The year 2012 came with a lot of decent music. Below are some songs that you probably did not listen to, but really should check out. Indeed, do yourself a favor and buy the albums.By supporting these artists, hopefully they'll make some more good music.
Big Dipper was one of my favorite bands in the 1980s and you need to know about them if you don't already. Actually, if you can't come to like Big Dipper, I don't even want to know you. To this day, I walk around with the harmonies from "Meet the Witch" ringing in my ears. Gary Waleik and Bill Goffrier were born to harmonize. I've long-thought Bill to be an American answer to Robyn Hitchcock (painters of paint and words, both). So, I was so excited to hear in December 2012 that the Dipper had just released a new album, Crashes on the Platinum Planet. Was it, finally, the worthy successor to Heavens and Craps? Indeed, and more. This album is, start to finish, a master class in popsmith. It also raises questions. Has Goffrier kept his vocal chords in a hyperbaric chamber? Did Robert Pollard give Gary Waleik some of what he's been smoking all these years that produces the voices by which he's guided? What in the hell are the lyrics to the chorus in "Princess Warrior" (among the album's best)? It's hard to choose just one song, but I'll say "New Machine" is the song you need to hear. Check out a snippet here. Watch the official homemade video for their single "Robert Pollard" here.
These are actually the first two songs from Mould's recent "Silver Age" album. I picked both, because they listen together like a couplet. I read a review of this album somewhere that said it was too vital, too good, to call a "return to form". The reviewer said it was, instead, like listening to a ghost. It's hard to disagree. I love Bob at his angriest and so I think this is his best work since Sugar's Beaster. One does wonder whether Bob's getting paid some respect by Dave Grohl got his creative juices going again. From reading Bob's book See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody it seems pretty clear the man wants some respect. Much is due. You can check out for yourself whether that bleeds into the lyrics to these two songs. Check out "Star Machine" here and "Silver Age" here.
You know Kimbra as the woman from the Gotye video. You know, the famous one (all Gotye's videos are good)? Have you heard her album, Vows, though? She is a monstrously creative songwriter, melding styles (successfully) all over the place and using her voice as an instrument in a crazy Bobby McFerrin-meets-Michael Stipe kind of way. She should be much more famous in her own right but she might fall into one of those "impossible to pigeonhole for marketing purposes". She's way too smart and inventive for the Top 40-diva crowd, but a lot of indie fans probably can't get past some of the modern production values on the album. Their loss. "Good Intent" is my favorite track from her album. Check out this awesome live performance here.
Lee Ranaldo is the lesser-known guitar hero Jazzmaster genius from Sonic Youth. The "lesser-known" thing is an absolute crime, by the way. Lee is a certifiable guitar god. If that's not enough to get you interested, check out this live version of "Xtina As I Knew Her" from his album Between the Times and the Tides. Stick in there with the 90-second back story at the beginning. I think we all know our own story like that, and the song kind of has the feeling I get when watching the film Garden State (which I think unnervingly nails the vibe of a good chunk of the north-central and mid-central parts of NJ).
Voyageur is second only to Richard Thompson's masterwork, Shoot Out The Lights, in the running for the title of "greatest divorce album of all time". I'd like to say that after Asking For Flowers, I saw this one coming -- both the divorce and the transition to a more ethereal style. I'm sad for anyone having gone through a divorce (having done it myself), even if it was the best thing to do. While obviously pretty happy about moving past her marriage, Edwards finds a good deal to mourn. She has called "House Full of Empty Rooms" the most depressing tune she's written. Definitely, it is among the most beautiful. Here's a live version with fellow Canadian, Sarah Harmer.