Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favorites of 2012

I can't say these records are necessarily the "the best" of 2012, since perusing the year-end lists from critics and fellow music enthusiasts indicates how little new stuff I actually heard this year, in part because for all the listening I did much of it was focused on reconsidering music that was either 30 years old or 50 years old. These little projects were worthwhile endeavors in their own right, but by definition they competed for my attention with new stuff. That which broke through for me was further warped by my perspective, which is a way of saying I probably devoted more attention to artists and genres I already liked, but still some of this was challenging too.

Here are 10 I especially liked this year no particular order.

Rosco Bandana: TIME TO BEGIN
These guys have a B-52s vibe happening if they were hippies. Bouncy.

Bruce Springsteen: WRECKING BALL
Not sure I approve his taking on an Irish accent to sing "Death to My Hometown" but I found "We Take Care of Our Own" to be absolutely stirring, sizzling with rage behind patriotic double- and triple-entendres, bright arrangements and a melody recalling that Cure New Order song. Really, a better job than "Born in the USA" here.

Paul Weller: SONIK KICKS
This album was a real grower. I found all the electronic bleats and blatts as an overpowering distraction until I came across a video of an acoustic performance that helped me appreciate their role as attention getters that complement and contemporize songs that are very strong even without them.

Ben Kweller: GO FLY A KITE
I challenge you to find an easier album to like. Effortless smiling country-tinged powerpop.

Brendan Benson: WHAT KIND OF WORLD
Smashing power-pop from Jack White's Raconteurs partner. I liked White's album too but I listen to this one more.

Swedish pop genius. Unlike some consciously retro bands (Explorer's Club) that try too hard, Myrh comes off as a contemporary whose sensibilities truly are with 70s bands like 10cc and Pilot. It's a little sugary but good for you!

Graham Parker & the Rumour: THREE CHORDS GOOD
As a big GP fan I've been looking forward to this reunion (and the associated THIS IS 40 movie) for more than a year so when I heard it first I was underwhelmed. I guess I expected to be blown out of my chair but its strengths are really the slow burns, like this Pat Tillman waltz.

Not a great singer but a very good rocker, all the way through.

I didn't realize when I first stumbled onto these guys that it was fronted by a musician who played with Paul Weller, but it makes sense and lends some credibility to the idea that a mod revolution is taking hold at least among old white people like me. Anyway these guys sound like the Zombies and also, Wings.

Ian Hunter & the Rant Band: WHEN I'M PRESIDENT
I know I said "in no particular order" but I think this is my favorite this year. The man is 73 years old yet delivers a searing and timely "Occupy" inspired title cut and it's only the beginning of a fabulous rock record that sounds contemporary AND like a Mott/Hunter classic at the same time. I'd been on a bit of a Hunter retro kick even before this came out, feeling as though he was an artist who never truly got his due. That's more true today than ever.

There's more! Throughout the year I kept a playlist of what I liked as I came across it at Rdio. The following list spawned these cuts but this larger one works on shuffle. Thanks to my Rdio pals and blogs I peek in on for the help this year...