With so much music out there it is easy to get lost or forget about things you’ve been listening to but haven’t shared. Well, as I think through my favorite musical moments and records of 2012, I realized that I had overlooked discussing the three albums below that I quite enjoyed. And, as the end of the year will bring a roll out of lists filled with countless acts you might not have heard in 2012, I didn’t want these guys to be forgotten or lost in the shuffle.
Enigmatic and Eclectic: The Mynabirds’ Generals
Based in Omaha, Nebraska (home of Bright Eyes (Conor Oberest), Saddle Creek Records, and Warren Buffet), The Mynabirds are the brainchild of Laura Burhenn. What you will notice from the outset is Laura’s vocal similarity to a number of other deep-throated, soul soaked singers who also released records this year, like Fiona Apple, Aleksa Palladino (of Exitmusic), and Natalie Bergman (of Wild Belle). But, whereas I found those albums disappointing for their lack of variety, Generals is curious blend of thrashing rock songs (“Generals”), a pleasant blend of bluesy folk numbers (“Disaster”), and some clever hybrid numbers. Check out the fusion of the muzzled lo-fi vocals blended with a ragtime piano lines on “Radiator Sister” or the more adventurous electronic starting “Disarm” that transforms into a pastiche of 60s era doo-wop with Caribbean percussion. It’s a quirky eclecticism that makes each track feel like a new adventure. And, of course Laura’s voice which is haunting and intoxicating at the same time.
Listen to The Mynabirds’ The Generals here.
I’m certainly not the first to say this, but this record sounds a whole lot like Sgt. Pepper’s Era Beatles or Piper At the Gates of Dawn Pink Floyd. In other words, this is vintage 60s pscyh rock at some of its finest. But, Lonerism isn’t just a veiled covers record. The Aussie’s are definitely putting their own imprint on music that was the soundtrack to many of our slacker weekends of adolescence. Lyrically, I have no clue what is going on as the vocal track seems to be less about communicating ideas but more about emotion and atmosphere, sort of like Bon Iver’s record of the past year. Despite being at a loss for the meaning of their words, I am content to take this aural adventure with Lonerism, and you should too.
Listen to Tame Impala’s Lonerism here.
Adrenaline Boost: Titus Andronicus’ Local Business
Quick question what do you get when you cross early Hold Steady’s pub rock with the melodic fervor of the Clash and may dash of late 70s Springsteen? Yeah, the subject line gives this one away. From the first single “Ecce Homo” (a reference to Nietszche or Pontius Pilate or both), I’ve been really enjoying Titus Andronicus’ Local Business quite a bit. Unlike the work of Coldplay these days, this is a rush of blood to the head and heart perfect for working through any mental apathy or dreariness brought on by the diminishing daylight. Perhaps it’s the increased focus on tight anthemic punk rock numbers (see “Ecce Homo” and “Still Life With Hot Deuce…”) and the incorporation of slow Stones-esque Blues (see “(I am the) Electric Man”) which has endeared the latest Titus record over the previous one. Whatever the reason or rationale, this album has gotten me rocking in a way few albums have over the past year. The boys of Titus Andronicus are clearly out to have and inviting us all to have a good time. With song titles like “Food Fight” and “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe”, you know they don’t take themselves too seriously, a refreshing attitude in a genre that can be a bit self-righteous. (Plus, I really appreciate their efforts to literally promote local business in the cities/neighborhoods they are visiting, see here.)
Listen here to Titus Andronicus’s Local Business here, it may just be your soundtrack to those lazy, uninspired, fog-ridden mornings.
If you aren’t pumping your fist in the air from the opening track, then perhaps this isn’t for you, which is cool, there is room for all of us in this strange but wonderful universe.