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These are not necessarily the best albums of 2012. They may not even be all of my favorites. There was so much music out there this year, again, and I only got to hear a small fraction of it. Among the albums that I heard this year, these are the ones I like best. Once again this year artists over 50, some pushing 70 and beyond, made great music. But there are some good young bands out there too, you just have to dig to find them. That’s where streaming services like Spotify and Rdio come in.
At the end of the day my favorite album of the year is not a rock and roll record. I don’t think that I’m trying to make any grand statement with that choice. I’m just saying that it was the music that moved me the most this year. There is plenty of rock and roll on the list that follows.
I’m not going to give you a full review of each album, just a couple of sentences. All of them, with the exception of the Bill Mallonee album, are available on the aforementioned streaming services, and Bill’s album streams on BandCamp. So go and listen to a few of these if you’re interested, and let me know what you think in the comments. There’s a Spotify playlist below to help you out. And if you like something you hear, please consider buying it. Did I miss your favorite? Put that in the comments too. I’d like to know what you’re listening to.
Charlie Haden and Hank Jones – Come Sunday
The most deeply felt and emotionally resonant music that I heard this year. A fitting legacy for the great pianist Hank Jones who died not long after the album was recorded.
Patti Smith – Banga
The great poet hasn’t lost a step. Smith created my favorite rock and roll album of the year.
Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
Third time’s the charm for this California band. Essential new music from a band still on the rise.
Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
Difficult, cryptic, inscrutable, and funny. This is not Scott 5. Walker continues his late-career journey out on the bleeding edge.
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
The one that made everyone’s list this year, and with good reason. A stunning debut that shows unlimited promise.
Erin Costelo – We Can Get Over
I didn’t discover this Canadian artist, but I told a lot of people about her, and they were glad that I did. You will be too.
thenewno2 – thefearofmissingout
Dhani Harrison’s name got me to listen. Interesting, innovative music got me to stick around.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Pretty much what the title says it is. Any questions? Another one that’s on a lot of lists this year.
Graham Gouldman – Love and Work
If you loved him in 10cc, there’s no reason to think you won’t love him still. Great songwriting and production make this one a winner.
Anais Mitchell – Young Man In America
She knocked me out the first time I saw her live. A singer/songwriter who is far removed from the mold, creating music that is never what you expect it to be.
The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio
Admit it, you thought this would suck, didn’t you? Well it didn’t, not even close, and the closing suite represents some of Brian Wilson’s best work in years.
Bill Mallonee – Amber Waves
One of America’s greatest songwriters, and certainly one of the most underrated. His 50th (!) album is as great as the 49 that preceded it. Do yourself a favor and get to know his work.
Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe
An emotionally draining comeback from the great soul man. Diagnosed with cancer this year, but now in remission, there’s a lot more to look forward to from Womack.
Dr. John – Locked Down
Hey, it’s what you want from Dr. John. Undeniable funk. That alone, although there’s more, earns him a spot on the list.
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
It’s been a real pleasure watching Edwards grow from album to album. This one was produced by her paramour Justin Vernon, and finds her scaling new heights.
Ryan Bingham – Tomorrowland
The term “new Dylan” has been bandied around for decades. It’s been a curse for some of those it was applied to. This guy actually has a shot at earning the title.
The Explorers Club – Grand Hotel
A young band from Charleston, SC with a definite ’60s sensibility. The thing is, they know the secrets of what made that music work so well, and they apply them here.
Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
His voice has a little bit more of an edge these days, and some of the slickness has fallen away, but in the end this is another collection of great songs, well performed by Earle. That’s enough for me any day.
The Killers – Battle Born
I know, you hate them. Or maybe you like one of the singles. What can I say? Something of a guilty pleasure I guess, but I’m a fan.
Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth
Another title that tells us what we need to know. A new dawn, a new day for the Jamaican legend.
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
Gary Clark Jr – Blak And Blu
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
John Fullbright – From The Ground Up
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Donald Fagen – Sunken Condos
Bob Dylan – Tempest
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Rhett Miller – The Dreamer