Matt Haide’s 2012 Music Round-Up

26Dec12

I’ll be completely honest, most of the music I listened to in 2012 was not from 2012. I enjoyed a ton of great new (to me) music from past years, but when it came to constructing an end of year list, I drew a bit of a blank… However, after a great deal of investigating and Spotifying (if that can be used as a verb), I’ve confidently compiled a pretty solid end of year list. Some of these I just experienced in December, but that’s still technically 2012, so it counts.

As I mentioned, I listened to a lot of bands that may not have released an album this year, but I would still like to highlight certain ones since I feel they deserve the recognition. With this said, I will also be including a “Noteworthy albums I enjoyed in 2012” list, as well as a “Bands to watch out for” list.

And now, the feature presentation:

10. Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
⁃When I first heard Ben Folds Five was getting back together to make an album, I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I really enjoyed a lot of their past music, but after being quite disappointed by Folds’ solo album “Way To Normal”, I wasn’t sure if he was still capable of putting a smile on my face like he did with “Rockin’ The Suburbs” and “Songs For Silverman”. Thankfully this new album, “The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind” has a refreshing blend of BFF’s “Whatever And Ever Amen” and a little bit of “Songs For Silverman”. Complete with some great, energetic piano solos and well thought out ballads, it’s nice to see that Ben Folds is still capable of arranging interesting music.

9. Future of Forestry – Young Man Follow
⁃Full of great hooks and infectious melodies, Future of Forestry seem to have a true knack for creating catchy tunes. Since I began listening them on their Travel EPs, I couldn’t help but notice that they were very good at maintaining a poppy vibe while still managing to keep each part particularly interesting and unique. “Young Man Follow” does tend to simplify things a bit compared to some of their past albums, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. This album definitely shows the great potential this band holds.

8. Good Old War – Come Back As Rain
⁃If folky acoustic goodness is your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out Good Old War’s latest release, “Come Back As Rain.” Although I wasn’t crazy about this album at first, it has certainly grown on me. I really enjoyed a lot of the elements in their first full-length, “Only Way To Be Alone” and am pleased to report that their 2012 release holds similar qualities. Catchy acoustic-driven tracks, filled with beautiful harmonies are a staple for this trio and are certain to keep your foot tapping the whole way through.

7. Hammock – Departure Songs
⁃Ambient music holds a special place in my heart. It might be the fact that it’s great to nap to, and I love napping, but I think there’s more to it than that. The expression “less is more” rings loud and clear and Hammock is a band that has perfected this idea while still keeping its music interesting. Although this double disc album does hold a lot of similarities to Hammock’s previous releases, they still seem to show some nice progression (especially in disc 2) where there is a greater use of interesting drum beats that seem to drive the songs along more-so than your typical Hammock track. Overall, for such a lengthy album, I really enjoyed it.

6. Anberlin – Vital
⁃I know many of you who are familiar with Anberlin might be thinking, “Anberlin? What happened to those guys? They haven’t pulled their weight since ‘Cities’.” Although I personally was a bigger fan of “Never Take Friendship Personal”, I do agree that they did indeed have some making up to do. With “Vital” I believe they’ve finally gotten back on track with the band that they want to be. With the epic opener entitled “Self-Starter” the album leaps out of the gate with an immense amount of energy in this very well-tuned track. Every part feels so intentional and has a great flow to it. This is the story throughout the majority of the album. Though it isn’t perfect and does have several tracks that leave something to be desired (“God, Drugs & Sex”, “Orpheum”), the good outweighs the bad. One track that I just have to give recognition is “Innocent”. As much as I love the great driving tunes that Anberlin so faithfully cranks out, I find myself repeatedly coming back to this song. There’s something about that 80’s vibe that I can’t get enough of. But overall, I feel that Vital is a great returning album for Anberlin that shouldn’t be overlooked like their last few releases.

5. Beats Antique – Contraption Vol II
⁃So, I may or may not have just stumbled upon this album today while finishing up my list, but I’m pretty sure it deserves some recognition in this years round-up. I’m a sucker for glitchy electronic music, and this has all of that, plus a lot of really great, tweaked-out organic elements. It feels like a slightly more exotic Bonobo album, with hints of Beirut and other fun middle-eastern and European sounds. It’s not often that you find those “love and first sight” albums, but “Contraption Vol II” has won my heart with it’s undeniably catchy rhythms and some very unique timbres. This album is very original and displays some incredible musicianship and versatility.

4. Lymbyc Systym – Symbolyst
⁃When I first began listening to this band about a year ago, I must say I wasn’t all that impressed. They had some fun electronic programming going on, but nothing that really caught my attention. However, there clearly was a lot of potential for a great future album. Now that Symbolyst is here, I believe they’ve finally reached their potential. This album still utilizes great drum programming, as well as refreshing string elements and unique synth sounds. Think, The Album Leaf meets The American Dollar. Ambient at times, often crescendoing into higher energy drum beats and catchy synth melodies. Jared and Mike Bell have clearly put a lot of work into this album and it shows in the end. Your gift for all of their hard work is a well polished ambient electronic album. Enjoy.

3. Zelliack – Noir Tone EP
⁃I’m a sucker for jazzy 7 chords and interesting drum grooves, so when I first checked out Zelliack’s debut EP earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised to see both bases very well covered. These are clearly well-seasoned musicians, and despite slightly lower production quality (emphasis on slightly), it would be hard to tell this was the band/duo’s first release. That might have something to do that the fact that members Elliot Coleman (singer of Tesseract) and Zack Ordway (guitar for Sky Eats Airplanes) are highly experienced metal musicians. It seems like it would be a pretty drastic change to move from metal to alternative jazz (or whatever you want to call it), but somehow the band incorporates shredding guitar solos and operatic vocals extremely well. I won’t go into detail of every track, but I will say that each song seems to have it’s place in this EP and every note feels so intentional. It’s hard to pick a favorite off this album, but I’d say it’s a toss up between “These Hands” and “Without A Doubt”. Check this album out. You won’t regret it! And be on the lookout for this band in 2013 as they’re currently working on their debut full length. Mm mm good!

Keep your ears open for the 8-bit break

2. K Sera – “Dream Like I Do” (single) – from upcoming album.
⁃For a long time now, I’ve been a huge fan of The Dear Hunter and most of what they put out (aside from the Color Spectrum, which was slightly disappointing). That theatrical rock sound also has a special place in my heart, right next door to the ambient stuff. So naturally when I heard that Casey Crescenzo (mastermind behind TDH) would be producing K Sera’s new album, I had to take a closer look. K Sera’s previous releases were all quite great to begin with, and now, with the help of Casey, this album is sure to take off. The track “Dream Like I Do” was released late this year as sort of a teaser for the upcoming album (in January 2013). Although it is only a single track, it showcases some great musical talent, both in musicianship and production. Filled with beautiful electronic elements (Imogen Heap-like autotune on vocals at end), huge drums and powerful vocals by lead singer Mike Caswell. There’s even an 8-bit breakdown! Come on people, what more could you ask for!? Personally this is currently my most anticipated album of 2013, and based off of our preview with this single, I don’t think anyone will be going home disappointed.

Da Da D-DA!!!

1! Snarky Puppy – GroundUP
⁃I found out about this album through one of my other favorite bands, The Reign of Kindo. TROK has a very unique sound with some great jazz influences, so I knew this band had to be something special. After listening to one track, I was immediately hooked. Not only did they display incredible musicianship, but it was really easy to listen to at the same time; a similar quality to that found in The Reign of Kindo’s music. The intriguing thing about this album is how it was recorded. It’s actually a live album (though it’s hard to tell) that was recorded in a warehouse-like building in New York. The band converted it into a studio/performance space, invited probably 30-40 people and recorded the whole show. What amazes me is that the band consists of about 20 people, including a string section, horn section, percussion section as well as your standard guitars, basses, drums and keyboards. It’s really an incredible production and every song in it feels so well sculpted, filled with fascinating time signatures, stops, and solos in multiple different styles. I would certainly call this musician’s music, since there is so much to listen to. But as I stated earlier, it somehow maintains a bit of a poppy vibe that makes it fun for non-musicians as well. Styles on this album vary quite a lot, from funky pop anthems (“Thing of Gold”) to funky math rock (“Bent Nails”) to more experimental (“Mr. Montauk”) to more traditional jazz (“Like A Light” and “Young Stuff”) to New Orleans big band (“Quarter Master”) and more. The album really has a lot of great variety and highlights just about every instrument at one point or another, making it feel like a proper jazz band. This made my number one spot for a reason.

And now, here is a taste of the greatness that is Snarky Puppy:

Opening track: Thing Of Gold

Noteworthy Albums I Enjoyed in 2012:
-In no particular order:
1. K Sera – “The Cantos EP”, “The Cantos II”, “Dream Like I Do” (Single)
2. Gungor – “Ghosts Upon The Earth” and “Beautiful Things”
3. Adventure Club – misc. songs
4. Snarky Puppy – “GroundUp” and “Tell Your Friends”
5. Weaver At The Loom – “Before Now, Was Then”
6. Jeremy Larson – “They Reappear”
7. Sleeping At Last – “Yearbook”
8. Harvard (now HRVRD) – “The Inevitable And I”
9. Freelance Whales – “Weathervanes”
10. As Tall As Lions – “You Can’t Take It With You”
11. Meg & Bryan – “Back and Forth”
12. Lettuce – “Rage” and “Fly”

Finally, I leave you with this…

Bands To Watch Out For in 2013:
Although there are countless bands/musicians out there displaying unique and creative musical styles right now, I have gathered a small list of some that I personally think will shine in 2013. Enjoy!
-Again in no particular order:
1. K Sera
2. Zelliack
3. Paper Route
4. The Reign of Kindo
5. Snarky Puppy
6. Gungor
7. Lymbyc Systym

Happy Listening everyone!

-M@

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