It’s insanely late and we’re getting off to a slow start, but I did promise an update, so here goes…

 

We begin The Best Of 2012 with a look back at some of the not-so-good releases, a few albums I didn’t get the chance to hear, and a few that came close, but just didn’t quite connect.

Biggest Disappointments of 2012

Fun – Some Nights
Fun’s 2009 debut, Aim And Ignite, seemed like a logical progression from lead singer Nate Ruess’ old band The Format. There were pop hooks and melodies aplenty, but this time out they were clothed in an art rock sheen that brought to mind Queen and ELO. This time out they seem entirely too interested in the sounds of contemporary top 40 charts, burying their good qualities beneath layers of hip hop grooves and autotuned vocals. While this helped them to finally have a breakout hit, I just can’t stomach it. I’ll be patiently waiting for a return to the glory days of melody and creative instrumentation.

Cory Branan – Mutt
Seeing this guy live was like a revelation. His guitar playing was phenomenal; his voice world-weary; his lyrics clever and often hilarious. He oozed personality from every pore – it was hard not to love him. On record, however, things are a bit different. His vocals sound smoother, the arrangements bigger, and the spontaneous, dare I say dangerous, vibe of his live shows is completely absent. While he’s still a talented songwriter, this album glosses him over until he sounds like just about everyone else out there.

Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
While they’ve never been a band with a revolutionary sound, Delta Spirit still managed to carve out their own niche. Taking the emo and indie rock of members’ previous bands and feeding it through a country/folk filter, then adding ridiculous layers of percussion, they didn’t sound quite like anyone else on the scene. On this, their third major release, they inch closer and closer to mainstream radio rock, and in the process lose a lot of what made their first two albums so good. While their self-titled album certainly isn’t bad, it is at times rather generic, which needless to say is a huge disappointment.

 

Probably would’ve liked it if I’d heard it…

The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
Upon hearing a few tracks from this album, I was generally left with a positive opinion. However, in the past I haven’t always been able to get into John Darnielle and company. I’m thinking that perhaps my tastes in the past weren’t quite ready for the Mountain Goats, but if I gave them the time now I could appreciate them. I really do need to check out this album.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend
I’ve liked everything else GY!BE has released, so I see no reason why I wouldn’t like this album as well. I just haven’t had the time to devote to 20-minute songs. Sounds like a good plan for a lazy day off.

Karriem Riggins – Alone Together
In theory, I like this album. I love jazz, but I especially love when jazz reaches out to other styles and genres and gets wildly experimental. The idea of a hip hop drummer and producer becoming a bandleader for a set of soulful, experimental, urban jazz-rap sounds pretty cool. Add it to the list.

 

Honorable Mentions

Merchandise – Children of Desire
Starting with the underground rock and new wave of the 80’s is almost always a good idea. It’s where you go from there that separates the good albums from the bad. While Merchandise doesn’t always hit with everything they try, you have to give them credit for trying it all. Whether tackling trippy shoegaze, arty post-punk, or epic arena rock, they manage to create a distinct mood and keep things consistently engaging and listenable. This could be a band to watch in the near future.

Rookie Of The Year – Twenty Four
Full disclosure – I’ve known Ryan Dunson for the better part of a decade. While his style might not always be my cup of tea, he’s excellent at what he does. Combining the orchestrated acoustic emo of his debut album with a little of the rock edge of more recent releases, along with a few nods to electronica and piano pop, he’s put together his most consistently good album yet. Whether you like this album will depend entirely upon your tolerance for bands like All American Rejects and Dashboard Confessional, but at this point he pretty much has writing catchy heart-on-sleeve emopop down to a science.

Lightships – Electric Cables
This album comes so close. A solo project from Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love, with a number of all-star contributions, Lightships perfectly captures the vibe and passion of classic pop. But as much as I love the Fannies and Love in particular, Lightships is almost too pleasant. It floats too easily to the background and doesn’t grab my attention the way the Fanclub always manages to do. There’s a lot of beautiful melodies, intricate arrangements, and big hooks to be had here. For some reason I just find them a little too easy to tune out.

 

That’s all for this first installment of The Best Of 2012. Stay tuned for #20-16, coming your way in a mere matter of hours…..

 

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