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Best of 2012 – Part 2 (selections 10-1)

December 30, 2012

Tord10. Tord Gustavsen Quartet The Well

The ECM record label has been a reliable source of music for me for many years, but the I have not followed the label lately.  This release brings me back to that great atmospheric sound the label has always been known for, yet this is entirely contemporary too.  This is a traditional jazz quartet format (sax, piano, drums and bass), but this is not traditional jazz.  There is folk music feel to the music.  Very mellow and thoughtful music.  This is gentle snowfall at twilight – I don’t have to go anywhere – but sip fine Bourbon by the fire music; reflective and relaxed.

Big Cats9. Big Cats – For My Mother

Staying with atmospheric, is this marvelous Big Cats release.  Big Cats comes from the hip-hop genre, but this is a very accessible release for the jazz fan.  There is a great back story here – see my original review for some great links regarding that story.  Mellow beats that will appeal to young and old.

Donald_Fagen_-_Sunken_Condos8. Donald Fagen – Sunken Condos

Donald Fagen is the classiest sick fuck you will ever witness.  Fagen has made a career out of wrapping his twisted thoughts in jazz/pop ear candy.  Old man leering at a young lady – no problem – Fagen disguises it in perfect pop.  If you like Steely Dan you will like this release.

Try to figure out the motivation of Fagen’s cover of Issac Hayes’ “Out of the Ghetto.” If you got some ideas leave me a comment.

dr. john7. Dr. John – Locked Down

I can’t believe I never reviewed this album given it was huge part of the soundtrack of my mind in 2012.  The collaboration of Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys) and Dr. John is totally inspired.  This is deep dirty blues and funk.  A great introduction for young audiences to the genius of Dr. John.

FJM_FEAR_FUN_COVER1

6. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

What a great album – pick your influences here: Beatles, Byrds, Gram Parsons, Jeff Buckley, and on and on.  Ultimately this is a great classic California singer songwriter album – with one foot in the past and one foot in the present.

PS – coolest album cover of the year too!

tempest_album-cover5. Bob Dylan – Tempest

I liked this album right away and it has grown on me even more.  Dylan has been on a late career roll for over 15 years now.  If you think gangsta rap is the only music filled with violence, when then you have not listened to folk music.  There is more death and mayhem here than in a Tarantino flick.

Dylan late career surge has been filled with timeless folk songs that sound like they were composed 100 years ago and the punch line is that Dylan composed them last week.  I admit Dylan’s voice takes an open mind or experience, but it is worth it – learn to like it – you will be rewarded.

polica4. Poliça – Give You the Ghost

Every once in a while, even I can’t miss a hip band on the local scene.  And this band is about as hip and contemporary as you can get.  Normally I hate auto-tune, but this band has figured out how to use it effectively and soulfully. I was crazy about this album for months and I still am.

neil young pp 23. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

2012 was a Neil Young year with two albums (Americana and Psychedelic Pill) and an autobiography.  It was really a trilogy.  The autobiography was meant to reflect on the past and to cure Neil’s songwriter’s block.  My guess is all that reflecting on the past got Neil thinking about old songs he used to play – that coupled with writer’s block produced the covers album Americana.  Finally out of all that comes Psychedelic Pill.  Neil has had so many great albums in his career it is hard to rank it – but it was the perfect album of the moment.  The three pieces are one interlaced whole.  An aging artist still on top of his game.  This is wondrous and ponderous shoe gazing grunge for aging hippies.

PM Unity Band2. Pat Metheny – Unity Band

I have been a Pat Metheny fan since 1978. He is in my top 5 artist list.  But that does not mean he is a shoo in for my top-ten every year he releases an album – he has had some duds.  But this release is in my top 5 Pat Metheny releases.  As a bonus I got to see this band live at the Dakota in Minneapolis this year.  Pat does not typically play with a horn player, but when he does it is a treat.  This album features a great sax player in Chris Potter. As far as I am concerned jazz guitar does not get any better than this.

crb1. Chris Robinson Band – Big Moon Ritual

Well my number one is probably the least hip choice a guy could pick.  But I fell in love with this album the first time I heard it and have never fallen out of love with it since.

This is plain-old 70’s rock – you can hear Grateful Dead, Traffic, even early Springsteen.  Most of the songs are extended jams that feel as good as your favorite jeans.

The arrangements are wonderfully spacey.  The recording is superb without being fussy.  If ever there was a contemporary album was meant to be heard on vinyl through a tube amp this is it.

Well that is it for my top-20.  It was hard to narrow the list down and if I get the energy I will provide you a list of honorable mentions.  Most of those honorable mentions could easily have been on the top-20 list – depending on my mood at the time.  Have a great 2013!

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