Our rundown of music in the year 2012 starts off this week and continues through the rest of the year. We’re kicking things off this week with our Top 40 Songs of 2012 by Lubbock Associated Artists. Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the week.
For some, seeing Erick Willis up this far on the list may be a surprise. Not because Willis isn’t a talented songwriter or anything, but you may just not be familiar with the Texas troubadour. Willis is another artist who just feels like a “Lubbock songwriter.” One, because he seemingly is here a good chunk of time, and two, because, more importantly, he sounds like a Lubbock songwriter. Earlier this year, Willis released his debut, a five song EP, simply titled “EP.” It’s filled with folk-country songs that are part Ray LaMontagne and part Rob Baird. If he was a little more bluesy, you may have confused them for Grady Spencer tunes. Nestled four songs in appears “That Makes Two of Us,” a duet with Tori Vasquez. Holy shit. How is THIS not dominating radio waves? Like many duets, it’s a song that can’t necessarily be performed where both parties are present. It’s the life of a duet; they tend to have many different faces. Needless to say, the first time I heard the song was with Willis performing it by himself acoustically. It caught my ear then. But when I heard the “EP” version with Vasquez, it just blew me away. I think most would agree that taking something great by itself and adding Tori Vasquez vocals on it, undoubtedly makes it that much better (Why don’t more people do this?). Willis and Vasquez’ vocals instantly mesh. There’s an undeniable chemistry there. A part of what makes “That Makes Two of Us” work so well is there’s a tad bit of nostalgia in the song. It doesn’t exactly sound like an old classic Johnny and June, Waylon and Jesse, or Conway and Loretta duet, but it feels like one. That emotion is present in Willis and Vasquez’s voices–specifically when Vasquez sings in the second verse “I’d do anything you want, I’ll write a million songs if that’d change your mind.” Of course, none of this would mean anything if the song itself wasn’t simply great. Luckily for us, it is.–THOMAS D. MOONEY
Talking to our Thomas D. Mooney back in April, Charlie Shafter said: “You know, when people ask you, ‘what’s a specific song about?’ And you’re like, ‘well, it’s like 10 different things. Which line are we talking about?’ [laughs] It’s just drawn from different experiences. And style, to me, is bred from limitations. I wish I could sit down and write a song about one thing. But, I don’t think I’m that good of a storyteller.” That was before he released his self-titled LP in August that featured the six-minute song, “Actor.” And to his defense, “Actor” is kind of about a million things–he’s an actor, he’s a mountain, he’s a back alley, he’s a train car talking to mockingbirds, he’s a prisoner–but it is about one thing, a singular story told by different people and places. Then the gorgeous chorus (which features heart-melting backing vocals from Eleanor Whitmore) arrives and you too might find yourself swept in to Shafter’s weary, monolithic ballad.–RYAN HEAPE
Peter Longno‘s band try to do a lot of things on this track. At first, you’re not sure if the M83 theatrics and the grounded distortion and drums will work together. Having listened to this a hundred times, though, there doesn’t seem to be a single superfluous ingredient–The Sun & The Shadows winningly create pop that is lush and transportive. There’s a lot here that recalls Tycho’s 2011 Dive in that it feels like it is within the numb trappings of chillwave, but can’t be held down. “Constellations” isn’t “Feel It All Around” because it wants to uplift as much as it wants to sedate. When the vocal flourishes hit, listening to this song is like laying down in a hot air balloon as it ascends closer to those elusive stars.–RYAN HEAPE
It’s an old, boring adage people often claim when someone has a great voice. It’s often an overstatement, but in this case, it’s true. Tori Vasquez could sing the phone book. You’d listen to it too. Last year, Vasquez released an EP’s worth of material titled “Let It Go.” It was a collection of light, airy pop-folk songs. Now while “Wear You Thin” hasn’t been “officially” released, when she first made it listenable some four months ago, the instant you pressed play, you knew it would be nothing like “Let It Go.” She was stepping into the shadows going in a darker, opaque direction. “Wear You Thin” feels like Vasquez is spreading her wings ready to take flight as an artist. “Wear You Thin” is a sultry, mystic walk on a starless night. It strangely feels like an updated Patsy Cline song. Vasquez walks the line vocally sounding both despondent and vibrant simultaneously. Vasquez sounds as though she’s on the edge of desolation and despair just ready to give up at the drop of a hat. Like Cline on the Willie Nelson classic “Crazy,” Vasquez channels that emotion of being baffled by the predicament she’s in, yet knowing how it all happened. It may be a dark, gloomy place that Vasquez takes you to with “Wear You Thin,” but you don’t want to leave once you’re there.
Warren Jackson Hearne may not technically be from Lubbock, but he damn, should be. He’s essentially an adopted son amongst the established. The Denton-based Hearne did something most musicians wouldn’t have the backbone to do last year. He changed his sound drastically from an old bluesy–almost exclusively acoustic instruments–to an almost exclusively electric jazz band that would drive Tom Waits and Cab Calloway to jealousy. What’s remarkable is that it didn’t crash and burn; it propelled Hearne forward. With his band, Le Leek Electrique, Hearne began writing new songs and updated a number of familiar numbers, such as 23 on our list, “Death You’re So Cold.” Hearne and company brought some 10 songs together creating “Eleutheros!” Give “Eleutheros!” a couple of play throughs and you’re certainly going to get the urge to start smoking cigars, sipping cognac, wearing three-piece suits, and possibly want to find a speak-easy. Le Leek Electrique is essentially Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks at the Diner” come to life. Throughout “Eleutheros!,” Hearne’s deep, dark croon sounds rejuvenated. There’s a confidence streak in it. Hearne’s always packed a heavy punch of a voice, but with Le Leek Electrique, there’s a commanding presence like none before. “Ruins” finds us with a Hearne who has been wronged by a certain woman. He can’t forget her face and she’s left his life crumbling. Hearne then proceeds to dive into the history books. He follows the first verse with a number of tales where things have gone to pieces. In particular, the most fascinating is the final verse where Hearne retells the story of Troy and how German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann hastily dug up the site producing “ruins of ruins.” The foundation of the song is a real simple, lounge vibe that’s laid out by upright bassist Ryan Williams and drummer Tex Bosely. In many ways, “Ruins” feels like a duet with Hearne singing and saxophonist Matt Moore balancing him out with radiant saxophone lines. The haunting narrative gets even more chilling with the backup vocals on the chorus showing up like ghosts. Rarely is a band able to really capture an aura that’s both deep, dark, and stark like modern southern gothic and smooth, elegant, and pure as any modal or swing jazz.–THOMAS D. MOONEY