Ian Hammons

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Last Active 12-02-12 12:42 pm
Joined 12-02-08

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01.25.14 2014 Anticipated Releases01.08.14 Killrobotmusic///2013
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I just realized that haven't posted on this site in roughly a year. Between grad classes and teaching college English, things have been pretty damn busy. However, I was still fortunate enough to listen to some pretty enjoyable music this year. There's nothing groundbreaking on this list compared to most others I've seen here, but the opportunity to reflect on the music that got me through 2012 is good enough for me.
1Minus the Bear
Infinity Overhead

25. Not Minus the Bear's best by a long shot (though a slight improvement over Omni), but there are still some tight grooves and great guitar riffs/tones on this album. TOP TRACKS: Diamond Lightning, Lonely Gun
2Take One Car
It's Going to be a Nice Day

24. I've been following these guys ever since my band played a show with them in someone's living room in NJ. This album is a big step up from their debut, and the progressive influence that compliments the band's post-hardcore sound adds a certain extra layer of depth to the album. TOP TRACKS: The Ocean Song, Dear Ronnie
3High on Fire
De Vermis Mysteriis

23. Simply put, an album of pummeling stoner-metal jams and blistering riffs. What really adds to De Vermis Mysteriis, however, is Kurt Ballou's nuanced production job, which gives the band's sound a vitality it hasn't had in years. TOP TRACKS: King of Days, Spiritual Rights
4Flying Lotus
Until the Quiet Comes

22. I really haven't listened to this beast as much as I would have liked to, so it's hard to really get a feel for how much I liked it or not. It feels less cohesive and immediate than Cosmogramma, but there still are some really chill moments on here. TOP TRACKS: DMT Song, Only if You Wanna
5Ghost Mice
All We Got is Each Other

21. I've always kind of enjoyed this noisy, frantically out of tune style of folk punk. But what really sets this album apart is its nakedly earnest exploration of mental illness and the death of a friend. There's a certain urgency to this album that really pulls me in. TOP TRACKS: Disconnected, Albany
6The Men
Open Your Heart

20. The Men have some classic punk tracks on this album, but there is also a certain level of experimentation here that sets it apart from other similar albums, from the almost drone-like "Presence" to the bleak Americana influenced "Country Song." What unites all of the songs though is a distinct snarling attitude that just feels so damn exciting. TOP TRACKS: Open Your Heart, Ex-Dreams

19. Cloudkicker has achieved a nice balance here between the introspective heaviness of Beacons and the ambient soundscapes of Let Yourself be Huge. Ben Sharp has a great ear for sonic layers, and it really shows in a track like "Seattle" where different musical motifs constantly build off of and compliment one another. TOP TRACKS: Seattle, LA After Rain
8Cloud Nothings
Attack on Memory

18. "Wasted Days" alone is worth the price of admission, but there are some other good tracks here as well. It seems that the band is still trying to find a nice balance between pop and grit, but show some real moments of brilliance in trying to do so. TOP TRACKS: Wasted Days, Stay Useless
9Sigur Ros

17. This album doesn't come close to the brilliance of ( ) or Agaetis Byrjun, potentially because the band's meticulously crafted climaxes just don't have the same emotional resonance here than they do elsewhere (though I would argue that the pounding climax in Varuo is amongst the band's best). But still, there are some really beautiful moments on Valtari that are worth at least a cursory listen. TOP TRACKS: Varou, Rembihbutur
10Frank Ocean
Channel Orange

16. I don't necessarily see the same classic album here that many others have raved about, but it's hard to deny that there are some really excellent moments here. "Pyramids" is perhaps the best thing that's come out of the R&B world in quite some time, but songs like "Bad Religion" show that Ocean isn't a one trick pony. TOP TRACKS: Pyramids, Bad Religion
11Andrew Bird
Break it Yourself

15. Andrew Bird's music has always reminded me of a mellow Spring day, and this album is no exception. From the barnyard stomp of "Danse Caribe" to the masterfully executed vintage power pop of "Eyeoneye," there is plenty of fantastic tracks on this album, though it is rather front-loaded. TOP TRACKS: Danse Caribe, Eyeoneye
12The Gaslight Anthem

14. I know that a lot of people were not happy with Gaslight's move to a more streamlined sound, but I find that this album more shows a band getting more comfortable and assured with their music. Even with the move to a bigger label, the band's penchant for youthful nostalgia still remains at the center of their music, and a song like "Mae" feels no different to me than anything off of The '59 Sound. TOP TRACKS: 45, Mae
13Titus Andronicus
Local Business

13. I was expected a lot more from this album considering how much I enjoyed the overblown bombast of The Monitor, but I have to give Titus credit for crafting a collection of fine-tuned, straightforward rockers. While a track like "In a Big City" or "Ecce Homo" still features some of the sillier lyrics that have permeated the band's music over the years, but it also seems that Stickles is more comfortable with holding a mirror up to himself and letting us more into his own fucked-up world. TOP TRACKS: Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter, Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape with the Flood of Detrius
14Aesop Rock

12. I'm probably in the minority with this one, but I found Skelethon more gripping than Labor Days. Perhaps it's because the Aesop's abstract (though carefully constructed) flow seems more human than in the past, as many of the songs take a close look at death and loss. A track like "Ruby 81" is frantically gripping in its depiction of a near-death experience, while "Gopher Guts" comes off as a damning self-portrait that shows Aesop at his most vulnerable. Quite an achievement. TOP TRACKS: Leisureforce, Cycles of Gehenna
Ten Stories

11. Aaron Weiss's storytelling skills reach an all-time high on this album with his twisting tale of the plight of circus animals following a train crash. While this concept may seem ridiculous on paper, Weiss infuses into it the same kind of introspective theological and humanist questions that have made the band's works so relatable to all walks of life despite their deeply religious undertones. TOP TRACKS: Bear's Vision of St. Agnes, Grist for the Malady Mill
All We Love We Leave Behind

10. Converge return with another album filled with tightly tuned barn burners. It's amazing how this band can still sound so intensely urgent after all of the years they've been playing together, and they still stand out in a sea of generic "-core" bands that have nothing to say. TOP TRACKS: Aimless Arrow, All We Love We Leave Behind
17The Menzingers
On the Impossible Past

9. I would have been surprised earlier in 2012 if someone had told me that this would become my go-to punk album, but the band's ability to craft deeply-felt nostalgic situations should even make The Gaslight Anthem blush. It's hard for me not to hear a line like "It's not hard to fall for a waitress/when you both smoke the same cigarettes" from "Gates" without being transported back to a world where responsibility took a backseat to desire and impossible dreams. TOP TRACKS: Gates, Sun Hotel
18The Tallest Man on Eath
There's No Leaving Now

8. While not quite the achievement that The Wild Hunt was, Kristian Matsson's latest offering still shows that the man has a great ear for crafting endearing folk music. The album is more restrained than The Wild Hunt, for better or for worse, but when you hear the intensity of Matsson's wailing voice over a hushed piano on the title track, for example, it's hard not to be affected by this album's sheer beauty. TOP TRACKS: There's No Leaving Now, To Just Grow Away
19Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

7. I was as surprised as anyone else when Godspeed suddenly announced that they were dropping a new record this year, and it does not disappoint. A track like "Mladic" reintroduces a certain dissonance that has been missing from post-rock over the last few years, but for all of the bombast, there are also some slight rays of light that shine through the dark cracks. TOP TRACKS: Mladic, We Drift Like Worried Fire
The Seer

6. This is an exhausting listen, but a rewarding one. Swans have created a hell of a record where light and dark, hope and fear, and beauty and chaos exist side by side. There was hardly a record that felt more painfully human this year. TOP TRACKS: Avatar, Song for a Warrior
21Murder by Death
Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

5. Easily the most underrated album this year, in my opinion. Murder by Death take a huge leap from the mostly underwhelming Good Morning, Magpie with a mix of drunken celebrations, mournful reveries, and good old folk stories. The instrumentation has never been tighter, from the rousing accordion-heavy "I Came Around" to the pounding rock of "Straight at the Sun." If you haven't heard this one yet, I would highly recommend it. TOP TRACKS: Lost River, Ghost Fields
22 Baroness
Yellow & Green

4. I'm bound to get some shit for putting this album so high, but what the hell, I enjoyed it. Sure, there's a bit of filler, but the songs that hit do hit hard. "Eula" is probably the best thing that the band has ever written, but the variation on the album is also worth commending, from the campfire harmonies in "Twinkler" to the pastoral riffing of "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)." Following the band's near-fatal bus accident this year, the beauty of this album seems to me to be even more strongly felt. TOP TRACKS: Eula, Take My Bones Away
23The Mountain Goats
Transcendental Youth

3. My biggest sin this year was not getting this album sooner. As an introduction to The Mountain Goats, this album absolutely floored me with its sheer beauty and lyrical prowess. The horn arrangements add so much to the already stunning compositions, but its John Darnielle's plain delivery of some of 2012's most haunting lyrics that really sold the album for me. TOP TRACKS: Lakeside View Apartments Suite, White Cedar
24Grizzly Bear

2. My review of this album more eloquently describes my feeling about Shields, but I can't reiterate how impressive the musical craftsmanship is here. I'm just glad that the band has seemed to bridge craftsmanship with pathos here, which makes the album feel so much more engaging than prior albums. TOP TRACKS: Yet Again, A Simple Answer
Celebration Rock

1. In a year with some monumental artistic achievements, Japandroids took my top spot because of how damn fun and relatable it is. I can't tell you how many car rides that this album has provided the soundtrack for. Each song just feels so right to me, and that's really the only way I can possible explain it. TOP TRACKS: The House that Heaven Built, Fire's Highway
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