Category Archives: Music

Joe’s Top 16 of ’16

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Another year, another “Best Of” list. Anyone reading this knows I spend all year listening to as many albums as possible, compiling an ever changing list of all my personal favorites so I can submit a record of history to the internets to inevitably look back on with bewilderment and longing. I take it way too seriously and stress out over it for absolutely no reason what so ever and YET I love doing it and I’ll never stop. I have realized though that the older I get, the less in line I am with Pitchfork and Rolling Stone and various other music publications that provide solid year end lists so as always, “grain of salt”, “personal preference”, yada yada yada. That being said, I am including a mini list of albums everyone else loved this year that I’m just not connecting with for whatever reason because as history has shown, time can put great albums into perspective (Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange) and I might regret not giving certain albums a second or third listen (Solange, Chance the Rapper, Life Of Pablo). Regardless, all 16 of these albums spoke to me on a deep enough level to proclaim to the world how great I think they are and share them with you fine upstanding citizens and degenerates alike. RIP 2016. Smell ya later.

  1. Beyoncé – Lemonade 33238a0dbe6470fde82c5fea51ff69e2-1000x1000x1
  2. Anderson .Paak – Malibu 
  3. David Bowie – Blackstar blackstar
  4. Bon Iver – 22, a Million 
  5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool radiohead-a-moon-shaped-pool-2lp
  6. Jim James – Eternally Even jim-james-eternally-even-1474657396-1024x1024
  7. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service 
  8. Jack Garratt – Phase 
  9. Savages – Adore Life 
  10. Frank Ocean – Blond ccc0894094b9a3cbb47a45ec0c69b1f0-1000x1000x1
  11. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered 
  12. Phantogram – Three 
  13. Band Of Skulls – By Default bos-4000x4000
  14. Mutemath – Changes 
  15. The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect 
  16. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
  2. Rolling Stones – Blue And Lonesome
  3. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  4. The Joy Formidable – Hitch
  5. Lake Street Dive – Side Pony

ALBUMS I MAY REGRET OVERLOOKING

  1. Solange – A Seat At The Table
  2. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
  3. Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo
  4. Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial
  5. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

Joe’s Favorite Albums of 2015

So, yeah, this is a little late and I’m not even sure if anyone out there actually reads these every year BUT, never-the-less, here is my current, ever changing list (seriously, the order probably changed 8 times since I wrote this sentence) of my favorite albums from 2015:

   1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

  

2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit

  

3. Nothing But Thieves – Nothing But Thieves

  

4. Grimes – Art Angels

  

5. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall 

  

6. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

  

7. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

  

8. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats 

  

9. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness

  

10. Foals – What Went Down

  
11. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 

  
12. Mutemath – Vitals

  
13. Half Moon Run – Sun Leads Me On

  
14. Chvrches – Every Open Eye

  
15. The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

  
16. Will Butler – Policy 

  
17. Tame Impala – Currents

  
18. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

  
19. Gary Clark Jr – The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim

  
20. The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily
There you have it! One more yearly list in the can. I’m sure I left off tons of great albums I haven’t heard yet and ordered some albums way higher or lower than I should have but that’s the beauty of my list…it’s mine. Come at me Internet! I love you. 

Joe’s Top 20 Albums of 2014

****UPDATE****

In honor of The Grammys last night I’m reposting my top 20 albums of 2014 list with an extra 10 albums (in random order) for good measure! Beck’s latest album won rock album of the year (not to mention ALBUM of the year!) and this confuses me to no end. I love me some Beck but Morning Phase bored the shit out of me. Also I’m a fan of what Sam Smith is doing and I’m glad he won a bunch of Grammys but he also didn’t make my list.

****DISCLAIMER****

Beginning on the first Tuesday of the year and continuing for the next 51 Tuesdays, I’ve been going to iTunes and spending a good 20 minutes pouring through new albums to whittle down the major (and minor) releases into my annual year end “best of” list. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now and this year was certainly no exception. I really don’t know what compels me to do this every year but it’s something that is constantly on my mind year round and I put the same level of thought and importance into it as I would if I worked for Rolling Stone. Spoiler Alert: I don’t work for Rolling Stone. I also don’t work for Pitchfork or Spin or Metacritic or any of the million websites that have a whole team of people way more hip and qualified to compile a list than I am. This is important to remember when yelling at my list (as I imagine some of you might do) or passing any judgement beyond personal opinion because this is very much MY list and I’m in no way saying these albums are the best albums of the year over everything else that came out. These are the albums that not only made it on my iPhone but stayed on there in heavy rotation all year and will likely hold a spot on there for some time to come. That’s the criteria for a good album as far as I’m concerned, repeat listen ability and lasting emotional effect. All of these albums either spoke to me on some deep level or moved me physically with their well crafted songs or overall vibe. Most importantly they all held a firm place in scoring my experience of what 2014 was to me. This is also a list of top ALBUMS which I realize is becoming somewhat of a lost art form in terms of listening experience, so while I may have felt certain albums had several great songs on them (Jack White, Alt J, Future Islands, Bahamas, etc) I’m only including albums that I love listening to front to back with little to no exceptions. Again, it’s all subjective, so “grain of salt” and all that.

I’d also like to thank all of the suggestions I’ve gotten from various people throughout the year and even though a lot of highly acclaimed albums didn’t make my list (Caribou, Sam Smith, Mounties, The War On Drugs, Taylor Swift) it’s not because I thought they weren’t good enough it’s just that these albums hit me harder and feel more at home under my name…for the moment anyway.

Now, with that paranoid disclaimer out of the way, here’s what made my list for 2014. Enjoy!

***Only the Top Ten entries have explanations and download suggestions because, you know, laziness.***

20. Charlie XCX – Sucker

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19. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End

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18. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

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17. Mother Mother – Very Good Bad Thing

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16. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

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15. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

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14. Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits

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13. Nico Vega – Lead To Light

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12. Sturgill Simson – Metamodern Country Music

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11. Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight

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10. Hozier – Hozier

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7857.jpgBy now, you’ve most likely heard Hozier whether you know it or not. His breakthrough single “Take Me To Church” had been on TV shows, in your doctor’s office, on SNL, and even soundtracking Lebron James returning home in that headphone commercial. If you haven’t, you probably will eventually and this is a good thing because he’s definitely not a one hit wonder. His debut self titled album is full of soulful bluesy folk pop gold and I have a feeling certain gold phonograph statues might be on the horizon for this talented Brit. The fact that he isn’t from the Deep South, (or anywhere in America for that matter) is initially jarring giving the copious amounts of authentic Americana and southern blues present on pretty much every track, but this is a compliment rather than an insult because it never once feels forced or out of place. If anything Hozier is simply carrying on a grand tradition of British musicians taking southern american sounds and making them their own (see Rolling Stones and everybody else) and the results are fantastic.

BOTTOM LINE – Hozier put out a stellar first record that should feel at home in any music lover’s collection

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Take Me To Church, Angel Of The Small Death And The Codeine Scene, Work Song

9. The New Basement Tapes – Lost On The River

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7858.jpgWhen T Bone Burnet came in contact with a plethora of Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967, a lot of terrible things could have come from it. This is not the case with The New Basement Tapes. With full blessing from Bobby D himself, a supergroup of talent was formed. Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens and Elvis Costello, were all brought in on this project to take Bob Dylan’s lyrics and turn them into music. Everyone went off on their own, independent of each other and the results are astounding. Some songs have duplicate versions on the album because of this tactic but more importantly all songs have Dylan soul and this is the overriding theme in all of this. The songs are great and the individual voices are apparent but Dylan is front and center regardless of the vehicle. Whether it’s Rhiannon crooning away in Hidee Hidee Ho or Marcus Mumford breaking character on Kansas City, this collection of songs is one of the greatest things to happen to folk rock since The Band and if you haven’t heard it yet you really should.

BOTTOM LINE – Unheard Bob Dylan lyrics brought to life by great artists. What’s not to love.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
When I Get My Hands On You, Spanish Mary, Quick Like A Flash, Kansas City

8. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7859.pngI’ll be the first to admit that I used to think Lana Del Rey was something completely different. I didn’t get it. I thought she was boring and overhyped and I used to get angry when people would praise her. So needless to say, I was not excited about her new release when it first came out but after hearing the first single (West Coast) I was intrigued enough to finally give her a fair shot and thank god I did. Lana Del Ray’s Ultraviolence is what I imagine heroine would sound like if it was a real person scoring Juliet Lewis in Natural Born Killers. It’s a haunting, moody album that borrows from Portishead as much as 90s grunge and Enya. It’s full of sex and pain and privilege and it all works on some strange excellent level. Even if I don’t consciously want to, I can’t help but be drawn deep into Lana’s sultry opium landscape and I find myself constantly revisiting it time and time again. This is an album to get completely lost in and the disorientation is intoxicating.

BOTTOM LINE – If you’re the type of person who regularly finds yourself walking alone in the rain or laying on your bed awake for hours, this record really is for you. Throw it on next time the mood hits you. Lana gets it.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Shades Of Cool, West Coast, Brooklyn Baby

7. Shakey Graves – And The War Came

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7860.jpgI’m currently obsessed with Shakey Graves and I want everyone else to be too. Anyone who has ever seen his one man (generally) live show knows what I’m talking about and now finally there is a full length album to help sell Shakey Graves to the masses. It’s hard to put into words exactly what sets him apart from other solo artists but impeccable songwriting skills, an honest voice with an underlying sense of urgency and endless replay value isn’t a bad place to start. Evoking old country ethics mixed with American folk sensibility, every song somehow sounds timeless and completely fresh all at the same time. Not to mention Shakey Graves is also a somewhat established actor and manages to live in both worlds separately which I of course always admire. Great stuff all around.

BOTTOM LINE – An amazing first record with lots of great songs. I want to be Shakey Graves when I grow up.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Dearly Departed, Hard Wired, If Not For You

6. Spoon – They Want My Soul

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7861.jpgI have never been a Spoon fan. I never listened to them growing up and I wasn’t even aware they existed until way too recently. I was so unaware of Spoon in fact that when I formed my first band in the mid nighties, we actually called ourselves Spoon for a good 5 months and only changed it later because we wanted a new name and not because it was already taken by a wildly successful indie rock band (Cape Breton was pretty sheltered pre Internet). So needless to say when the band revealed they would be releasing a follow up to 2010’s Transference, I was underwealmed…if that’s a word. I know it’s not cause I looked it up. It’s one of those skills that I learned in my school. (Sloan ladies and gentlemen). I digress but appropriately another influential band from the 90’s makes my list because they put out an exceptional album that is both brilliant now and brilliant in nostalgia land. Spoon represents an era pre social media while still managing to sit firmly in the now with biting commentary about life as we know it without sounding preachy and out of touch. Songs like Rent I Pay and Knock Knock Knock, speak to an aging youth generation without sounding jaded and uninspired while songs like Inside Out prove that Spoon has their fingers firmly on the pulse of humanity in a way that never betrays their age. Front to back, this is a great record and it especially deserves to be on every devise owned by anyone who came up in the 90’s.

BOTTOM LINE – Solid record by a solid band coming into their prime later in the game.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Inside Out, Rainy Taxi, Knock Knock Knock

5. Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7862.pngSo we’ve all seen the Chandelier video right? Cute little girl interpretive dancing in the platinum blond wig that’s been showcased on Ellen and parodied by Jimmy Kimmel AND Jim Carrey? If somehow you’ve missed it, go watch it now. I’ll wait. Great, right? Well if you liked that song even a little bit, you’ll probably love Sia’s latest full length record. If there’s one thing Sia knows how to do, it’s how to write a damn good pop song, which she’s proven time and time again penning countless songs for artists like Rhianna and Katy Perry, and 1000 Forms Of Fear (Sia’s fourth full length album) is chalk full of them. As much success as SIA has received seeing other people sing her songs, hearing the emotion and sometimes desperation come from her own incredible voice somehow makes all her songs that much better. It’s easy to imagine a song like Big Girls Cry or Elastic Heart gaining more attention if they were sung by more famous artists but after a full listen to this album it will be near impossible to detach Sia’s voice cracking effortless emotion from any of the twelve excellent songs, nor should you want to. It may have been a long time coming but Sia has finally put together a collection of songs that are not only all her own but also far surpass most of her contemporaries.

BOTTOM LINE – Sia put out the best pop record of the year. Period. Sorry T Swift fans. I need a little darkness in my pop.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Chandelier, Free The Animal, Plastic Heart, Eye Of The Needle

4. Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7863.jpgI’m starting to get suspicious and a little bit angry as to why Band Of Skulls aren’t a household name yet making millions of dollars. Ever since their excellent debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey in 2008, they’ve been consistently touring (I’ve seen them 4 times and they were always amazing), selling songs to countless TV shows and commercials and putting out full length albums that somehow managed to each be better than the last. Himalayan is no exception. The British trio pick up pretty much where 2012’s Sweet Sour left off and in this case the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” policy not only works but just helps strengthen their already large catalog of stadium ready rock anthems. The band benefits from trading off lead vocal duties between bassist Emma Richardson and guitarist Russell Marsden which allows them to explore a larger spectrum of perspectives and adds an extra layer to an already deeply layered sound.

BOTTOM LINE – As far as new rock records go any Band Of Skulls is a must own and Himalayan is a fine place to start.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Hootchie Cootchie, Asleep At The Wheel, I Guess I Know You Fairly Well

3. Royal Blood – Royal Blood

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7864.jpgI first found Royal Blood simply browsing iTunes and had absolutely no idea who they were or what they sounded like. After listening to a couple seconds of the first track Out Of The Black, I let out an audible “holy shit!” alone in my apartment and immediately downloaded the entire album. I’m happy to report that it’s all “holy shit” all day long. Royal Blood is what Jack White and Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) would sound like if they were in a Muse cover band in an alternate universe. It’s hard, it’s catchy, it grooves and the fact that something this big and brash is coming from a duo (Bass and drums only) is nothing short of amazing. In fact I refused to believe they were only a bass and drum duo until I saw them live, which I did and they are. This album is a refreshing reminder that rock is not dead, it’s alive and well and living in London.

BOTTOM LINE – If you like Queens of The Stone Age or Band Of Skulls, you’ll probably like this too.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Out Of The Black, Loose Change, Little Monster

2. Sloan – Commonwealth

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7865.jpgFull disclosure; I’ve been a die hard Sloan fan since I was 15 (which was many moons ago in the 1990s) so my endorsement of their latest effort may seem bias. I assure you it’s not. As much as I love Canada’s Fab Four from the east coast, they haven’t put out a record in the past 10 years so good it couldn’t be ignored…until now. Commonwealth is not only the greatest Sloan record since Navy Blues, it just must be the greatest Sloan record of all time. Sure it’ll never be as immediately satisfying as Twice Removed or as commercially successful as One Chord To Another but Commonwealth might just be the ultimate representation of who Sloan is as a band. This double album is broken up into four parts with each member getting roughly 18 minutes to express themselves. Each member brings their talent to the table, from Jay Ferguson’s pop sensible catchy opening to Andrew Scott’s Brian Willson inspired finale, and it all works perfectly. If you’ve never cared about Sloan before, now is the time to start.

BOTTOM LINE – If you have ever claimed to like Sloan (or The Beatles for that matter) listen to this record front to back. It won’t disappoint.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Concept albums are meant to be heard as a whole so just go ahead and download everything.

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/24f/19774835/files/2015/01/img_7866.jpgAnnie Clark (St Vincent) has been well known to anyone with their musical finger anywhere near the pulse of popular indie music (or anyone who reads Pitchfork) for years now but it wasn’t until the success of her self titled 4th full length album that she’s become a part of the mainstream conversation and she deserves every bit of praise she receives. Emulating everyone from Prince to Sinead O’conner, St Vincent managed to weave a near perfect 40 minutes of art music that never once feels pretentious or inaccessible. Songs like Digital Witness allow her to muse about our overdosing social media culture accompanied by a funky horn section, while Birth In Reverse allows her to showcase some of her not so subtle guitar skills. It’s fitting that Miss Clark sits atop a throne on the cover of this album because she is absolutely the Queen of indie art music. Long live St Vincent!

BOTTOM LINE – St Vincent should be on everyone’s iPhone, Galaxy, iPod, record collection, tape deck, zoon, whatever. Get it now. Period.

TRACKS TO DOWNLOAD:
Digital Witness, Birth In Reverse, Bring Me Your Loves

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There you have it! Another year in the books. Let the commenting frenzy commence!

Joe’s Top 20 Albums of 2013

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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER

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I hate this time of year. OK, maybe hate is a little harsh, but I definitely feel ways about this time of year that aren’t exactly pleasant. I’m talking of course about the “best of the year” list season. For the past 4 years or so I’ve taken it upon myself, for whatever reason, to share my list of top ten or twenty (or forty) favorite albums of the year and every year I experience an abnormal amount of stress and pressure to get it absolutely right. This is next to impossible because I keep changing my mind every 2 to 3 hours. This year is no exception. In fact, I find myself 3 weeks into 2014 still contemplating if Arcade Fire should be lower or higher on the list than Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It changes every day. So it’s with this in mind (and the fact that the Grammy’s are on tonight) that I’ve decided to release my list for 2013, as is. I’ve written no explanations for each entry and the order (save for the top 3) will never stop changing, so I submit this as an idea of where my head was at and at the very least a representation of music I think you should listen to or at least be aware of that came out in 2013. Stress is for suckers. Enjoy.

20. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law20140112-155102.jpg

19. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals20140112-155436.jpg

18. Eminem – The Marshal Mathers LP 220140112-155613.jpg

17. MIA – Matangi20140112-155745.jpg

16. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
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15. Yeah Yeahs Yeahs – Mosquito20140112-160104.jpg

14. Arcade Fire – Reflektor20140112-155859.jpg

13. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow20140112-160204.jpg

12. Snoop Lion – Reincarnated20140112-160253.jpg

11. Nico Vega – Fury Oh Fury EP20140112-160347.jpg

10. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork20140112-160444.jpg

9. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow20140112-160532.jpg

8. Savages – Silence Yourself20140112-160826.jpg

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories20140112-160903.jpg

6. HAIM – Days Are Gone20140112-161007.jpg

5. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires In The City20140112-161047.jpg

4. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks20140112-161124.jpg

3. Arctic Monkeys – AM20140112-161205.jpg

2. Kanye West – Yeezus20140112-161244.jpg

1. Lorde – Pure Heroine20140112-161320.jpg

Joe’s Top 12 Albums of 2012

It’s that time of year again! Time to be bombarded with endless “best of” lists from anyone with an opinion and a lot of free time on their hands. Well to be fair, that time was about a month or so ago so really I’m just adding one more list way after the fact because I was too lazy to get it done sooner. Never-the-less, here’s my two cents on which albums were my absolute favorites of 2012.

20130121-153708.jpg1. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Despite the fact that the order
of the first 5 albums on this list changed no less than 87 times, the debut album from Alabama indie rock darlings Alabama Shakes has always managed to keep a firm hold on to my number one spot. Their brand of old school soul and r&b infused roots rock is a perfect representation of all that is good in music today and lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard is nothing short of a musical force of nature. Sounding like the spiritual love child of Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, Brittany and company deliver some of the most honest and heartfelt music I’ve heard in years and while it may arguably not be the “best” album of 2012, it’s definitely the one I keep listening to over and over again and the only album this year I truly feel everyone I know would enjoy from my younger friends to my older relatives. At the end of the day I think that’s what makes an album timeless and truly special.

20130121-160500.jpg2. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit

California indie rockers Delta Spirit have been a favorite band of mine since I was introduced to their sophomore release “History From Below” in 2009. Their attention to detail when it comes to songwriting is staggering and their catalogue of songs (3 albums with their debut “Ode To Sunshine”) is chock full of slow building triumphs and festival ready sing-a-longs. My expectations for their latest effort were understandably high and I’m happy to say they were not only met but consistently exceeded with every subsequent listen. “Delta Spirit” is definitely their most produced and commercially accessible album to date but all that polish and shine never manages to dilute the heart and soul of the band. Lead singer Matthew Vasquez is constantly pushing himself outside his comfort zone and the rest of the band elevates every note by not being afraid to embrace new sounds and influences while simultaneously staying true to everything that they are. Excellent band. Excellent record. Not a bad song in the bunch.

20130121-160558.jpg3. Mumford & Sons – Babel

I initially had a really hard time putting Mumford & Sons above Jack White on this list and I’m sure I’ve already lost some credibility with some of you for doing so, but as groundbreaking perfect Blunderbuss may be, I just can’t stop listening to “Babel”. Mumford & Sons took hipster hearts by storm with “Sigh No More” and released what was arguably the best album of 2010. With an intensity and urgency not heard in folk music since the 1960’s, Mumford & Sons brought foot-stomping folk rock to the mainstream again and did it with such heart and honesty that it was impossible to ignore. Critical acclaim and over saturation threatened to derail whatever momentum they had but “Babel” only fanned the flames picking up exactly where they left off. Skeptics will claim they’re just rehashing old songs and refusing to evolve but I think their unrelenting willingness to be anything but true to themselves is exactly why they deserve to be where they are. Front to back “Babel” is an excellent record full of nothing but excellent songs showcasing a band at the height of success in their purest form. I dare you not to stomp along.

20130121-154959.jpg4. Jack White – Blunderbuss

When Jack White announced in 2011 that he would release his debut solo album in 2012, expectations were understandably high and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt he had already released 6 “solo” albums under the name White Stripes. Not to take anything away from drummer Meg White but we all know Jack was the creative force behind those phenomenal albums. Still, “Blunderbuss” would be the first official Jack White album and fans of White Stripes, Raconteurs and The Dead Weather everywhere were holding their collective breaths. Thankfully, a universal sigh of relief could be heard everywhere in 2012. Not only did Jack deliver a solid rock record spanning every genre he’s ever touched upon in the past, he also managed to do it without falling into the stereotypical trappings of most overly talented solo artists by bringing in numerous other players instead of recording everything himself. This allows every song to take on the life he obviously intended them to by allowing Jack White to just be Jack White and letting the music speak for itself. Our musical landscape is forever blessed to include Jack White and “Blunderbuss” is yet another reason to rejoice.

20130121-155333.jpg5.Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

If you are over 25 you probably haven’t heard of Macklemore. I will be the first to admit my skepticism with this 30 year old white underground rap phenomenon from Seattle and admit that I judged without listening and criticized without knowledge. I couldn’t have been more wrong about who Macklemore is and what he means to the hip hop community. Ryan Lewis provides the infectious beats and rock solid foundation necessary for Macklemore to perfectly lay out line after line of expertly crafted conscientious hip hop. With some of the most raw and honest lyrics I’ve ever heard, “The Heist” is not only an excellent record to put on at a party, it’s also one of the most important records to date in the hip hop ethos. The DIY attitude that fills every track is a true testament to realizing your dreams and there is no shortage of inspiration to be had from multiple listens. Do yourself a favor and buy into the hype.

20130121-155429.jpg6. Band Of Skulls – Sweet Sour

Band Of Skulls’ debut album topped my best album list of 2008 and that says a lot given how great that year was for music. Needless to say, their sophomore release “Sweet Sour” was eagerly awaited and ripe for criticism and to be completely honest, on first listen I was disappointed. The brilliance of “Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey” was so great I was reluctant to realize the growth that needed to take place in this fantastic trio from London. And grow they did. Sweet Sour is a testament to the inherent good that can come from 3 musicians that truly know their respective instruments and also work together on a level that’s something beyond common understanding. I only hope we’ll all be talking about Band Of Skulls for years to come and I urge you to introduce yourself to this seminal band as soon as you can.

20130121-155527.jpg7. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal

Iceland is a very cold place to call home which makes the sincerity and warmth of Icelandic natives Of Monsters and Men all the more beautiful and important. Their debut album is full of life and promise underscored by brilliant harmonies and epic builds. It’s an album that truly encapsulates the times and is inherently 2012 without trying to be. As far as hipster embraced music goes, this is as pure as it gets.

20130121-161144.jpg8. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Full disclosure, I love Fiona Apple unconditionally. She has been one of the biggest influences on my artistic life and she can generally do no wrong in my eyes (despite her ridiculously long album titles), so naturally I was reluctant to include her long awaited fourth studio album on my list if not for any other reason than blind bias. I include it now because it is honestly deserved of being included. Fiona Apple has long been a figure head for uncertainty and confidence all at the same time and her voice is attached to a generation of rebellious “others” who in actuality fit perfectly into the idea of what it means to be ideal. This dichotomy has never been represented better than it is on “The Idler Wheel…”. It may be Fiona’s most personal album since Tidal and it perfectly captures her essence as it is today while presenting it in expertly crafted folk/pop songs that any music fan can appreciate. I feel bad for not including it higher on the list but my biases keeps it where it is.

20130121-160742.jpg9. Muse – The 2nd Law

I love Muse. As a live band, they are one of the best I’ve ever seen. As recording artists, they have given us some of the best modern rock records we’ve ever had. As a fan, I was not only anticipating The 2nd Law, but I was expecting greatness far beyond what could ever have been delivered. This album is great, no question, but I can’t help but feel that by the last 3rd of the album that greatness fizzles somehow. That being said, The 2nd Law is still an amazing concept album from a very talented band who are never afraid to push the boundaries of what rock music can be.

20130121-161228.jpg10. Alt J – An Awesome Wave

Alt J has tremendous buzz overseas and rightly so. Their debut album is a breath of fresh air in todays alternative music landscape and manages to simultaneously sound absolutely fresh while consistently echoing Radiohead’s King Of Limbs. Simply put, if I was cooler, this album would be number one on my list. It may be a challenge for some to get past lead singer Joe Newman’s nasal vocal delivery, but the rewards are plenty for those who can.

20130121-161306.jpg11. Fun. – Some Nights

We Are Young is arguably the song of 2012 and might go down in history as the song of a generation. Also it might fall into the abyss and never be remembered again. Either way, “Some Nights” is a great album and will be remembered if not for nothing else but it’s keen sense of pop music and theatrical bravado. Lead singer and songwriter Nate Ruess’ commitment to bridging the gap between musical theater and pop music (conscious or not) is prevalent throughout the entire record and seems to be a perfect representation of what it means to be an artist in 2012. It’s an almost perfect pop/indie rock record and deserves to be included in every best of 2012 list, even if it’s near the bottom.

20130121-155911.jpg12. Santigold – Master Of My Make-Believe

Santigold should be on everyone’s iPod. Period. Her sophomore album does nothing less than solidify her as a true artist who thrives in her genre and holds a very deserved place in the pop culture pathos. Unfortunately, I couldn’t place her higher on my list because of too many filler songs on this album. If you know nothing about Santigold, get her first album immediately and proceed accordingly. Master Of My Make Believe is still a great album by a great artist and I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more from Santigold for a long time to come.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Jeff Beadle – Of Acres And Cities EP
Shovels and Rope – O’ Be Joyful
Hey Ocean! – Is
Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes
Tame Impala – Lonerism