2012: The Year in Review (sort of)

As has been the case over the last few years, we've been quite underwhelmed by the world of pop culture in general, so once again this wrap up is an abridged and personalized version of what we would normally put together at this point of the year. Basically, just a bunch of faves from the past 12 months. So, with that in mind, dig in and enjoy!

Van Halen A Different Kind of Truth [Interscope]

"[It] might not be an all-time Van Halen album...[b]ut after so many years of fumbling dysfunction that reduced the once-proud Van Halen name to a laughingstock, [this album] matters because it’s a reminder of why this band mattered...For whatever reason, when Roth is in the band, Eddie Van Halen plays guitar like the world wants him to play guitar....Together, Eddie and Diamond Dave have achieved a simple yet hard-to-pull-off goal with 'A Different Kind Of Truth': Sounding like the Van Halen we (want to) remember."

- Steven Hyden, The AV Club.

Runner up:
Nada Surf The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy [Barsuk]

It’s quite something to see a band rise from the ashes of a doomed career and re-establish themselves as one of the main purveyors of their style of music. Many had left these guys for dead after “Popular” had supposedly condemned them to ‘90s one-hit-wonder status, but they bounced back and released one of the best records of the past decade, 2003’s Let it Go. And on their most recent one the Brooklyn-based trio did not disappoint. Ridiculously early in the year we had a feeling it would be our fave album of the year. If we could only predict lottery numbers in the same way...

David Myrh Soundshine [LoJinx]

Myrh was half of Swedish power poppers The Merrymakers, so it's not a stretch to assume  that his solo debut would be a strong collection of '60s-influenced power pop not unlike his former band's. Unsurprisingly, The Merrymakers were also Jellyfish acolytes--that band's Andy Sturmer produced their Bubblegun album--which would explain why this platter recalls the late lamented San Francisco quartet and at times could pass for their long lost third album. (Hell, even the cover art is reminiscent of Bellybutton, Jellyfish's debut album.) Regardless, it's pretty solid and one of the best records of its kind in a long while.

Bob Mould Silver Age [Merge]

So, what's in store for aging indie/underground/alt-rock heroes? Uncle Bob decided to face the other side of 50 by putting out his most vital sounding rock record since Copper Blue, that's what.

Honorable Mention:
Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides [Matador]

The man behind a handful of Sonic Youth fan favorites has never been the go-to guy on any of their albums. So, would his first ever singer/songwriter album be a bunch of filler? Actually, it's quite good. And Ranaldo's lead vocals--normally a minor distraction, at best--are in surprisingly solid form here; slightly reminiscent of Michael Stipe, in fact. (Oh, and the album's not folky, but an accurate representation of its basic description: a member of Sonic Youth making a singer/songwriter record.) It took SY's future to become a question mark for this non-expected career reinvention to take place but it's a welcome development, nonetheless.

Stew and the Negro Problem / "Curse", from the album Making It [Tight Natural]

Released in advance of their first album after the Passing Strange adventure, Stew and musical partner Heidi Rodewold summarize the dissolution of their romance in a sad, brilliantly executed, four minute pop song. Excellent.

Sugar Copper Blue [Merge]

Merge released remastered and expanded versions (2 CD+2 DVD) of the 2 albums and Beaster EP Sugar released on Rykodisc but, on its 20th anniversary, no less, we want to single out the classic debut album; an indie rock classic and the commercial and musical highlight of Bob Mould's post Hüsker Dü career.


We saw a couple of decent flicks (Argo, Flight, The Amazing Spiderman, Two Days in New York) but nothing rocked our world.

The massive flop of the Adam Sandler/Andy Samberg vehicle That's My Boy. Unlike the movie, THAT was funny.

Veep [HBO]

When it comes to TV shows, our heart belongs to cable. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the insecure, conniving, and sometimes clueless Vice-President of the United States, is our respective sweetheart this year. Yes, Veep is cringe comedy a la The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but when the writing is tight--which is often--it can give those shows a run for its money.

Runner up:
House of Lies [Showtime]
The Newsroom [HBO]

The always watchable Don Cheadle leads a team of cutthroat business consultants in the highly stylized dramedy House of Lies, while the great Aaron Sorkin returns to TV with another big-time drama. And if the former is practically flawless in all departments, the latter can hold its own, even if it tends to occasionally slip in a manner routinely decried by Sorkin's many detractors. Yeah, it gets heavy, but it's Sorkin, so...

"No One Will Ever Love You"

Performed by Connie Britton and Charles Esten from the cast of ABC's Nashville, if this heartfelt ballad with more hooks than a bait shop is where country music is headed, we want in.

NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino; Soul Train honcho Don Cornelius; funkmeister Jimmy Castor; Mothers of Invention vocalist Ray Collins, legendary bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn; Bee Gee Robin Gibb; Men at Work's Greg Ham; vocalist/drummer Levon Helm; the inimitable Whitney Houston; the one and only Etta James; The Monkees' Davy Jones; jazz drummer Pete La Roca (Art Farmer, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean); Jim Marshall, creator of the iconic amps that bear his name; jazz pianist, composer, and arranger Mike Melvoin, father of Wendy (Prince, Wendy and Lisa, Girl Bros.) and Jonathan Melvoin (The Dickies, Smashing Pumpkins); hard rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose; Argentine rock icon, singer/songwriter/guitarist Luis Alberto Spinetta; the legendary Ravi Shankar; Donna Summer; Rich Teeter, drummer for The Dictators; "King of the cuatro", the great Yomo Toro; former Fleetwood Mac vocalist/guitarists Bob Welch and Bob Weston; Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch.