Wounded Messenger’s Top 12 Albums and Concerts of 2012

If I replace a top “ten” albums or concerts of the year list with a number corresponding to the year, by 2030 I won’t even have to decide anymore.

It’s dangerous and a bit cheesy, just like most popular music. But I will give in to the urge to not have to chop two more albums off this list and roll with my top 12 albums of 2012, in alphabetical order.

Ben Folds FiveThe Sound of the Life of the Mind
Choir of Young BelieversRhine Gold
DiivOshin
Father John MistyFear Fun
Hiss Golden MessengerPoor Moon
Maps and AtlasesBeware and Be Grateful
Matthew E. WhiteBig Inner
The Mountain GoatsTranscendental Youth
Patterson HoodHeat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
Punch BrothersWho’s Feeling Young Now?
Sharon Van EttenTramp
Tame ImpalaLonerism

What’s that you say? Serve myself? OK, here are 5 honorable mentions, AKA albums 13 through 17….

First Aid KitThe Lion’s Roar
Jason LytleDept. of Dissappearance
Jimmy Herring BandSubject to Change Without Notice
Titus AndronicusLocal Business
WoodsBend Beyond

If you follow the Twitter, you know I saw a ton of shows in 2012. Here are my 12 favorites, in alphabetical order.

The Grandmothers of Invention – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
The Hold Steady – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Journey/Pat Benetar/Loverboy – Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
Matthew E. White – Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh, NC
Puscifer – Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
Roger Waters – PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
Superjam – Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
Toon & The Real Laww – Pour House Music Hall, Raleigh, NC
Warren Haynes Presents The Christmas Jam – Asheville, NC
White Denim/Maps and Atlases/Tiny Victories – The Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC
Victor Wooten Band/Jimmy Herring Band – Carolina Theater, Durham, NC

Look for live tweets from the 24th Warren Haynes Christmas Jam this weekend, and a review too. Happy Holidays!

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Update: New Album Review and Two New Concert Reviews, Plus Photos

I’ve been stupid busy lately with shows. Thankfully I have a couple of weeks off until more great music rolls our way.

Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks:

Concert Review – White Denim, Maps and Atlases, Tiny Victories at Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC

Album Review – The Infamous Stringdusters, Silver Sky

Concert Review – Jimmy Herring Band & Victor Wooten Band, Carolina Theater, Durham, NC

Enjoy these shots from the shows!

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Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore – Dear Companion Album Review at Glide Magazine

My review of the Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore album Dear Companion is now up at Glide Magazine. The album features My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James as contributor and producer, and the proceeds from the sale of the album go to help combat the devastating practice of mountaintop removal. Read the review here and buy the album here.

Festival Update: Camp Bisco, Bear Creek, and More

We’ve got our eyes on a couple of new additions to our festival watch list – Camp Bisco 9 and Bear Creek Music Festival. Camp Bisco 9 is shaping up to be one of the most successful events of the year, and it’s still more than 5 months away. The event, which takes place July 15-17, 2010, in Mariaville, NY, sold out of the first batch of presale tickets and opened up a whole new presale period. The lineup for this one will undoubtedly be amazing and unpredictable, so check here and the festival website for updates.

The fine folks behind the Bear Creek Music Festival, held every year at Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, have taken a unique approach to their 2010 event. Tickets are already on sale and the lineup has already been announced for the festival, with is still 9 months away. I suppose their philosophy is sound – the longer tickets are on sale and the lineup circulating, the more buzz and press there will be. I must say, a $99 early bird ticket is a hell of a deal for the jamgasm of a lineup – Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Garaj Mahal, Lettuce, Soulive, George Porter Jr, Toubab Krewe, Zach Deputy, Will Bernard, and “artists-at-large” Fred Wesley, Skerik, Mike Dillon, The Shady Horns, and Kofi Burbridge are just a sampling of the monster funk lineup.

Bonnaroo rumors and confirmations continue to fly, with Wale announcing his plans to be on the farm and Zac Brown Band confirming their inclusion as well. As of right now, it looks like the speculators will be right on with their predictions of Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Pavement, and others.

We’re looking for anything we can find about Lollapalooza, High Sierra, All Good, Mile High, Austin City Limits, and other events, and we’ll be sure to post as soon as we hear anything!

Album Review: Vampire Weekend – Contra

It’s a cliche that often holds true – a stunning debut album foretells a slight letdown for a band’s next release. Well, don’t expect a letdown from this sophomore known as Contra. All of a sudden, Vampire Weekend’s short career seems incredibly promising, because Contra is equally as engaging and addictive as their first album. Thankfully, it is also very, very different. The band have not allowed their ubiquitous debut to influence their new musical path, and those who grew tired of the band’s overexposure would do well to give this album a dedicated listen.

Their peppy, preppy pop sound is still intact but they haven’t limited themselves to re-hashing the same formula of gently African-influenced indie rock. Instead, they’ve opened up the whole of their audio toy box, creating gems like “White Sky,” which simultaneously channels Paul Simon and Hot Chip. “Taxi Cab” takes the listener on a melancholy ride through mesmerizing piano figures, elegant melodic interludes, and sparse electronica. Perhaps the most ambitious track, “Run,” embraces the ears with lush, limitless sounds, from synthesized horns to pinging Postal Service-style electropop and dominant drumming reminiscent of u2’s Larry Mullen Jr.

“Holiday” is perhaps most reminiscent of their trademark sound, a straightforward creation with inconsequential lyrics and bouncy rock rhythms. “California English” also bears the unmistakable pulse of Africa-meets-NYC listeners have come to love, but this time there’s a string section and increased electronic manipulation. The exhausting “Cousins” puts the entire band’s abilities to the test, as manic, cascading guitars dart around a frantic beat and unflappable bass work.

For most of this album’s audience, gripes will be minimal. The general uselessness of the lyrics can be irritating despite the appeal of Ezra Koenig’s mellow vocals, and “Giving Up the Gun” doesn’t fit in as well as the rest of the album. Also, the final track, “I Think Ur A Contra,” isn’t going to garner many repeat plays. Still, Contra is just about all we could hope for from Vampire Weekend. Under intense critical scrutiny and palpable fan pressure, they have delivered a mature, forward-looking, and wholly exciting release.

Rating: 8.1 out of 10

Album Review: Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man

Sad Man Happy Man is a perfectly fitting title for a Mike Doughty album. Anyone who reads the guy’s blog or follows his career knows how alternately volatile and friendly he can be, and his latest album might be the best representation of that divide since his first solo effort, Skittish. This album is more sparse and intimate than his last release, the shimmering pop effort Golden Delicious, and it’s no coincidence. Doughty has said that he consciously went back to sound that is not as fully produced and fleshed out for Sad Man Happy Man, since different cliques of his fans seem to like different things.

Apparently, some of those fans told Doughty that they liked Golden Delicious more than anything he ever did with Soul Coughing. Those people probably weren’t huge Soul Coughing fans to begin with. While Golden Delicious is Doughty’s finest effort since Soul Coughing disbanded, it hardly seems possible that, if given the choice, someone who genuinely loved Soul Coughing would prefer Doughty’s solo work. Anyway, we now have Sad Man Happy Man, an apparent attempt to sate the other groups of fans – the ones who like their Doughty with less sheen. The whole of the album is performed by Doughty, with just a little of Scrap Livingston’s cello here and there, giving the entire affair a personal, intimate vibe. It’s not on the same fearful, huddled tip as Skittish, but it’s close. Continue reading

Coachella Lineup is Out!

Coachella is both huge and spectacular this year, perhaps even more so than most years. The music lineup was announced today, and it features a slew of must-see acts, rare appearances, and old favorites. Get more info at their website. Personally, Porcupine Tree, Plastikman, Hot Chip, Them Crooked Vultures, Whitest Boy Alive, Jay-Z, Gorillaz, Pavement, and Thom Yorke would be worth my money!