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Shawn Campbell writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2012 (Shawn Campbell)

CHIRP Radio Best of 2012

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2012. Our next list is from CHIRP's founder and general manager Shawn Campbell.





You can hear Shawn on the air Saturdays from 12-2pm.

  1. Allo Darlin’ – Europe (Slumberland)Allo Darlin’ – Europe (Slumberland)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    As a longtime indiepop fan, I was powerless to resist Allo Darlin’s nearly perfect second outing, Europe. Often wistful but never wispy, Elizabeth Morris’ songs are evocative and charming, full of spot-on details that capture and preserve delicate moments in time, the stories of a touring musician and expatriate Australian that somehow speak to universal experiences – pondering questions of getting older, the meaning of life, and the simple pleasure of finding a bar with a truly outstanding jukebox.
  2. Mike Uva & the Bad Eyes – Lady, Tell Me Straight (Collectible Escalators)Mike Uva & the Bad Eyes – Lady, Tell Me Straight (Collectible Escalators)
    BUY: BandcampReckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    I’m grateful to Dan “Zapruder Point” Phillips for introducing me to this critically overlooked singer-songwriter from Cleveland. Mike Uva fuses elements of outlaw country and Americana with a warm pop sensibility, reminiscent of artists ranging from the Band to the Byrds to Damien Jurado. Supporting players The Bad Eyes add solid harmonies and fitting instrumentation, particularly in the subtle trumpet parts and piano work. Uva never gets painted into a corner, with styles ranging from the straight-ahead country of the title track, to the rambling, Dylanesque story-song of “Drank Too Much Last Night,” to the lilting, Fleet Foxes-like folk harmonies in cuts like California and “Boat Behind the Trees.” A real underappreciated gem.
  3. Neneh Cherry & the Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)Neneh Cherry & the Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    Free jazz isn’t normally my thing (ahem), but this collaboration between the ever-exploring Neneh Cherry and the Swedish trio that named itself after one of her stepdad’s compositions completely won me over. The set is made up mainly of a fascinating array of covers (the Stooges, MF Doom, aforementioned stepdad Don Cherry), with the outstanding offering Cherry’s reading of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” backed up by minimalist upright bass and drums, with an increasingly skronky sax eventually taking over before Cherry reins things back in – a track that seems to go on forever, yet I’m never ready for it to end.
  4. Outer Minds – S/T (Southpaw)Outer Minds – S/T (Southpaw)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    I was thrilled to discover local act Outer Minds early in 2012, and they rewarded me with some fantastic live shows, as well as two full-length albums. I liked both a lot, but my favorite was their first, a poppier affair full of Nuggets-style hooks and Mamas and Papas harmonies.
  5. White Wires – WWIII (Dirtnap)White Wires – WWIII (Dirtnap)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    I fell for the White Wires with their second album, WWII, and the follow-up, aptly titled WWIII, didn’t disappoint. The Ottawa, Canada group brought their act out of the garage on this outing, going in a more new wave/power pop direction, but I have no complaints about that. The songs are good dumb teenage fun, catchy as all get out, and mostly clocking in at barely over two minutes. Tunefulness abounds, pogoing likely.
  6. Cate Le Bon – CYRK (The Control Group)Cate Le Bon – CYRK (The Control Group)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    Filling my usual spot reserved for “artist most influenced by the Velvet Underground” is Welsh singer Cate Le Bon. It’s not hard to imagine a young Lou Reed playing guitar on these tracks, with Moe Tucker pounding away on her toms, all topped off by Le Bon’s Nico-esque vocals. Le Bon seems to take perverse joy in her often dark subject matter, perfectly fitting for a Velvets acolyte. Delicate mid-tempo numbers like “Puts Me to Work” are “Femme Fatale” or “Sunday Morning” style standouts.
  7. Kelly Hogan – I Like to Keep Myself in Pain (ANTI-)Kelly Hogan – I Like to Keep Myself in Pain (ANTI-)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    Hogan’s always been known as everyone’s favorite backup singer (Neko Case, Mavis Staples, many more), but she’s never seemed overly concerned about putting out her own records. Happily, her decade-plus of showing up only on other people’s albums came to an end this year. I Like to Keep Myself in Pain showcases Hogan’s soulful country voice, and demonstrates what happens when everyone in the industry loves you – friends like Robyn Hitchcock, Stephin Merritt, and Andrew Bird, among others, all contributed songs.
  8. Titus Andronicus – Local Business (XL)Titus Andronicus – Local Business (XL)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    Snotty and dark, but still celebratory, Local Business is filled with songs that you just know the band hates to hear called anthems, yet there’s certainly an anthemic quality to them, with sing-along choruses, big guitar solos, and a great sense of release that comes from listening. Like the Hold Steady in their heyday (and the obvious touchstone for both acts, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band), Titus Andronicus makes you feel like guitar rock not only still matters, it’s the most important thing in the world…at least at this very moment.
  9. The Coup – Sorry to Bother You (ANTI-)The Coup – Sorry to Bother You (ANTI-)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    For a band that’s always had politics as its raison d’etre, The Coup made a tremendously fun record in 2012. Make no mistake, the politics are still there, but this album is as likely to start a party as a discussion (or a riot). Boots Riley & co. (including a surprising appearance by singer-songwriter Jolie Holland in full-on soul singer mode) deliver a set of upbeat, danceable tracks with 100% live instrumentation. It’s old school, it’s punk rock, it’s a call to action to put the party back in politics.
  10. Chromatics – Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)Chromatics – Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)
    BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic
    Having lived through the 80s the first time, I’ve managed to resist most of the charms of the synth-heavy crowd that’s enamored many a reviewer in 2012, but Kill for Love feels different to me. It’s like synthpop and shoegaze had a baby – a delightfully catchy, danceable baby! I like dancing, pop songs, female vocals, and great big washes of sound, so I’m comfortable with my choice here.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2012, reviews

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