There are certain records that just awake senses within that you either fail to acknowledge or lack a subconscious understanding when reviewing one's last year (or years) as you descend into said piece. There's a moment this year where I was just laid out on my floor, in the mid-section of "Gone in Bloom and Bough," I texted so many people that I missed them or was thinking about them. That's what great records are supposed to do. They are supposed to make you react on an involuntary feeling or action that is a reaction of your involuntary senses to the music itself. Fang Island's Major is supposed to make you feel happy within a party of sheer joy, and Converge's All We Love We Leave Behind is supposed to make you rejoice in the wake of reckoning/reflection. Music is not always a "better or worse" or "technical versus stride" spectrum to me. Albums like Caspian's Waking Season, Milanku's Pris ŕ La Gorge and even the glorious return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's 'ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND ASCEND' invokes feelings of pain, anguish, joy and mild to major reflections that even I can't grasp within a few listens. In the vein of All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Empros and to an extent, Takk... - there's a greater power that flows within this record that speaks volumes of where bands should head and not blindly follow when it comes to composition and feeling over fiscal substance.
This year I was really torn between how much better the hardcore and post-hardcore scene had gotten, and the conformity I could see it heading towards. 2011 had a great set of releases, but they were follow-up records from bands we already knew about. 2012 has had a few of those as well: After the Lights, One Wing, NO, Painted, I.V., Floral Green. The sophomore full-length from We Were Skeletons is hard to wrap your head around in one listen. In fact, I stepped away after a couple, came back a few weeks later and everything great about the album hit me hard. This is the follow-up from City of Caterpillar we never got. The workings of angular motions seen in Fugazi's mid-catalog bests and the "post-everything" builds and releases are flooring. Through it all, it seems like Blame and Aging fell through the cracks of the recognition it deserved in 2012. The young guns made it a great year as well with Our Home is a Deathbed, Love is Love // Return to Dust, II and Ripe/Rot! all containing some of my favorite heavy tracks in a long time. With 2013 I'm highly anticipating new releases from Native, Caravels and Former Thieves. That's going to be the next benchmark, mark my words. As good as 2012 was, if you slept on this record, you missed a giant piece of the greater picture of what's happening right now and how to do it right at a time where young bands are beginning to craft from a blueprint once again.
When I heard Manchester Orchestra's "Pride" in 2009, there was an overwhelming shock to the back of my neck that jolted memories of Nevermind that were forever seared into my subconscious from ages ago. For a second, grunge (Mudhoney not Tonic) was back. Delving deeper into bands like Drive Like Jehu, this year's reunion of Quicksand and the overdue release of a live recording of Unwound's last tour (a band I became immersed in this past year...seriously, let's just talk about Unwound...call me), 2012 is a reminder that "KROT," the b-side to St. Vincent's Record Store Day 7", is just a shining an example of how more bands are giving a shit about tone. Along with the powerhouse of Metz' self-titled debut and Cloud Nothing's Attack on Memory, even younger acts are building custom set-ups both in the studio and live. I texted a friend who was part of cloakroom.'s vision, and he simply replied, "You're gonna love it." I will forever value this man's opinion. Moss Icon was just a rock band, pg. 99 was just a hardcore band and My Bloody Valentine just wanted to write some beautiful walls of sound differently than other pop acts. No matter the route of each individual vision, there's a tone directly connected to the overall aura. That's what melds our minds to any particular audible painting, that connection.
Albums You Should Have Heard This Year: Adventures - Adventures (No Sleep) Alta - Places (self-released/The Ghost is Clear) Bad Books - Bad Books II (Triple Crown) Basement - colourmeinkindness (Run For Cover) Big Sir - Before Gardens, After Gardens (Rodriguez-Lopez Productions) Brighter Arrows - Division and What it is to Abide (The Ghost is Clear) Caravels / Gifts From Enola - Well Worn (Topshelf / Mylene Sheath) The Casket Lottery - Real Fear (No Sleep) Caspian - Waking Season (Triple Crown) The Chariot - One Wing (eOne Music) Chelsea Wolfe - Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs (Sargent House) Circa Survive - Violent Waves (self-released) CLOAKROOM - Cloakroom I: The Power of Suggestion (self-released) Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory (Carpark) Code Orange Kids - Love is Love // Return to Dust (Deathwish Inc.) Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Deathwish Inc./Epitaph) Crypts - Crypts (Sargent House) Cut Teeth - Televandalism (self-released/Topshelf) Death Grips - The Money Store / NO LOVE DEEP WEB (Epic/self-released) Duck. Little Brother, Duck! - Don't Take Our Filth Away (Topshelf) Every Time I Die - Ex-Lives (Epitaph) Fang Island - Major (Sargent House) The Forecast - Everybody Left (Clifton Motel) Full of Hell / Code Orange Kids - Split (Topshelf) fun. - Some Nights (Fueled By Ramen) Geoff Rickly - Mixtape 1 (self-released) Girlfight - Real Spite (Mayfly) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND ASCEND (Constellation) Grizzly Bear - Shields (Warp) Heatdust - Heatdust (Texas is Funny) Hostage Calm - Please Remain Calm! (Run For Cover) Indian Handcrafts - Civil Disobedience For Losers (Sargent House) innards. - I've Lost Everything (Count Your Lucky Stars) Japandroids - Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl) Joie De Vivre - We're All Better Than This (Count Your Lucky Stars) Jowls - Cursed (Animal Style) Loma Prieta - I.V. (Deathwish Inc.) Make Do and Mend - Everything You Ever Loved (Rise) Marriages - Kitsune (Sargent House) Metz - Metz (Sub Pop) Milanku - Pris ŕ La Gorge Mountain Man - II (No Sleep) Narrows - Painted (Deathwish Inc.) Old Man Gloom - NO (Hydra Head) Peace'd Out - Peace'd Out (Siren) P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here (Rhymesayers) Pswingset - All Our False Starts (Topshelf) The Saddest Landscape - After the Lights (Topshelf) Silver Snakes - Pictures of a Floating World (Animal Style) Sirs - Sirs (Topshelf) Sohns - Ripe/Rot! (Flannel Gurl) Title Fight - Floral Green (Side One Dummy) Torche - Harmonicraft (Volcom) We Were Skeletons - Blame & Aging (Topshelf) Xerxes - Our Home is a Deathbed (No Sleep) Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson - Small Changes We Hardly Notice (Count Your Lucky Stars) Zlam Dunk - Balcones