Sunday, January 06, 2013

Idol Threat's Top 20 Album of 2012

The wait is over and Idol Threat's List of Top Albums for 2012 is finally here (and incredibly early as far as our personal track record goes!) It looks like this year's list seems to have more Hip Hop albums than last year's and we finally have some Jazz back on the list as well.  As always we tend to concentrate on the lesser known here at Idol Threat but for those that care here are a few mainstream albums that have caught our attention this year: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel..., NaS - Life is Good, Frank Ocean - Channel Orange and Deftones - Koi No Yokan.  Now without further ado here is Idol Threat's Top Albums of 2012 (Click the jump to read the full list and feel free to share and repost!)

Andy Stott: Luxury Problems
Droning, heavy dub mix with hauntingly beautiful vocals over buried EDM beats in Andy Stott's latest release.  I would be reluctant to even consider this dance music at all as the tempo is slowed down to hypnotic levels for most of the tracks, plus this is much more heavy than any EDM I've personally heard.  In fact this album almost shares more in common with the purp-drenched production of Clams Casino or electronic doom act Wreck and Reference than it does most dance music. The bass becomes an atmosphere as opposed to a driving force, simultaneously keeping you afloat with its buoyancy and feeling as heavy as the weight of the deepest depths of the ocean. This is definitely meant to be listened to with a great sound system or some solid headphones, this shit will just laugh at laptop speakers or those tinny iPhone ear pods.  Luxury Problems is a headphone masterpiece, dub techno that is meant to be experienced as well as danced to.

Old Man Gloom: NO
Old Man Gloom is a supergroup containing members of Converge, ISIS, Cave In, Zozobra, Doomriders and Mamiffer and they bring the best parts of their respective projects together on 'NO' their fifth album and their first in 8 years.  While most of the sludge/doom albums of the past year have been using acoustic passages as interludes and respite from their denseness, Old Man Gloom adds ambient, avant-garde and noise sections for a more complementary dichotomy.  At times on this album they even remind me of Harvey Milk, if they decided to start experimenting with 'caveman electronics' that is.  While other doom contenders like newcomers Pallbearer and favorites Samothrace put up a great fight, 'NO' manages to stay on top with its more varied content and its longer running time.  If the breakup of ISIS contributed to the release of this then their absence may no longer be missed as long as Old Man Gloom manages to put out more albums of this caliber. 

Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando
Pianist Vijay Iyer is doing more with his trio than most quintets or quartets can accomplish and it's earning him tons of critical acclaim, including winning an unprecedented 5 Awards in this years Down Beat International Critics Poll. Iyer’s original pieces are fantastic but his unique covers is where he really shines; whether it is the almost unrecognizable deconstruction of Human Nature, his mathematical version of Little Pocket Sized Demons or the aggressive approach to FlyLo’s "Mmmhmm" - whose addition itself is a testament to Iyer’s willingness to incorporate more contemporary influences. Together with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore he creates some highly accessible Jazz without sacrificing the intelligence of his music. Vijay does all this by utilizing an approach that is actually approachable for a change, disassembling and reconstructing rhythm in a way that still maintains it’s groove. 

Homeboy Sandman: First of a Living Breed
I have to admit when I first heard Homeboy Sandman on his last album I didn’t like him.  It took awhile for the rapper to grow on me but it wasn’t gradual, it hit like a ton of bricks on his latest album The First of a Living Breed. Sand sounds different than your average MC, a superb lyricist with dense wordplay and a melodic cadence, but it’s not just that.  He is able to change up his flow on nearly every track like each breath he takes is one of fresh air, and it sounds even more refreshing when paired with unique beats like the vintage video game synths of Rain, the warbled flanging of Sputnik or the middle-eastern vibe of The Ancient.  His flow is undeniably New York yet he sounds right at home with the rest of the roster on West Coast label Stonesthrow, sharing much in common with his fellow off-kilter yet soulful labelmates.  Combining an old school mentality with new school wordplay and an everyman charm with an Ivy league education, Homeboy is making sure that no one sleeps on this sandman.

Gojira: L'Enfant Sauvage
Gojira has been refining their style with every release and it's an evolution that's mirrored in their production and label~hopping. Their sound has never been more crisp and being on Roadrunner is their biggest change yet, and it’s a change that has earned them a number 34 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 when the album debuted. Razor-sharp, precise riffing with an almost over-abundance of their patented pick scrapes surround polyrhythmic changes and technical death metal dexterity. Growled vocals sung on the edge between clean and abrasive with a subtle dash of the robotic effects popularized by Cynic thrown in for good measure. This is Gojira at their finest. Their technicality never overshadows their songwriting and they add just enough groove without dumbing down the melody. If there was ever a band worthy enough to bring underground metal to the mainstream you'd be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Gojira and L’Enfant Sauvage is proof of that. 

Death Grips: The Money Store
Hyperangry ODB-style rapping screams over tribal electro-punk on Death Grips official debut and first of 2 albums this year. Its hard to have an unprecedented sound while incorporating everything that came before but Death Grips does it with an ease that makes them seem like a genre unto themselves.  Their inclusion on this list is a forgone conclusion if you've read our previous reviews of their releases and the only reason No Love Deep Web wasn't on the list as well was because they leaked it for free in response to supposed major label fuckery.  Anarchist corporate rebellion or ingenious guerrilla marketing?  Can it be both?   Don’t let the controversy steer you away however because you would miss one of the best pair of albums to come out in recent memory.  To paraphrase my review of their classic mixtape, no matter what group is considered the future of Hip Hop you can consider Death Grips the post-apocalyptic after party. 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! 
The mighty gods of so-called post-rock return to smite down all the false idols that have sprung up in their absence. It has been 15 years since their inception and 10 years after their last album Yanqui U.X.O. yet the instrumental outfit still sound as if they haven’t missed a beat. It may be slightly underwhelming and one can almost be forgiven to mistake this album as being derivative, but once you realize that the majority of it is made up of pieces written before their hiatus you start to see just how forward-thinking GY!BE was. Always ahead of the curve we see now that it’s taken nearly a decade for the rest of the world to catch up with them.  Two 20 minute slabs of surging drama and joyful catharsis alternate with two 6-minute drones, far from their best this is still Godspeed at their most concise.  If this is what they could do with old compositions there’s hope that their next album can be as original and transcendent as their past ones.

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO: Son of a Bitches Brew
The prolific Japanese kings of cosmic freak-outs are back (with their second full length this year mind you) and this time it’s with a tribute to Miles Davis with the aptly titled "Son of a Bitches Brew.” Despite the album and song titles this isn't a reinterpretation or a bunch of covers, but an original full length that uses Miles' electric era as a starting point for inspiration. Its not hard to imagine that this would be similar to what a Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix collaboration would have been had Hendrix lived long enough (in fact Acid Mothers also have a Hendrix tribute called "Electric Heavyland”) but this is still undoubtedly an Acid Mothers release. Their distinct, noisy psych-metal sound dominates the jazz leanings in this outing. This may be too spaced out and psychedelic for some fans of Miles’ electric era and seem slightly tame in comparison to past albums for longtime Acid Mothers fans, but it is an almost over-the-top balance of the two and indeed worthy of its amusingly clever title.

Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music
If you would’ve told me years ago that Outkast affiliate Killer Mike and Def Jux founder El-P would be collaborating I wouldn’t believe you, but if you told me the result would be one of the best Hip Hop albums of its year I’d just flat out be confused.  Who would’ve thought that El-P’s dystopian replicant steez and Mike’s down south bombast would work so well together?  His Public Enemy-esque drawl sounds great over El’s insanely bass-heavy synth production and their synergy has created something more cohesive and spontaneous than El Producto’s own Cancer 4 Cure which was also released this year. While other rappers are merely co-opting the South's style Killer Mike proves that nothing is better than the real thing - a conscious rapper who can still claim to be trill. If flying cars finally get made and the future holds a hovering ’63 Impala replica with a trunk filled with nothing but 12 inch subs then you can expect to find this album in it’s stereo. Southern fried bboy shit for future infowars. 

Swans: The Seer
When Swans reunited in 2010 they released a solid album with "My Father…" and toured extensively in support of it.  Old songs got updated for their shows and each night their new songs were refined and tweaked with every performance.  That kind of commitment to the material shows in their work and their new double album reaps the benefits of their constant reworking.  The heavy post-punk that these legends helped create has been taken to new heights with The Seer. Leave it to the Swans to make repetition sound majestic and come out with a double album that sounds neither tedious nor pretentious. This album combines all the best parts of every Swans and Swans-related incarnation - the volatile noise and grind of their early era, the lush light-heartedness of Angels of Light, the drone and dirge of the Body Lovers/Body Haters, and even the dark folk of Michael Gira’s solo work.  This album may not be something you can casually listen to or shuffle a few tracks with, but once you actually sit down and commit to it you will be rewarded with an experience that is the perfect summation of their past three decades of existence.

The Rest of the Top 20 

BLCKWVS - 0150 
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction 
Pig Destroyer - Book Burner 
High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis 
Samothrace - Reverence To Stone 
Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas 
Napalm Death - Utilitarian 
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind 
Goat - World Music 
Enabler - All Hail The Void  

Top 5 EPs of 2012 
Burial - Kindred EP 
A Place To Bury Strangers - Onwards To The Wall EP 
Deathspell Omega - Drought EP 
Coffins - Sewage Sludgecore Treatment EP
Agalloch - Faustian Echoes EP  

Best Noise Album: Incapacitants - Mon, Ma? Mon!!! 
Best Compilation: The Haters - These Things Happen Vol 1 and Vol 2 
Best Collaboration: Astro & Winters in Osaka - Reverberating Forest 
Best Free Album: Wreck and Reference - No Youth
Best Mixtape: Action Bronson - Rare Chandeliers
Best Singing: Royal Thunder - CVI 
MVP Award: Oren Ambarchi with Raga Ooty / The Nilgiri Plateau, Nazoranai, In The Mouth - A Hand, Audience of One, Sagittarian Domain, The Mortimer Trap, Black Plume and Wreckage


Agree? Disagree? Anything I missed? Feel free to share your thoughts and lists in the comment section.

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