Another year of assembling songs, trying to put them into a decent playlist is over. The album is dead dead dead, it's all about the songs now. Looking at other people's year end lists, it is clear I am not listening to what a lot of people are listening to. Am I that out of touch? Or are we that far apart? I admit to gaps in this list, great big colorful ones. Life's too short to hear every little thing though so it's time to get on with the list!
1) The Go Team with Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast - Buy Nothing Day. Rolling Blackouts. I'm not very familiar with the work of the Go Team, and Best Coast bubbled under the year end list a couple of years back. This is an infectious little pop song that has stuck in my head for the whole year. When a song pops up on the iPod over and over for a year and I do not get bored with it, speaks volumes.
2) Grouplove - Don't Say Oh Well. EP. I like this song from these pseudo hippie hipster 420 friendly group of west coasters. It did not even annoy me when I heard it in the background of a Chevy commercial. Someone's got to pay the buds, dude.
3) Blues Brother Castro - Walk in the Park. Out on the Beach. This one I got from the Music Alliance Project. Super high charged indie rockers from Amsterdam. Less that two minutes of full throttle rock with some good shouting. Reminds me of a punky Neil Young.
4) Fitz & the Tantrums - Money Grabber. Pickin' Up the Pieces. I have to admit to hearing this song for the first song on a radio station. A terrestrial one. Local. WWCD-FM. Well done. Sure, the lead singer sounds like Daryl Hall, but Oates is nowhere to be heard.
5) P.J. Harvey - Bitter Branches. Let England Shake. This one's been on a lot of year end best of lists and deservedly so. A Corbjin print of her is now gracing our walls. Good ol' P.J. shape shifts again and devotes a record to the horrors of World War One. Well done!
6) Anne Calvi - Blackout. My favorite app on my iPod is Tune In Radio. It gives you access to thousands of radio stations from around the world. One afternoon I was listening to BBC6 as background and this song came on. I had no idea who it was so I listened to the lyrics and googled them. Through that I found out about Anne, the album it was on and had it on my hard drive within ten minutes of hearing this song. Technology is amazing. In the old days you had to call the radio station and hope you could get through to the DJ so he could give you the information. How does it sound? Brian Eno thinks she's the next Patti Smith. I'm not sure of that, I just hope she's not the next Glasvegas.
7) Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues. I love this song. The arrangement that goes from gentle to soaring to massive back to gentle. Great, great stuff. The rest of the record sucks, but this is one of the best songs of the year.
8) K.T. Tunstall - Alchemy. The Scarlet Tulip. I wanted to like Tiger Suit, but nothing really grabbed me. Over the summer, while on tour, she put out The Scarlet Tulip, a mishmash of songs. I really like how she stretched out of her comfort zone and vocal range on this song. It's not perfect, but I heavily applaud this effort from her.
9) Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse - Body & Soul. She's going to be missed. Lioness should not have been released. We'll never know what she could have accomplished.
10) Eleanor Friedelberger - Roosevelt Island. Last Summer. My Scottish Wife questions whether or not the singer of this song is a man or a woman. I haven't the heart to tell her she's my indie-Brooklyn crush object. I'm not a fan of the Fiery Furnaces, but I enjoyed her first solo effort.
11) Mayer Hawthorne - The Walk. How Do You Do. The white kid who sounds like Curtis Mayfield came out with a fun little record this year. I hope he does this frequently and well.
12) King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Bats in the Attic. Diamond Mine. One of the most unlikely hits over the past year. The record received high acclaim. There's not a real hit on it though. It's all well engineered recordings that demand your attention when you listen.
13) Florence & the Machine - Breaking Down (acoustic) Ceremonials. Have to admit I was scared after Lungs came out. Would she be able to follow it up. She kept releasing different edition after different edition of her first record. Had to wonder if she was capable of following it up. After my first listen of Ceremonials I was not so sure. I thought it was an over produced record of songs that all sounded alike. Then I got to the bonus portion and found this stripped down gem. I'm still worried about her though. Her handlers have her appearing on the X-Factor for crying out loud. At SXSW in 2008 she was splashing around in a kiddie pool in a bar. Now she's on the cover of Vogue. Why should I worry?
14) Nick Lowe - I Read a Lot. The Old Magic. The legend. The master craftsman. One of the greatest songwriters of our time came out with a lovely new record this year. He also got a great amount of exposure opening up for Wilco. Bless him, it's about freaking time.
15) Norma Sass - Robbery. Hunting for Treasures. I'm not sure what music blog pointed me toward this Norwegian quintet. They were performing this song in a corner shop and looking adorable. The record is slick and over produced, the band name is a poor pun, yet they have an appeal
16) Sam Phillips - Broken Circle. Solid State. Sam's been in my radar for years now. Her last few records though, she's painted herself in a corner with the same tone of instrumentals and vocals. This last year she was quite prolific and put out an EP every few months and released them by an innovative subscription on her own over the web. This song has a joyful little shuffle amid the sad lyrics. She's one of my favorite artists.
17) Tom Waits - Hell Broke Luce. Bad as Me. He's back and banging. At 65 he's rocking harder than kids a third his age. An amazing artist who is only improving his skills with age. Left. Right. Left!
18) Wilco - Standing O. The Whole World. What can I say? Tweedy and company bored me less this year than with their recent releases. I almost got cheeky and put the Nick Lowe cover they did on here. But they rip off an Elton John riff on this song, and it's all good. Live, they're still one of the best bands you can see and Nels Cline is a monster on guitar.
19) Imelda May - Mayhem. First saw her on the Grammys a couple of years back. She was playing with Jeff Beck and knocked my socks off. Her own record has been out for a few months, it's a bit too polished but the raw materials are right there.
20) Marianne Faithful - No Reasons. Horses and High Heels. At sixty four, Faithful is still going. I'm really surprised this record got little attention. A lot of special guests, including Lou Reed (better than Metallica) Dr. John and Wayne Kramer. It's a rocking record and she does a fine cover of this Jackie Lomax song.
21) Over the Rhine - Rave On. The Long Surrender. They went all in on this one. Asked their fans to fund their trip to L.A. and to pay for Joe Henry to produce the record. I think it paid off for them, but they have to rock it a bit more to keep me awake.
22) Frightened Rabbit and Traceyanne Campbell - Fuck this Place. A Frightened Rabbit. This is from an EP Frightened Rabbit put out for their fans during their tour of the U.S. earlier this year. Why did they give this song the title they did? It's radio friendly and damn if Scott and Traceyanne's voices do not blend together well.
Enjoy the list.