• PLEASANT SURPRISE
THE COUNTRY OF SWEDEN
Just when the repeated cries of “rock is dead” started to feel like a possible reality, Sweden stepped up with like 900 awesome bands. Why the frig is so much cool music coming from Sweden? I have no clue, but Sweden made 2012 way better than it would have been otherwise. Graveyard, Witchcraft, Mexicoma, Year of the Goat… all from Sweden!
• BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
MINUS THE BEAR / INFINITY OVERHEAD
Coheed and Cambria were in the running for this, as was Circa Survive. The difference is, those other bands had already begun their decline with disappointing albums. This was the first big fuck-up for Minus The Bear, and it’s so much worse because the last album (OMNI) was so sooo good. I was so excited for the release of this album, and I really wanted to love it. I kept trying. The band gave some hints as to why this record sucked so bad; first of all they went back to having their pal and former band member Matt Bayles produce the album. They got all comfortable with their friend and they made a lazy album. And speaking of lazy, lead singer Jake Snider admitted to writing lyrics at the last minute the day before or the day of recording them. That’s a disrespect to the audience, and it made for shitty lyrics and a shitty album. I’ll give them one more chance.
• PAR FOR THE COURSE
DEFTONES / KOI NO YOKAN
This is a good Deftones album. Their last album was good too. Before that, there were a couple of bad Deftones albums. The problem is, the difference between a good Deftones album and a bad one is pretty slight. They have an extremely limited palette of sounds, and their delivery is maybe the most predictable in all of rock n roll. I know exactly what Chino is going to do on every song before I hear him do it. They’re cool, but they should be a lot cooler. As it is, they have a fan base who will keep listening, so why rock the boat with any risky creativity?
• EP OF THE YEAR
MEXICOMA / SUPERVOID
If your release is only four tracks long, it better get the job done quick. And if the job is serious rock n roll fury, Sweden-style, then ‘Supervoid’ is about as good as it gets. The production is perfect, and the vocals are gritty without sounding contrived. Badass.
• HONORABLE MENTION
WITCHCRAFT / LEGEND
Without question, Legend is the 2nd best album to be released in 2012. It’s hard to even describe this album. Sure, it draws from Black Sabbath and the whole “stoner” rock thing, but it’s so much more than that. Magnus Pelander took what was so awesome about the last album (The Alchemist) and cranked it up with heavier guitars and absolutely perfect tempo selection. There’s not a single weak song on here, and it would have surely been Album of the Year if it weren’t for…
• ALBUM OF THE YEAR
BARONESS / YELLOW & GREEN
For any band, it takes some serious balls to go the big double album route. Balls, or an inability to self-edit. In this case, Baroness displayed an almost unimaginable growth from their previous albums. An album of this size and scope leaves a ton of room for a band to go wrong, add filler, and release songs that probably should have been left behind. Luckily for us, Baroness didn’t fall into any of those traps. This is a beautiful, ambitious, mature album that captures a band at their very best (so far, anyway). Even the instrumental tracks are good, especially “Green Theme”. If I had to pick a favorite song, it would probably be “Board Up The House”, but there are really no weak moments. It beats out the Witchcraft album based on its diversity and the sheer magnitude of its… radicalness.
Other albums worth mentioning: Graveyard, Bloody Hammers, Van Halen, Soundgarden. And speaking of Soundgarden, I should address this one. I decided that no matter what, I would keep Soundgarden off this list. That band is about as important to me as any, and it would be easy to blindly love a big “comeback” album out of sheer nostalgia, and it would be just as easy to hate it because it doesn’t sound like Superunknown, which has had 20 years to embed itself into my brain. So check back in with me in about a year or so and I’ll try to be objective about this one.