Saturday, December 29, 2012

we, the undersigned

By now you know the rote, I missed more new music in 2012 than I actually heard, including some big obvious titles blah blah blah.  Same old excuses, and they remain as true as ever for me.  And this year I have an additional excuse, the lapsing of my participation in BLIP, where I used to count on cutting edge fellow blipsters to keep me cresting the wave of new music.

Even so I did manage to hear a lot of great new music over the year, thanks in no small part to many trusting musicians and a handful of record labels who kept my album review pile overflowing.  Some of those albums made it onto my Top 10 of 2012 list.  Which is as follows, thusly:

1.    John K Samson - Provincial
The debut solo album from the literary mastermind behind the Weakerthans, Provincial is filled with the sorts of musical gems that we have come to expect from John K Samson - poetic, thoughtful and highly infectious songs that marry intimate details with themes of greater historical or social significance.  The fact that Provincial has at its core the central theme of Manitoba highways makes this album essential listening for anyone from the keystone province.  Truth be told, this album should be in absolutely everybody's music library.  Better yet would be two copies, because the first is bound to get worn out from constant rotation.

2.    First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
The close vocal harmonies of the sisters Söderberg, and the way their achingly beautiful voices embrace such a folksy feel, send chills up my spine every time I hear this album.  It's hard enough to believe that a record of this quality could be made by a 22 and an 18 year old, never mind that this is their third recording.  The Lion's Roar was a strong contender for my album of the year, but in the final tally, the Winnipeg poet won out over the Swedish phenoms. But just barely.   

3.    Great Lake Swimmers - New Wild Everywhere
  I have yet to find a Great Lake Swimmers album that I don't like, thanks in large part to Tony Dekker's haunting voice - at once full and rich, but with a fragile ache that can make the angels weep.  New Wild Everywhere takes Great Lake Swimmers to new territory, with a bolder and more sweeping sound, thanks to the addition of violin and cello.  Still achingly lovely, but with more gusto.  

4.    Jack White - Blunderbuss
After years of resisting the genius (there I said it) of Jack White, I happily admit to being bowled over by Blunderbuss. It's an album that feels like the culmination of all his musical explorations to date.  Awesome shit.

  5.    Beach House - Bloom
Perfect dream pop, always lovely, always note perfect.  Beach House just keep getting better and better and Bloom is a must have in any music lover's collection.   

6.    The Avett Brothers - the Carpenter
Strong alt-country sensibility with solid rock chops, The Carpenter figures prominently on many best of lists, and with good reason.  I think it's the Avett Brothers' best effort to date.  
7.    Fort Atlantic - Fort Atlantic
I first heard Jon Black (aka Fort Atlantic) on a NoiseTrade sampler that included his stunning track Let Your Heart Hold Fast.  I had to hear more.  I ordered his self-titled album and was gobsmacked to discover that every song was equally as solid.  Soaring choruses, building crescendos, mixed with a little electronic experimentation, Fort Atlantic was a smorgasboard of everything I love in music.

8.   Josh Ritter - Bringing in the Darlings
I am cheating a bit by including this one, as it is an EP, but it's so lovely and it is tiding me over until Josh Ritter releases a full-length album in the new year.  And every song includes the word "darling".  Awww.

9.    The Sumner Brothers - I'll Be There Tomorrow
This album came to me out of the blue, offered to me by the Sumner Brothers of Vancouver prior to their recent tour.  Real-life brothers Bob and Brain Sumner tag team on lead vocals, Bob with a compellingly heartbreaking catch in his emotive voice, Brian with an authoritative baritone that hearkens back to the heyday of Johnny Cash. The Sumners serve up a beautifully soulful  brand of alt-country that you need to hear.

10.   Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky
They disbanded and then reunited, but these guys just don't quit.  I Bet on Sky sounds exactly the way it should, and that's good enough to give it placement in my favourites list. 
What were your favourite albums of the year?


bloody awful poetry said...

I really must check out this John K Samson, if he's earned enough of the Zombie approval to put him ahead of the First Aid Kit sisters on your list.
Also I have just listened to a couple of Fort Atlantic's tracks and OH WOW SERIOUSLY? It is everything I never knew I wanted! This is great.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's true, isn't it, BAP? Fort Atlantic just pushes all the right buttons. Definitely one to watch for in the future.
I did struggle with deciding between JKS and FAK for #1 spot. Sentimentality may have entered into it...

Westcoast Walker said...

Hey there Barb - had fun reading your list again!

I was thinking more about why these year-end lists are so appealing. For me I think it is a different way to make a road map for my year, a way to look back and catalog great moments, events or people that crossed my path, each album or song functioning as a sign post of sorts.

I can remember where I was, or how I reacted when hearing some of this great music for the first time. It's also a lot of fun as a writing exercise.

Of course your list really speak a great deal to who you are, elements of your sparkling and endearing personality sprinkled throughout!

Looking forward to more listing, mirth & mayhem in 2013!

mandotodd said...

I, too, love First Aid Kit. Sadly, my spouse can only handle 3 or 4 of their songs in a row. Luckily, she's gone most of the day and I'm at home. With kids too young to exert any pressure on what music we listen to!