A year has gone by and within it brought us a roller coaster of wild events and at parallel motion so much good art and music was made. To share some of the music standouts I've once again enlisted my dear friend Ben to narrow down a list of the epic volumes. You might have enjoyed his picks last year (and ofcourse you still can). Here is a run down of Ben's best of 2012. I've pulled together a compilation here xx
Bowerbirds – The Clearing
I knew that this was the record that would either make or break the year for me. Late in 2011 I had heard the opening track “Tuck the Darkness In”. I was incredulous at the balls on a band to open with such a musical statement. So clearly the band I had come to love but musical light years above what I had anticipated. Where could they possibly go from such an opener? 46 minutes later the question isn’t were they would go, but where they would take you.
Sharon Von Etten – Tramp
Heavy stuff, it seems that Ms. Etten uses her records like the worn couch in some musty therapist office. Luckily this therapist just happens to be Aaron Dessner of The National and like any responsible doctor he has asked all of his friends from Brooklyn to lend his new patient some support. The album is a cathartic trip about breaking through heartache and an oppressive sense of inferiority, but with her lilting microtonal voice supported by her monstrous guitar I can happily say that there is nothing easier to believe then when she sings, “We are fine”.
Beach House- Bloom
The indie stalwarts dropped a fantastic record in May but much like their first Self titled and the second record “Devotion”, “Teen Dream” and “Bloom” are essentially interchangeable records. Each album has exceptional songs, but you can hand a new acolyte either of the first two records and either of the second two records to get the evolution of an unbelievable band. I love this band. They maybe the “Indie Rock Darlings” but it is for good reason: perfect songs.
Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
Have you ever heard something that just made you want to vomit? Lay all your insides out on the floor around your feet? Perfection is a hard thing to stomach and when you hear it you need to respond. What’s a little stomach acid between friends? Listen to “Beacon Hill” from Damien Jurado’s 2010 record “Saint Bartlett”. Like an elevator up the esophageal tube, this song and the album, pushed my pharyngeal buttons to a near vomitious rupture (in a good way, of course). Jurado dropped Maraqopa in 2012 and with trepidation I listened. I was so afraid that this album would somehow sully my feelings toward Saint Bartlett. I’m happy to report that it did not; Damien Jurado made a better album.
Favorite lyric of the year: “You’re no him, but he’s you only better”
Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnsihed Gold
Anyone who has ever heard Beachwood Sparks is aware of their undying love for The Byrds. It has been eleven years since these southern Californian mavens of country rock released “Once We Were Trees”. It’s been 44 years since The Byrds released “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”. “The Tarnished Gold” is just as easily out of its temporal element as either of the aforementioned records but somehow these smooth country rock harmonies are just as timeless as they were, will, and ever shall be.
Hospitality - Hospitality
I was lazily floating in the Gulf of Mexico last March when one of my equally buoyed friends said, “Man, whatever happened to Twee?” I didn’t have an answer. What had happened? Of course there was Camera Obscura and I think Belle and Sebastian were recording something lovely and aloof, but what had happened to that sad saccharinial sound of broken hearted hipsters confusing love, sex, and irony? Well, fear not, via Brooklyn via Yale via England, Hospitality, has found their jangly guitars and simple melodies to hang their vintage hats upon with aplomb.
First Aid Kit – The Lions Roar
With the purity of Everly Brothers harmonies, the production of Mike Mogis (guest vocals from Conor Oberst), and the spirit of Gram Parsons two impossibly young Swedish sisters give ten of the most sincere tracks of romantic Americana since the Grievous Angel wore his amphetamine crown. These girls don’t only name drop Gram and Emmy Lou but somehow retrieve Parsons Spirit directly from Joshua Tree.
Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber
I don’t know why I like this blissed out barrage of psych rock. It maybe the reminiscence to Stereolab or Broadcast, it maybe the reverb laden arpeggiated 60’s girl group guitar, or perhaps the François Hardy-esque lyrical delivery (yes, they are both French, I also see the obvious allusion). Whatever the case I loved this record, and I think you should listen to it.
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
“Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space.”
The enormity that this line had on my forming brain in 1997 cannot be underestimated. Sadly, I have underestimated Jay Spaceman every time he has released a record, and why? I can’t name one Spiritualized album that has ever fallen short. However, when “Sweet Heart” was released in 2012 I didn’t pay much attention. When I did get around to listening to it, it was almost begrudgingly, lending an old friend a hand even though I felt I had somewhere better to be. Turns out I am a jerk of a friend. “Sweet Heart” is equal to “Ladies and Gentlemen”, it is equal to “Let It Come Down”, “Laser Guided Melodies” or any of the others. Jason Pierce may have taken the Spaceman moniker but there is no doubt that his songs of love and heartbreak, God, Jesus, his well documented drug use and ultimately his redemption are rooted deep within the revolution of the planet that he is so desperately trying to make sense of. Spiritualized may have given me my favorite album of 2012.
Finally, these two records are made by very great friends of mine and it would be disingenuous of me to list them here without some sort of qualifier. However, I have a lot of friends in a lot bands and these two records are worth every second you spend with them.
mewithoutyou – Ten Stories
A loose concept album about an actual circus train derailment in the late 1800’s. This is truly a rewarding record to listen to, visceral and heartfelt.
Dr. Dog – Be the Void
Toby and Scott, front men of Dr. Dog, were in band called Raccoon. I loved Raccoon and use to revel in the fact that I knew these two astoundingly gifted song writers. I also use to lament the fact that they probably wouldn’t get out of Philadelphia. I was never so happy to be wrong.
Other Albums I liked
Grimes – Visions // The Walkmen – Heaven, // Carla Morrison - Denjenme Llorar // Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory // The Music Tapes – Mary’s Voice // The Moutain Goats - Transendental Youth // Dark Dark Dark - Who Needs Who // Tame Impala – Lonerism // Social Studies - Developer //Lower Dens - Nootropic // Allah – Las - Allah – Las // Pale Seas – Something or Nothing // Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is Wiser…..