Musical moments of 2012: Pleasant surprises

As 2012 winds down, we remember the musical moments we’re not ashamed to say that we loved

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      Not Your Kind of People
      After spending the past seven years languishing in pop music’s ever-expanding landfill, Garbage made one of the most unexpected returns from the dead since Jesus. Or John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Not Your Kind of People recaptures the smouldering electro-sexiness of the band’s eponymous mid-’90s debut, and then gives it a jolt of guitar violence that even (pre–Uncle Fester) Billy Corgan would approve of.

      The Men
      Open Your Heart
      The Men’s Open Your Heart showed the band getting in touch with its poppier side. Embracing the carefree, pop sensibilities of early Replacements records, the New York outfit created something that stayed raw and rough around the edges, the simple, sing-along highlights including “Turn It Around”, “Candy”, and “Open Your Heart”.

      Dead Can Dance
      Actually, the music itself isn’t surprising; the seamless welding of various world styles into something wholly original is exactly what you expect from Dead Can Dance. The surprise is that Anastasis exists at all. Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry live 17,000 kilometres apart and hadn’t released a new album in 16 years. The result of their reunion is grand, dark, mystical, and every bit as sublime as anything else in their catalogue.

      Anders Osborne
      Black Eye Galaxy
      A pleasant surprise is something that’s way better than it should be, right? Well, New Orleans blues-rocker Anders Osborne’s Black Eye Galaxy fits the bill. A defiantly retro effort, it happily references Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead, but skirts cliché thanks to Osborne’s fierce guitars, bluntly confessional lyrics, and impassioned singing.

      Bobby Womack
      The Bravest Man in the Universe
      With a voice that aches with so much soul, it’s almost painful to listen to (but in the best way), R&B legend Bobby Womack is entirely deserving of the career revival fuelled by his 27th album. Creatively produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell, The Bravest Man in the Universe is a poignant blend of modern and classic, raw and lustrous, and, most of all, timely and timeless.

      Red Kross
      Researching the Blues
      Fifteen years into a hiatus nobody noticed and just in time for everyone to not give a shit, the MacDonald brothers get their seminal Neurotica-era line-up back together and put out the best Red Kross album since—Neurotica. This must be the most aggressively meaningless firecracker pop music any group of men in their 40s has ever bothered to make, which is a revolutionary act in an era of critics striving to earn their PhDs through Pitchfork. Somewhere out there—probably a casino in Branson, Missouri—Rick Nielsen is wondering why he didn’t write “You Better Stay Away From Downtown” 38 years ago.