Best of June 2012: Reader picks include Rush, Little Feat, Norah Jones, John Wetton and Asia

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How’s this for all over the map?: Our readers pushed Rush, Michael Jackson, Norah Jones and Little Feat into the monthly Top 10 for June 2012.

Dude, that map is in tatters. See, there’s also this: ZZ Top, Chris Squire’s Squackett collaboration with Steve Hackett, David Byrne and S. Vincent. John Wetton — both as a member of Asia, whose album drops in America on Tuesday; and with the Prog Collective, the forthcoming Billy Sherwood-helmed all-star project for Cleopatra — ended up with a pair of chart appearances in June, as well.

Lastly, we’d like to welcome back an old friend — our take on the most un-fabulous things the Fab Four ever foisted on the public. SER’s furiously debated Bad Beatles list was initially posted in December of 2011 and, before last month, had never failed to reach the Top 10 in this poll. Apparently, there’s still more to be said about “The Long (very long) and Winding (very winding!) Road.”

Presenting Something Else! Reviews’ top reader-selected updates from June 2012, based on page views. Click through the titles for more …

No. 10

NORAH JONES – LITTLE BROKEN HEARTS (2012): So it was a big deal, this news of Danger Mouse working with Norah Jones. Danger Mouse. Hip-hop culture and remixing, electronica and blurpy effects — these are things that were to be allowed to come into contact with that most pure of instruments — the voice of Norah Jones. Well, it went far beyond stunning. Revealed in the songs of Little Broken Hearts was this mind-boggling idea: Somebody … cheated … on … Norah … Jones. And how did Norah deal with her breakup? By constructing a suite a songs as desolate as Beck’s Sea Change and as pointed and brutal as Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights. — Mark Saleski

No. 9

‘WE MADE GOOD NOISE’: CHRIS SQUIRE TALKS ABOUT COLLABORATING WITH STEVE HACKETT: Chris Squire took his time in collaborating with Genesis alum Steve Hackett, working in between other projects for years before finally finishing their long-awaited duo debut A Life Within A Day. The results, Squire says, were worth the wait. Squire also talked with us about reuniting with Yes alum Billy Sherwood, and the difficulties in finding time to make music outside of the familiar matrix of Yes. — Nick DeRiso

No. 8

GIMME FIVE: SONGS WHERE THE BEATLES, WELL, SUCKED: Major discovery: Beatles songs themed on the word “long” are bad karma — as our heavily debated list includes both the perfectly titled “Long, Long, Long” and treacly “Long and Winding Road.” We called the latter, in a point of deep contention for many Beatles fans, “this syrupy ballad.” Even at three-and-a-half minutes, it seemed to be overly long and, yes, winding. Well, to us, anyway. (Originally posted on December 27, 2011, but still going strong with our readers.)S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso

No. 7

ZZ TOP – TEXICALI (2012): This is what I’m talking about. Texicali is a grungy, blues-drenched, rock ‘n’ roll, boogie-woogie treat for ZZ Top fans. No, it doesn’t, as many fans hoped, signal a complete return to the blues-rock ways of their 1970s records. Some of the polish and electronic elements that have come and gone over the years creep in here and there, but they find themselves far overpowered by a dirty, blues-based rock sound that’s more along the lines of what long-time Top fans want. — Fred Phillips

No. 6

ON SECOND THOUGHT: MICHAEL JACKSON – THIS IS IT (2009): In the genre of concert films, This Is It is an anomaly. Most others document a particular live performance or composite performances from a tour. Michael Jackson doesn’t sing or dance or do anything in this film in front of a live audience. Yet to watch him rehearse for what was to have been a scheduled 50-night residency at London’s O2 Arena is to appreciate — however vicariously — every detail and note of what could have been an extraordinary concert experience. — Donald Gibson

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No. 5

JOHN WETTON, TONY LEVIN, JERRY GOODMAN, BILLY SHERWOOD, “THE LAWS OF NATURE” (2012): A new track from the forthcoming Prog Collective project has emerged, featuring John Wetton, Tony Levin, Jerry Goodman and Billy Sherwood — who had previously worked with Wetton on a pair of 2011 projects, including the one embedded above. With “The Laws of Nature,” we’re afforded an intriguing window into this buzzy new album, which finds an amazing collection of prog-rock guest stars working alongside producer Sherwood. — Nick DeRiso

No. 4

DAVID BYRNE AND ST. VINCENT, “WHO” (2012): It’s like a keening angel drops in on this crinkly Talking Heads song, as David Byrne unleashes a series of classic tangled rhythms — only to be one upped by Annie Clark’s cumulus vocal interludes. From there, the track is regularly thrown off balance by these thrillingly parenthetical bursts of guitar and horns. Taken together, “Who” represents a deeply interesting amalgam (one part expected, another part all hooky surprise), and a great billboard for the duo’s upcoming full-length collaboration Love This Giant, due on September 11, 2012 via 4AD and Todo Mundo. — Nick DeRiso

No. 3

LITTLE FEAT – ROOSTER RAG (2012): 1973’s Dixie Chicken set a template for Southern-fried funkiness that Little Feat (despite a number of lineup changes over the decades) has never felt the need to redraw — right through to Rooster Rag, the band’s first album in four years.The difference here is a welcome new focus on songwriting, versus the rangy but sometimes ultimately unsatisfying jam-based structures of their more recent outings. Of course, even as Little Feat seems to be working to more clearly define the parameters of its music, a sense of loose-limbed camaraderie remains. This is still Little Feat, after all. The result is an album in which each song arrives like a gift-wrapped delight, not too long — but also not too light on detail and emotion, either. — Nick DeRiso

No. 2

ASIA – XXX (2012): Vocally, Wetton has lost none of the gusto of his youth: He still sings as if he’s walking all the way out to the edge. Better still, he finally has an album’s worth of solid material on which to let loose. That’s perhaps best heard on the thunderously successful “Ghost of a Chance,” which concludes the return-to-form XXX with a shattering vocal, a contemplative keyboard figure, and a searching guitar — opening up a broad vista of emotion, even as it reconnects with the symphonic sounds of 1985’s Astra. XXX, after a pair of transitional reunion recordings with the rest of the original line of Asia, feels like the follow up that everyone was waiting for back then. — Nick DeRiso

No. 1

RUSH – CLOCKWORK ANGELS (2012): Time after time, I find myself reaching to re-cue this album when the last notes fade. What is it that brings me back? Most simplistically, it’s hearing Rush sound so vital and vibrant. Rush has typically done what it wanted to do, but just like you can sense a smile on the face of someone on the other end of the telephone line, music listeners can sense that same smile, maybe in the form of enthusiasm, in the playing. A little extra finesse here and there from Neil Peart’s expert drumming, a little something extra wild in Alex Lifeson’s guitar solo, or the flair of a grace note or two in Geddy Lee’s bassline. The band always at the top of their game — that’s what Rush is known for — but sometimes they play at the very top of the top, as here. — Tom Johnson

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