2012 has been a year of some excellent musical releases. We’ve had Soundgarden’s first new album in about 15 years, Two new Green Day albums, Silversun Pickups best album to date, Of Monster’s and Men’s debut album, Muse’s best album. The list goes on and on. Sadly, though, we’ve also had some pretty bad albums this year. Green Day’s second album (Dos) was a little disappointing. We were also plagued by yet another Justin Bieber album. But I digress. 2012 was good for music.
Many albums that were released this year were some of the best to come from certain artists. While many bands who released new albums this year have released great albums before, some of these bands have finally achieved the level of greatness that they should have had previously, but had never quite reached.
Take, for example, Neck of the Woods, the latest Silversun Pickups album. I loved Swoon. Swoon was a great album, it truly was, and songs like Panic Switch and Catch and Release proves that point. But Neck of the Woods is a better album. From the two singles that were released, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) and The Pit, I could tell that the album would be great. I only really got into alternative music this summer, but man, Neck of the Woods was awesome. The music just pulls you in, and you seem to be surrounded by an envelope of very enjoyable sounds.
Another example was Stone Sour’s House of Gold and Bone’s. This is a serious achievement for them. After their last album, 2009’s so-so Audio secrecy, they come roaring back with a concept album written by Corey Taylor after Paul Gray’s death in 2009. Because of this, a lot of the lyrics are about death and dealing with loss, making This album is easily their best lyrically, and on top of that, it’s their most aggressive album. It gets to the point where some songs (such as My Name is Allen and Gone Sovereign) actually sound like they could be on a Slipknot album. Which is never a bad thing, especially since we haven’t had a new album from them since 2008…
In addition to this, we got Soundgarden’s King Animal. After almost two years of them teasing a new album, it’s finally shown up. And it’s good. It’s very , very good, in fact. It’s good to hear some new grunge stuff, especially for those of us who weren’t around the first time, but love so many of the bands. Musically, it’s essentially a toned down version of Superunknown. It’s a quieter, more contemplative album. And it showcases their growth as artists throughout their careers apart from each other. and Chris Cornell’s voice, is, as always, unfairly good.
Green Day also put out their first album since 2008’s 21st Century Beakdown. The first two parts of their triple album, Uno and Dos, were both albums that, while good, are decidedly different from their past two albums, which are their best, in my opinion. Both are good, no doubt. Uno is the better of the two, combining a fun mood with a few serious songs. It’s a pretty good album overall, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the most distinctive parts of the album is that it sounds a lot more fun. Which is kind of nice. I love the political mindedness of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, but hearing them let loose a little is kind of nice.
Dos, on the other hand, was a lot rougher. I understand that it was a shooting for a different style, and I respect that. But it just doesn’t work. Hearing them let loose only works to a certain extent, and it doesn’t work on this album. Aside from the closing track, Amy, this album is a mixed bag ranging from songs that are just downright bad to songs that are good, but fail to achieve their full potential. This could have been a really fun album, but it ended up feeling a bit silly. It ended up feeling pretty ridiculous actually.
Meanwhile, Linkin Park’s new album, Living Things, succeeds in trying out a new sound. It’s not as good (in my opinion) as their older nu-metal albums, but I can’t deny that they succeed in creating a good album with a new sound. It’s not necessarily the music style that I’m interested in, but I can’t deny that it’s a good album and I enjoyed it, at least when I listened to it. It was a surprisingly pleasant listen, especially after A Thousand Suns, which I didn’t at all like. This album does showcase the band’s capacity for creativity though. People have accused them of being sellouts, but I don’t think that trying out a new sound is selling out. Hopefully they find a way to mix this new sound with their older sound, creating a sort of electronic metal album. Now that would be cool.
While all of these bands that have been around for some time returned with some great success, we did get some great debut albums this year. And the one of these that stood out the most? Of Monsters and Men’s “My Head is an Animal”. This is another album I got into over the summer, and it’s a great album. It employs a variety of instruments throughout, and this creates a very pleasant album. The band’s capacity for creative storytelling comes out really well on tracks like Little Talks and Dirty Paws. It’s very alternative, and sounds a lot like Arcade Fire. A mix of slow, quiet sounds and upbeat feel good songs, My Head is an Animal was a great debut for Of Monsters and Men, and a great album on it’s own.
And what would this post be without a nod to some of the best soundtracks of all time? The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises both had some of the best OST’s I’ve ever heard. While I liked the Dark Knight’s soundtrack a little better, The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack, composed, once again, by the legendary Hans Zimmer. His distinct mix of electronic and orchestral music comes out really well, and I have to say that I really like it. The way that it merges creates a very distinct style, and the songs really manage to capture the mood of the movie. the same goes for the Avengers soundtrack. It sounds like it could have been composed by Hans Zimmer, but it’s more majestic. Where The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack is really dark and gritty, the Avengers soundtrack is more bright and majestic, and it captures the tone of each movie.
And it wasn’t only movies that had great soundtracks. Video game soundtracks this year were great to, but I’m only going to talk about one of them. Halo 4’s. The Halo franchise has always had great soundtracks, but Halo 4’s was really amazing. It really pulls you into the game, which is awesome. But it manages to stand up on it’s own as well. Merging different genres of music and making it work isn’t easy, and this soundtrack does that really well. It merges techno, rock, and orchestral all in one. Often in one song. It’s awesome.
On the more disappointing end of the spectrum, however, is the new album form The Used. While not necessarily a bad album, The Used have never quite been able to follow up 2004’s Lies for the Liars, and, for a band with so much potential, I thought that Vulnerable would be able to finally beat that album. And while it’s good, it’s certainly nowhere near their best album. The music is mostly good, and the lyrics are good, but their darkness is sometimes a little hard to take entirely seriously.
Another album that was disappointing was the new Shinedown album, Amaryllis. Other than Bully, an awesome song about bullying, Amaryllis was something of a joke. Shinedown tries to make themselves sound like a big metal band, which they aren’t. They almost entirely ditched the post grunge sound of Sounds of Madness in favor for a weird new style that just doesn’t work for them.
And then there’s Digital Summer’s latest album. Which is, well… Ridiculous to be quite frank. They attempt to be taken seriously, but it’s hard taking them seriously. Especially when your parents mock the single, Forget You, every time they hear it. But it deserves to be mocked, since the whole album is just so utterly ridiculous.
Back to the good albums, though. Adelita’s Way succeeds in their attempt at begin taken seriously on Homeschool Valedictorian (Clever title, too), their latest effort. It’s a great album and the songs touch on real world topics, and, with the music added, create a host of really great songs. From the intense opening track, The Collapse, to quieter, more toned down songs like Alive, this album has it all, really.
And then there’s my three favorite albums of the year: The 2nd Law, The Afterman: Ascension, and Transit of Venus, by Muse, Coheed & Cambria, and Three Days Grace, respectively. I know I gave Ascension and Transit of Venus 8.5’s, but they grew on me. A lot, actually.
The 2nd Law is easily Muse’s best album, due to their sonic exploration, which I initially felt would be really bad. But it’s actually quite good. Mixing their signature sci-fi rock with some elements of dubstep was a really good decision. The album has similar themes to their past two albums, but you know what? I really like the whole sci-fi dystopia thing. I mean seriously, what’s wrong with that? Listening to all their albums, in order, it’s easy to say how much they’ve evolved as musicians.
The same goes for both Three Days Grace and Coheed and Cambria. Coheed presents another sci-fi concept album, complete with an entire story. Which I really love, and it works really well in the music format. Three Days Grace’s newest album is a mix of Life Starts and One X, musically. It has both loud, hard rock anthems, as well as some more toned down songs. And it merges extremely well to create a really, really good album.
I’m not even going to bother going into all of the bad music we’ve gotten this year. Because there has been a lot of it. But I wanted to focus on the positives, and we’ve gotten a lot of that. From new acts just debuting, to old bands returning from hiatus, to bands that have been around achieving some of their best work. Overall, it’s been a great year for music. And there’s still some stuff that hasn’t come out yet, or wasn’t mentioned. One such album is one many people probably haven’t heard of… so here’s the soundcloud link! Check it out, and I’ll be reviewing it soon! http://soundcloud.com/adam-abou-gad/sets/the-dreams-of-dr-christopher