Hill East Adventures

A blog about my love/hate relationship with Washington, DC. I post tidbits and pictures ranging from useful and educational to the absurd.

Top 30 Albums of 2012

Since I actually got requests for this, here it is!  Listen below while you read through it.

1. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

Soul, funk and good old rock and roll combined with Brittany Howard’s ridiculous vocals make this an easy choice for #1 album of 2012.  And this is just their debut.

2. Murder by Death – Bitter Drink

It sounds like the band gathered their instruments, including a cello, accordion and a xylophone, and recorded this while dancing around Johnny Cash’s grave at midnight.

3. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

John Darnielle’s usual lyrical madness, exploring a bunch of deviants living in the Pacific Northwest, with the addition of some brass to go along with his guitar strumming.  Their best album yet, not bad after 14 otherwise stellar albums.

4. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

Call it intro to weird indie-rock.  Yet, weirdly accessible and catchy.

5. Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back

Critter Fuqua returns to the band and they put out their most solid effort since the infamous self titled album that came out in 2004.  Heavy on historical ballads and foot-stomping prose involving the state of Virginia, including a tear-jerking tribute to a fan killed in Iraq.

6. fun. – Some Nights

It was a good album before the hype, and after the hype has somewhat settled, it’s still a good album, full of sing-a-long poppy goodness with smart and dark undertones.  I still find myself turning up the title track whenever it comes on.  Nate Ruess may be a disturbed individual but that doesn’t mean he can’t have you singing along to it.

7. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

Speaking of disturbed individuals, there’s this guy.  Right off the bat, he throws it in your face, yeah, he’s Steve Earle’s son, deal with it.  After that, the listener is treated to a delightful album with elements of folk, country and New York City Jazz.  He’s grown up and moving on indeed.

8. Best Coast – The Only Place

Now back to some pop; Best Coast is a band of beach bums, California brats, and they’re OK with it.  They want everyone to be them, a group of friends perpetually relaxed in the sun, and this is their soundtrack.

9. Lucero – Women & Work

12 songs written as the soundtrack to a dive bar.  Not quite Road House, but not quite Cheers either.  Somewhere in between, with Pabst Blue Ribbon, tattoos and aging punk rockers.

10.   Hacienda – Shakedown

This is probably the best album no one heard, and probably the first band to make it big in 2013.  Loud, booty shaking rock and roll that falls somewhere between The Black Keys and the Allman Brothers.

And now for the remaining albums after the jump

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Best 90’s Band Comeback Albums of 2012

1.       Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind

2.       Green Day – Uno!
Special note: some might argue that unlike the other bands here, Green Day never really went away, therefore are not eligible to be called a comeback.  I disagree; American Idiot had so much hype and 21st Century Breakdown was so awful that most longtime fans had pretty much abandoned hope that they’d ever put out something decent again.  Well, with Uno! they proved us wrong.

3.       The Wallflowers – Glad All Over

4.       Soundgarden – King Animal

A Few Notable Punk Albums from 2012

I think I’m just losing my touch when it comes to punk…either that or there just isn’t any good punk coming out anymore.  In any case, here are four punk albums I enjoyed this year, especially the first, a good old fashioned lighthearted pop punk album.

1.       Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder

2.       Forgetters – Forgetters

3.       Hot Water Music – Exister

4.       The Bouncing Souls - Comet

Top Five Country Albums of 2012

First things first.  There is no Taylor Swift anywhere on my country music list.  Her album sucks, hands down.  Apparently she is the new ironic hipster sensation, showing up on various top lists this year, like Rolling Stone and Stereogum, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pitchfork jump into the mix when their list comes out any day now.  But sorry, she’s awful, and always has been.  There’s no way around that, no amount of attempted irony will change it. And yes, I did give her album a chance with an open mind, and yes, it still sucks.

Anyway, here are my top five favorite country albums of 2012.

1. Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Back

The return of Critter Fuqua to the band breathed new life into OCMS as they put out their finest release since their infamous self-titled 2004 release.  What we got was a complete album with foot stomping party anthems, plenty of Virginia-centered historical ballads as well as a beautiful tear-jerking tribute to a fan who was killed in Iraq.  CMT eat your heart out, this is how you do country music.

2. The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter

It seems to be that year when a lot of long running bands finally put out their fully polished attempts to break into the mainstream.  This is definitely that album for The Avett Brothers, but they managed to do it without compromising their signature upbeat folk-sound and playful way they have with lyrics.  The sing-a-long hit single Live and Die seems to have been tailor-made for add even more fun to their already legendary live shows.

3. Justin Townes Earle - Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now

It was a rough few years for JTE between Harlem River Blues and the release of his latest album, but he doesn’t seem to be any worse for the wear here.  In fact, he seems to have taken his personal problems and matured into a much better songwriter.  Right out of the gate on this album, he addresses the fact that yeah, he’s Steve Earle’s son, and he knows he’s got a lot to live up to while at the same time a lot of inherited issues to deal with.  However he also takes this album as an opportunity to move beyond into his own sound; the base is still country, but takes the soul found on his previous release and combines it with some good old NYC jazz.

4. Lindi Ortega - Truckstops & Cigarettes

'Murica, listen up - if you don't stop putting out terrible country music, another country just might step up and show you how to play your own music.  A country like Canada, whose previous imports were shameful garbage like Nickleback and Celine Dion.  And the artist to show you how its done, how it used to be, is Lindi Ortega.  This Dolly Parton-esque throwback steps in and fearlessly attempts to reconquer what we've all but conceded to vapid pop stars (like Taylor Swift).  Naturally, Nashville will have nothing to do with her, even though she's miles away better than everything they've deemed worthy of radio play.  Free your mind and give her a chance.

5. Tramped by Turtles - Stars and Satellites

Busking folk and bluegrass out of Duluth, MN, Trampled by Turtles’ latest release is a lot more chilled out than the others listed here, with a few notable exceptions, including the head-bobbing Walt Whitman.

Top Five Weird Indie Albums of 2012

So it begins, my annual top albums list.  8th one now?  Who knows.  And only like three people care anymore (you know who you are).  But I’m still doing something slightly different this year, doing several categories and then doing my top whatever out of all of them.  First up, weird indie albums.  To qualify, none of these bands has to have been played on normal radio, like DC101 or even Alt Nation on XM.  And these aren’t the most accessible songs out there, and I don’t expect everyone to like them.  But if you’re into that sort of thing, or care to try them out, here they are.

1. Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death is at the same time country, punk and some sort of dark Gothic graveyard music.  On their latest, they’ve taken it all up a notch with a healthy dose of rock and roll and random other sounds.  If PBR and cheap whiskey had a sound, it would sound like this.

2. Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself

This guy is one of the main reasons I felt the need to make a weird indie rock list aside from the main list.  I don’t even know how to describe him, outside of the word weird.  But the best thing in my mind is that this album is weirdly accessible.  Like a gateway drug to more weird indie rock and folk and whatever this is.  Slap on some headphones and listen.

3. The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth

John Darnell’s typical lyrical magic along with his most adventurous musical outing yet?  Yes please.

4. Dr. Dog - Be The Void

So here’s the thing about Dr. Dog; they’re not particularly weird, and they’re just as catchy as most songs on XM Alt-Nation.  Yet, they don’t get much love from the mainstream, outside of getting invited to play last Summer’s HFStival.  So I feel they qualify for this list with Be The Void, an album chock-full of poppy, feel-goodness.

5. Minus The Bear - Infinity Overhead

Yet another band that got invited to play last year’s HFStival, yet never gets onto any radio station that I know of.  They’re definitely not as accessible as the above, but they’re also not just noise by any means.  This is their most complete album to date; there are no stand-out uber-catchy singalong tunes on this one, like their other albums; instead there are ten solid tracks that got my head bobbing while showing off their way with technical post-rock instrumentals.

didn’t put too much thought into the name of your little gang did you?

didn’t put too much thought into the name of your little gang did you?

I mean why would you not vote for this guy?

I mean why would you not vote for this guy?

All jokes aside, I wanted to share the craziness that is DC United soccer. This past Sunday, we attended the Eastern Conference Final vs Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium. Despite the fact that the match started with DC United in a 3-1 hole, the fans were out in full force, waving flags well before kickoff. And even though we ended up being eliminated, hundreds of fans (including myself) stuck around chanting, clapping and showing our appreciation for the best season in years, as the players came up to the side one by one to express theirs. 

Looking forward to another run in 2013!

All jokes aside, I wanted to share the craziness that is DC United soccer. This past Sunday, we attended the Eastern Conference Final vs Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium. Despite the fact that the match started with DC United in a 3-1 hole, the fans were out in full force, waving flags well before kickoff. And even though we ended up being eliminated, hundreds of fans (including myself) stuck around chanting, clapping and showing our appreciation for the best season in years, as the players came up to the side one by one to express theirs.

Looking forward to another run in 2013!