today I want to introduce you to a very special person. The most special person. My super awesome husband who knows everything about music and knows how to play every single instrument you can imagine. He is a hero. And he wants to talk to you about music he loves today.
Thanks Schatzi, it is a huge honor that you were willing to write a guest post for my little blog and share your music wisdom with us!
And here he is....
Hello Katrin's readers! My name is David and I'd like to thank my wife for letting me blab about music on her blog. Music is one of my greatest passions in life, and every December, I like to offer my unsolicited opinions on the year in music. Forgive me as I'm a little late for 2012, but I was still consuming new music in the final weeks of the year and I wanted to make sure I was thorough.
By the way, this is not a list of the "best" albums. My ego is not so large that I feel qualified to make that statement. This is just a list of my favorite music of the year. You can feel free to disagree.
First, I want to start with an honorable mention:
Favorite band I discovered in 2012 that didn't actually release new music in 2012:
And the winner is...
I suspect that melodic death metal may not go over particularly well with my wife's audience, but give me a chance here. I'm not a huge fan of blast beats and growled vocals either, but Insomnium makes such beautiful and epic music. The above song is a great example of that. In 2012 they vaulted into my top 10 favorite bands list and I can't wait to hear new stuff from them, hopefully in 2013.
And now on to the list. 2012 was one of the most anticipated years for new albums in my recent memory. Many of my absolute favorite bands released new music, so I figured my year end list would be chalk full of great stuff. That is the case, but there should have been more. I could talk probably twice as long about the albums that AREN'T going to make this list. Minus The Bear, for example, is one of my top 5 favorite bands and they released a new album this summer, but it's not on the list (in fact, they may not even be in my top 5 anymore). However, there is no sense wasting time with disappointment. On to my favorites!
10. Muse - The 2nd Law
I'm a "serious music fan," so Muse is one of those bands that I'm a little embarrassed to like because "serious music fans" recognize Muse for what they are: overly bombastic Radiohead rip-off artists. Except, they aren't. Muse hasn't had anything in common with Radiohead for at least a decade. They started off aping the Radiohead formula but Muse ran with it and made it their own. Muse is like if Muse had a baby with Muse, only more Muse-ier. Get my drift? Muse is Muse. Anyway, when I first listened to The 2nd Law, I hated it. I thought I was finally done with Muse and could join the rest of "serious music fans" in despising them. But then I listened to it again. And again. And again. And, yes, Muse "went dubstep," and they are just as over-the-top as ever, but you have to respect it. Nobody else does it like Muse.
9. The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
A disclaimer: The Smashing Pumpkins are my favorite band of all-time. I have been obsessed with them for over half my life. I'm still obsessed with them. And when they announced plans to release a new album in 2012, you can imagine how excited I was. When I finally got the album, I loved it. It had great production, great performances, and it touched on all eras of the band's history and broke new ground in doing so. But after a solid 50 listens this year, the problem is the songs just don't resonate with me on the emotional level I expect from the Pumpkins. Don't get me wrong, they still resonate to some degree, but I expect a lot from my boyhood idol Billy Corgan. He delivered enough for it to make my list, but it's a disappointment in the sense that I expected this to be an easy number one.
8. Passion Pit - Gossamer
Now we take a bit of a turn with the synthpop indie darlings, Passion Pit. This album is catchy as hell and insanely dancable, but it goes far beyond that. I don't usually pay much attention to lyrics, but this was the most meaningful album of the year to me in those terms. If you read any interviews with frontman Michael Angelakos, you'll understand why I feel so lucky to have seen them live when I did: it would not surprise me if he is the next rock star to "Kurt Cobain himself". The guy definitely has issues, but those issues result in some deep lyrics, the pain of which is hidden underneath a deceptive glossy sheet of pop.
7. Cloudkicker - Fade
Fade is one of the three albums on this list that I didn't discover until December, but a healthy 20-30 listens in 2 days cemented its position on this list. It's purely instrumental music, and some people don't get into that, but this is very approachable instrumental stuff. Cloudkicker is the brainchild of Ben Sharp (residing in my home state of Ohio). He does everything himself. He plays the guitars and bass and programs the drums. On this record, he went for the "wall of guitars" sound found on Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins and he certainly achieved it. This is what I wish Billy Corgan were doing today.
6. The Sword - Apocryphon
The Sword started their career on an impossibly high note with "Age of Winters" and have been trying to match it ever since. They went a little less metal and a little more classic rock on their previous two albums, but this one strikes the perfect balance of heavy grooves and Guitar Hero shredding. The rhythm section is great at keeping things interesting. Their bassist, in particular, is always doing what you least expect, and it makes the music that much more interesting, yet still insanely heavy. I've seen these guys live twice and they blew the doors off the club both times. With this album, they are trending in the right direction. It doesn't top "Age of Winters," but I have a feeling they will do it eventually.
5. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - Lost Songs
Trail of Dead is another band residing in my top 5 all time. "Tao of the Dead" was my favorite album of 2011 and one of my favorite albums ever, and they are the only band to make my "favorite albums" list two years in a row. This one isn't as good as "Tao," but it has some very high points. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my favorite song from the album on Youtube, "Awestruck," but the above video is still a high note on the album. My only complaint is the production. These guys are punk DIYers, and while I do love that attitude, it results in a production style that obscures some of the power that I know hides in these songs. They are a force to be reckoned with live, and I wish that came across on the album.
4. Enslaved - RIITIIR
Another album (along with the next one) that I discovered in the last few weeks. The bias of being so recent might mean they are too high on my list, but I can't stop listening to them. Enslaved are considered black metal, which I don't typically get into, but they have more in common with Insomnium than they do Mayhem. Since Insomnium didn't release an album in 2012, Enslaved has to carry the mantle for brutally beautiful metal, and they do so amazingly well on RIITIIR.
3. Forgotten Tomb - ...And Don't Deliver Us From Evil
I never would have thought there'd be two black metal bands topping my list, but here we are. Forgotten Tomb, as their name, album title and album cover imply, are not pretty like Enslaved, but they are about as catchy as I imagine black metal can get. This is like a much more evil version of The Sword but with less singing (none). I don't care for the vocals--after a while I'm not sure if he's shrieking or whispering--but they don't detract from an otherwise brilliant and devastating album.
2. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
I talked about "brutally beautiful metal" with Enslaved, but nobody produced that combination better than Deftones on "Leathers." They tear you limb from limb on the verse and then put you together again on the chorus. You can only listen and marvel. "Leathers" is certainly the high point, but the entire album is barely a notch below that. With them doing the best work of their career on the last two albums, it's time to recognize that Deftones are one of the best metal bands of the last 15 years.
1. Pinback - Information Retrieved
Pinback is the partnership of indie stalwarts Armistead Burwell Smith IV and Rob Crow, and is what happens when two musical soulmates find each other and don't allow anyone else to interfere. They released their first album in 1999, a barebones production of insanely catchy songs with darkly hilarious lyrics. You know how most bands release their best album early in their career and slowly fall apart over time? Pinback has done the opposite. Each album has been better than the last, and their most recent, Information Retrieved, is the best of their decade-plus career. It's perfect. Utterly perfect. The songs are perfect, the lyrics are perfect, the production is perfect. The only thing you can say against it is that it's over quickly, but perfection doesn't need padding.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!