2012: A Year Of Awesome Tunes

OK, so let me tell you about my year, because I’m sure you’re DYING to know.

So after I single-handedly brought about the introduction of a carbon tax in Australia – the best and most positive and progressive piece of legislation introduced in my lifetime – I thought I’d become a teacher. Can’t be too hard, right?  So I moved back to my home town of Ballarat, did a teaching degree, started playing the trumpet again for the first time in twenty years, joined the brass band, just the usual stuff…

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing let me tell you.  It was a long, cold winter in this freezing cold pocket of Victoria. And the course was pretty tough going at times, what with all those essays and the like. And Richmond didn’t make the finals AGAIN.

But, as always, it was music that got me through the tough times, and was there to celebrate with me when the good times inevitably rolled around again.  I frikking love music and you all do too, right?

So let me tell you about the music that I will remember from this crazy year. Most of these albums were released this year, so this list can also serve as a preliminary ‘Best of 2012’ list, with the disclaimer that there have been a heap of great bands releasing albums recently which I’ll be listening to through the festive season.

I won’t bother with the album covers (although they are great click bait!), but I’ll give you a nice little Youtube clip for each one so you can have a listen. I won’t put ratings in either because quite frankly I can’t be arsed. They’re all good and highly recommended.

Let’s go:

Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (4AD)

That voice. Oh my. Mark Lanegan surely has the best voice in all of music. Dripping with cigar smoke and whiskey and sadness, it is simultaneously primal and ethereal, almost spectral, like a voice from before time.

Alain Johannes provides the music and production, and while it’s hugely stripped back from the layered complexity of QOTSA’s Lullabies To Paralyze, there is a dark sexiness here (along with the presence of Lanegan) that recalls that classic Queens album. Johannes does a great job of putting the voice front and centre, while adding enough musical variation to keep the album interesting all the way through.

Jack White – Blunderbuss (Third Man Records)

OK everyone knows this guy is basically a songwriting genius. I mean the man can play, but lots of people can play. It’s the ability to write that is truly valuable. There’ll be White Stripes fans who will argue with me about this, but I’ve never heard Jack White’s music sound this good. I’m a sucker for a 3/4 song every now and then, and the title track is a typically doleful example. Every song is a timeless classic.

Pelican – Ataraxia/Taraxis (Southern Lord)

Are you familiar with the teachings of Epicurus? Well you bloody well should be. If everyone followed his teachings the world would be fine. Here’s how ataraxia is defined on Wikipedia: “ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquility that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.”

Nice, huh?

I would add to this “listening to Pelican” to this list. There is something so comforting about listening to a Pelican album. You’ll get the heaviness and expansiveness of a great post-metal band, but without having to worry about some dude yelling at you every now and then. It gives you time to think, to feel, to write an essay if you will.

Long time readers will know how much I love me some Pelican. They released my favourite album of 2009, and although Ataraxia/Taraxis was only an EP it played a big part in getting me through 2012 with in a state of “robust tranquillity”. Ahhhhh…

Torche – Harmonicraft (Volcom)

Another former Three Paper Album of the Year winner, Torche are simply awesome. This album continues the crossbred pop-meets-heavy genius from their previous albums, but if anything finds them reaching a new level of confidence, complexity, musicianship and bold experimentation that pays some remarkable dividends, with the band at times finding some previously uncharted musical territory. There’s also a couple of those slow, doomy tracks (Solitary Traveler and Looking On) that they do so well.

Then when they decide to play it straight and just write a great song, there are few in the world today that can match them for catchiness and the ability to make you feel damn good about life in general. And this film clip is hilarious:

High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Do you know what a grimoire is? It’s a book of magic spells, chants, curses and other occultish instructions.

If you are a fan of metal you really should read H.P. Lovecraft, because his writings have inspired so many heavy metal songs, lyrics and images over the years. I’ve been reading his stories this year, perhaps prompted by my return to my dank and chilly ancestral home. (The Rats in the Walls is my favourite) In his stories he often referred to a famous fictional grimoire called the Necronomicon, but he did mention others, including De Vermis Mysteriis.

Anyway, enough of the QI style fact sharing.

High On Fire released an album in 2012, and it was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The early excitement from High On Fire albums has worn off a bit, it’s true. All their albums have been excellent, but I don’t think they’ve progressed much since Blessed Black Wings. Still if you love their swinging doomy riffs and thumping toms then you’ll love this too. Romulus and Remus is my fave track.

Trap Them – Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic)

OK, I’m a sucker for pretty much anything that sounds like Entombed, which is why I love this album. It was actually released in 2011, but I gave it a pounding throughout 2012.

Of course, every Entombed album is different, so you can’t just say a band ‘sounds like Entombed’, you have to say which one, and this is probably closest to Uprising in sound and punk rock attitude. It’s probably more accurate to say it sounds like Doomriders mixed with Disfear, but of course both of those bands were heavily influenced by the Swedish death gods.

There’s some fast and aggressive stuff, and enough d-beats in here to keep Discharge fans happy, but plenty of fun rocking riffs too.  Here’s a song called The Facts:

OK that’s it from me for the time being, I’ll get back to you as I digest some more awesome tunes over the next month or two.

– Hazizi

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