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2012: 8 Great Albums

I didn't buy a whole lot of new albums in 2012, and my choosiness mostly paid off. Of the nearly 30 albums I bought, only 3 were truly disappointing: The Jealous Sound's A Gentle Reminder, Vicious Vicious' self-titled LP, and Alanis Morissette's Havoc and Bright Lights. Even those weren't truly bad, they just didn't live up to expectations.

Below are 8 albums that I dug the most. Work from Fiona Apple, Ben Folds Five, Gaz Coombes, The Divine Fits, The Killers, Miguel, Nada Surf, P.O.S., and The Shins didn't quite make the cut, but still deserve mention.

I haven't ranked this list in the last few years, mostly because I realized how arbitrary it was. But I've gotta say that, weirdly, Van Halen's A Different Kind of Truth is my album of the year. How something that had so many strikes against it (the general stink of being a "reunion" album, the absence of Michael Anthony, the recycling of 30 year-old riffs and song ideas, the fact that …

2012 Compilation

Every year I make a mix of some of my favorite songs to share with friends. Sometimes the song choice is random and sometimes there's more to it. Every year has highs and lows, but in 2012 they were especially high (my wife and I have a second son on the way) and especially low (my wife's cousin committed suicide). I wanted the mix to reflect that.

1) Beach Boys - Think About the Days
2) Robbie Williams - Be a Boy
3) Gaz Coombes - Break the Silence
4) Motion City Soundtrack - Bad Idea
5) Electric Guest - This Head I Hold
6) Kaiser Chiefs - Listen to Your Head
7) Mike Keneally - I'm Raining Here, Inside
8) The Honeydogs - Better Word
9) David Mead - I Can't Wait
10) Rhett Miller - Love Grows
11) Rufus Wainwright - Montauk
12) Sean Fournier - X's for My Eyes
13) Krystle Warren and The Faculty - Forever is a Long Time
14) The Walkmen - Heaven

Rock Solid: Talking Heads

"If you only own one album by Talking Heads it's gotta be ____________________."

Welcome to Rock Solid, where we fill in the blank. Our goal is to pseudo-scientifically determine the best, the beloved, the most classic album in an artist's catalog.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources. The All Music Guide provides the professional critical point-of-view and Amazon.com offers the fan perspective (because most people who choose to review albums on Amazon are adoring fans of the artist in question). The album with the highest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the best.

An artist's entire body of work is eligible, with one exception: No compilations (i.e. greatest hits).In each case, I'll also share my personal favorite album by the artist in question, as if you care.

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Back in 2005 I reviewed every single Talking Heads album, but that predated the Rock Solid feature. So here it is retroactively.

Maybe it…

Rock Solid: They Might Be Giants

"If you only own one album by They Might Be Giants it's gotta be [insert masterpiece here]."

Welcome to Rock Solid, where we fill in the blank. Our goal is to pseudo-scientifically determine the best, the beloved, the most classic album in an artist's catalog.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources. The All Music Guide provides the professional critical point-of-view and Amazon.com offers the fan perspective (because most people who choose to review albums on Amazon are adoring fans of the artist in question). The album with the highest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the best.

An artist's entire body of work is eligible, with one exception: No compilations (i.e. greatest hits).In each case, I'll also share my personal favorite album by the artist in question, as if you care.

* * *

I suppose it's fitting. They Might Be Giants' music often baffles even the most esoterically-minded listeners, so it sho…