The best (and worst) music of 2012: Hank Shteamer's picks

Christian Mistress dropped the heaviest dispatch yet of the overcrowded retro-metal boom



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  • Christian Mistress, Possession

  • Japandroids, Celebration Rock

  • Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind

  • Pallbearer, Sorrow & Extinction

  • Propagandhi, Failed States

  • fun., Some Nights

  • Loincloth, Iron Balls of Steel

  • Billy Hart, All Our Reasons

  • Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

  • Corin Tucker Band, Kill My Blues

Christian Mistress, Possession

The best albums

Christian Mistress

Christian Mistress, Possession (Relapse)

A coed crew of Olympia, Washington heshers dropped the heaviest dispatch yet of the overcrowded retro-metal boom, capturing not just the tasty licks, vintage-style tones and occult-steeped imagery of the genre’s old gods, but also—most impressive of all—their world-weary existentialism.

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Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

Two humble British Columbians fused Tom Petty–ish escapism with scruffy post-Misfits hookcraft on the year’s most exhilarating crank-it-up-and-go LP.

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Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)

The Massachusetts hardcore stalwarts reached a scary-good new peak, fueled by Kurt Ballou’s demonically inventive fretwork, Jacob Bannon’s bestial throatsmanship and, peeking through the vitriol, a disarming vulnerability.

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Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)

Slo-mo metal has rarely sounded as soulful as it did on the debut LP from Little Rock, Arkansas’s Pallbearer, a band with only four years of history but what sounds like a couple millennia’s worth of god’s-eye wisdom.

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Propagandhi, Failed States (Epitaph)

The angriest band in North America continued to hone its tech-punk attack, delivering a lean, blistering sixth LP packed with compositions as progressive as the politics that inspired them.

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fun., Some Nights (Fueled by Ramen)

You’d have to look back to the ’70s heyday of pop-rock melodrama—we’re talking Elton, Queen and Billy Joel—to find a fitting precedent for this absurdly charming LP, which tempers arena-sized bombast with an unmistakably New York–y brand of black comedy.

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Loincloth, Iron Balls of Steel (Profound Lore)

Nine years after dropping a cult-favorite demo, this Raleigh-Richmond outfit finally issued its debut LP, a wordless riff cornucopia that juxtaposes feverish complexity and stiff-lipped brawn.

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Billy Hart

Billy Hart, All Our Reasons (ECM)

A veteran drummer cemented his collaboration with three midcareer luminaries, weaving reconfigured standards and haunting rubato ballads into a jazz album that felt at once classic and quietly radical.

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Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (Island Def Jam)

This was the year that Christopher Francis Ocean spilled his guts on Tumblr and spilled his id on tape, yielding a transporting art-soul epic lined with satire, sensuality and searing self-inventory.

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Corin Tucker Band

Corin Tucker, Kill My Blues (Kill Rock Stars)

The siren of Sleater-Kinney resuscitated her soul-shaking wail on a playful yet bruising dance-rock jaunt, which doubled as a call to arms in the year of Pussy Riot.

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The worst


The closing of Zebulon

When this Wythe Avenue standby shuttered in December, Williamsburg (and maybe NYC) lost its most cosmopolitan music hang, a bustling, dimly lit, no-cover café whose superbly eclectic programming shuffled indie-rock up-and-comers, international free-jazz heavyweights, luminaries from the African diaspora and many a brilliant unclassifiable.

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