I know I am a little late on this, but here are the albums that I am looking forward to hearing the most. Please understand this is not my guess at what will be the best albums of 2012, or my attempt at finding the pulse of what the general public is most excited about. These the 12 albums that I am personally the most excited about.
Also know that I have excluded several albums that have already been released that surely would have made this list, had I done a month ago, including the new ones by Sharon Van Etten and Dr. Dog, which were both released this week.
12. Fanfarlo – Room Filled with Light (2/28)
These guys put out of my favorites of 2009 with their debut Reservoir. They have such a fun and full sound, and I am in love with the way they incorporate horns into their music without making it ska or cheesy elevator music. Here is a live session of one of the songs from the new album.
11. Passion Pit – TBA (TBA)
Here is another band whose debut album, Manners, found a spot on my 2009 year end list. And I am in desperate need for some new good dance music. Lead singer, Michael Angelakos, announced in August of 2010 that they had already started work on the follow-up to Manners, and that they wanted to release it in the spring of 2011. Here is to hoping that the delay results in an album filled with tracks I can play at all the various parties and weddings I am scheduled to DJ this year.
10. Diamond Rugs – TBA (4/24)
After the last two Deer Tick albums, and the phenomenal Middle Brother album, I am a huge fan of John McCauley, who is fronting yet another super group album. This time he is teaming up with members of Los Lobos, Black Lips, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. McCauley is a phenomenal songwriter and as he proved last year, with my favorite album of the year, he is a great team player. This could be a hell of a rock album.
This excellent singer/songwriter never seems to disappoint. This go around he has enlisted the help of several great female vocalists, including Ingrid Michaelson and Sia. Listen to this great live recording of one of my favorite songs of his that never made it on any of his full-length albums.
8. Phoenix - TBA (TBA)
Very little details are known about the forthcoming follow-up to one of the greatest pop albums of the last decade and yet another album off of my 2009 year-end list. It will be hard to top the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which is why I was glad to hear that this new album will be a more experimental departure from the pop sounds of their previous efforts.
7. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (3/6)
I can’t help but love The Boss. Even though I was disappointed with most of The Promise, and Working On A Dream, there is no way I will be able to resist going out and getting this album when it comes out this year. The first album since losing his long-time band-member and friend, Clarence Clemens, should be an emotional one, and I will be all ears.
6. Mumford & Sons - TBA (TBA)
The only reason this album isn’t higher is because I just don’t know how you follow up a debut album as good as Sigh No More. I just can’t allow myself to get as excited as I wanna be. As a huge folk fan, these guys are just right up my alley, and I have loved the spiritual nature of their lyrics.
This girl’s voice is absolutely phenomenal. If you haven’t heard her 2010 debut, Suburban Nature, you are seriously missing out. Got the chance to see her live shortly after releasing it back in the fall of 201 and I was just blown away by the power and control of her voice. A few of the songs on the upcoming record were included on last year’s CD/DVD combo release, The Way the Sound Leaves A Room. Take a listen to the title track from that short effort.
4. Grizzly Bear – TBA (TBA)
These guys released my favorite album of 2009, with the stellar Veckatimest, and then followed that up by scoring the soundtrack for fantastic Blue Valentine. But 2011 left me hanging, other than an announcemnt on their Facebook page in December promising a new album in 2012. That is the extent of my knowledge of the new release, but that should be enough to hold me over for now. Here is a song off of Daniel Rossen’s forthcoming solo EP.
3. Fun. – Some Nights (2/21)
Lead singer Nate Ruess is seriously one of the most fun and dynamic singers and songwriters in the game. I have literally loved everything he is done. His first album with The Format, is one of my absolute favorites, and since teaming up with Andrew Dost of Anathallo, he has been creating some of the most enjoyable pop music around.
2. The Shins – Port of Morrow (3/20)
Thank you Zach Braff for using Natalie Portman’s character in your excellent film, Garden State, to introduce me and the rest of the world to the wonderfulness that is The Shins. I absolutely loved 2007′s Wincing The Night Away, and it has been way too long since we’ve heard anything from them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Mercer’s Broken Bells projects, but I can’t wait to hear the new stuff from The Shins.
1. The Beach Boys – TBA (TBA)
I still have a hard time believing that it’s true. The Beach Boys have been my favorite band since I was just a wee lad, and I had just given up on the idea of ever getting to see “The Beach Boys” live, let alone get a new album will all new material. Sure most of the guys have been touring through the years, but Wilson and Love and the rest of the gang are actually back together writing and producing and then performing together. I can hardly contain my excitement.
So it seriously feels like the hottest summer ever. I was playing volleyball last night in 98 degree weather and it almost felt cool. So to deal with the heat and to help make the hot summer nights on the volleyball courts more enjoyable, I made a pretty jammin’ summer mixtape. And as you will soon find out, I have been really into pop music this summer, partly because it goes well with the season, but mostly because I love to dance. So I thought I would share my summer mixtape with you all in hopes that it might enrich your summer barbecue or beach volleyball parties. Hope you enjoy.
Narrowing my list down to just ten was quite a task this year. But it was a problem I am grateful to have. With a year so heavily saturated with good new music, it has made it extremely difficult but tons of fun to come up with a list of my favorite albums of year, which I am happy to present to you today.
10. Regina Spektor – Far
She can be a little kitschy but she is so stinkin’ talented. Her vocal abilities never cease to amaze me . And she has cooked another great batch of interesting, contemplative, and downright enjoyable pop tunes. I think this album is exactly what you’d expect from Regina and more. It’s goofy, but you’re her voice will knock you off your feet. She’ll bark like a seal, and then slap you up side the head with one of the most profound lines you’ve heard all year. Don’t ever stop paying attention to this girl. She ain’t just messin’ around.
9. Gomez- A New Tide
This veteran indie pop band has finally hit its stride. I was actually really suprised that this album stuck with me. I just assumed that it would be just another pop record that I would just eat up and then allow to fade into the noise. But that was far from the case. I have had this album since February and it only gets stronger with time. A New Tide just has a really fun and diverse sound. But there is also a lot of depth to these songs. If Britain doesn’t want to claim them anymore we’re more than happy to sing their praises here in U.S. of A.
8. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan may have outdone herself on this one. Those who have heard a track or two off of this record might find its inclusion on this list slightly puzzling. That is because this album is more than just a collection of singles. It is an experience. Khan has invited us into a world inhabited by her “desert-born spiritual self” and her “destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fetale” alter ego, Pearl. Take a moment to sit down and put this record on from start to finish. The stories and the music that Khan brings to us are just absolutely mesmerizing.
7. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Neko Case has one of the most beautiful and soothing voices I have ever heard. Thank goodness she’s also one hell of a songwriter. I’ve been a fan of this New Pornographers collaborator for quite some time now, but Middle Cyclone has turned me into an enthusiast. This was her first solo venture away from her alt-country roots. Not that she left her sound behind, but she simply infused the power pop that she learned from her good buddy A.C. Newman into her own musical stylings. And what we get is a simply wonderful album, through and through.
6.Bad Veins – Bad Veins
The debut album from this little known indie rock band from Cincinnati has been probably the biggest surprise for me. Not surprised that I like it. I knew it would be on this list before the first track was even over. What I’m surprised by is that this album is still virtually unknown. I have yet to see this record on another year-end list and that is a shame. There is a lot of depth to the music being played in this record, music that I believe will stay with me for a long time.
5. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
“From the mess to the masses.” That is where French pop band, Phoenix has gone with their 4th studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. This album is a pop masterpiece. Easily one of the catchiest records of the year with the two most danceable songs I heard all year (“Lisztomania” & “1901″). They have come leaps and bounds since their 2006 “breakthrough” album, It’s Never Been Like That. Not only have they created some of the best musical hooks of the year, but I am so jealous of their lyrical ability, especially for a group that is writing in their second language. I am eagerly anticipating what they will give to us next.
4. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
One of the best folk groups of all time have just completed what may be looked back upon as their masterpiece. With the help of producer Rick Rubin, this album is much more polished than any of their previoius works, much to the chagrin of their hard-core fans. I actually enjoy the change in flavor. But I could take it or leave it. The reason this album makes this list is because of the words. Seth and Scott Avett have a way with words that in the past decade has gone completely unmatched. This album picks up where Emotionalism left off, with brand new batch of personal, heart-wrenching ballads that speak to the very core of what it means to live and to love. I urge you all to head to your local record store and pick up this album. For one of the greatest aspects of this record is the epic poem about love that Seth wrote and included in the album insert.
3. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
This band has drawn comparisons to several of my favorite indie acts of the past decade, from Beirut to the Arcade Fire to the National. Let’s use that as a reason for you to listen, and that alone. For these guys have no reason to exist in their shadow for even a moment longer. What they have accomplished on their debut album, Reservoir, is worthy of all the fame and accolades of the aforementioned acts. This album is sweet. It’s hypnotic. It’s bombastic. It’s grandiose. And it is simply gorgeous. Some of the best string and brass arrangements of the year. And to think that I got all of this for only a dollar.
2. Passion Pit - Manners
I have been absolutely in love with these guys from the moment I first heard “Sleepyhead” off of their 2008 debut EP, Chunk of Change. I loved it, but I wasn’t excited about what they would release next. Rather, I was nervous, because Chunk was an accident, nothing more than a Valentine’s Day present for lead singer Michael Angelakos’ current girlfriend. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to recreate the magic. Fortunately for us they couldn’t but they were able to make something even better. The best indie dance-pop album of the year was born in Manners.
1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
How can an artist that has never had a record so much as graze my top 20 all of sudden create what I consider to be the best album of the year? The answer is simple they started channeling the spirit of my favorite artist of all time (Brian Wilson). The vocal arrangements and overall production quality of this album are absolutely breathtaking. The vocal harmonies on this album are incredible and to a quality rarely achieved outside of Brian Wilson and his surfin’ buddies. Two weeks is one of the catchiest and most enjoyable song of the year, but outside of that, this album needs a little room to grow. So give the time it needs and you won’t regret it.
When one of my buddies recently complained what a sorry year 2009 was for film, I pitied him, because for music, the year was a truly great one. Especially compared to the onset of this decade, when bubblegum pop ruled the charts, Napster was hitting its stride and Destiny’s Child was still together.
The lonely thump of late-90s techno that was formerly a major influence on popular music gave way to a movement of open-minded, more cerebral musical ideas.
This year, the iPod generation embraced a quasi-disco revolution, the music industry’s funeral procession is halfway through and music is an almost-free commodity. And Beyoncé is still making hits! (She is one of our generation’s icons) Pop music culture is diverse, fertile and constantly inventive. These are the top records of 2009.
10. Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free – Akron/Family
Bands like The Very Best, Animal Collective and Akron/Family consciously incorporate rhythms and textures from all points of geography, but the last group is special in its technical proficiency. The nods to Afrobeat are subtle like they should be, the songwriting is sound and diverse and if this music has anything, it’s spirit. Wild sounds like a utopian hippie commune, where everyone gets to sing lead.
9. Drift – Nosaj Thing
When I met Nosaj Thing, prior to his opening set for Bassnectar at George’s in November, I behaved like a giddy little girl. I stuttered and posed eloquent compliments like, “your music is nice.” But what could I say? Jason Chung, the 24-year-old L.A. native behind Nosaj Thing, made one of the year’s most compelling records, an unsolvable hip-hop nightmare straight out of “Mega Man.” Eventually, Drift’s tracks sound a little too similar, but no one cares when the beats are as hypnotic as these. For nighttime activities.
8. Logos – Atlas Sound
Fall has been more than kind to Logos, a record that stayed with me through road trips home and back. As a whole, it’s a contemplative record. Bradford Cox, the man behind the moniker, makes songs that get pleasantly lost in a cloud of introspection, and these are no different: “The Light That Failed” sounds like a swamp dive on barbiturates while “Attic Lights” meditates on the leisure of paradise. But Logos is never lazy. Like his recent work with the more popular band, Deerhunter, Cox integrates his affinity for doo-wop into many of these tunes. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but…
7. Alien in a Garbage Dump – Eric Copeland
So you’re throwing the most bumpin’ party of the year. You need a record the fellas can nod their heads to, some beats that make the ladies get down. This record is undoubtedly the poorest choice for that scenario. Alien is skuzzy, violent and downright ugly. The record mashes noise with hypnotic bits of song, sometimes letting them wander (a bold move, especially on the first two tracks), sometimes fencing them in (the excellent “Reptilian Space Beings, Shapeshifting Bloodsucking Vampires”). But Copeland somehow structures his noise experiments into a cohesive record. It won’t make you lots of friends, but Alien is the ideal headphones album, filled with hidden sounds and subconscious melodies.
6. Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street – Jon Hassell
Isn’t jazz supposed to swing? Or does it saunter? I know very little of jazz music and all its folklore. But I know that composer Jon Hassell’s newest record sounds like no jazz I’ve heard. Night creates a voyage through an Istanbul night, shrouded in fog, dotted with silky trumpet lines. Electronics burble for a few seconds, never to be heard again. The grooves are implied, meditative and forlorn. Delicious, like pipe smoke.
5. Childish Prodigy – Kurt Vile
The cover finds a bookish, fancily dressed kid staring into purple dusk as if his date had just abandoned him for a dance with the prom king. The songs of Childish Prodigy sync nicely with this scene: the only thing lonelier than Vile’s thick, groaning voice (think early Velvet Underground) is the swirling chorus of acoustic guitars. With titles like “Hunchback” and “Freak Train,” it’s obvious Vile’s got a case of the outcast blues, but he puts them to good use in psychedelic takes on Nick Drake (“Heart Attack,” “Dead Alive”). Who wants to be prom king anyway, right, kid?
4. Tarot Sport – F**k Buttons
My roommate listens to Explosions in the Sky when doing homework, which I accept but do not understand. Does post-rock lend hydrocarbon extraction a certain sense of urgency? Anyway, this Bristol duo win “best improved” by combining elements of that genre, with its endless, sincere crescendos, and danceable techno beats. It’s no coincidence that Tarot Sport’s best songs are also its most ambitious, with “Surf Solar” and “Olympians” clocking in at over 10 glorious minutes. The group is unafraid of experimenting with sounds, and this set of songs is paradoxically diverse and cohesive. If you want an A in geology, buy this album.
3. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle – Bill Callahan
The 2007 film, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” is one of my favorites. Brad Pitt’s depiction of the infamous Western criminal is sinister, yet always vulnerable. There are moments when, as a saddled James looks out over the sweeping plains, his eyes are glowing pools of reverence and sadness. Bill Callahan’s appropriately-titled Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle is one of those moments. Each song is a thunderhead with pockets of sunshine, minor-chord dirges (“The Wind and the Dove”) interrupted by subtle strings and French horn (“Jim Cain”). Callahan sing-speaks poetry in a baritone as thick and tall as the Smoky Mountains and on Eagle, his unrest has never sounded so at peace.
2. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
Much has happened in the world of Brooklyn sensations Animal Collective since this album leaked on Christmas Day of last year. Merriweather nearly reached the Billboard charts in vinyl sales alone (in the dead of winter, no less!), performed on Letterman (“Paul, do you have anything for the trick-or-treaters?”) and got praise from everyone from M.I.A. to Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. What’s the fuss? Merriweather combines the group’s penchant for repetition with very shiny production in their bounciest, most contagious songs yet, from “My Girls” to “Summertime Clothes” to “Brothersport.” Lyrically, the collective is less secretive, focusing on the communion of domestic life, the simple value of “Daily Routine,” strange and joyful monogamy. Next up: a record about bittersweet fame?
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
All my friends love this album: the one that loves racing cars to the thrash of Metallica, the one that has a (worrying) crush on Ron Weasley, the sloppy-eyed burnout, the earnest farm boy, even my mom. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is not the most innovative release of the year, but it is the most universally likable. It’s your favorite child, skipping, grinning and forever curious. Thomas Mars sings in earnest questions: “Who’s the boy you like the most?” and “Where would you go with a lasso?” and “Could you go and run into me?” This French quartet has been playing together since childhood, and it shows in the fake out into of ”Lisztomania” and the rushing two-part “Love Like a Sunset.” Wolfgang is so clearly the work of a band, an album so pure in spirit and a piece much too fun to describe.