Fester’s Lucky 13: 2012 Year-End Summary

Fast 'n' Bulbous: Best of 2012

Top 100 Albums of 2012 | 2012 Breakdown: Genre Lists | Shows, Videos | Movies, Television, Books, Comics, Beer & Bourbon

Every year is similar in that I get excited when the first year-end lists start coming out the week of Thanksgiving. But by mid-December, I’m a burnt-out husk after relentlessly stuffing a couple hundred last-minute albums into my brain to try to process before I finalize my own lists. Given that my lists are simply just another list by one person with particular (if not peculiar) tastes, I don’t even know how many people actually pay attention to them. There may have been a time when my extensive lists were fairly unique and useful, back during the first years of my site from 1995. But now we’re suffocating under the weight of thousands of lists from magazines and bloggers, and no one gives a shit anymore. It wouldn’t be worth the effort if it weren’t for the fact that I do this mostly for myself, to sort out what I enjoy the most, and remind myself of albums I might have forgotten about.

My strategy to lesson my workload was to focus mainly on my favorite music, which is heavy stoner/psych/doom, metal, post-punk and just the cream of indie, folk and electronica. Uh, and a few standout R&B/soul and hip-hop releases. Ah dammit. Rather than trimming down my list from 570 albums in 2011, it’s now bloated to over 650. So much for that plan. I can’t help myself, I love music. And even when I’m pretty sure I’m not going to love the new Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift or Donald Fagen, I’m compelled to hear the albums at least once. What’s crazy is that I do like over 500 of the albums enough to want to hear again. So that’s where my list is useful – prioritization. I can make playlists of my favorites that I want to hear the most often, and having put some thought into it, I won’t have duds pop up that made me wonder why I put ’em in there. The rest I can mine for favorite songs when I have time. Hopefully with the help of some of my comments and genre breakdowns, they can still be of some use to you all.

As far as the music business goes, baby steps are being taken. Bandcamp is going strong but hasn’t really become a major alternative to those who depend on steaming services like Spotify. Artists are not getting paid much of anything by these services, and for that reason I continue to buy well over 120 CDs a year in addition to paying for downloads. While prices of CDs in places like the UK are supposedly at an all-time low, I still find myself often paying over $18 for CDs, which is insane. But I support as many bands as I can afford to. Ironically, due to my email host getting hacked late last summer, some unsolicited promo emails with links to watermarked pre-releases seemed to have gotten in the wrong hands and now a label is trying to shake me down for thousands of dollars. I won’t identify the label as long as they don’t take actual legal action, but I never even downloaded their damn promo. The CD is one of the ones pictured below.

Some of the CDs I bought in 2012

Comebacks of the Year

With rock ‘n’ roll being well over 60 years old, we’ve long since abandoned the idea that rock is for the young. It’s no longer a novelty to have 70+ year-old musicians putting out new material and touring. And it seems almost every punk, post-punk and indie band from the 70s and 80s have reunited. On top of that, taking 4-8 years between albums is more and more common. So does Witchcraft’s return after five years count as a comeback? Or Scott Walker’s six years between albums? Perhaps not. How about Neneh Cherry taking 16 years to raise a family? Yeah, let’s count that. Teaming up with Scandinavian jazz musicians in The Thing, they come up with some fresh new arrangements of songs by Suicide, The Stooges, Ornette Coleman and her pop Don Cherry. Runner-up goes to British singer/songwriter Bill Fay, who released a couple fascinating albums in 1971 and then nothing until this year. A special mention goes to Leonard Cohen. Though he’s put out albums fairly regularly the past decade, Old Ideas is probably his strongest set since the 70s. I saw him live and at 78 he has amazing energy, repeatedly dropping to his knees and popping up like he’s 30, and playing 3 and a half hours! 2012 was also a big year for a lot of 30 year-old postpunk bands. Some made an appearance for the first time in 30 years, like The Distractions, whose last album was one of the more poppier efforts on the Factory Benelux label in 1980. Despite their first three albums being big favorites of mine, I’d sort of forgotten about The Monochrome Set who actually had a second run in 1989-95 which I completely missed. 17 years later they’re taking a third one. Others like The Nightingales, And Also The Trees and Breathless have been pretty active the past decade.

Debuts of the year

Sweden’s Troubled Horse gets the nod with their amazing debut. More on them below. Golden Void, Royal Thunder, Spiders, Christian Mistress, Goat, Captain Crimson, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Corsair, Venomous Maximus, Deep Time, Owl, Kadavar and Heat all had their debuts place in the top 40.

Overrated of the Year

This is tough, as I was pretty excited when I first heard Frank Ocean’s sophomore album. Just as I gradually lost interest in it over time and repeated listens, its stature grew as it began to dominate the year-end lists. I have a feeling it has at least something to do with his (sort of) coming out of the closet. That’s awesome, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with how good people think his music is. I just don’t think the songwriting cuts it, but I do hear tons of potential. If one to compare him to Prince or Stevie Wonder, I’d say Channel Orange is like his Prince (1979) or Where I’m Coming From (1971). Whether his next album is his Dirty MindPurple Rain, Music Of My Mind or Talking Book, his future is bright but he isn’t there yet. There’s no shortage of overrated albums. Dylan’s latest (all that he shits is not gold), Fiona Apple, and to some extent Swans, who made my top 40, but I wouldn’t say it’s their best ever album. And Scott Walker’s Bisch Bosch seems to be the other go-to album for those wanting to seem sophisticated with a difficult listening album at the top of their list. It’s interesting art music, certainly good for some shock and awe, but a lot of it really is sheer torture. Anyone putting this at the top of their list should be forced to listen to it twice a day for the next six months, loudly, ha ha ha.

Disappointment of the Year

There really was a ton of great music this year, and even bands that put out pretty good albums by Dirty Projectors, Twin Shadow, Hot Chip, Sigur Rós, The xx, Killing Joke, Dr. John, Grizzly Bear, Flying Lotus, Soundgarden, Yeasayer, Mission of Burma, Metric, Rush and The Very Best didn’t even make the top 200. While I probably shouldn’t have expected anything great, I was most disappointed by Public Image Ltd.’s so-called comeback, This is PiL. Weak sauce Lydon, you can do better.

If you think I’m being too negative, bear in mind that it’s just a couple small doses before I try to convince you that there are more than a couple hundred very good albums this year.

Fester’s Lucky 13 – The Best Albums of 2012

01. Colour Haze – She Said (Elektrohasch)

Colour Haze - She Said (Elektrohasch, 2012)Colour Haze’s tenth album was a long time coming, the details of which are covered in the full review. She Said doesn’t reinvent Colour Haze’s sound as much as perfect it, and add some icing in the form of some horn arrangements, guest vocalists contributing harmonies and strings, making the whole experience that much more gorgeous. Guitar music is once again out of fashion. This will pass, as it always does, as it’s hard to imagine anyone who has ever enjoyed psychedelic guitar rock, even if their experience never went beyond Henrix or Santana, not be impressed by the amazing tones Stefan Koglek creates. And while  Koglek’s one-man-shop record label Elektrohasch may not be the best vehicle for introducing Colour Haze to a wider world, word of mouth will spread and She Said‘s stature will grow in good time. There’s at least five other classics in Colour Haze’s catalog that fans might argue are better than their latest. But it’s hard to argue that it’s not at least one of the very best albums this year. | Review

Ufomammut - Oro: Opus Alter (Neurot, 2012)Ufomammut - Oro: Opus Primum (Neurot, 2012)02. Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Primum & Opus Alter (Neurot)
Props to Neurosis for signing this Italian space/psych/doom/sludge trio to their label when they knew they had their own album coming out this year, and would risk being eclipsed by the twin black moons of Ufomammut’s opus, a single 90+ minute piece of music divided into two album releases. It’s their most ambitious achievement of mind-melting psych metal alchemy, and like Colour Hazes’s double album, it seems it’ll take more than just this year for audiences to catch on. | Review | Buy

Graveyard – Lights Out (Nuclear Blast, 2012)03. Graveyard – Lights Out (Nuclear Blast)

In a year oozing with Swedish heavy rock, Graveyard impressed the most by managing to progress despite having released the career-making Hisengen Blues just a year before, something unheard of these days when your average band takes two to three years between releases. If they keep up this pace, they just might start playing to huge audiences worldwide like the rock gods they are. | Review | Buy

Witchcraft – Legend (Nuclear Blast, 2012)04. Witchcraft – Legend (Nuclear Blast)
The fact that Witchcraft hadn’t released an album since 2007, and members were showing up in other bands like Truckfighters, Spiders and Troubled Horse, I was worried they broke up. Fortunately they’re back and stronger than ever. Magnus Pelander has left guitar duties to others and focused on his singing, evolving their sound to a harder rocking sound, and so many catchy hooks, if they had a heavier promotional push, they’d be playing stadiums. As per their title, their legend has grown at least in Europe, and expect them to participate as headliners in some major festivals there. | Review | Buy

Troubled Horse - Step Inside (Rise Above/Metal Blade, 2012)05. Troubled Horse – Step Inside (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
With albums in spots 3, 4, 5, 9, 12, 15 and 16, Sweden not only wins, they obliterate. Troubled Horse are leader Martin Heppich and past and current members of Graveyard and Spiders. They’ve played together off and on for nearly a decade, and the work shows in their stunning debut, reaching beyond the heavy psych of their brother bands and incorporating some country-ish American influences on some of their songs. And wow, what songs. | Review | Buy

Gojira – L'Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner, 2012) 06. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
French environmentalist death-prog warriors Gojira haven’t totally dominated all the metal polls this year. The always mystifying Decibel Magazine, for example, left them way down at #40, which is completely insane. They may not reach mainstream crossover popularity, but it’s telling when Gojira were the overwhelming favorite when metal musicians were polled for their year’s top tens by Metal Sucks. They respect not only the band’s astounding musicianship, but also their passion and commitment. L’Enfant Sauvage is a classic and will be remembered as such even if some confused souls currently think Converge are better. | Review | Buy

Golden Void – Golden Void (Thrill Jockey, 2012) 07. Golden Void – Golden Void (Thrill Jockey)
Like Troubled Horse, Golden Void seem to have materialized out of nowhere with an album of fully realized and brilliantly crafted songs.  I’m sure they weren’t a secret, especially in the Bay Area scene where they reside. But despite tracking over a dozen blogs, they escaped my notice until the album was about to be released in a few days. Debuts like this are what keep being a rock fan so exciting. One day I had no idea of their existence, the next, I have a new all-time favorite album and a band I can’t wait to see live.  | Review

Royal Thunder – CVI (Relapse, 2012)08. Royal Thunder – CVI (Relapse)
The past few years metal seems to have peaked as far as how extreme it can go, from the lava-gargles of sludge to black metal’s shrieks and avant drones. When a band like Royal Thunder comes along with a female lead doing clean vocals, it’s hard to consider them metal, even with their backgrounds in more extreme projects and doom influences. What we’ve got is some kick ass rock ‘n’ roll, with the longer, sprawling songs as the epic centerpieces that sound like no one else, making for a great debut from an extremely promising band. | Review | Bandcamp

Spiders – Flash Point (Crusher, 2012) 09. Spiders – Flash Point (Crusher)
It’s a great year for debuts, with six making the top 13. After some addictive singles, Sweden’s Spiders came up with a scorching blend of garage rock, pre-punk and proto metal on Flash Point. Some might consider this retro, but how is it any more so than Frank Ocean’s brand of R&B/soul which pre-dates rock ‘n’ roll or hip-hop that’s now over 30 years old? Spiders is a rock band for the ages. | Review

Christian Mistress – Possession (Relapse, 2012) 10. Christian Mistress – Possession (Relapse)
When Christian Mistress came out in February, I realized it was the first in an onslaught of well over a dozen albums by metal bands fronted by women. At the end of the year, many have stood out not because of their female leads, but because they are great albums that will stand the test of time. A smoother ride than their rough and loose Agony And Opium EP (2010), they have developed their own sound that integrates elements of NWOBHM and other hard rock influences into some unforgettable songs (“Haunted Hunted” has played in my head more times than I’ve actually heard it). Now if they could get in a U.S. tour. | Review | Bandcamp

Motorpsycho & Ståle Storløkken – The Death Defying Unicorn: A Fanciful and Fairly Far-Out Musical Fable featuring Ola Kvernberg, Trondheimsolistene and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra (Rune Grammofon)11. Motorpsycho & Ståle Storløkken – The Death Defying Unicorn (Rune Grammofon)
Norway’s Motorpsycho have been together since 1989, but it wasn’t until their 14th album, Heavy Metal Fruit (2010) that they got significant international attention.  Perhaps it was because they went to an outside producer to polish up their particular style of heavy psych and prog. On their latest, The Death Defying Unicorn: A Fanciful And Fairly Far-Out Musical Fable they collaborated with jazz and classical musicians for an epic double album that filled with far more fun and whimsy than pretentiousness. | Review

Goat – World Music (Rocket, 2012) 12. Goat – World Music (Rocket)
Another impressive example of total commitment to their art, this band from Korpilombolo, Sweden performs in masks, similar to countrymen Ghost. With claims of being practitioners of a sort of voodoo (different than that of Haiti), and mixing psych rock, German kosmische, Afro-Cuban rhythms, Nigerian disco and a cover of popular Malian hit “Diarabi” made popular by Boubacar Traoré among others. Whether you’re honoring the dead or having an apocalyptic dance party, Goat are an ideal soundtrack.

At Devil Dirt – Chapter II (Vulgo gratissimus auctor) (At Devil Dirt, 2012) 13. At Devil Dirt – Chapter II (Vulgo gratissimus auctor) (At Devil Dirt)
Working in the isolated location of Santiago, Chile, At Devil Dirt would love to get signed by a label and tour, but rather than wait for things to happen, they quickly followed up their amazing debut with their second album in less than a year. A little darker and heavier, they still have that addictive mix of fuzzy desert rock and layered vocal harmonies with T. Rex-caliber hooks. Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign could at least get them to some European festivals next year. | Review | Bandcamp

The rest of the top 20 and beyond
#s 14-20 consist of Wo Fat (Texas voodoo stoner sludge),  Horisont and Captain Crimson (Swedish stoner/psych with proto-metal influences), Jess and the Ancient Ones (Finnish occult rock), Torche (sludge pop), Om (the members of Sleep who didn’t go on to High On Fire get even slower and spiritual) and a double album by Baroness that’s ambitious not just for it’s length but it’s breadth, reaching beyond the sludgy hard rock their fans were comfortable with and exploring some pretty unique proggy indie rock territory.

Beyond the top 20 is another glacially paced stoner drone monster by the appropriately named Bong. It’s actually not the best name, as them and Bongzilla suggest third rate homemade jams just for heads. Even I was late in getting into this UK band, who deserve more respect than the name suggests. Also another ambitious double album by Crippled Black Phoenix, with its own post-rock take on neo-prog and hard rock. A scintillating variety of psych rock is represented ranging from heavy stoner to electronic-based, with Moon Duo, Sun Araw & M.G. Gengras Meet The Congos, My Sleeping Karma, Wight, Peaking Lights, Tame Impala, Six Organs of Admittance, Glowsun, Zombie Zombie, Seremonia, Aqua Nebula Oscillator and White Manna. The most engaging electronica for me was represented by Andy Stott and Dan Deacon. There’s lots of doom metal (Witch Mountain, Castle, Elder, Alunah, Conan, Windhand), and too much stoner rock to mention. Post-punk is still going strong (enter an extra post at your discretion) with Deep Time, Light Asylum, Wymond Miles and Talk Normal. At least one singer-songwriter type is nestled in my top 100 with Marissa Nadler. Global artists are represented by Staff Benda Bilili (Congo), Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars, Dos Cafundós & Tom Zé (Brazil) and Amadou & Mariam (Mali).

Beyond the top 100 there’s plenty of good albums by the likes of Alabama Shakes, The Walkmen, Mark Lanegan, Josephine Foster, Dragged Into Sunlight, Jimmy Cliff, The Vaccines, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Leonard Cohen, Anathema, The Soft Pack, Burial, Clinic, Ty Segall, Oneida, Cloud Nothings, Holly Herndon, Cody Chesnutt, Screaming Females, Jeff the Brotherhood and The Men. Click here for the entire list.

  1. Wo Fat – The Black Code (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  2. Horisont – Second Assault (Rise Above) | Buy
  3. Captain Crimson – Dancing Madly Backwards (Transubstans) | Buy
  4. Jess and the Ancient Ones – Jess and the Ancient Ones (Svart) | Buy
  5. Torche – Harmonicraft (Volcom) | Buy
  6. Om – Advaitic Songs (Drag City)
  7. Baroness – Yellow & Green (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  8. Moon Duo – Circles (Sacred Bones)
  9. Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai (Ritual Productions)
  10. Crippled Black Phoenix – (Mankind) The Crafty Ape (Cool Green)
  11. Corsair – Corsair (Corsair) | Bandcamp
  12. Castle – Blacklands (Ván/Prosthetic) | Buy
  13. Witch Mountain – Cauldron Of The Wild (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  14. Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon The Light (Cutthroat) | Bandcamp
  15. Sun Araw & M.G. Gengras Meet The Congos – Icon Give Thank (FRKWYS)
  16. My Sleeping Karma – Soma (Napalm) | Buy
  17. Wight – Through The Woods Into Deep Water (Bilocation/Fat & Holy) | Bandcamp
  18. Peaking Lights – Lucifer/Lucifer In Dub (Mexican Summer)
  19. Swans – The Seer (Young God)
  20. Pinkish Black – Pinkish Black (Handmade Birds)
  21. Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)
  22. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)
  23. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
  24. Owl – First Album (Magick Hermit/Lummox) | Bandcamp
  25. Dawnbringer – Into The Lair Of The Sun God (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  26. Maxïmo Park – The National Health (Warp/Straight To The Sun)
  27. Greenleaf – Nest Of Vipers (Small Stone) | Buy
  28. Glowsun – Eternal Season (Napalm) | Buy
  29. Black Moth – The Killing Jar (New Heavy Sounds) | Buy
  30. Six Organs Of Admittance – Ascent (Drag City)
  31. The Machine – Calmer Than You Are (Elektrohasch)
  32. The Sword – Apocryphon (Razor & Tie)
  33. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Don’t Hear It?Fear It! (Rise Above/Metal Blade) | Buy
  34. Staff Benda Bilili – Bouger le Monde! (Crammed Discs) | Buy
  35. Kadavar – Kadavar (Tee Pee) | Buy
  36. Heat – Old Sparky (Electric Magic) | Bandcamp
  37. Orcus Chylde – Orcus Chylde (World In Sound)
  38. Elder – Spires Burn EP (Armageddon) | Bandcamp
  39. Alunah – White Hoarhound (PsycheDOOMelic) | Bandcamp
  40. Zombie Zombie – Rituels d’un Nouveau Monde (Versatile)
  41. Talk Normal – Sunshine (Joyful Noise)
  42. Light Asylum – Light Asylum (Mexican Summer)
  43. Liars – WIXIW (Mute)
  44. Lau Nau – Valohiukkanen (Fonal)
  45. Wovenhand – The Laughing Stalk (Sounds Familyre) | Bandcamp
  46. Sierra Leone?s Refugee Allstars – Radio Salone (Cumbancha)
  47. Ice Dragon – Dream Dragon (Yersinia Pestis) | Bandcamp
  48. Mamont – Passing Through The Mastery Door (Ozium) | Bandcamp
  49. Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight – Going Home (Trippy Wicked) | Bandcamp
  50. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (eOne)
  51. Royal Baths – Better Luck Next Time (Kanine)
  52. Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Captured Tracks)
  53. Dos Cafundós – Capitão Coração (Far Out)
  54. Tom Zé – Tropicalia Lixo Logico (Passarinho)
  55. Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform)
  56. Deepspacepilots – Deepspacepilots (Deepspacepilots) | Bandcamp
  57. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky (Jagjaguwar)
  58. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
  59. O.Children – Apnea (Deadly People)
  60. Ice Dragon – Tome Of The Future Ancients (Yersinia Pestis) | Bandcamp
  61. Ivy Garden Of The Desert – Blood Is Love (Nasoni)
  62. Snail – Terminus (Snail) | Bandcamp
  63. Marissa Nadler – The Sister (Box of Cedar) | Bandcamp
  64. Wymond Miles – Under The Pale Moon (Sacred Bones)
  65. Bnegao & Seletores De Frequencia – Sintoniza La (Coqueiro Verde)
  66. Amadou & Mariam – Folila (Nonesuch)
  67. Baby Woodrose – Third Eye Surgery (Bad Afro)
  68. Conan – Monnos (Burning World) | Bandcamp
  69. Ancestors – In Dreams And Time (Tee Pee)
  70. Dan Deacon – America (Domino)
  71. Grand Magus – The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
  72. Gallon Drunk – The Road Gets Darker From Here (Clouds Hill)
  73. The Touré-Raichel Collective – The Tel Aviv Session (Cumbancha) – Mali/Israel
  74. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
  75. Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Third (Tee Pee)
  76. Cortez – Cortez (Cortez) | Bandcamp
  77. Turing Machine – What Is The Meaning Of What (Temporary Residence)
  78. Stacian – Songs For Cadets (Moniker) | Bandcamp
  79. Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop)
  80. Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  81. Lento – Anxiety Despair Languish (Denovali)
  82. Rival Sons – Head Down (Earache)
  83. Gypsyhawk – Revelry & Resilence (Metal Blade)
  84. Alcest – Les Voyages de l’Âme (Prophecy)
  85. The Random Kids – Paint It All Gold (Random Kids) | Bandcamp
  86. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)
  87. White Manna – White Manna (Holy Mountain)
  88. Nude Beach – II (Other Music)

2012 Breakdown

Stoner Rock
Obviously my favorite genre, it dominates Fester’s Lucky 13 with Colour Haze, Graveyard, Witchcraft, Golden Void and At Devil Dirt. Wo Fat deserve mention as they are at the top of their game on their fourth album, and just four hours previous to my writing this successfully completed a Kickstart campaign to fund their trip from Texas to Europe to play Roadburn and Desertfest next spring. Hopefully they’ll fit in a U.S. tour too. Horisont and Captain Crimson are more top notch Swedish bands with similar influences as Witchcraft and Graveyard on their sophore album. Wight is a promising German heavy psych band also on their sophomore release. Greenleaf are a rotating cast on their fifth album, with former members of Dozer and the singer from Truckfighters. Kadavar and Heat are very promising German bands with debuts that are heavily rooted in rocking proto-metal. Given how deep I’ve dug into this genre, I felt it necessary to expand the list far beyond 13, as there’s so much great stuff worth exploring.

  1. Wo Fat – The Black Code (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  2. Horisont – Second Assault (Rise Above) | Buy
  3. Captain Crimson – Dancing Madly Backwards (Transubstans) | Buy
  4. Om – Advaitic Songs (Drag City)
  5. Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai (Ritual Productions)
  6. Wight – Through The Woods Into Deep Water (Bilocation/Fat & Holy) | Bandcamp
  7. Greenleaf – Nest Of Vipers (Small Stone) | Buy
  8. Glowsun – Eternal Season (Napalm) | Buy
  9. Black Moth – The Killing Jar (New Heavy Sounds) | Buy
  10. The Machine – Calmer Than You Are (Elektrohasch)
  11. Kadavar – Kadavar (Tee Pee) | Buy
  12. Heat – Old Sparky (Electric Magic) | Bandcamp
  13. Deepspacepilots – Deepspacepilots (Deepspacepilots) | Bandcamp
  14. Ice Dragon – Tome Of The Future Ancients (Yersinia Pestis) | Bandcamp
  15. Ivy Garden Of The Desert – Blood Is Love (Nasoni)
  16. Snail – Terminus (Snail) | Bandcamp
  17. Mamont – Passing Through The Mastery Door (Ozium) | Bandcamp
  18. Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight – Going Home (Trippy Wicked) | Bandcamp
  19. Cortez – Cortez (Cortez) | Bandcamp
  20. Groan – The Divine Right Of Kings (Soulseller) | Buy
  21. Bison Bison – Bison Bison (Bison Bison) | Bandcamp
  22. Molior Superum – Into The Sun (Molior Superum) | Bandcamp
  23. The Midnight Ghost Train – Buffalo (Karate Body) | Bandcamp
  24. The Graviators – Evil Deeds (Napalm) | Buy
  25. Stubb – Stubb (Superhot) | Bandcamp
  26. Ararat – Ararat II (Elektrohasch)
  27. Black Lizard – Crawl To The Rock (Fat & Holy) | Bandcamp
  28. Mothership – Mothership (Mothership) | Bandcamp
  29. Dopelord – Magick Rites (Dopelord) | Bandcamp
  30. Mos Generator – Nomads (Ripple) | Bandcamp
  31. Nightstalker – Dead Rock Commandos (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  32. Sons Of Otis – Seismic (Small Stone)
  33. Dödaren – Maen (D) | Bandcamp
  34. Moon Curse – Moon Curse (Moon Curse) | Bandcamp (Name Yr Price!)
  35. Svolk – Nights Around The Round Table (Napalm) | Bandcamp
  36. SardoniS – II (Meteor City)
  37. Lord Fowl – Moon Queen (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  38. DSW – Dust Storm Warning (Acid Cosmonaut)| Bandcamp (Name Yr Price!)
  39. Moonless – Calling All Demons (Doomentia) | Bandcamp
  40. Dwellers – Good Morning Harakiri (Small Stone)
  41. Born To Hula – Tales Of Love (Born To Hula) | Bandcamp
  42. Obelyskkh – White Lightnin’ (Exile On Mainstream)
  43. Skånska Mord – Paths To Charon (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  44. Earth Drive – Ink Storm (Earth Drive)
  45. Stoned Jesus – Seven Thunders Roar (Moon) | Bandcamp
  46. Abrahma – Through The Dusty Path Of Our Lives (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  47. Mangoo – Neverland (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  48. Sun Preachers – Faces Of Ashes (Sun Preachers) | Bandcamp
  49. Psyconauts – Planet X (Psyconauts) | Bandcamp
  50. Mammoth Mammoth – Volume III: Hell’s Likely (Mammoth Mammoth)

Heavy Rock, Hard Rock, Occult Rock, Neo-Prog, Post-Metal
Jess and the Ancient Ones – Jess and the Ancient Ones (Svart, 2012)Along with Troubled Horse, Royal Thunder and Spiders which made the top 13, Finnish occult rockers Jess and the Ancient Ones had a great debut. Like The Devil’s Blood, they have a female lead singer, multiple guitars and some interesting and obscure prog influences. I actually give the songwriting of Jess and the Ancient Ones an edge over their Dutch rivals. Torche’s sludge pop has evolved into a tightly wound, hooky experience punctuated with short bursts of energy. It’s a pretty remarkable album that’s kind of been slept on this year. Baroness of course have gotten plenty of attention, both positive and negative. For every conservative fan who bitches about their expanding their sound, there seems to be several more who are totally on board with their evolution. Corsair are a Thin Lizzy-worshipping band who are just so damn good at what they do, including some remarkably soulful vocals, that they’re a must hear. UK proto-metallers Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s debut was a pleasant surprise, while L.A.’s Ancestors are getting more and more proggy. Seremonia are yet another Finnish occult rock band, this one with a more rough, garagy sound with some pretty choice riffs. Gypsyhawk are American Thin Lizzy acolytes with extra emphasis on the hard rock, while Italy’s Lento explore some post-metal landscapes.

  1. Jess and the Ancient Ones – Jess and the Ancient Ones (Svart) | Buy
  2. Torche – Harmonicraft (Volcom) | Buy
  3. Baroness – Yellow & Green (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  4. Crippled Black Phoenix – (Mankind) The Crafty Ape (Cool Green)
  5. Corsair – Corsair (Corsair) | Bandcamp
  6. Pinkish Black – Pinkish Black (Handmade Birds)
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Don’t Hear It?Fear It! (Rise Above/Metal Blade) | Buy
  8. Ancestors – In Dreams And Time (Tee Pee)
  9. Lento – Anxiety Despair Languish (Denovali)
  10. Rival Sons – Head Down (Earache)
  11. Gypsyhawk – Revelry & Resilence (Metal Blade)
  12. Larman Clamor – Frogs (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  13. Blues Pills – Bliss EP (Crusher)
  14. Bushman’s Revenge – A Little Bit Of Big Bonanza (Rune Grammofon)
  15. Redgrave – National Act EP (Lovitt) | Bandcamp
  16. Anathema – Weather Systems (The End)
  17. this is THE SHOES – this is THE SHOES EP (this is THE SHOES) | Bandcamp
  18. Two Bit Charlie – All By Yourself EP (Two Bit Charlie) | Bandcamp
  19. All Them Witches – Our Mother Electricity (All Them Witches) | Bandcamp
  20. Vinum Sabbatum – Bacchanale Premier (Eyes Like Snow/Northern Silence)
  21. Diagonal – The Second Mechanism (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
  22. Naam – The Ballad of the Starchild EP (Tee Pee)
  23. Astra – The Black Chord (Metal Blade)
  24. Jodis – Black Curtain (Hydra Head) | Bandcamp
  25. Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II (Southern Lord)
  26. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
  27. Pins Of Light – II (Alternative Tentacles)
  28. Bloody Hammers – Bloody Hammers (Soulseller) | Bandcamp
  29. El Doom & The Born Electric – El Doom & The Born Electric (Rune Grammofon)
  30. Ett Rop På Hjälp – Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (Transubstans)
  31. Author & Punisher – Ursus Americanus (Seventh Rule)
  32. Turbonegro – Sexual Harrassment (Volcom)
  33. Melvins Lite – Freak Puke (Ipecac)
  34. The Mars Volta – Nocturniquet (WB)
  35. Katatonia – Dead End Kings (Peaceville)
  36. Beardfish – The Void (Inside Out)
  37. Blood of the Sun – Burning on the Wings of Desire (Brainticket)
  38. The Bad Light – Marrow Of Sound (Bad Light) | Bandcamp
  39. Necronomicon – The Queen Of Death (Hydro-Phonic)
  40. ZZ Top – La Futura (Universal Republic)
  41. The Secret – Agnus Dei (Southern Lord)
  42. Soundgarden – King Animal (Universal Republic)
  43. RPG – High Loathsome (RPG)
  44. Bonafide – Ultimate Rebel (Off Ya Rocka)
  45. The Shrine – Primitive Blast (Tee Pee)
  46. Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner)
  47. The Darkness – Hot Cakes (Play It Again Sam)
  48. Boyjazz – Unlimited Nights & Weekends (For Once) | Bandcamp
  49. Dysrhythmia – Test Submission (Profound Lore)
  50. Rush – Clockwork Angels (Anthem/Atlantic)
  51. Iron Mtn – Iron Mtn (Iron Mtn)| Bandcamp
  52. The Brimstone Days – On A Monday Too Early To Tell (Transubstans)
  53. Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships (Wordclock)
  54. Behold…The Arctopus – Horrorscension (Red General)
  55. Saturna – The Kingdom Of Spirit (Seven Snakes)
  56. Year of the Goat – Angels’ Necropolis (Ván)
  57. Rolo Tomassi – Astraea (Hassle)
  58. Bad Brains – Into The Future (Megaforce)
  59. Occultation – Three & Seven (Profound Lore)
  60. Janus – Nox Aeris (Realid)
  61. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth (Interscope)
  62. Bastard Of The Skies – Tarnation (Future Noise)
  63. Melvins – The Bulls And The Bees EP (Scion A/V)

Psych Rock
Moon Duo - Circles (Sacred Bones, 2012)Originally considered a side project of Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada’s San Francisco based psych rock band Wooden Shjips,  Moon Duo have become a pretty amazing band in their own right, sticking to a consistent but addictive aesthetic of motorik kosmische rhythms, Silver Apples, early stooges, Suicide and Loop. The Congos created one of the greatest reggae albums of all time in Lee Scratch Perry’s Black Ark studios in 1977. It’s great to hear them in an even more psychedelic context teaming up with Sun Araw. Austrian psych rockers My Sleeping Karma brewed up an homage to the drink of the gods, with songs named after the ingredients of soma. Husband and wife duo Peaking Lights continue to explore the psychedelic potential of electronica in tribute to their newborn son, supplementing it with a trippy dub version. Tame Impala have become such a success story that it’s almost annoying. I’ve seen them live three times and am a fan, but I don’t completely understand how they’ve attracted such a huge mainstream audience that couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of these other awesome albums. Six Organs of Admittance are one of those bands that crank out so many albums it’s hard to keep track. Their latest perked my ears because of its focus on some pretty smokin guitar solos. There’s a few bands that share an influence of Neu!/Harmonia and John Carpenter’s eerie soundtrack electronica, including Majeure, Turing Machine, and French duo Zombie Zombie. Ice Dragon came out with no less than three albums this year, exploring elements of psych, prog and doom. Royal Baths dip into some early Velvet Underground for their style of garage psych that may not be unusual, but well done and a sound I can’t get too much of.

  1. Moon Duo – Circles (Sacred Bones)
  2. Sun Araw & M.G. Gengras Meet The Congos – Icon Give Thank (FRKWYS)
  3. My Sleeping Karma – Soma (Napalm) | Buy
  4. Peaking Lights – Lucifer/Lucifer In Dub (Mexican Summer)
  5. Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)
  6. Six Organs Of Admittance – Ascent (Drag City)
  7. Zombie Zombie – Rituels d’un Nouveau Monde (Versatile)
  8. Ice Dragon – Dream Dragon (Yersinia Pestis) | Bandcamp
  9. Royal Baths – Better Luck Next Time (Kanine)
  10. Baby Woodrose – Third Eye Surgery (Bad Afro)
  11. Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Third (Tee Pee)
  12. White Manna – White Manna (Holy Mountain)
  13. White Hills – Frying On This Rock (Thrill Jockey)
  14. The Amazing – Gentle Stream (Subliminal Sounds)
  15. Pretty Lightning – There Are Witches In The Woods (Fonal)
  16. Sula Bassana – Dark Days (Sulatronic)
  17. Maserati – Maserati VII (Temporary Residence)
  18. Rangda – Formerly Extinct (Drag City)
  19. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – IAO Chant From The Melting Paraiso Underground Freak Out (Riot Season)
  20. Guardian Alien – See the World Given to a One Love Entity (Thrill Jockey)
  21. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound – Manzanita (Tee Pee)
  22. Pyramidal – Dawn In Space (Radix) | Bandcamp
  23. Bardo Pond – Yntra (Latitudes)
  24. Oneida – A List of the Burning Mountains (Jagjaguwar)
  25. The Cosmic Dead – The Exalted King (Cosmic Dead) | Bandcamp
  26. Carlton Melton – Photos Of Photos (Agitated)
  27. Eternal Tapestry – A World Out Of Time (Thrill Jockey)
  28. Electric Moon – The Doomsday Machine (Sulatron/Nasoni)
  29. Gravenhurst – The Ghost In Daylight (Warp)
  30. Woods – Bend Beyond (Woodsist)
  31. Eternal Tapestry – Dawn In 2 Dimensions (Thrill Jockey)
  32. Les Lesbiennes – Les Lesbiennes (Les Lesbiennes)
  33. Dean Allen Foyd – Sounds Can Be So Cruel (Crusher)
  34. Acid Mothers Temple – Son Of A Bitches Brew (Important)
  35. Black Space Riders – Light Is The New Black (Brainstorm)
  36. Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo (Ideologic Ocean)
  37. Foxygen – Take The Kids Off Broadway (Jagjaguwar)

Castle - Blacklands (Van/Prosthetic, 2012)Doom doom doomy doom. Back when the long-suffering Pentagram, Saint Vitus and Pagan Altar couldn’t get audiences or respect back in the 80s, they may not have guessed how popular their favorite metal sub-genre would become in two and a half decades. Or perhaps they just wonder why it took so damn long. Castle may very well be the least doomy of the bunch, particularly on their stellar second album, but has just enough influence to make this list. Witch Mountain are also on their second album (third overall) with their singer Uta Plotkin, who’s vocal talents make it a must hear. The all-powerful Elder, who topped many lists with their second album last year, put out an enticing vinyl-only EP to make us salivate for more. UK’s Alunah are also on their second album, with similar old school influences as Castle and Witch Mountain. Pallbearer have become a looming presence on year-end metal lists. While their album and show get the Dr. Fester stamp of approval, people shouldn’t sleep on UK’s Conan, and even more impressive debut with the best jaw-rattling bottom-heavy sound since prime Electric Wizard, as does Windhand to a slightly lesser extent. Original masters Saint Vitus came up with their best album since the 80s. Definitely their best sounding one, though not quite matching the songcraft of their best work.

  1. Castle – Blacklands (Ván/Prosthetic) | Buy
  2. Witch Mountain – Cauldron Of The Wild (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  3. Elder – Spires Burn EP (Armageddon) | Bandcamp
  4. Alunah – White Hoarhound (PsycheDOOMelic) | Bandcamp
  5. Conan – Monnos (Burning World) | Bandcamp
  6. Windhand – Windhand (Forcefield) | Bandcamp
  7. Bevar Sea – Bevar Sea (Bevar Sea) | Bandcamp
  8. Black Pyramid – II (MeteorCity)
  9. Pallbearer – Sorrow And Extinction (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  10. Saint Vitus – Lillie: F-65 (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  11. Pale Divine – Painted Windows Black (Shadow Kingdom) | Bandcamp
  12. Spirit Descent – Seven Chapters In A Minor (Psychedoomelic) | Bandcamp
  13. Orchid – Heretic EP (Nuclear Blast) | Bandcamp
  14. Hour Of 13 – 333 (Earache)
  15. Mares Of Thrace – The Pilgrimage (Sonic Unyon)
  16. Undersmile – Narwhal (Future Noise)
  17. Black Magician – Nature Is The Devil’s Church (Shaman/Burning World) | Bandcamp
  18. Bell Witch – Longing (Profound Lore)
  19. Serpentine Path – Serpentine Path (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  20. Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol (Century Media)
  21. Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead (Napalm)
  22. Witchsorrow – God Curse Us (Rise Above)
  23. Earthen Grave – Earthen Grave (Earthen Grave)
  24. Demon Lung – Pareidolia EP (Demon Lung) | Bandcamp
  25. Behold! The Monolith – Defender (Redeemist) (Arctic Forest)
  26. Uzala – Uzala (Uzala) | Bandcamp
  27. Worm Ouroboros – Come the Thaw (Profound Lore)
  28. Indesinence – Vessels of Light and Decay (Profound Lore)
  29. Deep Sea Thunder Beast – DST (DST) | Bandcamp
  30. Witchstone – Witchstone EP (Witchstone) | Bandcamp
  31. Ahab – The Giant (Napalm)
  32. Buried Sleeper – Colosseium (Buried Sleeper) | Bandcamp
  33. Pilgrim – Misery Wizard (Metal Blade) | Bandcamp

Merry Christmas from Eddie (Iron Maiden)

Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon The Light (Cutthroat, 2012)

While a good portion of shows I see are metal and I appreciate all kinds from black to sludge to blackened sludge, my favorites beyond doom, which got its own list above, seem to be related to the unofficially termed NOWOTHM (new old wave of traditional heavy metal) sub genre, with one exception being the Death Prog of Gojira, discussed above. The prime example is Christian Mistress, also discussed above in the top 13. Venomous Maximus followed up their promising EP with an awesome debut with occult themes and old school riffs and a bit of High On Fire influence. Oakland band Owl also did well with their debut, mixing NWOBHM with some proto-metal and thrash, and features amazing leads from guitar prodigy Axell.  Dawnbringer is one of the many projects of Chris Black. Rather than seeming stretched out, the Dawnbringer project seems to bring out his best, with the latest concept album every bit as successful as the more celebrated Nucleus (2010). The Sword had a great showing with their fourth album, while the venerable High On Fire proved they’re still close to the top of their game with their sixth. Swedish power metallers Grand Magus have also reached a career highlight with their sixth album. UK stoner metallers Orange Goblin are on their seventh album, probably their best since The Big Black (2000). Dragged Into Sunlight, also from the UK have created a fearsomely lumbering sludge beast on their second album that has to be heard to believe. Philly-based Pharaoh is another band with Chris Black as a member. How does he do it?

  1. Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon The Light (Cutthroat) | Bandcamp
  2. Owl – First Album (Magick Hermit/Lummox) | Bandcamp
  3. Dawnbringer – Into The Lair Of The Sun God (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  4. The Sword – Apocryphon (Razor & Tie)
  5. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (eOne)
  6. Grand Magus – The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
  7. Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  8. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker (Prosthetic)
  9. Pharaoh – Bury The Light (Cruz Del Sur) | Bandcamp
  10. Neurosis – Honor Found In Decay (Neurot)
  11. Amenra – Mass V (Neurot)
  12. Car Bomb – w^w^^w^w (Solid Grey) | Bandcamp
  13. Black Breath – Sentenced To Life (Relapse)
  14. Bible of the Devil – For the Love of Thugs and Fools (Cruz Del Sur) | Bandcamp
  15. Bison B.C. – Lovelessness (Metal Blade) | Bandcamp
  16. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  17. Yakuza – Beyul (Profound Lore)
  18. Ne Obliviscaris – Portal Of I (Aural Music/Code 666)
  19. The Faceless – Autotheism (Sumerian)
  20. Meshuggah – Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
  21. Ihsahn – Eremita (Candlelight)
  22. Dødsengel – Imperator (Terratur Possessions)
  23. Hooded Menace – Effigies Of Evil (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  24. Lord Mantis – Pervertor (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  25. Eagle Twin – The Feather Tipped the Serpent?s Scale (Southern Lord)
  26. Krallice – Years Past Matter (Krallice)
  27. Norska – Norska (Brutal Panda) | Bandcamp
  28. Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (Sumerian)
  29. Grave – Endless Procession Of Souls (Century Media)
  30. Demonic Death Judge – Skygods (Inverse)
  31. Satan’s Wrath – Galloping Blasphomy (Metal Blade)
  32. Old Man Gloom – No (Hydra Head)
  33. Dopethrone – III (Dopethrone) | Bandcamp
  34. Crystal Viper – Crimen Excepta (AFM)
  35. Tenacious D – Rize Of The Fenix (Sony)
  36. Sigh – In Somniphobia (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  37. Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas (Candlelight)
  38. Mgla – With Hearts Toward None (Northern Heritage)
  39. Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine (Century Media)
  40. God Seed – I Begin (12th Street)
  41. Enslaved – RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
  42. RAM – Death (Metal Blade)
  43. Superchrist – Holy Shit (Hella Headbangers)
  44. The Howling Wind – Of Babalon (Profound Lore)
  45. Furze – Psych Minus Space Control (Fysisk Format) | Bandcamp
  46. Dethklok – Dethalbum III (Williams Street)
  47. Troglodyte – Don’t Go In The Woods (noMore Tomorrow)
  48. Horesback – Half Blood (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  49. Inverloch – Dark | Subside (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  50. Cauldron – Tomorrow’s Lost (Earache)
  51. Necrovation – Necrovation (Red General)
  52. Gaza – No Absolutes In Human Suffering (Black Market)
  53. Wizard Rifle – Speak Loud Say Nothing (Seventh Rule) | Bandcamp
  54. Sabaton – Carolus Rex (Nuclear Blast)
  55. Accept – Stalingrad (Nuclear Blast)
  56. 3 Inches Of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal (Century Media)
  57. Jeff Loomis – Plains Of Oblivion (Century Media)
  58. Prong – Carved Into Stone (PID)
  59. Angel Witch – As Above So Below (Metal Blade)

Avant Rock & Out Pop
Swans - The Seer (Young God, 2012)At two long hours, not everything works on Swans’ latest double, and it’s hard to expect it. It’s difficult to listen in one sitting, and I struggled with docking it for some if its tedious moments. But overall it’s such an undeniable force of  both malice and beauty, I had to give in. Nearly as great if not on such an epic scale is Liars with their sixth album. Every album is a distinct progression, and WIXIW answers the question of what would latter day Radiohead sound like if they were fed a diet of post-punk noise rock in addition to their electronica. Neneh Cherry makes a comeback with a band of avant garde jazz musicians, as mentioned above, while ex Throbbing Gristle members in X-TG create a bizarre twofer that includes an homage to Nico’s Desertshore with guest vocalists like Blixa Bargeld. Bo Ningen are Japanese ex-pats living in the UK and making some noisy avant guitar rock albums. Fontanelle are a long-running Portland avant space rock group, the current incarnation boasts members of Sunn o))) who successfully tackle Bitches Brew style Miles Davis jazz fusion. After a decade-long hiatus, Canadian post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor return just as great as usual.

  1. Swans – The Seer (Young God)
  2. Liars – WIXIW (Mute)
  3. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
  4. X-TG – Desertshore/The Final Report (Industrial)
  5. Bo Ningen – Line The Wall (Stolen)
  6. Fontanelle – Vitamin F (Southern Lord)
  7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
  8. Vinyl Williams – Lemniscate (Salonislam/No Pain in Pop)
  9. Mono – For My Parents (Temporary Residence)
  10. Mac DeMarco – 2 (Captured Tracks)
  11. Matthew E. White – Big Inner (Hometapes)
  12. Gonjasufi – MU.ZZ.LE (Warp)
  13. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)
  14. Fushitsusha – Mabushii Itazura Na Inori (Heartfast)
  15. Sigur Rós – Valtari (XL)
  16. Shintaro Sakamoto – How To Live With A Phantom (Fat Possum/Other Music)

Rock & Pop

Maximo Park - The National Health (Warp)Literate British guitar pop seems to be out of fashion, despite the fact that Paul Weller still has a huge audience no matter how boring his new music is. It’s a damn shame, as Maxïmo Park deserve better, their fourth album is just as great as their also-underrated second album Our Earthly Pleasures (2007). Considered an unlikely reunion considering the animosity the members seemed to have for each other, Dinosaur Jr. are now on their third album since their comeback. All three are arguably more consistent than Green Mind (1991). People are really losing their shit over Japandroids. It’s odd, as Post-Nothing (2009) was just as great, but sometimes the popularity train just gathers momentum for no discernable reason. With their first album since 2007’s The Rotten Mile, Gallon Drunk’s garage noir is as captivating and sinister as ever. The Random Kids are two friends who grew up playing music together in Oak Park, IL, went to college and record albums together on their breaks. Both (albums and musicians) are bursting with talent. There’s probably a thousand bands influenced by Elvis Costello, Graham Parker and Tom Petty, but few as great as Nude Beach. Having relocated from Newport, NY to Brooklyn, they were signed to the new label by my favorite NY record store, Other Music. A wise choice, as there’s a good chance these guys will catch on in a big way, perhaps along the lines that Alabama Shakes did this year.

  1. Maxïmo Park – The National Health (Warp/Straight To The Sun)
  2. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky (Jagjaguwar)
  3. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
  4. Gallon Drunk – The Road Gets Darker From Here (Clouds Hill)
  5. The Random Kids – Paint It All Gold (Random Kids) | Bandcamp
  6. Nude Beach – II (Other Music)
  7. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls (Ato)
  8. The Walkmen – Heaven (Fat Possum)
  9. Jack White – Blunderbuss (V2)
  10. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon & Ocean Roar (P.W. Elverum And Sun) | Bandcamp
  11. The Vaccines – The Vaccines Come Of Age (Columbia)
  12. Pepe Deluxe – Queen Of The Waves (Catskills)
  13. The Soft Pack – Strapped (Mexican Summer)

Electro/Dream Pop/Shoegaze
Light Asylum - Light Asylum (Mexican Summer, 2012 )Remember electroclash? Don’t worry, I can’t name any representative bands off the top of my head either. Perhaps it would have if Light Asylum were around then. Singer Shannon Funchess actually played in some electroclash bands after moving to NY in 2001, and it took a decade to find the appropriate vehicle for her talents. With help from multi-instrumentalist Bruno Coviello, her intense vocals evoke the weight of Joy Division without emulating their style, sounding like no one else. Wild Nothing somehow evokes jangly 80s dream pop without actually sounding like any particular band I can think of, even if their albums are interchangeable. I love that sound. Evolving from math rock, the appropriately geeky-named Turing Machine is more kosmische inspired electro-pop now, with members from LCD Soundsystem and DFA bands helping out, filling in the gaps left by drummer Jerry Fuchs who passed away in 2009. Beach House are supposedly kind of a big deal. I don’t know if their homes smell of mahogany but it’s cool to see understated dream pop topping some polls. Former black metal musician Neige has been full-on shoegaze for the past few albums now with Alcest, with the latest installment as gorgeous as ever. Divine Fits is an electro-pop supergroup with Spoon’s Britt Daniels and members of New Bomb Turks, Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, and has some of the catchiest pop songs you’ll hear this year.  Majeure started as a side project from Zombi to pay homage to Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and such.

  1. Light Asylum – Light Asylum (Mexican Summer)
  2. Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Captured Tracks)
  3. Turing Machine – What Is The Meaning Of What (Temporary Residence)
  4. Stacian – Songs For Cadets (Moniker) | Bandcamp
  5. Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop)
  6. Alcest – Les Voyages de l’Âme (Prophecy)
  7. The Soft Moon – Zeros (Captured Tracks)
  8. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge)
  9. Majeure – Solar Maximum (Temporary Residence)
  10. DIIV – Oshin (Captured Tracks)
  11. Twin Shadow – Confess (4AD)
  12. Hot Chip – In Our Heads (Domino)
  13. The xx – Coexist (Young Turks)
  14. Poliça – Give You The Ghost (Memphis Industries)
  15. The Officers – On The Twelve Thrones (Original Wall of Death)
  16. How To Dress Well – Total Loss (Acephale)

Post-Punk/Dark Wave/Goth
Merchandise - Children Of Desire (Jagjaguwar, 2012)I’ve decided to start using the post-punk category again, as there is plenty of albums that fit lately, including young bands like Merchandise, who have created on their sophomore album a mix of Factory-era post-punk, mid-80s jangle and 4AD gauze, all mixed in the raw with guts and wires exposed. Deep Time is a relatively late discovery for me. I’m glad I found them, as I was feeling a distinct lack of spindly post-punk in my diet lately.  Having put out an album as Yellow Fever, the Austin, TX duo changed their name and put out some great stuff influenced by Young Marble Giants, The Slits and Liliput. I can’t get enough of it, so Talk Normals’ (also a female-led duo) third album is a welcome addition, influenced by No Wave acts like DNA, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Ut to more recent Magik Markers and Sightings. Then there’s vets from the 80s like The Nightingales, who started out heavily influenced by The Fall and got even better in their second incarnation by adding elements of The Wedding Present. And Also The Trees and Breathless are long-neglected bands that started in the early 80s influenced by Joy Division, The Cure and Comsat Angels, and provided a blueprint for proto-goth, dark wave and shoegaze long before those terms were widely used. And Also The Trees have also incorporated influences from Nick Cave since the late 80s and are as strong as anything Cave has done lately with Grinderman and The Bad Seeds. Killing Joke has been putting out good albums for the past decade so it’s easy to take them for granted, but their latest finds them inspired once again by apocalyptic dread, and stronger than ever. Having self-released their music for a decade, Big Joan steps up their game on their latest batch of clangy post-punk that references the pre-industrial efforts of early D.A.F. and Einsturzende Neubauten. With German Annette Berlin leading the Brits, they’re a band to watch. Australian post-punkers New War create a dubbed and bombed-out racket sans guitar on a very promising debut. Evans The Death are a heavier, feistier proposition than your usual band on Slumberland, attacking punk and post-punk with the help of a female lead who can both hold a tune and bellow like young PJ Harvey. O.Children is gothy UK post-punk featuring Nigerian expat Tobi O’Kandi’s rich baritone. Guitarist Wymond Miles surpasses his band The Fresh & Onlys with a solo album influenced by Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker and The Cure. Pins is a new band from Manchester who tied for third on the Blogs Sounds of 2013 short list along with another female-lead post-punk band Savages. Grass Widow are a San Francisco-based trio of women influenced by the likes of Essential Logic and Raincoats. Doing vocal harmonies low on melody and high on dissonance over skittery rhythms can be a tricky thing, and they are quite successful. Having seen them live this year, however, they could use some more work on that front! Not to be confused with the California hardcore punkers, this Ceremony is a great post-punk shoegaze band that has been around for a decade, and re-recorded some old material for this current release. With just as much post-punk as goth influence, Pop. 1280 probably stands apart from all genres, but I had to stick ’em somewhere!

  1. Merchandise – Children Of Desire (Jagjaguwar)
  2. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)
  3. The Nightingales – No Love Lost (Cooking Vinyl)
  4. And Also The Trees – Hunter Not The Hunted (Resurrection)
  5. Killing Joke – MMXII (Spinefarm)
  6. Big Joan – The Long, Slow Death Of Big Joan (Blood Red Sounds)
  7. New War – New War (Fast Weapons/Sensory Projects)
  8. Evans the Death – Evans the Death (Slumberland)
  9. O.Children – Apnea (Deadly People)
  10. Wymond Miles – Under The Pale Moon (Sacred Bones)
  11. Pins – Luvu4lyf EP (Bella Union)
  12. Breathless – Green To Blue (Tenor Vossa)
  13. Viv Albertine – Vermilion Border (The Cadiz Recording Co.)
  14. Kevin Hewick – All Was Numbered (Hacienda)
  15. Talk Normal – Sunshine (Joyful Noise)
  16. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)
  17. The Soft Moon – Zeros (Captured Tracks)
  18. Pop. 1280 – The Horror (Sacred Bones)
  19. Ceremony – Safranin Sounds (No Emb Blanc)
  20. Wymond Miles – Earth Has Doors EP (Sacred Bones)
  21. Negative Fascination – Silent Servant (Hospital)
  22. Paul Banks – Banks (Matador)
  23. Savages – I Am Here EP (Pop Noire)
  24. The Monochrome Set – Platinum Coils (Cherry Red)
  25. U.S. Girls – Gem (Fat Cat)
  26. The Futureheads – Rant (Nul)
  27. Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (PIAS)
  28. The Wake – A Light Far Out (LTM)
  29. The Distractions – The End Of The Pier (Occultation)

Experimental & Ambient
Julia Holter - Ekstasis (RVNG, 2012)Julia Holter’s second album reprised “Goddess Eyes” from the first album in not one but two versions. But who can blame her, it’s one of the most captivating experimental electronic songs since Laurie Anderson’s career-defining 1982 hit “O Superman.”  Her work is a rare instance of avant garde music that’s accessible yet reveals surprising details under closer scrutiny rather than disappearing like fog. She reportedly already has her next album ready, titled Gigi. Eyvind Kang is an experimental classical violinist/composer from Seattle. I totally don’t keep up with modern classical, but this crossed my path and his pan-globalist approach is easy to get into. I suppose being on the Ipecac label and having worked with John Zorn, Bill Frisell and Sun City Girls helped it to cross my path. Land Observations is James Brooks from post-rockers Appliance. He started focusing on visual art in 2003, and this project bridges his interests in cartography with music. Using just a guitar and pedals, it has an electronica feel in a similar way that Michael Rother did on his post-Neu!/Harmonia solo albums. We finally get to hear what British avant folk sounds like when it travels the Autobahn, and it’s lovely. Much more difficult listening are the tuneless vocal experiments of Laurel Halo, who recently topped The Wire’s year-end poll.  Not easy listening, but it can be an interesting listen for those up to the challenge. I gave Scott Walker’s latest a little kicking earlier in this piece, but like horror movies and extreme metal, one person’s harrowing nightmare can be another’s thrill ride. Like Halo, Holly Herndon seems to be a vocalist of formidable talent who chooses to aggressively chop and dissect her voice in service of her intellect over accessibility. However, listening to it now after stuffing my brain with over 200 albums the past couple weeks, it’s a  great aural palate cleanser. Portishead’s Geoff Barrow has two albums in this list with DROKK and Beak>. After getting his drones on, I’m hopeful that he’s got another Portishead album in him. While Aluk Todolo is technically a French black metal trio, their music is more along the lines of drones influenced by the likes of German experimentalist Klaus Schulze.

  1. Julia Holter – Ekstasis (RVNG)
  2. Eyvind Kang – The Narrow Garden (Ipecac)
  3. Land Observations – Roman Roads IV-XI (Mute)
  4. Laurel Halo – Quarantine (Hyperdub)
  5. Scott Walker – Bish Bosch (4AD)
  6. Holly Herndon – Movement (RVNG)
  7. Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury – DROKK (Invada)
  8. Aluk Todolo – Occult Rock (Ajna Offensive)
  9. Jessica Bailiff – At The Downturned Jagged Rim Of The Sky (Kranky)
  10. David Daniell and Douglas McCombs – Versions (Thrill Jockey)
  11. Gnod – Chaudelande Volumes 1 & 2 (Tamed)
  12. Beak> – >> (Invada)
  13. Raime – Quarter Turns Over A Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)

Electronica, Techno & Dance
Andy Stott - Luxury Problems (Modern Love, 2012)Man, I don’t know about Electronica. Back when it was new and exciting in the 90s, I bought tons of CDs by the likes of Orbital, Mouse On Mars and Oval. As interesting as they’d sound the first time around, I always told myself they would be great to hear again when I’m in the mood. 15 years later it still hasn’t happened. I always enjoying hearing something new, but with just a handful of exceptions like the Burial albums, I haven’t returned to them hardly ever. Anything that uses vocals in interesting ways do tend to fare better, which is why Andy Stott tops this list with his latest. He recorded vocals from his former piano teacher, the opera-trained Alison Skidmore, and did some amazing sounding stuff with it.   Dan Deacon’s albums used to be like the sugar rush you got after eating five bowls of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. His latest is a bit more mature and ambitious, and likely his best yet. Burial continues to be haunting and alluring on their latest EP, while Negative Fascination grabbed my attention by evoking the convergence of electro-pop, industrial and post-punk from the early 80s. And like my Cabaret Voltaire and Legendary Pink Dots albums, I might not play them often, but I do admire them from afar.

  1. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
  2. Dan Deacon – America (Domino)
  3. Burial – Kindred EP (Hyperdub)
  4. Negative Fascination – Silent Servant (Hospital)
  5. John Talabot – ƒin (Permanent Vacation)
  6. Moon Wiring Club – Today Bread, Tomorrow Secrets (Geophonic)
  7. B. Fleischmann – I’m Not Ready for the Grave Yet (Morr)
  8. Gary War – Jared’s Lot (Spectrum Spools)
  9. Carter Tutti Void – Transverse (Mute)
  10. Matthew Dear – Beams (Ghostly International)
  11. Young Smoke – Space Zone (Planet Mu)
  12. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (Warp)
  13. Mala – Mala In Cuba (Brownswood)
  14. Actress – R.I.P. (Honest Jon’s)
  15. Orbital – Wonky (ACP)
  16. Four Tet – Pink (Text)

Staff Benda Bilili - Bouger le Monde! (Crammed Discs, 2012)It’s surprisingly difficult to keep up with music from around the world in 2012. With the global economy, the Internet, blah blah, 12 years ago I had imagined global music would be less isolated by now. Sure, there are some successes where African stars like the Kutis can lucratively tour the U.S., and after having a movie made about them, Staff Benda Bilili might be able to do the same.  Possibly there is still the barrier of music without English lyrics has trouble crossing over. The vast amount of what I don’t hear is overwhelming, and I feel I have little expertise to offer, other than a longstanding affinity for West African and Brazilian music. I keep thinking I’d like to hear some interesting new Indian music, but  have failed so far to hunt down the best references. I’d imagine Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars becoming popular with their accessible mix of Latin and reggae music. Heck, most of this stuff is accessible and danceable, though Brazil’s Dos Cafundós are more harder edged incorporating some avant rock into the mix.

  1. Staff Benda Bilili – Bouger le Monde! (Crammed Discs) | Buy – Congo
  2. Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars – Radio Salone (Cumbancha) – Sierra Leone
  3. Dos Cafundós – Capitão Coração (Far Out) – Brazil
  4. Tom Zé – Tropicalia Lixo Logico (Passarinho) – Brazil
  5. Bnegao & Seletores De Frequencia – Sintoniza La (Coqueiro Verde) – Brazil
  6. Amadou & Mariam – Folila (Nonesuch) – Mali
  7. The Touré-Raichel Collective – The Tel Aviv Session (Cumbancha) – Mali/Israel
  8. Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth (Universal) – Jamaica
  9. Ondatrópica – Ondatrópica (Soundways) – Colombia
  10. Lucas Santtana – The God Who Devastates Also Cures (Mais Un Discos) – Brazil
  11. Otto – Moon 1111 (Deck Disc) – Brazil
  12. Café Tacuba – El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (Verve) – Mexico
  13. Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex – Y’Anbessaw Tezeta (Terp) – Ethiopia/Netherlands
  14. Fatoumata Diawara – Fatou (World Circuit) – Mali
  15. Debo Band – Debo Band (Next Ambience/Sub Pop) – U.S./Ethiopia
  16. Galactic – Carnivale Electricos (Anti-) U.S.
  17. Sexy Fi – Nunca Te Vi De Boa (Far Out) – Brazil
  18. Makoomba – Rising Tide (Igloo) – Zimbabwe
  19. Spoek Mathambo – Father Creeper (Sub Pop) – South Africa
  20. Céu – Caravana Sereia Bloom (Six Degrees) – Brazil
  21. Zani Diabat&eacute & Les H&eacuteritiers – Tientalaw (Sterns) – Mali
  22. Sidi Touré – Koïma (Thrill Jockey) – Mali
  23. Rodrigo y Gabriela & C.U.B.A. – Area 52 (Ato) – Mexico

Country, Folk & Americana
Lau Nau - Valohiukkanen (Fonal, 2012)I kind of burned out on the whole freak folk and Americana scenes, but there’s still some excellent albums I can recommend. Not all that different I suppose from freak folk, I still have a thing for Finnish avant forest folk, of which Lau Nau is part of. Wovenhand never disappoints with the intense gothic folk, if you don’t mind a little religious fire and brimstone. Marissa Nadler is simply a lovely singer-songwriter who seems somewhat overlooked this year after her more celebrated previous album. Mark Lanegan’s latest may not quite measure up to his best, but he has a huge back catalog of bad assery. Josephine Foster has amassed quite a formidable ouvre the past seven years, showing some real depth and talent. Her latest even snagged the attention of The Wire. I’m actually looking forward to seeing her live. And yeah, I heard the latest Taylor Swift, and screw that crap. She’s supposed to be an adult now but she still sings from the perspective of a 16 year-old.

  1. Lau Nau – Valohiukkanen (Fonal)
  2. Wovenhand – The Laughing Stalk (Sounds Familyre) | Bandcamp
  3. Marissa Nadler – The Sister (Box of Cedar) | Bandcamp
  4. Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral (4AD)
  5. Josephine Foster – Blood Rushing (Fire)
  6. Bill Fay – Life Is People (Dead Oceans)
  7. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas (Columbia)
  8. Hexvessel – No Holier Temple (Svart) | Buy
  9. Murder By Death – Bitter Drink Bitter Moon (Bloodshot)
  10. Dr. John – Locked Down (Nonesuch)
  11. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur (Zoe/Rounder)
  12. Richard Youngs – Amaranthine (MIE)
  13. The Lumineers – The Lumineers (Dualtone)

Hip Hop & Rap
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.D. city (Aftermath, 2012)
My usual disclaimer hasn’t changed, I don’t spend a lot of time listening to hip-hop and rap anymore. But for what it’s worth, I heard these albums, and they did not completely suck.

  1. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid: M.A.A.D City (Aftermath)
  2. Angel Haze – Reservation (Angel Haze)
  3. Aesop Rock – Skelethon (Rhymesayers)
  4. Death Grips – NO LOVE DEEP WEB (Death Grips)
  5. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (Blue Note)
  6. El-P – Cancer For Cure (Fat Possum)
  7. Future – Pluto (Epic)
  8. Death Grips – The Money Store (Epic)
  9. BBU – bell hooks (Mad Decent) | Bandcamp
  10. Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Remors (Def Jam)
  11. Nas – Life Is Good (Def Jam)
  12. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)
  13. ScHoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions (Top Dawg)

R&B, Soul, Funk & Dancepop
Georgia Anne Muldrow & Madlib – Seeds (SomeOthaShip, 2012)
I may seem contrarian rating seven albums above Frank Ocean, but I truly do enjoy listening to those more. Georgia Anne Muldrow is so underrated. Cooly G is a Brit thing, and may have some promise, or her debut will be the best thing she’s ever done. Remember that catchy Roots tune “The Seed”? Cody Chesnutt wrote that a decade ago, had a sprawling debut album, then disappeared. His comeback album is significantly more traditional sounding soul, but it’s the good stuff. What happened to Missy Elliott?

  1. Georgia Anne Muldrow & Madlib – Seeds (SomeOthaShip)
  2. Cooly G – Playin’ Me (Hyperdub)
  3. Cody Chesnutt – Landing On A Hundred (Vibration Vineyard)
  4. Dawn Richard – Armor On EP (Dawn Richard)
  5. Chairlift – Something (Columbia/DMZ)
  6. Solange – True EP (Terrible)
  7. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream (RCA)
  8. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE (Def Jam)
  9. Quantic & Alice Russell – Look Around The Corner (Tru Thoughts)
  10. Santigold – Master Of My Make-Believe (Atlantic)
  11. Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox (Atlantic)
  12. Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe (XL)
  13. P!nk – The Truth About Love (RCA)

Albums I missed before I made the lists
Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubliees... (Prophecy, 2012)No matter how hard I try, I always miss possible top 100 contenders. Here’s some good albums I missed before Xmas. After the 20th of December I usually take a break for a couple weeks from finding new music and listen solely to old favorites. By the second week of January, however, I can’t help but look over the late lists and polls. I ended up listening to an additional 80 albums from 2012, putting my grand total of albums over the 735 mark. Les Discrets took the #18 spot in the ILX Metal Poll just behind Baroness, Goat and Alcest. I had not seen it mentioned in a single poll elsewhere, despite the fact that the band has links to Alcest, Amesoeurs and Peste Noire, all of which share similar shoegaze-influenced twists on black metal and post-metal, not to mention post-punk. Leader Fursy Teyssier has done album art for all of the bands, and contributes on bass for Alcest on live shows, and Neige reciprocates with Les Discrets. The second and latest Les Discrets album is actually more engaging than the mighty Alcest to my ears. Also see the Post-Punk/Dark Wave/Goth list I added belatedly.

  1. Les Discrets – Ariettes Oubliées (Prophecy)
  2. Jesus H. Foxx – Endless Knocking (Song, By Toad)
  3. Milagres – Glowing Mouth (Kill Rock Stars)
  4. Haim – Forever EP (Columbia)
  5. Triptides – Sun Pavilion (Rough Trade)
  6. Heavenly Beat – Talent (Captured Tracks)
  7. Ice Choir – Afar (Underwater Peoples)
  8. Evening Meetings – Evening Meetings (Sweet Rot)
  9. John Foxx & The Maths – Evidence (Metamatic)
  10. Kandodo – Kandodo (Thrill Jockey)
  11. Allo Darlin’ – Europe (Slumberland)
  12. Glitter Wizard – Hunting Gatherers (Archers Guild)
  13. Theme Park – Wax EP (Transgressive)

Sleep - Dopesmoker (Southern Lord, 1995)There was truckloads of reissues to choose from, and my pick is the one I listened to the most, the legendary stoner/doom masterpiece by Sleep, finally officially released in its final remastered form. While there’s been plenty of excitement over Can’s The Lost Tapes, I dragged my feet in checking it out because usually there’s a very good reason why certain recordings are not officially released. However I came to my senses, remembering that Can are one of the greatest bands of all time, and should have known this was going to be amazing, with plenty of material from their formative years of 1968-69 all the way through 1977. Even after digging into Brazilian music for 20 years, there’s still a ton of stuff I haven’t touched on. One was an artist who’d been on my lists for a long time, but his albums were hard to find. Now thanks to Luaka Bop, I’ve got a great primer of the genius of Tim Maia covering his peak years from 1970-1978. The great liner notes don’t just gush about him, but also relay memories of a “fat, arrogant, overindulgent, barely tolerated yet beloved man-child.” He lived in the U.S. for while, getting deep into R&B and soul that would inform his work after he was deported back to Brazil. The 12th installment of the beautifully researched and assembled Analog Africa series is Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Popt 1960-1985. It’s a stunning effort with the first disc covering afrobeat, palenque sounds, champeta, caribbean funk, and puya, porro, gaita, cumbiamba, terapia, mapaté, chandé and descarga on disc two. While Laurie Spiegel worked at Bell Laboratories in the 70s, along with programming graphics, she made experimental electronic compositions using algorithmic software she called Music Mouse. Her compositions were more accessible than most stuff in the New York avant garde scene she ended up abandoning by the early 80s. Someone figured even aliens might appreciate it, as her electro version of Johannes Kepler’s “Harmonices Mundi” was chosen for the opening track on the “Sounds of Earth” section of the golden record placed on board the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. Ironically it may have been her inclusion on the recent Hunger Games soundtrack that prompted the reissue of her classic 1980 album. Many years ago I became obsessed with Bill Withers. His first couple albums were so strong, so underrated that I had to find out what else I’d been missing. Many of his albums were out of print at the time, but gradually were reissued one by one in expensive editions. So I’m kind of pissed it took so long for this to come out, but happy it’s available for new fans to dive in deep. Manilla Road is an obscure metal band from Kansas whose stature has grown over the years as the albums slowly grew their own cult.

  1. Sleep – Dopesmoker (Southern Lord, 1995)
  2. Can – The Lost Tapes (Mute, 1968-77)
  3. Tim Maia – World Psychedelic Classics 4 – Nobody Can Live Forever – The Existential Soul Of Tim Maia (Luaka Bop, 1971-78)
  4. Various – Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot 1960 – 1985 (Analog Africa)
  5. Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain (Edsel, 1983)
  6. The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops (EMI, 1984)
  7. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (Universal, 1977)
  8. Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe (Unseen Worlds, 1980)
  9. Bill Withers – The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums (Sony/Legacy)
  10. Manilla Road – Crystal Logic (Shadow Kingdom, 1983)
  11. The House Of Love [3CD] (Cherry Red, 1988)
  12. The Monochrome Set – Love Zombies (Water, 1980)
  13. Simple Minds – X5 [6CD] (Virgin Catalogue, 1979-1982)
  14. The English Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It [3CD] (Edsel, 1980)
  15. Candy McKenzie – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Presents Candy McKenzie (Trojan, 1977)
  16. The Blue Nile – Hats (EMI, 1989)
  17. The Ruts D.C. – Animal Now (Virgin/Westworld, 1981)
  18. Bleeding Hearts – What Happened? (Aztec, 1977)
  19. Lee Scratch Perry – Disco Devil: The Jamaican Discomixes (Trojan, 1977-79)
  20. Blissed Out Fatalists – Blissed Out Fatalists (Body Double Ltd., 1987)
  21. Bessie Smith – The Complete Columbia Recordings (Columbia/Sony Legacy, 1923-32)
  22. Pagan Altar – Judgement Of The Dead (Cruz Del Sur, 1982)
  23. Thin Lizzy – Night Life (Universal, 1974)
  24. Codeine – When I See The Sun Box Set (Numero, 1990-93)
  25. feedtime – The Aberrant Years (Sub Pop, 1982-89)
  26. The Cleaners From Venus – Volume One CD Box Set (Captured Tracks)
  27. The Jam – The Gift (Polydor, 1982)
  28. Thin Lizzy – Fighting (Universal, 1975)
  29. Duke Ellington – The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1951-1958 (Columbia/Sony Legacy)
  30. My Bloody Valentine – EPs 1988-1991 (Sony)
  31. The English Beat – Wha’ppen (Edsel, 1981)
  32. The English Beat – Special Beat Service (Edsel, 1982)
  33. Barrington Levy – Sweet Reggae Music 1979-84 (17 North Parade)
  34. Etta James – Queen Of Soul (Kent, 1964)
  35. Atomic Forest – Obsession ’77 (Now Again, 1981)
  36. Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975-1982 (Born Bad)
  37. Kiki Gyan – 24 Hours In A Disco (Soundway)
  38. Avengers – The Original Pink Album (Water, 1979)
  39. Lives Of Angels – Elevator to Eden (Dark Entries, 1983)
  40. Bedemon – Symphony Of Shadows (Svart)
  41. The Trypes – Music For Neighbors (Acute, 1986)
  42. Dio – Holy Diver (Universal, 1983)
  43. Shin Joong Hyun & Yup Juns (Lion, 1974)
  44. Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum [Mono] (Sundazed, 1968)
  45. Manilla Road – Open The Gates (Shadow Kingdom, 1985)
  46. Manilla Road – The Deluge (Shadow Kingdom, 1986)
  47. Various – Fac. Dance 02 (Factory/Strut)
  48. Betty Wright – Explosion! (Action/Soul Brother, 1976)
  49. Captain Beefheart – Bat Chain Puller (Barfkoswill, 1976)
  50. The Monochrome Set – Strange Boutique (Water, 1980)
  51. Leslie Winer – Leslie Winer &c. (Wormhole)
  52. Marcia Griffiths – Marcia & Friends (VP)
  53. Tronics – Love Backed by Force (What’s Your Rupture?, 1981)
  54. Michael Chapman – Rainmaker (Light in the Attic, 1969)
  55. Lee Hazelwood – The LHI Years: Singles Nudes & Backsides 1968-71 (Light in the Attic)
  56. Lee Hazelwood – A House Safe for Tigers (Light in the Attic, 1975)
  57. Franco Falsini – Cold Nose (Spectrum Spools)
  58. Sensations’ Fix – Music Is Painting in the Air 1974-1977 (RVNG Intl)
  59. Rodriguez – Searching for Sugarman OST (Light in the Attic)
  60. Bert Jansch – Heartbreak (Omnivore, 1982)
  61. Dio – The Last In Line (Universal, 1984)
  62. Spiritual Beggars – Mantra III (The End, 1998)
  63. Various – Rolling With The Punches: The Allen Toussaint Songbook (Ace)
  64. Sugar – Copper Blue (Edsel, 1992)
  65. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (Sony, 1991)
  66. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (Sony, 1988)


Courtesy of Tomiiko BakerI did pretty well this year in my old age, making it to well over 26 gigs. It certainly doesn’t match my old pace where I’d sometimes go to four shows in a week. I got to see Heaven And Hell a few years back before Dio passed away, which was pretty great, but nothing can compare to Black Fucking Sabbath, especially when they play most of the best songs from their first five albums! I pity the dumb-asses who skipped it just because Bill Ward wasn’t on the kit. Legendary. On the fourth time seeing The Stooges since they first reunited, it was overall their weakest appearance, with Iggy actually seeming kind of messed up. I’m not sure if he’s no longer sober or he was just spent, but it had some lulls, and he made Ozzy seem positively healthy, and 78 year-old Leonard Cohen youthful in comparison. On the other hand, they did play Iggy’s greatest solo song ever, “The Passenger” at the end. Either way, The Stooges still blow away most any other band on the planet even on a bad day.

  1. BLACK FUCKING SABBATH Lollapalooza, 8/3
  2. IGGY & THE STOOGES Riot Fest, 9/16
  3. ELDER The Burlington, 7/1
  4. GOJIRA Bottom Lounge, 8/16
  5. IRON MAIDEN, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 7/5
  6. Pallbearer, ROYAL THUNDER Beat Kitchen, 9/14
  7. TRUCKFIGHTERS, Ultra Lounge, 3/5
  9. GHOST, BLOOD CEREMONY Bottom Lounge, 1/24
  10. BITCH MAGNET Empty Bottle. 10/28
  11. LEONARD M.F. COHEN Rosemeont, 11/23
  14. THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, IN SOLITUDE Bottom Lounge, 4/13
  15. ELVIS COSTELLO Riot Fest, 9/16
  16. TAME IMPALA Lollapalooza, 8/3
  17. CROWBAR, PRONG, WITCHBURN Cobra Lounge, 4/20
  18. VAN HALEN United Center, 2/24

This is a last-minute list that I wish I’d thought to keep closer track of throughout the year. So while it’s not definitive, there’s a few videos worth noting. I’m just glad that despite MTV’s complete fail as far as having any sort of music video programming whatsoever, the art form lives on via YouTube and Vimeo. My favorite was Hot Chip’s gleefully bonkers sci-fi themed video starring comedian Reggie Watts and supermodel Lara Stone as space pilots, Terrence Stamp, and egg worshipping dancing cult members in monk-like robes. Runner-ups are High On Fire’s totally bonkers story of the time-travelling Christ Twin Balteazeen, followed by two aquatic-themed, creepy videos, with the burial-at sea theme by The Atlas Moth and Fiona Apple’s psychedelic aquatic nightmare where she wears a (hopefully fake) octopus as a hat.

  1. Hot Chip – Night And Day, Directed by Peter Serafinowicz
  2. High On Fire – Fertile Green, Directed by Phil Mucci
  3. The Atlas Moth – Your Calm Waters, Directed by Ryan Oliver
  4. Fiona Apple – Every Single Night, Directed by Joseph Cahill
  5. Tom Waits – Hell Broke Luce, Directed by Matt Mahurin
  6. St. Vincent – Cheerleader, Directed by Hiro Murai
  7. Solange – Losing You, Directed by Melina Matsoukas
  8. Miguel – Adorn, Directed by Jason Beattie
  9. Nina Violet – We’ll Be Alright, Directed by Jeff Economy
  10. USX – Wolf On Anareta, Directed by Paul Anderson
  11. Alestorm – Death Throes of the Terrorsquid
  12. Moon Duo – Sleepwalker, By Hylas-Film
  13. Cattle Decapitation – Kingdom of Tyrants, By Tyson Montrucchio

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)After watching Rushmore again before seeing Moonrise Kingdom, I might not love Wes Anderson movies as much the second time around, but until I get to catch up on the long list of Oscar baiting movies, it’s my pic for top flick. All the critics who continue to overlook comedies and animated movies because they aren’t depressing or violent or serious enough can suck it.

  1. Moonrise Kingdom
  2. Searching For Sugar Man
  3. Brave
  4. MIB3
  5. Safety Not Guaranteed
  6. The Dark Knight Rises
  7. Spider Man
  8. The Avengers
  9. Mirror Mirror
  10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  11. Madagascar 3
  12. Looper
  13. The Cabin In The Woods

Not bad, or maybe kind of bad but still amusing: The Dictator, Chico & Rita, Beasts of the Southern Wild (or harrowing/depressing but impressive), Marley, Mirror Mirror, Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, 2 Days In New York, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, Dark Shadows, Rock Of Ages, This Means War, Wanderlust, Joyful Noise, Bernie, ParaNorman. Haven’t seen yet: Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, This Is Forty, Chronicle, Lincoln, Skyfall, Shut Up And Play The Hits, Holy Motors, Amour, The Queen Of Versailles, Wreck-It Ralph.

Despite the high placing of the increasingly harrowing Breaking Bad, I mostly use TV as a way to get some laughs. Luckily there’s still plenty of very good comedies out there.

  1. Californication
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. Modern Family
  4. Parks & Recreation
  5. Bunheads
  6. The Mindy Project
  7. Metalocalypse
  8. Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23
  9. 2 Broke Girls
  10. Happy Endings
  11. Louie
  12. New Girl
  13. United States Of Tara

I know I read more than these, but I’m not as good at keeping track of what I read, but below are some that I have record of buying on the Kindle.

  1. Ernest Cline – Ready Player One (2012)
  2. Michael Chabon – Telegraph Avenue (2012)
  3. David Byrne – How Music Works (2012)
  4. Robert Kroese – Mercury Trilogy (2010-12)
  5. Christopher Moore – Coyote Blue (2008)
  6. Phil & Kaja Foglio – Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess (2012)
  7. RJ Smith – The One: The Life and Music of James Brown (2012)
  8. Joe Hill – Heart-Shaped Box (2000)
  9. Lauren Beukes – Zoo City (2010)
  10. Joe Meno – Office Girl (2012)
  11. Jonathan Lethem – Talking Heads’ Fear of Music (2012)
  12. Darrell Pitt – The Steampunk Detective (2012)
  13. Binky Philips – My Life In The Ghost Of Planets: The Story Of A CBGB Almost-Was (2012)

Chew, by John Layman & Rob Guillory
Since I now have to order the majority of my CDs online, I kind of miss out on the shopping experience. In some ways that’s good, but apparently I have some need for ritual, which I Chew Chog Shirtfulfill every Wednesday, stopping by Chicago Comics to pick up the new releases. It’s hard to pinpoint favorites, but Chew is always full of surprises, one of the funniest, bizarre, original comics ever done. I would have bought several friends a Chog shirt (an illegal hybrid of chicken an frog) for Xmas had it not sold out already. Brian K. Vaughan is responsible for not one, but two of the top 20 best comic series ever with Y: Last Man and Ex Machina. It looks like he might top them both with Saga, which is developing into an epic space opera with meditations on war, violence and non-violence, interracial love, raising a kid in dire, apocalyptic circumstances, ghosts and meddling in-laws.

  1. Chew – John Layman & Rob Guillory
  2. Saga – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
  3. Unwritten – Mike Carey & Peter Gross
  4. Fables – Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham
  5. The New Deadwardians – Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard
  6. Before Watchmen
  7. Scalped – Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera (Completed – 60)
  8. Fatale – Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
  9. The Boys – Garth Ennis, Russ Braun & Darick Robertson (Completed – 72)
  10. Secret Service – Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons
  11. Saucer Country – Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton
  12. Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child – Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, Denys Cowan, John Floyd
  13. Reset – Peter Bagge (Completed – 4)

Beer & Bourbon
Between having several beer geek friends including a certified Master Cicerone and great local bars like Local Option, I get turned on to a lot of amazing craft brews. Unfortunately I haven’t kept track of them that well, so I’m supplementing my list with bourbons, my other favorite drink lately (both straight and in Old Fashioneds). The highlight of the beer year was undoubtedly when I got to meet Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the man behind Mikkeller beers at a tasting at the Aviary. Below is what I wrote on a Facebook note in June. I didn’t list any of the beers at the tasting because they’re not commercially available. Sour Bitch was a beer he made especially for the owner of West Lakeview Liquors, and there are still bottles available there.

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Mikkeller Beers at The AviaryWednesday night I attended the Mikkeller tasting held at The Aviary, the bar that’s connected to fancy restaurant Next. It was hard to fork over the $90 a couple months ago, but in hindsight it was money well spent. Mikkel is from Denmark, and a “phantom” or “gypsy” brewer, which means that rather than invest in his own brewery, he visits them around the world to collaborate on mostly small batches. This enables him to explore his creative muse unfettered by the economic necessities of maintaining expensive facilities. Last year he created 95 different new beers. That’s not including all the others he makes more regularly. He’s been one of the most respected brewers, at least among beer geeks, since 2006.

In person, Mikkel is kind of what I expected — ratty rock ‘n’ roll t-shirt, patchy beard, and generally the relaxed demeanor of a guy who has achieved success doing what he loves best. In the picture you see a black garbage bag on his left arm. He got a new tattoo that day from a local shop, a portrait of his young daughter. He showed a picture on his phone, and it’s a nice piece. His partner/brewmaster was also there to talk about beers, looking like his brother, but I forgot his name. He had some great stories about how he used to be a school teacher, and actually used his classes to help him make beer. I also learned that his favorite brewery in the world is Three Floyds. I’ll definitely have to revisit some of their beers. I know they have great parties with heavy bands like the Melvins that I have been unable to get tickets for.

We started the night with a very simple Czech Pilsner. It was nice, but not what I came to try. Fortunately the rest of the six samples were much more interesting. They offered up to three refills of each 4 oz beer, in addition to three coctails made with the beers, so the real challenge was to stay sober enough to remember anything from this night. The first appetizer was kind of like a fancy tater tot with a more creamy potato and herb blend inside, definitely paired well with the Pilsner. I’m more of a beer fan than geek, so I won’t be able to describe these beers in details like discerning all the different fruity hop aromas, mouthfeel and aftertaste. That’s why I wish Master Cicerone bud Dave Kahle could have made it.

The next two beers were from Mikkel’s single hop “science project.” They brewed 19 beers, identical in every way except for the hops used. He talked about the problems with many beers in that they often blend hops and stretch the truth about what hops are in the beer, whereas a good brewer will be able to identify the exact field the hops were from, much like a good wine.  One was his personal favorite, and the other was . . . another. It doesn’t really matter, as these are not going on the market, and so I’ll never get to taste them again. I don’t remember the names or if he even said, but some of the hops used in the project were Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo, Sorachi Ace, Bravo, Columbus, Cluster, Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Palisade, Challenger, Galena, Magnum, Mt Hood, Tettnanger, Nugget, Super Galena, Williamette.

I do know he put out a batch of Mikkeller 19, which combines all 19 hops to, I heard, surprisingly nice results. If you see a bottle, grab it.

The fourth selection was I think some sort of amber ale that was absolutely incredible (if I have that wrong, someone please correct me!). I remember it being just slightly sweet and sour, and would probably be my beer of the summer if I could get more. The fifth was also great, the Texas Ranger Chipotle Porter, which I was actually lucky enough to try some sort of version on tap at Local Option last winter. Exactly my kind of winter beer, heavy, dark, chocolatey and spicy.

Last was kind of like desert, a sort of sour lambic, but not sweet like most lambics I’ve had. Very different, and delicious. The “tasty bites” that accompanied each beer were small portions, but Aviary/Next were generous with bringing out more. They couldn’t seem to get rid of their shrimp/fruit custard, probably the least favorite, but most were spot on.

Getting to meet Mikkel, learning more about their history and techniques, and trying one-of-a-kind beers with well-thought out bites, and enjoying it with good company (hello Alex, Mike and Gene) it was well worth it. If you’re lucky, maybe Mikkel will do something like this again (he’s done events at brewpubs, but this was the first time at a place like Aviary). If so, don’t miss it!

  1. Mikkeller Sour Bitch
  2. Founder’s Backwoods Bastard
  3. Green Flash Double Stout Black
  4. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  5. Monk’s Flemish Sour Ale
  6. Dark Horse Blueberry Stout
  7. Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
  8. Woodford Reserve
  9. Willett Family Reserve
  10. Very Old Barton
  11. Buffalo Trace
  12. Elmer T. Lee
  13. Bulleit

Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2011
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2010
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2009
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2008
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2007
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2006
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2005
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2004
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2003
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2002
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2001
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2000
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1999
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1998
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1997

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