Yeah that’s right…eleven. Why not ten? Or why not fifteen? Because there were eleven albums I heard this year that really stood out from the rest of the pack. I could leave out none of these inclusions. I didn’t do fifteen because there is a drop off in quality between the albums on this list and all the others. I could have done 15, but I don’t want to include albums that are merely “good”. Good albums don’t make the cut. I’ve been called a harsh reviewer, but why should we settle for mediocrity? This list is for great albums. Not being a magazine, I can’t hope to hear every release put out per year, but I do try to take in a variety of new releases. Anyone who is lamenting the state of music in 2012 need only listen to these fantastic records for reassurance that the industry isn’t anywhere near as fucked as people say it is. To find the gold, you just have to dig a little deeper than in the good old days….
So without further ado, here are my top 11 albums of the year….
Awesome, polyrhythmic “math metal” from the band who practically invented the genre. Not only is there amazingly precise playing and brutal heaviness, there is also a new found melodic approach which gives the tracks depth and texture. This album adds considerably to the unique Swedish band’s rather extensive catalogue, it shows they still have a great deal to offer the musical world and are far from finished.
Adrenaline fueled, hard rocking fun! It’s a straight ahead hard rock/punk album but it’s executed with such energy and humor it belies it’s relative simplicity. Great riffs, great solos and brilliantly hilarious lyrics make this THE party album of 2012 no question!
The band hadn’t recorded or performed together for ten years prior to this release. And then they come out with this! Hard hitting, soaring and epic, the band sound like they hadn’t been apart for a second! The performances are super tight and the song writing is equal to anything they’ve ever done. Aussie release of the year!
A lesson in brutality. Mind-alteringly complex and blindingly fast, the band took their intense grindcore sound and added dimensions of almost prog-rock convolution! Most songs go for around a minute, but the band cram so many riffs and tempo changes into them, they don’t need to be any longer. Easily the best metal album I’ve heard this year, Pig Destroyer may have invented a new genre…math-grind! And I want more!
The French duo show with this album that they are still completely unique in the musical cosmos. Less electronic and more organic, the record is full of sophisticated and challenging pop tunes and is a much welcomed return to form after some less than spectacular releases. Despite the laid back nature of the disc (and the benign reputation of the band!) , it contains easily the most disturbing song I’ve heard all year: the frightening “Who Am I Now”.
Anyone who thought rock was dead had better listen to this album (and Turbonegro’s). Chock full of punk energy and great riffs, the album blends the seemingly odd combination of hardcore punk and a real pop sensibility to create a work that is not only hard hitting and energetic, it’s sing-a-long catchy! Not many albums can achieve this. There really is something for everyone in this fantastic release.
Despite being slightly inconsistent, this album redeems its lower moments with some instances of utter genius. The maligned dub-step influences work a treat and the album is eclectic yet instantly recognizable as Muse. On top of that, it contains my favorite track of the year. The bombastic and utterly rhapsodic “Survival”.
Sixteen inactive years and one brief tour…and then THIS comes out! Possibly the best album the band have ever done, it compares more than favorably against their “classic” records. Chris Cornell’s vocals are as good as ever and the rest of the band have added some fantastic challenging, yet accessible musical quirks. I was initially skeptical of this release. I didn’t for a minute see this kind of quality coming from a “nostalgia act” as Billy Corgan unkindly dubbed them. Well, suffer in yer jocks Bill, this album is brilliant and it blows your latest effort out of the water.
The former White Stripe produced easily his best work in Blunderbuss. Freed from the constraints of a two piece, he’s found a new compositional freedom and he sounds on the album as if he’s having an absolute ball with the new possibilities. The songs are great, the playing spot on and it contains the best piano performances I’ve heard on a rock album for many, many years. I can’t wait for his next effort!
This album was recorded not in a studio, but in a house. The parts were not overdubbed. (Besides a couple of guitar solos). The band recorded the songs as a unit, jam style. Old school style. Dave Lombardo, producer, drummer and mastermind behind the album set out to ostensibly “reinvent the power trio” and he succeeded beyond any expectations. The album contains elements of punk, metal, jazz, Latin, rock and ambient music. It’s not frantic genre-hopping however. All the songs are cohesive, atmospheric and hold their groove for the perfect necessary duration. The band could have made an inaccessible avant-garde work or a straight ahead hard rock record. Instead they walk the tightrope between both worlds with aplomb and Harmonic is an absolute credit to all involved. They’ve finished writing their sophomore album and I sincerely hope it reaches the bar set so high by Harmonic.
Yes, my number one album of the year is this. The debut effort from the British quartet. Almost uncategorizable in any generic sense, this is a marvelously escapist work. There are elements of folk-rock, psychedelia, electronica and African rhythms, but the band have honed a sound all thier own. Madly inventive production approaches, brilliant songwriting, breathtaking musical highs. this album has it all and more! In addition to this it’s an album that just keeps on giving. New sounds, new layers, new moods…every single listen. Utterly unique and transcendental, nothing like this has been released in recent memory, or…perhaps ever. Words don’t do it justice. Simply superb. Congrats boys, you’re number one!!
STINKER OF THE YEAR!!
THE DANDY WARHOLS- THIS MACHINE
Insipid, pathetic rubbish from a formerly great band. This album is tragically execrable in terms of…well EVERYTHING! Totally lacking in imagination and drive it’s a limp-wristed wet blanket of an album. This Machine could well be the last whimpering croak the band ever make, and if they intend to continue in this vein I certainly hope it is. Fucking rubbish.
Well that’s it! Thanks for reading. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these albums I urge you to check them out. (not the stinkers haha).
BRING ON 2013!!!