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The Completely Unnecessary, Totally Irreverent, Top 70 Albums of 2012

By Gary Wien

I have a love/hate relationship with these end-of-the-year lists. On one hand, I remember poring through lists from my favorite writers while growing up to see if there were artists I should check out; but, on the other hand, putting this lists together takes a lot of time. I'm not one to simply spit out a list either from memory or by glancing through my notes over the year. No, I'm one of those idiots who actually relisten to everything and grade each release before coming up with the list...

It may be late, but I made it before the clock strikes midnight on the close of the year, so I'm happy. Nobody really needs another list, but if you're curious about what was played on The Penguin ( this year and which albums stood out for me, here goes...

Note: In this list, albums are considered to have 6 songs or more. Anything less will be considered for the list of Top EPs of the year. (And, as always, this is just one guy's opinion - that it for what it is.)

1) Red Wanting Blue - From The Vanishing Point -- This release from the lads in Columbus, Ohio was among my favorites from the moment it first came out (it's actually the album I usually listen to while working out and is always good for a five-mile run). Red Wanting Blue has consistently put out great rock and roll records for a decade, but I've got to admit I was a little worried about how this release would sound since it was their first new album as a “signed artist". I shouldn't have worried. Not only was this a truly brilliant record, but it just might be the band's best.

2) Kyle Adem - Armour -- I was simply blown away the first time I heard this release by Kyle Adem, a singer-songwriter from Syracuse, NY. If you like folk music or Americana, check this release out. Apparently, this is his seventh release. Where have I been?

3) Arlan Feiles & The Broken Hearted - Weeds Kill The Wild Flowers -- Arlan adds to his burgeoning legacy as one of the greatest songwriters along the Jersey Shore with this release, which took home an Asbury Music Award. Pure Americana at its finest...

4) The Killers - Battle Born -- The Killers returned after a few years off with a tremendous release that ranks among their best in my opinion. Apparently Nevada is known as the "Battle Born" state, which is where the band is from. It's also the name of the band's home studio where most of the record was recorded.

5) Little Barrie - King Of The Waves -- This was the show that would haunt me throughout the year. I had debated going to the Saint that night, but wasn't feeling up to it. A few days later, I noticed a couple copies of their CD still lying around for people to grab. I grabbed it and, upon listening to the entire disc, kicked myself even harder for missing that show. Simply... awesome... rock and roll. You know, the kind of stuff people say isn't made anymore. They're wrong, this band is the real deal and this disc should be in every rock fan's collection.

6) The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten -- The guys from New Brunswick, NJ continue to put out amazing record after record. People may complain that they sound like some of the rock bands who inspired them, I don't care... I love the bands who inspired them, but none of them are putting out records as good as Gaslight.

7) Ingram Hill -- I've followed this band from Memphis, TN for several years now ever since seeing them on CNN in the middle of the night, hours before they were set to play Asbury Park. They've always straddled the line between flat out rock and roll and country twang. On this record, they finally accept their country roots. The result is a great country rock record that will appeal to fans of both sides of the musical spectrum.

8) Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom 5 - Full Fathom 5 -- Those who follow the Asbury Park music scene have long known that Tony Tedesco was a brilliant songwriter, but that fact may not have stretched beyond the local area because he's never really put out a full album... till now. This release not only pairs Tony's wonderful lyrics with an amazing band, but one that piles layer upon layer of musical instrumentation and additional vocals to create music that fans of The Band will absolutely love. Tony may have waited a long time for his first true release, but the wait was worth it.

9) Kevin John Allen - Life's Lonely Rodeo -- At its best, this album provides some of the best moody music south of Leonard Cohen. The album features an all-star cast of Jersey Shore talent that helps transcend his songs even further. This record was definitely the surprise release of the year for me. While I've enjoyed Kevin's work before, I was entirely unprepared for the giant leap he took with this release. It's nice to be caught off guard like that...

10) Zak Smith -- I may have been caught off guard by Kevin John Allen's disc, but tremendous discs by Zak Smith are becoming the norm. He's easily one of New Jersey's most underrated artists and this disc continues his trend of mixing rock and roll, soul, blues, and singer-songwriter tunes.

11) Shovels & Rope - O' Be Joyful
12) Bruce Tunkel - Draw The Line
13) Mike June - Talkin' Revolution Blues
14) Small Room 9 - Sr9
15) Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
16) The Hunger Games (soundtrack)
17) The dB's - Falling Off The Sky
18) The Stamps - Jackson County Fair
19) The Deadfields - Dance In The Sun
20) Bob Burger - The Day After
21) Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us
22) Anthony D'Amato - Paper Back Bones
23) Mike June & The Wilson Street Refugees - The Exile On Wilson Street
24) Jack White - Blunderbuss
25) John Eddie - Same Old Brand New Me
26) The Shins - Port Of Morrow
27) Minnesota - Are You There
28) John K. Samson - Provincal
29) Shoebox Letters - Nowadays
30) Pat Guadagno - New Jersey Material
31) Jason Myles Goss - Radio Dial
32) The Great Unknowns - Homefront
33) Nina Yasmineh - Strange
34) Glen Hansard - Rhythm And Repose
35) Metric - Synthetica
36) Val Emmich - Bulldozzzer
37) The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
38) Said The Whale - Little Mountain
39) Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel
40) No Wine For Kittens - Not Ready Yet E.P.
41) Secret Powers - More Songs About Her
42) Smalltown Poets - Under The New Sun
43) Hey Rosetta! - Seeds
44) Langhorne Slim - The Way We Move
45) Japandroids - Celebration Rock
46) Roger & The Rockets - Dirty Stuff
47) The Darkness - Hot Cakes
48) Bill Lloyd - Boy King Of Tokyo
49) Stellar Corpses - Dead Stars Drive In
50) Tom Brislin - Hurry Up And Smell The Roses
51) Fun. - Some Nights
52) David Myhr - Soundshine
53) The Strange Avenues - Bacchanalia
54) The Dirty Panties - I Am A Robot
55) JD McPherson - Signs & Signifiers
56) Southside Cindy - State Of Mind
57) The Bergamot - Static Flowers
58) Elevator Art - Tent City
59) Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Here
60) Hotel Chelsea - El Pee
61) Fleet Walker - Morning Void
62) Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires
63) Lo Kloza
64) Of Monsters And Men - My Head Is An Animal
65) The Successful Failures - Here I Am!
66) The Lumineers
67) The Holiday Electric - Ripper
68) Steph Macpherson - Bells & Whistles
69) Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
70) Radio Drive - This Is Our Time

Listen to great tunes like these every day on The Penguin

Gary Wien is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist. He writes for and Jersey Arts, and serves as Program Director for, an online radio station spinning indie rock and roll.

For more by this author, click here

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers To Return To Lizzie Rose Music Room
​​​​​​​(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- Tommy Castro & the Painkillers return to the Lizzie Rose Music Room on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30pm.  Whether he’s squeezing out the deepest blues or playing the funkiest soul grooves, legendary blues and soul giant Tommy Castro knows how to ignite a crowd. Tickets are $38.00 Advance and $45.00 day of show.
Experience Hendrix at NJPAC on March 29th
(NEWARK, NJ) --  Celebrate the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix as Experience Hendrix comes to Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Centeron Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm. This critically acclaimed multi-artist tribute to Hendrix features performances by Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Doug Pinnick, Chris Layton, Mato Nanji, Kenny Aronoff, The Slide Brothers, Henri Brown, Kevin McCormick and special guest Taj Mahal.
World Famous Bachata Artists To Take The Stage for Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 At Prudential Center on Saturday, March 16
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 at Prudential Center will bring together the world’s best Bachata artists including, Frank Reyes “The Prince of Bachata”, Hector Acosta “El Torito”, Zacarias Ferreira, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez "El Cacique”. Uforia Bachata Fest 2019, presented by Zamora Live, Euforia Radio (Univision) and Corona Extra, will be held on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00pm.  The contagious Caribbean rhythm known as "Bachata" will have its gala night, marking the first time in history these world-renowned artists will perform on the same stage. 
Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra To Perform at Princeton University January 27
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) continues its 40th Anniversary with a concert featuring the NJYS Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra on Sunday, January 27 at 4:00pm at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University located at 68 Nassau Street in Princeton. Youth Symphony will open the concert with Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major followed by Youth Orchestra performing Dvořák Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88.
Rickie Lee Jones To Perform At Grunin Center
(TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones exploded onto the pop scene in 1978 and has made a career of fearlessly experimenting with her sound and persona on more than 15 critically acclaimed albums. She brings her show “An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones” to the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, February 22 at 8:00pm.  

The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.

Event calendar
Saturday, Jan 19, 2019


ALABAMA @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Cimorelli @ iPlay America, Freehold - 6:00pm

TRAMPS LIKE US @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Jennifer Holliday @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Zhang & Upshaw: Earth & Heaven @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Newsies @ Voorhees High School, Glen Gardner - 7:30pm

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


THE CAPITOL STEPS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Woman of a Certain Age Comedy @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm


Best of Rahway Reel Shorts @ Atelier Rosal, Rahway - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 2:00pm and 5:30pm

View all events

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