Words by WASTER Staff

In 2012, we lost MCA and Levon. We met a ruthless bitch named Sandy. And we helplessly dangled from a fiscal cliff. But, like every year, we found solace in the healing powers of our old friend, rock n roll.

This year in music was full of flower children and TigerFaces. It saw the Seventh Son go solo, paved a new path to punk’s Promised Land, and hosted the resurrection of Seattle’s grunge gods. And in honor of these musical masterpieces, we raise a finger to all the ‘Call Me Maybe’s of the industry, and sound off on our favorite soundtracks to the end of the world.

Jack White
Third Man Records
[April 24, 2012]

One of the hardest working musicians in the industry today, Jack White is constantly in pursuit of perfection. Like an artist honing his craft, White mixes and matches different shades of color to see which paint the prettiest picture. Blunderbuss is White’s first solo release, but it’s a product of a decade of musical mastery, and one if his finely tuned releases yet. Blunderbuss is raw, yet elegant at the same time – a fine mix of blues, soul and rock n’ roll. On this album, you won’t find those mind-melting guitar solos that were so prevalent during his time with the White Stripes or the Dead Weather. However, White’s virtuosity continues to shine through his lyrics and arrangements, and he brings in the right people to help him create yet another standout record. – Alex Napoliello


Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Vagrant Records
[May 29, 2012]

Here, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ sophomore effort beautifully conveys their first love: music. They continue to embrace their fondness of gospel and soul throughout ‘I Don’t Want to Pray’, but take the listener to a meditative Vihara upon the clouds with ‘Mayla’. As to why ‘That’s What’s Up’ isn’t on every wedding party playlist for the next half decade I don’t know, but if not for its lyrical brilliance, at least for its danceable up-beat rhythm. ‘Dear Believer’, which has the potential to have any couple swooning and singing “paradise” to each other wherever they hear it, is another track that could aid a generation in sending this country’s rising divorce rate in the opposite direction. This release spits fire and water the whole way through, “and we thank the sun for shining that light…” on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to make Here a part of 2012. – Dan Schaffel


“King Animal”
Universal Republic
[November 13, 2012]

Did Soundgarden ever really go out of style? Sure, their last record was released back in 1996, but when the alt-rockers resurfaced in 2012 with King Animal, they proved to be pretty relevant in the 21st century, too. ‘I’ve Been Away Too Long’ appropriately kicks off the new album by knocking the wind right out of you. Yes, even at 48, Chris Cornell can still sing with such inherent power that it leaves most other front-men cowering in the corner, rethinking their life choices. And oh, the guitar riffs. Head-bangers across the globe are rejoicing for the return of Kim Thayil, who reclaims his old rep on songs like ‘Non-State Actor’ and ‘Eyelid’s Mouth. ‘Rowing’ shuts the book on the band’s sixth album by tapping into the very grunge roots that first spit them into Seattle scene back in the 90’s. With King Animal, Soundgarden is like the black T-shirt of rock n roll – all the rage. – Audra Tracy


Title Fight
“Floral Green”
SideOne Dummy
[September 18, 2012]

Punk rock is dying. The emo kids of the early 2000s are growing up, and you’d have to Google their forefathers just to see if they still have an interest in touring. And so the allegiance of young punk fans is splintering once again, in night clubs on even-numbered days and cleared-out community board rooms on school nights. The pissed off, outcast youth of the nation is ripe for someone’s taking. Kingston, Pa.’s Title Fight proved with this year’s Floral Green that they are the band to lead them to the Promised Land. The record is raw, aggressive, impassioned, and the battering ram the genre needed to return from obscurity. Title Fight is the band that will allow bands like The Swellers, Hostage Calm and Balance and Composure—acts steadily building their base in the alternative world—to push to the forefront and keep the fight—or whatever kids are screaming about these days—alive. – Bill San Antonio


Marco Benevento
Royal Potato Family
[September 11, 2012]

The title of Marco Benevento’s latest record, TigerFace, could be seen as a metaphor for his career thus far – he’s determined, willing to roam into any circumstance with confidence and is the king of his craft. Benevento is a classically trained pianist, but has found his niche in the jam scene; he’s played alongside some of the scene’s most noted musicians, such as Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon, but has also built a cult following of his own. Benevento’s latest release displays a musician who is willing to grow. TigerFace puts an emphasis on musical composition, and at times feels more complete than his previous release, Between the Needles and Nightfall. TigerFace ventures into uncharted waters for Benevento, like incorporating vocals, but he still lets the keys do most of the talking. – Alex Napoliello


Gary Clark Jr.
“Blak and Blu”
Warner Brothers
[October 22, 2012]

As long as people get the blues, there will always be a need for blues music. Gary Clark Jr. knows this. He also knows that people don’t all get the blues in the same way. When some people are down, they want the soft, sultry reassurance that though things may be bad, they won’t stay bad forever. Others want an escape, to go on a distorted psychedelic journey that momentarily takes them away from their troubles. On Clark’s major label debut, Blak and Blu, there’s something for everyone—the sexy hard rock epics ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘When My Train Pulls In’, the slow jams ‘Blak and Blu’, ‘The Life’ and ‘You Saved Me’. These genre-jumping moments aren’t always perfect, but each track brings something new to the table, a different way to deal with a different experience. Audiences agreed: Blak and Blu charted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and reached No. 1 on the Blues chart. – Bill San Antonio


Alabama Shakes
“Boys & Girls”
ATO Records
[April 10, 2012]

Among the elite album releases of 2012, Alabama Shakes got a piece of our hearts with their debut LP, Boys & Girls. A work that for fans blends sounds of bands such as the Cold War Kids and The Black Keys meeting the vocal uniqueness of Edward Sharpe’s Jade Castrinos getting a Robert Plant fix. Songs including ‘I Found you’, ‘Heartbreaker’, and ‘Be Mine’ are like biting into a York Peppermint Patty: a breath of fresh air. Impeccably blending gospel, soul, folk, and rock n roll, this breakthrough masterpiece has set a high bar for what is to come of new material emerging up from below the Mason-Dixon line. Although this may not be nor have intended to be a concept album, it has a beginning, middle and end. Should these types of work continue from this 2012 buzz band, we could expect to see some albums played live, cover to cover, in the in latter part of this decade. – Dan Schaffel


Walk the Moon
[June 19th, 2012]

If you like your dance parties full of face paint and falsettos, then Walk the Moon probably provided your soundtrack to 2012. The four piece’s stand-out performance at the inaugural Firefly Festival sucked us in, and totally turned us on to their bouncy self-titled debut. Rest assured, you can skip the laptop beats of today’s top EDM acts, because Walk the Moon plays real instruments (guitar/bass/drums/synths) and exudes way more energy onstage than any DJ peeking above their MacBook Pro.- Audra Tracy


The Gaslight Anthem
Mercury Records
[July 24, 2012]

I must confess before writing this short review: I did not think The Gaslight Anthem would make it this far. I did think they’d actually record a fourth record, but I thought it would be similar to a straight-to-DVD spin-off, like Van Wilder’s The Rise of Taj or American Pie Beta House. For Handwritten, The Gaslight Anthem returned to the sound that got them popular in the first place. At the same time, this record displays a true maturity in the band member’s, particularly that of frontman Brian Fallon. In concert, the new single ’45’ gets as much of an applause as ‘The ’59 Sound’, and way more radio play, too. Similar to The ’59 Sound, the band’s sophomore record and most popular to date, Handwritten is a soul record masked by catchy guitar hooks and distortion. – Alex Napoliello


Howlin Rain
“The Russian Wilds”
Def American Recordings
[February 14, 2012]

Guided by super-producer Rick Rubin (no big deal), Ethan Miller and his band managed to bottle the vintage vibe of California’s music scene with the 2012 effort, The Russian Wilds. Released on Valentine’s Day, the LP is not only for lovers of great American songbooks, but for anyone that appreciates a healthy beard. Channeling the mojo of The Black Crowes and Little Feat, songs like ‘Can’t Satisfy Me Now’, ‘Cherokee Werewolf’, and the epic eight minute ‘Self-Made Man’ make you want to shed your corporate skin, grow out your hair, and host an all-night love-in somewhere off the the Pacific Coast Highway. And by the looks of this shaggy bunch, Howlin Rain has made an art of that wayward lifestyle we all aspire to. Just a few songs into their late-night set at Valhalla during SXSW 2012, we were ready to hop in the van and head West with this Bay Area brotherhood. California is calling, and its cosmic ringtone is The Russian Wilds. – Audra Tracy


Chris Robinson Brotherhood
“Big Moon Ritual”
Red General Catalog
[June 5, 2012]

“Is the air getting thinner? Are we getting high?” Chris Robinson has never been shameful of his idealistic visions of compassion and family ruffed up by freak flag bravado. Joined by Neal Casal, Robinson’s third solo release, Big Moon Ritual is the embodiment of West Coast grandor and Jerry Garcia charm. Country flare with Robinson’s signature rock n’ roll vocals make for fun on California’s US 1. The mantra is simple… star or stone. – Martin Halo