ALARM's 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

ALARM’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.

High on Fire

Video: High on Fire’s “Fertile Green”

The video for High on Fire’s “Fertile Green,” amazing in its ridiculousness, is a mini-masterpiece of psychedelic sci-fi. Follow “Balteazeen, the Christ Twin” in his quest to reach some sort of Goddess of the Sticky-Icky.

The Bad Plus

Guest Spots: The Bad Plus’ pinewood derby

The Bad Plus: Never StopThe Bad Plus: Never Stop (E1, 9/14/10)

The Bad Plus: “My Friend Metatron”

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Jazz trio The Bad Plus has made a name for itself by reinterpreting popular rock songs and jazz standards in addition to hammering out energetic originals. Unlike its earlier albums, the band’s most recent full-length, Never Stop, consists entirely of Bad Plus compositions. Its unorthodox, avant-garde approach to creative endeavors can be traced back as far as grade school, as this story from drummer Dave King demonstrates.

The Pine Wood Derby
by Dave King of The Bad Plus

In the autumn of 1981, I participated in a Cub Scout event horizon called the Pinewood Derby. Little cars made of pine that had to be assembled from a kit by you alone, not you and your dad.

You were given a block of pine about the size of a walkie-talkie and wheels. You had to carve it in a shape that would allow the car to go fast down a track. You also had to paint it and detail it with racing stripes or personal flair concepts.

I believe there was a manual that was handed out to guide you in the possibly unfamiliar discipline of aerospace engineering. I didn’t read it because I don’t think it actually existed, and my dad refused to help me because he FOLLOWED THE RULES. I pleaded to my parents that I was sure kids were receiving help on the design and carving front because, like any awkward kid, you are aware that your peers that sort of “have it together” are receiving mysterious guidance and LOVE from many sources not as readily available to you. The Cub Scouts is actually an organization wholly devoted to shining a bright light on these deficiencies and dispensing the insecurity thusly.

Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuaria: Lagrimas Mexicanas

World in Stereo: Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuária’s Lagrimas Mexicanas

Each week, World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuária: Lagrimas Mexicanas (E1, 1/25/11)

Bill Frisell & Vinicius Cantuária: “Aquela Miller”

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The fretwork abilities of guitar luminaries Bill Frisell and Brazilian singer/songwriter Vinicius Cantuária meet on a fantastic Latin jazz record titled Lagrimas Mexicanas (“Mexican Tears” in English).  An expert collaboration that shows itself in every detailed note, Lagrimas Mexicanas has the harmonic twists and turns of a bossa-nova record sliced up by the experimental sounds you’d expect from Frisell. Whether sung in Spanish or Portuguese, Cantuária anchors much of the album with a voice as timeless as Gilberto Gil’s, capturing a worldly romanticism that comes off as seductive as the music that accompanies it.

Though it’s the first exclusive partnership between the two, the musicians have kept good company with each other in the past, playing together in a variety of settings — most notably Frisell’s guest spot on Cantuária’s second international release, Tucumã, in 1999. Cantuária, in return, was a part of the impressive global roster that made up Frisell’s Intercontinentals group.

Growing up in Manaus and Rio De Janiero, Cantuária’s Tropicália sound is informed by the places and people of Brazil. Taking Brazil’s rich musical tradition and relocating to New York in the mid-’90s, he has made a career in pushing the bossa-nova sound forward into the 21st Century.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Powerglove’s five favorite video-game covers

Named after the Nintendo robot-hand gaming accessory, Powerglove plays power-metal covers of classic video-game songs. The band released its debut EP, Total Pwnage, in 2005, covering, among other songs, the Tetris theme and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers theme. The band continued to develop its “Nintendo-core” sound with a full-length in 2007, entitled Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man.

With a new album based on Saturday-morning cartoons on the way (Saturday Morning Apocalypse, 9/28, E1 Music), Powerglove caught up with ALARM to share a few of its all-time favorite video-game covers.