2012 Album of the Year

1- Katatonia – “Dead End Kings”
2- Lacuna Coil – “Dark Adrenaline”
3- Garbage – “Not Your Kind of People”
4- The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – “Between the Ditches”
5- Anathema – “Weather Systems”
6- Anneke van Giersbergen – “Everything is Changing”
7- Moonspell – “Alpha Noir/Omega White”
8- Paradise Lost – “Tragic Idol”
9- Muse – “The 2nd Law”
10- Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
11- Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Americana”
12 – Ministry – “Relapse”
13 – Dion – “Tank Full of Blues”
14 – Willie Nelson – “Heroes”
15 – Kid Rock – “Rebel Soul”

Dead_End_Kings

I’ve been doing these Album of the Year blogs since 2004 and I usually have a good idea of what THE album of the year is early on. I don’t have to choose the album, as much as I know it’s the best album of the year as soon as I hear it. This year wasn’t that easy for me. That’s part of the reason I’m listing 15 albums this year instead of 10. 2012 was a very good year for new music. I had a very hard time picking THE album of the year. Many of the albums on my list could have been an Album of the Year. But, I had to pick only one. And after much thought and internal debate, I realized that Katatonia’s “Dead End Kings” is my 2012 Album of the Year.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Katatonia. I’ve logged more mileage on my car to see their shows than any other band I listen to. But, I’m also objective and if a band puts out an album that I don’t like, I’ll honestly critique it. With all of that said, Katatonia put out their best album in over 10 years. “Dead End Kings” is their best album since 2001’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” And that album had a profound impact on me. There are so many tracks on this album that I love. Honestly, even the songs I like less than others I still like.

When this album came out, I actually waited a few days to listen to it. I had purchased a few albums and I wanted to make sure that I was able to give all of them a fair chance. Katatonia had released a few tracks and I liked them, so I knew it would likely be ranked high on my list, but I wasn’t sure it was THIS good until I heard the whole thing. And some versions of the album had two bonus tracks, which are also both AMAZING. One of those tracks, “the Act of Darkening” is easily one of my favorite Katatonia songs EVER, and I’ve been listening to this band since the late 1990s. If you’re a fan of Katatonia and you haven’t heard this album, you’re truly missing out. If you’re a fan of metal, doom, progressive, or whatever they’re categorized as this week, check out “Dead End Kings.” It’s THAT GOOD.

Tracks I truly recommend you checking out include “The Parting,” “the Racing Heart,” “Buildings,” “Undo You,” “Lethean,” “First Prayer,” and “Dead Letters.”

I really wanted to rank Lacuna Coil’s “Dark Adrenaline” as the #1 Album of the Year. I really did. And honestly, I thought it would be #1. If I could have, I would have ranked it as 1b. I was critical of their last two albums, 2006’s “Karmacode” and 2009’s “Shallow Life.” In fact, “Shallow Life” did not even make my Top 10 list in 2009. That’s how incredibly disappointed I was in that album. Lacuna Coil peaked in 2001 and 2002 with “Unleashed Memories” and “Comalies.” Those two albums were brilliant. But there was something about their releases since then that I just did not like. I was never truly able to place what it was, but something was just not right, as far as I was concerned. Upon first listening to “Dark Adrenaline” I was in love with the album and realized that this album had what was missing from their previous two. It was an incredible return to form for a band I’ve been such a fan of for so long. And it’s not just my opinion. I’ve discussed this with fans from (literally) all over the world and we’re in agreement. “Dark Adrenaline” is easily the best album the band has put out in 10 years and it manages to continue the direction they were going in while returning to the sound that we loved in the first place.

Tracks I recommend from the album include “Trip the Darkness,” “Give me Something More,” “I Don’t Believe in Tomorrow” and especially “Upsidedown.”

Again I’m speaking about a band putting out their best album in years. “Not Your Kind of People” is Garbage’s best album since their 1995 debut. Like Lacuna Coil, Garbage’s album has a return to the sound that attracted me to them in the first place. This is also a comeback album of sorts, since the band took a 7 year break since their last album and tour. I had no idea what to expect from it and I was more than happy with it. There’s many songs on the album that I like and would easily add to a “Best of” compilation of Garbage’s hits, and they have a lot of hits already. If you were a fan of their first album and didn’t get this one, you should. It’s worth a listen. And I’ve given it many listens.

Tracks worth listening to from “Not Your Kind of People” include the title track, “Control,” “Big Bright World,” “Blood for Poppies,” and especially “Automatic Systematic Habit.”

I had never heard of the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band prior to seeing them open for Clutch in 2009. I had no idea what to expect. What I saw was a guitar player and frontman that reminded me for Bluto from the old Popeye movie, someone playing a washboard (which she set on first later), and a drummer playing a bucket. I was immediately a fan. I got a few albums from their catalog and enjoyed them. They were fun listens. Their 2010 almost made my Top 10 list, but from upon first listen, I knew 2012’s “Between the Ditches” would be ranked high. It’s that good. The first track I heard from it was “Devils Look Like Angels.” It really showed off how good of a guitar player the Reverend Peyton is. He REALLY IS GOOD. Peyton’s previous albums are good albums, but this one is a GREAT album. There’s something about the production on this album that makes everything that needs to be emphasized stand out and stand out well. If you’re a fan of blues, country, bluegrass, or just good guitar players, I highly recommend this one.

Tracks I think you should check out include “Devils Look Like Angels,” “Something for Nothing,” “Big Blue Chevy ’72,” and “Brown Country Bound.”

I had heard about Anathema from various people for years, but never really listened to them. I saw them last year as special guests of Blackfield. I was very impressed and decided to check out their new album “Weather Systems” when it came out. And, WOW. I was very impressed with the incredible beauty of their sound. It’s rich, energetic, majestic, and metal all at the same time. The first two tracks “Untouchable” parts 1 and 2 are simply two of the best tracks I’ve heard in years. This album, like every one I’ve reviewed so far could easily have been #1 on anyone’s list. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this one ranked high on many lists.

Tracks worth listening to include “Untouchable, Part 1,” “Untouchable, Part 2,” “the Gathering of the Clouds,” and “the Beginning and the End.”

After Anneke van Giersbergen left the Gathering in 2007 she’s put out a few solo releases. But it wasn’t until this year’s “Everything is Changing” do I think she finally found HER sound as solo artist. This album is what I’ve been waiting for her to put out. It’s a great mixture of a hard rock sound and an electronic sound blended perfectly with her amazing voice. And it’s her voice that has always blown me away. She is easily one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard. Her voice is captivating. Like Lacuna Coil, I can also say van Giersbergen returned to form as well. But, she did it with a new band. And I’m glad she did.

Tracks I recommend include “Everything is Changing,” “I Feel Alive,” “Hope, Pray, Dance, Play,” “My Boy,” and “Circles.”

Moonspell’s album in 2012 is actually a double album. The first one, “Alpha Noir” is a death metal album while “Omega White” goes back to their gothic period. Both records are solid releases and deserve to be ranked high on any list of the top albums of 2012. The first track on “Alpha Noir” is “Axis Mundi.” When I first heard that song I said “this is a song I wish Opeth had written.” It’s that good of a metal song, while Opeth has apparently gone off into more progressive areas. I feel that if you’re a fan of either era of Moonspell’s career (metal or gothic) you’ll find something you like on this release.

“Axis Mundi,” “Lickanthrope,” “Opera Carne,” New Tears Eve,” and “Herodisiac” are the tracks that I highly recommend from the album.

If it wasn’t for Paradise Lost, many of the bands on this list would not exist. They have been around for over 20 years and are the reason I listen to many of the bands I listen to including Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, and Katatonia. They were all influenced by Paradise Lost. Their 2012 album, “Tragic Idol” is another solid release from them with many really good tracks on it. They’ve managed to again mix their various styles over the years while keeping it distinctly Paradise Lost. If you’re a fan of Paradise Lost of even the death/doom metal genre, you need to hear this album if you haven’t.

Tracks I recommend from “Tragic Idol” include “Fear of an Impending Hell,” “In This We Dwell,” Theories from Another World,” and “Honesty in Death.”

I’m relatively new to Muse. I hadn’t listened to them prior to seeing them open for U2 a few years ago. I was impresed. “The 2nd Law” is their first new album since I’ve been aware of them. It’s a good album, but at certain points it lacks the power that other Muse albums have. But, even with that said about it, it’s worthy of being the 9th best album of 2012. I’ve even joked that many of the songs on this album could be on a James Bond soundtrack and I believe that to be and honor. If you like Muse, you will probably like this album and I recommend you give it a listen if you haven’t already.

Tracks I like from “The 2nd Law” include “Supremacy,” “Madness,” “Panic Station,” “Survival,” and “Follow Me.”

Yes, I said Rush is on my list. I cannot claim to be a huge fan of Rush. I’ve seen them in concert and thoroughly enjoyed the show. I’m well aware of their legacy and their history. However, I’ve never really listened to them much. I had read some reviews of “Clockwork Angels” and was curious enough to give it a listen. I could not believe what I was hearing. It was INCREDIBLY HEAVY. Their song “BU2B” is incredible. And from what I’ve heard from longtime Rush fans, it’s one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever put out. And like I said about Moonspell and Opeth, I think “Clockwork Angels” is an album that I wish Porcupine Tree had put out instead of whatever it was their last album was.

Tracks worth checking out include “Caravan,” “Seven Cities of Gold,” and especially “Bu2B.”

I had started listening to Sirius/XM’s Outlaw Country channel a bit over the summer and one of the songs I heard played frequently there was “Clementine” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I know it’s an old American standard, but this version had me interested. I got the rest of the album and I like just about every song on the album. They’re all old American standard, hense the name of the album, “Americana.” I think many of these songs would be a welcome addition to any Summertime playlist.

Some of my favorite tracks from this album include, “Clementine,” “Get a Job,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Tom Dula,” and “Oh Susannah.”

When I reviwed Ministry’s “The Last Sucker” in 2007, I was pretty sure that I would not be reviewing or ranking another Ministry album. They had advertised that album as their last album and the tour for it was the C-U-La-Tour. They were retiring after a long career. Well, something changed, obviously. They got back together and put out “Relapse.” The first thing I noticed on this album is that you can hear that it’s fun. They seemed to have fun recording it and I had fun listening to it. I don’t know if it’s a one time thing or if they’re back full-time, but it’s a good album filled with their usual political messages and sound bites.

Tracks worth listening to include “Ghouldiggers,” “99 Percenters.” “Relapse” and especially their cover of SOD’s “United Forces.”

Only on my lists can we go from Ministry to Dion. It just seems weird, even to me, but regardless of that, Dion’s “Tank Full of Blues” is just a good blues album. I’ve documented various times the significance that Dion has for me. This album here is the best album he’s put out over the last few years, and he’s put out of a few. It’s a well thought out blues album with some very solid tracks that I would recommend to any fan of Dion or any fan of the blues, and there’s lots of both.

Some good tracks from this album include “Tank Full of Blues,” “Ride’s Blues (For Robert Johnson),” “Bronx Poem,” and “I Read It (in the Rolling Stone).”

Willie Nelson’s music can be very simple at times, but sometimes that’s what is needed. There isn’t a need to over-produce everything. Willie Nelson’s career has lasted almost 60 years. There isn’t much I can say about him that hasn’t been said. His album “Heroes” is mostly classic country songs done by Nelson and various guest artists. “Roll Me Up” is a track on this album that features a few guests including Snoop Dogg. It’s a really fun song to listen to.  The album also has a great cover of Coldplay’s song “the Scientist.” Just do yourself a favor and give this album a listen.

Tracks I recommend include “That’s all There is to This Song,” “Roll Me Up,” “The Scientist,” and “Everytime he Drinks, he Thinks of Her.”

Kid Rock’s album “Rebel Soul” came out late in 2012 and I didn’t think it was going to make it to any lists I did this year. It really had to grow on me. After listening for a while I realized that it’s not a bad rock or country album. There are some good songs on it, no doubt, but it lacked something. It doesn’t really have the attitude that I was used to from Kid Rock albums. But then again, maybe that’s where he is now. He did produce this album on his own, so maybe this is it. Kid Rock’s music is definitely more country than it is anything else at this point. That isn’t a problem for me, and maybe if I expected that going in, I would have ranked this album higher.

Tracks that are good on this include “Let’s Ride,” “Redneck Paradise,” and “Mr Rock n’ Roll.”

Some other good realease in 2012 include Fozzy’s “Sin and Bones” and ZZ Top’s “La Futura.”

Hank Williams III had an album come out in 2012 as well. I can’t say he released an album in 2012, because it was his old record label that put it out in order to fullfil a contractual obligation and because Hank has gone on record asking people not to buy it. The album is mostly older songs that he had done on collaborations and some songs from his older albums that have been remixed. If it was new material, it would have made my list, likely at #12 spot. And I’m sure Hank would be happy to see that I would have had to knock Kid Rock out of the countdown as a result.

Mumford and Sons put out their album “Babel” and it did nothing for me. The same can be said for Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.” And, I want the record to state that I did a cut and paste for the name of that album.

And now I get to Storm Corrosion. Storm Corrosion is a project that Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree colaborated on. Based on what they’ve done together before I was very curious to see if I would like this album. However, based on the previous releases from Opeth and Porcupine Tree, I was worried about how much I may not like it. And I have to admit that I had no idea how right I was about my fears. I don’t know if I can possibly state how much I do not like this album. In fact, if it was the only album that came out in 2012, I would find a way to disqualify it from contention or I would just refuse to announce an Album of the Year. This album is nothing but ambient noises disguised as a progressive album. Robert Fripp from King Crimson would love this thing, but I certainly do not. I really don’t like it. I think I’ve made that somewhat clear. I guess it’s ironic that in a year that gave me so many albums that I liked that I felt I needed to do a Top 15 list instead of just a Top 10, I also get an album that I dislike as much as this, and from two of my favorite musicians.

I’m not aware of many new releases in 2013 yet other than new albums from Clutch and Tomahawk. And based on the direction Clutch was going, this will either be a hit or miss. And as far as Tomahawk goes, it’s a Mike Patton project, so I have no idea what it will sound like or if it’ll be something to take seriously. But we’ll see. If I like 2013’s new releases half as much as I did 2012’s, it’ll be a good year.

A note about eligibility for my 2012 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2012
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

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