Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top 20 albums I managed to give a shit about in 2012

The cynical title of this year's year-end music best of list begs many questions, all of which I've asked myself several times over the course of 2012: What's wrong with me? Am I getting old? Do I not care about music as much now? Am I just a hardened jerk who doesn't understand what these kids are into nowadays?

The truth of the matter is, I am getting older and I don't understand what the kids are into nowadays. But I embrace and accept this as part of my transition to being a grown ass woman. My passion for music is still there, but my OCD focus on music releases has waned a little. And that's a good thing. Now, instead of spending the entire year counting down the days until the new "band-I-love-or-am-at-least-obsessed-with" record comes out, I spend a lot more time in the present. A lot more time enjoying what it is I am currently listening to and listening to what I want to hear. There's no more race, no more obligation. 

My girlfriend pointed out to me a couple of years ago that I listen to a new record once or twice and then discard it for the next new release, never giving anything that much of a chance. Which is totally true. I'd feel guilty if I liked a record so much I wanted to listen to it over and over - there's no time! I must move on! Otherwise I'll miss something! But now I realize that this mentality meant I was missing something. Lots of things. Because I was too busy looking over my shoulder to see what was coming up next to really enjoy what was happening at that moment. This is dumb. And I'm done with it. 

But that doesn't mean I didn't listen to an obscene amount of music in 2012. Or that I didn't love some records a great deal. I did! You may notice that a lot of the more obvious, critically acclaimed records that make up the bulk of other year-end lists are not included here. This isn't because I missed them. I'm not that off my game. It's because I didn't like them or care about them. But that's more Jack White and Walkmen for you, right? Right. Here are 20 records I think are worth your time. Enjoy.

Top 20 Favorite Records of 2012

1. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

I knew right away that Tramp would be my favorite album of the year, and that feeling never subsided. This record is on virtually every year end list for a reason. Sharon Van Etten deserves every bit of praise she's gotten for this record. If I ever saw her live I would probably make a fool out of myself by gushing like a little fan girl. So maybe it's best she doesn't often make it to Detroit to play shows.

2. Lightning Love - Blonde Album

I love a lot of Detroit bands, but Lightning Love are my favorite. They also win my "most deserving of big time fame" award. I gleefully listened to this record a million times in 2012. I hope 2013 is the year these guys break out so huge that even Leah Diehl's bird gets her own limo whenever the fuck she wants.

3. Patti Smith - Banga

My absolute favorite music experience of the year was seeing Patti Smith live in the Detroit Film Theatre at the DIA. My girlfriend and I watched from the darkness of the projection booth – it felt like we were in secret, private box seats. Earlier in the week, Smith was wandering around the museum passing out buttons to promote her new record. After witnessing this, my girlfriend told me, "I think a lot of the bewildered people being offered a button thought she was a homeless lady." This just makes me love Patti Smith even more.

4. Allo Darlin' - Europe

Elizabeth Morris writes warm, breezy pop songs that would be perfect on a mixtape for your secret crush. Her lyrics are those perfect words you could never say and her voice has the sweet, beautiful tone you think you're achieving on your best karaoke outing, but that's really just the boozy haze, masking what you really sound like. Sing less and listen to more Allo Darlin' in 2013.

5. Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

As much as I am a sucker for catchy pop songs, I also like to give my brain a good musical challenge. In his long and often odd career, Scott Walker started with catchy pop songs and ended up veering down a musical path that led to him making music that would fit right into a David Lynch movie. Bish Bosch isn't for everybody, but I highly advise giving it a listen. Get outside of your comfort zone for a minute (or nine) and see what happens. That Mumford & Sons record will still be here when you get back. If you get back.

6. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

This guy knows the way to my heart, and that way involves spooky, beautiful, simple songs. I don't know if the album title is a nod to Prince* but if Mike Hadreas came to my door and presented me with a copy of the Watchtower I'd gladly let him in for some Bible study. As long as it took the form of a private house show and we left all that silly God stuff out of it.
*The joke here is that Prince is a Jehovah's Witness. It's weird to me how many people don't seem to know this. 

7. This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends

I don't know how this record isn't getting more attention from nerdy, sloppy pop loving music geeks everywhere. This Many Boyfriends are everything you love – catchy songs, care-free delivery and band-referencing lyrical abandon. They're named after a Beat Happening song and open their record with a track named after the bassist for the Talking Heads. You owe it to yourself to give this a chance immediately.

8. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

I assume the album name refers to the guy on the cover who is haunted by a recurring dream where he's helplessly carried around constantly by a naked Natasha Khan. When he tells his friends about the dream, they laugh and say "That doesn't sound like a nightmare to me!" as they wink and elbow his ribs. He insists, "You guys, seriously. She never puts me down and never says a word. I just get carried and carried and have no control over the situation. I beg her to release me, but she ignores me. In each dream I eventually freeze or starve to death. It's horrible." His friends laugh at him again and call him a fag. The moral of the story is nobody will ever understand you, haunted man. Nobody

9. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

Pop quiz: Listen to this song, with lyrics that reference country music greats like Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash, and tell me what country this band is from. If you guessed, perhaps, Nashville it would be understandable. However, such an answer suggests you missed the line, "Stockholm's cold, but I've been told I was born to endure this kind of weather." Because duh, they are obviously from Sweden. Surprised? I was too. But country music is so much more universal than we think it is.

10. Twin Shadow - Confess

This is another record I listened to a whole hell of a lot in 2012. I love his voice which is hardly a surprise considering how often Morrissey comparisons are tossed his way. Confess basically takes every serious, synth drenched, tear-jerker Top 40 song I liked as a child in the 80's, blends them all together and reinterprets them for my grown up listening pleasure. If that's the definition of "adult contemporary," I am perfectly comfortable with this.

11. Fawn - Coastlines

12. Santigold - Master of My Make-Believe

13. Shearwater - Animal Joy

14. The History of Pan!c - Fight! Fight! Fight!

15. Lambchop - Mr. M

16. Stars - The North

17. Lavender Diamond - Incorruptible Heart

18. Damien Jurado - Maraqopa

19. The Magnetic Fields - Love at the Bottom of the Sea

20. Pet Shop Boys - Elysium

Want a Spotify playlist of all these songs? Here you go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As someone who is a listen-to-the-same-record-a-thousand-times-until-the-same-band-puts-out-another-one kind of music fan, I RELY on people like you to help me wade through all of the options. And, that is why we are friends. That, and I almost always agree with your taste. I saw Sharon Van Etten and Damien Jurado together this year. Awesome.

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