Honestly, this was the first year I REALLY got into music and while I came across some of my favorite stuff little by little before 2012, I had no idea how much goodness I was missing. Of course there is so much goodness I am still missing and sadly will never hear of but this is the year I started wading from the kiddie pool over to the deeper end of what music can offer me. Here’s my top five from last year:
5) Travis and Fripp- Follow
Progressive rock fans are very much familiar with seminal icon Robert Fripp both with his solo outings as well as his frequent collaborations with Brian Eno as well as the obvious King Crimson. Another partner the man liked to hook up with is a flautist by the name of Theo Travis. Their brainchild, Follow, is a special kind of serene beauty that normally only nature can replicate. This ambient masterpiece is a meticulously crafted, fully realized journey that soothingly pulls you along a wistful cloud of moods and feeling that fans of ambient simply must experience.
4) Hail the Sun- Elephantitis
In not-so-stark contrast to the ephemeral beauty of Travis and Fripp comes a clinic on how good post-hardcore can sound these days. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that previous incantations were bad by any means but for me, at this point in time, this expertly executed example by Hail the Sun reigns supreme. This is blatent Dance Gavin Dance worship no doubt about it but with 100% more prog and 50% more imagery in the album title. The drummer is the lead singer in this band which quite frankly is mind boggling. Moving and coordinating so many parts of your body independently speaks to the skill exhibited here. Couple that with catchy, proggy hooks just played just as adroitly as the drumming and you have one blistering and melodic release.
3) Niechęć- Śmierć w miękkim futerku
Niechęć is a jazz band, and one that heavily improvises. This unfortunately many times equates for such a dense, distorted wall of noise that naught but the most ardent of jazz lovers can see the joy buried within (for the record I am not one of those people at all). This group of Polish instrumentalists have found some sort of secret formula however as not only is it easy to tell that Śmierć w miękkim futerku is improvised at many points, but it all comes off sounding quite frankly amazing. Your senses will still be bombarded with sax, drums, and trickling piano but the group never loses direction in all this chaos. Maybe I’m just a loser for not getting the beauty of free-jazz but if this is where it’s going I’ll be on the first bandwagon, ears perked and body erect.
2) Thank You Scientist- Maps of Non-Existent Places
Take everything I said about Hail the Sun minus the singer/drummer and the fact that its post-hardcore, add jazz-fusion and 3 more instrumentalists all virtuosos with their craft and you have the band Thank You Scientists and their debut Maps of Non-Existant Places. I have no idea how 7 guys, all top tier with different instruments, and able to write such technical, jazzy, and rockin’ songs found each other. Quite frankly its not fair. The music is varied, incredibly written, never ever ever boring and constantly pushing the boundaries of jazz-fusion. One more record like this outta these guys and I’m gonna have a long talk with myself and my ordering of favorite bands.
1) Exotic Animal Petting Zoo- Tree of Tongues
And here’s my favorite album of 2012, the dark, twisted second offering of the criminally underrated Exotic Animal Petting Zoo, Tree of Tongues. Now I saw this record is dark and twisted and it is, but not in any sort of obvious way. Its soaring vocals and seemingly metalcore-ish (I guess, I’m not sure what genre this record is) stylings all hide a dark, melancholy mood. This mood immediately hit me and while being the happiest person I know, I didn’t necessarily connect with it, but I loved the subtly of it and was wracked in appreciation all the more for it. While not overtly technical or melodious, Tree of Tongues balances all of its influences and song structures on a needle point, and for all its spastic riffing and wild crooning never sways.
(Oh and Through the Ticket…..Across Endless Mountains is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard in my life)