Filtering down the best albums of the year is always an exercise in the teeth-shattering pressure of indecisiveness, staff conflict and deeply violated deadlines. The handful of bandwagon frontrunners that rise to the top of most best-of lists each year are conspicuously absent in 2012, leaving a wide open field of contending excellence ranging from anarchistic hip-hop to hyper-kaleidoscopic Latin math-funk explosions and everything in between.
Suffice to say, it's been one hell of an amazing year for music. Now that it's almost entirely behind us,it's time to check out CraveOnline's 30 Best Albums of 2012!
P.O.S. – We Don't Even Live Here
Welcome to the remedy of our cultural gluttony, a facegrind down the pissed and littered alleyways of America’s cannibal culture through a beast-bounce trip with molotov slingshot surprises blasting across an anarchist’s party playlist. Through killer couplet wordplay soaked in now culture, Rhymesayers' punk-hop wildcard has proven himself as an evolved & highly refined class-warfare antagonist.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Mr. White finally lays a proper candy-cane bouquet on the White Stripes gravestone, and seals the tomb firmly – just by making what a Stripes record could never hope to be. The full-color character immersion present on the man’s debut solo LP, recorded at White’s Third Man Studios in Tennessee, establishes a tri-colored middleground amidst the bands with which we associate him – namely the White Stripes, the Dead Weather and The Raconteurs – and transcends them all with a razor-sharp singular vision and staggering versatility that defies any of his group designs.
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
Our favorite gaunt and morose chanteuse doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve – she claws at herself until it’s beating from her shredded chest in full view, drowning us in the most elegantly arcing showers of blood. And with ten new, lovely and jarring offerings, she’s back upon the altar, at it again. Better than ever.
Soundgarden – King Animal
After fifteen years of division, Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron have returned with a progressively demanding, wide-reaching power play of reestablishment. Moody, thick with riffs and vortexes of rhythm, the results are certainly worth celebrating.
The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet
Noctourniquet is another illustrious labyrinth chapter in The Mars Volta’s enchanting story, a labrynthian dose of powerfully intense, psychedelically explosive Latin-funk beauty. If Noctourniquet is the bridge by which The Mars Volta travel to a new dimension, then we’re thankful to have witnessed the crossing, with an excited eye on what’s to come.
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Koi No Yokan conveys a band outrunning the shadow of their agonies, and – aided by returning producer Nick Raskulinecz – constructing a world of spectacular dynamics through peripheral textures and pendular intensity, in the most evolved musicianship of the Sacramento rockers’ careers.
With Koi No Yokan, Deftones have delivered a calculated and fragile devastation, a feather floating upward in the calming air of the eye of a hurricane. There are no disjointed moments, no breaks in flow; the album is a richly-layered jedi high-wire dance that makes one wonder where the 52 minutes went, a conveyance of truly impressive growth, while flexing the entirety of strengths the band is founded upon.
Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral
Blues Funeral is Lanegan’s first solo output since 2004's excellent Bubblegum, and was recorded with Queens of The Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures/Eleven multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes at his 11AD studios in Hollywood, CA. Blues Funeral features appearances from numerous friends and collaborators including Jack Irons (Eleven, Pearl Jam), Greg Dulli (Gutter Twins), Josh Homme (Queens of The Stone Age) and, of course, the inimitable Johannes.
Lanegan’s quality consistency leads us confidently through a spectral variety of sound that few other artists can convincingly achieve. His haunted romance and midnight hymns have reached new heights on Blues Funeral, and we’re happily chasing the hearse down that old dirt road, once again.
Ultraista – Ultraista
A passion project of longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, along with vocalist Laura Bettinson and producer/drummer Joey Waronker (who has played with Thom Yorke's Atoms for Peace), Ultraista delivers a gorgeous melodic pop twist over ethereal synths and twitch-addict percussion. It's the hybrid of Portishead, Radiohead and progressive synth-pop that you've had playing in your mind for years, finally come to light.
The Hives – Lex Hives
The new Hives record Lex Hives, which roughly translates as “Hives’ Law,” is a blast of bombastic fantasticness, a fine-tuning of their Ramones-meets-Stooges-on-speed formula and a trimming of the fat for a beautiful leap into the world of independent self-release. It’s worn proudly on the sleeve right alongside the goofy megalomania on "1000 Answers" when Almqvist howls, “I’ve got a thousand answers / One’s gotta be right / Give me a thousand chances / then I’ll get it right“. The cadence, the attitude, the jet-fueled delivery, it’s all there. Join the party.
Black Light Burns – The Moment You Realize You're Going To Fall
The full proper follow-up to 2007's Cruel Melody finds Wes Borland – who most are familiar with as the guitarist/bodypainted alien freakrocker of Limp Bizkit – once again leading the charge into a churning cauldron of sound and nut-busting power that mixes everything from rock to punk to industrial and back again.
To hell with the labels – all you need to know is that when Borland steps up to the mic, an entirely new creative dynamic comes into play, and this aint just a side project for Bizkit fans to wrap their heads around. In fact, The Moment You Realize You’re Going To Fall is far more attuned to the universe inhabited by Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and the like than anything involving red fitted caps. And holy hell does it kick ass.
11. Witchcraft – Legend
12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
13. 8mm – Between The Devil and Two Black Hearts
14. Brother Ali – Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color
15. Dirty Ghosts – Metal Moon
16. Aesop Rock – Skelethon
17. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
18. Marilyn Manson – Born Villain
19. Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
20. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
21. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
23. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
24. Cat Power – Sun
25. El-P – Cancer For Cure
26. Metric – Synthetica
27. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
28. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
29. Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
30. Grizzly Bear – Shields