I know most of you don’t care what anyone else listens too, but I just wanted to throw out some of my favorite music from the last year. These may not be the “best” albums of 2012, but they’re the ones that I couldn’t get enough of. These are the records that will definitely help me remember 2012. And maybe, you’ll find something in here you like as well. In alphabetical order:
I was really anticipating this record. Chantal leaked a track from it early in the writing/recording process and it was a completely different sound from Morningwood. When the record was finally released, I was inordinately pleased to find that the entire album had that over-the-top, 60’s pop feel that Chantal had channeled in the leaked track “Bite Your Tongue”. If you want to listen to a girl sing her ass off to some really fun and sharply produced tunes, get this record. I can’t tell you how many times I made the drive from San Diego to LA with this record blasting as I made my way up the 5 with the windows down.
This is another record that I was really looking forward to. I’ve seen these guys go through a lot over the years, so of course I rushed to support their Kickstarter campaign to get this album made. Once my package arrived with my CD, tshirt and mix-CD’s from the band, I was blown away. This is without a doubt my favorite Cobalt record yet and the tracks “Like You Like Me Like Me” and “Last August” are frequent repeater tracks for me. I’ll be listening to this record and repeat those tracks 2 or 3 times before I move on to the next record. I just wish I could get myself to Chicago so that I could see them live.
I want to be Beth Ditto when I grow up. I want to have that kind of confidence and a voice that powerful to be wear the outfits she does and be able to front a band this amazing. They went in more of a dance/pop direction for this record, that suits Beth Ditto’s soaring and powerful vocals very well. “Move In The Right Direction” will have you dancing and singing along in no time, while “Into The Wild” and “Involved” are great soulful numbers that pull the passion right out of you. This is another gem for driving around with the windows down.
I was a latecomer to this record. I didn’t get into it until late October, but I’ve made up for lost time. If you can’t tell by some of my previous selections, I’ve been on a bit of a soulful kick for the last year and this record fits in perfectly. Harmonies, strings, horns, stellar production all combine into a glorious funk/rock package that still has enough of a gritty feel to make you want to dance and sweat along. Standout tracks “Can’t Play Dead” “What Makes A Good Man?” and “Same Ol’” will have you singing along in no time. I really want them to do a tour with Fitz & The Tantrums…
Another band that used Kickstarter to create a stellar record, The Local Strangers delivered what just might be my favorite record of the year. Flawlessly combining folk and power pop influences, this album brings a ton of fun, upbeat and beautiful songs to the table. “Uptown” and ”Easy” will draw comparisons to Of Mice & Men, but the intensity of “Mr. Blackberry” and “Devil and a Stiff Drink”will have you stomping along “Shovels & Rope” style and forgetting any comparisons that I could make here. Do yourself a favor and get this record. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, then go see them live, where Aubrey and Matt’s vocals truly shine. Now, if only I could get them to tour with Shovels & Rope, we’d have a hell of a lineup.
This power pop group out of Virginia stole my heart. I saw a duo version of the group open for Bleu at Eddie’s Attic in October and immediately bought all of their records, including this new one a full month before it was actually released. JP’s vocals and catchy piano riffs have made this record a staple for me in the last 3 months. These songs come together in a perfect package for driving, working, eating… it’s really a soundtrack for my life. If you’re not wanting to sing along to “Life in a Bitch Slap”, “Bricks and Mortar” and “On The Other Hand” after a listen or two, I’m not really sure you’re human. There’s also some good messages in these tunes. In “Aliens” JP sings “what would you do if I held his hand/ how does my preference make me a man/oh, why can’t you understand/a man is not a man until he takes a stand” and it makes me want to run up and hug him for being an ally. Don’t ignore this record just because you’ve never heard of them, take a chance and try something new instead of the same 10 records that Rolling Stone, Spin, etc, tell you to buy.
When my friend @ImpalerSpeaks demanded that I go and see Rayland play a gig at Smith’s Olde Bar, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. But when The Impaler demands something, you listen. What happened next? I fell in love. I bought the EP that he had available and then waited with baited breath for this full length record. Rayland definitely fits in with the “folky” kick I’ve been on this year. His beautifully crafted songs tell such beautiful stories of love, maturity and finding out his place in the world that it’s no wonder he was asked to open for The Civil Wars and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals on their recent tours. “The Woman for Me” and “Hoot Owl” will tug at your heartstrings and bring out a musical and emotional release that few can inspire. If you’re easily moved by songs, get out your tissues and prepare for some musical therapy.
I’ve been following Shovels & Rope since they opened up for Butch Walker on a few dates back in 2008 and they just keep getting better. O’ Be Joyful brings together some great boot-stomping, soulful and beautiful songs that will take you on a journey through so many emotions. The opening track “Birmingham” will tell you their story if you’re listening to the lyrics. The separation, the travel and the heartache that Cary Anne and Michael have been through to become the duo known as Shovels & Rope. Cary Anne’s powerful voice blends perfectly with Michael’s and it makes you wonder what they felt like the first time they heard that magical combination? Where these songs really soar is in their live performances. They’re constantly touring across this country, go see them, say Hi, and tell them that I sent you.
This record is in a dead heat with The Local Strangers for my favorite record of the year. I’ve listened to Stars before, but never fell in love with the way I did with this record. The blending of pop synths with Torquil and Amy’s vocals are like a musical bomb for my soul. “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” is my favorite track for the year. I’ll listen to it on repeat so many times that even my coworkers know that I’m in a Stars induced musical frenzy by the cubicle dancing and happy typing. The youthful enthusiasm that this records exudes is a clever cover-up for some pretty nostalgic themes and swoon-worthy lyrics. The more I listen to it, the more I love it and that’s really all I can say.
We all know I have a weakness for Georgia boys that move to California and can rock a “little guitar”. Tyler Lyle fits this mold perfectly. Originally from a small town west of Atlanta (about 20 min. from where I grew up) and now living in Los Angeles, Tyler’s sweet and soulful folksongs are beautifully direct and honest. The boy writes some gorgeous songs and can rock a ukulele. I saw him play a solo gig in San Diego (with my friends The Local Strangers) and we bonded over the fact that being southerners in California is definitely a strange place to be. We’re always strangers in a strange land somehow. The album’s title track is the perfect opener for one of my favorite Sunday afternoon records. Curl up with this album on a sunny porch with a good cup of coffee and life will be good.