Monday, January 7, 2013

Never Ending Show (TOTR 184)

Teacher On The Radio's Best of 2012 

 25. Jack White – Blunderbuss (4.24.12) What could I say about Jack White that’s not already been said? Elusive &enigmatic, energetic &kinetic, rock on the top of its blues root, an axe dipped in blood &blessed by God & on the Detroit-to-Nashville axis. Jack White live can impress beyond words but also distress in emphatic terms of his erratic turns. Jack White on recording is an order to grasp rock’s lineage &ability to strike the soul like lightning. Track: “On And On And On” 

 24. New Multitudes – New Multitudes Jim James &Jay Farrar have teamed up to do what Billy Bragg &Wilco have done before, to dig into the Woody Guthrie vault &resurrect some time capsules of audio bliss. A compilation &collaboration worthy of much jubilation. Track: “Hoping Machine” 

 23. Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Ladysmith Black Mambazo &Friends This legendary group that helped put me &others in better touch with afropop &world beat back in the last century now collaborates up with the likes of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Natalie Merchant, Zap Mama, &others to deliver a set of classics. Track: “Rain Rain Beautiful Rain” 

 22. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way That You Feel About Me Now (3.26.12) With rockabilly charisma to match his rockstar name added to a lifetime of fashion sense &street cred from which to cash in on, JTE only needs to make records to keep us happy in a world where Buddy Holly never died. Track: “Memphis In The Rain” 

 21. Florence &the Machine – MTV Presents Unplugged: Florence + The Machine (4.9.12) I didn’t realize that MTV still had an Unplugged series, much less one releasing entire albums of performances from it, but I am glad to be learn differently. Florence’s fierce vocal intimacy lends itself perfectly to this format, &the entire album is breathtaking. Track: “Never Let Me Go” 

 20. Gungor – A Creation Liturgy [Live] (10.9.12) I’m kind of amazed I only discovered this beyond beautiful band in 2011 when they played a show on the campus where I work. It’s odd how a group can get trapped inside a niche genre—in this case “praise &worship music”—but simultaneously own it &blow it to smithereens. Guitars &grace give peace &power. Salvation sounds this good. Tracks: “Heaven,” “Let There Be” 

 19. Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back (7.17.12) Remember “Wagon Wheel”? OCMS write heartfelt songs with hardcore roots so Tennessee true. A lot of the alt-folk &alt-country crowd are unwilling to go as old-time alt-hillbilly as this. So if you like log-cabin back-porches &fiddle-fest string-band jams with enough anti-establishment soul to not be conservative-by-nature, you might want to give Old Crow a spin &a swing. Track: “Ain’t It Enough” 

 18. Passion Pit – Gossamer (7.20.012) Passion Pit are the candy-coated glowstick inside your head, yet the light never goes out &the sweetness never sours. Yes, this is arm-waving dance-pop for the deepest, most loving conversation you ever had with yourself. Track: “Where We Belong” 

 17. The Killers – Battle Born (9.18.12) Brandon Flowers and the Killers have wrestled with an alt-rock identity rooted generously in Springsteen and U2, but their songs flirt so fluently in other styles and registers as to make them a fun postmodern amalgamation, a colorful blend that includes a debt to pop, new wave, and dance music, not to mention indigenous Las Vegas lounge, not to mention the schmaltz of the likes of Meatloaf or Neil Diamond. With the newest record, the band continues to pack more sonic history into its exploding suitcase of joy. Despite detractors, it’s a battle they’re winning. Track: “From Here On Out” 

 16. Ryan Bingham – Tomorrowland (9.18.12) The authentic gravel in his voice is timeless, but it’s as much about his populist message, which is why Bingham’s as suitable as any to inherit the “outlaw country” moniker, even though this record limits the twang &makes one go “dang” at his sheer punkness. Be sure to bring quarters for the jukebox &never take for granted the growl in the grooves. Track: “Never Ending Show” 

 15. Moon Taxi – Cabaret (2.7.2012) My Nashville heart swells for these swirling &sweeping alt-rockers who tickle my ears with little funk twirls all washed in a jam band sensibility. Track: “Southern Trance” 

 14. The Plea – Dreamers Stadium (5.5.12) Denny and Dermot Doherty have Irish roots to add to their obvious debt to the U2-Coldplay arena-rock sound. It’s a calculated sonic formula that often flops but when an artist nails it, you could listen to it all day, at top volume, &feel ready to take the world. Track: “Send It Out”

 13. Charlie Peacock – No Man’s Land (10.2.12) Charlie Peacock earned our appreciation as the producer of the Civil Wars 2011 breakout album Barton Hollow, but he landed on my radar much earlier as a legit alt-Christian artist back in the 1980s. This new record maintains a moving mood as a rock-gospel-blues balm to please ears and ease fears. Tracks: “Voice of the Lord”; “Let The Dog Back in the House” 

 12. Alberta Cross – Songs of Patience With a speeding train full of shimmering guitars to drive the booty and the brain, frontman Petter Ericson Stakee’s vocals are irresistible, as he enjoys all the Neil Young, Caleb Followill, &Jim James comparisons he’s earned. Track: “I Believe In Everything” 

 11. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit (3.13.12) We’ve been together since the beginning, chatting behind your van outside a Nashville show in 2007, bringing you a very special custom trashcan lid in 2008 for your percussive perfection, meeting up in Michigan to celebrate the tour supporting Up From Below. Your latest is self-titled &self-defining, claiming ambitious anthemic rock band status (despite previous folkish flirtations). Track: “Yamaha” 

 10. Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams (10.9.12) Be forgiven if at first you think it’s a Fleet Foxes cover band. Lead singer Ben Schneider hails from Michigan &hopes to convey the spiritual heft of the Great Lakes, albeit mellowed by California temperatures above freezing this time of year. Sweet, seductive, &sublime from front-to-back. Track: “I Will Be Back One Day” 

 9. The Dirty Guv’nahs – Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies (8.14.12) Knoxville is a pitch down the road from Cookeville, but I cannot help to swell with some regional pride at the upward spell we see this band riding towards success. James Trimble’s treatment of southern-rock is standard-issue but so rooted in passion &presentation as to please most. Track: “Goodnight Chicago” 

 8. The Lumineers – The Lumineers (4.3.12) Admittedly some artists will ride the wave of coming after Mumford &Sons, but the furious convergence of jangling jubilant folk-pop found here is worthy of being part of a mass musical movement to free hearts &feed ears. Tracks: “Big Parade”; “Ho Hey” 

 7. Edward Sharpe &the Magnetic Zeros – Here (5.29.12) Blow some bubbles up the bad-attitude of cynicism &shame! Your soundtrack to the Age of Jesus-meets-Aquarius comes with this multi-piece cornball jubilee, the church choir in soiled robes on the Kesey magic bus resurrected to sing down dreariness. Track: “That’s What’s Up.” 

 6. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (3.5.12) The Boss is one of those artists I like but don’t always love, who I will give lots of credit to, even if the records I don’t always “get.” However, that’s not the case here. With the folking charm, people’s soul &rocking gospel of this Ball, I’m a true believer with all the tracks. Track: “We Are Alive” 

 5. Snow Patrol – Fallen Empires (1.10.12) Gary Lightbody could sing us the phonebook as a lullaby to lull us away from life’s worries, but in fact, he often gives worry its reason to exist as he transforms apocalyptic anxieties into sweeping guitar pop anthems of love and light. Track: “Fallen Empires” 

 4. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter (9.11.12) The Avetts got under my skin in 2009 &have stayed central soulful, solid in my musical psyche ever since. Building on adult-alt-folk credentials the size of Dylan, the band can rock out, too, if they choose, as they do so butt-kickingly on “Paul Newman vs. The Demons.” “The Once and Future Carpenter” sounds like a religious allusion but even my reading of that is an illusion, its rustic charm suits the prayerful lyrics perfectly. Track: “The Once and Future Carpenter” 

 3. Alabama Shakes – Boys &Girls (4.9.12) Brittany Howard packs it, then we ask for more of it. I mean: move over big boys of the postmodern rock blues, like Dan Auerbach &Jack White, your generation has another answer to the likes of Janis Joplin &Nina Simone. She sends shivers. Track: “You Ain’t Alone” 

 2. Band of Horses – Mirage Rock (9.18.12) We’re pretty sure that regular doses of Ben Bridwell’s voice in your headphones offer an effective treatment for mild depression. Four albums in, the maturing miracle of this band’s consistent career is no mirage at all. Soft succulent ballads. Hard heady rockers. Just lovely. Track: “Slow Cruel Hands of Time” 

 1. Mumford & Sons – Babel (9.25.12) Teaching college to support myself, I try to connect with students around pop culture—movies and music in particular. This endeavor can be hit or miss in terms of our common listening interests. But this year during the week of the Mumford release, time and difference ceased, and we rallied around a record like a common cause. We knew what filled each other’s earbuds without asking &with a nod or a wink, a conversation or singalong could commence. Mumfords remind us that anything is possible—with a guitar, with a banjo, with a lyric, with a heart busrting. Track: “Below My Feet”

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