As Real Gone finishes a third full year online, on reflection, 2012 was an incredibly good year for new music, far stronger than the previous couple. Here’s the usual round up of stuff you need to check out.
With regards to newer bands, Britain flew a pretty hefty flag throughout the year, with some very cool noise-makers. The first full EP from Post War Glamour Girls, ‘Tragic Loss…’ is a threatening and sometimes full-on experience which needs to be heard. Their mix of Tom Waits, Wedding Present and Nick Cave is nothing short of immense. We can’t wait to hear more from these guys! On a more technical level, Halifax math-rockers Wot Gorilla? released ‘Kebnekaise’, an intriguing, often brilliant and occasionally confounding listen, while alternative rockers Dead Wolf Club included a couple of fuzzy classics on their self-titled album. With a mix of post-grunge and math-rock, Bear Makes Ninja showed a great promise. While, perhaps, their ‘Shouting at Bridges’ EP had scope to be better, ‘Fruit Can’t Fly’ showed exactly how good they were capable of being. [Tracks by all of these bands are available on the 2012 Real Gone Sampler].
Looking a little farther afield, Dutch band Sunday Sun released not one but three excellent EPs (fittingly titled I, II and III). For those who’ve still not heard these guys, their sound pulls the best elements of Jellyfish, Badfinger, The Beach Boys et al to create a summery sound that’s nearly timeless. With a rootsy Americana influence, Joshua Cockerill and his band Animal Parts left us a mixed bag of a disc that seems to keep on giving with every listen. It’s one of the many releases that proves that being unsigned or mostly working on a DIY basis can yield something totally professional. As we say goodbye to 2012, we’re ever closer to saying goodbye to making allowances for raggedy recordings just because a band don’t have huge budgets at their disposal…unless of course such roughness is chosen deliberately.
…Which brings us on to Guided By Voices! Reformed in 2011 after a seven year hiatus, the Dayton, Ohio kings of lo-fi came back with a vengeance this year. Their de facto leader Robert Pollard never seems to stop working, but his output this year was seemingly never ending. In addition to his usual two solo albums, he also found time to release THREE Guided By Voices albums. The first of these, ‘Let’s Go Eat The Factory’ was released to GBV fans at the tail end of 2011, but didn’t appear on general release until January 3rd, so it just about qualifies as a 2012 disc. It was a good offering – one which announced GBV’s return in a solid enough fashion, but was bettered by their June release ‘Class Clown Spots a UFO’ and November’s ‘The Bears For Lunch’. How much music Bob Pollard releases in 2013 is anyone’s guess, but he’s getting in early: the next GBV release – the ‘Down By The Racetrack’ EP -is due by the end of January!
The year also saw excellent releases from a few of Real Gone’s favourites: Jack White gave us his first solo album – an enjoyable mixed bag – while his old friend Brendan Benson’s ‘What Kind of World’ delivered more of the excellent pop/rock we’ve come to expect from him. Better still, Cold Chisel‘s ‘No Plans’ marked a welcome return for the veteran Aussie rockers and a visit to the UK for the first time in three decades provided the year’s finest gig. On the melodic rock/AOR scene, stalwart Rick “Jessie’s Girl” Springfield released one of the best albums of his career, the surprisingly meaty ‘Songs From The End of the World’ (an album which ought not be missed by anyone with a liking for tuneful rock music with strong choruses). Earlier in the year, Swedish newcomers Wigelius pushed all the right buttons on their debut album, a record strong enough to stand alongside many genre classics.
Even during a year with dozens of brilliant releases, there will always be a few which stand apart from the rest. Here are Real Gone’s unmissable picks for 2012:
REDD KROSS – Researching The Blues
Breaking a fifteen year silence, Redd Kross came back with one of the best albums of their career. Recorded by the same line up that released the much praised ‘Neurotica’, this 2012 comeback blended power pop, glam and alt-rock in the band’s unmistakable style in such a way it seemed as if no time had passed. If pushed, Real Gone would pick this as the best disc of 2012, although a couple of the other below picks come pretty close behind. [Read a review here. Watch the video for ‘Stay Away From Downtown here.]
DAVID MYHR – Soundshine
In a similar spirit to the Sunday Sun releases, Myhr celebrates classic 70s pop a-plenty on his brightly coloured solo debut. Making the creation of pop music seem simple, nearly every song on ‘Sounshine’ is nearing perfection. Fans of Jellyfish’s ‘Bellybutton’ are almost certainly destined to love this record. [Read a review here.]
OFF! – OFF!
Following four EPs, OFF! released their debut full length album in 2012, and…bloody hell, it’s awesome. Sixteen songs in approximately as many minutes, this album represents hardcore punk at its best. Ex-Circle Jerks/Black Flag frontman Keith Morris is a near incomprehensible ball of anger on this record. Just as you’ve started to really enjoy yourselves, it’s all over…but there’s always the repeat button! [Read a review here.]
RUBY THE HATCHET – Ouroboros
Part stoner, part dark psych, this debut full-length from Ruby The Hatchet should be enjoyed by anyone with a liking for weighty grooves. A combination of old-fashioned production values and a lovely echoing vocal lend a lot of atmosphere to some well-crafted riffs. [Read a review and listen to a stream of the album here.]
MARILLION – Sounds That Can’t Be Made
One of Real Gone’s favourite bands for many years, Marillion delivered a corker of a disc in 2012. Kicking off with the dark epic ‘Gaza’, Marillion work through many moods on ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, adding up to what is essentially their best work in over a decade. Good to see they’ve still got the ability to surprise – and more importantly, impress – especially after the release of three crappy-to-middling albums marking a career low-point between 2007 and 2010. [Read a review here.]
Here’s hoping 2013 will be full of equally great music. To those people who stuck by Real Gone this year, thank you. To all those who’ve attempted to spread the word farther by reposting links in useful places and tirelessly re-tweeted stuff, thank you – it’s a long road until Real Gone has as many readers as some music blogs out there, but it’s about quality over quantity! Thanks due also to Nathan Edwards for helping out with Real Gone’s improved logo. As always – a huge thank you to the indie record labels and PR guys who sent stuff out for review…appreciated! Lastly, a huge thank you to the bands who have sought Real Gone out for an opinion; let’s hope the new year brings more bands this way.