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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of 2012, Part 2 (Notable Bands, Albums and Live Acts)

Sometimes a song tells only part of the story.  For instance, Alabama Shakes had a huge song this year with their  breakout  "Hold On".  It is a terrific song on a solid debut record.  The story goes beyond that.  Last year at this time Alabama Shakes was, in reality, unknown.  Within a year they are now Grammy nominated stars selling out concerts in minutes.  Will they have staying power?  How do you follow the success up when you start so high?  Every generation has its One-Hit Wonders.  Who is 2012's?

With that in mind here is some new talent that appear to have potential for more.  Apologies to Gary Clark Jr and Imagine Dragons, Passion Pit to name a few.  There is only so much time in a day and I failed to see those acts live or give their records an intent listen.  Some respected peers have said good things if it means anything.

Grouplove:  "Tongue Tied" blew up this summer and with good reason.  It is pure, pop magic.  It's that one of a kind song that brings us all together.  Never mind they used it to sell Apple products.  This group of hippies have the classic back story too.  They met at an artist colony in Greece.  Hannah Hooper wasn't even a musician.  She paints (see the groups cover art.)  The boys thought she might be able to sing.  Good call.  In March they opened for Young the Giant at Terminal 5 and destroyed it.  The headliners paled in comparison.  A few months later they sold the place out with top billing.  the band has such a positive energy you can't help root for them.  And expect bigger things!

Gotye:  Psy's "Gangham Style" notwithstanding, this lanky Aussie had the song, and video, of the year (and decade so far.)  Many parodied, often covered, Gotye lays out the blue print for a break up song.  You listening Taylor Swift?  March was a good month in the otherwise mundane life of Terminal 5.  Gotye and his band of merry makers showed precision and care in their flawless show there.  With other gems like "Easy Way Out" and "Eyes Wide Open", Gotye is anything but a flash in the pan.  He's so darn likable too!

Naked and The Famous:  Until recently New Zealand's finest musical export was the comedy duo The Flight of The Conchords.  Granted, this duo's debut is a few years old.  However 2012 saw them find mainstream success headlining larger venues and fine tuning their live act.  This was one of the more refreshing and exciting live shows I was witness to this year.  Sometimes going to an event with no expectations and/or limited knowledge can be a real treat.  Naked and The Famous "Girls Like You""Young Blood" and "The Sun" are but a few highlights from their debut record.  They are recording the sophomore effort another World away.

M83:  Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez has been performing and recording under the name M83 for over a decade.  His tremendous LP Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is, like Naked and The Famous, hardly new by alternative standards.  But the album kept building steam and I was fortunate enough to catch them/him live this year too.  It was an absolute blast.  Like Gotye, Gonzalez has an eye (and more importantly an ear) for detail.  You have heard several of his tracks in commercials, tv shows, and films.  Here them in their entirety here:  "Midnight City"  "Steve McQueen"  and "Intro"

Walk the Moon:  Oh the power of a hook, and a charismatic lead singer sure helps too.  "Anna Sun" propelled these Ohio rockers into the mainstream from obscurity.  Their self titled album proves they are capable of more than one hit.  Anyone else think they were the Foster the People of 2012?  OK, maybe not that big, but quite similar.  For instance:  "Jenny" or "Next In Line"

Chappo:  They played Mercury Lounge the other night in what was to date their biggest show (supporting their debut record Moonwater.)  They played a show in Brooklyn that defied explanation during the summer and a riveting record release party last winter.  The songs are as fresh and original as the band odd and irreverent.  Unsure what kind of future, if any, they might have.  But you could do a lot worse getting on board with them.  "Come Home"  "Hell No"

Grimes:  It is fashionable to put Clare Boucher, stage name Grimes, on a best of list.  Her album, Visions, is on plenty of them.  Her October NYC shows were all packed with young hipsters dying to dance, do drugs, and let loose.  It is part dance, part theatre, and a whole bunch of fun.  Open your mind and imagination because this is not for everyone.  After all I only managed about 5 songs at the show I saw.  It's ok to dig it from afar though.  No one is watching you, trust me.  "Oblivion" and "Vanessa"

Jack White:  Thanks to the wonderful people at Webster Hall (you know who you are) I was able to see Mr White in this intimate setting.  There are few working musicians today who can blend so many genres seamlessly.  Fewer still who can play guitar like White.  He played a set with an all girl band and then an all guy band.  2 + hours of rock and roll fantasy.  Here is the video, directed by Gary Oldman: Jack White @ Webster Hall, AMEX Unstaged

Brandi Carlile:  This little firecracker can flat out perform.  Her voice is angelic and powerful.  Her personality is infectious and endearing.  And her songs, a rich tapestry of love, life and everything in between, are well written and beyond worthy.  Unsure why she doesn't have the success say, Melissa Etheridge had many years ago.  But this much is certain, she should.  "Raise Hell" live from Craig Ferguson and "The Story" from Austin 2010.  For the record, if "The Story" does not send chills up your spine please check your pulse.

White Rabbits:  Another in a long line of Brooklyn bands that is on the precipice.  There records are good, if not a touch inconsistent.  There live shows however are quite entertaining.  It is a free-wheeling percussion show with a touch of piano and guitar.  Oh, the vocals are solid too.  Just a hard working rock band more than capable of putting together solid music.  "Heavy Metal" or "Percussion Gun"

Enjoy, debate, share and provide feedback.   Part 2 of Best of 2012 can be subscribed to via Spotify here:  2012 Best of Part 2

Concert reviews and/or more detailed info for each act can be found here:

Naked and The Famous
Walk the Moon
Jack White
Brandi Carlile
White Rabbits

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