Since releasing bulky double EPs as single LPs seems all the rage this year, I’m drawing up my “Best of 2012” top 10 as a double top five instead. You will be treated to both “Metal” and “Not Metal” list varieties. Enjoy!
Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls
The fact that these guys are from my home state of Alabama is just the icing on the cake…the bluesiest, most soulful cake I’ve heard, umm tasted rather, in a long time. The Shakes revive the classic Motown flavor on every track while capturing the southern rock sensibilities of Alabama’s indie music scene. An absolutely essential album.
Café Tacvba: El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco
Revered in the Latin community, but largely (and unjustly) unrecognized by the main stream, Café Tacvba finally got some overdue love in a Rolling Stone article this year. The band is often compared to the likes of Radiohead, but their proggy, electro-experimentation and bouts of punk aggression set them apart from any other band. El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (along with Cuatro Caminos) should find a place in every music lover’s collection.
Norah Jones: …Little Broken Hearts
Known for her traditional jazz vocals, Norah Jones got a career revitalizing makeover by turning the recording reigns over to Producer/Artist Danger Mouse. The result is an album full of electro-pop laden alt-country lullabies and cover art styled after a Russ Meyers movie poster.
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Lamar may have been hailed as the new king of the west coast by Dre and Snoop, but he has more in common with such east coast peers as Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Lamar is more focused on content than catchy hooks and the speedy staccato of his delivery forces listeners to bounce from the sheer force of his rhythm. This is an amazing debut from one of the year’s best new artists.
Jack White: Blunderbuss
Outside the confines of White Stripes, Jack White shows he can expand his sonic palate while still delivering the same crowd-pleasing garage rock styled blues/gospel/country/whatever-he-feels-like-because-he’s-Jack White. Blunderbuss finds White an unlikely guitar hero with boundless ambition.
Upon a Burning Body: Red. White. Green.
This year’s Mayhem Festival introduced me to this band and I am forever grateful. These Latin metalistas release a Mayan apocalypse of Texas-sized ass kicking and technically savvy deathcore. Upon a Burning Body is one of the few bands that’s just as ferocious on stage as off.
Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind
My love of proggy music always leads me to rank these mathcore afficinados at the top of my metal lists. While ‘09s Axe to Fall was a bit of a lull, All We Love exhibits the band back in peak form, like old school Jane Doe form. The album was recorded with no effects in order to capture a raw live sound, showing that scraping off the polish is sometimes the best thing to do.
Gojira: L’Enfant Sauvage
Taking the name and their musical cues from the Francois Truffaut film, Gojira takes their typically trudging death metal and speeds it up while adding some surprisingly naturalistic touches. The result is the aural equivalent to a wild child charging through the jungle…a scary metal jungle, where Godzilla might live.
High on Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis
Stoner metal in the next best thing to southern metal, slow and mean. And no one does stoner metal better than former Sleep guitarist Matt Pike. High on Fire has always been consistently sludgey and abrasive (I mean that in a good way) but what makes De Vermis Mysteriis special is the Lovcraftian concept about Jesus’ evil time-traveling twin that died at birth.
Napalm Death: Utilitarian
Pig Destroyer: Book Burner
OK I’m cheating, this one is a tie. This year was a fantastic year for grindcore. The big bad granddaddy Napalm Death continued to expand the boundaries of the genre with wild experiments (there is a mother f@#$ing saxophone on this album). And Pig Destroyer just gets harder and faster on each album, with Book Burner proving to be a tour de force of nature.