She Never Thought She’d Fall In Love

Over at 100 Albums, I attempt to describe the enigmatic beauty of Saint Etienne’s Tiger Bay, and why you should avoid the American edition of it.

Don’t Forget To Catch Me

Saint Etienne’s So Tough proves a game changer over on 100 Albums.

Introducing Haunted Jukebox

I’ve started a new blog. Haunted Jukebox is a place for all my music writing going forward. I’ve been re-posting all previous entries in my 100 Albums project, and all subsequent ones will go there instead of here.

My first “original” post over there is a companion piece to this one; among my favorite albums of the first half of this decade is one which includes a song whose title gives the new blog its name.

Kriofske Mix will continue–I’ll have multiple photo essays from my Colorado trip to post over the next month or two, plus it’ll be a home for the increasingly rare occasions when I write film reviews. However, I expect my primary focus will be on music, especially as I still have another 69 favorite albums to write about at length. So, please bookmark hauntedjukebox.com, won’t you?

My Favorite Music of 2012

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Martha Wainwright

The Best Tracks of 2012 in two Spotify playlists:

Volume 1: Someone Who Looks Smashing In Athletic Wear

1. Saint Etienne, “Tonight” / 2. Tanlines, “All Of Me” / 3. The Magnetic Fields, “Andrew In Drag” / 4. Diamond Rings, “Runaway Love” / 5. Stars, “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” / 6. Jens Lekman, “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder” / 7. Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments” / 8. Of Monsters And Men, “Mountain Sound” / 9. Hot Chip, “Let Me Be Him” / 10. Rufus Wainwright, “Bitter Tears” / 11. Sinead O’Connor, “Queen Of Denmark” / 12. The Ting Tings, “Guggenheim” / 13. Aimee Mann, “Labrador” / 14. Imperial Teen, “Out From Inside” / 15. Miike Snow, “The Wave” / 16. Twin Shadow, “Run My Heart” / 17. Martha Wainwright, “Proserpina” / 18. Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife” / 19. A.C. Newman, “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”

Volume 2: You Enjoy Sucking On Dreams

1. Metric, “The Void” / 2. Calexico, “Splitter” / 3. Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents” / 4. Regina Spektor, “All The Rowboat” / 5. Dr. John, “Revolution” / 6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Here Comes My Man” / 7. Deep Sea Arcade, “Girls” / 8. Keane, “On The Road” / 9. Bat For Lashes, “Laura” / 10. The xx, “Chained” / 11. Emm Gryner, “She’s Gone” / 12. Paul Brill, “Breezy” / 13. Patti Smith, “April Fool” / 14. Andrew Bird, “Lusitania” / 15. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, “Man On Fire” / 16. The Shins, “No Way Down” / 17. Ben Folds Five, “Away When You Were Here” / 18. A Fine Frenzy, “Now Is The Start” / 19. Goldfrapp, “Melancholy Sky” / 20. Field Music, “(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing” / 21. Beth Orton, “Mystery”

Top Ten Albums:

1. Jens Lekman – I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN’T
2. Fiona Apple – THE IDLER WHEEL…
3. Saint Etienne – WORDS AND MUSIC BY SAINT ETIENNE
4. Hot Chip – IN OUR HEADS
5. Rufus Wainwright – OUT OF THE GAME
6. Martha Wainwright – COME HOME TO MAMA
7. Ben Folds Five – THE SOUND OF THE LIFE OF THE MIND
8. Imperial Teen – FEEL THE SOUND
9. Stars – THE NORTH
10. Jessie Ware – DEVOTION

Also Recommended:

Often, I struggle to find enough worthy albums to fill out a top ten. This year, I could have easily done a top 15. Here are a few worthy candidates, along with favorite tracks in parentheses.

A.C. Newman – SHUT DOWN THE STREETS
Far more focused than his second solo album, slightly less convincing than his first, and preferable to the last two New Pornographers records. (“They Should Have Shut Down The Streets”, “Hostages”, “You Could Get Lost Out Here”)

Andrew Bird – BREAK IT YOURSELF
After seeing him perform most of this material in concert two years ago, I diagnose him with a case of Ani DiFranco Syndrome—the studio recordings can’t quite match the live renditions, but at least he cut out the filler that marred Noble Beast. (“Lusitania”, “Eyeoneye”, “Near Death Experience Experience”)

Bat For Lashes – THE HAUNTED MAN
She’s an artist in transition, still finding her voice. For all the studio wizardry on display here, she’s most effective when she places her vocals and melodies front-and-center. (“Laura”, “All Your Gold”)

Metric – SYNTHETICA
Ever confident and insanely catchy, but it breaks little new ground. Nonetheless, a solid follow-up to Fantasies so competent that grumpy old man Lou Reed doesn’t even embarrass himself in a cameo. (“The Void”, “Clone”, “Breathing Underwater”)

Miike Snow – HAPPY TO YOU
A strange but not unbecoming mixture of top 40 dance music with an indie rock sensibility: martial drum rolls, house music pianos and campfire whistling never sounded so good together. (“The Wave”, “Paddling Out”, “Bavarian # 1 (Say You Will)”)

Patti Smith – BANGA
She must have got something out of her system with that awful documentary about her from a few years back (or perhaps you can just blame its director); in her stunning memoir and now this, she’s rarely projected so much lucidity and warmth. (“April Fool”, “This Is The Girl”)

Sinead O’Connor – HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?
Still a perpetual Hot Mess, but better that than a boring one. Easily her best since I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, “Queen of Denmark” proves her gift for interpretation hasn’t diminished. (“The Wolf Is Getting Married”, “Queen of Denmark”, “Reason With Me”)

Tracey Thorn – TINSEL AND LIGHTS
After only a few spins, it’s now my favorite modern Christmas album and a testament to her continued relevance that the two originals are highlights. (“Tinsel and Lights”, “Joy”, “Taking Down The Tree”)

Top Ten Albums of 2012: # 3

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3. Saint Etienne – WORDS AND MUSIC BY SAINT ETIENNE

On their last album’s penultimate song, this venerable British trio elegized its past while poignantly considering an uncertain future. “Over The Border” kicks off their long-awaited follow-up with a similarly structured track (spoken word verses bursting into a sung chorus) but replaces the earlier song’s melancholy with wisdom sparked by wonderment and possibility. Throughout, Sarah Cracknell, in a myriad of reminisces, recalls the ongoing effect music has had on her life while also pondering where it has yet to take her. It’s as if the pre-teen girl on the cover of So Tough (a photo of Cracknell herself, after all) grew up but still retained a sense of discovery. Since they always came off more like music lovers than career musicians, it’s hardly surprising to see them return after a seven-year hiatus with a concept album about what they most adore: getting ready to go out to a concert (“Tonight”), utilizing an iPod to transform one’s everyday existence (“I’ve Got Your Music”), chatting online about British number one hits (“Popular”, a blog I actually have bookmarked to the right) and completely losing one’s self on the dance floor (“DJ”). Words and Music is Saint Etienne at their very best; that it ends up at # 3 on this list tells you something’s rather exceptional about the two albums yet to come.

Favorite tracks: “Tonight”, “DJ”, “Heading For The Fair”, “Over The Border”, “I’ve Got Your Music”, “Haunted Jukebox”

Video for “Tonight”:

Video for “DJ”: