Listening to hundreds and hundreds of albums every year sometimes makes it hard to enjoy single albums.
That’s why my top list for 2012 will consist of the albums I enjoyed most. Albums that got extended play. Albums that demanded so much attention it sometimes made me miss out on other albums.
These are MY favorites from 2012. I’ll split this in two, “foreign” (to me) and Norwegian. And the order is (almost) random.
Rune Berg – Hølå (The Hole).
Rune Berg has been the guitarplayer and main songwriter in two of my favourite norwegian bands, The Margarets and Number Seven Deli, collecting several nominations for Norwegian grammy, and numerous other awards. At one point he suddenly realised that all his band-mates had opted for their plan B, and gotten families and “real” jobs.
Rune never had any planB. He wanted to make music. And decided he had to make his first solo-album.
He wrote songs, recorded them in his own studio, produced the album, played several instruments (mainly guitar) and sang the songs. And it turned out to be one of the best albums of the year. Delicious popmusic with roots going back to The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Jeff Lynne & ELO and all that good popmusic released before popmusic turned evil.
You can find the album at Amazon or iTunes.
De Musikalske Dvergene – Tunge Steiner.
My all time favorite Norwegian band De Musikalske Dvergene (The Musically Apt Dwarves). You won’t understand any of this, as they sing in Norwegian – but I promise you that the lyrics singer and songwriter Helge Grønhaug delivers are absolutely magnificent.
This album is the album they always have had in them, and Ole Reinert Berg-Olsen (ORBO from ORBO & The Longshots) has done a masterful job of producing this – pulling out a musical direction from The Dwarves, that they have always had in their bones.
Robert Smith-Hald – Thou Mayest.
Robert’s album “Thou Mayest” is another ORBO-produced gem. Robert Smith-Hald visited his old homeland for the first time in 20 years to record this album in Nashville.
The album turned out to be outstanding, and filled with excellent lyrics and great music. Really a piece of music to pick up and enjoy.
American Aquarium – Burn. Flicker. Die.
While there is no order to this list, American Aquariums “Burn. Flicker. Die” is my top pick for 2012.
It’s the album I’ve played the most, it must have gotten at least 100 plays since it was released.
I was a part of the Kickstarter campaign for this, and that bunch of digital $$ is by far my best investment of 2011. The album that almost never was, as the band was ready to call it quits when BJ Barham got them to give it one last try to make THAT album. And they did. The lyrics are brilliant beyond anything else released this year, and the job Jason Isbell did to structure the band, their sound and these songs can not be rated highly enough.
I just plainly LOVE this album.
Andrew Combs – Worried Man.
I had waited for this release since I discovered Mr. Combs through Ninebullets. And he does not disappoint. Strong songs and fantastic lyrics that just keep growing on you. A real country record like it should sound and should be made, but not just country – he throws some blues and rock into the mix to keep it really interesting – and it sounds really fresh. In part a break-up album, this is one of my most played albums this year.
Bob Dylan – Tempest.
Being a monumental Dylan-fan, this album really impressed me. His Bobness still writes songs like nobody else, and kicks so much combined ass that it’s sometimes a mystery to me why anyone else bothers to even make music. His best in years!
Otis Gibbs – Harder Than Hammered Hell.
We’ve been so lucky to have Otis Gibbs visiting Norway over the last two years. He is one of the best songwriters out there, and his concerts are always good. Both live and on this albu, Otis takes you for a ride through his life, and merges both true stories, stories from the road and pure fiction like any masterful writer. “Harder Than Hammered Hell” has songs that’ll stop and make you think (Never Enough, Made To Break, Detroit Steel, The Land Of Maybe) and songs to make you smile and laugh. (Second Best, Big Whiskers). The production is the best I’ve heard on any of his albums, and the instrumentation puts a lot of bluesey guitar into the mix. And “Big Whiskers” is Otis Gibbs own “Tweeter and The Monkey Man”. Storytelling that would make Dylan smile and hum along.
Brock Zeman – Me Then You.
I’m not sure if Brock Zeman has made his best album with “Me Then You”, as his albums are so incredible it’s hard to choose.
From this list it’s easy to see that lyrics is what’s important to me, and Brock Zeman is one of the best writers out there. Of course the music has to match and hit me, but if the words are indifferent or just thrown together, I quickly lose interest. Nothing like that happening with this album. It’s rock solid, and really one of my all time favorites.
John Murry – The Graceless Age.
I’ve tried reviewing this album, and I’ll probably give it another try at some point. It’s just too hard to put into words how this album makes me feel.
But just to summarize, this holds some of this years strongest songs – and perhaps THE strongest in “Little Colored Balloons“. Open your mind to this song of of his fight with drug abuse, it will call for tears, goosebumps and heavy thoughts.
NOT to be missed (you’ll find it on Spotify or on Soundcloud), it’s a hard listen – but give it time and you will be forever rewarded.
Skyline Drive – Topanga Ranch Motel.
I love this album from Derek Thomas and Erik Kristiansen. Great songs, catchy melodies and a unique sound that will give any lover of pedal steel guitars a reason to play air-pedal-steel. This is real alt. country like it’s just not made anymore. And why I haven’t written about this is beyond me…
Check out the songs at Skyline Drives Bandcamp.
Cold Chisel – No Plans.
Another album that I need to write about. Cold Chisel is Australias best and most legendary band. Period. This just rocks. Get it at Amazon.
And last, but by all means NOT least:
Patterson Hood – Heat Lighting Rumbles In The Distance.
Pattersons best solo-album, filled to the bursting point with his fantastic lyrics and showing us what a master storyteller he really is. And the song “(untold pretties)” is one of his best songs to date. Go get it!
Other stuff I’ve really enjoyed:
McDougall – A Few Towns More.
Debonzo Brothers – One Damn Heart.
Number Seven Deli – Toxteth.
The James Low Western Front – Whiskey Farmer.
Arliss Nancy – Simple Machines.
Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods.
Tift Merritt – Travelling Alone.
Jason Isbell – Live From Alabama.
American Aquarium – Live from Raleigh.
Sons Of Bill – Sirens.
Michael McDermott – Hit Me Back.