Holy cramoley, Hearingade-ers. Amber V. here and it has been a while. 2012 has been quite the year. For one, I am Dany T. blonde now (Quite the change from the Winehousian beehive I rocked in my last Gravatar) and for another, I’m kind of a musician now so that’s neat! But enough about me. And more about how I listened to like NO new music in 2012. I’ll tell you what I did listen to: A lot of The Shangri-Las. Tons of Elvis Costello. Oh, and so many Lana Del Rey rarities. I mean, have you heard “Methamphetamines“? What a morbid bitch! Anyhow, I managed to cobble together 10 records that I WAS obsessed with this year for your enjoyment and sure, half of them might be them same as Abby’s but if you’ve been following us for the past three or four years, this won’t come as a shock!
I’ve been lovers of these Lightning youngsters for years now and since the release of their long awaited second LP, The Blonde Album, my adoration has not waned one bit. If anything, it’s only grown. And with my adoration, the Ypsi based trio (Hey! Ypsilanti, Michigan? That’s where I’m from!) has grown in maturity alongside me as well. Whereas both lead singer Leah Diehl and I used to go out and raise hell about town (“Friends” from debut November Birthday) now we both seem to spend our days losing our place despite ourselves and lamenting problems we can’t seem to put into words (“I Know”) or pleading for company just to keep the loneliness at bay (“Bobby Thompson”). Record of the year, hands down.
This isn’t an album, so much as it is an EP, or really an “afterthought” to Born To Die, though this mini-album puts last year’s Born to Die to shame. As I mentioned before, Del Rey can be a “morbid bitch” and that is showcased here to prime effect on songs like “Body Electric” where “Mary prays the rosary for (Lana’s) broken mind” and on the beautiful “Yayo,” a recycled tune from Del Rey’s “Nevada” days. “Yayo” has always been a fave Del Rey tune of mine and hearing its progression from five chord acoustic guitar ballad to six minutes of string soaked decadence is quite lovely. I could wax on, but instead, I’ll just leave you with these parting words: My pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola.
Much like my number one pick, Mister Powell is no surprise on the A.V. Top Whatevs this year. If these Chicago boys put out a record, it’s almost pos that I’ll love it but this year, they really outdid themselves with what is — wait for it — the best rock and roll album of the year. I’m not kidding. With music tighter than the lyrics are bleak, Powell & the Exports have managed to take all the best power rock acts of the late seventies and eighties and update them for the modern gen. This is no throwback band trying to recreate dad rock with ironic mustaches (though from time to time, they do rock quite the manly dad ‘stache). These guys are all about dropping lines about skinny jeans and touch screens but somehow managing to keep the modern tactful, the snot palatable, and the rock much harder edged than it was on their debut album, Skip Work. If you’re still not on the Export train, hop on before it’s going way too fast for you slowpokes to hitch a ride.
Oh, Fiona, you crazy bitch. I love this woman. Maybe I just have a weakness for nutty gals with pianos (looking at this list, I think we can confirm that) but Apple isn’t your every day Regina Spektor. That is to say, Spektor seems to be the kind of purposely “Look at me in my silly hat! I’m so CRAZY!” kind of weird. Apple, however, with her bonkers chord progressions and her lyrics referencing self harm and mental illness, in the real kind of weird, the kind you want to stare at with fascination because you wonder what it is that makes her tick. For masterpieces, look no further than “Valentine,” “Left Alone,” and “Werewolf.” Or just do what I do and listen to “Valentine” on repeat for hours and cry in between therapy appointments. It’s just so apt, you guys.
Another Ypsi local (as Hearingade founder Abby Holmes once said, there is something magical in the phallic water tower here, we just pump out the talented musicians), I could lavish praise upon Jones. His music has — and continues to get me through — the hardest of times in my life. Once described as a “tall man with a high voice,” Jones can often be found plucking an acoustic guitar in his basement wearing work boots, singing songs with spitfire wordplay lyrics that would make even the most poetic of legends blush. Backed by the angel voice of Misty Lyn and the demonic cello playing of Collette Alexander, Jones is the type of genius who ought to be more revered than he is but isn’t that how it is with all creative savants? All I’m saying is, that EP is pick-your-price. I recommend track 6 but you can’t do wrong with any of them.
Now I feel is where we get into “Amber Valentine left-field.” I’ve been quite the fan of creepy music for a while but my “creepy fandom” has always been more of the Timber Timbre organic-creep variety. But thanks to my dear friend David, I’ve been slowly been discovering the creepiness to be found in the more synthetic and my first love? Purity Ring. To be be more specific? “Fineshrine.” There’s something strange, seductive, morbid and innocent about Shrines, sort of like sweet foreplay and quickly turns into violent choking. It’s absolutely lovely, if you’re into that sort of thing.
In the same vein as my above pick but perhaps even creepier and dancier, Grimes appeals to my better nature because when I can understand her lyrics, I am absolutely smitten with the girl. The only reason Visions didn’t rate higher for me, especially with those jammy-jam keyboards peppering tunes like the standout “Oblivion,” is because I only just got familiar but I do believe this is gonna be carrying me over well into 2013.
What is this, Top Michigan Records of 2012? Well, just about. I’d like to say “I don’t get out much” but the truth is, I spent more time living in Nashville this year than I did Ypsilanti, yet somehow this mitten-shaped area just penetrates my bloodstream. Like AIDS. Anyhow, I’m biased as hale when it comes to this group of rag tag ragtime kiddos called The Appleseed Collective because I sell their merch and I’ve been on the road with them more than a couple-a-times. I know the words to all their songs, back to front, and I might be so bold as to say that banjo babe Katie Lee and I even have a few shimmy dances we do together from time to time to the song “Lookee For A Reason.” But that doesn’t make this CD any less of a jam-packed-with-jams hit. From Andrew Brown’s lovelorn “Life Is Beautiful (I Guess)” to Brandon Smith’s barnstormin’ “Sisyphit,” these young’uns are onto something that, as an old man in Florida told me, “you don’t hear kids sing these days and that is okay with me.”
There’s something special about The Hand In The Ocean, though I wasn’t sure what it was until I saw the trio in my basement, playing without mics, with lead singer Nate Tapling’s voice going from a husky, whiskey soaked growl one moment to a raw, begging plea the next. With only a banjo and a guitar to back him, the sparseness of The Hand In The Ocean is one of their most charming qualities if only because the supplementary players (Jeremy Dulac and Jordan Evans) are so damn good at what they do. Waist deep in recording their second EP, 2013 holds a lot of exciting things in store for The Hand In The Ocean though I’m not sure what those “exciting things” are other than “releasing a new EP” and playing at least three shows but what I can tell you is to keep an eye on these fellas. They’ve got my baby blues.