All week long we’ve been counting down our staff’s picks for the best albums of 2012. Today, on one of the last workdays of the year, we reveal the top of our list.
When Hidden Track was started in 2006 there were plenty of sites dedicated to indie rock and a slew of sites devoted to improvisational and classic rock bands, but few blogs (and bands for that matter) bridged the gap between the forms. That’s where we came in and five years later the results of our list shows that’s still where our staff’s interests lie.
Thanks for following along all week. We now present our Top 5 Albums of 2012…
Key Tracks: Locked Down, Ice Age, Eleggua… aw heck, they’re all amazing.
Sounds Like: Dan Auerbach as Marty McFly, Dr John as Marvin Berry; a time-traveling Delorean and one funky-as-hell Enchantment Under the Sea dance.
The Skinny: If you had a time machine, would you go back to save the world from some certain evil? Would you ensure yourself riches beyond your wildest imagination? Or would you use it to get down to history’s greatest musicians in their prime? Dan Auerbach may very well have a time machine because the Dr. John he’s produced on Locked Down is a revelation of past greatness in the here and now. The album is a swampy, dark Dr. John voodoo funk with Auerbach’s greasy fingerprints all over it, an embarrassment of musical riches, each track its own adventure. As throwback as it sounds, what’s remarkable is how modern and relevant it feels – time machine or not, Dr John & Dan Auerbach have delivered an album for the ages.
It being Friday, and just shy of half-way through the ninth month of the year, this morning I (@andykahn) decided on a whim to tweet out my Top 9 Albums of 2012 (so far). Along with the nine I chose, I also added a handful of, “Honorable Mentions,” that didn’t quite make the cut. With a quarter of the year left, 2012 has thus far proven to be another impressive year of album releases.
In his solo career, John Lennon surely did not invent the concept of songwriting as an act of catharsis. He did, though, set out a template for how it could be done in the most effective manner possible. Delving deep within, Lennon dredged up painful memories and offered not-so-insignificant glimpses of insight into his psyche. While no one in their right mind would ever compare Fleet Foxes to The Beatles, Josh Tillman, the former’s former drummer does have the onus of a relatively famous band looming over his shoulder while he attempts to succeed on his own.
As if to make a clean break, Tillman adopted the moniker of Father John Misty, a baptismal of sorts for his new solo career. In Every Man Needs A Companion, the closing song of Fear Fun, Father John Misty’s stirring and compelling debut album, Tillman leisurely tosses off his own version of “I don’t believe in Beatles” by proclaiming that he never liked the name Joshua and got tired of J. It would be a startlingly heartbreaking revelation; if only you could be entirely sure that he meant it.
Despite the omnipresence of fulsome, rustic atmospherics (you may be able to take the drummer out of the Fleet Foxes but not the Fleet Foxes out of the drummer) and a measured infusion of tempered barroom country rock, Fear Fun is a surprisingly Hollywood album. However, the Hollywood depicted by Tillman owes more to Bret Easton Ellis’ vision of Tinseltown than The Great Ziegfeld. In novels like Less Than Zero and The Informers (as well as their East coast cousins Glamorama and The Rules of Attraction), Ellis documented the ennui and emotional vacuity of a seemingly lost generation of morally bankrupt, unempathetic children of privilege. Tillman taps into that same vein on Fear Fun, offering what, at times, amounts to a winking satire of those that harbor grandiose hopes and dreams while possessing no self-awareness of their own shortcomings. With acute perception and a dry wit, Tillman explores the same psychic territory as The Eagles, only with a more nuanced spin and much less piety.
Last month J. Tillman took to his Tumblr page to unexpectedly announce that after a four year stint as their drummer, he would be leaving the Fleet Foxes, a move that seemed a bit shocking, considering the Seattle-based folk rock act were coming off their most successful year to date, having released their critically acclaimed sophomore album Helplessness Blues. The seemingly significant impact of his decision was not lost on Tillman, who’s farewell message included the line “Back into the gaping maw of obscurity I go.” That statement may not be 100% true, as Tillman had been recording and releasing his brand of Nick Drake-inspired folk music since 2003, gaining even more attention for his solo work with the trio of records he put out as a member of the Fleet Foxes, including 2009′s Year in the Kingdom, which his band-mates provided backing vocals on.
For his first post-FF project Tillman has decided to adopt the moniker of Father John Misty, and will release his debut Fear Fun on May 1, via Sub Pop. The album, whose sound is being described as having “such disparate elements as Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Arthur Russell, “All Things Must Pass,” and “Physical Graffiti,” often within the same song,” and was produced by like-minded folkie Jonathan Wilson at his Echo Park recording studio. Father John Misty recently released the slightly dark and twisted video for his first his first single, Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings, which features Aubrey Plaza from NBC’s Parks & Recreation. Let’s check it out…