Friday, December 21, 2012


Hot Cakes 
  When The Darkness announced they were getting back together late last year, and then subsequently said that they were going to release their first album in seven years, I nearly lost my shit. The first single taken off the new album, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us", was a nice way to show they still had what it takes to rock us. Though, the two subsequent singles left me feeling empty. So much so, that I'd given up on even listening to the album when it was finally released. At a friend's prodding, I eventually gave it a listen some months later.
  Boy, was I wrong to give up on them. This could be even stronger than their debut. The guitar interplay between brothers' Hawkins, the hooks, melodies and general balls-to-the-wall rock is the best thing I've heard in years. Extra points go to the band for their killer album cover. Babes lying on pancakes covered in syrup? Yes, please.

#2 THE FRANK & WALTERS Greenwich Mean Time
  The Frank & Walters are one of those bands who are respected not because they've refused to go away, but because they've consistently released fantastic albums and never sounded out of date after 20 years. The Cork, Ireland trio is back at it with an album that is as poppy and clever as their 1992 debut Planes, Boats And Trains.
  Paul Linehan's innocent, yet wise lyrics are a testament that it's possible to write a happy song without being cheesy. Highlights include: "20 Years", "The Clock", "Trust In The Future", "Slow It Down".

The Church of Rock And Roll
  In my summation, Foxy Shazam are the best rock and roll band out there today. Even more, they are quite possibly the best live band in the world. The Church of Rock And Roll is their coming out party.
  In comparing their three previous albums, one would be hard-pressed to figure out who the true Foxy Shazam were. Though, they've built upon their third album (and best of the previous three) to solidify themselves as the modern day Queen with a  side portion of The Stone's-esque white mans blues.
  Simply said, this is one of the danciest, hipswaying, anthemic soundtracks of 2012.  Oh, and it spawned the best single of the year in "Holy Touch".

Come Of Age
  The Vaccines are probably writing the best and purest guitar pop songs today. When this UK four-piece first burst onto the scene back in 2010, I wanted to hate them more than anything I've ever hated in my life. Probably because they were being touted as the next Nirvana. I've never really understood how someone touted them as the next Nirvana, but they've definitely lived up to the "next-big-thing" hype with the quality of songs they've released so far in their brief career.
  Come Of Age is just as simple and to-the-point as their uber poppy debut, yet some of the wrinkles lyrically have been ironed out. The songwriting, too, has evolved (as one would hope). More suprising is that the tasteful production of the debut album remains much the same on the follow-up. Notables include "Bad Mood", "Aftershave Ocean", "Wirdo".

Cabin Fever EP
  Tia Brazda is the most refreshing thing to come out of Toronto since John McLaughlin invented Ginger Ale back in the early 1900s. Though, that's not entirely true considering that this red-haired beauty originally hails from Vancouver, BC.
  Although not a true "album" by definition, I had to include Brazda's debut on my list purely based on its sheer brilliance and her unique and sultry voice.
  Brazda has managed to reinvent the swing/jump jazz genre by fusing classic jazz chords and melodies with modern sounds and pop hooks. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does. The major label-quality production of the EP is a pleasant surprise, especially considering that Brazda is still 100% independent with an instilled DIY ethic. There is no filler here.

A Sleep & A Forgetting
  Islands are Canada's best kept secret. Where fellow countrymen like Arcade Fire, and most recently Caribou, have been making huge strides in fame (both nationally and internationally), Islands, while having critical acclaim, still seem to hide under the mainstream surface. One reason is that the production on their past albums has never really been able to capture the true essence of their well-crafted and dynamic songs.
  Though, with A Sleep & A Forgetting, all of that can be forgotten. This album features some truly beautiful arrangements and Nicholas Thorburn's vocals have never sounded better.

Lex Hives
  The thing with The Hives is that you always know what you're getting before you listen to a Hives album. That being said, it's been five years since their last offering. A lot can change in five years, though, luckily for Hives' fans it remains the status quo for one of Sweden's biggest and most energetic rock acts.
  Top tracks: "Wait a Minute", "Take Back The Toys", "These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics".

Researching The Blues
  Redd Kross are one of those bands that you seem to completely forget about between albums. And then they release a new album and you think, "Man, these guys are so fucking great!". They've stood the test of time - over 30 years of making albums - and, in my opinion, have been releasing far better music in the 15 years than the first 15. While Guns 'n' Roses (who used to open for them back in the mid-80s) have gone on to release the bloated and underwhelming Chinese Democracy, Redd Kross have shown the world you can still write relevant rock and roll songs well into your 40s.
Highlights include: "Dracula's Daughter", "Stay Away From Downtown", "One Of The Good Ones".

Born To Die
  Lana Del Rey is the pop star you love to hate. She's rich, pretentious and actually quite boring. Yet, her music is undeniably beautiful. She has this really annoying habit of pretending that she's had a hard life living on the streets and is haunted by a past that may or may not include drug and alcohol problems.
  But sometimes it doesn't matter whether it's actually reality as long as the artist believes it to be true. In this case, it works. Del Rey's music and lyrics are dark and evocative and sometimes controversial.
  Highlights include: "National Anthem", "Born To Die", "Million Dollar Man".

  Although not exactly an album(s) full of "new" material, Trilogy makes my Top 10 simply due to the fact that it's  chalk full of gamechanging songs. The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, has proven that no matter how little you care or how little you try ... great music will trump stoner ambitions (oxymoron. see what I did there?) any day of the week.
  Songs like "High For This", "The Morning" or "The Knowing" are musically dark, while Tesfaye's bleak and twisted lyrics leave you wondering whether the songs would be better suited for an orgy or a funeral. 
  Regardless, Trilogy makes you feel something even if you don't particularly feel comfortable with the emotions is evokes.

Tame Impala - Lonerism
The Cribs - In the Belly of The Brazen Beast
Crystal Castles - III
Kristian Anttila - Djur & Människor
Metz - Metz

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