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2012: the one that got away

It's traditional, after all the lists have been listed and the compilations compiled, that you catch up with another contender...

This year it is Peter Buck, the first solo album from the former REM guitarist, which slipped out with little fanfare in October. It's a vinyl-only release, recorded quickly onto magnetic tape and mastered with no digital intervention, and it certainly sounds warm: in terms of sound quality and in the sense that this is a bunch of friends having a whale of a time.

Buck has assembled an interesting crew: longtime collaborators Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin (with whom he backs Robyn Hitchcock as the Minus 3); even longer-time collaborator bassist Mike Mills from REM; Jenny Conlee from The Decemberists on keyboards and accordion, with fiddler Annalisa Tornfelt from her Black Prairie side-project; the great Lenny Kaye adds his trademark Strat to four songs; and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney takes the lead vocal on the excellent 'Nothing Means Nothing'.

It probably is 'one for the fans', as some reviews have commented. But if any of the names I've mentioned have any appeal, it's definitely worth a listen. Most listeners should be a fan of one of them, at least...

There's a bit of a Hindu Love Gods feel to the set, for those who remember the fine way that Warren Zevon and 3/4 of REM thrashed through a set of covers in the late eighties. The songs are mostly originals this time round, and Conlee and Tornfelt add some interesting textures, but the muscular and guitar-driven elements are largely to the fore. Most of the time, it's party time here.

One of the subtler moments comes with 'Some Kind Of Velvet Sunday Morning', available here on YouTube (where you can also find the whole album, should you be less than enamoured of the vinyl-only tactic). It evokes the Velvets, as you'd expect, but is even more reminiscent of Yo La Tengo, which can't be bad (their new album is due next month and should be an early highlight of 2013).

If I'd heard it earlier, I'd certainly have found room on the compilation, though it might not have made the Top Ten. I'm glad I got to it, just a little late.

Happy New Year to everyone who takes the trouble to read these musings - onward and upward in 2013.

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