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

Recent Releases to Check Out

Did you know that new music gets released every single day of the year? It’s true! Well, we here at Pop Underground aim to get the best of it straight to your ears. So here is a sampling of what I have been digging as of late. I picked a good even number, 10, so hopefully that keeps you crazy kids busy for a week or so.

 

Explorers Club – Grand Hotel: You may have seen my post from last year about this band’s series of EP’s leading to the new album. Well worth the wait, this album features some amazing songs. Some of the most memorable and engaging music I have heard in a long time.

 

Butterfly Boucher – Butterfly Boucher: the third release from this amazing artist, 10 incredible songs that have her signature sound, quite enjoyable stuff.

 

The Connection – Seven Nights EP/New England’s Newest Hit Makers: an awesome set of quick pure rock and roll, very fun and rockin’ collection.

 


Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis – Cheaters Game: though they have been recording together for years, this is their first album together, and it is wonderful. They go so well together, and the album is a perfect blend to make an awesome listening experience.

 


Thom Hell – Suddenly Past: When I put this album on for the first time, within seconds I was hooked. Such a great pop sound, and it sticks through the whole thing. Very excellent, indeed.

 


Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself: This album finds Mr. Bird very comfortable in his sound. It doesn’t feel forced or like it is trying to be anything, despite his quick rise to success over these past few years.

 


Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song: also recently featured on this blog, I too quite enjoyed this record. It doesn’t jump out at you with any force, just guides you along a fun engaging experience.

 


Brendan Benson – What Kind of World?: I always enjoy a new Brendan Benson record, and this is no exception. It does however pull back from that return-to-form that I so loved on his last album, and brings in some of that harder edged Raconteurs sound; there are still some good pop nuggets here.

 


The All-American Rejects – Kids In The Street: I keep wanting to hate this band, but then they deliver great slick pop songs that are just winners all around. This album continues that tradition proudly.

 


Corner Laughers – Poppy Seeds: a wonderful collection of pop goodness, two parts Beach Boys, one part indie-pop, twelve parts AWESOME! If that doesn’t convince you, then how about this, it’s produced by Allen Clapp, and at least one track features the inimitable Mike Viola!
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