Even as I’m sitting here, trying to assure myself I’ve listened to all the music I can squeeze into my spaced out head, I just know there will be some sleeper hit that I’ve missed. I think that’s the best part of discovering music - unlike continents that can be mapped out, mountains scaled and oceans probed, new tunes will be constantly churned out from some dank underground rehearsal space, or a bedroom-cum-recording studio. Finding these special albums that leave a lasting impression is the hard part - but the promise of unearthing a new band or fresh LP makes sifting through the lackluster worth my while. Here is what I’ve dug, loved, sung along to, thrown the horns up to, or had revelations, while listening in 2012.
(forget trying to rank them! I’m having a panic attack at the prospect of that!)
This album cements its place on this list based on fun factor alone. Upon listening to pumping, anthemic songs like the so very cheesy ‘I Like It’ and the infectious falsetto vocals that beg to be mimicked on ‘Wasted Feelings’ (which is my ringtone because I’m a huge nerd like that), I realized how much I missed the Darkness. Not because I loved Justin Hawkins’ cock rock romp at (albeit brief) rock stardom - but because I loved what they were about - unabashed fun. The Church of Rock and Roll preaches similar values, influencing devout music lovers to sing along to soaring choruses no matter how far out of tune you are and to pick up their air guitars without shame or fear of judgment.
Recommended tracks - Wasted Feelings, Last Chance at Love, Holy Touch.
An Awesome Wave was an awesome ride I took all the way to shore - from the opening four tracks I was sold on the hodge podge, calculated sound of the quartet out of England. Deliberate, daring, and different, I think the real genius behind Alt-J's sound is the seamless switch between sounds that blur the boundaries of what indie music should sound like. It isn't the most revolutionary release- it still coasts on accessible melodies, anchored by a bouncing rhythmic section and Joe Newman's soaring and acrobatic vocals. It does seem to be a record for this ADHD generation - targeting filthy bass lines that toy with dub step, gentle crooning vocals over slow burners, twinkling keys blinking in and out of the records 13 tracks, all while doing it with assured and equal amounts of style and skill. I believe one of our problems today is that we're so overloaded with stimuli that it's hard to maintain attention for more than 2 minutes unless we're grabbed from the get go. Alt-J succeed in putting the listener in a vice grip off the mark, and don’t let go until the closing bars of the 12 minute closer Taro that rides out their debut LP.
While this record ushered in 2012, it’s only a recent obsession of mine. What sold me was the 9 minute Wasted Days - if you can write a song that has me rocking out during your five minute jam session at the tail end of an already memorable song, and make that part my absolute favorite moment on the album, you’re definitely doing something right! I love that ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude that permeates throughout Attack on Memory - edgy, raw, complimented perfectly by Ohio native Dylan Baldi's razor blade warble. If you like bands that put the raw in your indie rawk, are a stickler for great guitar riffs and appreciate walls of sound that assail your ears in the very best way, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you passed up the excellent Attack on Memory.
Recommended tracks - The whole album! More specifically Wasted Days, Fall In, Stay Useless, Separation.
DIIV's own version of reverb laden shoe gaze/indie rock is solid and assured in it's execution - it would be a shame to forsake this as a carbon copy of Beach Fossils and the ilk. Songs like 'Follow’, ‘How Long Have You Known?’, and 'Doused' speak volumes of Zachary Cole Smith's penchant for writing a killer tune. It's safe to say he wears his influences on his sleeve proudly, but the end product is so refined and immediately appealing that you can excuse the snippets of Beach House, the Cure et al. found within. Upbeat and driving without ever leaving you out of breath, DIIV have concocted a winning formula with Oshin, which feels as good as scoring the perfect day at the beach. No crowd, no stress, with the wind whipping through your hair through the car window, face still flecked with salt from the oshin.
Recommended Tracks - Follow, How Long Have You Known?, Doused.
I remember how excited I was when this album dropped, which is a rarity of late. And I hate to say it, but maybe in this day and age, where music is so easily and readily accessible, I’ve grown a bit jaded. With an instant download on iTunes or an artist’s bandcamp, there’s a strange disconnect with artist and fan that belittles the universal reach and convenience that is the internet. I miss the tangible - clawing away the plastic that clings skin tight to the CD case, leafing through the art booklet and checking the liner notes. Instead of treasuring an album, wearing down your cassette or CD and your friends patience by always having your new favorite album blaring from your discman, I find myself with more music that I can enjoy, all hastily stashed digitally between dozens of artists in my digital music library that realistically won’t get the attention they deserve. Brian Fallon's impassioned and heartfelt lyrics hearken back to simpler times, where we made mixtapes for that special someone, or lent your best friend since elementary school your absolute favorite album (beyond excited for their breathless revelations of their personal favorite track), and all this (whatever this may be) translates beautifully on Handwritten. Like writing letters long hand, rewinding VCR’s, adjusting bunny ear antennae on chunky TV sets, The Gaslight Anthem's latest and greatest album is endearing, heartfelt, and special for a gang of intangible reasons. So maybe I don't miss the tangibles so much as I miss the excitement and wide eyed wonderment of the hopeless, sniveling awkward boy I used to be, journeying to find his footing and place in the world.
Ed Droste is one talented guy, with it being most apparent on the excellent Shields. Easily the most solid and complete Grizzly Bear record to date, this album houses so many highlights that if you really twisted my arm, I might concede that this is one of my favorite indie albums since The National’s Boxer. Once the groove dials after the guitar intro in ‘Sleeping Ute’, the feeling that you have something special on your hands is palpable, a feeling that doesn’t let up throughout the album’s duration. It’s crazy - I hyped this record up to Himalayan heights, and it delivered by record’s end with barely the bat of an eyelash. I love how Grizzly Bear throw elements of freak into their folk, sidestepping sonic boundaries to create weird and beautiful sounds. ‘Yet Again' might be my favorite song of 2012, and Grizzly Bear might just be my favorite band from Brooklyn.
If The Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten tickled your pickle in the slightest, you owe it to yourself to give the Menzingers a shot. It may be the best decision you make before the end of the world (if this list reaches you in time!) I feel punk music has this ridiculous stigma attached to it these days - like it’s not cool to like the genre, and I feel a lot of my friends unfairly write off punk. Which is crazy to me! It’s by and far one of my favorite genres, and every time I talk about a punk band I really like and I see someone’s eyes rolling, already writing off whomever I’m trying to talk up, I want to get punk rock on their face and punch an opening into their closed mind. There’s cookie cutter mainstream punk, which to me classifies as pop music more than anything, and then there’s punk. It’s in the attitude, in the amount of fun you have while listening, it’s the lines that the vocalist emphasizes that you live by, it’s the feeling you get of sheer excitement when you hear a thumping bass line and that quick drum beat, its the live show where you leave soaked in sweat, beer and smiles. The Menzingers offer up more than a classic punk record - they offer a unique and emotive contemporary slice of Americana. You don’t have to believe me. You could pass it up because it’s punk and you don’t like bands like Good Charlotte (God, neither do I), and I couldn’t care less. I’ll be too busy enjoying the best album of 2012. \m/ (-_-) \m/
Recommended Tracks - If I had to choose just a couple? Make sure you listen to Good Things, Sun Hotel, Ava House, The Obituaries.
If you like the Deftones, especially predecessors Diamond Eyes and Saturday Night Wrist, then you’ll love Chino, Abe, Stephen, Chi (of course Chi gets a mention), Sergio and Frank’s latest release. Koi No Yokan, loosely translated from Japanese as ‘the premonition of love,’ is an ironic title because from the moment I hit play I loved what was coming through my speakers. Chino is on point with his vocals, delivering a master class on why he is one of the best frontmen for one of the few metal bands to escape the 90’s Nu-Metal scene unscathed with a sound that’s still relevant. Abe thunders behind the kit with Stephen proffering down tuned riffs that groove, screech, wail and interlock with Sergio’ second consecutive stint on bass duty in place of the recovering Chi. The slower moments drag slightly, but the quality never dips. If falling in love with this album is inevitable, I don’t know if I can handle liking this album already more than I do! My heart might swell and burst, which would be pretty fucking metal indeed!
Check it if you like elements of post rock sprinkled into your punk/emo. There are so many jaw dropping moments in the opening track alone! I’d familiarize myself with Deer Leap pronto if you’ve never had the pleasure.
If you like Anberlin, or punk/alt/rock that’s centered around amazing vocals, this is one you can’t pass up. Anberlin prove why they weren’t just a passing trend in the pop/punk scene - they give you 11 solid reasons why you shouldn’t discount them or their latest release.
I’m going to call it right here, Waking Season is THE premier post rock album of the year. Caspian have always had a great sound which made them stand out head and shoulders above the post-rock populace, and Waking Season launches them into the upper echelon of post-rock prodigies like Mono, Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky.
Being released early in 2012 hurt this album’s chances of placing on my list - I just overplayed it by the time December came around. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great record. Make Do And Mend shift to a more rock sound on their sophomore release, from their punk/post hardcore roots, which allows their song writing prowess to really shine through.
lets cut to the chase, 2012 has been a weird year for music.
Well, when I mean music I selfishly mean myself. Why? Because this year was my year of picking and dabbing into every other genre that isn’t of norm to myself. However, apart from me and my musical callings, 2012 in general has been weird. We had mainstream rappers and singers biting the Black Metal all-black worship the devil lifestyle, you know Euronymous is rolling over in his grave right now, Hip Hop tunes turning into Techno tunes, Metal and Hardcore turning into a fashion statement, Indie becoming a vomit of late 80’s early 90’s pop music, progressive music becoming the next big thing and every fucking genre of music saying “swag” and “yolo”… seriously kill yourselves.
I know everything I’ve listed has much negative context, but through the negativity the good albums truly stood out even more angelically than previous years.
Here is my 2012 Best of List.
Roadkill Ghost Choir- Quiet Light e.p
I discovered Roadkill Ghost Choir not in the conventional way I find music, I was listening to Joe Rogans DeathSquad Podcasts like I do before I sleep and Rogan started to preach about this band, Ignorantly thinking to myself “Psh Joe Rogan doesn’t know shit about good music” I was brutally put into place when he played Beggars Guild. This sextet hails from Deland, Florida, with a weird pained sound but in a way it hits you right in the spot. The creaminess of Wilco mixed with southernspectrum of The Allman Brothers Band lets say.
Call it hipster that, call it hipster this….out of your system yet? Now contain your idiocy and listen and listen well while you’re at it. These 4 englishmen carry the Olympic torch this year for best indie album. Why? simply because this album is simply simple…simplicity(I added simplicity for fun). These guys have the simple talent of writing songs. Catchy, groovy and simply good. I get the feeling that pretty much most indie bands try to be as simple as possible, but you simply cant be as simple as this album. If you look at the past couple years the indie genre’s best albums have come from simple bands, The xx, Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club and so on. So this year, to simply put it, An Awesome Wavewins and simply so. Also, you know you are simply doing fabulous in the indie scene, when DJ’s remix the fuck out of your album. Lets hope these guys don’t get the typical sophomore slump like most indie bands with great debut albums and simply keep writing simple tunes.
3 Grammy nominations on a debut album…. wait hold up.. 3 Grammy nominations for a DEBUT ALBUM….. To be honest, I shouldn’t even bother elaborating about them because 3 grammy nominations for a debut album should be enough for you to go and pick this album up and listen to it over and over… But then again, the Grammy’s know half music and half retarded. So, I’ll elaborate. I was at a festival by the name of Eurockeenness in Belfort, France on some what of a rainy day and all my fellow french amigos decided to stay behind at the camp site and yell “APERO” drunkly for hours rather than see bands. So me being Asianly curious to see other bands and not miss Mastodon, I proceeded to the festival. I also happened to be about an hour early just so I could get a good spot for Mastodon. As I lonesomely stood in the center of the field next to drunken couples and angrily waited for Mastodon with out my french compadres, Alabama Shakes came on, and when they came on, Brittnay Howard with her deep southern Alabama accent told me “You Ain’t Alone” and proceeded break into song for me. I fell in love, and to this day i’v never had a band make me almost cry with tears of joy… and this is coming from someone who was waiting for Mastodon..Mastodon. ANGRILY!!
In 2012, I really lost my kinship with Metal and Hardcore, I really, really tried to keep it and painfully so. I listened to everything new that came out to try and hold that adoration I grew up for. The feelings of goosebumps, adrenaline addiction, the fuck you’s and hatred were really gone…Until… SHUT IN.. Fronted by Vincent Bennett of the Infamous Acacia Strain, Shut In’s debut e.p takes the fertility of Gaia and rapes it with Oedipus’s incredibly complex father. People, it doesn’t get more brutal than that. If you want fucking pissed off, fast, perfectly produced hardcore, I give you Shut In and if you choose not to, you know Vincent Bennett will find you and fuck your life.
I don’t think I know a single band that is consistent with album releases as the Deftones. I’m not going to get into a history lesson on the Deftones, but once again they have written an almost perfect record. Koi No Yokan feels like the Deftones used their signature minimalism in Ko No Yokan album as the canvas and shapely painted the sounds in each song so perfectly that it feels like they need to win the Nobel Sound Engineering Prize, if it existed. The silence in the background of each song is so hauntingly loud through out the album that the best part is the silence. The silence brings out everything so much more intricately, almost as if touchable with your hand.
So, I’m going to keep this minimalist as possible,
It’s always hard to be sonically pleased by instrumental bands, it’s a hard thing to indulge in when the presence of vocals are absent, maybe it has to do with people not being able to relate to anything or they just need the sheer presence of a hook and melody through vocals. Either way for those of you who didn’t get a chance to listen to Mogwai’s latest album Hardcore will never die, but you will will be in for a pleasant surprise. If you, as a listener, truly appreciate the dynamics of song writing to its finest level, look no further.
listen and do it carefully.
(The video is not the official video, it wouldn’t let me embed the original)
Mogwai, where do I start with them. Honestly, I was never into them until this album and I’m doing my fair bit of catching up. The weirdest part is, their music gives you an incredibly monolithic feeling, then it gives you such a joyful breeze with another song. It’s incredibly difficult to convey any type of emotion to one with out words and to be capable of doing that is on some Mozart and Beethoven shit. I’m going to keep listening to them and all their albums and i’ll do a more extensive post but for now, enjoy the powers of Mogwai
it was less difficult than i thought it’d be to pick out albums that, as a whole, felt at home in my five favorite albums of this year. there are some that i really enjoyed but lacked i dunno, cohesiveness or unity as a collection of songs, and so i opted out of including those.
This year has been a real eye opener for me. This year i’ve consumed so many different types of music that I realize that its such a difficult endeavor to only pick 5 albums. This year has been huge for Hip-Hop, Indie, Electronic music and so forth. However, maybe its me growing out of my tastes but Metal didn’t really have an album of year for me apart from a couple few albums. So I’m gonna list of my top 5 albums of this year.
5. Confession-The Long Way Home
I’ve always said and thought that the best Hardcore/Metalcore comes straight out of Australia. The Australians really know what they are doing when it comes to straight up brutal breakdowns and not giving no single fucks. Parkway Drive, prime example. So this year, Confession released their sophomore album and It has to be one of the heaviest fucking albums of this year, think of The Acacia Strain mixed with I Killed The Prom Queen. These guys are one definite band to watch out for in 2012.
4. M83- Hurry Up, We’re dreaming
I never really listened to M83 until this year, when frenchman Anthony Gonzalez dropped, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. 22 tracks on the album, you would expect only 4 to 5 songs to be really good and the rest to be kind of meh, but no, a full 22 tracks of pure feel good amazing tunes. It’s incredibly hard to do that these days, to have an album that all tracks are amazing, especially 22 tracks. To think its also one guy making all of these songs the production value of it is just incredible.
3. J. Cole - Cole World- Sideline Story.
Sideline Story, has to be my favorite Hip Hop album of the year. He is so appropriately signed to Roc Nation, with the greats like Yeezy and Jigga because J.Cole is going to be one of the legends of Hip Hop. His Flow is impeccable, He produces most of his own tracks, just amazing sampling. I’ve seen this guy live and his show is just incredible. What makes him stand out as well is the fact that he is so incredibly humble, if you listen to his lyrics Cole knows how much work it took him to get where he is. He isn’t just boastin and braggin.
2. Bon Iver- Bon Iver
Okay, I know what you are thinking of course Bon Iver, but truthfully, how can anybody deny that this album is just pure bliss. If going to heaven had a soundtrack it would be this album. There is nobody else on this planet right now that can do what Bon Iver can do. His self titled album is probably one of the best album of this decade as well. The progression he took from For Emma, Forever ago to Bon Iver is just incredible. He delivered what everybody was expecting with so much more. It’s hard to put this album into words because it brings out so much emotion that it makes me choke up. If you haven’t heard this album this year you seriously are misinformed in life.
1. La Dispute- Wildlife
I guess this wasn’t unexpected, I talked about this album all year long and rightfully so. This album is just mind blowing. Musically, it’s pure genius song writing just flows so perfectly, Lyrically it’s honestly like following a small book, the lyrical content is so incredibly captivating you feel like you are reading a harry potter book. Just all round this album delivers from song 1 to 14, nothing boring, nothing dull. I can’t wait to see what these guys are going to follow up this album with. Wildlife has been on repeat on my itunes and my ipod since its been released.
So, their you have it my top 5 albums of this year. Happy holidays everybody!
aaaaaah, i’m so excited for some new material from dikembe! it’s been a week and a half since discovering them and i still can’t get enough. they’re from gainesville, FL, and they play fucking addicting emo-punk. in their first release, chicago bowls (recorded in april of this year), each song title is a pun based on 90’s chicago bulls players and weed (also their name comes from having spent a lot of time using dikembe mutombo in an old nba game), and it begins and ends with a quote from the amazing (and short-lived…) show freaks and geeks. if you can’t appreciate them just based on that, check out the song above.
note: some of the members (e.g. vox) play in another excellent band wavelets, and dikembe is essentially a side-project that they didn’t think would get such widespread recognition. if you like this, definitely check out wavelets.
I’m not even going to pretend I’m too cool for school - I’m a sucker for Christmas songs. I love the damn things. Maybe because they’re all so nostalgic and take me back to all the awesome Christmases where I teared open awesome presents like an N64 (holy shit, best Christmas ever) instead of belts and other mundane gifts (and fuck you if you want to berate me for talking about gifts instead of Christmas Spirit and yadda yadda yadda) that I only seem to get this time of year. August Burns Red takes all that nostalgia, cranks the Merry in Christmas to a gnarly 12 and gets your blood pumping on this incredible reindeertion of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’. Sip on some muhfuckin’ eggnog and blast that holiday cheer, my dears.
When you’re broke, waiting on tables in a shitty Italian restaurant, you appreciate free anything.
‘Oh, did that customer leave that pepperoni and mushroom pizza on the table? I better bring that to the back and uhhh….*SCARF*’
You don’t have to be doin’ that daily grind to have your eye twinkle at the promise of something free, though. On the other side of that coin is the nagging doubt that what you’re nabbing up for free, is in fact free for a reason. No one really gets stoked on a free beer stubby, or a stress ball with some companies name haphazardly etched across its front. I’m sure I’ve tried to throw out this argument before, but bear with me! Hear me out til the end, because enter Cloudkicker, the one man wonderband who consistently doles out his delicious post-rock/metal diddies on a pay what you like scheme on his bandcamp. Let Yourself be Huge, Ben Sharp's latest release brings a more mellowed sound after the sonic mayhem that was Beacons, but rest assured that this deal really IS too good to be true.
What I really enjoy about Cloudkicker's music is how complete his compositions feel and sound. They never meander, but have a concise, almost straight forward approach that is fresh and not daunting for someone unfamiliar to instrumental post-rock/metal, but can also be appreciated by seasoned post-rock vets. The dude is a straight G, in other words, and you all would be doing yourself a disservice if you pass up this free slice of delicious, melty instrumental goodness.
Check out his bandcamp, and start with Let Yourself Be Huge. Once you love it (and you will) explore the rest of his mind bending back catalogue.