Where the time has gone I still don’t quite yet know, but we’ve reached the halfway point of another year already. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly, I guess just another negative of having too much to do and never enough time to do it. But when I do have free time, music is my number one hobby. Hunting down new artists to listen to, hitting up as many concerts as my budget will allow, listening to old favorites and writing about it. And with six months now just about in the books, here are the ten releases that have blown me away in 2012.
10. Gotye, Making Mirrors (Released 1/31/12)
Yes, “Someone That I Used To Know” is reaching Adele levels of a great track being overplayed to death, but it’s still refreshing to have a song like this dominating radio over the usual pablum. But Making Mirrors is so much more than that one hit. “Eyes Wide Open” should be the next smash and the electro/reggae/hip-hop brilliance of “State Of The Art” is a must-hear.
9. Jamie Woon, Mirrorwriting (Released 1/31/12)
I’ve been all over this album since its UK release back in April of 2011 so I was thrilled to finally see a Stateside release this year. Spare me the comparisons to dubstep, this is an electronic R&B album through and through and Woon is a soulful singer delivering a fresh take on the genre.
8. Greg Laswell, Landline (Released 5/8/12)
For my money, Greg Laswell is simply one of the finest pop singer/songwriters working today. His blend of gorgeous ballads and melodic pop/rock has yet to disappoint musically, lyrically or emotionally. Landline continues to get better with each listen and there isn’t a song I’ve listened to more in 2012 than the wonderful kiss-off ballad “Another Life To Lose”.
7. Sinead O’Connor, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (Released 2/21/12)
Sinead O’Connor returned to the pop/rock format in a big way in 2012 with this bold, spiritual, profane, vulnerable work, a dazzling return to form. Set aside the controversies and focus on the music, a masterful tour through pure rock, upbeat pop and lush ballads complete with a biting, stunning remake of John Grant’s “Queen Of Denmark”. It is wonderful to have such a talent back in a big way.
6. Yppah, Eighty One (Released 4/3/12)
The best electronic release of 2012 so far, Joe Corrales Jr., recording as Yppah, mixes blissed out orchestral soundscapes with heavy beats and tons of live instrumentation. It’s no surprise he started his career as a rock musician as the music on Eighty One features a heavy dose of guitar, bass and live drums blended in with the electronic ambiance to create warm, soulful yet heavy hitting music.
5. Ben Howard, Every Kingdom (Released 4/3/12)
Another stellar 2011 UK release that thankfully saw its release this year in the U.S., singer/songwriter Ben Howard is a wizard on the acoustic guitar and a lyricist with a bright future ahead. His smoky voice calls to mind Ray LaMontagne and his lovely, melodic folk/pop should easily appeal to the Mumford & Sons loving crowd.
4. Soulsavers, The Light The Dead See (Released 5/22/12)
English production duo Rich Machin and Ian Glover recruited the legendary Dave Gahan to provide vocals for their fourth Soulsavers album and the results are magical. Orchestral, downtempo electronic with a soul combined with Gahan’s singular voice leads to one of the year’s finest releases so far.
3. Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur (Released 1/17/12)
Having boyfriend Justin Vernon of Bon Iver co-produce this album and prominently appear on it certainly helped bring some attention to Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards’ fourth album. But none of that would matter if the material wasn’t up to par. Edwards’ country/folk roots are given a new pop direction and this collection of alluring ballads and summery pop tunes is my favorite thing she has ever done.
2. The Maccabees, Given To The Wild (Released 4/24/12)
The first album of 2012 I started raving about upon its January release in the UK. Finally released in America in April, Given To The Wild has been a commercial breakthrough in their homeland for The Maccabees. Cinematic, orchestral, dramatic, melodic rock that will appeal to fans of the likes of Doves or Elbow. Imagine Coldplay if they had some balls. An amazing work from start to finish.
1. Lost In The Trees, A Church That Fits Our Needs (Released 3/20/12)
No album has touched me in 2012 like A Church That Fits Our Needs. As someone who has experienced the painful loss of loved ones all too soon, Ari Picker’s deeply personal tribute to his mother who took her own life is heartbreaking, yet uplifting. Through his loss and subsequent healing, he and his band Lost In The Trees have created a masterpiece. Awash in classically orchestrated songs, the words gorgeous and lush seem to fail the beauty of this album. An album that has moved me to tears more than once, A Church That Fits Our Needs will be tough to supplant as my Album of the Year by the time December rolls around.
MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES FOR THE SECOND HALF OF 2012
Pet Shop Boys, Elysium (Due 9/18/12)
The synth-pop legends are set to release their eleventh full length and if preview song “Invisible” is any indication they’re back in top form after the disappointment of 2009’s “Yes”. Co-produced by Andrew Dawson, best known for his work with Kanye West and Drake, I’m highly intrigued with what they’ve come up with.
Jason Lytle, Department Of Disappearance (Due in October)
The mastermind behind Grandaddy has a busy rest of 2012 ahead. For starters, there are the first shows with the reunited Grandaddy in seven years this summer as they tour the European festival route, along with select shows in their home state of California. Then promotion, and likely a tour, starts for Lytle’s second solo album on Anti- Records. Still my favorite songwriter working today.
Andy Allo, Superconductor (Due in September)
Normally, a new album from Prince’s latest female ‘muse’ is met with scoffs by yours truly. But Andy Allo is making it very clear she is anything but the next ‘Prince chick’, despite his co-writing three tracks and serving as executive producer on Superconductor. Andy released an album before meeting Prince, she clearly doesn’t need his help, but it certainly can’t hurt bring attention to her music. Nor can guest spots by Maceo Parker, the NPG and Trombone Shorty. Judging from the samples I’ve heard of three tracks, funkier than anything on Prince’s last release 20Ten, this is an associated artist release worthy of getting excited about.