Monday, December 10, 2012

On music: favorite albums from 2012

I pay for my music. As such, I tend to be a little picky about what I buy. Spotify was the greatest thing to happen in music in the past few years, at least for me, because it meant I didn’t have to be shady about my music listening habits. I could listen without stealing and pay for stuff without buying it. Good for the bands and labels, good for me.
Now, I don’t label this list “best of 2012” for a reason: taste is too hard to argue though fun to discuss. While I certainly like lots of different sounds, I’m also very stubborn about recommendations. It’s sad and difficult. I don’t see myself as a hipster who only listens to bands with a fanbase of less than 500 people; but I do have the hipster tendency to prefer my own discoveries over the suggestions of others.
That being said, the previously mentioned Spotify does allow me to explore a little more liberally. Still, when people send me songs, I don’t always rush to listen. I think I’m getting better.
Anyway. Below are some albums I bought this year. I enjoy them. Some I really enjoy and will likely listen to for years to come. Others might seem great now but fall out of rotation. So be it.

Andrew Bird - Break it Yourself - the album I listened to the most and one that will likely get plenty of play in the future. Basically, Andrew Bird makes music I can fall into easily. Great lyrics, great rhythms, great arrangements, and his voice is stellar.

Serj Tankian - Harakiri - Didn’t even know this was coming out and yet there it appeared in iTunes one day. The drumming on “Figure it Out” is speed metal drumming. Blistering. Amazing. Great hooks, silly lyrics. And not overproduced like the prior release.

Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon - Some great tunes including “Lost River” and “I Came Around.” Another strong, distinct vocal performance. The aggressive cello work stands out as the highlight of certain songs.

The Lumineers - The Lumineers - I feel like this is the version of Mumford and Sons that I can get into. Short, sweet songs. Great vocals. Great hooks. My son even loved this album and his taste in music is still being ironed out.

Mark Lanegan - Blues Funeral - Mark Lanegan has one of the greatest voices in music. Is it the cigarettes and liquor or some evolutionary trait that ensures he’ll procreate with plenty of people? Who knows. This album throws a few curve balls (“Ode to Sad Disco” being one) but nothing seems like a reach for Lanegan and his band. So much fun, so sad, so dark, so real. All at once.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend - I’m still amazed. I can’t figure out if the album is really good or that it’s been so longsince their last release that I’m willing to enjoy anything. This doesn’t deviate from the typical Godspeed songwriting:in this case two 20 minute epics coupled with 6 minute palatte cleansers. But the drums and texture seem better than the last release and reminiscent of their masterpiece Raise Your Skinny Hands….

Menomena - Moms - I had no idea this band was such a mess. But the last album did seem disjointed with a few gems but a lack of momentum that their sophomore album, Friend and Foe, had plenty of. Fortunately some of the best elements of the original trio’s work has not been lost on Moms, even with one member off seeking greener pastures. Here’s hoping they can carry on and build on this album.

Japandroids - Celebration Rock - Fast. Fun. Just perfectly done rock.

Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light - Truly does feel like a sibling to the masterpiece Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.
Albums that just didn’t hit me, despite how much I liked prior release:
Patrick Wilson - Adventures in Your Own Backyard - A random discovery on Spotify, the opening track (“Lighthouse”) alone got repeated plays from me. Some other great tracks but, honestly, that opening track might be all I ever need.

Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour - Not a bad album at all, but it didn’t feel as energized as their debut. I will pick up their next album and hope it’s got the spark.

Amanda Palmer - Theatre is Evil - Got through this once can’t remember any of it. Perhaps it’s the production, the arrangements, the lack of piano? No idea. Though, I will say I have a playlist of Who Killed Amanda Palmer that leaves out 2 tracks so maybe I wasn’t meant to be her biggest fan.
Air - Le Voyage Dans La Luna - Such a cool idea: an updated soundtrack to the famous silent film Voyage to the Moon. The music IS good as a standalone album, but it doesn’t really seem to fit with the movie. I was really surprised at how disconnected the two seemed.

Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania - I have such a softspot for Smashing Pumpkins. I still listen to their first four albums constantly. The opening track is promising but without the jazz-influenced drums and the 90s crunch distortion Corgan made his signature and later dropped, it’s just not the same.