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2015 SOTO Staff Picks

December 30, 2015

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Hey!  Here’s what the SOTO staff dug this year.  Enjoy.

Here you go!

1. Tobias Gesso Jr. – Goon

2. Shamir – Ratchet

3. Tame Impala – Currents

4. Mild High Club – Timeline

5. Ultimate Painting – Green Lanes

Assembled from my list other list of Best Albums of 2015, I wanted to give the fine SOTO readers who may not be into metal a little taste of what some of the borderline metal albums this year achieved. These bands can be classified as metal, but in reality when the non-metalhead hears these records will think, “I can understand the words,” and “They are actually singing a melody,” so I call this list the Best Non-Metal Metal Albums of the Year … enjoy!

5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)

The decision to stick with a more rock based approach for Clutch worked on Earth Rocker, and Psychic Warfare presents more of that same powerful attitude and emphasis on their abilities to write strong hooks and lyrically profound jams. A balanced album that seamlessly continues the trajectory of the band gives us some great new singable tunes … and, of course, mentions Texas (so I have to love it even more).

4. Soilwork – The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast)

At some point Soilwork will write a terrible record – but The Ride Majestic is not that record. I am astounded by Soilwork’s ability to continually write albums that stretch what they do as a band, yet somehow fit perfectly into their catalog. This record has everything for the Euro-metalcore fan to celebrate.

3. Refused – Freedom (Epitaph)

While watching Refused on their reunion tour at Fun Fun Fun Fest, not one of their diehard fans could have possibly guessed that they could even put together another album, let alone a release as striking as Freedom. Almost two decades have passed since their ‘final’ album, The Shape of Punk to Come, and all we wanted was perfection. In many ways, Dennis Lyxzen and company have not only succeeded, but essentially created an album that did exactly what it needed to do: began the next era of punk to come.

2. Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things (Century Media)

The strange thing here is, whereas failing to pin down Paradise Lost made me move away from them, Intronaut’s similarly diverse catalog feels like a creative continuation, rather than a struggle to find a place amongst the ferns. The Direction of Last Things‘ breadth will surprise even the most hardened critic. If you aren’t BTBAM, prog metal is not an easy thing to make palatable – yet this record is undeniable.

1. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)

Unlike the rest of the modern metal world, I did not hold Baroness’ last album in the highest regard. There were some great moments, but it was a double album that could have been boiled down to one spectacular album. So much has transpired for the band since then – setting aside the bus crash and the fallout of having to relearn how to do even menial tasks, rebuilding a band after two core members cannot continue must be daunting. After getting on the road and touring for a year with a new rhythm section, the iron seemed hot enough to get the recording going. As we hear the pieces of Purple, all that has transpired falls into the rear view. When consumed in full? Enlightened, transcendental, and mature beyond their years, Baroness’ Purple grows in stature with every listen. Heavier than the last two records, but with more subtle strides in structure, this is as close as we may get to a perfect album. Baroness tapped into something I hope they can channel for many years to come.

Enjoy!

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

2. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

3. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

4. Fashawn – The Ecology

5. Lizzo – Big GRRRL, Small World

1. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down (Matador)

I’ve jammed this more than any other 2015 release. Vile’s songs are intriguing, yet detached. BIGD manages to say a lot about us as people and our continued course towards ultimate self involvement/destruction. It’s Vile’s own cosmic navel gazing that somehow speaks for the mass of all lost human beings looking for recognition while yearning to be left alone.

2. Dean McPhee – Fatima’s Hand (Hood Faire)

Over the course of Fatima’s Hand and its five meditative (and fully improvised) tracks, you are offered a range of solar spirituals. The depth and variance guitarist Dean McPhee is able to achieve with just a Telecaster, some pedals, and an amp deserves serious accolades.

3. Sun City Girls – Torch of the Mystics (Abduction Records)

Richard Bishop, Alan Bishop, and Charles Gocher’s finest moment gets its first reissue since 1993! Whether you consider it an underground footnote or THE best album released in the 1990s (which this writer does,) it’s easy to be pumped to not have to pay $150 for the original 1990 Marjora release on vinyl. Now Space Prophet Dogon can be jammed on wax for $17 thanks to Abduction Records.

4. Joshua Abrams – Magnetoception (Eremite)

It’s not often that a double LP of extended ensemble performances can be so damned captivating. With his magical guimbri in tow, Abrams and crew are to put it mildly, fucking killing it. This side of music has not sounded this fresh and appealing in a long damned time. Abrams is proving that solar/fire music can and will last way beyond its original purveyors.

5. Jack DeJohnette – Made In Chicago

The best jazz release this year by a mile. Recorded in 2013 at Chicago’s Millennium Park, it features pieces by DeJohnette, Mitchell, and Threadgill as well as improvised group pieces – all of them stunning. Even as each of these players age, their work continues to be timeless and endlessly inventive.

With honorable mentions to Lithuania, Metz, Beach Slang, Mike Krol, OBN IIIs and Sweet Talk, I give you my five favorite albums of the year:

1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

2. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie

3. Bop English – Constant Bop

4. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

5. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

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Brad’s Top 10 Albums Of 2012

December 19, 2012

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2012 – the year in which the Mayans saw it fit to end all days would make a pretty nice conclusion to all things, or well when it comes to music at least. I would gesture it’s been a good year from the fact that I had particular difficulties in narrowing down my favorite releases, and it really has been a good year. Never mind even ranking them, just whittling down to these 10 was a challenge enough. This past year was great in that it saw plenty of newcomers take hold, and even better, the new guys from last year firmly held their places and graduated from being promising newcomers to established powerhouses. Throw in some seasoned players, and you’ve got a year that had one hell of a variety to offer. Yes, it was a good year. Here are my choice choices. In no particular order, of course.

:Beach House – Myth:

:Divine Fits – Would That Not Be Nice:

:Django Django – Life’s A Beach:

:Fanfarlo – Feathers:

:Japandroids – The Night Of Wine And Roses:

:Kids Of 88 – Feel The Love:

:Purity Ring – Fineshrine:

:Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards:

:Tennis – Petition:

:Yellow Ostrich – Marathon Runner:

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Jennifer’s Top 11 Austin Albums Of 2012

December 14, 2012

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When I sat down to list my favorite songs and albums from 2012, Austin bands were all over it. I’m going to take that as a sign and share the local favorites that I listened to repeatedly. There’s no special ranking or order here. It was harder than I expected to narrow it down to the Top 11. These are the bands that made an impression on me this year and give me reasons to be a music fan. I hope you’ll discover new favorites and check them out in 2013.

JC & Co – Music By

This band’s debut album kicked off my 2012 with blissful, dreamy 60s influenced pop. Led by songwriter and guitarist, Jason Chronis, this album is filled  with plenty of jangly guitar hooks and stick in your head melodies.

Belaire – Resonating Symphony

The members of JC & Co had a busy year because most of the band is also part of Belaire. Resonating Symphony was released this spring after having been worked on for three years. It was definitely worth the wait, as it’s a breezy, infectious pop delight with a range of influences that hint of bossa nova, folk, and electropop.

Dana Falconberry – Leelanau

I had heard of Dana from the Echotone music documentary, but I didn’t check out her songs until her album release show a couple of months ago. You could say I had a “what took me so long to pay attention?” moment, but needless to say, I was enchanted by the eloquent, emotive songs filled with the nature inspired sounds of her home state, Michigan. Just close your eyes, listen carefully, and you can imagine yourself transported to the woods and lakes of her childhood.

The Eastern Sea – Plague

The Eastern sea is a name that I first heard a couple of years ago, but I didn’t follow through on checking out their tunes. Thank goodness for second chances! Despite the foreboding album title, the songs on Plague also convey a sense of joy, hope, and overcoming the odds despite what might be against you. A triumphant, gorgeous record worth repeated listens.

Good Field – Good Field

I first heard their self titled debut album about seven months ago, and I’m still completely head over heels for it. The LP is full of undeniable guitar pop hooks that get into your head and never leave. I highly recommend seeing them play live so you can also witness just how great they are as musicians. A new album is in the works and more touring, so keep your eyes and ears open in 2013 for this band. I promise you that they measure up to all my fangirl gushing.

She Sir – You Could Be Tiger/Condensedindents

Their next album, Go Guitars, is slated for a 2013 release. To appease the appetite of fans, the band made two new songs available for download and/or streaming. I can’t get enough of their lush, shimmery sound that floats and swirls in a melodic haze.

The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals And Departures

This is the year I finally enjoyed a (mostly) instrumental rock album. This is a surprising revelation for a (mostly) power pop, hook loving music fan. Maybe that’s why I love this album, it blew my own expectations away. At one moment you can close your eyes and drift away and at another moment, you can’t resist pulling out some air guitar and/or drumming. This music isn’t just for bedroom listening. Their album release show this fall was one of the shows you brag to your friends about how you were there. I also highly recommend checking out their video performance series, Aberrations And Departures, which was shot at various Austin locations ranging from a neighborhood bar, a vintage store, and a playground. Each setting seamlessly fits into the personality of the songs.

The Couch – The Couch

Early this year, I saw The Couch perform as part of The Good Music Club, and I finally became a Couch convert. They have the advantage of having two talented songwriters and lead singers (I’m such a sucker for great dual male/female vocals), and a solid, top notch rhythm section. It’s a fun, sweaty rock and roll with a melodic, pop heart beating underneath.

Bobby Jealousy- A Little Death

Their debut album is a delicious mix of rock, pop, glam, soul, and punk. The band is a great combination of solid songwriting and infectious, engaging live performances. There have been lineup changes since the album’s release, but that is not slowing the band down from starting work on the next release. I’m excited to hear more from tthem.

The Zoltars – Should I Try Once More?

This album was instantly in the running to be a year end favorite. I became a fan of their less is more, stripped back sound and songwriting. The winning factor is that they’re able to make it catchy, infectious, and worthy of repeated listens. They make the sad songs feels so good.  A 7″ EP is slated for release in January or February, and a new album is set for a summer 2013 release.

Leatherbag – Ditto Time

In 2012, they re-branded themselves briefly as No Future before calling it a day. This past spring, this trio released Ditto Time, which hinted at the band’s change in direction described as “flag wave.” I’m still not quite sure what that is but at the end of the day, the results were killer, no BS songwriting from Randy Reynolds and a badass rhythm section of Daniel Blanchard and Drew Emmons. They were a live favorite that I never tired of seeing. I’m really going to miss this band – good tunes from good people.

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Zoe’s Top 2012 Release

December 13, 2012

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See, here’s the thing. I am consistently several years behind on music. I try keeping up, but I never seem to like any albums until they have been out for a long time. And I tried explaining this to John; I tried telling him that the only things I listened to this year were Patti Smith and Black Flag and Nicki Minaj.

And I went to this Sufjan Christmas show at Emo’s, and it was amazing, and … well … his latest Christmas collection is made up of 5 EPs. And honestly, they are probably my top 5 albums of 2012. I know this may seem like cheating, but otherwise I don’t really have 5 albums that I have consistently listened to this year that were released this year. So, here it goes:

5. Let It Snow: Songs For Christmas, Vol. IX

It feels like the sappy ending to a 1950s movie when Sufjan tells us that I’ll Be Home For Christmas in a grandly orchestrated way. Cat Martino’s crystal clear voice is put to excellent use on The Sleigh In The Moon, which feels like a floating trip to the great evergreens above, yet somehow retains an oddly traditional sound. Martino pops up again for a wonderful Ave Maria that stays largely true to the original spirit. Sleigh Ride starts out almost country, but devolves once again into an odd electronic medley. There are definite weak points on this album, but X-Mas Spirit Catcher is not one of them; although I would like it better with slightly different percussion, it feels very tradition Sufjan, and the repetitive and layered vocals towards the end make the listener feel as if they are getting wrapped up in a holiday present.

:Sufjan Stevens – X-Mas Spirit Catcher:

4. I Am Santa’s Helper: Songs For Christmas, Vol. VII

I don’t usually associate Christmas and jungles, but somehow Sufjan’s track Christmas Woman makes me feel like Santa is salsa-ing through the Amazon. It’s a dance party itself. Sufjan does a pretty incredible chorale style Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light. Happy Family Christmas is another silly dance jam that almost seems better suited to a kids album, and then Jingle Bells actually utilizes children, but also gets a bit of a rock n roll edge. The track list for this one is by far the longest, but other favorites include Behold The Birth Of Man, The Face Of Glory, and Mysteries Of The Christmas Mist, two instrumentals that feel nothing short of ethereal. The record ends with Even The Earth Will Perish And The Universe Give Way, another instrumental that sounds like what I imagine holding the moon would feel like.

:Sufjan Stevens – Mysteries Of The Christmas Mist:

3. Christmas Infinity Voyage: Songs For Christmas, Vol. VIII

Sufjan’s reworked Angels We Have Heard On High starts the album off on a brilliant foot. That man uses banjos to make the most wondrous sounds! This album features Sufjan’s first dips into synth jams, leading with one of the weirdest moments of the album, the intensely electronic Do You Hear What I Hear?, that feels almost Daft Punk. Christmas In The Room is a love song that has brought me to tears; a quiet declaration of adoration that provides gems like “I’ll dance with you / I’ll laugh with you / Until it’s Christmas in the room.” An excellent Prince cover of Alphabet Street lends a fun vibe for a moment, but the somber-then-odd typical Sufjan vibe closes out the EP with the 15 minute long The Child With The Star On His Head. The electronic spike may turn some off midway through, but it’s worth the continued listen to ride the roller coaster of sounds that entails.

:Sufjan Stevens – Christmas In The Room:

2. Christmas Unicorn: Songs For Christmas, Vol. X

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas has never sounded so stoner, but in an excellent, laid back way. The arrangement of Up On The Housetop seems almost hip-hop, but in a way that is more fun than cheesy. Angels We Have Heard On High reappears (it’s on an earlier EP that I have below since it’s ranked higher in my mind), this time as an instrumental that does not impress as much. Happy Karma Christmas is a slow burner that grows on one after multiple listens, and would not have seemed out of place on Age of Adz. The majority of the album isn’t that remarkable, but the last two songs are the saving grace. Justice Delivers Its Gift is an incredibly beautiful track, both instrumentally and lyrically. The entire song feels like a Christmas dream, a deep questioning from Sufjan that culminates in a repeated Silver and Gold; and all the sudden that phrase is heavy with meaning. Christmas Unicorn, on the other hand, is one big old silly love fest, with some gentle ribbing towards America and religion. It’s an anthem for my generation; although it harkens back to an older generations with the absolutely inspired jaunt into Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. I will be extremely disappointed if this song is not in the alternative Christmas canon in ten years, a la Christmas In Hollis.

:Sufjan Stevens – Justice Delivers Its Gift:

1. Gloria: Songs For Christmas, Vol. VI

This is the first EP of the collection, and it starts off with a fairly traditional rendition of classic Christmas carol Silent Night. Immediately after, things get kicked into Sufjan style with the upbeat, tongue in cheek standout track Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past. But I think my favorite is the seven-minute Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree), which feels like it could have been at home on Sufjan’s record Avalanche. Indeed, the opening vocals of “ohh” immediately reminded me of the beginning of Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie. It’s a lazy, simple beginning that showcases Sufjan’s incredibly emotive vocals. Further instrumentation comes in for a minstrel-ish touch, and he delivers perhaps my favorite line of the entire collection; “You must be a Christmas tree / You light up the room.”

:Sufjan Stevens – Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree):

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Noah’s Top 5 Albums Of 2012

December 13, 2012

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Let’s be frank: I’ve been a shitty music reviewer this year. Bogged down with the basic realities of life I’ve spent far too little time chasing the errant strands of my musical obsessions. I relied on unreliable sources and found myself, more often than not, half-assedly listening to popular radio.

Simply put, this isn’t my most complete list. Yes, this is five albums that I’ve loved this year. Five albums that have seen more time on my record player than any other. Five albums that when I look back on 2012 will automatically suck me back in to the vortex.

Drinks up for another one gone and another on its way.

5. Moon Duo – Circles

Moon Duo has been a favorite since their first Kraut-rock rippin’ psych-EP blasted in to my grey matter three or four years ago. I’ll say that Mazes, their first full length strayed too much in to out and out rock ‘n’ roll but oh how the band has returned to form. From the opening, sludgy guitar riff of Sleepwalker, Circles is a perfect combination of everything that went right on their prior and everything they’d forgotten from their first EP. Big and booming with a new found bag of guitar licks lingering throughout every song, Circles is upbeat and unforgivingly Kraut-rock heavy and the combination creates the most surprisingly danceable album I’ve heard all year.

:Moon Duo – Sleepwalker:

4. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

A late entry in to my musical rotation this year, Parquet Courts are the sneer and swagger that somehow jumped the garage rock ship in 2012. Its punk, it’s garage, it’s a throwback to times less sinister. More and more as the record spins you get a real taste of The Feelies hanging around the edges and the more bands paying homage to those talented boys the better. To be quite honest I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Parquet Courts aside from the fact that this, manic energy bubbling at every corner, is a must listen.

:Parquet Courts – Borrowed Time:

3. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales

Call me a musical heathen because prior to six months ago I’d never listened to Broadcast. I’ll take it, it’s a grave error, one only remedied by a recommendation to check out this project by the guy who ran Ghost Box records. Somewhere between beat record, found sound and musical odyssey, I don’t know if you can really put a finger on what this eclectic mixture of music is. Cantalus the second track on the album has perhaps the catchiest intro of the year (one I can’t help hearing when the elevator dings each and every morning) and what follows is some stoner haze of high-pitched vocals and near-film soundtracks. It’s bizarre in the best, most listenable way.

:Belbury Poly – Cantalus:

2. The Men – Open Your Heart

A friend of mine picked up The Men’s older Sacred Bones album a while back and I remember he referred to it as “scorched Earth” or something along those lines. I’d given The Men a few listens and they were good, but they almost pushed the limits of my sonic depths, really driving home the desolate post-rock without much of an upbeat resolution. That said, they must of holed up in a dingy cabin and talked the future ’cause Open Your Heart shaves down a bit of the desolation, replacing it with warmth and a yen for good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Friends of mine, who I force to listen to this album time and time again, often cite Foo Fighters and though Dave Grohl’s little outfit might not be my jam anymore, The Men capture a certain essence of their early days. This is, without any apologies, rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll, buoyed by an almost punk-rock energy and an excess of heart-felt warmth lost on prior The Men albums. It’s a huge step forward for the group, and to ride the rails of cliche, there’s big, big things ahead for this band.

:The Men – Open Your Heart:

1. Tame Impala – Lonerism

I imagine I’m going to be one of many finishing their lists with Tame Impala’s absolutely brilliant second album this year. Where InnerSpeaker was all about repetitive, blown out psych-jams, Tame Impala have scaled a bit of the noodling nature in trade for a nice, glowing hit of pop. You can hear the remnants of Lennon’s inspiration hanging out in lead singer Kevin Parker’s voice and it rides nicely on the new, sunnier tones. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards has been stuck in the frameworks of my skull for months now, and every time Parker’s croon revs up again, I can’t help but smile.

:Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards:

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Dan’s Top 5 Albums Of 2012

December 12, 2012

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Considering I listen to roughly ten new albums each week on Spotify, it’s not easy narrowing down my list of top albums to just five. While my favorite album was determined months ago, the rest of the top 5 and my honorable mentions list has fluctuated greatly. However, after much internal debate, shuffling of positions, and a far amount of procrastination, I present my top albums of 2012.

5. Imperial China – How We Connect

The second album from my favorite DC band was released in January of this the year. It contains all the things I loved about their first record – lots of searing guitars and swirling synths layered over pummeling percussion – but the new record also shows a marked growth in their sound. This is a tight record that balances musicianship, experimental elements, and sonic intensity. Add it all together and you have a stand out record from a band that has truly distinguished itself on the DC music scene.

:Imperial China – Ljos:

4. Cloud NothingsAttack On Memory

There’s just something about this indie-punk record that I instantly loved. It’s a throwback to bands like Fugazi and Nirvana that mixed fuzz-rock and punk with a pop aesthetic. The record is full of hooks, anthemic tracks, loud drums, and each song is distinguished by Dylan Baldi’s off-kilter yet charming  vocals. What’s not to love?

:Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless:

3. Mind SpidersMeltdown

While the first Mind Spiders record was basically a solo project of Mark Ryan (Marked Men), Meltdown was recorded with a full band and the bigger, more expansive sound is apparent. The lo-fi psychedelic tracks are gone and there are fewer quick hitting punk-pop jams. Meltdown is an expansive record with influences ranging from Jay Reatard to Brian Eno while still retaining the garage rock core that I love so much.

:Mind Spiders – Wait For Us:

2. OBN IIIS – OBNS IIIS

There are a lot of garage rock bands out there vying for our attention, but only one can be King of Rock Mountain, and that king is the OBN IIIs. I didn’t think it possible for them to top their last album, The Only And Only, yet they managed to do just that.

:OBN IIIs – People Are Afraid:

1. Lace Curtains – The Garden Of Joy And The Well Of Loneliness

I’m still blown away by what Michael Coomer (Harlem) accomplished with The Garden Of Joy And The Well Of Loneliness. Based on Harlem’s records I expected fun and goofy garage rock. Instead he delivered brilliant pop music that was heartfelt and honest. A personal and authentic album about regrets, confessions, apologies, and sex. Such lyrics usually mean a heavy or dark feel but Coomer manages a breezy laid back vibe that only magnifies the charm of the record.

:Lace Curtains – High Fantasy:

Honorable Mentions:
Ty Segall – Slaughterhouse
Metz – Metz
The White Wires – WWIII
Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land
Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

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Leah’s Top 5 Hip Hop Albums Of 2012

December 12, 2012

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1. Killer Mike – R.A.P Music

In perhaps the most flawless and listenable album of this year, Killer Mike and El-P team up to make R.A.P. Music, a combination of ferocious lyrics and dirty, hard beats. The tracks tell the story of a young Killer Mike growing up in the south and seeing the world around him change with drugs and the evolution of rap music. It’s emotional without being manipulative, and it’s banging without being trendy. Also, I hate Reagan.

:Killer Mike – Reagan:

2.  P.O.S. – We Don’t Even Live Here

This album is just ridiculous in the best way possible.  Mixing live instrumentation with electro drops and pulses, P.O.S. has produced the most original-sounding hip-hop album I’ve heard in a number of years.  Pair that with exceptional and cutting lyricism and you have yourself a top five album.

:POS – Bumper:

3. Plan B – Ill Manors

Ill Manors, which was written in response to the London riots of March (and effectively putting Plan B on the map), fits so well on this dark album that you’d think the album was built around it.  It likely was.  I love its escalating bitterness, its political bent, and especially its concert violin interaction with the spare and then converging beat.

:Plan B – Ill Manors:

4. El-P – Cancer For Cure

I’ve always loved El-P slightly more as a producer than an MC, but on Cancer For Cure, I think he really steps up his lyrical game to match his amazing shifts in time and rhythm signatures.

:El-P – Drones Over BKLN:

5. Brother Ali – Mourning In America And Dreaming in Color

Honestly, I’m so against the corporate game in hip hop, which I feel censors provocative or anti-establishment MCs, that virtually any truth-telling lyricism is likely to raise an album’s rating in my eyes.  Brother Ali has a long history of railing against the government, and he does a good job of it on this album.  So, while it might not be as sonically pleasing as other albums I listened to this year (i.e. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Roc Marciano’s Reloaded, Action Bronson and Alchemist’s Rare Chandeliers, etc), the fact that Brother Ali is willing to say the stuff he is makes it worth it to me to elevate the album to top five status in order to support and reinforce the idea that hip hop is about communication, revolution, and community at its essence.

:Brother Ali – Mourning In America:

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Chuck’s Top 5 Metal Albums Of 2012

December 11, 2012

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5. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind

Speaking of Kurt Ballou, that bastard represents some of the best qualities alive in metal today. Full of heart and vigor, helping bands whittle out their sound from the void while somehow reserving some of the best ideas in his playbook for All We Love We Leave Behind. I am not entirely sure how it is possible to keep a reserve of music on standby just for your band, but somehow Ballou can work with Black Breath, Trap Them, Gaza, All Pigs Must Die and so many more while maintaining a level of musicianship with Converge that is unrivaled. This album had moved around in my list from #1 but found a comfortable spot here, undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year.

:Converge – Trespasses:

4. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist

After 30 years of thrash, Kreator has every right to put out a pile of crap and have metalheads buy it and actually enjoy it. They could rest on their catalog and play album tours, or just decide their career was over after Extreme Aggression and head back to Germany feeling great about themselves, but somehow these metal warriors outdo themselves every few years with another album. Phantom Antichrist does not revive thrash metal, imitate it or spoof it, it IS thrash, and a big win for Kreator. Their stage show left a little to be desired, but this album blew me away.

:Kreator – Phantom Antichrist:

3. Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas

This is probably one of the more divisive choices for my top 20 list, Anaal Nathrakh stretches the boundaries of how metal can be imagined. I don’t want to go into depth on this record, you need to experience it blind and either enjoy it, or cringe in sever pain. Totally satisfying.

:Anaal Nathrakh – To Spite The Face:

2. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage

Not a single critic can argue with having this album at or near the top of the list of the best albums this year. Gojira created what I can only describe as a masterpiece with L’enfant Sauvage. Musically it does not stray from their signature aggressiveness, guitar squeals, barking vocals and forward thinking timing structure, but this album has a sophistication not seen previously from them. The sense of purpose, surrounded with sometimes delicate sounds juxtaposed with an intensity unrivaled in this years group of records. I own their entire catalog, but feel like I had never heard Gojira until this album.

:Gojira – Mouth Of Kala:

1. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

When Matt Pike and company played the first show of their Fall tour in Austin it was kismet, at least in my mind. I listened to this record more than any other this year, and one of the main reasons I placed it at the very top of this years Metal Albums of 2012. What may seem to be an easy choice, I struggled with, although so many records were in my playlist for so long, De Vermis Mysteriis had a sense of anticipation attached to its release like I had not felt in so long. High on Fire clings to my imagination and made the album that reached into my cynical metalguy and spoke directly to my inner child, this is how I felt when I first read Lovecraft, Orwell or Wells. Congrats to them, from a critic and a fan, this is the best album of 2012.

:High On Fire – Bloody Knuckles:

 

Honorable Mentions:
The Sword – Apocryphon
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
Goatwhore – Blood For the Master
Vision of Disorder – The Cursed Remain Cursed
Napalm Death – Utilitarian

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Mikela’s Top 5 Albums Of 2012

December 10, 2012

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Picking 10 albums from an entire year’s worth of music is no easy feat. Picking 5? Nearly impossible. So in order to offer up my handful of favorites from the Mayan calendar’s final year, I thought long and hard about what impressed me in 2012. And while I could easily have put 25 albums on this list, here are 5 that consistently made their way into my catalog almost instantly. So sit back and listen, and maybe you’ll find some music to help you tune out your family this holiday season.

1. alt-J – An Awesome Wave

I joke about avoiding buzz bands because I’m afraid to be disappointed, and alt-J fell victim to my prejudice. But since discovering this album a few months ago, it’s been a permanent fixture in my repertoire. Sleek, sexy, and Radiohead-esque, this is an album best enjoyed through headphones.

:alt-J – Breezeblocks:

2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock 

It’s hard to argue an album that was more fun than Japandroids’ most recent release. This scream-every-lyric, can’t-help-but-dance-around collection of songs is an instant anti-depressant, turning every gray cloud into a gritty and loud ray of sunshine.

:Japandroids – The Night Of Wine And Roses:

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

First off, I’m not a hip hop girl. But with the sweet and soulful gay marriage anthem Same Love, this Seattle rap/producer duo reeled me in. It was their infectious hooks and slew of guest collaborators that kept me around for more.

:Macklemore And Ryan Lewis – Same Love (Featuring Mary Lambert):

4. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

I gotta hand it to my girl Sharon Van Etten. She does angst in a heartbreaking way. And while her freshman release was near-perfect, her sophomore release expanded her ability and broke my heart all at the same time.

:Sharon Van Etten – Give Out:

5. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

It has to be said that of all the shows I saw in 2012, Father John Misty was one of the most surprising. A former Fleet Foxes member, Josh Tillman struck me as the kind of guy who would put on a bit of a snoozy show. Yet when he took the stage dancing and prancing, I was sold. His first solo effort is solid, from folky tunes to the foot-stomping Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.

:Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings:

Honorable Mentions:

Patrick Watson – Adventures in Your Own Backyard

A hauntingly beautiful effort from this Canadian singer-songwriter.

:Patrick Watson – Words In The Fire:

Tame Impala – Lonerism

An album that feels like it should have come out years ago. 1/2 Beatles, 1/4 Miike Snow, and 1/4 Dr. Dog, I loved it.

:Tame Impala – Elephant:

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