Archives for posts with tag: Ty Segall

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Writing that top 50 album list last year almost killed me. About two fifths of the way through it I realised that that writing a magazine length end of the year feature all alone, without a giant staff of writers to help me find more synonyms for “awesome”, wasn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever had. But my desire to write about Slaughterhouse and Tramp kept me going. I don’t regret it, but just the idea of trying to write another makes me nauseous. Hitting publish did give me a certain perspective on those kinds of year end features though, and I’ve kept that in mind as I’ve been scrolling through each sites list in the past few weeks.

Those first few lists show that this year has been as wealthy as any other, but they also made me realise that most of the major-think-piece-inspiring albums left with me with at least a vague sense of hollowness. I’d happily wipe The Next Day out of existence for a Bowie megahits tour, and–even though his guest slot on the title track is one of my favourite moments of the year–something about Reflektor didn’t quite do it for me. And doesn’t it already feel like My Bloody Valentine’s return was 22 year ago? I came to enjoy the months were the release calendar slowed all the way down and I could delve into my backlog. I’ve most enjoyed getting lost in Bill Callahan’s discography for the first time and The Replacement’s for the millionth.

It’s pretty clear that deciding on an album of the year is insane. I haven’t given the majority of my 2012 top 50 a spin since last December. As desperate as I am for a new Sharon Van Etten album, I only gave Tramp a few full listens after placing it in my top spot. I returned most frequently to Ty Segall’s fantastic trio and Lower Den’s Nootropics. That makes me apprehensive to even bother trying to put my thoughts down and needlessly rank 50 things that I love. Given the fluidity of taste, it’s a much too final and overly definitive statement.

But I still read every list I can find, there fun to read. You can relive the year, maybe find something you missed, or just search for personal validation. So I’m doing it again, just not with 50 (if you really want to know what my full top 50 is you can find it here). So here’s my list of top 10 favourites, plus a few honourable mentions. Just don’t take it too seriously; I made that mistake last year.

Two Scrappy Rock Reissues:

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Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
People quickly warmed to the Lo-Fi Swagger of Parquet Courts after a quick January reissue of their 2012 debut album gave them a second chance to come bursting through the gate. Their somehow equal parts loose and tight sound snaps together perfectly on the 1-2 rush of “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”, blending a precise percussive drive with a detached but domineering vocal style. The sustained pounding repetition of “Stoned and Starving” slams the song’s drug addled desperation straight into your brain. Each song is carried by their ceaseless momentum; they use pure energy to build an intensity that most bands find in volume or heaviness. It’ll be a joy to see how far it can carry them.
Best Songs: “Borrowed Time”, “Light Up Gold II”, “Picture of Health”

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King Tuff – Was Dead
King Tuff’s apparently beloved (but seldom heard) debut Was Dead is a sweet and scrappy record that I couldn’t stop playing. After initially being released to quiet acclaim in various cassette and vinyl forms since 2008, Burger Records finally made it available in a non-nefarious way. With glossy guitar lines and syrupy vocal hooks it’s probably the most rocking thing ever recorded in a bedroom. 2012’s eponymous release was full of all-around good time rockers, but on Was Dead Kyle Thomas’ underdog spirit flies. He took his Lo-Fi means and fixed his eyes firmly on the radio, resulting in an absolute classic that’ll always have a place on my shelf.
Best Songs: “Connection”, “Freak When I’m Dead”, “So Desperate”.

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The “pissing in the face of my 15 year old self” album of the year award: Paramore – Paramore
My 15 year old self scoffed at Paramore’s “Misery Business” simply because it wasn’t an Iron Maiden song. But I secretly liked it, (how could you not?) and this year I stood in a crowd of something thousand and sung along to it. Those thousands were largely other 15 year olds who are far less self-serious than I was, and who definitely don’t give a shit about some flat out wrong self-definition of “authenticity”. I don’t know what I was thinking anyway because Paramore are pretty damn authentic, they’ve been writing bona fide hits for years now and just released their best ever album yet in the self-titled Paramore. It made them impossible to ignore, and endlessly enjoyable to my older (wiser?) and more open minded self. Pop shards blend with hair flailing theatrics and then transition into space rock opera outros, creating a sonically huge album that’s perfect for the sold out arenas that they’ve made their home. You might find yourself in one of their crowds one day like I did, so you might as well give it a listen so you can at least sing along.
Best Songs: “Grow Up”, “Ain’t It Fun”, “Part II”.

Muscle Memory

Best Comeback: Jamie Lenman – Muscle Memory
Judging from Reuben’s perfectly titled final mic dropping B-side and rarity release We Should Have Gone to University, the chances of them returning was unlikely. So the news of Jamie Lenman going solo with a lengthy 22 song double album was something I just didn’t expect. Reuben were one of my super favourite bands, but they grew sick of being dirty poor and gave up on their rock and roll dreams to get proper jobs. The hand draw cover of Muscle Memory may be an advert for Lenman’s new illustration job, but the unrelenting harshness of the record’s first disc is definitely something you wouldn’t expect to come from someone who once quit the screaming business to become a for real professional. The albums bold split/double album concept is mind bending, taking you from sweaty bar thrashers to swelling concert hall crooners within the space of 45 minutes.

He takes Reuben’s heaviness up close to Converge levels on the albums Muscle half, screaming himself hoarse over a crushing riff on “The Fuck of It All”. He seems to default to a kind of old man rambling on his hardcore lyrics, repeatedly decrying the banality and cowardice he sees in this young millennium before sounding furious as he demands his 20s back. There’s an argument to be made other whether this makes him out of touch, but this is an album made outside of any scene and free of the pursuit of a popular sound. This gives Lenman the freedom to write a song as sincere as “Pretty Please”, the Memory disc’s big band detour. It’s the sort of record that could only be made by someone who’s beholden to nothing. If you wanted a new “Alpha Signal Three” or another “Song for Saturday” you got it, but probably not to the extreme you would’ve expected. But forget about those songs if you can, they use to be all we had, but now we have the excitement of seeing what he’s going to do next.
Best Songs: “Shower of Scorn”, “The Fuck of It All”, “Pretty Please”.

Top Ten:

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10) Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Slow Focus is a scuzzy, filthy noise rock album made on hard drive fried in kerosene. Destroying and reassembling themselves with synthetic rapidity; the seven tracks boom with mini explosions that force you to grit your teeth through the gut churning aftershock. It reaches higher and higher apexes, pulling everything into its wake. Lines become blurred when organic drum sounds crumble and merge into the megabyte wash, and guttural sounds emanate from something inhuman. There’s nothing to guide you but an imperceptible cacophony of digital decay.

The Bristol two piece’s third album has all the ingredients of a deliberately difficult and abrasive work — which you might expect from the pair behind one of the most notable acts of band name self-sabotage — but they steer clear of any haughty use of subversion by maintaining a beatific focus on each song’s feel. It’s a purely visceral and immediate form of ‘rock’, and when the oscillating hell synth of “Stalker” reaches its crescendo you can feel the neurons pulsing in your brain.
Best Songs: “The Red Wing”, “Stalker”, “Hidden XS”.

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9) Bill Callahan – Dream River
There isn’t another album opener from this year that’s as memorable as “The Sing”. The image of Bill Callahan enjoying a drink with the silent company of strangers sets Dream River’s tone as perfectly and as vividly as anything ever committed to celluloid. Callahan uses deep guitar strums, and his even deeper voice to capture his version of a door opening onto Monument Valley, picking choice words in both his song writing and his narrative: “Well the only words I said today are ‘beer’ and ‘thank you’”.

Dream River may fit logically into Callahan’s traditional post-Smog output, but it’s a restful album even by his modern standards. Taking inspiration from his dreams, Callahan becomes each of the figures that he carefully paints with his lyrics. His words can show him overcome with love in his happiest moments, or at his most lost, standing persecuted as an outcast who was just trying to make an honest living on “Summer Painter”. Then he follows an eagle along the river with his eyes before peering out across the land through those of a seagull.

Dream River is the result of a workman’s approach to creativity, with Callahan forcing himself to write and record it in shifts. But it’s rooted in the brains deeply inspirational moments of inactivity, a record made by and for a relaxed state of mind that proves Bill Callahan can still write majesty with his head on a pillow.
Best Songs: “The Sing”, “Spring”, “Summer Painter”.

 Ty Segall Sleeper

8) Ty Segall – Sleeper
Ty Segall has spent at least a song or two of his young, productive career looking inwards, but he’s always expressed his anxieties in the most outward and loud ways possible, condensing them into raucous pop phrases that are a blast to scream along with. But following the difficult loss of his step-father and a move to L.A, Segall had to be honest with himself; he didn’t have another album of his trademark hip shaking fury in him. The idea was almost repulsive to him, so he did what felt natural, he picked up his acoustic guitar and started writing. His work quickly became Sleeper, a comparatively low key and relaxed album that exudes a strong feeling of time, place, and state of mind. Some of its songs were written and recorded right in the moment of inspiration, his hurt is palpable on “Crazy”, a beautifully cryptic account of souring relationships and loss-inspired ugliness.

Segall mixes several of his garage rock hallmarks into Sleeper’s acid-washed version of folk, hissing to build up a grimy electric solo on “The Man Man” and giving “Queen Lullabye” the same retracted mega ton stomp he used on 2012’s “Ghost“. The fierce creativity that flows through Segall’s side projects have always been a perfect measure of his versatility, but his solo records generally provide a fantastic but safe reset. Sleeper marks the first time he has tried to do something radically different within his own solo discography, he pulled the shoot and steered away from stagnation just in the nick of time. That stagnation should’ve been inevitable considering his breakneck creative pace, but Ty Segall remembered that his name sits alone on that record spine, and made album that’s as honest to his fans as it is to himself.
Best Songs: “The Keepers”, “Crazy”, “The Man Man”.

Haim Days Are Gone

7) Haim – Days Are Gone
Este, Danielle and Alana Haim were everywhere this year, giving delightful interview after delightful interview, storming through standout set at every major festival on the planet, and even singing backup vocals with Primal Scream. It seems crazy that most of this was from before their album had even dropped, and it makes their Forever EP songs and its follow up singles at least feel like the giant radio hits that they deserved to be. When Days Are Gone finally arrived in late September they got to debut again as fully formed and furious Rock/Pop professionals.

Their music hooks both definitions of R&B together into an irresistible form of personality driven pop. Danielle Haim’s earns centre stage position with voracious staccato vocals and her measured interpretation of fiery rock star guitar leads, which blaze under the outro of the “The Wire” and moves with a bluesy stomp on “Let Me Go”. Danielle’s off hand vocal ticks on the indelible “Don’t Save Me” are just as enjoyable as the moments where the three sisters’ voices come together on the hook and split off again, and that’s just one song off on an unbelievably stacked side A. There’s also “Honey & I”, which dazzles with summer night atmospherics and sets your heart racing when it finally kicks in, it’s one of my absolute favourite songs of the year.

Days Are Gone producer Ariel Rechtshaid has had an equally eventful year sitting behind the board for excellent records from Vampire Weekend and Sky Ferreira, two artists I’d previously never had much affection for.  When you pair someone with that much talent with the current title holders of “most likeable band in the world” you’ve got yourself a guaranteed hit.
Best Songs: “If I Could Change Your Mind”, “Honey & I”, “Don’t Save Me”.

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6) Deafheaven – Sunbather
I’d bet most people paused for a second when they came to the genre field on their mp3 copies of Sunbather. Black Metal, Post-Metal, or Shoegaze? Do you just stick a bunk of slashes in there? The San Francisco band is a thrilling blend of all three, a vortex of ecstasy that most people probably would have missed out on if only one of those tags were appropriate. The uncompromising nature and humourlessness of Black Metal survives in the anguished screams of vocalist George Clarke, who shouts his incomprehensible poetry into the abyss. His splintering vocal chords are a welcome reprieve from the childlike vocals that some Shoegaze bands chose to contrast their heavy guitar leads. The way Clarke uses his voice to push the band ever higher at Sunbather’s peaks is a revelation.

Deafheaven blow the claustrophobic elements of Black Metal wide open, answering the traditionally tinny and buzz saw-like percussion sound with loud, well recorded drum tracks. The spatial production lets the speed of the bands playing form into a transcendent drone, and awe-inspiring sections of true melody tap into the beautiful expanse that lies behind their steely eyes intensity. There’s real serenity to be found in the soaring outros of “The Pecan Tree” and “Dream House”, the way they naturally segue and evolve from moments of pure aggression to pure bliss is nothing short of outstanding. It lets you stare back at the journey’s footsteps as you’re overcome with the beauty of the imagery that the music is inspiring in you. Genre doesn’t matter in those moments, and whatever Sunbather is, it’s never sounded better.
Best Songs: “Dream House”, “Sunbather”, “The Pecan Tree”.

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5) Fuzz – Fuzz
The mystery of who was behind Trouble in Mind’s “This Time I Got a Reason/Fuzz’s Fourth Dream” 45 lasted all of about two minutes. They tried to bill Fuzz as some unearthed treasure, which might have been believable if you’d never heard Ty Segall sing a syllable. But this longshot attempt at anonymity makes sense, after his trio of releases in 2012 Segall was probably sick of being asked about his prolificacy.

The full self-titled LP didn’t arrive until September, by which time Ty had already recorded and released Sleeper, a solo album that is seen as Segall catching his breath. Well I disagree with that. Even though it’s a hell of a lot louder, faster, and heavier, Fuzz is the true sound of Segall chilling out. Revelling and drawing soothing ragged breaths in the rhythm section as he backs Ty Segall Band cohort Charles Moothart and bassist Roland Casio. In a surprise to no one, he’s a fantastic drummer. He plays fast and loose, putting a powerful emphasis on fills as Moothart is ablaze with mammoth riffs. He seems to be having a blast smashing along on the drums to some crushing guitar leads, only stopping when he’s waiting his turn to dizzily trade solos on “Loose Sutures”.

Fuzz is a just a jam-heavy dusty throwback record, with the kind of cover that you want to spray on the side of a black van. It’s unapologetically old-school, taking its inspiration most clearly from Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, and early Black Sabbath. Casio, Moothart, and Segall just seem like they wanted to put some good grooves on wax. They’re not looking back; they’re living in the moment, just having a blast playing rock and roll at a volume that’s loud enough to blow your windows out.
Best Songs: “What’s In My Head?”, “HazeMaze”, “Preacher”.

Wakin On A Pretty Daze

4) Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Walkin on a Pretty Daze sees Kurt Vile becoming the sort of guitarist people obsess over, the kind that makes gearheads fight over the spot that has the best view of his pedal board. This seems to be the result of a few certain major changes in his life within the last few years. Playing for an hour and half every night during the widespread touring he embarked on after 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo couldn’t have hurt. The stage gave him countless chances to reinterpret each of his notes until he could probably play his songs backwards. But his major source of inspiration seems to have come from being home; Pretty Daze was written and recorded in the lead up to the birth of his second daughter, when he was still adjusting to the arrival of his first. You can imagine him overtired and anxious, wanting to lose himself in his swelling guitar loops whenever he had a spare moment.

He faces the tour guilt of almost being paid to be an absentee father on the beautiful “Too Hard”, it’s a self-portrait of his most conflicted inner thoughts set to gorgeous finger picked acoustic riff that’ll let you escape to wherever it is Vile wants to go. His song’s drift on and become side spanning epics as Vile becomes intoxicated by his own heady interpretation of classic rock. But the refrain of ten minute closer “Goldtone” puts an end to any talk of him being a for real stoner: “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned/But I never as they say, touched the stuff. I might be adrift, but I’m still alert/Concentrate my hurt into a gold tone.” That’s pretty much the M.O. of his entire career. Vile’s an escapist who made his own world, and if you listen to it in the right frame of mind, you’ll even forget about the pedals he used to build it.
Best Songs: “Wakin on a Pretty Day”, “Shame Chamber”, “Goldtone”.

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3) Torres – Torres
The reverberant concrete echo on Mackenzie Scott/Torres’ self-titled debut album makes every note and rare snare strike sing along with her like a choir. The giant room comes alive and begins to glow as her warm voice draws you closer and closer, transforming her intimate ballads into something truly grandiose with nothing but the quake in her vocal chords. It’s honed and mastered, sounding just as full even when it’s forced to stand naked with a hissing tape, or when it comes out as an unpolished and desperate cry when Scott stabs at your soul with lyrics of tragic beauty.

“Moon & Back” directly addresses an anonymous adopted child, the year mentioned seems to rule out the chance of it being her child, but the deep connection conveyed with her words and expressions make it hard to believe that the song is a complete work of fiction. You feel her pain in an immediate and real way. Scott perfectly vocalizes her narrator’s desperate plea on closer “Waterfall”, choosing a numb tone of worn out acceptance as the figure stands on the edge of a final terrifying form of freedom. It leaves you in need of the albums final silent seconds of contemplation. Torres is a sincere collection of aching ballads sung by one of the year’s best new voices, a slow motion blaze lit from the smouldering, sparking embers of a young and fiery heart.
Best Songs: “Honey”, “When Winter’s Over”, “Moon & Back”.

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2) Mikal Cronin – MCII
From co-penning riptide thrashers on Reverse Shark Attack, to providing ripping bass and cooing harmonies on the oppressive Slaughterhouse, Mikal Cronin has been a long-time friend and ally of garage rock savant Ty Segall. They’re huge celebrators of each another’s work —and Cronin released a pretty excellent debut album somewhere within their collaborative history—but this was the year he finally seemed to step out of his friend’s long shadow for good. Into what happened to be a very sunny spotlight.

His lyrics aim for your heart even when his guitar moves your body. He deals with his insecurities in the light and anthemic “Shout It Out”, which rings with sugary ooos and sharp handclaps, and delves deeper on the profound “Weight”; exploring the easily relatable lost and directionless feelings of young adulthood. Cronin’s clear musical talent and multi-instrumentalist prowess makes MCII an endlessly rich album. Gnarly guitar ragers sit right next to sweet acoustic ballads, and he even lets his string section get in on a rock out during “Change”.  The heart stopping and hopeful ballad “Piano Mantra” closes it out, but not before an earthy guitar crash parts the clouds for a final ray of glory. Cronin has a tinnitus ridden ear for pop; a seemingly intuitive sense of the perfect tune and the skill to wrap it in the right amount of fuzz and volume to make it shine ever brighter.
Best Songs: “Weight”, “Shout It Out”, “Piano Mantra”.

Personal Record

1) Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
There’s a distinct matter-of-factness about Eleanor Friedberger’s lyrics. She doesn’t seem to feel the need to disguise her feelings inside of vague poetics or allegory, and is happy to just come out and say: “I don’t want to bother you, but there’s something to say that I want you to know”. Personal Record is a pretty straight forward songwriter-orientated kind of album; it makes wonderful use of traditional song structure, with verses, choruses and bridges all where they’re meant to be. Yet it’s hard to imagine anyone but Friedberger singing these beautifully constructed songs. Her wordy vocal style is almost like narration, it’s deeply evocative of specific times and places. Even when there’s not much to her lyrics you get a real insight into her frame of mind.

On “My Own World” she sings: “I was living and breathing and sitting quite quietly / Watching the TV and minding my diet / While I moved from my desk on to my treadmill / And I tried to move mountains or nothing but molehills”. It’s mundane. Yet when it’s combined with a light country guitar lead you get everything from it.  You can see what her apartment looks like and you can feel her conflicted feelings of boredom and relief as she tries to enjoy a quiet moment alone. There’s no way you could strip those songs down, or give them to The Byrds.

This—and the fact that the album is called Personal Record—is probably why I was so surprised to learn that the whole album was co-written by John Wesley Harding. Harding helped Friedberger move further in the direction outlined by her solo debut Last Summer; which condensed the fussier and intricate parts of her band The Fiery Furnaces into something much more immediate. If they can keep producing moments as sublime as the soaring horn-lead bridge of “She’s a Mirror”, and pop songs as good as “Stare at the Sun”, I hope their collaboration is long-lived. Their partnership doesn’t do anything to make the title any less perfect. The songs are irrefutably hers; you’re in the back of that taxi with her, and you’re there to desperately help her search for Soft Machine in that Oxford street basement.
Best Songs: “My Own World”, “I Am the Past”, “She’s a Mirror”.

Love This Giant

50. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
A brass band playing funk beats and grooves is a hard sell on paper, but the addition of two musicians as great and inventive as Annie Clark and David Byrne turn the concept into a fresh and exciting album. It’s not without its oddities, and Walt Whitman finally receives his first Indie Rock songwriting credit for “The Forest Awakes”. The first world problem lyrics of  “Dinner for Two”, sound great as Byrne at Clark harmonise over the tabla and brass groove. The heavy bass drum stomp of “Who” is powerful and irresistible, even the silly grunts of “huh, ha!” work. This collaboration could have been an awkward mess, but Love This Giant is a strong album that’s all the better for its gimmicks and oddities.
Best Songs: “Who”, “Weekend in the Dust”, “Dinner for Two”.

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49. Frankie Rose – Interstellar
As a former Dum Dum Girl and Vivian Girl, Frankie Rose should know how to make an excellent girl group revivalist album better than anyone. But on Interstellar, her second album, but first solely under her own name, she breaks away from eye liner pop and aims for the skies. Interstellar stays close to its title with both the ethereal “Pair of Wings”, and the sparkly and poppy “Know Me”. The clear bass grooves accentuate her heavenly and glossy multi tracked vocals on “Gospel / Grace”. Frankie, unlike her former bandmates, isn’t content to just bathe her songs in the sun. So she floats off into space, where she can that the sun is just a star.
Best Songs: “Know Me”, “Gospel / Grace”, “Night Swim”.

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48. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Americana wasn’t the Neil Young & Crazy Horse album I wanted. It was the first album Neil Young recorded with Crazy Horse in nine years, but it was far too weird and conceptual to be enjoyable. But their second release of the year, Psychedelic Pill, instantly sounded far more promising, but it’s possible I got too much of what I wanted. This is a Crazy Horse-ass Crazy Horse album. Almost an hour and half long, spread over only nine songs, one of which is just an alternate version. The opener “Driftin’ Back” is a daunting 27 minutes long, and wastes little time into plunging you into a long meandering guitar jam. It’s a patience testing ride, but its peak are excellence and after a half an hour within the mid tempo guitar noodling you start to miss it as it begins to fall apart. The briefer and prideful “Born in Ontario” is far more digestible, and “Twisted Road” is Young’s joyous celebration of the music he loves. Out of the two versions of the title track, the tacked on Alternate Mix is my favourite, as it’s far less overproduced. The highlight is undoubtedly the colossal “Walk Like a Giant”, with its spaghetti western whistling motif, and long guitar jams that are almost on par with “Cowgirl in the Sand”. Young embodies the giants’ stomp with earthy guitar distortion. This mammoth album proves that the stomp of this aging rock giant can still cause tremors.
Best Songs: “Walk Like a Giant”, “Ramada Inn”, “Born in Ontario”.

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47. Swans – The Seer
Even the growing intensity of opener “Lunacy” cannot prepare you for the dark journey that is The Seer. Which is two hours in length with three of the track near or over the 20 minute mark. The most accessible it gets is the dark funk of “The Seer Returns”, in which you can imagine the haunted sly smile on Michael Gira’s face as he sings “You have arrived”. But even that is just the threatening cool down following the 32 minute title track, which features long maddening instrumental interludes that only break for Gira to sing his mantric lyrics;“I see it all, I see it all, I see it all” repeatedly. Even the track’s sparser sections don’t set your mind at ease, with a ragged harmonica playing under shrill strings as Gira returns to growl indecipherably in a possibly made up language. It’s an incredible track, and it makes up almost a quarter of the album. “Mother of the World” is at its most powerful when it’s only, two guitar notes, snare snaps and sweaty panting. This dark and primal album will likely be remembered as a landmark in Swans’ long career.
Best Songs: “Mother of the World”, “The Seer”, “The Seer Returns”.

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46. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Shields is a less poppy and more ponderous work compared to Grizzly Bear’s near crossover and breakout album Veckatimest. Reviews seemed quick to call it their difficult fourth album and note the lack of a song as immediate as “Two Weeks”. But it heads in as just a rich and interesting direction. Its solid and less dreamy production add more weight to their songs. The steely guitar strums of “Yet Again” and surprise guitar freakout outro sound are far coarser than Edward Droste’s gentle vocals. The Daniel Rossen fronted opener “Sleeping Ute” has crashing and lavish instrumentation, with booming percussion and a guitar sound that goes from clear picking to warped and twisted chaos. The classical guitar breakdown is gorgeous and allows the aching lyrics to resonate. “Speak in Rounds” has an unfaltering acoustic guitar line and one of the albums best choruses. Grizzly Bear do not chase after success, but it did help make Shields their most complex and absorbing album.
Best Songs: “Sleeping Ute”, “Speak in Rounds”, “Yet Again”.

45 King Tuff

45. King Tuff – King Tuff
2012 was an incredible year for garage, alternative and straight up rock music. So good in fact, that even King Tuff, a relatively outsiderish and overlooked figure, recorded a great rock album. That seems to have been his goal, not to revolutionise the long established genre, but to just make a solid and enjoyable album. He succeeded, how can anyone dislike the self-explanatory lyrics of “Alone & Stoned”, or the acoustic guitar hoedown and handclaps of “Baby Just Break”? Glam rock flavours emerge on “Swamp of Love” and “Bad Thing” is an excellent adrenaline shot of power pop. It might be a by-the-numbers album, but it’s easily as good as its influences.
Best Songs: “Bad Thing”, “Hit & Run”, “Alone & Stoned”.

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44. Grimes – Visions
This is Claire Boucher’s third album under this name, but she didn’t really become Grimes,the sort of dorky, sort of stylish pop artist, until this year. Visions was one of the year’s breakouts (on an Indie level at least). It was the album that finally took the dead eyed fans of her ambient music, to the dance floor. “Genesis” and “Oblivion” are perfect pop singles, and Boucher’s high voice blissfully weaves between the first song’s serene synths and the second’s aggressive danceability. Echoey 16-bit-bass scores the punchy “Circumambient”, which Boucher meets with manipulated high shrieks. With Visions, Grimes found a way to breathe life and energy into her electronic music.
Best Songs: “Genesis”, “Oblivion, “Circumambient”.

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43. Torche – Harmonicraft
Torche made a breed of metal on Harmonicraft, that is as bright and colourful as the cover art. “Letting Go” still shows elements of Sludge Metal but, unlike most songs in the genre, it doesn’t make you wait for the riff to hit after the opening snare shot. The riffs are weighty but move with a great and relentless momentum as the band lean into the groove of “Kicking” and the frantic barrage of “Kiss Me Dudely”. “Walk It Off” is a good argument for it being a pop album drenched in guitar riffs, the crunchy tone provides just as many hooks as vocalist Steve Brooks does. Harmonicraft will blow your speakers out, and leave its pop metal shrapnel in you forever.
Best Songs: “Walk It Off”, Kiss Me Dudely”, “Skin Moth”

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42. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar brings Rosecrans to life on good kid, m.A.A.d city. He fills and populates it, and by the time “Compton” finishes, (or more likely; one its various bonus tracks) you’ll feel like you were there, cruising around with young Kendrick and his friends listening to Young Jeezy on the car radio during “The Art of Peer Pressure”. The track is rap as storytelling, with the repeated phrase “me and the homies” highlighting the spoken word lyrics. It’s one of the many tracks that see Lamar revisit his misguided teenage years. He raps in a high prepubescent voice on the second section of “m.A.A.d city”, with a nervous hesitant energy in his voice. Gunshots rip through the song and Kendrick asks: “If I told you I killed a nigga at 16, would you believe me?” as his voice drifts from left to right and the pitch becomes more and more distorted. Not all of his lyrics are as serious as wondering if everyone who had the same childhood as him is seen as a criminal. “Backstreet Freestyle” is fun and borderline ridiculous. It’s also, strangely, one of 2012’s two songs that feature a lyric about having a dick big enough to fuck the world. “Money Trees” is almost R&B, and it has the albums best chorus. Lamar looks back on his childhood in Rosecrans with fondness and regret, and even though some of the streets still instill fear, it’s fun to revisit it with him.
Best Songs: “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Money Trees”, “m.A.A.d city”.

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41. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
The opener of Natasha Khan’s third album The Haunted Man; “Lilies”, sees her joyful proclaiming “thank god I’m alive”. It’s a vulnerable moment that’s completely free of irony. It seems to be a bold attempt for her to be more emotionally raw and shed the theatrics of her first two albums. The album ventures between dance beats and piano ballads, but her lyrics all have the same emotional depth. Khan plays a poetic sex kitten on the slow ascending synth groove of “Oh Yeah”, and a weepy piano ballad songstress on  “Laura”. She’s both personas, and neither, but she’s the woman who can bare the weight of an adult man on her shoulders. She explores the cover arts theme on the title track, a male choir helping her build to another triumphant climax. Khan may never settle on one persona, but The Haunted Man sees her getting closer to complete emotional honesty.
Best Songs: “The Haunted Man”, “Oh Yeah”, “Laura”.

40 Pallbearer

40. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
Pallbearer don’t take the ‘doom’ part of Doom Metal lightly. They seem to have real belief in it, and you can imagine the tears rolling down their wiry beards. There isn’t a morsel of hope in Sorrow and Extinction, the crushing and oppressive sludge riffs are bleak and hypnotic. The way vocalist Brett Campbell extends the lyrics “no more hope, no more dawn” on “Devoid of Redemption” is incredible reminiscent of Master of Reality era Ozzy Osbourne. A likeness made even clearer as Campbell ends the song by defeatedly singing “No Void” over and over. Eight minutes is the shortest track length for this five track album. Every track is a building slow burn, wrought with despair. The acoustic chords of opener “Foreigner” melt under a lava flow of riffs. Pallbearer play from the gallows, and every strum is a loud deathknell.
Best Songs: “Foreigner”, “Devoid of Redemption”, “An Offering of Grief”.

39 Exitmusic

39. Exitmusic – Passage
Exitmusic were the best opening band I saw this year. I was immediately captivated by Aleska Palladino’s stunning lead vocals, so much so that I didn’t even recognise her as Boardwalk Empire’s Angela Darmody, despite it being a show that I love. Luckily they were just about to release Passage, an album that captures that same magic. Palladino beautiful voice blooms on the dark and poppy “The Modern Age”, it fully opens up for the powerhouse chorus as she sings some transcendent “Woah, oh”’s. The stormy “Sparks of Light” isn’t far from industrial, its troubled facade is cut by distant piano and the cold fog from her voice. It’s is a slow and intense album, and the moments where its unignorable beauty breaks through are breathtaking.
Best Songs: “Sparks of Light”, “The Modern Age”, “The Night”.

38 Killer mike

38. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
I can appreciate R.A.P. Music partly for being one of the year’s rap albums that isn’t overlong, and for not overdoing it with guest verses and bonus tracks. It’s a lean, aggressive album that doesn’t pull any punches. Killer Mike’s lyrics are resolutely political, and the brutal presidential evisceration “Reagan” is not only a takedown of Ronald Reagan and republican politics, but of the whole concept of a President. Not even Obama is spared. “Don’t Die” goes hard, Mike is at his most angry as he deals with dirty racial profiling police. He plays a violent paranoid narrator, and his lyrics seem to be an exaggeration of his own feelings, and a parody of the multiple rap songs that are in the same vein as “Fuck Tha Police”. He openly worships rap music on the closing title track, and this uncompromising rap album should be enough to make you do the same.
Best Songs: “Don’t Die”, “Reagan”, “Southern Fried”.

37 jessie ware

37. Jessie Ware – Devotion
The run of tracks beginning with “Wildest Moments” and ending with “Sweet Talk” on Jessie Ware’s Devotion, is one of my favourite run of songs of the year. It’s a streak of seven great pop songs, that actually sound like pop songs. They’re not disguised with guitar distortion and don’t feature aggressive EDM influences like the majority of this year’s top 40 hits do. They’re just well sung, intelligent pop songs, that are focussed completely on Ware’s sensual and soulful voice. “Sweet Talk” is sensuous and her lyrics simmer with the guitar licks. She knows to hold back on “Running”, and goes through several gentle versions of the line “And I’m lost again, it keeps happening” before she finally shows off her full vocal range. Her vocal restraint, gives us a taste of her frustration with failed romance. The robotic “Still Love Me” flashes some Kate Bushisms, and the classic lyrical personification in “Night Light” results in a delightful chorus hook. Ware is trying to be a pop star, and understands that she doesn’t need to be larger than life.
Best Songs: “Night Light”, “Running”, “Swan Song”.

36 death grips

36. Death Grips – The Money Store
The first time I listened to this album I called it quits after only two songs, finding it exhausting and abrasive. But even after that abandoned listen the rapid fire vocal hook from “Get Got”, stuck with me and forced me to return. I made it all the way through the second time, and came to love the gritty and transgressive hooks that MC Ride spits. It’s driven by the propulsive presence of Zach Hill who provides fucked up sampled beats and fearless live percussion. Their destructive lyrics paint MC Ride as threatening figure, especially on the nightmarish “Hacker”. The Money Store is ugly and unfriendly, and you can almost smell the stench of blood in the air. But it has a dark allure, and those drawn in by it will carry its addictive hooks with them, like track marks on their arms. Stay noided.
Best Songs: “I’ve Seen Footage”, “Hustle Bones”, “Hacker”.

35 fear fun

35. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
This album has a romantic origin that may or may not be true, it’s a great story but you always have to be a little suspicious when someone adopts a new moniker. The story goes that J. Tillman had a pre-emptive midlife crisis, quit Fleet Foxes, climbed into a van loaded with drugs and hit the road with no clear destination. As his mind began to settle he began to write a novel and found himself again, and at some point his creative impulsive returned to music and he started recording as Father John Misty. Fear Fun is a loose document of this transformative period of his life, and on opener “Funtimes in Babylon” he sings “Look out Hollywood, here I come” as he finally finds direction. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” has a loud stomping drumbeat and steely guitar scraping; it’s an excellent song that is hard to separate from its video. He sings in a high and soft falsetto on the slow dreamlike “Nancy from Now On”, and experiments with a more direct country twang on “Well, You Can Do It Without Me”, he blows his voice out in a way that works.This was an album that Tillman needed to make, and you can hear him finding himself,
Best Songs: “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, “Funtimes in Babylon”, “Only Son of the Ladies Man”

34 dark dark dark

34. Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who
Nona Marie Invie’s voice is like smoke wisps amongst her band’s piano heavy Folk music, it makes patterns in the air and is delicate enough to be blown away, but strong enough to linger. It’s Dark Dark Dark’s not so secret weapon, they have let their focus drift toward Invie and her piano playing. So much so that their various brass and string instruments play mostly supporting roles on this new album. “Without You” is one of the few songs that doesn’t open with piano chords, swapping them instead for accordion keys. “Meet in the Dark” is accompanied by plucking bass and a mournful accordion motif, but it’s Invie’s singing of “I’m humming so low you can’t hear me now” that is the most tragically beautiful. Dark Dark Dark played to their strength with Who Needs Who, and made an effortlessly great collection of songs.
Best Songs: “Who Needs Who”, “It’s a Secret”, “Meet in the Dark”.

33 Jack White

33. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Just over a year after the official dissolution of The White Stripes, Jack White finally felt comfortable with returning to centre stage. He wasn’t exactly inactive, but in 2012 he proved himself a master at picking out colour schemes, and released an album with just his name on it. First single “Love Interruption” is a stripped down tender duet with Ruby Amanfu, they’re accompanied only with clarinet, acoustic guitar and light piano chords. The closest White Stripes album to Blunderbuss is the similarly piano heavy Get Behind Me Satan. But White is now free of the minimalistic White Stripes set up, and readily brings in multiple sessions musicians to play on his album, which results in a loud full band, who sound great as they tear through the straightforward rock of “Sixteen Saltines”. He flirts his guitar chops on “Take Me With You When You Go”, a light piano rock song that White upshifts with rubbery guitar and yippy vocals. You always get the sense that Jack White could just throw it all away and do anything, and that’s what makes Blunderbuss, a great, mellow and mature album, such a surprise.
Best Songs: “Love Interruption”, “Hypocritical Kiss”, “Take Me With You When You Go”.

32 thee oh sees

32. Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II
Thee Oh Sees are a staple in the San Francisco garage rock scene, and are celebrated as one of its best live acts. Their explosive and frantic music has always had an edge of psychedelia, but on their newest album they’ve taken another tab and fully embraced it. On the hip shaking “Wax Face” John Dwyer croons in a weary high falsetto, and adds punchy and sunshiney “ba ba ba bah”’s, but it’s followed by the paralyzing title track, with its draining guitars and dusty percussion. “Wicked Park” is like a bad trip bedtime story and “Will We Be Scared?” is filled with taunting “la la la”’s and rippling flute. “Lupine Dominus” is the album’s best track, with dual warped guitar leads and sugary vocal hooks. Their music is still a rush, but this time around you came feel the chemical’s pumping in your brain.
Best Songs: “Lupine Dominus”, “Goodnight Baby”, “Hang a Picture”.

31 Fresh

31. The Fresh & Onlys – Long Slow Dance
The only explanation for The Fresh & Onlys being lumped together with acts like Sic Alps, Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, is Geography. Yes they’re from San Francisco and they play guitars, but their music takes a far more gentle and poppy approach. Their lyrics are sweet, and Tim Cohen’s voice is almost baroque when it’s tinged with reverb on “Yes or No”. Opener “20 Days & 20 Nights” has a surf guitar line that’s still paddling, and a classic jangly solo. The title track offers some of the albums best lyrics: “You supply the innocent mind/ And I’ll bring the guilty heart/ And borne together we’ll make the perfect romance”, “You be the purest of wine/ And I’ll be the dirty cup”. They’re sweet and poetic. Conjuring beautiful imagery and an idyllic romance that Cohen feels unworthy of. You can put them in whatever scene you want, but Long Slow Dance establishes them as a band who favours careful chords over slamming their guitars into the backline.
Best Songs: “Long Slow Dance”, “Dream Girls”, “20 Days & 20 Night”.

30 Pile

30. Pile – Dripping
It’s never clear if Pile’s vocalist, Rick Maguire, even used a microphone during the recording of Dripping. During “Grunt Like a Pig” it sounds as if he just shouting as the band plays, and letting the drum mics capture as much of his cries as they can. I’d bet that their songs were recorded with the band just playing together in a room, with little or no overdubs. It works perfectly for their downtuned heavy riffs, their crackling post hardcore sound is close to Fugazi’s, and they have an organic and shambolic sound. The oscillating chug of “Prom Song” builds to a shining guitar solo as the rest of the band fall in on themselves. The rapid and inaudible vocals of “Grunt Like a Pig” are sung by Maguire like he’s running out of breath, as the clangy trembling bass suffocates him. His voice is powerful enough with or without a microphone, he has great rock shout that carries over the crumbling melodies.
Best Songs: “Grunt Like a Pig”, “Baby Boy”, “Prom Song”.

29 Nachtmystium

29. Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
Nachtmystium use Black and Death metal as a loose blue print for their inventive sixth album. They still mostly scoff at melody, and you’ll still find the same tinny guitar tone and husky vocal growl that puts so many people off of Black Metal. But midway through opener “Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem” it breaks into a snappy drumbeat, the first sign of a less grating form of Black Metal. The cymbal smashes on the title track somehow sound like a buzzsaw, but the song finds semblance in a glorious heavy breakdown with a messy guitar solo. “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams” is stadium rock sung through a Black Metal veil, and Blake Judd’s outro cries of “lost in this dream” are punctuated with tearing guitar. Judd sings like a lone rabid choir boy on “The Lepers of Destitution”, growls with the skittish synth of “Decimation, Annihilation” and sound appropriately demonic as he snarls “fall to hell” on the morose “Give Me the Grave”. Silencing Machine is a fantastic album, a heavy metal sub-genre cross breed.
Best Songs: “Decimation, Annihilation”, “Give Me the Grave”, “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams”.

28 converge

28. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
At this point Converge are Hardcore veterans, the band was founded in 1990 by vocalist Jacob Bannon and guitarist Kurt Ballou. They started young, and are still making frantic and crazed albums. All We Love We Leave Behind is their 8th violent barrage, and they haven’t calmed down at all. Ben Koller eviscerates his snare on “Aimless Arrow” and the panicked onslaught of “Tender Abuse”. The oozing guitar opening of “Sadness Comes Home” is a goosebump inducing album highlight, and the rest of the track’s guitar work is faultless, from the coarse riffs to the sprinting guitar loops. “A Glacial Pace” isn’t as slow as the title suggest, but it has a pulverizing groove compared to most of the shorter and scragglier tracks on this brilliant and convulsive album.
Best Songs: “Sadness Comes Home”, “Aimless Arrow”, “Trespasses”.

27 holograms

27. Holograms – Holograms
The thick accented, synth lead, post punk music of Holograms, made for one of the year’s best debut albums. The Stockholm four piece have turned their dismal financial situations into a band trait, these money troubles are no joke, and when I saw them they asked the audience for a place to crash that night. Their problems fill the album with a desperate energy and longing. Their broken, beaten synth turns “Chasing My Mind” into a defeated and hellacious New Wave song. The band member’s share vocal duties and the group vocals of the bouncy “ABC City” makes them sound like a gang. “Memories of Sweat” is foreboding and gritty with a colourless outro, but “Fever” is mostly cheery with a saccharine synth hook. The album gives you the sense that playing their excellent Post Punk music was Holograms’ only reprieve. But hopefully, as more people begin to take notice, their desperation will fade.
Best Songs: “ABC City”, “Fever”, “Stress”.

26 The Men

26. The Men – Open Your Heart
The blistering, lung hacking, post hardcore punk rock of 2011s Leave Home was fantastic. But it purged The Men of all their bile, and Open Your Heart moves them into a straight full throated rock direction, where the take on the drunken sentiment and power pop sensibilities of bands like The Replacements. “Turn It Around” has a wild guitar harmony lead and ends with a flurry of drum fills. The guitar hum doesn’t even die down for the opening drum patterns of “Animal”. The longform “Oscillation” bursting with melody by its conclusion, and the raucous title track shudders with bass and napalm guitar strikes. “Please Don’t Go Away” has a weeping and gorgeous left channel guitar solo, it’s a solo with a hectic and thrashing emotional arc. “Candy” is their ballad, with jangling guitar, deep bass melodies, and an immediate chorus hook: “When I hear the radio play I don’t care that it’s not me”. For Open Your Heart, The Men tuned up but didn’t turn down the volume.
Best Songs: “Please Don’t Go Away”, “Turn It Around”, “Oscillation”.

25 Lower Dens

25. Lower Dens – Nootropics
“Immortal, electric, infinite, universe, animal, soulless place, controlled by emotion” sings Jana Hunter on “Nova Anthem”, over a bare synth and drum beat. I’m not going to offer up an in depth interpretation of the song’s lyrics, as they don’t have the same haunting quality in writing. Hunter’s lyrics seem to be focused more on imagery than they are story. They’re possibly just evocative words that let her voices nebulous beauty wash over you, which it does with the swirling guitar distortion of “Propogation”, and with high piercing notes on the pulsing “Lamb”. The proggy “Brains” and “Stem” have a gentle momentum, the quickfire mumbling harmonies of Hunter and bassist Geoff Graham become vibrant flashes. Nootropics is a patient album that stays elusive, but it’s a joy to just marvel in its staggering beauty.
Best Songs: “Brains”, “Nova Anthem”, “Propagation”.

24 Bob Mould

24. Bob Mould – Silver Age
Silver Age, handily, arrived shortly after Bob Mould’s Sugar reissues. A listen to the landmark Copper Blue will instantly put you in the right frame of mind for his new album; which is a return to the sound of his Alternative Rock/Power Pop infused 90s music. Mould goes hard throughout the whole album, and the presence of Superchunk and The Mountain Goats drummer, Jon Wurster is instantly welcome, as the hard drums of opener “Star Machine” pound in your chest. “The Descent” is a power pop knockout with apologetic lyrics, the last verse and chorus with its subliminal background vocals is so good that I’d readily forgive Mould for anything. The album is a roaring victory lap Mould. A celebration of a career that may have just gotten even longer.
Best Songs: “The Descent”, “Star Machine”, “Fugue State”.

23 Lotus Plaza

23. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance
Lockett Pundt’s second solo offering has to outshine two giant looming shadows. His work in his main band Deerhunter, and the solo work of fellow bandmate Bradford Cox. But Pundt’s never seems set on breaking away from the music he and Cox are known for. The stick clacks on “Strangers” begin his collage of loose jangly pop songs. He plays a breezy Indie Pop jam with “Dusty Rhodes”, and the vision blurring guitar opening of “White Galactic One” settles into an easy groove. The stirring “Monoliths” starts the more measured and ambient side of the album. On which he makes use of repetitive groundbed hooks, like the shimmering strings of “Eveningness”. Pundt doesn’t exactly break away from the sound established by Deerhunter, but he proves himself a great sonic songsmith in his own right.
Best Songs: “Monoliths”, “Eveningness”, “Dusty Rhodes”.

22 Goat

22. Goat – World Music
Sweden produced one of the year’s best and craziest Psych rock albums, but World Music sounds like it could have come from anywhere. Goat, the mysterious band?/collective?/solo project? may have planned that, evidenced by the perfect and aware album name. “Disco Fever” has a guitar line that wouldn’t be out of place on a James Brown song. “Goathead” has tribal drums and screeching double tracked female vocal harmonies, its high octane and delightfully overblown guitar solo is ruinous. The frenetic bhangra beats of “Run to Your Mama” and the maddening sax of “Let It Bleed” are both layered over snappy guitar rhythms. Their varied beats and instrumentation makes World Music an almost overwhelming astral journey. It’s a jazzy, funky, folky, and frankly, batshit album.
Best Songs: “Goathead”, “Let It Bleed”, “Goatman”.

21 Foxygen

21. Foxygen – Take the Kids Off Broadway
At 36 minutes in length this debut EP from Foxygen is long enough to be an album. But the duo’s Jonathon Rado and Sam France are clearly music lovers, and are probably waiting until they have more varied ideas before committing to an idea as bold as an album. Take the Kids Off Broadway is an excited work, the two young and eager songwriters readily craft this messy and disjointed throwback. It’s a furious reappropriation of British invasion music, they shred up all their favourite songs and thunder through them. Even when you adjust to the bonkers production the hooks still catch you off guard, their assembled in a way that shouldn’t even make sense and “Make It Known” hits you with: “I’m willing to change ohh woahh” and “I wanna talktalktalk… talk to voices”. The title track throws you off balance with cooing vocal shouts and christmas bells, and they kick away the piano stool with no warning on “Why Did I Get Married?”. “Teenage Alien Blues” is a druggy 10 minute loose blues odyssey containing amorous backing vocals and assaultive spiraling breakdowns. The ‘songs’ are really just ideas; it’s an overstuffed and busy dump truck of noise. But it sounds incredible; as if they just let two excitable music loving kids go mad.
Best Songs: “Make It Known”, “Take the Kids Off Broadway”, “Teenage Alien Blues”.

20 Frank Ocean

20. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Frank Ocean was one of the years true breakouts, a crossover success. His memorable contribution to 2011s Watch the Throne promised it, then a much linked and beautifully written (sort of) coming out letter pretty much sealed it. He quelled the hype and build up by just releasing his debut album, Channel Orange, early on iTunes. Surprisingly, parts of the album sound Lo-Fi, the songs switch from lavish produced smooth R&B songs like “Thinkin Bout You”, to rough bootleg demos, like “Fertilizer”. The transitions come with tactile clicks, forming a loose concept album as you flick through the multiple channels. Ocean’s voice is at its best when he is the most emotionally open, and on taxicab confessional “Bad Religion” he passionately voices his anguish over an unrequited love. “Pyramids” is the albums self-aware and self-important electro centrepiece, and “Lost” has the best beat and most addictive hooks.
Best Songs: “Thinkin Bout You”, “Lost”, “Sweet Life”.

19 Novella

19. Novella – Novella EP
The rupturing left channel guitar solo on “Eat Yourself”, the opener of Novella’s self-titled debut EP is one of my favourite musical moments of the year. The whole band snaps into place for its bleeding melody. Their loud shoegaze guitar crunch makes their influences clear, and the heady “You’re Not That Cool” is clearly indebted to The Brian Jonestown Massacre. “Don’t Believe Ayn Rand” opens with a grimey and jangly guitar line, with vocals that stay soft as the chaotic outro looms. Their songs sound as if they belong on cassette tape, they have the kind of moments you want to obsessively rewind, not even caring as the sound grows more worn and fuzzy.
Best Songs: “Eat Yourself”, “He’s My Morning”, “Don’t Believe Ayn Rand”.

18 Baroness

18. Baroness – Yellow & Green
I’m reluctant to call my favourite Metal album of the year Metal. Baroness sound has been gradually mellowing since their first album, and at this point they’re pretty much a hard rock band. But they’re still Metal enough to embrace the genre’s dumb love for thematics, and they themed their double album around colours. With a distinct Yellow half and a distinct Green half. Double albums are ambitious, they ask a lot of the listener and of the artist. Vocalist John Baizley has said in interview that he intended for the two halves to be able to stand alone, and he expected the listeners to listen to them in seperate sittings. Well I’ve never been able to make myself hit pause, and not jump straight into Green the second the whirring distortion of “Eula” finishes on Yellow. But that is partly because of “Green Theme”, detonates a warbling guitar riff with thunderous snare shots, it always causes a tidal wave of frisson. Yellow’s “Take My Bones Away” is a galloping rocker with squealing guitar melodies and a surprise almost synth rock breakdown. Yellow is clearly more of a rock album, as Green has more interludes and instrumentals. It’s a masterfully sequenced album, whether taken in halves or as a whole.
Best Songs: “Take My Bones Away”, “Green Theme”, “Board Up the House”.

17 Titus

17. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
“I know the world’s a scary place-that’s why I hide behind a hairy face” sings Titus Andronicus’ newly clean shaven frontman; Patrick Stickles. He’s become far less allegorical with his lyrics, on their second album, The Monitor, he sounded like a Punk Rock Ken Burns. His beard shield lyrics could only be autobiographical, and on Local Business he writes with honesty about himself and what he’s seen, instead of staging re-enactments. Rock is still the bands main business, and in “My Eating Disorder” Stickles throws in Iggy Pop’s “Say Yeah Yeah!” from The Stooges “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell”, and “(I Am the) Electric Man” has a groove that could’ve been on Some Girls. “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” is the happiest song ever recorded about a horrific car accident. They play a loose form of Punk Rock, and closer “Tried to Quit Smoking” is almost longer than an Off! album. Local Business touches on darker topics, but makes sure you still have a good time.
Best Songs: “Ecce Homo”, “My Eating Disorder”, “Still Life with Hot Deuce and Silver Platter”.

16 La Sera

16. La Sera – Sees the Light
Vivian Girls’ Katy Goodman provided one of this years most enjoyable and unchallenging albums under her solo La Sera moniker.  It’s a quick half hour of sunny pop songs, but it detours into shadier straightforward rock with the punky and fuzzy “Please Be My Third Eye” and “How Far We’ve Come”. Her soft voice and high harmonies lend the album an amazing personality, she sounds great as she lazily sings along with the guitar lead on “It’s Over Now”. The albums guitar sound is just a rich in character as her voice: “Love That’s Gone” features a flexing guitar line as she lovingly dismisses a former partner, and “Real Boy” has a playful sunstroked guitar twang. Goodman writes excellent pop songs and Sees the Light is the years most plainly delightful album.
Best Songs: “Love That’s Gone”, “Please Be My Third Eye”, “Real Boy”.

15 hot chip

15. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
You’ve always been able to rely on Hot Chip for some excellent Synthpop singles, and their fifth album In Our Heads may be their strongest offering yet. Their influences are routed in a cynicism-free era of dance music, and they use a wide range of instruments to make an album that has disco, funk, and dance influences, all with an innocent Hot Chip edge due to the soft vocals of Alexis Taylor. “How Do You Do?” is no nonsense Pop, with infectious and bouncy synths. Midway through “Motion Sickness” it falls away and winds up to its hook with a giant drumbeat and industrial synths. The album’s first three songs all have excellent breakdowns, including the outro synth and funk guitar solos in “Don’t Deny Your Heart”. The synth fade-in from “Always been Your Love” would have fit nicely on the Drive soundtrack, and “Look At Where We Are” is a sweet dancefloor ballad. Hot Chip have gotten really good at making bright, vibrant, and joyful music.
Best Songs: “Motion Sickness”, “How Do You Do?”, “Always Been Your Love”.

14 Dum Dum Girls

14. Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
Dum Dum Girls 2011 He Gets Me High EP, was an important release for the band. It showed the band had more to offer past the heavily reverbed thrills of their debut album, and made the transition to the more personal and vocal heavy second album less jarring. This years End of Daze EP seems like another transition. It was partly written around the same time as Only In Dreams, an album that explored the grief of frontwoman/songwriter Dee Dee, following the death of her mother. End of Daze sees her returning to those songs, to an earlier stage of mourning, and realising how much she has grown and recovered. She expresses her relief for emerging on the other side of grief in “Season in Hell”: “There’s always darkness to endure/on the path to be redeemed” and asks with a shaken but hopeful smile “Doesn’t the dawn look divine?”. “Lord Knows” has luscious guitar strums that seem to echo into eternity, Dee Dee’s voice is a marvel of beauty and regret as she sings the burning chorus. Her music is still shrouded in sonic elements, but they’ve become more of a backdrop, than a shield.
Best Songs: “Lords Knows”, “I Got Nothing”, “Season In Hell”.

13 The Evens

13. The Evens – The Odds
It’s getting close to a decade since the start of Fugazi’s ‘indefinite hiatus’, and Ian MacKaye has been busier with fatherhood than he has music in the last few years. He started one of his newest project, The Evens, with his wife Amy Farina whilst Fugazi were still together. But they’ve taken their time, and The Odds is their first album is six years. Their music reflects their new lives, and The Odds is a laid back and thoughtful album. They split vocal duties, but Mackaye takes charge with his baritone guitar, and Farina follows him with a closely mic drum set. His thick and loose riffs are integral to “Architects Sleep” and “Broken Fingers”. But “I Do Myself” is more of a rumbling vocal duet, showing the perfect space and contrast between their voices. Their playing is perfectly tuned into each other on “Wonder Why”, an instrumental with an excellent mid song drum breakdown. There’s nothing punk rock about having a kid, but they to know this, and they choose to raise their own child. Instead of trying to speak and appeal to the groups of angry youths that they used to belong to.
Best Songs: “Wanted Criminals”, “I Do Myself”, “Architects Sleep”.

12 Screaming Females

12. Screaming Females – Ugly
Marissa Paternoster is an incredible guitar player, and if you add in her untamed wailing vocals she’s like Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein wrapped into one. Her New Brunswick, New Jersey trio, Screaming Females, recorded their newest album, Ugly, with Steve Albini. His distinctive drum sound instantly announces itself as Jarret Dougherty’s crushing snare roll drops Paternoster’s 10 ton guitar lead on “It All Means Nothing”. She shreds all over the opener, first as glinting sparks under the first verse and then as a blazing solo. By the time the chorus of “Rotten Apple” hits the band are fully engulfed. “Crow’s Nest” shows that Paternoster’s playing is still shit hot at half speed, and King Mike’s bass groove on “Leave It All Up to Me” lets her step back into the rhythm section and harmonise with her guitar tone. On Ugly Paternoster’s bandmates let her steal the show, and her playing elevates their genre-dodging Rock and Roll.
Best Songs: “It All Means Nothing”, “Rotten Apple”, “Leave It All Up to Me”.

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11. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
It’s almost weird that the Dinosaur Jr. reunion has been so consistently great. There’s been so many awkward reunions in the past, that the idea of a good one is foreign. The original Dinosaur Jr. lineup have been back together for 7 years, and are on their third post-reunion album. They have seemingly carried on from where they left off after Bug, and have made three new albums that are on par with the first three they made together (if you’re willing to strip away nostalgia that is). The tension between J Mascis and Lou Barlow isn’t exactly history, but they’ve found a way to make it work, and that inner band tension might even be the reason they’re still so good. On “Watch the Corners” Mascis’ sings in his uninterested drawl, and lets an emotive solo open up for him, it’s one of his best ever solos. Barlow and Murph make “Almost Fare” move like a funk song, whilst Mascis adds a spasmodic guitar lead. As per reunion tradition Lou Barlow gets two songs on the album, with “Recognition” and “Rude”, which Mascis still stretches his fingers on with a nice double tracked solo. Mascis drops the album title with a new found vocal enthusiasm on “Pierce the Morning Rain”. I Bet on Sky is yet another excellent album from the three piece. Dinosaur Jr.’s legacy was sealed 25 years ago, but they continue to impossibly thrive.
Best Songs: “Watch the Corners”, “Almost Fare”, “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know”.

Ty Segall Twins

10. Ty Segall – Twins
2012 has been a banner year for Ty Segall, and even Twins, the least cohesive of his three 2012 albums is still a triumph. His first true solo album of the year had its work cut out for it, following his two collaborative albums. Its only really fault is that it’s more of a grab bag; “Would You Be My Love” is a sweet fuzz pop love song, but “Inside Your Heart” treats love like an infection and sounds like it’s decaying. It’s hard not to hear shouts of “CHICAGO!!!!!!” in your head as you’re thrown into the hyped up thrasher “You’re the Doctor”, which has a guitar lead like a fire alarm. Segall adopts a faux-sexy falsetto for “Fuzz Love”, and makes it spit poison with a menacing shift on the fuzzed out “Handglams”. “Thank God for Sinners” is a biting opener, it lets loose a snarling twin guitar harmony and a unstoppable chorus. Twins is a lot like listening to his discography on shuffle, Segall darts all over the place, he shouts, shakes and shreds, and makes Twins a dizzying, schizophrenic jukebox.
Best Songs: “Thank God for Sinners”, “Would You Be My Love”, “You’re the Doctor”.

9 Pond

9. Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim
When Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is recording in a self-imposed solace, his bandmates Jay Watson and Nick Allbrook fill their time by performing as Pond. Before being released in March by Modular, their fourth album Beard, Wives, Denim, had been sitting ready for release since 2010. The presence of Parker on the album, both as producer and drummer, no doubt made the album more appealing to Modular. Its release seemed timed to subliminally prepare people for a new Tame Impala album, and it worked, both bands successes seemed to come at the same time. Pond’s album is far more organic than Lonerism, with a harder edge and less pop songs. It’s explosive psychedelic rock, with odd time signatures and intergalactic guitar solos. It erupts with the hollow riff and vortex freakout jam of the volatile “Fantastic Explosion of Time”, and the songs fuse burns straight into “When It Explodes”. Allbrook sings with a urgent squeal on “Sun the Sea and You”, he switches or shares vocal duties with Watson for the majority of the album, but Joseph Ryan shows that he might be the most vocally gifted on the bare harmonies of “Moreno’s Blood”. “Elegant Design” moves with a supersonic shuffle, and “You Broke My Cool” is a quivering ballad with mind frazzling textures. Several great creative forces have been split over two albums, but they’re both excellent in their own right, and deciding which is better will come down to a matter of personal taste.
Best Songs: “Sun the Sea and You”, “You Broke My Cool”. “Elegant Design”.

8 Dirty Projectors

8. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
David Longstreth is a famed perfectionist, and Dirty Projectors extensive live rehearsals and recording sessions, where he would painstakingly agonise over ever beat and note, are almost things of legend. His fussy approach to music wasn’t without moments of genius, and his fine tuning of a group of outstanding female vocalists may have been the most important move he ever made. Longstreth records with the same amount of care, but he seems to have become far less obsessive. Swing Lo Magellan is their warmest album yet, and its sweet love songs make it seem impossible that only one album separates it from Rise Above, Longstreths overly conceptual reimagining of Black Flag’s Damaged. His growing love for his partner and bandmate Amber Coffman appears in the lyrics of the earnest and beautiful “Impregnable Question”, as he sings “You’re my love, and I want you in my life”. All of his love songs have an overspilling joy, it’s a reciprocated infatuation as Coffman responds with heart stopping harmonies on “See What She’s Seeing”. “Unto Caesar” is a fun and loose singalong, that adds horns and leaves in studio chatter, a question of “When should we bust into the harmony?” and hiccuping backing vocals teases another gorgeous harmony. Swing Lo Magellan is an album of unabashed joy, and it sees Longstreth falling in love with something other than music.
Best Songs: “Unto Caesar”, “Impregnable Question”, “See What She’s Seeing”.

7 Cloud Nothings

7. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
“Forget Everything. No nostalgia. No sentiment. We’re over it now. We’re over it then” sings Dylan Baldi on “No Sentiment”, he was sick of everything, and he was growing increasingly distant from his old songs. He took a bold step away from the Bedroom pop rock of Cloud Nothings self-titled 2011 album. His live band became full members and they hired Steve Albini to record the album that would reinvent them. Baldi sings of his distaste for nostalgia, but Albini is famous for it. Together he and Cloud Nothings take the past’s best elements and stomp forward with it. Baldi shakes the pop from his voice for opener “No Future/No Past”, he only sings 11 words through its five minutes, but by its end they shake with intensity. On the oppressive “Wasted Days” a two note bass riff ties together a storm of drum fills and melting guitar distortion, you reach the eye of storm just before the band explodes and Baldi shreds his throat and screams “I thought! I would! Be more! Than this!”. Sentiment” is a hard edged instrumental with an outro jam built around stabbing drum shots, and the 1, 2 of “Fall In” and Stay Useless” grant a poppy reprieve. But the snare slaps and defeatist lyrics stop them from being reminiscent of old Cloud Nothings. Attack on Memory is an album that people are probably going to love and romanticise for years, but hopefully Cloud Nothings will continue to never look back.
Best Songs: “No Future/No Past”, “Wasted Days”, “Stay Useless”.

6 Ty Segall Band

6. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
Ty Segall makes a more tortured strand of garage rock on Slaughterhouse, it’s a fit of haunted lyrics and harrowing fuzzed guitar noise posing as riffs. He wrote and recorded his second album of the year, with his touring band under the name Ty Segall Band. Drummer Emily Rose Epstein, guitarist Charlie Moothart and bassist/backup vocalist Mikal Cronin are all mainstays within the incestous San Francisco garage rock scene, and have all appeared somewhere on odd songs in Segall’s growing discography. Cronin adds high harmonies to the breakneck “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”, and a slow bass intro to the stoner rock of “Wave Goodbye”, which earns the studio shout of “FUCK YEAH!” after a gnashing dual guitar solo by Moothart and Segall.

Epstein’s relentless beats lead the charge on the space rock of “Death” and the bruising shuffle of “Muscle Man”. “Fuzz War” is a rare moment of self-indulgence, the band completely do away with song structure and play a 10 minute cooldown of looping and droning feedback, it’s Segall’s fuzzed out songs stripped to their Id. Their trio of filthy “extra fast!” covers makes for a funner ending, and they run wild with versions of “The Bag I’m In”, “Diddy Wah Diddy” and Segall’s own “Oh Mary”. Segall is perfectly capable alone, but he couldn’t have made the venom spewing rock and roll of Slaughterhouse without the added muscle of a full band.
Best Songs: “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”, “Wave Goodbye”, “Diddy Wah Diddy”.

5 Japandroids

5. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Japandroids’ Celebration Rock will make you want to buy at least 50 rounds of drinks. It makes a perfect soundtrack for parties, BBQs, road trips, and even midlife crises. The Vancouver duo have a deep love for rock music, and they seem to be just two normal guys playing larger than life rock anthems. They know that it’s silly for two people who are much closer to 30 than they are to 20 to still be doing this, and Brian King and David Prowse emit a youthful outlook from a worn down perspective, more interested in sharing the good times they had, than they are in trying to recapture them. Their songs make you as likely to drunkenly put your arm around your best friends as you are to push them into the pit.

“Long lit up tonight and still drinking” is the incredible album opening line from “The Nights of Wine and Roses”, they continue to dream of the endless nights of drinking on “Younger Us”: “remember saying things like ‘we’ll sleep when we’re dead’ and thinking this feeling was never gonna end”. King is remembering his cocky younger self with fondness, wishing he still had the same feelings of invincibility, his words are almost too good to just be shouted to the heavens. “The House That Heaven Built” has a giant chorus, and the “oh oh oh!” backing vocals seem designed to make singing along easy for even the drunkest fans. Japandroids perfectly capture the feeling of living the best years of your life, and the bittersweet sadness of watching them slipping away from you. But when you reach the age when your hangovers become unbearable, Celebration Rock will be on hand as a fine alternative.
Best Songs: “Younger Us”, “The House The Heaven Built”, “Fire’s Highway”.

Lonerism

4. Tame Impala – Lonerism
The reclusive Kevin Parker wrote and recorded Lonerism almost entirely by himself. You almost feel honoured that he lets you take the albums heady and introspective journey. The album lulls you into its dreamy mood with “Be Above It” and keeps you docile with the gentle synth grooves of “Mind Mischief”. Parker deals with his social awkwardness and loneliness on “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?”, but shrugs it off singing: “but I don’t really care about it anyway” in a melancholy tone. You discover his affinity for pop melody and hooks within the psychedelic layers, and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is heart fluttering bubblegum pop filtered through synth rock.”. The stomping riff of “Elephant” launches a cascading mid song jam, but the albums best guitar solo is hidden amongst the sonic collage of “Keep on Lying”. Kevin Parker is a man who feels completely alienated, forced to create his own world within his music, and Lonerism is one of his few psychedelic slices of solipsism that somehow made it to the real world.
Best Songs: “Keep on Lying”, “Mind Mischief”, “Apocalypse Dreams”.

3 Fiona Apple

3. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do
Fiona Apple seems to be plagued by her own creative impulses. She almost sees them as just another of her unshakeable obsessions, which her interview on WTF with Marc Maron from July gives a fascinating insight into. She comes across as weird and childlike in the interview whilst somehow remaining completely likeable. Similarly to her music, the interview makes Apple seem almost empathic to a fault. This works against her strong feelings of misanthropy, which she both hates and relies on, and causes her to repeatedly get her heart broken. The Idler Wheel… has some of her most barbed lyrics, such as the eviscerating hook from “Regret” (“I ran out of white dove feathers, to soak up the hot piss that comes from your mouth, every time you address me”). She doesn’t give up entirely on love as she sings “Seek me out, Look at, look at, look at, look at men, I’m all the fishes in the sea”, but these lyrics are from a song called “Daredevil”, showing that she still sees love as a risk. Apple has an incredible voice, and leaves it unpolished as she sings, snarls and shouts her equally raw lyrics. Her delivery of “I route for you, I love you, you, you, you, you.” in “Valentine” is stunning, you believe every word she sings. She mostly leads the album with her jazzy piano playing, but she experiments with scraping shoe samples on “Periphery” and the mantric harmonies of “Hot Knife”. Apple’s capricious personality ensures that The Idler Wheel… deals with tragedy and triumph in equal measure, which results in the best album of her career.
Best Songs: “Periphery”, “Valentine”, “Werewolf”.

2 Ty Segall & White Fence

2. Ty Segall & White Fence – Hair
Ty Segall and White Fence both love the same sort of music, but they approach it from completely different angles. White Fence is Tim Presley, who, like Segall, has been in countless bands in and around the California rock scene. As a solo artist he plays Lo-Fi rock with a heavy Psychedelic edge. Segall’s music moves with an anxious breakneck energy, but Presley’s is an oozing haze. This album doesn’t see them sizing each other up, and neither of them creatively dominates, Hair is a true collaboration. It opens in a White Fence like daze with “Time”, as two slow counts of “1, 2, 3, 4” cue a mid tempo Psych rocker, but the crushing guitar outro is all Segall.

A gleaming hammond organ opens the chaotic “I Am Not a Game”, the chunky dual guitar leads are just a step behind each other, but they’re just foreplay for the wild free falling breakdown. The organ shrieks as Presley and Segall break into a call and response guitar jam that is Marquee Moon-esque. It’s a dazzling and disorientating rock masterclass and I highly recommend this version of it (TV Solo!?). Mikal Cronin stops in to play the junkyard piano solo on “Crybaby”, a song that starts with Segall’s mocking and maniacal scream. He and Presley both provide lead vocals. Segall is far more unhinged, but takes care to sing the kaleidoscopic “Scissor People”, which will make you think your record player has exploded as it tears through several frenzied jam sessions. Closer “Tongues” has murky harmonies and an extended hallucinogenic guitar solo. The songs on Hair are just as suited to the Cavern Club as they are to CBGBs, it’s a record with a great reverence for the era when a haircut could make or break a music career.
Best Songs: “I Am Not a Game”, “Scissor People”, “Tongues”.

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1. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
It’s taken Sharon Van Etten three albums to get her confidence back, and her growth is clear if you return to the shy acoustic intimacy of her debut album Because I Was In Love. The presence of the abusive ex-boyfriend, who would tell her music was no good, still looms in her music, and Tramp isn’t exactly a feel good album. It sees her desperately seeking a new direction, and feelings lost as her distance from the relationship grows. But it has an underlying hope to it, and Van Etten approaches the subjects with a fierce new outlook. While she wrote all of the songs alone, the album was recorded in collaboration with Aaron Dessner of The National, who produced the album from his own studio. He pushed Sharon with recording techniques unfamiliar to her, “Aaron walked in when I was messing around and demanded I record it then and there” says Sharon on the genesis of “Magic Chords” in the liner notes of the demo version of the album.

Dessner helps make Tramp Van Etten’s most musically varied album, and a cast of indie stars drop in for cameo appearances, including The Walkmen’s Thomas Bartlett, and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. “We Are Fine” is a twee duet between Sharon and Zach Condon, they sing beautifully together as they help each other through a panic attack. “Serpents” is a thrashing rock song with pointed lyrics: “You enjoy sucking on dreams, so I will fall asleep with someone other than you”. Van Etten’s voice is painfully beautiful, it makes her deeply personal lyrics feel like whispered secrets. “Give Out” sees her battling with social anxiety in a new city, it’s an achingly gorgeous song with some of her most devastating lines: “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city, or why I’ll need to leave”. “I’m Wrong” is hopeful and she turns her ex’s critical quote of: “It’s bad, to believe in any song you sing” into a triumphant-middle-fingers-up-song lyric. “All I Can” has a smouldering slow build, and blooms into a huge crescendo with incredible harmonies. Its lyrics are her most telling and leave you with the sense that Sharon Van Etten has worked through her problems for the final time: “I want my scars to help, and heal”. Tramp is a sad and beautiful album, but it leaves you with a quiet hope that can only hint at a bright future.
Best Songs: “All I Can”, “Serpents”, “We Are Fine”.

My 50 Favourite 2012 Songs

82 Other Great 2012 Songs

Somewhere amongst all the distortion and feedback an incredible gig happened. From the second Ty Segall and his band plugged in, their guitars rang with a dizzying fuzz. The prolific San Francisco musician somehow found time to release three albums in 2012, and he arrives in London on the first night of his European tour, presumably, in support of his latest album Twins. But it has been only 16 months since the release of his 2011 album Goodbye Bread. He is still within the acceptable time frame to be touring that album, but that’s not the way he does things, instead returning with a wealth of new material as he plays the most aptly named venue that he could be.

He casually addresses the crowd saying his thank you’s at the top, before replicating the 1,2 opening of “Thank God for Sinners” and “You’re the Doctor” from Twins. Guitarist Charlie Moothart doesn’t harmonise guitar solos with Segall like on the album version, he continues to provide the thick warbling riff as Segall plays his solo to his speakers, moving back and forth to melt the wailing melody. The racing guitar opening and infectious chorus of “You’re the Doctor” sends the crowd into a mess of dancing, jumping and pushing that doesn’t stop all night. They are even too busy having fun to properly catch several stage divers, who the lone security guard only halfheartedly tries to stop.

Segall stands stage right despite the band bearing his name. He is still touring with the same band he recorded Slaughterhouse with, and they repeatedly delve into it’s sludgy distortion sodden material. “Death”’s aggressive momentum and harsh vocal harmonies are shredded into by Segall’s tortured scream, and the slow intro of “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” is no indication to the break neck snappy guitar rocker that it becomes.

Segall wildly throws songs into his set from all over his extensive discography. The bare opening of “Finger” from Melted is one of the night’s rare moments where Segall actually seems like a solo act rather than a shit hot live unit. The songs quiet build causes the riff to hit like a sledgehammer, and the second run through of the chorus isn’t as quiet. “Girlfriend” is a crowd-pleaser, with giant danceable drums from Emily Rose Epstein and a screamed chorus hook from Segall. An anthem like version of “Caesar” ends with a strangled guitar solo in place of the albums tinkling piano. The live debut of Twins cut “Would You Be My Love” is a highlight that sees Segall actually singing the sweet fuzzy love song. He also demonstrates his sinister falsetto on “Handglams”, which ends in a wave of frenetic squealing guitar. The only detractor of the set-list is the lack of songs from Segall first album of the year Hair; his collaboration with White Fence. But it makes sense to avoid the album in Tim Presley’s absence, and Segall’s plethora of other excellent songs more than make up for it.

Mikal Cronin starts the bass opening of the too-perfectly-named-to-not-be-the-main-set-closer: “Wave Goodbye”, in which loud guitar strikes crush the rhythm section and Segall’s maniacal screams shred his throat. As he passes his microphone stand out into the crowd, it is returned in two pieces. It’s hastily reassembled before he unleashes an encore of “Standing at the Station”, the crowd continuing to match the band’s energy in the melting venue. It’s a joy to see Segall violently ripping into his excellent songs, from the fun sugary fuzz pop of Melted and Twins, to the dark maddening freakouts of Slaughterhouse. The messy ravaged songs fly by, and by the time he comes back, he’ll probably have a whole new album to tear through.

5/5

“This Record is for San Francisco” reads the inner sleeve of Ty Segall’s latest album Twins, his third of the year and god only knows which overall. This dedication is a likely title for the book that somebody will eventually write about the current San Francisco Garage Rock scene, a book that will hopefully clear up just how extensive Thee Oh Sees’ discography really is, and explain if it’s because time moves slower there that is allowing its artists to be seem so prolific to the outside world. It was almost 10 Months between the release of Segall’s excellent 2011 album Goodbye Bread and his first of 2012; the equally excellent Ty Segall & White Fence collaborative album: Hair. A time that is an eternity compared to the rapidity of his 2012 releases, but a gap that was broken up by the release of a Singles compilation. It seems to be an objective of Segall’s to overtake record shelves. After his next excellent album Slaughterhouse arrived in late June, released under the name Ty Segall Band and featuring his live band Mikal Cronin, Emily Rose Epstein and Charlie Mootheart, it began to look as if 2012 was going to be important in Segall’s history and even given its own chapter in that book I am imagining.

All eyes turned to Twins, to see if Ty could strongly finish out the 2012 Ty-logy, or the Ty-fecta, the Ty-angular, the Ty-ple Threat, or Ty Hard 3: With a Vengeance, whichever dumb name you prefer. It’s his first true solo album in 16 Months, but it’s not a return to the style of Goodbye Bread and is instead informed by the two 2012 records. Drawing from both the psychedelic edge of Hair and the harsh grit of Slaughterhouse, yet still drenched in Segall’s fun approach to music. “Thank God for the Sinners” begins with a psychedelic fade into a biting riff, Segall then throws in some blown out Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies and an anthem worthy chorus. “You’re the Doctor” continues the excellent chorus streak, with the repeated phrase “There’s a problem in my brain”, dark subject that becomes a great fuzz pop song.

The album name Twins suggests that Segall likes repetition, or that it’s simply a byproduct of being prolific. As “Inside Your Heart” is both the second song on Twins to mention doctors and the second Ty Segall of the year to name check its title phrase after Slaughterhouse’s “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”. But the melting machinery of Segall’s voice as he repeats the phrase is an electric kick into new territory despite the similarities. Brigid Dawson of Thee Oh Sees provides Segall with a serene psych vocal take on “The Hill”, the song builds in ferocity before a strangled guitar solo mangles any remaining shreds of serenity.

“Love Fuzz” is not as the title suggest a head down distorted power pop love song that Segall proves he is the master of on side A’s “Would You Be My Love”, but rather a seductive falsetto sung slow jam with a metallic groove. Segall continues the falsetto in the far more haunted “Handglams” what was just faux-sexy now seems maniacal, it leaves the same impression as the weighty stomp of “Ghost”. Every track has its twin, the two closers “Gold on the Shore”, an acoustic ballad, and “There Is No Tomorrow”, an end of the world love song, work best in succession. But it’s where Segall’s Twins motif fall apart that make the album interesting. It’s the least cohesive of his releases and the only real thread throughout the various power pop, slow ballads, and corroded rock songs, is the guitar distortion. It’s a miraculously fresh and interesting album which could have easily been comprised of the dregs of a creatively exhaustive year for Segall. Twins is his whole discography in short form, a dazzling mad rush through every type of rock song you can think of.

4/5