Best Albums of 2012: version 2.0

Best Albums of 2012
Version 2.0 2.1 (January-June)
For previous years see
LPs
  1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
  2. Shearwater – Animal Joy
  3. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
  4. Dr. Dog – Be the Void 
  5. John K. Samson – Provincial 
  6. Gift of Gab – The Next Logical Progression
  7. Ben Kweller – Go Fly a Kite 
  8. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
  9. Andrew Bird – Break it Yourself 
  10. Bahamas – Barchords 
  11. fun. – Some Nights 
  12. Rocky Votolato – Television of Saints
  13. Dent May – Do Things 
  14. Sigur Ros – Valtari
  15. The Lumineers – The Lumineers 
  16. Matt Pryor – May Day 
  17. Matt Pryor – Still There’s a Light 
  18. Beach House – Bloom
  19. Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves 
  20. Brendan Benson – What Kind of World
  21. Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere
  22. James Vincent McMorrow – Early in the Morning
  23. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes
  24. Jack White – Blunderbuss
  25. For all the Girls (Drew Danburry) – For all the Girls
  26. Lyrics Born – Lyrics Born Variety Show: Season 5
  27. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game 
  28. Galactic – Carnivale Electricos
  29. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled with Light

    EPs
    1. RA Scion – Beg, Borrow, Steal [Free EP]
    2. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa Sessions Blue/Red/Yellow 3×7″ series
    3. Rocky Votolato – The Let Go EP  
    4. Josh Ritter – Bringing in the Darlings
    5. Sam Means – Nona 
    6. Less than Jake – Seasons Greetings 

      Singles / 7 inches / Misc
      1. Iron & Wine – One More Try [single] b/t Trouble
      2. Blue Scholars – May Day [single]
      3. Jeremy Enigk – Last Rights [Damien Jurado cover] [Free Download from Seattle Times]
      4. Andrew Bird – The Crown Salesman [single] b/t So Much Wine
      5. Bon Iver – Towers [single] b/t Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
      6. Cold War Kids – Minimum Day [single]
      7. Beach House – Lazuli [single] b/t Equal Mind
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      Best Albums of 2012: version 1.0

      Best Albums of 2012
      Version 1.0 (January-March)
      For previous years see
      LPs
      1. Shearwater – Animal Joy
      2. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
      3. Dr. Dog – Be the Void
      4. Andrew Bird – Break it Yourself
      5. Gift of Gab – The Next Logical Progression
      6. fun. – Some Nights
      7. John K. Samson – Provincial
      8. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
      9. Ben Kweller – Go Fly a Kite
      10. Rocky Votolato – Television of Saints
      11. Matt Pryor – May Day 
      12. Matt Pryor – Still There’s a Light 
      13. Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere
      14. Beach House – Bloom
      15. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes
      16. For all the Girls (Drew Danburry) – For all the Girls
      17. Lyrics Born – Lyrics Born Variety Show: Season 5
      18. Galactic – Carnivale Electricos
      19. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled with Light

        EPs
        1. RA Scion – Beg, Borrow, Steal [Free EP]
        2. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa Sessions Blue/Red/Yellow 3×7″ series
        3. Rocky Votolato – The Let Go EP  
        4. Josh Ritter – Bringing in the Darlings
        5. Less than Jake – Seasons Greetings 

          Singles / 7 inches / Misc
          1. Jeremy Enigk – Last Rights [Damien Jurado cover] [Free Download from Seattle Times]
          2. Andrew Bird – The Crown Salesman [single] b/t So Much Wine
          3. Bon Iver – Towers [single] b/t Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
          4. Cold War Kids – Minimum Day [single]

          Andrew Bird does Colbert

          There are musicians, and then there are musicians.  I am the former, Andrew Bird is the latter.  I can play guitar, bass, banjo, ukulele and piano.  Andrew Bird can PLAY all of those plus violin and a bunch others.  My review of his new album “Break it Yourself” on rateyourmusic.com when like this:

          “Wow.  It is as if Mr. Bird has no regard for the rest of our feelings!  I mean, come on!  You make the rest of us look like a bunch of hack amateurs struggling to bang out simple 3-chord songs.  Mr. Bird, you musical talent is tough to swallow.  We get it.  You are obscenely good at what you do.  Now please just stop beating us over the head with it!  Give us some time to go sulk in our rooms a bit, feel depressed about how horrible our attempts at making music are just laughable…….and sit wide-eyed listening to you new album a few hundred more times.

          You songs are not always the catchiest.  They might often be ones that are skipped when listening on shuffle.  But when given proper undivided attention, they never fail to utterly amaze us.  Like I said in the beginning.  Wow.”

          Did I mention that he whistles too?

          Wonder what I’m talking about?  Listen:







          Andrew Bird Documentary trailer – Fever Year

          If you are unaware, Andrew Bird is one of the more phenomenally gifted savant-type musicians out there today. Proficient in a number of instruments, virtuoso on the violin, avid whistler – I have been dying to see his live performance for years. Well – now I can sate this by watching the documentary. Dear Netflix – please put this on the instant stream ASAP!

          Official Trailer (2:45) from Andrew Bird: Fever Year on Vimeo.

          Albums you Must own (for $5 a piece!) Nr. 04

          Amazon.com is constantly running $5 album deals for mp3 albums..  Each month or so, they post a new list of 100 albums.
          Here are a few albums from their list that should 100% be in your music collection.
          Did I mention these are all only $5
          1.
           2.
           3.
          4.
           5.
          Others you should probably pick up while they are cheap:
           

          Best Albums of 2009: August Edition

          Best Albums of 2009

          Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I’m going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year – month by month. Some of these may have actually been released earlier in the year, but are in this months set because this is when I got my hands on them.

          1.
          Brendan Benson
          My Old Familiar Friend


          Every once in a while I get down about the indie music scene because it seems like every band is trying so hard to forge a unique indie sound that will get them recognition as doing something groundbreaking. In the process, however, too many veer off into genres and sounds that just aren’t listenable. This is one reason for why I have always loved Brendan Benson. There is no shtick here. He just makes good ‘ol fahsioned indie-rock albums. I really wish he would dedicate more time to his solo ventures than what he was doing with Jack White and the Ranconteurs. My Old Familiar Friend has been a long time coming too. His last solo release, Alternative to Love, was in 2005! It was a phenomenal album and set the bar fairly high for this new LP. Since then, and especially over the last 12 months a good batch of new demos have been floating around, whetting our appetites. The resulting LP is great. However, there are a few misteps – Garbage Day is a travesty. A few other tracks are good, but not great, and I wonder why some of the really stellar demos I had collected didn’t make the cut. In any case. Benson’s mix of indie-rock with classic southern rock sounds and tight harmonies is great. No frills rock. I love it. Top tracks include a Whole Lot Better and Misery.

          2.
          fun.
          Aim and Ignite

          I was saddened when The Format broke up. I had followed them since their first EP was produced by Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Studio and I was so excited when their 2nd LP, Dog Problems, did so well. In the wake of the break up, lead-singer Nate formed a new band – fun. If you liked The Format, you will like fun. There are quite a few moments on the album where direct links to the Dog Problems sound can be traced. The multi-phase pacing of At Least I’m Not as Sad (as I used to be) is a direct translation of things they did on Dog Problems. There is a greater reliance on string arrangments, rather than brass and woodwinds, throughout Aim and Ignite that signal a new direction. The album is good, but disappointing at times. 4 of the songs are honestly some of the best tracks from any album this year. Some of the others, however, are just “ok.” When the good tracks are good, though, they are REALLY good. Consider Be Calm, Benson Hedges, At Least I’m Not as Sad (as I used to be) [download mp3] and Walk the Dog.

          3.
          David Bazan
          Curse Your Branches

          Pedro the Lion’s frontman (and only man in some ways) David Bazan is now releasing his brand of acoustic indie-rock under his own name. Must be a trend – Conor Oberst, Matt Pryor, etc . . . In any case, I saw Bazan do an acoustic set last year and was very excited to see how the songs he played would translate into studio tracks. It is great in its simplicity – as always. Even when there is full instrumentation to his songs, there always seems to be a very streamlined approach to his music. A welcome addition to an already prolific discography. Top tracks include Hard to Be, Curse Your Branches, Bless This Mess [download mp3] and Please, Baby, Please.


          4.

          Fruit Bats
          The Ruminant Band

          Sub Pop’s Fruit Bats have taken quite a break since their 2005 Spelled in Bones. The new album is good, consistent and introduces some new sounds to their alt-folk repertoire. Few tracks leap out as amazing masterpieces, but the album as a whole holds together very well. Top tracks are Primitive Man, Being on Our Own and Feather Bed.

          5.
          Owen
          The Seaside [EP]

          The Seaside EP includes a grouping of songs that had been previously released on splits, 7″s and compilations. While I had already dug most of them up, having them in one place is nice. It has gotten me excited about Owen’s upcoming LP New Leaves as well. A good addition to your Owen library. Top tracks are Head Will Ache and I’m Not Seventeen.

          6.
          Blue Scholars
          OOF! [EP]

          Blue Scholars MC Geologic grew up in Hawaii in the 1980s before transplanting to Seattle. This EP is all about the island and would have been a better release for the early summer – that way I could have listened to the island-inspired beats and rhymes all summer long! Sabzi’s production and beats feature a host of new sounds and tricks. In many ways, the rhymes are secondary to the beats on this EP – which is usually not the case. As a matter of fact, the lyrics are pretty horrible in parts. It seems to me that Sabzi had some new beats he had worked out, and Geologic quickly slapped together some inane verses on top of them. They really lack the sophistication, poetic quality and complex syncopation of the Blue Scholars that have won me over in the past. Come to think of it, “New People” is all around horrible. A few somewhat redeemable tracks are HI-808 and Cruz.

          7.
          Andrew Bird
          Fitz and the Dizzyspells [EP]


          This EP came out back in May and features one track off of Noble Beast, with 4 new songs. It is classic Andrew Bird. Not much commentary to make. Favorite track was Ten-You-Us.

          Running LP List

          1. J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues (January)
          2. Brendan Benson – My Old Familiar Friend (August)
          3. fun. – Aim and Ignite (August)
          4. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May)
          5. Shark Speed – Sea Sick Music (April)
          6. Say Hi – Oohs & Aahs (February)
          7. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (January)
          8. Iron & Wine – Around the Well (May)
          9. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches (August)
          10. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (March)
          11. Before Braille – Spring Cleaning (June + July)
          12. Art for Starters – Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
          13. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South (May)
          14. Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band (August)
          15. Mos Def – The Ecstatic (June + July)
          16. Jeremy Enigk – OK Bear (May)
          17. The Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels (March)
          18. Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
          19. Coconut Records – Davy (January)
          20. Jimmy Eat World – Clarity Live (April)
          21. Iain Archer – To the Pine Roots (April)
          22. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha (February)
          23. John Vanderslice – Romanian Names (May)
          24. Peter, Bjorn and John – Living Thing (March)
          25. Jonsi and Alex – Rice Boy Sleeps (June + July)
          26. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (May)
          27. Lateef the Truth Speaker – Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
          28. Vetiver – Tight Knit (March)
          29. General Elektriks – Good City for Dreamers (February)
          30. Dark was the Night compilation (April)
          31. Ben Kweller – Changing Horses (January)

          Running EP List

          1. Common Market – The Winter’s End (March)
          2. Death Cab for Cutie – Open Door (March)
          3. Owen – The Seaside (August)
          4. Joshua James – Sing Songs (May)
          5. Andrew Bird – Fitz and the Dizzyspells (August)
          6. The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice – Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)
          7. Blue Scholars – OOF! (August)

          Best Albums of 2009: January

          Best Albums of 2009
          Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I’m going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year – month by month.

          January Edition

          Not much to report yet.

          1.
          J. TillmanVacilando Territory Blues

          Oops – did I jump the gun and put this on my 2008 list? I guess I got it early. Let me reiterate what I have already said about why I like this album. And I quote from my premature 2008 posting: J. Tillman has been putting out some great solo, singer-songwriter material for a few years. I found him via his current gig as the drummer for Fleet Foxes and form my bro-in-law McGreggor. His 2nd release of the year, I like this one better than Minor Works. The production value and sound quality isn’t quite as good as Minor Works, but thankfully, he didn’t lay down the countrified slide guitar as much. Top tracks are Firstborn, James Blues [download mp3], Barter Blues and Master’s House.

          2.
          Andrew BirdNoble Beast

          According to my wife, the cellist, Andrew Bird should be put into a different category of band, because unlike all of us run-of-the-mill musicians, Bird is classically trained in a “real instrument.” Namely, the violin. And boy can he play! He also can lay down a mean whistle. Noble Beast is standard Bird. I don’t see much here that departs too drastically from his previous releases – other than slight evolutions in his sound which came with Armchair Apocrypha as well. And, as with his other albums, I think it is fantastic, but only a few songs ever really stick with me. In this case, they are Oh No [download mp3], Nomenclature and Souverian.

          3.
          Coconut RecordsDavy

          I like Jason Schwartzman. I wish that he had never left Phantom Planet though. Not necessarily because I don’t like his solo gig – Coconut Records – but because Phantom Planet took a turn for the worse once he left. That said, I like his sophomore release as Coconut Records. It follows closely in the footsteps of Nighttiming and has come catchy fun tracks. Take note of Drummer, Any Fun [download mp3] and Wandering Around.

          4.
          Ben KwellerChanging Horses

          Oh Ben, Ben, Ben. I have such a love and hate relationship with you. I love one album, hate the next, love the one after that and now hate this one. Bummer. Why have you gone the way of the countryfried indie rocker trying to get in touch with his country-bumpkin roots?! As far as I’m concerned, here’s how I rate my Kweller catalog:

          Hello and Dizzy (Radish) – he was 13 years old, what do you expect?
          Restraining Bolt (Radish) – a good start
          Discount Fireworks (unreleased Radish material) – CRAZY AWESOME!
          Melange – good
          Bromeo EP – fair
          Freak Out its Ben Kweller – also good
          Sha Sha – Holy Delicious Batman!
          On My Way – blah!!!
          Sundress EP – a good recovery
          Ben Kweller (s/t) – a good return to goodness
          How Ya Lookin’ Southbound ? Come In… EP – ugh
          Changing Horses – double ugh

          The few tracks that I will keep on the album are Gypsy Rose, Things I Like to Do and Homeward Bound [download mp3].