Favorite Albums of 2012
Probably my favorite band of all-time releases a 5CD monster of a box set that not just retreads old ground with a plethora of scarcely available b-sides and live cuts but also includes plenty of ‘new’ material from his exhaustive musical vault that had me listening to this thing for months straight without getting the slightest bit stale. Simply put, AMAZING! Look out for a First/Last from Karl Wallinger himself here early next year.
I cannot think of another group who more deserves the title of ‘most underrated band in rock and roll’. With this, their eighth official release, duo Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray continue to make the best indie pop music I have ever heard. The vibe of this latest album reminds me of Beach House but I detest Beach House, so go figure? These two have been at the very top of bands I must see play before I die. Read my previous First/Last with Aaron Espinoza here.
I guy struggles with his faith and composes a beautiful testament to the power of music and what God means to all of us. Well, at least that what I got out of it. Don’t let the description scare you away either. This album is soooo damn good. It happens to contain my absolute favorite song released this year in the incredible, ‘At Last! The Celestial Being Speaks’. Read my previous First/Last with main man Taylor Muse here.
Local boys making the list! My affinity to these snot nosed kids is indescribable. The music on the two EP’s they have put out isn’t anything Earth-shattering but I found I just cannot not stop listening to it. They are finding their legs and I predict they are going to blow everyone away soon. Read my previous First/Last with them here.
I am such a sucker for the so-called ‘psychedelic rock’! Music labeled as such has a tendency to wear thin after awhile but in this particular case, the record sounds as fresh and exciting with each listen as it did the first time I heard it. This would have been a killer show to have seen for sure. Read my previous First/Last with Tim Presley here.
Favorite Pittsburgh Albums of 2012
There were way too many Pittsburgh releases that could have made this list. I seriously would have been here all day. Please do yourself a favor and check out the latest albums from Good Night States, Bear Cub, Meeting of Important People, Costello & The Cool Minors, Coronado, Sleep Experiments, Satin Gum, Grand Piano, Several Conclusions, Instead of Sleeping, The Long Time Darlings, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot, Gypsy & His Band of Ghosts, Pet Clinic, Dan Getkin & The Masters of American Music, The Color Fleet, Ivory Weeds, City Dwelling Nature Seekers, Big Snow Big Thaw, The Lopez, Action Camp, Legs Like Tree Trunks, New Victorians and The Committee for Getting Attention. Support our local artists.
This aptly titled sophomore effort showcases the band’s best attributes. Always reliable good ole rock and roll with a tinge of country boogie. The Harlans are best heard live in a boozy club setting but believe me, this is the next best thing.
I’ve really enjoyed listening to this debut from the local duo. It’s heartfelt, delicate folk without turning too precious or sappy. Would love to hear these two ‘plug in’ and rock out. In time.
Most of the material on this, their long awaited second full length, I have heard live many times so it’s fitting this album sounds like it’s been around for years.
Local weirdos’ triumphant return to form after several years to put the melody into the vocoder as instrument. My favorite album of theirs yet.
Surprise of the year for me as these guys came outta nowhere and put on one of the best sets at their CD Release gig I have seen all year. No wonder, these songs are catchy pop that are sure to put this scene on notice.
Favorite Live Moments of 2012
If the box set wasn’t enough, it was announced that Karl was not only making a rare concert appearance in town, he was playing a special studio solo session at WYEP the day before which you can check out here. Now, I normally would have picked the moment at Altar Bar when Karl pointed to me me as he started, ‘Sweet Soul Dream‘ but going into the studio session, I saw Karl’s manager and asked if I could shoot sound check? He obliged and I found myself alone in the room as Karl rehearsed his set and was able to chat with him for several minutes before the rest of the crowd entered. Pretty damn cool!
With that being said, I cannot even begin to rank from the other 194 bands I saw this past year (only 196…yeah, I know I’m slipping). But many stand outs were Roger Waters, Hotel Lights, The Beach Boys, WOODS, The Belle Brigade, Sharon Van Etten, Basia Bulat, and Lydia Loveless
Favorite Photo of the Year
Meeting of Important People/Mr. Smalls Funhouse/Friday, August 24, 2012
1/80-f 2.8-16mm-ISO 1600 Out of the thousands and thousands of shots I took this year, why this one? Easy. When anyone asks me what makes a good concert photo, I respond that there are several obvious factors involved. Being at the exact right place at the exact right moment. Having a photogenic subject. Substantial and interesting lighting. All these are key for sure, but for me the images that capture my attention are the few that convey the photographer’s love for the subject matter. In other words, if my heart isn’t into the shoot, the photo will reflect that more than any other reason I can think of.
When this gig was announced, I asked Josh (as the norm, I usually contact someone from the band I am shooting whether their manager or publicist) where and when I can shoot? He replied, “I’ve got a ticket with your name on it bud! This is OUR FREAKIN SHOW and you are free to go anywhere you damn well feel– on-stage, behind the bar, backstage, parking lot, anywhere :)”. Needless to say, I was jazzed and I truly believe my longtime appreciation for these guys reflects in the photo.
This show was an absolute blast as the band, the crowd, the whole room was ON! Midway through the show they ‘stripped’ down for their acoustic set and as you can see with some of the other images, I decided that the one above was the keeper. I always realize that my opinion on what makes a photo work may not be what others feel but that’s art, man. I stick with what I think I know and run with that!
And finally, amazingly, there was this. Just too cool.
“The shimmering sound of Sharon Van Etten’s Jagjaguwar debut album, Tramp, both defies and illuminates the unsteadiness of a life in flux. Throughout the 14 months of scattered recording sessions, Van Etten was without a home — crashing with friends and storing her possessions between varied locations. The only constant in Van Etten’s life during this time was spent in the garage studio of The National’s Aaron Dessner.”
As I prep my annual ‘year in review posts’, I keep going back to Sharon’s career defining 2012. Her latest album,”Tramp“, is ending up on seemingly everyone’s top ten list and her two stops in Pittsburgh were basically the same set but might as well have been night and day in terms of musical experiences for me. Her first gig at the lecture hall in April was a stunning example of what music can do. I was hypnotized by the set as opposed to her later gig outdoors in June where, believe me, the band was spot on, it’s just that whole scene took some intimacy away from her music and it just reinforced the power of the first show. You can find Sharon on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. She was way cool enough to take the time right before she left for Europe to open up for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on a string of dates to participate in this edition of First/Last.
Thanks, Sharon. Looking forward to seeing you again in 2013. Hopefully, inside again this time.