Howdy. And top of the new year to you and yours. I seriously low-keyed the end of our recently departed twelve-month cycle, a purposeful attempt to stay away from social media type interaction and a mixed-success attempt to relate to what was happening around me in real life. Yeah, not my comfort zone. But it was, unexpectedly, comforting. And I’m gonna ride that as far in to 2013 as I can.
Robyn Hitchcock recently uttered a sequence of words that sums up a cursory glance at my fave records of the past year – “Rock and Roll is an old man’s game now, so I’m staying in it.” Indeed. I mean, not that all these guys are “old” (sorry, Ian), but they sure as hell ain’t kids. All released some great music in 2012. Once again, while I did feel I put a modicum of effort into keeping up with the current, I still don’t feel like I listened to anywhere near the amount of new music that I sometimes feel I should. Nor did I feel I gave certain records the attention that they may have deserved (note to self: go back and spend some time with that new Bob Mould record).
The list is littered with artists I have long admired, and somewhat amazingly (at least to me), still hold in the highest regard. The fact that Ian Hunter has spent the last decade riding one helluva late career arc is inspiring. On the other hand, I am saddened that one of my all-time favorites groups, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, have called it a day after 15(ish) years. Can’t tell you how much I love that band. My crush on Chuck Prophet (okay, his music) extends further back than that, from the very first Green On Red EP. His newest – Temple Beautiful – may be his bestest. And his shows in 2012 (think I saw five, yes?) were stellar. Yes, every one.
I rarely take the time these years to even make the attempt to cobble together a list. Total laziness on my part. And when I do take the time, it’s very unusual for me to single out one record during the course of any given year as the “best” thing I heard. But it’s not every year Michael Rank releases a record. And man, did the former Snatches Of Pink mainman quietly unleash a corker of a self-released two-disc set early in 2012. Remember when artists would work through all their physical, emotional and spiritual baggage by channeling all that pain into a bunch of songs that eventually reveal themselves to cohese into an epic body of work? Barely, right? This is totally that. It will leave a mark. Or two. But it is so, so, so good. Sorry, I meant great. Musically and lyrically raw. And real. And intense. And cathartic. And beautiful.
It’s hard for me to verbally quantify my adoration for this record. It’s basically a twangier version of Snatches, with elements that, back in the day, you may have never expected to appear on a Rank record. Some high and lonesome mandolin here, some soulful pedal steel over there. And then there’s the elements you do look forward to – pounding drums over yonder and, down that dirt road, a blast of roaring guitar. The playing is on point, the production is minimal and the album is the best of Rank’s career. Believe it. And feel free to (almost) freely find out for yourself over at his Bandcamp page, where you can download the record for the always-popular “name your price” or buy the beautifully packaged two disc set for $7. There’s also links to youtube videos for “Kin” and “On The Bleed”, both taken from the full-length. Oh, and there are also free downloads available for ALL of the early Snatches titles, including the previously promo-only EP “Deader Than You’ll Ever Be,” recorded all the way back in 1990 at CBGB’s.
Okay, below are thirteen records. I liked ’em. I played all of them a lot. I think I liked them more than the other thirteen records I heard this year. Inevitably, next week I’ll remember something that isn’t mentioned here. And if I can remember, I’ll pass it along. Oh yeah, Rank has a new record in the can. And I can’t wait to hear it. We may just be doing this all over again this time next year.
- Michael Rank & Stag – Kin
- Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful
- Ian Hunter – When I’m President
- Brendan Benson – What Kind Of World
- Matthew E.White – Big Inner
- Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Throw It To The Universe
- King Tuff – King Tuff
- Red Kross – Researching The Blues
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
- Mmoss- Only Children
- Spanish Moss – Kelp
- Shoes – Ignition
- Donnie & Joe Emerson- Dreamin’ Wild