Mid-Year Review Part 1: My Favorite Albums of 2012 (So Far)

Well it’s halfway through 2012 and there have been some great releases this year so far. All the albums we thought were going to be great (Lana Del Rey, The Shins) fizzled out. So it was up to the underdogs to step up and make 2012 a surprisingly great year for music.

Here are my favorite albums of 2012 so far.

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

The 90s guitar revival is still alive and well (at least in the indie world). Cloud Nothings’s breakthrough hit is so far the best guitar rock album of 2012.

 

The Men – Open Your Heart

The Foo Fighters ain’t gonna last forever, and when they go The Men will take their place as the kings of hard rock…well, I mean as long as they make great albums like Open Your Heart.

 

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Mr. White’s debut solo album is already considered a classic, and I would have to agree. The album blends all of White’s favorite styles into an organic mix of what we can now call that signature Jack White sound.

 

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

The Boss literally does not have to make any more music for the rest of his life, and yet he and the E Street Band are still chugging along. Wrecking Ball is a genuinely great album that actually may catch you off guard with how folky it sounds. With songs addressing the Occupy Wall Street movement, this is an album for a specific era of American history.

 

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

How I stumbled across this album I’ll never remember, but I’m so glad I found it. Etten’s voice can scare the hell out of you and also break your heart, all at the same time. She’s even better live.

 

John Mayer – Born and Raised

I was surprised with how little buzz John Mayer’s fifth album got, but it doesn’t really matter – the music will stand the test of time. Mayer’s country-rock influences come across naturally and combines well with his pop smarts. Be prepared for this being his last album that he’ll ever sing on due to issues with his throat.

 

River City Extension – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

This album is still very fresh in my memory, but I can tell you now this album will be one of my favorites by this year’s end. A beautiful mix of alt-country and noise rock with lyrics as good as the harmonies. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, this is the album for you.

 

The Henry Clay People – Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives

This album clocks in just under 28 minutes, but you’ll be too busy banging your head to notice. This album is fast and furious, yet it’s melodic and sweet. Imagine if Big Star were more of a punk band.

 

Frank Ocean – Channel Ocean

The story of the year goes along with the album which I assume will top every music publication’s list as the best album of 2012. This isn’t so much a rap record as it is a soulful and beautiful portrait of an artist as a young man. There were times I thought I was listening to Stevie Wonder, and that’s a huge complement.

Music Journal: Brandon Flowers and The Killer Band

So the new Killers’ song came out yesterday, and I like it a lot (click here to hear “Runaways”). It is the first single off their upcoming album Battle Born which is scheduled for release September 18th.

The song sounds like something off of Sam’s Town, which is dangerously underrated. The song is about two kids in love trying to runaway from their lowly lives and chase after their dreams, and it’s complemented with an inspiring mix of synthesizer and good old fashion rock n roll. This is the Killers sound that they have perfected – a mix of Duran Duran looks and sound and Bruce Springsteen-storytelling. However, the Duran Duran reference really only applies to their first album Hot Fuss, everything else after has dug deeper into the band’s hidden love for The Boss and the E Street Band.

But now with this new song, I am now convinced that this Las Vegas band is turning into the E Street Band – and that’s a good thing for all of us.

There are plenty of bands right now that have attempted to capture the essence of Bruce’s music (Japandroids, Titus Andronicus), but their music sometimes turn into more of a tribute act. But with The Killers, rather than paying tribute to Springsteen, they are being inspired to make their own Born To Run, and the results might be great. As of now The Killers are one of the great American rock bands, and Battle Born might finally be the album that’ll establish that.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks like me. Just saying…

I’m very excited for September, and you should be too.

Music Journal: March Recap – SXSW, The Boss Returns, And A Whole Lotta March Madness

It’s called March Madness for a reason.  Though my Hoosiers lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Kentucky, we have to remember the first time we played Kentucky this year (see picture above).  This has been an incredible basketball season, not only for IU but also for all the crazy games this year during the tournament.  I’m excited for what March will bring next year.

Oh yeah, in March some music was released and there was some festival that happened.

 

South By Southwest: The Most Fun I Didn’t Have.

SXSW, arguable one of the coolest music festivals to happen all year, happened this month…and I didn’t go.  No worries though, I am determined to go down to Austin in the near future to see SXSW (21st birthday present?).  Besides, with all the coverage on every single music blog, I felt like I was basically there.  I especially enjoyed Spin’s SXSW playlist, which included rising acts such as Star Slinger, Class Actress, and Jacques Greene who had good sets at SXSW.

 

Album Of The Month: Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

When I first heard Wrecking Ball I was mostly relieved that it was an improvement over Working On A Dream.  But the more I listen to this album, the more I believe that this is one of the Boss’s better albums.  It’s definitely one of his more unique sounding albums, with strong elements of hip-hop beats and Irish folk songwriting.  But there is still that signature Bruce sound that’ll make you wanna get up and dance like this…

 

Song I Listened To The Most This Month: “True Love Will Find You In The End”

This beautiful song was originally done by the late Daniel Johnston.  The two versions I listened to the most in March were the Beck and Matthew Good versions.  Both are stripped down and do great justice to Johnston’s original.  Try not to cry the first time you hear this.

Playlist: 15 Songs For March 2012 (Via Spotify)

This month’s playlist is all over the place.  Most of these songs are oldies, but there are a few new tracks here.  I have some Springsteen, Death Cab, Magnetic Fields, The Men, and everything else in between.

Here are my 15 songs for March 2012.

New Album Releases: March 6, 2012 – Bruce Springsteen and The Men

Today is a good day for rock fans of all ages.  Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and The Men’s Open Your Heart comes out today, and both albums are worth their money’s worth.

The Boss’s latest album continues the trend of well-produced albums that focuses Springsteen as a rock-veteran doing whatever the hell he wants.  Wrecking Ball has more bite, both lyrically and sonically, than 2009’s Working On A Dream, but the songs don’t stand out as well as 2007’s Magic (there are no “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” here).  It would be foolish to say that The Boss is coasting on Wrecking Ball, but he’s well aware that he doesn’t have to try too hard anymore (he’s Bruce Springsteen people!).  Much like all his work starting in the 90s, this is an album with Bruce doing exactly what he wants to do, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially because this is one of the better albums.  Also keep in mind that a good Springsteen album is better than 87.3% of “rock” albums that come out in a given year.

Check out the lead single “We Take Care Of Our Own” below.

 

For all you younger rock fans out there, let me sell you on The Men.  Now if you’re an avid Pitchfork follower then you are probably familiar with these lads.  This band has been gaining some serious momentum over the past couple of years and have established a devoted following (at least in the blogosphere).  But this probably doesn’t mean anything to you if you’ve never heard their music.  The best way I can describe The Men (in terms of Open Your Heart) is early Foo Fighters with more focus on the atmosphere rather than the lyrics or songwriting.  The album has a nice balance of aggressive guitar-rock and slowed-down jams, and I call them jams because some of these songs have no lyrics (“Country Song” is the prime example).  They still have that indie-rock flavor that makes them cool, but they have just enough rock in them to actually appeal to a wider audience.

Check out “Turn It Around” below.

 

Go out and buy these excellent albums, and remember to support your local record store!

Top Lists: Albums With Especially Great Lyrics

An album with a handful of songs with great lyrics is one thing, but a whole album’s worth of great lyrics is truly a treat.  Here are some albums that stand out to me for being lyrically consistently excellent.  I didn’t include any rap albums because there would be too many to put on this list, but I do give my respect to excellent rappers.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

I’m just going to go ahead and dub Joni Mitchell the queen of the early singer-songwriter movement.  If you’re going to argue against me, good luck trying to find an album as consistently great as Blue.  Mitchell’s way of storytelling is so vivid and true, she says the perfect thing when we least expect it and it catching us off guard – which is exactly what great lyrics are supposed to do.

 

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

When you get down to it, Bob Dylan was always a poet.  Stealing song structures from Woody Guthrie, Dylan turned tradition on its head with quirky storytelling that is at times vivid, laugh-out-loud funny, provocative, and demeaning.  Though all his albums have excellent lyrics, Highway 61 Revisited stands out to me for being his most visually satisfying album.  I can see Miss lonely’s diplomat with a siamese cat on his shoulders in “Like A Rolling Stone”.  I feel pity for Mr. Jones who clearly cannot make sense of what he sees in “Ballad Of A Thin Man”.  And of course I know all about what happens down at Desolation Row.

 

Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

I’m more of a Darkness On The Edge Of Town kind of guy, but I have to give credit to Born To Run for having the better lyrics.   The whole album feels like a mini movie, with Springsteen as the hero trying to break out of his dismal life to find his promised land, and he’s getting there on a hot ride with his gal at his side.  Springsteen has such power and passion in his words, you can’t help but get inspired.  It also doesn’t hurt that its opening track might possibly have the greatest lyrics of rock & roll.

 

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

I’m 100% bias towards anything Ryan Adams does, so of course I put Heartbreaker on here.  Bias aside, this album is called Heartbreaker for a reason.  Adams tattoos his heart on his sleeve with devastating accounts of bad love and loneliness.  “To Be The One” could be the lyrical highlight of the album, “The sun it tries to warn me, Boy those wings are made of wax / While the things I do that kill me, They just tell me to relax.”

 

The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You

These brothers sure know how to tell it like it is.  Very few albums are as direct in their story telling as I And Love And You, and very few are as good.  The music is simple so the stories have more weight, and they sure do pack a punch.  Many people compare the Avett Brothers to Mumford & Sons, and while the London sons have the emotion, these American brothers have the storytelling.

 

Teitur – Poetry & Aeroplanes

It’s unfortunate that more people have never heard of Teitur.  The closest he ever got to potentially become big was with his excellent debut Poetry & Aeroplanes.  The title track has one of my favorite lines on love (“Love is somewhere in-between, what you believe and what you dream.”) and I love how the whole album makes you feel like the lovable romantic who is behind all the music.

 

John Mayer – Continuum

John Mayer has always had better-than-average lyrics for his radio-friendly pop songs, but on Continuum his songs have more bite.  True, most songs on the album are about his poor life (I’m rich and good looking, but I STILL can’t find love??), but he says it so nicely.  I was caught off guard when I first heard “Stop This Train”.  This is a song depicting what it’s like to grow up that gets your attention from the very first line (“No I’m not colorblind, I know the world is black and white”).

 

Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism

Only Ben Gibbard could sing a whole song about his car’s glove department and make it sound heartbreaking.  Gibbard is one of indie rock’s more clever lyricist, and Transatlanticism is one of Death Cab’s highest achievements both musically and lyrically.  The music demands your attention, but the lyrics make you stay.

 

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

For all his surfer charm, Brian Wilson can be quite the cynic, especially with the ladies.  Hidden underneath all the gorgeous harmonies and brilliant arrangements of Pet Sounds are tales about losing the ones you love, religion, and worries about the future – nothing you can really sing-a-long to at the beach.  “Here Today” could be one of the greatest anti-love songs I’ve ever heard.

 

Were there any songs that I missed?  Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @HeadfoneNation and let me know what albums are full of great lyrics.

Extra! Extra!: Foo Fighters and Deadmau5 Will Perform At The Grammys…Together?

When I think of bands that would sound great remixed by electronic artist, Foo Fighters is on the bottom of my list.  Apparently the band thought differently.

Deadmau5 and Foo Fighters have confirmed to be playing TOGETHER for this year’s Grammys, and apparently the two will play a remixed version of the Foo’s “Rope”, which is up for a Grammy this year.

For some reason I’m not too excited to hear a remix of an already great song that could end up sounding bad on Grammy night.  I guess we’ll find out what happens this Sunday.

Here is Deadmau5’s remix of “Rope” to give you a little preview.

 

Speaking of unnecessary Grammy collaborations, apparently the Beach Boys will reunited for their 50th anniversary at this year’s show (awesome), with Maroon 5 and Foster the People performing a melody with them (not awesome).

Hey, at least we have Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney to make up for some potentially awkward performances.