So, here we are again. The time of the year when the internet is awash with best of lists, retrospectives of the year gone by etc. but I’m sure you’ve all been waiting, breath suitably baited, for the I Prefer Their Old Stuff favourite fifty!
As last year I will not be ranking the first forty, it’s too hard, this year especially it seems (or that might be just me!). The spreadsheet has them alphabetical so that’s how these first forty will appear.
2012 has been another year where I’ve listened to more new records than ever before (90 is the count this year!), this can’t possibly continue, there are only a certain amount of hours each day! I have thought that I should maybe restrict myself a bit but I just love listening to stuff I have never heard before. So cutting forty albums from the list was extremely hard at times, for example you may notice that the new Soundgarden album is conspicuous in its absence, it pained me to cut it but although it is good and I love Chris Cornell’s voice almost more than any other in rock it just hasn’t grabbed me enough to warrant inclusion. This says more for the greatness of the records that did make the cut more than any weakness on the part of the losers.
Last year I added a link to an mp3 for each album for you to listen but I noticed that the links only seemed to work on a browser, not on an iPad or mobile so I’m going to skip doing them this year as uploading each track took time and this task takes long enough as it is. There aren’t a team of folks working on this, it’s just me typing away one handed! If you used them last year and miss them let me know in the comments section and I can go back and add some of needs be. The more comments the better, I want to know what you think, criticise, praise, whatever!
Anyway, on with this year’s crop of musical delights! By the way, as per my highlights posts, links to the album in Spotify will be in the album title where available.
Alcest – Les Voyages Des L’Âme
First on the list and pretty much the first new album I heard this year. Released in January Les Voyages Des L’Âme (Journeys of the Soul) is the third studio album by French band Alcest and their almost patented mix of shoegaze and black metal continues to work a treat. Although to be honest on this album the metal influence (black or otherwise) is reduced to nearly nil with only a few passages remaining of screamed vocals and the guitar work is far more post-rock, shoegaze feeling. Basically, what I’m saying is give this album a go, you may be pleasantly surprised!
Amenra – Mass V
The fifth album from Belgium’s Amenra stages a late entry into the list after only being released last week. The huge, crushing heaviness bears some resemblance to bands such as Neurosis, to quote their Last.fm page “Intense, heartfelt and atmospheric, rich with entrancing riffs, thunderous low tones, high impact percussion and cutthroat vocals, injected with a dose of religious iconography“. When I saw them at this year’s Damnation festival they had no lights except for a dim projection of barely visible crashing seas and landscapes, vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout with his back to the audience for pretty much the entire show, veins popping as his tortured vocals were spat out with such intensity you feared he might pass out from the effort! These guys work magic with a slow repetitive riff that just drags you in and then crushes you with its immenseness!! (the album’s not yet on Spotify but it is streaming via Soundcloud here)
Baroness – Yellow & Green
This was one of the albums that I was very much looking forward to, having fallen in love with the band via their previous two albums (Red and Blue) only a year or so previously. So, perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that this double album did not (or maybe, could not) fully live up to my expectations. They have really reigned back on the heaviness for this release, although there are still a fair few heavier numbers, such as lead single “Take My Bones Away”, there seems to be more concentration on song craft and accessibility, especially on the quieter of the two discs, Green. Not a bad album by any means but I just wish there were less ballads and more bangers on it!
Beach House – Bloom
Dream pop loveliness from Baltimore’s Beach House now. Their fourth album Bloom invites words such as ethereal, blissful, sparkling and dreamy be used when describing their music. Put simply it’s just a beautiful album which you all should have a listen to!
Blacklisters – BLKLSTRS
Ethereal, blissful, sparkling and dreamy are four words that categorically could NOT be used to describe Blacklisters’ debut album! The Leeds four piece produce a sound that although confrontational, noisy and chaotic, is just downright fun! One is unable to avoid comparisons with The Jesus Lizard or Shellac when describing their sound or their live act, in fact their live act is possibly the best, most engaging, entertaining and simultaneously threatening I’ve seen since David Yow leapt into the crowd on The Jesus Lizard’s first number at The Forum in London a few years ago! Regardless of whether you like their musical output or not, you should try and catch them live as they are just electric!
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Ohio’s Cloud Nothings released their third album Attack on Memory back in January, produced by the legendary Steve Albini, it is much grittier than their previous output. Grungy, crunchy guitars and slightly snarled vocals propel you through the sprightly 33 minutes, my favourite bit of which is probably the way “Wasted Days”, initially a fast quick thrash extends into nearly nine minutes of guitar histrionics. An excellent indie rock album.
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Brutal, pummelling and adrenaline pumping. Mathcore stalwarts Converge’s eighth album may only be thirty eight minutes long but it packs in more fury than an album twice its length. Technically dazzling guitar riffery and drumming, so fast at times you can barely keep up, combined with Jacob Bannon’s visceral roar, this is an album to frighten children and old people with! Out of all the albums in this year’s list this one shouts “FUCK YOU” the loudest!
dEUS – Following Sea
Last year’s Keep You Close was not the Belgium band’s best by a long shot, so when they brought out their seventh album Following Sea, apparently made up of tracks that didn’t make the cut for the previous album I was naturally tentative. But I think this must have been internet bullshit because Following Sea is far better than Keep You Close, it’s possibly their best since 1999’s The Ideal Crash!
Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky
A band that’s been going for 28 years, produce their tenth album and not only does it make this list, it’s possibly the best thing they’ve done in nearly twenty years! This is the third album since the band ‘reunited’ as the original trio of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph, and it is by far the most accomplished. It also has possibly some of the best artwork of any album released this year!
Disappears – Pre Language
Krautrock and the whole motorik beat are usually words associated with more electronic acts such as Neu!, Stereolab or Beak>, but Disappears have fused it with sleazy garage rock and it’s a combination that works an absolute treat. When I first heard this back in the summer I was hooked, listening to it again and again, downloading their previous two albums in quick succession to keep my addiction fresh! Listen to this and lose yourself in its glorious hypnotic groove!
Django Django – Django Django
The debut album from this Edinburgh four piece immediately catapulted them into the public consciousness via glowing reviews in the mainstream press (5/5 in The Guardian, 8/10 on NME) combined with pretty heavy airplay on radio. Later in the year it was also a Mercury Prize nominee, widening their fanbase even more. Rightly so, as this album is an extremely listenable slice of psychedelic, indie pop. At times sounding like a more accessible cousin of The Beta Band, this is one of the best debuts I’ve heard this year.
Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense
More vitriol and razor sharp wit from Falco and crew on the third album from the band that were once McLusky. Bearing in mind the fact that their previous album Travels With Myself and Another made it to number 2 in my list of 2009, this is another album that arrived with a fair amount of unfair expectations piled on it. And yes, although it might not reach the heights its predecessor did it’s still a very fine album with its fair share of excellent moments, such as Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman, Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots and Robocop 4: Fuck off Robocop
Gallows – Gallows
Up until now Gallows had never really interested me, they just seemed another run of the mill punk band. But following a change of vocalist (Frank Carter left last year to be replaced by ex Alexisonfire vocalist Wade MacNeil) I thought I’d give their new self titled album a go. MacNeil’s harsher vocals sound a bit like Pink Eyes from Fucked Up and give the music a bit more of an edge. Victim Culture with its shoutalong refrain of “Victim Culture’s on the rise!” starts the album off at a furious pace that keeps up the momentum for its suitably brief punk rock 32 minutes. It’ll have you pogoing round your living room!
Grimes – Visions
Grimes is the moniker of Montreal’s Claire Boucher and Visions is her third album but first on the 4AD label. It’s a bit of a marmite record, in that people tend to either love it or hate it and for a few weeks at least, I was definitely in the former camp. Electronic pop that I have previously likened to a slightly less sinister Fever Ray.
Hawk Eyes – Ideas
Formerly known as Chickenhawk, the Leeds four piece changed their name to Hawk Eyes and released Ideas in March. Along with the name change they have developed their sound to include more melodies than before but still with a lorry load of riffs to go with them! As main support to Therapy? on their current tour is hopefully opening more ears to their infectious tunes.
Killing Joke – MMXII
Another band on the list that could be described as a bit “long in the tooth” (formed in 1978!), also another band that are, once again, in their original line up. Another thing they have in common with Dinosaur Jr is that this is the best thing they’ve done in years! This, their fifteenth album (!) is entitled MMXII (2012) referring to the apparently impending Mayan predicted apocalypse and I can’t think of a better soundtrack to the end of the world!
Liars – WIXIW
With a title that is guaranteed to fox most people unless told how to pronounce it (it’s “wish you”), Liars’ sixth album is yet another swerve in style for the never predictable Brooklyn three piece. A band I’ve never truly managed to love despite a fair bit of listening, I found myself wanting to listen to this one quite a lot and although I am still yet to fall in love with their other material, WIXIW is a dark mysterious album that really rewards repeated listens.
Lone Wolf – The Lovers
Paul Marshall’s crowd sourced second album (as Lone Wolf) was released last month, a good few weeks after the lucky pledgers (myself included) got their limited goodies (blue vinyl, yum) and digital downloads. It has a far more personal, lo-fi feel to it than it’s highly polished predecessor The Devil & I, but because of this it feels far more honest and heart-felt. I love this whole crowd sourcing thing, as a fan it makes you feel like your genuinely helping the artists and they’re actually there updating you on the progress of the thing you want to hear, everyone’s on the same page! This is the second Pledge campaign I’ve contributed to (I Like Trains’ album He Who Saw The Deep being the other) and I would happily do it again.
MAKE – Trephine
I came across North Carolina’s MAKE via the excellent metal column on The Quietus, and boy am I glad I did! MAKE, er, make heavy, atmospheric, sludgy post-metal that veers from crushing heaviness a la Neurosis to longer, gentler passages in the vein of Grails or Minsk. If that doesn’t immediately interest you, go and have a listen on their Bandcamp site (link) and at the moment you can download the whole album for $5!
Metric – Synthetica
From post-metal to Canadian indie pop. Metric released their fifth album in the summer and it’s an album full of the band’s trademark hooks and infectious melodies. Although each of their previous four albums have drawn accolades they still seem relatively unknown amongst the mainstream which mystifies me, I would have thought their brand of electronic/guitar pop mix would be huge, but what do I know?