Mar 7, 2013
Trust, the best of 2012 stuff is coming. I have the list compiled, just need to scratch together the time to post it. Anyway, February of this year.
1. Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) (KScope)
Well this was unexpected. I've sort of paid minimal attention to Steven Wilson and his main project, Porcupine Tree, over the years, knowing that he was a talented dude but knowing I was always mildly disappointed in his output. I had high hopes for Storm Corrosion last year, his project with Opeth's Michael Akerfeldt, but that turned out to be a boring slog. Anyway, his latest is easily his greatest project ever and one of the best flat-out prog records I've heard in years. This stands up there with the best of Genesis and Yes. Seriously.
2. My Bloody Valentine - m b v (Pickpocket)
Speaking of unexpected, the internet was thrown into a tizzy the first week of March when this album was released and, in very short order, actually released! Even more surprising was how well it actually stood up to 22 years worth of expectations. Nicely divided into three suites of three tracks each, this picked up right where Loveless left off, but then saw MBV flowing off into some unexpected new directions, influenced by drum and bass and techno (really).
3. Portal - Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
This one was unexpected too, but more because I just wasn't prepared for how outstanding this was. I'd known of Portal, but never heard them until this album came out on the always impressive and forward-thinking Profound Lore label. At first this sounds like an indistinguishable mass of noise, but close listening rewards with glimpses to the madness beneath the mayhem - wicked riffs, surprising melody, and loads of Lovecraftian horror. These guys are pushing the death metal envelope into the world of noise rock and coming through the other side, unhinged.
4. Endless Boogie - Long Island (No Quarter)
One of the most appropriately named bands in the land drops another 800 pound, 80-minute monster chock full of neverending guitar jams that latch on to some super grooves. Along for the ride this time is the criminally underappreciated Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Zwan, Superwolf) who ably trades wicked guitar lines with the other two dudes. As hairy and heavy as the beast on the cover.
5. Atoms for Peace - Amok (XL)
I had pretty low expectations for a Thom Yorke side project that included Flea, but I massively underestimated what they had in store. The glitchy pop you might expect, given latter day Radiohead, is present in spades, but the surprising part is how lively this group makes it all sound. Nigel Godrich and Yorke create the atmosphere with their guitars and synths, but Flea is the one adding an organic heart to the machine with some wonderful bass lines that aren't flashy or showy in the least.
6. Psychic Ills - One Track Mind (Sacred Bones)
These guys continue their mind-altering trip, this time following their muse (and Neil Hagerty!) out into the deserts somewhere west of Joshua Tree. Out where their psych jams meet up with Spiritualized and latter day Jesus and Mary Chain in a surprisingly effective high desert stoner sound. Hard to believe this is the same band that made Dins, but also hard to believe how well this new focus works.
7. Foals - Holy Fire (Transgressive)
I've always been an admirer of these dudes, from the twisted math-rock of their debut and into the more widescreen focus of 2011's Total Life Forever. On their third outing, they keep the wide expanse of sound, but add a surprising amount of (very effective!) funk. It feels like it shouldn't work, but it really does. I'm fearful this one will go underappreciated on this side of the Atlantic, again.
8. Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse (Atlantic)
It's been so weird tracing the arc that this band has taken, going from the humble, masked band indie pop band they started out as to freaking major label signees. And, good on them, especially if it means records this damned engaging. Lead singer Scott Hutchison delves even deeper into his twisted psyche, taking us on a guided tour through neuroses and the unkind side of man. His greatest trick though? Marrying his twisted lyrics to some absolutely engaging music. Not an easy feat.
9. Pissed Jeans - Honeys (Sub Pop)
I've always been impressed by these off-kilter noise rockers, but this just might be their tightest and most concise records yet. Gone are the creepy inner monologue spoken word tracks, filled in with even more of the AmRep noise rock rounded out by surprisingly existential (and still oft hilarious) lyrics. This is the record they've been building to all along.
10. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed)
I'm a relative newcomer to Nick Cave's catalog, so that may be why I seem to be taking to this record a lot more than his longtime fans. But after Dig Lazarus Dig and the Grinderman project, I'm loving the more subdued and introspective mood. The grander the ambition though, like on "Jubilee Street" or "Higgs Boson Blues", the more I like it.