Top 5 Music Albums of 2012

Reign of Terror album cover artwork

SLEIGH BELLS ‘REIGN OF TERROR’ (Amazon)

Sleigh Bells’ first release was a big favorite of mine, so I had high hopes for their sophomore debut. When NPR had an early preview of it, I had to listen to it immediately. My metal self was immediately sated with True Shred Guitar and the latter Demons. But the catchiness of Crush and Road To Hell was what kept me coming back. The mixture of Alexis’ breathy vocals with Derek’s abrasive guitar hooks, makes for an band that I can love for years.

Epicloud album cover artwork

THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT ‘EPICLOUD’ (Amazon)

The Devin Townsend Project returns with Epicloud, a progressive metal album that tends to evoke a feeling of goodness and love. Sounds kinda’ strange for a metal album, right? Fortunately, with Hevy Devy at the helm, each track offers the variety that you should come to expect in a Devin Townsend Project album. Liberation rocks me like an Andrew W.K. song would. The way that Effervescent transitions into True North made me continue to appreciate what Devin Townsend decides to do for each album, evoking positivity into the world of metal. I vote this album “feel good metal album of the year.”

Fez soundtrack album cover artwork

DISASTERPEACE ‘FEZ OST’ (Digital download)

Everyone who remotely knows me understands that I have a deep passion for video games, so it should come to no surprise that I’d throw a game soundtrack on the list. Disasterpeace’s Fez soundtrack is how I love chip tune music composed. Each track evokes the emotion of the environment that I’d expect in this 2-D meets 3-D world. Although I’m not a huge fan of Disasterpeace’s other music, this album is well worth buying. If you remotely like chip tune music, I think you’ll cherish this album in your collection. I’ve also heard that the music you download has hidden secrets within it, but I’ll let you search that out on your own.

I Love You, It's Cool album cover artwork

BEAR IN HEAVEN ‘I LOVE YOU, IT’S COOL’ (Amazon)

Bear in Heaven’s album I Love You, It’s Cool was one of those albums that came out of nowhere. After seeing a review on Consequence of Sound, I decided to give them a listen on Spotify. Since that first listen, I’ve repeated I Love You, It’s Cool many times over. The songs all remind me of The Smiths meets Depeche Mode if you gave it more of a contemporary synth-pop sound. It’s one of those albums that I found too catchy to let go of and it’s definitely stuck with me throughout 2012. If you had to check out two tracks off the album, I’d go with The Reflection Of You and Sinful Nature.

Visions album cover artwork

GRIMES ‘VISIONS’ (Amazon)

Grimes’ album Visions was another one of those that I arrived a little late to the party, but which hooked me right away. As soon as Genesis began playing, I felt the great combination of her pop vocals with the whimsical nature of the instrumentals. Circumambient shows a difference in vocal styling that definitely doesn’t lead you to believe that you’re going to hear a similar song, track-by-track. This was one of those albums and artists that I have recommended to people all year long and have had no complaints from those I’ve given the recommendations to.

Breakers Yard and Oakshire Brewery — A Great Match

Yaicha and Jesse at Oakshire

Yaicha enjoying a pint while I indulge in the barleywine

I’ve come to the conclusion that craft beer and Delta blues music goes well together like peanut butter and jelly. Yaicha and I traveled to Eugene for Thanksgiving and we were treated to a fine performance at Oakshire Brewing from one of my best friend’s in his band, Breakers Yard. Jordan “Slim Bones” Trio plays suitcase percussion and kazoo in this band and it’s been interesting to see him mature musically throughout the years of knowing him. We’ve been friends for over half our lives and I’ve seen him go from listening to rap and metal to electronic dance music, blues and jazz. It was our first time at Oakshire Brewing, but I’ll definitely go back.

The atmosphere was buzzing when we entered the tasting room. I’m not sure if everyone there was for the live music, but it looked like Oakshire was having a Black Friday sale on their beers, because the place was packed. We enjoyed some exclusive ales served mainly at the brewery and took two special bottles with us back home: the Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter and the Perfect Storm Imperial IPA. Both of those were fantastic beers and worth the price of $7 per 22 oz. bottle.

Breakers Yard plays at Oakshire fairly frequently, so I recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the Eugene area. Buy a CD and help support local music!

Breakers Yard at Oakshire Brewing

Breakers Yard playing some Delta blues in the Oakshire Brewing tasting room

Karaoke Fun in Northwest Portland

When you rent out a room to do karaoke, group singing is inevitable.

From left to right: Ian and Bri singing, Jesse on tambourine and a beardless Grady hamming it up.

Sometimes you just have to sing some Coolio, Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel back-to-back in order to have a good time. Add some friends, good beers and Jell-O shots to the mix, well, that’s when you have a really good time.

A few weeks before that picture was taken above, Ryan O’Leary invited me to a mixer at Voicebox karaoke where three different organizations battled it out for supremacy in karaoke skills. The American Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America and the Portland Advertising Federation all had members in attendance who sung well (and poorly) to a mystery song drawn out of a hat or bowl or… something. However, it wasn’t until the event was over that the real fun began.

We still had another couple hours on the clock and made the most of it playing songs we wanted to sing and it hit an epic moment of the night when at least nine people were all singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the top of their lungs. That’s when I knew that we had to go back with some close friends and experience this again.

Fast forward back to the Gangstas Paradise and Jell-O shots. Ryan and I were the first to arrive and we got a couple Cyclops IPAs before entering the room and warming up with some Deftones. As Ian and Brianna arrived, we could tell they were unsure of what was going down. I’m pretty sure beer was invented before karaoke, but you could make a chicken or the egg argument for it. By the time Grady showed up, we were deep into singing everything from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Zero” to Eve 6’s “Inside Out.” Yes, we have no shame and we didn’t care because we all sang the songs. (It might also have something to do with a second round of Jell-O shots Ian bought us, but I’m not totally sure.)

I highly recommend finding a place like Voicebox that lets you rent out rooms to do karaoke, especially for the shy person who doesn’t want to sing in front of strangers. Even if only two people have microphones, it’s a blast when you all can sing or let friends without microphones be back-up singers. I can easily say that I had more fun spending a little over $20 for the two hours I was there than in a crowded club trying to dance to bad music. If you live in Portland, you need to do this.

Think About Your Special Song

Do you and your partner have a special song? This was a question I placed for one of my clients today and it made me start thinking of a song for Yaicha and I. At the same time, I stumbled upon a greatest hits album called “Eggs Are Funny” on Spotify for a prog-rock band called Mew.

Mew was one of the first ways that we met, when she came in to my work at the CD/Game Exchange to special order a couple Mew CDs. Years later, I’d take her to see Mew for the second time at the Hawthorne Theater and I’d be blown away with their live performance.

So, while I don’t believe we have a song, I think this is probably our band. I leave you with “The Zookeeper’s Boy” off their 2006 album “And The Glass Handed Kites.” Give it a listen and I’d love to hear what your song or band is.