Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Land of Sunshine albums of 2012

If 2011 was the year that I lost my slender grip on popular music then 2012 was the year I pulled my trousers up to my nipples, sat back on my front porch and embraced it. Because frankly most of the new bands that have been championed over the last year have been bloody awful, and not in a “I don’t understand how you kids listen to this noise”  sort of awful, but more in a “this is really, very uninteresting” sort of awful.

Fortunately for me there are still bands out there making interesting music, and here are ten of them. Some are even less than 10 years old. Take that you kids! Now get off my lawn!

10. ‘Colonel Blood’ – Fighting With Wire

Fighting-With-Wire-CoverFighting With Wire are a Northern Irish three piece who deal in spiky little nuggets of melodic rock. Imagine Biffy Clyro mixed with Foo Fighters and a sprinkling of Feeder from way back when they were good (which is at least two albums before you were thinking).

Their debut Man Vs Monster was an absolute belter, and while their follow up lacks some of the bite of its predecessor it is absolutely jammed full of glorious melodies.  Take a listen to the title track and you’ll see what I mean.

9. ‘King Animal’ – Soundgarden

Soundgarden_KA_Album_coverSoundGarden are one of my all time favourite bands. I must have listened to Superunknown at least 100 times and getting to see them play in Hyde Part over the summer was one of the highlights of my year. So I approached this album with both huge excitement and massive trepidation.

I had heard ‘Live To Rise’  from the soundtrack to The Avengers which was cool but sounded to me like a Cornell solo track more than a Soundgarden one and then the first single ‘Been Away Too Long’ which again I thought was OK, not great. Fortunately King Animal had a lot more to offer. While failing to reach the heights of Superunkown or Badmotorfinger, it was not without its beautiful moments. In fact it’s the quieter moments on King Animal that really stand out, like ‘Taree’ or the gorgeous ‘Bones Of Birds’ really showing a maturity to their songwriting. Welcome back boys!

8. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – ‘Theatre Is Evil’

Theatre_Is_EvilI have already sung the praises of Miss Palmer’s previous band Dresden Dolls on these very pages. However when I heard people describing the new album as ‘very poppy’ I was worried that dear Amanda may have sold out for an easy buck.

Well that’s what I get for ever doubting the lady’s genius, as Theatre Is Evil knocks her previous studio album Who Killed Amanda Palmer? into a cocked hat (and I thoroughly enjoyed that album). Wonderfully diverse and endlessly inventive it almost makes me forget that she was once in an awesome two piece with a fella named Brian (almost). Here’s the brilliantly decadent video for ‘Do It With A Rockstar’ which is probably NSFW.

7. ‘On the Impossible Past’ – The Menzingers 

The_menzingers_-_on_the_impossible_pastI happened upon these guys when I was forced to by a magazine to stave off boredom on a long train ride. There was a small review of their album in which the reviewer described them as a better Gaslight Anthem. So, being a fan of the aforementioned band I snapped up the album as soon as I got home.

Well if you take a cursory glance further down this list you may spot that the reviewer and I didn’t exactly agree on his point but all the same On The Impossible Past is a tremendous record full of earnest punk rock songs that gets better with every listen. As a footnote I should say that while they didn’t quite pip Gaslight for me on record, I was lucky enough to see both bands live during the year. These boys were better by a mile. No videos sadly so just listen.

6. ‘Synthetica’ – Metric

Metric-synthetica

Ah Metric, sweet Metric. I really don’t have a bad word to say about this band. OK if I have to say one bad thing then it’s that Synthetica might, just slightly, by a gnat’s wing, not quite be as good as 2009’s incredible Fantasies. But it’s really close!

Once again they’ve produced an album packed full of beautiful, melodic wonders that get under your skin and grow and grow until they have taken over your brain. Just take a listen to the uplifting ‘Breath Underwater’, the haunting ‘Dreams So Real’, or this, the incredibly sexy lead single ‘Youth Without Youth’. I love you Metric! Don’t go changing.

5. ‘Handwritten’ – The Gaslight Anthem

The_Gaslight_Anthem_-_Handwritten_coverWhen I wasn’t looking it seems that Gaslight Anthem went from being some young upstarts from New Jersey to somewhat of a rock institution. Everyone from the punks to the rockers to the indie kids seem to love these guys and for good reason. They write bloody great songs.

That said, I have to confess that I found their last album (2010’s American Slang) a little lacking. While containing some great songs, I thought the production was too light and lacking the bite of their classic The ’59 Sound record. No such worries here though as not only does Handwritten have all the bite I require, it may also be the album of their career so far, and this, the lead single ’45’, their best song.

4. ‘The Church of Rock n Roll’ – Foxy Shazam 

Foxy_Shazam_-_The_Church_of_Rock_and_RollThese guys were probably my surprise of the year. Going only on one song I had heard on a cover disc and their frankly brilliant name I picked up the album. What a brilliant decision that was.

It turns out these guys have been around for ages and this is actually album number four, and what an album it is. To me they sound like The Darkness without all the knowing winks. That may sound awful but hear me out as this is one of the most fun albums you’ll ever hear. It’s Queen style classic rock, played with vigour and enthusiasm and fronted by a singer with an amazing set of pipes.

Ah fuck it! Just watch this!

Awesome huh?

3. ‘The Plot against common sense’ – Future of the Left

  • The_plot_against_common_sense
  • I’ve been championing these guys for quite some time now. Their previous two albums were both slices of spiky, acerbic genius. On this album they’ve added  second guitarist Jimmy Watkins plus bassist Julia Ruzicka from Million Dead and created the most well rounded and diverse album of their career so far. Titles like ‘Failed Olympic Bid’ and ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ prove that frontman Andrew Falkous is showing no signs of growing old gracefully.
  • Here’s the lead single, it’s fast!

2. The Afterman: Ascension’ – Coheed and Cambria

The_Afterman_Ascension_album_cover

  • Coheed are one of those bands who can put people off before having even heard a note. They’re part metal, part prog, part emo. Their albums are all based on a series of science fiction graphic novels written by the singer. They call their albums things like ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness’.
  • But look past that and what you’ll find is one of the greatest bands working today, and this, their 6th album, stands as one of their very best. It contains all the hallmarks that make a great Coheed record. The superb musicianship, the soaring melodies, and the crushing riffs. But it also contains some of the most beautiful pieces the band have ever written. Like this for example, the simply gorgeous (almost) title track.

1. ‘555%’ – Ginger Wildheart

Ginger_Wildheart_555%_Album_Art

  • Not only the album of the year but surely the story of the year. To recap, Ginger of The Wildhearts, gets disenchanted with the music industry. Decided as one last hurrah to release an album as a pledge project where fans pledge money in advance to pay for production of the album in return for a copy once it’s finished. It hits 555% of its predicted target. Ginger makes a triple album instead, and ropes in a whole bunch of his buddies to help him.
  • But a great story does not earn you a number one slot on this list, oh no! What does earn you the place is releasing a 30 track album where every single song is a belter. Seriously there’s not a bad track among them. Some, like ‘Westward Ho! (A New Reputation)’ and ‘Just Another Spinning Fucking Rainbow’ rank among some of the best songs the man has ever written, and this is coming from someone who has, on more than one occasion, stated that Ginger is the greatest songwriter of all time.
  • He’s already released a further three albums through the same setup and looks like he has no intention of stopping. I find it galling to believe that in a world full of shitty music we nearly lost one of its treasures.

Notable mentions: ‘Hot Cakes’ – The Darkness. ‘Banga’ – Patti Smith. ‘Sweet Sour’ – Band of Skulls. ‘What We Saw from the Cheap Seats’ – Regina Spektor. ‘The Russian Wilds’ – Howlin’ Winds. ‘Rize of the Fenix’ – Tenacious D. ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ – Therapy?

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

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