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Heavy Rotation: My Favorite Albums of 2012

12.20.2012

ALUBM COVERS

I have always preferred the album.  Great albums are like great picture essays, great novels, great movies…  Here are my favs of 2012.

4035_NeilYoungPsychedelicPillAlbumCover400px_1349115194Neil Young & Crazy Horse. “Psychedelic Pill”  If you like the sound Neil Young makes with his guitar, you’ll love this album.  Maybe the poet isn’t quite what he used to be, but at age 65, he’s still got it when “Old Black” is in his hands.  The guy is an American treasure, even if he was born in Canada.  My favorite song is the 27-minute “Driftin’ Back”.

Alamabashakes-400x400Alabama Shakes. “Boys & Girls”  The best albums hold up under heavy rotation, and this is one of those.  Their sound is a mix of soul, punk, and roots rock, sung with amazing power by Brittany Howard.  I saw them in concert at Red Rocks this summer as the warm-up to Neil Young, and I’ve never seen anyone sing with such intensity and conviction.  The song “Hold On” sums up their sound and talent, but there are plenty more gems on this album.

sunCat Power.  “Sun”  Probably the album I’ve listened to most.  Not the old Cat Power, something quite different.  Full of layered, trance-like vocals, backed by strong danceable grooves.  “Manhattan” and “Ruin” are great dance tunes, but I like “Real Life” the most, which is about leading an ordinary life.

Antibalas - Antibalas_0Antibalas.  “Antibalas”  A great, great find for an eclectic collection of albums.  The Afrobeat sound is alive and well here.  Antibalas is a big sound that has hints of “War”.  Go out and buy “Him Belly No Go Sweat” and I guarantee you’ll download the rest of the album within the hour.  Check them out on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

296361575-1Spirit Family Reunion.  “No Separation”   My Americana album of the year.  If you like bluegrass and roots music, you’ll love Spirit Family Reunion.  Hard to believe they’re from New York.  There’s something very accessible about their music…like you’re right there in the room with them.  If you like “The Band”, you’ll like the song “No Separation”.

shieldsGrizzly Bear. “Shields”  So artful.  Up until now, I couldn’t get into Grizzly Bear, but not anymore.  If you like inventive, indie music you’ll like “Shields”.  I like the Shins-like “Gun-Shy”, “A Simple Answer”, and “Speak in Rounds”.

alt-j-an-awesome-waveAlt-J.  “An Awesome Wave”  More art rock.  That’s as good as I can do to describe their sound.  It’s one of those albums that is full of discovery with each listening.  Not everything is great here, but the good stuff is worth it.  Although different, it fits good with Grizzly Bear.  “Tessellate”, Breezeblocks”, and “Taro” standout.

A few more of my favorite albums of 2012.

The Shins.  “Port of Morrow”
Sharon Van Etten.  “Tramp”
The Lumineers.  “The Lumineers”
John Mayer.  “Born and Raised”
Jimmy Cliff.  “Rebirth”
Jack White.  “Blunderbuss”
Beach House.  “Bloom”
Spiritualized.  “Sweet Heart Sweet Light”

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