I’ve been agonizing over my AotY list since (the) early November. It’s so difficult to be objective, but who am I trying to impress? The fact of the matter is, I’m a little different from your average music writer. I’ve been immersed in the world of music makers for close to a decade now. I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to witness a fetus of an idea blossom into a full-grown mass emotionally shared experience. Therefore, if you know me at all, this list will come as no surprise to you.
I tried to remain objective, but a large part of music listening involves personal connection and memories. So, fuck it. Without further adieu, here’s my honest Top 15 Releases of 2012 List!
(oh yeah, each release blurb contains a stream of my jam off the record, plus links to find more about the artist)
I came across this band in the PPRAE Turntable.FM room by Punkachu and djr. spinning them. I was immediately intrigued, the songs reminded me of the closest thing to a modern Jawbreaker. I remained intrigued when I tried to seek out more information on the band. It’s 2012, and this band does not have a facebook, twitter, bandcamp, tumblr… anything! I have no idea if they perform live, and if they do, chances are I’ll never see them because I have no way to find out! Regardless, this album is tight as hell! I’m grateful for the Internet allowing this into my ears.
Funny story: I had tracked the album down on tumblr. Reblogged it, then a few days later RocksLikeToast came into PPRAE and said he went looking for the album… only to find the reblog on Neeshland! Thanks, Google!
I’d say that I’m looking forward to any future Gypsy releases, but given the difficulty in finding them online, I’m guessing I’ll never hear about them again. There’s got to be a name dispute too, they’re not the first group to release music under that name. Either way, Giants Despair is a great record!
I’m a big fan of horns and an even bigger fan of progressive rock. Enter: Thank You Scientist. This band’s existence blows my mind, I’d love to see them live one day. Until then, I’ve got this solid-ass record to continue listening to! Being that they hail from New Jersey, I should have plenty of opportunities to see Thank You Scientist live. Here’s looking at you, 2013!
I was even more pleasantly surprised to read that Dave Bodie (Kayo Dot, ex-Divest, ex-Counterfeit Disaster) performs guest percussion on the album. Small world is small. Bodie played drums in the headlining band of the first concert I ever promoted- in 2007. Maps of Non-Existent Places is a stellar Prog Rock record, Bodie’s performance on the album is just the icing on the cake!
Cloudkicker was an amazing Bandcamp find. Observing his page taught me quite a bit about the capabilities of the service. Does he even perform live? Does it matter? All of the music is phenomenal. What blows me away even more is the fact that it’s all just one guy: Ben Sharp. He has no formal engineering training, however, all 8 albums appear to have been done solely by Ben Sharp himself. Engineering, mixing, mastering. All jobs that, in my experience, work best when you bring in ears that haven’t already heard every moment a billion times already. So this one man has done all of the instrumentation, recording, post-production. You’d think he’d want to charge for his art, right?
I’ve read several times that Mr. Sharp feels weird accepting money for his music. He only allows listeners to “pay what they want” because his fans insisted they give him something for his art. Cloudkicker brings us sludgy post-rock without pretentiousness.
I took a serious foray into heavier music this year. I blame PPRAE and our release-day-listening-parties. We had one for Ex Lives, and I got hooked on the record. I’d never been able to digest ETiD previously, they were just too… loud… for me. This album changed that.
I’ve seen Silverstein many times in the past decade, but I’d never gone for them. They just happened to also be performing. Silverstein fell into that category of music that seemed too heavy for my ears. That was all until PPRAE’s listening party for Short Songs. This 22 song epic really showcases that-band-with-the-album-cover-picturing-a-robot-holding-his-own-heart’s talent and demonstrates how much they’re capable of. It’s incredible to me how so much song progression can be contained in a song no longer than 1:30! The wide-variety in songs they chose to cover for the second half of the album also won me over. I’m a fan of new Silverstein and am greatly anticipating their 7th studio album.
I’ve been a fan of I The Mighty since I came across their Hearts and Spades EP for free download on bandcamp. I’ve been a fan of Equal Vision Records since I received the Inventing The Scene compilation with my pre-order of Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. The moment I saw EVR picked up ITM, I knew great things were in store. Karma Never Sleeps may only be 6 tracks, but it’s one of the biggest-sounding releases I’ve heard all year.
Awww yeah, free music! John The Baker (Fucktard vocalist) is an inspiration in my life. His seemingly abrasive music and punk rock ideals scared the crap out of young suburban Neesh, but then I actually started to LISTEN. This man tells it how it is, with a subtle air of positivity. Whether it’s Slimy Penis Breath, Instant Asshole, or Fucktard- John Eppard refuses to sit back while there’s injustice in the world. Cops having sex with your daughter? JTB will make sure it’s known so that shit doesn’t get brushed under the rug.
In summation: on vinyl. also free (on bandcamp). punk rock, bitches!
No, not “The Aftermath,” although this album is sorta the aftermath. With a new bassist and original drummer back in position- this is the album I’d expected to come from Co&Ca in 2007. Come to think of it, this is the first time Coheed and Cambria has made an appearance on one of my Album of the Year lists. Thank this band for turning me into a pretentious prick when it comes to music. Their first two albums set a high standard in my mind for all music, including their own. Not that I expect any band to release an album identical to their first effort, a decade later. What I’m trying to say is, why the fuck are they so low on my list? Has this year been that awesome for music?
You’d think this would be my #1 based on the fact that JOSH EPPARD IS BACK! Maybe they should be my #1 because this was their triumphant return to the legendary Applehead Studios. Or maybe because I went to 5 of their concerts leading up to the release, the release day concert, and 1 more thereafter. I love the record, it’s solid as fuck. I’m emotionally connected to it, but I haven’t listened to it as much as I have listened to the next 7 releases on this list.
I think my main issue with Ascension is that it’s only half of the album. It feels incomplete, because it is. The Afterman is a double album. Descension will be out in February. I’m greatly anticipating the conclusion of The Afterman (NOT the AfterMATH).
Night Verses released their debut EP earlier this year, for free! Love me great music that embraces the free music culture! That’s not why I love Out of the Sky though. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2012, largely because of their journey to find a vocalist. 3/4 of this band was previously The Sound Archives. They put out some very interesting progressive music with an Incubus-like vocalist. Then they carried on as an instrumental three-piece. Demos were posted as they were in search of a permanent vocalist. A demo surfaced with Tilian Pearson (formerly of Tides of Man, he recently filled in for Jonny Craig with Emarosa live, and now seems to be Jonny Craig’s replacement in Dance Gavin Dance). Then we didn’t hear anything from the “Archives” group until it was announced that they picked up a permanent vocalist and became “The Night.” Not long after, The Night changed their name to Night Verses and began to make their impact on the world.
Instrumentally, as to be expected, this EP is tight as hell. The vocalist pushes it all to the next level. He’s not just any vocalist either. It’s Doug Robinson of The Sleeping with his very unique, urgent, powerful set of pipes. I had the opportunity to catch their first East Coast show (second show overall) and I was absolutely blown away! So much energy. Doug always was an amazing frontman, it’s great to see him still conducting a crowd.
Being as I was already familiar with the instrumentation of this EP, I’m more excited to hear what the future has in store for Night Verses! Out of the Sky kind of sounds like it’s where The Sleeping was headed with their last release, The Big Deep. It all just makes sense to me. I’m really looking forward to hearing where Night Verses will go with Doug Robinson involved in the songwriting!
Out of the Sky did not disappoint.
Prior to the official release of The Dismal; The Beautiful I attempted to write a review of it. That piece may have turned into a loveletter to bandcamp. I still agree with everything I said about the album, so instead of finding new ways to express my love for the mastermind of Kiss Kiss and Vuvuzela’s debut solo album, I’ll just copy/paste what I initially wrote.
Like with the previous Kiss Kiss releases, I never want The Dismal; The Beautiful to end. I’m quite content with hitting “repeat,” and continue to discover new parts that went over my head with the previous listen. This album feels like stripped down Kiss Kiss, with the heart and soul still there. The record begins with sort of a Radiohead feel and finishes off reminding me how much I love Pink Floyd’s earlier material. Halfway through, I can’t stop crying to “The Worst.” The album title is perfect. The Dismal; The Beautiful is awe-inspiring, witty, trippy, delightfully wacky, intelligent, unique, musically ept… The Dismal; The Beautiful is Josh Benash.
Koi No Yokan is the best Deftones release since White Pony. If you follow the Deftones at all, you know that’s quite a statement.
I wrote a full review of this album prior to its release right here on the PPRAE blog. I also had the opportunity to interview Josh Benash about this long-awaited record on the day of its release for my radio show/podcast.
I’m a huge fan of Josh Benash’s work, and The Hollow Choir did not disappoint! I’ve been listening to it consistently since the release, and can’t seem to get sick of it! Without a doubt, this is my favorite avant-garde release of 2012!
Are there words for Who You Are Is Not Enough? This album is a masterpiece. And it’s free? Mixed and mastered by Moving Mountains’ Greg Dunn, WYAINE flows like a fluid piece with 5 movements. It’s heavy, it’s soft, it’s beautiful. The perfect follow-up to 2010’s Why Aren’t I Home? WAIH? has remained my most listened to album this year overall (it was last year as well). This band’s music is just so moving. Please support them so they can stick around and keep sharing this perfect art with us?
It may have only been released 2 weeks ago, but Stellar Young’s debut full-length Everything At Once has thrown me for a loop. The full physical CD version (which isn’t even out yet) flows as perfectly as an Athletics album would. In fact, I first discovered Athletics during a show they were playing with Stellar Young. Well, the band was called “The City Never Sleeps” then. There’s a clear Athletics influence here, and it makes perfect sense. Stellar Young guitarist/vocalist, Erik Flora, did some engineering work on WAIH?
This is where I start to get really biased.
I worked with TCNS on their internet presence, wrote their bio, put them on bandcamp, set up their merch store, just overall helped them develop prior to the release of their 2011 EP, Madison. Now they’ve changed their name, are getting regional radio play, Alternative Press is writing about them, and they’ve released an absolutely fantastic full-length for free!
I haven’t attempted to review the album yet because of how deeply I feel about it. It almost feels wrong to do so.
Fuck it, I’m proud of this album. Every single thing about it. The full physical CD version is really where the music shines. That’s the only version I listen to. We discussed the reasoning for removing the beautiful intros, interludes, and segues from the digital version during our interview in Neeshcast Episode #25. But the full audio is where the experience is.
The sound quality is impeccable. It’s impossible to believe they recorded it (minus the drums) in the band apartment. This final product sounds as if it was recorded in a big studio. That’s where bassist, Dave Parker, comes in. He’s quite the expert at making any recording set-up sound HUGE. Dave actually produced my #1 pick for last year- Weerd Science’s Sick Kids. This was mixed at Applehead Studio (that’s also where the drums were tracked).
The songs are catchy, heartfelt, and progressive. No track on Everything At Once is a dud. EAO is, without a doubt, a masterpiece.
For music fans who are somewhere between pop-hook listeners and into mind-blowing technical prog rock.
This is the pick that spurred my introduction to this whole post. It almost feels like cheating to place Session 606’s debut studio release at #1, but in my world, this was the #1 release of 2012.
I tried be objective and place this further down the list, but as I relistened to these 15 releases with the AotY list in mind, nothing brought me to tears like REBIRTH.
I’m so incredibly proud of REBIRTH. This EP marks the beginning of Anthony Masington demonstrating the potential I first saw in him years ago. Since the moment I felt he had talent beyond his means, I’ve worked with him on every aspect of Session 606. Listening to these songs, completed, brings tears to my eyes. It’s real. For about 5 years, Ant has sent me recordings of every little idea he had. Now here we are, a full studio product. Those cool riffs, random instrumental toyings, and vocal experiments are in play. He’s grown so much since the days of playing in Mours (my first foray into artist management) with Josh Eppard and Dave Parker.
Session 606 is Anthony Masington’s brainchild. On REBIRTH he performed everything except drums and percussion. Those instrumentations were performed by Bryan Mills of Awake At Last. Vocals and various instrumentation were self-recorded. Everything else happened at Oceanic Recording in Bethesda, MD with Will Donnelly, where Periphery and Life On Repeat record. Will Donnelly also mixed the EP. This was self-funded with the aid of bandcamp sales.
The new EP, No Zeros, is just Anthony, solo. Self-recorded, except for some mixing by Chris Bittner at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, NY. Listening to it next to REBIRTH is insane! It took so long to put out the pre-written REBIRTH that Ant is on a completely different level now. I’m excited to continue working with him and getting his music to your ears! I talk about supporting artists so they don’t disappear all the time, but we would be missing out on so much talent if Anthony Masington wasn’t able to make music anymore. The industry is a difficult, heartbreaking game, but I’m staying here so Session 606 never dies.
Rock on! If you haven’t heard any of the albums I wrote about, I made it easy for you to find more information. Please look into it, especially those who are DIY and unsigned.
Albums I should’ve listened to more in 2012
- Anthony Green – Beautiful Things
- Art By Numbers – Reticence: The Musical
- Athletics – Stop Torturing Yourself
- Bad Brains – Into The Future
- Baroness – Yellow & Green
- Bats – The Sleep of Reason
- Ben Gibbard – Former Lives
- Between The Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
- Bison B.C. – Lovelessness
- Circa Survive – Violent Waves
- Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
- Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
- Cosmonaut – Hurry Up
- Crosses – EP II
- Cursive – I Am Gemini
- Dads – American Radass (this is important)
- Dikembe – Broad Shoulders
- Flash Fire – Ashes
- Foxy Shazam – Church of Rock and Roll
- Gates – You Are All You Have Left To Fear
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
- Hidden Hospitals – EP 002
- Hot Water Music – Exister
- Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
- Kayo Dot – Gamma Knife
- Kurt Travis – Wha Happen?
- Matt Pryor – May Day
- MewithoutYou – Ten Stories
- Misser – Every Day I Tell Myself I’m Going To Be A Better Person
- Mono – For My Parents
- Moving Mountains – New Light
- Murder By Death – Bitter Drink Bitter Moon
- My Mouth is the Speaker – A Stunning Example
- Nightmares For A Week / Nightmare Of You Split EP
- No Trigger – Tycoon
- Old Gray – Everything I Let Go & The Things I Refuse To
- P.O.S. – We Don’t Even Live Here
- Pentimento – Pentimento
- Pswingset – All Our False Starts
- Say Anything – Anarchy, My Dear
- Sharks – No Gods
- State Faults – Desolate Peaks
- Take One Car – It’s Going To Be A Nice Day
- Terrible Things – Pre-Transmission
- The Agonist – Prisoners
- The Early November – In Currents
- The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet
- The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
- The Prize Fighter Inferno – Half Measures
- The Saddest Landscape – After The Lights
- The Spill Canvas – Gestalt
- TickTockMan – Calling out the Hounds
- Title Fight – Floral Green
- Troubled Coast – I’ve Been Thinking About Leaving You
- Vuvuzela – The Hollow Choir
- We Were Skeletons – Blame & Aging
- With The Punches – Seams and Stitches
This post was inspired by: DJ’s Honorable Mention Releases of 2012, Jake’s Top 15 of 2012, Canaan’s Top 25 Best Albums of 2012, Bobo’s Top 16 Albums of 2012, Cleofis’ Top 10 albums of 2012+ 10 honorable mentions because he’s the worst., For Your Aural Enjoyment: The Very Best of 2012: (in no particular order), PunkNews.org: Renaldo Matadeen’s picks