Tag Archives: Amy Ray

Best 2018 Albums: Late for New Years, right in time for Chinese New Year and the Grammy Awards **edit 4/25/19**

5 Feb

30.  Cover songs and compilation albums don’t really qualify for my best of list.  But I wanted to give a special nod to this one, because I liked it.  And also, because I usually do singles, but this year I only found 2 so I am skipping singles and just shouting out this one:

Revamp (various artists)

“Bennie and the Jets” is distorted and spacey, reminiscent of Sargent Pepper’s Loneyly Hearts Club Band album.  “Candle in the Wind” is an unplugged version that evokes VH1 Storytellers. Miley Cyrus is surprisingly emotive in her rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”   Because Lady Gaga is such a shameless copycat of Madonna and her entire career trajectory, I often forget the gal can sing–and perhaps with more range than the material girl.  “Your Song” is a fitting choice for her, and she does it beautifully.  And Sam Smith is this next generation’s Elton John. His version of “Daniel” is impeccable.

Now from bottom to top. 

Here are albums I didn’t really care for:

  1. Playing Favorites, Meiko

I don’t get it.  She sings all covers.  But first, she makes them boring.  It’s all copy-cat songs, but done in the style of some weird-ass acoustic-guitar at the independent coffee shop.  Write your own songs, then we’ll talk…

  1. Delta, Mumford and Sons

Just when I was beginning to think maybe I was being too hard on them for changing their whole sound, Spotify snuck in “Little Lion Man.”  It reaffirmed my huge disappointment in where Mumford took their sound. This new album has no trace at all at the music that brought the band mainstream success.  It is slow, it’s not uptempo at all, and there is no acoustic/bango flair even a little bit. Big disappointment!

27. Life is Good on the Open Road, Trampled by Turtles

Firstly, it’s too long of a title.  More to the point, Why is their recent work so melancholy?  The sound is sad a forlorn and listening to this album bummed me out.  The best stuff is when they play super-fast, and this album had none of that.

26. Pray for the Wicked, Panic!  At The Disco

I thought this would be almost identical to Fall Out Boy since there are, like 2 bands in this genre.  Especially since both of these recent releases have religious album titles or song themes. Yet, what I got from this one was a decidedly bro-y vibe that I couldn’t get behind.  Nearly all the songs were of drinking and conjured up the worst type of frat-boy or party-monsters. I’d call this a miss, as it caters to a very specific, narrow audience.

And now the OK:

25. This House is Not for Sale, Bon Jovi

I always love Bon Jovi.  He is a legend, and all of his stuff has merit.  This album isn’t his strongest offering (or even in the top three) but it’s still good to listen to.  “Walls” and and title track, “This House is Not for Sale” are the strongest songs of the album. And I did miss that good ‘ol rock ballad that Bon Jovi is expert at writing and singing!

24.  Only Love, Jordan smith

Lyrically overwrought, but the guy has pipes!  “Feel Good” has a funk vibe that I like, and it’s really catchy.  I think the material could be toned down one or two levels as choirboy singing Disney covers leaps to mind, but the singing talent is there.  Lots of potential.

23. Golden Hour, Kacei Musgraves

I would call this poetry set to music.  Each song has great emphasis on the writing and lyrics.  I don’t really attach to it as a great album like a lot of critics and fans, and do not really think the hype is warranted.  It’s nice poems, but the singing of notes doesn’t really move me, and the songs don’t get stuck in my head…

22.  The Wandering Hearts, self titled album

They sound like a cross between Seal and Lady Antebellum.  The songs are pleasing, yet I feel a component is missing. It could be more catchy or passionate or something-I’m not certain what the last ingredient needs to be, but for now they have a lot of potential.

21.  Seasons Change, Scotty McCreary

The album is a feel good country album like those prior to This Hollywood country sound that has taken over. There are love songs and foot stompers.

20.  Bea Miller

It’s a pleasant reminder of the strong women who were so prominent in the 1990s

19.  Dark Horse, Devin Dawson

The title track is a strong, but low-key outlaw song.  “All On Me” is a stand-out. I like the voice, like the writing, and think this is an artist to watch.

18.  Nation of Two, Vance Joy

Initially I had this album ranked a lot lower because it is subtle.  I said that the album was a little too quiet and unassuming. “I’m going home” was the only catchy song, in my opinion.  Low-key is one thing, but a good hook shouldn’t be ignored entirely. When you listen (maybe ear buds were the difference? Or just more exposure?) multiple times the layers built into these songs become more obvious.  The instrumentation is varied and beautiful. And no, the songs aren’t catchy like straight pop, but they do grow on you.

The Good:

  1. Dogviolet, Laurel

Of course I want to place my name-twin’s album higher on the list and I do feel this mixing of sounds and genre-eclecticness has great potential.  It’s not strong on every track though. “Lovesick” is a mix of indie and folk with a little electronic flare.This album has an unmistakable sexuality about it.  Just the longing in the voice, and the “wanting” in the lyrics makes it sound that way. ”Recover” has that pleading to it that I’m referring to in the sexy, desperate way..  “Hold Tight” is just as catchy as Florence and the Machine and has that pop-indy vibe going. “All Star” is sensual, and bitter. And my favorite track is “Adored” which is pleading and angry at the same time.

  1. Volunteer, Old Crow Medicine Show

Happy-bluegrass.  Is there enough harmonica in music these days?  This album was fun to listen to with songs like “Methamphetamine” and the familiar tune “Flicker and Shine.”  It reminds me of Virginia City—or just Virginia mountain music.

  1.  No Roots EP, by Alice Merton

“Roots” reminds me of a more tribal Florence and the Machine.  There is a bit of funky playfulness. I can feel Merton’s feminism is each song, not so much due to any rawr lyrics, but more the combination of tenacity, strength, and longing in her voice.  “Lie to My Face” is the strongest song on the album, an anthem telling some deceitful, philandering partner where to shove their BS–in a sarcastic way.

  1.  Encore, by Anderson East

The back up singers lend a soleful, community feel to the songs.  “Girlfriend” is the stand out of the album. I saw them perform it live (as opener for Brandi Carlile) and it was meh–very lackluster.  For the studio-version, they added some more oomf. It has more percussion, more angst behind the vocals, and makes me feel when I hear it.  The other two songs I really liked were, ”All in my Mind” and “King for a Day” which are both very catchy.  In all, I wouldn’t say Encore is a contender for the top of my list.  But I do think Anderson East has a ton of potential, and we’ll be hearing more from them if they amp of their songs, and keep them interesting.

  1.  Vide Noir, Lord Huron

Sometimes, even I’m surprised about how this best album list shakes out.  I just listen and rank them against each other. And where they fall on the list is all about how that album only compares to the other albums from the year.  I will comment, of course, on person lives, concerts, and my personal biases, but the rank is about how that albums stack up against the other offerings of that year.  This is my second favorite band right now, because their concerts are near-perfect. The execution and energy is top-of-the-game stuff. They really need to put out a live album, because their studio work does not even come close to being as great as their performance at a concert!  “The Night We Met” feat Phoebe Bridgers, is a story song. “Ancient Names, (Part I)” is probably the best example for a new listener to sum up the band’s trademark sound. I like Vide Noir, because the songs all fit together in a cohesive way.  Now, let’s get on a concert album or compilation of live shows.  I’ll be first in line to buy that CD!

  1.  My New Moon, Amos Lee

This album is what I’d call stoner/hippy-rock.  It’s peaceful and easy to listen to, just like you’d expect.

  1.  Black Coffee, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamessa

“Black Coffee” will get stuck in your head and is a good single (and title) for the album.  And I especially liked the cover of “Sittin’ on Top of the World” as it showcased exactly how Beth Hart can take down to Earth material and jazz it up with her husky vibrato.  And Bonamessa really takes this into jam-brass territory with his seemingly improvised playing. It’s a sound that puts me right in a dark, smoky jazz night club. I need chicken and waffles after Black Coffee.

Top 10:

  1.  The Port Saint Joe, The Brothers Osborne

The deep voices, the harmony, the outlaw country attitude.  It’s a modernized throw-back to my grandfather’s country, and I like it.  I find it fun to listen to, and a little different, while being ultra-traditional.  I could drink to this, for sure. I could dance. I could do housework and feel bad-ass.  It’s nice to hear a band that isn’t a super-glamorized, polished version of music. Grand Ol Operey sounds without the slick-money sound of most other country.  

  1.  Mania, Fall Out Boy

They still have their signature sound, in a genre they pretty much pioneered.  He’s hitting the notes-like, whoa. The lyrics are some seriously thought-out writing.  “Bishops Night Trick”

Takes FOB out of frat-boy only status, sounding exactly like Panic at the Disco, into a serious place, where talent is evident.  The album has a theme and the songs flow nicely from one to the next. I’m as surprised as you this even made the list, let alone cracked the top ten.  They have an epic-sound in this album,(listen to “Church”) and a tight theme. It’s the singing, itself that really pushes this album to that next level.  Well done, FOB, you’ve risen above bro-status, into major-player.

  1.  Raising the Bar, Terry Clark

I initially rated this album toward the middle of my list.  The songs alone are OK. It’s the theme and flow of the album as a whole that really makes it special.  This is the album you write/listen to when you’re freshly divorced and back in your rural home town trying to readjust.  “Giving Up Given a Dawn” is exactly reminiscent of that sentiment. “The One That Got Away” is a good break up song, full of bitterness and regret.  And you know that kind of writing has a special place in my heart. I love a good, fuck you song. “”As Long as There’s a Bar” is a good down-trodden country song.  “Young as We are Tonight” is about moving on, maybe rebounding, definitely getting drunk and making questionable decisions. And the song that naturally follows, (or precedes, depending on how you look at it) is “Bloody Mary Morning” which speaks of morning drinking.  I think the album is cohesive, and has a strong theme. “Cowboys in this Town” is a strong single, which talks about this divorcee seeing other options for suitors–that might even be better than what’s his name. jA+ for finding a theme and really sticking to it, and making me feel like I’m part of a situation and in that place, both physically and mentally.

  1. By the Way, I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile

I have to put the disclaimer out there, that compared to Brandi’s own body of work I didn’t care for this album.  It’s obvious to me she is Grammy-pandering. An example is the contest for fans to play “The Joke” most number of times for opportunity to win things.  That, is a tactic to increase stats. And it’s plenty fair but desperate, and manipulative?  Yup, it’s that too. I’d like to see a more natural and organic fan growth and actual stats.  Not just from Brandi, but industry-wide. Let’s get the $$$$ out of music and talent IN. Still, it’s Brandi Carlile!  Compared to others she’s still a head above the rest. “Hold Out Your Hand” has fast parts, melodic pieces, and some sass.  It’s like the old cowboy talk-alongside and special and different. Really, the only reason she ranked even this high on the list is because her technical singing skills are better than anyone else this year.  In the future I’d like to see the songs have more variation from each other. These all blended together for me. And I hope she’ll put the twins a little more to the forefront instead of relegating them to background status as she has in the last two albums.

  1. Come  Tomorrow, Dave Matthews Band

This is more of a singing album (vs instrument jamming) then the band has had in quite some time.  I attribute it to the lack of Boyd Tinsley, which I am disappointed about. His violin made the band interesting and differentiated them from every other band.  Though, Tinsley was a mediocre violinist at best, it still added flavor. That being said–he had to go. That sex-abuse stuff just will not stand with me (and the band, apparently).  Though I would have liked more of a public response condemning that behavior. And I guess then I would have complained it was hypocritical considering live outtakes with objectification of women going on by Dave and Carter.  Clean up your acts. Anyway, more to the point of the album’s quality–I like the writing and I like the softness about it. Dave’s voice is admittedly, shot–all that smoking, drinking, and screaming to “Halloween” will eventually take it’s toll, as is evident in “That Girl is You” which is a screetchy-dog-sounding horribleness in the beginning.  Was it intentionally bad? I don’t know, but someone in the editing room should have spoken up and chopped it. That’s the one blemish, and the rest of the album stands up, with superb, well-thought lyrics and sweetly sung choruses. “Virginia in the Rain” is a good example of beautiful, romantic lyrics, that are nice to listen to on a date. Nothing compares to “Crush” but this set of songs is in the same category.  And will make for some nice slow-breaks in the concert. “Black and Blue Bird” (another bird-titled song?!) is a nice, slower song on this album. The rest of the songs are also very nice, and still have jam-potential as we heard at the Stateline Concert. DMB is getting older, and cracks show from time to time, but they still hold up. And they still know how to put on one of the best live shows!!!

Top 5 Albums of 2018:

  1. Songs for the Saints, Kenny Chesney

Do not count me amongst Chenney’s long-time fans, though I am aware he has had an enormous following for a long time.  I never got on to his stuff and didn’t really “get” the appeal. Actually, I thought it probably had more to do with the look of his butt in his jeans than his tunes.  Songs for the Saints is substantial though. I like the melding of easy-Jack Johnson-type strumming with island-country. “Get Along” is a good example of this hybrid. Easy-going, peaceful, fun to listen to.  And I’m not sure that “Ends of the Earth” isn’t a Kenny Chesney that features Lord Huron–I know a mash-up when I hear one (even an uncredited one).

  1. Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake

Once I got a grip on the theme-and that the album is decidedly NOT rugged as the title implies, I liked it.  Read: there is nothing woodsy about the album. It’s a love letter to his wife and cozy lifestyle full of funk and pop lyrics.  Same funk and dance as usual, and the same saccharine lyrics (sometimes gross:  “your pink my purple”?  yuck!!!), too.  But also the same calliber of really bringing that performance aspect to the table that we have come to expect of JT.  Let’s see this one on Netflix also!

  1. This Ones for You,Too, Luke Combs

Because these songs were on such heavy rotation this year I kept feeling like it must be an older album.  “One Number Away,” “When it Rains, It Pours,” “Must’ve Never Met You” wait–are these new songs?? I’ve been hearing them on the radio forever.  They’re like old, familiar friends by now. But the record is from 2018 and the songs are so catchy they just took hold quickly. I think it’s a good mix of country and pop.  Gravelly-voiced, cheeky lyrics combined with hooks that stay with you. I can’t wait for more. If this is where country is headed I like it.

  1.  Home of the Strange, Young the Giant

“Something to Believe In” is strong, it’s catchy and makes me want to sing, and when the band performed the song live at Innings Festival it was so extra.  “Nothing’s Over” is a little more low-key (comparatively) and still catchy in a mesmerizing way. This is my favorite band right now, because they are so great in concert–very high energy.  And they can write catchy, yet lyrically-relevant material. I (of course) wanted to rank this CD in the number one spot, but I think Ben Harper catches a wider variety of sounds, harkens back to jazz/r&b/rock’s roots in America, and masters several different instruments.  But Young the Giant is going to take the world!

 

–>late addition–<

Oh no!  How can this happen?  I’ll tell you:  The email that had been my primary in the past gets auto-forwarded to my new primary email.  And this has always worked well.  I still give whatever email address and everything ends up in the one I check-no effort required.  And I use different addresses for different purposes.  So I was always receiving emails.  I might have noticed an issue if emails just stopped altogether.  But sometimes I’d forget my passwords on whatever and have it emailed, and just never get that email.  So I thought whatever it was I was using was acting all glitchy–since the email and password weren’t working.  And I can’t remember how I figured out there was an issue, but my email had stopped auto-fowarding.  Like, months and months ago though.  What a mess!  All my Amazon notices were going to an email that I wasn’t receiving, as was Geico, and (this brings me to the point of why the preceding paragraph is in my albums of the year blog) my music fan artist update stuff.  I was not getting Dave, Brandi, or the Indigo Girls.  What a travesty–I missed everything!

So I see TODAY that the Indigo Girls did an album with the symphony that I completely missed 😦  And Amy Ray put out an album in 2018. . .

Holler, Amy Ray

This is most definitely Ray’s best solo effort.  And is #2 on my list of albums of the year for 2018.  It’s the country/Americana that I think Brandi Carlile is trying to strive for (in order to get a Grammy in a smaller, category-which did end up working for her, she got 3?).  Ray, unlike Carlile (who as a fan, I think obviously strayed a little from her authenticity in the last 2 albums) stays true to herself in Holler.  I think Ray makes the transition to a new genre easily, and steers clear of disingenuousness.  Her gravely, rough voice works great with the material, and she is genuine to her past aesthetic (of folk/rock, sometimes punk–ish), while breaking into new territory.  The songs are still edgy and full of advocacy and rebelliousness, as Ray’s writing has always been.  But there’s a rural feeling to it that is fresh and welcome.

The varied instrumentation that always features in the Indigo Girl’s songs is still present here, and brings a homey, desolate vibe.  Banjo, violin, percussion, even brass brings to mind listening in a shed, a dilapidated shack, or in the middle of the woods.  I think this is the closest Amy Ray has ever gotten to her inner self.  Every listen just whispers authenticity-there is no put-on here, and it’s a subtle change.  I think Ray has found that sweet spot, and I hope her next album is similar to Hollar!  I’m sad I didn’t find it until the 2nd quarter of 2019.

And Drumroll Please……

The TOP album of 2018:

 

  1. Choke Cherry Tree, Ben Miller Band

A new face/voice.  Every song makes me want to listen more.  Each track seems to feature a different instrument.  

“Trapeze” has the melody of a patriotic march, and the lyrics of a circus.  The chorus Makes me think of the Bayou. It ends in a cacophony of brass and other things that sound familiar but I don’t hear enough to identify.  See what I mean about novel and interesting? “The Outsider” is like a church-picnic stomp. It makes me want to see the band live to see what they would do with it.  “Sketchbook” has a fast pace and a story-telling cadence. “Nothing Gets Me Down” is folksy-outlaw. See how each song is so unique, yet the compilation of songs goes together well?  And the brass flare-ups make “I Got Another One” special and different. “My Own Good Time” has a waltz time key. And the singing is very folksy-evoking campfire days of yore. “Mississippi Cure” is haunting with gorgeous strings, yet upbeat with some catchiness of a pop song. Lyrically it is the most powerful song on the album, bringing race into the conversation-but in an organic way- not forced or pandering. And I think an accordion is happening on the song.  It’s a stand-out on a stand-out album! I can’t wait to hear more from Ben Miller Band-there is a lot of talent and a lot of potential for them.

So there you have it.  The top 30 albums in a kind of lackluster (unless R&B is your jam) year.  Let’s hope there’s more different types of albums in 2019.

Best of 2012: NEW ALBUMS

6 Jan

Best Music Produced in 2012:

Finally.  I intended on publishing this on New Years Eve when it’s a little more relevant.  These important decisions take time, and listening.  Several listenings to really pars apart the minute details between albums.  It’s a more subjective measure, then just copying LastFM statistics.  You can’t use the stats, because albums produced later in the year are at a disadvantage.  So this is based on my careful listening and whittling of songs–as well as my own unsubstantiated opinions and feelings.  Oh, and let’s get this out of the way right off the bat–I in no way italicized or put into quotations album or song titles.  This took a look time to write (as you can see by the post date of Jan 6), and I just didn’t devote any more time then necessary to grammar.  Just appreciate the music, and forget proper English, OK?  So finally, finally the long awaited, BEST OF 2012 ALBUMS blog (from good to *glorious–for you, mom).  Enjoy–I know I enjoyed listening and writing it.

Thriller

Honorable Mentions:

30.  The Fray–which I found a little too churchy to stand up.

29.  Jack Johnson’s live HI benefit album, which featured many other artists, but was too libertine.

28.  Rhythms Del Mundo with their African remixes of popular songs.

the Fray

27.  Carrie Underwood-Blown Away

Meh–I can’t say I was.  I found it too poppy for the most part.  I want a little more range and a little more country twang from Carrie.  What I got was a very commercial effort and three songs I could settle on liking.  Maybe next album, Carrie will write more of her own material, get back to her roots, or at least construct the CD without sales figures and commercial appeal in mind.

Carrie Underwood

26.  Matt & Kim-Sidewalks

I suppose I like the IDEA of the album much more then I actually liked Sidewalks.  Indie music seems so cool, so hipster.  But each song was too similar to the next for me to really appreciate the whole album.  After a quick couple of listens I was tired of hearing the same song in slightly different variation.  I found only two songs which I liked for longer then a day.

25.  Ke$ha-Warrior

Mmmm, this one was good for working out, and I’m sure dancing.  I fount it to be a slightly immature record though.  Maybe I dislike a very genre-specific record.  It certainly makes sense that I redered a very country-pop, indie, and dance-pop albums to the bottom of my 2012 list.  On this one my attention was only captured momentarily, the songs were too poppy to hold up even over a week.  I think Ke$ha has potential as an artist if she can write a little deeper lyrics, while keeping the dancy beats.

24.  Jason Mraz-Love is a Four Letter Word

At first I was very enamored with Love is a Four Letter Word.  I couldn’t get enough of the catchy tunes, and Jason’s commentaries about the songs.  It just didn’t hold up over time though.  The more I listened, the more I got annoyed with certain songs, or intros to the songs.  So unfortunately  what started out as a very, very good thing, ended up on the chopping block so to speak.  By the end of the year I was left with just 5 songs I felt were outstanding and liked to play repeatedly.

where's Peter

23.  White Rabbits-Milk Famous

Apparently, in my best-of 2012, I require several things:  Originality, while being true to the expected sound.  Check.  Coolness factor.  They have it.  Many good songs, that mean something to me and that I can listen to anywhere and on repeat.  Sure.  Several Genres.  This is where the White Rabbits fell flat.  They are indy and hipster and original, and yet each song on Milk Famous was much the same.  Just OK.

cherry

22.  Pink-The Truth About Love

I like Pink.  Always have.  I don’t care how immature or how volatile a person she is.  And this album was no exception, I found songs I could sing to, feel emotionally, and dance with.  And I loved how she featured other artists for the first time.  Good things–I like six songs.  But a good, chart-topping, year wowing album requires more then one awesome single and a few notable duets.  There is just no way to put The Truth About Love at the top of any list.  When you listen, you know it’s the junk food of female pop artists. Pink may have a little more staying power then most, and she may have slightly more to say lyrically, but there is just something about this album that isn’t adult.  Despite serious subject matter, Pink is unable to delve deep into her (or my) psyche to warrant serious success.  I want more songs like “Sober” and “Who Knew” that really stop me in my tracks while still being singable.

21.  Alicia Keys-Girl On Fire

Alicia does a good job straddling the line between R&B, piano, pop, soul, and jazz music.  For that, I have to rank Girl on Fire toward the top-more albums of 2012.  In addition, good CD title too.  That said, I only liked six of the offerings.  Usually, with Alicia’s music, I can’t really LOVE each song, but grow attached to at least one.  Not so with Girl on Fire.  No song really grew on me as they had with past albums.  So she gets mediocre rank.

LF polar bear

20.  Minus the Bear-Infinity Overhead

I just expected more.  There was nothing wrong with Infinity Overhead (except that terrible, gritty video for “Steel & Blood”) but I had hoped for more.  The songs were good.  Easy listeners, that were repeatable.  Indy and cool and true to their roots.  I guess I looked forward to the album release so much that these seven songs I ended up liking most did not measure up.  Good music, but a let-down all the same.

IMG_20120901_173242

19.  Dave Matthews Band-Away From the World

I really hate to say it–I do.  Especially as a relatively new fan, whose favorite moment of 2012 was The Gorge Concert on Labor Dave Weekend.  Away From the World wasn’t the best CD DMB has ever put out.  Sure, “Mercy” grows on you and the video concepts are amazing.  There are just no stand out songs, and certainly not of sufficent length, jams, or live footage.  Now, I’m hungering for a new album already, because 2012’s just didn’t do the band justice.  I wish I could rank this one higher. . .

18.  Alanis Morressette-Havoc and Bright Lights

I’m not afraid to say it–I loved Jagged Little Pieces.  Not a popular opinion anymore.  It was one of my staple CDs for years–still is in the case of a break up.  After Jagged though, Alanis sort of lost her edge for me.  I didn’t really love her efforts until this year.  And this album features a lot of songs I don’t hate.  Though I can’t really say I felt much toward them.  I would classify Havoc and Bright Lights as unobtrusive.  The best album Alanis has put out in years, but not a knock out, stand out by any means.  It’s good background or study music.

my x-mas 14

17.  Bon Iver-Stems Project

This album was produced very early in 2012.  And it’s sits toward the middle of my favorites list despite eventual categorization as just unobtrusive, because it has a couple things.  Different variations of the same song?  Surprisingly a good idea.  It has a very original vibe?  Yup.  Indie? sure.  Hipster? definitively.  And yet, it’s not presumptuous.  Stems Project may not have any stand-alone, stand out songs, but in it’s achievement as indy-hip minus the attitude, I commend it.

Fiona Apple-Criminal

16.  Fiona Apple-crazily long obnoxious title, I’m not going to try to write out.

Jarring.  That’s the most effective description I can think of for *insert longest most unwieldy album title of all time here*  This is over a couple of other artist offerings, because even though I could hardly listen to some of the songs, Fiona was saying something.  Sometimes in a good way, oftentimes exceeding my listening saturation point.  I do like that Fiona did her own thing.  She made her own rules, and really went for it–not keeping an eye on record label profits.  Respectful effort for sure, and I can see potential again, because we all know Fiona can be a little unstable and unpredictable as a person–though she channeled that nicely for the album.  I do suggest less shouting and a shorter title for the next project.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t know if anyone can beat Fiona’s singing chops with her garble-waver and range of pitch.

15.  Amy Ray-Lung of Love

I always have love for any half of the Indigo Girls.  And I feel like Lung of Love has a more country feel to it.  Which is an awesome addition to the rock, folk, and punk infused grooves she already has going.  Extra bonus points for incorporating Brandi Carlile’s voice.  I also like the other featured artists on this album.  Except, I don’t know what it is, but Amy Ray has this way of getting a momentum where every song has the same vibe.  Even with all those different genres and contributing artists.  I start to wonder where one songs ends and the other begins.  And it isn’t in a cohesive–this CD has a theme way.  It’s like she finds an original sound, then sticks to that same sound too much, so that by the end of the CD it’s not novel at all.  I say an album that goes together is fine–but too much of a good sound just becomes boring.

Indigo Girls

14.  A Fine Frenzy-PINES

I love the enchanting whimsy of A Fine Frenzy in general.  And this album, certainly gels together in a nice theme.  Problem the best presented cohesive package of the year.  The only trouble with PINES is the length of some of the songs.  A couple of my favorites are 6-7 minutes long.  A few are just extraneous in length.  Anyway, a nice dramatic effort, that will last in time for sure.

CO wildflower

13.  Green Day-Uno, Dose, Tres

Though there were technically three albums, I judge as one musical effort this year.  Of course, conceptually, the guys deserve kudos for thinking outside the box and producing three separate  yet combinable CDs each several months apart.  I think it’s a great marketing ploy, it’s different, and it’s creative.  Together-it’s a lot too many songs, that tend to blend toward one sound.  Many songs lack their own characteristics, instead being obvious “fillers.”  Yet, I’m not sure I would have liked the 12 songs I ended up liking well, AS much if they would have been on just one disc, as one offering.  So I rank Green Day as top of the middle in my 2012 list, if nothing else for their creativity in bucking a rigid label-system to produce three mini-albums at three intervals.

12.  Keane-Strangeland

There was a different vibe on 2012’s CD then Keane had in the past.  Still good, just another variety   The one thing I disliked was really based on a feeling, then tangible qualities.  I felt like Keane had a certain umm, what’s the right word?  Not arrogance–that’s too much.  Just a level of comfort and familiarity that comes with being sure of success.  I got the feeling Keane feels established enough to not TRY and struggle to make it anymore.  Which, they may have a well-established fan-base, but I think very few artists truly get to stop worrying about their number of listeners.  It ranked just slightly lower because it’s heavy Europe.  There is just a UK vibe that, as a true American (I suppose) turned me off.  This makes it sound like I didn’t like the record at all, which isn’t the case at all.  I felt very strongly toward the 12 songs I did like though, and there were plenty more offered on Strangeland.

11.  Eisley-The Valley

It’s difficult to believe that more then one person is singing.  The blending is impeccable.  I think the musicality, the beats especially, are improved from their last few albums.  If I had to describe what Eisley does to me when I listen to The Valley, it’s to tear delicately.  The lyrics and peaceful pitch gets inside my head and heart, and the emotion behind along with the instrumentation rips at my insides.  It’s a soft assault on my sensibilities.

NV Feb 2010 241

10.  Maroon 5-Overexposed

I have no idea what it is.  These guys are just different from everybody else.  I really can’t put my finger on what makes their music so outstanding.  They can say mean things in ways that get stuck in your head.  Their beat initiates dance moves unparalleled.  They are poppy, and seem uncategorizable (yeah, I make up words to suit my purposes) as anything else.  Yet, it isn’t mindless, bubble-gum dance pop that is fleeting and superficial.  A relative flurry of music in the last two years doesn’t hurt to keep them on the radar.  But it’s more than that, too.  I guess that’s what is so great about Overexposed–you don’t know what makes it shine, and why you can’t stop listening.  But you do.

9.  Trampled by Turtles-Stars & Satellites

Damn you Trampled by Turtles!  First off, they get marked down where no one else was even judged, for NOT having any merch featuring a group of turtles, or any turtle at all.  If an animal is in your band name you HAVE to have it on at least one piece of merchandise!  Rawr.  Anyway, the music–ugh, I wanted more fat-playing banjo and fiddle.  I wanted upbeat, dancing blue-grunge or whetever they call their hybrid bluegrass, country, rock, indy, folk music.  But Stars and Satellites was quiet and thoughtful.  Which is not bad.  Not at all.  Just not exactly what I wanted.  So even though I liked every single song, and found no problems (other than the afore-mentioned merch dearth) they are here.  Because the prior CD was better.  That’s all.

turtle line 2

8.  Lifehouse-Almeria

The same band, but just different enough to be totally new–that’s the beauty of Almeria.  I liked the bouncier, dancier songs, though they were still laid-back and chill as Lifehouse has ever been.  I liked this especially, because with such a dramatic change of style, it doesn’t seem forced or over-marketed.  I don’t see Lifehouse catering to record labels or commercial interests with this change.  It just feels like an establishment of maturity.  A great effort, and I can’t want for more.

7.  Ben Folds 5-The Sound of the Life On the Mind

Yay they’re back!  Ben Folds +/- Five is like a club.  You just have to know to understand.  And apparently, I hold membership, because I’m finding it difficult to explain this to outsiders:  It’s less piano (which I loved) but still awesome.  Though the songs on The Sound of the Life On the Mind (or something to that effect-damn, keep album titles short!) seem somehow more down-tempo they are still captivating.  And not really down-tempo.  I totally just said two opposing statements, but it makes sense if you compare the older stuff to this new release.  At any rate, I found seven really solid songs and can’t stop listening to them.  What else can you say, but listen?

6.  Matchbox Twenty-North

Another YAY, they’re back.  What’s the refrain–again with more feeling?  That’s how I felt with North.  It’s everything great about Matchbox 20, lyrically superior, emotion, singable, textured.  But with more feeling.  Every song resonated with me.  I left the CD wanting more.  That’s why they’re in this position.  Also, they don’t really transcend genres or have a purely original sound.  That’s not criticism, just when you have to rank the best albums of a year it comes down to the meticulous details to differentiate the top from the superior.  And these guys are comfortably at the top.

N. lights 10

5.  David Gray-Foundling

A surprise new favorite.  Like everybody else I had heard David Gray, liked some of the more popular songs, then regaled him to the background.  Between 2012 Draw the Line and Foundling, I found 20 songs that I could not tire of.  Yes, they are still good for the background, but the more I listened, the more I felt in tune with David’s unpretentious croonings.  A secret success, that’s already has a huge fan-base.  Add me.

4.  John Mayer-Born & Raised

Growth, so much growth can be ascertained from this album.  I’ve always liked John, but I found Born & Raised to be his best work yet.  It was just the right blend of emotional, country, soul-searching, and pop.  I liked nearly every song, and thought the effort raised above commercial marketing and genre alone.  He stood alone and was his own person, overcoming, sameness (cute guy + guitar) syndrome.  It feels like John grew up, and with that maturity found his real musical niche.

fireworks 13

3.  Adele-21

Oh the talent! I have nothing new to say, that hasn’t already been said or written throughout the year.  This gal is the real deal–no disputing that.  Belying her physical appearance, she can belt it out like a soul-queen.  Riveting and heart-felt, that’s how I would describe 21.  And the ONLY reason she doesn’t rate higher on my list, is she put the album out too early in the year.  Last January, and due to over-play, I’m somewhat over it.  As much as a person can be, anyway.  Not Adele’s fault, or by any lacking of the music quality at all either.  I’ve just had enough for now.  I see this album will be classic, and remain on best-off all-time lists.

2.  Brandi Carlile-Bear Creek

Believe you me–I wanted to pick Brandi’s CD as the top album of the year.  If only for cute-ness factor (Brandi’s not the album).  But there is that ONE song on Bear Creek that I alone just do not feel.  Everyone else likes it, but this is my list, and that song took the CD down a notch.  Anyway, Bear Creek is amazing.  I feel it transcends genres, is re-playable, goes with any activity or mood, and does well live. I also thing it will stand up to the test of time.

Brandi cute cowgirl

And–drumroll please–the number one album of 2012–as I see it:

1.  Mumford & Sons-Babel

Musically and lyrically.  Catchy with longevity.  Multiple listens in a variety of contexts.  I deem Babel the number one album of 2012, just because I was able to listen to it everywhere over and over without tiring of it.  Also, because I enthusiastically liked each song.  The ONLY downfall is Mumford & Sons don’t tour in the U.S. widely if at all.  I would happily take in a concert of theirs!