If theres one thing I can say about 2012 its that some band called “Various Artists” had an incredibly productive year. If theres two things I can say about 2012 its that I don’t listen to a lot of music. Well, I could actually say that about any year. Theres just too much and trying to stay on top of it all is maddening. So what follows is not so much a list of the BEST of the year (for all I know “The Pol Pots and his Pans” from Champagne Illinois may have released the next best thing to the White Album but nobody heard it) as much as it is a list of releases I listen to religiously.
10) The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet - I had almost written this band off as nothing more than a disseminator of pretentious sound art but this one surprised me. dare I say its catchy? I even played it in a crowded room once and nobody left. That’s kind of the most you can ask for anymore.
9) The Hives - Lex Hives - they're a REAL rock and roll band. Not like beards and muscles and alcohol rock and roll. I mean showmanship and grandeur and energy rock and roll. You can feel it when you listen to this.
8) Fiona Apple - The Idlers Wheel - this might not even be a good release but its her voice and I couldn’t help but be moved. I guess I’m biased. I don’t care how long shes been gone. I don’t care that she cancelled a tour because her dog died or that after she was arrested for drug possession she made some cryptic speech that sounded like it was spoken by the unloved alcoholic housewife in the first act of every episode of Intervention. Shes magical and having never picked up a chisel I bet I could carve a beautiful sculpture based on the smell of her farts alone.
7) The Chariot - One Wing - I don’t think theres a better voice in this genre than Josh Scoggin. Whereas most front men become locked into sound that barters feeling for brutality, each word josh screams into the microphone sounds like a reaction to the news that everyone he’s ever loved has been tortured and killed. You can hear anguish in his delivery to such an extent that you almost feel sick with heartache. It doesn’t hurt that his lyrics are exceptional and the music is some of the most exciting stuff that’s been played live and on wax in years.
6) Purity Ring - Shrines - This fills the hole that Portishead left which I why I personally love it but I can predict one of two things for this band after this release. They’ll either stay a favorite of people who make weird beats in their small apartments downtown or the guys who jerk off to the American Apparel ads in Vice magazine will deny ever having listened to them as soon as they accept a support slot on a Lady Gaga tour.
5) Jack White - Blunderbuss - I could see a lot of people pulling the “im gonna make sure you fully understand that I don’t like an artist before telling you that I DO like their new record so you take me more seriously” move that every asshole critic begins their reviews with for this record because Jack White puts some people off, but hes an undeniable guitar legend at this point. This record is just a great record. Maybe people don’t like him because they imagine him not wanting to be friends with them. I don’t know.
4) G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer - that “dance” I do only when I’m super drunk and the DJ plays a banger? I do that sober for almost every track on this record. I could do without that laughable chorus on “To The World” and the Mase cameo in “Higher” but Pusha T is unstoppable throughout and Kanyes lyrics are as inventive as they’ve ever been. Out of all the records on this list, this one might have gotten the heaviest rotation so far this year. My only question is why do producers apparently only give Kid Cudi 3 minutes to write lyrics before sending him into the vocal booth? Jesus. Think it through, dude. Its worth it. You’re on a Kanye West album.
3) Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind - Theres a lot you could take into account when listening to a Converge record. Things like:
If it was a bands first release would it be as impressive?
Does it move you or just bewilder you?
Do you need understand what is being said or just how its being said?
Or you could stop being such a fickle dickhead and just be honest with yourself. Is it good? The answer is yes. It might be their best.
2) El-P - Cancer 4 Cure - sometimes you sit down and listen to a record for the first time and you go. “yes. This is really awesome”. Then sometime you find yourself walking around a desolate industrial town in Russia in what should be early spring with that same record on your headphones and you go “no, this record is perfect”. I’ve been an el-p fan for quite a while but this is on a new level. Its like watching a familiar episode of Arrested Development. Each time you tune in you find something new that just amazes you and leaves you shaking your head with your mouth open thinking “oh my god. How.”