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Best of 2012 – Part 1 (selections 20-11)

December 25, 2012

Alica20. Alicia Keys – Girls On Fire: This is adult R&B.  That is not meant to suggest this is old fart music, but that there is a maturity to Alicia Keys’ music (always has been).  Alicia is my favorite diva and I feel like her last few albums have been misfires, this one is on fire.




norah jones little broken hearts19. Norah Jones – …Little Broken Hearts:  Norah was in need of serious makeover and this album is just that. The sound was foreshadowed last year on Danger Mouse’s Rome LP.  Norah reinvented herself without destroying herself. This is not a stretch toward false hipness, but a natural progression.  For me this was the best thing she has done since her debut.



cat power18. Cat Power – Sun: I did not manage to review this album in 2012 despite the fact is was in my heavy rotation.  I first stumbled on to Cat Power on what I call her Al Green album – The Greatest.  I loved that album.  Where that album was soulful and Memphis, this is cold and New York.  That coldness is not a turn off, but an alluring aloofness.  The songs are generally slow-moving, yet urgent. I can’t put my finger on the appeal to this album – but the appeal is strong.



TC Funk17. Various – Twin Cities Funk & Soul: It freaks me out that this compilation comes from my hometown.  It was like there was this underground culture in the Twin Cities; well I guess there was.  When Prince came on the scene it was like he was this mutant, but this collection proves he a natural outgrowth of this hidden scene – he was its genius appearing at the right time.

frank-ocean16. Frank Ocean – Orange – I have always been a sucker for over the top epic R&B and Frank Ocean fills that category with this ambitious release.  I don’t think there is anything particularly innovative here, but the execution is perfect.  In a world filled with lousy musicians spewing out crappy pop, it is worthy to draw attention to the true craftsman.  Frank Ocean is that true pop craftsman.


matthew e white

15. Matthew E. White – Big Inner – Although we don’t live in pop’s golden age, we live in a different kind of exciting pop age: when anyone with talent and a vision can create a pop symphony.  No big record label no name producer, just one man and one music community’s creativity.  I am continually amazed that pop music of this quality can come out of thin air.  This is not a demo tape, but a fully realized LP.  Bold arrangements and an excellent recording.



john Mayer14. John Mayer – Born and Raised – This is probably the least hip album on my list.  But I can not deny what would have been a huge hit if it was released in 1977.  This s a great late 70s singer-songwriter album.  You just have to ignore that Mayer is a douche bag and just listen to the music. If you like James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and the pop version of Eric Clapton you should like this little pop masterpiece.  In a distinguished career, this is Mayer’s best and most mature and consistent album.



bonnie13. – Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream – This album was in my heavy rotation this last spring when it came out.  Unfortunately I never got around to writing a proper review.  This is a fantastic pop blues album and as good as anything Bonnie has done in her long (40 plus years) and distinguished career (multiple Grammys).

Highlights for me are:

  • The opening song “Used to Rule the World,” which could have come from Bonnie and Prince’s  never heard 80s collaboration – or at least it sounds like what I imagine that session could have sounded like: Bonnie Funk.
  • Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” is reimagined as reggae lite.
  • Two Dylan covers (produced by Joe Henry) that are perfect.  Specifically “Million Miles” is an absolute masterpiece.


12. Soundgarden – King Animal – After a serious lay off, my favorite Seattle grunge band is back.  A wonderful rumbling collection of heavy rock. I give a lot of credit to a band of Soundgarden’s stature that they don’t hit the road with an oldies show, but feel compelled to create new material.  The fact they that material is solid and on par with their old stuff is a bonus.



CB Back-Road Highways Cover Web Res

11. Chastity Brown – Back-Road Highway – Thank goodness for yearend “best of” lists, otherwise I would have completely missed this outstanding release.  Chastity has a great soulful voice wonderfully presented in Americana arrangements.

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