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…

Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

After listing my favorite new albums of 2010, I figured I’d also have some fun with a list of records I really dug that I bought this year, but didn’t come out in 2010. I’ve mentioned this before, but I buy a LOT of CDs on the cheap at garage sales, yard sales, flea markets and at stores. I rarely spend more than $7 on something new and get all kinds of deals at those other places, so I’ve been able to acquire lots and lots of music I missed out on in previous years. This list has a whopping 12 records and/or bands on it, but I’ve written about a few of them previously, so I won’t get into too much detail on those. Hit the jump for all the goodness you can handle! Continue reading Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

Songs Of Summer “California Gurls” by Katy Perry (why isn’t it just called “California Girls?”)

You might remember Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” getting a mention by Ben back in the comments for the first installment of “Songs Of Summer.” I eventually heard the full song and figure it will be a pretty big hit for the summer, but then I ran into problems finding the video. Apparently Katy Perry and her people wanted to hold off and reveal the video on a certain night at a certain time on VH1, so the long wait began. I soon saw the full performance at the MTV Movie Awards above and then kind of forgot about for a while. Remembering that it had been slated for release this week, I checked YouTube again and found the video. As you may have guessed it’s not embeddable, but you can watch it here.

I’m actually a pretty big Katy Perry fan. I was drawn to her with “I Kissed A Girl” and really liked her style (both fashion and musical) and her first record One Of The Boys was on pretty heavy rotation in my car last summer. I listened to it again yesterday and still like it (you never know with pop records). So, I’m excited to see where she goes with her next album. “California Gurls” is a pretty good, fun song (which is what I like most about her music). Plus, it’s got Snoop. Nuff said. The video is kind of a cracked-out combination of Candyland and Willy Wonka’s Factory with lots of sexy ladies. Perry seems to be moving away from the pin-up style and into more risque (she spends a good part of it lying naked on a cloud) and weird (cream shooters that attach to her lingerie). I wonder if Lady Gaga, who blew up after Perry did, was an influence on her. Either a “I didn’t think someone like that could be successful” or “hey, I wanted to do that crap three years ago, but they said I couldn’t!” Well, whatever the case, any video that gives me Snoop Dogg leading an army of angry gummy bears who get wiped out by boob cream is on my faves list.

Mid Season Replacements

Welcome to the middle of the season folks. No, I haven’t gotten my calendar out to see how many episodes of Big Bang, How I Met Your Mother or The Office are left, but I can just tell. How? I’m a genius. Well, no, not at all. I can tell because we’re getting hit with a slew of new shows that may or may not still be here by the end of the actual season. Over the next few weeks (and the previous four-ish) you’ll see the networks put a big push behind these shows they hope will fill the gaps in their line-ups, which, let’s be honest, weren’t exactly bustling with new, innovative and interesting shows as I mentioned before.

Anyway, I’ve caught a few episodes of these new shows here and there and will be offering up my opinions on each as is my blog-given right.

CASTLE
Monday 10:00 (ABC)
Live everyone else, I saw a TON of previews leading up to the premiere of Castle. I wasn’t really sold on the “writer teams up with a cop” shenanigans the ads were trying to sell me (it seemed like Bones with reversed genders), but I like Nathan Fillion and wished him success. Well, I found myself without anything to watch on Monday night last week so I checked it out and it wasn’t bad. This week’s episode was pretty good too, if a bit overcomplicated. Fillion’s rad and the lady copy is growing on me. There are two aspects that I really like though. First off, I like his family. His daughter is smart and kind of the anti-Gossip Girl while his mother is a former (?) New York actress who likes to party. Not exactly the most original dichtomy, but it all works well together (you might recognize the mom as Greg’s mom on Dharma and Greg). The second thing I like is seeing a writer at work on a TV show. Sure, he’s supposed to be a grocery story aisle novelist, but he thinks like a writer and I just like seeing that, being a self proclaimed writer myself.

DOGG AFTER DARK
Tuesday 8:30PM (MTV)
Dogg After Dark is kind of like Hugh Hefner’s old show where he’d just walk around a party in a loft and talk to people except this time it’s
the Dee Oh Double Gee sporting shades in a huge nightclub and “bumping into” celebrities. I’ve only seen it once, but he called a lot of dudes cousin and then someone sang at the end. I didn’t even realize until I just looked things up for this blog that it’s on Tuesdays, a day I don’t have anything to watch, so I’ll have to give it a look next week.

BETTER OFF TED
Wednesday 8:30PM (ABC)
The Better Off Ted ads did a good job of getting me to want to watch the show, mostly because they heavily featured Portia de Rossi who, aside from being SUPER hot, also gets a near-infinite pass for being on Arrested Development. I tried watching the first episode online, but it got really skippy so I quit and watched the second episode last night. Due to some phone calls, I missed the second half of the episode, but I liked what I saw. The premise is kind of tough to explain (the main character actually does a pretty good job in the opener of the first episode), but I like the fact that it focuses on characters from all over this huge research and development company. I’m not completely sold, but I’ll be back next week.

DOLLHOUSE
Friday 9:00PM (FOX)
I saw one episode of Dollhouse, the second one, and will not be watching any more. I was pretty bummed by how not-great this show was, but I wasn’t surprised. I had heard the production had hit a lot of bumps, plus I’m not an Eliza Dushku fan, so this didn’t feel like a home run from the beginning. I also felt like they didn’t do a good job of letting us know what this show was about (or even letting me know it was on). At first I thought the dolls were supposed to be some kind of super agents, but it turns out they’re kind of prostitutes? I dunno. The problem with a show where the main character is blank is that you really have to like the actor or actress because that’s all you’ve got for lack of character (though I’m sure all that will come back in the memory flashbacks that will probably become important at some point). It also seemed like all the characters were just rehashes of other Joss Whedon characters, like the nerdy tech kid. I know that Whedon has a tendency to start his series’ slow and then really kick it into gear (like Buffy and Angel, I haven’t seen Firefly yet) and I hear there was a big game changer last week (please spoil it in the comments, I’m curious), but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to Dollhouse.

KINGS
Sunday 8:00PM (NBC)
I probably shouldn’t even include Kings on this list because I saw about 20 minutes of one episode. But in that 20 minutes I saw a show that I definitely want to catch up on. There’s such a deep history to this show about America if we had kings (something I think NBC should have advertised way more clearly). The series seems taylor made for my ilk, by which I mean fans of well thought out alternate realities. There’s a ton of history ready to be mined here. Hopefully I can get caught up so I have an idea of what’s going on this week (if I remember to watch).

And a few other shows I’m looking forward to:

THE UNUSUALS
Premieres April 8, Wednesday 10:00PM (ABC)
and
THE DUEL 2
Premieres April 8, Wednesday 10:00PM (MTV)
Before realizing both of these shows will not only be on at the same time, but also starting on the same day, I was kind of looking forward to The Unusuals. Again, the concept seems a bit whacky, but I really like the cast: Michael from Lost (Harold Perrineau), Joan of Arcadia (Amber Tamblyn), one of the nerds from Dazed and Confused (aka the crazy roommate from Friends, aka Adam Goldberg) and a guy from 28 Weeks Later (Jeremy Renner). But, alas, my attention will be diverted thanks to the latest Real World/Road Rules Challenge, which starts the week after one of my top 5 favorite shows, The Real World Brooklyn, ends. This one will be dubbed The Duel 2 and promises to have a fight between Real World Paris castmates Adam and CT!!! (If that made sense to you, we can be friends forever.)

So, what shows are you watching? Seriously, please comment, I need to know that SOMEONE’s reading.