Singing About the Midwest and Shaking Hands: My 2012 End of the Year List

Music is important. That was the idea I kept coming back to while I was in the process of making my end of the year list for 2012. I was thinking about my own music, and how important and even essential the creative process feels to me, and I was thinking about my peers (and, in increasing numbers, friends) who get in vans and take their music as far as they can. I was thinking about the three million or so copies of "Some Nights" that Fun. sold this year, and how strange it feels that at least three million people besides myself found enough value in that song to spend money on it. I was thinking about Ghost Key shows in coffee shops and pizza places and how Austin O’Brien pouring his heart into those songs convinced me to take a chance on a genre of music to which I hadn’t previously given much thought. I was thinking about a Joie de Vivre show in Kyle Rotta’s living room where my PA wasn’t powerful enough to make the vocals audible, but that it hardly mattered anyway because everyone there was singing so loud, and I was thinking about a Wonder Years show in the middle of the afternoon in Chicago where Rachel Branson and I got to watch a record that we loved and bonded over and wrote letters about to each other performed from front to back. Maybe it was the adrenaline, or maybe it was raw emotion of the whole thing, but there are parts of that set that I swear I have no memory of because I was so focused on that moment, and as the last notes of "And Now I’m Nothing" rang out, I knew I might never feel anything like that again.

But also knew that I had to keep looking. You can’t close yourself off and assume that nothing is ever going to be as good as it used to be. There are great new records being written every day. There is a burgeoning new scene to replace the one that felt so dead for the last few years. There is always something more to feel and experience and hope for. It’s a lesson I’m learning every day: "My best years may still be ahead of me."

This has been my 2012.

My Twenty Favorite Albums of 2012

  1. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
  2. The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
  3. Joie de Vivre – We’re All Better Than This
  4. The Tower and the Fool – How Long
  5. Fun. – Some Nights
  6. John K. Samson – Provincial
  7. Forever Came Calling – Contender
  8. Swear and Shake – Maple Ridge
  9. Hostage Calm – Please Remain Calm
  10. Daytrader – Twelve Years
  11. Basement – Colourmeinkindness
  12. With the Punches – Seams and Stitches
  13. Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder
  14. Mixtapes – Even On the Worst Nights
  15. Major League – Hard Feelings
  16. Make Do and Mend – Everything You Ever Loved
  17. Alex and the XO’s – North To the Future
  18. The Forecast – Everybody Left
  19. Sharks – No Gods
  20. Hold Tight! – Blizzard of ’96

Honorable Mention

  • No Trigger – Tycoon
  • Pentimento – Pentimento
  • Title Fight – Floral Green
  • Misser – Every Day I Tell Myself I’m Going To Be a Better Person
  • Handguns – Angst

My Five Favorite EPs of 2012

  1. Real Friends – Everyone That Dragged You Here
  2. The Swellers – Running Out of Places To Go
  3. The Menzingers – On the Possible Past
  4. The Wonder Years/Stay Ahead of the Weather – Punk Is Dead. Get a Job.
  5. Candy Hearts – The Best Ways To Disappear

Honorable Mention

  • I Call Fives – Someone That’s Not You
  • Dowsing/Parker – Dowsing/Parker

My Thirty Favorite Songs of 2012

  1. The Wonder Years – Me Vs. the Highway
  2. Fun. – Some Nights
  3. The Menzingers – Casey
  4. Real Friends – Home For Fall
  5. Joie de Vivre – High School Me Would Have Been Pumped
  6. The Tower and the Fool – Dive Bar
  7. The Gaslight Anthem – Biloxi Parish
  8. Daytrader – Letter To a Former Lover
  9. Swear and Shake – Marbles
  10. John K. Samson – When I Write My Master’s Thesis
  11. Hot Water Music – Drag My Body
  12. Parker – Make It Home Safely
  13. No Trigger – Maple Boy
  14. The Swellers – Running Out of Places To Go
  15. Hostage Calm – On Both Eyes
  16. Motion City Soundtrack – Timelines
  17. Sharks – Able Moving Hearts
  18. The Forecast – Everybody Left
  19. Close Only Counts – Carpet Doritos
  20. Make Do and Mend – Desert Lily
  21. Into It. Over It. – Don’t Let Me Cave In
  22. I Can See Mountains – Hey Man
  23. Candy Hearts – Miles and Interstates
  24. I Call Fives – Someone That’s Not You
  25. Alex and the XO’s – Meddling, Mellowing
  26. Late In the Playoffs – The Wayside
  27. Handguns – Long October
  28. Basement – Pine
  29. Forever Came Calling – Contender
  30. Hawthorne Heights – New Winter

Honorable Mention

  • Cheap Girls – Gone All Summer
  • Empires – Hard Times
  • With the Punches – Cags

The Five Best Shows I Attended In 2012

  1. The Wonder Years – The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL – 3/17/2012 (Early show, Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing performed in full)
  2. Joie de Vivre – The Marilyn Mansion, Normal, IL – 10/15/2012
  3. Real Friends – The Step Back House, Normal, IL – 5/18/2012
  4. Swear and Shake – Tommy’s, Bloomington, IL – 10/4/2012
  5. The Front Bottoms – The Firehouse, Normal, IL – 11/9/2012
  6. The Story So Far – Bradley University Quad, Peoria, IL – 9/14/2012

2011 I’ve Given You All and Now Here’s My End of the Year List

2011 was a great year for music. At least in the scenes and genres that interest me, the sheer number of records released this year is astounding. There was a three week stretch in late September and early October that saw the release of eight or ten of my most anticipated albums. It was one of the most exciting and energetic times I can remember since becoming seriously interested in music. What made it even better was that, for the most part, the excitement culminated in something other than a huge letdown. Nearly all of those albums were good or great (La Dispute, Transit, and Man Overboard’s releases all made my top ten list, and Into It. Over It.’s Proper was a strong contender). And that happened for the entire year. It was probably the best 52 weeks I could have asked for as a fan, although it would have been nice if the Graduate didn’t break up and Thursday wasn’t on hiatus.

The idea of an end-of-the-year list is, I guess, to present what I see as the best records or songs or whatever of the year. But whenever I make something like this, I tend to wonder why I’m making it. My list certainly isn’t significant in any way, and most of the albums listed here aren’t particularly significant outside of the lives of myself and a select few of my peers. There’s no cultural phenomena soundtrack here, no Bon Iver or Adele or whatever it is that has moved the most units this year, because that just isn’t the music that affects me. But the Wonder Years do. Hostage Calm does. And I want other people to experience those bands in the same way that I have. So here’s a bunch of records I like that happened to come out in 2011. Listen to them. Buy a physical copy. Read the lyrics and the liner notes while you listen. Go to a show. Learn an instrument. Write songs.

Sing along.

My Ten Favorite Records of 2011

  1. The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
  2. The Dangerous Summer – War Paint
  3. Fireworks – Gospel
  4. Transit – Listen and Forgive
  5. Laura Stevenson and the Cans – Sit Resist
  6. Aficionado – Aficionado
  7. The Swellers – Good For Me
  8. La Dispute – Wildlife
  9. Crucial Dudes – 61 Penn
  10. Man Overboard – Man Overboard

Honorable Mentions

  • Candy Hearts – Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy
  • The Get Up Kids – There Are Rules
  • The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
  • Pianos Become the Teeth – The Lack Long After
  • Waxahatchee – American Weekend

My Five Favorite EPs of 2011

  1. Mixtapes – How To Throw a Successful Party
  2. Mixtapes – Hope Is For People
  3. Daytrader – Last Days of Rome
  4. Transit – Promise Nothing
  5. Late In the Playoffs – Everything I Know

Honorable Mention

  • Dowsing – All I Could Find Was You

My Fifteen Favorite Songs of 2011

  1. Hostage Calm – The "M" Word
  2. The Wonder Years – Local Man Ruins Everything
  3. The Dangerous Summer – Siren
  4. Mixtapes – Hope Is For People
  5. Rise Against – Architects
  6. The Hotel Year – An Ode To the Nite Ratz Club
  7. Red City Radio – Spinning In Circles Is a Gateway Drug
  8. The Horrible Crowes – I Witnessed a Crime
  9. Thursday – Stay True
  10. Transit – Long Lost Friends
  11. Balance and Composure – I Tore You Apart In My Head
  12. I Am the Avalanche – Brooklyn Dodgers
  13. Junior Battles – Seventeen
  14. Man Overboard – Rare
  15. Polar Bear Club – I’ll Never Leave New York

Honorable Mentions:

  • Candy Hearts – Good Enough
  • Laura Stevenson and the Cans – Red Clay Roots
  • Warren Franklin – You’ve Never Heard "My Aim Is True"

The Five Best Shows I Attended in 2011

  • All three times I saw the Wonder Years (The House Cafe, Warped Tour, the Egyptian Theater)
  • Against Me! at the Castle Theatre
  • Warren Franklin and the Island of Misfit Toys at a skate shop at Middlewest Fest

Honorable Mention

  • The Dangerous Summer at Warped Tour

It’s Been a Good year, a Good New Beginning: The Best of 2010 In Music


  1. The Wonder Years – The Upsides
  2. Fake Problems – Real Ghosts Caught On Tape
  3. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
  4. Against Me! – White Crosses
  5. Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life
  6. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  7. Jimmy Eat World – Invented
  8. The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
  9. Transit – Keep This To Yourself
  10. Hellogoodbye – Would It Kill You?

Honorable Mentions

  • The Graduate – Only Every Time
  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • The Forecast – The Forecast
  • AM Taxi – We Don’t Stand a Chance


  1. Bright and Early – Louder Than Words
  2. Stay Ahead of the Weather – We Better Get Goin’ If We’re Gonna
  3. Joie de Vivre – You Ruined Everything That Was Ever Good
  4. The Appreciation Post – Work/Sleep
  5. Treaty of Paris – Currents

Honorable Mentions

  • Banquets – This Is Our Concern, Dude
  • Bomb the Music Industry! – Adults!!!


  1. The Gaslight Anthem – The Diamond Church Street Choir
  2. Bright and Early – Something Personal
  3. Against Me! – Bamboo Bones
  4. The Wonder Years – Washington Square Park
  5. The Graduate – Permanent Tourists
  6. Fireworks – I Grew Up In a Legion Hall
  7. Transit – A Living Diary
  8. Anberlin – Art of War
  9. Banquets – Eleanor, I Need a Garden
  10. The Hold Steady – We can Get Together
  11. Joie de Vivre – You Ruined Everything That Was Ever Good
  12. A Day To Remember – All Signs Point To Lauderdale
  13. Handguns – Anywhere But Home
  14. Stay Ahead of the Weather – Sorority Social Suicide
  15. The Appreciation Post – Doom and Gloom

Best Shows

  1. Fireworks at the Morton American Legion Hall
  2. Movies About Animals covering Tell All Your Friends at Jeff’s house.
  3. Playing with the Kings of Olde and This Is My Suitcase at Coffee Nation

Best New Artist

  • News From Verona

Most Anticipated for 2011

  • The Wonder Years
  • The Get Up Kids
  • Fireworks
  • Polar Bear Club

End of the Year Music Awards

Top 10 albums of the year

  1. Fireworks – All I Have To Offer Is My Own Confusion
  2. Deas Vail – Birds and Cages
  3. Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down
  4. Polar Bear Club – Chasing Hamburg
  5. Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely Estate) – What It Takes To Move Forward
  6. As Cities Burn – Hell or High Water
  7. Broadway Calls – Good Views, Bad News
  8. Set Your Goals – This Will Be the Death of Us
  9. Gasoline Heart – Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
  10. Thursday – Common Existence

Honorable Mentions

  • mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright!
  • This Is My Suitcase – The Keys To Cat Heaven
  • A Day To Remember – Homesick
  • Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Best EPs

  • Danger Is My Middle Name – Sink or Swim
  • Mark Rose – The Greatest Lakes

Albums that might have made the list if I had been able to give them more listens

  • Thrice – Beggars
  • Fun – Aim and Ignite
  • Person L – The Positives

Best shows

  • Relient K at Cornerstone
  • La Dispute in Jake’s basement
  • The Get Up Kids at the Metro

My Top Ten Most Awesome Albums of 2008 List

  1. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
  2. La Dispute – Somewhere At the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair
  3. Harder To Fall – It All Becomes So Clear
  4. The Injured List – There’s Always Next Year
  5. The Matches – A Band In Hope
  6. Children 18:3 – Children 18:3
  7. Fall Out Boy – Folie a Deux
  8. Tall Tale – Pirate Ship
  9. Underoath – Lost In the Sound of Separation
  10. Less Than Jake – GNV FLA

I didn’t include EPs, but my favorite EPs of the year were What Your Children Dream Of by Beast From Sea and White Lights by Deas Vail.