The mid-year best-of always has been more of a Kot thing: He’s the king of declaring, three weeks into the new annum, that a disc may be his “album of the year.” Me, I prefer to live with a record as long as possible, to see if it rises or sinks in estimation, before committing to a definite position on the all-important year-end tally.
With that in mind, and to expound on my comments on this week’s episode of Sound Opinions, here is where I stand so far in 2012. (Follow the links to my original reviews.)
You may think that Jason “Spaceman” Pierce has no surprises left after three decades of exploring the intersection of spiritual and drug-induced transcendence. But from the depths of a near-death experience, he delivers his most brilliant and mesmerizing set since Lazer Guided Melodies (1992), giving us another masterpiece.
2. Kelly Hogan, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain (Anti-)This is the record that Chicago’s sweetheart has been waiting her entire career to make: A collection of soulful, pitch-perfect tunes written by some of her many admirers (Robyn Hitchcock, M. Ward, Jon Langford, Andrew Bird), taken to whole new levels by that unparalleled voice and skill for interpretation, and certain to win her even more fans.
Jamie Meline’s third solo album in a long and prolific career surpasses the levels of musical and lyrical invention of his best work, opening with a quote from ol’ Bill Burroughs and only getting darker from there, while reminding us how sorely lacking in creativity much of the rest of hip-hop has been of late.
Timeless power pop from masters of the form, back on the scene in their original incarnation after 30 years, and picking up right where they left off.
Though its roots are deeper than a thicket of kudzu, there’s nothing retro about these twenty-somethings’ take on classic Southern soul, thanks to the heartfelt immediacy of Brittany Howard’s powerhouse voice and irrepressible spirit.
El-P’s second masterpiece of the year perfectly showcases former Outkast protégé Michael Render’s witty, insightful and ever-flowing portraits of “Rebellious African People.”
Collaborating with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Mac Rebennac once again emerges from the psychedelic fog to summon the most mysterious demons of the swamp, revisiting the Night Tripper persona of his best album, Gris-Gris (1968), and showing that he has drunk deep from the fountain of youth.
Cleveland’s one-time bedroom auteur Dylan Baldi expands to a full band and offers a ferocious set with myriad touchstones to the best indie rock of the last three decades—Fugazi to the Get Up Kids, Hüsker Dü to Nirvana, and Ride to F*cked Up—while never sounding like anyone but his own odd self.
Guitarist-vocalist Marissa Paternoster and her art-punk band mates always have sheared the top of your head off on stage. Now, with Steve Albini at the controls, they explode on record with the same undeniable and unstoppable force.
Yearn for a bit more guitar and a little less piano if you will—I do. But Jack’s solo debut nonetheless comprises another collection of oddly timeless, instantly lovable songs for an American rock canon that you thought was set in stone and covered with dust.
And, Still in Heavy Rotation…
Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)