I hate change. Give me a comfortable routine, and I’m perfectly happy. Needless to say the job writing for MSN Entertainment’s metal blog was perfect for yours truly. It was very hard work, draining at times – coming up with fresh content eight to ten times a week on your own is an incredible challenge – but I loved it to bits, it paid very well, and it reached a huge audience, the biggest of my so-called writing career. But when music writing is your calling, expect your career path to be in constant flux, because you never know what’ll be around the corner, and sure enough, the MSN job ended abruptly after 25 life-changing months. It was no fault of our own at MSN Music, the writers and editors had built it into a tremendous, diverse section, but Microsoft shot themselves in the face with a disastrous search engine, lost bazillions, and decided to swiftly sack all freelance writers: music, movies, television, all gone as of October 1.
And if that wasn’t enough, my humble little Pitas blog, on which I’d rambled for 12 years, died suddenly when the website inexplicably crashed and lost all users’ data. All I have left is my Best of 2012 post; the rest appears to be gone forever. I knew I should have saved the code for my year-end posts! I’m much more active on Twitter and Tumblr anyway, but it was still sad to see it go, and at the very least I decided to bring the blog to this address, if only for my year-end business. We’ll see how it goes.
Funny thing is, even though the stability isn’t anywhere near like it was with MSN, I’m still as busy as ever at Decibel, Terrorizer, and now Iron Fist magazine as well. I’m still chipping in at PopMatters as well, where I’ll be focusing on event review writing, and am still active with the Juno Awards metal committee and the Polaris Music Prize. After one week of “what am I gonna do” I realized I can’t not have my ear to the ground. I can’t not be in constant search of great new music. So that’s what I’ll keep doing for the time being.
But enough of that. Despite the stress, 2013 was another busy year, most revolving around music and music writing of course. I’ve lost count of all the great shows I’ve seen. The 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in January. The Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands. Being sent on assignment to see Black Sabbath in Vancouver. The Noctis Festival and Conference in Calgary. I visited Toronto and Chicago, and fell in love with the latter city. And the bands I’ve seen: Sabaton, Nile, Rage, Doro, Metal Church, Kreator, In Flames (three times), Gojira (twice), Devin Townsend, Marilyn Manson (where a story I helped break about him collapsing onstage went viral, which was hilarious), Meshuggah, Heart (incredible!), Stars, Orange Goblin (twice), Clutch, Billy Bragg, LOADS of bands at Roadburn (including High on Fire, Psychedelic Warlords, Pallbearer, Kadavar, Witch Mountain, Uncle Acid, Electric Wizard, Goat, Alcest, Jess & the Ancient Ones, Godflesh, Astra, Nihill, Ihsahn), Motley Crue, Fleetwood Mac, Besnard Lakes, Metric, Striker, Tragically Hip, Kiss, Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath, Carcass, Gorguts, Candlemass, Girlschool, Sacrifice, Selena Gomez (where I co-wrote a review with my niece!), GWAR, Austra, Mortals, Slayer, Skeletonwitch (twice), Noisem, Testament, Lamb of God. Plus I did some sightseeing in Bruges, Brussels, and Amsterdam, attended the Memorial Cup, saw all the excellent movies at the Dark Bridges Film Festival, finally made it to my first Saskatchewan Roughriders game in 21 years (they won, and won the Grey Cup at home three months later!), got some quality time in Vancouver, and went to a Leafs game in Toronto. Now that’s a good year. I’m a very lucky dummy.
Before I kick the year-end countdown into high gear, this is traditionally the place where I mention any albums from the previous year that I didn’t get around to hearing until this year, which might have had a shot of placing in my top ten or 20. This time around, though, the one 2012 release I have to mention is actually a reissue. Not only is Blue Öyster Cult’s The Complete Columbia Albums Collection a terrific box set, but it’s the best music purchase I made all year. Prior to getting that set my knowledge of BÖC was limited to a couple albums and their classic rock radio staples. I had no idea they were so diverse, so talented – no other band in rock has had five distinct singer-songwriters – and it was so fun discovering all this, following along in Martin Popoff’s wonderful critical biography Secrets Revealed. I heard plenty of tremendous new music in 2013, as you’ll see soon enough, but Blue Öyster Cult provided me with the most rewarding musical experience I had all year.
In the meantime, I’m delighted to share some of my favorite music from the past year with you again. It might be a new address, but it’s the same old routine, the 24-day countdown of reissues, honourable mentions, and my top 20 albums and singles, with my Album of the Year named on Christmas Eve. If I turn you on to one new favourite record in the next few weeks, then I’ve done my job.
My top ten albums of 2012:
1. Rush – Clockwork Angels
2. Anathema – Weather Systems
3. Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
4. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner
5. Baroness – Yellow & Green
6. Goat – World Music
7. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing
8. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
9. Grimes – Visions
10. Amanda Mair – Amanda Mair
Past albums of the year (uh, please bear in mind I was sixteen when I started this):
1986: Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time
1987: Def Leppard – Hysteria
1988: Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
1989: Voivod – Nothingface
1990: Megadeth – Rust In Peace, Led Zeppelin Box Set (tie)
1991: Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
1992: R.E.M. – Automatic For The People
1993: Nirvana – In Utero
1994: Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
1995: Elastica – Elastica
1996: Pulp – Different Class
1997: Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind
1998: Monster Magnet – Powertrip
1999: Metallica – S & M
2000: Yo La Tengo – …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
2001: Bob Dylan – Love And Theft, The Langley Schools Music Project – Innocence & Despair (tie)
2002: The Streets – Original Pirate Material
2003: Manitoba – Up in Flames
2004: Arcade Fire – Funeral
2005: Opeth – Ghost Reveries
2006: Mastodon – Blood Mountain
2007: Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
2008: Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
2009: Fever Ray – Fever Ray
2010: Best Coast – Crazy For You
2011: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
2012: Rush – Clockwork Angels