Lee in Limbo’s Big 2012 Album Review

Lee in Limbo's Big 2012 Album Review Wrap-Up
Happy New Year to everyone who is still fumbling around on the internet, trying to get a sense of what they’re doing with themselves this year. While you’re struggling to get your New Year’s Resolutions in working order, you can read—and hopefully enjoy—my year end album review list.

tl;dr Version: What? We waited all year for reviews from this guy, and now he’s gonna cheap out and do skimpy little reviews for every album he played and didn’t write up? RIP-OFF!

‘Splain, Lucy Version: Okay, maybe it does seem a little cheap, but I actually do still intend to do in-depth reviews of several albums from 2011 and 2012 to start the year, so don’t fret. Also, I was made to listen to several songs from One Direction, which I promise I won’t even comment on here, let alone review. I just want to clear the decks of this long list of review albums I listened to this year, because, despite the fact that I promised myself I’d ease up on the album reviews in 2012, I sort of overdid the album procurement/borrow&copy thing this year, thinking I would turn out more reviews than I had time for, practically speaking. I’m looking at my list and I’ve got eight unfinished reviews in queue, and a list of 68 albums from 2012 that I had planned on listening to and reviewing at some point.

Boring Version: Hey, what can I say? It seemed doable at the time. I really only gathered about five or six new albums per month, which I assure you wasn’t easy to do on my severely limited budget (album donations are appreciated, as always). However, I also only managed to write about ten full reviews last year. With that in mind, I plan on shortening my list of past albums to just the ones I’ve got on my short list, and then doing another bumper 2013 review, to clear the decks and save space for future albums and the occasional classic album review. In fact, I’m thinking of trying for one new (2013) album review and one classic (i.e. 20th Century) album review per month, as well as one or two ‘last year’s albums’ reviews per month. That comes out to about one album review per week, which seems doable to me. For now. We’ll see how it really goes once I get started.
And speaking of getting started…

THE REVIEWS
Pop Rock Albums
Dave Matthews Band – Away From The World: This album is a mature rock album that fits very nicely with what you might expect from the DMB, but that’s a good thing in this case, because Dave et al usually make very cool, eclectic albums with killer hooks. This album will satisfy anyone looking for intelligent, well-crafted pop songs without filler or fluff. I’ll probably give this album a handful more spins in the new year.
Jason Mraz – Love Is a Four-Letter Word: Are you a fan of Jason Mraz’ clever, uplifting lyrics and tasteful mix of pop stylings? You are? Okay then. This album has got that. The first number is soulful, with horns and funky bass, if that’s your thing. I’m listening to it now, and it sounds fun. Flipping through the rest, It’s all good harmonies and tasteful melodies and catchy hooks. If you didn’t know it was out, you can be forgiven, but maybe you should own this.
Maroon 5 – Overexposed: Okay, now I consider myself a bit of a Maroon 5 fan; not a huge fan, but still, I dig them. So ‘One More Night’ opens with a a reggae groove with bass drops, so I guess we’re talking dubstep, right? It’s alright. Moving on, the slightly Euro Pop radio hit ‘Payphone’ is catchy as heck, ‘Daylight’ is hooky angst pop, ‘Lucky Strike’ is catchy Euro Dance, ‘The Man Who Never Lied’ is also Euro Dance, ‘Love Dance’ is a ballad that opens like Eurythmics (this is a good thing), ‘Lady Killer’ is synth bass-driven 80s Disco (kind of an early Prince groove, but not quite), ‘Fortune Teller’ is a slow slab of electronic pop, ‘Sad’ is a tasteful piano ballad, ‘Tickets’ is throwback 90s electronic dance pop (again with a little bit of Prince in there), ‘Doin’ Dirt’ is classic 80s dance pop, and ‘Beautiful Goodbye’ is a quirky bit of classic 70s white reggae groove in their more familiar ouvre. All in all, different, but enjoyable. If this proves to be their last (as has been suggested as a possibility by their lead vocalist in the press, IIRC), I’m not sure I’ll be that happy with it, but still, a fun album. Nevertheless, I think they owe it to themselves to create one better album that brings more intensity. This album is a little too fluffy to be a finale.
Matchbox Twenty – North: The top 20 band of the 90s that has been on hiatus for a handful of years has returned, and this is very much the album I would have expected from them. It’s good. It’s not tired sounding. It’s Matchbox 20. It plays with myriad styles, and even flirts with funk and disco on a few tracks. It even rocks in a few places. It doesn’t upset many apple carts. It’s adventurous, but it doesn’t stray too far from the conventional pop rock formula. Good album for your next party, if your friends are all over thirty. I really like it, but it probably won’t get too many plays on my stereo… unless my wife falls in love with it, which is quite possible, given that she’s a fan.
Melody Gardot – the Absence: I’ve only played this once, and I remember it sounding nice and charming, jazzy and clever (it should probably be in the Jazz category, really), but it didn’t set my house on fire. I might give it another listen, but I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it. Still, not bad.
No Doubt – Push and Shove: I’ll be honest: I still have immense respect and admiration for No Doubt, but they haven’t really given me anything that hit me the way their first couple of hit albums did back in the 90s. This album hasn’t done it for me yet, either. It’s not bad. It’s still decidedly No Doubt. It still hops genres while retaining a certain vibrancy that few bands these days genuinely have. They still play their instruments like demons. I just don’t hear the songs. They’ve moved so far away from the styles that really captured my imagination, and while I hate being the pointless fuddy duddy holding on to yesterday, I can’t help but feel that, quite aside from not standing still or playing it too safe, they’ve lost the plot a bit. That said, I will be playing this album a few more times, in the hope that I’ll discover something I overlooked the first time. I WANT to like this album, I really do. It just hasn’t happened yet.
Train – California 37: Now, Train is a band I enjoy even when they do play it a little too safe. This album is touted as a kind of comeback after what felt like a hiatus of about three weeks, and I don’t think they’ve moved too far beyond where they were with Save Me San Francisco, which was itself a charming if not spectacularly moving album. Basically, I’ve been waiting for another Cab or Drops of Jupiter, and while the songs are still fine and fun and clever, they just aren’t hitting me where it hurts these days. Maybe that’s just how it is. I probably just need to listen to the album a few more times.

Classic Rock Albums
Astra – The Black Chord: This is a really classic Psychedelic/Space Rock effort. I would class it Prog Rock, but it just cries out to be called Classic Rock. In all fairness, it sounds like a mix of Meddle and The Yes Album, and as such deserves Prog status, but there’s just something about the production values that defies my ability to easily class it Prog. Still, a very interesting album. Probably a great album to get stoned to. Let me know if you try it.
Big Wreck – Albatross: This is easily a top five contender for album of the year for me. It still catches in my head and makes me very happy. I already reviewed it earlier this year. To recap, I consider Big Wreck to be a genre of one: Progressive Blues Rock. This album is probably the best synthesis of the original Big Wreck sound with what Ian has been doing in the last decade as a solo artist, and that’s a good thing. A great album, with the catchiest hooks I’ve heard all Year. Possibly my #1 album of 2012.
Black Country Communion – Afterglow: A good follow-up to the previous two albums, the latter of which I reviewed last year. There’s a rumour that this might be their last album, and as such, I feel bound to review this album in greater detail later this year. I’ll put it on the list now, shall I?
Joe Bonamassa – Driving Towards The Daylight: Until I started listening to Black Country Communion, I had no idea who Joe Bonamassa was. In a very real sense, I still don’t, because I’ve been putting off playing this album until after I complete my review of Afterglow. But I am intrigued by this guy and his love of classic rock guitar styles. So it’s coming.
Mark Knopfler – Privateering: I confess I’ve only skimmed through this once so far. It’s good. It’s not his most accessible stuff, and it’s certainly not as jump-out catchy as his 1980s Dire Straits material. But then, he broke up that band so he could get away from the unwanted glare of the media machine that the Straits became, so, no surprises there, really. I plan on giving this album a more thorough listening when I get my current review backlog winnowed down a bit more. I may not review it, but I’ll certainly give the man a fair hearing in either case.
Mumford & Sons – Babel: I know that their music doesn’t really fit any particular rock standards, but I gather that they are billed as a kind of British Bluegrass Revival in an alternative vein. Really, I see them as a spiritual descendant of The Band. They have a lot of the same harmonized, melodic country rock, bluegrass and rockabilly sensibility about them, though their sounds are quite different, given the preponderance of banjo in M&S’s music. Their first album didn’t do a thing for me, but Babel is actually quite enjoyable on its own merits, and though I probably won’t review this album, I do expect to hear more from these guys in the future.
Mystery Jets – Serotonin: Well, I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but what I have listened to sounds good. Their vocalist reminds me of a young Ray Davies. Their music seems to fit in with classic rock, so far. It’s not heavy. But it has some balls to it.
Our Lady Peace – Curve: I wasn’t sure whether to class this under classic or alternative rock, but really, this album is just a very nice return to form for a band that has been flying under the radar for a while. If you like OLP or remember enjoying some of their classic 90s material, you won’t regret giving this album a try. It’s mature, but not in a bad way. As I said, a fine return to form.
Songs of the Century – A Supertramp Tribute album: This was something of a surprise for me, until I listened to Billy Sherwood’s other work of the last few years and realized the real reason behind all of these tribute albums; to cultivate a stable of musicians who would record parts for his original projects, The Prog Collective and the Fusion Syndicate (more on those later). That said, this is an excellent album. I’ve listened to a few too many earnest tribute albums, and they have a terrible tendency of being pretty bland or miscast; not here, I’m happy to say. It’s not Supertramp, and to the best of my knowledge, no members, past or present,feature on the album (which, considering the number and pedigree of musicians he did use, was a feat in itself), but the classics are represented, and represented well. A must-have for fans of the band, or of finely crafted, jazz-inflected pop music.
The Sheepdogs – eponymous: I played this once. It didn’t grab me. I probably need to give them another spin. I haven’t been this unimpressed since I was force fed the first Black Crowes album (which still doesn’t do it for me), and I went on to love them on Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and Amorica. The Sheepdogs probably just need a little more patience. We’ll see.
ZZ Top – La Futura: I’ve played this once. It’s a fun album. It’s got balls. I may give it a few more listens. I probably won’t be reviewing it, unless I missed something. But it sounded good to me, if a little bit different from the sounds they’re best known for. I can’t see it hurting you if you give this album a try, Tex-Mex Rock with killer hooks: how can it miss? That said, I don’t feel secure telling you more, because I just haven’t had a chance to sit and listen to it properly, with no interruptions or disturbances. I’ll probably do that in the next few days.

…more coming later today…

Lee.

Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.

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