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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

End of a Year 2012 Volume 1: Albums (20-11)

Burning Love
Yeah, it's been a while eh? Ooops. Anywho, here's the first half of my top 20 full length albums of the year for ya. Yeah, I know, 20! It was a good year, to say the very least. Here goes:

20. Burning Love- Rotten Thing to Say (Southern Lord)

To be honest, I kind of wrote these dudes off as "not enuff liek Cursed, bruh" until I saw them at Fest and they blew me away. Now I kinda wish I'd had a bit longer to listen to this album, because damn, is it ever good. Take Coliseum style grime-punk, throw in a shitload of wicked two-step riffs, envelop it all in Chris Colohan's signature malaise, and you have yourself the 20th best album of 2012.

Listen to "Karla"

19. Trash Talk- 119 (Odd Future)

In a world where pop-punk bands publish coffee table books and skramzbros lurk in every basement, Trash Talk are a necessary evil. The band's darkest, weirdest release to date, 119 doesn't instantly gratify you like Awake or Eyes & Nines might have, opting to take you on a trip down the rabbit hole in your own back yard instead. If there's a more painfully apt lyric to describe North America in 2012 then "ashamed to ask for what you're being denied/ but everybody's gotta eat" I've yet to hear it.

18. No Trigger- Tycoon (No Sleep)

This album has everything the punx could want in a summer soundtrack; larger than life guitars, circle-pittastic drumming, and choruses that practically beg you to dive off some sort of raised platform onto the heads of unsuspecting drunks. Hell, I can practically smell the PBR on singer Tom Rheault's voice as he belts his warrior poet lyrics in the most perfect "happy punk dude" voice imaginable. I'll be eagerly awaiting to see what No Trigger has in store for us down the road, even if it takes another six years.

17. Joyce Manor- Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired (Asian Man)

For the longest time I didn't know what to think of this album. I mean, the band's self-titled debut left them with some pretty big shoes to fill, and in comparison Of All Things felt extremely underwhelming when I first heard it. But after the initial shock settled, I discovered this album as a gem in it's own right. Is it as cohesive and hard-hitting as Joyce Manor? Nah, but it's certainly quirkier and more adventurous. Consider Of All Things the Pinkerton to JM's Blue Album.


16. Make Do and Mend- Everything You Ever Loved (Rise)

Have you ever thought to yourself "hey, what would happen if I wrote a record that sounded like Jimmy Eat World jamming Hot Water Music covers?" Well kids, a mere decade after somebody should have tried combining Caution with Futures, Make Do and Mend have finally stepped up to the plate and made the emo record 2003 forgot. A bit of inconsistency keeps Everything You Ever Loved as high on the list as it is, but god damn-- when this record is on point it's good enough to leave you breathless.

Listen to "St. Anne"

15. Converge- All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)

Is Converge even physically capable of making a bad record? I mean, shit-- just listen to this album. Jacob Bannon can't even really scream anymore; Kurt Ballou sounds like he's making riffs up on the spot; songs like "Coral Blue" sound like the band experimenting just for the sake of it; and yet nobody in their right mind would argue All We Love sounds even remotely phoned-in. The most awe-inspiring thing about Converge is that they make brilliance sound easy and chaos sound obvious -- this album is no exception. If the band hadn't already cemented their place as the most revered metal/hardcore act of all time, All We Love should do it.

Listen to "Trespasses"

14. Waxahatchee- American Weekend (Don Giovanni)

If I told you that Katie Crutchfield went all Justin Vernon and disappeared to a cabin in the woods to write/record American Weekend, would you believe me? It certainly sounds feasible; what with the amateurish recording sound, stripped-bare arrangements, and songs about love, regret and self reflection. Unfortunately, this record was not the product of some self-imposed isolation in the woods; instead Crutchfield harnessed the much more palpable isolation of being a young woman in an unforgiving world for her inspiration. There's no made-for-TV melodrama, no fancy recording trickery, and most importantly, no pretense whatsoever. It's just a girl, her guitar, and a goosebump-inducing sense of honesty.

Listen to "Be Good"

The Men

13. Loma Prieta- I.V. (Deathwish)

I.V. is an absolute mindfuck. By all accounts, this record shouldn't sound good -- the tunings hardly make sense, the tempos and time signatures change without warning, the lyrics are unabashedly blunt, and the guitars sound like they're made out of sheet metal. But somehow this album doesn't just sound good; it has a pervasive ethereal quality throughout it. It's as if Loma have written themselves into a paradox where the closer they come to absolutely destroying a song, the more everything makes sense. After years of toiling in the Bay Area scene, Loma Prieta seems to have a breakout hit in I.V.; and deservedly so -- not since Jane Doe have I heard a band turn such an ugly approach into such beautiful music.

Listen to "Trilogy VI 'Forgetting'"

12. The Men- Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)

Upon first listen, Open Your Heart doesn't seem that special, perhaps just a densely layered Our Band Could be Your Life-core nostalgia trip. But as each listen peels another layer back, you'll find out just how clever this record really is. A hint of psychedelia here, a country melody there, some surf-rock riffing thrown in for good measure -- this album is a melting pot of American music culture filtered through a punk lens and held together in a warm blanket of distortion. Perhaps what's most impressive about Open Your Heart is that while the bands it draws direct influence from have been the victims of intellectual copypasta for the last 30 years, nobody out there sounds or has sounded quite like The Men.

Listen to "Animal"

11. Worn in Red- Banshees (No Idea)

While The Men may have taken 2012 to prove just how great punk rock can be when you spice up the formula, Worn in Red deserve equal props for reminding us that if it ain't broke, you don't always need to fix it. This is musical comfort food -- Chicken Soup for the Fester's Soul, if you will. Sure, the guitars sound like Bridge and Tunnel; sure the rhythm section is a little reminiscent of Forever and Counting era Hot Water Music; sure, the two singers sound like they smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey for a vocal warm-up. But here's the thing: I love all that shit, especially when it's done this well. And when you throw a healthy dose of No Sleep-esque nu-hardcore in the mix, well shit -- I guess you'd have the 11th best album of 2012, wouldn't you?

Listen to "The Road"

So that's the first half of my list. Hopefully I'll have the second half done in a couple days and we can party naked or something. PCE!