It’s early July, which means we’re about halfway through another year of music. Check out what the MEB staff has kept on repeat over the first part of 2012 and what we’re still anticipating for the rest of the year! Sample some of the songs from our lists by either clicking the link below or scrolling to the bottom to find the embedded playlist!
After more than a decade of listening to John Mayer, I’ve grown to love the many styles he’s taken on over the years. Never before had I actively hoped that he’d stick to one in particular, but this album is the pinnacle of his abilities. Masterfully blending acoustic and electric guitars alongside honest lyrics and melodies that were written from the heart through his voice, this is the album he was always meant to write. Mature, emotional, and hitting me at just the right time, Born And Raised tops a long list of great records released so far in 2012.
The Tower And The Fool – How Long, Sucré – A Minor Bird
Drew’s Pick: Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage
L’enfant Sauvage is exactly what you’re looking for when your favorite band releases a new record; a sound that stays true to the original but has enough experimentation to keep things fresh. The core components are still there – deep chugging riffs, unparalleled drumming and harsh vocals. Gojira knows metal. There isn’t much else to say. It is just fact. Everything a Gojira fan is looking for and more is present on L’enfant Sauvage. Easily my most anticipated album of 2012 and my clear front-runner for Album of the Year. Metal is alive and well – Gojira is making it known.
Be’lakor – Of Breath And Bone, In Mourning – The Weight Of The Ocean
An all-girl hard rock group whose members age range is 14-16? Having already toured with the likes of Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins, you better believe these girls are for real. Cherri Bomb released their debut full-length last month, and what a debut it is. From punk rockers like “Better This Way” and “Drawing a Blank” to the in-your-face hard rock of “Shake the Ground” and “Too Many Faces” to the metal-tinged closer “Hold On,” this nearly-perfect album hits hard from start to finish. They’ll be on Warped Tour in July and August, so be sure to check them out. You may just find yourself a new favorite band.
fun. – Some Nights, Neon Trees – Picture Show
I wouldn’t call it a comeback, but the notion is very thoughtful. With the ripping Tycoon, their debut for new label No Sleep Records, No Trigger renewed the passion of many fans, and certainly gained new ones. With an album crafted of pinpoint punk that shreds with passion and aches with melody, Tycoon is both technically strong and relentlessly catchy. I said it when this album was released in February, and I’ll say it one more time in case you weren’t listening – if you aren’t listening to this record, you’re fucking up.
The Saddest Landscape – After The Lights, Every Time I Die – Ex Lives
Dylan’s Pick: Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
2012 will probably forever be the year known to me as the year that I finally really got into hip hop, and Schoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions just might be the reason why. Everything about this release is why I’ve grown to love this genre. Habits & Contradictions is a moody journey made up of grimy beats coupled with Schoolboy’s slick flow and intense vocal variation that has kept me wanting to come back. Everything about this album explains what there is to value about rap and hip hop, so if you are one trying to get into the genre, give this a listen. I have a lot to get more acquainted with already from this year (Perfume Genius, Julia Holter and El-P) and there is even more to come, but as of right now Schoolboy Q has released my favorite album so far this year.
Sigur Ros – Valtari, The Forecast – Everybody Left
Sebastian’s Pick: Jizue – Novel
I purposely chose to not review this album, as a way of respecting its magic contents. The second full-length from the Kyoto, Japan-based post-rock/jazz quartet finds them straying to a much more aggressive sound. Their previous full-length, Bookshelf, felt like the sun coming out after a downpour. This record sounds like the aforementioned storm. The pianos are no longer twinkly and relaxing, they are now fast-paced and furious. The band also finds themselves experimenting with electronic programming highly often in the record, adding yet another layer to their music. The record is original but not challenging, as it invites fans of any genre to enjoy it. Chances are Novel will never attain a huge following in the U.S. but I implore you as a fan of music to give this a shot, its beauty and intensity will not disappoint you.
Lone – Galaxy Garden, Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
Every Time I Die represents everything an upstate (okay western but let’s not get stodgy) New York band would be: blunt jokes and flannel shirts. But ETID 6.0’s intricate guitar work and heavy bass tear life and limb. You don’t get more hardcore than a banjo- really. What’s setting Ex Lives apart is vocalist Keith Buckley’s new lyrical direction, where his words are in your bones as when questioning fate in “Revival Mode:” “I’m ready to pay the judge/Now I need to tip the scale/Some sort of bribery/I’m not waiting this out.”
Rise And Fall – Faith, Goatwhore – Blood For The Master
After vast praise stemming from the same titled release in Iceland, these Icelandic geniuses carried their instruments overseas and quickly re-releasing My Head Is An Animal for American ears. Thank God. The vocal power between the male and female shared lead (Nanna and Ragnar) is absolutely breathtaking from start to finish. While this is only their first crack in the music industry, they are without question, the most exciting act to breakthrough in 2012. Not only have they broken through, but they are undeniably above and beyond any veteran artists so far this year. And if you think the album is amazing, you should see the live performance: stunning.
Josh Baze – Hi-Heels & Low-Lifes, Matt Skiba & The Sekrets – Babylon
Out of all the recent pop-punk/alternative acts that Rise Records has recently signed, it’s easy to tell the difference between which groups will become obsolete once their genre becomes less popular and the bands that prove their worth extremely well. Daytrader’s full length debut Twelve Years not only stands on its own merits as the best record so far this year, but shows the band’s extremely early signs of maturity and depth as artists. If Last Days Of Rome was the set-up, Twelve Years is the payoff. With tracks varying from scorching anthems (“Deadfriends,” “Firebreather”) to down-tempo odes (“Heard It in a Song,” “After-Image”), the album is a wide-ranging display of character for the band, as they channel their Long Island, NY, roots with a hefty amount of passion and vivacity. I apologize in advance, fellas, but I have to disagree with the pounding chorus of “Deadfriends.” You guys really are destined to be great.
Every Time I Die – Ex Lives, Foxy Shazam – The Church Of Rock And Roll
As someone who usually can’t stand the drivel on the radio, my number one comes as a shock to even me. Fun.’s Some Nights isn’t just a good album; it’s a genre-changing and fascinating exploration into singer Nate Ruess’s trials and tribulations. Some Nights manages to balance a phenomenal sense of emotion with Kanye West-inspired rhythms and beats, molding together one of the best pop albums in years. With this record, fun. has showcased why they’re one of the best groups to ever come into pop.
Senses Fail – Follow Your Bliss, Hawthorne Heights – Hope
Ever since his days in The Format, everything Nate Ruess touches turns to gold. Well, in the case of fun. and “We Are Young”, they go 4x platinum. Given that this hit single isn’t even the best track off of Some Nights, it is not hard to believe that the boys have put out the best record thus far this year. Every track has a different spin to it, with some feeling like fun.’s previous release of Aim And Ignite, and others feeling like a completely new formula. This album gets better and better with each listen, and it will be tough for the second half of 2012 to overcome this masterpiece.
Sharks – No Gods, Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved
The Boss always returns when America needs him. With 99% of the country dissatisfied along comes Bruce Springsteen with a passionate album about corporate greed and Americans losing faith in their country. Springsteen is pissed; on Wrecking Ball he is demanding of his country and he beckons for real change. Musically, it is one of his best albums in years. It has all of the trademark Springsteen qualities, like larger-than-life horns, powerful wallows, and classic guitar riffs, but he also sparks a renewed life with stylistic flexibility. He rocks out hard on “Wrecking Ball” and “We Take Care Of Our Own,” spreads Irish melodies on “Death To My Hometown,” goes acoustic on “This Depression” and dabbles with hip-hop on “Rocky Ground.” Most of Wrecking Ball is full-on Americana similar to Arcade Fire. For a man on his 17th studio album, Springsteen delivers an album full of life affirming fire and reminds us why he is The Boss.
Jack White – Blunderbuss, Kishi Bashi – 151a
I used to greatly dislike this album. The differences between this and previous works seemed a little too overwhelming, and I often overlooked it. Yet, this album eventually forced itself upon me. Now, with altered opinions, I find this album enthralling. The oddities and flashy extras of this album are something to celebrate, while the underlying themes and messages are something to consider. The constant praise given to hope, and the many songs surrounding it, give this album something valuable and relatable. Allowing positivity, with added personal touches, also makes this album pertinent. Although Some Nights has allowed for sudden fame, the commercial success should not overpower this album’s potential. Full of words of wisdom, powerful memos, and catchy melodies, it’s something to behold.
The All-American Rejects – Kids In The Street, The Rocket Summer – Life Will Write The Words
To Speak of Wolves is a band with not just a message, but a movement. A movement to inspire others to be positive and give life all you have. Their first record, Myself > Letting Go, showed them developing their sound and doing pretty well, but not hitting the mark it should have. With the addition of new vocalist Gage Spears and bassist Seth Webster, they truly found the perfect line-up to write, record, and release their near perfect sophomore record, Find Your Worth, Come Home. Utterly brutal, passionate, personal, and cathartic; this record takes you on an intense journey through Gage’s life, and albeit dark; it’s positivity buried underneath is so powerful that by the end you’ll be gasping for breath, as it will take it away from the sheer moving intensity. You won’t want to pass this up. This band has proved themselves among some of the best, and that is why it is my pick for the best record of the year so far.
Anthony Green – Beautiful Things, I The Mighty – Karma Never Sleeps
Whitechapel have made the greatest album of their career. It brings in a fresh new blend of melodic death metal into their already brutal deathcore to create a whole new monster. Prepare for the third era of Whitechapel. It’s got everything, from heart stopping breakdowns to insanely god riffs that keep it far apart from the rest of the pack. There’s also a lot of groove to be heard in this album as well, most notably in the song “I, Dementia.” The lyrics are also spot on, ranging from political corruption and societal problems. It’s a must have of the year. Even if you’re not a fan of the band, it’s worth giving a listen.
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music, Every Time I Die – Ex Lives
Though I feel like 2012 is a somewhat weaker year for music than the last couple, it still has its array of albums that are near-flawless. At the top of this list of near-flawless records is The Ghost Inside’s Get What You Give. The third release from the hardcore metal giants is heavy. It’s heavy in adrenaline-laced guitars, vicious screams, and intense breakdowns. But it’s also heavy in emotion, and because of its hearty lyrics, it’s one of the connective albums I’ve heard in years. The combination of powerful instrumentation and high sentimentality of Get What You Give has rocked my world for days on end.
Shinedown – Amaryllis, Whitechapel – Whitechapel