My 6 Favorite New Albums Of 2012

I’m going to toss out a few caveats right at the top of this post. First of all, I’m a huge fan of Amazon’s MP3 section and how they sell 100 different albums for $5 every month. That’s where I bought all of these records except for one, which I bought from the band themselves. The only problem with this easy, cheap access to records is that I can get behind in what I’m listening too. Plus, if something might not be appropriate for tiny ears, I have to hold off on listening to that particular record. Holding off can mean I don’t listen to something nearly as much as I should or want to. As such, I haven’t given these records the attention they deserve, but I really enjoyed what I heard. As in years past, I’ll have multiple lists of favorite records. This one is albums that actually came out in 2012. I’ll also have a much longer list of New-To-Me records I bought in 2012 and even one of the best greatest hits, soundtracks and compilations I picked up and enjoyed in 2012. But now, here’s the new stuff. k'naan country god or the girlI’m not super tapped into the music world anymore. The extent of my knowledge mostly comes from reading Rolling Stone’s website, following @amazonmp3 on twitter and scoping out the new, cheap Amazon MP3 records on the site. As such, I didn’t know about K’Naan’s latest record, Country, God or The Girl until it wound up on one of those three radars (or possibly all three now that I think about it). K’Naan made the list back in 2009 with Troubador, my first exposure to his hip hop stylings and I’m happy to say that this record has more of the same absorbing, thoughtful and fun tracks. willie nelson heroesFor the longest time I didn’t have much of an opinion of Willie Nelson. Country music wasn’t really my thing, but I thought his cameo in Half Baked was pretty funny. That was the extent of my exposure. Then I listened to him in The Highwaymen and eventually picked up Stardust, a beautiful record that made the New Old list for 2010 and I was in. This year, I picked up two more of his records, The Complete Atlantic Collection and Heroes, both of which made lists. Heroes not only features Willie’s sons Lukas and Micah, but also songs that jump effortlessly from soul searching to hilarious. Snoop Dogg, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson also lend their considerable talents. Yeah, that’s right Snoop Dogg, marking a great Half Baked reunion on “Roll Me Up.”the hives lex hivesI wasn’t hugely into the garage revival of the early 00s. I never bought a Strokes record and the Vines ones I did buy were kind of disappointing. Others felt like three or four singles wrapped up in 8-10 extra tracks of padding. But, I really liked The Hives’ Veni Vidi Viscious. It was a rocking good time that played fast and loud and didn’t take itself too seriously. I didn’t keep up on the rest of their records, but when I saw their latest, Lex Hives, pop up for a few bucks, I had to check it out. I’m pleased to say that this record has that same energy with songs that make you want to get up and dance. Better yet? Lucy liked the jams too and danced along with me! Also, I don’t say this much anymore because I don’t see them nearly as often, but I really dig that cover. Van Halen A Different Kind Of TruthAs regular readers might remember, I saw Van Halen with my dad in March of last year. The worry going into something like that with any older band is that you don’t know if everyone still has their chops. Luckily, that was an unfounded worry when it came to the band. Even with that in mind, I had similar fears when sitting down to listen to Van Halen’s new record A Different Kind of Truth. I mean, how many records from 70s bands that have come out in the past five years do you really listen to? Again, I was happy to discover that this new record had a lot of the goodness found on classic Diamond Dave-era VH tracks. Sure, they’re often goofy tunes about tattoos and whatnot, but it’s okay to have a little fun with a record. It definitely helped that most of these songs actually have their roots in the group’s writing sessions from the mid 70s. faulkner detectives modern handshakeMy pals Alex Segura and Elizabeth Keenan-Penagos are in a band called Faulkner Detectives with Meg Wilhoite and Vanessa Lopez. Because they are my friends, I bought their seven song EP titled The Modern Handshake, but that’s not why they made the list. There’s no room for nepotism on UnitedMonkee! Alex is actually the person who, when I was a Wizard intern, got me into The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Not surprisingly, his band has a somewhat similar vibe to those bands, which is something I don’t have enough of in my life.bob mould silver ageI realize it might be kind of weird how I keep explaining how I came to an album. I just think the reason you buy something plays an important role in both your expectations and how you react to the material. I found Bob Mould by way of The Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light which he did one track on. That got me to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade which melted my brain last year. Then, when Bob Mould’s solo record, Silver Age, came out earlier this year and was discounted, I was sold. I just listened to this one again and I just love it. I admit, I have difficulty figuring out exactly why, I just dig it. It’s good rock and roll music by a guy who knows what he’s doing after years of experience.

I realize after writing this that nearly every album on here is by an artist or group that I was already familiar with. Most of the bands I listened to for the first time this year were older bands and will show up on my New-To-Me list later this week. A few days before the end of the year I even picked up The Vaccines’ Come of Age, but still haven’t listened to it yet and therefore it can not make the list. I also picked up the first two of Green Day’s three new albums this year, but haven’t listened to them yet. I also grabbed Soundgarden’s King Animal and while I liked it, I wasn’t as blown away as I wanted to be. Maybe I’ll have more time next year…

My Favorite Albums Of 2009

I usually don’t go in for these end of the year/decade top ten lists. Mostly because I rarely agree with them and also because I have such a crappy memory that I can’t remember what all I’ve read or seen or watched in a year, so it would involve a lot more research than I want to put in. However, it’s pretty easy with records because I’ve got everything in my iPod and can easily look at what came out in 2009. Or at least, that was the theory, apparently a good deal of records still don’t have the year published, which is annoying. I also found a lot of the records I thought came out in 2009 actually came out in 2008, SO this is my a list of my favorite records that I bought in 2009, with some 2008 ones thrown in. They’re in no particular order, so here we go.

I first heard Cage The Elephant on the Opie and Anthony Show before the dumb New York station dropped them and switched to a pop format. I think I went out and picked up the record that day and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. This record is just a plain old, great rock and roll record that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. I like the two guitar attack and the gyrating jerkiness of the entire thing. It’s rare that I buy a record that can keep me pumped up for throughout it’s entirety, yet CTE sure does that. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” may have been the big breakout song, but I like “In One Ear” even better and here it is in video form.

Jay-Z’s latest record held kind of a special place in my heart. See, it came out right before I got let go from Wizard in September. I was really looking forward to it, as I mentioned back in August, and it turned into this kind of Holy Grail for me because I didn’t want to spend any extra money until I had a new job or at least some steady freelance coming in. Well, finally, a few weeks ago, I deemed myself succesful enough to pick this bad boy up and it’s pretty great. I must admit that I haven’t taken the time to really absorb the whole thing because I just got it and don’t listen to as much music as I used to, but the singles alone make this record with the purchase. My favorite track is still “D.O.A.”

I first heard K’Naan in those mini-videos that MTV does between the end of a show before a commercial and the actual commercial. I heard enough snipets to know I’d be into this hip hop record from this Somalian artist. Aside from sporting some jams that are impossible to keep still during, I was also excited to hear some rhymes from a guy who came from a whole different way of life. I know he moved out of Somalia and to Canada when he was pretty young, but hearing him rap about fending off armed thugs and real life pirates put a lot of American posturing into context. Even when he slows things down, I still found myeslf engaged thanks to his insightful lyrics and smooth delivery. You can do a lot worse than picking this record up for your collection. I like every song on the record, but if I had one to add to a mix tape it would have to be the song he did with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine called “Bang Bang.”

The Street Sweeper Social Club’s record is another one that puts things in a whole different perspective with its mix of hip hop and rap. What else would you expect from the pairing of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and MC Boots Riley (who I honestly hadn’t heard of before). By combining Riley’s highly politically and incindieary lyrics with Morello’s funk-infused rock licks, you get a record that demands to be heard and really listened to. It’s like the Street Sweeper Social Club record is the soundtrack to a revolution that hasn’t really picked up too much steam yet. But don’t be too scared off if you’re not a fan of politically charged lyrics, I think there’s enough on TSSSC for any fan of really well crafted hip hop and rock to enjoy. Just check out this song called “100 Little Curses” for a taste. Just a warning, the lyrics are definitely NSFW.

I’m sure I discovered Estelle when the rest of the world did with the release of her song “American Boy” which featured the now-even-more-notorious Kanye West. It was a pretty hot song that seemed to dominate the airwaves both on the radio and video channels (back when there still were TV airwaves!). I really dug the song and figured I’d give the album a shot and really liked it. It’s more of a modern soul record really than anything else. Yes there’s plenty of hip hop influences on there, but you’ve also got plenty of Motown sneaking through too that makes this a pretty fun record to listen through. It definitely slows down in the middle, which I’m not a huge fan of, but there’s plenty of goodness on there, especially this first track “Just A Touch (Just A Touch)” which apparently features Will.I.Am.

My gigantic crush on Katy Perry’s retro style aside, I’m still a really big fan of this record. Yes, it’s pop radio stuff, but it’s really good, sexy pop radio stuff. To be honest, I’m not really sure when I bought this record. I feel like it was 2009, but it came out in 2008 as did the first big single “I Kissed A Boy.” Ah well, screw it. I think I bought the record after “Hot N Cold” came out (which also appeared as a single in 2008) and was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked listening to it. The record covers a surprising amount of ground from a tomboy turning into a woman to flirtations with lesbianism. Perry at least co-wrote every song on the record and I think she’s got a solid sense of songwriting. It’s too bad Lady Gaga swept in with her weird fashion sense, otherwise Perry’s style would have caught on better. Ah well, here’s the video of her and her band(!) playing “One Of The Boys” live.

Imelda May’s Love Tattoo is another record that came out in 2008 that I didn’t come across until 2009. Heck, I had never even heard of her before until I walked into the Best Buy on 5th Ave. in NYC, saw that it was like $7 and decided to give it a shot based on her retro hotness (are you noticing a partern?). Anyway, this may be my favorite find of the year as Love Tattoo gave me something I’ve been looking for and not finding for a while: a female vocalist with a swing/rockabilly sound who doesn’t get overly soft for most of the record. I had high hopes for Duffy after hearing her first single, but that was all super-sad mellow stuff. I also picked up and loved Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ 100 Days, 100 Nights, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And I liked Estelle and Katy Perry’s records, but, again, it wasn’t what I had in my mind. Love Tattoo absolutely was. It does get a little soft at times, but May never loses her disctint attitude. She also writes the kind of songs that any man would love to have written about them like this one, called “Big Bad Handsome Man.”

This one’s definitely the saddest entry of the bunch because not only did the drumming/DJ duo of Travis Barker and DJ AM, survive a tragic plane crash in 2008, but DJ AM passed away in August. Well, after the accident Barker and AM got together to play Coachella this year and released the set as a mixtape on their website TRVSDJAM.com. And it really is a thing of genius, even more impressive when you realize it was done live. See, the deal is that AM would spin and mix at the DJ tables while Barker drummed along and added beats. I had listened to their first mix tape, called Fix Your Face and was really excited when this one went up. Unfortuantely, DJ AM passed away only a few months later. If you like what you see in the video below from Coachella then head over to the site and download both mixtapes. RIP DJ AM!