The Best of 2012: Staff Picks

Best of 2012 Staff Picks The kind of albums that keep us coming to work and opening the mail, just in case...

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Rita Houston | Dennis Elsas | Corny O'Connell | Darren DeVivo | John Platt | Russ Borris | Alisa Ali | Eric Holland | Carmel Holt | Sarah Wardrop | Kara Manning | George Evans | Dan Romanello | Ceol na nGael | Laura Fedele | Shari Rosen Ascher | Joey Delvecchio | John Stein

Rita Houston

Music Director/The Whole Wide World Host

Favorite Albums (in no particular order):

  • Ben Howard, Every Kingdom
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
  • Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
  • Mumford and Sons, Babel
  • Bhi Bhiman, Bhiman
  • Beach House, Bloom
  • Calexico, Algiers
  • Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game
  • Gary Clark Jr, Blak and Blu
  • Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Favorite songs (also in no particular order):

  • Citizen Cope, "One Lovely Day"
    Cope writes another classic — the kind of song that people will get married to, make babies to, and play at funerals. A classic!
  • Rufus Wainwright, "Jericho"
    Songwriting is an art and a craft — Rufus excels at both on this song, with barely a word out of place.
  • Bonnie Raitt, "You Can't Fail Me Now"
    A beautiful ballad, written by Joe Henry and Loudon Wainwright III, which Bonnie nails with a heartfelt vocal.
  • Willie Nelson, "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die"
    Not just because of Snoop, not just because it's such a crowd pleaser live, and not just because this year I rode on Willie's bus, but just because it's great.
  • Dayna Kurtz, "Don't F*ck Around with Love"
    This girl can sing, and cursing always makes a song better.
  • Cory Chisel, "I've Been Accused"
    Cory Chisel writes another one straight from the heart. He's a true artist who will find a huge audience someday.
  • Mumford and Sons, "Lover of the Light"
    A live staple and a powerful singalong. The song actually got even better for me after seeing the artful video.
  • Bhi Bhiman, "Time Heals"
    One of my favorite new artists of 2012. It's hard to describe him — part Nina Simone, part Richie Havens. A poet, really.
  • Bruce Springsteen, "Wrecking Ball"
    Made me cry every time. Especially live.
  • Emeli Sande, "My Kind of Love (Live at FUV)"
    A great singer. Pop star in the UK just getting discovered here. Check out this live WFUV performance from her American radio debut (one of our most watched videos).


Dennis Elsas

FUV Weekday Host

Top 10 Albums in alphabetical order:

  • Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
    A powerful new voice with a great debut
  • Everest, Ownerless
    Solid and diverse with songs that sound good on the radio
  • Benjamin Gibbard, Former Lives
    Death Cab's lead singer steps out with a stylish solo collection
  • Good Old War, Come Back as Rain
    Acoustic guitars, sweet harmonies and a great song, "Amazing Eyes."
  • Aimee Mann, Charmer
  • Filled with her signature hooks
  • JD McPherson, Signs and Signifiers
    Retro Rockabilly meets Little Richard
  • Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
    Welcome back, Bonnie
  • Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
    Still quirky, still distinctive
  • Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
    He takes care of his fans
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss
    Unexpected variety of songs

Corny O'Connell

FUV Weekday Host

  • Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
  • Gary Clark Jr., Blak and Blu
  • Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur
  • Richard Hawley, Standing At the Sky's Edge
  • John Hiatt, Mystic Pinball
  • Ben Howard, Every Kingdom
  • JD McPherson, Signs & Signifiers
  • Rodriguez, Searching For Sugar Man
  • Allen Stone, Allen Stone
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss


Darren DeVivo

FUV Weekday Host

Albums (mostly in alphabetical order):

  • The DB's, Falling Off The Sky
    A welcome return! It's been 25 years since they released their last studio album as an active group, and 30 years since the last album by the original quartet.
  • Dion, Tank Full Of Blues
    The Bronx's own Dion DiMucci delivers another outstanding blues album. At 73 years old, Dion is making some of the most relevant music of his incredible career.
  • Donald Fagen, Sunken Condos
    The fourth solo album from Steely Dan's Donald Fagen is another great one. Now, it's your turn, Walter Becker!
  • Pat Metheny (with Chris Potter, Ben Williams and Antonio Sanchez), Unity Band
    Pat Metheny can play a one-stringed toy ukelele and make it sound beautiful. He's a brilliant musician and equally brilliant composer.
  • Bob Mould, Silver Age
    Hard, loud, grungy, take no prisoners power punk: Ten songs with little to no silence between them. One of the great efforts from Bob, and that includes his work with Husker Du and Sugar. I think this would be my pick for album of the year.
  • Return To Forever, The Mothership Returns
    Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White are joined by newcomers Frank Gambale (guitar) and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin). The Mothership returns indeed! (This is a double album with a DVD.)
  • Santana, Shape Shifter
    Santana's followup to the very forgettable Guitar Heaven :The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time is exactly what true Santana fans want — pre-1999/Supernatural Santana! Shape Shifter is almost entirely instrumental and puts Carlos Santana's guitar front and center, where it belongs.
  • Spectrum Road, Spectrum Road
    A fusion supergroup featuring bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana and organist John Medeski. Their self-titled debut begins as a tribute to legendary jazz drummer Tony Williams and his group Lifetime. Along the way, Spectrum Road becomes a bona fide group in their own rite.
  • Mike Stern, All Over The Place
    One of my favorite jazz guitarists is joined by many terrific guests on this cool album.
  • TIE Paul McCartney, Kisses On The Bottom and Ringo Starr, Ringo 2012
    I had to include my heroes on this list! Paul and Ringo released their albums within weeks of each other. Ringo 2012 was exactly what you want from Ringo — fun, catchy and Beatle-ish rock. Kisses On The Bottom was totally different, a departure for Paul as he slipped into the shoes of a crooner singing many classic standards. Paul had Tommy LiPuma, Diana Krall and others to help guide him through the laid-back material.

Songs (an incomplete list, in alphabetical order):

  • Air, "Seven Stars" - from Le Voyage Dans La Lune
  • Band Of Horses, "Knock Knock" - from Mirage Rock
  • Beachwood Sparks, "Forget The Song" - from The Tarnished Gold
  • Good Old War, TIE "Amazing Eyes" // "Better Weather" - both from Come Back As Rain
  • Jesse Harris, "Rocking Chairs" - from Sub Rosa
  • Heartless Bastards, TIE "Got To Have Rock And Roll" // "Parted Ways" - both from Arrow
  • Joe Jackson, "I'm Beginning To See The Light / Take The 'A' Train / Cotton Tail" - from The Duke
  • The Rolling Stones, TIE "Doom And Gloom" // "One More Shot" - both from Grrr!
  • Stars, "Backlines" - from The North
  • Neil Young with Crazy Horse, "Walk Like A Giant" - from Psychedelic Pill

2011 Album That Made An Impact On Me in 2012

  • Jonathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit - Jonathan is a Laurel Canyon musician who has stayed largely behind the scenes, playing with and producing other artists. This is his second album.

2012 Album Released Too Late In The Year To Make An Impact On Me, But Will Probably Make An Impact On Me In 2013

  • Graham Parker and the Rumour, Three Chords Good - I'm very excited that the Rumour are back, 32 years after they called it quits. Even better, the Rumour are back with Graham Parker! I'll be listening to this into the new year.


John Platt

Sunday Breakfast Host

Top 10 Albums:

  • John Fullbright, From the Ground Up
    A phenomenally talented 24-year-old from Woody Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, OK, whose heroes are more likely Randy Newman and Tom Waits
  • Penny Nichols, Colors of the Sun: Penny Nichols Sings the Early Songs of Jackson Browne
    Best known recently as the founder of Summersongs, Penny was a close friend (and sometime lover) of Jackson Browne at the time he wrote classics like "These Days" and "Fountain of Sorrow"
  • Joan Osborne, Bring It On Home
    Joan can sing anything from folk to standards, but these blues and R&B covers are right in her wheelhouse
  • Gretchen Peters, Hello Cruel World
    A Grammy-nominated songwriter from Nashville who's been covered by the likes of Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill, Gretchen released a very personal album that's stunning from start to finish
  • Rodriguez, Searching for Sugar Man
    The soundtrack of the heartwarming documentary about the Detroit singer who fell off the musical map but was rediscovered thanks to the passion of his South African fans
  • The Twangtown Paramours, The Promise of Friday Night
    A married musical couple from Nashville whose music is not so much twangy as "sophisticated Americana"
  • Various Artists, Chimes of Freedom
    The four-CD feast of Bob Dylan covers are by everyone Adele to Zee Avi, not to mention Billy Bragg, Sting, and Raphael Saadiq, compiled for Amnesty International's 50th anniversary
  • Various Artists, Joni Mitchell's "Blue"
    Some of New York's finest female folkies, collectively known as Chicks with Dip, do justice to Joni's deceptively tricky classics
  • Various Artists, Treme: Music from the HBO Original Series, Season 2
    Soulful performances from the series where the musical guest artists are as important as the excellent regular cast
  • Loudon Wainwright III, Older Than My Old Man
    The whole Wainwright clan assists Loudon in this chronicle about aging which has songs both serious and satirical

Also Worthy:

  • Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire
  • Nels Andrews, Scrimshaw
  • Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Some Bright Morning
  • Barnstar!, C'Mon
  • Buskin & Batteau, Love Remembered/Love Forgot
  • Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ashes and Roses
  • Anna Dagmar, Satellite
  • Iris DeMent, Sing the Delta
  • Honor Finnegan, The Tiny Life
  • Benjamin Gibbard, Former Lives
  • Lucy Kaplansky, Reunion
  • The Lumineers, The Lumineers
  • Kathy Mattea, Calling Me Home
  • Pete Seeger & Lorre Wyatt, A More Perfect Union
  • Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball


Russ Borris

Assistant Music Director and Host of The Alternate Side on FUV


  1. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
  2. Perfume Genius, Put Your Back N 2 It
  3. Tame Impala, Lonerism
  4. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits
  5. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  6. Lost In the Trees, A Church That Fits Our Needs
  7. Father John Misty, Fear Fun
  8. Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In the Universe
  9. The Walkmen, Heaven
  10. Willis Earl Beal, Acousmatic Sorcery

Songs: (alphabetical)

  • A.C. Newman, "Not Talking"
  • Aaron Freeman, "As I Love My Own"
  • Bob Mould, "The Descent"
  • Bruce Springsteen, "Wrecking Ball"
  • Hot Chip, "Night and Day"
  • Icky Blossoms, "Babes"
  • The Magnetic Fields, "Andrew In Drag"
  • The Tallest Man on Earth, "To Just Grow Away"
  • Twin Shadow, "Five Seconds"
  • Zeus, "Are You Gonna Waste My Time?"

Alisa Ali

The Alternate Side Host, Producer & On-Air Interviewer for WFUV

Top 10 Albums (in no order. Not to be confused with "New Order")

  • Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  • Ben Howard, Every Kingdom
  • Dinosaur Jr, I Bet on Sky
  • Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods
  • Father John Misty, Fear Fun
  • Geographer, Myth
  • Japandroids, Celebration Rock
  • Nada Surf, The Stars are Indifferent to Astrology
  • Niki & the Dove, Instinct
  • Poliça, Give You the Ghost

Top 10 Songs (in no order):

  • Sharon Van Etten, "Serpents"
  • Silversun Pickups, "Bloody Mary"
  • Ariel Pink, "Baby"
  • Hospitality, "Betty Wang"
  • Niki & The Dove, "Tomorrow"
  • Alt-J, "Fitzpleasure"
  • Dinosaur Jr, "Watch The Corners"
  • Japandroids, "The House That Heaven Built"
  • Lord Huron, "Time To Run"
  • Icky Blossoms, "Babes"


Eric Holland

Host, WFUV, FUV Music and The Alternate Side

Top 10 Albums:

  1. Bob Mould, Silver Age
  2. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits
  3. Rodriguez, Searching For Sugar Man
  4. Dr. John, Locked Down
  5. The Walkmen, Heaven
  6. Shearwater, Animal Joy
  7. Gary Clark Jr., Blak and Blu
  8. Dinosaur Jr, I Bet on Sky
  9. Liane La Havas, Is Your Love Big Enough?
  10. RNDM, Acts

New York City Albums:

  1. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
  2. Nada Surf, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
  3. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
  4. Patti Smith, Banga
  5. Shemekia Copeland, 33 & A Third
  6. Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  7. Nonah Hendryx, Mutatis Mutandis
  8. Betty Lavette, Thankful and Thoughtful
  9. KJ Denhert, Destiny
  10. Donald Fagen, Sunken Condos

Top Ten Concerts:

  1. Roger Waters, The Wall, Yankee Stadium
  2. Bruce Springsteen & E St Band, Fenway/Gillette Equally Epic
  3. Neil Young & Crazy Horse/Black Keys/Foo Fighters, Global Fest In Central Park
  4. Soulive, Brooklyn Bowl
  5. RNDM, Bowery Ballroom
  6. Buddy Guy/Quinn Sullivan, Bb Kings
  7. Bonnie Raitt/Mavis Staples, The Beacon
  8. Green Day, Iriving Plaza
  9. Jack White/Alabama Shakes, Roseland
  10. Radiohead, Prudential Center


Carmel Holt

Guest Host, WFUV

  1. Cat Power, Sun
  2. Father John Misty, Fear Fun
  3. Dr. John, "Locked Down"
  4. Grizzly Bear, Shields
  5. Beth Orton, Sugaring Season
  6. Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams
  7. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Here
  8. Jd McPherson, Signs & Signifiers
  9. Tennis, Young & Old
  10. Django Django, Django Django


Sarah Wardrop

Assistant Program Director, FUV Music Weekend Host

Albums: (alphabetical)

  • Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls
  • Calexico, Algiers
  • Cold Specks, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
  • Dr. John, Locked Down
  • Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur
  • Aimee Mann, Charmer
  • Bob Mould, Silver Age
  • Poliça, Give You the Ghost
  • Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
  • The Walkmen, Heaven

Songs: (alphabetical, and Aside from the Unavoidable "Call Me Maybe" or My Willie Mae Rock Camp Band's Song, "Kites")

  • Alunageorge, "You Know You Like It"
  • Diamond Rugs, "Blue Mountains"
  • Heartless Bastards, "Got to Have Rock and Roll"
  • Kelly Hogan, "We Can't Have Nice Things"
  • Lianne La Havas, "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
  • The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"
  • The Magnetic Fields, "Andrew In Drag"
  • Regina Spektor, "Small Town Moon"
  • Tegan & Sara, "Closer"
  • Zeus, "Are You Gonna Waste My Time?"


Kara Manning

Web Editor for The Alternate Side, On-Air Interviewer for WFUV/The Alternate Side


  1. Passion Pit, Gossamer
    Likely the most joyous-sounding album about crippling depression that I've ever heard. Gorgeous and painful at once.
  2. Public Service Broadcasting, The War Room EP
    Ingenious London duo weave vintage newsreel and film samples with propulsive Krautrock and electro-pop. Debut album due out in 2013.
  3. Django Django, Django Django
    Brash, buoyant and percussively driven roux of stuttering dance rock and lush pop. Like rifling through a DJ's great record collection.
  4. Field Music, Plumb
    The Brewis brothers craftily travel down eclectic byways of majestic prog-rock and angular pop, all coalescing into one luminous album.
  5. Tame Impala, Lonerism
    Kevin Parker's sumptuous sophomore collection demands a lava lamp, headphones and the time to revel in its dreamy, psychedelic soundscapes.
  6. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
    Emotional, bold, candid, smart, brave and unlike any other R&B album this year.
  7. Wild Nothing, Nocturne
    Jack Tatum's hazy and sweet blur of a second album reveals an even stronger songwriter.
  8. Cat Power, Sun
    The big surprise of the year; the best album of Cat Power's career. Sadly, its release coincided with some severe health problems for the singer.
  9. Damon Albarn, Dr. Dee
    A peculiar, pretty and meditative mix of pop and English opera, accompanying the production in London and Manchester. Really beautiful and unexpected from the Blur/Gorillaz frontman.
  10. Toy, Toy
    Dappled with psychedelic pop, a motorik pulse and melodic shoegaze with catchy hooks, Toy's debut album isn't just a studio creation; the UK band is just as potent in live performance.


  1. Liars, "Brats"
    From the outstanding album WIXIW; a brilliant, visceral scrawl of a dance track.
  2. Public Service Broadcasting, "Everest"
    Another glorious single from the London duo behind The War Room EP, EP One and "ROYGBIV."
  3. Daughter, "Youth"
    This raw, aching track from The Wild Youth EP is one of several unforgettable songs from the London trio, set to release its debut in early 2013.
  4. Alt-J, "Tessellate"
    From their confident debut album An Awesome Wave — which has won a boatload of awards — this single remains a highlight.
  5. Dutch Uncles, "Fester"
    The first single from the Greater Manchester band's upcoming third album, Out of Touch In The Wild, is a quirky, marimba-driven mathematical equation that builds to a tempest.
  6. Fiction, "Careful"
    Yes, it conjures up memories of Prefab Sprout, ABC and Orange Juice, but the London band also brings its own contemporary edge to this wiry track.
  7. Orbital w/Zola Jesus, "New France"
    The best slow build of any song this year. The moment when Zola Jesus' vocals really kick in around 1:52 is a thrill. From the very good Orbital album Wonky.
  8. Kindness, "House"
    Beautiful song from Adam Bainbridge's debut album, World, You Need A Change Of Mind
  9. Melody's Echo Chamber, "Crystallized"
    A sweet blend of fuzz and ferocity, the song takes a explosive left turn near its midway point that is simply fantastic. Produced by Tame Impala's Kevin Parker
  10. Underworld, "Caliban's Dream"
    In a difficult year, one of the better memories was Danny Boyle's breathtaking Opening Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics ... and Underworld's stellar musical direction, including this original song which underscored the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.


George Evans

Operations Director, WFUV Guest Host

  • Ben Howard, Every Kingdom
  • Cory Chisel, Old Believers
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss
  • Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
  • Band of Horses, Mirage Rock
  • Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again
  • Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur
  • The Tallest Man on Earth, There's No Leaving Now
  • Glen Hansard, Rhythm and Repose
  • Jesse Harris, Sub Rosa
  • Mumford & Sons, Babel
  • Savoir Adore, Our Nature
  • Bhi Bhiman, Bhiman
  • Justin Townes Earle, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
  • Tift Merritt, Traveling Alone
  • Beth Orton, Sugaring Season
  • Bob Dylan, Tempest
  • Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek
  • Cat Power, Sun
  • Dr. John, Locked Down
  • Feist, Metals
  • Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  • Of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks
  • Benjamin Gibbard, Former Lives
  • Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  • Of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks
  • The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter
  • Regina Spektor, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
  • Beach House, Bloom
  • Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold
  • Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Life of the Times
  • Bahamas, Barchords
  • Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself
  • Diego Garcia, Laura
  • Fistful of Mercy, Chimes of Freedom
  • Good Old War, Come Back As Rain
  • Great Lake Swimmers, New Wild Everywhere
  • Grizzly Bear, Shields
  • Heartless Bastards, Arrow
  • Islands, A Sleep & A Forgetting
  • M. Ward, A Wasteland Companion
  • Mumford & Sons, Babel
  • Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  • Of Montreal, Paralytic Stalks
  • Aimee Mann, Charmer
  • The Jayhawks, Mockingbird Time
  • Trey Anastasio, Traveler

Top 10 Songs Stuck In My Ear:

  1. Ben Howard, Only Love
  2. Cory Chisel, I've Been Accused
  3. The Tallest Man on Earth, 1904
  4. Diamond Rugs, Call Girl Blues
  5. Jack White, I'm Shakin' (Cover of Little Willie John)
  6. Glen Hansard, Love Don't Leave Me Waiting
  7. Savoir Adore, Dreamers
  8. Gotye, Somebody That I Used to Know


Dan Romanello

Group Harmony Review Host

  1. Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  2. Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
  3. Various Artists, Just Tell Me That You Love Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac
  4. Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In the World
  5. Rhett Miller, The Dreamer
  6. Bill Fay, Life Is People
  7. Paul Simon, Live In New York City
  8. Adele, Skyfall Soundtrack
  9. Aimee Mann, Charmer
  10. Sea Wolf, Old World Romance


Ceol na nGael

Celtic Sunday afternoons

  • Finbar Furey, Colours
  • Gaelic Storm, Chicken Boxer
  • Nuala Kennedy, Noble Stranger
  • The Mickey Finns, Prayers and Idle Chatter
  • Cathie Ryan, Through Wind and Rain
  • Shilelagh Law, Live At Connollys
  • The Chieftains, Voice of Ages
  • Mary Courtney and Morning Star, Live From the 33rd County
  • Altan, Gleann Nimhe: the Poison Glenn
  • Comas, Charge


Laura Fedele

New Media Director

Favorite Male Voices (alphabetical):

  1. Bhi Bhiman, Bhiman
  2. Calexico, Algiers
  3. Citizen Cope, One Lovely Day
  4. Mumford & Sons, Babel
  5. Nada Surf, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astrology
  6. Rodriguez, Searching For Sugar Man
  7. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
  8. Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game
  9. Jonathan Wilson, Gentle Spirit

Favorite Female Voices (alphabetical):

  1. Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
  2. LP, Into the Wild
  3. Beth Orton, Sugaring Season
  4. Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek
  5. Cat Power, Sun
  6. Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur

These got both:

  1. Cory Chisel (and Adriel Denae), Old Believers
  2. the xx, Coexist


Shari Rosen Ascher

Corporate Underwriting Sales Director


  1. Green Day, Uno
  2. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
  3. Joan Osbourne, Bring It on Home
  4. Rhett Miller, The Dreamer


Joey Delvecchio

Traffic and Continuity Director


  1. Smashing Pumpkins, Oceania
    After a series of missteps and really bad records, I was depressed about a once-great band, and certainly not expecting much from any future ventures. I was wrong. I liked Oceania instantly. Maybe Billy Corgan was out to prove something to himself, but I don't care about that. It was the year's best record by far. The opening track, "Quasar," is loud, very loud, and when Billy sings "Let's ride on," that's exactly what you want to do. Oceania is quite a ride. Every track is strong, every track is tight, and every track shows a sense of purpose, and best of all, it takes you back to a very special time in music history when today was the greatest day you'd ever known.
  2. Nada Surf, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
    Nada Surf have certainly come a long way since their 1996 hit "Popular." They were a good band then, it's just that now they're much too old to talk about how to be the most popular kid in school. The album title alone — clever as it is — earns them a spot on this list. And the content is equally jaw-dropping, from the driving rocker "Clear Eye Clouded Mind" where all the band feels "is transition, when do we get home?" to the universal feeling that we're all just "Waiting For Something" to the introspective "When I Was Young," the record opens with a real sense of immediacy — and you immediately feel that Nada Surf is a band to take seriously. But like the Anders Osborne record, I think the seminal track is the final one, where Matthew Caws admits that "I cannot believe the future is happening to me." That's been at the forefront of my mind since I turned 30 and recall a pre-cell phone, pre-digital world.
  3. Anders Osborne, Black Eye Galaxy
    I was not at all familiar with Anders Osborne. One afternoon I heard Darren play "When Will I see You Again?" and I downloaded the record. Anders mixes a vintage Zeppelin vibe with good pop sensibilities, and throws in a nice orchestral twist to finish the record. That song, "Higher Ground," actually carries the record (especially if you listen to Black Eye Galaxy from last track to first).
  4. The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten
    What's not to like about The Gaslight Anthem? In an era of "hipster bands" (some of which are good in their own right), it's refreshing to hear Gaslight keep it basic. It's guitar, drums, bass, alongside Brian Fallon's friends imploring us to "turn the record over." The Gaslight stay true to rock and roll and away from hipster-ville. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
  5. Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur
    I've always liked Kathleen Edwards, mostly because she's got just the right amount of "edge" that's lacking from other singer-songwriters. And, she holds no punches. So, although Voyageur is a little less loud and somewhat more polished, Kathleen never resorts to whining and doesn't sacrifice any of that 'tude that she showcases with pride.


  1. Smashing Pumpkins, "Quasar"
    Your socks will actually come off.
  2. Gary Clark Jr., "Bright Lights"
    The story of my life, except I'm not rich and I can't play guitar.
  3. Anders Osborne, "Higher Ground"
    When you listen to this track, you actually feel like you're on higher ground.
  4. Allen Stone, "Sleep"
    I couldn't get sleep because I couldn't stop playing this song.
  5. Ryan Adams, "Lucky Now"
    Ryan Adams has a way of tapping into being young and living in New York City like no other.
  6. Delta Spirit, "California"
    The song I liked this year simply for its "ditty factor" — it's a nice ditty. And you've got to love a lyric so unselfish as "I want you to move to California for yourself, but not for me" — even if it's not really that unselfish.
  7. Good Old War, "Amazing Eyes"
    A good old love song.
  8. The Killers, "Runaways"
    Not only is this a great comeback for this band, but it might just be their best song to date.
  9. The Wallflowers, "Reboot the Mission"
    With a lyric like, "I lost my sight, but not the vision," I couldn't not put this song on my top ten. That line, as they say, is "the stuff dreams are made of."

John Stein

WFUV Music Manager


  1. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
  2. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel...
  3. Liars, WIXIW
  4. Mac Demarco, 2
  5. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light
  6. Grizzly Bear, Shields
  7. Matthew E. White, Big Inner
  8. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
  9. Django Django, Django Django
  10. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange


  • Japandroids, "House That Heaven Built"
  • The Magnetic Fields, "Andrew In Drag"
  • Perfume Genius, "Hood"
  • King Tuff, "Bad Thing"
  • John Talabot Ft. Pional, "Destiny"
  • Twin Shadow, "Five Seconds"
  • Porcelain Raft, "Unless You Speak From the Heart"
  • Tame Impala, "Feels Like We Go Backwards"
  • Pomegranates, "Pass Away"
  • John Cale, "I Wanna Talk 2 U"

See: Listener Poll

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