Throughout the year, we at LxL try hard to stay up on the latest in music and especially the stuff that we here friends and the music community buzzing about. But still, there is always tons of great music that falls through the cracks, and every December and bleeding into the following year, I am always catching up with the wonderful albums I missed. Here are five songs from five albums I discovered this month that could land among my favorite of 2012.
Leonard Cohen – “Coming Home”
I have always liked Leonard Cohen but beyond a greatest hits collection, I have never dug deep into his music. That may change after discovering his latest album, Old Ideas, released 45 years after his debut. The album is thoughtful and poetic like you would expect from Cohen, but is steeped in gospel sounds and themes. Leonard’s voice is now hoarse and smoky like Dylan or Waits but Cohen has not at all lost his wit or sense of songwriting. Music legends like Cohen, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young sing about mortality, spirituality, love, and struggle; it only makes sense that their voices become more sage with age on such subjects. “Coming Home” shows Leonard’s wit and wise cracking on these heavy topics.
Michael Kiwanuka – “Bones”
Every year, there is an album that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but nearly perfectly replicates a classic sound with refreshingly wonderful songwriting. Last year that album was Charles Bradley’s No Time for Dreaming which killed it with classic 70’s soul, and this year Michael Kiwanuka makes a wonderfully folk record steeped soul and gospel. “Bones” perfectly captures this Van Morrison crossed with Otis Redding sound.
Miguel – “Kaleidoscope Dream”
What a year for R&B. First Frank Ocean’s killer Channel Orange, then Jessie Ware’s pristine Devotion, now Miguel’s psychedelic R&B trip Kaleidoscope Dream. The obvious choice here would be the playful smash hit “Adorn”, but I will instead go with the title track because I think it best captures what I like about Miguel’s music – it really successfully blends smooth R&B with low-key rock and colorful psychedelia.
Todd Snider – “In Between Jobs”
Todd Snider’s latest original album, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables, (Snider also released a tribute album this year) is the first time I have heard Todd Snider’s music, but the guy is a 30 year music industry vet and has been doing solo work for almost 20. “In Between Jobs” is the archetypal country-blues rocker but employs a real wry sense of humor with raging gospel backup vocals and real tangible personality in every lick and rhyme.
alt-J – “Fitzpleasure”
Not sure if I would have stuck with the debut album from British indie rockers alt-J if it wasn’t for the incredible pile of praise that has been heaped on the band this year. Lead singer Joe Newman produces a real froggy vocal that can really be distracting, but if you can get past the odd vocal, the music on their debut An Awesome Wave is full of surprises. “Fitzpleasure” gives you a good feel for vocal textures mixed with heavy barrage of sound and twists around every corner make this a fascinating listen.
For more great tunes I missed in 2012, check out my 15 song Spotify playlist.