Hard to believe, but this is my 8th annual “Best of” CD. The name, as always, is German for the year (2012). If you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, it’s the German words for ‘two,’ ‘thousand,’ and ‘twelve’ mashed together. As for the contents, this list is my favorite music discovered in the past year.
1. Santo Domingo
Rodrigo y Gabriela, Area 52 (2012)
Rodrigo y Gabriela are a guitar playing duo from Mexico. They’re best known as formal metal rockers who now play acoustic guitars flamenco-style. They’ve made it into two previous “Best of” CDs, and I even wrote up a concert review once. This song, and the album it comes from, is a little different. Rather than just their normal two acoustic guitars, they added C.U.B.A, a 13-piece Cuban orchestra. The songs themselves are mostly covers from their previous albums, given a completely fresh and different sound.
2. Some Nights
Fun., Some Nights (2012)
Fun. is one of Dorinna’s discoveries of the year. They are a NYC indie pop band with a dash of Queen. Also recommended, We are Young.
Matt Nathanson, Modern Love (2011)
It makes no sense, but one thing I almost never do is buy the rest of an album after finding a good single from it. Here is an exception. Mercy by San Francisco-based singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson appeared on last year’s collection. The rest of the album was good also, especially Queen of (K)nots and this track here.
4. Breathing Underwater
Metric, Synthetica (2012)
Metric’s latest took a few listens before it burrowed into my ears, but it was worth the effort. Compared to 2009’s Fantasies album, it’s not as arena-friendly, but still catchy and fun. Also recommended: Artificial Nocturne, Speed the Collapse, Lost Kitten.
5. Here in the Deadlights
Brendan Benson, What Kind of World (2012)
Brendan Benson is the other major member of Jack White’s Raconteurs band, and he’s been on my list to check out for several years now. Also recommended: On the Fence and the rest of the What Kind of World album.
6. Gold on the Ceiling
The Black Keys, El Camino (2011)
Never really been a fan of the Black Keys, but an Amazon special convinced me to buy the album and try it out. Sometimes it can take multiple listens before I appreciate a piece of music. This song only took one.
7. Bright Lights
Gary Clark Jr., The Bright Lights EP (2011)
Gary Clark Jr. is a blues guitarist hailing from Austin. He’s been making independent recordings for awhile, but only recently got a major-label deal after performing at the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival. I’d recommend the entire EP, and I’m looking forward to hearing a just-released full-length album.
8. Bound for Glory
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Everybody’s Talkin’ (2012)
Well, now. This is interesting. In 2011, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, formed from the Derek Trucks band and Susan Tedeschi’s band, put out the Revelator album, my favorite for the year. This year they came out with a live album. My favorite song last year was Bound for Glory, and my favorite song this year is… oops. At least I’m consistent.
9. Take Me With You When You Go
Jack White, Blunderbuss (2012)
Jack White has a long history of appearing in these Best Of CDs, appearing with the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather, as well as with the Secret Sisters last year. This year he came out with a solo album, and toured with two different bands- one with female musicians and one with males. Every night he made a last-minute decision which band to use. We were lucky to see him at Red Rocks with the female group. Also recommended: I’m Shakin’ and… his entire catalog.
10. Awaiting On You All
George Harrison, Early Takes Volume 1 (2012)
In 2010 and 2011, I worked my way through the Beatles back catalog. Last year for Christmas Dorinna gave me a photo book about George Harrison. I took this as a sign that I should explore Harrison’s solo catalog as well. I started with Harrison’s 3-album classic from 1970, All Things Must Pass. I loved it, and certainly What Is Life and My Sweet Lord (one of my favorite songs of all-time) would have made it to this year’s collection if I hadn’t heard them years before. I really liked the third album of All Things Must Pass, filled with long guitar jams that sound nothing like the Beatles. My pick for the year comes off the album, but it’s not from the album. Later in the year, I picked up the recently released Early Takes Volume 1 which contains demos and early versions of old Harrison tunes. The version of Awaiting On You All lacks the strings and choir of the final version that appeared on All Things Must Pass, focusing instead on Harrison’s vocals and guitars. In this case, simple is better.
11. New Friend Jesus
Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes (2012)
Craig Finn is the lead singer of The Holdy Steady, one of our favorite bands. His solo album is definitely more mellow, but his lyrics are as quirky as always. Also recommended Apollo Baby, Honolulu Blues.
12. Rock Away Blind
Lindsey Buckingham, Seeds We Sow (2011)
Wait, is that a guitar? Lindsey Buckingham is of course one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac. He’s never stopped putting out albums, and in fact had a song on my Best of 2009 CD.
13. Get Some
Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes (2011)
I love the driving beat and haunting vocals of this song. Lykee Li is a Swedish indie pop artist.
14. Splitter Pine
DumDum Boys, Schlägers (2001)
Speaking of Scandinavia, my Norwegian friend Kjetil Nymoen gave me a handful of Norwegian rock CDs on his most recent trip to America, and they’re too good not to share. This is a greatest hits album- the single is from 1989. If you’re wondering what it means, Kjetil writes: “I am not 100% sure why Dum Dum Boys called this song Splitter Pine. When we say ‘Splitter pine gal’, it means ‘totally crazy’ or ‘maniac’.”
15. Bad Reputation (Live at MSG)
Foo Fighters with Joan Jett, (YouTube) (2011)
The quality of the recording is pretty mediocre. But- the ENERGY! Joan Jett is now in her fifties but hasn’t aged a day- still rockin’ it (and still rockin’ it with tight leather pants, in case you were wondering).
16. It’s So Easy
Paul McCartney, Rave On Buddy Holly (2011)
Rave On Buddy Holly is a tribute album put together by various artists. The first three-quarters of the song sounds like Paul McCartney doing a fairly straightforward rockabilly impersonation. And then Paul goes… Well, this is a little hard to describe in text. How about: Completely. Off. The. Rails. You can feel the spittle flying off his crazed drunken lips. All of which is strangely… fun.
Eddie Vedder, Every Mother Counts 2012 (benefit album) (2012)
This is a solo recording of a song that originally appeared on Pearl Jam’s Lost Dogs album. Take a deep breath and relax- here comes 2013.
I always have more music than I can fit on a single CD. One year I experimented with an MP3 version, but it didn’t feel right. There’s value in forcing myself down to 78 minutes. That being said, if you liked the music above, here are some other songs that I really enjoyed in 2012 (artist/album/song):
- Best Coast / The Only Place / The Only Place
- Bonnie Raitt / Slipstream / Used to Rule the World
- Bruce Springsteen / Wrecking Ball / American Land
- Chickenfoot / Big Foot / Big Foot
- Derek Trucks Band / Guitar Greats, Volume 1 / Cat’s Squirrel
- Emiliana Torrini / Me and Armini / Gun
- Jake Shimabukuro / Gently Weeps / While My Guitar Gently Weeps (ukulele!)
- Regina Spektor / What We Saw From the Cheap Seats / All the Rowboats
- Ryan Adams / Gold / Let it Ride
- Sean Kuti / From Africa with Fury: Rise / African Soldier