We’ve already done our fair share of end-of-the-year lists, but with all the hooplah about Kendrick Lamar this and Beach House that, we were bound to miss a few records that some of us really loved. Below are 10 you can download from Amoeba.com.
Dement’s woozy voice and salt-of-the-earth lyrics have please roots country fans for years, and in 2012 she released one of her best collections yet, Sing the Delta. She can sing a blues ballad to break your heart (“Before the Colors Fade”) or a rollicking country rocker (“The Night I Learned How Not to Pray”) with equal ease, her voice carrying a remarkable tone that pierces through like a biting wind chill.
Former Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn produced this welcome return from soul legend Bobby Womack, not treating him overly reverentially but instead offering here-and-now electro-blues soundscapes for Womack’s voice, wizened yet raw after years of tribulations, to scrawl his memories over. A duet with Lana Del Rey (“Dayglo Reflection”) comes off better than anyone could have hoped. Womack is at his best on the bold title track and rave-up “Jubilee (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around).” Watch a teaser of our interview with Bobby Womack below; see the full interview here.
One of Billyjam’s favorite records of the year, Homeboy Sandman’s First of a Living Breed is seriously great. The record’s fascinatingly complex yet approachable production is matched by similarly layered rhymes with street energy along with random references to Bikram yoga and Georgia O’Keeffe. Stones Throw hip-hop of the highest caliber.
This fantastical ’80s daydream of an electronica record made it into Brad’s Top 50 of the year. Hear the pulse-pounding synths of “Beginnings” or swirling sounds of “Generations” and imagine your own Blade Runner sequel.
Lots of people did check out Swans’ massive two-disc opus The Seer, but lots of people likely didn’t on account of it sounding too off-putting, too demanding. Don’t avoid it. Here’s a tip: Start with the precious acoustic ballad “Song for a Warrior,” song 1 on the second disc, featuring Karen O, and work your way back 'till you’re ready for the scarier tracks, like the heaving 10-minute no wave jam “Mother of the World” or the title track, an unforgettable 32-minute orchestral nightmare.
Cody ChesnuTT got a lot of attention after being touted by The Strokes back in 2002 with the release of the two-disc The Headphone Masterpiece and its dynamite first single, “Look Good in Leather,” as well as the brilliant remake of his own song with The Roots, “The Seed (2.0).” Ten years after that first album, with only one EP and another unreleased album to his name, he issued the official follow-up with Landing on a Hundred. The album rides high on classic soul vibes, echoing Marvin Gaye and Al Green on songs like the psych-soul of “I’ve Been Life” and heartfelt mothers tribute “That’s Still Mama.”
Released earlier in the year in March, Mixed Emotions was really more of a summery record. Maybe that’s why people seemed to forget it, come best-of time. Regardless, it’s a fantastic indie dance-pop record, hooky as hell and basically irresistible.
I almost forgot The Mountain Goats released an album in 2012. I guess that’s the problem with being both prolific and consistent — people tend to take you for granted. Check out the latest release by John Darnielle and co., a fantastical acoustic indie-pop journey.