Tigs’ Pick for 2012’s Album of the Year: The Men – Open Your Heart

From the opening count, on what could be the best song of the year, to the final crash, on what could be the best song of the year, this album never stops. More than “it never has to,” it simply cannot. Tear out the engine of your car because it can run strictly on Open Your Heart. There’s no polish, no waxing, it’s blaring guitars from your neighbors garage. You may think that The Men are slowing down sometimes, or catching their breath but the truth couldn’t be further. You are the one who may need the break. The musical variety on the album will keep you guessing, thanks to the bands three main songwriters and a wide variety of influences. I’ve been waiting for the moment when I stop listening to Open Your Heart, when I grow weary of the noise, but it hasn’t happened yet. Whenever I’m asked what I’m listening to, ever since March 6th my answer has always been the same. When I wake up, I think about listening to Open Your Heart, when I’m going for a walk the first album I put on is Open Your Heart, when I buy a new record I immediately compare it to Open Your Heart and then listen to that instead. When will this all get old? It doesn’t matter. Maybe the beauty is that it’s already old, a classic in not-so-mint condition,the amalgamation of everything from my childhood and beyond condensed into a single album. Maybe it’s just a great Rock and Roll album, something we don’t see enough of these days. Maybe I’m daft. Maybe you should give it a listen and maybe you’ll see where I’m coming from. Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe maybe maybe maybe maybemaybemaybe.

Recommended Track: Turn it Around

Best Album I Forgot Came Out This Year: Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

Since my initial, incredibly impressed but seldom read impressions of Sharon Van Etten’s most recent album, Tramp, she has released a deluxe edition that includes demos, journal entries, and a self portrait scribble, as if you needed more reasons to bring this album home. She’s a poet, but she’s never quick to speak, if she speaks at all. The most amazing thing about Tramp, and maybe this is just where I am, but is the incredible sense of melancholy it drives through your heart while always standing next to you, helping you up when you need it. This isn’t about coming to terms with the end of your perceived everything, it’s that period in-between, after the overwhelming joy, after the complete submission to depression, but before the acceptance. It’s bipolar in the best (worst?) ways possible. Yes, I’m aware of the big name “indie rock” “legends” across the album, with names from Beruit and The National among the ranks, but fuck all of them. None of them, except for Zach Condon’s ukulele, mean anything to the album. When they do pop up their heads, all I want to know is when Sharon is coming back, where she went, and why she left me alone with these crazy people I don’t know. I’m standing in this fucking room, at a party I thought I’d have a good time at, the only person I know is the host who is obviously busy and overworked, maybe I can help out in the kitchen? There must be something I can do here, just keep your eyes looking straight ahead but don’t look at anyone, look past them all, watch the door for no one. Don’t turn off that light! It’s not safe to go out there alone.

Recommended Track: Serpents

The “Tigs Always Puts Some Folk Album on Here” Award: Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables

Opening with the creation of religion as a way to keep the poor from killing the rich, Todd Snider has created what is no doubt his most caustic to date. It’s still as funny as ever, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the protegé of John Prine. Religion, as stated, the financial crisis, children, life as others tell you to live it, good ol’ rock n’ roll, unemployment issues, bad ol’ rock n’ roll, revenge and of course you are some of the things that have been on this home-grown, peaceful stoner’s mind for some time now. While some characters can come to no better conclusion than murder, that doesn’t seem all that far off from life either. The question is, even though you might not agree with them, can they have done anything else? Is anyone else out there listening or is it just Snider? Inspiration line: “They say that living well is the best revenge / I say bullshit, the best revenge is to win.”

Recommended Track: Big Finish

Songwriter’s Album of the Year: The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

At first, subtle. Though that’s not much different from any Mountain Goats album, John Darnielle has managed to put together his best since 2004’s We Shall All Be Healed, or maybe even 2002’s Tallahassee.

“Just before I leave / I throw up in the sink,” “Jump in front of trains all day,” “Somethings you do just to see / How bad they’ll make you feel,” “Every dreams a good dream / Even awful dreams are good dreams / If you’re doing it right,” “And you can’t tell me what my spirit tells me isn’t true / Can you,” “Burn down the tree line / Hold my hopes underwater / Stand there and watch them drown,” “Plug a night-light in / Leave the porch lights on / Because the small dark corners / Have designs on me,” “Forbidden rosary prayers all night,” “Wait for the fog to catch up with me so I can at least feel numb,” “In old movies people scream / Choking on their fists when they see shadows like these / But no one screams ’cause it’s just me,” “Maybe spit some blood at the camera / Just stay alive,” “Stay sick / Don’t get well.” A heavy dose of sparse piano, some classic JD style guitar songs, and all the while the simple, transcendental drumming of Jon Wurster holds it all together.

Even the pre-order only bonus track which you can find on Amazon, Steal Smoked Fish, carries more weight and girth than anything you’ve heard on TV in the past… I don’t know, decade or so. When did Tallahassee come out again?

Recommended Track: In Memory of Satan

Best Album Produced by Steve Albini: Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Dylan Baldi has ditched his bedroom for the musical powerhouse that is Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. I understand having to ditch the bedroom, as we here at SWR said our goodbyes back in September to the original site (I meant to tell someone about that), it’s about growing up. Sort of. Getting old seems to be a theme I’m noticing more this year that most others. Is it because it’s a constant or is it because it’s easy? Either way, the incredible performance and more precise production that Albini is able to extract out of any artist does them good. It shows their full potential if the group is willing. Darker than the earlier Cloud Nothing stuff, it’s not just about growing older. It’s more about pretending to forget that you are. It’s not dealing with the problems, it’s sweeping them away for the time being because there is always going to be more. Even after your dead. That’s when all this stuff will get done.

Recommended Track: Wasted Days
Runner Up: Screaming Females – Ugly

The “Where the Hell Are They” Award: Flight

What happened to Flight? After a lucrative 2009, releasing 4 7″s, and two proper EPs/Mini Albums bookending the 2010 year, it seemed like they were bound for something more. There was a lot of buzz building around them, there were tons of shows throughout 2010 and into 2011, and the only thing the band seemed to need was a proper full length release. Then nothing. Absolute dead air radio silence since early 2011. Did they break up? Is this just a hiatus? What happened? Grungy, messy, a bit more Echo reminiscing than I usually like, but here I am two years later just waiting for something more. You may be gone (I honestly have no idea), but you’re certainly not forgotten. Check out their final release of 2010, The Lead Riders, above.

Recommended Track: Straight Line