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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!!!!!
Filed under: Reviews Tagged: | air traffic controller, best of 2012, Butterfly Boucher, chris richards + the subtractions, chris richards and the subtractions, Cliff hillis, corner laughers, dan miraldi, dylan trees, eleni mandell, explorers club, eytan and the embassy, gold motel, hidden pictures, kelly hogan, mike viola, missy higgins, murphy brothers, redd kross, regina spektor, ruby free, shoes, sweet diss and the comebacks, the dBs, tim adams and mike viola's harem, wanderlust, Young Fresh Fellows