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

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

  • 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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon


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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon

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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon

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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon

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.

 Download on iTunes    Download on Amazon

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.