It's that time of the year! The holidays are coming and let's face it, you could use some new music.
Since we get a lot of comments on our music selections (some of which contain the words "Can you please turn it down...") we thought we would offer you our very first 'Best of' music picks. This isn't a huge list, we call it the Dirty Dozen, but it's a list of what we Tomatoes have been playing, and sometimes overplaying for this last year. It's stuff we dig, and think you might like too.
So, without further ado, we bring to you The Hot Tomato Best Of 2012 Music. Enjoy. And feel free to contact us with your suggestions.
1. Sharon Van Etten- Tramp.
From Paste Magazine: “I am alone in this room with you,” sings bruised Brooklyn angel Sharon Van Etten on Tramp, her breakout third album. Her words float in a slow-motion mist above barely-there acoustics and underwater ambience: a representative moment for the album as a whole. For most of these 47 minutes, Van Etten’s right there with you—whispering her tortured lullabies into your ear in the most intimate way possible. More than just about any high-profile indie-rock release in recent memory, Tramp feels like an artful exchange, a private conversation between artist and listener.
2. Elliot BROOD- Days Into Years
From American Roots: This tremendous alt. countryish trio hail from Toronto, Canada and were formed in 2002 by Mark Sasso, Stephen Pitkin and Casy Laforet. Previous albums, 2005’s ‘Ambassador’ and 2008’s ‘Mountain meadow’, were both justifiably described by the band as ‘death country.’ They were far more acoustic than this current offering that in the main has electric guitars to the fore, although this again does contain some dark songs! I actually preferred those first two albums although much of the acoustic instrumentation is still retained on several of these songs and even where they are not, their Big Star meets the Jayhawks mix of guitars, power and gorgeous melodies does still have plenty of appeal.
3. Of Monsters and Men- My Head is an Animal
From Paste: My Head is an Animal, a 12-track sonic and lyrical tour of the frigid island country, includes all four songs included on Into the Woods. The EP, which contained “From Finner,” “Six Weeks,” “Love Love Love” and the heralded “Little Talks,” served as an excellent introduction to the Icelandic band; however, when those songs are placed in the context of a full album, they prove that Of Monsters and Men is at its best when all six instrumental and singing voices are heard.
4. Best Coast- The Only Place
From Paste: In 2010 Bethany Cosentino won over the ears of… well, damn near everyone and their mother, with her band Best Coast’s debut, Crazy For You—without really trying. It was an album that was as endearing in its candor as it was in its simple and summery pop constructions. Simply put: Cosentino was far from reinventing the verse-chorus-verse, but she did manage to give by-the-numbers fuzz pop a welcome jolt.
How to follow it up? Do what comes naturally, of course. On The Only Place, Cosentino sticks with what she knows—matters of the heart, self-doubt and, of course, her native California, the latter of which is emblazoned on the album cover with the subtlety of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. It’s pure California pop that owes as much to the state as it does practitioners like the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac.
5. THEE Satisfaction -awE NaturalE
From Pitchfork: Following a handful of self-released Bandcamp mixtapes, awE naturalE marks THEESatisfaction's proper debut, and their post-Black Up introduction to the world through Sub Pop. The album stands on its own as a fresh take on dense neo-soul, jazz, and rap fusion, but it also functions as a component of a larger piece. It's solid proof that they weren't merely vocalists auditioned for a part by Palaceer Lazaro, but part of a symbiotic relationship that must have much deeper roots. As Irons and Harris-White's were on Black Up, Lazaro's fingerprints are all over this record, including guest verses over the minimal-jazz of "God" and the alien-like, wobble-warped "Enchantruss". On a more understated level, unconventional song structures-- there are few hooks or choruses or neatly measured verses here-- subtly reveal themselves the way they did on Black Up. Perhaps it's the result of a close artistic partnership, or a reflection of the contemporary music scene in Seattle, but the music of Lazaro and THEESatisfaction sounds as though it's working toward the same goal, even when released as separate entities.
6. Divine Fits- A Thing Called Divine Fits
From Rolling Stone: Spoon's Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner are both true coffee achievers: high-energy dudes who tend to write tightly wound songs. So it's no shock that their side band is a genuine synthesis. Daniel's sharp guitar and Boeckner's drone-y keyboard come together on jittery jags that gain urgency by feeling knocked out – from the breakneck Kraftwerk of "The Salton Sea" to the Wire trance spackle of "Neopolitans." On the Boys Next Door cover, "Shivers," Daniel sings about trying not to have a breakdown, against paint-peeling noise – it's a song about coming unglued, from some guys who really ought to spend more time together.
7. Moonface with Siinai- Heartbreaking Bravery
From Spin: Spencer Krug presents his work directly. Since adopting his Moonface moniker, the ultra-prolific, increasingly nomadic Canadian singer-songwriter (formerly of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown) has used the titles of his yearly releases more as explicit labels. His 2010 Dreamland EP came with the vivid tagline marimba and shit-drums. Last year, he unveiled Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped. And now, for the project's first proper full-length, the fairly literal With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery. Written and recorded with Finnish krautrock innovators Siinai in Helsinki shortly after the end of Krug's relationship with Sunset Rubdown bandmate Camilla Wynne Ingr (which took that group down with it), the result is indeed both heartbreaking and brave. It's also Krug's finest work to date.
8. Lost Lander- DRRT
From Paste: It’s amazing how often production value is overlooked when considering an artist’s musical output. In the case of Portland’s Lost Lander and their debut LP it’s impossible not to address it—the production is as palpable as the vocals. It literally becomes another instrument.
9. Diamond Rugs- Diamond Rugs
From Paste: The Diamond Rugs, on their self-titled debut for Partisan Records, fit this last description perfectly. The brainchild of Deer Tick’s resident caterwauler John McCauley, the group also features McCauley’s bandmate Robbie Crowell, Ian Saint Pé of the Black Lips, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate and Six Finger Satellite’s Bryan Dufresne. Deer Tick’s sound is clearly the blueprint here, and the album exudes the brash, jangly, always raw and occasionally irreverent take on countrified rock that McCauley and Crowell’s band has made its calling card. Even so, the Diamond Rugs for the most part do not rehash that sound but expand upon it. “Call Girl Blues,” with its gaudy horns and straggly guitar, recalls the best of the Stones circa Sticky Fingers. The rolling melody and echoing drums on “Out on My Own” are downright Springsteen-esque, and it is a testament to the band’s ingenuity that six guys who you’d never really associate with classic rock can take some time-worn sounds and make them their own.
10. Cat Power- Sun
From Pitchfork: Seventeen years after Chan Marshall's debut as Cat Power and six years after her most recent album of original material, comes Sun, her ninth album. But let's drop the math right there. Because Sun is a record with its own peculiar temporal logic, one that's circular rather than linear. Take that picture on the cover, for example. It's Marshall 20 years ago, but toward the end of Sun's almost six-year gestation period, she chopped off her hair and looks, once again, like the image in the photo. At the risk of engaging in cheap analysis, this fact feels not entirely trivial. "When we were teenagers, we wanted to be the sky," she sang on her enduringly haunting 1998 record Moon Pix, her voice warbling at that moment as if she were delivering an elegy, like it's a shame we all at some point give up on those lofty and poetically illogical dreams. But Sun is a testament to what happens when that sensibility and logic somehow survive a turbulent adulthood: This, these weather-beaten and irrepressibly hopeful songs all seem to say, is what it sounds like when you still want to be the sky at 40.
11. The Lumineers- The Lumineers
From Paste: The Lumineers’ debut record is instantly gratifying—and not in the hasty, shallow way often found in pre-fab pop songs either. While some records take days or months to properly digest, there’s an instant connection here similar to that sonic euphoria many people found upon hearing their first roaring Mumford song, favorite Dylan lyric or perfect Head and The Heart harmony.
12. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid MAAd City
The first sound we hear on good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a prayer: "Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving us with your precious blood," voices murmur, evoking a family dinner gathering. The album's cover art, a grubby Polaroid, provides a visual prompt for the scene: Baby Kendrickdangles off an uncle's knee in front of a squat kitchen table displaying a 40-ounce and Lamar's baby bottle. The snapshot is such an unvarnished peek into the rapper's inner life that staring at it for too long feels almost invasive. This autobiographical intensity is the album's calling card. Listening to it feels like walking directly into Lamar's childhood home and, for the next hour, growing up alongside him.