Sahan’s Unranked Favorites of 2012
Sahan Jayasuriya shares his favorite albums, singles and shows of 2012.
I’ll be honest; I really, really can’t stand competition, and for the same reason, I’m not too fond of making numbered lists, either. Maybe it’s the optimist in me that would much rather post a picture of some Golden Retriever puppies with the text “Everyone did a super job in 2012!” above it, but I always find it difficult at year’s end to justify why whoever did better than whoever else, especially considering the highly eclectic state of modern music. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a short list, split into threes, of albums, singles and shows that I found especially compelling this year, and I tried my best to not repeat myself with any gushing that I may have done earlier in the year. Click around and you’ll find links to listen to everything listed below. See y’all in 2013!-Sahan
At age 15, my mind was blown after hearing Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” in a skate video. Last year, I was taken back to that very moment after hearing former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris’ new band OFF, and their excellent First Four EPs collection. The releases recalled the energy of the early Black Flag EPs, right down to the raw and minimalist production. This year, the band harnessed that energy again to create their self titled debut full length, an impressive album of 16 songs clocking in at just slightly under 16 minutes. Most of the group’s members are old enough to be my parents, and yet, they’re creating music that’s heavier, more pissed off and better overall than, well, bands made up of people my own age. Bravo, gents.
Recommended if you like: Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains
In the last few years, it’s become something of a trend for bands to play as loud as possible, so much that it’s become something of a cliche. Then, there’s bands like Animal Lover, who use volume to accentuate the already menacing qualities of their rhythmic and dissonant brand of noise rock. After seeing them live last year, I was curious as to how their live show would translate to recording. Thanks to the skilled ears of Howl Street Studios’ Shane Hochstetler, Fundango‘s five tracks sound as huge and abrasive as the band does live. While Sub Pop’s METZ may have gotten an exponentially larger amount of attention this year for making something very similar, I think Animal Lover deserves just as much. This is definitely a band to watch in 2013, folks.
Recommended if you like: The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Pissed Jeans
It’s relatively easy to play dreamy and washed out indie rock, but to do so with honesty and originality has proven to be a challenge to most who make the attempt. Bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and A Place to Bury Strangers failed at this, only briefly holding my attention as I found them both much too gimmicky for my tastes. Appleton’s Technicolor Teeth strip it down to the basics, free of all the gimmicks, and leaves the listener with a sweet yet psychedelic take on the early 90s Creation Records sound. The band will be in Milwaukee on Jan. 9 at the Circle A Cafe—don’t blow it.
Recommended if you like: Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Yo La Tengo
Jack White’s debut solo effort Blunderbuss may not have pleased fans hoping for another White Stripes record, but the album’s second single no doubt satisfied
those with an appetite for destruction those looking to turn it up. The song showcases two of White’s stronger talents — catchy songwriting and rock ‘n’ roll energy. Throw in a staticy fuzzed-out lead, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an awesome two-and-a-half minute banger.
Recommended If You Like: The Raconteurs, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather
If there’s an award for “Anti Party Anthem of 2012,” hand over the trophy to Seattle pop punk trio Big Eyes, whose 2012 track “I Don’t Care About Friday Night” makes being antisocial sound more fun than a carnival. Short, sweet and incredibly hooky, “I Don’t Care About Friday Night” clocks in at a lean 1:45, but hey, that’s a solid 15 seconds longer than “Judy is a Punk.” Turn it on, turn it up, and play it over again.
Recommended if you like: The Ramones, The Muffs, Discount
One the one hand, you have an ultra catchy vocal hook laid over a foundation of dreamy synthesized bass and a staggered hi-hat pattern, while on the other hand you’ve got easily the most graphic lyrics to crack the Billboard Top 200 this year. It’s that dichotomy that makes “Fineshrine” so memorable, as it is both aspects of the song, not one or the other, that sticks with the listener. If a track as dark as “Fineshrine” can coexist amongst the One Directions and Taylor Swifts of the world, then maybe, just maybe, the tastes of the mainstream are shifting.
Recommended if you like: The Knife, Crystal Castles, The Weeknd
Riverwest Fest III, Dec. 21 and 22
I can’t think of a better lineup of local acts this year than those featured on the two nights of the third annual Riverwest Fest. 2012’s festival featured an even more varied list of acts than in previous years, with even more venues participating this time around. At a mere $15 for the whole weekend, show-goers hopped around the neighborhood, getting a good sampling of the festival’s musical offerings. Highlights included fantastic sets from Moon Curse, Catacombz, and Midnight Reruns—though if I could have been at multiple shows at once, believe me, I would have. I’m highly anticipating next year’s fest.
King Tuff at Quarters, July 16
This past summer, Sub Pop’s King Tuff played an at-capacity show at Quarters in Riverwest. Cramming over 100 people into a tiny club is no doubt going to be uncomfortable, and doing so during 100+ degree weather would just make matters worse, one would think. This was hardly the case, as fans sang along, stage-dove and crowd-surfed while the band ripped through tracks from their two albums with an insane amount of energy and precision. I’d say more about it, but I already did back in July. Click here to read an in-depth review of the show.
Die Kreuzen at Turner Hall Ballroom, May 26
Die Kreuzen was one of those bands that I never thought I would actually see, even though a reunion was entirely possible. Playing to a sold out crowd along with a dozen other acts, Die Kreuzen delivered one of the most honest and passionate performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Having spent the weeks leading up to the show compiling an oral history of the band only helped the cause, and by showtime I was overjoyed to see the guys take the stage for the first time since their breakup in 1992, completely on top of their game. With a co-headling spot on the Roadburn Festival (along with the mighty Godflesh) scheduled for next year, who knows what the future holds for Die Kreuzen? Regardless, it’s great to see them back in action.