -- Making Mirrors
OK, so technically this one was released in August in 2011, but it didn't make it to America until after Somebody That I Used to Know blew up later that year, so it's official US release is 2012. Safe on a technicality.
I know there was a lot of backlash against Gotye after that track became a little too popular for the tastemakers' tastes, but the album is solid and experimentally weird. Every track feels different, but the lack of album cohesion doesn't hurt it. It's an album made for the age of iTunes singles and viral videos -- a series of singles. And each single is amazing.
1. Divine Fits -- A Thing Called Divine Fits
Britt Daniel of Spoon, Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks got together and formed the super group Divine Fits which I heard in a coffeeshop while on a trip to Louisville, KY, and immediately wanted. Fortunately, the place also sold records (and Boylan's Birch Beer, so yeah, I could live there). The album is a great synthesis of Daniel and Boeckner's music. Definitely my favorite album I bought this year.