A Fan's Notes

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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.

Top 20:

Charlie Haden and Hank JonesCome 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 SmithBanga

The great poet hasn’t lost a step. Smith created my favorite rock and roll album of the year.

Delta SpiritDelta Spirit

Third time’s the charm for this California band. Essential new music from a band still on the rise.

Scott WalkerBish 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 CosteloWe 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.


Dhani Harrison’s name got me to listen. Interesting, innovative music got me to stick around.

JapandroidsCelebration Rock

Pretty much what the title says it is. Any questions? Another one that’s on a lot of lists this year.

Graham GouldmanLove 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 MitchellYoung 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 BoysThat’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 MalloneeAmber 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 WomackThe 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. JohnLocked 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 EdwardsVoyageur

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 BinghamTomorrowland

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 ClubGrand 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 EarleNothing’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 KillersBattle 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 CliffRebirth

Another title that tells us what we need to know. A new dawn, a new day for the Jamaican legend.


Also worthy:

Michael KiwanukaHome Again

Gary Clark JrBlak And Blu

Tame ImpalaLonerism

Leonard CohenOld Ideas

John FullbrightFrom The Ground Up

Father John MistyFear Fun

Donald FagenSunken Condos

Bob DylanTempest

Neil Young & Crazy HorsePsychedelic Pill

Rhett MillerThe Dreamer

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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