Saturday, December 22, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012

Here's what I listened to this year.
My blogger pal Lindsay wrote a post about her favorite albums of the year, and now I want to do the same thing.  My sample size is modest, as I didn't listen to too many new records in 2012, but I would nevertheless like to share a few favorites with you.

1. Boys and Girls, The Alabama Shakes

This album, without a doubt, gets the Album of the Year award from the Brame family, and it was record of choice for many dinnertimes this summer.  It's rock and roll the way I like it--spare, unadorned, unpretentious.  If you like fuzzy guitars and Hammond organs, then you should check it out.

I am surprised that I haven't seen this record pop up more often on these year-end lists.  Brittany Howard is a promising talent, and I'll be looking forward to hearing more from her.  (Sadly, we missed our chance to see them when they came to town.)

I give this album my no-suck guarantee.  If you don't own it yet, go buy it!

2. The Legendary Demos by Carole King

This album is a collection of old demos that Carole King did from 1962-1971, when she was churning out incredible pop songs first in the Brill Building in Manhattan and later in swinging southern California.  Many of the songs here have only her voice and piano  on them, while others are more fleshed out with a simple rock band.  You've heard many of these songs being done to death by James Taylor or Aretha Franklin; it's a joy to hear them in peace and quiet as they were originally composed.

I got this as a gift for my wife for Mother's Day, but it did not take long for me to fall in love with King's songwriting and stunning voice.  Her original version of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" stands out as my favorite, though I also love the high, tight harmonies she wrote for the Everly Brothers on "Crying in the Rain."  I even like her original draft of "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)," which is much more effective without all the "sha-doops" and vocal grandstanding in the Aretha version.

(Also, this was the first new release I bought on vinyl, which sparked the LP resurgence going on in the Brame household.  I can't tell you how much I enjoy getting new records on LP, and we've built up a nice little collection of new albums.  It's a little more expensive this way, but it's fun to pick one out at dinnertime and then teach your son to go and put it on the spindle and hit the "start" button.  And they come with free digital downloads.  And they sound so damn good.  They're totally worth it.)

3. Fear Fun by Father John Misty

I'm a little late getting in on this one, but this album by the former drummer of the Fleet Foxes (one of my favorite bands) has been getting lots of play as the year winds down.  It is sublime one moment, then rocking, then hilarious, all in the span of two or three songs.  I believe that Aquarium Drunkard gave Fear Fun "album of the year" honors, and with good reason.  It's also fun to jog to.

Here he is doing "I'm Writing a Novel" on Jimmy Kimmell.  So good.

4. Mirage Rock by Band of Horses

This is another record that I bought for my wife (lucky girl, her), and didn't expect to care much about.  However, as I started doing this blog, she reminded me that we had listened to this record more than a lot of the other ones in our rotation.  I had to admit that it had gotten under my skin, so I put it on the list and had her write a bit about it.  So here she is--Renee Davis Brame!

Renee says:

I really loved Cease To Begin and was so happy to see Mirage Rock  arrive in our mailbox as a present from Mr. Brame.  This album shows a definite maturity not quite there with Cease To Begin.  It channels Neil Young and America and mixes it all up with that "super-hippy-I just-smoked-a-joint" feel that Band of Horses never fails to deliver.  Interesting side note:  Glyn Johns, who produced the Beatles, the Stones, the Who, and the Faces, also produced this album.

Honorable Mentions:

The Lumineers had a wonderful self-titled debut.  That one is definitely worth listening to.

Renee and I kind of liked The Best Coast's album, The Only Place, but the lyrics are so dumb that you can't really listen to it more than twice.  Here's my Amazon review that says as much.)

Sorry.  You just get an honorable mention.


  1. I think I just may end up getting the Carol King album.

  2. great list! i can't get enough of the father john misty album. seeing him / them in chicago in a few weeks (with the walkmen) and can't wait.

  3. I love Best Coast's inane lyrics! Maybe you had to be a 17-year-old girl at some point to appreciate them. Great list! As a Carole King fan, I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't even know about her demos album. Will definitely check it out.