Hello! I have once again compiled my year end album list. A few words must precede. I am not a critic, just a huge music fan. I live this stuff year round. This year was especially hard to have to cut some records. I have pushed it to a Top 15. I want to make it clear that up to this point I have avoided any and all year end lists currently published. I have not looked at any. This is my list. This is the stuff that I listened to and loved through 2012. After this gets committed, then I go ahead and read the NME’s, the Pitchforks, the Georgia Straight’s of the world and hell even the guys at Zulu’s Top 10 stuff. So with that, here we gooooooooo! Enjoy.
1. King Tuff – “King Tuff”
From the second you drop the needle and “The Anthem” kicks in, you are in for a ride on this album. A great guitar riff in the middle, gets layered and impossibly gets better and better, with hand claps guiding you along. And that’s just the start. King Tuff is slacker, garage guru Kyle Thomas, who prefers to be “Alone and Stoned”. This album has such a great vibe on it. It’s sunshiny poppy fun. It’s silly at times and catchy at all times. The sounds found on the LP conjure vivid images of T. Rex in his glam rock glory, while creating something new and unique. See “Keep On Movin'” for proof. King Tuff is certainly reaping the benefits of the success of this album, with multiple videos and large tour. He has blown up. He’s not stopping either, having just release a new non-album single through Sub Pop called “Screaming Skull”. I saw King Tuff with Nu Sensae opening and it was a great show. I got in early and got my rare “Wild Desire” single signed along with my Loser Edition of the LP. King Tuff will have you going deeper into the “Unusual World” for a long time. You ain’t never coming back, either.
2. Moonface “Heartbreaking Bravery”
Two years in a row, Spencer Krug makes the top ten list. This time teaming up with Siinai, this great album creates a lush atmosphere to get lost in. After the opening track sets an ominous tone, the next three songs, “Yesterday’s Fire”,” Shitty City” and “Quickfire, I tried” flow flawlessly into one another. Krug sings with a passion you can feel, with heavy synth and organs being found throughout. For a taste of how well Siinai as a backing band worked for this project in contrast to Krug’s organ, listen to “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips”. Moonface continues pushing forward, with a true talent at the helm. I waited all year for a Vancouver date, but it wasn’t to be, but the memories of the Waldorf in 2011 will suffice.
3. Nu Sensae – “Sundowning”
This stuff rocks. Hard. It’s loud and abrasive and oh yeah, the vocals. My god, what a performance Andrea Lukic has given. I’m fuzzy on over half the lyrics, but when you sing with the intensity of her guttural screech, it doesn’t matter what you are saying. The passion gets your point across. This Vancouver band was, previous to this release a duo, but on “Sundowning” they have added a member. And it works very well, adding depth. The first pressing (500) on grey splatter vinyl is long sold out and they have just announced a coke bottle clear second pressing (also 500). This LP is easily at the top of my most spun records this year. Just couldn’t get enough of the mix of vocals and aggressive, noisy guitars. “Orange Roses” anyone? So good.
4. Apollo Ghosts – “Landmark”
I think Vancouver fun favourites, Apollo Ghosts, mastered their sound for this record. Some of the catchiest songs of the year are found within. A handful of them only last a minute and a half but stick in your head longer than other songs at double the length. Writer Adrian Teacher has a definite knack that leaves you wanting one more chorus to come around, but it never does. Thus, you must play it again. “Why Can’t I Be The Man On Stage” is a great example of this. This album is what music should be about; pure fun, funky, danceable, and leave your hang-ups at the door. Just go to one of their shows to experience the contagious happy vibe that permeates the venues they are in. I made it to 3 this year and they were some of the most fun I had all year. Punk, pop and surf perfection.
5. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – “Aufheben”
Of any band since 1995, the BJM have one of the greatest back catalogues in music. Bar None. And remain under the radar of many. Mastermind, Anton Newcombe is a polarizing figure to say the least. You don’t have over 40 band members come and go in under 20 years because you are a nice level headed man. His antics have turned people away for years, but the music is undeniable, a thing of beauty. Thank god he is still making music in 2012, and what an album!
The last two Jonestown LPs have taken us on different journeys than the mid 90’s stuff, but he is pushing forward, going new places. And not missing a beat. These tunes are so absolutely beautiful and calming, they embody everything the BJM stands for, even if some of the lyrics aren’t in English. They drip with drug use, psychadelia and create lush soundscapes to lose yourself in. A sunny day at the beach with these on your stereo will send you places. Listen to the stand out “The Clouds are Lies” and tell me it’s not one of their best songs ever.
Not to come off overly morbid, but the instant Anton Newcombe passes away, he will be hailed as a musical genius of our times and idolized as a legend. I am forgoing that unfortunate thought and calling it like I see it now. The feeling I get from listening to BJM is unrivaled. Pure bliss.
Since the infamous 2007 freak out at the Commodore, Anton won’t play Vancouver. I’ve made the voyage to Seattle to get my dose twice since then. In fact this May in Seattle, I asked Anton how long is he going to make me keep driving to Seattle? He replied “It’s not my fault” and gave me some sob story about the border. Then during the concert, said into the mic “I’m tired of getting asked when I will play Vancouver again. Fuck you and your county! We will play Vancouver! Washington, that is!!!!!” Oh Anton.
6. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
8 Songs deep and it’s a triple vinyl. That should tell you a lot about what is in store for you on this record. Neil and the Horse at their finest, amazingly, after all these years. Seriously. This is pure jammy goodness. First track? 27 minutes and change. There are another two over 16 mins! Just put this stuff on and don’t even think about it, and before you know it you will be having a great time. “Ramada Inn” goes forever, but it’s a great guitar track, with heavy Neil solos. “Twisted Road” is an instant Neil classic. Which brings me to “Walk Like A Giant”. This track is the real deal. It’s as good as anything him and the Horse have done. The whistling part, the chorus, the images the guitars create at the end of a Giant stepping across mountains, it’s all there. It’s so feel good, you can’t believe it. Big fans of Neil have waited for something like this for a long time. “Seems like lately things are changing, seems like lately things are going south” maybe, Neil. But you and the Horse are riding high, long may you run. I sincerely hope if you are a fan of Neil, you made it to Rogers Arena on Remembrance Day and heard this album shine in the setting it was meant for.
7. The Ketamines – “Spaced Out”
This debut LP from Alberta based band The Ketamines is a great listen if you like psychedelic, noisy, guitar effect laden tracks. Many of the songs are injected with a catchy chorus and great sounding guitars. All but one song is under the three minute mark, which makes for short, tightly constructed tunes that will leave you singing in your head for days at a time. Listen to “The Runaround”, you will see. This is a fantastic album, one of the most solid from start to finish I’ve heard. For the genre, it’s a classic in my opinion. Throw on “Kill Me Now” and let the song take over. Great times were had at Pat’s Pub this summer.
8. The Maccabees – “Given to the Wild”
Released while 2012 was only 9 days old, this album was an instant like for me. The “Pelican” single will get your blood pumping with lyrics like ” We go back to where we came from, like those before and those to come”. There are many elements at work on this album, and they all complement the LP as a whole. “Forever I’ve Know” is the standout track for sure, if you had to pick one to listen to. The sunshiny feel of “Glimmer” is a mellow treat. I didn’t see this album in a single record store in Vancouver this year. I had to use ebay to get my copy, which is a beautifully packaged double LP.
9. Here We Go Magic – “A Different Ship”
I was instantly whistling along with “How Do I Know” upon first listen on the Secretly Canadian website in late April. It’s as catchy as they come. I ordered the vinyl based on that one song and was pleasantly surprised by a darker, moodier album as a whole than that happy go lucky single. This Brooklyn band’s third album has an outstanding A-side, that is great to put on at home while doing something else. “Make Up Your Mind” has a great almost disco-country beat, while “Over The Ocean” is a slow burn with fantastic vocals. Employing Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich paid off.
10. Sharon Van Etten – “Tramp”
Like when songs get stuck in your head? Listen to “Give Out” a couple of times. I was turned on to SVE early in the year, because she was on a bill with label mates The War On Drugs. I gave her a listen and liked what I heard. Her gentle voice is so welcoming. Her song writing tells stories and comes from the heart. Almost every song is memorable and instantly likeable off this LP. The guitar on the opening track “Warsaw” induces chills. Watch the video for “Magic Chords” to see just how haunting SVE’s voice can be. It is exciting to see where this young, talented song writer will take us in the future. She signed my record “Brandon, thanks so much for caring.” You are welcome, my friend.
11. Cloud Nothings – “Attack on Memory”
Plain and simple, this album reminded me of Nirvana and I liked it. I liked Dylan Baldi’s voice and the angst and the aggression. Check out “No Future/No Past” for a great, dark, droning track that builds to a fantastic release. In juxtaposition to Baldi’s gravelly vocals on most tracks, the songs “Cut You” and “Stay Useless” provide a softer side. I was lucky enough to get on board early with these guys and saw them at the Media Club in March. I got to meet Dylan Baldi at that show and the 20 yr old was humble in embracing his new found fame, shy even. When I asked him what he thought of the Nirvana comparisons, he smirked and just shrugged it off. What else is he supposed to do, when the shoes can never be filled? Listen to “No Sentiment” for a great dose of Cloud Nothings.
12. The Tragically Hip – “Now For Plan A”
Do you have a band that no matter what they release, it’s just a pleasure to hear the lead singers voice on new songs, with the faithful band backing him? I do. It’s these guys. I’m a giant Hip fan. I am the first to admit that if you stacked up their CDs in favourite order, this one would be on the bottom. That being said, there is some material on here that is right up there with some of their classic tracks. Case in point, “We Want To Be It”. The chorus is undeniable. I saw it debuted at Deer Lake back when it was known as “Drip, Drip, Drip”. It was the greatest response to new material I’ve seen by a crowd. Maybe it was the fact that it was raining. The album has a few of these incredible moments, but for the most part, it is sub-par Hip stuff, but it is growing on me. “The Modern Spirit” is goose bump inducing. The title track is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard this year, it’s just a shame it features Sarah Harmer who will not join them in a live setting. I see the Hip in Seattle for the 19th time and in Kamloops for the BIG 2-0 as the first concert of 2013!
13. DIIV – “Oshin”
This album was released right in the middle of 2012, but I didn’t get into until a couple months ago. This Brooklyn band takes its name from the first song off Incesticide, but musically bears no resemblance to Nirvana. “Oshin” is a fantastic, pleasant listen. A track that stands out for me is “Doused” with its repetitive riff lifting you up throughout. “How Long Have You Known?” is sublime in its dream-pop simplicity. I can’t really think of more individual tracks, but putting this one on at home is sure fun, the tracks just roll from one to the next in ear pleasing fashion.
14. The Hussy – “Weed Seizure”
Who knew this Madison, Wisconsin two-piece could produce such a product? This is the second album by The Hussy, my first exposure to them. “Weed Seizure” was released early in the year to great response. So great in fact, the first limited black pressing sold out and another 500 were done on mustard yellow. This sludgy, psychedelic garage sound has been pumping out of my home stereo all year long. Great cover art represents the musical trip taken when the needle drops.
15. Tame Impala – “Lonerism”
Yes, it sounds like the Beatles. Yes, it sounds like John Lennon. Get over it. They made good tunes right? After hearing the very interesting song “Gotta Be Above It” I have been curious about this band. I bought the LP and gave it a listen. Psychedelic vibes are rampant on here, with swirling synths and guitars. Listen to the bubbly bouncing “Elephant”. It’s a great trip in the same vein as local heroes Black Mountain. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is another good one, with crashing cymbals, organs and echoed vocals that all create a trippy sonic adventure. I have just recently been getting into these guys, so my experience is young, but from what I’ve heard, they make the list. Cool stuff.
Thanks for reading, and here’s to great new music in 2013! Bring it on!