Ubiquitous End of Year Best Of List, 2012 Edition

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And since I’ve had a very leisurely holiday, which included a trip back to my home state of Pennsylvania, I’m late posting this list. I’m sure most lists have favorite films, books and TV shows, but I’ve been so busy as a student that I haven’t absorbed much in the way of culture and content outside of music. And so, the 2012 list is music, music, music.

TOP ALBUMS

RUNNER UP: I’ve been a fan of Bettye LaVette for a few years now. I learned about her from a few music blogs, then saw clips of her majestic Kennedy Center Honors performance and an appearance on Austin City Limits.

Her albums have had great tunes on them, mostly remakes – a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Joy” stands out – but in some cases on the previous albums, the song choices kind of blurred into each other. This was especially true of her British songbook CD.

Her new album, “Thoughtful and Thankful,” is perfect from beginning to end.

LaVette also reworks an old song, “Dirty Old Town,” written by Ewen MacColl (who, in addition to being the famed songwriter of songs like “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,”, is also the father of the late Kirsty MacColl).

In any other year, “Thankful and Thoughtful” would have been my number one, for its amazing songs and the way LaVette lays bare her emotions on every track. But one album featured an even more transcendent performance.

NUMBER ONE: My number one choice has been a constant on my playlists since I first fell in love with her music in 1989 and 1990. Songs like “Troy” were the soundtrack of my college days. And in 1990, she took a Prince-penned song – “Nothing Compares 2 U” – and made it her own.

I’ve followed Sinead O’Connor’s music since, and though she’s had several great albums since – “Faith and Courage,” “Theology,” – but her 2012 album, “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)” is every bit as amazing as her initial music. The themes of her music – faith, love and the loss of love, and her own struggles with mental illness – make this my favorite album of the year. In a year of pop tarts and Autotune, O’Connor’s authenticity is like a cool drink of water in the desert for me.

TOP SONGS: 

A number of other songs caught my ears:

Aimee Mann: I love Mann’s music, and on several new songs from “Charmer,” she injected some different sounds and a lot of levity.

I also liked “Labrador”, “Crazytown,” and “Living A Lie.” Check them out.

Miguel Migs: I’ve gone down the electronica/chill tracks road, and one of the new songs released this year that I loved came from an album produced and compiled by notable DJ Miguel Migs. This Me’shell Ndegeocello collaboration is among my favorites.

Frank Ocean: He’s on every Top 2012 list invented, and for good reason. Though I didn’t love every song on his debut album, there are several amazing tracks. And for his first public performance to be as arresting and amazing as this one? We’ll be seeing much, much more of him. Again, a true treat of unique talent and authenticity in a cesspool of corporate copycats.

Gossip: Every time The Gossip puts out music, they land on my list – and my playlist!

The Cherry Thing: I can’t wait for a new Neneh Cherry solo CD – rumored to be coming out in 2013 – but her vocals floating over the moody jazz/electronica of The Thing made for some fun beats.

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