Top 10 albums of 2012 critics' picks: Steve Newton

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      Sorry, I’m just not into the Gangnam style.

      Neil Young and Crazy Horse
      Psychedelic Pill
      The Can-Am rock legend gets back together with his favourite combo for a platter that, while not in the league of Crazy Horse offerings like Zuma and Ragged Glory, still delivers the primo guitar-rock goods. And you’ve gotta love a guy who kicks things off with a song that’s nearly 28 minutes long.

       

      Soundgarden
      King Animal
      The classic Soundgarden lineup of singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron releases its first album in 16 years, and it sounds like it’s never been gone. The raging, three-minute “Attrition” might be the best damn rock tune of the year.

       

      Rush
      Clockwork Angels
      Like an unstoppable force of nature, the Canuck prog-rock trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart just keeps on bringin’ it. The band sounds as vibrant and adventurous as ever on its 19th studio album.

       

      Van Halen
      A Different Kind of Truth
      Despite its subpar lead-off track, “Tattoo”, the first Van Halen album with David Lee Roth since ’84 is a joy for those who’ve pined for another full-bodied taste of the ultimate party band’s raunchy rock. Just don’t get me started on Diamond Dave’s performance on tour.

       

      Joe Bonamassa
      Driving Towards the Daylight
      Guitar great Joe Bonamassa covers blues legends Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon on his 11th studio album, and—via moving numbers like the exquisite title track—shows his own composing skills as well. Having Aerosmith’s underrated Brad Whitford add guitar to seven songs doesn’t hurt, either.

       

      Patterson Hood
      Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
      The singer, songwriter, and guitarist from the Drive-By Truckers targets the heart with his third solo album’s redemptive tales of loves lost and addicts saved. His slow-burning acoustic show at the Biltmore last June, in the company of Hope for Agoldensummer’s Campbell siblings, was a concert highlight of 2012.

       

      The Stanfields
      Death & Taxes
      Celtic-tinged punk rock doesn’t normally thrill me to the bone, but when singer-guitarist Jon Landry and his Nova Scotia mates hook up with Langley’s producer to the stars Mike Fraser, the results bring to mind the Ramones, the Pogues, and Crazy Horse tearing it up in a rowdy Dublin pub.

       

      Ringo Starr
      Ringo 2012
      It might seem a bit strange including Ringo in a Top 10, but the former mop-top released what is arguably his finest album this year. The homage to his skiffle roots, “Rock Island Line”, is a standout, thanks to a little help from friends like Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, saxophonist Edgar Winter, and guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

       

      Los Straitjackets
      Jet Set
      Last year, veteran Vancouver instrumentalists the Falcons made my Top 10 with their fab Atomic Guitar album. This year’s instro-rock pick goes to the twang-crazed amigos out of Nashville, Tennessee. Look up cool-sounding in the dictionary and you’ll see their smiling faces (hidden behind Mexican wrestling masks).

       

      Various Artists
      Re-machined
      Tribute albums can be patchy efforts, and this homage to Deep Purple’s monumental Machine Head definitely sports one major flaw in the Flaming Lips’ juvenile reworking of “Smoke on the Water”. But there’s enough killer contributions from the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, and former Purple member Glenn Hughes to make up for that waste of space.

       

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      Dec 19, 2012 at 7:46am

      Interesting selections and no arguement from me on Los Straitjackets and The Stanfields.....checkout the Coup 'Sorry to Bother You' and the Swingin' Utters 'Here Under Protest' a couple of real gems.

      Steve Newton

      Dec 19, 2012 at 12:28pm

      lemme guess: I get an argument from you on Van Halen, though, right?

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