Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Georgy's Triumphant Return to Musical Relevance (and Top 10 of 2012 So Far)

Hi. Remember me? I’m the person who used to obsessively write about music, and contributed a couple of roundups here in the past.

But then, I got the bright idea to start my own business. And my life since then, while it has been amazing in many respects, quickly became too full of work and travel to leave room for one of my favorite pastimes -- discovering and enjoying music.

Excuses, excuses -- I know.

So, as I write this on Independence Day, I find myself reflecting on something I’ve actually been thinking about quite a bit over the past week or two. I started my own business, in part, to have more control over my own life and priorities. But as it has turned out, in the crush to get that business off the ground (and figure out what the hell I’m doing), many of my personal priorities ended up taking a backseat. A relatively common conundrum for entrepreneurs, I understand. But life is so much more than just work. Work should support the life we want to live, not the other way around.

Thus, at this halfway point of 2012, I’m recommitting to my own independence (in all respects of the word) and reclaiming time for the things I love that make my life worth living, no matter my professional context. And one of those things is music.

As I step back into the Higher Ed Music Critics arena, I clutch hat in hand and sheepishly acknowledge just how much music has passed me by or only grazed me this year. But one of the lessons I’ve learned as an independent consultant is how to look at a problem as an opportunity -- and the sheer volume of undiscovered new music before me is a grand opportunity, indeed. I am grateful to have the recommendations of this group of smart and savvy folks to tide my ears over in the coming weeks.

That said, I haven’t been completely out of the loop, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some sweet tunes thumping on the stereo or in the earbuds as I’ve cranked on said work over the past few months. So here’s a look at my favorites so far, as well as some albums I’m sure will crack that list as soon as I give them their due.

Air Traffic Controller - Nordo

I first heard the single, “Hurry, Hurry,” randomly via Facebook, and from that instant I was hooked. I went to the Soundcoud page for the song multiple times daily, and when the video came out, I watched that a ton, as well. Perhaps it had something to do with how I’ve felt so far this year, but the song would not let me go. When the full album finally came out, the grip only intensified. One of the most refreshing, catchy and compelling pop albums I’ve heard in a while.


Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur

I’ve long been enamored with this Canadian import, and her latest album does not disappoint. Another rich tapestry of love and longing, woven with a wry frankness and hemmed by gorgeous melodies and Edwards’ stirring voice.

Stephie Coplan and the Pedestrians - s/t

Here’s my Stephie Coplan story - I interviewed her for a story at Tufts back in the day, when she was just posting YouTube videos of her dorm room keyboard compositions and organizing a music education program at a local school. Now she’s an incredibly talented, sharp songwriter who rivals Ben Folds for prowess at the keyboard and far surpasses him in the biting and intelligent lyrics department.

Best Coast - The Only Place

No, in response to everyone who asks, I don’t only love this album because the cover features a bear hugging the state of California. It’s also a gorgeous, sun-kissed pop gem, with some classic touches that hearken all the way back to the 1950s and 1960s. A delight.

Metric - Synthetica

You have to love an album that begins with the lyric, “I’m just as fucked up as they say.” That’s Emily Haines and Metric for you, just putting it out there like they’ve always done. The Metric brand of rock (again, Canadian!) is wreathed in a swirl of synthy melodies, but never lost in it. And Haines’ deceptively sweet vocals always pack a lyrical punch.


Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

I’m echoing many of my colleagues when I profess my love for this album, but enough good things really can’t be said about it. This Icleandic band’s folk-tinged pop is uplifting, lush, thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable. Must be the geothermic heat - just the right level of warmth.

The Lumineers - s/t

More folk fun. “Ho Hey” took over the airwaves much as Edward Sharpe did a couple years back with a simple but universally appreciated and delightfully expressed refrain - “I belong with you / You belong with me / You’re my sweetheart.” The rest of the album lives up the promise of that song.


Beach House - Bloom

Here’s a Moment I had the other day, which pretty much sums up my feelings about “Bloom”: I was driving home up I-93 North, and just as the Boston skyline came into view, the opening notes of “Myth” filled the car. My eyes welled, and as I descended into the tunnel I had to blink away tears as my eyes adjusted from the light to the dark. Awash in vulnerable beauty - that’s how Beach House makes me feel, in a nutshell.


Hospitality - Hospitality

What we have here is just a little bit of Brooklyn indiepop fun. Nothing here will change the world, but it will make it a little more tolerable -- it sure has for me. I can also smell the mid-90s in songs like “Eighth Avenue” and “Betty Wang,” and that always makes me happy.

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

When Sleigh Bells first came on the scene a couple of years ago, I recoiled. Then, I felt helplessly intrigued. Soon, I was captivated. Thus, I eagerly awaited the release of “Reign of Terror,” which may be less noisy, but is no less engaging and fun.

Hon. Mention - The Hunger Games soundtrack I know, soundtracks don’t really count. And maybe it’s just because I caught the Panem Flu bad earlier this year. But I thoroughly enjoyed this soundtrack -- it was an excellent musical companion to the film as well as the books, and it introduced me to acts such as the Carolina Chocolate Drops and even Taylor Swift. (Seriously, her songs on this are quite good!)


Albums I Own and Have Either Listened to Insufficiently (and Enjoy but Not Enough to Comment On Them Intelligently) or Not At All (but I Am Sure I Will Enjoy Upon Further Listens)

Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
The Shins - Port of Morrow
Girlyman - Supernova
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - Here
Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
M Ward - A Wasteland Companion
Fun. - Some Nights
Brendan Benson - What Kind of World
School of Seven Bells - Ghostory

Need to Get (And Can’t Believe I Haven’t Already)
Here We Go Magic - A Different Ship
Hot Chip - In Our Heads
Tanlines - Mixed Emotions
Tennis - Young & Old

 What else am I missing? (I'm sure it's a lot.) Let me know!


  1. Welcome back, Georgy, and thanks for sharing your thoughts about your challenges over the past year. Glad to have you back among the active contributors!

    You and Dylan have convinced me to give Beach House a whirl. That, and the fact that I found the mp3 version of the album on Amazon for only 99 cents. Crazy.

    Re: the new Sleigh Bells album, I think I had the opposite reaction of you. I was intrigued by their noisy debut, but less so by Reign of Terror.

    The Metric album is growing on me.

    I've also tuned in to some of the other albums you mention (Regina Spektor, Edward Sharpe/Magnetic Zeros, Alabama Shakes, M. Ward) but have missed out on a few others you list (Girlyman, Brendan Benson, Air Traffic Controller, Kathleen Edwards).

    As for what you've missed: If you're a Smashing Pumpkins fan, you might appreciate their new album, Oceania. I'm still trying to absorb it, as time permits. But I have a lot of 2012 music yet to absorb.

  2. Just had my first listen to the Metric the other night and was very impressed. Not as "accessible" as Fantasies, but not as harsh as their first two albums either. Cool, lush and interesting.

    And Voyageur will definitely be my favourite album of 2012, hands-down, if only for "Chameleon/Comedian" and "Going to Hell".

  3. Hooray for the return of Georgy!