We have another year in the books and as I look back at
creating this list it was easy to see and say it was a strong year, at least
for what I enjoyed. There is just so
much good music out there. With a year
like this it is easy to think that 2013 will be hard to top, but I'll be ready
with ears and wallet at the ready.
The rules for this list are pretty simple.
Must be a full length album (no live records,
best ofs, eps etc) and I have to own it.
As always these are my FAVORITE records of the year.
Steering clear of the “best of” moniker
because music is so subjective.
might strike a chord with you during a live changing moment.
Two years down the road you'll always note it
as an important record, but over the course of that year was it a “best of”
This list is largely
stuff that just found its way in to the player more often than others.
Some of them are really great too...like
REALLY great, others just “struck that chord”.
Few that sort of were on the bubble.
The Smashing Pumpkins “Oceania” was far
better than I expected.
interview on Howard Stern greatly helped.
I found them dipping a little bit too much towards EDM for some reason.
There are some shining moments for sure, but
I found it to be uneven.
I feel like I shouldn't like this,
at all, but I dig it.
Some not so much (ie What the heck went wrong?) - The Mars
Volta, Tenacious D and sad as it is...Public Image Limited. That, sadly is the worst record I bought this
Okay..so here it goes..sorry for formatting issues..blogger..well...anyhow..try to enjoy.
25. Gary Clark Jr. - Blak and Blu
Gary Clark Jr made waves in 2011 with an ep and he seemingly
didn't miss a single festival appearance.
That just lead to a wider audience and appreciation for his guitar
work. The album is a bit of a contrast
from his ep though. The slick/poppier
stuff is average, but when he does the blues stuff it all but makes up for
it. It is too solid a record to ignore
and Clark seems to have the money and time to put in a slick production. The guitar work is what should pull you in
and hold you though.
Check out - “When My Train Pulls In”
Previous appearances – First time
24. Sea and Cake - Runner
This seemed to sneak under the radar this year for
many. I don't recall seeing much press
for it, or even reviews (then again I can't say I looked THAT hard
either). That being said the band has
been around for almost 20 years and released 10 albums. Thats right..ten. The band release consistently solid albums
that are mid-tempo affairs that don't bore you to sleep. Vocalist Sam Prekop has sort of a soft air to
his voice and all the instruments seem to find their place and feed off one
another. If you are new to the band this
gives you a good spring board to dive head first.
Check out - “A Mere”
Previous appearances – One Bedroom #16 2003, Everybody #17
2007, Car Alarm #15 2008
23. Turing Machine - What is the Meaning of What?
Many moons ago I heard music from Turing Machine and I was
hooked. I wanted more, wanted to see
them live..heck even go to their web site to check em out..and nothing. They were a mystery it seemed.
The band had other projects, most notably Gerard Fuchs was
the drummer for Maserati. Fuchs died
suddenly and everything was put on hold, so it seemed. Working on some older material they combined
the work done by Fuchs to create this record.
A wonderful tribute to his legacy as well as the record that has a
series of songs to be used during night time car races (commercials/movies
etc). The trio works guitars, bass, drums
and a few occasional loops for a very infectious groove through out.
Check out - “Yeah,
C'mon!”, “What is the Meaning of What”
whatever the last tune is...
Previous List Appearances – This the bands first appearance
22. Bob Mould - Silver Age
A record I was actually slow to pick up for some reason was
“Silver Age”. I actually streamed it on
line and by the third song I realized it was something I needed to buy. Mould seems to be most at home with just
himself and two other players, and that is the case here. The trio locks in with tight and big rock
riffs. Sure there are solos, but nothing
feels over done and wanky, you just know you've been beaten up and Moulds
guitar did the beating.
Check out - “Star Machine”, “Keep Believing”
Previous List Appearances – First time for Bob Mould
21. Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky
As time passes I realize more and more what a great guitar play J.Mascis
is. I know, its a no brainer for
some. The last few records still show
the power and the “noise” the band can create.
If you are looking for a big “guitar” record, you need not look further.
Check out - “Don't Pretend You Don't Know” “I Know it Oh So
Previous List Appearances – Farm #17 2009.
20. Alabama Shakes - Boys + Girls
This was a huge year for this Georgia band. Seemed to come out of nowhere the band not
only got rave reviews for this disc, but for their live shows. Lead by singer/guitarist Brittany Howard
meshed a series of genres (southern rock to soul to blues rock). Alabama Shakes might be new to the public
eye, but if this is just a peek inside to what they are capable of fans are in
for a terrific ride.
Check out - “Hold On” “Goin' To the Party”
Previous List Appearances
- This is the bands first appearance
19. and you will know us by the Trail of Dead - Lost Songs
Something sort of new/neat/unique is the band has released
two records in a row where they are available via 2 cd sets. One of them being a “sequed” version. Sometimes you want that one after another
attack, other times ease off the gas some, its hard to describe, but it
works. It takes less than a minute into
the album opener “Open Doors” for things to just unload and the band is off to
the races. They are still the loud and
rowdy Trail of Dead, but the lyrics and structure seem to have grown over
recent years. There is little
compromise. Resorting back to that “song
by song” formula this is a freight train of a record that fans of their earlier
stuff will find very easy to listen to.
Their strongest since their breakout “Source Tags and Codes”.
Check out - “Pinhole Cameras” “Catatonic”
Previous List Appearances
- Source Tags and Codes #5 2002.
Tao of the Dead #9 2011.
18. Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves
When this disc first came out it seemed like only moments
would pass between the cd starting and ending.
Singer/guitarist Mark Kozelek is now five records deep under this
moniker and some reviews said they felt this album was “incomplete”. I don't have a lot to base this off as I am
new to his material,but I find it to be a very openly personal record. Most of the tracks are Mark's hushed vocals
and a lone guitar and he paints the picture.
You know he stares at the floors and is very hard to read, but that is
the charm. In the end you want to
tell Mark that things will be okay.
Check out - “UK Blues”, “Song for Richard Collopy” “Track
Previous List Appearances – First appearance.
17. The Walkmen - Heaven
This record feels more mellow than previous Walkmen
releases, but none the less compelling.
Surprised to see this didn't make many year end lists. It is a very clean sounding record with solid
focus on the vocals. Phil Ek, who has
worked with Built to Spill produced the record and there are hints of the sound
here as well. You might not get a party
started with this one, but while you are chilling with late night guests, toss
Check out - “The Love You Love”, “Love is Luck”, “The Witch”
Previous List Appearances
- Bows and Arrowes #13 2004.
16. Django Django - Django Django
Hearing the song “Default” on satellite radio was the
catalyst. Then seeing it appear on many year end lists further got my attention. What hurt them, with regard to placement, was
just the short amount of time I've spent with it. The quirky/jangle pop to their sound sort of
blends pop with new wave. If there was
an award given out to the album with most hand claps on it..this would win,
hands down (pun intended).
Check out - “Hail Bop”, “Default”, “Zumm Zumm”
Previous List Appearances – This is the bands first appearance.
15. The End of The Ocean - In Excelsis
Ohio is a hot bed of music (well for me at least) this
year. The instrumental band keeps
things on task and nothing seems to go on too long. The guitars have a light ring to them on the
opening track “On Floating” and they are one of the fewer post rock bands that
come to mind that use a bit more keyboard sections. We still get the quiet to loud slow burn, and
the payoff as the tracks grow is always rewarding. The album closer “All that Will Cease” might
be a top 3 song of they year for me as well.
All they need to do now, play a local show for us!
Check out - “All that
Will Cease”, “Star Crossed”
Previous List Appearances – This is the bands first
14. Baroness - Yellow and Green
A good friend of mine often says (with regard to double
albums) “as a double its okay, but if this was a single record it would really
be something!” Case in point here. Baroness spreads 18 tracks over two cds
(Yellow and Green) and 90% of this very solid.
The band was hit with a heavy blow when their tour bus was in an
accident in Europe. Nine people were
hurt and the band has been unable to promote the record in a live setting in
the states. With the hard news, the band
did release such a solid record that is captured in all its hard/heavy and, at
the same time, clean goodness. As heavy
at times as the heaviest found on this list, but smoother, or a bit more
balanced at others.
Check out – “Board up The House”, “Take My Bones Away”,
“March to the Sea”, “Green Theme”
Previous List Appearances – This is the bands first time.
13. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Alleujah!
Don't Bend Ascend
The most surprising thing about this record is not that is
good bad or otherwise, its the fact it came out with no notice. Walking in to their concert in Boston this
past fall it was for sale at the merchandise booth. Easy to say I was not the only one saying
“what is this?” Perhaps not a new
release in a sense since the band has/had played these songs live in the
past. None the less, when you are not expecting something
I can make it all the better. Still has
loud as they are mysterious gsybe are a band doing it on their own terms. Sit back and dive in to to these epic sound
scape's that are the soundtrack for the wildest night of your life. Look no further than the 19+ minute opener
“Mladic” to be that soundtrack.
Check out - “Mladic”, “We Drift Like Worried Fire”
Previous List Appearances – Lift Your Skinny Fists...#20
12. High On Fire -De
I like my music heavy at times, and other times really
heavy. Whenever High on Fire release a
record I perk up. Heck, I don't think
they've released a record yet that hasn't landed in my favorites of the
year. Its a bit of the same old same
old, bit massive swampy riffs and Matt Pikes howl, but that is what keeps me
coming back. Slap this one on in the car
and try to NOT get pulled over.
Check out – Fertile Green”, “Samsara”
Previous List Appearances – The Art of Self Defense #7
2000. Surrounded By Thieves #12 2002
Death is this Communion #19 2007. Snakes of the Divine #10 2010
11. Mono - For My Parents
No secret here, I love me some instrumental/post rock. Japanese band Mono consistently blow back my
hair with each release. For me they are
the best at the whole “quiet to loud” sound scape. They've gone beyond just the four of them and
expanded to orchestral arrangements making for even more massive moments. The four most quiet and unassuming musicians
I've ever seen on stage continue to make breathtaking records.
Check out - “Legend” “A Quiet Place (Together we Go)
Previous List Appearances – One More Step and You Die #9
2003. Walking Cloud..#6 2004
You Are There #5 2006. Hymn to the Immortal Wind #10 2009
10. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel.....
This is not a fluke, look at her last few releases, all top
10 for me each year. Diversity dear
readers. Put aside whatever perception
of her personal life aside and just sit back and enjoy this record. This record has been done for a while,
shelved or whatever for a few years, but she came back and continues to release
solid records. The piano work is as
strong as ever and the fun, repeated “Hot Knife” is just a vocal exercise that
is a great album closer. She appears to
be driven, lets hope there is not a huge gap between releases.
Check out -
“Valentine”, “Left Alone”, “Hot Knife”
Previous List Appearances
- When the Pawn Hits #5 1999.
Extraordinary Machine #4 2005.
09 - Mark Lanegan - Blues Funeral
Singer Mark Lanegan has one of my all time favorite voices in
music. It is very played out to say it
is charred by years of smoke and whiskey with a gargle of razor blades, but its
all true. Mark can really howl at times,
and as much as I long to hear him do this, his deep baritone just reaches out
and grabs you. Mark has been part of
bands from Twilight Singers to Queens of the Stone Age. The former lead singer of Screaming Trees
really has grown as an artist. Gone are
the explosive rip roaring rock songs, replaced with slide guitars and lounge
guitars. Mark has yet to let me down on
Check out - “The Gravediggers Song”, “Bleeding Muddy Water”
Previous List Appearances – Scraps at Midnight #14
1998. Field Songs #7 2001. Bubblegum #18
08. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
There is something about the big riff of “Swerve City”that
opens the disc that finds me hitting the “rewind button”. The buzzsaw guitars are here, and singer
Chino Moreno's trademark howl, to bellow and back again voice. Still a very heavy record, but it feels
“cleaner” than other Deftones releases.
Check out - “Swerve City” “Poltergeist”
Previous List Appearances – White Pony #18 2000. Saturday Night Wrist #14 2006. Diamond Eyes # 17 2010.
07 - Japandroids - Celebration Rock
One could argue that 8 songs on a “rock record” hardly make
for a full length album, but I call
bullshit to that. The duo, who hail from
Vancouver, have vendettas against their instruments. Striking the drums like they owe him money
David Prowse plays on a pretty small kit to get all that noise and guitarist
Brian King must have stock in guitar pedals as he is not shy to use many. Its loud, it is fast, it is noisy...heck a
sweat breaks out when you open the cd.
Two records in, it is only getting better.
Check out - “The House that Heaven Built” “Fire's Highway”
Previous List Appearances – Post Nothing #11 2009
06. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
A co-worker sent along a clip to me. A solo male, with acoustic guitar and I
thought “hoo boy here we go” but within the first few words he sang I wanted to
know more, have more, hear more.
Kiwanuka had made a name for himself in Europe after he was hand picked
to open for Adele and was then nominated for a Mercury Prize. How this record seemed to fly under the radar
to mainstream radio was very confusing to me.
Kiwanuka has a soothing voice and writes a terrific song. Blending soul to rock and roll there is
something for everyone. Toss this on at
your next gathering and if you don't get 2 or more people to ask you “who is
this” I'd be stunned.
Check out - “I'm Getting Ready”, “Tell Me A Tale”
Previous List Appearances – This is his first appearance.
05. Sigur Ros - Valtari
in the top 5 Icelandic band Sigur Ros continues the trend. The one
thing I can point to them in not being higher on the list was they
didn't tour for the record locally. Another thing was this record
didn't hit me right away as the others have. This is a “grower”
of a record, and once the light bulb goes off..it goes off. I'll
admit I didn't spend much time on this at first, then one day it just
struck that chord. This is the bands most mellow release I feel.
Still awash with strings and soaring vocal tracks it did lack a
little of that 'sonic thunder'. If you bought this and pushed it
aside, check it out again, I think you'll be glad you did. Any
“negativity” aside this band continues to challenge me as a
listener (in a good way)
List Appearances – Agaetis Byrjun #1 2001. ( ) #3 2002. Takk #1
2005. Hvart/Heim #2 2007. Með
suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
04 - If These Trees Could Talk - Red Forest
This mid west instrumental band continues to fly under the
radar for most. This album was a break
out for them with the album garnering rave reviews and placing itself high on
year end lists of web sites that focus on the style of music. The songs are complex, heavy at times and
stunningly beautiful. If you are looking
to dip your toes in to the “post rock” scene this is a good spring board.
They are currently a big “bucket list” band for me to see
Check out - “The
First Five”, “Barren Lands of The Modern Dinosaur”, “Red Forest”
Previous List Appearances – First timers.
03. Alan Evans Trio - Gloss Hop
Funny how a single “under a minute” you tube clip and be a
tipping point. The band was playing a
local show (which I missed) but in this clip I was so curious. I needed to hear more. A basic “jazz trio” of drums, organ and
guitar its a funky jazz record that seems to blend soul and blues. Alan Evans, who is also in the band Soulive,
shines with some simple drums lines that blend these genres so easily.
Of all the selections on this list, I'd honestly reach for
this one first in mixed company. A feel good album throughout its instantly catchy. Some may find it a bit of the “same old same
old”, but its too fun to mind. They are
quick on the draw as well, new cd is coming out this year.
Check out - “Check your Lugnuts”, “Rum Runner” “Crooooz”
Previous List Appearances – This is the first appearance.
02 - The Sword - Apocryphon
Another home run from these Austin Texas based doom/stoner
rockers. If you are looking for some big
guitar hooks the Sword is your band, on this and most releases. It has a Sabbath feel as well, being a very
heavy sounding, but still very clean.
Singer John D Cronise might not have the widest range, but his vocals
are clear and perfect for the style. The
hardest thing about listening to this record?
Figuring out if you want to play air guitar, bass or drums. Yeah its that fun.
Check out - “Cloak of Feathers” “Dying Earth” “Eyes of the
Previous List Appearances
- Age of Winters #4 2006. Warp Riders #3 2010.
01. Caspian - Waking Season
Okay roll your eyes..go ahead. It is no secret, at all that I adore this
band and I work to be their biggest champion but with records like this one
hardly needs to. Take a moment to simply
sit and listen and you'll understand. At
the outset I wasn't overly crazy about it, but newer fans to the band really
seemed to gravitate towards tracks like “Gone in Bloom and Bough”, the bands
first with lyrics, or “Long The Desert Mile” for its ringing guitar lines that
sound a bit out of the Edge's playbook.
Even trying to be critical I could find no flaws. The tracks are the right length, the textures
bring the listener to the peak of a mountain to the bottom of a dark hole and
every place in between. The band brings
you in from the start and you go for the ride, just waiting for it to take
off. By that point you are so
emotionally invested in the track your mind and body all but explode in
relief. It chaotic, and you don't
mind. If you are new to the band this
record will grab you by the first spin.
Long time fans will notice some changes, that are all for the good. The band continues to grow and rather than
being pigeonholed they unleash ten tracks that your ears are just begging
for. Quit screwing around already will
ya...there is still room to hop on board, but
this train is leaving the station.
Easily my favorite record of the year.
Check out – The whole thing..seriously. If need be Start with High Lonesome->Hickory 54, "Procellous", "Gone in Bloom and Bough" "Fire Made Flesh"
Previous List Appearances
- The Four Trees #5 2007. Tertia
Labels: 2007 favorite cds, 2008 favorite cds, 2009 favorite cds, 2010 favorite cds, 2011 Favorite cds, 2012 Favorite cds