I like the one that goes "eee eee eee eeeeee Anything can happen", and the one that goes "gotta do much more than buh-leeve if ya wanna see the world change" the best.
Just kidding. That was dictated by my 5 year old when I asked what her favorite songs were over the past year. She's totally on to something though!
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
I've been waiting years for this album. Believe it or not, I was graduating High School when Fiona’s last album was released in 2005. Suffice to say, much has changed on my radar, but her trademark piano sound and lyrical genius hold true throughout The Idler Wheel, making this record – without a doubt – worth the wait! If you loved this album, you might also enjoy The Ol' Razzle Dazzle, Missy Higgins’ 2012 album release, or Little Broken Hearts, Norah Jones, released in April. (Yes, that’s totally my way of sneaking more music onto this list! ;))
Mumford and Sons - Babel
Although it wasn't even released until the last quarter, this is probably the record I listened to the most this year. The perfect mix of hope, sadness, rainbows and rage – ideally suited to my every mood. If you thought you’d save a few bucks and skip the Deluxe Edition – you are really missing out. The bonus tracks include a killer rendition of “The Boxer” that effortlessly challenges the original and, my favorite Babel track, “Where Are You Now” which closes the listening experience with a soft and thoughtful vibe.
See? We listen A LOT.
Ingrid Michaelson - Human Again
I bought it the morning of its release date and I just knew it would be exactly what I needed. Though not nearly as intimate as Ingrid’s previous records, our prize is well worth the trade. This album starts out in a desperate, inwardly focused, orchestral storm. As it continues though, we hear it symphoniously and lyrically lilt toward clear and hopeful skies, especially in the last few tracks.
The Lumineers - The Lumineers
This debut album from Colorado was *this close* to making the number one spot on my list. It was love at first listen, for me. A Mumford-folky mix of sound with lyrics that provoke feelings of nostalgia – and just so catchy! Again, a record I could throw on in almost any mood and feel comforted and satisfied. Brilliant, really. If you loved this, you'd love The Carpenter, The Avett Brothers and The Head and the Heart's self-titled 2011 album release.
A Fine Frenzy - Pines
As the title indicates, this record is full of outdoorsy metaphors and imagery. It’s lush in sound and I think we actually see a much truer Sudol than in previous records. I had the privilege of seeing the band live in October and while she engaged the audience between songs, she seemed to disappear into them when she sang. Your husbands will think it’s weird, it will lull your babies to sleep, and it will make you feel delicate and strong, connected and far away – all at once.
Dave Matthews Band - Away from the World
I almost didn't want to review this album (I still haven’t actually decided that I do). It seemed a little biased of me, and if I’m completely honest, it really didn't get the play a DMB record would typically get in my house. Don’t get me wrong, that is still a ton of listening hours and nearly a full 3 week stretch with nothing else on the go. When the single “Gaucho” was released, I kind of thought - here we go again. It seemed to mirror the last album’s themes and sounds so closely and I simply didn't know how that made me feel. Still, I was the first person in HMV on the morning of the release, because - let’s face it, I’m more than committed. What I expected to be another exciting, jazzed up party album, laced with wise lyrics and deep, worldly contemplation ended up really surprising me. This record is far more mellow than its predecessor. It exudes an almost entirely different mood. Of course there are still some party tracks (“Rooftop”, “Belly Belly Nice”), an almost trademark long ass jam session track (“Drunken Soldier”) and it is still, of course, lyrical gold. At the end of the day though, my 5 year old will still choose Big Whiskey over the new album, and I think there is something to be said about that.
Ellie Goulding - Halcyon
Ok – there are 18 tracks on the deluxe edition of this album! 18! To put 18 tracks onto an album and not have me want to skip over even one deserves a quick ‘Bravo’ before I even go on. This is my 5 year old’s self-proclaimed favorite album of the year. (The child is basically a genius.) With a modernized Eurythmics feel and a snappy Calvin Harris collaboration – the listener literally gets the best mix of dark and dance. The record has been criticized for being “too much” – but I, for one, adore the courage and indulgence. A couple of related suggestions are 18 Months, Calvin Harris (2012) and Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine (2011).
Allen Stone - Allen Stone (Self-released in 2011, Released in 2012 by ATO Records)
I was SO excited about this album in the beginning. I would play some of the tracks on repeat (“Celebrate Tonight”, “Contact High”) for hours, just taking in the soulful energy. When I sat down to compile this list, I revisited these songs and I was blown away again by the way he could sing a song about heartache that was somehow perfect for a warm, sunny day on the patio. Allen has a totally unique sound that relaxes you right to the core.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
I was hooked with the first two tracks I sampled. Give me horns, a Mary Lambert collaboration and purposeful lyrics and you’d find it pretty tough not to totally sell me. Thank-you, Ben Haggerty, for fighting for equality and human rights – loud – for all to hear. Buy this record if you bought Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys or Unapologetic, Rihanna. No, actually, buy it no matter what else you did or didn't buy.
Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Are you ready for me to gush? This was my FAVORITE album in 2012! Raw, raspy, with a kick drum beat and a “F*ck it” attitude. Not like anything else I listened to all year, or perhaps ever, save a Janis Joplin record or two. Brace yourself, maybe even take a seat, Brittany Howard will, literally, blow you away.
Notable EP's released in 2012-
LP - Into the Wild
Mary Lambert - Letters Don't Talk
I had to choose a Top Ten list of albums to write about, otherwise my children might have ended up bored and hungry, but I do want to quickly acknowledge the rest of the music that shaped my year.
The Temper Trap
Grizzly Bear - Shields
John Mayer - Born and Raised
Bob Dylan - Tempest
Newton Faulkner - Write It on Your Skin
Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is an Animal
Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Kimbra - Vows
Brandi Carlile - Bear Creek
James Vincent McMorrow - Early In the Morning
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Here
Joshua Radin - Underwater
We Are Augustines - Rise Ye Sunken Skips
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - The Lion, The Beast, The Beat
Regina Spektor - What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow