Thursday, December 6, 2012

Favourites of 2012

Here's a list of some of my favourite records released this year. No particular order. Thanks for reading.

Locrian and Mamiffer - Bless Them That Curse You (Utech, Profound Lore)
Locrian and Christoph Heemann - s/t (Handmade Birds)

Locrian continue to push the boundaries of metal, drone and experimental music in some exciting ways. I've spun both of these LPs heavily this year, and I cannot say enough about either of them. Bless Them That Curse You traverses the very sparse and minimal with the very maximalist and crushing, the beautiful with bleak, all the while feeling extremely organic. I've written extensively about the Locrian/Heemann LP. Read that here.  Highly, highly recommended listening to say the very least.

Swans - The Seer (Young God)

Holy shit. What a massive album. When was the last time you listened to a two-hour record without getting even remotely tired or bored? When was the last time you heard a two-hour record? But it isn't just the length of this record that's impressive, it's the attention to detail, the restraint, the unhinged moments and overall, the control that Gira and co. exhibit here. I'm not sure I can pick out a specific highlight. This is an album that you just need to listen to. Over and over again.

High Aura'd - Sanguine Features (Bathetic)

I like this record so much that I almost avoid listening to it. That doesn't make any sense, I know, but there it is. My favourite albums, especially drone/experimental albums, evoke a sense of place or atmosphere, and Sanguine Features does it so superbly that it stuns me every time I hear it. Koner-esque glacier concrete, restrained-yet-sinister hiss and far-distant melodies, all expertly arranged and produced. It's a beautiful record, but it carries this dark, foreboding edge to it that I find very compelling. I like this album so much that I bought a digital copy and the LP.

William Fowler Collins - Tenebroso (Handmade Birds)

I'm a huge fan of WFC, and I was so excited for this disc to show up in the mail. And Mr. Collins delivers the goods again. With Tenebroso, he's pushed even further in the the dark recesses of, well, darkness. His sound sources (guitar, mainly) are almost completely unrecognizable, leaving the listener in a dark boiler room of churning low end and caustic static. Even at its harshest, this is an incredibly listenable affair. 

Burning Love - Rotten Thing To Say (Southern Lord)

Great record. It's loud and pissed off, but it's also really fun and catchy. And it has some SERIOUS hooks. Check out "Hateful Comforts." The riffs are mind-numbingly perfect and hit you square in the chest every time. I finally got to see them live when the came through Winnipeg, but sadly the folks who booked the show booked it in a coffeehouse, so the PA Colohan was using was the same one used for book readings. Needless to say, you couldn't hear a damn thing. Still, they killed it. A fun-filled, angry, heavy album with no filler whatsoever.

Propagandhi - Failed States (Epitaph)

I love this band. I always have and I probably always will. This band just gets better and better. Razor-sharp songwriting, goosebump-inducing shredding, terrific vocals and some of the best lyrics of our time. I don't really think I need to say much more. If you know, you know.

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph/Deathwish)

Similarly to Propagandhi, I've been a massive fan of Converge since I was about 16, so it's hard for me to get really objective here. This guys still do what I love about them: blindingly fast, dark, technical and angry hardcore. Just unhinged emotion and piss at it's most vitriolic and convincing. Now if only my copy of the LP would ship...

Minus the Bear - Infinity Overhead (Dangerbird)

Another one of my all-time favourite bands. While this list may lead you to think otherwise, I am a massive sucker/fan of smart, well-executed pop. And when I say "pop," I don't mean top 40 horseshit, I mean "pop" in the sense of hooks, verse/chorus/verse structures, songs that stick in your head for days, that kind of pop. Minus the Bear pull this off effortlessly, but they infuse it with top-shelf musicianship and creativity that you don't even notice the simple structures that lay underneath. They're just a great band. "Diamond Lightning" is probably my favourite song of 2012.

Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)

FlyLo delivers another record that just gets better with each listen. There's so many textures, emotions and valleys for you to get lost in. This guy is a master of his craft, without a doubt. I'm really enjoying the mix of bangers and mellow, jazzy tracks on this album. Perfect nighttime listening. Perfect anytime listening, as long as it's uninterrupted.

Vatican Shadow - Kneel Before Religious Icons (Type)

It's tough to keep up with Dominick Fernow. His releases come in a seemingly unending deluge in limited runs and expensive price tags. Thankfully, I was able to snag a copy of this LP and I think it's the most solid release of his Vatican Shadow project to date. It's just so cold and restrained, but it's also very dark, creepy and paranoid.

Deathspell Omega - Drought (N.E.D.)

Perhaps another trump card in this list as everything this outfit has done has been great. This EP crams in more finger-wrecking discordance and blurry riffiage than most metal bands can muster in their careers. Most alluring, perhaps, is the more gentle, Slint-like moments that have always been present in Deathspell's music, but are given much more space on Drought. It's also exciting to hear a little bit of groove sneak in amongst the swirling cacophony.

Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore/20 Buck Spin)

Doom is genre that I really never fully got into. Sure, I've got some albums in my collection, but I've always felt luke-warm about most doom that came my way. I could never get into the whole stoner culture of bands like Electric Wizard and Sleep, and most of the "scary," stacks of expensive amps, ugly sounding doom bands are nowhere near, and never will be, as scary or as heavy as Khanate. But Pallbearer are such a breath of fresh air to my ears. Sure, comparisons to Sabbath are inevitable, but this album feels so genuine and organic that I think it's unfair to tag them as a Sabbath clone. Way unfair. Soaring vocal melodies, crushing riffs and, what's this? melodic guitar leads. Sure, it's very listenable and approachable and I'm sure there are scores of doom fans out there who think this isn't true doom or whatever, but I could care less. A terrific record, regardless of genre tags.

Extremely hounourable mentions: Aaron Dilloway - Modern Jester; Ash Borer - Cold of Ages; Pete Swanson - Pro Style; The Subtraction - Those Who Infest Ships; Tragedy - Darker Days Ahead; Sutekh Hexen - Larvae/Empyriarcsh; Sophie Hutchings - Night Sky; Andy Stott - Luxury Problem; Fermentae - Glossolalia; Silent Servant - Negative Fascination;  

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