The Best Of 2012 Playlist

I must confess I had to scramble in the past few weeks to check out some stuff that had come out this year.  So I have been hunkered down trying to figure out what is better than what is not better.  I’ve selected songs for the sake of creating a playlist, but for the most part I am endorsing the album from which the song came.  As with any list, there are things I am overlooking, but the list reflects what I discovered or especially was fond of this past year, including a few requests from very important people.

1.  RICHARD HAWLEY   “She Brings The Sunlight”  (from Standing At The Sky’s Edge).   I touted this album months back and, although I recommended people checking out all his other stuff, if you find yourself wishing he would just turn it up already, this the album for you.  Same great voice and songwriting, but considerably louder!

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2.  BILL FAY  “There Is A Valley”  (from Life Is People).  Again, BILL FAY was mentioned earlier (in October I believe).  A truly interesting story of rediscovery.  And the album that resulted lives up to, and enhances, his legend.

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3.  BEN HOWARD  “The Wolves”  (from Every Kingdom).   I discovered this through the Mercury Prize nominations.  I think if you like MUMFORD or AVETT BROS., HOWARD may appeal to you.  There is a lot of energy and soul in his delivery.

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4.  ALABAMA SHAKES  “Hold On”  (from Boys And Girls).   This is one I would probably not have included, as I thought they were a bit overrated.  That is until a recent car trip when my kids were singing this in the backseat (and pretty loudly too).  When I heard them scream “C’mon Brittany”, I had a totally different appreciation for the song.  And now, I’ll probably always like it.

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5.  LIANNE LE HAVAS  “Forget”  (from Is Your Love Big Enough?).  A gifted guitarist and songwriter, this is from her first album.  Produced by MATT HALES (aka AQUALUNG), the whole album highlights her  beautiful voice.  This song should be on the radio, if people still had radios.

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6.  MICHAEL KIWANUKA  “Tell Me A Tale”  (from Home Again).   The third Mercury Prize nominee to be featured so far, I discovered some stuff I ended up really liking there.  This song and album are like from another time.  Soulful, folky arranging of good songs and his voice seals the deal.

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7.  PAUL WELLER  “By The Waters”  (from Sonik Kicks).  It’s pleasing to see how WELLER appeals to the younger crowd.  This album find him continuing to push it and apply his strengths to different sounds.  There are probably only a couple of WELLER‘s last 8 albums that would not end up on a year end list, he’s that good.  But this one is definitely adventurous.

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8.  BAT FOR LASHES  “Laura”  (from The Haunted Man).  Perhaps best album cover?  The song is absolutely beautiful and this album is outstanding.  For me, a big find this year.

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9.  TAME IMPALA  “Keep On Lying”  (from Lonerism).  So this album and band are now the critics darlings.  I look forward to hearing what this album sounds like live when I see them in Montreal in few months.  After the initial intrigue I felt regarding the cool sound and production, I can now appreciate the catchy hooks that the songs are built around.

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10.  FIELD MUSIC  “From Hide And Seek To Heartache”  (from Plumb).   The fourth (and final?) Mercury Prize nominee, this is a bit of proggy art rock that is fun to listen to.  Perhaps the short songs and all the changing tempos help.  This one also received a lot of attention and I can see why

 

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11.  SHARON VAN ETTEN  “Serpents”  (from Tramp).   Another album that collected numerous accolades.  I recently acquired it and am not yet fully on board but include it on the strength of all the wonderful things I have read about it.  The deluxe edition included a very interesting collection of demos, some of which I prefer to the album’s version.  I think this will grow on me.

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12.  KASEY CHAMBERS & SHANE NICHOLSON  “Adam And Eve”  (from Wreck And Ruin).   Most artists seem to loose a little when they join forces with their better halves for albums.  When you are a big fan of one of the artists, it can feel as if you only got half of an album.  I’m a big KASEY fan and I’m happy to report that these albums have only made me a fan of her hubby SHANE.  The harmonies are so nice.

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13.  KELLY HOGAN  “We Can’t Have Nice Things”  (from I Like To Keep Myself In Pain).  Another recent pick up, this is simply a fantastic album.  I’ve read the comparisons to DUSTY and SHELBY LYNNE, and she can easily be mentioned alongside those names.  The band assembled to back her is top notch, led by BOOKER T. JONES.  With songs from VIC CHESTNUT, ROBBIE FULKS, ANDREW BIRD and others, this album is another big find for 2012.

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14.  GRAHAM PARKER AND THE RUMOUR  “Stop Crying About The Rain”  (from Three Chords Good).   I admit, the hype from JUDD APATOW’s “This is 40” caught my attention, as GP is featured prominently in the film.  Always a huge fan, I am very familiar with everything GP has done, up until about 6-7 years ago when I felt he was making the same record over and over again.  Well, that’s like making a great record over and over again.  This time, re-united with THE RUMOUR, that same record sounds re-vitalized.  GP is under-appreciated and hopefully he’ll get some attention with “This is 40” and when people turn to find his music, this album will hold it’s own against his classics.

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15.  RUFUS WAINWRIGHT  “Montauk”  (from Out Of The Game).   This one is a request.  Not my favorite Rufus album.  A bit of a let down with MARK RONSON producing, but this is great song about how parents look through their grown children’s eyes.

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16.  JENS LEKMAN  “The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love”  (from I Know What Love Isn’t).   I have been yapping on about him a whole bunch, and especially since this excellent album came out in September.   Jens rocks!

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17.  THE SHINS  “Bait And Switch”  (from Port Of Morrow).  Another strong effort from JAMES MERCER.

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18.  DAVID BYRNE AND ST. VINCENT  “Who”  (from Love This Giant).   What a surprise pairing, but it works.  The horns add a whole new dimension to ANNIE CLARK’s off kilter songs and the smattering of her spastic guitar work bring some spice to DAVID BYRNE’s rhythms.  It’s the rare occasion when two of your heros get together and it’s actually really good.

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19.  ULTRAISTA “Bad Insect”  (from Ultraista).  This I do not know much about this other than Ultraista is NIGEL GODRICH (works with RADIOHEAD), JOEY WARONKER (great session drummer) and LAURA BETTISON.   Compared to Krautrock by one critic, I think there may be a bit too much dance in there to call it that.  Repeated listens brought the cream to the top.

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20.  OPOSSOM  “Blue Meanies”  (from Electric Hawaii).   Ok, I predicted earlier that this may be my album of the year.  I can’t quite bring myself to declare this (or any) as the best of the year but this is still very fun.  I love the drum sound, which seems to come right out of the speakers.  More please.  It’s a pretty short album.

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21.  TENNIS  “Origins”  (from Young & Old).   Their first album was a fun stew of surfy jangle pop.  This second album is a bit more complete, and the songs seem a bit more substantial.  I like her voice to being with but the songs now have some keyboards and a little more heft to them.

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22.  LA SERA  “I’m Alone”  (from Sees The Light).  Another big find as far as I’m concerned.  LA SERA is KATY GOODMAN (bass player for VIVIAN GIRLS).  I had never heard of VIVIAN GIRLS and unlike their punk pop approach, LA SERA allows GOODMAN to sing (which is good) and highlights her songs (which are pretty damned catchy).  Not much punk here, but a great collection of smart alt-pop.

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23.  LAMBCHOP  “Gone Tomorrow”  (from Mr. M)   LAMBCHOP have a great reputation and are always referred to as critics darlings.  The most common description I’ve come across is Alternative-Country.  But there is so much more going on with them and most of the time I hear no country.  Aside from KURT WAGNER‘s voice, which takes some getting use to, the arrangements are gorgeous and the songs are interesting.  This song has just stuck with me so it must included.

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24.  MAYA BEISER and MICHAEL HARRISON  “Just Ancient Loops  III:  Ascension”  (from Time Loops)  This album was highly recommended by several trusted blog sources and I am glad I took the chance to get it.  HARRISON composed much of the music and the liner notes describes the compositions as “investigating compositional possibilities outside of the modern Western canon and the denatured sounds of its modern tuning system.”  Don’t be off put by that as the music is beautiful and features BEISER‘s dynamic cello playing.  With inspiration ranging from the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance to Indian ragas, and featuring computerized piano and the YOUNG PEOPLE’S CHORUS OF NEW YORK CITY, it is a very interesting but warm album to listen to.

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25.  KYLIE MINOGUE  “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”  (from The Abby Road Sessions)   That’s right!  I have previously endorsed BABY SPICE and THE PIPETTES, so this is no surprise.  I have always thought this song is awesome, and it sticks in your head like glue (not the kind you sniff).  No this is just a great re-make of a classic pop song.

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