Rockin' My Turntable In 2012: Tankboy
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 27, 2012 7:00PM
Photo by Travis Wiens
In a year with personal moments that seemed to stretch to infinity even as days barreled to a close causing an avalanche of time tumbling ever faster towards December 31, it seems interesting the overall effect on my album selections was to edge me into eerily similar long playing territories. I think the lesson I took away from this year was that it's growing increasingly difficult to find honest to god albums—full cohesive works that stand up under repeat listens—and far easier to find terrific songs that stand alone. Again, I'm not so certain this is a new thing, or that there aren't plenty of other long players out there worth listening to, but in the ever growing din created by the unchecked faucet of music spewing out all over the internet it's growing ever more difficult to really search out the little guys if they don't have a trusted publicist behind them. Take that as you will and discuss whether that's a good thing or not. Here's a bit of inside baseball for you though: The gatekeepers are no longer really music writers, they are the publicists. And I'm not kidding when I say that it's beginning to be their tastes, the preferences of the well connected PR person, that is really shaping what you listen to. And what I listen to. In the age of unchecked possibilities your choices are actually far narrower than you think.
O.K., enough old man cane waving and kids-get-off-my-lawn-ing. Now, onto my twenty favorite albums of 2012, in no particular order. Seriously. I hit shuffle and wrote them down in the order they came up!
Tankboy's Favorite Albums of 2012
Yukon Blonde - Tiger Talk
Heh, of curse this would come up first, because it's a great example of a publicist whose taste I trust sending me something that completely blew me away. There was maybe no more exciting moment in my music listening in 2012 than walking home from the train with this blasting in my ears and me actually saying out loud, "Who ARE these guys?" Who they are is an unbelievably catchy and tight Canadian group playing anthems that sound simultaneously timely and classic (rock). Yukon Blonde is every music writers dream: a totally unexpected pleasure.
WRITER - Brotherface
WRITER is a brotherly duo that deconstructs what has come to be called Americana and reassembles it with added volume and swagger. Their sound is equivalent to a steel drum of rusty bolts being rolled across the factory floor, accumulating the sweat and grime of the factory workers along the way. It's funny, this duo started off as a full band in California, shed everyone that wasn't related to each other and moved to Brooklyn, yet managed to craft an album that sounds solidly rooted in both locales.
Mixtapes - Even On The Worst Nights
Another unexpected gem, Mixtapes are a punk band hailing from Ohio with some serious bubblegum breath. This album is chock full of wall-to-wall sing-alongs that will make your day while still reminding you what it means to feel too much in your teenage years and early twenties. I saw this band live, expecting a polite but energetic boy / girl duo and instead was treated to a raucous set that had me convinced that every single band member was going to take a header off the stage at one point or another. It made me remember just how fun an all ages punk show can be when compared to the hipster posturing at other events.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Epic. And one of those bands on everyone's year-end list. And for good reason. In my opinion this is the "Hold Steady" of this year. That is to say Japandroids are the indie rock equivalent of a classic rock band custom built for playing in indie rock clubs. This is good-time music for the dour set. This is the sound of a band not giving a fuck and then being surprised that everyone else does.
Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man In The Universe
Damon Albarn headed up production duties on this album and one suspects his hand delved far deeper into the proceedings than merely sitting behind a mixing console. This was my go-to chill out disc all though 2012, despite my initial reaction to this being a vanity project of a modern rock star "rescuing" an R&B legend. Instead what happened is Bobby Womack took Albarn's musical beds and infused them with so much soul that they became, indelibly, Womack's own. And if that wasn't enough this album actually manages to include a guest appearance by Lana Del Rey that, astoundingly, manages to make her sound good!
Dirty Ghosts - Metal Moon
I've been waiting for forever or this album (OK, only a few years), but it was worth it. Metal Moon is the album I always wanted Luscious Jackson to make, back when they were harder edged and spent more time running around town with the Beastie Boys. Allyson Baker has taken the helm and turned Dirty Ghosts into a badass live band that manages to mix punk and funk and summer jams to create the equivalent of a basement dance party on the beach.
Zeus - Busting Visions
These guys are so steeped in the sounds of the '70s that one of their songs actually bites a latter era Who refrain, but I'm not saying this to cast doubt on Zeus' intentions. When you go whole hog into a specific genre like they have, if you don't have the power of absolute belief in what you're doing the whole affair will fall flat. Busting Visions in anything but flat, exploding with power and glee and a joie de vivre that sucks every single listener in. This isn't an oldies act, this is the sound of youth reclaiming their ground.
Fun. - Some Nights
I have taken great joy in watching Fun. grow from "that guy in The Format's new band" playing at Schubas to a group that literally jump started Lollapalooza, bringing it back to life after a thunderstorm by their sheer will ... and the help of one of the undeniable anthems of 2012, "We Are Young." Yes, I was skeptical of their makeover, Nate Ruess in neon shoes and popped collars will never look right to me, but Some Nights took the band's expertise at crafting perfect power pop and twisted it left and right in the studio to add a 2012 sheen and display a mastery of the vernacular of shiny pop and R&B productions. I know that this album now sounds inevitable to most, but when it was released it was a true oddity, and its ever growing popularity only proves you can be experimental AND successful.
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Yes the album title's a mouthful, but don't let its pretension keep you from the delights of the musc within. Fiona Apple has always seemed to sing to all of us from a different plane of existence and The Idler Wheel..." does its best to tug those ethereal strains and ground them in the third dimension. It's a bit of a grower but I suggest you give it the time to do so.
Menomena - Moms
Menomena may have lost a member but as a duo they've created one of their most lush sounding works to date. The songs on Moms just grow and grow in layers falling upon layers of instrumentation, but amazingly the end result sounds lean instead of bloated. Is it psychedelic? Is it rock? Is it electro-pop? Is it everything and the kitchen sink? The answer t all of those questions is yes, and a triple thumbs-up.
Passion Pit - Gossamer
This is the happiest sounding album that's all about dysfunction and misery that we've heard in a really, really long time. When you first throw this on the stereo you'll most likely find yourself in the middle of an impromptu one-person dance party. By the tenth listen you'll be crying in your beer, while still taping your toes. What makes this most remarkable, though, is that underneath the smiling disco ball lies an expert appreciation for song-craft and a focused eye for creating songs that can be reinterpreted any number of ways without losing their charms.
Torche - Harmonicraft
This is far and away my favorite metal album of the year. And one of the catchiest releases in this list. Torche turns it up to eleven, but rarely allows their songs to move past (the) three (minute mark). You will be air drumming within five seconds of the opening track and you'll be hitting replay within one second of the last strains of the final track. Torche proves length does not make a song epic, its what beats within that does.
Ke$ha - Warrior
In an era where pop divas grow simultaneously more outlandish and less interesting, Ke$ha manages to rise above all of them. Her image is carefully crafted, but it's not prefabricated. And her music is all her own, flaws and all. What makes Warrior so great is its fearless takeover of the dance floor while still allowing Ke$ha to flex the rawk chops that obviously run through her veins. When it works, and "Die Young" is a perfect example of this, the result is transcendent. And covered in glitter. And Jack.
Fang Island - Major
I suspect Fang island eats sunbeams for breakfast, and chases them with a tumbler of shredded amps. Major is the sound of an orchestra trying to break free from a rock band, and if you listen to any of the songs within without breaking into a wide smile there a good chance your jaw is probably broken. it's the sound of childhood, clear eyed and filled with wonder at even the most trivial things. It's the sound of affirmation that we're all in this together.
Local H - Hallelujah! I'm A Bum
Local H has yet to release a bum album, and this one—title aside—continues that streak. That it does so under the mantle of a politically themed concept album makes this achievement even more incredible. Scott Lucas and Brian St. Clair may have found their fame through bands they were in in the '90s, but neither man rests on his laurels here. This a great album to sink into the couch, preferably in your parents wood paneled rec room, with headphones on and lose yourself in.
Cody ChesnuTT - Landing On A Hundred
I'm still not convinced Cody ChesnuTT isn't certifiably insane. At the least he's a ildly interesting fellow that has talents that run so deep I suspect they at times overwhelm even him. His debut saw ChesnuTT release a torrent from within to create the aural equivalent of Prince dueting with Guided By Voices. Ten years later he finally releases his follow up and it sounds as if he spent all that time focused on refining his songs rather than just release them willy nilly into the wild. This is my favorite soul album of the year and it only grows more lush upon repeated listens.
The Sights - Left Over Right
It makes sense that The Sights hail from the same stomping grounds as Motown since their rock is heavily indebted to the legacy of that label. The band began as a rough and tumble garage combo, but over the years they've grown their sound and Left Over Right sees all that growth come together in an album that could become a classic, if only enough people get to discover it. If The Beatles had moved to the deep South this is what they might have sounded like.
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Listen to this album with headphones. The go see Tame Impala live. Repeat. I find it increasingly weird that a band deeply steeped in the psychedelic has grown ever more popular with the mainstream, but I'm going to take that as a sign that people's tastes are growing better and better. Either that or a LOT of people are getting really high on a regular basis. Either way, I'm happy to see this album getting so much love, and if you're one of the four people that hasn't heard it yet, you should rectify that immediately.
Brendan Benson - What Kind Of A World
Brendan Benson could shout "I am a golden god!" from a rooftop and no one would disagree with him. Benson's always had a knack for putting out terrific little blasts of power pop, but with What Kind Of A World he's finally learned how to pace himself so the whole album throbs with life. As the years go by Benson gets filled with more and more ideas while others see their creative stores deplete, and this album is a fine example of a man writing the pop and the rock and grounding it in the adult without sacrificing any if the vibrancy.
Miike Snow - Happy To You
This is an album whose appearance here actually surprises me, but when I evaluated it honestly I realized this was a disc I keep returning to over and over again. It's dance rock feels like a comfortable warm bath to me, and I seem to gravitate to it whenever I need some space. By the end I'm always in a much better mood, and if I'm alone I've gotten in a small aerobic workout through my dancing along to its tracks.
Tankboy's Favorite Songs of 2012