Decided to ask some random musicians and music lovers to give me a list of their favorite albums of 2012. This is what I received.
1) Derek krzywicki- @cheers elephant-Philadelphia, pa
Spinto band-shy pursuit
Spiritualized-sweet heart sweet light
2) patrik dechrist@spinning Jenny (Sweden)
Crazy Lixx – riot avenue.
Down to essential album with great guitarwork and catchy choruses.
Minimalist album of rock with high pumping energy in every turn.
A refreshing soundtrack to your everyday task
10)My Top 5 Albums of the Year: by Johnny vines @the creeptones (central jersey)
When i listen to music, there’s always one main element that attracts me: the composition. I can’t really enjoy music without a lot of thought behind it: I like challenges, and i love hearing the creativity that comes from trying to push yourself further than you may have thought. I listen to mostly Progressive and alternative music in my search for this, as well as a plethora of orchestral music, and i always find it hard to decide on what i consider to my my “Favorite” of anything, to the point that there are always at least 5 bands i feel i must mention when someone asks whom my favorite band is. So, putting together my list of top 5 albums for 2012 required a lot of thought from me, and in putting in so much thought, i figured i might as well write my thoughts out:
1. Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion
It took a lot of thought to chose between the first two albums, but i settled on to this one after thinking about it because i believe this album was a true breakthrough in modern composition. It’s really not a rock album, it delivers more as a Contemporary Chamber Ensemble album, despite their use of mostly instruments suited for Rock Music. The guitars, aside from the occasional solos, serve to accompany the vocal much more like a piano in some songs, and then act like a violin section in others, adding many ensemble textures and colors. Drumming is very sparse and serves little purpose for keeping time; instead it is used to add to the music only where necessary, something which is a great departure from rock music. These non-common uses of the instruments really reminded me of 20th century compositions; in the same way that 20th century composers began to favor extended technique almost over the normal sound of instruments; Steve Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt seem to have begun thinking beyond what the instruments are supposed to do, and venture into the realm of what CAN they do. There are songs with multi-tonal implications and written in Octatonic tonality as well, creating very exotic sounds that many listeners may be offset by, something that again makes this album really not sound like a rock album. There was really nothing else this year that was a groundbreaking or influential to me, and after remembering how this album made me feel the first time i Heard it, there was no question that it should take the top spot. Many people do not share my enthusiasm for the album however, as many people were expecting a much heavier album from the two gods of Progressive Metal. Because the album did not follow it’s expectations, i think a lot of people did not come to understand the true beauty and importance of it, instead listening to the first song (Drag Ropes; probably the most easy song for a listener with these execrations to get through)before throwing it aside as “Ambient Bullshit” (as one review ignorantly called it). However, i think that if this had not been two Prog Metal musicians, the album may have been much more well received by the prog community, it is truly one of the greatest and most groundbreaking albums ever recorded, and because of this; the only one that follows the original spirit of “Progressive” Rock.
2. Big Big Train – English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train released a single from their new album, “Judas Unrepentant,” long before the actual album dropped, and it got me very excited for the next album. It was Huge, it was Complex, and it was Tight, everything i love about the band. However, it still seemed somewhat different from their previous catalogue of material. They seemed to be venturing out of their already expansive box to include a woodwind ensemble including bass clarinet, featured prominently in the middle section of the song. When the whole album was finally released, it certainly did not disappoint. It was an orgasmic journey of many moods and styles, from pure excitement to exquisite beauty, and they favor the compositional technique of reusing a few motives throughout the album in various ways to create a more “Unified” sound tot he album. They open with the epic “The First Rebreather,” the best choice they could have made to open the album. There are several cadence points that are so well planned and written they just make your ears scream “YES!” Following this, BBT launches into a more country folk sounding song, complete with banjo, which gives the ears a chance to relax, always important in an album as hard-hitting and epic as this. The whole album is just planned so well in this manner, with flawless execution, diversity, and stellar composition, it delivers just as BBT always has, but much more over the top than they have ever gone before.I particularly enjoyed the extensive use of various woodwinds in some songs i mentioned earlier; as it is a fairly new element to their sound. Prior, they had mainly stuck to Flute and Saxophone, which is not particularly uncommon in Progressive Rock Music. The ears never get bored listening because of the constantly changing palette of colors they use, and despite 6 of the 8 songs being over 7 minutes long (though this is short for Progressive music). Their follow-up is a paradox to me, because while I don’t really see how they can get better than this (without abandoning their style like Steven and Mikael), Big Big Train without fail get better and better, and as the album name implies, they are already planning their next big project.
3. Motorpsycho – The Death Defying Unicorn
This is the most recent discovery this list, though long before actually getting the chance to listen to this album it intrigued me: I read about it on one of the bavious music blogs i frequent. A Rock band not only playing with a full orchestra, but including them as a featured compositional element as much as, and at times more than, the actual rock band is an amazing concept, and hasn’t really been done since The Moody Blues’ “Days Of Future Passed;” Orchestras in Rock music have always functioned as an accompaniment to music that coulees still stand on it’s own; gross underemployment. However, i feel that this album does much more that DoFP, as they are much more adventurous and think more like modern composers than pop musicians writing for orchestra, and constantly as i’m listening to it, i find myself comparing it to orchestral composers than other rock bands. I could hear tons of Penerecki in the movement “Doldrums,” And the theme at the beginning of “Into the Gyre” reminded me extensively of Samuel Barber. NEar the end, they even borrow a motive from Yes’s “changes” and develop it from it’s original 17/16 timing to and expanded 37/16, with rehamonizations and layers of sound that salute Stravinsky as the album closes. It is, again, a groundbreaking album, and i hope that many more bands take this medium and continue to work with it, as it is an extremely interesting and fascinating listen, the kind that can only perceived truly as a whole, and not as any individual track.
4. Anglagard – Viljans Oja
Anglagard is one of the most unique bands i’ve ever come across. No one sounded like them before, and no one has really sounded like them since. So naturally, when they announced that they would return to recording after their more than a decade long hiatus to put out their third album, their cult following erupted in a simultaneous cheer. Anglagard is unique that they write multi-tonal music (Music that you cannot say is in a specific Key), which is why they are both condemned and loved. You really have to understand what is going on to enjoy multi-tonal music, otherwise it may sound like noise instead of music. However, the musicians that can understand this regard them as geniuses for bringing what was formerly a chamber music and orchestral technique into the world of rock music. If you don’t like the way this sounds however you are going to despise this album, as the shortest song on this album is over 12 minutes long. However, if you listen to this album and realize that you enjoy this sound, be ready for an amazing musical journey. The album is certainly satisfying after the long wait, giving the Anglagard cult what they have been waiting for for so long. Ultimately, i chose this for my list for the same reason as all the albums above it; truly amazing and unique composition. There was not another album put out this year, or indeed in many years prior, that sounds quite like this, though there are a few other bands that have begun to dabble in multi-tonal rock, such as Cthulhu Rise, though none have truly reached the expanse of composition and fine-tuned sound of the original Anglagard. They are truly and warmly welcomed back into the music world by the community.
5. The Pineapple Thief – All the Wars
Finally, we move from the unlistenable to some to the seemingly too listenable for others. This album, while nearly in all odd time signatures, is very easy to follow along with, which is why i like it. TPT have managed to take something difficult and make it almost universally accessible. While being an interesting and satisfying product of it’s own merit, it is also an awesome gateway album to many of the other things i have been talking about. TPT are truly genius in the way they compose, making difficult things sound easy, which is a sign of great musicianship. This is not to say that they’re doing something they’ve never done before: they have more albums than i remember out, to the point that i’m not sure which albums are compilations, re-releases, and which are the actual original TPT albums, all of which have this same sound to it: easy to follow, but still compositionally complex. At this point, they have so much product out that they have expectations in their material, and they have not failed to deliver to those expectations with this release. This album continues the amazing TPT tradition, and that is why i like it so much. They are a very unique band, and there’s not really anyone else out there puling off what they do as well as them.
And here are mine, ill make it quick thanks everyone for reading and the artists for sharing with us. Please feel free to post your picks in the comments. This is jerry Ryan signing off.
Sharon van etten-tramp
Muse-the 2nd law
Cloud nothings-attack on memory
Alabama shakes-boys and girls
Fiona apple-the idler wheel
Dirty projectors-swing lo Magellan
Ty segall band-slaughterhouse
Spiritualized-sweet heart sweet light
Lana del ray-born to die
Animal collective-centipede hz
Hot chip-in our heads
Bat for lashes- the haunted man
The Mahlors-stay true