Best of 2012 Preview: Music
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Skipp Whitman – 5AM (WTMN&Co)
From my review of the album at “Hear! Hear!” – “Skipp Whitman’s building his reputation as a brashly fearless rapper who understands his skills and is willing to work to get to the top. He’s not rapping about making millions and getting a stable of bitches. It’s a matter of his smaller goals being reached, or at least becoming attainable. “I told you that I couldn’t straighten up and sitting on the sidelines ain’t enough,” he raps on “When I Let Go.” “Just being a spectator ain’t on par with how I see my life going.” This is the hip-hop album for those of us who first dream big, then do bigger — no apologies.”
A Silent Film – Sand & Snow (Creative Media)
From Earbuddy.net: “There’s a bit of 80’s earnestness in both the sound and execution that makes this album really hard to hate, and the album’s slower second half works well as an anchor to the album’s fast-paced first half. This is the rare kind of album that actually sounds as though the band had fun while making it. I’d call it a guilty pleasure if I wasn’t sure that other folks would love it too.”
Matchbox Twenty – North (Atlantic)
Matchbox Twenty’s latest album features singles as good as anything they’ve produced in their career, but the band insists on wrapping these potential hits in filler. Bob Lefsetz puts it succinctly: “A surprisingly good album. The only thing wrong with this album is the times. Kinda like that old Brian Wilson song, North wasn’t made for these times, rather the pre-Internet era where brand names were everything and everything else was irrelevant.”
Jason Myles Goss – Radio Dial (Independent / Self-Released)
I spent the middle part of my summer raving about Jason Myles Goss’s stunning “Black Lights,” but I’ll let The Swollen Fox have the last word about the entire album: “It’s easy to get wrapped up in each song’s idiosyncrasies—the band and Goss did such an excellent job arranging these songs. But it’s also important to focus on what’s front and center: an immensely talented songwriter with a great voice. With Radio Dial, Goss has delivered his best album to date. His writing has evolved and his ideas have gotten bigger, but you get the feeling he’s only begun to scratch the surface.”
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man in America (Thirty Tigers)
No album this year pushes harder to decimate genre boundaries in the world of folk and Americana than Young Man in America. Even Pitchfork had good things to say: “It’s a fitting statement from a record focused on the classic American conflict between having reverence for lineage but craving independence and unpredictability. Like her characters, Mitchell possesses a restless spirit, one that pulls from her musical predecessors and contemporaries but continues with each release to develop a way of looking at the world that’s all her own.”
Gangstagrass – Rappalachia (Rench Audio)
Hip-hop meets Bluegrass in the best genre fusion since Bakersfield country. The album’s producer, Rench, sums up his goals in an inteview with “Hear! Hear” – “I know that, aside from the people who say ‘I like country and I hate hip-hop’ or ‘I like hip-hop but I hate country,’ those appear to be the extreme cases. There are a lot of people out there who have [both] Johnny Cash and Jay-Z on the playlists on their iPod.” He’s successfully crafted the perfect album for those who don’t want to choose.
Counting Crows – Underwater Sunshine (Collective Sounds)
Adam Duritz’s band puts together an album of off-kilter covers, developing the concept into their most fun album in more than a decade, hinting there’s plenty more worth hearing from these 90s stalwarts. From Consequence of Sound: “Underwater Sunshine doesn’t reward listeners with definitive versions or perfect takes. Rather, it’s sprinkled with “keeper” moments and variations (subtle and not so) on originals that feel just right.”
Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s – Rot Gut, Domestic (Mariel Recording Company)
This Indianapolis band finally created the perfect album to showcase its unique abilities. From Sputnikmusic: “The album’s greatest strength lies within its ability to transition between drastic style changes without missing a beat – something that Buzzard failed to do in a noticeable way. Rot Gut, Doemstic simply feels like an album, and its cohesion adds to the sense that all of this fuzzy discordance has a point.”
Mumiy Troll – Vladivostok (Mumiy Troll)
Russia’s preeminent Rock band of the last three decades continues its attempt to penetrate the American music market. Their latest effort features particularly strong material, agrees AbsolutePunk: “In the end, the fact that Vladivostok is even in the states is amazing in and of itself. After all this is a band that had to smuggle records by Blondie and the Sex Pistols pass the Iron Curtain to perform in stadiums worldwide. That kind of perseverance and dedication is exactly what rook music is about and exactly why the disc deserves at least a few listens.”
Hoots and Hellmouth – Salt (sonaBLAST Records)
Hoots and Hellmouth’s latest album sets out to differentiate the band from the legion of other folk revivalists lumped into the “sounds like Mumford” vein. The album’s two initial singles, “Why Would You Not Want to Go There?” and “I Don’t Mind Your Cussing,” got the blogosphere buzzing back in April, but the album of “new music for old souls” still sits tangled among the alt-folk fringe.
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That’s all for this week’s edition of Tuesday New Releases! We’re open to your suggestion as we develop this column to best serve you. If you have suggestions for future coverage, or if you have a product you’d like featured or reviewed here, simply email Jonathan Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.