Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Albums of the Year 2012

I brought more CDs this year than I had in a while, mainly because there were so many killer releases that I had to check out. If you got a JB Hi Fi voucher then read on for some recommendations of things you might have missed.

This was a year for excellent metal with a number of bands putting out some of their best work in years. Certainly Soulfly, Testament, Gojira and Kreator unleashed their new beasts that rarely left my car. Each contains the thrash that made them famous but has enough diversions to make them mandatory listens. Parkway Drive is actually still on rotation - they've outgrown the metalcore label that many get stuck with by producing collection that is genre breaking but still contains some of the best breakdowns and gang vocals of their career. Lamb of God's Resolution was more of the same from them, which means it kicked all sorts of arse, but has been overshadowed by Randy's imprisonment dramas in Prague. It looks like they'll continue to release excellent albums without topping Ashes of the Wake (and there is nothing wrong with that). The same could be said of Fear Factory, though The Industrialist isn't as good as Demanufacture or Obsolete but does its best to get there. Wonderfully heavy with some great melodies it still ranks in the top half of their cannon.

There were comebacks this year too - Soundgarden became more than a nostalgia act by releasing King Animal. The power on show in first single 'Ive been away too long' is a nice teaser for an album that picks up from where Superunknown and Down On The Upside left off. Hell it sounds like they were never apart! Likewise Jack White's first solo disc sounds exactly like you thought it would which isn't a bad thing. Each track feels loved and any of them would make fine singles. Kiss finally unleashed Monster as well. It is better than Sonic Boom and contains some real rockers that easily fit amongst the hits from the 70s. (Actually some of the 80s albums, like Creatures of the Night, might be a better comparison.) The Killers returned from their hiatus with Battle Born, an album that promised a lot, thanks to lead single Runaway, but doesn't quite deliver. It has grown on me though, thanks to Flesh and Bone, Miss Atomic Bomb and Matter of Time being absolutely cracking songs with huge choruses, but it is essentially their first misfire. Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball came out early but will get a boost when he finally tours next year. There is some great stuff on it as he again captures the challenges of working class life. Not sure about the hip hop beats though.

Muse's The 2nd Law was a mixed bag. Like Resistance, it aims for the bombastic whenever it gets the chance which is admirable but doesn't always work. The better moments find it difficult to stand out when everything is from a different genre. Their musicianship is still brilliant but I couldn't help but feel I'd heard this all before. And it hit me - half the album sounds like Silverchair's Neon Ballroom and Diorama, albums that came out a decade ago. The other half moves closer to Nine Inch Nails. With this in mind their genre bending has been done before and probably done better. Download 'Supremacy', 'Panic Station' and 'Madness' and leave it at that (and seriously what the hell is Survival? Just terrible lyrics).

Slash's second solo album (this time fronted in full by the ace Myles Kennedy) was my favourite album this year. It is much more consistent than the previous album with guest singers while still retaining some of the variety that made that release so great. 'Halo', 'You're a Lie', 'Anastasia', 'Staring Out at the Sun' and 'One Last Thrill' rank with his best efforts in Guns n Roses and Velvet Revolver. Indeed the new stuff were amongst the highlights of his show in August. I consider this a must have. It's pure RnF'R and should be turned up to 11.

Best of 2012
1. Slash ft Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators - Apocalyptic Love
2. Testament - Dark Roots of the Earth
3. Soundgarden - King Animal
4. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
5. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist
6. Soulfly - Enslaved
7. Parkway Drive - Atlas
8. Fear Factory - The Industrialist
9. Lamb of God - Resolution
10. The Killers - Battle Born

Check out
Gary Clarke Jnr - Black and Blu (blues and rnb for the new decade. Do it)
Lana del Rey - Born To Die (really good lyrics and beats)
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
Fozzy - Sin & Bones (vast improvement on previous work)
Jack White - Blunderbuss

Forget about
Pink - Truth About Love (sounds like a parody of her better work)
Green Day - all three albums (radio still playing the single off the first one. No one gives a crap)
Marilyn Manson - Born Villain (lost and totally irrelevant. More than a decade since he did anything good)

Feedback welcome as always