Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012 - Albums

Truly, I had meant to get these out in a more timely manner (ie: not the THE LAST three days in 2012) and you've probably read about a hundred Best Of lists. Well I hope you saved room for one more. Some people have referred to this year as a weak year for music. I sure don't agree with that. I feel like this year was strong in everything except books. I have lengthy honorable mentions lists for a couple of categories. But, here is my narrowed down list of the best albums of 2012. 

Bonus. The Music of NASHVILLE - The cast of Nashville.
I wish more (all) of country music was more like the songs on this show. Please put T-Bone Burnett and Keefus Greene in charge of all lyric writing and talent rustling in Nashville. Undermine. Bitchin. 

10. Trilogy - The Weeknd
One of the best slow jam concerts I've ever been to. A beautiful fall evening in the Hollywood Bowl with the flag of the state of California flapping in the breeze. The only thing ruining how cool The Weeknd was that night was the pair of screaming fan girls in front of us. Not really the style of music that normally attracts screaming teen fan girls, but okay... nevertheless.  I don't feel cool very often, but when I drive around listening to this album, for a minute, I do. 

9. The Carpenter - Avett Bros
I know, I know, there are now a whole crop of folk-rock-bluegrass edged bands coming up, but I still think the Avett Brothers are the first (ish) and best of them. This album is no diff. And its mood swings are great for road trips. Trust me. I listened to this about 400 times on my SEVERAL trips between LA and Vegas and experienced those peaks and valleys right along with that desert landscape from Cali to Nevada. Road music. Never gets old.  

8. The Lumineers - The Lumineers
Like I said, these bands. But I gotta say, as a musician's kid-- a bluegrass musician's kid-- I feel a bit proud this sound is getting a new golden era. The Lumineers seem to me like a nice third to stabilize and triangulate the scene with the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. At some point, they remind me of Milo Greene (See below.) A more rustic version. I Like their vibe lyrically too. I never mind some sha-na-nas, fa-fa-fas, or, as the case may be here, ho-heys. Also, Stubbon Love. "I can't be told, ah, ah, it can't be done."

7. Lonesome Dreams - Lord Huron
I have NPR to thank for this. One of my favorite late editions to this year's music scene, I jammed this out while moving into my new house in Hollywood. Another ramblin' album, this one felt like I was a traveller who had finally landed somewhere for a while. That feeling sustains. Check it out. 

6. Battle Born - The Killers
What happened to this album? I feel like nobody cared... including me! Until I finally got around to listening to it. And I think it's actually... their best? Don't get me wrong, The Killers have ONE sound. I don't imagine them reinventing that any time...ever. But this is the most consistent vocally, melodically, lyrically encapsulation of that sound.  They rock Vegas imagery like no one. And something about the way they've finally figured on town ambience in relation to storytelling. It's Mellancamp 'Jack & Diane.' It's Springsteen for today. Uh-Mer-i-cah-nah. More

5. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve
You More Than Ropes Will Ever DoFiona Apple  
Oh, Fiona Apple. I listed to this one on a record player in Peter Sheik's house during a weekend of cat sitting  and locking myself out that ended up being sort of life changing-- at least in a mental landscape kind of way. The whole thing is a short story now...and there's basically nothing I can say about this album that hasn't already been said. But I recommend listening to it on vinyl. I don't recommend locking yourself out in Brooklyn with no shoes on or money or phone. 

4. Give You the GhostPoliça
Since we've all just had to accept autotunes as a fixture of music for the times, I appreciate that Channy Leaneagh just leans into it. Polica is, in a way, what I'd like to think Bon Iver might have contributed to music in the long run with all those distorted, refracted vocals (I felt so bad/laughed in truth when LA Weekly called him the sonic equivalent of an empty canvas tote). Taken by a lady and given more shape, more rhythm, less angst, more, well... cool.  More on them here

3. Love This Giant - David Byrne & St. Vincent
It's been a good year for D. Byrne. Not only did he have an insightful and informative book, How Music Works, but he also had one of his best and the best albums I've heard in a long time. People just aren't making albums like this anymore. This sound is just not to be found on the radio or in general musical taste these days. But I sure do love it. God bless the layers and layers horns! And I think St. Vincent is an excellent vocal balance for DB. 

2. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
Is there a Best Of list that Channel Orange didn't make its way onto? All deserved. It has 5 or 6 really solid singles, but more than that, it's one of the few albums I like to listen to in order, straight through. I don't really like to use the word opus, but okay, opus. There. I mean, Pyramids.  And his odd bromance with John Mayer? So weird. I love it. And this is one the albums that greased the wheels on my way out of London. Remember when I lived there? Less than six months ago? Oh, sigh. 

1. Milo Greene - Milo Greene
Finally, I feel like people are starting to catch on to my favorite band and my favorite album of 2012. They're an amazing live band-- as was proved to me at El Rey in November (thanks, Kade!)-- and they started off as predominantly that. They didn't even have an album until July. And I was so happy when it finally dropped to discover the whole thing was amazing. With levels, and layers, and all that feeling of rambling that initially drew me to them and to "1957." I'm going to go on record and say that the reason I moved back to California and not anywhere else is this band and this album. One day in London, I posted on facebook that despite it being one of the few sunny days we had in that city, I wanted more. "1957" made me want find the convertible blue Bug of my childhood, buy it, get my driver's license back, and drive that car up Pacific Coast Highway blasting Milo Greene with the top down and my hair flying wild. If you want that feeling too, buy this album. 


  1. Good looking list, and with a few that I need to look into. Is it kinda hipster to say that I was really into that Lumineers song until I heard it in a Blue Moon commercial? I'm trying to not let that ruin it for me. :)

  2. It is a little... but I hear you. Don't let it ruin it for you. Glad you approve :)


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