Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Pt 1: #20-11

So, here’s the deal. I had an extremely difficult time trying to decide what should go on this list, and what order it should be in. I started by just making a list (in no particular order) of the albums I really loved throughout the year. That list ended up having 25 albums on it. I managed to cut down to 30, and then got stuck. So I decided I would do my top 20 list, and then have 10 honorable mentions.

But even figuring out what order the top 20 should be in proved ridiculously difficult. I’ve been listening and relistening to the albums for the last three days, and have moved bands up and down the list several times each. So, you may completely disagree with what is and is not on the list, and that’s fine. But if the argument comes down to agreeing that “yes album x and album y should both be on the list” but arguing that “album y should never ever ever be ABOVE album x” – well, there is a good chance I probably agree with you to some extend or another and spent the last three days agonizing over it. And my music tastes are so varied, so eclectic (my mother says my playlists are proof I must be schizophrenic or have multiple personality disorder or something), and that makes it VERY hard to compare bands and albums in any fair or useful way. So… just don’t bite my head off about it, okay?

Like last year, I am going to go in reverse order, and split this into two posts, 20-11, and then 10-1. And then I might tack on the honorable mentions to the end of the second post, or give it its on post, I’m not sure yet. In any case, here we go.

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Part 1 – #20-11:

#20: Battle Born – The Killers I really really REALLY love The Killers. And I was so painfully excited for this album to come out. And while it managed to squeak its way onto this list, and has some very good songs on it, it just doesn’t come close to matching the brilliance or the delightfully melancholic tone of Hot Fuss or Day & Age (which are my two favorite Killers albums). My favorite song: “The Way It Was”

#19: Old Ideas – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is in pretty good shape in Old Ideas. He is, as always, an acquired taste for some people, but I love him. The songs in Old Ideas are beautiful and poetic as always, though they don’t hit me with the some power and emotional resonance as his older albums I’m Your Man and The Future.

My favorite song: “The Darkness”

#18: Mirage Rock – Band of Horses

Band of Horses is an indie-rock band (and let me warn you now: there are a lot of those on this list; sorry, I listen to SOME mainstream, but that happens less and less these days). But Band of Horses has a folksy almost-but-not-quite-country undercurrent to them – despite the fact that they use a lot of reverb. They always remind me a bit of the band America. I liked Everything All the Time better, but Mirage Rock is still an excellent album.

My favorite song: “Dumpster World”

#17: Night Visions – Imagine Dragons Ah, what can I say about this one? It’s just so much fun. I seem to have a thing for Las Vegas-based bands (that’s where The Killers are from too). I just really love the synth and the dance vibe in this album. Also, the album cover is fantastic.

My favorite song: definitely “Radioactive” (If this song doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, I worry about you.)

#16: Grandfather Child – Grandfather Child Let me introduce you to Grandfather Child and their self-named sophomore album. I bet most of you have never heard of them, as they are a local Houston band. And you can thank my brother for introducing them to ME so that I could introduce them to you. They’re a rock band with a healthy mix of country, rhythm and blues, and even gospel. And they are ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT.

My favorite song: “I Would Like to Thank the Universe / Planet Earth”

#15: Nocturne – Wild Nothing
Okay, first: I love that the album cover comes in like four different color combinations. It’s so cool! Second, this whole album is fantastic. The whole thing has a wonderful atmospheric dreamy quality (which is fitting since they’re generally considered dream-pop), and it also has a wonderful complicated layered sort of sound, without being overdone.

My favorite song: I’m not quite sure, honestly, maybe “This Chain Won’t Break”

#14: Holy Weather – Civil Twilight
Oh man, I love this album. It’s hard to explain to myself why its so far down the list, except that there were SO MANY albums to love this year. They’re alternative rock, and some people compare them to Muse, but I think they’re a bit less rock and far more laid back than Muse is. Great smooth vocals and fantastic instrumentals that are complex without being overwrought (plus wonderful lyrics), make this band AWESOME.

My favorite song: either “River” or “Every Walk That I’ve Ever Taken Has Been In Your Direction”

#13: Handwritten – The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem is a strange cross between a punk rock band and an Americana band. Honestly, that doesn’t make much sense in my head, but it makes perfect sense when you list to them. I really loved their 2008 album: ’59 Sound, but was slightly less impressed with their 2010 release American Slang. Handwritten, on the other hand, is marvelous. It’s good strong American rock. And I love it!

My favorite song: There’s a lot on this album. Probably either “Mulholland Drive” or “Biloxi Parish” or “National Anthem”

#12: Hero’s Dose – Infantree

I’ll be honest, I know very little about this band. I came across this album completely by accident on Spotify and FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. But I know next to nothing about the band. Even googling them doesn’t turn up much. Their own website, while providing plenty of music and photos, offers absolutely NO context, description, discussion of where they came from, etc. I know they’re from California, that’s about it. These guys are synthy, pop-ish, trippy, versatile, (maybe a bit 70s-ish?) and AWESOME. Just check them out. SERIOUSLY.

My favorite song: “Skinny Bones Jones” or “Fibber”

#11: Idler Wheel… – Fiona Apple

Okay, I guess I should give the full title just once, even though it’s ridiculously long as usual, so here it is (don’t say I didn’t warn you), *takes a deep breath*:The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. I think Fiona Apple is one of the artists you either love or hate. I happen to love her, and this album (with a typical Fiona Apple longer-than-some-novels title) is powerful, raw, and a bit well… insane (in a good way, of course).

My favorite song: “Werewolf”

Okay, folks. That’s it for now. Wow, that was really long… It took me forever to do all that, and now it’s midnight. Good grief. You can expect the second half of the list either some time Wednesday evening or Thursday morning (probably at midnight again). At that time I will also provide a link to a Spotify playlist with all the albums in order like I did last year. However, if you want to check any of these out they shouldn’t be hard to find online somewhere.

In the mean time, please feel free to sound off with agreements, arguments, complaints, predictions, etc. about the list so far. And good night!

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Poetry By Way of Apology, and Do Lyrics Count?

First off, my apologies for the lateness of this post.  I spent the day at a symposium on Feminist Pedagogies: Interdisciplinarity, Transnational Practices, and Production of Knowledge.  Two of my favorite things in academics are feminist theory and pedagogical theory, so I was really looking forward to the talks.  It was highly enjoyable, extremely enlightening and informative, and very very exhausting.  I am always amazed how tired I can get when essentially all I’m doing is sitting around listening to people talk.  But it is extremely mentally draining.

Anyway, I had hoped to get a post up last night, or early this morning.  But as you can see, neither of those things happened.  So, by way of apology I am offering up another one of my poems as a sacrifice, as well as one of my favorite poems by a brilliant poet.

First, here’s one of my poems.  I’m not going to go into any background on this one, except to say that it was written in 2007, and is one of the few I’ve written that is essentially the same from first draft to end result, except for a few words here or there.

“Death Wish”

angry screaming over pounding bass

guitars screeching through a million notes

that is how your life has always been

riding whining motorcycles

hair catching the wind in a golden net

fierce eyes gleaming silver in the sun

as you grin, playing chicken with Death

cling to your smiling nonchalance

wield your flashing knives and razor tongue

kneel and kiss their barren graves –

the family that you couldn’t keep –

and wonder why you never cry

but don’t tell a soul that you’re bleeding

search for answers in half-smoked cigarettes

and empty bottles of tequila

in the end, Life’s a vindictive bitch

and you laugh and dare her to prove you wrong

and as the jello shots and cigarettes

fade from your blood, and your sleek, fast bikes

weigh down your wings more than they set you free

you yearn more than ever to feel

the earth fall away beneath you

weep then at their bitter graves

for the first and only time

and smile for the taste of Death is sweet

a high cliff on the blue horizon

is attractive to a troubled soul

go ahead and jump…  I’ll bet you can fly

And now, a poem by a brilliant poet, one of my favorites.  I’ll tell you who it is after you read it (though some of you, no doubt, will know right away).

“Famous Blue Raincoat”

It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton street all through the evening

/

I hear that you’re building your little house

Deep in the desert

You’re living for nothing now

I hope you’re keeping some kind of record

/

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

/

Ah, the last time we saw you, you looked so much older

Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder

You’d been to the station to meet every train

And you came home without Lili Marlene

/

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life

And when she came back she was nobody’s wife

Well, I see you there with the rose in your teeth

One more thin gypsy thief

Well, I see Jane’s awake, she sends her regards

/

And what can I tell you, my brother, my killer

What can I possibly say?

I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you

I’m glad you stood in my way

/

If you ever come by here for Jane or for me

Well, your enemy is sleeping and his woman is free

Yes, and thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes

I thought it was there for good, so I never tried

/

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

So, yes, for those who knew and those who didn’t, this “poem” is actually a song by Leonard Cohen.  On top of the many albums he’s produced, he’s published books of poetry, which include many of his songs as well as poetry written strictly AS poetry.  As I mentioned once before, songs – at least SOME songs – definitely count as poetry.  Some of it is, in fact, extremely beautiful and powerful poetry.  And Leonard Cohen is an absolutely brilliant poet, whether he’s writing strict poetry or music.  I highly suggest going online and just looking at some of his other songs/poetry.  Everything he writes is gold.

So, do you think songs count as poetry?  What musicians/song-writers do think of as poets?  Any particular song/poems you’d like to share?