Non-annotated edition previously published here. I hereby dedicate last year’s year-end musical bloviations to our dearly departed brother Conrad Bain, the kind, gentle, and genteel Canadian who warmed our hearts as Phillip Drummond for eight years on “Diff’rent Strokes.” We’ll probably never know for sure what Willis was talking about but it was always plain as day what his father was talking about: love, patience, understanding, ascots, and sweater vests. Thanks for your caring touch, Conrad. You made Alan Thicke look like a corny little bitch.
JG2’s TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012
1. Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense
Tart, angular punk platter targeting the banality of Hollywood (“Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop”), confused trustafarians (“Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots”), and the very concept of marketing (“Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman”). Occasionally a driving melody shines through all the caffeine-induced snot-balling, making you clench your fists for a different reason.
2. Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
Every middle-aged rocker’s fantasy came true this year when Van Halen spit out a new record with David Lee Roth’s glitter-bespecked mitts back on the handlebars. Slight creaks could be forgiven when confronted with the fluid shuffle of “She’s The Woman” and balls-to-the-401k plan rockers like “China Town” and “Bullethead.” Eddie might not know how to manage his life or career or wardrobe anymore but the mah’fucker can still play guitar like nobody’s business. Similarly, Roth remains charming, particularly when he’s tongue-in-cheeking his band’s ultimate legacy (“Stay Frosty”).
3. ICP – The Mighty Death Pop!
ICP aren’t just rapping about graphic circus-themed murders anymore—they’re also concerned about their wives facing sexual harassment at the office Christmas party (no joke; check “The Blasta”). I guess this is growing up? As grown as an album that sounds like it was crafted on a Turbografx 16 can be, anyway. That’s not a diss; The Mighty Death Pop! has a strange texture to its head-bobbing beats that will keep you triple dipping. Check your brain at the door, of course, lest you feel like confronting the philosophical ramifications of Shaggy 2 Dope’s proclamation that his scrotum tastes like grape soda (“Juggalo Juice”).
4. Smoke Mohawk – Viva El Heavy Man
The breezy denim-clad spirit of ’70s rock runs through this Norwegian band like the mighty Miss-ah-sip. Viva has some of the best song titles of the year, including but not limited to “VCR King,” “Pirate Train,” and “Painting Outside The Lines of Perception” (can you taste the bong water?). Nothing less should be expected from the band that anthropomorphized rock n’ roll on its first album and literally reported an assassination attempt on the genre. I know that might be a hard concept to wrap your head around. Trust me, after a few spins of this tasty swirlin’ riffage, you’ll get it.
5. Kreayshawn – Somethin’ ‘Bout Kreay
America’s bitterness over Somethin’ ‘Bout Kreay’s late arrival torpedoed any shot it had at being 2012’s ultimate party record. That’s squarely on you, because Kreayshawn brings the sassy dance ruckus from beginning to end. No female rapper has given less of a fuck in a more adorable way since Missy Elliott. Case in point: Kreay talks to summertime like it’s a person and also wrote an entire song about how awesome pancakes are (“Breakfast”). If this is your average Millennial I’m ready to hand over the keys to the country.
6. Soundgarden – King Animal
Soundgarden remain a lean mean grunge machine on their comeback record, offering up the gratifying hour of down-tuned muscle car rock ’90s bros have been waiting for since Audioslave collapsed. Unlike that Bush era experiment, King Animal is the sound of every gear clicking into place, no grease or gimmicks required. Some have accused Cornell et al of reuniting just for the bread, but this record isn’t lazy enough to support that claim. Sure, maybe King Animal is too on-the-nose in places, but if the worst thing you can say about a Soundgarden record is that it sounds too much like Soundgarden, well, maybe it’s time to just shut your pie hole and listen.
7. The Men – Open Your Heart
In the spirit of minimalism I’m not going to offer any complete sentences for this entry beyond what you’re currently reading. The Mens’ Open Your Heart = immediacy, oven-at-350 warmth, lo-fi charm without lo-fi harm. Flourishes of slide guitar so inviting. Westerberg / Wilco fatigue homages happily evade corniness. Whole record occupies interesting space between the Feelies and the Supersuckers. These guys, they can maintain.
8. Kidz Bop – Kidz Bop 21
As long as albums of yard monsters reworking Top 40 hits are in existence they shall find a place on lists of mine, because the concept’s so bizarre, inane, and fun. I applaud Kidz Bop’s ability to make nonsense like “Party Rock Anthem” even more toothless while simultaneously encouraging children to sing their hearts out like Up With People! never went away. Kidz Bop records don’t need to exist, I don’t know who could possibly listen to them (except folk who champion the uncomfortably odd), but they are empowering to a segment of our population who basically have no rights so for that I say let’s go all the way up to Kidz Bop 375.
9. Die Antwoord – Ten$Ion
This is what the future’s supposed to sound like, at least the future pitched by ham-fisted pieces of insanity like Total Recall and Demolition Man. You can practically hear Schwarzennegger screaming when the pill-grinding beats on Ten$Ion reach critical mass (visions of Arnie’s gaping maw, teeth and all, become especially clear when the drums reverse in “Hey Sexy”). Die Antwoord dismiss the rap game as “one big inbred fuck-fest” (“Fatty Boom Boom”), which I’m sure is how most people view their act, but hey, at least they’re interesting—at least. At most they’re exciting, irreverent, infectious, Kaufman-esque, and worthy of several crotch pumps.
10. Baroness – Yellow & Green
Baroness make up for a long three years since Blue by giving us a double album, and to no surprise it’s like stepping inside a cocoon of warm mossy metal. The production is so full and rich, so spacious. Yellow & Green is the perfect companion piece to frustrated teenage male sexuality and hobbit-based adventures. It’s certainly the most chantable rock album of the year (see “Cocainium”). And the cover is a naked woman with candles on her head threatening to behead a black swan. In the cautious words of Fred Schneider, hel-LO!
JG2’s TOP TEN SINGLES OF 2012
A spoonful of sugar helps the unhinged cynicism go down. Is everybody in Wales this much fun?
Kreay gives all Forever 21 employees the best life advice: “Don’t be on some ho shit.” The rest of this song makes me, a thirty-four year old white man, want to twerk it. That counts for something.
So testicular in its agenda.
The sweat-soaked sex jam of the year. Extra points for smashing a pair of Beats by Dre in the video. Let us never settle for mediocre headphone technology.
The ruse was over by the time this song dropped: Krispy Kreme was no backwoods ignoramus but a high school valedictorian named Tyler. He could have given up when that secret broke. Instead, he continued undaunted, burying the lede of this John Cena ode in oodles of Yuletide atmosphere.
Just when you thought it was safe to leave the dance floor, Mystikal grabs your ass and throws you back, hollering about his collection of percussion and the greatness of James Brown. Instant A.
Just a feel good cruisin’ tune, y’know what I mean? I can throw on my jean jacket and just cruise to this bitch.
Don’t act like Fat Joe’s love affair with app-based photography didn’t mirror your own in 2012. This song is the logical follow-up to that rap Andy Milonakis did about Tweeting every single moment of his life. The line between the streets and improv comedy is once again deliciously blurred.
Old-ass rappers cop to being old, instantly validate new jamz.
Finally, Robert Zimmerman gets the slow burn from the guy who invented Crimbus. Funnier in concept than in execution maybe but still better than anything Conan O’Brien did all year. Yeah, I said it.
I’m living the worst cliché as I type this—my home Internet is down (’twas seized by evil spirits last night at the stroke of 6:45), so the offices of JG2 have been temporarily moved to the coffee shop down the street. It’s actually a coffee shop/bar, which means the interior lighting is permanently set to “mild depression” and there’s more than one shady character slumped in the kitschy recesses of the lounge area trying to avoid the blinding midday sun. Paging Wallace Beery…
Not that my unshowered mass is any better. I’m not even wearing underwear, for the love of Norman Fell. Still, I’m a freelance writer, in Brooklyn, staring intently at a Mac screen in a coffee shop. Somewhere in Kansas right now, a trucker’s ulcer just flared up something fierce.
In other news, Conrad Bain is still alive. Who’da thunk it?