My 12 Favorite New-To-Me Records Of 2012

It’s impossible to keep up on every record ever made, but I do my best. This is a pretty eclectic mix of missed out classic rock, folk revival, stripped-down rock, dirty blues, weirdness and pure, unadulterated funk. It’s a fun mix. pogues if i should fall from grace with godI freely admit that I actually discovered The Pogues by way of a cover of their classic downtrodden Christmas carol “Fairytale of New York” and the use of “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” in a car commercial. I am not proud of these facts — well, mostly the latter one — but that’s how it is. I’m mostly disappointed that it took me so long to discover this band and this record which is filled with the kind of Irish punch rock folk spirit still alive in bands like The Dropkick Murphys and Mumford and Sons. It’s like finding an integral piece of history that also happens to rock my face off. thin lizzy jailbreakSpeaking of face-rocking, I picked up Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak this year. It’s the first of their records I’ve ever actually owned, but I used to listen to my dad’s copy of their greatest hits record. This record of course contains “Jailbreak” but also “The Boys Are Back In Town.” It gets a little slower in the middle than I expected, but those songs are still well crafted and solid, I just wish this was wall to wall block rocking beats. zuzu's petals music of your lifeAs part of my only completed Ambitious Reading List, I read Laurie Lindeen Petal Pusher about her time in a band I’d never heard of called Zuzu’s Petals. After finishing the book, I was super interested in listening to her music as well as her husband Paul Westerberg’s first band The Replacements. So, I hopped on Second Spin and found four records that I wound up really enjoying. Zuzu’s Petals only recorded two records, Music Of Your Life and When No One’s Looking, and while the first one is definitely better, I found the mixture of honesty, pop and rock to be incredibly appealing. Plus, it’s cool to have some legit lady rock for Lu to listen to when/if she’s interested. the replacements let it beI felt the same way about The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me and Let It Be. I know very little about pre-grunge 90s rock and roll and honestly assumed it was all kind of in that same downer vein. And while many of the subjects that The Replacements wrote about are similar to songs by bands like Nirvana, there’s a more positive feeling behind them. Listenting to these records was kind of like discovering an alternate universe and wondering what music would have been like if these bands blew up all over the world. gary clark jr self titledI’ve been hearing a lot about Gary Clark Jr. lately. He’s been featured by some news outlets I keep an eye on and also had a stellar performance at the 2010 Crossroads Music Festival which I watched on Netflix Instant. I was happy to see his self titled EP on sale on Amazon and gave it a download. Clark’s the real deal when it comes to down and dirty rocking blues, something most people have probably heard here and there with the track “Bright Lights.” He’s definitely one whose records I want to explore more deeply. flaming lips yoshimi battles the pink robotsIt’s funny how we develop preconceived notions about bands with minimal exposure to their actual music. I had developed one about the Flaming Lips that they were just a bunch of weirdos making weird music. And, you know what, they are and that’s okay. I like weird and I’ve liked weird for a long time, so why didn’t I give them a shot earlier? No idea. Wayne Coyne was on an episode of WT with Marc Maron that reminded me that I knew very little about that band, so when Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots popped up on Amazon for $5, I gave it a whirl. I haven’t listened to it a ton, but when I did it was kind of a full experience. I’d like to sit in a dark room and just listen to this record, or maybe write to it. It creates a really dense atmosphere that I want to wade into. Stretchin' Out In Bootsy's Rubber BandSometimes you just need to funk it up. My experience with Parliament records has not been the best. Sometimes those long, winding intros and funkadelic jams just get a little tedious. But, I did not have that same experience when listening to Parliament bass player Bootsy Collins (and bass hero of mine) on his solo record Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Wall to wall funk, the tracks are long, but always interesting. You WILL dance to this record.Avett Brothers EmotionalismMy buddy Jesse Thompson has turned me on to some of my favorite records in past years, most memorably Stephen Kellogg. We’ve talked quite a bit about The Avett Brothers, one of his favorite bands, so when I saw them on the cheap, I had to give it a listen. Emotionalism is actually the perfect title to this record which digs in like a less Irish, but still folky Mumford and Sons and doesn’t let go until all the tracks have said what they have to. hanni el khatib will the guns come outI don’t remember how I heard about Hanni El Khatib or why I downloaded his record Will The Guns Come Out, but I’m glad I did. This record is definitely in the same vein as Jack White’s music, but with maybe a bit more stripped down/punk rock vibe to it. I dig it. Sleater-Kinney Dig Me OutSleater-Kinney and Wild Flag are two more bands that I started listening to because of a podcast. Well, a podcast and a TV show. Carrie Brownstein is on Portlandia, a show I quite enjoyed the first season of (season two just hit Netflix Instant!). I also liked her interview with Marc Maron on WTF and decided to check out her first band Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out and her current group Wild Flag’s self titled album. I intended to do a Supergroup Showcase on Wild Flag, maybe this will be my incentive. Anyway, I like rock and roll and powerful women, so this combination of the two is aces in my book. There’s a certain chord that Brownstein hits with her vocals that lingers in my chest. I can’t explain it, but I like it. Dead Weather Sea of CowardsAs I wrote about, I got really into Jack White and his bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs a few years back. I still haven’t gotten his solo record Blunderbuss, but I did pick up The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards. Jack’s really good at showcase individuality in his bands while still keeping things cohesive. The cool thing about White’s music is that they all feel like part of one big narrative or theme. It’s kind of like reading Grant Morrison’s DC comics. They’re all kind of weird and look different, but they’re all connected by pieces of what came before. In this case, that’s literally White’s voice, but also the kind of raw style he evokes from those around him. Black Lips Arabia MountainI discovered The Black Lips by way of their track “O Katrina” on the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World soundtrack which still gets regular play in my car (I still rock the CD visor holder in my ride). I loved the song’s surf rock vibe, a kind of music that seems somehow imprinted on my soul. Since then I’ve kept my eyes peeled for one of their records on the cheap and came across their most recent Arabia Mountain. I can’t compare it to their previous works, but I really dig the old school feel that mixes everything from 50s/60s surf pop and New York punk rock. This is good music to get things done to.

I picked up a lot more albums than these ones, but this dozen really made its way into my brain. Some I just haven’t given enough listens to to give a solid review of, but I’d put my seal of approval on these bands and records without batting an eye.

Ambitious Summer Reading List: Petal Pusher By Laurie Lindeen

Much like Don’t Mind If I Do, George Hamilton’s autobiography which I read as part of this summer’s Ambitious Summer Reading List, Laurie Lindeen’s book Petal Pusher: A Rock And Roll Cinderella Story was purchased on a whim at Building 19. I had never heard of Lindeen or her early 90s band Zuzu’s Petals, but I’m a sucker for cheap books about things I like like rock and roll.

This turned out to be a very interesting experience because I really had no idea where the story was going. Was Zuzu’s Petals a band that had a huge hit in the grunge-y 90s when I wasn’t really paying attention to music yet? At least with Hamilton, I knew that he was currently famous and had been for quite a while, with Lindeen, I really had no idea. I made sure not to look her up at all either so the whole experience was an unknown ride. As it turns out neither Lindeen or her band have Wiki pages, which doesn’t seem right when there’s a whole book’s worth of material out there.

Lindeen was a music loving party girl floating through college when she discovered she had MS. The affliction didn’t define her, but it did focus her love of music into something she desperately wanted to do in a very public way. It helped that she was in the growing Minneapolis club scene the spawned bands like The Replacements, The Jayhawks and Soul Asylum.

The book consists of her struggles to get the band together, tame her instruments (guitar and vocals), write songs and tour like motherfuggin’ champions. I’ve never read a book like this about a lesser known band, but it is amazing how much crap these women went through just to be a touring band. I’ve heard these things are fairly common, including getting royally screwed on tours (their first one to England sounds particularly depressing) and dealing with everyone from super fans to stalkers on the road. These stories make up a good chunk of the book interspersed with childhood ones that relate back to what she’s feeling in the “present” of the 90s band days.

I really enjoyed this book. Lindeen has one helluva knack for words and I can relate to her insecurities when it comes to chasing after a dream that seems ridiculous to most. I also appreciate how honest (sometimes tear-jerkingly so) she can be when talking about her life, how she viewed the world then and presenting all that in a way that makes you realize she maybe wasn’t thinking right to begin with.

I did have a problem, though and that’s with the ending. After all these tales of success and failure and the emotional problems that came from them, it just ends. She’s at her younger sister’s wedding and casually mentions that she dissolved the band four months prior. Really? That’s it? That’s all you’re going to give us? I know you’re supposed to leave your audience wanting more, but as I put the book down I was left wide-eyed, like the last few minutes of the movie got cut off because of a scratched DVD or lack of a final reel. I also hoped for a little bit more about what she’s up to today (or at least what she was up to in 2007 when the book was published), but all we get are one sentence explanations of where she and her bandmates are now. We know their cycles matched up and the details of their arrest, but we don’t know how the band broke up or how they took it? That just doesn’t seem right.

Even so, Petal Pushers was a fascinating look at a world I’m not even sure exists anymore or at least not in the same way as it did in the early 90s. I appreciate both Lindeen’s drive to create as well as her decision to refocus herself to other outlets. The whole art-making for a living thing can be tough because you’re putting yourself out there and allowing other people to critique it, meaning they’re critiquing you. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone, but there are certainly rewards for trying, including this wonderful artifact.