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Top Ten Albums And Songs Of 2012

December 30, 2012 1 comment

Image1. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

The Gaslight Anthem have now churned out four outstanding full lengths in only five years, and this might be their best yet. It takes everything everyone loved from their earlier work, smooths out the rough edges, and turns the volume way up.

Favorite line:

Now do you blow it out come Friday night?
See if you wanna, you can find me on the hood under the moonlight
Radio, oh radio, do you believe there’s still some magic left
Somewhere inside our souls? – “Howl”

Image2. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

While I would love to declare a tie for my favorite record of the year, I can’t do that, so I’ll have to relegate this masterpiece to second best. It is nearly perfect in all ways – from the deeply personal lyrics, to the dual vocal attack of Greg Barnett and Tom May, to the fact that it is such a huge improvement over it’s predecessor, 2010’s Champerlain Waits. This is the album that announces the arrival of one of today’s brightest up and coming acts.

Favorite line:

Like when we would take rides
In your American muscle car
I felt American for once in my life
I never felt it again – “Good Things”

Image3. Fun – Some Nights

This band is huge for a reason. Some Nights is the rare album that makes a statement while still being extremely accessible. While every song sounds like it is being fueled by a mixture of cotton candy and sweet tarts, the lyrics hint at lead singer Nate Ruess’s struggles with his own past, high expectations, and society’s notions of what a rock band is supposed to be.

Favorite line:

I was never one to believe the hype – save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked, but here they come again to jack my style –                                                                                                 “Some Nights”

Image4. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

After the not-so-great Working On A Dream, Bruce and Co. came out swinging on Wrecking Ball and created an album that is as vital as anything the band has created over their 30+ year career.

Favorite lyric:

Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bills
It’s still fat and easy up on bankers hill
Up on bankers hill the party’s going strong
Down here below we’re shackled and drawn – “Shackled And Drawn”

ImageNeon Trees – Picture Show

While it might not be the most consistent album, Picture Showstandout tracks deliver on the promise the band displayed on their wildly success debute EP, Habits. “Everybody Talks” proved that good music can still make it’s way to the radio, but “Weekend” is the album’s best example of pop gold.

Favorite Line:

don’t you know how it feels
to get days and months and years
trapped inside a waking dream
I bet you you and I could sit back

tonight and try
to make it more than just a fantasy – “Weekend”

ImagePOS – We Don’t Even Live Here

I like this album because POS makes it clear that he is mad at everyone and everything. It’s an album about the Occupy Movement from someone who hates the Occupy Movement.

Favorite line:

Cold world
Cool new blanket
Stole it from the shelf at the Walmart thankless
Threat level awesome
Threat level orange juice
Who’s gonna stop ’em
We ain’t gotta throw stones at a glass house
We break in, just so we can smash out

– “All Of It”

ImageThe Vaccines – Come Of Age 

While they had a lot to live up to after their debut album  made them an overnight sensation in the UK, they meet those exepcetions with Come of Age. It is therefore ironic that one of the album’s standout tracks (“No Hope”) is all about letting everyone down.

Favorite line:

And I could make an observation,
If you want the voice of a generation,
but I’m too self-absorbed to give it clout. – “No Hope”

ImageHostage Calm – Please Remain Calm

While Please Remain Calm certainly has some catchy tunes, it’s value lies in the lyrics. Vocalist Chris Martin and Co. are able to capture what it means to live in our Great Recession society better than any band I’ve heard.

Favorite line:
Turned a circus for gamblers and gawkers and thieves.
When the word got around, we spilled out on the streets.
As the banks decorate every house in defeat. – “On Both Eyes”

ImageSharks – No Gods

The debut full-length from this English quintet is similar to Hostage Calm’s debut album in that what sets it apart from other releases is its lyrics. Lead singer James Mattock paints in broad strokes, leaving almost every song open to interpretation, proving there is much more to the record that the straight forward rock you’ll hear upon first listen.

Favorite line:

We’re the overestimated underdogs

What you await from us, now you can get for yourself – “Til The Wonders Rise”

Image

The Killers – Battle Born

 While their last effort was dressed up with electronics and slick production, Battle Born returns to the stripped down rock and storytelling of 2006’s Sam’s Town. It may not be as radio-friendly as their earlier work, but tracks like bombastic lead single “Runaways” and “Miss Atomic Bomb” can still blow the roof off of any arena.

Favorite line:

They say I’ll adjust
God knows I must
But I’m not sure how
This natural selection picked me out to be
A dark horse running in a fantasy
“Flesh And Bone”

 

 

Honorable mentions:

Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Hot Water Music – Exister
Japandroids – Celebration Rock 

Top Ten Songs of 2012:

1. The Menzingers – “Burn After Writing”
2. The Menzingers – “Good” Things”
3. Hostage Calm “On Both Eyes”
4. The Gaslight Anthem – “Howl”
5. Neon Trees – “Still Young
6. The Vaccines “Teenage Icon”
7. Sharks “‘Til The Wonders Rise”
8. Japandroids “Continuous Thunder”
9. Bruce Springsteen – “Death To My Hometown”
10. Hot Water Music “State Of Grace”

Honorable mentions:
Titus Andronicus “Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter”
The Rolling Stones – “One More Shot”
Neon Trees – “Weekend”
Blink-182 “Boxing Day”
The Gaslight Anthem – “Mulholland Drive”
Neon Tree – “Everybody Talks”

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Book Review: “Bruce” By Peter Ames Carlin

November 24, 2012 1 comment

ImageI’ve never written a book review before, except maybe in an elementary school English class, but now seems like a good time to post my first. Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce chronicles Bruce Springsteen’s career in often painstaking detail, giving fans a rare look into the mind behind one of rock and roll’s must successful and revered acts.

  Reviewing Carlin’s Springsteen biography, is somewhat less daunting than reviewing one of his live shows. I’ve seen Bruce multiple times this year, but haven’t written a single review. The band’s live performances are jam packed with memorable moments, basically three hours of rock euphoria. It’s the type of show that words can’t do justice.

In Bruce, Carlin attempts to capture the passion and energy that Springsteen brings to the stage and help fans understand what fuels it. While there have been plenty of books published chronicling Springsteen’s life and career, this is the first book to be written with input from the Boss himself, which certainly helps Carlin achieve his goal. 

The author had no contractual agreement with Springsteen or the band’s management, and was therefore free to be brutally honest at times.  Carlin notes in the text that Springsteen had told him his only responsibility was to paint an accurate picture of the band and its leader, and it certainly seems like he was successful in doing so.

Over a musical career that has stretched over four decades, Bruce has become an iconic, almost mythical figure in the eyes of millions. His  charisma and stage precense, as well as  his devotion to his craft and his fans has earned him a spot as one of the most recognizable and respected musicians of all time. However, the most intriguing aspect of this book is not in the illustration of these characteristics, but is instead  in the examples and stories that prove Bruce is human and flawed, just like his legion of fans.

Springsteen’s often complicated and turbulent relationship with his family, band members, managers, and label executives paint him as a somewhat selfish perfectionist who sets standards very few can live up to. Bruce’s history with the E Street Band is explored at length, and the often cold relationship between the lead singer and his right hand men, including Steve Van Zandt and Clarence Clemons is especially surprising considering the on-stage chemistry the band has shared.

While Carlin explores Springsteen’s flaws and career missteps, the book does in fact confirm many of the  traits that are at the core of the Springsteen legend. These traits include his focus on  everyday Americans – both in his songwriting and in his charity work, his dedication to his fans and his home state, and of course, his undeniable drive to be the best live act in the world.

The most impressive aspect of the book is how well researched it is. From the very start, it is obvious that Carlin has talked to just about everyone who has ever had a connection to Bruce. Input from fellow Jersey shore  musicians provides great insight into Bruce development from scrawny teenager, to local hero in the 70’s and then international star 80’s.

Also central to the story is the way in which Carlin chronicles Springsteen’s extensive touring career and describes landmark performances in great detail, including Springsteen’s luke-warm reception at his first show in London and his mammoth Born In The USA stadium tour.

For any die-hard Bruce fan looking for greater insight into Springsteen’s music, this is a must read. It perfectly illustrates how Sprinsteen, unlike many of his peers over the last thirty years, has achieved such tremendous staying power and can still connect with fans and sell out stadiums 35 years after “Born To Run” hit the airwaves. For the casual fan, the book might provide more information than you’re looking for, but if you’re in the market for a Springsteen biography, I can’t imagine there are any better than this.