Ec’s Top 11 of 2012

I couldn’t settle on just five from 2012, so I went with eleven instead.  Completely makes sense, right? The list is kind of in order, but I am not numbering them because they are somewhat grouped together and a few are interchangeable between their surrounding albums. And don’t worry; I will try to keep my descriptions fairly light to hold as much of your attention for as long as I can.

FO Channel

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Aside from a couple of empty transition tracks and a few filler songs, Channel Orange is quite the combination of soul, hip hop, pop and a little bit of funk. Ocean has a great voice that soars throughout the album, the drums and electronics keep the atmosphere going, and then the bass just drives the whole damn thing home. To top it off, there is the song “Lost,” which is just 4 minutes of aural pleasures that slowly makes its way through your senses over the course of its running time and just begs for you to hit that repeat button when it is about to finish. Just one more time; you know you want to.

 

GOTYE MM

GOTYE – Making Mirrors

Pop music with an 80s throwback vibe and excellent vocals has got GOTYE on the right track.  If he would have added a couple more full songs and maybe dropped one or two of the short filler tracks, this could have been a modern classic in my eyes and ears. But for now, I will have to settle for it being a slightly missed opportunity that is still heavily on the awesome side. Honestly, it’s hard for me to even try to be mad at GOTYE when he is capable of writing songs like the insanely catchy and upbeat “Eyes Wide Open” and the incredibly somber and atmospheric “Smoke and Mirrors,” but I just have this feeling he is capable of more, and I can’t wait to hear it when he finds the way there.

 

ItO Love

Icarus the Owl – Love Always, Leviathan

Technical Pop Punk with a progressive side?  Sign me up.  While the vocals can sound occasionally off and the lead guitar parts get on the slightly repetitive side, the band members are all powerhouses on their respective instruments and have crafted something unique and interesting here. If you ever thought pop punk was the genre musicians turned to that didn’t know how to play their instruments, look no further than Icarus the Owl to show there is always an exception to the norm. And just look at that artwork; it is f**king beautiful.

 

KJ MMXII

Killing Joke – MMXII

Dark, brooding, and apocalyptic, MMXII is about our path to the end of life as we know it. The album is damn near sinister as Jaz Coleman sings and growls away at the listener about the different possibilities of our demise while the rest of the band assaults our senses and sinks us further into the darkness and depressing nature that the lyrics beautifully form. Killing Joke has been around for over 30 years and MMXII proves that there is still a light at the end of this very depressing tunnel.

 

JBDriving

Joe Bonamassa – Driving Towards the Daylight

This has been my first taste of the blues, and I must say I may have started an addiction up.  Paired with some good ol’ fashioned hard rock, Daylight has some very engaging guitar parts, some absolutely ridiculous/awesome soloing action, and quite the impressive vocals.  If you enjoy guitar noodling at its finest, Bonamassa has all the things you need right here and more.

 

SO Fragments

Submotion Orchestra – Fragments

Electronica? Dubstep? Jazz? Trip hop? I don’t know much about any of these, but I do know one thing: this album is fantastic. The female vocals are lovely and soulful, the instrumentation is top-notch, and the album just grooves from start to finish. If it wasn’t for that one song that kind of, sort of sucks (“Times Strange”), this album would be damn near perfect. The drums and the bass set the tone, and everything else just falls into place. This definitely has a fascinating mix going on, and I urge you to give them a try and see what you think.

 

NJ Broken

Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts

I was never much for female pop acts; they always seemed more focused on their sex appeal than their actual music. One day, late last year, I discovered Norah Jones, who had always slipped under my radar. Not only is she attractive (and not in an “I have to take my clothes off to get people to notice me” kind of way), but she is very talented. With her unique voice and her interesting transitions from album to album over the years, her music has been captivating me ever since that fateful day I decided to give her a try. But Little Broken Hearts is a whole new ball game in the world of Norah Jones. The bass lines are driving, the guitars atmospheric, and then of course, there’s Norah’s voice, which might be enough to carry any song on its own. Norah Jones is one of the most interesting pop stars I have heard, and I am so glad that she finally gained some altitude and caught my attention.

 

WATG Captors

Wolves at the Gate – Captors

Post hardcore and metalcore rolled up into a tightly refined ball has WATG breaking their way through the waves of bands trying out this style and sounding just a little too much like their peers, and they are doing a fine job at it. It’s the best of both worlds, and that’s saying a lot since it seems both genres have been starting to dip with quality bands as of late. Their lyrics may be a bit on the intense side of the Christian persuasion, but they aren’t preachy and aren’t trying to make me feel like a horrible human being, so it doesn’t bother me. With superb vocals from the harsh and clean sides, excellent riffery, and fantastic song writing, WATG is a band to look out for.

 

Anberlin Vital

Anberlin – Vital

I have been listening to Anberlin since around when their first album was released, and I have been amazed by their consistency. Vital furthers this trend from the band by rocking out harder than they have before and diving into a bit of an electronic style. It shows their heaviest, most experimental, and (in my humble opinion) their best side yet. This is Anberlin in a melancholy and somewhat dark state, which leaves behind the poppy side most of their releases had to offer and might be the beginning of a seasoned band trekking down a new, but hopefully still familiar, path. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes them next, but I will probably be content just as long as those angelic vocals are there to guide the way.

 

TCC Phoenix

The Classic Crime – Phoenix

Another insanely consistent alternative/rock band with an awesome vocalist, The Classic Crime has been filling my aural senses with goodness since their debut back in 2006. While Phoenix shows the band mellowing out compared to the days of Albatross and The Silver Cord, TCC still brings their excellent song writing abilities and down-to-earth/relatable lyrics to the table. The band does show that they can still rock on songs like “You and Me Both” and “Young Again,” but they really shine on the lighter moments, like “The Precipice,” and even in their darker times, like on “Beautiful Darkside.” 2012 might just be one of my favorite years in music solely because two of my favorite bands not only released new albums in the same year (TCC and Anberlin in case you aren’t following), but also within a mere two months of each other. It was like a big hug with music. Gloriously, glorious musical hugs to my ears…

 

Jizue Novel

Jizue – Novel

I’m just going to start out with this: Novel is f**king gorgeous.  I don’t know a better way to put it than that. To be honest, I don’t even know if I can properly describe how much I adore this, but I will try and fumble through something with these empty words that won’t do it justice. It has guitars, bass, drums, piano, jazz, post rock, and all of them are intertwined so fantastically that I am still not entirely sure I have comprehended it fully. The transitions are seamless and everybody involved is just so perfectly in sync with each other that it gives me chills. Is this enough hyperbole for you?  Maybe you should just go listen to this now and stop reading. I actually might go do the same myself.

Are you still reading this and not listening to Jizue? I may or may not be so disappointed in you right now.

Parthan’s Best of 2012 List

2012 was honestly the first year where I truly paid attention to “current” music. I used to be an unabashed “there’s been no good music made since the mid-’90s” kind of guy, but 2012 got me listening to all kinds of things that I hadn’t given a chance before. My tastes heavily skew towards rock and metal, so the list will reflect that. These are what I think were the best Rock/Metal releases of 2012.

5. Krinkle – Thishitlist

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I love me some Guns N’ Roses. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Neither are Krinkle, apparently. But they also love them some Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down and Jane’s Addiction, and they’re not afraid to wear those influences on their sleeves either. Krinkle’s debut EP features some good old-fashioned blues-and-booze-fuelled riffing fortified with a healthy dose of ’90s alt-rock and alt-metal weirdness. Classic, yet modern, hard rock fun!

4. Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos

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The Djent scene might have set the record for least time taken to go from novel and innovative to oversaturated to the point of stupidity. However, Skyharbor’s debut was one of the standouts of 2012. Mastermind Keshav Dhar eschews mindless djenting for actual riffs that groove and pique interest. Songs develop coherently. Ambient sections are seamlessly incorporated into the songs rather than serving as placeholders. Then you have the superb contributions of the All-Star cast consisting of Daniel Tompkins (ex-TesseracT, White Moth Black Butterfly) on vocals, Anup Sastry (Jeff Loomis, Intervals) on drums, Sunneith Revankar (Bhayanak Maut) on vocals, and Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) with a couple of sweeeeeet guitar solos. Basically this is everything that Progressive Metal in the 21st Century should be.

3. Agam – The Inner Self Awakens

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A startling young band who combine Progressive Metal in the vein of Dream Theater with Indian Classical in a fusion of styles that has managed to enthrall even the notoriously elitist fans of Carnatic (South Indian Classical) music. It’s virtually unheard of for a band in India to be equally comfortable playing to moshpits full of black-tshirted metalheads, as they are to concert halls with white-haired septugenarians, but that’s exactly what Agam has made its reputation doing. The Inner Self Awakens’ strong focus on songwriting at the expense of extended instrumental masturbation actually works in its favour, and the album is challenging, compositionally tight and technically impressive without a single note wasted.

2. Indus Creed – Evolve

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Stalwarts of India’s hard rock scene return after a 14 year hiatus with arguably the best Indian rock album both of the year, and possibly of all time. The band has traded in its erstwhile ’80s-flavoured hard rock and metal for a faux-prog sound that is often reminiscent of some of the more pop-oriented moments of Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard. There isn’t a weak moment on the album, with hooks galore and instrumental flash that always perfectly complements the song. This is a rare album indeed.

1. Twelve Foot Ninja – Silent Machine

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Eclectic, unpredictable, wacky fun. Twelve Foot Ninja’s masterpiece Silent Machine is music for the ADD-afflicted. Containing a surprise-a-minute, Silent Machine makes stylistic jumps that span djent, dub, latin jazz and disco, often within the same song! Twelve Foot Ninja are the spiritual successors of Faith No More and Mr Bungle, particularly when it comes to vocalist Kin, who sometimes sounds like a Mike Patton clone. However, Twelve Foot Ninja are purely their own beast and there is very little in the world that sounds like them.

Bob’s Top 5 of 2012

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)

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