The Year In Music-2012

There’s always surprises in the world of music each year. 2012 started strong following on the coattails of 2011, which was the first positive album sales year since 2004, thanks to Adele. More than 18 million copies of Adele’s ‘21’ were sold. She was quite the singular force. The love-lorn diva dominated the Grammys as well, winning hardware for all six categories, for which she was nominated.

There is no ‘21’ out there but albums are selling thanks to such popular artists as Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Mumford and Sons.

The latter, who will play a pair of much-anticipated shows in Camden in February, impressed at Austin’s South By Southwest with a preview of their solid album, ‘Babel.‘

But Mumford and Sons and the myriad of other acts at the massive music conference were overshadowed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. No one has ever taken over SXSW like the Boss, who delivered a keynote speech that blew away addresses by such industry titans as Robert Plant, Neil Young, Pete Townshend and Quincy Jones.

Springsteen’s performance at the intimate Austin City Limits was absolutely incendiary. His Philly concerts, a pair at the Wells Fargo Center in March and Citizens Bank Park in September, in support of his eclectic ‘Wrecking Ball,’ his best effort since 2001’s ‘The Rising,’ were typical Springsteen. The shows were spirited, unpredictable and memorable, particularly the raucous initial show at CBP.

Madonna topped the Boss as the highest grossing tour of the year with a $296.1 million take. Madge irked fans in some markets by arriving late (10:30 p.m. in Philly, 11:30 p.m. in Miami) but Madonna puts on a show with an unparalleled production. The visuals are spectacular and just plain big but that matches the price tag ($375 for a first level seat). But fans apparently don’t mind the price.

Hats off to David Menconi for writing the finest rock book of the year.  ‘Losering: A Story Of Whiskeytown,’ is a look at Ryan Adams, starting when he was an unknown in Raleigh. Menconi was covering the scene for the News & Observer, immediately was taken with the unpredictable, gifted songsmith, who led Whiskeytown to acclaim before going solo.

Great anecdotes and keen observations fill the tome. It’s a rare rock book that’s addictive as potato chips.  You just can’t put it down. Fun take on one of rock’s few remaining characters.

A tip of the cap to Metallica for their Orion Festival in Atlantic City.  The annual event, which will appear in Detroit in June, was surprisingly eclectic. Kudos to Metallica for adding Modest Mouse and Best Coast to its well-rounded fest, which included James Hetfield’s classic cars and Kirk Hammett’s horror flick set.

Speaking of Best Coast, the California based band, the Japandroids and Kitten are some of the best fresh-faced recording artists of 2012. Anyone who writes the annual rock is dead columns should check those acts out.  The world of music continues to be vibrant. Expect that to continue in 2013.

Madonna Top Grossing Musical Act Of The Year

Madonna was the top grossing recording artist of 2012. The pop diva grossed $296.1 million. Her tour, which kicked off the North American leg at the Wells Fargo Center in August, wasn’t extensive. But tickets were pricey. A first level ducat went for $375 in South Philly. If you can get it, you may as well charge it.

Monster Magnet Worth A Roadtrip Tonight

Jon Bon Jovi sings ‘who says you can’t go home.’ Dave Wyndorf agrees. The vocalist-guitarist-songwriter’s terribly underrated Monster Magnet will perform at the club where the Red Bank based band started, the Brighton Bar.
      Monster Magnet will play tonight at the cozy Long Branch club.
       “I can’t wait to do this because that’s where we got our start,” Wyndorf said while calling from his Red Bank home. “Back in 1989 we played our first show there. It was an hour set. We played three songs that had vocals and the rest were instrumentals. I remember the cool old school liquid light show we had. Those lights ticked off punk rockers. I’ll never forget our early days at the Brighton Bar.”
       Magnet, which also includes guitarists Garrett Sweeney and Phil Caivano, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella, will deliver primarily early material. Expect the band to play its 1992 debut disc, ‘Spine of God,’ in its entirety.
      The band’s visceral but satiric take on metal holds up today. “You can’t help but laugh when you’re in a rock band or you’re an idiot,” Wyndorf said. “Humor is a part of it because every day we play out, it’s like Spinal Tap. That’s just the way it is.”
       It appeared that Magnet was going to take off after it signed with A&M Records in 1994.  The following year the band released its epic ‘Dopes to Infinity,’ which included the hard but catchy ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead.’
      “I wrote that song to get on the radio and it did just that,” Wyndorf said. “Who would have ever guessed that would work?”
      The following release, 1998’s ‘Powertrip’ went gold, which is the band’s greatest commercial achievement.
     “But ultimately it didn’t work out for us,” Wyndorf said. “The label didn’t know what to do with us. We were misinterpreted. People didn’t understand what the songs were about. I would be asked about a song and I would say, ‘it’s about me breaking up with my girlfriend’ but they would say ‘but you’re being shot through Mars.’ I think it’s better to be ambiguous lyrically. Well, whatever, I didn’t plan on success or moving out of New Jersey.”
     Wyndorf still lives in his childhood home. “I love Red Bank,” Wyndorf said. “There are ups and downs with every town but I must like it if I’m still here.”
      He still likes being in the Magnet, which will release a new album in 2013. “It’s still a lot of fun,” Wyndorf said. “I expect us to have a blast next year. Expect us to play the Starland. But in the meantime, it’s going to be really cool being at the Brighton again It’s been too long.”

Top Ten Albums Of 2012

 

          Fiona Apple made like D.B. Cooper over recent years. Who knew what happened to the diminutive diva? But she returned after a seven-year hiatus with ‘Idler Wheel,’ which tops a terrific 2012, which is filled with an abundance of deep, catchy and innovative songs.

 

 

 

1.Fiona Apple ‘Idler Wheel’ (Epic)

It took a few spins to get Apple’s rich, rewarding ‘Idler Wheel.’ There are no singles. There aren’t songs that jump out at you immediately, which makes for a contrast from her first three albums. But the spare, compelling ‘Idler Wheel’ may be Apple’s best, which is an extraordinary endorsement, considering where her prior work stands. It’s Apple’s exquisite set of pipes, adventurous piano playing, a crack band and a collection of well-written songs, which makes this album so special.

 

2.Japandroids “Celebration Rock’ (Polyvinyl)

The title of the Vancouver based duo is apt. The songs are fist-waving, swaggering pure, unadulterated rock songs cut from the Gaslight Anthem cloth but only better.

Brian King and David Prowse are exceptional at coming up with rousing, urgent, guitar-driven anthems. ‘The House That Heaven Built’ is a visceral punch to the gut that you can play ad nauseum without any burn factor.

 

 

3. Best Coast  ‘The Only Place’  (Mexican Summer)

Perhaps it’s due to producer Jon Brion’s suggestions since Best Coast upped their game dramatically. The California based band offers jangly, sunny pop-rock tunes and pretty, dreamy ballads. ‘The Only Place,’ the duo’s ode to its home state, is the single of the year.

 

 

4. Polyphonic Spree ‘Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays, Vol. 1’ (Kirtland Records)

It’s a natural fit for the bright and perky Polyphonic  Spree to record a holiday album but it’s a rarity for such a project to make a top ten list but the wonderfully psychedelic and quirky album is that stunning. Check out the choral-pop act’s trippy version of ‘Silver Bells.’ The songs are a wonderful alternative to the stale old Christmas songs heard every year. P-Spree brings great joy to re-arranged versions of classics and add Tim DeLaughter’s ‘A Working Elf’s Theme’ to the list of unforgettable Christmas cuts. Best holiday album in a generation.

 

 

5. Passion Pit ‘Gossamer’ (Columbia)

Michael Angelakos’ sugary sweet pop is difficult to pass up. The electronic dance-pop is stylish but ambitious. The album is filled with singles.

 

 

6. The Shins ‘Port of Morrow’ (Columbia)

It’s the most eclectic bunch of Shins songs ever put on one record. James Mercer is one of the finest writers in rock. ‘Simple Song’ is one of the best cuts of the year and the other nine tunes on the album are nearly as strong. Mercer has been very consistent since the release of 2001’s ‘Oh, Inverted World.’

 

 

7. Dinosaur Jr. ‘I Bet On Sky’ (Play It Again Sam)

More than 20 years after its peak, Dinosaur Jr., surprisingly delivers a gem whether it’s rocking hard or dialing it down with a piano-driven tune. The white-haired J. Mascis and co-conspirator Lou Barlow still have it.

 

8. Cornership ‘Urban Turban: The Singhles Club’ (Ample Play)

No act makes music like Cornershop. The latest album is a delight thanks to trippy, quirky and innovative tracks. Only the leadoff cut ‘What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag’ is conventional.

 

9. Santigold ‘Master of My Make-Believe’ (Atlantic)

Philly’s Santigold aka Santi White is a star, who came straight out of Germantown. White’s love of Siouxsie and the Banshees is evident. Catchy, dark electronic rock tunes abound.

 

10. Metric ‘Synthetica’ (Mom & Pop Music)

The Canadian band follows in the footsteps of their exceptional 2009 album,’ Fantasies.’ Massive arrangements, big hooks and endless synth-rock make this album almost as pleasing as its predecessor.

 

Spin Will No Longer Publish Print Editions

Joining the ranks of Newsweek, Spin has announced that it will no longer publish its print edition. The magazine will focus on its digital side. It’s apparent what the future of publishing will look like. Those who subscribe to Spin can receive a refund.

Catch The Starting Line

 

 

 

When The Starting Line went their separate ways in 2009, it was uncertain when or if the Philadelphia band would reunite.

But when the ten-year anniversary of their debut disc, 2002’s ‘Say It Like You Mean It,’ arrived in July, the pop-punk band was urged to reform.

“We initially were resistant,” vocalist-bassist Kenny Vasoli said while calling from his Willow Grove home. “There seemed to be a big trend of bands getting back together to mark certain albums. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that. I never thought of our first album as being this classic album but that’s how some people think of it. That record obviously means a lot to some people and so we thought, ‘why not, let’s get back together.”

‘Say It Like You Mean It’ is comprised of urgent, rousing, catchy tunes. The Starting Line, which also includes guitarists Matt Watts and Mike Golla, keyboardist Brian Schmutz and drummer Tom Gryskiewicz, will deliver cuts from ‘Say It’ and the act’s other four albums.

“It really is pretty wild that we’re filed under nostalgia music,” Vasoli said. “It reminds me of how much fun we had back in the day. I remember when we went on tour with Taking Back Sunday (in 2002) and we would be getting wasted and going to strip clubs and stealing stripper’s dresses. It was fun. So fans can relive their memories of us with our music and we’re having fun playing the old songs but we’re also having a blast just going back and revisiting things through our memories. We really had a good time together.”

When the members of The Starting Line left for other projects in 2009, it was hardly an acrimonious split. “We toured like crazy during our ten years together,” Vasoli said. “We were just sick of each other but now that’s all changed. We’re all friends and getting back together has energized us.”

After doing some light touring, there’s talk of a new Starting Line album.

“We’re having conversations about it,” Vasoli said. “We’re talking about writing new material, which is a good thing.”

But Vasoli is part of Vacationer and each of the other members is working on projects as well. “I think we’ll figure out how we can do more as The Staring Line,” Vasoli said. “We’re having fun with each other and looking forward to the shows at the Electric Factory. This reminds me of when we played our first show at the Trocadero (in 2001) opening for The Juliana Theory, which was one of our favorite bands. We had a great time together and we’re having fun again, which is what it’s all about.”

 

 

Concert Of Hope A Tremendous Success

 

It feels like less of a show and more of a living room scene when Bobby Bandiera puts together his Hope Concerts at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. The sixth annual event, which benefits the Parker Family Health Center and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, is full of good-natured humor as much as stirring rock n’ soul tunes.

Every year Southside Johnny ribs Gary U.S. Bonds before they sing together at the event.

This year Ben E. King had to get used to the barbs delivered by the charismatic vocalists.

The soldout Basie reverberated with energy for two-hours and forty-five minutes.

Jon Bon Jovi, who took the stage to a standing ovation, delivered ‘Blue Christmas,’ ‘Run Rudolph Run,’ the Box Tops classic ‘The Letter’ and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.’

Bon Jovi nailed it by noting that the show wouldn’t be possible without Bandiera, who is part of his touring band. Every year Bandiera squeezes in a few weeks worth of rehearsals with his Central Jersey pals, which include his infallible soul revue players, which features a six-piece horn section.

So it’s fitting that one of the high points of the show was Bandiera’s version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ Who ever knew that Bandiera could hit those notes?

Bandiera, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and Bonds, who impressed with ‘This Little Girl’ and a gaggle of one-liners, take part in the Hope concert every year.

This was King’s first appearance and he pleased the crowd with ‘Spanish Harlem,’ a gorgeous version of ‘Under The Boardwalk,’ and a terrific cover of Sam and Dave’s ‘Hold On, I’m Coming,’ which featured Southside, who offered ‘Better Days,’ ‘This Time It’s For Real’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Home.’

There was considerable emotion in the room since Central Jersey was clobbered two-months ago by Hurricane Sandy, which was mentioned throughout the night.

A number screamed ‘Bruuuuce,’ since Bruce Springsteen has appeared at a couple of ‘Hope’ shows.’

Springsteen couldn’t commit to the show but the event was a can’t miss concert even without the Boss.

You don’t know who is going to show up but fans realize that something special will happen at the Hope shows. Bandiera and friends always deliver a memorable concert.