Tuesday, January 01, 2013

RIB's 2012 Album of the Year
Animal Collective -- Centipede Hz

The Album of the Year Award turns 20 today.


That number, 20 -- five more than my age when I started doing this -- shocked my friend Steph when I told her the other night over Ukrainian food that 19 Album of the Year Awards had already been handed out, and that the 20th was days away. She's known me for all but the first of them, so you can't fault her if the news made her feel a little bit old.

For me, though, the winner of the 20th Album of the Year Award, for all its faults, has done the opposite:

It's made me feel young.

Animal Collective's Centipede Hz -- the band's second Album of the Year winner, following its previous release, Merriweather Post Pavilion -- pumped me full of adrenaline this year. It reminded me of why I love music. It made me want to run.

And while the album missed many year-end lists -- Pitchfork left it out of its Top 50, instead including it on its Worst Album Covers list -- I liked it for the same reasons some others didn't, which are the same reasons I have come to love records for the past 20 years:

Centipede Hz is weird. It's hard to swallow. It's ugly at times. It's not as accessible or as charming as the band's last record, the one everyone agreed to love.

Centipede Hz is more than just those things, though. It's also thrilling, daring and brash -- and less repetitive than that last record.

There are personal reasons I love it, too. The day it came out, I ran through Astoria Park in the rain listening to it, a spontaneous run (I hadn't run in years) inspired by the record -- especially track two, Today's Supernatural, which against stiff competition may also be my song of the year.

That night I had a first (OK Cupid) date with a girl named Amelia Page. After four months, the things that remind me of her are now indelible.

It's an unfair advantage, surely, but there you have it.

I've spent a lot of time writing and talking about Centipede Hz, and I could say a lot more here. But, partly due to laziness and partly due to a lack of time, I will leave it with this not-so simple, and increasingly long, list:


1993: Counting Crows -- August and Everything After
1994: R.E.M. -- Monster
1995: The Innocence Mission -- Glow
1996: Dave Matthews Band -- Crash
1997: U2 -- Pop
1998: R.E.M. -- Up
1999: John Linnell -- State Songs
2000: Radiohead -- Kid A
2001: Bjork -- Vespertine
2002: Wilco -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2003: Bonnie "Prince" Billy -- Master and Everyone
2004: Wilco -- A Ghost is Born
2005: Sufjan Stevens -- Illinois
2006: The Decemberists -- The Crane Wife
2007: Radiohead -- In Rainbows
2008: Shearwater -- Rook
2009: Animal Collective -- Merriweather Post Pavilion
2010: Laura Veirs -- July Flame
2011: PJ Harvey -- Let England Shake
2012: Animal Collective -- Centipede Hz

(2012's runners-up: 2. Sharon Van Etten -- Tramp; 3. Of Monsters and Men -- My Head is an Animal; 4. Shearwater -- Animal Joy; full nominees list here)