Best of 2012 – Chip’s Picks

As it seems to be the case every year, there was way too much good music produced in 2012. I try hard to keep up with new releases, but it is often at the expense of time that would otherwise be spent on my favorites. However, for the purpose of  “cussing and discussing” here is my attempt to rank my favorite albums of 2012:

1. Chris Knight – Little Victories:  This may be a bit of a surprise, but this album really meant something to me. There is an honest and heartfelt message of perseverance and hope. His message of survival in hard times derives from his roots. Plus he calls Little Debbies groceries, and that puts “Little Victories” over the top.

2. The Lumineers – Self-Titled: The way they took the musical world by storm is really amazing. Hype usually turns me off. In this case I am glad to see that a group that can put together a body of excellent songs can get this much notice.

3. Mindy Smith – Self-Titled: A brilliant singer-songwriter released what is perhaps the best album of her career. Her lyrics are  moving and profound, but it is her rich vocals and passion give life to her words.

4: Sons of Bill – Sirens: The song “Santa Anna Winds” hooked me on my first listen. Every song after that kept me listening. A true Americana Rock masterpiece. The Sons of Bill  have an almost universal appeal.

5.Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls: I could almost say “See The Lumineers above”. The Shakes also came out of nowhere to receive a lot of fan fare. They recorded in and hail from the Muscle Shoals area, and the geographic influence shines forth. Their music is both Southern and Soulful, with a balanced mix of tempo.

6. Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale – Buddy and Jim: These old friends should have recorded together a long time ago. Let’s hope there is more to come.

7. Mumford and Sons – Babel: They set the bar high on their previous released. On this release, they raised it. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

8. Tift Merrit – Travelling Alone: “Bramble Rose” and “Another Country” are two of my favorite female Singer-Songwriter albums. She may have beat them both this time around.

9. Shovels and Rope – O be Joyful: I was joyful from the first listen. Every song is excellent. They take traditional Americana and make it feel like Rock.

10. Corb Lund – Cabin Fever: Pure Country from rural Canada. The duet with Hays Carll, “Bible on the Dash”, and “Gothest Girl I Can” are also the two funniest songs of the year

The next Ten:

11. Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You
12. Wrinkle Neck Mules – Apprentice to Ghosts
13. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
14. Jack White – Blunderbuss
15. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s gonna change the way
16. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
17. Dr. Dog – Be the Void
18. Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back
19. Ryan Bingham – Tommorrowland
20. Whispering Pines – Self-Titled

Click here for more Twangville Best of 2012 coverage.

Editors’ Picks: Best Album of 2011: Jason Isbell’s “Here We Rest”

Last year, our Twangville authors combined forces to dub Justin Townes Earle‘s Harlem River Blues as Best Album of 2010. This year official Twangille Best Album of 2011 honors go to Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit‘s Here We Rest. Let me tell you this is no small feat as we’re a picky bunch. Our Top 90 Albums of 2011 are listed below and represent individual picks from the Twangville Posse: Tom, Mayer, Todd, Chip, Kelly, Eli, Shawn, and Jeff. Congratulations to all who made the list.

  • 1. JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT, Here We Rest (150)
    Jason Isbell, Here We Rest
  • 2. THE DECEMBERISTS, The King is Dead (126)
    The Decemberists, The King is Dead
  • 3. GILLIAN WELCH, The Harrow & The Harvest (113)
    Gillian Welch, The Harrow & The Harvest
  • 4. WILCO, The Whole Love (106)
    Wilco, The Whole Love
  • 5. MY MORNING JACKET, Circuital (88)
    Wilco, The Whole Love
  • 6. BUTCH WALKER & THE BLACK WIDOWS, The Space (78)
    Butch Walker, Spade
  • 7. KASEY ANDERSON, Heart of a Dog (70)
    Kasey Anderson, Heart of a Dog
  • 8. GLOSSARY, Long Live All Of Us (67)
    Glossary, Long Live All Of Us
    Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO
  • 10. IRON & WINE, Kiss Each Other Clean (61)
    Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean
  • 11. FRANK TURNER, England Keep My Bones (58)
  • 12. LUCINDA WILLIAMS, Blessed (48)
  • 13. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS, Go-Go Boots (46)
  • 14. MILK DRIVE, Road From Home (41)
  • 15. RYAN ADAMS, Ashes & Fire (40)
  • 16 .THE JAYHAWKS, Mockingbird Time (39)
  • 17. BARNSTAR!, C’Mon! (37)
  • 17. FLEET FOXES, Helplessness Blues (37)
  • 19. SOCIAL DISTORTION, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (33)
  • 19. THE DAMNWELLS, No One Listens To The Band Anymore (33)
  • 19. THE LOW ANTHEM, Smart Flesh (33)
  • 22. AMERICAN GUN, Therapy (29)
  • 23. ADELE, 21 (27)
  • 24. DAVE ALVIN – Eleven Eleven (26)
  • 25. R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now (25)
  • 26. LYDIA LOVELESS, Indestructible Machine (24)
  • 26. OLD CALIFORNIO – Sundrunk Angels (24)
  • 28. MAXIM LUDWIG & THE SANTA FE SEVEN, This Round Is On Me (23)
  • 28. MOUNT MORIAH, Mount Moriah (23)
  • 28. SUZANNA CHOFFEL, Steady Eye Shaky Bow (23)
  • 31. MIDDLE BROTHER, Middle Brother (22)
  • 31. STEVE EARLE, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (22)
  • 31. WILL HOGE, Number Seven (22)
  • 34. ALISON & UNION STATION, Paper Airplane (21)
  • 34. DAVID WAX MUSEUM, Everything Is Saved (21)
  • 34. SONS OF FATHERS, Sons Of Fathers (21)
  • 37. JEN BUXTON, Don’t Change Your Plans (20)
  • 37. THE DUKE AND THE KING, The Duke and the King (20)
  • 37. THE FELICE BROTHERS, Celebration, Florida (20)
  • 40. AMOS LEE, Mission Bell (19)
  • 40. BRETT DENNEN, Loverboy (19)
  • 40. FLORENCE + THE MACHINE, Ceremonials (19)
  • 40. THE BOTTLE ROCKETS, Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening (19)
  • 40. THE HEAD & THE HEART, The Head & The Heart (19)
  • 45. FOLK FAMILY REVIVAL, Unfolding (18)
  • 45. NATHAN HAMILTON, Beauty, Wit and Speed (18)
  • 45. THE BARR BROTHERS, The Barr Brothers (18)
  • 45. ZOE MUTH & THE LOST HIGH ROLLERS, Starlite Hotel (18)
  • 49. BEN SOLLEE, Inclusions (17)
  • 50. DEER TICK, Divine Providence (16)
  • 50. OLD 97S, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2 (16)
  • 50. SARAH JAROSZ, Follow Me Down (16)
  • 53. JAMES MADDOCK, Wake Up And Dream (15)
  • 53. JO WYMER, Living With Scars (15)
  • 53. JOHN HIATT, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns (15)
  • 53. RECKLESS KELLY, Good Luck & True Love (15)
  • 53. THE BAND OF HEATHENS, Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son (15)
  • 53. THE BLACK LILLIES, 100 Miles of Wreckage (15)
  • 59. CARRIE RODRIGUEZ AND BEN KYLE, We Still Love Our Country (14)
  • 59. MARC BROUSSARD, Marc Broussard (14)
  • 59. ROBERT EARL KEEN, Ready For Confetti (14)
  • 59. ROBERT ELLIS, Photographs (14)
  • 63. BUFFALO TOM, Skins (13)
  • 63. SINFUL SAVAGE TIGERS, The Last Night Of the Revels (13)
  • 65. BLIND PILOT, We are the Tide (12)
  • 65. DAWES, Nothing Is Wrong (12)
  • 65. GREAT AMERICAN TAXI, Paradise Lost (12)
  • 65. PORTUGAL. THE MAN, In the Mountain In the Cloud (12)
  • 69. TEDDY THOMPSON, Bella (11)
  • 69. YUCK, Yuck (11)
  • 71. BEIRUT, The Rip Tide (10)
  • 71. MA, MEYER, THILE, DUNCAN, The Goat Rodeo Sessions (10)
  • 73. MATTHEW RYAN, I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall (9)
  • 74. CAGE THE ELEPHANT, Thank You Happy Birthday (8)
  • 74. CARY ANN HEARST, Lions and Lambs (8)
  • 74. THE GOURDS, Old Mad Joy (8)
  • 77. OKKERVIL RIVER, I am very Far (7)
  • 77. TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND, Revelator (7)
  • 79. THE GREENCARDS, The Brick Album (6)
  • 79. THE WAILIN’ JENNYS, Bright Morning Stars (6)
  • 80. RICHARD BUCKNER, Our Blood (5)
  • 80. TELEKINESIS, 12 Desperate Straight Lines (5)
  • 80. THE BITERS, All Chewed Up (5)
  • 80. THE NEW FAMILIARS, Between the Moon and Morning Light (5)
  • 84. MIKE ERRICO, All In (4)
  • 84. TOMMY KEENE, Behind the Parade (4)
  • 86. MARK W. LENNON, Home of the Wheel (3)
  • 87. ABIGAIL WASHBURN, City of Refuge (2)
  • 87. MATT THE ELECTRICIAN, Accidental Thief (2)
  • 90. CAITLIN ROSE, Own Side Now (1)

Editors’ Pick: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

They’re last album finished in the top ten of 2007. Will the latest Grace Potter and the Nocturnals album make the cut in 2010? Here’s what the Twangville editors think of their new self-titled album:

Tom says:

The album begins with the melodic scream “Ah yeah!” a fitting way to begin their third release on Hollywood Records. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have spent the last several years on the festival circuit blowing minds and speakers with their amplified signature sound. Let your mind imagine a cosmic creature the likes of a Tina Turner / Janice Joplin / Bonnie Raitt type and you have Grace Potter.

Familiar faces Scott Tournet (guitar) and Matt Burr (drums) continue to steer the identified flying band on their journey to the top of the charts with this self-titled album. Joining them this time are new editions Catherine Popper and Benny Yurco who help take the band to a new place. There’s less of the rootsy blues that accompanied the band on their early voyages replaced with a newer jet-fueled glam rock. There’s some getting used to the new sound for long time fans but probably a good thing for the band overall. You definitely get the feeling that the band is poised for super-stardom at this point.

At times the album feels like Potter is trying too hard to let listeners know that she can sing as witnessed in “Tiny Light” their first release from the album. That said, there’s no mistaking a solid effort overall bolstered by performances of Tournet and Burr in songs like “Paris (Ooh La La)”, “Oasis”, and “Medicine”. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals “got the medicine that everybody wants”. Somebody call the doctor I’ve got GP&N fever. [★★★★/4.308]

Shawn says:

The new Grace Potter and the Nocturnals release starts out strong with Paris (Ooh La La) that instantly made me think of the power chord and vocal combo that made Heart such a success back in the 70’s. There’s a hook you just can’t resist, even if you don’t like power pop. Similar things can be said for Tiny Light and That Phone. Things I Never Needed is a good strong ballad, and Hot Summer Night has a funky beat and hand clap percussion that’s very catchy.

Ultimately, though, this record falls short of Nothing But the Water. The grit that album had in cuts like Sweet Hands isn’t there, and there’s nothing as remotely funky as Toothbrush and My Table. Even lyrically the new eponymous record has nothing as emotionally engaging as Joey. In the book world, review columns are filled this time of year with “beach reads”; something engaging but not particularly memorable. This new Grace Potter release is a good beach listen. It’s very enjoyable, but doesn’t have the depth of her previous work.

Kelly says:

In the last couple of years, there has been an influx of albums that feature the pastoral, sepia-tinted, pot-scented jams that flow with a peaceful ease down the hills and paths of Laurel Canyon. That Cali-style free-love is great and all, but sometimes, you gotta just get on the strip and let loose, after the sun has dropped and freaks come out. Grip it and rip it. While Potter is from the Northeast, tracks like “Paris (Ooh La La)”, “Medicine” and “Only Love” are more reminiscent drug-fueled orgies where, after the fun is done, the participants end up scoring narcotics outside of the Roxy, rather than basking in a breezy, sun-baked field while harmonizing with your best friends. There’s a big difference between functioning as a jam-band and being a band that really jams. Grace Potter and her Nocturnals have turned in a record that proves they are the latter.

BONUS GIVEAWAY: I’m offering up my review copy of this album to the first to comment on this post. Who will be first?