Published Mon, Dec 24, 2012 12:15 pm Dateline
Ah, the year-end round up, where I get to grumble about there being nothing worth listening to.
Wait a minute. Reviewing my list, this just happened to be one of the best years in recent memory! This can’t be! What about my gruff reputation? Maybe the Mayans were right (they weren’t).
Here we go!
Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind: Converge simply refuse to suck. I can't think of another band that has so consistently pushed themselves to new levels artistically with each release. Not only is this my album of the year, this has vaulted to my favorite release in their catalog, which is no small feat. As chaotic and oppressively heavy as this album is, Jake Bannon never wallows in the typical metal apathy, infusing his songs with strength and hope. Stunning.
Sharon van Etten, Tramp: I haven't stopped listening to Tramp since it came out. Sharon van Etten takes her drone-y folk to new levels on Tramp. If the Converge album wasn’t so artistically amazing, Tramp would get top honors just for the sheer amount I’ve listened to it.
Band of Skulls, Sweet Sour: Band of Skulls are simply a great rock band. The production is fantastic and the songs are insidiously catchy. What more can you ask for? Just listen to those drums!
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon/Ocean Roar: These completely blindsided me. I was never much of a Microphones fan, and initially brushed these off as more of the same from Phil Elverum. Not so. Hard to describe, because keyboard-driven, atmospheric, black metal-inspired singer-songwriter is exactly what it is, but that description hardly does this stuff justice.
Bob Mould, Silver Age: A back-to-rock Bob Mould. Fantastic.
Swans, Seer: This is some intense business. I'm a fan of every Swans period, but seriously, Michael Gira is only getting better and better. Claustrophobic, menacing intensity from start to finish, even the quiet bits. Seer isn’t for everybody, but go on, be brave. It’s worth it.
Water Liars, Phantom Limb: I was a huge Theodore fan, but Justin Kinkel-Schuster blew me away with Phantom Limb. Refining the noisier bits and accentuating the quieter moments, his take on Americana is a pretty amazing listen. He could sing me a Denny's menu and I'd pay to hear it.
Life and Times, No One Loves You Like I Do: Allen Epley has been doing this type of '90s post-space rock thing (think of a mix of Jawbox and Hum for starters) for a really long time, and doing it amazingly well. It's too bad nobody is paying attention, because this is a great album.
Anathema, Weather Systems: Shedding their goth-metal roots, Anathema have put out two of the best prog-driven albums of, well, "epic-ness" of the last decade. It's ridiculously hard to describe Anathema. There are piano ballads next to progged-out rockers. All I know is it all culminates into one soaringly badass epic of a record.
Torche, Harmonicraft: Torche are a pop-metal band. Sounds horrible, right? I wouldn't blame you for thinking that. It's just that you'd be absolutely wrong. Crushing heaviness with hooks that get you so deep you can't help but hum this stuff for days. Torche have basically invented their own niche, they do this stuff so well. Don't let the tag put you off. Serious awesomeness.
Six Organs of Admittance, Ascent/Rangda, Formerly Extinct: Ben Chasny had a banner year, delivering two of the best psych albums of the year. From the laid-back groove of Ascent to the intricate Middle-Eastern vibes of Rangda (featuring Sir Richard Bishop of Sun City Girls), Chasny once again proves why he is among the elite in both styles.
Honorable mention: Bonnie Prince Billy & Dawn McCarthy, What the Brothers Sang: I know it doesn’t come out until next year, but I can’t stop listening to this! I’ve never been more than a casual BPB fan, but this album is so, so, so good it has been on repeat for the last couple weeks.
There was so much more music this year that could’ve made this list: Sugar and Chris Darrow reissues, The Men, Ty Segall, Burning Love, Martyrdod, discovering True Widow, re-discovering Red Red Meat...man, music is great.
Andrew Lampela has been pushing music on people at Haffa's Records for a long, long, long time. You also might have seen him playing out in numerous local bands. He only looks mean.