The Best Records We Heard In 2012

In random order, here are the best records we listened to in the past twelve months.  The usual caveats and quirks apply; no one, not even professional writers (never mind us music fans), hear everything in a given year, and most of these records were released in 2012, but a few weren’t (we just heard them for the first time this year).

Most of these albums are available to stream, in full, from

Honorable mention:
Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society
Beach House, Bloom
Frankie Rose, Interstellar
Dirty Projectors, Swing Low Magellan
Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes
Big K.R.I.T., 4Eva N A Day and Live From The Underground
Indian Handcrafts, Civil Disobedience For Losers

Still excited to check out:
Bat For Lashes, The Haunted Man
Jessie Ware, Devotion
Tame Impala, Lonerism
Pilgrim, Misery Wizard
The xx, Coexist

Looking forward to in 2013:
Jim James, Regions of Light and Sound of God
UUVVWWZ, The Trusted Language
Ladyfinger, Errant Forms

Mars Lights Tracking Photos

I’m a bit late clearing the vault of stuff to blog, here, but these are some photos of the Mars Lights tracking sessions from July and August.  The drums were done on Drew’s kit at my old house, and the guitars are being done in the practice space at Drew’s.

Are You Visceral or Mysterious?

“There are two categories of great rock’n’roll performers: visceral and mysterious. Visceral musicians let it all hang out—their performances are cathartic, unwieldy, and intensely personal. Bob Seger is a visceral guy; when Eddie Vedder climbs the balcony during ‘Even Flow’, he is displaying his visceral tendencies. Mysterious musicians refuse access to their inner lives. They shield their work from direct interpretation, shy away from on-stage histrionics, and swap out identities as quickly as some people change outfits. Bob Dylan is mysterious.”

– Aaron Leitko, from “No Tomorrow,” his recent Pitchfork piece on Ty Segall

When I think of great performers, they are mostly the visceral type in Aaron’s schema: Elvis, James Brown, Zach de la Rocha.  I wish I could be, but I know I’m not.  I’m mysterious (in this, limited, sense).  Do you know which you are?  Do you wish you were the other?

Visceral or mysterious maps pretty straightforwardly onto extroverted/introverted, I think.  Do you find yourself with the crowd, or do you become vulnerable to the crowd?

Drew, while he can swing his guitar around and dance, is still mysterious.  He’s always inward-facing, toward the band, when he rocks out.  Tim, on the other hand, is completely visceral, of course!  Scottie’s mysterious.  Cory is visceral.

Being mysterious can work, though.  It can draw people in.  In Five Star Crush, I set my keyboard up far stage right, facing the rest of the band, turned ninety degrees away from the audience (i.e., my side was to the crowd).  It helped me lose myself in the set, it helped me communicate with the rhythm section, and it focused attention on Joel.  I’d play, stomp, jump, sometimes pound my chest, and sort of  do this two-step rocking motion that felt pretty good.  Regularly, after the show, someone would come up and say something like “You looked like you were really into the music, and it got me into it, too!”

Theatricality is as important to effective mystery as it is to being visceral effectively.