Welcome to the Album of the Year article for the year 2012!
As always, this list is a collection of records that moved ME - records that left an impression on ME. I am a big believer in the fact that music is a personal experience, and we all have different tastes - different likes and dislikes. My only purpose for compiling this list is to, perhaps, point you in the direction of something that might move you, and also to give you a glimpse at what moved my life musically during the twelve months we called 2012. This is not about debating which albums are "better," this is simply about the music. It's always about the music here at Dr. Music's Weekly Checkup.With that said, let's talk about my list for the past year....
1. Private Sessions - Hydrogyn
Some things just find a way to your heart.
I was given a CD by a band called Crucified Barbara. I listened to it and found it to be quite good, so I went onto iTunes to see what else they had available. It was the "You might also like...." section that pulled me in. I noticed a release entitled Bombshell from a band called Hydrogyn. It featured a stunningly sexy blonde rocker chick on the cover, and me being the shallow male that I am, I had to check it out. When I found that Hydrogyn had a 2012 release, I started rolling some samples. I was instantly impressed. I immediately pulled up the album in Spotify (a music subscription service that I HIGHLY recommend) and started falling in love.
Some might remark that they've "heard this before" due to its unoriginal sound. They are very reminiscient of a band like Evanescence, but I find their songs to be more on the classic rock side of things, and extremely well crafted. I think that's what it boils down to for me - the song. There are thousands and thousands of bands that sound similar, but there are only a few that can create powerful melodies that get played with passionate instrumentation and vocal prowess. Hydrogyn has all of these elements in fine working order. Vocalist Julie Westlake is the main attraction here, with beauty that just paralyzes. But once you get past the look, there is even more to love about her. She sings with power as well as passion, exercising great control throughout each and every song. Whether the tight band behind her is ripping things up or laying down a lilting ballad, she locks into the mood perfectly. Guitarist Jeff Westlake lays down some great riffs as well as some strong soloing, while the rhythm section of Joe Migs (drums) and Chris Sammons (bass) are rock solid throughout.
This record had it all, and I found it hard to listen to anything else for a long time.
You can visit the Hydrogyn official website here: http://www.hydrogyn.com/home
2. Some Nights - fun.
It seems that every year there's one pop band that impresses me. There aren't a whole lot of straight-forward, traditional pop bands left, so when I find the lone survivor each year I hang on to them. I think fun. remains faithful to the quirky way they named their band. The lower case title represents the humility, and the period accents the simplicity of what they do. This band is fun, period.
Almost any of the songs on this album could be released as a single. It has more hooks than a tackle box, yes, but it also has some superior musicianship to back it all up. Lead vocalist Nate Ruess really delivers great clarity to these songs, while the Queen-like harmonies bolster the mood tremendously. The band incorporates some string arrangements and orchestration which puts the already bold, full sound over the top.
These were the songs I couldn't get out of my head, and I hope they never leave. Great, simple pop songs done with some intricate arrangements makes for a real fun album, period.3rd Place
3. Shinedown – Amaryllis
Shinedown has done it again. This band just might be the most consistent in the hard rock genre. This is another album of great songs that are garnished with tip-top musicianship, highlighted by one of the best voices around. I’ll put singer Brent Smith up against anyone you got. This guy is a powerhouse with no shortage of range or emotion, either. He’s got it all, and these songs put it all to work perfectly. The only thing stronger than Smith’s voice is the songwriting that he lends it to. Just listen to “I’ll Follow You,” and any lover of music will appreciate everything this band has to offer.
4. California 37 - Train
This has to be one of the bigger surprises for me. I've always respected Train's music, but I have never been drawn to any of it before now. "What makes this album different?," was the question I had to ask myself. So, I investigated the details a little bit and found the key reason that I was so impressed by this Train release - Butch Walker.
Butch Walker is a big time producer, but he's even a better power pop songwriter. This guy has the Midas touch in the power pop genre, working with the likes of Panic At The Disco, Bowling For Soup, American Hi-Fi, Pink, Taylor Swift, and many many others. Walker co-writes two songs here, and is listed as producer or co-producer for the entire record, and it shows. These songs have Walker's quirky sense of power pop pomp, while exhibiting an overabundance of creative lyrics for most of these tracks. But that's not to say that this is not a Train record. You still get the sharp slice of Pat Monahan's vocals, as well as their acoustic-based homegrown sound. The mixture of Train's rootsy pop with Walker's L.A. street power makes California 37 a trip I thoroughly enjoyed.
5. The Church Of Rock And Roll - Foxy Shazam
Three cheers for rock and roll freedom. You know, that raw kind of rock and roll that breaks the rules and doesn't really care. This is flambuoyant in the spirit of classic Queen, and it does it with no fear. They throw in wailing brass solos and a little funk, just because they can. And there's the rub - they can. These guys pull off each risky musical maneuver with a devilish smirk and a boatload of talent. The comparisons to Queen are unavoidable. Not only do they achieve the same vocal harmony sound, but vocalist Eric Sean Nally is as close as you can get to a modern day Freddie Mercury. The songs here are brilliant in the way that Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Bicycle Race" are brilliant. You chuckle and shake your head at the silliness, and then you bow down to their amazing musicianship and extreme talents. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this band becomes huge, or shows up at the top spot of the list in the very near future.
6. Back From The Dead - Adler
Yeah, I picked something by ex-Guns ‘N Roses drummer Steven Adler and put it on my list of top albums of the year. I know, I don’t believe it myself. All I’ve ever seen is a bad junkie attitude from this guy…. until now. This thing rocks. Adler has put together a tight outfit to carry out some very good songs. It seems Adler hired a guy by the name of Jacob Bunton to sing on the record, and it turns out that he’s largely responsible for writing the songs. And Bunton isn’t some Hollywood trash; he’s a singer with a touch of talent and class. With the addition of former Dokken/Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson helping to produce the record as well as lend his bass lines, this really is a strong effort. This is definitely the biggest surprise of the year.
7. Born Villain - Marilyn Manson
I can remember a few years ago when I gave Manson’s 2007 album, Eat Me, Drink Me, a horrible review. Since then he’s been on a steady rise, with 2009’s The High End Of Low reminding us of what was, and this release making us forget that he ever stumbled. Manson administers his best offensive lyrics with his trademark haunting slurs and the whirring, clicking, buzzing keyboards that we all hate to love. Now, if we could just get Kid Rock out of the barn and get him pimpin’ hoes again, all will be right in the world.
8. Thunder - Narada Michael Walden
Narada Michael Walden is no stranger to success. As the drummer for Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Weather Report he's proven himself to be one of the best drummers this planet has ever seen, but most of his success has come as a producer. With 56 #1 hits, he's considered by many to be the greatest producer of all time. Walden's midas touch has reached out to legends like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Al Jarreau, and of course, Whitney Houston. There aren't too many in the music business that have had as much success as Narada Michael Walden. That's why this record is so impressive. Walden refuses to rest on his laurels and still sounds like a hungry young musician when he makes music.
This album has so many cool elements. It has really impressive guitar work from Matt Heulitt, great funky bass lines from bassist Angeline Saris, and of course, groove heavy drumming from the man himself. Walden also shows off some of his vocal talents on songs that range from edgy rock to soulful R&B to the tightest funk around. This is a fun, adventurous album from a true music legend.
9. Sweet Sour - Band Of Skulls
I'll always remember where I first saw this band. They opened for the mighty Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza, which was streaming live via the internet. I watched this English trio settle in and deliver a heavy groove that was tighter than a pair of 10-year old jeans. Their music is a bit dark and moody, but it all plays out as a work of art. Their sound is a true alternative; one which is difficult to describe or categorize. This is one that you have to fully absorb to really appreciate. It may not be for everybody, but I found myself enthralled by the poise of their style.
10. Bangarang - Skrillex
Roy Melville - Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa
Roy is the former bassist of D-Day 4-Ever, and is the current bassist for South African Rock band The Dying Breed. He is also the owner of the 4Rockers clothing label.
Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones Pt. 1