Monday, December 10, 2012

Top 20 albums of 2012!

2012 was one of the best years for music by far. This was the year of comebacks and return to forms for many bands. We saw some surprisingly awesome albums from bands I hadn't thought of in years, along with some great ones from some veterans in the music world. Here is my top 20 of the year. Happy new year guys! Can't wait to see what 2013 will bring!

#20 The Cult - Choice of Weapon
A great rock record! On this record, the band has found their true sound after years of mediocrity. Yes, this is the best record since Love many years ago. Ian Astbury still has his trademark range and Billy Duffy continues to be one of the best guitarists today. Listen to this record along with Love and Sonic Temple, it is right on that level of greatness. 
Notable tracks: For The Animals, Elemental Light, The Wolf

#19 - Green Day - Uno, Dos, Tre
Yes, these are actually 3 albums but to be honest, there is a lot of filler on all these albums. This ended up making my top 20 because between all that, there is a tight, decent album in here. The band returns with 3 new albums, all released within about 2 months of each other. This band has been extremely prolific as of late, also working on the American Idiot broadway play and a documentary. There are many classic Green Day classic songs, with other ones sounding like homages to their heroes The Clash, blues, and even country sounding songs. There are also songs that have a bit of a 60s vibe to them, which recalls their other group Foxboro Hot Tubs (we need a new album someday guys) While not the masterpiece albums like Insomniac, Dookie, or Nimrod are, it is good to see Green Day is a band that is getting harder and harder to pin down.

Notable tracks: Nuclear Family, Lazy Bones, Sex Drugs and Violence

#18 Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
Looking at the album cover for The Haunted man gives you an image of the music within. Naked, bare, with someone to carry you. Yes, Natasha Khan does sound more like herself on this record. she has said this record was about her family history, she herself a mix of Pakistani and British. This does carry echoes of her 80s contemporaries Kate Bush and the Cure, both being artists which pushed the envelope and were extremely hard to pin down. Bat For Lashes is another. The song laura is a standout track, Natasha brings out the piano on this ballad, which was cowritten by justin parker, who has written songs for Lana Del Ray. A step forward for Bat For lashes, I expect more great works from them in the future.
Notable tracks: Marilyn, All Your Gold, Lillies

#17 My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures
My Dying Bride is one of the most consistent doom metal bands out there. While their contemporaries have gone a more progressive metal or alternative rock path, My Dying Bride have never really deviated from their doom/death metal path, albeit 34.788 was a bit of a change. This record has the same familiar themes of romanticism, melodic leads and dramatic lyrics. I especially love the use of violin on this record, it's there in the background, yet never seems overwhelming.
Notable tracks: Kneel Till Doomsday, Hail Odysseus, Like A Perpetual Funeral

#16 Garbage - Not Your Kind of People
Produced right here in Atwater Village and Glendale, this album is rocking and angry in all the right ways. The band, especially producer and drummer Butch Vig create such noisy atmospheres and hallucinagenic sounds which bring you to an otherwordly place. This is a return to their 1998 album, Version 2.0, after the more pop driven Beautiful Garbage and their previous tepid album, Bleed Like Me. Both albums were missing that energy and angst of their selftitled and Version 2.0. This is good to see a band sticking to it's guns and creating one of the best albums of their career.
Notable tracks: I Hate Love, Felt, Blood For Poppies

#15 Silversun Pickups - Neck of The Woods
Excellent follow up to their previous album. This sees the band going in different directions, including synthpop and rock. This is a nice companion to Smashing Pumpkins recent album Oceania. A very underrated album. This album begs to be played loud!I love their use of synths on this record, which is a change for them. The band have compared this album to a horror movie, which is fitting because it's full of twists, turns, quiet moments and in-your-face suspense.
Notable tracks: Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), The Pit, Here We Are (Chancer)

#14 Blaqk Audio - Bright Black Heaven
The electronic side project of AfI's Davey Havok and Jade Puget, this follow up to 2009's Cexcells, sees the band continuing their foray into 80s inspired synthpop and industrial darkwave. This album was actually recorded years ago when the band was recording cexcells, so many songs continue on the same theme of that record. Love, longing, Jade Puget's electronics and Davey's vocals are always spectacular.
Notable tracks: Faith Healer, Bon Voyeurs, Fade To White

#13 Soundgarden - King Animal
Soundgarden are back! After a string of disappointing solo albums, and a few Audioslave releases, chris cornell and the boys from Seattle release one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. Chris Cornell has never sounded better, Kim Thayil proves to be one of the best guitarists in rock ever. wailing choruses,  rocking guitars, it feels like the 90s never left us.
Notable tracks:Been Away Too Long, Blood on the Valley Floor, Halfway There

#12 Assemblage 23 - Bruise
Tom Shear's Assemblage 23 is a staple in the electronic music genre. All the familiar themes are here, layered synths, introspective lyrics and intense beats. The album is called bruise and there is definitely a theme of damage and overcoming scars. One of their most emotional albums to date. One of the criticisms of previous releases was a lack of confidence as far as vocals go. It's good to see Tom finally become more confident in his delivery, and this album is catchy, mature and never cheesy. A step up from 2009's Compass.
Notable tracks:Crosstalk, God is A Strangely Absent Father, The Last Mistake

#11  Bob Mould - Silver Age
Earlier this year, Merge Records reissued all of the albums from Sugar, Bob Mould's post-Husker Du band. That band was the perfect mixture of punk energy and poppish hooks. This new record, Silver age could be the missing Sugar album. Even at 52, Bob Mould still has the energy and wit of people half his age. This record taps into a certain nostalgia for me, especially because I believe that Sugar is one of the 90s most underrated bands, who were extremely catchy and had amazing lyrics. This album recalls all that was great about Sugar but with a wiser edge. Bob Mould is back and in a brilliant way
Notable tracks: The Descent, Silver Age, Star Machine

#10 Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Billy Corgan and his current crew returns with one of their best records in over a decade. After stumbling with Zwan, and his solo record, along with a lackluster "comeback" album with Zeitgeist in 2007, it's good to have Billy back, albeit with hired help. This album is one of the most ambitious things Corgan has done in a long time, full of sweeping melodies, soaring choruses and a voice like no one else, Corgan is a man who doesn't care what you think. The main themes on this album are enlightenment, love, and knowledge. Corgan has been to hell and back, this record sees Billy corgan as someone you have never seen before, optimistic. Great record and a comforting return.
Notable tracks: One Diamond One Heart, My Love Is Winter, The Celestials

#09 Matt Skiba and the Sekrets - Babylon

Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio returns with this album, a sort-of follow up to 2011's This Addiction. This record is a true rock record, though Matt has said he was influenced by postpunk bands on this record and it shows. The album is full of nice synth harmonies and lyrically it touches on familiar grounds:demons, bloody hands, etc.. If you were a fan of Matt Skiba's side project Heavens, this is the record for you. This is somewhere between an 80s goth rock album and pop punk. Good mixture of songs.
Notable tracks: Olivia, Voices, Falling Like Rain

#08 Propagandhi - Failed States
Canadian punk band Propagandhi have sure come a long way. From their debut as a NOFX-style pop punk beginnings to their current punk meets metal sound, this band have always maintained an aura of realness which is lacking in many punk circles. This is the band's first album on punk label Epitaph, and from the opening track to the last, the energy never lets up. This is an evolution for the band that I expect to hear more from. For many bands, getting older means becoming more mellow, but for Propagandhi it's the exact opposite, they just keep getting better.
Notable tracks: Note To Self, Unscripted Moment, Cognitive Suicide

#07 - Rush - Clockwork Angels
Rush's best album since Moving Pictures. This also marks Rush's first concept album in over 30 years. The concept is "an individual trying to follow his dreams in a dystopian future" Rush are true survivors. While many of their contemporaries either broke up, or became irrelivant, Rush soared on, and this album is no different. Their lyrics have never been better thanks to Neil Peart. This album is full of references to prayers, miracles, angels. There is a novel to coincide with this album to be released next year. I cannot wait! This album rocks from beginning to end. A very heavy record, there is something here for everyone, to the Rush fanatic to the casual fan. This is a record that doesn't really stand out when you hear individual tracks. It works better as a whole. Listen to the whole record to get more of a grasp on the story. Highly recommended.
Notable tracks: Clockwork Angels, The Anarchist, Headlong Flight

#06 - Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
Cohen's strongest work since the 80s. This sees Leonard at his most confessional. The 77 year old has lived a long life and here are his tales. Many songs are about despair, loneliness and realization. Before Leonard talked about his personal life, the Suzannes and Mariannes in his life, now he speaks in a more universal language. Cohen is an old soul, and a true legend, a poet, a singer, a slave for love and as he puts it "a lazy bastard". This album reminds me of the late Johnny Cash's last few albums. Very quiet, with a voice full of age and yearning.
Notable tracks: Show Me The Place, Darkness, Going Home

#05 Marilyn Manson - Born Villain
A return to form for Marilyn Manson after the hit-and-miss of their previous records. Having been dropped from their label, Interscope, to join the independent label Cooking Vinyl, this record feels like a rebirth for the band. This album sees the band at its most diverse, incorporating elements of glam rock, punk rock, post punk and even blues at times. One element of this record, which really hasn't appeared on previous ones are the incredible basslines and choruses. The band was written off a while back, but this record brings a new energy and spirit and rebirth. Not only a great record, one of the best for the band and of the year.
Notable tracks: No Reflection, Flowers of Evil, The Gardener

#04 - Dead When I Found Her - Rag Doll Blues
Excellent follow up to 2010's Harm's Way. Michael Halloway continues to push the envelope of industrial music. This album sees Dead When I found her advancing to a more original sound.This is a throwback to the industrial music I grew up listening to, yet still maintaining an original synth sound. Michael is one of the most creative forces in goth/industrial music today. Their first album was more similar to Skinny Puppy, this sees them exploring new territory. This record, I would say is more similar to Tear Garden, more experimental, creating a dark atmosphere with haunting lyrics. I look forward to more from Michael Halloway.
Notable tracks: Rain Machine, No More Nightmares, Mirrors

#03 - Swans - The Seer
This is not an album to play in the background while engaged in other activities. This 2 hour, 2 cd album begs to be listened to intently without distraction. The title track is nearly a half hour long. this was unlike any other album released this year. This is the first album from Swans which features special guests, including Low, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and yes, even the one and only Jarboe, making this a reunion of sorts for her and Michael gira. After hearing this album, I was exhausted. I assume this was the goal for this record. This record is heavy and cathartic and one i would only recommend to fans of the band. Very personal, a very loud record.
Notable tracks: Mother of The World, The Seer, Song For A Warrior

#02 - Men Without Hats - Love in the Age of War
Who would have thought that this band known mostly as a one-hit wonder here in the US, would have their greatest album released in 2012!? But yes, Canada's own Men Without Hats have reached their creative peak with this, their latest album, Love in The Age of War. This album has a bit of a darker, more cynical vibe than previous releases. Produced by Marilyn Manson/Skinny Puppy producer, Dave "Rave" Ogilvie, this album is darker than previous ones, but will still have you singing it's catchy choruses. Synths, drums, emotional vocals throughout. This is one of the best albums of this year, no doubt about it.
Notable tracks: Love In The Age of War, Head Above Water, The Girl With the Silicon Eyes

and #1 album of the year, this should come as no surprise. This was, for me at least, the most highly anticipated album this year.....

#1 Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
What more can I say about this record? My top album of the year. Hearing these songs live made me love them more. The band took a break after 1996, Lisa did a ton of soundtrack work, Brendan Perry worked with other artists such as Piano Magic and Zoar, along with releasing a few solo records of their own. Anastasis is a return to form from the band, the word meaning rebirth in Greek. Lisa sings in her trademark glossolalia style, where Brendan sings in a more traditional English style. The highlight of the album is Return of the She-King, a rare duet featuring both of them. Dead Can Dance has always been a band that defied conventions and trends. This album is reflective of that. This album was my highlight of the year. Seeing the energy these two perform live is so magical. It really is hard to put into words how intense this band is, which is something I think Dead can Dance has always achieved. Without a doubt, the album of the year.
Notable tracks: Return of the She King, Amnesia, Kiko, Children of The Sun

Honorable mentions:

Here are a few albums that didn't quite make it, mostly because they fell slightly short or I haven't had the chance to completely hear every track, nevertheless, here it goes!

Joey Ramone - Ya Know
Last solo album recorded by the late Ramones frontman. 

Cradle of Filth - Manticore and Other Horrors

The British extreme metal band's 10th studio album. This album brings some punk inspired riffs and is hailed as one of their best.

Autumn's Grey Solace - Divinian

The etheral/shoegaze/dreampop band's seventh studio album. This band has been extremely prolific and remains one of the best band's on Projekt Records, which remains at the forefront of wonderful ambient/darkwave/shoegaze music. This album continues the band's knack for dreamy soundscapes and otherworldly sounds. Excellent.

Former Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris returns with perhaps the shortest album of the year, clocking in at about 15 minutes long. Fans of Black Flag and Circle Jerks rejoice. This brings back some oldschool hardcore and it feels like the 80s never left.

Unto Ashes - Burials Foretold
The apocalyptic folk band's 8th album, this album features many diverse instruments such as cello, bagpipes, French horn, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy. A nice mixture of Renaissance and medieval themes, and instrumentation. I also love the vocals of Michael Laird, Natalia Lincoln, and Ericah Hagle all meshed together. Projekt Records strikes again! Check out their covers of Apoptygma Berzerk and Van Halen.

Dan Adriano in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Season
Solo album from Alkaline trio covocalist and bassist Dan Adriano. Good acoustic album, mostly about feeling lonely while on tour. Decent effort. I'm still more of a fan of Matt Skiba personally.

The Birthday Massacre - Hide and Seek

The fifth album from Canadian gothrock/synthrock band The Birthday Massacre. A bit of a darker album for the band, inspired by unsolved mysteries. Lead singer Chibi developed polyps during the recording, which altered some of the vocals on some tracks. Good album, though it could have been longer.

The Offspring - Days Go By
Good album, killer tracks. The woah woahs have come back, which is always nice. The band rerecorded Dirty Magic, originally on their Ignition album for this one, but California Crusin might be the worst song the band has ever recorded. Still a good album, just skip that song.

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

I really like her vocals and her throwback to 60s music. As much flack as she has gotten, I think she's immensely talented and this is a good album.

Killing Joke - MMXII      
 Jaz Coleman at his most crazy, doomladen prophecies, it's a new Killing Joke album, what more do you expect? Decent release, still seeing what's next for these guys.      

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