After a 7 month hiatus, we are back with our belated annual column, the best music we heard last year. Instead of 2 separate entries for albums and songs, we’ll just combine them into one ultra-mega-super entry. You may have thought we wouldn’t write another column, but much like a bear that hibernates, we have come back to your campsite, to eat your food and shake your car while you scream inside.
Best Albums I Heard in 2012:
Smashing Pumpkins-Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Reissue
The biggest album in the career of the Smashing Pumpkins get the reissue treatment, like Gish and Siamese Dream before it. With a treasure trove of b-sides and alternate versions of beloved songs, this is a must have for die hard fans. Best songs: Thirty-Three (Sadlands demo), Lily (Sadlands demo)
A band that has broke up 15 years before shouldn’t put out an album this good, but Soundgarden did. Every song is good, and this is a welcomed return to form, or a new form that hopefully will stick around for awhile. Best songs: Been Away Too Long, Blood on the Valley Floor, Bones of Birds
Yes, there’s a second entry by this band, but this is the current line up. Again, a bit of a surprise for a band that’s been around so long (if in name only). But Billy Corgan and his newest cast of characters created a rocking set of songs that echo the old roar while still having something new to say. Best songs: Panopticon, Inkless, The Chimera
John Mayer-Born and Raised
John Mayer hid away in Montana after running his mouth too much. The solitude paid off personally and professionally, as he made his most intimate, quiet album that while not reaching the heights of Continuum, more than holds its weight with his others. This album didn’t get the appreciation and attention it deserved. Best songs: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967, If I Ever Get Around to Living, Speak for Me
Sleigh Bells-Reign of Terror
Sleigh Bells first album was interesting but somewhat of a one-note wonder. More varied songwriting makes this follow up a more inspired and catchy effort. Best Songs: Comeback Kid, Crush, Leader of the Pack
The Shins-Port of Morrow
The Shins once again craft a indelible set of songs that while not as strong overall as their past work, still show their skills off in a worthy way. Best songs: 40 Mark Strasse, No Way Down, Simple Song
Best Songs I Heard in 2012:
Til Next Tuesday-James Iha
His first album came out way back in 1998 and was a mostly acoustic album, but for Look to the Sky Iha added synth flourishes and more subtle bells and whistles. This song sounds like a classic pop song, with a slight new wave sheen.
Been Away Too Long-Soundgarden
Soundgarden makes a welcome return, and while the title might seem a little cheesy, considering they were gone for 15 years, the song is anything but pandering. Full of straight ahead riffage, an off kilter bridge, and Chris Cornell’s trademark yowl, this was a great lead single for a band that has never made much of a misstep.
Thanks to its use in a hilarious scene of Breaking Bad where Walter White and Walt Jr rev up sports cars in their driveway, this song enjoyed extra attention last year. If a cyborg with a synthesizer and a reggae artist collaborated, it might sound something like this.
Yes, we are very late to the Sepultura party. But better late than never, especially when it is a party filled with pulverizing guitars, and tribal drums. Gutteral vocals and relentless riffs make this a must for all fans of thrash.
This is off their latest album, but it buzzes with the same hum of their guitars circa 1993. Classic.
Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967-John Mayer
A clever, oddball fictional story serves as the backdrop for this excellent piece of acoustic pop. A perfect gem found near the end of a great album.
40 Mark Strasse-The Shins
There are songs that are growers and songs that latch onto your eardrums immediately. This song fits into the latter category. An aching, bittersweet tale of a wayward youth with no notes wasted.
Comeback Kid-Sleigh Bells
A heavy metal/drum machine marriage, complete with atmospheric passages that segue right back into the maelstrom.