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20th B-day / 2012's 20 Tastiest!

My birthday was yesterday, actually, and it didn't feel like a birthday at all. How does one celebrate being 20? By almost drinking alcohol, before stopping yourself because lol, you still have one year to go?! Possibly. It was a good way to wrap up this year, though: 2012, the year of genre exploration. I feel like we always think we've explored new genres so much each year, and that we consider each year "that ONE year where we discovered so many cool genres!", and it's definitely true to an extent. We grow as music critics from one year to the next, and while cultivating our own tastes we discover stuff we can at least have mad respect for. For 2012 I discovered that hip-hop's one damned interesting genre, and it even spawned my AOTY itself. Another common genre in my top list is jazz, though, whether it be in the form of jazz fusion or something more progressive. Part of that stems from being a drummer for almost 8 years, and comprehending the insanity of jazz music. That's one thing about progressive metal that's drawn me in over the last few years, after all. Here are 20 of my favorite albums this year, and if you haven't heard them yet go check them out! It's been a blast discovering all of this, and discussing music with you guys this year.
1Dark Time Sunshine

ANX is unforgettable. There are so many stellar tracks here, from the religion
discussions within "Cultclass" to the bombastic production featured in "Prarie Dog Day"
(yup, that's actually how it's spelled!). All of this album's already interesting attributes
come together to create such a satisfying album, one I love so much more than
Vessel. And who anticipated that? Vessel was such a blast in 2010, but you know ANX
MUST be great when it makes its predecessor look too scatterbrained. ANX has a
clear agenda from one song to the next, the same agenda only a few tracks on Vessel
had. "All Aboard" and "Run" focused on entrancing production and memorable vocal
hooks, the two things this album emphasizes the most. Check out "Take My Hand" if
you're into these guys, Aesop Rock and/or Swamburger from Soliloquists of Sound as
much as I am.
2Of Montreal
Paralytic Stalks

I typically would start this description off with something along the lines of how Kevin
Barnes has finally lost it, but let's be real - that happened a very long time ago. Any
Of Montreal fan can promise you this album isn't even their craziest, at least in an
outward way. There aren't funky disco ballads like "Girl Named Hello," nothing quite
wearing eccentricity on its sleeve when compared to the band's previous outings.
Paralytic Stalks is actually one of the band's tamer albums, at least in its first half.
Things do happen, though. Barnes decides he wants to inject a 10+ minute-long track
based on disharmony and eerie spoken word to the album's home stretch, and while I
do have to admit it's pretty much a failure, at the same time one has to admire the
group's bravado. They actually thought they could pull something like this off. But the
funny thing making it possible is that the rest of this album does work. Paralytic Stalks
is a patient creature, luring the listener in with very logically-written and cohesive
tracks, then gradually delving into madness. And this time around, the journey has a
much more satisfying context: the insanity successfully counters the album's early
sterility. This album's just a blast, and any of you that have yet to hear it should at
least check out "Spiteful Intervention." What an infectious chorus.

Novel came at the perfect time for me. I've got friends in the jazz band at my college,
and we're always talking about good jazz albums for those interested in the genre. It's
difficult for a jazz album to be too accessible, but Novel does a fantastic job of
blending the genre's common elements with other styles we appreciate. This album's
also remarkably well-versed in the post-rock department, and when the two styles
blend as they do in "Unnecessary pain" they truly astound. It's fun to attempt
drumming to this album, too.
Smierc w miekkim futerku

Smierc w miekkim futerku is a great foray into heavily jazz-influenced progressive
rock. This album feels like the end result of The Mars Volta replacing Cedric Bixler-
Zavala with an equally well-versed saxophone, all while having a strong fetish for
jazz. This is another great introduction to jazz stylings because it never loses sight of
its endgoals, despite how improvisational the whole package feels. Check out "After
5Father Figure
Congratulations On Your Loss

Another proficient progressive rock influence. This album is so aware of its agenda,
and how much of it is capable of being accomplished, that its virtuosic nature doesn't
even come as a surprise. This album really does fly by, too. To think it's only a debut!
Check out "Yearning For Slime" (hehe) here:
6Submotion Orchestra

Fragments is the most accessible Submotion Orchestra have ever been. The album
reveals its secrets much more readily, and tracks like "Thinking" and "It's Not Me It's
You" are enjoyable from the get-go. However, there are still some growers to be
found here, delightful blends of dubstep and trip-hop terrain. Perhaps my favorite
song from this year is "Coming Up For Air," the album closer: I don't even want to
describe how perfect it is. Just listen to it here.
7Aesop Rock

Aesop Rock changed my Comic-Con trip this year. The airplane ride was tolerable, the
walks through San Diego late at night had more color, and the lines weren't quite as
lonely. Skelethon really spoke to me, and it's because the album is the most inspired
Aesop's ever been. His lyrics are engaging as always, but the beats in particular are
incredible. "Fryerstarter"'s beat defines that trip, and is the soundtrack for that time
period. Every time I hear it, I go back to San Diego and all the great times I had
there. And the track's about donuts. Does this combination make sense to you?
Probably not, and it doesn't for me either.
8Icarus the Owl
Love Always, Leviathan

Icarus the Owl are my kind of band. They've got infectious melodies, a great vocalist
and a knack for fucking with time signatures. They must also know I check out albums
based on album artwork, because this thing's beautiful. Love Always, Leviathan is a
massive step up from the group's previous effort, and it makes me anxious to see
what's in store for Icarus the Owl.
9Caught In The Wake Forever
Against a Simple Wooden Cross

This album's a journey through grief, and that helps to explain why I'm so connected
to it. Each song off this album portrays a man struggling with his woes, trying to get
out before it consumes him. And the music is his release, his means to happiness.
Against A Simple Wooden Cross is all the gritty stuff in life, the bitter feelings and
hatred. However, they evolve into something very admirable through this release, and
are relinquished to give way to peace. Which explains why this album's one of the
most peaceful pieces of music I've heard in awhile. Check out "Western Medicine
Failed Me" here:
10Beach House

A common criticism of Bloom is that it's the same album Beach House has already
made three times. I guess I'm an anomoly, then. While I never appreciated the
drowsy nature of Teen Dream, Bloom is one of my favorite albums from this year
because of how I always get lost in it. This is weird for me, because I've never cared
for Beach House much at all for these reasons. There's something undeniably alluring
about this album, though. Check out "The Hours" to understand exactly what I mean.
11Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Godspeed create a monster of an album, once again, and it even contains a lovely
drone track. You've probably heard the others by now, so check out "Their
Helicopters' Sing" here:
12Ne Obliviscaris
Portal of I

What a tasty blend of progressive and black metal. The instrumentation on this one is
intriguing, too. Check out "And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope" here:

This album's as mechanical as possible, but still is packed to the brim with emotion.
14Bloc Party

I've never heard Bloc Party until this album, and I love it. "Real Talk" is particularly
15Fero Lux
Some Divine Ashtray

Well, shit. Fero Lux blow my mind with their ferocity, and they seem to have come out
of nowhere. Check out the mathcore madness of "Buying Ether From the Girl Who
Lives In the Cemetery" here. I FOUND YOU OUTTTTT
16John Talabot

This album's musical hypnotism at its finest. "Depak Ine" is my favorite, because of
how it changes direction halfway through, and in such an interesting way.
An Awesome Wave

"Fitzpleasure" is enough reason to endorse this consistently catchy album.
18Killer Mike
R.A.P. Music

All the greatest things about rap on this album. "Jojo's Chillin'" is one of my favorites
19 The Mars Volta

I love the direction The Mars Volta took with this one. But then again, I really enjoyed
Octahedron. Check out "Empty Vessels" here:

This album belongs in an indie videogame. The tracks are simply infectious, and really
stick with you. Check out "Ginseng" here:
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