Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The best of 2012, Part 1...

It's approaching that time of the year where music critics and fans pick some arbitrary number of their favourite albums over the last arbitrary 365 (or 366) day period.  I'll do that too, because lists are fun (lists of that kind, anyway.  Lists of chores = not so fun).  But in the meantime, as a sort of a predecessor and whilst I figure out exactly where the excellent new Deftones album slots in to my arbitrary list, I've instead got another list... this one of arbitrary musical things that I thought were worthy of mention, or recognition.

Best Live Album and Best Live Band
Machine Head - Machine F**king Head Live
Too easy, really.  Iron Maiden's En Vivo isn't half bad but it isn't Flight 666 and it certainly isn't Live After Death.  Alter Bridge's Live at Wembley is pretty decent without ever completely knocking it out of the park.  But you know what? Even if those two albums were mind-bogglingly awesome, they would still not come close to topping Machine F**king Head Live.  This album is everything a live album should be.  The setlist is near-perfect... leaning heavily on their excellent last two albums whilst also having the best of the older stuff.  The performances are intense, spirited, powerful - great renditions of some great songs.  And crucially, this live album captures exactly what a good Machine Head gig is like - a savage, beautiful maelstrom.

I was lucky enough to see them in February - they were astonishingly good.  And this album reminds me exactly how astonishingly good they were, live.  If you are a metal or hard rock fan and you have not seen this band live, you need to sort that (do not settle for just buying this admittedly excellent live album).
Best EP
Down - Down IV: The Purple EP
Does anyone remember all that talk a few years ago about how digital EP's were going to replace CD albums as the prevalent form of music distribution?  That sure never happened.  The EP is actually getting to be almost a lost art-form, which is a damned shame (according to iTunes, a single with two live b-sides constitutes an EP now, sadly).  Despite that, this was not as much of a one horse race as you might expect - the Company Band's Pros and Cons EP was also pretty solid.  But Down's latest was a sludgy, thick beast of a thing, a big return to form after their slightly hit-or-miss third album.  Oh, and Phil Anselmo also gave one of the best interviews I've ever read.

Best Music Video
I didn't really watch many music videos this year, to be honest.  Seems slightly odd in the YouTube era, but anyway.  Testament's video for Native Blood was pretty cool.  But in the end, El-P produced not one but two standout music videos, for a couple of tracks from Cancer 4 Cure: The Full Retard and Stay Down.  So I'm just going to give the award to El-P and then not have to figure out which is the better video.  It probably comes down to whether you have a bigger thing for inappropriate puppets or 80's schtick.

Best reissue
[still to be decided]
Before I start on this, whoever is is responsible for setting local pricing of some of the reissue box sets is ABSOLUTELY GOUGING.  Both the Rage Against the Machine XX reissue (2CD/2DVD/LP) and the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie reissue (5CD/1DVD) are getting local pricing which is ridiculously out of kilter with US pricing.  The flash version of RATM will set you back US$75 on Amazon... or NZ$225 from a number of local retailers. After accounting for currency conversion and shipping, the price difference is circa NZ$100 more if you buy locally.  That's completely ridiculous.  Not quite as bad in the case of Mellon Collie (US$128 versus NZ$225, and arguably still overpriced in USD terms!), but still material.  I suspect it's the local distributors trying to extract the best they can out of the small NZ market - but screw that.  I buy plenty of my music off Amazon now anyway and this will only reaffirm my commitment to do that.  This is only going to hurt NZ retailers when consumers switch to ordering online internationally, so the distributors are probably shooting themselves in the foot.

Anyway, after that little rant, the contenders (subject to me ACTUALLY BEING ABLE TO AFFORD THEM) are:
Megadeth - Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary
Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine XX (20th Anniversary)
Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Best album released 10 years ago
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf
2002 seemed like a great year for music at the time, and looking back I think it still holds up pretty well.  But nothing from that year has held up as well as the remarkable Songs for the Deaf, the third - and best - QOTSA album.  It's an album I always seem to return to regularly, a fantastic hard rock record which has that timeless quality to it that all really great albums have.  It sounded unique and original then, and it still does.  QOTSA took everything they did so well on Rated R - great hooks and catchy melodies - added a whole lot more raw energy and edginess (largely thanks to Nick Oliveri, who left not long after), and produced a hard album that brilliantly straddles heavy and melodic. 

Coincidentally, ten years since he last drummed for them, Dave Grohl is back behind the kit for QOTSA during recording sessions for their new album following the abrupt departure of Joey Castillo.  I'm pretty excited about this because Grohl's drumming was a big highlight of Songs for the Deaf - maybe it'll add that extra edge that they've missed since Oliveri left (it certainly worked for Them Crooked Vultures).

It's always a great track live - but this performance with occasional contributor Mark Lanegan on vocals and Grohl on the kit is one of my favourites:

Best weird obscure limited-edition singleClutch - Pigtown Blues
This is really just an excuse for me to mention this song, which is excellent.  It took a while to grow on me but once it took hold there was no letting go.  It's hard to imagine this on any Clutch album as it is a slightly quirky (albeit groovy) number, so I can understand the logic for the single release.  Did I mention they have a new album coming next year?

Anyway, the top albums of the year will follow in the not-too-distant future...


Matt said...

I'll take your Best Video and raise you a RiFF RAFF & Action Bronson.

Rookie of the Year 2013:

The Symbol:

Bird On A Wire:

The last one may not be the best video, but it is a kick ass song. Actually all of them are kick ass.

Mark Paterson said...

Thanks man, I'll check 'em out!

custom dissertation said...

These are some fantastic music, each song have its uniqueness and agree that they are kick ass songs. Thanks for sharing it looking forward for part 2..