Thursday, December 27, 2012

1 Brian Cook's (Russian Circles) Top Albums and Songs of 2012

This was a tough list to make. Lot’s of good stuff came out this year. And there’s lots of stuff I’m still catching up on. I had to put a ban on picking records that my former musical collaborators made (sorry Minus The Bear, Narrows, Crypts, Mamiffer… y’all had excellent albums this year). And, with 2012 being the year I became obsessed with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, I had to remember what was grabbing my attention when I wasn’t listening to “Back In NYC” for the millionth time. But here it is, in alphabetical order. My favorite albums and songs of 2012, in alphabetical order.

Top Ten Albums:

Absolute Monarchs 1 (Good To Die)

Here’s what I said about 1 a few months back in The Stranger: ‘Absolute Monarchs' debut album, 1, contains a definite degree of familiarity for those who savor the more gritty and girthy varieties of indie rock. The Seattle four-piece hints at elements of other bands throughout the record—there's Chavez's combination of guitar jangle and low-tuned riffage in "Bad Taste," Torche's doom pop in "Thinking Thieves," the Intelligence's fractured skronk in "Sharp," and Jawbox's proletariat post-hardcore in "It's Bad." But despite these reference points, the entirety of Absolute Monarchs doesn't really sound like anyone. The disparate bits and pieces they've borrowed from the past come together to create something unusual, something foreign.’

The Broderick Free To Rot, Free Of Sin (Dead Souls)

The Broderick opened a show for Russian Circles in Melbourne earlier this year. I feel bad for any hardcore band that has to open a show in a big room, especially if the audience isn’t necessarily primed for their particular brand of music. The Broderick played well that night given the circumstances, but I imagine it would have been a much different experience in a small, packed room on a hardcore bill. Still, I walked away from a show with a copy of their LP, and upon returning to the states gave the record a spin. Right from the get-go, Free To Rot is a barnburner.  Tight and precise without being overly slick. Furious and unrelenting without ever getting tedious. Hope I can see these guys play again under more ideal circumstances.

Can The Lost Tapes (Mute)

I like Can. I like Can a lot, actually. But I wasn’t so sure I was a big enough of a Can fan to require a three disc set of unreleased Can material. There’s already more than a couple of later Can albums I could’ve done without, so maybe the unreleased stuff should just stay that way. Fortunately, The Lost Tapes culls primarily from the Mooney and Suzuki years. And while there are some definite forays into avant garde territory, the bulk of Lost Tapes captures the quintessential krautrock group jamming on some pretty serious grooves.
Forgetters s/t (Too Small To Fail): Blake Schwarzenbach’s latest project finally delivered their full-length this year. Like pretty much every new record he’s ever dropped, fans will probably scratch their heads at first and grumble that it’s not like his old stuff. But people have been grumbling about that shit ever since Jawbreaker followed up Unfun with Bivouac. Give the man a break; Forgetters are still classic Schwarzenbach. My only grumble is that the best song on the record isn’t even on the vinyl version. “Die By Your Own Hand” ranks up their with any of Jawbreaker or Jets To Brazil’s best work, and it’s only an mp3 bonus track.

King Tuff s/t & Wild Desire 7” (Sub Pop & Suicide Squeeze)

Not much to say about King Tuff. It’s just garage rock with solid pop hooks. Everyone seems to be gushing over the self-titled album on Sub Pop, but my favorite cuts are on the “Wild Desire” 7”.

METZ s/t & Dirty Shirt 7” (Sub Pop)

METZ reminds the world that Sub Pop was home to Nirvana and Pissed Jeans. 

Naomi Punk The Feeling (Captured Tracks)

The Cramps on cough syrup? Deerhunter jamming on The Flaming Stars’ gear? Unwound starting a garage rock band? Actually, those are all terrible descriptions of Naomi Punk’s reverb-drenched Fender Twin sound. But what that sound is, exactly, is a little difficult to put into words. All I know is that it’s spent a lot of time on my turntable this year. 

Perfume Genius Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador)

I don’t know what’s more tragic, the twelve somber piano ballads on this album, or that so many folks probably never gave this record a chance because of the campy double-punch of the artist name and album title. No, this isn’t some garish and gay R&B dude. It’s like a less ostentatious Antony & The Johnsons. You might need a Prozac after this one.

Pharaoh Overlord Lunar Jetman (SIGE)

Dudes from Faust and Circle collaborate and we wind up with what might be the first instrumental kraut-metal band ever. If you want your motorik grooves with a little extra girth and dirge, look no further.
Swans The Seer (Young Gods): I liked how Swans big comeback album My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky was basically like all the best parts of Michael Gira’s work as Angels of Light crammed into one album. So when The Seer came out, I was initially like “well, this is cool and all, but it kinda just sounds like the first five minutes of My Father dragged out over the course of nearly two hours.” Then I realized that the first five minutes of My Father was the best part of that album, and that even after two hours of The Seer’s calamitous racket I still wind up wanting more.

Top Five Songs:

Bad Powers “New Bruises”: So apparently the Made Out Of Babies folks ousted Julie Christmas, got Megan Tweed from The Family Curse to cover vocals, and changed their name to Bad Powers. The result is pretty gnarly--like Jesus Lizard, Barkmarket, and Today Is The Day had a baby.

Fang Island “Asunder”: To be fair, Major was a strong contender for one of my albums of the year. True, it didn’t quite have the Boston-banging-The Champs vibe of their last record, but it was a solid pop album nonetheless. “Asunder” was my favorite cut.

Gap Dream “A Little Past Midnight”: It sounds like stoned jamming of The Velvet Underground mixed with the hazy lush sounds of Spiritualized. But apparently Gap Dream is just one dude recording stuff on a laptop in his bedroom. Mind blown.

Nicki Minaj “Stupid Hoe”: I have a confession: I think there’s a lot of great stuff on Pink Friday…Roman Reloaded. Unfortunately, pop fodder like “Starships” is making Minaj famous, but her strongest tracks are her weird hyper-minimal bangers like “Roman Reloaded”, “I Am Your Leader”, “Beez In The Trap”, and of course “Stupid Hoe”. 

Noir & Haze “Around”: Heard this in a bar in Barcelona and Shazam’d it. I don’t typically like club music, but something about the synth sounds and the Portishead-ish melody of this track really got me.


  1. I'm glad that someone else who appreciated good music can also like a song called "Stupid Hoe". I feel vindicated! - Roy



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