Favorited ex.fm Songs

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (1-5)

We're finally down to my five favorite albums of 2012. As I mentioned in the first post, this was a great year for new music. If you missed my first three installments of the list here are the links: 31-50, 16-30, and 6-15. These five albums were ones that I just found myself listening to over and over again this year. Here are my top five of 2012:

5) M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion

I've probably written about M. Ward a dozen or so times since I started this blog. You can search his name in the upper left corner or look here if you want to verify that, but it has been a lot. On last.fm I listened to M. Ward more than twice as often as any other artist that year and that doesn't even take into account that this album was in my car CD player for about four straight months after it was released. That gives you the background for how I'm approaching this album. I was almost certainly going to love it as soon as the release was announced. Despite that, it took me a while to really warm up to the album. At first I liked it but didn't love it. However, the more I listened, the more it grew on me and now it is probably my second or third favorite of his records (with "Post-War" firmly entrenched as one of my 2 or 3 favorite records ever). If I had to pick a favorite track, it would probably be "The First Time I Ran Away", but unlike a lot of the albums ranked this high, there really isn't one or two tracks that stick out. The album flows from song to song with each step along the way a big part of what makes it so enjoyable.

4) Milo Greene - Milo Greene

Like Rilo Kiley, Milo Greene is a band masquerading as a person. I think I read somewhere that Milo Greene was a name they had invented as a fake PR person so that they seemed more professional before starting this band. Anyhow the band is a five member indie folk/indie pop group based out of Los Angeles. Four of the five members take turns sharing leading and backing vocal duties. In lesser hands that could harm the product, but as is you barely notice who is or isn't stepping forward at any one time. The harmonies present throughout each song are gorgeous. There are 13 tracks on the album, four of which are transitions between songs. Of the other 9, there isn't a dud in the bunch. "1957" is my favorite track, followed by "Cutty Love" and "Silent Way", but I'd be content recommending any of six other songs as well to someone wanting to hear what Milo Greene sounded like. This was the band's debut album and it kind of surprises me that the band hasn't gotten more notice from it.

3) Field Report - Field Report

Field Report is a band led by Chris Porterfield (an anagram of his last name). I wrote a good deal about Field Report when I first discovered them back in May. To rehash that a bit, back in 2006 Porterfield was in a band called DeYarmond Edison with Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), and three members of what became Megafaun. DeYarmond Edison seems to be the rare pre-super group like Park Ave. Since then, Porterfield recorded some things under the name Conrad Plymouth too. However, I was unfamiliar with him until hearing the Field Report demos back in May and being absolutely floored by them. The closest genre is probably folk, but that's too simple. It's more like hushed rock with folk influences. Porterfield's lyrics are a large part of what takes these songs from really good to great. He tells stories with his lyrics while still managing to make them sound like they fit the song just perfectly. I remember reading that the first track "Fergus Falls" is about a pregnant woman he saw with a boyfriend who seemed like kind of a jerk. "Taking Alcatraz," my favorite track from the album is about Richard Oakes, a Native American activist who led a group that took control of Alcatraz from 1969-1971. Some albums just seem to be made for particular places or times. I've found this album is the perfect album for a long Fall walk, something I have put to use several times.

2) Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion

I've been wrestling with the positions of these top two albums for a while, not fully deciding on an order until right now. Last night I planned to have this album number one, so maybe this should be considered something more like 1b. Cold Specks is the project of Al Spx, a Canadian based out of London. She describes her music as doom-soul. Allmusic describes it as a mix of "Southern soul, Tom Waits/Jeff Buckley inspired blues, and goth-tinged indie folk." The songs are usually pretty sparse sounding with percussion playing a big part. A good deal of other instruments contribute over that. Her voice though is something else. There is so much feeling and emotion that pours out of it as she sings. "Blank Maps" still manages to basically stop me in my tracks any time I hear it, and it may be my favorite song released this year. "Holland" and "Elephant Head" are two other standout tracks, but her voice is enough to make every song on the album something to pay attention to. This is Cold Specks' debut album and even more so than some of the other debuts on here, it'll be really exciting to see how she follows this album up. Based on this one and that voice of hers, I've got a lot of confidence that there is a lot of great music still to come from her in the future.













1) First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

First Aid Kit are two Swedish sisters who make some of the best folk/country songs around at only 19 and 22 years old. Despite their age, through interviews and their songs you can tell that they have an immense appreciation for the artists that came before them. They first gained some attention back in 2008 when they posted a YouTube video of themselves covering Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" out in the woods. The video (here) now has almost 3.5 million views and led to a performance of the song with Fleet Foxes. Their song "Emmylou" pays tribute to Emmylou Harris, June Carter, Gram Parsons, and Johnny Cash in what is one of my favorite songs of the year. The song "Blue" shows off their lyric writing abilities with painful lines like "The only man you ever loved / you thought was gonna marry you / died in a car accident when he was only 22 / Then you just decided love wasn't for you / And every year since then has proved it to be true." The album was produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and features his fellow bandmate Conor Oberst on the last track, "King Of The World." The album was released in January, and I immediately fell in love with it. Sometimes having almost a year with new music coming out every week can make an album fade from consciousness a bit and lose some of its initial excitement, but I kept coming back to this one over and over and plan to continue doing so in the future.

It wouldn't be right to talk about all of these amazing albums without sharing them with you. Like the past three installments of my countdown, below is a way to stream songs from each of today's albums. And if you use Spotify, you can find a playlist with all of the albums I listed (minus I think two which weren't on there) in order for easy access by clicking here. I hope you enjoyed the countdown and possibly learned of a new band or two. I look forward to pouring over other best of lists in the next few days and taking a break from 2012 music to listen to some other things too.

Feel free to tell me what you think either in the comments or by email listed on the right hand side of the page. Which albums did I leave off that you would have included in your list? Does anybody else have a list of their favorites they'd like to share?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (6-15)

We're getting down to the end now. Here are links if you missed 31-50 and 16-30.

15) Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again

Michael Kiwanuka is a British soul singer born to Ugandan parents. He's only 24 years old, but you wouldn't know it from listening to his music. Usually when I listen to soul music, I prefer something a bit more up-tempo but after giving Kiwanuka's smooth soul some time to settle, I really came around to it. Like JD McPherson's album that I touched upon in one of my earlier posts, "Home Again" has a timeless feel to it. The album seems like a perfect album to have on vinyl and throw on the turntable for a lazy afternoon around the house. If you're looking for a couple tracks to check out "Tell Me A Tale" and "I'll Get Along" are favorites of mine.

14) Shovels & Rope - O' Be Joyful

This album can just knock you off your feet. Shovels & Rope is South Carolina based married duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. The two had performed as solo artists before joining forces as Shovels & Rope. The album contains country, bluegrass, folk, and more than enough raw energy to spread around to anyone in a several mile radius. Hearst's voice is outstanding and really drives the songs forward, but it's certainly not the only positive element here. I'd love to get a chance to see one of their live shows if it's anything near as rocking and near-chaotic as the album can sound at times. I love the live intro to one song in which a bartender tells people to shut up while the band is playing. I'd pay that guy to perform that duty at every bar show I attend. The album isn't all unbridled energy. The duo also manages to pull it back from time to time with a slower song, giving the listener and the band a bit of a breather, and they do that well too. If we're all lucky, Shovels & Rope will continue making music together for many years. I recommend listening to "O' Be Joyful" and "Birmingham" but only if you're willing to have them stuck in your head for the foreseeable future.

13) Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

Speaking of women with great voices, few can hang in there with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. The way she just unleashes howls after a build-up in songs like "Hold On" is amazing. She doesn't hold back. I saw the band live at Sasquatch, and she can really command a stage even in a wide open outdoor venue. With all this praising of Howard, I should note that this is nothing against the rest of the band. It wouldn't work with just her voice, and the guitars, drums, and keyboard that fill in around her are exceptional as well. There is an absolute boatload of potential in front of this band. The album contains southern rock, soul, and blues. I think the only thing preventing me from rating this higher is that it still feels like they have room to improve. Some of the songs are just so great that anything merely really good seems like unfulfilled promise. "Hold On" is in the discussion for best song of the year, and "I Ain't The Same" and "You Ain't Alone" (and bonus track "Heavy Chevy") are all really great too.

12) Father John Misty - Fear Fun

Father John Misty is the newest moniker of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman. He claims that this album came about when he took off on a road trip with a boatload of mushrooms and nowhere to go. He ended up writing a novel, which turned into the narrative voice that became Father John Misty and led to this album. The album is a mix of elements from Fleet Foxes with a more country sound added to it. Where Fleet Foxes' songs felt carefully orchestrated and precise, Father John Misty sounds a little more carefree. There are several really good songs on the album, but "Well, You Can Do It Without Me" is my personal favorite. Lines like "If you want a page written bout you in the book / but you need a food tester cause you curse the cook / I'll take some wine, but you can dine without me" show off his lyrical chops. "Nancy From Now On" and "I'm Writing A Novel" are other favorite songs of mine.

11) Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo, Magellan

I wrote quite a bit about this album when it came out back in July. Like I said at the time, it's hard to figure out where to begin discussing "Swing Lo, Magellan." It can best be described as experimental indie rock, but that doesn't tell you too much. While lead singer David Longstreth does his thing, the rest of the band fills in with all sorts of sounds around him. Amber Coffman and company use their voices more like an instrument than would typically be the case of background singers. The band also incorporates a good deal of hand clapping along with more traditional instrumentation. It's just a really interesting album while still being their most accessible to date. "Dance For You" and "Unto Caesar" are my two favorite songs, but the single "Gun Has No Trigger" may be most representative of their sound.

10) Suburban Dirts - Suburban Dirts

Suburban Dirts is probably the least well known of the groups on this list (somehow their Facebook page has fewer than 300 likes), but for my money they belong right here with all of the others. They are a folk-rock (or "trailer trash country blues" by their own description) group from England seemingly a mix between someone like Deer Tick and and mid-60s Bob Dylan. I was first turned onto the band by a review on the blog Listen Before You Buy back in February. Since then I've found myself gravitating to this album over and over and over again especially when I'm on the road. Like Shovels & Rope, the songs burst with seemingly more energy than they can contain and often times feel right on the brink of falling apart, but the musicians are all too good to let that happen. Songs like "Stuck On You" show that the band isn't a one trick pony by slowing things down and getting a bit sentimental amidst the controlled chaos around it. Seriously this album is just so good and should be heard by many more people. I imagine Suburban Dirts would be wonderful to see in person, but as I'm stuck on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean, for now I'll just have to settle for the exceptional consolation prize of having this album to listen to whenever I want.

9) Heartless Bastards - Arrow

Heartless Bastards certainly know how to rock, but their name shouldn't scare you off. Apparently the band chose the name after seeing it as an incorrect possible answer to the question "What is the name of Tom Petty's backing band?" on one of those bar trivia consoles. Fans of the wonderful show Friday Night Lights may remember this band as the one that coach's daughter and Saracen went to go see. That's really neither here nor there though. This has been a great year for fans of strong female vocalists because like Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope lead singer Erika Wennerstrom has a phenomenal voice and she doesn't hold back. "Parted Ways" and "Skin and Bones" are my two favorite tracks, but the album is solid from beginning to end. I remember listening to their previous album a bit when it came out, but this record just stuck in my mind. Any time I need a bit of energy this is one of the first albums I think to turn to.

8) Hip Hatchet - Joy and Better Days

Hip Hatchet is the newest addition to this list. Despite the excellent bloggers at We Listen For You singing the praises of this album for months, I didn't get around to listening to it until a few days ago. Now I'm mad at myself that I've missed out on months of listening to this album. Hip Hatchet is the recording name of Portland based folk musician Philippe Bronchtein. It's hard (for me anyway) to put quite in to words why this album works so well, what makes it stand out in an overwhelming sea of seemingly similar artists. We Listen For You did it much better in their review, so I'll just link that here and highly recommend reading it (and learning a little about Nick Drake in the process). I felt weird putting an album I've only heard a few times and only been aware of for a week or so this high on my countdown, but honestly I think if I redid the list in a week or a month Hip Hatchet would be even higher. I know a lot of people don't spend money on music anymore, but I hope people can make an exception for artists like Hip Hatchet who don't have the backings of a big label behind them but are still making amazingly beautiful art. If you like the album, consider buying it here and you can pick up an old EP for free as a reward.

7) Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is An Animal

When I first heard the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men back in February, I had seen the name around but didn't know much about them. Now it seems like the band is everywhere, but that doesn't surprise me too much given just how darn good their album is. "Little Talks" is probably my favorite song of 2012. I just can't find any fault with the song. It's wonderful. Fortunately, the band had more in them than just that song and almost the whole album is wonderful. "Mountain Sound" and "King and Lionheart" are two more of my favorites. When I make a list like this it is always a snapshot in time and I wonder how much things will change. How many of these albums will I still be listening to in two years or five years or more? It's hard to say because a lot can change, but this is one album that I can see myself continuing to play for quite some time without tiring of it. I don't often care for live videos over recorded songs, but something about this song and setting is just so perfect. Take a second to check it out. 

6) Hayden Calnin - City EP

This year has been an incredible year for music in my opinion. Part of that is artists like Of Monsters and Men, Alabama Shakes, and Michael Kiwanuka that have achieved some considerable level of success. However, a lot of it is these smaller artists that I've found that haven't yet made it big (but hopefully for their sakes someday will). Like Hip Hatchet and Suburban Dirts, the Australian Hayden Calnin has been an artist that I just couldn't believe more people weren't listening to when I first heard him. This is the only EP in my top 50 albums because usually there just isn't enough music there for me to rank it over something two or three times as long that's also good. However, Hayden Calnin made the most of his five tracks and I not only couldn't leave it off the list, I couldn't help but include it this high. It practically is an LP in my music library because it's almost impossible for me to just listen to it once through without immediately starting it right back up at the beginning.  Honestly, the only thing I'm holding against this album is that it's only an EP. That's it. You can read what I wrote about the album previously here. Meanwhile I'm going to zone out to this amazing EP. You can click here to join me in doing the same.

Only five albums to come. Feel free to share any predictions for what they may be in the comments. I'd love to hear guesses. Here's another mix of songs off today's albums to keep you busy until the last five are posted tomorrow. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (16-30)

Today is the second installment of my favorite albums of the year. If you missed part one, you can find it here. And I should mention that if you're looking to buy some new music, now is a great time to do it. Quite a few of these albums (and plenty of others) are currently $5.00 to download on Amazon. Back to the countdown now though.

30) Family of the Year - Loma Vista

I'm currently back in Minnesota on winter break from school. My car radio has been constantly tuned to The Current since I've been back, which has reminded me just how amazing it is to have good local radio. One of the rewards has been the discovery of California based indie folk group Family Of The Year. Their whole album is good, but the track "Hero" was the first one I heard, and it is still by far my favorite. I'm excited to spend more time listening to that song and this album now.

29) Purity Ring - Shrines

Purity Ring is an electronic dream pop duo from Canada. Megan James' vocals combine with Corin Roddick's electronic backing into something pretty fantastic. "Shrines" was the band's debut album, and they've set the bar high for themselves now. "Fineshrine" is my favorite song of the bunch, but there are a few gems in there.

28) Meursault - Something For The Weakened

Meursault is the second Scottish indie rock group to make this list (although they have a more lo-fi sound that toes the line between indie folk than Admiral Fallow). This is Meursault's third album, and in my opinion their strongest and most consistent output. They've had songs I've enjoyed in the past, but this is the first album that hooked me the whole way through. "Dull Spark" is one of only a handful of songs that I felt compelled to obsessively listen to for a period of time this year. "Flittin'" and "Lament For A Teenage Millionaire" are other highlights. The band also gets bonus points from me for naming themselves after the main character in Albert Camus' "The Stranger" and for what is one of my favorite album titles of the year.

27) Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

As the son of Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle has music in his blood (and in his middle name, which was named for Townes Van Zandt). He seems to churn out music at a pretty good rate, but the quality of it doesn't suffer from this fact. "Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now" is yet another solid Americana output from Earle in a career with several of them. Unfortunately, he lost out to Fiona Apple for the award of longest album title in 2012. The title track and "Memphis in the Rain" are two of my favorite songs. 

26) Polica - Give You The Ghost

I would love this Polica album even if the band wasn't from Minneapolis, but it makes me happy that they are. The band released their album on Valentine's Day, and they seem to have garnered a good deal of attention since then. I saw them perform on a side stage at Sasquatch this summer, and even out in Washington state they had a pretty good sized crowd. The music is electronic indie rock with R&B elements, but the highlight is definitely lead singer Channy Leaneagh's vocals. Like Purity Ring, this is a really strong debut, and I'm excited to see what Polica does in the future. The lead track "Amongster" is my favorite track.

25) The xx - Coexist

The xx already had their strong debut album back in 2009, which left them with the task of trying to follow it up this year. "Coexist" showed that the British band's debut wasn't a fluke. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, they have just further nailed the sparse indie pop sound that we previously heard. They are evidence that a little sound can go a long way.

24) Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't

"I Know What Love Isn't" is Jens Lekman's first album in five years. I had sort of lost track of him as an artist over that time, but this album put the Swedish singer-songwriter back on my radar and then some. He has always had a way with words, and this album is no different. This album contains lines like "You don't learn to get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully" from "The World Moves On" and "Jennifer called, told me about her latest admirer / I said, Someone should make a pamphlet called / So You Think You're In Love With Jennifer?" from "Become Someone Else's". I recommend just sitting down and listening to the album repeatedly to pick it all up. Few artists can bring a smile to my face with a turn of phrase quite like him. This album has rekindle of my love of Jens Lekman's music and has me going back to old albums as well. I guess the five years was worth the wait.

23) The Lumineers - The Lumineers

The Lumineers took the music world by storm with their folk. Their debut album earned them Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Americana Album. Usually I don't see eye to eye with the Grammy voters, but they nailed it with this one. What makes their success even more inspiring is that they did it on the indie record label Dualtone. Instead of a major label forcing the music down people's throats, their success was earned through good old fashioned word of mouth. Whether you know it or not, you've probably heard the song "Ho Hey" somewhere. "Flowers In Your Hair" is a great sub-2:00 song if you're just really stretched for time.

22) Joe Pug - The Great Despiser

I've written about Joe Pug multiple times before on this blog, but that's because he's one of the best folk artists around today. One day he'll get the recognition he deserves. I was fortunate to be able to see him live a few months ago, and he puts on a great live show too. He (or more accurately the venue) had been having issues with the monitors most of the night, so when he came back for an encore, he performed a really great unplugged song. He has relied on word of mouth to spread his music, originally by giving away a five song CD for free, and now by doing the same with a download. I've posted it at the bottom of this post if you're interested. If you're checking out the new album, I recommend "Deep Dark Wells" and "The Great Despiser."

21) Good Old War - Come Back As Rain

This album came out in March and was one of my most played albums this Spring. Maybe it's because of this, but it feels like a perfect Spring album to me. The songs are so full of energy and what feels like optimism (without listening to the lyrics too much). The band derived their name from the last name's of the three members GOODwin, arnOLD, and schWARtz. I love the creative naming. While I haven't listened to this album as much lately, maybe I will more once the sun comes out a bit. "Calling Me Names" and "Better Weather" are both great songs.

20) Hospitality - Hospitality

This is the debut album for Hospitality, a New York band signed to Merge Records. The only reason I initially listened to the album was that Merge has such a fantastic track record of putting out great music. You can get the label's Spring sampler here, which includes a track by Hospitality. If you're curious to learn more about the best (in my opinion) label in the country, this book by John Cook was a really good read. I'm starting to realize that there are quite a few debut albums in this group. There's lots to look forward to in the future from these bands. "Betty Wang" and "Friends of Friends" (which features a music video with Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development) are my two favorite tracks from the album.

19) Stars - The North

Stars is an indie pop group from Canada who has been making music for almost a dozen years. I listened to this band A TON back when I was in undergrad (along with Death Cab For Cutie). I haven't listened to them much in the last few years, but "The North" may bring me back to their music. "Set Yourself On Fire" remains one of my favorite albums of all-time, so it's hard to imagine anything matching that, but this album is plenty good on its own. Few bands can work with two lead singers as well as Stars does with Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. Check out the track "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It."

18) Lord Huron - Lonesome Dreams

We're really getting into the excellent albums at this point. "Lonesome Dreams" is an album I find myself returning to pretty often. The California band plays indie folk music but with some more atmospheric and dreamlike qualities. There are a lot of layered elements that all come together to make something that just sticks itself in my mind long after I'm done listening. If you're looking for a couple tracks to check out, "Time To Run" and "She Lit A Fire" are a good place to start. Lord Huron seems to be still relatively unknown, but I hoping that changes once enough people hear this album.

17) The Tallest Man On Earth - There's No Leaving Now

The last two Tallest Man On Earth albums finished third and first on my end of year lists. That is mostly an indication of just how high the Swedish folk singer-songwriter, Kristian Matsson set the bar. This album wasn't quite up to that standard for me, but it is still excellent. I've come to the conclusion over the years that The Tallest Man On Earth is the only artist I know who is incapable of writing a bad song. Some songs are better than others, but I'm not sure he's released a single song that just makes me shrug and I don't enjoy. That is quite a feat to span over three full length albums and two EPs. I mentioned that Joe Pug is one of the best folk artists around, and I think that he and The Tallest Man On Earth (and M. Ward) headline that group. "Little Brother" with its heartbreaking lyrics and "1904" are my favorite tracks from the album.

16) Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur

Kathleen Edwards released her first album in 2003. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to checking her music out until this year when I heard she had been dating Justin Vernon of Bon Iver who helped produce this record. I suppose it's better to stumble upon her music now than never. This album is fantastic. The Canadian singer-songwriter has a great voice, excellent lyrics, and songs that match that quality. The lyrics focus a lot on her divorce and are immensely personal because of that. On the opening track she sings "I'm moving to America... it's an empty threat" and on "Change The Sheets" she announces "I want to lie in the cracks of this lonely road / I can fill in the blanks every time you don't phone / here is the truth, I swear it used to be fun / go ahead run, run, run, run, run, run." I imagine I'll return to this album quite a bit in the future, and I'm already having second thoughts about not ranking it higher.

Like yesterday, here's a sampling of some of my favorite songs from these albums followed by the free Joe Pug download I promised above.


Friday, December 28, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (31-50)

Each year this list seems to get bigger and bigger. Last year I ranked 40 albums, 30 the year before, 20 the year before that, and 10 the first time I felt the need to put virtual pen to virtual paper to make an end of year list. Next year someone needs keep me in check and make sure I don't go up to 60. But with that being said, 2012 was a fantastic year for music. I keep thinking I ought to be able to move some of the albums on this list further up but then I see what's above them and realize how I put them there in the first place.

I mentioned it last year, but this list is really nothing more than a snapshot in time of my personal tastes. This thing has been changing over the last couple weeks and I'm guessing if I remade the list a week or two from now it would be different then too. In regards to the albums in today's post, they could probably be rearranged in almost any order and I wouldn't have too much problem with that. For whatever reason they didn't get pushed into the top 30, but there is some really good music in here. So without further ado, here's the first installment of my favorite albums of the year list. Enjoy!

50) Yellow Ostrich - Strange Land

Yellow Ostrich is a New York (by way of Appleton, Wisconsin) based indie rock band with some electronic elements. "Marathon Runner" is a definite highlight from this album.

49) Elliott Brood - Days Into Years

Elliott Brood is a Canadian alt-country group. Technically this album was released in Canada last year, but it didn't come across my radar until it was re-released this year, so I'm counting it. "If I Get Old" and "Northern Air" are my two favorite tracks.

48) Dr. John - Locked Down

My music knowledge ego took a bit of a hit when I didn't know who Dr. John was before listening to this record. He's 72 years old and a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but somehow he had slipped under my radar. Regardless, he put out a really solid rock / funk / blues / etc record. I didn't discover this record till recently, but "Revolution" and "Getaway" are early favorite tracks.

47) Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts In Snow

Admiral Fallow are a Scottish indie rock group. They join Frightened Rabbit, Meursault, and others in what is a really strong group of indie rock bands out of Scotland. "The Paper Trench" and "Guest of the Government" were two of my favorite tracks.

46) Bahamas - Barchords

Bahamas is the recording name of Finnish-Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen. I'm not really too sure how to describe his music which combines rock, folk, and pop elements. "Okay Alright I'm Alive" was one of my most played songs all year. For whatever reason I seem to enjoy individual tracks more than the album as a whole, but there are plenty of those tracks to enjoy.

45) Rocky Votolato - Television of Saints

Seattle based singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato has been churning out music since the mid nineties and he rarely misfires. Suicide Medicine is still one of my all-time favorite albums, but if you've enjoyed his last few albums, you'll enjoy this one (which he financed through Kickstarter) as well. "Little Spring" is a good track to introduce yourself to if you don't know Rocky Votolato.

44) Ben Kweller - Go Fly A Kite

Ben Kweller isn't quite as old as Rocky Votolato, but he's been making music for about as long (aided by recording an album with Radish at the age of 13). I still have a soft spot for his 2009 country album "Changing Horses", but his latest is more in line with his career before that. There are several catchy power-pop songs to enjoy like "Full Circle" and "Jealous Girl".

43) Japandroids - Celebration Rock

This album by Canadian indie rockers Japandroids took me a while to come around to, but consider me converted now. This strays a bit from what I usually listen to, but the anthemic chorus of "The House That Heaven Built" is just too much to resist.

42) The Water - Scandals And Animals

This is not the easiest band to Google. I forget where I heard about the band, but they are a post-rock duo from Baltimore similar in style to Explosions in the Sky (or at least to me and my limited post-rock knowledge). Their album can be downloaded from Bandcamp for only $5, or you can pick up a post-rock cover of "Auld Lang Syne" for free off their Elf Storage EP. I mean you have to be at least a little curious to hear that, right?

41) Passion Pit - Gossamer

Passion Pit didn't disappoint with their follow-up to Manners. The first several tracks are my favorites, so I suggest starting there.

40) Sea of Bees - Orangefarben

Like Bahamas, Sea of Bees is a single person disguised by a band's name. I just discovered her album pretty recently after it popped up on another end of year list, but there is something infectious about her sunny sounding indie folk.

39) Port St. Willow - Holiday

This self released album is very reminiscent of fellow New York indie rockers The Antlers. Both artists make music that is best consumed album by album. While a song or two may stick out as particularly exceptional, the whole album flows together so well and creates a musical haven perfect for crawling into and losing yourself in for an hour or so at a time.

38) JD McPherson - Signs & Signifiers

JD McPherson has his roots in punk rock, but Signs & Signifiers shows him making an amazing transition to 50s style rock and roll. You could put many songs on this album amidst a mix from the 50s and few would notice a difference. "North Side Gal," "Scandalous," and "Scratching Circles" are three excellent tracks to start with.

37) Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon

Two Door Cinema Club are an Irish indie rock band that I somehow hadn't really listened to much. Their music is pretty danceable, which makes it easy to get into right away. The lead single "Sleep Alone" hooked me right away.

36) Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

Sharon Van Etten melds folk and rock elements along with fantastic lyrics. "Serpents" is my favorite track, featuring the line "you enjoy sucking on dreams" that gets me every time. I've seen this album much higher on other year end lists, and if I had listened to it a bit more, it may have ended up much higher on mine too.

35) Walk The Moon - Walk The Moon

I saw them at Sasquatch and its hard to deny the energy and excitement in their music. "Anna Sun" may just be the catchiest song released this year. I'm frankly kind of surprised it didn't cross over as more of a mainstream hit.

34) Benjamin Gibbard - Former Lives

Death Cab For Cutie was one of the first bands I ever fell in love with. I'm pretty sure I listened to "Transatlanticism" more than was healthy over my first couple years of undergrad. Because of that, the band and Ben Gibbard will always have a special in my heart. Regardless, I enjoyed his first full-length album released under his own name. "Teardrop Window" and "Lily" are two of my favorite tracks.

33) Jack White - Blunderbuss

Jack White and The White Stripes are both well known by now. I never really listened to The White Stripes much, but after listening to Jack White's solo debut a few times, I think I may have to go back and check them out a bit more. Jack White clearly knows all kinds of rock.

32) The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem have put out another solid album of Springsteen-esque rock. The lead single "45" is my favorite track from the album, but if you aren't familiar with the band, do yourself a favor and go listen to their album "The '59 Sound."

31) Kelly Hogan - I Like To Keep Myself In Pain

Where to start with Kelly Hogan. She is another new discovery to me (within the past month or two), but her voice, which is a bit reminiscent of Neko Case, was the first thing to draw me into her music. Apparently she has actually worked as Neko Case's backup singer, so maybe that's not too surprising. For this album, she asked other musicians to write songs for the album. There are tracks written by Vic Chesnutt, Andrew Bird, M. Ward, and Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields. Additionally, she picked up an impressive group of studio musicians including Booker T. Jones and a drummer who has worked with Ray Charles and Paul McCartney. The end result is a pretty wonderful record that has somehow flown mostly under the radar (at least as far as I can tell).

I'll be back with #16-30 tomorrow. Until then, here are ten of my favorite songs from the albums revealed today.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Tom Waits and JD McPherson

Tom Waits in the X-Mas spirit via Anti Records' Instagram
Merry Christmas to all those who are celebrating and happy Tuesday to those who aren't. Here's a great live version of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis" in which he uses "Silent Night" as bookends for the song.

And as a bonus, here's a Christmas song that JD McPherson released this year called "Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)" that I really enjoy. Check it out below.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Devotchka with the Colorado Symphony

Yesterday while catching up on some of the music blogs I read, I came across this post from KEXP mentioning that DeVotchKa recorded a live album with the Colorado Symphony that was released in November.

For those unfamiliar with DeVotchKa (whose name comes from the Anthony Burgess novel "A Clockwork Orange"), they are a four-piece band based out of Denver, whose music is often described as gypsy rock, European folk, or something similar. A lot of this is due to the unique instrumentation they use that isn't found in most other North American bands. Because of how many different instruments and sounds they already employ, a pairing with the Colorado symphony sounds perfect.

Even if you aren't familiar with the band by name, there is a good chance that you will recognize at least one song of theirs, the incredible "How It Ends." The track has appeared in movies like "Everything Is Illuminated" and "Little Miss Sunshine", in an ad for the game "Gears of War 2", and plenty of other things. Most recently, I heard the song in the British TV show "Misfits." The song is absolutely epic sounding. While I haven't listened to the band a ton, that is a song that I could put on at any time and be happy to hear it.

You can click here to visit the KEXP post and then click the (mp3) link to hear the version of "How It Ends" with the Colorado Symphony. Below is the original version as well because you really can't listen to this song enough:

I haven't heard any of the rest of the live performance, but it is certainly intriguing. An mp3 version of the album can be purchased from Amazon. I recently got my very own turntable set up and working, so I'm tempted to buy the vinyl version. This album seems perfect for that format. Either way, the live version of "How It Ends" is worth listening to a time or twenty. Enjoy!

Interested in checking out DeVotchKa?

Band website

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Great folk/country from Indianna Dawn

Let's see if I even remember how this whole blogging thing works. This is by far the longest break I've taken since I started this blog almost two years ago. I've been working on my albums of the year list that I'll post between Christmas and New Years, but hopefully now that I'm less busy I can get a couple other posts done too.

One of my favorite artists I've discovered this year is Denmark's Indianna Dawn. The five piece band is the brainchild of Dianna Maria Doenns (likely how the band name was chosen). Along with Sweden's First Aid Kit, Indianna Dawn is pretty good evidence that the Scandinavians are giving Americans a run for their money in folk/country music making.

To date, Indianna Dawn's only album is "Somebody's Dead," which was released in September of 2011. Usually with the invention of Spotify I'll listen to an album a couple times before buying it, but this one I had to buy before even making it through one whole listen. My two favorite tracks are below. I love the harmonica on "More Than Alright". If you enjoy these tracks, it looks like you can actually stream the whole album here on Soundcloud.

And since Christmas is just around the corner, here is a video of a Christmas song that the band just posted this morning. I'm not familiar with the original, but it is a cover of a song called "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You" by Billy Squier.

Interested in checking out Indianna Dawn?

Band website