Everett’s “Top 12 Albums of 2012”

As the year begins to wind down and we look ahead on the work we have for 2013, all of us at TheBlueIndian.com want to extend our sincere thanks to each of you who have supported us in what marks our fourth year as “Georgia’s Indie Music Hub.” Some of us are newer than others, and we’ve expanded to not only have a close focus on music in Georgia, but to also expose our readers across the globe to the incredible music scenes throughout the Southeast. This site exists because we love what we do, and while our families, work, and personal lives limit us in certain ways, each of us are grateful for your attention. We asked each of our staff to compile a list of their personal favorite releases from 2012 for our year-end features. Since each of us have different preferences, we felt individual lists would be the best way to give maximum exposure to the bands we’ve grown to love. We hope you’ll take the time to listen to these artists and appreciate you feedback. Happy New Year! – TheBlueIndian.com

Everett Verner‘s “Top 12 Albums of 2012”

12. Cherub – MoM & DaD

Clever lyrics, extreme pace changes, and tons of impractical suggestions on how to live your life make this album stand out. Seemingly incapable of real shame, MoM & DaD keeps your moving and guessing what’s next while popping in some softer riffs throughout. Vacillating between R&B and party music, tracks like “La Casa Del Obispo” show some range in style that finds Cherub sounding similar to groups like Miike Snow. This second LP from this young duo is a really fun piece of work, assuming you can get past (embrace?) the misogyny in songs like “Xoxo”, the interesting life lessons of “Monogamy”, or the straight out rave fueled peer pressures of “Doses & Mimosas”. If so, then you will certainly enjoy this party album.

 

11. Ponderosa – Pool Party

The boys from Ponderosa shifted their sound from a southern rock similar to Blackberry Smoke to this more acid rock sound more reminiscent of My Morning Jacket. Thankfully, no one is wearing fur covered boots in Ponderosa…yet. Pool Party starts with the slower paced and dreamy exploratory track “For Here I am Born” that ratchets up at the end to spill into the following four tracks, highlighting how much these guys have grown up in the brief time since Moonlight Revival. The album is accentuated by one my personal favorite tracks of 2012, “Navajo”. Make no mistake; the entire album is beautiful and if you enjoy it as much as I do, you will be surprised to find yourself at the end of Pool Party when album finisher “Cold Hearted Man” leaves you content and quick to hit replay. A cacophony of harmonies and brilliant song writing make Pool Party acceptable no matter how cold it gets outside.

10. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

Indie music demi-god David Byrne teams up with indie heroine St. Vincent for this brass based pop album. The project is fun from the start as the horns kick it off and the harmonies playfully bounce around them. While I try to keep my childhood bitterness towards Byrnes for ending The Talking Heads, I have no problems with this project he did with St. Vincent. Not compositionally mind boggling, Love This Giant makes me imagine a much younger Byrne playing alongside the gorgeous St. Vincent as they harmonize and swap solos that makes this eccentric pairing work well. From the early bee-bopping horns and off kilter vocal harmonies in “Who”, the record cruises the whole way through and makes me want to watch True Stories, then drive a convertible around Texas while listening to this on loop.

9. Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon

This Northern Irish 3-piece made a pretty solid impression with their 2010 debut LP, Tourist History, but their follow up, Beacon, steps up the pace. I’m all about groups like Passion Pit and fun., but I find myself usually only liking a couple tracks on their albums, and when it gets down to what chamber/dance pop music that I end up stuck hearing on repeat in my brain-player, this album occasionally gets stuck on loop. With catchy opener “Next Year”, to the louder ballad aptly named “Wake Up”, groovy and whimsical “Sun”, the first single “Sleep Alone”, and the standout “Someday”, this album has extremely addictive synth and drum riffs accentuated by melodic vocals and consistent nasty guitar riffs. Beacon is a wonderfully refreshing album in a genre that is too oft pigeonholed by blockbuster singles.

8. Diamond Rugs – S/T

Get a beer (Coors or Coors Light for this ride), smoke some cigarettes or at least be near someone smoking cigarettes, and play this album until you can figure out which of the three front men are singing each song. Then, email me when you figure it out because I find the assault from Deer Tick’s James MacCauley, Black Lips’ Ian St. Pe`, and Dead Confederate’s Hardy Morris to be equally confusing and enchanting. Recorded in three days, completely analog, this group of super
musicians (they dislike the “supergroup” moniker) also includes the brilliant Steve Berlin of Los Lobos boys, Deer Tick’s Robbie Caldwell, and drummer Bryan Dufrese from Six Finger Satellite. The combination is stellar and takes me back to when rock’n’roll was a theme more than just a music genre or focused equally on music, hair, and spandex bulges (though we can all dream right?). With quip-y references like “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster” being dropped in
“Gimmie a Beer” and chortle inducing affirmations in songs like “Call Girl Blues” and “Hungover and
Horny”, this album just gets me, or at least the me I pretend to be on the internet.

7. Royal Thunder – CVI

While also a throwback to a different time in rock’n’roll, CVI sounds nothing like Diamond Rugs. It rocks heavily, in all the right places, easily pushing towards the metal side of the rock scale, reminiscent of Alice in Chains in sound and vibe. As soon as the onslaught that is the opener “Parsonz Curse” starts, I decided it was time to cut holes in my pants and buy something made of leather with spikes in it. The highlights come in the longer tracks like the aforementioned opener (6:58), the spine chilling “Shake and Shift” (9:14), face-melting “Blue” (9:30), and the more droney “Drown” (8:19). Did I mention the smoking hot rocker chick, Mlny Parsonz, who fronts the band? Mlny Parsonz is so bad ass that she only lets “sometimes vowels” in her first name, and I hear she carries a bass that is so drenched in rock’n’roll-goddessness that when Chuck Norris tried to hold it, he dropped it more than Skrillex (see what I did there?). Ultimately, this is the best new heavy album I’ve come across in ten years and I’m terrified of the front woman, so they’re definitely onto something here.

6. Grizzly Bear – Shields

While Shields drips melancholy, the sadness is only brief. The album sticks to the standard sonic experiment that fans have come to expect from Grizzly Bear while also containing some solid hooks that allow for tracks like “Yet Again” and opening track “Sleeping Ute” making their sound more tangible for an average listener to be brought in. Shields is an excellent follow up to Grizzly Bear’s 2009 Veckatimest and really rounds out what has to be considered a step forward
in composition as they meld sounds much more fluidly highlighted in tracks like gun-shy. As always, the lyrics are solid and evoke similar emotions to the music backing it creating a thought-provoking sense of wistful excitement that always sounds like it is about to break out into something more. All around, Shields incredible album that really steps up the quality of sound that we should start expecting from these less pop-driven indie bands.

5. Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful

Married duo Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent put out their first album under the moniker Shovels & Rope, built off of their earlier collaborated album Shovels & Rope. Hailing from Charleston, this couple plays, as alluded to in “Birmingham”, “two beat up drums and two old guitars” and makes simple rhythmic beats to go along with their vocally driven songs. The lyrics are all heavily influenced by their lives on the road and living in the South East. Carrie’s voice has the ability to knock you out and pull you in in a mesmerizing sense that requires rare raw talent. Michael also has some serious chops as a vocalist, but he largely sings
as a complimentary harmonizer or backing to his wife. Songs like “Hail Hail” and “Tickin’ Bomb” showcase some additional explorations of Southern music as they add in some New Orleans
sounding brass pieces to beef up their more typical simple sound. O’ Be Joyful is aptly named as
the album sounds and feels like a couple happily singing to each other, audiences optional, but encouraged.

4. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game

Opening with title track “Out of the Game”, Rufus showcases his ability to draw from the likes of Billy Joel or Elton John as he uses some clever lyrics to describe a young person who is “Bout to sleep with a sea of men” and who is “Wearin’ somethin’ from God knows where.” The imagery he pulls off with this, and the majority of the album, evokes a feeling of a time past in music history
where soaring vocals and groovy sounding percussion and bass melt into a sweet and pleasing ear candy. In his personal life, Rufus was engaged to his partner, which is a clear motivation for his lyrics being very objectively observant of life around him. “Montauk”, a dreamy lullaby sounding track that Rufus wrote to his daughter about coming to live with he and his partner in Montauk gives the sense that Rufus is in an extremely content place in his life, and in so sticking with the theme of the album title, by giving us another play on what “game” Rufus is done playing. A passionate album that is pleasing from beginning to end, he is clearly still at the top of his music writing game.

3. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

I’m not an enormous hip-hop/rap fan when you get down to it, but this album sticks out because it hits so hard. Mike sounds like he’s ready to party and he most certainly has something on his chest that has to put out there. He doesn’t dress up his irritations with lazy hooks or constantly having numerous other contributors to his songs, just he and producer El-P handle most of the tracks. Screaming the line “Pow mother f***er pow!” in the opening verse of “Big
Beast”, Mike grabs your attention. In “Untitled”, Mike gets prophetic, comparing his situation to some of his murdered idols like MLK, Malcolm X, Biggie and 2-Pac saying, “And til the chariot come and take a n**** home / I’mma spit this ghetto gospel over all these gutter songs” then explodes into the following track “Go!” with lines like “Got AK word play / might put a pause in your life just like a comma.” Later Mike laments on problems he witnessed in drug culture and eviscerate the failings of all recent presidents for being bought out as he says in Reagan
with “We brag on having bread, but none of us are bakers / We all talk having greens, but none of
us own acres.” There are simply no lows in the production as R.A.P. Music proves to be as killer as
its creator.

2. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Originating out of Athens, Alabama, Alabama Shakes exploded onto the music scene in 2011 and it is easy to hear why. With soulful front woman Brittany Howard crooning through her wistfully optimistic lyrics in front of a bluesy rock sound fits them in with the likes of Jack White, The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr., and other regular festival favorites. The music melts into the background as opening track, “Hold On”, has Howard speaking to herself while prophetically saying “You got to wait!, But I don’t wanna wait! No, I don’t wanna wait…” Each track hinting at a past filled with struggles and ultimate rewards as she is increasingly optimistic and comforting to others as she sings in “Hang Loose”, “Don’t be your own worst enemy.” Howard’s mix of soulful bliss and optimistic view of the future is even present on tracks like “Heartbreaker” and “Boys & Girls”, as she examines relationships and confusion about the emotions they bring. The final few tracks of the album, Howard comes full circle with her examinations in “I Ain’t The Same”, singing, ”You’ll find I have changed from before/You ain’t gonna find me/Oh no, cause I’m not who I used to be.” The album finisher, “On Your Way”, sounds eloquently wraps up the entire album as Howard sings goodbye to a friend (or relationship?) that has recently died. Genre-blending authenticity sums up the Alabama Shakes for now, and leaves me patiently waiting for much more.

1. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

The former Fleet Foxes drummer steps into his solo persona, Father John Misty, and easily makes my favorite album of 2012. Fear Fun is an observational album of situations, places, and events that playfully throws out riddle-laden lines that make the listener constantly feel like he’s always talking about something else. Listening to Fear Fun is like day dreaming for the ear canal. Tillman’s command of imagery and his joyful attention to the absurd make me want to look at Dali paintings and read Faulker simultaneously. He opens the album with the track “Fun Times in Babylon”, playfully singing “Fun times in Babylon/That’s what I’m counting on ” teasing a hedonistic foray and then dropping the Babylon metaphor altogether as he finishes with “Look out Hollywood, here I come.” Followed by the bar scene that is “Nancy from Now On”, then into “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” that could be taken as a reference to his attitude of leaving Fleet Foxes as he states “someone’s gotta help me dig”. “You can’t turn nothing into nothingness with me no more”, Tillman is told by his dog in his psychedelically induced song “I’m Writing a Novel”, that sounds so much like a Hunter S. Thompson tale that I hear Johnny Depp is already planning to film. These are just the first 4 songs and the rest of the album is equally confusing, fun and joyful. This is the best foray away from a successful band by a drummer-to-front man since Dave Grohl started the Foo Fighters, which is probably the only sentence that I needed to write about this album to justify its ranking.

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