Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 in Music - Disappointment and Promise

2012 came and went, and I can't say there was much of an improvement in the quality of music released. In fact my two paragraph description of the processes underway in 2011 will more or less serve to cover last year too. Hoping for a radical musical upsurge in 2013, to go with a political one.

1. Panopticon - Kentucky
Tonight, the dis-harmonic symphony of the cicadas plague my ears/Drifting off to the mind numbing hum of grinding gears/Families starving in the eerie silence of the hills/Lie exposed to the elements so fierce/Hold out just one more day…say the same tomorrow…say the same tomorrow
Highlights: Bodies Under The Falls, Black Soot and Red Blood, Killing The Giants As They Sleep

One man band and absolute phenomenon Austin Lunn here invokes the a decades-old coal mine struggle in his native Kentucky, combining bluegrass with none-more-black metal, to devastating effect. Combining the past and the current (e.g. there are Occupy audio samples), he seeks to prepare a new generation for the tumultuous battles to come in the class war. Album of the year, and easily album of the decade so far.

2. Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White
I am thinking vultures ripping the flesh, smashing the bone/I am thinking hailstones shot to the head, making the giant fall
Highlights: Grand Stand, Opera Carne, Whiteomega

A stunning surprise from a band who have clearly reinvented themselves in response to the global situation. More known for their focus on the ‘supernatural’, Fernando Ribeiro has brought them back down to the realities of life to create a work that celebrates the fighting, struggling, desiring animal spirit in us all.

3. Corrosion Of Conformity - Corrosion Of Conformity
That's right, the moneychangers/Thrown out of the temple, you know it didn't last a day/Now returned in the clothes of the pious, back to their old ways
Highlights: Psychic Vampires, The Moneychangers, Time of Trials

This is Corrosion of Conformity alright, but it's a lineup which hadn't recorded together since Animosity came out in 1985, when I was four. Grizzled veterans they may well be, but they all still know how to craft great deep southern rock, and the lyrical themes show they are far more in touch with everyday concerns than almost all of the kids promoted by the labels.

4. Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky’s Edge
She was standing at the sky's edge/And out there, who knows what she's thinking?/She was sliding down the sky's razors edge/And watched her life slowly sinking away, away, away
Highlights: Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Don’t Stare at the Sun, The Wood Collier’s Grave

Another one who has made a real change - from the lonely melancholia of working class towns to savage but poetic anger at the elite and invitations to gather ye rosebuds while ye may. I love his others, but this is far and away his best stuff yet, and well worth all the praise it has received.

5. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
They’re singing, they’re singing/Away up on the hill/They’re building, they’re building/A mystical union, beautiful and still/But down here in the dirt they’ll say it doesn’t hurt
Highlights: Bleeding Muddy Water, Ode to Sad Disco, Phantasmagoria Blues

Perhaps the best work Lanegan has ever done. It’s blues of course - the album and song titles testify to that. But blues brought up to date in amazingly experimental new ways, and his voice has never sounded more burdened and sonorous.

6. Fear Factory - The Industrialist
Automatic slaves kill the will to live/Losing hope to save yourself/Siphoning the soul from humanity/Suffering and apathy/All of this must end
Highlights: Recharger, God Eater, Dissassemble

Amazing that every successive FF release sounds more urgently ‘now’ than the last, amazing that they continue to innovate, and amazing that Burton still gives a damn after all these years. New themes are needed though - they’ve done machines to beyond death.

7. The Coup - Sorry To Bother You
They got the TV, we got the truth/They own the judges and we got the proof/We got hella people, they got helicopters/They got the bombs and we got the guillotine
Highlights: The Guillotine, Violet, You Are Not A Riot (An RSVP From David Siquiros to Andy Warhol)

It’s been a while since Boots Riley last came at us with The Coup - he’s been busy with Street Sweeper Social Club and the everyday grind of being an Oakland revolutionary. This is the most experimental thing they’ve done, and a joy, never mind a bother.

8. Muse - The 2nd Law
You don't have long/I am on to you/The time, it has come to destroy/Your supremacy
Highlights: Animals, Explorers, Supremacy
So it doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Resistance, and they still somehow manage to sound like Queen even when they’re doing dubstep, but they try to innovate and keep it real despite their millions goddamnit. They sure as hell do that much.

9. Killing Joke - MMXII
And did we overcome the shadow - confront the inner rage?/Will all our deeds be sung of - remembered with loving praise?/And did we fight with courage and make the world a better place?/And will we till the soil and plant the forest for the human race?
Highlights: Glitch, In Cythera, Primobile

The world didn’t end in 2012, but this album is chock full of ways it can end and perhaps is already ending. This world anyway. As always with Killing Joke, there’s still time for hope, struggle, and camaraderie.  

10. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
He will speak these words of wisdom/Like a sage, a man of vision/Though he knows he's really nothing/But the brief elaboration of a tune
Highlights: Anyhow, Different Sides, Lullaby

Listening to Leonard Cohen croon is like having your emotions eloquently explained to you by someone who has seen and done it all, and his vocals sound deeper and richer than ever. He was there for me many a time through 2012, and there should be more grandparent music!

What I listened to most in 2012...
11. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist
Just when I think Kreator can’t still have yet another quality CD in them, they surprise me. They are still eighties thrash at heart, but have evolved with every album, and Mille Petrozza has managed to root his lyrics in the real world for a generation now. This is how Metallica and Slayer ‘could have’ been in 2012.
12. Sabbath Assembly - Ye Are Gods
Christianity and New Age hippydom shouldn’t be a good combination for me. But here, it really is. Clearly the Old Age cannot continue, and this is an exciting invocation of a new world yet to be born. If William Blake were alive today and writing prog-folk-metal...
13. Metric - Synthetica
Every Metric record seems to take the pulse of a desolate global society, yet blatantly yearn for something much better. It is an amazing talent to both curse the darkness and light a candle in this way.
14. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - Lawless
A sparkling and surprising return to form for these veterans. Full of vivid if dreary feeling, it begins with a great prose piece about unexpected love. A beautiful countrified blues soundtrack to one of the year's best films.
15. Tindersticks - The Something Rain
A sparkling and surprising return to form for these veterans. Full of vivid if dreary feeling, it begins with a great prose piece about unexpected love.
16. Testament - The Dark Roots Of Earth
Sparkling, innovative and fiercely political thrash from a band that have been around forever, but sound different with every release.
17. Rome - Hell Money
Yet another excellent piece of martial folk from this prolific revolutionary poet.
18. Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Trying to understand Aesop Rock is like trying to catch hold of a Big Bang-type explosion of poetry. It can’t be done, but who fucking cares when it sounds this good?
19. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis
A little light on the (as ever, brilliantly poetic) lyrics, but this is the sweeping, lush sound that rewards fans for their generation-long wait.
20. Black Magician - Nature Is The Devil’s Church
An excellent debut from an intriguing Liverpool band who show great promise. Especially with that keyboardist, cos what he contributes sets them apart from all the other Cathedral wannabes. Oops!

And the rest...

Antimatter - Fear Of A Unique Identity
Serj Tankian - Harakiri
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album
Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures
Soulfly - Enslaved
The King Blues - Long Live The Struggle
Dinosaur Jnr - I Bet On Sky
Ulver - Childhood's End
Yosh - Fled The Flock
Enslaved - Riitiir
The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion
Yoshi Riot - From Russia With Love
Swans - The Seer
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Peter Dolving - Thieves and Liars
Rolo Tomassi - Astraea
Laibach - Iron Sky
Dirty Three - Toward The Low Sun
Tiamat - The Scarred People
Katatonia - Dead End Kings
I Like Trains - The Shallows
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana
Garbage - Not Your Kind Of People
Anathema - Weather Systems
Saint Vitus - Lillie: F-65
Soundgarden - King Animal
Deftones - Koi No Yokan
Sherman Austin - Gunz Up
Skunk Anansie - Black Traffic
Clinic - Free Reign
Cradle Of Filth - Midnight In The Labyrinth
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Lost Songs
Willy Mason - Carry On
Abandoned Pools - Sublime Currency
Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones - Part 1
Dead Prez - Information Age
Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead
Graham Coxon - A + E
Green Day - ¡Uno!/¡Dos!/ ¡Tre!
Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
The Hives - Lex Hives
Paradise Lost -  Tragic Idol
Ministry - Relapse
Cradle Of Filth - The Manticore & Other Horrors
Marilyn Manson - Born Villain
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