Top 12 of 2012!

OK, here is my detailed account of my favorite albums of the year. I think what makes music great is that every person gets something different out of it. I realize as I look at other lists of this type, how much is out there, and there is something for everyone. I hope you can find something here for you!

  1. The Explorers Club – Grand Hotel

    This year has found me revisiting a lot of older records. I have been listening to a ton of “Come to the Sunshine” podcasts, The Kinks at the BBC box set, etc. So it doesn’t surprise me that this is my #1. It both borrows heavily from records of the 60’s and 70’s, and remains wholly original. Making songs as good as anything released at that time. It has hooks that are incredibly catchy, which is surprising these days. The record is well produced and professional. It is a triumph, and I love it.
  2. Gold Motel – Gold Motel

    This band was my top album of 2010, so I am a huge fan already. This album picks right up where they left off, and in some respects is better. It is better produced, and while it doesn’t have the immediacy and pull the first one did, there are many solid songs on here. “Musicians” may be the best song of the year. Each time I hear it, some other awesome part of it shines through.
  3. Air Traffic Controller – NORDO

    The long awaited album was worth the wait. Another collection of melodic, hook-filled music. His unique voice really makes it; this is a record about singing your heart out, and saying what you mean. They are sincere, heartfelt songs that take it slow when they need to, and rock out when it needs that. It almost feels like a cathartic release of emotions in a pure pop package.
  4. Wanderlust – Record Time

    YES! The return of a great band, and not only that, they are better than ever. This record is a loud statement of we are here, and we have something to say. The record can be listened to at the surface level, and you hear great rock songs, with soaring vocals, crashing guitars, and can have a great time. Once you start delving into the songs, you realize there is substance here. These aren’t just kids rocking out, they are adults who have lived in the world, and are expressing their experience with it.
  5. Hidden Pictures – Rainbow Records

    This album came to my attention via Futureman Records, which has been releasing classic power pop records digitally, and they put this album up as a preview. It was a great move because it fits right in with all those classic records, yet has an appeal to today’s audiences. It uses the power pop mold, but run through a more modern indie rock filter. Making for an engaging and fun listening experience. After seeing the other records this band released previously, I see they’ve been doing this for years, but I think maybe this one tops them all.
  6. Redd Kross – Researching The Blues

    When a band hasn’t released an album in 15 years, you wonder if they still “have it”. As you hear the opening chord of this album, all notions of a failed comeback disappear. It rocks your socks off! They are back with a vengeance! It feels almost as if there was a kinetic energy building up for 15 years, and is released all in one fell swoop, leaving all others in the dust. It is both classic Redd Kross, and a new direction all at the same time.
  7. Missy Higgins – The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle

    This album stands out from Missy Higgins’ previous efforts. It feels a lot closer to the chest, more personal. I think bringing Brad Jones and Butterfly Boucher in the mix was a wonderful decision. It doesn’t take away from Missy’s sound, but adds flourishes that bring out a different side to the sound. In the end, it brings it to a place of perfection for me, and is almost a new start, that can actually grow and continue to make her the strong unique artist she is.
  8. Mike Viola – Acousto De Perfecto

    As long as Mike Viola is making new music, he will make it on this list. Something about him just always hits me just right. This might not be considered a proper album, but it does make a full statement and stands up well. It features about half new songs, half old, done in an acoustic manner, with basically guitars and a string section. It really brings out the lyrics and just the simple but effective songwriting style of Mike Viola.
  9. Chris Richards and The Subtractions – Get Yer La-La’s Out

    If you need one solid power pop record this year, this is gonna be it. It has all the required pieces put together in a way that flows well and mixes into a great sound. You’ve got your crunchy guitars, pulsating beat, background vocals (la-la’s!), and a great solid voice. Great melodies and interesting song topics make for a wonderful all around experience.
  10. Ruby Free – Introducing Ruby Free

    A unique and cool album that feels more relaxed and confident than his other band, Maple Mars. It has a retro feel to it as well, a kind of southern California hippie feel to it. Yet, it has a post-modern experience of that music, first as a reminiscing of the era as can be seen through modern eyes. I am unsure if an era like this even existed, but it comforts me to hear music that makes it feel like that kind of world is possible.
  11. The Corner Laughers – Poppy Seeds

    Lighthearted pop from this group, sweetly sung and well produced. It grabs you from the start, with its bright feeling, as something different and fun. Where I see it going to the next level is thematically, with the unique take on experiences that are both relateable and abstract. It seems to have a poetic quality where things are said lyrically, but with much more meaning behind it.
  12. The Murphy Brothers – Thick as Thieves

    Great brotherly harmony band. Musically, what I like is the soaring-ness of the whole thing. They kind of lay down a rhythm, and the vocals kind of glide around, always moving forward, then it comes to the choruses, which lift it into the stratosphere. It makes me happy, and makes me want to join in!

I couldn’t stop at 12 of course. So here are 13 more albums that made my year!

13. Butterfly Boucher – Butterfly Boucher
        
14. The dB’s – Falling off the Sky
        
15. Shoes – Ignition
        
16. Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
        
17. Cliff Hillis – Dream Good
        
18. Eytan and the Embassy – Everything Changes
        
19. Young Fresh Fellows – Tiempo De Lujo
        
20. Tim Adams and Mike Viola’s Harem – Songs from the movie “That’s What She Said”
        
21. Dan Miraldi – Sugar & Adrenaline
        
22. Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song
        
23. Dylan Trees – Three Times of the Day EP
        
24. Eleni Mandell – I Can See The Future
        
25. Kelly Hogan – I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
        

Thanks for reading! If you made it all the way down here, I’ve got a bonus for you: A compilation of all my favorite songs from all these albums!!!!!

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/16p82z3gs3n0o2t/ruuyVBTxEU

what makes a thing a thing?

here they are.

John LT
Suburban Superstar
Fun little poppy thing. I had not heard about this guy before, but it sounds like he’s got some good chops. A lot of just great fun pop/rock songs.


The Trews
Thank You And I’m Sorry
It sounds like all their other records. Very well polished, loud pop/rock with a soulful voice. Hey, I applaud consistency in all forms.


Tim Adams and Mike Viola’s Harem
Songs from the movie “That’s What She Said”
Mike Viola does it again! A collection of songs he and Tim Adams wrote/produced, all sung by the best female vocalists out there, including Kelly Jones, Rachael Yamagata and Nicole Atkins. Love it!


Tony Scalzo
My Favorite Year
The new album from Fastball’s Tony Scalzo. Very much in the same vein as that music, but a lot less polished, and seems more personal. I like that a lot.


Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes
Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes
Bluesy EP from former Animals lead singer and the Greenhornes. All parties seem to keep their authenticity, but it doesn’t really move me.

What?! You’re telling me there’s only three left?

It is a mystery that brings me to you all today. Isn’t that rich? Send in the clowns, Bozo.

Redd Kross
Researching The Blues

Redd Kross are back with a bang, at least at first, they hit us with 3-4 powerful intense songs, but by the end of the record they relax back into a pop soundscape that is all their own. Combined, it makes for a great listen, and no one song really defines the record. It’s just all good.


Mike Viola
Acousto De Perfecto

You simply can’t go wrong with Mike Viola. This time, he takes a bunch of old songs, a couple new ones, and runs them through a stripped down acoustic format, which really brings out the lyrics and the message of his music. It is so very good.


Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror
On This Dark Street

Another guy who kind of just sits there under the surface, always working on something, always releasing new records. His whispered vocals have always intrigued me; it is a good rainy day record.


Eytan Mirsky
Year of the Mouse

Eytan always delivers a great set of songs. This collects many more great songs and stories. Using great tunes, humorous lyrics (at times), and a strong consistent voice, it makes for a fun and engaging listening experience.


Sloan
Australia 1999

Another live bootleg LP from this band, which is ostensibly the greatest band of all time, but really you do not get the full picture with a live recording, it doesn’t offer too much in the vein of improvements on the songs, but still fun to revisit songs from that time.

I’ve hit the big time!

Hey all my loyal fans and readers, just wanted to send out a message to let you know that you’re OK. Just keep on keeping on, my friends. Hey, if you enjoy the blog, why not let your friends know. You know, we can’t just keep these things to ourselves. And with your help, we can raise the awareness of this blog ten-fold. Oh yeah! Let’s make this happen! Keep hip!

Mandy Moore – Amanda Leigh – **** – Continue reading

5 Reviews a Week – Back on track, track-by-track

Well, I’m back on schedule this week. Finally stole some time to get these finished up. When I started these reviews, I had a nice back log of write-ups to post. But now I am caught up with this years releases. Perhaps I will post some of my old reviews from my old Myspace blog. Well anyway, here are the latest. I might come up with something a bit different next week. Stay tuned!

Paul Westerberg – 49:00 – *** – Paul Westerberg has lately been happy to release disheveled collections of Continue reading

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