Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Top 50 albums of 2012: 20-11


20) Glocca Mora- Just Married

While the opening track may be my favorite, this album made me nostalgia hard.  I have never been a huge Midwestern Emo fan, but this album has a general sincerity in its sound that I haven’t heard since the old Weezer.  The difference being, however, Weezer always reminded me of my insecurities as a teen trying to find my place.  Just Married, however reminds me of the years just after this point.  This is an album which echoes the years of having a niche, sneaking out, breaking bottles and causing mischief.

While the vocals quiver with an uncertainty, the album seems to combine the vulnerability of hose younger years with the excitement of first acting out and taking risks.

As far as the instrumentation, it is pretty as expected: 4/4 time signatures, harmonizing guitars, breakdowns occurring after each verse, and standard song structures.  While they obviously aren’t reinventing the wheel here, the instrumentation works fairly well. 

Why I enjoy this album so much is how well the instrumentation couples with the vocalist.  It isn’t that he has a great voice.  To be honest his voice would probably be a complaint with any other style of music, it’s that the two just marry so perfectly.  The voice cracks at times (‘theories of relativity by david nicholas’), but holds an exposed tenderness, especially when coupled with the lyrical themes throughout the album (returning home again, not wanting to wake up, ect.).

19) Oren Amgarchi, Jim O’Rourke & Keiji Haino- Imikuzushi

When I saw Haino’s name on the bill for this collaboration, I immediately knew I was in for a treat.  Imikuzushi did not disappoint either.  This is yet another great album which is determined to tread the line of noise and noise rock.  Walls of guitar feedback are flung at the listener.  Haino screams occasionally in a language I cannot understand.

But once you get a few minutes in, the trio really find their sound.  The bass goes from nonsense to rhythm.  The guitar occasionally turns off two of its distortion pedals, and though probably all improv, it does create a great sound.

The drum work is by no means spectacular on this album, and is probably the weakest end of the group.  But that isn’t to say the drumming is bad.  No, the drumming, while not rewriting the instrument, definitely provides the necessary background for the others to play and for the listener to understand.

Probably the hardest thing for listeners of albums on this top 50 is the song lengths.  Here it is no exception.  Imikuzushi is four tracks long, totaling over an hour in length.

I have found that this album is one I hardly listen to from start to finish.  Each of the four tracks feel great standing alone; so much so that putting one on usually fulfills my urge for listening to this band.  This is the only album I can make this statement for this year, and while it is not necessarily a bad thing, it definitely affects how I see this album.  On that same note though, this is both a testament to the fact that each song feels complete and that others can youtube a track and quickly (well like 15 minutes) understand most of my opinions in this review and begin to form opinions of their own.

18) Kevin Drumm- Relief

Most ‘cool/hip’ 2012 lists try to put a noise album on them.  I have noticed this year it is Jason Lescaleet- Songs About Nothing.  While I disagree that this album is worthy to be on a top 50 list, I am still guilty of placing a noise album on my own chart.

Relief is a single 36 minute track.  Never during this time is there a moment of silence; feedback is continuously occurring, high pitch drones come and go, and swells of static bubble up throughout.

Although Relief is a harsher noise album, it is a rather calming piece.  While the first minute may be rather off putting to many listeners, Drumm does a great job at creating an improvisational noise set that would be both great introduction to the genre, all the while still being a complex, thought provoking, work.

One aspect of this albumthat is very impressive is how well Drumm is able to manipulate the sound.  Multiple ranges are constantly changing, but never does one of the sounds feel out of place.  Drumm does a great job of allowing these sounds to coexist.  They all feel natural and do not feel like the screams of a laptop; rather it sounds crafted with real instruments and difficult to perform.

After hearing this album I have decided I am going to look further into Drumm's vast discography.  I highly recommend this album to those interested in noise.

Ogni Riferimento a Persone Esistenti o a Fatti Realmente Accaduti e Puramente Casuale
17) Calibro 35- Ogni Riferimento a Persone Esistenti o a Fatti Realmente Accaduti e Puramente Casuale

In all seriousness, this band is cool.  I mean the name of the album translated means “Any reference to existing persons or actual events is purely coincidental.”  A fitting name for an album that consists of Italian exploit film soundtrack covers with original works fitting that theme sprinkled in.

While I am not too sure which tracks on here are covers, I can say for sure that these songs truly embody that 70’s funk vibe.  Phantasmagorias of noir landscapes and crime syndicates and Blaxploitation permeate my subconscious when I hear these songs.  But then again, as an American listener I do not know too much of the Italian exploit film genre.

Though all of the tracks are instrumental, do not let that dissuade you if that is not usually your cup of tea.  This is all grimy, gritty funk with solid breakdowns.  Each song has great pacing and they flow well into one another.  Having played keyboards for a while in my past, I loved the mixing of the organ.  On the song ‘Arrivederci e grazie’ the organ works so well because it stays in the background.  If you don’t actively hunt it out it may pass you by, but if you pay attention you can hear that even it has great instrumentation to it.

The songs all keep a relatively similar pace to them; nonetheless, Calibro 35 does a good job making them each sound their own.  Tracks like ‘New Dehli Deli’ bring an Indian vibe to the funk, while songs like ‘La banda del B.B.Q.’ make good use of humming and harder hitting drums. 

If you were looking for some music that both you and your jam-band loving friends can enjoy, pop this album on, you won’t be disappointed.

_ _
16) BNNT-_ _

In case you didn’t know, I love this band.  Everything about them is ridiculous, and congrats to their baritone missile player for winning that Polish art award.

_ _ is a fierce album.  Right from the first track, the album has an unwavering, in-your-face attitude.  The drums pulsate, and the samples polish it all up perfectly.  After its abrasive opening, BNNT start experimenting in great ways.  ‘The armistice ended the first Chechen War’ is a splendid track which really jams and throws some cowbell in the noise rock for good measure.  The song flows perfectly into the next track, which wouldn’t be a great track if not for the excellent xylophone in the background.

It is impressive how good their missilist is as playing his instrument.  At times it sounds like a bass (‘Child soldiers of Congo’), and other times it sounds like a guitar (‘Operation Diesel_ British troops have taken Afghan heroin factory’). 

While the standout track is ‘Child soldiers of Congo’, This is an album where the songs all seem to be reaching to be the standout track.  It is a shorter album, but contains no filler.  I look forward to their next album, and will be sure to visit any shows or soundbombings should they ever occur in Ohio. 


15) Superstorms- Superstorms

If you are looking for a more out their ambient album that doesn’t quite venture into the realm of ‘dark ambient’, Superstorms may be up your alley.  Labeled as ‘abrasive ambient’, this was a marvelous 5-track album which can easily take the listener on a sonic adventure. 

Much of my praise for this album will seem like a repeat of my first review of it, but it gets spot 15 for my albums of the year for all of those reasons.  It’s a drone album that isn’t brooding, but is instead uplifting.  It holds extremely harsh sounds but presents them in a very palatable way.  I stand by my comparison of this to a collaboration between Tycho and Prurient.

What’s more is this albums length (roughly 30 minutes) works greatly to its advantage.  This album sounds like one epic piece, but its brevity enables it to be listened to in a leisurely manner.

Overall, an astounding album from an auspicious artist.
14) White Lung- Sorry

This album works so well because of its pacing.  It is a short, quick album that maintains high energy throughout, ending all too soon and leaving the listener wanting of more.  While 20 minutes is more an EP than an album, after a few listens, I am beginning to agree that it is an album.  It has ten tracks and feels like a complete work.

This is another album that just has no bad songs on it.  Every track has the potential to be an album single.  The singers voice is extraordinary and works perfect with their sound.  I am surprised that Metz has received so much love this year when Sorry does everything Metz does but better.

Next time one of your friends makes a remark about how women cannot play music, show them this and remind them that three of the members are female.

Cobra Juicy
13) Black Moth Super Rainbow- Cobra Juicy

Dandelion Gum was always my favorite Black Moth Album.  It felt more put together than their older stuff, but was still bringing more to the table than Eating Us.  When I heard they were making this album I was sort of skeptical, mainly afraid they would continue normalizing their music as I felt they were doing with Eating Us.  Still, I paid the money for the kickstarter and hoped for the best.

While this isn’t the best, it is great and it exceeded my realistic expectations.  Black Moth have such a unique sound and it just works so well.  Cobra Juicy perfectly displays how Black Moth are able to experiment while still making accessible sounds.  I could put this album on when my parents come over and not feel uncomfortable, but at the same time this album has withstanded multiple listens and has me still coming back to it.

As far as the sound of this album, songs like ‘Hairspray Heart’ have an addition of some electric guitar and I think it works well.  It is sparse and compliments the synths.  The Song ‘We Burn’ reminds me of beats that Odd Nosdam might make.  The Song ‘Gangs in the Garden’ demonstrated a more synthpop sound. ‘Spraypaint’ may be my favorite track on this album.  It is slower, has relatable lyrics, and drags on in a good way.

While I felt that ‘Windshield Smasher’ may have been the worst song on the album, Black Moth chose it as the single.  Regardless, this album is fun, uplifting, and worth a listen.  Also the songs were even better live (regardless of the moshpit for some reason occurring).  

Mista Thug Isolation
12) Lil Ugly Mane- Mista Thug Isolation

What a solid throwback to 90’s Memphis rap.  Coming in at 18 tracks long, this album has great beats, absurd lyrics, and a good flow to boot. 

Now that you know it is, let’s get who Lil Ugly Mane is out of the way so that we can discuss the music.  Lil Ugly Mane is a white dude who used to make noise music.  If you played any of these tracks for someone, neither of those two things would be guessed.  I have read critiques who have said that Lil Ugly Mane makes his music unbelievable…but to them I ask, is that not the point?

See this album is rap about smacking bitches, killing fools, riding dirty, and getting loaded.  Lil Ugly Mane recognizes that while these are the themes, this is simply music.  The artist need not live this lifestyle to make a great album comprising of such subject matter.  And this makes sense, seeing as the average listener to music of this style typically does not live this lifestyle either.

As far as the beats, phenomenal.  While I recognize that all beats weren’t created equal on this album, even the worst beats (‘Radiation’) beat out the majority of rap albums sounding like this that are trying to take themselves seriously.  But on the other end, songs like ‘Serious Shit’ and ‘Bitch I’m Lugubrious’ have such killer production that it is amazing he produced this whole album without any contributing artists.

Now to the lyrics.  Absurd.  Lets take ‘Bitch I’m Lugubrious’.  Right off we get spit this:
            Bitch I’m Lugubrious (side note, yes that is a real word)
            My trap game the stupidest
            I been sick since the uterus
And it just keeps hitting as absurd throughout, throwing misogyny in with references to Ernest Worrell.  The man is a true linguist.

In the end, this album beautifully reconstructs a 90’s Memphis album while exceeding on all fronts: beats, lyrics, flow, and even artwork.

Giant Leg11) Infants- Giant Leg
 I learned about Brainiac around 2003 and was immediately saddened to hear they had ended years earlier.  I adored their crazy synth punk and until Infants I really did’t know of any other bands that attempt to create such a frantic sound in the same manner.

With Giant Leg a similar disappointment occurred.  I found out about this album, listened and enjoyed the hell out of it, only to find out that the album was recorded in 2009 and due to a series of events its release was postponed until 2012.  Sometime during that span of three years, the band broke up.  While a good band, Gum Takes Tooth, did form in the wake of their demise, I still prefer this frantic freak synth punk.

This album is so great because of all the things it throws into the pot at once.  Unlike so many synth-filled albums, this has real drums.  Giant Leg also makes minimal use of samples, and they are tastefully used.  Often with bands with two vocalists, one is subpar.  Here, the male/ female vocal combo works great.  The female has very Japanese sounding vocals (I believe she is from Tokyo), and while her voice is very rocking, it couples well with male using slightly softer vocals.

On a first listen to this album, there is quite a joy of wondering how the next song may sound.  This album, while keeping to a frantic pace, constantly switches up the sounds they are trying to achieve.  Sometimes it is choppy and punk with tiny mellow spots scattered throughout, other times every instrument sounds like it is running through an overdrive pedal, and sometimes the instrumental breaks are reminiscent of Boredoms.

This album is truly a landmark for synthpunk, and I believe that it will garner a cult following should enough people get the chance to hear it.

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