Since I created this blog a few years ago, I've had an ongoing tradition of sharing with my friends my favorite music from the previous year. With renewed efforts to keep my blog alive, I thought what better way than returning to that tradition.
Favorite album: Celebration Rock by the Japandroids
Adulthood does strange things to a guy's musical tastes. Last year I watched Cameron Crowe's documentary about Pearl Jam's remarkable and essential career.
I connected so deeply with the movie, because Pearl Jam's songs were the songs of my own youth. And, yet, I find myself listening to Pearl Jam pretty infrequently these days. My taste has changed. When Elderly Woman, or Rearview Mirror comes up on shuffle, I am taken back to where I was in my life when those songs were popular. Nerdy, awkward, surrounded by a fantastic, but small group of friends. Life changes so little.
One of the reasons music means so much to me is because it truly does soundtrack our lives. When I hear Scar Tissue, or Peacebone, I remember those songs because I was listening to the Chili Peppers a lot when I went to college, and to Animal Collective when I started dating Ali.
My favorite album of 2012 was Japandroids' the House that Heaven Built because 1. it was memorable enough that I will always remember what my life was like last year as I listened to it repeatedly and 2. it reminds me of a better version of the punk bands I listened to so earnestly when I was half my current age.
The album is loud, and catchy, and makes you want to listen to it while catching up with old friends at a party - something I felt like I was able to do last year. It also makes you want to roll the windows down and just drive with the stereo blaring, and carrying you in no particular direction.
Indie music seems to value testosterone so little these days, and in some ways that's a good thing. But this is a guys' album about getting drunk, and laid, or remembering a long-ago time when doing those things was such a great achievement. I'd recommend this album to anyone, but I especially recommend it to my best old friends, who I'm sure will know exactly what I'm talking about the first time they give it a spin.
Favorite song: Wildest Moments by Jessie Ware
For a song with so many layers - dark, sexy, catchy, dancey - Jessie Ware sure made a simple video for my favorite track of 2012. The video is simply her singing the song into the camera, while she spins around like a record, rotating into the viewer's line of sight and out as if she's standing on a turntable.
The song is called Wildest Moments, but the beat is controlled and simple, like her video. It's the lyrics that pulled me in and made it my favorite song of last year.
Favorite concert: M83 at Marathon Music Works
At 33, I am pretty measured these days about which artists are worthy of dragging myself out of the friendly confines of my living room, and my Netflix queue in order to spend my hard-earned cash just to venture all the way downtown and suffer ungodly hipsters, overhyped food trucks and long bar lines.
But, M83 was worth every penny Ali and I paid for out ticket. Even the smelly pervert who sometimes blocked our view of the stage couldn't ruin it for me.
The band played a straight-forward set for nearly 2 hours, rarely stopping in between songs for idle chitchat. Just a rush of danceable shoegaze pop. It sounded like a danceclub symphony, and by the end Ali and I agreed it was one of the best shows we'd seen together.
Favorite music moment: The Carmonas at the Basement
So Nashville has a music scene that is alternately phony, pretentious, shallow and out-of-touch. It's hard to sift through it all and find artists with soul, and it's even more difficult for those artists to catch attention and stand out in the crowd.
What are the record labels that run this scene thinking these days, I have no idea. I see so many great musicians passed over, and so many bland ones get noticed.
It seems unfair that talent isn't simply enough for the deserving to get attention. Sometimes, bands take their message straight to the people. Last year the Carmonas played a gig at the venerable Basement, and they shared the stage with a variety of bands who came to see more than just them. One group of fans was there to see a nauseatingly cutsey pop duo that struck me as a cross between Hansen and Bieber, and an undefinable something else that made me want to harm something. There was a local songwriter backed by a full band including a harp (a harp!!) who left a pretty positive impression on me, until he stepped away from the mic and played his most popular song on just a ukulele. And there was a family band, that played good old fashioned simple rock n roll.
At one point during their set, the Carmonas had a mixture of each of these bands' fans sitting in captivation. The audience heard their music without any filters, and without anything prompting them to believe this was good music. Most of the crowd had never heard them before. And to see the audience so captivated in songs I'd heard since their infancy, in such a special venue, well it was an unforgettable moment for me.
Other albums I listened to a lot this year: Animal Collective, Alabama Shakes, the Walkmen, the Shins, Sleigh Bells, Spiritualized.
I also spent a good amount of my time catching up on a North Carolina band called Spider Bags, who I highly recommend to people who think they might trust a recommendation from me.
Hey 2013 is already shaping up to be a great year in music. We have tickets to see Animal Collective in March, Frightened Rabbit is coming later in the month, Local Natives have already put out a record and rumor has it My Bloody Valentine may finally put out a followup to the impossible-to-follow Loveless.