Power to the bloggers. Every music magazine on the planet published its top-something list of the best 2012 music - should the blogosphere remain silent? Of course not! So here we are, top to bottom:
1. Jeff the Brotherhood - Hypnotic Nights
The American duo, with their seventh release Hypnotic Nights, gets the top spot with their noisy garage rock crossed with country, punk, metal riffs and shouted choruses. An amazing album where the sense of the melody is always at hand. Hits include Hypnotic Mind, Staring at the Wall and Dark Energy.
2. The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know
Shivers. Shivers are what comes to my mind when I listen to the new Twilight Sad album. Old analog synths, guitars and pulsing, obsessive drums are the base underlying James Graham’s poetry; because this is what we are talking about: pieces of intimate poetry floating in a post-industrial, decadent sound environment. Dead City, Sick and Don’t Move are amongst this year’s best songs.
3. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
If Blues Funeral were a fragrance, it would be a smoky, leathery composition, dark and refined, suited for a lonely man who has a story to tell and a lot, lot of charme. As an album, it is indeed a refined creation, with Lanegan voice (raspy and smoky as it can be) being the subtle addition to a incredibly sophisticated base. Gray Goes Black and Deep Black Vanishing Train are as good as Lanegan can be, but the average song is so well crafted and delivered that it’s hard to pick any over the others. Thumb up for one of the most beautiful cover of the year.
4. Baroness - Yellow and Green
The new double LP from Baroness is a must-have for sludge metal and stoner rock lovers. Take My Bones Away, March To The Sea and Cocainium are solid and addicting tracks and even if the Green disc is not up to the incredible Yellow Disc, some gems can be found here as well (take the Green Theme and The Line Between). The artwork is amazing and is better admired on the larger vinyl jacket rather than on CD.
5. Le Fate Sono Morte - Serialmente EP
Italian post-grunge rockers released their first EP this year; a burst of catchy, melancholic rock songs about ordinary relations, unanswered love and adult rage, between songwrinting sensibility and Nirvanesque tensions. Title track Serialmente will be your dope.
6. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
Attack on Memory is nihilism and hopelessness in the form of music. In a rather arty form I might add, with the first two songs (No Future/No Past and Wasted Days) that could form a wonderful, 13 minute-and-half EP of incredible depth and intensity. The rest of the album is a side dish, especially songs three and four which I find rather disappointing compared to the rest of the album.
7. Bloc Party - Four
An iconic title for the fourth album of the London based group, Kele Okereke and co. return with the same inspiration that was behind their debut album Silent Alarm; despite a couple of weaker songs, the album is highly enjoyable (especially in the Deluxe Edition which adds two more pieces including the mesmerizing Mean). Hit songs include Real Talk, Kettling and Truth.
8. Dinosaur Jr - I Bet On Sky
Dinosaur Jr. third album after the original line-up reunion sounds as any of the DJr. past albums - that is to say really, really good. There’s nothing extraordinaire here, and that’s reassuring: the dinosaurs of alt and indie rock have done again what they do best. Go and grab it or, better, check them live: they’ll hit the road in Europe in February 2013. Three songs to focus on are Watch the Corners, Stick A Toe In and Recognition.
9. Saint Motel - Voyeur
Saint Motel debut is an eclectic album, mixing revival rock, indie pop and swing vibes and I LOVE the way they make it all sound. There’s a lot going on here: I’m expecting big things from this Los Angeles band in the next future. Listen to At Least I Have Nothing, You Do It Well and Hands Up Robert.
10. Ondatropica - Ondatropica
The Colombian collective album is a display of southern American sounds in a bright, danceable mix of jazz and latin rythms, including ska, salsa, bossa nova and rap (among the others). Technically solid and artistically enriching, this is the perfect soundtrack for your end of the year party. Hypnotical, dense and tropical, it will storm your ears. Highlights: Linda Mañana, Curro Fuentes, Cumbia Espacial.
11. Deftones - Koi no Yokan
I have to admit it: I was wrong. I gave a first listen to the new Deftones album and decided it was not worth White Pony, so I refused to play it again to avoid yet another musical delusion. How I was wrong! The album has been growing on me in the last few weeks, since I decided to give it a second chance to complete this list - powerful and beautiful nu-metal as I hadn’t heard in a while. Lesson learnt: always give music a chance. Romantic Dreams, Entombed and Rosemary are my favourite tracks off the album.
12. alt-J - An Awesome Wave
Jazzy art-rock with hints of psychedelia and progressive rock. The lush rithmic section reminds me the turn of the century Radiohead, while the elegant multi-layered vocals are the original and distinguishing feature of this very promising quartet. Top tracks: Interlude I and Fitzpleasure.
13. PAWS - Cokefloat!
The debut album for this Glaswegian trio combines power-pop melodies with garage/punk energy, especially live. Cokefloat follows the EP Mislead Youth (which I suggest as well). My picks are Catherine 1956 (touching song) and Bloodline (and Oh, The Places You’ll Go off the EP).
14. Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Smashing Pumpkins are back! Well, er, let’s say Billy Corgan is back. Oceania is a sampler of past and present Corgan’s production, from Gish to Teargarden. Is it a bad thing? No, not at all; musically the album is as diverse as it can be and it gaines momentum at every listening. Linger on title-track Oceania, The Celestials and Violet Rays.
15. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
GY!BE newst album in ten years is an atmospheric post-rock symphony in four movements (two 20-minute long tracks and two 6’30” ones). Recommending one of them over the others is completely pointless, as they are meant to be listened as a whole, while sipping your favourite drink, possibly on a stormy day, comfortably sitting in your comfortable armchair.
16. Best Coast - The Only Place
Best Coast, on their sophomore release, confirm their commitment to an easy-listening catchy garage-surf-pop. The melancholic lyrics counterpoint the sunny instrumentation, with Bethany Cosentino exploring further themes of teenage angst and loneliness. Must-hear songs include Last Year, Do You Love Me Like You Used To and Dreaming My Life Away.
17. Diamond Rings - Free Dimensional
If you are looking for a dancy electronic pop that echoes the ’80s musical style and Bowie’s aesthetic, you can stop searching: John O’Reagan, who hits the stage by the name of Diamond Rings, is what you need right now. May not be innovative, but is catchy as hell. All The Time and Put Me On are on the top of the list.
18. The Cribs - In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
Mixing indie rock attitude with anthemic power-pop songs, The Cribs fifth full lenght album is their best effort so far. Come On, Be A No One and Uptight shine through a well written and better arranged album, which blinks to the lo-fi aesthetic.
19. Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO
Of the three album released in 2012, after the reunion of the original members in 2010, Class Clown Spots a UFO is the better and most faithful to the originale GBV spirit, sonically and lyrically. Pop sensibility for melodies and non-sense lyrics makes good company for their trademark lo-fi recording and songs’ lenght (ranging from 47 seconds to 3’17” of title track Class Clown Spots a UFO, among the best on the album along with Keep It In Motion and Starfire).
20. Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Lights
Acoustically challenging albeit easy to listen, this London quintet mixes the latest Arcade Fire with baroque art-pop that will appeal even the most demanding audience. Replicate and Lenslife stand out from the setlist.
21. Deep Sea Arcade - Outlands
This Australian quintet plays a rather dreamy, psychedelic indie pop on their label debut, and sonically traces its origin back to the Beatles and the Beach Boys, resulting significantly brighter and more interesting than, say, the much acclaimed and over-hyped Tame Impala second album. The sound is more guitar-driven than the patchwork of loops and drones which seem to be the normality for the genre nowadays. Noteworthy tracks include The Devil Won’t Take You and Don’t Be Sorry.
22. Lady Hawk - No Can Do
The Canadian rockers comeback after four years is filled with sparkling punk-rock and power pop songs, easy to listen and easy to love. You Read My Mind and Window Pane are the obvious hits of this album.
23. Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood of Colour
Can you combine nu-metal and post-hardcore with dubstep or techno? I doubt, but Enter Shikar can and they do that pretty good as well. This album is an explosion of sounds - it’s percussive, fast-paced, persuasive. At times irritating, but worth listening nonetheless. Meltdown is the album’s masterpice.
24. Lana del Rey - Born to Die
Lana del Rey is born (no pun intended) to appeal a wide range of audiences - from hipsters to pop lovers, MTV addicted and generic radio listeners - for the pleasure of them all. This is one of the few LP that grew on me during the year; the mellow, dark voice of Elizabeth Grant is appealing and sensual and works best in dark, mellow songs of indie-pop flavour such as title track Born to Die, Dark Paradise and Diet Mountain Dew.
25. Serj Tankian - Harakiri
What is the difference between a Serj Tankian, a System of a Down or a Scars on Broadway album? To me, none, and that’s why I like most of them in the same way. Themes and music hardly changed throughout their career and this latest in no exception. To many this safe betting is annoying and repetitive, but I honestly like the coherence of their musical path and keep enjoying their songs, such as Cornucopia and Weave On. Ugliest cover this year, hands down!
Honorable mention for the German bright-wave group Hurricane Dean who came out with the Appeal single/EP last November and the internet released single Flat Random Noise earlier this year - I’m waiting for (hopefully) a 2013 debut album. Another mention for the self-titled Metz album - infectious noise and post-punk at its best.