The Top 50 Albums of 2012

After listening to 102 new albums this year, I have come up with my list of the Top 50 Albums of 2012. A lot of great, established artists came out with some fantastic albums this year, and some up-and-comers really hit the mark early in their careers. Remember: These are just my personal preferences, but each one holds a place of greatness and helped make 2012 a great year for music. 

50. Shovels & Rope, O’ Be Joyful (Dualtone)
Simple country-folk with amazing vocals, this album is one that takes a saturated genre and truly gives it something great. Lovers of folk will find delight in this stripped-down, out-of-nowhere gem.

49. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six)
This band comes back into the spotlight with this wonderful beast of an album, covering a lot of their career with some great experimentation that shows that they are going to be around for years to come.

48. Dr. John, Locked Down (Nonesuch)
A wonderful combination of soul and funk, this album will make you want to keep moving. Intricate guitars and soft horns make for a smooth, slick sound.

47. Father John Misty, Fear Fun (Sub Pop)
A fantastic combination of folk and garage rock. The lyrics in this album really hold it all together, along with the complex instrumentation.

46. Exitmusic, Passage (Secretly Canadian)
Lovers of dreampop will find this album soothing yet invigorating; modern yet classic; haunting yet relaxing. The soft voices and percussion leave the listener thinking more clearly.

45. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (CONSTELLATION)
Last year, Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky overtook the post-rock market. This year, GY!BE have made it all their own with their usual droning guitars, ambient effects, and pounding drum and bass lines.

44. The Shins, Point of Morrow (Columbia)
It’s quite wonderful to hear these guys toned-down while still maintaining the catchiness that made me like them. This is one case where experimentation pays off greatly for a well-established artist.

43. The Crookes, Hold Fast (PID)
A wonderful resurgence of semi-jangly garage rock, this album reminds me of Best Coast with a little more substance. The musicianship and voices are truly incredible, and the songs are catchy as all hell.

42. Sarah Jaffe, The Body Wins (Kirtland Records)
I’ll take this over Adele any day. This album has soul, intricate electronic pieces, and amazing percussion, as well as Jaffe’s undeniably sultry voice.

41. Tennis, Young and Old (Fat Possum Records)
A wonderful combination of jangle-pop and light electronic. This album is so damn catchy and the songs will stay with you all day.

40. Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal (Universal Republic)
Poppy-folk with a sort of Irish twang, you can’t go wrong with the dual, coed lead singers. I imagine this sort stuff playing during an empowerment montage in a girly flick (and that’s not a bad thing).

39. Mount Eerie, Clear Moon (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
Probably the most noise-based album on the list, Mount Eerie takes an almost pop-ish approach to ambient noise. The way the sounds all swirl together makes one think of Bjork.

38. Damien Jurado, Maraqopa (Secretly Canadian)
Soothing, Latin-infused folk that sounds so utterly North American that you can’t tell what side of the border your own. A hint of ambience thrown in the mix makes this album resonate for hours after you’ve shut it off.

37. METZ, METZ (Sub Pop)
A fusion of punk, garage, and noise-rock, this album will beat the shit out of you in the best possible way. Pounding drums and frantic guitars provide the perfect platform for gravely, almost-screamed vocals.

36. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE (Def Jam)
Frank Ocean’s smooth beats, clever lyrics, and versatile voice really hold this album together. This is, to be frank, slow-jam baby-making music, so light some candles, pour some wine, and get to it.

35. The Lumineers, The Lumineers (Dualtone Records)
A little indie, a little folk, and a little pop, this album has a wide range of sounds that keep the listener guessing. The songwriting is simply yet complex; dazzling yet down-to-earth.

34. Bowerbirds, The Clearing (Dead Oceans)
With so many great folk albums out this year, this one stood out to me because of the complexity of the non-folk elements—echo effects, various percussion, and electric guitars really make this album down-home yet modern.

33. Howler, America Give Up (Rough Trade)
If Ariel Pink put out a surf-pop album, this would be it. A wonderful mixture of garage and dreampop, I still find hidden elements in this album as I listen to it over and over again.

32. Stars, The North (ATO Records)
Maybe I’m just too big of a Cocteau Twins fan, but this album really made me think of that style of music while still creating a style of its own. The mixture of pace, vocals, and beat in this album sets it apart from other ambient albums released this year.

31. Reptar, Body Faucet (Vagrant Records)
The latest sons of the Athens scene, these guys make jangle-pop in a haunted manner, which gives the Athens sound a great twist. The songwriting is amazing, and the way all of the elements blend together creates a new sound all together.

30. Vacationer, Gone (Downtown Records)
Funnily enough, this album did not get a lot of good reviews this year. But I take it as I hear it, and what I hear is some fantastic electronic musicianship with great percussion and some wonderful, droning vocals. This album is a total mood swing. 

29. Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange (New West Records)
Riding on the (apparent) resurgence of garage rock in this country, Buxton fuses simplicity with effects that keep the album fresh and new with every track. A change in tones and rhythm is not uncommon in this alternative smorgasbord.

28. Chromatics, Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)
If you want to relax after a hard day, put on this album, lie back, and let the worries of the day float away. This album is so incredibly soothing that you often forget that you’re listening to music, until it picks up and starts to kick your ass.

27. JEFF the Brotherhood, Hypnotic Nights (Warner Brothers)
The 90s are definitely coming back, and this album is proof. The three-to-four chord guitar progressions and almost whiney lyrics take me back to when I was a kid and heard this kind of stuff on the radio—the 90s are back and (hopefully) here to stay.

26. Cat Power, Sun (Matador)
It’s so strange to hear synth-and-keyboard driven Cat Power, but it works so well with her brilliant songwriting and iconic voice. This album is both light and dark as it shakes it up with every single track.

25. Plants and Animals, The End of That (Secret City Records)
I would say this is probably the most genuine rock record on my list. I love it because it sounds like it could, in fact, be a fantastic 90s alternative album, emulating everything from Pearl Jam to Semisonic.

24. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die (Interscope)
What is there left to say that hasn’t already been said about this album? This is Brooklyn in album form; this is Sleigh Bells with balls.

23. The Mynabirds, Generals (Saddle Creek Records)
One minute, this album is berating you with pounding drum beats. The next, you feel like you’re stuck in an NES game. But it all somehow comes together with the help of the glorious vocals that fill up all of the empty space.

22. Hospitality, Hospitality (Merge)
Indie simplicity with a hint of complex riffs, all bound together by the rich vocals and catchy rhythms. This is a surprise feel-good album, like The Strokes ten years ago, only with a lot more substance.

21. The Men, Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones Records)
I have a soft spot in my heart for punk, and this album made my teenage self very happy. Simple, loud, and well put-together, this album screams of nostalgia for the early 80s punk scene.

20. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory (Carpark Records)
More garage-y rock, but the genre has never been this complex and this truly fast-paced. This album brings a new spin to the lo-fi movement (take a good, hard listen to the percussion) and creates something more than just something easy.

19. Japanoids, Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
There is not much else to say about this album, other than it is probably the best indie rock album in recent memory. This album is stripped-down but there is so much emotion in the lyrics that it goes beyond a measly indie-rock album.

18. The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter (Universal Republic)
The Avett Brothers have really stumbled upon something new and gritty in their usually intricate and soothing songwriting. They really take their usual folk-y sound and give it multiple dimensions that go beyond anything they’ve ever done before.

17. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Clean Slate)
Classic Fiona Apple—what else can we say? She experiments with new concepts in this album, but, at its core, it’s a soulful, beautifully written album with a lot of attitude, just a Fiona Album album should be.

16. First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar (Redeye)
If Beach House and Fleet Foxes ever collaborated, this is what would come of it. Dear God, this album is just so beautiful with its vocal harmonies and soft guitars. The songwriting is gorgeous, as well.

15. DIIV, Oshin (Captured Tracks)
Indie and electronic combine in this upbeat-yet-relaxing effort from Brooklyn. This album takes the sometimes overuse of dreampop droning and turn it on its head with something new and exciting. Dreampop is alive and well, and this album proves it.

14. Blue Foundation, In My Mind I Am Free (Dead People’s Choice)
Finding this speciality in ambient music, Blue Foundation takes this album and adds different elements from different genres. This is ambient as all hell, but it really packs a punch at certain points, keeping you on your toes with every listen.

13. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp (Jagjaguwar)
Beautiful songwriting combined with Van Etten’s usual sultry voice and lyrics, this album is a dream to anyone who appreciates powerful females in music. This album lulls you minute and wakes you up the next.

12. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls (ATO)
Rock and roll mixed with country and soul—that is what you get with this album. You almost feel like you’re listening to three or four different bands layered over one another, but the way it all comes together is so smooth and wonderful that it makes for a fantastic experience.

11. Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself (Bella Union)
This album is probably one of the most underrated of the year. Bird experiments a lot with this album while still holding on to his signature sound. You cannot deny this man’s creativity when you get your first listen.

10. Grizzly Bear, Shields (Warp)
Probably the best thing about Grizzly Bear is that every album is almost a different sound, but every album is genius. This is a throwback to Yellow House, but it still maintains its own glorious drones and unique instrumental complexities.

9. The Walkmen, Heaven (Fat Possum Records)
This is a definite getting-back-to-roots for The Walkmen, and I personally welcome it with open arms. All of the instruments do their own thing while still complementing each other and the old-school vocals and simplistic lyrics.

8. Chairlift, Something (Columbia)
This is another one of those albums that keeps throwing change-ups and keeps you guessing with every track. Held together with echoing vocals and frantic rhythms, this album has a wide range of sounds that will leave almost everyone satisfied.

7. John K. Samson, Provincial (ANTI-)
A truly complete album in the sense that it takes the listener through a wide range of emotions, Samson put his best foot forward with this mixture of indie, electronic, folk, and alternative that is one of this albums that almost anyone can listen to and feel like they’ve listened to a truly good album.

6. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland)
Frankie Rose is one of those artists you listen to when you need to forget about your troubles. This album transports you to a completely different realm with its soft vocals and electronic components.

5. Yellow Ostrich, Strange Land (Barsuk)
This is one of the most complex indie albums I’ve ever heard. Yellow Ostrich really create a unique sound with this album that can’t compete with other indie rock records this year. Creative concepts, wonderful lyrics, and a great powerful sound makes this album the quintessential indie rock album of 2012.

4. the Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth (Merge)
This band still has it after more than twenty years of creating fantastic, simple, acoustic rock. Unlike last year’s release, All Eternals Deck, this one is a lot more of their classic sound, which is a classic sound for one simple reason: It works well almost every single time. This album is by no means an exception.

3. Jack White, Blunderbuss (Third Man Records)
I am not shy about my obsession with Jack White. To me, this album is everything he did with The White Stripes rolled into one package that only he could create. The album is soft, dark, and contains an utter complexity that he could never accomplish with Meg. This is Jack White unleashed, and it is perfection.

2. Punch Brothers, Who’s Feeling Young Now? (Nonesuch)
This album is pure, well-constructed bluegrass with some fantastic songwriting and wonderful lyrics thrown in. The sheer audacity of the musicianship alone makes this album worth a listen, and the wailing vocals and mixture of subject matters makes it a great listen, even if you’re not into bluegrass. This album is Americana straight from Brooklyn, which shows that we Yankees know our way around a banjo better than any good-ol' boy.

1. Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop)
Beach House is the dreampop band of the 21st century, and this album is just further proof of that fact. Beach House has done more in three albums than most bands do in a ten-year career, and this album is a prime example as to why. The droning vocals, echoing guitar, and smooth beats will make fans of shoegaze, dreampop, hip-hop, indie rock, and other genres realize the true genius of this duo.

Untitled Lyrics

The hyacinths are drinking in
the mud left from the melted snow banks;
the winter looms in exhaust fumes
and bottles up the burning gas tanks.
In maple trees and autumns leaves,
the smell of rubber, burnt and branded.
The shaking knees of camera schemes
outside of buildings left abandoned.

Empty bowls and shoeless soles,
with rum inside a water bottle.
Lips denied, a year divides
our needs and seeds and human throttles.
You said to hold your hand, it’s cold—
your fingers curl up, lost in twilight—
with stories told and nothing bold,
the light bulbs stretched down to your thighs.

The tired night, the junction light
was all we had to go for.
Your needle pricks, my squirming hips:
We lived each other’s horrors.
No one knew the flames we blew;
the kiss you said your next “goodbye” with—
The spring anew—and all that grew
was singing with the hyacinths.

The Temperate Night Glow

A drive-by home;
A parking lot;
Russell Street smoke bounds and trots
The smell of summer lingering high
A foggy tome;
The morning's hot
A pouring from my coffee pot
gracious blackened ice has gone and died

Winter's given way to summer
But springtime should have lasted longer
A time-lapse photograph right out my window
The buildings on the roundabout
Are falling as the ragweed sprouts,
breaking off into the temperate night glow
The sickly summertime has terrors in-tow

An overpass
Outside my door
The creaking of the hardwood floor
Milwaukee Junction's doting in its whiteness
The rain on Cass
The corridor
The mothers shouting, "Nevermore!"
They're worried 'bout the ever-dimming brightness
It's too much like their tripping, turning likeness

Winter's given way to summer
But springtime should have lasted longer
A time-lapse photograph right out my window
The buildings on the roundabout
Are falling as the ragweed sprouts,
breaking off into the temperate night glow
The sickly summertime has terrors in-tow

The rain on Cass
The corridor
The mothers shouting, "Nevermore!"
They're worried 'bout the ever-dimming brightness
It's too much like their tripping, turning likeness

Winter's given way to summer
But springtime should have lasted longer
A time-lapse photograph right out my window
The buildings on the roundabout
Are falling as the ragweed sprouts,
breaking off into the temperate night glow
The sickly summertime has terrors in-tow

The February Glow

up beyond the thick green water,
where no man meets a farmer's daughter,
a tattooed wily mistress washed her dress
from Saginaw, she made a drink
with blackened blood from her kitchen sink
and drank it down with gaul and cigarettes
i slept upon her Ferndale floor,
a husky barking at her door;
my dreams were crystalline, growing larger
i only got one goodbye kiss,
recklessness of tongue and twist—
my vertebrae and nerves were growing harder—
stiff and frozen like the river water

and i had
a drink with every laugh;
a needle in my back
a spike from  railroad tracks—
but who knows
where her hipbones go?
the February glow
mixed within the chalky snow
Oh no…

Seventy-Five, it makes a dream
comparable to wine and sleep—
through Hazel Park and Royal Oak, i'm tainted
the way the sun rose in the north
as i walked off her concrete porch
my throat was so damn dry i almost fainted
when i was done, she bought me more—
a nicotine and liquor snore
my stomach and my heart felt something vile
no one could have guessed they'd see
me and her at night; it seems
that black and white and gray are in denial—
gagging themselves running down 9 Mile

and i had
a drink with every laugh;
a needle in my back
a spike from  railroad tracks—
but who knows
where her hipbones go?
the February glow
mixed within the chalky snow
Oh no…

a telephone that never rings;
a country song she never sings;
something tells me i will never know
we fell asleep, the TV screen
was louder than the wintergreen—
none of us knew why we had no snow;
even more we didn't know why i couldn't go

and i had
a drink with every laugh;
a needle in my back
a spike from  railroad tracks—
but who knows
where her hipbones go?
the February glow
mixed within the chalky snow
Oh no…

No One is Neon

No one is neon but light is ours
Driving out west to Kalamazoo
My clammy arms are wrapped around you
The gearshift is vile, it's got itself stuck and
We swerving behind a dirty semi-truck
And fourteen thousand foreign God-blessed cars

 Under the bridges no one snores
I-69 is a calmly undertone
Frightening and chilling right down to our bones
Hiding in Lansing, the green is left undone
Bored down to brown as we drive off from the Thumb
Sweetness snows in our pores

Grainy unconscious tempers
Kissing my northern betters
Drive on a Dearborn waste line
Hands stay unruly with their engraved design

Back one the railway no one rides
Rusty the iron, splintered is the wood
Ties in our eyes and spikes deep in our blood
Neck-broken bottles by cast-iron steam pumps
Loitering nightly inside of our car trunks—
The wind embraced our hides

Dead on the highway, we're reborn
Piled in the fast lane, the cars left us alone
Graces embalming with us in a orange glow
No one is dead, but our bodies are sheltered
Opened in treason, I promised to help her
Her head was rounded, pounding, shaken
Mine is tilting, god-forsaken
Pulling off to the side of the road

Grainy unconscious tempers
Kissing my northern betters
Drive on a Dearborn waste line
Hands stay unruly with their engraved design

The Top 10 Cover Songs of My Lifetime (and 7 More I’d Like to See Before I Die)

Last year, I turned the big 2-3. I realize that my lifetime may not be the greatest period in music: I was born at the tail-end of Reagan’s presidency and I (somehow) survived the boy band craze. I’ve seen The White Stripes come and go; I’ve heard songs that have never been autotuned. But, one thing I’ve always enjoyed is a good cover song. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all about originality. However, there is something about an artist taking someone else’s song and making it his or her own—putting their own spin on things.

Here, I have a list of my personal favorite cover songs produced in my lifetime. In addition, I’ve made a list of seven more that I would like to see before I die.

Top 10 Cover Songs of My Lifetime

10. Florence + the Machine covers “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer

Florence takes this up-tempo pop number with its own crunch and softens it up just enough. It’s so fascinating to hear this song from a woman’s perspective—a transition from one sexy, talented musician to another.

9. Streetlight Manifesto covers “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” by Paul Simon

Streetlight Manifesto somehow takes some sultry folk and turns it into some fast-past, raw ska-revival. The change from a minimal instrument number to a full-on ensemble works gloriously for this classic.

8. Gary Jules (with Michael Andrews) covers “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

I really like the Tears for Fears version, but I think the lyrics and the rhythm of the song find its home in Jules’ soft vocals and the haunting piano. I feel as if Jules’ version is the manner in which the song should have been written.

7. Nirvana covers “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie

At first glance, Nirvana’s cover is eerily similar to Bowie’s versions—both are spectacular with an aura the surrounds the listener. But Nirvana somehow manages to make their version more gritty yet more gentle than the original.

6. Jeff Mangum covers “I Love How You Love Me” by The Paris Sisters

(Note: Mangum calls it a Phil Spector song because he produced it.) This slowed-down version of a Sixties pop icon is just so wonderful. Jeff puts his own little simplistic twist and tackles the soothing vocals of The Paris Sisters head on with his own incredible sound.

5. Iron & Wine covers “Love Vigilantes” by New Order

Beam really has his way with slowing down up-tempo numbers and truly making them his own. Given the content of this song, it seems as if it should be a piece of good ol’ American folk—so much is said with just Sam Beam and a guitar.

4. The White Stripes cover “Death Letter” by Son House

The White Stripes covered this blues staple for years, but this live version really shows how Jack and Meg took some of the most simple music in the 20th century and give it a punch from Detroit. Anyone who doubts Jack’s ability to play the blues needs to watch this and prepare to be amazed.

3. of Montreal covers “Fell in Love with a Girl” by The White Stripes

Every band thus far has put a little twist on the song. But the best thing about this cover is that it’s so close to the original. This song was made for of Montreal to cover, and Kevin Barnes’ voice was built for this song.

2. The Decemberists cover “Cuyahoga” by R.E.M.

The concept of folk-rock comes through gloriously in this live cover. No doubt that this was an homage to Peter Buck who produced The Decemberists’ last album, and I really think they do them justice here with this cover (and the addition of accordion is just too good to pass up).

1.  The Swell Season covers “Two-Headed Boy” by Neutral Milk Hotel

The original is phenomenal, and the Swell Season did the right thing by deconstructing the song (which was already so basic) and rebuilding it in a way that goes from two components (guitar and vocals) to six wonderfully-constructed components. The voices are matched perfectly to Mangum’s fabulous lyrics.

Seven Cover Songs I Would Like to Hear Before I Die
(in no particular order)

The Dead Weather cover “Monkey Gone to Heaven” by The Pixies

I think the sheer rawness of The Dead Weather combined with Alison Mossheart’s incredible vocal range would almost (but not quite) put the original to shame.

Feist covers “Black” by Pearl Jam

Anyone who saw St. Vincent’s god-awful cover of “Black” probably thinks that this Pearl Jam classic should be left alone. But I think Feist has both the vocals and musicianship to make this cover something great.

Childish Gambino covers “Mathematics” by Mos Def

Childish Gambino is (in my opinion) the only rapper who is hardcore and smooth enough to even attempt covering Mos Def. We know Gambino is amazing when it comes to remixes and samples, but can he keep up with Def? I think so.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover “The Metro” by Berlin

I purposely chose “Rich” as the artist sample because you can her “The Metro” buried deep inside there. I would love to see Karen O take the versatile vocals of Terri Nunn.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead covers “Crooked Teeth” by Death Cab for Cutie

I would love to see “Crooked Teeth” get a raw reboot while still keeping its soul, and I think Trail of Dead can do that better than anyone else.

Ratatat covers “Glasgow Mega-Snake” by Mogwai

I don’t know how they would do it. I guess that’s why I want to see it done—just to see how Ratatat would manage to cover this song and making something danceable.

The Black Keys cover “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin

Need I say more?

What are some of your favorite covers? What covers would you like to see? Do you agree with this list? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Beauty, as Observed in Egg Yolks

Viscous trails along the counter
from a violent break-away
and a sunspot on the surface;
she asks if it was alive—I tell her no.
“They’re organic; they’re never squeaky-clean.”

She thinks it’s blood or an eye
that blinked once before pasteurization.
All it saw was white—
not the light you see in movies
while the voice of God tells you
to come closer.

“They’re organic—they just have more…
...stuff.” She asks if I’m sure.
I say yes but I mean no.
I’ll just pretend I’m eating the sun.

The Wanderlust

The alleyways went up over the dead air,
dirt and mud clinging to the warehouses
while Chevys made jet streams in the air
over St. Antoine. All the warehouse grit
piling on the sidewalks nestled itself in the overgrown brush,
a mattress for the bruised egos once mighty
as the concrete pillars holding I-94 up above my head.

Under the bridge, glass meddles with stones and sand;
with the soles of worn-out shoes; with the feet
of those losing wanderlust. Around the corner,
the streetlights reek of bloodgasoline arteries
spewing fumes over the subtleness
of a fifty-eight-degree-day
in the middle of January.

The crunch settles in; the scraping holds us up
over the dead air.

The Top 50 Albums of 2011

Finally, I have completed my list of The Top 50 Albums of 2011. Rather than give a big song-and-dance like I did last year, I decided to just let the albums speak for themselves. Here they are, starting with #50:

50. James Blake – James Blake
49. Mates of State – Mountaintops
48. Smith Westerns - Dye if Blonde
47. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic
46. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
45. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil
44. Wilco - The Whole Love
43. Atlas Sound – Parallax
42. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
41. Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread
40. Cults - Cults
39. Wire - Red Barked Tree
38. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
37. Animals As Leaders – Weightless
36. Dawes - Nothing is Wrong
35. Eisley - The Valley
34. The Roots – Undun
33. Boy and Bear - Boy and Bear
32. Childish Gambino - Camp
31. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die but You Will
30. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
29. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for my Halo
28. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
27. Jay-Z/Kanye West - Watch the Throne
26. Chris Bathgate - Salt Year
25. The Antlers - Burst Apart
24. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
23. Araab Muzik - Electronic Dream
22. Cass McCombs - Humor Risk
21. Yuck - Yuck
20. And So I Watch You From Afar – Gangs
19. The Feelies - Here Before
18. Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams
17. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
16. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
15. Viva Voce - The Future Will Destroy You
14. Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
13. British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall
12. Beirut - The Rip Tide
11. The Dodos - No Color
10. Tapes ‘n Tapes - Outside
9. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
8. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
7. Real Estate - Days
6. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
5. the Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
4. Feist – Metals
3. The Black Keys – El Camino
2. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Agree? Disagree? Have any comments or questions? Feel free to leave a comment.


First, A Note

This is the first poem that I have written since going on "Poetic Hiatus" for the year 2011. I wrote this poem simply and unadorned with my usual haughtiness. I love this new style. I also love that Detroit has been such an inspiration to me. I hope you enjoy it.


Solitudo placet Muses; urbs inamacia poetis est.
—ad Horace

Come, Gray Tethered Skylines,
to the winter-bound Campus,
covered in black ice lit
with Christmas bulbs from our white pine.
Smoke bellows from our breaths
like the once-burning smokestacks
on New Center’s edge;
like the Princess as it chugged along the Detroit River
before it froze over.
The blistered hurricane between the buildings
is a thief jumping from the alleyways,
broken-hearted as the way the Midwest sulks
while yet another Winter takes his place
within the air; within our lungs,
piercing our pink-fleshy bodies once turned to stone.

The neon-light haze distorts the moon’s phases—
now full for all eternity while the GM emblem
outshines Polaris—
the RenCen is ever so luminous.

As Windsor fades from sight,
the ever-haunted sidewalks press on
to Woodward, Griswald, and Cass:
Jefferson snatches us; drags us slowly to the darkness
before the light that Birmingham shines
—the mild retrograde motion of a Father’s gold;
the beaming lace from saris;
the silver Lexus hood ornaments that light fires
in the burnt-out street lights:
Speramus meliora;
resurget cineribus.

Breast milk highways quench the throats
of the Starving and the Dead.

In a house, the Old Man told me
of the West Side; of trips up North
where the snow became lifeblood;
of skipping over thin ice while booming
like pistons and spark plugs from the assembly lines.
In a house, the Old Man remembered when
the log cabin held a hearth that lit the winter up
as a single lamp lights Russell
on my drive home.
In a house, the Old Man lets the photographs out to play—
a Packard, once pristine like the slick black ice,
now rusted-out, broken-down
like the Old Man’s lungs.
Speramus meliora;
resurget cineribus.

It all comes back to the round-about:

A fatuous cylinder going ‘round and ‘round,
spiraling up and down
until it spits you out onto Woodward;
through the high-rises, past the theaters—
flashing lights and limousines—
past the fast food signs and liquor stores
to the ghost-town factories;
north & north & north some more
through Midtown where but one collective mind throbs,
scratching itself for a spark;
to Highland Park,
a flat-lined homeless man
that kicks and strains for one more sip of water;
Ferndale, alter for the sons of those unemployed;
Royal Oak, sipping sweat like wine;
Birmingham and Troy:
Fluorescent halos for the dead angels.

An infinite oval, the tracks go ‘round and ‘round:
the dead-end cycle of single-track dreams;
The People Mover carries them all where they need to go.
With tokens in our pockets, everyone’s the same;
everyone’s a tin can particle;
a Troy can live in the Digs.
Speramus meliora;
resurget cineribus.