Sub Pop Records 
Indie dream pop group Beach House once again created a record that stays in its lane of expectations but swells up and beyond any type of ceiling you may think exists. Bloom was the group’s fourth long player and it was another atmospheric pop journey. Bloom was very much from the same template as Beach House’s earlier efforts but it is filled with a brighter outlook collection of tracks that set it apart. This band continues to grow vocally, musically and lyrically and Bloom rightfully takes its place at #20.
Beach House: Bloom [Fire Note Review 5/11/12]
Trapper Schoepp & The Shades
Run, Engine, Run
SideOneDummy Records 
Southern flavored music from a Milwaukee band on a typically punk label? That does not necessarily sound like a recipe for success but Trapper Schoepp & The Shades third album Run, Engine, Run is an excellent listen all the way through and they nailed all the components that create a solid slice of Americana rock. Kudos goes out to SideOneDummy for releasing this album as I do believe it was independently available in 2011 but was given the complete overhaul for its national September debut. Given this fact Trapper and band ranked in a bit lower but it does not change the details that Run, Engine, Run offers well written songs, excellent musicianship, memorable hooks and a full length that you just put on and drive! The exciting part is that Trapper Schoepp is very young and we can’t wait to hear what is next but given that this album always finds its way back to the Fire Note speakers makes it a no brainer for our 2012 Top 50.
Trapper Schoepp & The Shades: Run, Engine, Run [Fire Note Review 11/14/12]
Slumberland Records 
Frankie Rose already has a superb indie resume as a member of the Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, and Crystal Stilts plus an excellent solo debut released in 2010 so it was no surprise that Interstellar landed at number 18. At just a little over 30 minutes Interstellar moves by quickly, spikes different moods and sucks you into its swirling and warm song depths. It is a record that you may initially dismiss but after the opening track you will be hooked and then keep going back to as Frankie Rose is a true talent that only sounds like she is getting started here and I can’t wait to see where she goes from this excellent outing!
Frankie Rose: Interstellar [Fire Note Review 2/23/12]
The Avett Brothers
American/Universal Records 
Here is a record that changed position as we went back n forth, up and down and higher and lower. The Avett Brothers seventh album, The Carpenter, which once again reunited them with producer Rick Rubin and engineer Ryan Hewitt ended up here at number 17 as the group pushed their classic neo-folk sound forward and completely focused in on each and every component that makes their music so engaging. This fine tuning covered everything from songwriting to their memorable harmonies and at times created a warm 70’s vibe that is gorgeously timeless. The Carpenter shined because of small refinements and its personal nature that covered life, death and the personal accounts that surround those experiences. The Carpenter was a career changer in the sense for The Avett Brothers as they now seem to be on a musical path that has no limits.
The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter [Fire Note Review 9/7/12]
Captured Tracks Records 
DIIV, the new band from Beach Fossils touring guitarist Zachary Cole Smith, released a mesmerizing debut in Oshin as each song had an effortless flow of focused and intense guitar work that in a split second pushed to the next level with its integrated lyrics that ever so slightly hovered above the instruments. The simplistic magic of DIIV is that they truly don’t try to win you over with crazy deep lyrics but still can make you think while their musical structure becomes addictive. Oshin is a record that you might hear once and sort of shrug your shoulders but another spin gets you moving along with its rhythm, a third listen brings the lyrics forward and by the fourth play the stars align and Oshin is one of the best records this year!
DIIV: Oshin [Fire Note Review 6/29/12]
Woodsist Records 
A new Woods lp is quickly becoming a reason to celebrate each year. With Bend Beyond, you can add one more classic to their resume. Bend Beyond found Woods refining their sound and their songwriting process while subtracting the long instrumental jam pieces of their past outings. The result was a flawless record in Bend Beyond that is well played, well sung, well written and holds up well to repeated listens. I am not sure where Woods will go from here but one thing is for sure, wherever they go, we are following along!
Woods: Bend Beyond [Fire Note Review 10/2/12]
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Constellation Records 
Here’s the thing about instrumental post rock, you almost always know what you are going to get before you put the record on. What separates the elite bands from the rest of the post rock pack is that they have the ability to make the listener connect with the music on another level entirely. Legendary Montreal band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor did just that with Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! GYBE did not play by the rules of post rock with Allelujah, as you had an opening 20 minute track followed by a 6 minute song of drone and then they repeated the process. This was an easy record to fall in love with as it is expertly played, superbly sequenced, and thought provoking. This is more than just a comeback record, it’s is a landmark.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! [Fire Note Review 10/17/12]
No More Fake Labels 
It may have surprised some people when last year’s Motel Beds release, Tango Boys, made our Top 50 after only being out several days but with the release of their brand new full length, Dumb Gold, you will realize we were spot on. This record not only carries forward the same energy of Tango but made their tight song structures and execution even tighter. The Motel Beds blended style of British Invasion hi-fi meets Midwestern lo-fi works throughout Dumb Gold and not only made this record their best release to date but landed them on our year end list again – only this time for a solid number 13!
Motel Beds: Dumb Gold [Fire Note Review 11/2/12]
Fat Possum Records 
One could say that The Walkmen have hit their stride but we believe this top end streak started about 4 years ago and has never halted evidenced by the excellent You & Me , Libson  and now the six studio full length Heaven. It does not really feel like it but The Walkmen have been in existence for 10 years now but their veteran status has never felt stronger than on Heaven’s 47 minutes. There were plenty of tracks that represented their old style here with several upbeat foot tappers but Heaven showed a new side of singer Hamilton Leithauser as he hovered his vocals over guitar lines and showed off a new vulnerability to the band that has not necessarily been explored before. For this lasting combination Heaven soared up our list and secured its place near the top of 2012!
The Walkmen: Heaven [Fire Note Review 5/29/12]
Father John Misty
Sub Pop Records 
Father John Misty is the new band from ex-Fleet Foxes drummer and solo singer/songwriter Josh Tillman. Fear Fun was his debut record under this moniker but Tillman has around seven solo records under his belt so he is an indie veteran that took full advantage of this new direction. This is an album that was engaging from the beginning but just kept getting better every time we had it on. From the warm carefree musical approach to upbeat memorable numbers that stayed in your head Father John Misty had just the right amount of styling to grab your interest and enough special moments and 70’s folk pop influences to make Fear Fun unique and worth every minute you gave it!
Father John Misty: Fear Fun [Fire Note Review 5/3/12]
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