On the advice of a good friend, who asked me to quit complaining about year-end lists and compile one of my own, here are a bunch of albums that I felt were effective and moving works of art this year.
NOTE: Not all of these albums were released in 2012- this is simply a bunch of stuff that I was digging this past year, in no particular order. Some of them are by famous people, some are not. I’m not a magazine, so I don’t have to stick to any “Best of 2012” rules, okay? This is just my opinion on a bunch of albums. Sometimes it takes years to find music, let alone digest it. Embrace that. Click the images to check out the artist sites.
The Morals: Music Tree Life Understanding (2012)
A stark, somewhat melancholy set that slowly constructs it’s own beauty, like frost gradually growing on a cold window. This album makes me profoundly uncomfortable in a way that I like. Fragile, clattering arrangements and frightening bursts of dramatic doom. Technically I think this is an EP…
Old World Vulture: Trophy Lovers (2012)
Read my non-review here.
Heat Machines: Demos (2012)
A great new band from the Ottawa scene. These guys have actually been at it for a while, but just this year they released this little collection of basement tapes. It is fun garage-rock goodness with bouncy bass-lines and soulful vocal accents courtesy of two great singers, one male and one female. They are working on their first studio recordings, I am told, and I can’t wait to hear where they go with this sound. Expect great things from Heat Machines.
Lee Ranaldo: Between The Times and The Tides (2012)
Lee Ranaldo steps out from the shadows of Sonic Youth and gets down to business with his first solo LP to feature traditional rock and roll songs. However, in Lee’s world “traditional” still has a different meaning, so there’s plenty of weird sonic goodies floating around to keep the noise nerds happy. With this rocking, playful record, Lee shows that he’s got the goods to keep his illustrious career going without his famous band.
Among the legions of new frat-boy rock fans that The Black Keys have picked up in the last few years, there probably aren’t that many people who give a shit about Dr. John, and it’s likely that the reverse is also true of the Doctor’s disciples. Nonetheless, this is a truly phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime kind of record, joining different generations of musical royalty in a work that refines and exaggerates the best parts of both participants. Swamp-skronk, garage-funk, neo-blues-Afrobeat; call it whatever you want. Any way you label it, it’s amazing. It’s everything that is missing about modern music. This record makes me feel physically good every time I listen to it. Stick it in your ears and melt away.
Dave Marsh: The True Love Rules (2008)
A few years ago, legendary Canadian drummer Dave Marsh proved to the world, in no uncertain terms, that he is great songwriter in his own right. But I only discovered this excellent release this year. I interviewed Mr. Marsh recently (which will appear here soon), and we discussed this record at length. He’s a hero on the East Coast and to anyone who listened to The Super Friendz or Joel Plaskett, but the rest of Canada needs to recognize this man’s talent as well. This album is a heady brew of rock and roll history (featuring layers of guitars and singalong melodies), combined with Marsh’s eerily Bowie-esque vocals and quirky poetry. The players are a who’s-who of eastern Canadian musical talent. Just listen to it. It’s a great record and I can’t wait to hear his next one.
Dinosaur Jr: I Bet On Sky (2012)
Song for song, I don’t think it is as strong a record as 2009’s “Farm”, but a weak Dino record is still better than 99 percent of what’s going on in rock and roll right now. J Mascis is claiming the guitar back from all the charlatans of the instrument, and I thank him deeply for that. Lou Barlow also contributes a great pair of songs.
Early Steppenwolf (1969)
Before they were Steppenwolf, they were The Sparrow, and during a tour stop in the US in 1967 they recorded this gem at San Francisco club The Matrix (a storied place that also hosted live recordings by The Velvet Underground). I was given this album on vinyl by some friends for my birthday this year. The album was supposedly reissued in the 1990s after being out of print for years (I can’t seem to find it for sale on their website, though). This record is a bluesy assault of rock awesomeness; the entire second side is an extended psychedelic version of “The Pusher”. These guys were truly great musicians, and this early document bears that out. It captures the band before they became really famous and toned down their experimentation. This is the sound of a top-notch 1960s band right out on the edge of creativity, stretching themselves. Bent notes and meandering solos abound. Groovy.
Sigur Ros: Valtari (2012)
Iceland’s greatest export returns to deliver another beautiful, weird masterpiece. Adjectives fail, which is precisely the point. Just let it roll over you.
Mark Lanegan: Blues Funeral (2012)
Read my non-review here.