Starting off 2013…

Neneh Cherry & Thing, The (2) - The Cherry Thing

By talking about 2012.  I didn’t get around to an end-of-year post last week so here’s a couple thoughts on what I liked this year and a couple observations about some of the other “best of” lists that were out over the past few weeks.

Some of my favorite 2012 albums:

  • Cody Chestnutt, Landing On a Hundred.  A throwback to the soul late 60s and 70s, he waited ten years between albums.  The glacial pace between albums doesn’t generate the masterpiece you might think, but a thoroughly listenable album.  “That’s Still Mama” is probably my favorite song.
  • Neneh Cherry and The Thing, The Cherry Thing.  I guess I liked artists this year that went on long hiatuses (I also enjoyed the Bobby Womack album), as this was Cherry’s first album in twelve years.  Paired here with a Swedish three piece jazz outfit doing mostly covers of the likes of Iggy Pop and MF Doom, her beautiful voice is a nice counterpoint to the manic sounds of The Thing in the background.
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss.  I felt like this was what the next Black Keys record should have sounded like instead of the unfortunate El Camino (probably the biggest disappointment of the year for me).  Great riffs and catchy rhythms and White’s got an under-rated “rock” voice.
  • Neil Young, Americana.  Young covering a bunch of American standards, back with his backing band Crazy Horse.  I didn’t think this one would stick with me but it’s solid from front to back.  He also released another album, Psychedelic Pill, which I haven’t gotten to yet though the one song I have heard, the sixteen minute long “Walk Like A Giant” is epic.

Landing on a HundredA lot of the magazine and blog lists had Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange either at the top or near it, and I can’t disagree.  His ability to switch from molasses slow (e.g., “Super Rich Kids) to uptempo R&B (without being the treacly slop of Top 40 R&B) and a great voice make this one a no-brainer.  A little more puzzling was the almost universal opinion that Kendrick Lamaar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a better album than Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music.  I understand why critics like Kendrick, and I’m not saying it’s not a good album, but Killer Mike and El-P bring so much damn energy.  It reminds me of classics from Public Enemy and Ice Cube with the ferocity and great rhymes not letting up throughout the album.  I was also surprised that Beach House’s Bloom didn’t fare better in these lists.  It’s a great atmosphere album, a perfect complement to a summer afternoon.

Last thing to comment on before I leave 2012 behind.  There were a couple powerhouse songs that dominated the airwaves this year.  I think you know which one’s I’m talking about: “Call Me Maybe” (a nice earworm), “Somebody That I Used to Know” (good Peter Gabriel impression), “Gangnam Style” (ingratiating after a few listens) and “We Are Young”.  The last one kind of got lost in a lot of the discussions that focused on the first three at the end of the year, but to me it’s by far the best of the bunch.  I’ll also admit it’s the only one of these groups that I’ve heard more than their one hit, and they actually have several other legitimate good songs on Some Nights.  It’s a soaring anthem that will be the current youngsters’ “Don’t Stop Believin'” in twenty years, which ain’t a bad thing.

Leave you with another song that I liked way better than any of those pop hits:

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