Peaks and valleys, man. I'm still here, but man oh man what a year. There were moments in 2012 where I was sitting quite pretty really, but there were also many moments where I simply felt like a dog of war. The high times made it a good year overall, but the low points raised a lot of questions. I'm not interested in rehashing anything so I'll keep this moving. I got back in the habit of going to shows, and as a result I attended a lot of shows. A lot. (One of the perks to living in the city.) My attorney, Gary, and I also took the plunge and launched our very first webcomic. We're pleased with it thus far, but we're both looking at 2013 as the year we make the big splash we're after.
Admittedly, this is a rush job but I wanted to make it abundantly clear that I didn't forget about where I cut my teeth. These are my albums of the year, and like every other year I had to leave some stuff off. Also as in other years, I tried to eschew some of the usual suspects that you've undoubtedly read about in other pockets of the internet. I heard way more than ten really great records this year, but not everything made this the official list; mostly because I just didn't feel like I spent enough time with them. (Except for Beach House. That one just slipped my mind until after I submitted my list.) All apologies. Let's call these the Honorable Mentions then. I listened to all of these and wholeheartedly suggest you check them out. Oh, and Cat Power too. That was another good one.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (IN NO PARTICULAR, BUT KINDA SORTA, ORDER):
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)
The Babies - Our House On The Hill (Woodsist)
Moon Duo - Circles (Sacred Bones)
Cult of Youth - Love Will Prevail (Sacred Bones)
Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky)
Beach House - Bloom (Sub Pop)
Chromatics - Kill for Love (Italians Do It Better)
DIIV - Oshin (Captured Tracks)
10. Baroness - Yellow & Green (Relapse)
When a band creates a landmark LP, and then for a follow-up opts to break down their own self-constructed walls; well, they endear themselves mightily to these ears. Furthermore, when talking about the year's best it really boils down to the moments that you talk about months and years after the fact. The second verse and subsequent breakdown on "Back Where I Belong" is one of those moments. Put simply, Baroness is a special band and with bated breath let us await for what they bestow upon us next.
9. King Tuff - King Tuff (Sub Pop)
He's done the doom metal thing with Witch, and he's done the alterna-folk thing as frontman for The Feathers, but performing under the King Tuff moniker it feels like for the first time Kyle Thomas finally has his hands on the wheel. The end result is one of the most damn enjoyable records of the year. Recommended for early morning train rides, slow-moving Saturday nights, and other various times when a pick-me-up may be in order.
8. Pop. 1280 - The Horror (Sacred Bones)
Seemingly, there isn't a more fully-realized label in the business other than Sacred Bones. Virtually everything from this imprint is worth your attention, and The Horror is no exception. Twisted and deranged, claustrophobic yet ear-splittingly loud, and with more than one song about canines, it's as if that lethal viral outbreak long bandied about has finally hit and to mark the occasion these guys are going to put on a show in the hospital hallways. Pop. 1280 is a touch challenging, sure, but also quite rewarding in the same breath. Stay weird, my friends.
7. The Fresh & Onlys - Long Slow Dance (Mexican Summer)
At the risk of belaboring the point too much, understand that this is a stellar sounding record. It's something like an '80s throwback with '60s sensibilities or something. This album would probably sound really cool if you had to paint a house.
6. Titus Andronicus - Local Business (XL Recordings)
"Ok, so by now we've established that everything is inherently worthless, and that there's nothing in this universe that holds any sort of objective purpose." That's the opening line off of Local Business, and countless scores of journalists have touched upon it when discussing this, the third proper effort from gems of New Jersey and absolute wrecking ball of a live act Titus Andronicus. To these ears, that stanza seemed to indicate that Patrick Stickles and company were about to engage in some big time hanging out and in no way shape or form were they going to try and replicate The Monitor. And that's OK. For the first time in history, the Titus Andronicus that recorded the album was the Titus Andronicus that toured behind the album. Not only that, but the first two tracks off of Local Business are now officially the first two songs that Titus open with when they play live. And that's what it all boils down to; the live show. For as much as one may listen to this record at work or while walking around their city, what they really want is to see the band perform the songs live. And for me and my friend, whether it was the kickoff show at The Church or closing night at Webster Hall we were psyched about seeing our favorite band in the land. If you can't get behind that then I guess you're just cold piss.
5. Thee Oh Sees - Putrifiers II (In The Red)
Another year, another banner release by the venerable San Francisco outfit Thee Oh Sees. It's hard not to dig on a record like this. It purrs, it hisses, and at times simply causes you to shake all over in ecstatic glee. Thank you, I'll have another.
4. Japandroids - Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
It's not exactly a stretch to say that fans always want more. They fall in love with an act, and want go further and farther as a result. It's an unenviable position to put a band into, but when that band steps up and delivers it's all the more "Holy shit, that's awesome." Celebration Rock is a terrific album, plain and simple. "The House That Heaven Built" is the song of the year, and not just here but for anyone who feels the need to step closer to the edge and revel a bit.
3. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse (In The Red)
In 2012, Ty Segall released a collaborative effort with White Fence entitled Hair and dropped a solo joint called Twins. In between the two efforts, he somehow found the time to take his touring band into the studio and crank out this behemoth, which in case you couldn't tell from the album art is a badass, in-your-face, snarl of a record. Really, some down-right savage stuff. Highlights include "I Bought My Eyes", "Tell Me Whats Inside Your Heart", and "Diddy Wah", but really the whole thing owns in one way or another. This whole thing may very well have been recorded in one take. You can hear him counting shit off at points, and at the end of "Oh Mary" he just starts swearing. If we had such a thing as Artist of the Year here in these parts, it would undoubtedly be this dude. One more time: Badass
2. High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis (E1)
By all accounts, this album tells the tale of Jesus' twin brother who escapes the womb and is hurtled into the future but upon arrival in the present day embarks on a quest to travel back through time in order to inform his brother of how his name is being dragged through the dirt. There's also some pretty overt references to weed, which is to be expected, and Matt Pike absolutely shreds to the surprise of no one. "King of Days" is heavy as fuck, and while unconfirmed may very well be the reason that Matt Pike had to check into rehab this summer. He was simply exhausted from crafting a song of that magnitude. While there's never been a "bad" High on Fire record, this one just sounds like the best they've done. It's pulverizingly loud, and incredibly focused. How this isn't on everyone's year-end list is beyond me.
1. The Men - Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)
In discussing Open Your Heart, one internet critic levied the claim that The Men may be "too in love with rock." Is that even possible? Seemingly, this was the year for rock and roll. (Writer's Note: There are some hazards in using such a term so sweepingly. For instance, a few months back I told a girl that I wanted to be her boyfriend and she took that to mean...well, I'm not sure how she interpreted that, but needless to say we haven't hung out since.)
Last year, The Men made a considerably more rowdy record in Leave Home and it was a ball to spin but with Open Your Heart they reigned things in a bit and made a very cohesive, very strong album that invites repeated listens. The whole thing sorta grooves from start to finish as opposed to jumping from rooftop to rooftop. They jam real hard, to boot. "Oscillation" is the sort of slow-burning cigarette that leads to unconscious chain-smoking. It builds and builds, and then finally takes flight. And while we're talking about songs, "Candy" deserves a mention. Not to get too personal, but I wrestled mightily in 2012 and for whatever reason this song always crept into my head whenever shit got too heavy or unbearable. More than anything else, this feels like an actual record; the type of thing that has a Side A and a Side B. The first half sprints out of the gate, but there's a downshift and all of the sudden you realize that these songs are closer to ten minutes in length than three.
Like with a lot of other bands on this list, The Men could have made a repeat of their last album but they didn't. They took themselves to task, and pushed outwards as opposed to collapsing inwards. The end result is simply a really great album, and in a year where lots of things clicked for whatever reason this right here sounded a step ahead.