Top 5 Albums of 2012: The Contenders

It’s that time of year again. Looking back through my library, I am reaffirming what I observed when I checked out The Current’s Top 89 of 2012 polling the other day: I really have not been following new music this year.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been much more wrapped up in my business, too busy making my own music (currently working on my third full-length album of the year), or just disinterested in what I’m hearing on the airwaves, but the numbers don’t lie: in 2011 I bought about 50 new albums. This year the number is around 20.

In the past I have eschewed self-published albums here, but as the quality of self-published music increases, and the barriers to self-publication fall with new Internet tools, the idea of signed acts being of inherently higher quality than indie stuff is more ludicrous than ever (and, truly, it always was). I’m still considering the vanity factor and leaving my own albums out of the running, but there’s some other great indie stuff I need to put on equal footing with the kinds of music you can buy on CD at Target or Best Buy. I’m also eliminating my previous restrictions against EPs and live albums, if for no other reason than to pad out this list just a bit.

So, here’s the list. The top 5 itself will be selected from this esteemed group of artists and albums:

  • Absinthe & The Dirty Floors: Side 2
  • Aimee Mann: Charmer
  • Air: Le voyage dans la lune
  • Andre LaFosse: Do the Math
  • Andre LaFosse: The Hard Bargain
  • another cultural landslide: last days last days
  • The Beach Boys: That’s Why God Made the Radio
  • Ben Folds Five: The Sound of the Life of the Mind
  • Coheed and Cambria: The Afterman: Ascension
  • Com Truise: In Decay
  • The Darcys: AJA
  • Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos
  • Field Music: Plumb
  • Grizzly Bear: Shields
  • Muse: The 2nd Law
  • Pinback: Information Retrieved
  • Return to Forever: The Mothership Returns (Live)
  • Rush: Clockwork Angels
  • The Shins: Port of Morrow
  • The Shiny Lights: Morocco

OK, I can be honest and knock a few contenders out right now: there is no way That’s Why God Made the Radio or The Sound of the Life of the Mind will make the list.

This new effort from the Beach Boys is surprising mainly in that it doesn’t completely suck like I expected it to. No, the main reason it’s surprising is that Brian Wilson and Mike Love managed tolerate each other long enough to finish the album (but not the tour). But that shock aside, there are a couple of outstanding tracks, along with a couple of truly appalling ones. (All of which were written by Brian Wilson; the rest are merely mediocre and pointless.)

The Ben Folds Five album is certainly my biggest disappointment of the year though. I’m not sure why, though I suspect it’s mainly just that in the decade-plus since the band’s previous album, my musical interests and those of Mr. Folds have gone in exact opposite directions. Either that or he’s just become a humorless middle-aged hack musical competition judge. Or both. (Full disclosure: I haven’t even listened to the entire album yet. Much like with the last two Phish studio albums, I just can’t do it.)

I’m also going to eliminate the Muse and Coheed and Cambria albums. I just haven’t listened to them enough to be able to judge them properly, but I suppose my lack of enthusiasm for them says enough anyway.

What do Made-in-USA iMacs, fracking in North Dakota, and right-to-work in Michigan have in common?

Yesterday I blogged about the huge glowing area in North Dakota that is experiencing a shale oil boom thanks to hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This morning I tweeted about new legislation passed to make Michigan a right-to-work state. And for the past few days I’ve been reading enthusiastic news that Apple is resuming manufacturing in the United States.

What do these things all have in common? Well… the always insightful Jason Kottke has the answer.

We’re witnessing an interesting cycle in the US economy right now. Changes in China in recent years have presented new challenges to its burgeoning manufacturing base; meanwhile here in the US the combination of Great Recession-related unemployment, the GOP’s 30-year experiment in rolling back labor rights, and (as Kottke notes) the artificially low price of natural gas here due to the fracking boom, have suddenly made the United States a much more desirable place for manufacturing. But will it last, and at what cost?

Deuce

I was never into KISS back when it was “cool” to be into KISS. I never had any of their records as a kid, no lunchbox or any other merchandise. Yet somewhere along the way (specifically, it was on a Minneapolis public access channel in late 1998 — I remember because it was during the month after I had moved back to Minneapolis from California but SLP had not yet joined me) I saw this old clip of them performing “Deuce” live in 1975 and was strangely captivated by it. I think it’s the synchronized head-bobbing thing Gene and Paul do starting at around 1:53 in this clip. Ridiculous, yet infectious: that’s the magic of KISS.

I was listening to some KISS this morning (I have their 4-disc IKONS boxed set), and when this song came on, I just had to seek out the video I remembered so well.

OK, putting ads on my site was worth it just for this

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been running Google ads on my website for the better part of two years now. I do feel like a bit of a tool, but hey, it’s earned me a whopping $114 in cold hard cash so far. (OK, maybe that’s revealing too much about my low readership selective appeal.) But it was all worth it just to discover an ad for DopeKitz.com appearing on one of my music pages.

Now, the ad features some animation which is apparently JavaScript-driven from Google ads, because when I tried to save it to repost here, it was a JPEG (and if anyone out there has ever heard of an animated JPEG before, please let me know). So I’ll just have to recount the experience for you as best I can.

First, it says, in an EXTREME font (both distressed and metallic — a winning combination):

YOU A PRODUCER?

And then, in an even MORE EXTREME font (with randomly-sized, overlapping letters):

GOT HEAT?

Followed by an explosion of EXTREMENESS mixing multiple distressed fonts, and with a tantalizing sample of the mangled grammar to follow:

STEP YO’ GAME UP!

This then changes to the final frame, a still shot of the URL in bold black text: www.DOPEKITZ.com over a picture of a row of woofers.

Clicking the link takes you, of course, to DopeKitz.com, a place where design is alternately excessive or non-existent, and where the only apostrophes are in places where they don’t belong! A place that implores you to “Find out what some of the industrys Hottest producers Have already discovered.” (Yes, all apostrophes are optional and all H-words are capitalized.)

Don’t miss such outstanding products as “Killer Klapz 1 & 2” and “Monsta Drumz,” although my personal favorite is “Screwed Voicez.”

Whatever you do, just remember: “Dont Waste your DOE.”

(Incidentally I believe that was the only instance on the entire page of correct use of “your/you’re”; fortunately they’ve tempered it with errors in every other word in the sentence.)

Keith Olbermann’s gloves are off!

Holy freakin’ schnitt. (No, not Schnitt.) Check out Keith Olbermann’s tirade on Bush last night:

I’m speechless. Yet despite the intensity and severity of his accusations, he still made me laugh out loud a few times, such as when he was reading a Bush quote and not-so-subtly emphasized a grammatical error — you could almost hear the “[sic].” Then of course there were the moments where he referred to Cheney as an “evil ventriloquist” and Bush as “marionette or moron.”

Too bad no one watches MSNBC.