Individual staff lists
Below are the individual lists used to assemble the overall site list. Some staff members chose not to order their lists; others gave them a specific ranking. Albums are linked to the SPB review where applicable.
Sarah's top 5 albums of 2012
A hauntingly beautiful two-disc journey through the mind of a man clearly distraught with the state of the world. Intensely sorrowful and overwhelming, yet all the more rewarding as a result. A perfect album by any standard.
Part jazz combo, part progressive metal ensemble, the Diablo Swing Orchestra have returned with a fiery concoction of Latin, western, opera, classical, electronica, and, of course, swing music. It's their strongest album yet, and is guaranteed to satisfy from beginning to end.
How on earth Anathema have gone from their death/doom roots to atmospheric rock is a mystery; how they managed to do it with such exhilarating proficiency is a question for the ages. To say that this piece of music is merely absolutely astounding would be an understatement. No album was ever meant to be this tear-jerkingly beautiful.
Some bands in their forties would be well past their prime; no one sent Rush that memo, because their twentieth studio release is one of the best of their career. An exhilarating tale of a young man's journey through a clockpunk universe, there is not a single weak track to be found on this release.
A fascinating journey through the multitude of possibilities in life, Anderson's wonderful blend of progressive rock, folk music, and poetic spoken word creates an entirely unique experience. Not only does it hold up well against Jethro Tull's original, it proves that not all sequels have to suck.
Loren's top 5 albums of 2012
It’s been a long wait and a handful of side projects, but Toys That Kill successfully pick up where they left off, delivering more-or-less straight-forward pop-punk (at least compared to what members have been doing in the meantime). Memorable hooks, catchy choruses, and a defeatist air that’s overshadowed by Congelliere’s sunshine melodies.
This one is a surprise to me. Sure, I’d heard some singles since the band first formed and I knew their ‘80s hardcore leanings, but I didn’t expect a full record of solid, varied songs that all fit that bill. Driving and head-on energy, it doesn’t let up, yet each song is different. While I call it ‘80s hardcore with an East Bay bent, there are other styles at play. Heck, “Bandstand” is the closest thing I’ve heard to an Operation Ivy song this side of the third wave.
I’m on a run of self-titled releases from punk rock vets with my list. Off! carries a lot of familiar names and faces, and musical stylings. It harkens back to early LA hardcore in a good way. High energy, short attention span, pure anger without any frills.
Most times when you combine two artists, you don’t get a simple chocolate/peanut butter taste. You get something entirely new and that’s just fine. With The Blank Fight, Aaron Cometbus joins with Rymodee of This Bike Is a Pipebomb and it sounds much like a marriage of the two bands. Short songs, deep yet personalized lyrics, and production that matches the grit of the artists.
This one is a late entry into the game for me, narrowly beating a couple of garage rock records. I’ll be honest, while familiar with his work at Def Jux, I’d never actually listened to a full El P record. Doing so in 2012, I can only lament what I’ve missed. El P brings a rough edge to his delivery that separates from the backpack rap label that was bandied about back in the day, instead storytelling over hard beats and a cacophony of layered sounds and samples. It’s got edge and ego but, simultaneously, avoids overdosing on machismo and egocentrism.
Cheryl's top 5 albums of 2012
Self described as "Nautik Funeral Doom," this German group completely destroy with The Giant. Commanding and sublimely melodic, The Giant is filled with majesty and sorrow.
Emerging from an initial beginning as a death-infused doom act, Anathema have taken on a new life as one of the most deeply affecting progressive rock bands of our day. Weather Systems is the soundtrack to heartbreak and hope. Be prepared.
Bosse-de-Nage's third opus takes massive steps towards perfecting the avant-garde black metal blueprint laid down on i and ii. Harsh black metal mixes with deliciously intense moments of eerie quiet to create a record of wonder and intrigue.
Black metal and HP Lovecraft are so in sync it's a wonder the two haven't been combined with such depth and beauty before. French quintet The Great Old Ones are here to take you on a devastating journey into a wondrous universe.
Arkansas doom titans Pallbearer were ones to watch after the 2010 release of a three track demo. Now... now they are hard to beat with their emotion-laden riffs and powerful statements of loss and tragedy.
Aaron's top 5 albums of 2012
It's been months since its release, and this album has completely taken over my life. It took me some time to adapt to the new approach they took with this record, and now I can't imagine it being any different.
2. Hot Water Music - Exister (Rise)
I had no doubts that I would like this record. It's hard to predict that I could dislike any Hot Water Music album. After 8 years, they've still got it. They remind the younger punk bands that it takes more than great riffs--it takes a lot of heart.
While others may have scolded this record for being so short, that's its main appeal to me. These days, I don't have the attention span I used to for full lengths. Fortunately, this is one that rips through my speakers with catchy songs in a matter of 13 minutes.
4. The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past (Epitaph)
I always kind of considered The Menzingers as a band that was picking up where Against Me! left off after As The Eternal Cowboy. They've become something different now and it's a wonderful thing. On The Impossible Past is such an enthralling record with catchy hooks and an undeniable audacity.
Is there really much that needs to be said? One of the best punk records you'll hear this year and the closest you'll get to a new Op-Ivy record. Right down to the sound quality.
Nathan's top 5 albums of 2012
For over a decade now, these Swedish purveyors of stench have been unleashing their trademarked style of blackened everything to the crust-consuming masses. Despite the richer sounding production value of this record, there is still the full-on power and blunt straightforwardness indicative of D-beat. It’s just been polished up enough that you can clearly distinguish the multitude of layers created by the skilled axemen - incorporating, among other things, aspects of punk, hardcore and classic Swedish death metal. In that same regard, the partition of instrumentation allows the rhythm section’s impact on the overall sound, as they plod and pound their way through a thunderous Dis-laden low end backdrop. While the guitar work hints at it, it’s really the hateful, tortured vitriol of vocals that adds a heavy dose of black metal to the mix—a distinction longtime fans will recognize and appreciate.
These Swedish crust punk veterans return once more with their signature brand of metal-tinged D-beat. This time around there is a noticeable attention to detail as it relates to the quality of production. It has cleaner and more user-friendly mix than past outings—likely a result of Southern Lord’s deeper pockets. Although the wall of sheer sound has been partitioned, allowing a few delicate gradations to flourish at unexpected times, they have kept intact all the anarcho-rage and Motorhead leanings they have perfected over that last seventeen years.
Departing a bit from the D-beat swiftness, epic crust, and pure rage of previous albums, this record shows the band experimenting more with their sound—integrating drone vibrations, doom metal and even some demonic snarls. But despite the slow builds, chuga-chuga and other metal facets, this is still very much punk as fuck, thanks in part to the archetypal lyricism centering around bleak societal outlooks and anarcho-politics. It has been six years since these DIY-renowned Portland crust punk luminaires last released an LP, and what a slab of earth-crushing wax it is.
While firing shots at Gregg Ginn and mocking Black Flag three decades after the fact may be oddly entertaining, we’d be better off to forget the entire hubbub of old punkers jogging out ancient rivalries. The bottom line is this is just good hardcore punk rock. Period. Keith Morris, much like on 2010’s First Four EPs, sounds as youthful a singer as he ever has—this is what he loves to do and he does it really well. And the band exercises flawlessly loud-ass Black Flag/Circle Jerks worship for which Morris can blow his vocal chords over. Much like with the production on the previous record, the same can be said of this one—it has a demo-like quality that is quite favorable to the overall sound.
5. Japandroids - Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
These guys create incredibly awesome poppy, punky, indie-rocky, sing-a-long summer jams, and I unabashedly love every single one of them. Listening to this record is like riding your bike to work on a cool, sunny Friday morning and deciding that today is the day you’re going to stop being such a wimp about consequences and go ahead and finally have sex with your crush from the office. Probably not in the office…that could result in you getting fired…but like, later, after a night of drinking and possibly cocaine. But what do I know; I don’t even own a bike.
Mean Jeans—- On Mars, White Lung - Sorry, Crocodiles - Endless Flowers, Public Image Ltd. - This is PiL, Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Jon's top 5 albums of 2012
Much has been said regarding El-P's forward-thinking blend of hip-hop, electronics and rock mixture that he has been perfecting for years. The usual reference point seems to regard a certain claustrophobic Blade Runner-related theory. These descriptors all apply, but sell the finished product quite short. From the start, El brings back the Big Beat techno style that had its heyday years ago, and make it sound relevant and sincere. When it comes to the lyrics, the man is far beyond most who could be called peers, relating both the personal and worldly and involving politics and emotion without ever relying on obvious stances or metaphors. Nothing is just cut and dry here - just dark and beautiful.
Calgary's metal princesses have returned and have managed to cash in on the promise shown on their debut LP. The duo belie their small membership numbers by making a sound that is huge and fully fleshed out. From the droning pieces that connect parts of songs to the nods to noise metal and the like, the band stretch genre markers and make a strong case for themselves.
The little-known San Franciscans in Bosse-De Nage have been making people notice over the past few years with their prior releases on the Flenser label. The band stretch structures and build towering epics. These pieces all tend to roll back to black metal but it is what happens in between that make this record truly special. Taking the style they have used in the past, they have managed to create something that makes the long songs worth sticking around until the end for.
This three piece have made their own wave since the beginning. The band is very well within the metal world but fails to sound like a metal band. Between the vocals and tasteful instrumentation, they build something that is heavy without ever relying on genre markers to make their sound. The closest description relies on a leap itself as this is what I imagine a band like Paradise Lost, with their tasteful structures that rely on feeling, would sound like if they recruited PJ Harvey to take over vocals. The music undulates and is powerful in itself but the vocals drive it over the edge.
5. Sutekh Hexen - Behind the Throne (Magic Bullet)
The rather reclusive collective that is Sutekh Hexen has returned. While seemingly never ones to stop for a moment, they continue to build their sound. The highly regarded Larvae has already proved that they can lengthen their songs without losing the point. Here they take that lesson to heart, offering two songs that last over 30 minutes. Not one moment is wasted as these songs sound like Sutekh songs while still building on their style and remaining progressive within their already-established blackened and noisy style.
Bob's top 5 albums of 2012
Easily the most haunting album that I have heard all year, Larvae is a monstrous leap forward for Sutekh Hexen (whose music was already damn good) and consistently delivers time after time when listening to the record, and yet, what is most impressive about Larvae is its sheer musicality and subtle showcasing of the group’s collective abilities; even if this turns out to be the high water mark for Sutekh Hexen, Larvae is a hell of an achievement for which to be remembered (and these guys still have plenty of juice left).
Literally still reeling from NO even existing let alone this possibly being the penultimate album from Old Man Gloom, these simian researchers drop a monstrously heavy and absurdly noise-y record that incorporates all the best aspects that Old Man Gloom has conjured in the past creating the absolutely crushing NO.
One of my most anticipated releases of 2012 and Bless Them That Curse You does not disappoint in any way as these two musical entities meld into something almost otherworldly in its resonance and simply exquisite in its overall execution; Locrian and Mamiffer simply blast through showing why they are two of the most exciting acts in music as Bless Them That Curse You sounds both like and unlike anything either have produced on their own releases, and it is certainly one of the albums that you must hear this year.
4. Planning For Burial - Quietly (Tycho Magnetic Anomalies)
I am still struck by the grace and beauty that the three songs on this tape have, and even though these paeans to depression, lovelorn angst, and anxiety are not exactly subtle, Quietly still exudes a strange calm and numb emotion which some artists spend entire artistic lifetimes attempting to achieve; I will stick by my initial estimation of these songs from Planning For Burial that being lovesick never sounded so good.
After their awesome demo, Pallbearer really come through on the promise that nascent recording showed and renewed my faith in more traditional doom being able to be done well and with a whole load of panache; Sorrow And Extinction takes everything that I love about doom and unleashes it in one fell swoop.