Sound Check: A few more observations about 2012

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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In this Nov. 22, 2009, file photo, singer Whitney Houston receives the International Artist Award onstage at the 37th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Houston, 48, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, died in February 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

Welcome to 2013!

Hopefully, you survived and enjoyed New Year’s Eve and are ready to face the world for another 362 days.

First, let us all thank our respective omniscient deities that the Mayans (or at least the people who interpreted the Mayan calendar) were apparently wrong about the whole end-of-the-world thing.

And, to all of the folks who took Tim McGraw’s hit song’s advice to Live Like You Were Dying and sold their stuff, quit their jobs, cursed out anyone they thought deserved it and blew their nest eggs on end-of-the-world blowouts well, good luck in your future endeavors.

And, no, none of your (possibly former) friends and family members is laughing derisively at you because you abandoned your current life to adhere to a “prophecy” from a civilization that couldn’t predict the STD-ridden conquerors of Europe that ended the world as they knew it much sooner than 2012.

Anyway, it’s the new year, and frankly there isn’t a whole bunch of stuff happening this week as tours and shows generally pick back up in the second and third weeks of January. Plus, I am bound by the Music Journalist Handbook to offer a list or two, so here’s some random music stuff in list form.

First, I’ve grown weary of trying to come with a “best this” or “best that” list. The sheer avalanche of music available in the digital age, whether it be sold or given away, plus the many platforms upon which anyone with a decent laptop can produce, promote and distribute their music, makes it folly for me to pretend I’ve heard every worthy record that found its way to the public in 2012.

Some records I heard this year that I liked a lot: High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis; Frank Ocean, Channel Orange; Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls; Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city; Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth (well, most of it); Santigold, Master of My Make Believe; Robert Glasper Experiment: Black Radio.

Some local records I heard this year that I liked quite a bit: Shivering Timbers, Sing, Sing (a little more grown up and rocking than the lullabies of their debut, but no less melodic); White Pines, Plumes of Ash, (Relaxer singer Joe Scott’s reverb heavy sad indie folk songs); Bizarros, Complete Collection — 1976-1980 (great compilation detailing the band’s underheard past and what could/should have been); Simeon Soul Charger, Harmony Square, (slightly over-the-top, but still catchy prog rock); Antoine Dunn, Truth of the Matter, (Cleveland’s smooth R&B/soulman); Misery Jackals, No Place for Children (goofy, fun, beer-mug-hoisting punkabilly), Wesley Brite & the Hi-Lites: Get It Right/Love I Got It, (funky, old-school soul music 45 from a group of young guns and Bob Basone).

A lot of famous and/or beloved musicians died in 2012, and don’t look now boomers, but some of your generational peers and legends are rudely reminding you of your mortality by leaving theirs behind. Artists such as guitarist Ronnie Montrose, the Monkees’ Davy Jones, the Band drummer Levon Helm, Stax bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, R&B/Disco Queen Donna Summer and the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb all shuffled off this mortal coil and not in the old-school, rock ’n’ roll style of burning out before fading away, though Montrose did commit suicide.

No, they mostly just got old(er) and sick. Pre-boomer legends and scions of their respective genres such as Etta James, D.C. Go-Go King Chuck Brown, Dave Brubeck, Ravi Shankar and seminal R&B man Johnny Otis also left us last year.

My generation — aka Generation X or when speaking of folks in “urban” areas, the Hip-Hop Generation (you know, cuz I’m black) — also lost a few icons, namely singer Whitney Houston whose looong, slow, sad and too public train wreck finally skidded to a stop in the typically rock ’n’ roll fashion of overdosing on the demons of which she was unable to rid herself.

We also lost Adam Yauch of Gen-X icons the Beastie Boys, whom many of us grew up with, and Soul Train creator/host Don Cornelius, whom many of us grew up watching. But I doubt those deaths have ignited any generational existential crisis or self-examination. If any of the Gen-Xers/Hip-Hop Generation folks did suddenly feel the pull of their mortality, you’d know about it because — as with most everything that happens in people’s lives these days — they’d discuss it thoroughly on Facebook, post their personal quandaries in 140 succinct words on Twitter, construct and post a funny/thoughtful meme and make a photo collage of their inner turmoil with that old-time-looking filter on Instagram.

As I wrote some 700 words ago, there’s not a whole lot going on at this time of year, but if you’re a fan of the subgenre or are just curious what a Christian metalcore band sounds like, the Auricle in Canton is playing host to Corpus Christi (appropriately) this Sunday.

The Cincinnati quintet hasn’t put out a full-length album since 2010’s A Feast for Crows and has had nearly a complete turnover in its lineup with only rhythm guitarist/clean vocalist Jarrod Christman remaining from the original group. But members are reportedly writing a new album, so maybe you’ll get a new song or two.

Also on the bill is Behold! The City, Conquerors and Deaths a Promise.

Local group the Speedbumps will be playing the Friday makeup date for its holiday concert, which was canceled because of a band member’s illness. Though you may have had your fill of hearing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and Jingle Bells by now, it should still be a good show.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or by email at He’s also on Facebook as Malcolm X Abram. … Go figure.

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