If February is any indication, 2012 could be a pretty epic year for music. I found myself buying 3-4 albums a week - it was like being bombarded with good tunes. The music was the perfect pick-me-up for what is usually my least favorite month. Here were a few of my favorite releases ...
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
In a few short years, Ven Etten has gone from one of many Brooklyn singer/songwriters - though to her credit, a singer/songwriter with a beautifully melancholy voice and a knack for good hooks- to making a much bigger sounding album with some pretty big indie rock names. The move to more instruments and more production has not made her songs any less personal, however. A lot of what I like about Van Etten comes back to her voice--I think she could sing the phone book and it would give me a chill. That said, my favorite track off this new album is "We Are Fine," and the song gets a big boost by Beirut's Zach Condon on guest vocals. I can't remember the last time I heard a song so tragic and somehow uplifting at the same time.
Dr. Dog - Be The Void
For about 80 percent of the bands I listen to, the first album I hear by them (regardless of where it falls chronologically in their repertoire) is my favorite. If I like that first album, all subsequent albums have to live up to that standard, and many don't. For the past few years, Dr. Dog has been a band that I always liked, but they never had an album I really loved. Be The Void became my favorite Dr. Dog album after the first listen. From the incredibly strong opening track, "Lonesome", right through to the end, I found something to love about nearly every track. This album was a surprise I'll be enjoying all year long.
Heartless Bastards - Arrow
If you don't like Erika Wennerstrom's voice, you will probably not like Heartless Bastards. But you should like it because it's beautiful and powerful and doesn't sound like anyone else. If you're completely unfamiliar with the band, I wouldn't necessarily start here - 2006's All This Time is probably more accessible and still my favorite HB album. Other than the very fun romp of a song, "Got to Have Rock and Roll", the songs on Arrow are a bit more surreal than some of the band's earlier releases. Surreal, but quintessentially American, if that makes any sense. But it also still rocks. I'm doing a crappy job of describing this, so just check it out yourself. Here's "Parted Ways". I'm wondering how Wennerstrom maintains that level of vocals throughout an entire live performance!
Ben Kweller - Go Fly a Kite
After a bit of a departure in 2009 with the country-fied album Changing Horses, Kweller is back writing the ridiculously catchy pop songs that keep me buying his albums. It wasn't until I heard the second track on this album, "Out the Door", that I realized that Ben Kweller could apparently channel George Harrison at will. As far as I'm concerned, if you're going to channel a Beatle (live or dead), Harrison's the way to go. None of these songs are breaking new ground in terms of theme or style, but that's what makes them timeless. With titles like "Jealous Girl" and "You Can Count on Me", you're entering familiar song territory, but Kweller traverses this territory with aplomb.
Eric J. Perkins is a molecular biologist and father of two. He lives in the Boston 'burbs, and what little free time he has is spent listening to music, reading, and writing about music and reading.
Previous Posts By This Author: Eric's Favorite Albums of 2011 (And Some Stragglers From 2010)
Best Comics of 2011: The Weird, the Wacky and the Wonderful