In 2012, I listened to as many albums as years Bradley Cooper has been alive. Finding good music never gets any easier but it’s out there. This year wasn’t much different than last year, or the year before. There was stuff I liked, stuff I didn’t (cough, cough, Beach Boys’ reunion album) and a helluva lot in-between. Here’s what made me tap my toes in 2012.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill: Neil doesn’t give a fuck about anything, god I respect that man.
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again: What a soulful voice, but Kiwanuka should stick to more upbeat R&B more often.
Matthew E. White – Big Inner: White’s songs are great, but he performs them like he’s barely conscious. Wake up!
|10. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Brittany Howard is one scoop Janis Joplin with a dash of John Fogerty. Howard’s bloody raw vocals are reason enough to check out Boys & Girls. The soulful collection of songs only sweetens the deal. Boys & Girls is a beloved love letter to all the best blues and soul of the 60s. The material is familiar but the execution is down and dirty, like Swamp People!
|9. Muse – The 2nd Law
Some fans like Muse’s current grandiose approach to music while other fans believe that to be the worst thing ever. I prefer the over-the-top modern-day Muse. Muse has always had a melodramatic style to them and that style is well captured by the rock-opera packaging of The 2nd Law. “Survival” is still the song that gets me. You don’t have to like the song, but you have to appreciate the ambition behind it. Yes, I’ll stand up for The 2nd Law, unlike the many listeners that were driven to ma-ma-ma-ma-madness.
|8. Swans – The Seer
Who knows why some people have certain reactions to certain albums. I’m surprised I like this. Eccentric bandleader Michael Gira has somehow crafted the ideal soundtrack for the apocalypse. I equate The Seer more to a film soundtrack than an actual rock album with it’s lengthy running time and brooding textures. The Seer is one of the great enigmas of 2012, I’m not sure why I like it so much, but that same mystery only adds to it’s appeal.
|7. Ben Gibbard – Former Lives
Ben Gibbard possesses the key to my heart. I’d go to an M’s game with him any day of the week.
|6. The Shins – Port of Morrow
This year I listened to most of The Shins’ albums for the first time and watched Garden State. Now I can finally feel ways about emotions and stuff. Port of Morrow isn’t anything out of frontman James Mercer’s comfort zone. Though I did find a very strong wealth of songs spread out across this album. By comparison, you basically hear all the best songs on The Shins’ 2008 album Wincing the Night Away in the first ten minutes. To quote Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that?”
|5. Mac Demarco – 2
It’s lazy indie pop that’s not boring! Why can’t I find more albums like this? You can pile as much mass on an album as you want, but who cares if the songs aren’t good? Mac Demarco’s songs are melodic and funky. It’s like that “Play that Funky Music White Boy” song is about him. I’ve solved another piece of the puzzle!
|4. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Tame Impala crafts transcendent psychedelia without losing focus of writing good songs. It would be so easy for puppet-master Kevin Parker to make all of these songs ten minutes, but on Lonerism he’s focused like a laser beam. I don’t even know half the sounds I’m hearing. Not to mention it reminds me of one of my other favorite psychedelic bands Dungen. Their 2004 album Ta Det Lugnt is one I’m always annoying people about. See? I’m doing it right now.
|3. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Seeing Dinosaur Jr. live was a real eye-opener to how great this band truly is. I’m amazed by how well their recent material stands against songs they wrote 20 years ago. I Bet On Sky is remarkably accessible when compared to the noise rock sound the band perfected in the 80s. “Watch the Corners” is now my favorite Dinosaur Jr. song. Bonus Points: Tim Heidecker is in the music video!
|2. King Tuff – King Tuff
Liking King Tuff is like being part of a secret club. King Tuff aka Kyle Thomas (pictured at the top of the post) isn’t that widely known and will probably never rise above the indie level, but wow, he’s a great songwriter. Kyle Thomas feels like a punk rocker working in the pop medium. His songs are catchy, but his voice is like a high pitched wine controlling a beast from within. “Bad Thing” is my official favorite song of 2012. That’s like, a really big honor.
|1. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Here
You wont see Here on many top ten lists. It doesn’t hold much higher than a sixtysomething on Metacritic. I wasn’t even that big a fan of the group’s first album, but Here struck me in a profound way. It’s the album that I’ve come back to the most this year. The joyous optimism and gospel themes have truly made me a believer in Edward Sharpe. Alex Ebert has such presence as the charismatic leader of this west coast hippie collective. Not to count out the rest of this talented tensome, like co-singer Jade Castrinos, my favorite female vocalist in music right now. I don’t mind that most people don’t care about this album. It makes the fact that I like it feel special. Here is an album I’ll keep returning to as the years go by and that’s what earns it the number one spot.
My top two picks both came out on May 29th, that’s my birthday. I’ve discovered another piece of the puzzle! I leave with you with my number one pick playing “Man on Fire” on Letterman, Otteni out!