the year in music. or, lady singers not named adele.

2012 gave us some great music from female artists, whether they were new to the scene or had been out of the scene awhile. I was excited for long-awaited new music from both Cat Power and Fiona Apple. Who knows what it means that I love the music made by two women who lean toward crazy and had their own on-stage antics in 2012; just don’t read into it, okay? We had some great debuts from Brits who made it over to the States this year, and new electronic sounds. Here are my favorites.

Cat Power: Even though her Instagram and Twitter feeds are crazy, and I wish she’d stop bleaching/cutting her hair, I love Chan Marshall. And I LOVED Sun. It is undoubtedly my favorite album of the year. If you’ve read any commentary or reviews on it, this won’t be anything new. It had been 6 years since Cat Power released an album of original material. As a Chan adorer, the first listen to Sun was a bit shocking. Where’s your guitar strumming? You’re using a drum machine? What’s going on here? But then I realized how good Sun was and how much I really liked it. I’m so impressed by her ability to create something vastly different from her traditional sound, without losing herself in the process. Chan did everything on this album herself: wrote all the lyrics, played all the instruments, built a studio and recorded it, and produced the final album. Manhattan is my favorite track off the album, but I should probably showcase something like Cherokee, which is a better example of what makes this album a standout in Cat Power’s discography. The video is super weird, but so is she. Also, if you haven’t see it yet, watch this funny spoof she did of herself.

Fiona Apple: I think everyone who listened to The Idler Wheel… had the same reaction as me: Damn, woman. Maybe Fiona should take 7 year breaks between all of her records. I already liked Fiona Apple, but after The Idler Wheel, I luuurrrve her. I forced multiple people to listen to it who did not feel the same. They responded with scrunched up faces. And I get it, she’s weird and her music sounds a bit off in places. But, here are some of the things I love from this album: the sound of real kids screaming while playing on Werewolf, the fact that she’s just hitting random objects with scissors in Anything We Want, and because she and her sister (who sings the harmonies) recorded Hot Knife without any looping. This album is a knock out. It’s stripped down so you get to hear every little bit, yet still layered and indulgent. It’s too hard to pick a favorite track, but give this live version of Periphery a listen. I saw Fiona I guess 6 years ago now and she was weird and great as ever; wish I could have seen her this year.

Lianne La Havas: Will she be the next Adele? Probably not, but who cares. Lianne La Havas can sing, she can play guitar, and she can write good songs. She’s got a pop accessibility, but still gets grungy and soulful. Plus, her hair rocks (ahem, Allyse, just do it already). The title track Is Your Love Big Enough? provides a great introduction to this new Brit. But Lost & Found showcases her depth with the opening line, “Come upstairs and I’ll show you where all my demons hide from you.” I’m excited to see what all Lianne can do.

Emeli Sandé: Hanif put one of her songs on a mix for me at the beginning of the year. I’m not sure if that was the first time I heard Emeli Sandé, but it was the first time I had her name with the song. I don’t like when she gets more poppy with some songs, we need some good R&B, Emeli! Give My Kind of Love a listen, then check out her stripped down versions of a couple songs on the current. I definitely prefer her live versions over studio. It’s crazy when you hear her Scottish accent in her speaking voice after listening to her sing.

Grimes: I’m usually pretty strict about not liking an artist/band if their lyrics don’t make sense or are impossible to understand. (It’s the main reason I don’t like Sigur Ros. deal with it.) But, I LOVE Grimes. I listened to a lot more electronic/synth stuff this year, including Grimes, AKA Claire Boucher. Videos of her live performances are incredible. I’ve listened to/read some interviews that she’s done, and she explains that her songs and lyrics are so personal that she doesn’t really want anyone to understand what she’s saying. In a way, that sounds like a cop out. Why become a musician if you don’t want anyone to hear what you’re saying? But Grimes is way more than the words she is saying, it’s the sound she’s mixing and the work she is doing too. Would love to see her live some day.

Purity Ring: Another group who made me listen to more electronic stuff this year. Okay, so Purity Ring is a duo that includes a guy and girl, but I’m keeping them over here in the lady post. Purity Ring played at Ace of Cups this fall and I still mourn the loss of missing this show. Because I didn’t know anyone who was going, I figured it’d be fine to buy my ticket at the door. I was wrong. The show sold out, and after waiting in line awhile I left super bummed. Watching that video hurts me a little, knowing I won’t get another chance to see this group in a small setting before they blow up.

Solange: I was stumbling around YouTube while bored at work when I came across the video for Solange’s Losing You. I didn’t hear the song before seeing the video, and that’s probably the true reason I like this song. I haven’t listened to anything else she’s done (I’m not even sure if she has an album out?), but you guys, this video is awesome. Cheers to the Solo Dance Party. You go, Solange.

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highlights: 2012 in favorites

Well, since everyone is putting out their “Best of 2012” lists, I decided to conjure up my own. But, since Best of really means favorite, there’s no reason to hide the truth under a Best of title. Which also means I don’t have to pick just one.

Coffee: We had more than one new coffee shop open in the Short North this year. I anticipated the opening of both One Line and Mission Coffee Co, and was pleased with my first taste of each. I worry about the sustainability of One Line in a city that’s still learning about coffee. They specialize in pour overs, don’t have much seating, and could be intimidating to new coffee drinkers. But it’s worth the wait for an excellent pour over. Over at Mission, they make great espresso drinks as well as French pressed coffee. I have to say I’m partial to Mission. The environment is more welcoming, the employees (who I think are also the co-owners?) are friendly, and they’re homies with the guys over at Snapstagram. Mission’s struggle will be losing traffic without a High Street-facing storefront. Now, if you voted in the Columbus Underground Best of 2012 survey, listen carefully: STAUF’S DOES NOT HAVE GOOD COFFEE. Don’t miss out on the really great coffee Columbus has to offer. (Shout out to Hans and Joelle manning the Hemisphere Coffee Cart. I haven’t been to the cart yet, but frequently buy whole beans from HCR.)

Eats: Three memorable restaurants that I tried for the first time this year were Till, Explorers Club, and Refectory. Technically, Till was new this year for everyone. It’s the revamped, re-done, but same owners replacement for Dragonfly. As a meat-eater, I’m glad it’s not strictly vegan anymore. They offer yummy, adventurous food, tasty cocktails, and a trustworthy selection of wine and beer. At Explorers Club, I had the most heavenly version of Eggs Benedict. Spicy food + runny eggs = all things good. The downfall of my trip to Explorers Club was that I couldn’t get a Bloody Mary during brunch. And finally, the Refectory, Columbus’ long-running classic French restaurant. The meal I ate there tops the charts in all categories. Melt-in-your-mouth scallops, the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen (excuse me, prawn), and perfect dessert. But, Parker and I were the youngest people there by twenty years.

Booze: In the fourth quarter of 2012, I toured Middle West Spirits (right here in Columbus) and Southern Tier Brewery (Smalltown, NY). Okay, the tour of MWS was a little long. Brady was all, “I don’t have anything to do tonight so I’m gonna keep you here awhile” and he meant it. But, the more I heard about this small business, the more I wanted to support their products. Well worth your money and time. Southern Tier was my third brewery tour and I really enjoyed it. Maybe because they gave us so much beer to sample. And broke out some Pumpking from the secret stash for us. One main critique is that they don’t have a true restaurant at the brewery, and food is limited as it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.

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Travel: If you read my 2012: here’s hoping post, you’ll be happy to know I made it to all my National Parks! Acadia in July and Zion and Bryce in November. Acadia was amazing; I’d never hiked a mountain that’s right on the ocean, so it was a completely new experience. I didn’t get to see enough of Zion and definitely want to return to do the Narrows. Bryce was incredible. Parker and I stood looking out across the canyon saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could go in it?” Turns out, we could! Hiking down into the canyon will be one of my most memorable experiences. I also made my way around Ohio: I received a proper tour of Athens courtesy of Parker, spent some time in downtown Cleveland (which reminded me why I love Columbus), and hiked Hocking Hills more than once.

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Music: I’m working on a separate post just for the lady singers, so I’ll highlight some man singers here. My favorites are on opposite poles from each other: folk bands to electronic/impossible to categorize. Lord Huron. They’re like a beachy Fleet Foxes. Speaking of which, Poor Moon. Saw them open for Lost in the Trees this spring and looooved them. Actually preferred their sound live to listening to their EPs. Alt-J. It’s a struggle to figure what the hell he’s saying, but turns out his lyrics actually make some sense. Really unusual sound. The Lumineers. I listened to them on World Cafe: Next back in January and eagerly awaited their spring release. Though I wasn’t super impressed by their live performance this summer (they aren’t made for a big stage), still loved the album. Kishi Bashi. That guy is nuts. I thought about going to see him open for another group at the Wex, and regret not doing it. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There are songs on their album that I always skip, but then I listen to Same Love on repeat. (Check out Mary Lambert‘s poetry.)

Concerts: Feist at the Wex. Well done, Leslie, for making everyone get out of their seats. Punch Brothers at the Beechland Ballroom. Always worth a 5 hour round trip drive. Lost in the Trees with openers Poor Moon at the Wex. For me, LITT live transcends music and becomes performance art. Tanlines, Maps and Atlases, Atlas Genius, The Lumineers, Ben Kweller, and Metric at Summerfest at The LC. Emily Haines is amazing live.Feist

Reads: Separate post to follow on the books I read in 2012. It was a weird year for reading.

Babies: Yo, there were a lot of babies born in 2012. And while most of them are cute, Harper J wins the All-Around for Baby of 2012. I could be biased.IMG_3079

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Congrats to all my friends who got engaged, married, or had a kid this year. Congrats to all of us who didn’t. I still got my KitchenAid mixer.

Thanks for a good year Columbus. You owed me one.