This isn’t a best of list for two reasons. First, I just haven’t listened to all the great music that came out in 2012 (and yes, there was a lot of really good music released this year). And the second reasons is... well, the obvious one... It is all subjective. So here are my favorites and why:
John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
For a freshman release, this is fantastic. The grittiness of a great folk singer, with the pipes of a seasoned veteran and the hooks of a future star. Just a brilliant CD and maybe my very favorite of the year.
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
The first Springsteen CD in years that I listened to over and over again. Maybe his best writing since he reformed the band. The new songs, for the first time in years, were actually the highlights of many of his shows.
Whitehorse - Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss
Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland finally got together musically and produced a complete CD: And complete is a good word for it. For both of them, it is their best material in years. They are a dream combination and I hope neither of them has to write another breakup CD anytime soon. Gritty, powerful, earthy, rockin’ are the words I’d use to describe two of my favorite Canadians.
Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Speaking of Canadians, Kathleen has not let up on any of her CDs, although Failer may still be her best. This new one though may be her second best. With Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) at the helm, this breakup CD is more keyboard driven but more important, may be Kathleen’s most personal work. This one stayed on my CD player for a long time.
John Hiatt - Mystic Pinball
It seems to be the year of comebacks. I wasn’t a big fan of John’s last CD, but he hit this one out of the park. Great melodies and great lyrics; things we expect from Mr. Hiatt.
Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose
It’s hard to believe this is Glen’s first solo CD, but it is. And it is brilliant.
Pugwash - The Olympus Sound
It is still only available as an import, but if you are a fan of XTC or pure pop, you should check out this fantastic CD. It is another one that stayed on my CD player for a long long time.
Minnesota - Are You There
Peter Himmelman has a band again and the results of his collaborations make one of the better CDs I’ve heard all year. It’s rocking and thought provoking. How does he do it?
Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On
There were lots of political CDs this year, but maybe none better than Ani’s. This is getting redundant, but... Her best CD in years. Very accessible but packs a big punch.
Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful
The co-writer of the last 3 Alejandro Escovedo CDs, shows that he can do it all by himself. This tribute to the city by the bay is not only a great listen, but a great read. Those of us old enough recognize the references to San Francisco, but you don’t have to, to enjoy this album.
Alejandro Escovedo - Big Station
Al’s third CD with Chuck Prophet co-writing and Tony Visconti at the helm, isn’t quite as good as the first two, but it is still head and shoulders above much of what the music industry is releasing these days. Few artists can pull off three in a row like Alejandro has.
Right behind these artists are Shawn Colvin (“All Fall Down”) and Patti Smith (“Banga”) who also released their best work in years. Alabama Shakes (“Boys & Girls”) had an excellent first release but I think I like her more than the band. Time will tell. Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound were lots of fun, as was JD McPherson’s eponymous release. And finally Bonnie Raitt’s “Slipstream” reminded me of just how good a CD can sound if the production is done right. A very good CD made even better because you can crank it up and feel the clean sound as it surrounds you.
Favorite Songs of the Year
This list might change by tomorrow, but as of today these were some of my favorite songs of the year:
Glen Hansard - Maybe Not Tonight
John Fullbright - Daydreamer (It was really hard to just pick one from this CD)
Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own
Audra Mae - The Real Thing
Whitehorse - Achilles’ Desire
Ry Cooder - Mutt Romney Blues
Todd Snider - In The Beginning
Kathleen Edwards - Change the Sheets
Pugwash - Here we go ‘round Again
Peter Himmelman - Ash and Chickenwire