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“NeoStar Studios” Top 20 Albums of 2012!

As 2012 came to a close, it’s time for us to look back and reflect on what stood out to us musically. There was a bunch that we all agreed on and a few that prompted us to check out each other’s referrals. We’ve each made our lists of our top favorites of the past year. Here we highlight our founder (and the man who pays the bills here) Henry Chung’s top 20 Albums of 2012!

Blaqk Audio - Bright Black Heaven20. Blaqk Audio – Bright Black Heaven

“After the success of their debut Cex Cells, AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget follows up with another album on their BA side project. So how does this measure up compared to the debut? It’s ok. Not the greatest as I was expecting but just alright. The dark lyricism that we’ve come to love from Havok felt a little watered down here. Also it just felt like a collection of songs as compared to Cex Cells which flowed perfectly throughout the album. Overall, there are still a bunch of really good songs on here that I keep coming back to but I just couldn’t listen to the whole thing in one sitting”

Circa Survive - Violent Waves19. Circa Survive – Violent Waves

“The band’s first completely DIY album also happened to be their best!”

 

 

Deftones-Koi-No-Yokan18. Deftones – Koi No Yokan

This release came out fairly late in the year but has managed to make it to my top 20! There’s not a lot of bands that I listen to back in my early teens that I still enjoy today. There’s an even shorter list of ones still relevant in today’s musical climate. The Deftones manages to be one of the few bands who’s music still sounds refreshing and new album after album.”

GDOB2-30CH-001.cdr17. The Bouncing Souls – Comet

“Similar the Deftones, The Bouncing Souls manages to still stay musically relevant nearly twenty-five years later. One of the things these hopeless romantics are really good at is writing really catchy singalong anthems. While most punk bands are busy writing songs about flipping off “the man”, The Souls are all about heart even while facing the end of the world.”

Now, Now - Threads16. Now, Now – Threads

“I first heard of these guys a year ago when my friends in Slingshot Dakota did a tour with them. It’s surprising how much they’ve grown musically and commercially. Definitely NEED to keep watch of these guys!”

 

Lostprophets - Weapons15.  Lostprophets – Weapons

“Though Weapons didn’t really feel as cohesive as a whole, I did find myself constantly coming back to select songs. To be honest, I felt the songs chosen to be the “singles” on the album were weak compared to the others. Considering all the scandalous reports of their frontman (Ian Watkins) in the news, this could possibly even be their last record.”

Make Do And Mend - Everything You Ever Loved14. Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved

“MDAM is a band that exists somewhere within the punk scene and yet, also on the outside of it. Some of their old-school fans will hate them for Everything You Ever Loved with their modern post-hardcore sound while new listeners will rejoice it. Also, I had the pleasure of talking to frontman James Carroll over the summer at Warped Tour which gave some perspective on the songs off of EYEL.”

Hot Water Music - Exister13. Hot Water Music – Exister

“I didn’t really listen to HWM at all during their hay-day. But JJ convinced us all to give this a try.We weren’t disappointed.”

 

Troubled Coast - Awake & Empty12. Troubled Coast – Awake and Empty

“I normally receive a ton of music online for reviews. I do give a listen to everything I get but most of them are either generic or forgettable. This one stood out! It reminds me of an angrier Saosin/ Thrice.”

 

Muse - The 2nd Law11. MuseThe 2nd Law

“I liked how the band went WAY out of their comfort zone and experimented with many different sounds/ styles (“Unsustainable” [dub-step], “Madness” [EDM]) as well as over-the-top production (string quartet/ choir) on this Radiohead-meets-Queen pompous rock outing. Unfortunately, the album as a whole was all over the place but there were a lot of really interesting songs on it.”

Miss May I - At Heart10. Miss May IAt Heart

“Still a very young band, I have seen them progressed throughout the last few years between releases. At Heart definitely stood out amongst all of the other metal releases this year and was thus my soundtrack to the summer.”

 

TBM - Hide And Seek9. The Birthday Massacre – Hide And Seek

“Though Hide And Seek was more or less of the same TBM sound, it did have a lot of really catchy songs. I ended up listening to it nonstop for a month and a half.”

 

Silverstein - Short Songs8. SilversteinShort Songs

“This concept album of 11 songs and 11 covers came as a surprise. As the title suggests, all of the songs were short and most were no longer than 90 seconds. There were a lot of original work here that was refreshing and showed off the best of what the band could do.”

Fact - Burundanga7. FACTburundanga

“FACT is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. I was lucky to be able to score a copy of their debut a few years back when I saw them open for Senses Fail. Unfortunately, all other releases are damn near impossible to get without downloading it. burandanga is a fun pop-punk/ post-hardcore album and probably FACT’s most consistent album to date.”

The Gashlight Anthem - Handwritten6. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

“Since their debut, fans/ critics would draw comparison to fellow NJ dweller, Bruce Springstein. It didn’t help matters much that he’d occasionally join them onstage at shows. But with the help of producer, Brenden O’Brien, they finally honed in their own sound!”

Motionless In White - Infamous5. Motionless In White – Infamous

“Following the success of their Fearless Records debut Creatures, MIW spent years touring the world over and writing their sophomore release. The album sounds like Bleeding Through crossed with Marilyn Manson DNA thanks to Tim Skold.”

Linkin Park - Living Things4. Linkin Park – Living Things

“I have been a fan of LP since finding them online back when they were still known as ‘Hybrid Theory.’ Throughout their career, they have managed to keep progressing each album with a different sound. With Living Things, it sounded like they band took all of their past experiences with experimentation and crafted one of their catchiest albums to date. Also I got to photograph them on the Honda Civic Tour. Go me!”

Thrice - Anthology3. Thrice – Anthology

“This live album was recorded throughout their ‘Farewell Tour.’ According to the band, the audio was left as-is and the the resulting material was one best sounding live album I’ve heard in a while. Also, I got to be a part of this project (even though they ended up NOT using any of my photographs.)”

Anberlin - Vital2. AnberlinVital

“It sounded like the band took the best of their previous works & crafted a perfect album!”

 

Pennywise - All Or Nothing1. PennywiseAll Or Nothing

“After the departure of Jim Lindberg, Ignite frontman Zoli Téglás stepped up sat the new vocalist for Pennywise’s 10th studio release. His contribution was actually quite the breadth of fresh air for the band and gave the ‘self-titled’ release a new sense of urgency.”

 

“Decent Exposure Radio’s” Favorite 25 Albums of 2012

As 2012 came to a close, it’s time for us to look back and reflect on what stood out to us musically. There was a bunch that we all agreed on and a few that prompted us to check out each other’s referrals. We’ve each made our lists of our top favorites of the past year. Going the extra mile, JJ gave us his top 25 albums of 2012!

Classics Of Love - Classics Of Love25. The Classics of Love – Self Titled

“This was a tricky pick. At various points, a few other albums had occupied the 25th spot until I remembered this album from earlier in the year. An 11th hour listen reminded me how much I liked it. You see, it’s Jesse Michaels from Operation Ivy and a few other fellows. The music sounds like a faster, heavier Op Ivy that spent a good deal of time listening to the Suicide Machines. Right there, that sold me. Plus, how many other singers in their forties can muster this kind of energy?! If you like this kind of music, don’t miss out. 13 tracks in 23 minutes isn’t a huge commitment.”

The Gashlight Anthem - Handwritten24. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

“Once again, growth is the name of the game. This band was always good at what they did, but it was always too close to Bruce Springsteen and other Jersey-boy hero worship to truly be extra special. This is the album where TGA really begin to carve an identity for themselves. It hasn’t fully escaped the sounds of their influences but it is a very strong step toward letting Brian Fallon show his songwriting talents.”

Cancer Bats - Dead Set On Living23. Cancer Bats – Dead Set On Living

“More Canadians! Our northern neighbor’s answer to Every Time I Die actually outdid their ‘competition’ this year. The first 3 CB albums all had phenomenal songs and elements but this album seems to pull it all together the best. It’s not a drastic step forward, but a refinement, which is fine.”

Anberlin - Vital22. Anberlin – Vital

“A great band whose last 2 albums had gotten a little too slick. Don’t get me wrong, they each had maybe 2 phenomenal songs, but there was something missing. Perhaps it was a youthful intensity. Well this album has everything that they do well all in one bundle. It also has a LOT of synths which actually isn’t a bad thing in this case. This is another one of those bounceback albums.”

Make Do And Mend - Everything You Ever Loved21. Make Do and Mend – Everything You Ever Loved

“Do you enjoy gruff vocals with a little bit of a twang? I do…sometimes. This album has a ton of great songs and demonstrates real growth from the band. Frontman James Carroll is a really nice guy, so let’s put ’em up here.”

 

Death By Stereo – Black Sheep of the American Dream20. Death By Stereo – Black Sheep of the American Dream

“The surprise factor might be at play here. I had known and liked a few songs from these guys but always thought they were WAY too inconsistent. Singer Efrem Shulz always seemed to oversing which occasionally worked but often really derailed things. Things seemed to be reigned in here vocally but the songs are short, punchy, direct and the guitars have never been tighter. There are some sick solos and harmonies here. Another 28 minute album which means there is no room for weak songs.”

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Lost Songs19. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Lost Songs

“This was a band that I could just never get into. Their songs meandered and while they sometimes had moments of good stuff, they were buried in a mess of overblown noise. It seems that with the prior album ‘Tao of the Dead,’ the band stripped down to a four-piece. This is the album where they trim away all of that fat and just give us a focused collection of music. Who knew they were capable of this? Perhaps it would even be higher on the list if it had come out earlier in the year and I was able to really devote more time to it. Oh well, if a few cursory listens were able to affect me this much, imagine how good the album really is…”

Baroness - Yellow & Green18.Baroness – Yellow and Green

“Another shocker. I loved old ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Baroness. Sure, they were dangerously close to being Mastodon, but oh well. This tones things WAY down and has John Baizley utilizing gentler vocals reportedly because of damage from touring on the intense songs from the first two albums and needing to write quiet songs so as not to wake his sleeping newborn child in the next room. This drastic shift in tone is usually the point where I check out but it really works here, revealing a different side to the band. The change gives them limitless room to continue growing. As with all double albums, it could have used some trimming, but the quality parts are undeniable. Way to set yourselves apart, gentlemen.”

Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury17. Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury

“To me, this is by far the best thing RBF has made since ‘Cheer Up’ and that was a long, long time ago. In between, they were churning out turds with a few decent additions to the live show. How did this happen? They even lost another integral member of the band, Scott Klopfenstein prior to this album. Whatever sorcery these guys conjured up, it worked and results in a rather consistent collection of ska songs. It’s not everyday that you can say that.”

Anti Flag – The General Strike16. Anti Flag – The General Strike

“The band produced this themselves and it is by far their shortest full-length at about 28 minutes. Despite all of that, this is a grower and while it might not initially seem like it has a lot of memorable songs, that is far from true. The band has also never been faster and angrier. Plenty of these tracks stand among their finest. See? That whole Occupy movement produced something good!”

Good Old War – Come Back As Rain15. Good Old War – Come Back As Rain

“I usually have to be in the right mood or a big fan of a musician to dig acoustic music. These Philly boys put in their time as Anthony Green’s backing band, put out a very good solo debut, released a completely forgettable sophomore album and this, their mind-blowing third album. Talk about a comeback. If you like harmonized vocals as much as I do, you’ll be a happy camper. This is their most consistent collection and if you are going to check out Good Old War for the first time, I would recommend this album.”

Best Coast - The Only Place14. Best Coast – The Only Place

“Their debut ‘Crazy For You’ had some charm but it was very fuzzy, and willfully lo-fi. This glosses things up and reveals that Bethany Cosentino and company can write a whole album of amazing songs. She also now sings about more substantial subject matter aside from her cat, getting high, not having a boyfriend and California. These are some sunny songs that make me want to buy a plane ticket out to the west coast.”

Propagandhi – Failed States13. PropagandhiFailed States

“While this doesn’t even comes close to ‘Supporting Caste,’ ‘Failed States’ overcomes a slightly slow start to build momentum and demonstrate some growth in the long-running band. They’re old, but still angry and still Canadian. They have influenced a lot of music out there and have proven here that they can still hang with nearly any band out there in terms of intensity.”

Minus The Bear - Infinity Overhead12. Minus The Bear – Infinity Overhead

“I really like everything this band does. ‘Menos El Oso’ will always be my favorite album of theirs but this combines a lot of that with the electronic experimentation of their newer stuff and a little prog that was ‘Planet of Ice.’ It runs through a little of everything that they do well. Oh and Dave Knudson dusts off his wicked guitar solos. Hallelujah.”

Circa Survive - Violent Waves11.  Circa Survive – Violent Waves

“This had to grow on me a little bit. I love all of their stuff but this album is a little more ambient and less-focused at times. After seeing some of the songs live and really sticking with it, this has revealed itself to be a very, very good album. I’ll always be partial to ‘On Letting Go’ but this is a fine direction to go. It’s also the first release that they put out themselves…so if you like them, support them!”

Silverstein - Short Songs10. SilversteinShort Songs

“These Canucks have flirted with hardcore before but they really dive in this time. At under 20 minutes, it’s a very digestible little collection of tunes that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Some of the covers are absolutely fantastic, far better than the original versions. This was one chance that really paid off.”

Further Seems Forever – Penny Black9. Further Seems ForeverPenny Black

“Yep. Another reunion album. This one came out of nowhere for me because I only heard one of the non-Chris Carrabba FSF albums and I don’t like Dashboard Confessional. Why would I like this album? I still can’t really explain it, but something about it really works for me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I can’t seem to get enough of it.”

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy8. Nada SurfThe Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy

“Another ’90s relic that has hung on. Here is another wonderful album from them (their 2000’s output has been criminally underrated). Considering that this came out in the first quarter of 2012 and has managed to stay this high on the list is a testament to how great the album is.”

Bob Mould - Silver Age7. Bob Mould – Silver Age

“Out of nowhere, Bob has recaptured his Sugar magic. Featuring a simple setup: electric guitar, bass, and drums, the great songwriter gets back to what he does best, writing great rock songs. Sometimes, it’s alright to pretend that it’s still the ’90s.”

Screaming Females - Ugly6. The Screaming Females – Ugly

“Working with Steve Albini has given ‘The Screamales’ a slightly beefier sound which suits them just fine. Also, the band is getting stronger and more consistent in the songwriting department. Since this is also easily their longest album, that only means more great songs. I always compare this band to Dinosaur Jr. and considering I like this album much more than the new Dino offering, it is a huge score for them, whether they realize it or not.”

The Mars Volta - Noctorniquet5. The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet

“The band’s most stripped-down album in terms of personnel has so much going on in it, you might be surprised. This album is more synth-heavy and weird but it’s a real grower even if you don’t love it at first. Cedric’s vocals just keep getting better, stranger and more beautiful.”

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind4. ConvergeAll We Love We Leave Behind

“While it eschews the collaborations that made up ‘Axe To Fall,’ the latest from these guys is still one of the most varied albums of this band’s career. There are brutal songs, beautiful songs and songs that defy definition.”

 

Deftones-Koi-No-Yokan3. DeftonesKoi No Yokan

“How do you follow up ‘Diamond Eyes’? By recapturing the magic and making an album that, while perhaps not exceeding that one, equaling it. Not an easy task. This is a little of everything that you would want from the band which is alright by me. There is a reason why The Deftones are the only band that was lumped into the nu-metal pack who are still around and relevant. They were always the best of the bunch.”

Rush - Clockwork Angels2. RushClockwork Angels

“A band that has been around this long has no right to make an album this energetic, upbeat and technical. They are just supposed to coast along, writing another album with a few good tracks to add to the performances at the county fair and loads of filler. That’s not what Rush did, though. They made their best album since ‘Moving Pictures’ and a concept album, to boot. The band has never been heavier. If you have ever liked anything by them, check this out.”

Hot Water Music - Exister1. Hot Water MusicExister

“The long-awaited new album from my favorite band. HWM has never been recorded as gorgeously (thanks Bill Stevenson!) as it has been here and the songs are just incredible. The performances, especially Chuck Ragan’s vocals, are so passionate, it’s chilling. I liked this right off the bat but it just kept growing on me which makes it that much more gratifying. I will fight anyone who didn’t like this album. Welcome back Hot Water Music. Please don’t break up ever again.”