We told you back in August about this totally under the radar psych-folk record from Red River Dialect should easily land high on our Top 50 and I would say number 10 is nails it. The Cornwall, England based band debut full length “awellupontheway” is a stunning 8 song, 47 minute experience that has an exuberant amount of energy stored up within its song structures and like any skilled artist has the ability to inject these moments piece by piece into the listener with artistic precision. What made this record so great was how Red River Dialect was able to provide an experience that became more memorable with every spin. “awellupontheway” was both intense and reserved, fierce and gentle, and grandiose yet simple. This internal battle combined with the stellar vocals of lead singer David Morris not only put Red River Dialect on the radar but easily make it one of the best records we heard this year!
Red River Dialect: “awellupontheway” [Fire Note Review 8/2/12]
It is always cool to see a January released record hold the test of an almost full year and still land in the top 10. Cloud Nothings did just that as the band followed up a really good self-titled debut record released last January with the even better Attack On Memory. The once basement self-recorded project of Dylan Baldi progressed past just getting in the studio with a producer to making Cloud Nothings a full-fledged band and recording with Steve Albini in Chicago. The result was an engaging balance of rock with injected catchy and memorable harmonies. Attack On Memory will easily be the bar from which Cloud Nothings will now be measured as it is a rock thrill ride from beginning to end. It is a record that never lost steam at any time it was played all year and for that it has a well-deserved place at number 9.
Cloud Nothings: Attack On Memory [Fire Note Review 1/25/12]
If Tame Impala’s first album Innerspeaker  was like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band then Lonerism is their Dark Side of the Moon. The expectations were already high for this follow up and Tame Impala delivered with drum driven powerhouses, blossoming guitars and keys, crashing waves of wah and synth while floating the listener along with their stylistic hazy vocals. Lonerism’s psychedelic dream pop methodology is a fantastic view on how music should be made as nothing felt out of place, no note was over played, no trick over tried. Tame Impala once again created a timeless record that can be played both loud and soft with equal results which positively made Lonerism one of the best releases 2012 had to offer!
Tame Impala: Lonerism [Fire Note Review 10/15/12]
We love it when an album takes hold from the very first track and never lets go. This is the experience that Murder By Death’s sixth full length Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon offered on the first key. Singer Adam Turla’s unique voice, which sounds like a combination of The National’s Matt Berninger and the legend Johnny Cash instantly draws you into Murder By Death’s world. The album found the band battling darkness and struggling to get out within its own lyrics which supplied Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon with an emotional punch that propelled it to the next level. Turla continually tries to convince the listener that he is not an eloquent man during the record but after the album concludes you just know he was totally lying as Murder By Death released one of their most articulate and powerful records to date!
Murder By Death: Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon [Fire Note Review 9/26/12]
Right from the opening Rhodes piano playing you just had a sense that one of the true sides of Jack White was just unleashed to the masses on his solo debut Blunderbuss. The album not only had one of the best rock tracks this year with “Sixteen Saltines” but used a dynamic combination of instruments that gave Blunderbuss its free spirit and likability. What made Blunderbuss a success was its expertise refinement because it would have been easy for White to give everyone a full rocked out record like the Stripes but here Jack made each track smolder with his confidence, instrument swagger and solid song structures. Blunderbuss is a record that maybe did not immediately awe fans but it had tremendous staying power. Jack White made an album that played well all year, will play well next year and the years after that which is exactly why this release is essential and firmly planting at number 6 on the 2012 Top 50!
Jack White: Blunderbuss [Fire Note Review 6/29/12]
A soaring indie pop record primarily written on a violin might scare you a bit but that is exactly the creative process behind the debut, 151a, from Kishi Bashi. Of course, Kishi Bashi expanded on 151a and incorporated a full array of instruments that blended with the record’s Brian Wilson/ELO type harmonies. Kishi Bashi still had the ability to work his violin into the tracks but never dominated the overall sound as he used different tempos, effects and vocal interplay. 151a was an album that only got better with repeat listens and was one of those unique records that sneaks up on you and then turns out to be one of the most entertaining, artistic, quirky, memorable and down-right catchy albums that you have heard in 2012!
Kishi Bashi: 151a [Fire Note Review 4/11/12]
Lotus Plaza is the solo project of musician Lockett Pundt, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist of Atlanta-based indie group Deerhunter. Spooky Action At A Distance is his sophomore album and easily now his finest work. The album found Pundt stepping up front and center vocally as songs would crescendo into layered vocals and creatively combine with a consistent guitar base. Lotus Plaza has a laid back ability to create tracks that instantly soared again and again on Spooky Action At A Distance. Lotus Plaza not only released their best record to date but Spooky Action At A Distance rivals the best work from Deerhunter as it is a great indie album that is timeless, memorable and something you should not miss!
Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action At A Distance [Fire Note Review 4/5/12]
Guided By Voices
*Let’s Go Eat The Factory
*Class Clown Spots A UFO
*The Bears For Lunch
Guided By Voices Inc. 
Guided By Voices made a triumphant return in 2012 with a trilogy of releases that featured the “classic line up”. This is the same group which was responsible for the highly praised Bee Thousand  and Alien Lanes  so after a 15 year absence the anticipation for greatness was quite high. Well GBV made up for lost time and delivered a consistent rock experience with each release that musically all had a different vibe but were 100% Guided By Voices. This description of course means different things to different people but for The Fire Note it meant big rock tracks, short memorable numbers, catchy indie pop melodies and plenty of replay value. Some critics complained that the band could have just made one focused record instead of three but they missed the point. All three records shined in the right places, relied on their selected track sequencing and gave the fans what they wanted. The return of Guided By Voices definitely boosted the 2012 indie music scene and rightfully so earned all three records a collective spot at number 3!
Guided By Voices: The Bears For Lunch [Fire Note Review 11/1/12]
Guided By Voices: Class Clown Spots A UFO [Fire Note Review 6/5/12]
Guided By Voices: Let’s Go Eat The Factory [Fire Note Review 12/9/11]
Ty Segall is walking in rarified air these days. There aren’t many artists who can put out three excellent albums in a year. Segall has already hit big this year with his collaborative album with Tim Presley of White Fence, entitled Hair, and his full band album, Slaughterhouse. Twins actually upped the ante and is not only Segall’s best album of the year, but it’s easily the finest, most fully realized album of his career to this point. The album is full of 12 great pop songs, disguised as garage rock and honestly if it was released 20 years ago, it could have been Nevermind. That’s how good Twins is. There isn’t a single song here that is less than excellent, each track is a highlight. For that reason alone Twins is an easy number 2 of the year and already has us excited for what Segall touches next!
Ty Segall: Twins [Fire Note Review 10/12/12]
Japnadroids sophomore record Celebration Rock couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any better with its title. I truly suggest you take a deep breath right before you put on this album because it is an excellent 35 minutes of indie rock that expands the groups songwriting and is better than their solid debut Post-Nothing . What made Celebration Rock so good is that the original winning formula from singer/guitar player Brian King and drummer David Prowse stays completely intact as each song here is loud, fast, fun and sonically crisp. Japandroids have succeeded in what every band wants in a sophomore record which is to avoid the slump, grow as songwriters, build your fan base and still be able to rock the hell out of your audience. Japandroids do it all here and at the same time have released the best record this year!
Japandroids: Celebration Rock [Fire Note Review 6/1/12]