Divine Fits – Shivers
A Thing Called Divine Fits is probably my favorite album released in 2012, which is saying something because it was a good year for music. Spoon is one of my favorite bands, and when Britt Daniel takes the lead on this album, the songs sound like classic, crunchy Spoon (some of the experimentation comes through, on tracks like “The Salton Sea“). True to Spoon-form, the Divine Fits included a slightly obscure cover song and make it their own. In this case, The Boys Next Door’s rocker, “Shivers.” The way he sings the chorus on the studio version feels so visceral, so raw that I was actually surprised to learn it wasn’t a Britt original. Well, the fact is, anything he touches he makes his own.
Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
Robyn’s 2010 album, Body Talk, is pretty much already a classic of the dance music genre, and it’s songs like “Call Your Girlfriend” that make it so. Dance music should be fun, effervescent and impossible to forget. This is just that sort of track, while also managing to have a deep vein of pathos and truth in the lyrics. Working in a genre that can often seem light and shallow, Robyn redeems it. Plus, this exists.
Iron & Wine – Belated Promise Ring
Look, I don’t want to come off as one of those people who is all, “Studio production is bad! Music should all sound like it was recorded in a garage,” because I’m definitely not that way. I loved The Shepherd’s Dog. But one listen through Kiss Each Other Clean left me completely cold and nothing I’ve heard from the new release, Ghost On Ghost, sounds appealing to me. The music just sounds overstuffed and devoid of emotion. And it was the emotional resonance which got us all loving Iron & Wine in the first place, right? Well, luckily in 2009, Sam Beam released the odds and ends collections, Around The Well, which includes mostly sparse and intimate songs that never made it on an album. Not everything is a winner, as the is the nature on these sorts of albums, but “Belated Promise Ring” stands among the best I&W songs, and it does it while sounding studio polished but not overly so.
Tom Waits – Come On Up To The House
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, someone posted this video on Facebook and I immediately had to buy the whole album, Mule Variations. I already had the track “Hold On,” from the album, and it’s one of my favorites (and maybe more what someone would expect to hear after a tragedy), but this track (and lyric video) just grabbed me. It’s not a simplistic, “everything will be okay” message, but rather the grizzled soothing of an old man who’s seen a lot and knows the world can suck. “Does life seem nasty, brutish and short / Come on up to the house.” Yes, sometimes we all need to hear that.
Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
I could have made this entire post just songs from The 20/20 Experience, that’s how consistent and thoroughly enjoyable the album is. JT gets fairly experimental (for Pop) on his new LP, and those experiments mostly pay off, but on a couple tracks he just boasts his straight up Dance Pop bona fides. Nowhere does he do it better than this album stand out, the song I can’t stop listening to on repeat. A love song to his wife, it’s everything a casual fan of Timberlake could hope for, and as the second to last track on the album, it’s the climax to a solid build of momentum. Pop Perfection.