Looking Back At 2012: Demo’s Favourite Albums

Now that the year is almost over, we asked our staff to reflect on the wide varieties of music released in the past twelve months. It is time to celebrate our favourite artists, the most startling achievements, and the records that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Below, Demo takes you through a 2012 musical journey.

Centipede Hz – Animal Collective

centipedehzanimalcollectiveTo say that Animal Collective is an acquired taste is an understatement. Never being ones to compromise their vision, the members of Animal Collective chose to take their tenth record in a direction completely different from their previous release, the critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion. This time around, they took on the role of an alien band, interpreting Earth music as heard via stray space-bound radio frequencies. From beginning to end, Centipede Hz is a glitchy, chaotic sound collage. Its dense texture makes each listen a unique experience; new sounds emerge and reveal themselves, colouring the sonic landscape. Guttural screams and aggressive chrome-tinged vocals make for a bit of an abrasive shock at first, but this album is definitely worth the multiple listens required to fully absorb all that’s going on.

-Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

The Sheepdogs – The Sheepdogs

the-sheepdogsEver feel like you were born in the wrong decade? Wish you could have been around for the legendary music of the ‘60s and ‘70s? Well, never fear youngins, The Sheepdogs are here! Not only do these fine young Canadian men have some seriously impressive beards, they crank out some of the best blues rock I have ever heard. You may have heard their popular single, “I Don’t Know,” or about their triumphant win of the Rolling Stone cover contest last year, but they are more than just buzz. Their new self-titled album, released on Atlantic Canada, totally lives up to the hype. Produced by everyone’s favorite Black Key, Patrick Carney, it features 14 glorious, foot-tapping tunes, each infused with the Sheepdogs’ signature Southern groove. You’ll be struck by lead singer Ewan Currie’s husky yet melodic vocals, the catchy guitar riffs, and drums that kick in right when you want them to. Upbeat and soulful, it’s perfect music to pump you up for your day.

-Aviva Lev-Aviv

channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean

channelorangefrankoceanFor the past three months, I have listened to channel ORANGE almost every single day. It is the debut album of Odd-Future member and neo-soul/R&B singer Frank Ocean. I used to have trouble expressing to others that R&B is more than empty, sex-filled songs. Frank Ocean’s newest work explains that for me. The lyrics are deep and the music ranges from a gospel sound in “Bad Religion” to an electro feeling in “Pyramids”. Forget genres. I’m no music expert, but this album is just plain good.

-Afra Foli

Little Sleepwalker – Born Gold

born-gold-little-sleepwalkerMy favourite record of 2011 was Born Gold’s Bodysongs, and somehow pop experimentalist Cecil Frena has managed to take that honour again with an entirely different beast. Little Sleepwalker is everything that the hyped-up, glitchy, and overwhelming first album was not: flighty falsetto through layers of vocal distortion, dark and twisted in instrumentation, and full of heady imagery.  This record takes club music and distorts it into an echo-y melancholia with lyrics that also serve as poetry, if you can make them out. Little Sleepwalker simultaneously delivers the three things that I love most in music – substantial verbal messages that feel like they could have come out of my own most private moments, unexpected turns with “weird” genre-melding, and the ability to act as a bedroom-dance-party soundtrack. Forget just 2012, this is a record I would love to lose myself in forever.

–Elena Gritzan

Blunderbuss – Jack White

blunderbussjackwhiteAlthough it was his gut-wrenching blues style that made me fall in love with Jack White, this departure from his usual style is equally hard-hitting. I may be getting ahead of myself, but I believe this album heralds the revival of the piano as a primary rock instrument. Songs such as “Missing Pieces”, “Freedom at 21”, and “Weep Themselves to Sleep” feature Jack White’s distinctive, unmatchable guitar riffs flowing through driving piano arrangements. Jack’s guitar even takes a back seat in songs like “Hypocritical Kiss”, “Trash Tongue Talker”, and “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”, allowing the piano to prove that it can be as ferocious as any guitar. Throughout the album, Jack shows us a glimpse of his life as he tells tales of abandonment, obsession, misery, frustration, deceit, triumph, mixed intentions, and, above all, love. White continues to produce the most honest love songs around, with “Love Interruption” and “Blunderbuss”. Backing these reflections is a stunningly arranged backdrop of jazz, blues, country, and folk. And for those of you who just want to hear that guitar snarl, check out “Sixteen Saltines”, “Take Me With You When You Go”, and “I’m Shakin’”. It’s all great. Listen to all of it. Now.

-Erik Masson

Giants and Dreamers –Bravestation

giantsanddreamersbravestationI have recently become interested in learning about new bands from the local Toronto music scene, so when I first heard Bravestation as the opener for Imagine Dragons at their Opera House show in September, I was ecstatic when the lead singer announced to the crowd that they are from Toronto. Of course, I became even more excited when I heard them launch into their music – along with being great performers, their new album, Giants & Dreamers, is phenomenal. It is a mix of tribal-like drum beats, colourful melodies, breathy vocals, and romantic, dreamy lyrics. Because of their chill, echoing sound, the band gets a lot of comparisons to the New Wave band Foals, but Bravestation proudly labels their genre as “Apocalypse Pop.” If that is the case, then that’s an apocalypse I could definitely get into.

-Emily Scherzinger

The Seer – Swans

theseerswansSwans have always maintained a fierce reputation of volume and intensity. With the exception of a few misguided folk albums in the eighties, Michael Gira and co. have always been able to astound and terrify. With 2010’s Our Father Will Guide Us Up A Rope To Heaven, Swans firmly established that they were no mere cash-grab reunion, as they took the ardent anger of the Swans of old and paired it with the brooding melancholy of Gira’s previous project The Angels of Light to great effect.  On The Seer, Swans continue their upward trajectory with a noisy masterpiece that spans two discs and approximately two hours of running time. A musically diverse album, covering everything from a cappella ballads to obliterating half-hour droning dirges, Swans still manage to maintain a consistent level of quality despite the vast quantity of material. Although occasionally over-the-top, Gira’s overtly dark and spiritual lyrics complement the bombast and ardor of tracks like “The Apostate” and “Mother of the World”. This is by far the best release of 2012, and it may even be a contender for the best Swans album proper.

-Adam Bernhardt

TRST – Trust

trustWriting a coherent review of this album is so difficult for me; all I want to do is say “I love this so much” over and over again. Trust first appeared on my radar at the suggestion of a friend who had just seen them in concert during a tour in 2011 in which they were openers for Crystal Castles. At the time, all that I could find was the band’s debut single, “Candy Walls,” as well as a handful of demos on MySpace… and I couldn’t stop listening to them. “Candy Walls” had such a beautiful spookiness beneath its mellow persona and quickly found itself reaching the position of most played track in my music library. The later release of “Bulbform” made the reason this darkwave group were selected as suitable openers for Crystal Castles ever so apparent. Then came “Sulk.” “Sulk,” while boringly repetitive to some, changed everything about the way I approach my own music production; while it could pass off as a massive club hit, it distinctly refuses to conform to the mold of traditional EDM. All three aforementioned singles ended up on TRST, with “Sulk” providing the debut LP with an explosive closer. But I digress: every single track on this album has something powerful to offer, and Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski have managed to put together one of the most perfect sonic masterpieces I’ve heard in a long time. Sounds like European club music for the Cold War.

-Marko Cindric

Look forward to seeing this article in Demo’s upcoming print issue, available on campus and in select downtown locations in January!

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