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.

BUY @ AMAZON


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

Xavier Rudd: Spirit Bird

He’s back! Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd just released his seventh studio album, Spirit Bird. Xavier is one of my all-time favorite artists and his music never fails to amaze, uplift and thoroughly entertain me. While his previous release celebrated his relationship with his touring band, Xavier went back to solo basics for Spirit Bird. Save for a few guest singers, Xavier wrote, sang and played every instrument (of which there are many) on this spectacular new collection.

There’s just nothing like the sound of a yidaki (didgeridoo), Xavier’s signature instrument. Its distinctive rumble opens the album on the breathtaking “Lioness Eye.”

Sweet harmonica heralds “Comfortable In My Skin,” a beautiful and wistful exploration of suffering both internal and external. The song conveys so much with its deceptively simple lyrics – self-acceptance, longing for an old love, physical pain and emotional anguish over world conditions.

The album’s title track is a gorgeous, soaring acoustic ballad featuring backing vocals by children from Cape Byron Rudolph Steiner School.

“Bow Down” quakes with the bluesy rock that marked 2010′s Dark Shades of Blue, aided by the backing wails of Anishinabe First Nations Big Drum Group.

Xavier’s yidaki makes a thunderous return on the mesmeric “Culture Bleeding,” mingling with Xavier’s own wails, bird calls, Cape Byron’s children’s choir and guest vocals by MC Odds’ Freddy Leone.

“Paper Thin” softly sings of the fear of old wounds reopening in a newly reconciled love.

The finale “Creating a Dream” plays like the Aboriginal sequel to Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Every one of Xavier’s albums since 2007′s Food in the Belly has been at the top of my Albums of the Year list. Spirit Bird will surely be no exception.

You can download a free, legal mp3 of the album’s title track at Rolling Stone and stream “Comfortable in My Own Skin” at American Songwriter.

BUY @ AMAZON

Xavier Rudd Official Site

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

It’s that time again! Following are my Top 25 Albums of 2010. Like ‘em or not, these are the albums I’ve personally enjoyed and listened to most often in the past year. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…

*Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, which would have been #2 on this list had it been released this year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

25. Sheila Nicholls: Songs from the Bardo

…I was so excited to see Sheila Nicholls name on a new press release!…genre-hopping…moody experience…Sheila’s lovely vocals drive every song

Sheila Nicholls – Bardo (mp3)*
Sheila Nicholls – Natural Law (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

24. The Concretes: WYWH

…sultry and atmospheric…blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

23. Heart: Red Velvet Car

…a step back from the pop-rock endeavors of recent decades in favor of a multi-instrumental style…perfect display of Ann’s astounding vocal power and Nancy’s searing guitar riffs.

Buy @ Amazon

22. Warner Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano

…The deep resonance of Warner’s cello is juxtaposed and intertwined with the emotive peels of Nuzova’s piano, resulting in a sound full of somber beauty and classical romance.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Screaming Females: Castle Talk

…loud, exhilarating, wailing punk rockers…a spectacular cacophony of ferocious growls, frenzied shrieks, scorching guitar licks and tempestuous rhythm

Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

20. Brooke Fraser: Flags

…a collection of subtle folk-influenced melodies and pretty, infectious pop fleshed out with innovative arrangements and all wrapped up in Brooke’s warm voice

Buy @ Amazon

19. Agent Ribbons: Chateau Crone

…churns atmospheric retro pop-rock with modern rock riffs, handclap percussion, and girl group harmony. The result is somewhere between The Zombies and The Shangri-Las.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Creed Bratton: Bounce Back

…With the help of his backing band The 3DVB’s and his The Office co-star Ed Helms, Creed has made an unusual, funny, funky, and all around awesome album.

Creed Bratton – Rubber Tree (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

17. Robert Plant: Band of Joy

…an almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana

Buy @ Amazon

16. Danielle Ate the Sandwich: Two Bedroom Apartment

…The combination of that kind of sweetly self-deprecating humor and Danielle’s clear, warm voice along with some very pretty acoustic melodies make this album a charmer.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Robert Stallman: The Nightingale in Love

…Whether you’re a classical aficionado or simply enjoy pretty instrumental music, this lovely album is definitely one to try…Simply put, The Nightingale in Love is beautiful. So very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Sade: Soldier of Love

…an album everyone should hear…strong artistic integrity combined with an exquisitely exotic voice and elegant melodies give Sade’s music a rare grace and beauty.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Katharine McPhee: Unbroken

…an excellent mix of infectious pop melodies and singer-songwriter acoustics…Her multi-faceted voice effortlessly flows from impressive Divaesque acrobatics to a warmer, relaxed charm reminiscent of classic Carole King.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Loreena McKennitt: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

…brimming with a heady mix of Celtic and folk instrumentation…Loreena’s supernatural soprano is on gorgeous display

Buy @ Amazon

11. The Bird & The Bee: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates

…tribute to 1980s pop icons Hall & Oates is no parody, instead this is a sincere and happy homage to one of my favorite guilty pleasure bands…the perfect soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

10. Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies

…a wide variety of charming, serene covers by various indie acts…The entire Sing Me To Sleep album flows together to create a lovely, gentle mood.

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

9. The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

…one of the most excellent, enjoyable rock albums I’ve heard in years…infectious but substantial rock – settled delciously somewhere between arena and roots.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Spiral

…Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails…I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you.

Buy @ Amazon

7. The Innocence Mission: My Room in Trees

…pristinely pretty…Sparse arrangements are coupled with poetic lyrics full of scenic imagery and bittersweet emotion – all carried by the lovely soprano of Karen Peris.

The Innocence Mission – God is Love (mp3)*
The Innocence Mission – Happy Mondays (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

6. Moreland & Arbuckle: Flood

…If Moreland & Arbuckle’s upcoming album Flood is any indication, 2010 is gonna be a great year for music…this mix of Delta blues, folk, country, soul, and rock is one wild ride.

Buy @ Amazon

5. She & Him: Volume Two

…another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation…a breezy pop soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Kate Miller-Heidke: Curiouser

…like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. Mainstream pop fans will definitely enjoy this disc, as will those searching for catchy tunes with lyrical substance.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Janelle Monáe: The Archandroid

…Conceptually and musically, this multi-facted, genre-mashing masterpiece has everything you could want in an album and then some. And Janelle’s supernatural vocal range is as chameleonic as the songs she sings.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

…Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop…yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown

…transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell & Bon Iver – Wait for Me (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

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

Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

Singer-songwriter and didgeridoo virtuoso Xavier Rudd will release his new album Koonyum Sun on April 19th. As I said when I first posted the download link for “Love Comes and Goes” back in February, “with the exception of Hadestown and Allison Crowe’s upcoming Spiral, Xavier’s Koonyum Sun is my most anticipated album of 2010.” Until recently, I said that Xavier Rudd was my favorite contemporary male artist. After hearing this new album and thinking about his entire catalogue (two of his releases were on my Best of the Decade list), I must revise that statement. Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop.

The opener “Sky to Ground” initially seems to scale back to the simpler acoustics of Xavier’s earlier works, but the song soon bursts into a rock guitar riff recalling the harder sound of Dark Shades of Blue. The Koonyum Soon album as a whole is a beautiful, atmospheric marriage of these two distinct styles.

Many of the tracks – such as “Set Me Free,” the harmonica accented “Fresh Green Freedom,” and psychedelic folk-rock number “Bleed” – combine rock guitar thunder with haunting tribal percussion and chants. Weaved throughout are Xavier’s signature mellow acoustics, multi-faceted voice, and environmentally conscious lyrics.

The soft arrangement of “Love Comes & Goes” is certainly a familiar style for Xavier, but the post-breakup lyrical content is something very new for him. Xavier’s site says 2009 was “a tumultuous year” for him, and lyrics like “no other pain like losing a soulmate” and “picking up the pieces of a broken nest” indicate this song was inspired by the loss of a relationship. Whatever his motivation, Xavier has written the perfect anthem for the brokenhearted.

In contrast, the plucky buoyancy of “Time to Smile” seems to illustrate the joy Xavier feels when performing with his new band Izintaba. Izintaba is a new trio Xavier formed with South African bassist Tio Moloantoa and drummer Andile Nqubezelo, with whom Xavier says he shares an “an undeniable connection – musically, spiritually, and emotionally.”

With the exception of the finale “Badimo,” Xavier’s trademark didgeridoo is conspicuously absent this time around. It’s occasionally used to add texture to the percussion on other songs, but you have to listen very attentively to hear it. I do miss the deep sound of that unique instrument, but otherwise Koonyum Soon is yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Xavier’s website is offering a free, legal m4a download of the new song “Love Comes and Goes” to anyone who signs up for his official email list at the following link:

Xavier Rudd – Love Comes and Goes (download page) *

*link provided by artist’s official newsletter, you must sign up w/ an email address to access the download.

Buy @ Amazon

Xavier Rudd

Muruch’s Xavier Rudd Reviews

Xavier Rudd Official Site

Xavier Rudd: New Song Download

My favorite contemporary male artist and didgeridoo extraordinaire Xavier Rudd will release his new album Koonyum Sun on April 19th. With the exception of Hadestown and Allison Crowe’s upcoming Spiral, Xavier’s Koonyum Sun is my most anticipated album of 2010.

Xavier’s website is offering a free, legal m4a download of the new song “Love Comes and Goes” to anyone who signs up for his official email list at the following link:

Xavier Rudd – Love Comes and Goes (download page) *

*link provided by artist’s official newsletter, you must sign up w/ an email address to access the download.

Pre-order @ Amazon (not yet available)

Muruch’s Xavier Rudd Reviews

Xavier Rudd Official Site