BEST OF 2012 by Dirty Roots Radio listener Paul Zickler...
*Best New Artist* - The Lumineers
Their album is irresistible, their live show is a foot stomping good time, and "Ho Hey" remains untainted despite repeated appearances on TV commercials.
*Best Song I Don't Really Like But Couldn't Escape* - PSY - Gangnam Style
It was a close one between this and "Call Me Maybe," but in the end, the fact that this song doesn't completely annoy me is completely inexplicable, so it gets the nod. At least I could understand why people liked "Call Me Maybe," and the other ubiquitous 2012 song, "Somebody That I Used to Know," would have made a terrific side two track on a Police album in 1982. "Gangnam Style" has a BILLION views on YouTube, and it should annoy the hell out of me, but it doesn't. Crazy, man.
*Best Album No One Wants to Admit They Like* - Dave Matthews Band - Away from the World
Dave is the eternal starry-eyed optimist, his band is filled with consummate musicians, and this time around, he avoids the urge to "jam" (i.e. noodle around) long enough to write some decent tunes. It seems to be the cool thing to hate the guy, but I like him a lot.
*Best Album Most People Haven't Heard in the US* - Mark Knopfler - Privateering
Mark's label is in some sort of hissy fight with him, so they never officially released this record here. It's available on Amazon for something like 27 dollars, which is crazy, but the irony is that it's easily worth that much or more. Anytime you can put out a new release with TWENTY songs on it, and there's not a single one I would consider skipping over even after many repeated listenings, you're doing it right. Still my favorite living guitar player, and his band just wails.
*Best Return to Form* - Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
It pains me not to give this to Bob, but as much as I like Tempest, Neil's new one is just a little more impressive. And live, it's no contest. After more than 40 years, the Horse still put on the quintessential rock and roll show, night in and night out. How they're not all deaf remains one of life's great mysteries.
*Best Buzz Band I Discovered Last Year that Everybody Else Loves This Year* - Alabama Shakes
Yes, I know, that makes me a hipster, but I'm 47, so I'll take it.
*Best Song of the Year, Period* - The Mountain Goats - Harlem Roulette
I love John Darnielle as a songwriter, and this may be one of the 5 best songs he's ever written. A heartbreakingly beautiful tale about the death of Frankie Lymon. Well worth finding and listening to on repeat 7 or 8 times.
*Best Album of the Year, Period* - Anaïs Mitchell - Young Man in America
I've thought about this a lot, and here's what it comes down to for me: this is the album released in 2012 that affected me emotionally more than any other. There are better singers, more talented groups of musicians, tighter production values, even better written songs (though truthfully not that many of those); but when I put on this record and listen straight through, it does something raw and real to my soul that nothing else from this year can touch.
*Artist of the Year* - Bob Dylan
Listen, it doesn't matter that Tempest wasn't perfect. It doesn't matter that the NYC art show was a big put on. It doesn't matter that he waited 15 shows to even debut any new songs on his US tour. It doesn't matter that he came off as a cranky old bastard in that Rolling Stone interview. The only thing that matters is that every single thing he does is so uniquely and fantastically DYLAN that he continues to rock our socks off after 50 years. He doesn't do it with any kind of sentimental nostalgia, either. In spite of basing his entire artistic career on stealing everybody's ideas and calling them his own, he's STILL the most original musical genius of our lifetime, and he remains artistically relevant. There is only one Bob Dylan.