Okay, so I’m about two or three months late in getting this out. But hey, so are the Grammy’s, right? Last year I only listed my top eight albums. Eight! Man, 2011 was a down year in the music that I enjoy, but 2012 was definitely the opposite. There is no way in hell I could squeeze my list into only eight. I would be leaving out far too much awesomeness. As always, I should note that all of this music is easy to purchase online, and fairly cheap, too. I usually use Amazon’s mp3 service, as they have tons of deals to get great music at $5 per album or less. Also, check out Daytrotter, as you can pay $24 for a ONE YEAR subscription to stream thousands of great artists; I discovered it this year and it has an awesomeness beyond awesome. Most of the folks I listen to need the support, so don’t be a pirate, alright matey? Purchase legally and support the art they make! And of course, go see live music! So without further ado, I give you the music that moved me the most in 2012.
Best Albums of 2012
17. Uncaged – Zac Brown Band
Call me cheesy if you want to, but I still love me some Zac Brown Band. They’re really the only radio-friendly band I still love.
Best Tracks: Day That I Die, Sweet Annie
16. Uno – Green Day
Three albums in a year may have been overkill, but I really liked the first one. Classic Green Day sound.
Best Tracks: Nuclear Family, Carpe Diem
15. Rize of the Fenix – Tenacious D
It could never live up to the masterpiece that was their debut album, but it’s still guaranteed to rock your fucking socks off.
Best Tracks: The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Cage, 39
14. Celebration Rock – Japandroids
Best fitting album title of the year. These guys rock out and sound like they are having a hell of a time doing it.
Best Tracks: The House that Heaven Built, Fire’s Highway
13. Break it Yourself – Andrew Bird
I just discovered Andrew Bird this year thanks to Rolling Stone. He’s awesome. You should discover him too; if you already haven’t.
Best Tracks: Near Death Experience, Give It Away, Danse Caribe
12. My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters & Men
By now most folks have heard these guys thanks to their break out song, “Little Talks.” It’s definitely the best on here, but there is still plenty worth checking out on this album.
Best Tracks: Little Talks, King and Lionheart, Dirty Paws
11. Boys & Girls – Alabama Shakes
Seriously, just go get this album. If you don’t like this music, I fear you have no soul.
Best Tracks: Hold On, Heavy Chevy, Hang Loose
10. Blunderbuss – Jack White
This album was not at all what I expected it to be, but that doesn’t at all mean it was a letdown. There are so many different musical tastes displayed here, it’s one of those albums that has you revisiting it over and over and finding diamonds that you originally thought were coal.
Best Tracks: Sixteen Saltines, Love Interruption, Freedom at 21
9. Tomorrowland – Ryan Bingham
Not the best album we’ve heard from Mr. Bingham, but there is still enough here for us die-hard fans. There are several songs on here that I like, including “Too Deep to Fill” and “Never Ending Show.” He left behind The Dead Horses for this one and went on his own label, and you can tell. It’s just missing something big that he had in Mescalito and Roadhouse Sun, but there is definitely a developing sound that he is trying to get to. He may not be there yet, but I still think the best is yet to come for this talented songwriter.
Best Tracks: Too Deep to Fill, Never Ending Show, The Road I’m On
8. Handwritten – The Gaslight Anthem
Similarly, this is not Gaslights’ best work ever, but it’s still solid. When I first heard “45” I thought this album was going to be a beast. As it turns out, that was the best track on here by far. But there are still lots of solid songs on here, including the title track. The album ends slowly with two really great songs in “Mae” and “National Anthem.”
Best Tracks: 45, Handwritten, Mae
7. Stars & Satellites – Trampled By Turtles
I don’t understand how I have not seen this album on any “Best Of 2012” list. I discovered these guys by listening to Daytrotter, and have fallen in love. If there is such a thing as Northern Bluegrass, these guys have mastered it. There are a few instrumentals on here, which I’m not a huge fan of. And there are a few that are a bit too slow. But “Midnight on the Interstate” and “Alone” are two of the best songs of the year, and there are enough smaller songs to make this album one of the year’s best.
Best Tracks: Alone, Midnight on the Interstate, Keys to Paradise
6. The Carpenter – The Avett Brothers
Like most Avett Brothers albums, this had to grow on me. The cool thing is that by now, I know this, and just continue to listen. I heard “The Once and Future Carpenter” back in February and instantly loved it, so I hoped the same for the rest of the album. But it was vintage Avetts in that I had to re-listen over and over. Many songs I instantly disliked I’ve come back to and now love.
Best Tracks: Live and Die, The Once and Future Carpenter, February Seven
5. O’ Be Joyful – Shovels and Rope
I’d never heard of shovels and rope until Hayes Carll shared a youtube video of “Boxcar” on Facebook. One search and I found their new album and became an instant fan. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are a husband and wife duo, who basically recorded this album out of their tour van, and they are simply brilliant here. This is another one of those instances of when I have no idea why country radio gives these guys no play. This is seriously a band that every country music fan should know about and be enjoying right now. Best country album of the year by far.
Best Tracks: Birmingham, Keeper, O’ Be Joyful
4. The Way We Move – Langhorne Slim & The Law
Another album that I have seen absent from almost every “Best Of 2012” list and again it makes no sense to me. I know that some may struggle to get past Slim’s vocals, but there is not a bad song on here. It’s not really a happy album or a sad album. This thing stretches across every human emotion. I’ve been listening to it since it was released in June and it still hasn’t gotten old.
Best Tracks: The Way We Move, Bad Luck, Wild Soul
3. Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
This is Springsteen at his finest. Bruce has always been about being the sounding board for the little man, and the voice for the blue-collar worker in America. He takes it several steps further with Wrecking Ball, and I wasn’t even a huge fan of the first single, “We Take Care of Our Own.” It’s okay, but the best stuff here are the folkish songs that tell stories of what Americans have gone through in recent years. Nobody does it better.
Best Tracks: Wrecking Ball, Easy Money, Shackled and Drawn
2. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
I found out about these guys from a friend who shared “Ho Hey” on Facebook on a Friday. By Sunday night we’d listened to the album probably two dozen times while working on the house. We then saw them Monday night in Ames, and there were less than 50 people there. I told the lead singer after the show that I was glad I got to see them like that in such a small setting, and that I seriously doubted they would be playing in front of tiny crowds like that anymore. I was right on that, as they have blown up. What a great, great album.
Best Tracks: Ho Hey, Submarines, Big Parade
1. Babel – Mumford and Sons
Absolutely no sophomore slump here. These guys took their success from “Sigh No More” and knew exactly what to do: go bigger. I saw a lot of criticism of these guys when the album came out. Like they became so big there was Mumford fatigue and backlash on their success. And the old argument that all their stuff sounds the same. That argument is for lazy people that don’t understand music. I get that it’s not for everyone, and I’m fine with it. But for me, this stuff is the best there is. On Babel, they use the same blueprint of starting songs slow and building towards an explosion, but this time it’s like their first album on steroids. I, for one, love the fact that they didn’t stray too far from what they made on the original album, and in doing so they made a masterpiece. The Grammy’s awarded them, and so do I.
Best Tracks: I Will Wait, Not With Haste, Ghosts That We Knew
On to the best songs. I’m doing something a little different here this year. If I truly listed my top songs in order, I’d probably fill most of it with songs from only my top six or seven albums. So, in order to give some credit to the other artists I enjoyed, and to spread the wealth a bit, I limited myself to only one song per artist. I still made it quite a ways. So here we go…
Best Songs of 2012
25. See Me Through – Josh Ritter
24. Say Goodbye – Amos Lee
23. Too Soon to Tell – Todd Snider
22. The House that Heaven Built – Japandroids
21. Runaways – The Killers
20. Man on Fire – Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes
19. Sixteen Saltines – Jack White
18. Movin’ On – Justin Townes Earle
17. Home – Philip Phillips
16. Some Nights – fun.
15. Day That I Die – Zac Brown Band (feat. Amos Lee)
14. Time to Run – Lord Huron
13. Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men
12. Near Death Experience – Andrew Bird
11. Live and Die – The Avett Brothers
First heard it and didn’t like it. It’s now a favorite.
10. Too Deep to Fill – Ryan Bingham
It’s a “This land is our land” for a new generation.
9. Springsteen – Eric Church
I hate this guy. But this song is badass.
8. The Way We Move – Langhorne Slim & The Law
The title track from an epic album. It’s three chords, but it’s brilliant.
7. Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
I heard this song and knew the new album would be great.
6. 45 – The Gaslight Anthem
Vintage Gaslight. Loud, fast, and Fallon’s wailing chorus.
5. Ho Hey – The Lumineers
This song is now everywhere; and deservedly so.
4. Alone – Trampled By Turtles
Starts slow and is exploding by the end.
3. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
The song of summer. A mix of Janis and Creedence, and an instant classic.
2. Birmingham – Shovels & Rope
I can’t even describe it. It’s just brilliant.
1. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
The first single from the new album was ultimately the best. Fast, slow, loud, quiet, and ultimately inspirational.
So there you have it. My favorites of the year gone by. Hopefully you’ll get some time to sample some of these out, and ultimately purchase them if you dig them. They’ve been worthy every penny spent this year. And please, let me know what I missed, as I’m sure I’ve left out plenty of worthy tunes.