With Stunt Granny taking a turn toward pop culture in general, and with the end of a pretty mediocre year of music upon us, we thought it only fitting that we compile a list of our top albums and songs of 2012. If there’s anything we love as much as – or more than, gasp! – pro wrestling, it’s music, and with the glut of talentless Internet sensations and pirated-Pro Tools wizards gumming things up for the musicians who actually deserve attention, we wanted to offer our own version of Liquid Plumr by way of this post. So, in true Stunt Granny form, here are our opinions and strong stances on the cream of the crap that was 2012. We found some gems, and we hope you enjoy them. (Read and listen after the jump!)
Teenage Bottlerocket – “Freak Out!”
Punk rock doesn’t need to be difficult. Just make it fast and funny, and, if you can, toss in a little melody to show some talent behind your noise. Teenage Bottlerocket, from the booming metropolis of Laramie, Wyoming, has conquered this three-step process with Freak Out!, a speedy tribute to the music, movies, hairdos and cheesy bullshit of the 1980s. With 14 songs and 29 minutes of jokes about “Top Gun,” “The Karate Kid,” and a guy “looking like the ghost of Cliff Burton…he whipped his head around so fast, he gave himself a concussion,” not one second is wasted. And because punk wouldn’t be punk without making fun of someone, check out “Necrocomicon,” a great 1-2 jab at nerd culture. Tune in prepared to laugh, and possibly give yourself a concussion.
Japandroids – “Celebration Rock”
Two-piece bands have been en vogue since the White Stripes (music’s answer to bedhead), and few (or I used to think “no”) bands could make the stripped-down concept very palatable. For god’s sake, it’s rock and roll, you gotta have some low end! And then, in seeking out top albums of 2012 from the ungodly number of expert lists out there, I was drawn to the silly name Japandroids, to the jubilant idea of “Celebration Rock,” and, upon the first listen, the untamed vocals and performance. Damn, I think I got knocked on my ass by two dorks from Canada! When it comes to the sound mix, think of Sonic Youth or some deeper Nirvana tracks with the vocals low – swept up – in the mix; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The biggest thing this album has that practically no others do this year is raw, passionate energy. You can’t manufacture what Japandroids has captured here. Someone may as well have put a boombox in the middle of a Mountain Dew-fueled practice space, hit “record” and let them fly. This blast of refreshment is one of the best albums of the year period, no qualifiers, and not just “by a two-piece band,” which is like being the prettiest waitress at Denny’s. And hey, its eight songs check in at less than 40 minutes, so you don’t have much to lose.
Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”
Only two songs made radio worth listening to this year: Gotye “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a great haunting, lo-fi track about a girl taking her records and going home, and this one by the multi-talented Bruno Mars. A radio DJ friend of mine heard this song and sneered, “Who the hell put out a Police cover?” She can go to hell. I heard this song and raved, “God damn, Bruno Mars can do anything, including a Police cover!” I love the instrumentation, I love the weird extra noises including the timely grunt (“UHH!”), and Mars’ voice, especially in the hook, is better than 10 Adam Levines multiplied by a thousand Katy Perrys. If I’m stuck listening to the radio for any amount of time, “Locked Out of Heaven” gives me a 3-minute reprieve.
Paul McCartney & (remaining) Nirvana – “Cut Me Some Slack”
Kidding, that song was rotten on the vine. How about Rihanna “Diamonds”? Or Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together”? No, no, I got it, Pink “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” because the title is a veiled reference to a blow job! And she’s a WOMAN?!?!? WOW! Call her a large land-moving implement, because she is breaking ground! Anyway, this was an awful year for music overall, only slightly less doldrumatic than 2011. When your second best song is Gotye, and your third best might be One Direction, it’s time for Weezer to put their big-boy pants back on and write fucking “Buddy Holly 2K.”
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
Normally, I’d bag on French people because that’s what you do when you grow up in the US. I won’t this time though. I went from enjoying this band to being all in with this album. It’s French for “The Wild Child” which taught me all of the French I know aside from Oui. The title track is awesome along with the rest of the band. It’s a head bangers dream from beginning to end, if any of you kids actually buy an album.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
I can be an ass hat when it comes to music. If a song or band is on a popular radio station, I disqualify it without even paying attention. The White Stripes was one of those bands. I know they’re not together any more but the more important part is still playing music and I’m digging it.
Honorable Mention: Testament – Dark Roots of the Earth
Just outside of the Big Four in thrash metal (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer) Testament put out an awesome album after a long hiatus.
Lamb of God – Resolution (Album) – Ghost Walking
The catchiest heavy metal song I can remember in quite sometime. It was a toe tapper every time I heard it. The song is so good, Randy Blythe got jailed in the Czech Republic for it’s awesomeness.
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror (Album) – Demons
I heard these guys on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations from South By Southwest. I could give a care less if the festival is a bunch of hipster douche bags. I found their album the next day and have continued to listen since then. Demons is my favorite track.
Honorable Mention: Erica Blinn – Headed For Disaster (here’s a different song so you can check her out)
She’s mostly a local act but I’m digging her music. More to come after I see her NYE.
Okay, let me admit first of all that my musical tastes are probably representative of my advanced age and lack of diversity in the music I listen to. Eric may regret inviting my contributions as it will lower the “cool quotient” a fair amount but here’s what I was proud to buy (yeah I still buy CD’s and listen to them start to finish) in 2012. You will notice that a lot of my favorite music I guess would be described as a kind of folk or “Folk Rock?”. I think these folks are supremely talented musicians so if it’s not your thing feel free to skip my contribution. I saw Glen Hansard at a concert where a girl shouted “YOU ROCK” and he responded “Well it’s more folk really” to which a guy in the audience yelled “YOU FOLK’IN ROCK” which Glen happily repeated for the crowd. It’s a type of music that’s not for every one I get that. If you don’t like it well I’ll withhold any bad puns using the music genre here. To each their own.
Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel…”
Hell, this album (outside of my favorite track “Werewolf”) isn’t what anyone would really call catchy and I certainly have to be in a certain mood to listen to it but it’s the kind of music that very few artists could pull off. The entire album is basically acoustic and Fiona has the vocal strength to handle that easily. Fiona Apple has the chops to pull off very unusual things lyrically (at times Billboard describes her singing in “Every Single Night” as “tribal yodeling”). There is a reason she hasn’t released an album in six years. Each song has lyrics that can best be described as deep and sometimes they are quite clever and humorous. I’ll readily admit part of my first place vote is my desire for this list to appear to be intelligent if I look at this five years from now as I know Fiona’s albums hold up well over time.
The Lumineers self titled debut album
I realize that some of you may have only heard the overwhelmingly catchy “Ho Hey” song and think that this band has no depth. I bought the CD because it was on special on Amazon and at first was amazed that four of the first five songs are ridiculously short. If we are rating the folky type rock bands no one is knocking the Avett Brothers off of the top of my list but the B side of this album (if such a thing still exists) finds some tremendous lyrical depth and great harmonies. I’ve heard this band compared to Mumford and Sons and from where I sit they will end up being much better. “Ho Hey” actually just starts a series of fantastic songs (Slow it Down, Stubborn Love, Big Parade and Charlie Boy). My personal favorite song is Big Parade with lyrics that range from describing a Presidential candidate, to a beauty queen, to American Bandstand, to a priest who leaves the priesthood to the boxer who has to “do a job” to tie things back to wrestling at least tangentially “Take a dive for goodness sake, say goodbye to the welterweight”..
I could be wrong but I think The Lumineers are going to be successful for quite a while. I’ll bump Glen Hansard from Album of the year to bet on the come on this band.
Honorable Mention – The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Great album but I know I’ll like it much better after I hear all of these songs in concert. “Live and Die” is typical great Avett’s stuff.
Glen Hansard – “High Hope”
Rhythm and Repose is a hell of an album and it’s a bit more introspective than most of the stuff Glen did with the Frames or even the stuff he did with Marketa Irglova as part of the Swell Season. I considered voting for the somewhat haunting “You Will Become” instead where Marketa lends her tremendous vocals and hopefully these two will make another album together even though they are no longer romantically involved. The thing is though when you are really listening to Glen Hansard you have to give him the chance to really get into his vocals. There is a reason this is the song they used on “Parenthood”. When you have Glen belting out the word “there” in the way only he can do it well that makes the song. I got to see him in concert this year and after I did so I got a whole new appreciation for this song. If you listen to this song it’s best to hear him sing it live.
Passion Pit – “Take a Walk”
I don’t know if this band will make it or not but this is the one song that we broke down the lyrics in my class. I’m a bit skeptical since they quickly sold this song out to Taco Bell which probably isn’t the best sign for their artistic independence but if Wilco (my favorite band) can sell out to VW I guess I should give these guys some slack. I don’t have this CD and I don’t know much about this band.
I always play music before my classes and occasionally a few of my students will think some of the stuff I play is cool (I was a few months ahead of the curve on Imagine Dragons). I convinced one of my students to take in the Frank Turner show and he took five or six friends who clearly were having a blast as you can’t have a bad time at a Frank Turner show so that was pretty cool. Anyway, this is the best song I can come up with about the Great Recession. Think about how heartbreaking this conversation would be. “Honey, it’s your son I think we borrowed just too much. We had taxes, we had bills, we had a lifestyle to front.” Lots of great lyrics here about conspicuous consumption and living beyond our means. The idea that they will keep up appearances at all costs and still complain about the “socialist” government to the neighbors shows more lyrical depth than I usually hear even on satellite radio.
Honorable mention – Bad Books – “Forest Whitaker”
I want to give as much attention as I can to some bands who are at least new to me. I only have this song to go off of but I’ll probably buy the album. One great line. “I bought a bird, that repeats what I say but I’m lonely is all that he’s heard…. I dicked around but it’s just like a movie who’s picture is off with the sound.” I like these kind of passively angry but catchy songs.
I’ll echo Eric’s comments and mention a song that wouldn’t actually make honorable mention but it’s not as bad as most songs of its type . I was looking at my sister’s Rolling Stone over Christmas and saw that they listed “Call me Maybe” as the #50 song of the year and I don’t think they were joking. I will say this for that song. For a pop anthem type song even I found it kind of catchy and not overwhelmingly annoying (of course I don’t ever hear it on the radio stations I actually listen to). The Dolphin cheerleader video version (and the army parody of that) were entertaining enough that I’m not upset that this song was released which is more than I can say for most Top 40 music.
Jack White- “Blunderbuss”
Well Jack White finally gave us all a fully realized version of The White Stripes and it was pretty damn good. It combined all of the elements of the last three White Stripes albums perfectly. It’s Jack White though how couldn’t it have been a great album?
Dinosaur Jr- “I Bet on Sky”
Yet another release bt the reformed Dinosaur Jr and the first that was written after their latest tour. Yeah J Mascis wrote all of the songs like usual but this album listens like a collaborative effort. The tension of the latest two releases is missing and it allowed the music to flow much cleaner.
Psy- “Gangnam Style”
Is there even a discussion about this? This is a song by a South Korean that became popular in the States after it made its way around the internet as a joke. His song permeated every level of American culture. Hell your damn parents know it. The fact that I know it and I don’t even listen to music like this or popular radio pretty much seals the deal. Oh and who the fuck is Bruno Mars?
Who the fuck listens to Taylor Swift? This rat-faced bitch received all of her fame from the rub of a drunken Kanye West and the spunk of John Mayer. The fact she has a career let alone a successful one is ridiculous. How the hell is she so popular when her fame is limited. While I am at it how many more baritone voice English bitches are going to receive exposure in America? Hasn’t the cycle ended for them? Lets bring back English boy bands while we are at it. Why isn’t Justin Bieber on this list?