Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012: The Year in Non-Metal, #20-11

Unlike years past, there was no central theme to my listening habits in 2012. This list, more than my forthcoming Top 40 Metal Albums, reflects exactly where I was this year: all over the place. These rankings will always be subjective, as all "best/top" lists should. Taste is never definitive because it is constantly changing; personally, culturally, etc. One man's trash and all that. On to the picks!

#20: Metz - Metz

Aping the Nineties noise-rock heyday has been all the rage lately, but these guys get it right. Jesus Lizard worship is still fine by me. This is raucous punk rock with a purpose, and we could use more of it.


#19: Colour Haze - She Said

This album is a long time coming, and it is a sloooow burn. Eight songs stretched out over 2 CDs (or the double LP) require your rapt attention. This stoner/psych voyage isn't background music; it settles into your bones and stays there.


 #18: Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge

A departure from his crooner solo style, this album finds Hawley cranking the guitars and bringing some punk rock sneer into the proceedings. It doesn't always work, but he's managed to create something mostly successful outside of his comfort zone. And the songs rock.

#17: Shooter Jennings - Family Man

There is no denying that true country has lost its way; these days Music Row is full of CMT suits, not heart. With an undeniable last name, Shooter Jennings has born the torch for all the shit-kickers out there. Family Man brings Jennings' rock and soul forays into the mix and the result is an album of varied, fantastic songs. This might not be his daddy's country, but these days, what is?

#16: Van Morrison - Born To Sing: No Plan B

In a word: effortless. The man exudes class and cool; even with politically charged lyrics, the songs flow by in a jazz/blues river of calm. Morrison's greatness is still present.

#15: Grizzly Bear - Shields

Can music that recalls the past really be categorized as "refreshing"? Maybe it's the fact that Shields sounds like it was made for a turntable, not an iPod. Regardless, Grizzly Bear know their way around a song, and "Sleeping Ute" might be the best song they've ever written.

#14: Japandroids - Celebration Rock

This album is perfectly titled. Post-Nothing impressed the hell out of me a few years back, and this follow-up is even better. Power chords, caveman drums and a singer so earnest you might think he's being ironic. But he isn't, and these songs are anthems. 

#13: Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben

At this point, BJM could release albums full of Anton Newcombe insults and they would still make my top 20. (They will at some point, I'm sure.) Why? Because the man has the ability to wield glorious Kinks/Stones/Beatles songwriting ability in one hand and outer space, nonsensical head-scratchers in the other. And no one ever knows what's coming. Aufheben, mercifully, is in the former hand. 

#12: The Cult - Choice Of Weapon

This is the best Cult album since 1991's Ceremony. There is a cohesiveness that has been absent in the band's previous efforts, and as an act closely identified with a particular time - the Eighties - it's great to see them still making relevant music. 

#11: Joe Walsh - Analog Man

Walsh might be the most overlooked and underrated American guitarists from the classic rock era. His slide work is easily on par with Duane Allman or Billy Gibbons, and his humorous, idiosyncratic songwriting style has rarely been matched. This is his first solo album in 20 years, and while it might sound goofy or out-of-touch to your typical Pitchfork listener, it has more staying power than any swoopy-haired flavor of the week.