Pre- (r)amble: It’s time for another year-end list. With some exceptions, 2012 was a “down year” for new music. Maybe I’m just old and cranky (I’m 35 –right around the age most people stop caring about new music), but looking at the bands and styles that people were into this year I can’t help but worry about where music is going and if I’ll still be able to relate to it in a meaningful way for much longer. Hopefully things will get better soon, but until that happens I’m shortening my year-end list down to 15 from the usual 20 because, well, there just weren’t 20 albums in 2012 that deserve that kind of praise. As always, keep in mind that these lists are pretty dumb and just a snapshot of what I think about these albums as of right now, so take it all with a grain of salt. Enjoy.
1. Disappears – Pre Language (Kranky)
Brilliant third album from this Chicago group, which now features Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums. Their dark, repetitive grooves never sounded so good. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/disappears-2012-reviews/
2. Swans – The Seer (Young God)
A crazy-ass double-album that challenges (and rewards) the listener in a way that nobody else did in 2012. It made everything else seem lightweight by comparison.
3. The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – The Journey Is Long (Glitterhouse)
Using the deceased Gun Club singer’s previously unheard works-in-progress as a springboard, an A-Team of rock vets (Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, The Jim Jones Revue, various members of The Bad Seeds…etc.) come up with a winning compilation of rock gems and haunted blues. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/jeffrey-lee-pierce-sessions/
4. The Walkmen – Heaven (Fat Possum)
This is what all the new-millennium New York bands should sound like in 2012. Mature, elegant, and full of emotional song-craft. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/walkmen-2012-reviews/
5. Lee Fields and The Expressions – Faithful Man (Truth & Soul)
Old school soul dripping in sweat and raw energy. Why can’t more people make music like this? Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/lee-fields-and-the-expressions/
6. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben (A Records)
I had given up on them, but they won me back with Aufheben which mixes their old psychedelic swagger and some new tricks. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/brian-jonestown-massacre-2012-reviews/
7. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Double Six)
You know what you’re getting with a Spiritualized album, but Sweet Heart, Sweet Light delivers their best batch of “drugs vs. jesus songs” in a long time.
8. Guided By Voices – Class Clown Spots a UFO (Fire)
The best of three Guided By Voices albums to come out this year, and their most enjoyable since 2001’s Isolation Drills. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/guided-by-voices-2012-reviews/
9. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse (In The Red)
Ty Segall also released three albums in 2012, and while the other two were merely OK, Slaughterhouse shredded with an aggressive mix of punk, metal and garage rock.
10. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber (Fat Possum)
People were really into Tame Impala’s Lonerism, but I far prefer this album’s coupling of French singer Melody Prochet with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker’s production and musical backing. If you liked Asobi Seksu’s Citrus or Blonde Redhead’s 23 then this is the album for you.
11. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy (Self-Released)
It follows the template laid out on 2007’s Dandelion Gum, but it’s a great template so who cares? LSD-twisted psychedelic pop overload that can get people dancing and freak them out the same time.
12. Tindersticks – The Something Rain (Constellation)
Yet another strong album of low-key, dark cinematic noir rock from this British band. Easily the best album ever to open with a nine-minute spoken word song.
13. The Sights – Left Over Right (HRM)
The best straight ahead rock record of the year, whatever that means. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/sights-2012-reviews/
14. Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral (4AD)
The addition of keyboards and drum machines is jarring at first, but nobody does the doom’n’gloom stuff as well as Lanegan.
15. Quakers – Quakers (Stones Throw)
There were a few albums I considered putting in this slot (sorry Divine Fits and Mission of Burma) but this forty-one song global survey of hip-hop gets the nod because it had “Fitta Happier”, perhaps the best rap song in a decade, if not longer. Full review: http://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/quakers/