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!!!!!

If you listen closely, perhaps you’ll hear the sound.

So, this week I have some doozies for you. Make sure to give ’em a chance, and rock it and/or roll it if you must!

Chester French
Music 4 Tngrs

I liked this album a lot. These guys have a wide range of musical interest and it really combines to create a unique sound. But at the same time, it makes for a very uneven sounding record. Still, they are writing pop songs in their skewed perspective, and the lyrics, while not revolutionary, certainly bring something different

Trent Dabbs
Future Like Snow

Dabbs has kind of grown into this relaxed laid back songwriter, who picks a sound and just rolls with it. While there is no urgency in his sound, and really doesn’t reach out and grab you, it is a pleasant listen, and worth some time.

Tony Sly & Joey Cape
Acoustic Vol. 2

These punkers slow it down a bit and it really works for them, the new generation of aging punks. There is a reflective mood on this album, but it doesn’t abandon all fun and recklessness, making for a good listen.

Gold Motel
Gold Motel

THEY’RE BAAAAAAAACK! My top album getter from 2010, return with an album that doesn’t quite match the onslaught I felt with their first, but they don’t need that anymore, established as a great pop band, we can take our time with these songs and let them sink into that place still housing their old hooks, and expand and improve upon it.

Billie the Vision & The Dancers
While You Were Asleep

This awesome Swedish band returns with another great collection of songs that reflect a kind of mixed emotion somewhere between love and whimsy, that is very engaging and pulls you right along the world they have constructed. I world I’d like to spend some more time.

Six Fantastic Discoveries

Today, I wanted to check in and feature some new music I have discovered recently. As it happens, they are all female artists. For some reason, a majority of my recent finds seem to be led by women. So let’s just get on to the music!

Gold Motel – this band was an instant favorite for me when I heard their song “Perfect in my Mind.” Bringing out a sound that was 100% exuberant and just feeling like a summer day. The album continued in this fashion, and every song was awesome! I love things that are simple and pure. This band does not try to be anything other than a great pop band, and each song is a treasure. After the debut, Summer House, they released a 7-inch, and have been working on a new album. I, for one, cannot wait.

Lanae’ Hale – There was a small stretch where I was listening to a Christian radio station, to find anything good on the radio. This particular station plays the same songs over and over again, which can easily turn me against any song. However, there was this one song and singer that I never got sick of – Lanae’ Hale and her song “Back and Forth.” With a driving melody, and a unique vocal style, it always made me feel happy. Her album of the same name follows much the same pattern, while not quite reaching the peak of the title track, it has some great moments.

Jes Hudak – If you have been watching the Bravo TV show Platinum Hit, you may have seen Jes shine every week. Currently in the top 4, she has shown she has chops. But before that show, I was already a fan. Her song “Nothing in the World” appeared on an IPO compilation (Speaking of IPO, Vol 14 is out now!), and I loved it. Upon further research, her “National Holiday” EP is a gem, with 5 awesome songs. She does wonders with a melody, and her performances exude such emotion and passion for what she is saying. I think we will see much more greatness from Jes Hudak.

Beth Thornley – As part of the SOTT CD mix trading program run through the Audities mailing list, one person placed two tracks by Beth Thornley on their mix. Both songs made me stop and look at who this artist was. The songs have this strange pull that just grabs your attention. Her powerful, confident singing style transmits her way of thinking right into your brain. The album is called Wash U Clean. Sometimes her perspective is skewed and the language is off in such a way that it throws you for a curve, but it is great to just take it and ride the wave.

Grace Weber – I just heard about this singer, and I first passed it over as just pseudo-R&B and didn’t really pay attention. But then I heard “Hitchhiker” and my ears perked up. This song, and a few others really caught my attention and I gave it another listen. While there are some more mainstream aspects to this music than I normally like, I still think it’s worth a listen.

Jessica Jo Jolly – This is an artist that I first saw with just a guitar, opening for Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. I loved her voice and her style. Next thing I knew, she formed the band Jodyboss, adding another layer of power to her music. A song called “Samantha” is a tuneful song that hides a sad story behind a happy melody. The rest of the Jodyboss EP shows a potential for some really great stuff from this artist.

All of these bands are worth checking out, whether they are led by a female or not. I am always on the lookout for just great music. These artists all fit my criteria for great songs, unique styles and a presence that captures my attention. Check out all their music!