Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 20 Artists/Bands of 2012 (+30 more)

Here are my Top 20 artists/bands of 2012 (plus another 30 in no particular order because they deserve some love too). This is all based on my personal tastes (or lack thereof…depends on how one looks at it I suppose). To make the list the artist/band had to have released an LP or an EP in 2012.

1. Kellie Pickler – This was pretty much a no-brainer for me. 100 Proof is one of the most “country” records made this year by a popular musician, which is of course why country radio shunned it and her record label dropped her. Totally makes sense.

2. Tristan Prettyman – Tristan’s the reason Kellie was a “pretty much a no-brainer at No. 1.” I got to see her twice this year and she put out one of the finest break-up albums ever (which y’all know I’m a sucker for).

3. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals – Two years ago Grace Potter & the Nocturnals were my No. 1. This year, they clock in at No. 3. No shame in that.

4. Kat Parsons – Stunning indie pop. This is the music to brighten up any day.

5. The Lumineers – Last year my “new” obsession was Civil Wars and Secret Sisters. This year it’s The Lumineers.

6. Taylor Swift – Country’s biggest superstar puts out the most uncountry record possible and country radio squirms to find a track to fit their format.

7. Japandroids – This band simply rocked my 2012.

8. Gaslight Anthem – I’m in my late 30s so I’m supposed to like this band, right?

9. Green Day – Never really found out what Billy Joe Armstrong went into rehab for after the iHeartRadio concert freakout. If I had to guess it would be for thinking he was Bob Pollard. Seriously, three albums in one year?

10. Lindi Ortega – Lindi’s becoming one of my favorite go to artists.

11. Kelly Clarkson – The original American Idol put out one of the finest pop albums of the year.

12. Soul Asylum – Twenty years after seeing Soul Asylum for the first time I got to see them again (actually twice). Those old songs still sound so sweet and the new ones simply ROCK.

13. Little Big Town – A lot of people are saying Tornado is their best record. I’m not quite there yet (loved The Reason Why) but it is filled with some fantastic tunes and always awesome harmonies.

14. Lucero – Been one of my favorite bands since I first heard their cover of Jawbreaker’s Kiss the Bottle.

15. ZZ Ward – Biggest regret of the year was not seeing her perform a mile and a half away from my house.

16. Madi Diaz - I'm simply mad for Madi (I'm sure I'm the only person who's ever said that).

17. Dinosaur Jr. - It's like 1990 all over again. But greyer.

18. Tift Merritt - Something tells me I'm going to wish this was in my Top 5 when I revisit this list next year.

19. Bob Mould - Bob rediscovers the rock.

20. Rhonda Vincent - Rhonda always brings the bluegrass goodness.

And now here’s 30 other artists that got me grooving this year (in no particular order).

Eden’s Edge
Adrienne Pierce
The Spring Standards
First Aid Kit
Elizabeth Cook
Kenny Chesney
Amanda Palmer
Avett Brothers
Beach House
Carrie Underwood
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson
Dierks Bentley
Jana Kramer
Justin Townes Earle
Lana Del Rey
Lee Brice
Lori McKenna
Mindy Smith
Jessie Baylin
Sixpence None the Richer
Trampled By Turtles
Of Monsters and Men
Delta Spirit
Hank III
Ellie Goulding
Coheed and Cambria
Every Time I Die

Friday, December 28, 2012

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - Never Go Back

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals topped my best artist/band of 2010 list. Where will they up on this year's list? I guess we'll find out on Monday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlight - Jeff Scott Stevens

Welcome to the third Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlight. Today, let's meet country music songwriter and reality singing contest show savant Jeff Scott Stevens. I've been chatting on and off with Jeff for months on Twitter. Most of the conversation revolves around what's happening on The Voice or one of the dozens of country music award shows that the networks bombard us fans with every other week or so. His genuinely good guy demeanor can only be attributed to living in one of the snowiest parts of the country, Syracuse, NY (incidentally, 90 miles east of my almost as equally snowy hometown of Rochester, NY). I'd like to thank Jeff for taking the time to answer some not so brilliant questions (NOTE: new not so brilliant questions coming soon).  


Jeff Scott Stevens is an aspiring country music songwriter from Syracuse, NY. He started playing piano/keyboards in high school and has since learned guitar, bass, and drums. Jeff’s written everything from pop/rock music, to local TV themes, and even scored music for a low-budget pilot that a friend was pitching. For the last four years he has been writing and producing country songs (many of which are available on iTunes). His latest single “When the Rest of the World Ain’t Right” was released this fall.

The Interview: 

Your New Favorite Song: It’s time to get the party started, what are you asking the bartender to make for you?

Jeff Scott Stevens: Jägermeister if the party is to get kickin’. Preferably from one of those cool upside-down shot things they have in bars.

YNFS: As we close in on 2012 what are five albums released this year that you can’t get enough of?

JSS: This is a tough one. I often buy singles rather than entire CDs for variety's sake. Latest singles throughout the year from Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum etc...

YNFS: OK, And now what are the five albums you can’t get enough of that aren’t cool to admit to liking (I know how these lists work, I do the same thing)? EDITOR'S NOTE 1: I ask these questions via email so this question makes little sense due his previous answer, but I like Jeff's answer so I kept it...incidentally, I can relate to Jeff here as I downloaded every song from the Nashville Soundtrack (and even the ones that weren't on it).

JSS: I'm never ashamed of anything in my collection! However, I guess the things I'd get the most flack for at this point are the several singles I bought from the "Smash" TV Show Soundtrack. But again, I'm not ashamed one bit. The writing on those songs, the arrangements, and the vocals are extremely well done.

YNFS: When you were in high school and locked yourself in your room what five bands were you digging on the most?

JSS: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC

YNFS: It’s the 1800s, whose novel do you wait in line for before its midnight release?

JSS: I think Barnes and Noble had a pre-sale for the latest Twain, so I'm waitin’ in that line!

YNFS: Cats or Dogs?

JSS: Dogs, because they're intelligent enough to realize that they need to do their business outside instead of taking care of things indoors.

YNFS: Who’s the most famous musician/artist/actor you’ve ever had the pleasure to meet? Paint the picture. What happened?

JSS: As boring as this is. I've never met anybody famous. The closest I can remember was being held up in traffic on a highway because the President was traveling and his motorcade went right by me. LOL. Does that count? EDITOR'S NOTE 2: I’ll allow it, even though I used to live in DC and that annoyance happened to me on a semi-regular basis during the GWB years.

YNFS: What’s your favorite word?

JSS: Does James Lipton know you are stealing this question LOL? Hmm, probably creativity. EDITOR'S NOTE 3 that "hack" Lipton doesn't need to know about this...

YNFS: I know you're a Voice fan, who's been your most favorite five over the first three seasons?

JSS: Javier Colon. I knew from the blind auditions that he would win in season one. I feel that Chris Mann (Season 2) technically has the best voice of anyone in all seasons. Was sorry to see Amanda Brown (Season 3) go. I thought she had some of the best vocals this year. She just had some odd song choices. Terry McDermott (Season 3 runner-up). I would just like to see him take over as the lead singer of Foreigner (even though the guy they've got currently is doing a great job) instead of embarking on his own career. Jordis Unga (Season 2), because I liked her from Rock Star: INXS. EDITOR'S NOTE 4: Notice how I called him a savant in the intro...C'Mon, he remembered Jordis from Rock Star INXS...I think that says it all.

YNFS: Finally, if you could say one thing to potential and current fans about your music what would it be? Sell us on your awesomeness!

JSS: Just enjoy the music. Give everything a listen. I think there's a good variety of tempos and themes for everyone to find something they like. So go check out the previews on iTunes or Amazon or Android (Google Play) and grab an earful!

The Music

Here's a preview of some of his songs (Jeff wanted to upload his latest single on YouTube but it was not cooperating) takes a few seconds to start.

You can connect with Jeff on Twitter, Facebook and most importantly on iTunes

And when you're done checking out Jeff and his music, why not take a peek at the previous two Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlights on Brett Gleason and Jana Fisher

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beach House - Lazuli

I didn't have to go too far from home for today's video. Just 31 miles northeast to be exact. Here's Baltimore dream poppers Beach House with a video from their sublime Bloom record.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tennis - My Better Self

Here's some dreamy indie-pop from Denver's Tennis. I won tickets to see them play a private afternoon concert this spring. It was a fantastic show, but I have to say that after seeing this video I feel cheated that they didn't bust out those righteous dance moves that day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anti-Flag - This is the New Sound

I haven't been posting too many punk or metal videos since "the change" in November when I stopped looking at the past and moved into the present (and sometimes future). To be honest, most of my musical attention has been elsewhere (mainly country music with healthy doses of indie, indie pop and folk mixed in). But I still loves me some anthemic punk rock. Pittsburgh's Anti-Flag always delivers thought-provoking songs about human rights injustices (among other politically charged topics). And in this video they do so with some badass muppets.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Your New Favorite Artist Spotlight - Jana Fisher

Jana Fisher - Photo by Samantha Verdure
Welcome to another Your New Favorite Artist Spotlight. Today, let's get to know piano playing singer/songwriter Jana Fisher. Jana and I started chatting on Twitter a couple summers ago after I downloaded her introspective debut record A History of Sleepwalking. Since those initial tweets of me praising her wonderful voice and piano playing, I've found her to be a very thoughtful person with a great sense of humor and even better taste in music. I'd like to thank her for taking the to time answer the same "not so deep" questions I posed to her friend Brett Gleason last week.

BIO (ripped from 

The children of ministers are known to fall into two categories: the angels and the troublemakers. Jana Fisher is a good girl everywhere but the piano. "Music is my rebellion," she says. "At least it's better than setting things on fire and getting arrested."

Jana's music career began with performing at churches and corn festivals in rural Ohio, ministering by singing other people's music. When the family business uprooted her Florida, she self-medicated by confessing her teenage angst to the piano. While scrambling to finish college and escape the Sunshine State, Jana wrote, produced, recorded, and self-released her first album, A History of Sleepwalking, just in time to pack up the family car and be uprooted again— this time by choice, to complete her evolution from naive choir girl to self-aware and articulate artist in New York City.

In October 2012, Jana released her first EP since the transformation. Ideals & Deals is an intimate yet lively set of tracks constructed around piano, guitar, and light percussion, recorded over three hot summer days in Brooklyn.

The songs traverse diverse emotional landscapes in pinpointed detail. From obsessing over the "30k" that makes or breaks a big city transplant, to purposely undermining a relationship in "You Deserve Better," to recording new open-hearted love for a woman in "If I Ever Break Your Heart"— all three spin tales of what we'll do for our ideals, the shocking compromises of survival and the rewards reaped from a life richly lived.

Photo by William Murray
The Interview

Your New Favorite Song: It’s time to get the party started, what are you asking the bartender to make for you?
Jana Fisher: A nice and sour gin gimlet. Apparently I'm an old man.

YNFS: As we close in on 2012 what are five albums released this year that you can’t get enough of?

JF: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Ellie Goulding - Halcyon
The Weeknd - Trilogy
St. Vincent & David Byrne - Love This Giant

YNFS: OK, And now what are the five albums you can’t get enough of that aren’t cool to admit to liking (I know how these lists work, I do the same thing)?

JF: Wow... I'm oddly lacking in guilty pleasures this year! I'm usually all about Lady Gaga and some silly Top 40 hip hop but nothing that's come out this year. These are five more albums I've been enjoying that are just a little less cool than the first five. 

LP - Into The Wild
Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra - Theatre Is Evil
Missy Higgins - The Ol' Razzle Dazzle
Mumford & Sons - Babel

YNFS: When you were in high school and locked yourself in your room what 5 bands were you digging on the most?

JF: I listened almost exclusively to Christian radio until about 8th grade. When I "discovered" mainstream music, I was greedy for anything I perceived as "dark" — really any music that expressed emotions other than unwavering positivity! The bands I liked seem a little random now, but each of them represents a unique mood that I was hungry for at the time.

Vanessa Carlton - Embarrassingly, she inspired me to starting writing songs on piano.  
Evanescence - My first boyfriend got my attention by playing "Bring Me To Life" at a church camp piano.
System of a Down - I thought I was so hardcore for liking them! 
Thrice - I loved their album The Artist in the Ambulance. 
Brand New - I wasn't very assertive back then, so I lived vicariously through their biting wordplay.

YNFS: It’s the 1800s, whose novel do you wait in line for before its midnight release?

JF: Alexandre Dumas (père). I love me some good, complicated action/adventure stories! And in my 1800s reality I'd have more time to work on my French and I'd be nearly bilingual instead of having to look up all the descriptive words in the dictionary.

YNFS: Cats or Dogs?

JF: Cats! I prefer my companions to have lives outside of me. (Though I have met some great dogs with very nonchalant cat-like personalities!) There's nothing so relaxing as reading with a cat asleep in your lap.

YNFS: Who’s the most famous musician/artist/actor you’ve ever had the pleasure to meet? Paint the picture. What happened?

JF: I met Portia de Rossi at a book signing and q+a for her memoir Unbearable Lightness. It was refreshing to see a celebrity who normally seems so composed being honest about a very personal topic. She's also quite lovely in person, though she was wearing a lot of makeup.

YNFS: What’s your favorite word?

JF: Adventure… I love how its meaning has changed in my life over time, starting as wandering off in the woods by myself when I was a kid to now living an authentic and fearless life. 

YNFS: What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you while performing that you can laugh about now?
JF: I had a really inappropriate gig once at a pirate-themed frat bar. People were literally playing beer pong while I played heartfelt piano music. At least at the end I got some drunk people to sing along to "You Deserve Better."

YNFS: Finally, If you could say one thing to potential and current fans about your music what would it be? Sell us on your awesomeness!

JF: When I'm feeling something that I feel is particularly well expressed in a song, I'll listen to it over and over until I process what I'm feeling. If I don't find a song that works, I write one! I hope everyone will find a song they relate to.

If you liked that video you can check out and download the entire 3-song Ideals & Deals EP at her website. You can and should also follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.



Monday, December 17, 2012

Kat Parsons - Love Changes Everything

Kat Parsons and Me
I "met" indie pop songstress Kat Parsons this summer on Twitter. We chatted occasionally. I bought her records. She signed them for me. I framed the covers and sent her pictures. We laughed. We cried. We talked cat magnets. Hell, I even wrote a stunning 5-star iTunes review for her latest EP -- Oh! (well, it's as stunning as any 3-6 sentence review can be).

But as you can see from the photo on your left, I really got to meet her last night after a wonderfully fun and frisky performance (by her, not me). It was nice to freely converse with her and not have to worry about keeping it under 140 characters (although come to think of it we did tweet each other a couple hours after the fact). Twitter's a real thing.

Sing it Kat (photo by Lauren Colvin)
I warned her that I was going to post her latest video on my new music blog (and to also not expect anything too deep...I'm pretty sure I'm delivering on that promise). She suggested that maybe y'all would want a copy of the song for your very own to snuggle up with (I'm paraphrasing). I thought that was a wonderful idea, so go to Kat's website, give her your name, email and zip code and you can get yourself a copy of the single to take care of and love. AND THEN when you fall head over heels for the song, to the point where you can't stop dancing around and singing it, go back to that website and pick up her fantastic Oh! and Talk To Me EPs. But first thing's first, check out the delightfully playful video for Love Changes Everything! Oh yeah, give her a follow on Twitter as well -- @KatParsonsSings

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lana Del Rey - Bel Air

I have to admit, the first time I heard Lana Del Rey's single Video Games I was not too impressed. Nonetheless, I decided to give the whole Born to Die record a shot anyway. I'm glad I did. Turned out to be one of my favorite records of the year (and yes, I finally "got" how awesome Video Games is). In November, Lana released an 8-song EP titled Paradise. Here's a video off that record.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks

My Head is an Animal by Iceland's Of Monsters and Men came out in their home country in 2011. BUT, it was released this year in the States and in the rest of Europe so it counts for my best of 2012 consideration. My rules. Regardless, what we have here is some very catchy indie pop goodness that keeps your toes a tappin'.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lindi Ortega - Cigarettes & Truckstops

One lucky day last year I picked up Lindi Ortega's Little Red Boots record. What I discovered that day was an incredibly talented songwriter with old-school country sensibilities. And that voice...Wow! Totally makes me melt.

In October she released her latest album Cigarettes & Truckstops which will definitely find its way onto my best of 2012 list. Here's the video for the sublime title track.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

P!nk - Try

Today's song off P!nk's exceptional The Truth About Love record socked me me over the head the first time I heard it. Such an fiery song that perfectly fits her voice. Needless to say when I saw this video I was completely blown away by its intensity.

And somehow she took it a step further when she recreated the video at the American Music Awards. It might be the coolest performance I've ever seen at an awards show. Check it out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlight - Brett Gleason

Welcome to the first of hopefully many Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlights. If you are a singer/songwriter or are in a band and would like to take part in one of these spotlights, PLEASE hit me up on Twitter (@sneezeguard). Makes my job a lot easier.

(photo courtesy of Brett Gleason)
I was first acquainted with Brett Gleason and his music a couple months ago via Twitter. And despite him recently acknowledging to me that "Adore" is his favorite Smashing Pumpkins album I still haven't unfollowed him (everyone "knows" the answer is "Gish" or "Siamese Dream"). I'd like to thank Brett for agreeing to be the first Your New Favorite Song Artist Spotlight and for taking the time to thoughtfully answer some not so very deep questions provided by yours truly.

BIO (ripped off from

Combining the intimacy of a piano based singer-songwriter with dark electronics and jazz harmonics: Brett Gleason's music has been called "revolutionary" and garnered comparisons to diverse artists like Trent Reznor, Tori Amos and Depeche Mode.

From Brooklyn, NY by way of Long Island, Brett Gleason's early life was hampered by a severe speech impediment, leading to a solitary childhood immersed in the arts. His struggle to communicate led to a mastery of multiple instruments and a fiction degree from the New School University in NYC. Both an out gay artist and bi-polar sufferer, Gleason knows what it's like to live a life of intensity outside the mainstream and his music reflects this.

Brett debuted "The Dissonance" in early 2010 with the "I Am Not" video climbing to the top of MTV Logo’s The Click List for 20 weeks.

Created with a vow to play all instruments and self-produce every detail, his latest record, "The Thawing" is an operatic set of new tracks both aggressive and vulnerable, abrasive yet beautiful With an emphasis on a classical piano background and the addition of strings, this sophisticated sophomore effort is a seamless development of Brett’s unique, layered sound.

(photo courtesy of Brett Gleason)
The Interview

Your New Favorite Song: It’s time to get the party started, what are you asking the bartender to make for you?

Brett Gleason: Is coffee not an option? Alcohol gives me migraines so it's either water or soda, I wish American bars offered more juices, coffee/teas and food but failing that it's root beer, failing that Diet Coke. I know it's bad for me but I crave the chemicals.

YNFS: As we close in on 2012 what are five albums released this year that you can’t get enough of?

BG: Five is a lot! I'm more a creator than a consumer but definitely fell in love with Fiona Apple's "The Idler Wheel," Smashing Pumpkins "Oceania," Amanda Palmer's "Theatre is Evil" and Cat Power's "Sun."'

YNFS: OK, And now what are the five albums that you can’t get enough of that aren’t cool to admit to liking (I know how these lists work, I do the same thing)?

BG: I'm a real stickler and only like very serious music but have to admit that at Thanksgiving my sister got me hooked on Robyn - I can't help it, the stuff makes you move, "Dancing on my Own" is my jam.

YNFS: When you were in high school and locked yourself in your room what five bands were you digging on the most?

BG: THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - big time, I still worship at their alter, especially their quieter/electro stuff. Was also really into Radiohead as well as NIN, Tool and Bright Eyes, still am.

YNFS: It’s the 1800s, whose novel do you wait in line for before its midnight release?

BG: If we can make it the early 1900's it's Virginia Woolf and Aldous Huxley. Her self reflexive style is like a drug and his mixture of philosophical and science fiction is genius, literally. I guess in the 1800's I would've loved Henry James but I like him more as an historical figure and less as an actual author.

YNFS: Cats or Dogs?

BG: I can't emphasize enough how much I love dogs, they make me so happy, just the thought of a fun dog to roll around on the floor with makes me so happy.

YNFS: Who’s the most famous musician/artist/actor you’ve ever had the pleasure to meet? Paint the picture. What happened?

BG: I tend to meet really famous people that mean nothing to me, often not realizing their fame until afterwards. I guess the main one that I really cared about was Dave Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode. I used to teach his daughter and despite his detached manner I decided to give him a CD of some of my music, I'm sure it ended up in the trash because surely he would've loved it had he given it a chance?

YNFS: What’s your favorite word?

BG: I love curse words, the more offensive the better, I just love how offended we can all pretend to get at a sound, a movement of the lips. I never use them in my music and rarely in real life but when I do it's effective.

YNFS: What was your most embarrassing moment on stage? What happened and how did you handle it?

BG: My first gig was fairly disastrous. I was performing a song at a convention center as part of a larger event and had to go karaoke style due to time restraints. I hadn't thought through what I'd do during the instrumental passages and just stood there awkwardly clutching the mic. I eventually did a back flip during one of the solos out of desperation which just confused the audience. I promised myself then I'd never perform without an instrument in my hand, had to do a similar event recently and even though I couldn't plug it in I strummed an acoustic guitar as if my life depended on it, unheard by the audience.

YNFS: Finally, If you could say one thing to potential and current fans about your music what would it be? Sell us on your awesomeness!

BG: My music's not for everyone but if you're one of the few I'm speaking to it's gonna change your life so you better listen to find out.

As expected Brett's pretty much all over the internet so click on some of those links below and get to know him a bit more.


Friday, December 7, 2012

First Aid Kit - Emmylou

This summer, my much younger (and smarter) cousin and I swapped a bunch of music. One of my favorite bands that she introduced me to was Sweden's First Aid Kid. The band is comprised of two sisters playing some of the finest indie folk that has ever graced my ears. Here's the second single off their fantastic album The Lion's Roar.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Delta Spirit - California

Amazon MP3 put up some fun year-end lists yesterday. Their staff placed California, Delta Spirit's "Rock and Roll heartbreaker" (their words, not mine...although apt) at No. 1 on their top 100 songs list. As for the list based on Customer purchases...yeah, that would be Call Me Maybe (no shock was in the top 20 staff picks as well). California didn't even rank on the sales list. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built

Before their Celebration Rock album came out in June, Japandroids were a band that I had heard of, but had not actually heard. Curiosity got the best of me this summer after reading rave reviews from fans and bands alike. So of course I had to pick it up (it also helped that it was a daily $3.99 deal on AmazonMP3). These guys blew me away with their killer mix of indie ROCK (not indie), punk and garage. I've already seen Japandroids turn up on quite a few 2012 year end lists and you can be certain they will be on mine.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Joanna Smith - We Can't Be Friends

I was driving around town a couple months ago when I first heard Joanna Smith's We Can't Be Friends playing on the radio. By the second verse I was so distracted I almost plowed my truck into a Prius that was stopped at a red light. Almost. When I got home from that harrowing driving experience (to be honest, most are when I'm behind the wheel) I found that her fantastic 4-song EP Be What It Wants To Be was released that day. Here's the song that nearly wrecked me. Literally.

Monday, December 3, 2012

ZZ Ward - Put the Gun Down

I just picked up ZZ Ward's smokin' hot debut album Til The Casket Drops. Believe the hype. She is the real deal and I suspect her record is going to be on a ton of Best of 2012 lists. Check out the video for one of my favorite songs on the record.