Mayer’s Picks: Best Albums of 2012

Most years there is one record that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Things were different this year as three albums vied for the top of my favorites list. I gave up trying to pick one – I’m declaring it a tie.

  • #1 (tie). BRANDI CARLILE, Bear Creek

    Carlile recorded her latest release in a converted early 20th century barn near Seattle. The atmosphere infuses the songs and performance, anchored by Carlile’s powerful voice and her strongest songwriting yet.

    Additional Twangville coverage of Brandi Carlile: Mayer’s Playlist for June 2012

  • #1 (tie). ARCHIE POWELL AND THE EXPORTS, Great Ideas in Action

    What it lacks in twang it more than makes up for with high energy and massive hooks. This is my feel-good record of the year.

    Additional Twangville coverage of Archie Powell and the Exports: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring, Part 3

  • #1 (tie). JOE PUG, The Great Despiser

    Pug continues his transition from acoustic singer-songwriter to band leader on his latest release. At the core, however, are songs that are striking and personal set against sublime melodies.

    Additional Twangville coverage on Joe Pug: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2012, Part 2 and Monday Morning Video: Joe Pug and Jason Isbell.

  • #4. THE LUMINEERS, The Lumineers

    This year’s breakout release came from a Colorado trio whose deceivingly simple acoustic arrangements pack a potent emotional punch.

    Additional Twangville coverage of the Lumineers: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring, Part 3 and SXSW 2012: The Sounds, Part 1

  • #5. CHRIS KNIGHT, Little Victories

    This year there were Democrats, there were Republicans and there was Chris Knight. While the others focused on politics, Knight vividly captures the day-to-day struggles of rural life, vividly portraying characters approaching it with a hard-nosed self-reliance. As the man sings, “Times are tough, but they ain’t got nothin’ on me.”

    Additional Twangville coverage of Chris Knight: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2012, Part 2 and Chris Knight — Eli, Todd and Chip’s Take

  • #6. BAHAMAS, Barchords

    Afie Jurvanen serves up an album of mesmerizing pop music that is immediately warm and comfortable. Part of the charm is the luxurious sound created by the singer-guitarist, ably backed by a drummer and the beautiful harmonies of two female singers.

    Additional Twangville coverage on Bahamas: SXSW 2012: The Sounds, Part 1, Mayer’s Playlist for January 2012, and Mayer’s Picks: The Best of 2012 (So Far).

  • #7. MATTHEW RYAN, In the Dusk of Everything

    The restraint of Ryan’s vocals and the musical arrangements do little to mask the raw intensity of these songs. Ryan demonstrates yet again why he is one of the unheralded elite songwriters performing today.

    Additional Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2012, Part 3.

  • #8. JOHN FULLBRIGHT, From the Ground Up

    Fullbright is a welcome new voice on the folk and Americana scene. The young singer-songwriter from Oklahoma writes songs and sings with a weathered maturity that defies his age.

    Additional Twangville coverage of the John Fullbright: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring, Part 3, Mayer’s Picks: The Best Songs of 2012 (So Far) and John Fullbright: From the Ground Up

  • #9. WHITEHORSE, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss

    Husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland write pop songs that are sometimes edgy and frayed, other times stunningly gorgeous. They are always, however, melodic and engaging.

    Additional Twangville coverage of Whitehorse: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2012, Part 3 and Americana 2012: The Sounds.

  • #10. SHOVELS AND ROPE, O’ Be Joyful

    Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent sure know how to make a glorious racket. Their dirty blend of Southern country, blues and folk is a whole mess of fun.

    Additional Twangville coverage of Shovels and Rope: Mayer’s Playlist for July 2012, Part 1.

  • Click here for more Twangville Best of 2012 coverage.

    About the author:  Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.

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