Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Albums Of 2012

     Now that a whole year has past, it’s time to take a look back at all the amazing music releases for 2012. And what a year for music it was. It was one of the best years in recent memory. You had beloved old school acts like KISS, Van Halen, Soundgarden, the offspring, the Smashing pumpkins and Ben Folds Five release new material. More recent acts like The Killers, Silversun Pickups, Linkin Park, Mumford and Sons, Slash and Muse. Spectacular albums by metal giants like Messugah, Gojira, Enslaved and Lamb of God,. And let’s not forget underground releases from the likes of the Birthday Massacre, Periphery, and Tamaryn. Everything from rock, metal, shoegaze, electronica, alternative, indie, pop, death metal, progressive, metalcore, dream-pop, industrial and even vocaloid. 

     Before we go on any further, I have to explain that this best of release list is based off of my opinion and what albums I have heard. I’m sure there are some amazing releases that I have not heard and so it may not be appear on this list. And this list may be based on my opinion, but I try to be as unbiased as possible and consider myself a good judge of music. Plus as a musician I listen to TONS of music. I don’t care about critic reviews, or how popular or unpopular a artist or band is, or the type of music they play. I only care if the music is awesome.

     Now, the albums may be numbered, but it’s merely to make the list more organized and has nothing to do with one being better than the other. With each album, I’ll also be giving a music sample and a brief explanation of why the release is so amazing.

Let’s get to it!

1) Deftones- Koi No Yokan

     If one considers themselves’s a music fan, there’s no excuse for not listening to the Deftone’s Koi No Yokan. One of the more critically praised and consistent rock bands of recent years, they have solidified themselves as one of the best rock bands with each new album and are sure to leave a legendary legacy behind. With the Japanese titled Koi no Yokan, meaning, a feeling of love at first sight, the band continues to reign. There’s the eerie and euphonic atmospheres, beautiful vague poetic lyrics, strong offbeat drumming, pretty and droning heavy guitar work and dynamic vocals that shift from subdued dream pop lulls to strong rock hollers. Koi No Yokan is a very dynamic album, expanding on the familiar Deftones territory of experimental rock and alternative metal. This should be at the top of any rock list. 

Key tracks: EVERYTHING
 Deftones - Leathers

2) Tamaryn - Tender New Signs

     Relatively unknown upon the release of their debut The Waves, New Zealand duo Tamaryn has been gaining some momentum in the underground scene. Their dreampop music has been praised by both fans of the genre, shoegazers and anyone who’s stumbled across their music. It can be described as beautiful music awash with distorted guitars, warmth, gorgeous atmospheres and sedating female vocals. Tender New Signs continues in the bands sound. It’s an album of beautiful sights and sounds. It’s an escape to a far off distant paradise of embracing fuzz. I can’t recommend this album or band enough. Be sure to check them out and tell all your friends about it. For more about Tamaryn check out my previous post about them HERE.  

Key tracks: I'm Gone, While Your Sleeping, I'm Dreaming, Heavenly Bodies, Prizma, Violet's In A Pool

Tamaryn - I'm Gone

3) Baroness - Yellow And Green  

     The state of Georgia has become known for churning out memorable sludge metal acts in recent years, Mastodon, Klyesa, Black Tusk - among many others.  You can now add Baroness to that list. If the quartet wasn’t on your radar with their 2007's critically acclaimed Red album, they better damn be with this years Yellow and Green. It is an ambitious 2 disc endeavor full of sludge metal with a trippy psychedelic influence and progressive overtones. Songs range from psychedelic head trips to surprising melodic sludge. And if you don’t know what sludge is, then  there’s no better place to start then with this album. 

Key tracks: Take My Bones Away, March To The Sea, Cocainium, Back Where I Belong, Eula

Baroness  Take My Bones Away

4) Silversun Pickups - Neck Of The Woods

     One of the more recent bands who have taken up the 90's shoegaze rock sound and have become part of the nugaze movement, Silversun pickups continues in line with the success of their previous 2 albums.  Neck Of The wood’s is a album of noisy distorted guitars, fast paced drumming, explosive choruses, tense build ups and a subtle post punk influence. A highly dynamic album, there are moments of beautiful serenity and high octane bursts of chaotic drumming and loud distorted guitars. Highly layered, polished ( not over-produced) and explorative, it’s the longest, most dynamic and experimental Silversun Pickup album to date. It may be loud and chaotic, beautiful and relaxing, but it’s also catchy and memorable. In short this album is amazing. A must listen for any music fan. 

Key tracks: Skin Graph, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), Busy Bees,  Mean Spirits, Simmer, Dots And Dashes

Silversun Pickups - Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)

5) Austin  Wintory - Journey Original Soundtrack 

     Nominated for a Grammy, Austin’ Wintory’s Journey Soundtrack is a musical masterpiece and is the first game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy. Yes, you heard that right, this album is a soundtrack to a critically acclaimed game. However, just because it’s a game soundtrack is no excuse not to give this album a listen. (If you haven’t already.) The composition and sound production are absolutely genius and the actual music - which is all instrumental in nature - will leave you completely sedated, spellbound or leave you in tears by its sheer beauty. There are meditative atmosphere, entrancing eastern instruments and crescendoing orchestrations. 

Key tracks: EVERYTHING

Austin Wintory - I Was Born For This

6) Cherri Bomb - This Is The End Of Control 

     All girl band, Cherri Bomb, has released what is one of the more stronger debuts in recent years. Rooted in rock, the bands debut showcases what is sure to become their signature sound. Quality Rock and Roll with melodic tendencies and a tasteful pop influence. Their music is well produced, composed and executed. Complete with awesome female rock vocals, amazing drumming, gritty mean guitars, bass work and big melodic choruses. Their debut may be under 40 minutes, but there is no bad song and further shows how talented the girls behind this band are. For more about Cherri Bomb check out my previous post about them HERE.  

Key tracks: Better This Way,  Raw. Real, Shake The Ground, Too Many Faces, Let It Go, Act The Part, Paper Doll

Cherri Bomb - Raw. Real.

7) Oblivion Dust - 9 Gates For Bipolar

     This album has to be one of the most solid releases in the alternative rock genre for 2012. Ken Llyod’s vocals are the best they’ve ever been, powerful and dynamic. They can be big and potent or soar to feather light falsetto’s. The drumming and bass playing is tight and the guitar playing by KAZ is fresh, simple yet effective. Sparse sample and electronic programming is used and there is enough variety in tonalities and risks that pay off, to make this release a great one. This is straight up alternative rock everyone can love.

Key tracks: Gateway, Tune, Sailing Free, Ghost That Bleeds, In My Rainy Field, Baby, it’s all good

Oblivion Dust - Tune

8) John 5 - God Told Me To

     John 5 has worked with a number of high profile artists and musicians and has numerous guitar contributions under his belt. He’s the main guitarist for Rob Zombie, has been in Marilyn Manson and is currently involved on Led Zeppelin’s and Rod Stewart’s upcoming albums. The guitar shredder and virtuoso managed to put out his second solo album amidst a busy schedule and it is a fantastic release of insane guitar acrobatics and moods. Their are technically challenging hi speed riffs and solos, strobe sounding finger tapping, industrial metal overtones, a cover of Michael Jacksons’s Beat it and best of all is the incredible acoustic work. The amazing shred tracks are balanced with acoustic guitar pieces that vary from country to Spanish flamenco playing. The balance of different moods and styles make this one of the more memorable and enjoyable instrumental guitar records in recent time.

Key tracks: Beat It, Ashland Bump, Killafornia, The Hill Of The Seven Jackals, Noche Acosodar, The Lie You Live
John 5 - Noche Acosador

9) Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

     Converge has been one of the more influential bands in the punk scene in recent years and their influence extends well beyond into other genres. With All That We Love, We Leave Behind they are sure to leave behind a legacy. It’s an album of raw unrestrained grating hard punk. Jagged rhythm sections, noisy feedback, hurried yells, raspy screams, low moans and mathy drumming. During breaks from their crazy wall of sound cacophony, the listener is treated to slow burning looms. 

Key tracks: Aimless Arrow, Trespasses, Sadness Come Home, Empty On The Inside, A Glacial Pace, Coral Blue, All We Love We Leave behind

Converge - Aimless Arrow

10) 80kidz - TurboTown

     One would think with the loss of a member, the now electro duo 80kidz would have hit a snag musically, but that’s not the case at all. With turbotown, the electronic musicians show off the their best work to date. In 14 tracks the duo shows off skillful electronic programming, composition and originality. Piano’s, guitars and the occasional vocal track make their way into their songs. There are ambient relaxing tracks, indie like rock songs and straight up electronic ear candy. This amazing album offers variety, innovation and accessibility. I’m sure anyone who listen’s to this release will love it.    

Key tracks: Lander, Autobahn, Stack Up, Mind the Gap, Esquire,

80kidz - Mind The Gap

11) Kyary -  PamyuPamyu Revolution

     If you haven’t heard of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and you don’t happen to speak Japanese, know there is no need to know the language in order to enjoy Kyary’s highly addictive super cute and quirky electro-pop. It’s upbeat, super fun and you can’t help but sing along to her catchy refrains. The music is happy electro-pop that is deceivingly expertly programmed.  If this has grown men dancing in their cubicles to her music, I consider it a massive success. Kyary really puts to shame all those horrible bland western pop artists with shallow songs all about breakups and partying. Hell, she has a better music video than Psy’s Gangnam Style too. 

Key tracks: EVERYTHING

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - PONPONPON

12) The Agonist - Prisoners

     If you want crushing technical metal with brootal vocals and lovely cleans consider the Agonist to get the job done. This Canadian band has put out what is sure to be the best female fronted metal album of 2012. Prisoners has everything you need for that titular consideration. Beastly female growls and operatic cleans, furious drumwork that borders on prog drumming, technical guitar playing and great audible bass playing. Prisoner’s is a album that’s in a category of metal all it’s own. Technical, progressive, classical and symphonic at times,  it’s a combination of all the aforementioned genres in a refined package of 11 tracks.

Key tracks: You’re Coming With Me, Predator and Prey, Panaphobia, Ideomotor, Lonely Solipsist, Dead Ocean, The Mass Of The Earth, Everybody Wants You (Dead), Revenge Of The Dadaists, (Should of just said everything)

The Agonist - Panophobia

13) The Faceless - Autotheism

     As any informed metal fan will tell you, 2012 was an great year for metal There were bucket loads of amazing metal releases, however this underground technical death metal band outdid them all with Autotheism. It can be described as a progressive technical death metal since the band has taken up a progressive direction. The Faceless have taken the brutality of their straight up technical death metal Planetary Duality and combined it with  the progressive nature of Akeldama. Autotheism is a masterpiece of technically challenging guitar playing, drum work, bass harmonies, brutal death metal and progressive music. The music shifts between brutal heavy death metal, progressive note leading passages to jazz inspired takes. Autotheism belongs in every metal fan’s music library and deserves to be a coveted release.

Key tracks: EVERYTHING 

The Faceless - Emancipate

14) Intervals - In Time

     Canadian band Interval’s, continues with their technical progressive metal on, In Time. If you’ve never heard of them, you’re not alone. Signed to an Independent label, this all instrumental but very incredible band, hasn’t been out in the music scene very long. With the two releases they’ve put out, they show amazing skill, promise and a tight professional sound production. Hints of ambient and electronic music can be heard, as can the low chuggy palm mutes of Djent, but at the core of the band, the technical progressive metal sound remains. The technical guitar playing is phenomenal, going from heavy Djenty rhythms, to screeching solos, spider combing finger taping and crisp cleans. The drumming and bass playing is equally amazing. If you love Animals As Leaders, then you’ll love this band.

Key tracks: Tapestry, Momento, Epiphany

Intervals - tapestry

15) Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal

     Pioneer’s in the Djent movement, Periphery returns with a surprisingly less Djenty release and a more expanded experimental side. The key sound of the band hasn’t been abandoned, the technical fretboard action, the electronic music influence, the clean and growled vocals, the progressive nature and the bands humor is still there. Everything has just been improved. Of special note is Spencer’s vocals. His growls are heftier and his clean are well....cleaner. And there may be less djent moments, but when they are used the band makes them count in a big way. Guest solos include John Petrucci, Gotherie  Govan and Wes Hauch. Technical, proggy and experimental, this a good follow up too their much love self titled release. It may take several listens for the listener to hear everything that’s going in the highly densely layered tracks, but it’s worth it.

Key tracks: Have A Blast, Ji, Scarlet, Make Total Destroy, Mile Zero, Masamune, Epoch

Periphery - Make Total Destroy

16) Mumford And Sons - Babel

     It seems English band Mumford and Sons have released the most successful folk album for the year. There aren’t many folk albums out there that can top the charts and sell hundreds of thousands of copies. And the album has more than numbers to back it up. The music on Babel holds up through the entire album. It’s accessible, full of passion and great banjo and guitar playing. The lyrics are direct, but heartfelt and are sung with a deep emotion. The nuance of orchestras bolster songs and the shifting moods and tempos keep the album interesting. This a great follow up to Sigh No More.

Key tracks: I Will Wait, Holland Road,  Hopeless Wanderer, Broken Grown, Not With Haste

Mumford And Sons - I Will Wait

17) The Killers - Battle Born

     Battle Born is everything about the Killers people love. The warm synths, narrative story telling lyrics, Brandon’s strong vocals, poppy choruses and allusions to deserts. It contains the bands most bold guitar playing and more prominent synths without abandoning their accessible formula. They’re one of my favorite bands and they've surely proved by now they are capable of delivering great records every time.

Key tracks: Flesh and Bone, The Way It was, Deadlines and Commitments, The Rising Tide, Battleborn

The Killers - The Way It Was

18) L'Arc~en~Ciel - Butterfly

     They’ve sold millions of albums worldwide and have gone on a successful world tour which included playing at the prestigious Madison Square Garden. They’ve been active for 20 years and have 15 albums on their music catalog. And on Butterfly, this band shows they still have plenty of steam left. Poppy chorus, rock solos, varying soundscapes, experimentation and some beautiful ballads make Butterfly more than a straight up rock album.

Key tracks: XXX, Bye Bye, Shade Of season, Wild Flower, Shine, Nexus 4

L'Arc~en~Ciel - Wild Flower

19) Zomboy - The Dead Symphonic EP

     Zomboy should be like candy coated drugs to anyone who is a fan of electronic and dubstep music. His leading heavy rhythms, booming beats, lathered layers and subtle melodic progressions should win anyone over. Energetic and big for hitting the dubstep floor and just as enjoyable to listen to for pure ear candy. It’s some of the best dubstep music has to offer.  I can’t stress enough how amazing some of the layering and composition is on this EP. The inclusion of guest vocals, guitar riffs, and other instruments add variety and elevate’s Zomboy from all the other Dubstep artists out there

Key tracks: Vancouver Beatdown, City 2 city, Gorilla March

Zomboy - Vancouver Beatdown

20) Solar Fields - Random Friday

     After 4 years master Swedish electronic musician, Solar Fields,  returns with Random Friday. A hefty 10 track progressive electronic album of unique intricate lush songs. Organic ambient pads, downtempo beats, elevating rises, delayed appregioes and glitched samples are just a few of the many components that make up Random Friday. The album is well over an hour long, but six minute tracks go by fast as the listener is immersed a dense layer of atmospheres and the evolving changes of the songs. The album is best listened to without any distractions, or through headphones.

Key tracks: Light Control, Cobalt 2.5, In Motion, Daydreaming, Lift Off, Perception

Solar Fields - Cobalt 2.5

21) Dazzle Vision - Shocking Loud Voice

     This release may be a compilation of songs the band has previously done, but they’ve all been remastered and remixed. Something the tracks desperately needed. The lead single of the album is the only new material present and it’s a hard rocking track with Maiko’s growls and screams, a cool guitar riff and short electronic programming. The rest of the album takes you through the band’s diverse sound. Heavy in your face alternative metal, hard rock, beautiful ballads and an exploration to other genres( Fusing jazz with metal) For more about Dazzle Vision check out my previous post about them HERE.

Key tracks: Second, Vision, Here, Miss Cinderella, Camelia

Dazzle Vision - Second

22) Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth

     And the infamous ”Brown” sound is back. There is no lack of Eddie’s sick guitar playing on this album. You have his famous speedy finger tapping, killer rhythm sections, blazing and wailing solos and riffs and lots of awesome guitar effects. He guitar playing isn’t the only great thing about this album. As a whole it’s very strong. The singles off the album may be a bit more mainstream friendly, but there’ still solid, catchy and enjoyable rocking songs. However the real hard hitting side of the album is found on the rest of the album. This is a spectacular comeback album for 2012.  

Key tracks: Chinatown, Bullethead, As Is, Honeybabiesweetiedoll, Outta Space, Beats Workin

Van Halen - China Town

23) Slash - Apocalyptic Love

     Rather than doing another album full of guest musicians, Slash opted for doing his second solo album with a traditional band. Miles Kennedy is at the helm of the vocals and his good vocal range and tone are a perfect fit with the bands hard rocking sound. And there’s plenty of hard and straight up rock n’ roll on the album as there is screeching guitar solos and awesome riffs by Slash. There really is no bad song on this album.

Key tracks: Apocalyptic Love, One Thrill, You’re a Lie, Anastasia, Far And Away

Slash - You're A Lie

24) As I lay Dying - Awakened

      And the best metalcore album for the year goes to As I Lay Dying. No Surprises here. Not even Parkway Drive could out do them. It’s heavy as hell, technical, melodic, lyrically inspiring and contains the most guitar textures of any AILD album they’ve released beforehand. And for anyone out there who may be a metalcore dissenter thinking this is just another generic metalcore album released by a generic metalcore band, think again!. They’re considered one of the best bands in the genre for a reason. Their thrash influence and ability to strive for originality is what makes them so awesome. For a further look at Awakened please check out my previous post HERE.

Key tracks: A Greater Foundation, No Lungs To Breathe, Wasted Words, Whispering Silence, Defender and Tear Out My Eyes

As I Lay Dying - A Greater Foundation

25) Wintersun - In Time

     In Time, is the long awaited album by Wintersun and as many fans will tell you, it was worth the five year wait.  It is masterpiece of metal, classical and symphonic music.  The use of magical oriental instrumentation (namely Japanese), is obvious from the album’s very first track. There are beautiful and grand instrumental pieces with giant orchestrations and symphonic compositions. The near 12 minute and 14 minute tracks on this album are giant metal movements with  raw gravelly metal vocals that live up to the high standard the band sets for itself.

Key tracks: When Time fades Away, Sons of Winters And Stars, Time,

Wintersun - Sons Of Winter And Stars

26) Soundgarden - King Animal

     So one of the grungiest bands of grunge from the grunge era return with a solid grunge release. This was not only a commercial success for the band but a successful album in terms of music. The album contains all the great things about soundgarden. Chris Cornell’s godly vocals, superb guitar work, a grounded rhythm section and that grungy vibe. Now add some great lyrics, tasteful experimentation, a modern sound production and maturity that could only come from countless active years of musicianship and you have King Animal. Whether your a soundgarden fan or rock fan, King Animal should please. 

Key tracks: Been Away Too Long, By Crooked Steps, A Thousand Days Before, Bones Of Birds, Rowing

Soundgarden - By Crooked Steps

27) Enslaved - RIITIIR

     Kings of the progressive Viking black metal genre, Enslaved pushes the limits of the sound with RIITIIR. After the master release of their Axioma Ethica Odini album, it was hard to imagine the band could outdo that album, but somehow they managed to do just that. RIITIIR is an epic Viking quest of progressive metal and black metal. Raw harsh black vocals are complemented by engrossing progressive cleans and proggy leads follow ominous and dark heroic sections  Through the epic 8 tracks RIITIIR offers, chalk full of grand endeavors, brooding atmospheres, lofty lyrics, and technical musicianship, the band remains accessible and manages to sprinkle pleasant folk sections. RIITIIR is a must hear for metal fans.

Key tracks: Thoughts Like Hammers, Veilburner, Roots Of The Mountain, Forsaken,

Enslaved - Veilburner

28) The HAARP Machine - Disclosure

     You can add The HAARP Machine to the list of amazing technical metal bands Sumerian Records has signed. The band has their own brand of tech metal that incorporates the Sitar, Koto, heavy jarring rhythm sections and beautiful classical piano pieces. All of which can be found on their debut album. Subjects range from dealing with world and social problems and esoteric knowledge. Vocals shift between hoarse growls and uplifting cleans. This is a great metal debut from a band that is sure to become Sumerian’s next biggest thing. 

Key tracks: Lower The Populace, From Vanity To Utility, Disclosure, Extension to One, Machine Over

The HAARP Machine - Lower The Populace

29) Lamb Of God -  Resolution

     With resolution, Lamb Of God delivers an album of brutal ferocious metal, contrasting atmospheric yet acoustic guitar interludes and all around heaviness. Can this be the best album Lamb of God has ever done? Yes, it certainly can. You can expect lyrical content that is typical of the band and Randy’s deep guttural growls, screams and wails. And while Resolution keeps the raw edge of Wrath,  the album as whole is more cohesive and thus sounds heavier and IS better. The guitars playing was really pushed on this release and it paid off for the band in more than one way. You can expect blistering riffs, technical thrashy solos and insane heavy rhythms. 

Key tracks: Ghost Walking, Guilty, Barbarosa, Invictus, Terminally Unique, King Me

Lamb Of God - Ghost Walking

And that ends the FIRST part of my list. The second part is now available HERE

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