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…

80s Odyssey: Brotherhood Of Justice (1986) & Millennium (1989)

I think you can take a look at the poster to the left here and understand why I wanted to watch this 1986 TV movie. Young Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland in a movie where Reeves and his high school pals decide to start defending their school from some of the bad kids, fitting in with the late 80s/early 90s tradition of such films as Class of 1999 and Band of the Hand.

This time around, Reeves and his boys decide to start defending their school after the principal basically gives an impassioned speech asking for kids to stand up for themselves and their school. They come up with a few rules and decide that they will attack people but only if 1) they all agree and 2) their intel guy can dig up enough stuff to convince them of actual wrong doing.

As these things tend to, though, some of the guys let the newfound power and quasi-fame get to their heads and want to start breaking their own rules. But, being the good guy he is, Reeves doesn’t agree. If you’re wondering how Sutherland fits in, he’s the guy that Reeves’ girlfriend is hanging out with. He’s not in the Brotherhood, but winds up on the other end of their gaze because of his relationship with the girl. Oh, by the way, the girlfriend is played by none other than Lori Loughlin of Full House fame. I had a huge crush on her as a kid.

I should probably note that this is not a good movie. It looks kinda bad even for TV standards, though probably not back in 1986. It’s also not very well acted or cast. I mean, Reeves is supposed to be this super white, all American dude, but he doesn’t really look the part. He does to a pretty good job of playing the role earnestly though. Sutherland’s solid too, actually better than the rest of the cast, but he doesn’t have nearly as much screentime. There’s a few fun little bits in there like how they attack their targets and go about their business, but it’s not a must see. I will say that I think Brotherhood of Justice could be ripe for a remake though. Let’s see how Red Dawn does and get to work on that next.

Much like BOJ, I completely stumbled upon Millennium, a film I had never heard of. After seeing it starred Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd, I was sold. You add in the fact that it’s a movie about time travel and time cops and weird futures and I’m triple sold. Or is the quadruple sold? Forget it, math sucks.

The fairly complicated plot finds Kristofferson investigating a freak plane crash that looks super weird. He winds up hanging out with Ladd who tries to get him to run away with her. We then discover that she’s a time cop from the future who’s investigating…something. I both don’t want to give away details and also missed a few things in the watching, but it turns out that Kristofferson is important and had some involvement in a previous time cop mission.

I was really impressed with how the stories weaved together. Kristofferson and Ladd are on different time lines and in different places in the story when they meet in various scenes and yet everything’s presented in an understandable manner, something that’s not always easy to do in a time travel picture.

I also really liked Kristofferson and Ladd in their roles. They both came off as interesting and complex without bogging things down too much in emotionalism. I also dug Ladd’s boss in the future and her robot assistant or whatever he was supposed to be. I’m not sure what either of their names were, but one of them had a very recognizable voice to me that I couldn’t place.

Anyway, if you’re into time travel movies or like strange futures, Cheryl Ladd or Kris Kristofferson than you can do a lot worse than checking out Millennium.

Supergroup Showcase: The Highwaymen

THE HIGHWAYMEN
THE PLAYERS: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson on guitar and vocals.
THE STORY: The four baddest outlaws in country music got together to sing some of the best damn story songs in the history of music. They recorded three albums before Jennings passed away in 2002. Nuff said.

I remember the very first time I heard about The Highwaymen. I was an intern at Wizard, rooming with Brian Warmoth at Nyack College over the summer and he played a few songs from one of their records on his laptop. At the time I might have picked up one of those Walmart Johnn Cash Super Hits CDs or that might have come later, but I did have a general disdain towards country–you know the stuff they play on the radio or even VH1 sometimes. I didn’t realize there was so much better country out there. Anyway, he explained the supergroup to me, that it included Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The idea of it was very intriguing. Later, during my senior year of college, I went to Walmart once again (there’s not a lot to do in Delaware, Ohio) and picked up a Super Hits Highwaymen CD. Damn, it’s good stuff. Since then, I’ve gone on to listen to lots more Cash and was blown away when I got Nelson’s Stardust earlier this year. The most I’ve listened to Jennings is on Highwaymen records and the only extra Kirstofferson stuff I’ve heard was on my SNL DVDs when he hosted way back in 1976 (he was better known to me for his turn in the Blade movies).

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to come across the Highwaymen’s first record which was just called Highwayman. At the time, the band didn’t really have a name, they just went by their last names. It wasn’t much of a leap from Highwayman to Highwaymen and there you have it. Many of the tracks on the first record are on the Super Hits version I have, so they were familiar to me by the time I listened to it, but there were a few newbies like the Cash/Nelson sung “Committed To Parkview” a haunting track about two men in a mental institution. On their own, these guys were masters of the story-song, but together they’re like a Voltron of the form.  Much like the Traveling Wilburys these four men came together to play some amazing music which retained their individual skills but also sounded awesome together. I’ve only listened to the Super Hits and the first record, but I’ve got my eye out for the other two and will look around to see if there’s any performance DVDs on Netflix. My one complaint about the recordings is that they’re kind of over-produced. You could have just put these guys in a room with their guitars, amps and a few mics and just put it on wax like Rick Rubin did with Cash towards the end of his life and also Neil Diamond on 12 Songs. Maybe a more lo-fi remaster is in order.