10 Best Things I Heard in 2012
Saint Maybe is a Tucson supergroup featuring members who've backed up Patti Smith, Warren Zevon, and Bob Dylan, and the band's fully-formed debut, Things Are As They Are, sounds like the space between Phoenix and the Old Pueblo. It feels like a late night drive, the radio tuned to some far off AM station playing a psychedelic Van Morrison B-side you've never heard. Lest you think the vibe is too easygoing, note the implied menace in tracks like "Take It Easy (But Take It)."
Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE [Def Jam]
One of the first sounds you hear on Frank Ocean's stunning Channel ORANGE is the "Apple" sound, the bloop that signifies a CD is done importing or something. It's evocative of what sets Channel ORANGE at the front of the R&B/soul pack in 2012. The retro connections are there - Stevie Wonder on "Sweet Life," Prince on the heartbreaking "Thinking Bout You," but Ocean's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" are rooted firmly in the present, incorporating post hip-hop gauze and psychedelic EDM swoons into a remarkable debut that never slips despite its widescreen ambitions.
Father John Misty [Live at the Rhythm Room, 10/10/12]
In a New Times interview Father John Misty himself, J. Tillman, confessed: "I want to do what a stripper does, and in another way, do what a carnival barker does, or a shaman, some kind of Pentecostal preacher. Those are all more interesting archetypes than a guitarist to me." Tillman tapped that charismatic vein live on stage at the Rhythm Room, shaking his hips like a towering Elvis, lighting smokes, and bathing the crowd in his acerbic Los Angeles wit, drenched in liberal reverb.
Larkin Grimm, "The Road is Paved With Leaves" [from Soul Retrieval, Bad Bitch Records]
Sometimes a song needs to confront, incite, or challenge. Singer/songwriter Larkin Grimm's Soul Retrieval album has plenty of songs that do that, but its most powerful moment is when she chooses to comfort with the aching soul ballad "The Road is Paved With Leave."
"There is nothing to worry about, everything's fine," she sings as background singers sashay and "shooby-doo-waa" behind her. "Don't go out of your mind," she adds, a command that couldn't suite 2012 any more than it does.