Top 10 albums we missed in 2012
Endless Flowers (Frenchkiss)
Although the San Diego, CA duo Crocodiles softened things up a bit for Endless Flowers, there was still enough of the lo-fi, druggy, indie-pop goodness of their previous material intact that it probably didn’t scare anyone off that was hoping for another Summer of Hate or Sleep Forever. It might have taken a few spins to get into but eventually it warmed the skin like a sunny day at the beach - except without all the wet dogs, screaming children and broken glass.
Full Blast (Philip Music)
A veteran rude boy—having got his start in Jamaican music at the tender age of 11, and as a participant in one of the biggest sound clashes in the country's history—Cutty Ranks broke a seven year hiatus with a fiery new album that had him not only returning to form but showcasing his growth as artist. He employed a variety of reggae in his methodology for Full Blast; from traditional to lover's rock to dub and of course, dancehall. Cutty called upon some Jamaica's best riddim players and the end result is a wholly enjoyable reggae record from needle drop to completion.
Detroit-born, United Arab Emirates-raised, London-dwelling 20 year-old (You get all that?) Darling Farah's debut album is as varied as his background. Body leads the listener on a head-nodding peregrination through sub-low, minimalism, house, techno, and early UK dubstep. It’s one of those rare EDM records that transcends beyond the genre.
Public Image Ltd.
This is PiL (PiL Official)
Roughly two years after reforming his influential post-Sex Pistols band, Public Image Ltd. for a world tour, John Lydon decided it was time to write some songs and record a new record. This is PiL is as simple a title as it is accurate. Although there are some adventurous moments, the album largely follows the typical PiL formula: luscious, danceable, dub-tinged, post-punk grooves accompanied by Lydon's omnipresent vocal chords, which walk the fence between complimentary and contrasting. Listening to PiL is rarely an easy task—it takes work—in fact it's downright agitating at times—but ultimately it's a rewarding experience.
Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast America)
Like fellow thrash titans Anthrax did in 2011 with Worship Music, Testament returned from a lengthy hiatus with Dark Roots of Earth, a rousing reclamation of the throne. Chuck Billy, all goofiness aside (Playing air-guitar on a fabricated half mic stand that lights up, actually owning a fabricated half mic stand the lights up, being named Chuck Billy, etc.) is undoubtedly a masterful vocalist; effortlessly transitioning between intense growls and enthusiastic howls . He rolls in sync with a concoction of thrash perfection, led by original guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick and bassist Greg Christian. This is the nucleus behind most of the band's best work - including 2008's The Formation of Damnation. Returning to the band for the first time since 1997, the lineup is rounded out by drummer Gene Hoglan, who has done time in Dark Angel, Death and Opeth in the interim.
Primitive (Fun With Smack)
It took me a while to track this down, but I was finally able to snag a copy of it during this year’s Record Store Day outing. And holy crap was the wait ever worth it. Aptly-titled, Primitive is 11 tracks of angry-ass hardcore that invokes the primal rage and rawness of the highly-touted ‘80s Boston scene. It’s impossible to spin this without my body tensioning as a fuming-mad scowl creeps across my face and my teeth begin to grind. Absolutely killer stuff.
Women & Work (ATO Records)
I kind of wrote off Lucero after 1372 Overton Park. While the record wasn’t bad, it felt too average and nothing really jumped out. I took a while, sitting on their 2012 follow-up Women & Work until they came around on tour, and it’s a real grower. The punk urgency is no longer a key element in their songwriting, and the songs sneak up on you rather than punch you in the gut, but the Ben Nichols’ lyrics are as poignant as ever, while the rest of the band continues to crank out moody Memphis-influenced r’n’r.
Okay, so rap metal bands don't always turn out well, but judging by their debut EP, Hacktivist seem to be the exception. Beautifully blending the fast-paced rhythmic dexterity of rap music with the frantic syncopation of djent music, Hacktivist was a risky experiment that has paid off well. Though it's only a few tracks deep, Hacktivist have handily whetted our appetite for more.
Scott Kelly and the Road Home
The Forgiven Ghost in Me (Neurot)
When you look back on Scott Kelly's last few works, it's easy to forget that the guy has an incredibly soft, sentimental side to him. Full of contemplative, folk-inspired works and dark, raspy vocals, The Forgiven Ghost in Me is a forcibly moving album, and one that gives a unique perspective on this incredible musician.
Spanish post-rockers Toundra have been floating under the radar for too long. Though they're far from revolutionary for the genre, they have a keen understanding of it that many bands seem to lack. (III) may not be genre-defying or breaking any boundaries, but it's a beautifully executed, engaging, and enjoyable piece of music, made even better by the fact that their label has made it available for free. Give these guys a listen; you'll be delighted.