Jeremy's Top 10 Albums of 2012
I have a love/hate relationship with these damned things. Not the albums, obviously, but rather the lists. On the one hand, taken in the right context they're a fun way to knock ideas back and forth, offering last minute mandates to ensure that no one sleeps on the records that everyone has been losing their shit over all year, but on the other hand… no one ever takes these fucking things in the right context, do they?
Some of that falls on the readers – those who take to the comments section to dismissively deride our entire list because we had the gall to omit their pet band – but an even greater proportion of that blame falls on us writers, many of whom take this shit way too seriously. Yep, as silly as it sounds to point it out in the bright light of day, there are quite a few of these year end lists that seem to have been cultivated with the primary intent of being objectively "right" rather than reflecting any individual passion of the author's (which is also why lists that are crowdsourced by a publication's entire writing staff are rubbish just on principle). You can identify these instantly because they will have the exact same albums by the exact same bands that you've seen on dozens of lists already. Oh, and usually they'll throw in exactly one curve ball so that when assholes like me point out their shenanigans they can claim some sort of half-assed plausible deniability.
To be fair, it's usually hard to argue with these selections: they may have been cherry picked by the author for all the wrong crowd pleasing reasons, but the reason they please crowds to begin with is that they're generally kick ass records… no getting around that fact. Here's a little secret though: often there are equally compelling albums released throughout the year that go largely unnoticed for various reasons. Whether it's distribution of the record itself or the bands just don't get to tour as extensively as others, there are plenty of albums that just don't get laid on enough sets of ears to get their propers in the public consciousness.
So basically that extended preamble is just my way of saying that no, I didn't omit your favorite records out of spite, nor does this represent a devious "stealth" list of merely underrated bands masquerading as the best of the year; a vote for a band like Xibalba is not an indictment of a more well known omission like High on Fire or Goatwhore, but make no mistake: it fucking well does mean that I value that record just as much as I do the High on Fire and the Goatwhore. I don't believe that popular consensus adds to the worth of an album when it's actually identifying shit that I like any more than when its giving us the Biebers and the Gagas, so to whatever extent I'm on the fence about what to include and what doesn't quite make the cut I feel no obligation to come down on the side of the more popular release.
Got that, you heathen bitches? Good. Glad I got that off my chest. Feels so fucking good to be right.
Largely slept on, No Matter Where It Ends was released on Season of Mist in the wake of this year's SXSW to stunning indifference. Wake up, sheeple… Pallbearer is not the only band to release a killer doom record in 2012. Speak of which…
Pilgrim – Misery Wizard
Misery Wizard came out all the way back in early February, which was kind of a crappy time to dump off what would end up being a peerless doom record. If this had come out on Profound Lore it would be whispered about in the same hushed tones as Pallbearer, but for whatever reason Metal Blade seemed to drop the ball on promoting it. The good news is it's been nearly a year since this tore the scene a new asshole, so hopefully the band have a follow up in the works. I don't see anything on their Facebook page to indicate as such, but it appears they've just been playing pick up gigs in the vicinity of their homebase of Rhode Island. Ridiculous for a band of this talent.
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
I keep mentioning them so I might as well dispense with any manufactured suspense. Pallbearer were arguably the breakout band of the year, touring ceaselessly and converting new fans along the way. Needless to say it's already topped a lot of already published year end lists already. Obviously I dug the hell out of it (or it wouldn't be on this list) but I'm not sure it's objectively better than the other picks on this list. Their well earned success had as much to do with with being on Profound Lore as it did being superior to any of the other records on this list.
Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion
Not sure if it was the divisive nature of Opeth's Heritage last year or what, but this side project of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson seemed to be greeted with thudding disregard. A number of the more finger wagging reviews complained that the album didn't veer far enough away from Opeth's recent work but for me that seems like nit picking. It's the least metal thing on this list but it's more successfully adventurous than any of the tech metal albums I heard this year so I'm not even remotely conflicted about its inclusion here.
Gojira – L'Enfant Sauvage
I think what impressed me the most about L'Enfant Sauvage was how consistently stacked on the back end it is. "Mouth of Kala" struck me immediately as the best song on the entire album, and – at #7 in the running order – it has yet to be released as a single or even lyric video in spite of having one of the most accessible riffs of the band's entire career. Come to think of it, "Oroborus" off of 2008's The Way of All Flesh was similarly snubbed, even though it joins "Mouth of Kala" as probably the two prime songs I would use to get a noob into Gojira. Not that many of those are likely to exist at this stage of the band's illustrious career.
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Felt strange picking this one over a more obvious choice like Converge, but this one actually surprised me with how much I liked it considering how infrequently I spin other similar sounding records in the Deftones catalog, whereas I had the opposite experience with the new Converge: basically loving what I heard but in a sort of dispassionate way that leads me to believe that I'll be no more likely to spin All We Love We Leave Behind in a year's time than I would Axe to Fall or You Fail Me. Koi No Yokan, on the other hand, feels like it could eventually cement itself as my favorite Deftones album.
Xibalba – Hasta La Muerte
… and the Most Improved Award goes to Mexico's own Xibalba. I wasn't prepared to lose my shit over Hasta La Muerte considering my aloof response to their debut, but after digesting it over a period of several months it's no exaggeration to say that I value this record every bit as much as I do the Pallbearer. Blasphemy? Maybe, but isn't that what metal is all the fuck about?
Indian Handcrafts – Civil Disobedience for Losers
I stumbled across this one via one of the numerous general interest music blogs I subscribe to via RSS, and on the basis of similarly named bands like Indian Jewelry and Neon Indian I fully expected this to be an indie rock album. Turns out I should have been thinking of Chicago's Indian all along, because Civil Disobedience for Losers is a master class on catchy, sludge-lite stoner rock. The selling point here is not that they're the heaviest band in the genre but that they pen one memorable riff after another. Think a compromise between Fu Manchu and Yob and you'll get the picture.
I don't normally select albums for my year end top 10 that basically just pick up where the last one left off, but – like the Gojira before it – there was just something about Koloss that managed to seem fresh despite essentially mining the same formula Meshuggah has been perfecting the last several albums. I think these guys may have peaked in terms of chops, but they're still evolving by leaps and bounds in terms of songwriting, whereas other albums I listened to and loved this year were maybe the equal of this (or Deftones, Gojira) in terms of raw talent but didn't give me anything I hadn't heard before from them.
Ufomammut – Oro (Opus Primum + Opus Alter)
I feel like these guys are finally starting to get recognized as one of the best in the game after years of consistently churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. The twin pillars that make up Oro don't always shell out the instant rewards of some of their more accessible prior albums, but the patient listener will find themselves drawn in by Ufomammut's singular, uncompromising vision. This is headphone metal right here.
And that's it, y'all. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to what 2013 has in store while at the same time ready for 2012 to get the fuck over with already. Cheers, brethren.