Friday, December 21, 2012

My Top Ten Eleven Albums of 2012

All in one place . . . like a  Christmas list. I'm not numbering them 1 to 10 because they're too good -- and too different -- to rank absolutely. Click on each title for a link to my original post.

Graham Parker & The Rumour:
Three Chords Good
Even I, a confirmed Graham Parker fanatic, didn't predict just HOW good this reunion album would be. I'm gobsmacked by its brilliance.

The Shins: Port of Morrow
A combination of gorgeous melody, striking lyrics, and a sweetly melancholy worldview -- it's almost drunkenly beautiful.

Corb Lund: Cabin Fever
Ranging from honky-tonk to rockabilly to bluegrass to Western swing, Lund doesn't approach country music like an artifact or an ironic affectation; he approaches it like a cowboy..

Rhett Miller: Dreamer
From the Old 97s front man, an entire alt-country album about love, lost and found, sour and sweet.

Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks
Ever the restless risk-taker, Weller loads up this album with studio effects and sonic experiments, while his insane commitment to melody and to syncopation shines gloriously through.

The Ben Folds Five:
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
I adore Ben Folds' solo work as well, but the driving energy and impish wit of the Ben Folds Five is something else.

The dBs: Falling Off the Sky
Reuniting this beloved late 70s band so many years down the road seems like a joyful and natural thing, judging from the copasetic energy of Falling Off the Sky.

John Hiatt: Mystic Pinball
Start to finish, that raspy voice, the visceral rhythms, the crunchy guitarwork, all come together to craft a sound so authentic and idiosyncratic, it fits like a glove.

The Avett Brothers: The Carpenter
Scott and Seth Avett have never shed the upbeat sweetness of their southern folk roots, even as they steer it into rock territory.

Mumford & Sons: Babel
Hipster indie Brits forge their own peculiar Americana sound, like O Brother Where Art Thou? meets Martin Amis, full of post-modern angst and old-time religion.

M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion
OOF!! Released way back last April, I forgot at first to put this on my 2012 top ten list. But I adore its acoustic reverbed charm, a retro-flavored meditation on love, loss, and resilience.


Betty C. said...

Well, I just ordered the first five from! Merry Christmas to me and happy holidays to you! I will keep you posted on how I like them...

Holly A Hughes said...

Great, Betty! Look forward to hearing how you like them.

Anonymous said...

Why are they all men? Odd. There wasn't a single album by a female artist that merited your list? Nothing by Fiona Apple, Grimes, any woman?

Actually it looks like 95 percent of the labels on your blog are male artists. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just curious about why.

Holly A Hughes said...

No particular "why." I don't set out every day thinking that I must rectify gender equality by listening to as many female artists as I do male artists. And if I did, would that really rectify anything? I can tell you that I do read more novels written by women than by men. I sincerely doubt that that proves anything either.

Anyway, my list isn't a scientific study; nobody pays me to listen to everything that's been released and then make some magisterial judgment. These are my favorites of the albums that swam into my consciousness this year. Could it be that the female artists aren't marketed in the same channels that happen to reach me? I sampled a couple of tracks from Fiona Apple's new album but didn't feel motivated to buy it. I've never even heard of Grimes. I have heard of Lady Gaga and Nicky Minaj and Ke$ha and Beyonce, but the chance of them landing on my list is next to none.

I should actually update that labels list to the right, however. I have written a lot about some female artists who don't appear there. Maybe if anybody paid me to do this I'd have more time to do things like that...

NickS said...

Incidentally, that is a question that I wrestle with from time to time. I noticed that an overwhelming portion of the music that I listened to was made by men and since then I've made a deliberate attempt to both be more willing to buy albums that look interesting by women I haven't heard of, or don't know much about (latest example for me, the new Bat For Lashes album) and to try to have my year-end mixes include at least 30% tracks by women (failed this year, but had been doing well).

I've felt like results have been mixed. It can feel artificial at times, but I also think it's good to have a basic "sanity check" to try to avoid getting too stuck in my habits.

That said I've also written about the question of why look for new music at all -- I have more than enough music that I like that I don't listen to that I could be perfectly happy just going back through my collection and only buying 1-3 albums per year, but I don't do that. There is just something interesting in hearing and thinking about new things. So, considering that it seems reasonable to pick up somethings just as a way to try to find new artists of interest.