Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2012

2012 was a very good year for music. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with enough albums for my year end list, this year the problem was narrowing down my choices. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, watch videos and/or download mp3s. Then comment with your favorite albums of the year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2012

25. Sugar & the Hi-Lows

…This brilliant collection of songs beautifully marries modern indie-pop with retro rockabilly and soul. The sound is Sun Records meets Raising Sand.

Buy @ Amazon

24. Dala: Best Day

…Dala’s penchant for peppy country-pop harmonies and melodic folk-pop melodies fall somewhere between Lady Antebellum and Sylvie Lewis…sweet vocals, tinkling piano and buoyant strings…a pop culture cornucopia with references to everything from Shakespeare to Annie Hall

Buy @ Amazon

23. Sylvie Lewis: It’s All True

…Sylvie’s elegant voice and delicate melodies elevate even the most simple of tunes to a higher level…a jaunty fable of star-crossed love with just the softest, lightest hint of jazz

Buy @ Amazon

22. Eric McGrath: Little Ripples

…I expect Eric McGrath won’t be Ireland’s best kept secret for long…McGrath’s intimate singing style and breezy, multi-instrumental compositions often fall somewhere between Bright Eyes and Xavier Rudd, which is an extremely interesting and unique place to be. But even such grand comparisons are tenuous, because Eric McGrath is definitely blazing a creative trail of his own.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Julie Lee & The Baby-Daddies

…this gorgeous, classic folk song cycle sounds like it was recorded decades ago…the entire album is lovely and sure to be on my best of the year list.

Buy @ Amazon

20. Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

…atmospheric electronics and somber melodies…brimming with all the emotions of a lifetime of regret and a heart full of love…a very pretty and innovative collection.


19. Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

…Most of it is sheer, breathtaking brilliance…truly exquisite ballads…the spectacular far, far outweighs the bad

Buy @ Amazon

18. The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten

…Many bands have tried and failed to capture The Boss’ throne, but The Gaslight Anthem have successfully proven themselves to be the true heirs of Bruce Springsteen.

Buy @ Amazon

17. Xavier Rudd: Spirit Bird

…Xavier is one of my all-time favorite artists and his music never fails to amaze, uplift and thoroughly entertain me…Xavier wrote, sang and played every instrument (of which there are many) on this spectacular new collection.

Buy @ Amazon

16. Muse: The 2nd Law

…Not only does The 2nd Law continue that grandiose marriage of arena rock and classical music, but its futuristic electronic twist allows the album to stand completely on its alone. Definitely one for the year end list…weaving thunderous rock, classical song structure and instrumentation with operatic backing vocals into a glorious, cross-genre cacophony.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Jonathan & Charlotte: Together

…the teenage opera duo were this year’s Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent…Talent like Jonathan & Charlotte’s and an album like this doesn’t come along often, so I hope they have a long, successful career ahead of them.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Leif Ove Andsnes: The Beethoven Journey: Piano Concertos No 1 & 3

…a very splendid and beautiful collection…elegantly serene…Andsnes and the other musicians do a superb job in their individual performances of each work. Even more noteworthy is their musical coalescescence.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Garbage: Not Your Kind of People

…grandiose, rocked up electro-pop drama fronted by a wailing red-haired banshee. Their new album successfully captures and modernizes their snarling past glory.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Cat Power: Sun

…shockingly upbeat sound…Cat Power is still as sultry and mysterious as she always was, but the music is very much uptempo…There’s just something so unique about Cat Power’s voice, lyrics and song structure. That unusual quality makes what could be, should be pop songs something entirely different. It’s unpop.

Buy @ Amazon

Cat Power: Ruin (mp3)*

11. Amanda Palmer: Theater Is Evil

…The album explores pop, New Wave and synth rock in a way that is quite a departure from Palmer’s old punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, but it often has the same twisted wit, high energy and frenetic pace…the bombastic Theatre Is Evil is the best argument for fan-funded albums

Buy @ Amazon

Amanda Palmer – Do It With a Rockstar (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – The Killing Type (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Want it Back (mp3)*
Amanda Palmer – Trout Heart Replica (mp3)*

10. The Mynabirds: Generals

…Have I mentioned I love The Mynabirds? The thumping, catchy, claphappy, fiercely femme indie sound of their new sophomore album, Generals, is somewhere between Lykke Li and Bats for Lashes. Thus the love…the album is deliciously rife with the band’s signature blend of synth-pop, rock, wails, hand claps and stomps.

Buy @ Amazon

The Mynabirds – Body of Work (mp3)*

9. Wilson Phillips: Dedicated

…a tribute to The Mamas & Papas and The Beach Boys…their harmonies are as lovely as ever and very reminiscent of the two bands who spawned them…a sunny, summery, very catchy and surprisingly well orchestrated collection of classic pop covers.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Khatia Buniatishvili: Chopin

…Khatia Buniatishvili’s Chopin is not only my favorite of the Chopin albums released this year, it’s my favorite classical release of 2012…Her nimble fingers are a perfect fit for the classical piano master’s compositions and her selection from his work is superbly diverse. Buniatishvili’s Chopin is an absolutely exquisite collection.

Buy @ Amazon

7. Escort

…Escort is a seventeen-member “disco orchestra”…definitely one of the more unusual and delightful acts I’ve heard…I can’t imagine a more fun and catchy album being released next year.

Buy @ Amazon

Escort – Makeover (mp3)*

6. JD McPherson: Signs & Signifiers

…Where did this guy come from?…McPherson’s music is a delicious mix of brassed up retro soul and rumbling vintage blues-rock. It’s been a very long time since I was struck by such an intense sense of awe while listening to an album…sound like classics by Little Richard, Jackie Wilson or The Big Bopper with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Sun Studios-era Elvis thrown in.

Buy @ Amazon

5. Goodnight Texas: A Long Life of Living

…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good? Song after song, I would think I’d heard the best of the album only to be even more amazed by the next track. This is music for any band to aspire to and for any music fan to get very excited about.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Norah Jones: …Little Broken Hearts

…Norah has finally found a dark, dreamy sound interesting enough to successfully break away from those old coffeehouse categories without losing the mellow charm that made her famous. Produced by Danger Mouse, …Little Broken Hearts spices up pretty post-breakup pop anthems with luscious splashes of noirish electro-rock.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel…

…Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, weaves the fierce emotion, poetic lyrics and masterfully constructed compositions of her previous releases with a much more rugged recording style and strong splashes of jazz. The collection is somewhat unexpected and strange, but it’s also exquisitely beautiful and brilliant.

Buy @ Amazon

2. The Vespers: The Fourth Wall

…The songs on The Fourth Wall break the barrier between folk and pop and also genre-hop through blues, gospel and rock…all wrapped up in dulcet harmonies and strikingly beautiful instrumentation.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anais Mitchell: Young Man in America

…Anaïs Mitchell is like a modern day Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan. Her epic lyrical narratives echo Guthrie’s masterful talent for blending the literary with the ordinary, while her fierce and unique vocal phrasing as well as her intricately multi-layered arrangements take Dylanesque to a whole new realm….Young Man in America is both an ambitious recording project and a beautifully rich tapestry of classic folk songwriting. Anaïs Mitchell just may be my generation’s most talented singer-songwriter.

Buy @ Amazon

Uploaded by Wilderland Records

*all mp3s, streams & videos uploaded by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps

Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

Bat For Lashes‘ third album, The Haunted Man, is quite different from her previous releases. The tribal drums and dark drama that first brought our attention to Natasha Khan’s alter ego have been replaced with atmospheric electronics and somber melodies. Even Natasha’s voice sounds different, at times straining to reach an angelic soprano level when we know her natural tone is a smokey alto. And yet somehow…it works, it gets under your skin. My feelings about the album are strongly mixed between my initial, unavoidable disappointment when comparing it to her past and unshakable, irresistable respect for her extraordinary creativity.

The Haunted Man opens with the expansive, cinematic “Lilies.” The song seemed overly long the first time around, but I like it more with each listen. It has an almost hypnotic effect. One of the most capitivating moments on the album comes when Natasha breathes “Thank God I’m alive” just before the song’s horn-driven orchestral finale.

The darkly quirky electro-pop numbers “All Your Gold” and “Marilyn” hark back to 1980s-era Kate Bush and/or Peter Gabriel.

Sadly, it seems no amount of repeated listens will make “Horses of the Sun” anything but irksome to me.

“Oh Yeah,” however, is rhythmic and interesting. I do wish the piano flourish at the end was audible throughout, but better late than never.

The stunningly pure and beautiful ballad “Laura,” which I first posted back in July, is by far the standout track and outshines the rest of the album. Brimming with all the emotions of a lifetime of regret and a heart full of love, “Laura” remains one of the most exquisite songs of the year.

The sparse, string-accented “Winter Fields” in particular conjures the ethereal spectar of Kate Bush. Winter Fields may have been a more apt title for this cool and spacious piece of art.

Inspired by the Irish “troubles,” the title track features a chilling interlude of militant drums and male vocals which were shouted and recorded over a canyon.

The rest of the album blurs and blends together, sometimes gorgeously, sometimes unremarkably. Had Bat For Lashes not been by a favorite artist of mine, I wouldn’t have tried so hard to like the album and must admit I wanted to like it more than I actually did at first. However, it’s turned out to be a grower like Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow and Fiona Applie’s The Idler Wheel. The Haunted Man is a very pretty and innovative collection.


Bat For Lashes Official Site

Bat For Lashes: New Album & Song!

She’s back! The exquisitely talented Bat For Lashes (a.k.a. Natasha Khan) will return with her new album, The Haunted Man, on October 23rd. As we wait with bated breath, you can listen to and watch the video for the first single, “Laura,” below. The piano ballad is surprisingly simple given Bat For Lashes’ eccentric past, but it is also very, very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon (Available October 23, 2012)

Muruch Bat For Lashes Reviews

Bat For Lashes Official Site

Bat For Lashes: Two Suns

Bat For Lashes sophomore album Two Suns will be released on April 9th. Much like Fur and Gold, the new album simmers with theatrical percussion and vocal flights of fancy. Yet there’s a smoother production to this disc that makes it obvious Natasha Khan (the feminine force that is Bat For Lashes) has embraced the studio atmosphere as much as the dark forest she emerged from with her debut.

I was prepared to be disappointed by Two Suns when I read that Khan created the alternate persona of Pearl – a blonde vixen – to interact with herself throughout the album’s songs. Tori Amos played out that alter-ego gimmick long before Beyoncé thought of Sasha Fierce. But whatever the lyrical concept, there’s no resisting the pretty vocals and hypnotic sound of Bat For Lashes.

Natasha’s solitary voice drifts in with the haunting a capella intro of “Glass” (which lifts lines from Song of Solomon) before the drums and drama begin. The underlying melody of “Sleep Alone” recalls “Trophy”, but is buoyed by splashes of retro ’80s synth-rock.

The softer piano ballad “Moon and Moon” reveals a more fragile side to Khan’s voice and conjures up old memories of Kate Bush. And the psychedelica folk-gospel strum and hum of “Peace of Mind” is subtle and lovely.

Though the Pearl character doesn’t grab my attention like the brilliant new narrative of The Decemberists, I do like the general theme of duality in Two Suns. Khan reaches beyond her two-character story to ponder metaphysical ideas, exploring the relationships between such opposing elements as dark and light, love and pain, and peace and chaos.

The electronic Tori-fest (how sad I used to be an obsessive fan, but now use Amos as a bad example) “Pearl’s Dream” seems silly at first, but the song is transformed by catchy beats and handclaps about a minute in.

The Mazzy Star wanders into Twin Peaks style of “Good Love” and quaking percussion of “Two Planets” are much more appealing. The stand out track is the finale “The Big Sleep”, a phantasmal piano duet with Scott Walker.

Bat For Lashes Official Site

Pre-order @ Amazon