So Kent came to me and asked me to compile a list of the best music of 2012 so far, I tried to inform him that is was August and that all the midyear lists were done two months ago. He said, “What do you think we’re not paying you for?” Touché. So here it is, my midyear list of the best music of 2012.
Best of 2012 Albums So FarJuly 30, 2012 1
5. NORAH JONES – LITTLE BROKEN HEARTS: I haven’t paid attention to Norah Jones since her debut album “Come Away With Me,” over a decade ago, but something about this new record has really got my attention. Maybe it’s the Danger Mouse production. For those of you who haven’t been listening to music in the last decade Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton, is the prolific producer that is behind Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells. He’s produced albums from the Gorillaz and he helped the Black Keys to craft the best album of their career with last year’s “El Camino.” He specializes in taking retro sounds and giving them a modern groove. With Jones he’s produced another great collection of soulful modern retro pop. Tunes like “Happy Pills,” and “Say Goodbye,” are absolutely infectious. However, great production wouldn’t mean anything without Norah Jones’ fantastic vocal delivery. Many of her purist fans will hate her for this one, but they’re missing out as purists often do.
4. NATURAL CHILD – FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: If the Rolling Stones were a new band and became inspired by the Stooges to start a garage rock band, they’d probably sound a lot like Natural Child. Natural Child takes the Stone’s sleazy blues and reframes it in a lo-fi haze of pot smoke, guitars, and slurred vocals. This is rock music in all it’s over sexed, stoned out drunken glory. The closing guitar solo of “She’s Got a Mind,” and the garage reggae of “Paradise Heights,” are definite highlights, but any track on here will get your foot tappin and leave you feeling stoned and satisfied.
3. HEARTLESS BASTARDS – ARROW: If this album had nine tracks of cat’s fighting while a million fingers ran down a million chalk boards but still maintained the track “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” it would still be one of the best albums of the year. Fortunately for the Bastards the rest of the album is also quite good, but its “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” that stands out. Just when you thought Jack White wrote the last great guitar riff with “Seven Nation Army” nine years ago Erika Wennerstrom comes along and crunches out a riff from her six string that confirms that rock music continues to live and thrive, even if it may never rule the charts again.
2. JACK WHITE – BLUNDERBUSS: It’s hard to believe that it’s taken so long for Jack White to record a solo album, but the wait was worth it. It’s great to hear Jack’s noisy screeching guitar solos surrounded by pianos and female backup singers. When “Sixteen Saltines” announces itself with a distorted blast from your speakers it feels like a White Stripes B-side. From there you get what turns out to be arguably the most varied album of White’s career. “Love Interruption,” is one of the best masochistic love songs in years. “I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me and twist it all around.” Beauty.
1. KING TUFF – KING TUFF: King Tuff aka, Kyle Thomas, definitely gets the award for best T. Rex album not recorded by T. Rex. Kyle Thomas’ music career has been eclectic whether he’s sludging it out with the stoner metal group Witch, playing neo hippie freak folk with the Feathers , or playing minimalist garage glam pop as a solo artist he always shows an awareness of rock’s history without being completely derivative. What makes this album work so well is much like Mark Bolan did with T. Rex, Tuff combines bubble gum pop melodies with trashy guitar and vocals dripping with swagger. Just about every song is killer. My personal faves are: “Alone and Stoned,” “Keep On Movin,” “Bad Thing,” and “Swamp of Love.” The album oozes with great hooks and incredibly awesomely stupid lyrics like “I let my guitar drool, that’s how I keep so cool.” This is the kind of music that seems to make the promise that King Tuff will be effortlessly churning out fantastically simple and fantastically cool rock ‘n’ roll for years to come. One can only hope.
This year’s other highlights include a pair of albums from garage one man band Ty Segall. On the album “Hair” Segall teams with White Feather to record some classic “Nuggets” inspired 60’s garage psychedelia. He also formed the Ty Segall Band in order to record the very loud, very noisy, and very energetic “Slaughterhouse.” Of the two I’d recommend picking up “Hair.” Wille Nelson’s “Heroes” album includes a Pearl Jam cover, “Just Breathe,” and a Coldplay cover, “The Scientist,” both of which are either equal to the original (“Just Breathe”) or vastly improve on the original (“The Scientist”). Also its worth the price of the album to hear Willie duet with Snoop Dogg doing his best country twang, and yes he sings not raps, the line “roll me up and smoke me when I die.” The new album from Rush doesn’t include any classics on par with “Tom Sawyer,” “2112,” or “Spirit of the Radio,” but it is still a good collection of heavy prog expertly played by seriously gifted musicians in a never ending prime. The Alabama Shakes debut is an awesome collection of garage soul. Brittany Howard’s passionate vocals on tracks like “Be Mine,” “Hold On,” and “You Ain’t Alone” are hopefully an indication of what’s to come from the Shakes. Sonny and Sunsets divert from their usual brand of 60’s inspired garage pop to record the countryish break up record “Longtime Companion. “ Glen Hansard of The Frames and The Swell Season, released his solo debut and it is worth checking out, as Hansard always brings the passion. I’m sure I’m missing stuff, but I’m pretty satisfied with my list. Now go, download, and rock the frak out.