Let’s face it–not all of us can raid the record stores every Tuesday looking for the hottest new releases, nor can we absorb every new album that we hear right away and judge for ourselves whether it is worthy of a top 10 list.
Sometimes we miss a great album when it first comes out only to discover it six months down the line, or stumble across a lost classic that immediately grabs us and becomes part of our everyday listening routine.
So I guess what your humble Monkey is saying is that the following list may not technically qualify as a “best of” list for releases in the calendar year 2012, but a list of the good stuff I have come across this year thus far.
1. The Lumineers, “The Lumineers”
Your Monkey is so glad to see this band’s debut album sitting close to the top of the listening charts on both Rhapsody and Spotify. (Not so glad, however, to have both of their Boston-area concerts sold out before he even knew they were coming).
But this band deserves all the success and respect that they are getting. They crafted an amazing album of American folk music that is timeless and uplifting.
Like Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More”, the Lumineers’ self titled debut has enough variety between the songs that they never get repetitive, and yet they all tie together nicely.
To be honest, the one song that clogs up an otherwise superb album is the aptly titled “Slow it Down,” which is the slowest and longest track smack dab in the center of the album. If they had taken a few minutes off of that song and added them to the first track, “Flowers in Your Hair,” we might be talking a Mona Lisa-esque masterpiece.
But enough splitting hairs. Here is an amazing rendition of “Submarines,” the third track on their debut.
2. Plan B — The Defamation of Strickland Banks
Is it a bad sign that the best soul albums that your Monkey has heard over the past few years have all come from white British artists?
Like Amy Winehouse’s powerful debut “Back in Black” called to mind the best of the Supremes, Plan B’s “Defamation of Strickland Banks” has this Monkey thinking back to Marvin Gaye.
But even though it comes from an unexpected source, Plan B’s smooth soulful falsetto, great storytelling and tasteful blend of straight soul and rap/soul hybrid songs make this 2010 album a must listen.
According to the British rock press, Plan B came up as a rapper who wrote about the same frustrated British youth that were behind much of last year’s rioting. The word on the street is that he is planning to return to those roots his next album, the soundtrack to the movie “Ill Manors”, due to be released this month.
(Though again, to be honest, the first single from that new album, “Deepest Shame,” seems a little disappointing. More like watered down r&b than anything else).
But forget about the new album, let’s celebrate the last one.
Dig on this track, which is a good representation of Plan B’s excellent ability to blend rap and soul into one smooth mix.
3. Bassnectar — “Divergent Spectrum”
OK, your Monkey will be the first to admit that he is one of the last primate bloggers to jump on the dubstep bandwagon.
This most recent monkey-music love affair began with the downloading of a few Skrillex tracks, and continued with the discovery of Bassnectar.
Bassnectar is the performing name of DJ and Producer Lorin Ashton (thanks, Wikipedia). His music consists of the high intensity soundscapes that you’ve come to expect from the dubstep genre, but Bassnectar distinguishes himself by being super prolific, making a lot of great sounding noise, and just coming off as a really cool guy.
His Facebook posts are very down to earth, he takes a moment in the middle of each show to take a picture of himself with the audience, and he just seems to be happy with making music, playing shows and discovering the joys of coffee-flavored coconut water.
Compare this easygoing nature to the ridiculously morose look that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke wears during the entire documentary “Meeting People is Easy” and you’ll find yourself liking Bassnectar more and more.
“Divergent Spectrum” is a 2011 album that includes, among other things, a remix of the Gogol Bordella song “Immigraniada” and a remix of the increasingly popular Ellie Goulding dance track “Lights.”
Here is a decidedly non-official video for the “Immigraniada” remix that matches Bassnectar’s remix with classic kung fu footage.
Kung fu and dubstep? It’s like someone sawed open your Monkey’s head and saw exactly what was going on inside.