So, let’s get this straight right from the start. Music appreciation is fundamentally subjective. We like different stuff and that’s the beauty. Now that’s out of the way, let me say without fear of contradiction that this year’s releases were pretty unremarkable. There were a very small number of really good albums, but there were some really big disappointments, very few new discoveries, and lots of mediocrity.
Last year was chock-a-block with great stuff – Bill Callahan, The Black Keys, Cass McCombs, Dan Michaelson, David Lowery, The Deep Dark Woods, Destroyer, Elbow, Eleanor Friedberger, Emmy The Great, Feist, The Felice Brothers, Fionn Regan, Fleet Foxes, Girls, Hiss Golden Messenger, Iron & Wine, Jonathan Wilson, Kate Bush, The Phoenix Foundation, PJ Harvey, Richmond Fontaine, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, St Vincent, The Unthanks, The War on Drugs, Wilco. Pretty much any of these albums would make my top 3 this year.
OK. Maybe 2011 was unusual. What about 2010? Well, not quite as good, but, still, there was – Anais Mitchell, Angus & Julia Stone, Avi Buffalo, Beach House, The Black Keys, Broken Bells, Damien Jurado, Danger Mouse & Sparkle Horse, Dylan LeBlanc, The Duke and the King, Fionn Regan, Girls, John Grant, Karen Elson, Phosphorescent, Strand of Oaks, Sufjan Stevens (All Delighted People, but definitely not Age of Adz), Tindersticks.
This year? Well, there were some real turkeys. Three stand out. The Shins showed that they had become a conglomerate, a multi-national, rather than an honest, simple, hard-working band. There were some great melodies, but usually they were lost inside a mess of sound. Richard Hawley discovered psychedelia quite a number of years too late and in the process ditched everything that defined him as a great artist. Hopefully, he will return in a recognisable form very soon. And then there was Cat Power. How can the creator of such emotional albums as The Greatest, The Covers Record, and Jukebox put out an album like Sun? Cat Power with autotune? A true abomination.
In addition, there were some relative disappointments, even if each one had some really nice moments – Beach House, Dylan LeBlanc, Fionn Regan, Jason Lytle, Julie Feeney, Julia Stone, Kathleen Edwards.
But there were some highlights too. Over the next couple of weeks, the best of 2012 will be posted.
What about 2013? The good news is that there’s light at the end of the Mayan calendar. Already scheduled for release in early 2013 are some tempting propositions – Christopher Owens (ex-Girls), Darwin Deez, Jim James, John Grant, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Villagers.
There’s about a month to go before the first of these see the light of day. In the meantime, what would be great to see next year? Well, we can only daydream, but how about new releases from Avi Buffalo, Bill Callahan, Blue Roses, Broken Bells, Devendra Banhart, Elvis Perkins, Jenny Lewis, John Vanderslice, Lewis & Clarke, Magnolia Electric Co., Neko Case, Ryan Adams. Ah, dream on.