Jan 28, 2014

Metal Albums with Googly Eyes

The title says it all really, this tumblr just made my day.

... but just to keep it in the music spirit. Here's a killer song from Dissection:

Jan 26, 2014

Bardo Pond - "The Creator Has a Master Plan"

Believe it or not, psych rockers Bardo Pond have been kicking around for more than 20 years now and are showing no signs of slowing down now. Their 2013 album, Peace On Venus, was another excellent entry in an already formidable discography, but they weren't done there. The band also released single on Fire Records that contains two killer covers, the Pharoah Sanders one embedded above and Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain". Both songs makes sense, they fly right into Bardo Pond's sweet spot, but that doesn't make the results and less interesting. "Maggot Brain" may lack Eddie Hazel's soulful guitar, but the results are still worth hearing. Best part is, you can pick up the single, Rise Above It All, for $1.99 on iTunes right now.

Jan 23, 2014

Ranking Pollard's 2013

For any of you that have paid any attention over time, you'll know I'm a big fan of this Bob Pollard guy. Some of you might know him, he's released a couple of albums over the years. Usually has a couple of projects going at a time. Known for drinking a brew or two.

Anyway, with 2013 now firmly in the past, I thought I'd do one of those completely useless and meaningless blog things and rank his 2013 output.

Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen
Robert Pollard - Honey Locust Honky Tonk
Guided by Voices - English Little League
Teenage Guitar - Force Fields At Home
The Sunflower Logic - Clouds On the Polar Landscape EP
Guided by Voices - Down by the Racetrack EP
Circus Devils - When Machines Attack
Circus Devils - My Mind Has Seen the White Trick

Not bad for a year's worth of work. Six full length albums and two EPs, two from brand new side projects. I actually thought the stuff recorded under his own name was the best work of his for the year, especially Blazing Gentlemen, which was filled with the sort of riff-heavy power-pop he hasn't done enough of in recent years. While I normally like the proggier Circus Devils stuff, I wasn't as immediately enamored with this year's pair as I have been in the past (Sgt. Disco and Gringo being among my favorites). The new projects seem interesting, we'll have to see if they continue. Teenage Guitar is an even more lo-fi than usual thing that is mostly Bob messing around on an old 4-track machine with some help from Greg Demos and Joe Patterson, while The Sunflower Logic is mostly the same dudes playing around with some very paisley psych stuff.

And only a few more weeks until his first 2014 project comes down the pike in the form of another Guided by Voice record!

Jan 18, 2014

Raibow - "Stone Cold"

Thanks to a well-timed sale, some coupons, and Barnes & Noble's bargain bin, I recently picked up the first six Rainbow albums for just about $20 total. The 70s albums are probably the best, but the early 80s ones weren't terrible either. The lyrics are a little cheesier, but Blackmore still rips out some great solos.

Jan 16, 2014

Grumbling Fur - "The Ballad of Roy Batty"

Today's work day was pants-shittingly awful, but this made me smile on my drive home.

Jan 15, 2014

Pazz & Jop 2013

Sometime yesterday the results of the 2013 Pazz & Jop poll, brought to us, as always, by the Village Voice and compiled by my favorite internet statistician, Glenn McDonald (seriously, the guy deserves some sort of award). And, unsurprisingly, Kanye West won top album honors for Yeezus, while Daft Punk won top single for the inescapable (and, admittedly, wonderful - I voted for it), "Get Lucky".

I was happy to be able to participate for my fifth(!) year now. You can view my ballot in full here or here (the latter features my past ballots and some really interesting stats that Mr. McDonald devised), but below is a quick recap. I'm already second-guessing a few omissions and I'm fairly certain that my final 2013 best of the year list won't look just like this, but I still stand by what I voted for back in December. These are ten terrific albums and ten terrific singles. Consider this a sneak peek of my full lists for 2013, yet to come.


1Anciients, Heart of Oak
Season of Mist
Points: 10
2Steven Wilson, The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)
Points: 10
3Oranssi Pazuzu, Valonielu
20 Buck Spin
Points: 10
4Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Points: 10
5Besnard Lakes, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Points: 10
6Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle
Points: 10
7Inter Arma, Sky Burial
Points: 10
8Deafheaven, Sunbather
Points: 10
9Haim, Days Are Gone
Points: 10
10Carcass, Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast
Points: 10



1Paramore, "Still Into You"
Fueled by Ramen
2Haim, "The Wire"
3Daft Punk (ft. Pharrell Williams), "Get Lucky"
4Deafheaven, "Dream House"
5David Bowie, "Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy)"
6Vampire Weekend, "Step"
7Los Campesinos!, "Avocado, Baby"
8Run the Jewels (ft. Big Boi), "Banana Clipper"
Fool's Gold
9Kanye West, "Bound 2"
Def Jam
10Superchunk, "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo"

Jan 14, 2014

Asomvel - "Cash Whore"

My favorite recent new band discovery, the brilliant Asomvel, hailing from some place in England called Harrogate. This trio cranks out a high voltage brand of retro rock that pulls heavily from equal amounts Motorhead and NWOBHm. Great stuff.

Jan 13, 2014

E-40 - "Plush"

It's been a long, relentless kind of day, so I'll just leave you with one of my favorite bangers from the Bay Area legend's latest batch of albums.

Jan 12, 2014

Neil Young - Live at the Cellar Door

So, yes, Neil week does sort of continue. I finally got around to a proper listen of the latest entry in Neil's ever wonderful, ongoing Archives series. This one gets squished into the first Archives box timeline by being tagged as release "02.5". Which is part of the reason I wasn't exactly chomping at the bits for this release. With already hearing the solo Neil Canterbury House set from 1968 and the 1971 Massey Hall show, did we need yet another solo Neil set from 1970? Let's get delving into the era covered by the next Archives box, when things get nice and weird.

But, truth be told, this is another essential Neil artifact. The disc is compiled from six sets he performed at Washington D.C.'s Cellar Door in late 1970. And, boy, there are some real gems on here. Unsurprisingly he spends some time focusing on the material from After the Gold Rush, released earlier that same year, but he also pulls out some great Buffalo Springfield gems ("Expecting to Fly", "Flying on the Ground is Wrong"). But most interesting, to me anyway, are the stark solo versions of a pair of Crazy Horse fuzzed-out standards, "Cinnamon Girl" (with just Neil on piano) and "Down by the River" (Neil on acoustic guitar). Always interesting to hear these in such a radically different form.

Check out the former below:

Jan 11, 2014

Coachella (of my dreams)

With all the Coachella talk, why not dream big?

Courtesy of createlineup.com

Jan 10, 2014

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

This week marked the release of Stephen Malkmus' sixth album since leaving Pavement (between solo albums, Jicks albums and pseudo-solo Jicks albums). What makes this particularly interesting is that Malkmus has now released more albums proper post-Pavement than Pavement did. Which is fine, I've really enjoyed his work since then, particularly his embracing of post-Dead guitar jams. It just makes me feel a little bit older, given how important Pavement were to me in the 90s. I've not yet had time to delve too deeply into Wig Out at Jagbags, but early reports sound promising and I was certainly charmed by the video for lead single, "Lariat".

For the record, here's how I would rank the fist five post-Pavement Malkmus records:

Real Emotional Trash (2008)
Pig Lib (2003)
Stephen Malkmus (2001)
Face the Truth (2005)
Mirror Traffic (2011)

Jan 9, 2014

Frank Zappa iz The Hollywood Pretenders

Well, sort of. I just started working my way through the dense, but quite enjoyable, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, by Ben Watson. It's a hefty tome that places Zappa in the larger framework of twentieth-century thinkers and creators via the negative dialectics of Theodor Adorno. So far I'm really getting a kick out of reading about his pre-Mothers years, from whence this little nugget emerged, during his experimental tenure at Pal Recording Studio.

Dig Frank's great fuzz guitar!

Jan 7, 2014

Neil Young covers Bert Jansch at Carnegie Hall

It's turning into a Neil Young kind of week around here. How about some beautiful acoustic Neil Young, fresh from his Carnegie Hall stand? Well then, here's a cover of a lovely Bert Jansch tune. Maybe those of us without tickets can console ourselves with the tidbits that leak out.

Jan 6, 2014

Live Neil Young & The Ducks

If you are anything like me and stuck inside all day, you might be going a little stir crazy. Here's some live Neil with the Ducks back in 1977 to cure your S.A.D.

Jan 5, 2014

Trapped Under Ice (& Snow) (& Bitter Cold)

While most of the country is gripped in bitter cold tonight and tomorrow (those of us near Chicago were blessed with another 8-10 inches of snow just before it turned cold too!), I figured it might be a good time to revisit a mix I made to help me wallow in the long winter of 2011, three years ago. Here, you can wallow too!

It starts out trying to get you pumped up about winter but, inevitably, your thoughts turn cold and mopey. Then it all ends with Rush, because, well, its Rush.

Metallica - "Trapped Under Ice"
Amon Amarth - "Under the Northern Star"
The Dismemberment Plan - "Spider in the Snow"
Galaxie 500 - "Listen, the Snow is Falling"
Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"
Sloan - "Snowsuit Sound"
Nada Surf - "Blizzard of '77"
The Replacements - "Skyway"
Stars - "What the Snowman Learned about Love"
Rush - "By-Tor and the Snow Dog"

Jan 3, 2014

The Cosmic Dead: In the Inner Sanctum with the Exalted King

I've really enjoyed the growth of Bandcamp over the past few years and watching young and upcoming artists really taking advantage of it as a tool for distributing their music. I've lost count of how many fantastic bands I've discovered via the site, particularly since some of my favorite genres seem to be the heaviest users (stoner rock, doom metal, psych rock, etc).

Possibly my favorite discovery yet has been Glasgow's The Cosmic Dead, a quartet that formed back in early 2010 and has already unleashed a formidable catalog upon on unsuspecting world - the majority of it most easily purchased directly through the band's Bandcamp page. Describing their music is difficult, mostly because any tag I could slap on them feels reductive and not quite right. Put it this way, the band jams out on very long form songs (it isn't uncommon for their songs to hover around the 20-minute mark) that incorporate elements of psych rock, jazz fusion, acid freakouts, stoner rock, doom metal, space rock, prog, improvisation, among many others. Basically anything that uses a lot of fuzz and nods in the direction of hallucinogens.

The Cosmic Dead are on my mind tonight because I finally got around to hearing their most recent album, Inner Sanctum (available here), and it is an absolute doozy. One of those records that makes me very glad I have yet to finalize my albums of the year list, because it is very likely to snake a high position. Consisting of four tracks over 74 minutes, this is the band at their exploratory best. "The Mass of Betelguese" (this should clue you in as to where the band's head sits most of the time) is my standout after one listen, but really all four tracks are terrific.

Anyway, I encourage you to head over to their Bandcamp page and stream from some of their albums. I can highly recommend the self-titled album and the Psychonaut compilation in addition to the latest. The live stuff is also tremendous, I really hope they make it over to the U.S. one of these days.

Jan 2, 2014

Reflecting on Bob Dylan - Part 1

For the holidays I was fortunate enough to get the beautiful looking box set, Bob Dylan's The Complete Album Collection Vol. One, so I'm embarking on what will probably be a year-long leisurely stroll though the man's back catalog. I'm not intending this to become any sort of serious project or anything, but I did think it might be interesting to mark some notes as I move along. I plan to go through the albums in chronological order but other than that, with no grand plan. I want to get to know a little bit more about each album. I've already heard about a third of these albums, but only really gotten to know maybe a handful, so it'll be interesting to record my thoughts as I rediscover some and discover, for the first time, others.

I started today with his self-titled record from 1962, which I'd heard before but probably only once in full. As to be expected, this is a relatively humble beginning, with Dylan full in the folk mode and with only two of his own, original compositions out of the album's thirteen songs. There are only three instruments over the course of the entire album - acoustic guitar, harmonica and, of course, Dylan's voice. I'm most impressed by his takes on traditional tunes, particularly "House of the Rising Son". Like many others, I'd grown up mostly aware of The Animals' 1964 version, but I'm convinced that Dylan's is equally as good. His version is more haunting and gets across more of the lonesome resignation than Eric Burdon and company's managed to be.

Beyond that, I'm also impressed by just how weary and weathered his voice could be, even at the tender age of 21. It takes a special kind of 21 year-old to pull off songs like "Fixin' To Die" and "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" with any kind of believability, but Dylan does so, wonderfully. The two originals aren't going to end up at the top of anyone's all-time Dylan song lists, but they do have a certain charm that gave listeners in 1962 of the genius to come. "Talkin' New York" is a funny little rant with a decent punch line and "Song to Woody" is sweet and sentimental.

It's a humble beginning when looking back from 2014's ears, but I can certainly see why people might have started to take notice of this kid back in '62.

Jan 1, 2014

2012 Year in Review Part IV: The Albums

Just in time for end of year season 2013, here's my long, long, long overdue look back at my 50 favorite albums of 2012.

50. Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay (Neurot)
49. Spawn of Possession - Incurso (Relapse)
48. Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel (Season of Mist)
47. Horisont - Second Assault (Metal Blade)
46. Christian Mistress - Possession (Relapse)
45. Witch Mountain - Cauldron of the Wild (Profound Lore)
44. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge)
43. The Men - Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)
42. Krallice - Years Past Matter (Self-released)
41. Siinai - Olympic Games (Splendour)
40. Moon Duo - Circles (Sacred Bones)
39. Death Grips - The Money Store (Epic)
38. Ancestors - In Dream and Time (Tee Pee)
37. Witchcraft - Legend (Nuclear Blast)
36. The Sea and Cake - Runner (Thrill Jockey)
35. Enslaved - RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
34. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure (Fat Possum)
33. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
32. Thee Oh Sees - Putrifiers II (In the Red)
31. Black Breath - Sentenced to Life (Southern Lord)
30. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)
29. High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis (E1)
28. Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity (Metal Blade)
27. Satan's Wrath - Galloping Blasphemy (Metal Blade)
26. Beak> - >> (Invada)
25. Six Organs of Admittance - Ascent (Drag City)
24. White Hills - Frying On This Rock (Thrill Jockey)
23. Horseback - Half Blood (Relapse)
22. Colour Haze - She Said (Elektrohasch)
21. Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore)

20. Spiritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Fat Possum)
At this point, in 2012, I was well past the time of expecting great things out of Spiritualized. Everything Jason Pierce has released since the turn of the millennium has been varying shades of mediocre and I didn't anticipate this one being any different. But my expectations were fully trashed about halfway through the epic second track, the nine-minute, Velvet Underground aping (in multiple ways) "Hey Jane". It was everything I didn't think Spritiualized was capable of any longer - visceral, intense, engaging, exciting, fierce. Fortunately the rest of the disc isn't too shabby either and I'm back in believing again.

19. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
With all four albums preceding this one being considered stone cold classics by various corners of the internet (myself included),  one might be tempted to wonder how long they could keep it up. And while this isn't quite the game-changer that either Jane Doe or Axe To Fall, it still ranks as an excellent Converge record and that is nothing to dismiss. Without sacrificing any of their trademark intensity, Converge spends 38 minutes weaving brand new colors into their tapestry while exploring the tricky faces of aging and death.

18. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)
Killer Mike spent far too long toiling in the relative rap underground, never reaching the critical mass he deserved, even after knocking out certified classics in his under-appreciated Grind series. But thankfully the world was ready for him in 2012 and Mike was there ready to spit absolute fire over some thrilling El-P beats. At first I wasn't sure how the two would pair, but all concerns were put at ease within minutes of pushing play. Mike actually sounds perfectly suited to these beats and rises to the challenge, firing off round after round in the direction of the expected political targets ("Reagan") and culture at large ("Ghetto Gospel").

17. Jess and the Ancient Ones - Jess and the Ancient Ones (Svart)
A lot of noise has been made over the past few years about the whole trend of 70s minded "occult rock" bands with female lead vocalists, deservingly so, since it did feel like a trend that just sort of exploded out of nowhere. But considering how much I like the sound, I'm not one to complain. For my money, however, Jess and the Ancient Ones are right at the head of the pack - their epic sound is a nice combination of 70s psych rock, NWOBHM, and classic rockers like Blue Oyster Cult. Jess is the obvious star with a huge voice perfectly suited to the occult subject matter, but guitarists Thomas Corpse and Thomas Fiend add the real fuel to the fire.

16. Chromatics - Kill For Love (Italians Do It Better)
This was an unexpected surprise for me in 2012. While I had really enjoyed Night Drive and their other scattered singles and compilation work, nothing had prepared me for the absolute tour de force this record was to unleash upon the world. The opening track, a thrilling cover of Neil Young's "Into the Black", nicely set the dark and haunting tone, but the band was to explore virtually every neon-tinged shadow in existence over the course of its 90-minute running length. Equally parts haunting and catchy, this was a statement that the band will likely never be able to top. They may release better songs, but I can't imagine they'll ever bless us with a better front-to-back listening experience.

15. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)
I'm certainly far from the only one that fell hard for the debut album from this Little Rock doom crew, as it appeared on a pleasing number of end of the year lists, but allow me to add to the chorus. Doom can be a tough genre to crack. It's one thing to plod and stomp, but another to inject it with life and emotion at the same time. Pallbearer did just that, in spades, making this not only one of the greatest debut doom records of the past few years, but one of the flat out best doom records period. Over the course of these five tracks, Pallbearer carve a melancholy path through the domains of death and, surprisingly, hope. It's a tantalizing listen and I can't imagine where they'll go next.

14. Angel Haze - Reservation (Self-released)
Angel Haze was one of my favorite hip-hop discoveries of the year. Born in Detroit and now residing in Michigan, she burst out of obscurity with a flurry of mixtapes of which this became her defining moment. At the relatively tender age of 20, Haze has had one hell of a life and has turned it into one hell of a story to tell. A story which wouldn't be as gripping if it weren't for her absolutely fierce flow. Between this tape and the follow-up Classick, on which she goes full force over some legendary beats (including a crushing take on Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet"), Haze was the second biggest break-out rapper of 2012 in my eyes (sorry Angel, Kendrick was the first) and I can't wait to hear her major label debut.

13. Pig Destroyer - Book Burner (Relapse)
 Although it seems like the "true" (whatever that means anymore) Pig Destroyer fans vastly prefer the early material, but I was actually won over thanks to their surprisingly wide-reaching and stellar 2007 album, Phantom Limb. It was a long five year wait for the follow-up, but the results justified the wait. If possible, this one is even more caustic and intense than Phantom Limb, though of a much more single-minded nature. In my eyes, Pig Destroyer is the grindcore band most worth watching right now and this was another stellar release.

12. Astra - The Black Chord (Metal Blade)
 I came around to this San Diego prog band's first record, The Weirding, belatedly but immediately feel for its retro version of modern prog. I appreciated it that it managed to be widescreen and epic, without succumbing to the pointless wankery that plagues far too many other modern prog bands. They play a style directly descended from the 70s titans like Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson. And their second full-length was even better. By deploying a phalanx of synths, the band conjured up an even more inspired space rock bent.

11. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory (Carpark)
This was one of 2012's early highlights, a January release that ended up getting lots of airtime throughout the course of the year. I hadn't heard anything previous from Dylan Baldi's Cloud Nothings project, but this one was right up my alley, with a distinctive 90s vibe that encompassed a few different genres without ever being beholden to just one - grunge, emo, and indie rock. But what made it such a captivating listen was its pop heart, there were hooks galore on here in between the guitar workouts and noisier squalls.

10. Author & Punisher - Ursus Americanus (Seventh Rule)
Hands down, this was one of the most forward looking albums I heard all year. Author & Punisher is the nom de plume of one Tristan Shone, an engineering and robotics graduate that builds some truly wicked homemade instruments to compose his songs. The result is a punishing sound that falls somewhere between extreme metal, industrial and the more intense end of electronic music. It's a mesmerizing combination and impressive to hear how varied Shone's approach is, flitting from hard-hitting electronic to more laid-back ambient dub, all while maintaining a truly unique sound. Truly one of the few musicians out there right now deserving of the "innovator" tag.

9.  Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel... (Epic)
This was another unexpected surprise, especially coming as it did seven years after her last troubled and divisive record. Thankfully, however, most people noticed right from the get-go the masterpiece that this record was. As difficult to pin down as ever, Fiona's bounced between styles while giving us what may ultimately prove to be her most intensely personal record to date. She plows through hard-won revelations and bitter lessons with intensity and a gallows humor that adds some much needed levity during the album's duration. This is a firm middle finger to Fiona's detractors that wanted to pigeonhole her as "that weird girl" from the 90s.

8. Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock (Ajna Offensive)
Oh man, this. I've liked krautrock for a long time. I've liked black metal for nearly as long. Never did I think I ever needed an act that combined the two. But now that I've had this monstrosity of a record (90 minutes over two discs) from this French trio, I can't imagine it never existing. Of course, the thing about such a description is that, while it may be apt and point you in the general direction of the music Aluk Todolo makes, it still ends up selling them short. I can't put into words just how immersive this stuff is, nor how powerful. The best I can do is recommend that you put this on, sit back and prepare to be blown away.

7. Swans - The Seer (Young God)
I'll admit it, I'm a latecomer to the world of Swans. They were just under my radar back in the 90s and while I always heard of them as some sort of "legacy" act I should check out for their influence on bands I loved, I never did just that. I was floored by their 2010 comeback (of sorts) record, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, and was eagerly anticipating this follow-up. My appetite was whetted even more by the live album, We Rose from Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head, which served as a teaser/fundraiser for the record in question here, anchored by a massive 30-minute behemoth titled, naturally, "The Seer". So I had a bit of an idea of what to expect when this dropped three months later, but only a bit. For everything I loved about My Father, this upped the ante significantly and found the band wallowing in harrowing misery. An intense, ultimately rewarding journey.

6. Tame Impala - Lonerism (Modular)
As much as I loved their killer debut record from 2010, Innerspeaker, I think the band's sophomore release improves upon it in just about every way possible - more psychedelic, more rocking, more engaging, crisper production, just an absolute thrill to listen to. It starts off on the right foot, with the tremendous 1-2 opening punch of "Be Above It" and "Enders Toi", and never lets up from there. My personal favorite usually alternates between the psych-mad "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and the rocking "Elephant", but the entire record is wonderful.

5. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid: M.A.A.D. City (Aftermath)
As I mentioned in my Angel Haze blurb, Kendrick Lamar was, hands down, my favorite breakout rapper from 2012. Sure, he wasn't exactly brand new (there was an early mixtape and Section.80 before this one), but it was surely a definitive coming out moment for the nascent rap superstar. Lamar managed to do something that no rapper has done in some time, an immersive concept record that sucks you in for the story but could also stand completely on its own as just a collection of songs. He tapped into the spiritual history of Compton hip-hop by bringing along guests like Dr. Dre and MC Eiht, but managed to tell an entirely different story about a generation raised on gangster rap, though maybe not always ready to completely buy in. It's a compelling story, tied together with a nifty turn of the overripe narrative cliche of voicemail messages but, more importantly, he's got amazing flow.

4. Baroness - Yellow & Green (Relapse)
Anybody that has followed my blog for any amount of time won't be surprised to see this band popping up again this high on my list, their excellent sophomore record,  Blue Record, was my #2 album of 2009. This one, however, finds the band taking things in an entirely new direction and, surprisingly, foregoing most of the metal and releasing what is really an alternative rock record. Which may sound like damning with faint praise but believe me, that isn't the case at all. This is the kind of superb, melodic rock that has been missing from alt-rock radio for a decade now, intelligent and flexible without ever losing track of the melodic heart. In many ways it's a throwback to the bloated alt-rock excess days of Mellon Collie or Superunknown, but I can't think of a band better equipped to do something like this right now.

3. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange (Def Jam)
This was another huge surprise for me in 2012. I'd already been aware of Frank Ocean thanks to his Odd Future connections and the flashes of inspired genius he showed on Nostalgia, Ultra, but nothing prepared me for this tour de force. It was doubly surprising since I'd already grown wary of the intersection between cloud rap and hipster'n'b, something that lead single "Pyramids" played up, but that song's epic scope eventually won me over and I realized that Ocean had his own idiosyncratic take on things. And this album is, from start to finish, an absolutely gripping listen. From the heartbroken ache of "Thinkin Bout You" to the conflicted affluence of "Super Rich Kids" to the delicate truthfulness of the spiritual heart of the record, "Bad Religion". Absolutely the most gripping, engaging and ultimately triumphant r'n'b records of 2012.

2. Ufomammut - Oro [Opus Primum / Opus Alter] (Neurot)
A band tagged as space stoner doom could probably be forgiven for aiming big with a conceptual project, but I think this project takes the cake, even for the long-reaching Italian band Ufomammut. Their latest project was actually one large piece split into two album length units of five moments each. Makes Sleep's Dopesmoker seem quaint, right? But surprisingly enough, Ufomammut is more than up to the task as the entire Oro suite is a thrilling piece of work, but each album and the smaller movements stand just as well on their own. The best way I can describe this to the uninitiated would be to imagine Pink Floyd circa Atom Heart Mother going even more ambitious, only heavily inspired by Hawkwind and Sleep.

1. Goat - World Music (Rocket Recordings)
Picking my album of the year for 2012 was tougher than most years. In one way, I couldn't picture any one album that stood head and shoulders above everything else I heard over the course of the year. But in another, on any given day I could have argued for any of the top five landing at the number one spot. Ultimately, I decided to go with what felt right and that was what ended up easily my most played record of 2012, the debut record from Swedish weirdos Goat. The band's backstory, while likely nothing more than hooey, makes for an interesting narrative when paired with their music and supposedly killer live shows (I've only been able to witness one show via YouTube at this point). They claim to be a collective hailing from Korpilombolo, Sweden - a mysterious town with a long history of voodoo, witch doctors and curses. They also claim to have been recording for "30 or 40 years", though this seems to be the first actual evidence to make it out to the world at large. Anyway, the type of music they play is difficult to pin down, making the World Music title very apt. They draw influences from all over the world, melding different types and eras of experimental music from jazz fusion to psychedelic rock to space rock and beyond, all capped off with a healthy dose of Afropop influence. It's a heady mixture, but the band pulls it off really well - this is some of the most joyous, life-affirming music I heard all year. The poly-rhythmic  percussion makes this very infectious, creating a solid bed for the guitar explorations and chanting that go over the top. It's really something that needs to be heard to be truly understood. A bit of controversy arose after they started playing out live due to the masks and African inspired clothing they wear, but I really don't think they're doing anything worse than, say, Vampire Weekend in terms of cultural appropriation. Regardless, I can't recommend this music enough, Goat is simply one of the most exciting young bands I've encountered in some time and I can't wait to hear where they go next.