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10 Great Albums of 2012

I love lists. Especially best of lists. This is a list of my favourite albums from this year. I’ll also do a list of best songs, best gigs and best musical moments of 2012. Then I’ll have a list of lists. It’s turning me on just thinking about it.

In no particular order.

Cloud Nothings – Wasted Days

“Can I feel so utterly unreal but nothing I could do would make things changes”

He might sing in an annoying, nasally, out of tune voice, but Dylan Baldi has made one of the years best punk records. Teen angst is a common theme throughout.

‘Cause greed is glory and god is money, government is government it’s all so fucking meaningless!’

My favourite Australian album of the year. Which is a big call because there has been some brilliant albums this year. There’s just something in the roar emotion from lead singer and song-writer Will Wagner. Also being from a nearby suburb makes this album particularly relatable for me.

Grimes – Vision

“To look into my eyes and tell me la la la la la”

Clare Boucher finally gets the break she deserves, with this electro-pop masterpiece.

Tame Impala – Lonerism

“You know that you’re dreaming about being loved by him. Too bad your chances are slim”

Obligatory Tame Impala mention. It is a great album, and has been on repeat since I caught them at Meredith last week.  The Perth lads have the world at their feet at the moment.

Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim

“Now I live with a yeti and a caterpillar king. I wanna make love on everything”

I am pretty sure I prefer this album to their companions Tame Impala. More psychedelic, more 70s more enjoyable. Pretty great listen.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

“If at first you don’t succeed at love just dream a little dream about a girl so real”

You might have guessed that this is a more mature work than previous Pink records. He does manage to retain some quirkiness though and his ability to write a killer pop track

Japandroids – Celebration Rock

“And if they try to slow you down, Tell em all to go to hell”

It’s been a good year for Canada, with Japandroids being the second Canadian acts on my list. Go Canada!

Boomgates – Boomgates

“Mixed messages I was receiving, or at least that’s what they said”

A Melbourne indie-pop supergroup formed from members of Dick Diver, Eddy Current, Twerps amongst others. Laid-back pop rock has been getting great reviews from those in the know

DZ Deathrays – Bloodstreams

24 hours and I’m lying on the kitchen floor. You wanna use me? Well, use me fast.”

It’s been a staple in my playlist this year from when it came out earlier on. Topped off a great year for the duo by winning an ARIA award. Great stuff.

Spiritualised – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

“Well you got good style and you a little taste. Carved your name right into my face”

Only started getting into these guys three weeks ago, but my lord are they awesome. Barely a bad moment in this one.


Best Albums of 2012 so far

Emerging from my exam-induced slumber, to get back into the swing of things I’m going to list my favourite albums so far in 2012. Coincidentally, today is the winter solstice and a good time to look back on what we’ve heard this year.

DZ Deathrays – Bloodstreams

My favourite album for the year so far, which showed that DZ Deathrays could live up to the hype. Currently on tour in the US and Canada, Bloodstreams has taken them through Europe and will return back home for Splendour in the Grass in a few weeks. One of Australia’s most exciting bands to watch.
Best Track: Dollar Chills

Pond – Beards, Wives, Denim

Another exciting Australian act, the Tame Impala side-project have taken a massive stride to come out from the shadows. Psychedelic rock can be a difficult genre to attack, but Pond make it seem effortless.
Best Track: Fantastic Explosion of Time

Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

If you haven’t heard Cloud Nothings this year, you haven’t been living. Although Attack on Memory is their third studio album, it is the first that showcases their song-writing ability to such an amazing extent. Wasted Days is one of the best songs of the year.
Best Track: Wasted Days

Shearwater – Animal Joy

A side project from the blokes at Okkervil River, this is one of my favourite indie rock albums from the year.
Best Track: Animal Life

Sigur Ros – Valtari

Long been an underground favourite, Sigur Ros returns with another brilliant album. I always find Post Rock to be somewhat difficult to analyse, but the textures and sounds throughout Valtari are immense.
Best Track: Ekki Múkk

The Walkmen – Heaven

The New York group just keep plugging away. A career that has spawned three brilliant albums, a guest spot on The OC, and the greatest hit that never was culminated in their most professional album to date. How they haven’t found more commercial success is beyond me.
Best Track: No One Sleeps

Jack White – Blunderbuss

There were always going to be questions about how Jack White would go releasing a solo album. The result was quite unexpected. Combining a blend of classic blues rock and the more modern garage rock that White is renowned for, Blunderbuss shows that White has some talent left in him yet.
Best Track: I’m Shakin’

Howler – America Give Up

Minnesota-natives Howler have come on leaps and bounds this year. America Give Up is the perfect testament of surf punk, full of songs about girls and beaches.
Best Track: Beach Sluts

The Shins – Port of Morrow

After five years in the music wilderness, The Shins have returned with a brilliant fourth album. James Mercer returns with a completely new band, but with the same musical mastermind behind the tracks, it is a classic Shins album.
Best Track: Bait And Switch

Grimes – Visions

I’m a bit against the popularity this album has gained through the likes of Pitchfork, but after much deliberation I actually quite enjoyed the songwriting. Grimes is effortlessly cute, just watch the clip for Oblivion below.
Best Track: Oblivion

DZ Deathrays @ The Tote 27/4/12

We headed down to The Tote on Friday night for one of my more anticipated gigs of the year, DZ Deathrays. The Queenslanders have just released their stunning début album Bloodstreams, which has been highly acclaimed, and not just by me. Joining them on stage would be up-and-comers Velociraptor, a 12 piece band which include Simon and Shane of DZ Deathrays.

Despite the night getting off to a poor start when we were denied entry at Chicken & Beer on Little Lonsdale, we ended up eating and drinking at our now customary pre-gig Dumplings joint, armed with a bottle of red and a couple of six-packs and it only took a few minutes for the tram to get us to the iconic Tote Hotel in Collingwood. With a sold-out crowd, the front bar was full as entered at the end of Them 9’s set.

Velociraptor are quickly becoming one of my favourite new Australian bands. Their surf-pop is infectious, and they made it seem like they were having a great time just playing together. The low-set mosh pit of The Tote was full for their set as well, with punters not afraid to jump around in support of the support. I’ve become familiar with their song Cynthia, but the set introduced me to others including Hey Suzanne, Sleep With The Fishes and In the Springtime. I don’t think I’d enjoyed a support act as much since DZ Deathrays themselves had opened for Foo Fighters.

By the time DZ Deathrays took to the stage, the place was packed; as you’d expect from a sell-out crowd. Having recently been told to leave the stage at SXSW for playing too loud, it did not take long to realise that this is not a new issue for the group. Simon and Shane make enough noise to make-up for the small numbers in their group. The first half of the set featured old favourite The Mess Up, with green strobe lights flashing around the small venue. The group threw out face masks, in the style of their album cover, attached with 3D glasses, making for a truly mind-tripping experience.  The majority of the set was made up of tracks from Bloodstreams. Lead single No Sleep was a highlight, and their track Cops/Capacity is well suited for live audiences.About halfway through the set however, there was a minor disruption as the vocal mic stopped work. Turns out playing loud can be damaging to the equipment. Forced to continue the set with limited vocal dynamics, the gig denigrated into a house party vibe with various crowd members, myself included,  jumping on stage and crowd surfing their way out again.

It really was a brilliant set, and I’m glad I can finally check crowd surfing off my life to do list.

DZ Deathrays – Bloodstreams

The politics of the music industry can be quite interesting. All it seems to take for a band to get popular is a degree of luck and favouritism from industry people to get a band’s name in lights. DZ Deathrays have been in the Australian circuit for a while, but until May of last year, they were a relatively unknown force. Sure, they played the odd support tour for The View and Dananananaykroyd, but without the support of the Australian media, I wondered how they’d manage to get to the next step. To say it’s been a whirlwind six months is a bit of an understatement for the Brisbane boys. Landing the opening slot for the Foo Fighters Australian tour was a start, and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dave Grohl and Jack Black did wonders for their career. Before you know it, NME Magazine are naming them at number 4 in the Top 20 New Bands of 2012. A band who have little recognition in their home country are about to explode in England and Europe.

Next week, marks the release of their debut LP Bloodstreams. It is one of the more adrenaline-filled releases I’ve heard in a few years. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Death From Above 1979. But it’s not just loud noises and shouting, there’s a mellower side to the album that’s a bit unexpected from a pair that a known for their rowdy, electro rock.

Lead single No Sleep has been travelling around the underground airwaves for a few months now. It’s probably the most typical song on the album and sums up the idea that lead singer Shane Parsons is more of a screamer than a singer. Play Dead Until Your Dead is complete contrast with this, with verses almost musical from the group and it takes until the chorus for a real shout to come out of Shane’s mouth. One of the things that stands out for me about this album is the variety in the songs. While mainly staying around the same idea of loud guitars and shouting, there is enough electronics and singing through various tracks to keep you interested. Cops/Capacity features the loudest guitars as raw power drives the rack, while Debt Death has a more electro feel to it.

IT is a very impressive debut for the young group. A highly unusual sound and varying genres appear through the album make it incredibly fun to listen to. I would love to see how the media here respond to it.

A Tribute to Jet

It’s a sad day, Jet has officially broken up after 11 years of performing. Coming to the fold with the classic LP Get Born which to this day maintains the record for highest selling debut album in Australia they went on to sell more than 6 million cds worldwide. They were part of an avant-garde grunge rock scene of the ilk of The Vines and The Hives providing a feel good rock pop to the general public. Those were days when shopping centres blasted out rock hits rather than the RnB of today. It might seem an over elaboration but Jet were in a sense pioneers bringing back distorted guitars to the mainstream and providing the framework for the current Grunge scene of today such as DZ Deathrays and Violent Soho. Thanks for the good times Jet.

From their Facebook page;

“A Message To Our Fans: After many successful years of writing, recording and touring we wish to announce our discontinuation as a group. From the many pubs, theatres, stadiums and festivals all across the world it was the fans that made our amazing story possible and we wish to thank them all. Thank you, and goodnight.”

Foo Fighters w/ Tenacious D, Fucked Up and DZ Deathrays @ AAMI Park

Four great bands, 35,000 adoring fans, and more Southern Cross tattoos than you could shake your metal-horns at. A gig that was could have been more aptly called a festival than any other before seen in Melbourne, descended upon AAMI Park to witness one of the world’s greatest rock bands, led by a man with a greater pedigree than Makybe Diva. It’s been a long time since Dave Grohl was on the drums behind Kurt Cobain in Nirvana, and while he has had stints with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails and supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, his main act throughout the years has been the Foo Fighters.

This is the first group of shows to ever be played at Melbourne’s newest sporting arena. Opened in May 2010, AAMI Park is Melbourne’s rectangular football stadium built to host Soccer and Rugby games. I’ve been to the stadium a number of times to watch the local soccer teams play, but was curious to see how the stadium would work as a concert venue. I’ve only ever been to one Stadium gig, the Silverchair and Powderfinger combined tour Across the Great Divide at Rod Laver Arena in 2007. I did witness Jet, INXS, and Lionel Richie play as warm-up to various AFL Grand Final entertainment, and generally have been left disappointed by the sound quality at the larger venues. Of course, these last couple are often pre-recorded, but needless to say I was a little worried about how well AAMI Park would perform as a venue. The stadium was set-up with the stage at one end and a long catwalk through the mosh-pit to the sound tent and a second smaller stage. Like the concept of the D at Big Day Out, the General Admission area was separated in two, in order to control the amount of people entering the front half.

With a huge night ahead, we arrived to see DZ Deathrays set. Despite being a favourite of NME Magazine in England, they’re still relatively small here. I was quite impressed with their, despite how short it was. With only 15 minutes to show off their talents, the duo were not daunted by the size of gradually filling stadium. The last time I saw them I thought the smaller venue somewhat muddied their sound, but in the large expanse of AAMI Park, they managed to sound more balanced. I would have preferred a longer set, but it really wasn’t their choosing and they made the most of the time offered.

With an event of this size, like many festivals, the crowd doesn’t get heavy until later in the evening. As DZ Deathrays played to a polite crowd, with perhaps a quarter of the stadium filled, Fucked Up had about half a stadium to play to. If you ignore the lead singer Pink Eye, the group are you standard punk band. But when you consider the fat, bald bloke wearing basketball shorts leading the group, things can get interesting. Especially when he chooses to remove his shirt after the first song and go running around the stadium. After forcing his way out through the mosh, Pink Eye could be seen climbing the first tier, getting photos with fans, sticking empty beer cups to his head and eventually putting on the wife-beater that was handed to him by a crowd member. Obviously someone who was not a fan of public indecency. For a bald man he sure had a lot of back-hair. You have to feel for the other band mates though, left on stage while this mad–man draw eyes away from them, but all through his antics they kept playing. I’m sure there used to these sorts of actions.  To be perfectly honest, I found Pink Eye’s shouting a bit annoying, but the rest of the band were highly professional. I would prefer them with a more stable front-man.

Before I was really into music, I remember when Tenacious D released Tribute. Being the fun-loving 11 year-old that I was, Tribute was the greatest song ever written. But apart from that, I’ve never really liked Tenacious D as a band. Their songs are too comedic for my liking and Jack Black generally annoys me. So their performance was quite predictable. Fake an argument between the band, so Kyle storms off and then sing Kyle Quit The Band to get him back. It really is knock-out stuff. But most of the set was made up with Tribute, which had arguably the best sing along for the night, followed by the crowd favourite Fuck Her Gently. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan but I think they were a good choice to open.

By the time Foo Fighters, the stadium had completely filled. Standing in the front couple of rows of one of the greatest rockers in the world was quite an amazing moment. I don’t usually get awestruck, but I was for a few seconds. But  as the opening few chords to Bridge Burning started ringing out, I was awoken in one particularly rough mosh-pit. The first six songs were rough, as the band played a mix of Wasting Light tracks and classics. The crowd shouted along to The Pretender, and pointed out to the man in front of them as he belted out My Hero.

It became clear as to the reason for the long catwalk, as Dave ran up and down often stopping on the second stage and play a quick guitar solos. At one stage, Dave and guitarist Chris Shiflett had a duel with one standing on each of the stages. It was quite an impressive showing. The main-set was quite evenly mixed between new and old, with  Monkey Wrench and Stacked Actors making a showing, and Dave playing the “best song he’s ever written”, These Days off Wasting Light. The main set closed with an incredible cover of Pink Floyd’s In The Flesh before breaking into All My Life.

After negotiating with the crowd about how many songs to play in the encore from backstage, Dave returned alone with an acoustic guitar. As he positioned himself in the smaller stage, he belted in acoustic versions of Wheels, Big Me and Best Of You. He was joined on-stage for Big Me by his “biggest smallest fan”, an ill child from the Make A Wish Foundation in a particularly emotive moment. He was joined back on stage by the rest of the band during Times Like These, and finally stormed home with a cover of Tom Petty’s Breakdown and the two most requested songs of the evening Generator  and at long last, Everlong.

It was a great performance from the World’s biggest rock band with some complimentary support. I am satisfied to think that I have now seen Dave Grohl live.

Children Collide at the Corner Hotel 13/8/11

It was a cool winter’s evening when I coaxed my 17 year old Holden Commodore to life and my night began.  It was drizzling slightly when I arrived at Callum’s house in preparation for our evening at the Corner Hotel.  The passage of time and beer down Callum’s eager throat soon meant it was time to depart.   I had contracted an illness earlier in the week and my lungs wheezed but my eagerness was not dampened.  As the rain began to fall as we drove up Swan street, I had to enlist Callum to manually yank the windscreen wipers as they struggled to complete an entire wipe across the windscreen.  As he leant out the window, assualted by rain and wind I reflected that perhaps it was time to investigate why the windscreen wipers weren’t working, although the entire incident was nonetheless amusing .  Having survived the harrowing ride from Hawthorn to Richmond we descended upon the Corner Hotel like the rest of the huddling masses seeking warmth and musical gratification.

DZ Deathrays appeared on stage as I drained my first deliciously non-alcoholic Coca-Cola of the evening and the suprisingly loud duo attacked the stage with syncopated drum rhythms and piercing guitars.  The two Brisbane boys wore wild, messy and dark hair, moving with no intent but to make noise.  Their sounds tore across the room, reverberating and forcing me to pay attention.  Their self-styled genre “thrash-pop” suited me perfectly, rousing my head to beat along with rapid raging drums.  Beer bottles were held up in time with the crashing guitar lines and seductively aggressive vocals.  The band were raw and unpolished, energetic and loud; almost the perfect mix of control and discordant abandon.  Black and white the stage flashed as they finished their set, leaving me wanting more.

Children Collide wandered onto the stage, smiling, nonchalantly acknowledging the crowd.  The lead singer had his hair shorn close to his skull and rough stubble growing around his face, making him look like a cross between a school boy and drug addled adolescent.  Which is probably an accurate description of the most of the crowd at the same time.  The crowd bounced and swayed and heaved at the command of the guitar and drumkit, obeying their shifts from pop-punk hype to post-grunge anger throughout the set.  The screaming crowd reached its pinnacle and the set began, guitar and drums and bass at its most raw and brilliant; with energy and attack.  “Fuck off mate, I said no requests” Johnny spoke softly into the microphone, the arrogant smile of punk rock crossing his lips.  I was hooked, banging my head as the verse-chorus-verse structure I am such a sucker for overtook me.

Photo Courtesy of FasterLouder

The drunk man stumbled in front of me, unsteady under the weight of his own self-uindulgence and alcohol abuse.  He wore a green jacket, cut roughly at the edges and zipped to his throat, his torso purtruding out in front of him giving the image of an overgrown pig sitting on its haunches.  Without condemning him, it being the first in a long many gigs at which I had been completely sober, I made efforts to deftly avoid his cumbersome and large frame which lurched from one side to another, apparently without any sense of personal space or relation to the music on the stage.  The skinny man with large eyes and a shaved head behind us however felt it more appropriate to tap the drunkard on the shoulder and watch his vague head rotation, delayed and confused he would stare for a minute then reluctantly return to face the stage.  His attention was directed to nothing, his sweaty red and white face consumed by a blank expression of hopelessness, a pathetic figure overtaken by an inestimable amount of Candian Club in a can.  It was a sight to behold, but a sight not at all uncommon in this darkened room on a Saturday night in Melbourne.

Farwell Rocketship, My Eagle, Social Currency and Jellylegs all had the crowd chanting in all their intoxicated glory, bodies with heads screaming lyrics, floating across the top of dozens of arms in the quickly changing light.  A personal favourite of mine Economy was played, Johnny abruptly screaming “Go…….Stop” with all his might as the drumkit rallied in the background.

“Your loveless” Johnny crooned, holding the note with the crowd and sending a forlorn melancholoy across the Corner, a song in which he sounds desolate, his lyrics coated in a despair and resignation as the guitar chords slowly seep over the top and drown out anything else.  It was at this point that violence decided to rear its ever-present head and attack the peaceful drunken haze in which I stood.  The drunk man  suddenly appeared in the corner of my eye with his arm firmly around the skinny man’s neck.  The severity of his gaze and resistance to the overtures of his friends decried his intent.  As I wrapped my hands around his biceps I pulled him towards me.  I stumbled backwards, I felt him struggle in anger and determination.  The skinny man squirmed but could not break free.  Eventually there were five other bodies trying to separate the two.  The lights flashed on stage and the song peaked, a mass of arms in front of us swaying to the slow groove of Children Collide’s most popular single.  Finally the men separated, neither satisfied but the rest of us relieved to return our attention to the band.  The drummer’s formerly slick hair now fell obtrusively across his forehead as he concentrated, the two men with guitars standing out like statues guarding the drum riser.

The cacophy of quickly changing drum rhythm, heavily distorted guitars screaming, wailing, screeching as the guitarist and bassist careened across the stage at the end of the set was brilliant.  All I could do appreciate the sheer brilliance and quite frankly balls of ending the entire performace with such a heavy and reasonably obscure track Fire Engine.  It is very reminisent of early Nirvana circa In Utero which is obviously what won me over, and a very satisfying closer to a very eventful and entertaining performace.