I've decided to make this as simple as possible. I love music, and 2012 was a fantastic year for it. It was so good that I'm going to have to do two different posts for genres because I hate leaving anything out.
As far as this list is concerned, I share my thoughts concerning what I consider to be the ten best albums of 2012 (non-metal), starting with the 10th album. I've posted the album artwork and a video for each band because I know you're lazy and you know I'm awesome.
Either way, let the dissension ensue!
10. Circa Survive – Violent Waves (Self-released)
I’ll be honest, I’ve always enjoyed this band but I never really put a ton of time into paying attention to them. That being said, I thought their last album Blue Sky Noise was fantastic, as was their subsequent EP Lazarus. After some label problems, Circa Survive decided to release their latest album with their own resources without having to go through the limitations of a contract. The result was this album – which is a solid follow-up to Blue Sky Noise. While not as memorable as its predecessor, it delivers a suit of strong tracks that reflect Circa Survive’s creative freedom in the making of this album. And as always, Anthony Green’s vocals are superior to any other frontman in the post-hardcore world. I saw them about a month and a half ago and they were amazing live, new songs included. Here's the video for "Suitcase", the first new single from Violent Waves:
9. Deftones – Koi No Yokan (Reprise)
This band has been around for a long time, outliving the slew of nu-metal bands it was always unfairly associated with around the turn of the century. The White Pony album is considered a classic by many (myself included), and although I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top that effort – Koi No Yokan comes pretty close. Chino Moreno’s bitingly aggressive vocals are on full display in every song, reminding many exactly why Deftones has been able to survive so long considering many of the bands that started around the same time as them have long since faded into insignificance. Give this album a listen and you’ll agree that putting them in the same sentence as Staind, Korn, and Limp Bizkit is essentially blasphemous. My personal favorite track from the new album:
8. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise)
Further Seems Forever. They are perhaps the only band to ever release three different albums with three different vocalists and then break up. I was intrigued by the news that they were reuniting with Chris Carraba (of Dashboard Confessional fame) as their vocalist. This combination of musicians hasn’t put together anything for a decade since The Moon is Down. However – that doesn’t show on Penny Black. The collection of songs here flat out rock. I was sold right when I heard the lead single “So Cold”. My only nitpick is that the vocals are horribly overproduced, which is strange considering Carraba’s range. Either way, that doesn’t keep me from loving this song:
7. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)
First Aid Kit is comprised of the two Swedish singer-songwriting Söderbergh sisters. Try saying that five times fast. Gratuitous alliteration aside, all you had to say to me is “Swedish sisters”. Discovered by playing popular covers on YouTube, the sisters were eventually given a deal and now have a few albums to their name. The Lion’s Roar is laden with beautiful harmonies and catchy melodies throughout. It’s like Eisley with gloomier songs and more intoxicating accents. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for female vocalists who can harmonize. It’s even better if they are sisters. And Swedish. Did I mention that they were Swedish? This track will have you humming for days:
6. Accents – Growth & Squalor (Deep Elm)
Hardly anyone has heard of this band and that makes me sad. Every time I see them post a status update on Facebook, only a meager handful of people “like” it. Again, I’m sad – because this quaint little project’s debut record is one of my most-listened to albums this year. It may be because label mates The Appleseed Cast are one of my all-time favorite bands ever. Either way, I want this band to get bigger and I want more people to know about them. You would be missing out on gold such as this:
5. Coheed & Cambria – Ascension: The Afterman
Oh, Coheed. I used to absolutely adore this band. I bought their shirts, followed the sci-fi story woven into all their lyrics, purchased the accompanying graphic novels – then I sort of lost interest in them musically. Does that ever happen to you? It happens to me a lot. It’s like a band can’t really impress you anymore because their best efforts are behind them. But when I heard that C&C were making a new album with their original drummer and producer, I kept an anticipatory ear to the ground. I was not disappointed. The Afterman blew all of my expectations far, far away – reminding me why I used to love and follow this band so much. Seriously, this is the comeback album of the year. And the best news? It’s a double album, with the second volume coming in February – when I get to see them on tour for the second time. Here is the (weird) video for the title track:
4. The Tower And The Fool – How Long (Run For Cover)
I discovered this band right after I discovered Accents, from the same place (absolutepunk.net). I’m glad I did. How Long is also one of my most listened to albums this year. I remember casually liking it at first listen until I actually sat down and really paid attention to the lyrics and music. Then I loved it. I have to warn you though – it’s probably one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard. Practically every song is laced with bitter undertones stemming from some sort of heartbreak – and not in the whiny Dashboard way. It’s anything but pent-up. I find that many of the songs convey emotions I’ve felt numerous times before; this band just found a better way of putting them into words. Perhaps that’s why I listened to this album so much. Check out the live version of "Scoliosis":
3. Now, Now – Threads (Trans-Records)
So I mentioned something in this post about liking female vocalists in the vein of Eisley. Enter Now, Now and their debut album Threads. This band displays a sound so big that it makes me wonder at the fact that they’re only a threesome. I keep using Eisley as a frame of reference for female-led bands (which may be unfairly narrow), but this is a completely different spectrum of sound. Now, Now is more atmospheric, dreamier in a somber way. However, they constantly seem on the verge of soaring to musical heights before they bring it back down to earth. At times, the vocals feel almost muted or subdued. I have to say, I love this dynamic and I can’t to see what they do in the future. Live version of "Threads":
2. Dry The River – Shallow Bed (RCA/RED)
1. Freelance Whales – Diluvia (Mom & Pop Music)
October 9th of this year was a great day in music. Coheed & Cambria, Between the Buried and Me, and Freelance Whales all released new albums. For the non-metal offerings of the year, Diluvia is far and away my favorite of them all. This album is practically flawless in every way. It’s incredibly infectious, guided by quirky lyrics and outstanding musicianship. I saw them live a few months ago (find a way to do so) and all six members would play musical chairs with their instruments after every song and just switch off – the bassist would move to synths, the guitarist would move to banjo, the trumpeter would move to xylophone, etc. It was highly entertaining and a reflection of how talented and unique this band truly is. And of course, they are outstanding live. Here's their new video for "Spitting Image":
And there you have it. My completely unbiased and unabashedly awesome top-ten list of non-metal albums of 2012. Post all threats, suggestions, comments, and rants below.