Thursday, December 13, 2012

Music, Music Everywhere!

I think I might be a music snob. But I kind of listen to everything (except country...I just can't) so am I really? The ancient clock radio I wake up to was accidentally set to a jazz station a few weeks ago and I even kept it for a while because it was such a nice change. I will always love pop - I don't mind One Direction, I love Girls Aloud, I will ALWAYS be a Spice Girls fan, but I draw the line at Taylor Swift. My first delicious taste of hip hop came in college with my first exposure to different races and cultures and I've never looked back. One of my favorite albums in high school was the 1998 Family Values Tour. It had Rammstein on it FFS. As I type this I'm previewing the new Big Boi album and I'm loving it. So it's clear that my taste in music is varied.

Around seven or eight years ago I started listening to BBC Radio 1 and realized that American radio is, for the most part, completely horrific. I love most Top 40 music, but there's so little diversity in popular American music. There's such a broader range in European music (house, drum and bass, dubstep, etc.) that Americans are almost completely unaware of. So thank you, Zane Lowe and others for bringing it to me. Snobbery.

That said, most of my favorite albums this year are from the same genre. Weird? Maybe. I think folksy, old-school sounding music is having a moment right now and I just happen to be really into it. So without further ado:

5. Jack White - Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss is Jack White's long-awaited solo album and it's a masterpiece. It has such a good balance of hard and soft. The conviction with which he sings Love Interruption is contagious and I dare you to not bust out some awkward Mick Jagger moves while listening to Sixteen Saltines. I suppose he can be polarizing, but I don't know what's not to like. The White Stripes are legendary and if nothing else they gave us one of the best football chants going today with Seven Nation Army.

4. Mumford & Sons - Babel

This was on the list before it even came out and I expect it to win a boat load of Grammys. It's a predictable choice, but this album really is that damn good. I've never had the pleasure of seeing Mumfords live. I'm still seething about missing out on tickets for their show here early next year, but I have faith that they'll come back in the fall. I was a Mumfords fan long before they cracked the States (snobbery) and while I suppose it's annoying that they have to be shared, I'm thrilled that they're getting their due. I Will Wait is the obvious cracker. I've heard it a million times and it still makes me really happy. Lover Of The Light also deserves praise. You've never loved a banjo so much.

3. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again

Michael Kiwanuka is the second coming of Otis Redding and it's glorious. Upon listening to the British singer/songwriter you'd never guess that he's only 24. His words and his voice are so soulful. I saw him play the tiny yet awesome Brighton Music Hall earlier this year and it was one of my favorite shows of the year. I dare you to listen to Home Again and not get all fuzzy and misty-eyed. Tell Me A Tale is another stunner and it's so fitting that the video is shot with a vintage look. It's a colder more British Woodstock. I believe Michael is touring the U.S. early next year and I urge you to check him out!

2. alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Alt-J are a relatively new discovery for me and I have the BBC to thank. Alt-J won the Mercury Prize just last month and I've been listening almost non-stop since. It's indie with a little electronic and it's totally brilliant. Upon listening to the gorgeous Matilda you'll immediately want to know who she is and how to love her. Breezeblocks is catchy and haunting and Fitzpleasure is delightfully weird. I just can't say enough good things about this album. Alt-J will be in Boston in March and I will be pee-my-pants excited on the day.

1. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

I haven't been as consumed by an album as I still am by this one in a long time. It's pure genius from start to finish. The first time I heard Brittany Howard's raspy Southern drawl I was obsessed. Not to mention that it's completely bad ass to have a female lead in an all male band. Hold On is without a shadow of a doubt the record of the year. Why it wasn't nominated for a Grammy in that category is beyond me. When Brittany's in love and screaming and gurgling her way through Be Mine you're right there with her and after the breakup you feel her pain in Heartbreaker. I saw them play the House of Blues in October and they are just as good live as they are on the album. I tried to describe their sound to someone who was unfamiliar and after thinking for a bit I said modern Southern rock. To which he replied, country? No. Not even close. So I'll just leave it as awesome.

I'm a little annoyed with myself for not including any female artists (aside from Brittany Howard). I'll give honorable mention to Florence & The Machine's Ceremonials, Jessie Ware's Devotion, and Lianne La Havas' Is Your Love Big Enough. All worthy. I also have to give a shout to The Black Key's El Camino and The Arctic Monkeys' Suck It and See. Both of these albums came out in 2011, but the two combined for one of my favorite shows of 2012. The Arctic Monkeys are probably my favorite band of the last five to seven year so I'm thrilled I got to cross them off my concert bucket list.

I feel like I'm missing so much, but everything above is what's been on constant rotation for me this year. It was a good year for music! Tell me how you feel about any or all of the above or if you think I'm insane. There wasn't too much snobbery, right?


  1. Looking forward to checking out Alt J and Michele Kiwanuka. American radio is a horror. I refuse. Just discovered the NPR radio app and have been streaming it ever since. My additions to your already well curated list? I really like David Byrne & St Vincent, Stars North, Benjamin Gibbard's solo album and Grizzly Bear Shields. I just bought Big Boi's new album, love Phantogram, so I am excited to see all the collabs!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Lani! Aside from Grizzly Bear those are all new to me! And I definitely need to check out the npr app.