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!

In the Category of Best Nights Ever, This Comes Close to #1

Hello everyone!  As promised, here is my post about the SERIOUSLY EPIC Tuesday I had last week.  I’ll begin with a few words to summarize:

Linkin Park Concert

Backstage Passes

Front Row Seats

FREE

Me, waiting outside the venue before the backstage tour started.

Now, even if you aren’t a Linkin Park fan, I think most people can agree that these words indicate a pretty awesome evening, yes?  And let me tell you: It was MIND-BLOWING (and ear-drum blowing).  One of the best things I ever done EVER.  SERIOUSLY.

So here’s the full story: I’ve mentioned before that I am a member of Grammy U, and that my brother is the Houston representative of Grammy U, which is how I had that other awesome experience of having dinner with some pretty big people in the music business.  Well, my membership to Grammy U has come to the rescue again!  SOMEONE in the higher-ups (and my brother and I are still trying to figure out who so we can thank them properly) ((UPDATE: We have confirmed it was Theresa Jenkins, Senior Executive Director of the Texas Chapter who arranged for the tickets)) arranged for a few backstages passes to be made available for the Linkin Park concert in Houston.  My brother, as the Houston rep, was sent the info and asked to find some other Grammy U members in the area who would like to go (of course, I was first on the list).

My brother, listening to the awesome conversations.

We ended up with seven people: my brother and myself, Sofia (who works my brother and is a manager at Sugarhill Studios), fellow UH student Danny (I’m not giving last names), two guys from Austin – Alex and Mark, and Eric Jarvis – the President of the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy.

Behind/beneath the main stage. LOOK AT ALL THOSE GUITARS.

So, we’re thinking: backstage passes, that’s pretty awesome.  We’ll get a tour, maybe get to meet some of the road crew, etc.  And then we’ll see the concert.  And we assumed we’d get pretty good seats too, but nothing too extravagant.  WE HAD NO IDEA.  IT WAS SO MUCH BETTER.

The tour manager for Linkin Park, Cory, was the one who gave us the tour.  We got to see the set-up inside the Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion, where the concert was held.  We not only got to meet, but actually had a lengthy discussion/question-and-answer session with Linkin Park’s sound guy, the head carpenter (which is a bit of misnomer, because he’s not JUST a carpenter, he’s in charge of all the set up for the entire freakin’ stage), and the director who does most of Linkin Park’s music videos (who has, by the way, also worked with Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera, just to do some name dropping). (And they were all so NICE!)

Looking out into the audience from backstage, in between openers.

We were taken on/behind/beneath the actual stage while the crew was taking down stuff from the first opener (Mutemath) and setting stuff up for the second opener (Incubus).

Then we were taken to catering, where they had an awesome buffet spread, and had dinner with the road crew.

And THEN we were taken out to wait for Linkin Park to show up.  There was a big group from the Linkin Park fan club (LP Underground) who had obviously paid a ton of extra money for a group photo/autograph session with the band.  Cory kept us to the side, and then the six of us were allowed OUR OWN group photo with Linkin Park.  We managed to get autographs from four of the six members (there was a small mix-up and we missed getting autographs from Joe Hahn and one other).  More importantly, however, is that when Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (the two I REALLY REALLY wanted) came to the end of the line to give us autographs, they actually STAYED and TALKED to us.

I just really like this shot of the light coming through the slats beneath the stage. ^_^

Mark, with Chester and his crazy sprite-tea-pedialyte drink.

Chester stayed for about five minutes, and told us about his drink.  It looked like beer, but he assured us that it was in fact Sprite, Pedialyte, and Lipton tea (I think there was tea too…).  And seriously, even though I’ve seen interviews with Chester before, it still shocks me how quiet and unassuming he is in person, compared to the screaming BEAST he becomes on stage.  And then Mike Shinoda actually stood and talked to us for about FIFTEEN MINUTES.  Asked us about Grammy U and our interests and made cheesy jokes and was just generally really nice and really awesome.  My brother and I kinda sorta idolize him (as much for Fort Minor as for Linkin Park, and because we really identify with his songs about being Japanese-American, as my brother and I are as well), and we were a bit tongue-tied around him.  But, folks, it was SO AWESOME.  SO AWESOME.

Me, my brother, and Mike Shinoda

Mike Shinoda in the checkered shirt. Then, from left to right: Alex, Mark, Eric Jarvis, Sofia, Danny, and my brother.

Danny, my brother, and me, with Mike Shinoda

Finally, when the band had to go inside to get ready to perform, we said goodbye to Cory and went to find our seats.  Only to discover that our seats were, in fact, FRONT ROW SEATS.  There was a small pit area, an empty space, with room for handicapped seating, and then US.  We were also off to the right slightly, so were practically RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SPEAKERS.  IT WAS MIND-BLOWING.  (And ear-drum bursting).

Danny, Sofia, Mark, my brother, and me in our front row seats.

Chester, on stage.

And to say the performance itself was fantastic would be a seriously criminal understatement.  My brother and I have seen Linkin Park in concert before, when they came to Houston in 2011, and (while I cannot speak for my brother) I think they were even better this time around.  For one thing, last time Chester seemed to be having a bit of trouble, and was often flat.  Now this happens in live performances, and I didn’t much care, but it was still nice that he didn’t seem to have any problems at all this time.  His pitch was pretty damn spot-on, especially considering it was an outdoor stage, live performances are RARELY perfectly on-pitch, and his screaming was even more INSANE than usual.

Mike Shinoda

The next day, my ears were still ringing, and I could barely speak because I had done so much screaming and cheering.  And then I had to go to my first grad class of the week that afternoon, and my professor is on my facebook so she’d seen that I’d been at a concert until like midnight, and she laughed when I croaked a lot when we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves.

My autographs from Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Dave Farrell, and (I think) Rob Bourdon. And not on just ANYTHING, but a SET LIST from that night’s performance!

So there you have it, folks.  ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS EVER.  Once again thanks to my membership with Grammy U.  Best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Update #2: And somehow in the middle of all that photobombing, I managed to forget to include the official group photo we got with the whole band. So here’s that one:

GROUP PHOTO!