The end of the year is the one time on the music industry calendar when the critics take center stage, as best-of lists flood the Internet. While performers become either the objects of affection or the cause of disappointment each December, PopMatters is giving the artists a chance to play critic, asking them to let us in on the albums, songs, musical moments, and whatever else (President Obama’s re-election, Mars Curiosity Rover, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, anyone?) that struck their fancy in 2012. What you’ll see is a broad range of favorites—some echoing the critics, but many not—as well as a good dose of holiday camaraderie among peers.
Well…as far as I’m concerned, 2012 was the “Year of the Great Piano-Songwriter-Weirdos putting out records like BAM BAM BAM all in a row.”
Regina Spektor kicked it off in spring with What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, which ranks as my favorite Spektor outing since Soviet Kitsch. Even though she hasn’t stipped down on the production totally, she stripped back, and that was enough to re-win me. I was an early Regina-Adopter—she toured with the Dolls and all, and I fell in love with her solo piano sound. Every album after that…lost me a little more. This one manages to combine produced-Regina with old-skool batshit-Regina and get the alchemy right. SOLD! Standout track: “Oh Marcello”. That opening piano riff, condensed to sound like it’s coming out of a pasta-sauce-crusted 1941 kitchen-table-top radio in the kitchen of an insane Italian grandmother is just…perfection. LOOP IT! and BAM.
Then came Fiona Apple’s new record. I’ve always been in awe of this lady. She be what she be. She also keeps winding up in my atmosphere, she got arrested for hash (wheee!) and has to cancel her Austin show the day after we played Austin; she just canceled a tour because she’s going to say with her beloved, dying dog…and wrote a letter to her fans which reflected the inside of my soul, while I’m also dealing with a sick, sick friend and the collision of friendship and schedules. I found her first few albums harder to get into, but then I fell bam-flat in love with Extraordinary Machine. This new one The Idler Wheel yayayaayayayayaya might top that one—the chick just knows how to write a song. This stripped-down format for her is just fucking perfect because the girl has WORDS and can WAIL, and as far as I’m concerned, anything that gets in the way of that can fuck right off. I wanna hear her sing her poems right in my face with a minimum of fanfare. Just a little boking on the piano serves me just fine. Standout track: “Every single night”. Most Bizarre Earworm of the century. BAM.
Then Ben Folds released his epic “The Sound of the Life of the Mind”. I wasn’t totally nuts about Ben’s last album Way to Normal, and I couldn’t put my finger on why…I just wanted more Ben. I felt like he was being too silly and holding out on me. And then he sends THIS shit through the pipe. Holy fuck, the man is spilling some soul here, and it was like the antidote to everything I’d ever been missing from a Ben Folds album. I’ve been playing the song “Draw a Crowd” during my pre-show mix every night on tour for the crowd, and there’s usually a bunch of Ben Folds devotees out there screaming along with the chorus, which has to be the most brilliant chorus EVER WRITTEN: “Ohhhh / If you’re feeling small / And you can’t draw a crowd / Draw dicks on a wall.” How can you not just want to give Ben Folds the biggest high five ever? Other standout track: “Erase Me”, in which Ben even goes a little cabaret and pounds the fuck out of his keys just like we like. BAM.
I’m also fond of the new piano-based Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra record Theatre Is Evil...but I’m not going to get all Fitty Cent on your ass. But still, that’s four BAMS, if you trust that my album was also decent.
ALL HAIL BOB
ALL HAIL PIANO-DESTORYERS
2013 will be the year of the lute
2012 was a big year for Amanda Palmer, making headlines for crowdsourcing over $1.2 million to help her create her latest album Theatre Is Evil. Palmer is one of PopMatters’ Artists of the Year and Theatre Is Evil ranked #44 on PopMatters’ list of best albums of 2012.
Peaking Lights released a new album Lucifer (Mexican Summer) in June 2012.
Pearl and the Beard
Emily Hope Price
Pearl and the Beard released its Prodigal Daughter EP (Family Records) in March 2012.
Dent May, Do Things: He is a pop genius
Django Django, Django Django: Talking Heads meets Devo
Los Saicos, Wild Teen Punk from Peru: From 1965, but rediscovered this year!
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Man on Fire: Better than the first album
Grimes, Visions: Hipster electro…loving it
Atlas Sound, Logos: From 2009, but discovered this year
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas: Classic and good
Beach House, Bloom: Space pop
Kanaku y el Tigre, Caracoles: Peruvian folk
Deerhoof, Breakup Song: Is there anything more poppish and weird than Deerhoof?
Francois Peglau came out with The Imminent Failure of Francois Peglau in 2011.
Pomegranates’ Isaac Karns
Favorite Albums Released in 2012:
Favorite Albums Discovered in 2012:
Favorite Books Read in 2012:
Favorite Desserts of 2012:
Pomegranates put out Heaven on Modern Outsider Records in June 2012.
1. Angel Olsen, Half Way Home
2. Melody’s Echo Chamber, Melody’s Echo Chamber
3. Damon Albarn, Dr. Dee
4. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
5. Chromatics, Kill for Love
6. Niki and the Dove, Instinct
7. The Mynabirds, Generals
8. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
9. The xx, Coexist
10. King Tuff, King Tuff
Matt Pond’s upcoming album The Lives Inside the Lines of Your Hand (BMG) will come out on February 5, 2013.