15. Grimes - Visions
My little Canadian cherub. I just discovered this whole thing was recorded on GarageBand in 3 weeks.
14. Dead Can Dance - Anistasis
Theyyyyyyy'rre baccccckkkk. Sounds like Scott Walker singing over the most epic movie soundtrack ever.
13. Holy Other - Held
I thought W1†CH H∆US was dead. Until I heard this record. More along the lines of oOoOO than Salem, but with heavier and more complex use of glitch vocals and progressive time signatures and beats. A haunting but soothing listen through and through.
12. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Doesn't live up to the absolute classic that is "Before Today", but still withholds some of the best tracks of 2012 ("Kinski Assassin", "Mature Themes", "Symphony of the Nymph" etc.), set aside the throwaway stinkers.
11. Rustie - Glass Swords
Sonic the Hedgehog seems to have made a hard house record and it just happens to be more catchy and original than any other rave tunes this year. #PLUR
10. Gatekeeper - Exo
This is the most interesting case on my list this year, to me. For the first six months, I hated this record, just like everyone else seems to. People who loved the Gatekeeper EP's LOVED the Gatekeeper EP's. They delivered the perfect slice of 80's horror-inspired, minimal synth heaven (or hell?). Then all of a sudden, they put out a debut full-length that is meant to be the score to a non-existent virtual video game, full of pummeling bass hits and funked-out acid synths, rather than the retro analog sounds we were all so accustomed to. I found it to be SUCH a disappointment at first, it did not appeal to me in the slightest. Then, all of a sudden, a month ago, I started having cravings to listen to it again, and when I did, it clicked for me hard. Now, every time I listen to it, it's god damn masterful, and especially since the whole album moves through like one solid piece. When the tracks do hit hard, they hit really hard. I really honestly think that people are just not "GETTING IT" because it's so far off from what everyone else is doing right now, and probably pretty ahead of it's time. This is a great techno album through and through, and no one else has really put anything like that out this year. Let it sink in. Gatekeeper is for real.
09. Crystal Castles - III
You know, although Crystal Castles II was one of the most mind-blowing albums I have heard in years, I kind of expected to be over this duo by the time Crystal Castles III came out. But, I was pleased to hear that they are still exploring new ground and being creative with their craft. After hearing new single "Plague" as a first impression, I didn't expect much from the record. It basically sounded like "Baptism" off of the last album to me but with less energy, and less catchy. However, when you sit down to listen to the full album, they immediately impressed me with tracks that sound nothing like they have ever done, like track two "Kerosene" and it's rainbow of melodic glitch-edited chipmunk speak. I expected them to go in more of a pop direction with their massive hype and following, but it made me happy that they're staying experimental - sticking with distant distorted vocals and non-traditional song structures. They have definitely carved a niche for themselves with violent strobing synths at this point. And then they still have tracks like "Sad Eyes" where the SECOND it kicks in, you have a new favorite song, although that might be the only one on this record…
08: Light Asylum - Light Asylum
Shannon Fuchess is the duchess. A big, bold woman wailing powerfully over sharp synth patterns and heavy-hitting drum machines. She has more power in her voice than a lot of bands have in all of their instruments combined. "Pope Will Roll" is one of the hardest hitting tracks of 2012 by anyone - one of my favorites for the treadmill. This is a crucial debut. This is a crucial band. There is no one else like them at the moment, and there might never be. She apparently did some vocals for the new Knife album, can't wait to hear what they've done together.
"Pope Will Roll"
07: Lindström - Smalhans
Norway! Let's fucking dance! Although this might technically be an EP, honing only 6 tracks all about 5 minutes each, I'm going to treat it as a full length because it deserves that attention! This is the best dance music of the year, hands down, no matter who you are. Lindström describes it as "cosmic disco" and I think that's perfect. Love the synth sounds, love the beats, love the big production, the big bass. I've been blasting this on set at work - people are taking it in happily. This stuff is magic.
06: Bear In Heaven - It's Cool, I Love You
These krautrock loving romantics are still such an understated, underrated band to me. Although their last album was even better than this one, this new one is a wildly innovative, subtle epic full of gentle but driving ballads. Conjuring up images of things like moonlight on the water, french kissing, and valentine's day gifts - this is definitely the sexiest record of the year (unless you're a slut like me, then the Actually album holds that crown). Let these soft arpeggios, driving rhythms, and his welcoming voice massage you. I recommend you have a Zima with your favorite intimate partner and listen to this while taking a bath together.
"Kiss Me Crazy"
"The Reflection of You"
05: Meshuggah - Koloss
I don't really know how this band manages to keep getting better and better, they just do. This honestly is probably the best record they have ever done. It is fucking crushing and wildly amusing all the way through. Takes you to another realm just as they always have. Why listen to djent when you can just listen to the guys who started all that shit, when they're still making records this good? I have decided that, in my opinion, Meshuggah is THE most important metal band of the last decade, 2000-2010 (Metallica for the 80's, Pantera for the 90's). They changed the game like no one else, and they're not finished yet. Not many bands still make me want to bang my head like this.
"Do Not Look Down"
"Break Those Bones Whose Sinew Gave It Motion"
04: Actually - Actually
Although it's only been 6 months since the release of this L.A. princess's debut, it blows my mind how under the radar it still is. Take the tenacity and in your face sexuality of Peaches, the haunting public-access-painted dryness of Ariel Pink, and the pop sensibility of early Madonna and you are somewhere in the realm of what Actually is actually doing. So many of her lyrics are about the magic of sex and the importance of getting fucked - how can you not love it? A beast of a debut with 14 tracks and almost every single one is a full-length pop ballad worthy of singledom, even the kick ass Fad Gadget cover of "Lady Shave" which might be better than the original. Watch the "Tropical Winter" music video to get a good taste of this diva's masterful slut-charm.
03: Twin Shadow - Confess
Whoa. Rock and roll is apparently still alive, and this man is keeping the spirit there. The first album was a subtle indie smash, produced by one of the Grizzly Bear guys and worshipped by hipsters in all corners of the circular planet. Then, he came out of nowhere with this second album, boasting big, arena-worthy production and radio-ready smashes. "Five Seconds" is the kind of song you find yourself singing as if you've loved it since you were a child within the first 30 seconds of the first time you hear it, probably the best single of the whole year by anyone. There are three things that make this album so epic: 1. Sincerity - there is a sense of sincerity here that is not often found any more with the over abundance of electronic-based artists and the tainting of rock and roll which has only gotten worse over the last 30 years, one year at a time. 2. Pop - this dude knows how to write singles, and the album is full of them. Some of the catchiest stuff you'll hear by anyone in 2012. 3. Versatility - he can go from energetic new-wave, to down-tempo Springsteen worship, to modern electro R&B over the course of three tracks and they all still weave together like magic and he pulls each of them off with flying colors. Not many artists can cover this much ground so effectively.
02: Beach House - Bloom
This record just TOUCHES me in more special places than anything else this year. Every time I listen, it is more and more goosebump-inducing. I thought Teen Dream was good but in the big picture it kind of felt like half of it was great and half of it was a bit of a bore. I think Beach House have really figured themselves out and hit it full stride with this record. It doesn't get much dreamier - riffs that are droning but pretty, soft synth pads, watery guitars, and her wonderfully androgynous voice. If her voice works for you, then there is no way this record will not make you feel something DEEP. Better every time - it's emotive and beautiful all the way through. Can't believe how many good bands come out of Baltimore lately… how?
01: Trust - TRST
The Knife meets Ace of Base anyone? The debut album from Robert Alfons, a shadowy and appealing man from Toronto who decided to start this project with Austra drummer, Maya Postepski, who looks like Tina Fey except younger and cuter. I was immediately impressed and drawn into this new band's sound and compositions within the very first listen, within the first couple of songs. To my pleasure and fortune, I was pleased to discover that every single track to follow was just as good as the one before it. We have a full 11-track album holding 11 dark synth pop classics here. And on top of all the lush synth pads and riffs, Alfons' has paved his way quickly as a unique voice who none of us will be forgetting any time soon. I will be dancing, singing, and vibing to this album for years and years.
"This Ready Flesh"
<3 Joaquin <3
10. Beyond The Black Rainbow (directed by Panos Cosmatos)
Wow. What a bizarre film. A psychedelic swirl of nightmarish sequences that are nearly plotless but somehow feel coherent and still quite thrilling. The Canadian weirdo who played the lead was quite discomforting and a bit reminiscent of Christian Bale in American Psycho. I like the color schemes - how they were very overbearing and a little Dario Argento -esque. This is definitely an art film, and definitely not for everyone. If you want to be extremely visually stimulated and possibly a little frightened, this is definitely for you. Of course, the best part of it all, that really ties the entire thing together as an experience, is the absolutely KILLER score by Sinoia Caves - sizzling synth masterpieces. Love it to death.
09. Chronicle (directed by Josh Trank)
Heard about this sleeper hit from a couple people and finally got the chance to check it out. It was really fun! A really strange "found footage" type movie about a group of teens who discover an underground cave with a giant glowing stone structure and end up getting super powers. From then on, you get to experience what would happen if this REALLY happened - a realistic look at what teens would do with their powers. I can't say much more without ruining the twists of the film, but it really takes you for a ride. There are some really impressive sequences throughout the film for it being such a low budget movie. And, the lead actor reminded me of Nick Stahl - who has his share of great performances that are actually quite comparable to the character in this. Everyone should check this out.
08. Wreck-It Ralph (directed by Rich Moore)
This one was pretty obviously going to be another Pixar classic, but with the whole concept of vintage arcade characters being involved, and him himself being a vintage arcade character. Wow, what a sure fire way to get all of us 80's/90's kids hooked right off the bat. The movie totally lived up - delivered in every single way that it could have. I would watch it again and again. And there was plenty of small homages to RARE older games that I love, such as Altered Beast and Metroid just to name a few. They did a great job creating effectively emotional scenarios with computerized characters as they always do. I almost cried a couple of times, when Ralph and whatever her cute name was got into their first few scuffles, and again at the end. You know, those joyful tears that come at the end of a lot of cute family movies? Great movie.
07. Where The Dead Go To Die (directed by Jimmy Screamerclauz)
OK, this one is definitely not for everyone. In fact, it's probably not for almost anyone. First of all, it's put out by Unearthed Films who also put out the Guinea Pig series. It's a CGI-film, made of local commercial level, 90's technology looking graphics - but it knows that that's what it's made of. It works with it and it takes it to mystical, hellish, and horrifying places. But, on top of that, it doesn't play like a linear film at all. It's split into three chapters which are very, VERY loosely related - mostly only in the way their characters are some of the most fucked up characters ever put into any movie, anywhere, and the scenarios they go through are easily some of the darkest I have ever witnessed conjured up and created for anyone to view. It just gets darker as it goes, but fortunately only people who understand and appreciate the darkness are the only ones who would make it to the final chapter, which is pretty obviously the most disturbing and discomforting. The horrible, HORRIBLE voice acting is definitely the films greatest weakness, but for weirdos like me, it also gives it it's own special charm. What makes the film so memorable and one to remember is in it's extremity, taking things to a dark place I have never seen them taken before, and in it's visual creativity - some of the images melting and morphing for you on your screen are really, really beyond - like a bad trip that really brought you to hell. Cool.
06. The Comedy (directed by Rick Alverson)
Tim Heidecker - I dunno how you do what you do, but you do it, man. I love the fact that this movie is so pushed as a drama, and not a comedy at all. Whatever, guys. I was cracking up all the way through - the same way I would at Tim & Eric or anything else they've done. The sense of humor was exactly the same, it was just shot and presented in a completely different way. I think for anyone who really GETS Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job, you will appreciate the comedy just as much. The humor comes from the same place of disdain - it's very dark and very dry, and very fucking funny. Pretty wild seeing Neil Hamburger as a normal guy for once, as well. Their conversation while out for lunch about hobo dicks is groundbreaking. See it.
05. Looper (directed by Rian Johnson)
I'm really glad I didn't even see the trailer before I went to go see this one. Just went based off of hearing heaps of my friends recommending it, saying it was great. And they were right. Another nice, original, well-done sci-fi action/thriller. It's really great to see sci-fi capitalizing this year. Whatever they did to Joseph Gordon Levitt's face was pretty weird, but I like weird, and it worked, - you could see plenty of Willis in there. Lots of great future imagery and concepts in here, plenty of gun play and thrilling who's-going-to-kill-who scenarios. The best part of the whole film was simply the pace, it moves and moves and keeps moving in different directions - it's really fantastic. It kind of exists in segments, and the very last segment was completely unexpected and a very welcomed finale. I would recommend this movie to just about anyone as well.
04. Lawless (directed by John Hillcoat)
Nick Cave fucked me once. I took a bunch of people to go see The Proposition at the Lagoon in Minneapolis, and everyone hated it - I could sense that during the movie, and maybe that's why I hated it too. Or maybe I really just didn't like it. I felt quite bored too. Anyhow, Nick Cave returns with another western and I decided to give it a shot. Holy SHIT am I happy that I did. One scene after another, my jaw kept dropping and I kept turning to my friend Tegan and repeating "this movie…is FUCKING AWESOME". Shia LeBouf finally won me over. I was always a hater until I watched this, he totally pulled off playing the lead, the innocent pipsqueak who wants to be a tough guy. He really did fantastic - and of course, so did Tom Hardy, the legend, adding just enough tweak to his western character to be another intimidating character that you haven't already seen him play. Also, another performance that was totally for the books - GUY PEARCE as the villain! CLASSIC! Epic western slime! The grossest haircut ever! He was so fucking good! Oh, and last but not least, this movie is VIOLENT as FUCK! It's brutal! It was really unexpected to me. A lot of heavy-handed gore and plenty of cringe-worthy (in a good way) and fulfilling twists! Another classic! Everyone should see it. I want to own this one.
03. Moonrise Kingdom (directed by Wes Anderson)
Wow. What can you even say about this utterly adorable stylish masterpiece? It's beautiful. The two child leads were perfect - capturing the morose rebellion of the kids who want to lash out but don't know how. Their escape as children becomes the perfect escape for a lot of us as adults as well (but I suppose that's not that rare, that's kind of the point of the youthful imagination). Their babyish romance which is not even fully understood by themselves is the most endearing thing you could possibly see in a film this year. Obviously the very best part is the sets, the landscapes, the shots, the colors, everything there is for you to look at and swallow - Wes Anderson has his craft down. The entire supporting cast who are basically worshipped by everyone in general, is the only other thing needed to solidify this as another perfect film for Wes to add to his list. This & "The Royal Tenenbaums" are my favorite Wes Anderson films, and I would call both perfect.
02. Magic Mike (directed by Steven Soderbergh)
Obviously I love how many people hate this movie. It makes no sense to me. It's a wild ride through and through. Channing Tatum delivers exactly what he needs to and what I would imagine everyone was asking for - aside from the good looks and the actual immense level of dancing talent, his character is ultra realistic as well as simple and very relatable. Matthew McConaughy really stole the show though - in both of the same departments, what the fuck did he do to get that body? And his character is just off the wall - the slimiest douche around, but he lives it and he kills it - my favorite character of his by far. Alright, alright, alright. Young newcomer ____ ____ who almost shares the bill of the lead with Tatum impressed me the most. I had never heard of him or seen him in anything before and he really proved himself talented in this, playing the reckless, useless, rebel coming-into-adulthood-without-knowing-wh
01. Prometheus (directed by Ridley Scott)
True sci-fi horror finally returns to us! Ridley Scott gives us first thrilling film in some time, and that's exactly what it capitalizes on so intensely - thrills. I went into the movie not expecting much - expecting to see some aliens and maybe to walk out thinking "yeah, okay, that was pretty cool", but it was so much better than that. I love Noomi Rapace so choosing her as the lead was a fantastic choice. Mooney Rara or whatever her name is was cool as the Dragon Girl i guess…but she didn't do for the character what Noomi Rapace did. Rapace became stuff of legends in my book, and she carries her torch well with her grippingly intense performance here. Plus I want to make out with her, even if she is in her 30's - I don't care, that's only 2 years away for me. Michael Fassbender also adds wonders to the movie as that robot dude, him and Tom Hardy are probably my top newish male actors at the moment. Anyways, most importantly, not only did they make a movie with a high budget that was actually creative and original (almost never happens nowadays), but they made one that was HORRIFYING! I was really on the edge of my seat the whole time, and this is the only movie that did that for me this year (with the exception of maybe Lawless which had me quite gripped a large quantity of the time as well). Alien fans can kiss my ass - this is a new sci-fi horror classic and my favorite film of the year. This is what we have been missing from BLOCKBUSTER, HIGH-BUDGET, HOLLYWOOD films. This is what we need.