Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2012

I've heard a few people say that 2012 is kind of so-so for new music and 2011 was far superior.  Maybe I was listening to the wrong albums last year, but I recall a bunch of albums by bands I love that made me go, "Ehh, they can do better."  Dead to Me, Cobra Skulls, Weezer, Alkaline Trio, Big D & the Kids Table, Banner Pilot, blah blah blah.  Some of those were okay, some I don't think I'll ever go out of my way to listen to again.  Granted, last year was awesome for Bright Eyes, Fucked Up, Joyce Manor, Larry and His Flask, Dan Andriano, Capital, and Signals Midwest...but the bands that I've been following for years didn't woo me very much (and I know there are a ton of bands I've yet to get around to listening to, but that day will come).  Well that all changed in 2012.  It's been a GREAT year for new music and I don't really care what anyone says otherwise.  I am not in the least bit short of albums to mention and I see so many people putting albums I've never gotten around to on their lists.  What the hell is this guy talking about?  Let me get into it.

Alright, as I've said, I haven't found the time in the year to listen to all of the new music I wanted (okay, there was plenty of time but it was all spent on Minecraft and Skyrim), so I'm gonna mention some I've heard a few times or that barely missed out on my top ten: 

Cheap Girls - Giant Orange
Motion City Soundtrack - Go
Hot Water Music - Exister
Matt Skiba and the Sekrets - Babylon
Grabass Chalestons - Dale and the Careeners
The Shell Corporation - Force Majeure
Green Day - Uno, Dos, Tre
The Please & Thank Yous - At Your Merci
Masked Intruder - s/t
New God - Motorcar
Titus Andronicus - Local Business.  

I can go on and bore you all day. There's some good stuff in there and there's some stuff that didn't completely cut it for me but I enjoy anyway. Let's get to my real list.

10. Dowsing - It's Still Pretty Terrible (tie)
It's actually pretty excellent.  Terrible pun, but great guys making great music.  One song is directly named after Pokemon ("Gengar! Gengar! Gengar!) and another is loosely named after Pokemon ("Lavender," as in Lavender Town where Gastly and Haunter are found [I was told Erik had named songs for every Pokemon in the Gastly evolution line but someone in the band convinced him not to]).  Midwest emo with Superchunk and Weakerthans influence.  And SPEAKING of The Weakerthans...!

10. John K Samson - Provincial (tie)
Weakerthans front man himself going out alone!  I don't really get why because he writes everything for The Weakerthans to begin with, but maybe he felt he should do this one completely on his own.  It's a lot like The Weakerthans' material, but it's sometimes not.  I feel like it isn't as cohesive as a Weakerthans album, which is why it's tied for #10 instead of #1 or #2.  The best songs on here ("Heart of the Continent," "Letter in Icelandic from Ninette San") are right with or maybe above the best Weakerthans songs, but there are some songs he included that I felt were better left alone on his two 7" records, City Route 85 and Provincial Road 222.  Regardless, here it is.  Great winter music as always...and SPEAKING of the winter...!

9. Perfect Future - Old Wounds: Warmth in the Winter 1914-1915

Perfect Future has outdone themselves.  This album is special to me, partially because I'm on it, partially because a lot of my friends can be heard singing on it (Warren Franklin, Island of Misfit Toys, Empire! Empire!, everyone in Frostburg, MD, etc.), and partially because it's one of the best albums the area I live in has put out (along with New God's Motorcar, anything by The Christmas Lights, and the new Dogjaw record ;]).  Emo record of the year.  It's a concept about about Christmas during a WWI battle where soldiers on both sides laid down their weapons and celebrated together.  Now tell me that isn't awesome.  And SPEAKING of emo...!

8. forgetters - s/t
Arguably one of the godfathers of emo, Blake Schwarzenbach has released his first full-length album since Jets to Brazil's Perfecting Loneliness in 2002.  And how does it own up to Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil?  Very strongly.  It'd probably be higher on my list but I've only been listening to it since the beginning of  December.  Simplistic, heart-felt, a little gritty along the edges, and riddled with really lame guitar effects that somehow work in parts, forgetters' self-titled full length album is one to remember.  And SPEAKING of forgetting...!

7. Run, Forever - Settling 
"Forget" has ended up being my favorite song on this album.  I kind of struggled with this one at first.  You hear Run, Forever's earlier discography first and you may go into this album with the wrong ears.  It's a different beast in itself, but it's a gentle, soothing beast.  People compare them to Titus Andronicus, Desaparecidos, and The Menzingers, all bands I love a lot, so if that's true (and maybe it kinda is?), there's got to be something for their fans here.  You'd have thought by now that the songs of being so lost and upset would be starting to pass by now, but my man Anthony apparently still has a lot to talk about.  If you're reading this, I'm here for you, bud.  And thanks for the songs to help me through my favorite cat dying this year.  And SPEAKING of cats...!

6. Toys That Kill - Fambly 42
Who loves Cats more than Todd Congelliere?  Arguably me, but come on.  The man is a cat freak.  He's also a freak at writing the most happy-feeling songs on the planet.  Fambly 42 is no exception to his past behavior.  Songs riddled with hooks that make your bones tingle and that make your toes tap.  I'm gonna blame Jimmy for the tapping toes, though.  That guy can make a 3-piece drum kit sound like a 6-piece.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I never have any idea what Todd is singing about.  He's been mobbed by the threes?  He wants to be "aped"?  I have to ask him personally to know where he's going with things but what I do understand fully is that he writes the most amazingly simple songs out there and I love him for it.  Not just him, but Sean and the rest of the boys, too.  Great job, Toys That Kill team.  And SPEAKING of guys named Sean...!
5. Title Fight - Floral Green
Okay, so the closest anyone in the band comes to being named "Sean" is Shane.  Floral Green, guys.  They've done it.  They perfected the Title Fight sound.  I listened to Shed a few times and it was alright (please don't kill me) but it didn't grab me like this album did.  Love that guitar tone and the vocals.  What did me in was the single "Secret Society."  That is a perfect song.  That song alone put them on the list, but the truth is the entire album lifts that song up in 33 minutes of...whatever this sound that Title Fight has made is.  And SPEAKING of minutes...!

4. Joyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
13 minutes.  Wow.  That's all you get.  When I first heard this album, I didn't get it.  Why is it on 12"?  Why is there so much blank space on my record?  Why did Mike Park approve of this being pressed?  Do they really expect me to flip the album after 6 minutes?  I just sat down.  I went online and read some interviews about it and my theories started connecting and I realized that this album is pure genius.  Guys, it's 9 songs that span 13 minutes and they're calling it a full-length album.  It doesn't seem right...and one is a cover!!!  But Barry said in an interview that he wanted to trim all of the fat and make it like an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in that it all happens in less than 15 minutes and you're left saying, "...all of that just happened in that short amount of time?"  You've kind of got to play it on repeat.  You know how you seem to get just one part of a song stuck in your head and not the rest?  That's all this album is.  It's just 13 minutes of THAT part of those songs.  It's awesome.  You've gotta hear it for yourself.  And SPEAKING of awesome...!

3. Propagandhi - Failed States
The boys are back in town.  You thought Supporting Caste was too metal?  Well you'd better get out of here, because this one takes it even further and it is SO awesome.  I don't even listen to heavy music (for the most part) but Propagandhi is easily one of my top 5 favorite bands of all time.  Lyrically can be really goofy yet way more insightful than 99.9% of anyone else can be when it comes to certain issues.  One lyric that's particularly goofy is, "I'm a fucking fuse and you're a big, dumb flame."  Said lyric comes from one of my favorite songs on the album, "Status Update."  A few other favorites include, "Lotus Gait," "Hadron Collision," and "Note to Self."  Almost too spook for me, but this music will motivate you and make you a better person.  Made me a vegetarian years back!  And SPEAKING of spooky...!

2. The Sidekicks - Awkward Breeds
Early this year, Tim (fellow member of Dogjaw and writer here at Dying Scene) and I ventured out to Cleveland, OH to see the almighty Lawrence Arms and our friends in Signals Midwest, who were opening.  We got there (The Grog Shoppe) early to talk to the guys in Signals Midwest and this older man who works there approached me and said, "You must be Steve's younger brother!"  "Who the fuck is Steve?" is what I was thinking, but I said something a little nicer.  "Steve Ciolek, the singer of The Sidekicks."  "I haven't actually gotten around to listening to them," I said.  "I saw them back when they were thiiiisss little."  So listening to The Sidekicks went on my to-do list, since I'm supposedly related to their vocalist.  Turns out Steve heard the other end of that story from the old man afterwards and because I got into their music and said, "Sure, we'd love to open for The Sidekicks" a month or so ago, I got to meet Steve and exchange that.  Turns out WE WERE SEPARATED AT BIRTH.  His band and mine even have matching eagle heads on our album covers!  Talk about spooky, huh?!  In all seriousness, though, this album is better than anything I've heard in years.  Steve apparently was listening to a lot of Pinkerton and The Blue Album when writing the album and it kinda shows through in the best ways.  When you can't pick favorites, you know it's a good album (or a horseshit album).  Very worth it.  And any other year and it would have been #1, but unfortunately for them, there was another album that came out this year...

1. The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past
My favorite album ever is Weezer's Pinkerton.  I don't see that changing any time soon, as it's perfect in every way.  But I was a little scared, I must admit.  I don't remember ever being so excited for a new album to come out.  I just had this feeling inside that this was going to be something spectacular based on the direction they were heading in.  When February 20th came around, it was confirmed (I may have heard it sooner than that in reality but SHHH!).  This is why 2012 has been a better year for music than 2011. Even if no other albums came out this year, this makes it okay.  It can repeat in my car for days and it will take something spectacular to make me realize I should probably switch CDs.  If they hadn't sent a free CD, my vinyl copy would probably be as thin as flexi-disc.  From start to finish, it is flawless (though, if I'm being honest, "Freedom Bridge" is the weakest track and it's the closer--certainly no "Butterfly," which put a bow on Pinkerton).  If you don't really "get" this album, I don't really "get" you.  Maybe that's why some people don't like it...it's awfully easy to get into.  But I think that's because it's SO FUCKING GOOD!  I recommend this if you care about anything that's happened to music over the past 15 years, because I can't think of anything that's topped it (though Awkward Breeds isn't too far off for me).