The story you are about to read is true, give or take. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. Tuesday, December 4. A balmy night in San Fernando Valley and I'm working the night watch at the Hit And Miss Division over at the Devonshire Station. My partner's name is Bill Gannon. The boss is Kyla Fairchild, Chief of Detectives. My name is Easy. Easy Ed.

Oh yes...its that of time of year for fun and frivolity folks. A list for this; a list for that. It's the end of the year...and we know it. And I feel fine. Do you? I just got over 235,000,000 hits on the Google search term "year-end lists" and it seems there are more stories about lists than there are of lists themselves. 

Here at No Depression we will have lots and lots of bloggers blogging about their favorite albums and artists, and some will bestow upon us not just what they like, but rather what have determined to be the best. THE BEST! Holy Thursday, Friday. How do they pull that one out of their hat?

I think it's a slick trick to come up with anything you can call a "best of" without fumbling the ball somewhere along the way's the's only YOUR OPINION. Got it? There is no quantitative measure for the "best" album or book or film or photo or artwork unless you want to use sales metrics, in which case Justin Bieber and James Patterson win and we can all go marching off to hell.

But wait...I think I have discovered some catagories that we can apply the term "best of" to that won't be disputed. Oh...maybe there will be a curmudgeon here or there who might take offense, but really, I think I have the list of all lists. And if nothing else, it might be very, very short. 

BEST ALBUM WITH AWFUL COVER ART FROM A SEPTUAGENARIAN: Bob Dylan's Tempest is a damn good recording with some fine songs and one awful looking cover. One can only imagine that his line of reasoning is that there ain't no record stores left and it'll be so small on the iPod that nobody will even notice. But really, do we think he puts much thought into it anymore? And the art director at the label...laid off in the recession. By the way, a sub-category  "best of" Dylan quote from 1986 is "I'm only Bob Dylan when I have to be."

BEST FREE AND LEGAL LIVE ALBUM FROM REAL OLD GENUINE HIPPIES: This is a tough category because there are just so many artists who give away music for free these days, but nobody does it like the Grateful Dead. They even have their own tab on Live Archive with oodles and oodles of shows posted for the taking, and many with the best sound quality possible. But this past month they did their annual 30 Days of The Dead with a new track every day...about 250-300 minutes of live dead. And album cover art too. As of this moment, they are all still posted on the site here. Blink and they'll be gone. 

BEST NEW ALBUM FROM ARTIST WHOSE ALBUMS ALL SOUND THE SAME: It's been 20 years that Mark Kozelek first began releasing records with the Red House Painters and later with Sun Kil Moon, which quite often isn't much more than him and a guitar. I love everything I've collected from this guy, even all the solo work I picked up along the way, and the latest album Among The Leaves doesn't disappoint. Look...he's an acquired taste. Sort of like a quiet, Sunday morning Quaalude...see High Times reference below. There's not many of us who can take five notes and build a seven minute song out of it, and then turn around and take the same five notes and do it again, and it sounds sort of different but at the end you're so confused to what you're hearing you just don't care. Love him. Or them. Whatever. 

BEST BALLSY AMERICANA AWARD TO AN ENGLISHMAN: I have loved Richard Thompson since I was a mere child and was fortunate to see him with Fairport Convention in the late sixties, and to meet him later in the nineties when he recorded at Capitol. When the Americana Music Association awarded him the Lifetime Achievement award this year I thought there might have been a mistake. But a quick check of the old Wikipedia put it all straight. Thompson was born April 3, 1949 in Leland, West Virginia as Hargus McCoy, and at barely one years old was captured and kidnapped by a pack of wild wolves who over a period of three years raised him while moving him across the great northern plains, over the Baring Straits and into Eastern Russian. Found abandoned by a scientific expedition of British scholars, he was smuggled into the UK and raised by the family of Dr. Nigel Thompson of Notting Hill. And that's why the AMA claimed that his music is now classified as Americana. 

BEST ELECTION OUTCOME: Thanks to Donald Trump for footing the bill and putting a team of crack investigators on the job, for we now know (with reasonable certainty) that our president was indeed born in this country. That is, if you consider Hawaii one of the real fifty states. You been there? I have. I mean, they smoke ganja and listen to reggae a lot. Oh wait a minute, that's Jamaica. Same thing. By the way, isn't it odd that Newsweek stops publishing but High Times is still going strong? But the point being, you may be one of those Republicans, but statistically speaking, the majority of us who supported Obama are pretty happy and thinking this is the best outcome we could have had. Go Big O.

BEST HOSTILE AUDIENCE REACTION: Opening weekend for The Master at the Greenburgh Multiplex Cinemas in Elmsford, New York. The sold out theater of well-heeled, mid-sixties date night couples screamed, yelled and boo'd when the lights came on, and threw empty boxes of popcorn at the screen. Almost as good as the film itself and the elderly woman in a wheelchair who yelled "piece of shit" should get an Oscar for Best Adaptation of Irate Customer. 


Hoped you clicked on that last one. Now to get to the real meat and potatoes of this list of favorite albums from this year. As a frequent molester and mangler of words, I was asked to submit a top ten of faves, which I have done to Miss Kim. I also went a bit deeper and deeper and deeper. I wish I could say it was total and complete, but I'm sure I've missed something here or there.

And more to the point, there is no way I or you or anyone else could possibly be exposed to everything. There are an average of 100,000 new releases each year. About 2,500 of those sell 5,000 albums or more. The majority of those are either on major labels or distributed by the "indie" distributors that are owned by the majors. True independent and DIY musicians struggle to stay afloat. them when you can. Go to their shows, and if you would like to buy their music, try and do it from them direct or on their websites. They get to keep more money in their pockets that way. 

Here we go....

1. Leonard Cohen/Old Ideas
2. Antje Duvekot/New Siberia
3. Anais Mitchell/Young Man in America
4. The Avett Brothers/The Carpenter
5. Tift Merritt-Traveling Alone
6. Amelia Curran/Spectators
7. Sun Kil Moon/Among The Leaves
8. Laneway/Turn Your Love Up
9. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson/Wreck and Ruin
10. Joe Pug-The Great Despiser
Andrew Bird/Hands of Glory
Various Artists/We Love You Mr. Cohen
Sera Cahoone/Deer Creek Canyon
Caroline Herring/Camilia
Lucy Kaplansky/Reunion
Rose Cousins/We Have Made A Spark
Bob Dylan-Tempest
Iris DeMent-Sing The Delta
Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsacc/Seinn
Various Artists/We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash
Lulu Gainsbourg/From Gainsbourg To Lulu
Melody Walker/Gold Rush Goddess
William Pilgrim and The All Grows Up/The Great Recession
Chris Knight/Little Victories
Lonesome Sisters and Riley Baugus /Lonesone Scenes
John Hiatt/Mystic Pinball
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer/Little Blue Egg
Aimee Mann/Charmer
Huw M/Gathering Dusk
Honey Dewdrops/Silver Lining
Brandi Carlile/Bear Creek
Galley Beggar/Reformation House
Dar Williams/In The Time of Gods
Justin Townes Earle/Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me
Gretchen Peters/Hello Cruel World
Mariee Sioux/Gift For The End
Marissa Nadler/The Sister

Views: 786

Tags: Easy Ed

Comment by Kim Ruehl on December 5, 2012 at 5:37am

I like your categories the best, especially the awful coverart one. But who has an iPod? I think talking about the best albums of the year is kind of like trading baseball cards and calling Jose Canseco the best baseball player in the world. (Yeah, I have a brother, and the only thing I remember about baseball cards was that he desperately wanted a different Jose Canseco card than the one he had, or something.) I've got to listen to Sun Kil Moon, I guess. Yours is the second opinion I trust that said...basically what you said. I like it, theoretically. Guess I'll wander over to Spotify.

Comment by Daniel T on December 6, 2012 at 11:02pm

I spent an unfortunate year without the time to check in even briefly on ND. Only the past few months have I found the time to peek on occasion. Ed, your writing is definitely what I missed the most :) Great column. You nailed Mark Kozelek, and I like him myself. I need to see "The Master" now. Deep down I may have always wished we could call Mr Thompson an American. Worst cover? Too many from the 60's-70's. And you nailed lists. But, like you, I'm going to throw my 2 cents into the ring anyway. Good list by the way. Gotta check a few of those artists out,  like Kim said ....  

Comment by Easy Ed on December 7, 2012 at 5:13am

Thanks DT and welcome home. Probably should have added Spotify to my list of faves. Don't know what I'd do without it, other than waste a great deal of money.

Comment by denton fabrics on December 7, 2012 at 11:45am

Awesome job, Ed! Very entertaining read!

Comment by Steve Ford on December 7, 2012 at 6:27pm

Spotify lends a whole new dimension to EOY lists. I can't argue with your top ten, because I've only heard two of them (Leonard Cohen and Kasey Chambers/Shane Nicholson - both on my list). But I'm listening to Antje Duvekot now, and working my way through ...

The NPR list is a cracker. (#11 actually made me LOL.) I once did a list of the Top Ten Steely Dan Songs That Allude to Alcoholic Beverages which I wanted to share with you, but my normally trusty filing system ...

So,  instead, The Five Worst Dylan Album Covers of All Time:

1. Tempest 

2. Christmas in the Heart

3. Street Legal

4. Infidels

5. Under The Red Sky


Comment by Easy Ed on December 7, 2012 at 8:31pm

Well done Steve. You'll receive your laminated membership card in the mail within 6-8 weeks.

Comment by Steve Ford on December 8, 2012 at 6:59pm

Ed, I just re-read your post and had another good laugh but my 'main takeaway' (as they endlessly say at business meetings where I come from)  is actually your list. Whether something purports to be a "best of" or a list of personal favorites seems little more than semantics to me. I like these end-of-year lists for precisely the reason you caution against compiling them: you can't hear everything. I have been listening to (and loving) Antje Duvekot and Anais Mitchell for much of this weekend. I sought them out simply because they were high on your list. 

Spotify gives me instant access to almost everything on your list (the Amelia Curran album isn't there).  I'm sure I'm not a typical user. I pay 12 bucks a month for the premium version and I use it constantly. But it doesn't stop me buying CDs. (When I heard there was a new Iris DeMent,  ordered the CD from Amazon before I'd played it through on Spotify.) If the alerts I get via Facebook are any guide, most of my friends are very casual users. Again, I doubt Spotify affects their music buying habits.

Comment by Paul Wilner on December 8, 2012 at 9:46pm

Hey, Jose Canseco hit the ball farther than I've ever seen or  hope to see in the great expanse of the Oakland Coliseum. Rickey Henderson was a better base-stealer than Jose (or anyone else) but no one could hit the long ball like Jose, chemical inducements notwithstanding. I nominate him for a Grammy in the Best Cuban-American Home Run Hitter (and worst outfielder in history) category. He stands alone.

Comment by Steve Ford on December 9, 2012 at 1:05am

Canseco's retired. It would have to be a Grammy Lifetime Achievement/Underachievement Award (with asterisk).

Comment by Easy Ed on December 9, 2012 at 6:42am

@Steve: Amelia Curran's album is available on Spotify in the US. Imagine you may have to move. By the way, only you may appreciate this, but I've spent the past ten days making my way through episodes of the TV series Underbelly. It's quote an amazing body of work. Would you care to accept an award for it on behalf of Australia? You'll have to make your acceptance speech here. 


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.