Just a roundup of year end stuff as well as a quick inventory of the year.

As usual, the Bloodbuzzed blog was very kind to us, giving us the #5 spot on their best EPs of the year, the #45 spot on best songs of the year for “Sing UP For the Boys in Green”, and the #25 spot on best songs of the year for “Ununiversalizable Us”. We were in Liz Hunt of the The School‘s top 33 songs of the year with “Ununiversalizable Us”, and in Indie Pop Saved My Life’s top 35 of the year. We also received the #6 EP of the year from Chaotisch und Charmant. All in a year where we didn’t release a full length. Not too shabby.

On the other end of things, here’s my top 10 full length albums of the year on Faster Than Sheep, a publication I wrote for in the 90s/00s, and that now exists as a blog. I was also asked to provide my top five albums of the year and top five gigs of the year for, a blog based in Germany. Brazilian blog Chaotisch und Charmant asked me for a list as well. They wanted something a little different, so I sent them the top 10 songs that were new to me in 2012 by Irish artists. Ireland has been home to a lot of great indie pop in the last few years (thanks in no small part to the Popical Island Collective), so I thought that would be a good thing to highlight since I was given the opportunity to do so.

The high points of 2012 for The Very Most include:

The low point of the year:

  • The live band falling apart five months after putting it together. However, this did give me a chance to reevaluate and decide on a new path going forward.

Thanks everyone for a generally rewarding 2012. I’m hoping for a 2013 that’s less of a mixed bag, and I think I’ll get it.

The Very Most Small Instrument Series
Part 4: Away in a Manger

I go all Pomplamoose-y on you and do all the instruments in this one. I also have a nice shiny new camera (a Canon t3i), so I think it looks a lot nicer than our previous videos. Sorry for my sad Santa look at the end there. Due to various technical problems, it was 3:30 am before I got a decent take of the main ukulele and vocal parts, and I was tuckered out. Anyway, hope you enjoy this!

Song Talkings #5 (Christmas Edition): Coldest Night of the Year

I went out to the studio tonight to work on a song, but unfortunately my studio heater wasn’t turned up high enough to deal with how cold it’s been the last couple days here in Boise. I took that as a sign and decided instead to write a blog post about our cover of Vashti Bunyan’s “The Coldest Night of the Year” featuring Duglas T Stewart and Mel Whittle. First off, here’s a link to Vashti and Twice as Much’s brilliant original version:

Vashti Bunyan, for those of you unlucky enough to have not heard of her, is a pop and folk artist who started her career in the mid-60s. After releasing my favorite folk album of all time, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1970, she retired from music-making for decades, disappointed by the lack of attention that album got at the time. After interest in Diamond Day was revived in the early 00s, she returned with a new album, Lookaftering, and hasn’t done a whole lot since, as far as I know.

Anyway, as I’ve already alluded to, I love her music intensely, so, when the time came for me to make a Christmas EP, it was a no-brainer to cover this track. One thing I wanted to do on this EP was to use a lot of guest vocalists. So, I asked Duglas T Stewart, the leader of one of my favorite bands BMX Bandits, to do the male lead, and I asked my Baffin Island bandmate, and leader of The Hermit Crabs, Mel Whittle, to do the female lead. Luckily they both said yes. I arranged for a recording session in Glasgow, since Mel lives in Glasgow and Duglas lives in nearby Bellshill. My friend Jo, who plays keyboard in Baffin Island, arranged for a bandmate of hers to record them in his home. I guess it was more of a student flat, and he didn’t have the best mic, but it worked out just fine, and they each did a wonderful job. Even though they came up with their parts completely independent of one another, they did a superb job of blending and playing off of one another.

For the backing tracks I wanted to use a lot of non-standard instruments. I felt that, in doing so, it would lend the production an almost antique quality, something that would contrast with the kind of super-slick production that’s associated with many Christmas songs. The final instrument list is as follows:

  • drums (by Sam Counsil)
  • electric and acoustic guitar
  • bass guitar
  • upright bass
  • Rhodes electric piano
  • Jaymar toy piano
  • glockenspiel
  • saw (by Allison Ward)
  • the extremely rare medieval instrument the douçaine (played by Br. Niels Aage Nielsen)

The thing I am most pleased with, aside from the excellent performances by my friends, is the fancy glockenspiel runs I somehow pulled off. It sounds like I actually know what I’m doing in this song, but the truth is I just practiced, A LOT. Overall, I’m really pleased with the feel and atmosphere this song conveys. It’s respectful of the original, but doesn’t sound all that much like it, in my opinion.

The Very Most Small Instrument Series
Part 2: Swoon

It’s time again for me to play a TVM classic on very small instruments. This time out, it’s my song “Swoon” on the album Making the Case For Me played on Jaymar toy piano and kazoo. Enjoy!