The 2012 Baker’s Dozen by @WeirScrewed
All in all, 2012 was a pretty decent year in music. Some new acts burst onto the scene and some veteran artists returned with new offerings. This list of thirteen albums represents some of what I have been listening to and enjoying this year. By no means is this list all-inclusive, it is only a means to begin a discussion. Click on the album name to listen on Spotify.
Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this band? They burst onto the scene in 2012 in a huge way, sounding part Janis Joplin and part southern-fried soul. Chicago was lucky enough to get them four times this year (Lincoln Hall, Reggie’s, Riviera, and Chicago Theatre). They face the same dilemma every band with a knockout first album does: what next? Hopefully 2013 can be as good for them as 2012 was.
Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself
Chicago’s own Andrew Bird is one of the most prolific artists in music today. 2012 brought us four, count ‘em four efforts from the multi-instrumentalist: the studio albums Break It Yourself and Hands of Glory as well as the two live tour EPs Northwest Passage and Fake Conversations. Bird played three sold-out December shows at Fourth Presbyterian Church in December, hopefully you were lucky enough to catch one of these intimate performances. This album, if you have not heard him before, is a great place to start.
Beachwood Sparks - The Tarnished Gold
Sun drenched Laurel Canyon melodies mixed with psychedelia? Former Cardinal and friend of Phil Lesh, Neal Casal? Sign me up. This album established itself as a Barn favorite pretty early after hearing it. This is a heck of an effort after ten years between albums.
Blending Americana and psychedelia, this debut effort is a strong one. I like what he does with his guitar tones. The vocals sound like Mike Gordon in spots, but somehow I don’t see this as a bad thing.
What do you get when you mix one of the coolest cats in New Orleans with the architect of The Black Keys and a group of top-notch musicians? One of most surprisingly strong albums of the year is what you get. Right now, everything Dan Auerbach touches turns to gold (on the ceiling), and this is no exception. Grammy voters, for the most part, seem like a clueless lot but their nominations of both Dr. John and Dan Auerbach are spot on and deserving of recognition here.
Former Fleet Fox and freak folkster Father John Misty kills it on this first album released by J Tillman under his new moniker. If you have not heard the live show, try this taste of his live show from October at Lincoln Hall.
Howlin’ Rain - The Russian Wilds
More so than perhaps anyone playing today, the sound of this band evokes the days of big hair and 70’s-80’s arena rock. There’s a time and a place for this, and Howlin’ Rain fits the bill perfectly. Get in your Trans Am and turn this up full blast on the tape deck!
Wow, this album is stunning. Simply gorgeous. Song after song on this debut effort from this quartet conjures up images of rolling landscapes while driving homes beautiful vocal harmonies. This is an album that grabbed me right off the bat and I am very interested to see if they can pull off this sound in a live setting. Think Fleet Foxes with a little less CSNY.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
Notice a theme here with psychedelia? Neil brings back The Horse for their second and frankly much stronger effort (Americana left something to be desired) this year. A 28 minute opening track “Drifting Back”? Why, yes, Neil, please go
right ahead. Keep doing what you do. We love it.
Recorded in 2010 but not released until March 2012, this band shares three members of Tame Impala. The hitch is that they are all playing different instruments than they do in their primary band which makes for a different feel. However, this album takes no
prisoners. In the words of Ken Harrelson, “sit back, relax, and strap it down.”
Quantic featuring Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro - Look Around the Corner
Big tip of the cap to Hidden Track for this recommendation. As soon as I started streaming it I couldn’t stop until I finished the whole album. Incredibly well crafted, it keeps you moving. Lush vocals and funky rhythms keep you engaged throughout without a letup.
If I had a vote for Album of the Year, this would get it. It has been a long time since I have been so taken by the sound of a band as I have been by Tame Impala. The Lennon-esque vocals on top of incredible sounds make this throwback-sounding album a must listen and a pleasure to behold. Get a glimpse of them live here so you can see what you’ll be missing if you don’t make it out to a show on their spring tour.
Todd Snider - Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables
With so much psychedelia on this list, the grounded, earthy folk guitar of troubadour Todd Snider is always a refreshing reality check. One of the best live performers out there, he is a must-see act. Since he is almost constantly touring either by himself or with Great American Taxi as his backing band, it should be easy to catch him next time he’s in your town. For you parents out there, enjoy his take on
children in Precious Little Miracles.
READ ON... for the best of 2012 at The Barn selected by readers