The Albums of 2012
So the guys at Guitar-Muse and I have been talking. 2012’s been full of excitement. All sorts of new gear has been released, the end of the world came and went like nothing happened at all, and more relevantly a lot of music has been released and since then we’ve been building a consensus about who’s done what and which album or that and the time has risen for us to share with you our thoughts on who the best releases have come from.
That’s right. It’s the official Guitar-Muse Top 10 Best Albums of 2012 list.
Paul Gilbert – Vibrato
Paul Gilbert’s Vibrato is an awesome album. Case closed. While Gilbert is as experimental as the next guitar virtuoso his playfulness couldn’t have shone better than it does here. With ironically optimistic sounding music to support rather pessimistic themes Gilbert’s dual nature beams through like a musical version of George Carlin’s Napalm and Silly Putty.
Plus it’s good to hear Gilbert with a whammy bar again. Some years ago he jumped ship with it without so much as a “hi”, “bye”, or “kiss my ass”. I’m a big fan of the whammy bar so, I’m enthralled to see him return to it.
Steve Vai – The Story of Light
Anyone that’s read Guitar-Muse for more than a day could have seen this one coming. Of course Steve Vai is on this list. He’s the greatest guitarist ever. With seven years since his last studio album the anticipation proved to be worth it. The second installment of his trilogy of albums pretty much keeps the bar set as high as it can in showing just what can be done with the guitar.
The Story of Light has many ups and downs, but never once does the personality leave it. I don’t think the album would necessarily make a believer out of people that aren’t too big on Vai’s eccentric style, but guitar enthusiasts everywhere can surely find something to appreciate here be it the sheer technical might, the arrangements, or the song writing itself.
Dave Weiner – A Collection of Short Stories Vol. 1
There’s something to be said about guitarists that are willing to break away from the genre they’ve been associated with for a good two decades now and that’s precisely what Dave Weiner has done on A Collection of Short Stories.
Regarding the album Dave he commented that it’s meant to give the listener the feel like there’s a guitarist in the room with him/her. With one acoustic guitar per track and no multitracking to be found he accomplished his goal. With the sheer volume possibilities from modern technology it can be easy to get lost in the ambition of making things as huge as possible. Dave Weiner offers a breath of fresh air and delivers an album of remarkable music.
Rush – Clockwork Angels
Rush’s Clockwork Angels isn’t just one of the best albums of the year but probably ly one of the best Rush albums. Rush is one of twhose rare bands that can accurately preserve their unique style yet still bring new things to the table with it, and nowhere is that trait more prevalent than on this album.
Geddy Lee’s voice is still as clear and strong as it was when he was but a wee lad, Neil Pert can still handle any time signature you throw at him, and Alex Lifeson’s guitars are hard hitting and will deck you in the balls if you’re not looking. And it all comes together seamlessly. While it’s not as spacey as some of their earlier material it’s a musical masterpiece all the same.
Slash -Apocalypse Love
Admittedly I didn’t entirely “get” this album when I first heard it, so to speak. I was at work at the time, off in my dark corner by myself, hoping I didn’t just fall asleep where I was (I should really consider going to bed some time). I was listening to Apocalypse Love at the time and my first impression was that the guitars were cool. Predictable, I know. But by the end of it I was transcribing/learning to play the drums with my pens. Apocalypse Love became my solution to sleep deprivation instantly. Slash demonstrates a wide range of stylistic proficiency, from the 80s rock that made him famous to baroque and back again, and it’s always done in good taste.
Enslaved – RIITIIR
In a step even further from their more black metal oriented roots Enslaved’s new progressive album RIITIIR is as atmospheric as anything else they’ve done. It’s not so much that this album features anything really mind blowing in terms of technical proficiency. Each musician does a good job, by all means, but the song writing is where this album really excels.
The tasteful sense of chord changes and melodies that are wholly distinct to their own style are what make RIITIIR stand on its own. It’s proof that sometimes an album doesn’t need to go absolutely berserk with odd time signatures and complexity that nearly sacrifices listenability for the sake of being hard to play.
Joe Walsh – Analog Man
Analog Man is one of those albums that comes along and the second it starts you wish it didn’t have to come to an end. Not a single note is out of place and each one is imbued with the very essence of Joe Walsh’s soul. It’s truly a case of beautiful music preserved for all to experience.
I don’t really know how to follow an opening paragraph like that up. It really says all that needs to be said. No one song goes without the same emotional drive the rest have, and the album lives up to the name. Analog tone guys will find this album to be a wet dream with its lush, wet reverbs and overdrive.
Santana – Shape Shifter
Admittedly I’ve never really personally paid much attention to Santana, but as we compiled the list of albums Shape Shifter wormed its way under the microscope and of all the songs I’d heard from Santana the songs on Shape Shifter made a believer out of me.
Santana’s mastery over the Latin style played through only the greatest musical instrument known to mankind has never seemed so alluring to me and to say the least my esteemed colleagues here do every once in a while know what’s best for me. The warm jazzy sound of his PRS burn through his ominous music with mixed levels of energy, but they’re always worth hearing.
Robert Cray – Nothin but Love
Robert Cray’s newest installment in his discography demonstrates as much soul as one guy could dish out. Nothin but Love has everything anyone could ever yearn for out of a blues album from the deep emotionally invested singing matched by the crisp, driven sounds of a Stratocaster.
Robert Cray reminds us that guitar mastery doesn’t mandate blistering 1/128th note sweeps fleshed out with an over the top performance. Strong chord progressions with great chemistry between him and the rest of the band really bring the music to the level it deserves to be. Plus the guy’s a great singer. Listening to his singing is kind of like listening to Morgan Freeman talk. You know how everyone always says they like the sound of Morgan Freeman’s voice? He’s like that. Nothin but Love is very serene the whole way through.
John 5 – God Told Me To
I can still remember the first time I heard John 5 after he ventured into his solo project. I remember thinking “what, that guy from Marilyn Manson? Can he even do anything beyond power chords?” Boy did I eat my own words on that debate. Turned out John 5 is not only a good guitarist, but a remarkably great one and no where can better evidence be found than on his 2012 release God Told Me To.
Pristine technique and a spot on performance with some absolutely ridiculous notation make this album interesting the whole way through and a good variety to brought out by the mix of electric and acoustic guitars give each song its own feeling keep them all from just sort of melding into one big one. So you’re not going to be listening to this album thinking “man this is one long song” only to find you’re on track 9.
There have been a lot of great albums released over the year and just because we didn’t write in detail doesn’t mean that anyone else wasn’t deserving of attention. Ihsahn’s Eremita is a solid and dark sounding album. Jeff Loomis’ Plains of Oblivion is freaking ridiculous. Dethklok’s Deth Album III is as humorous as it is filled with great metal guitar work. Joe Bonamassa’s Driving Towards the Daylight is remarkable as well, and each one of these is worth checking out as well. It’s been a good year for music.