18. Yakuza - Beyul
Speaking of psychedelic goodness...Chicago's own Bruce Lamont enters The Nat's 2012 countdown at #18 with his bandmates in Yakuza (one of his many projects) with this sublime avant-garde collection of songs. Truth be told, I think I preferred this album's predecessor just a bit over this one, but that's not really a major criticism of "Beyul" at all. This album has just as much heavy, trippy goodness as "Seismic", but I just like the way the latter album fits together as a whole a bit more than the former. I still marvel at the way Bruce's saxophone work fits so seamlessly into this band's music, and his vocals are a key part of every project he participates in. In addition, the band as a whole are very good at delivering songs which are well-crafted and exhibit a great deal of artistic control over pace and tone, dynamics and atmosphere. The songs soar and swoop and climb and stall and dive like a great, lazy dragon in the sky patrolling its territory. Speaking of monsters, the track at the middle of the album, a nearly ten-minute beast called "Fire Temple and Beyond", is definitely my favorite, but the entire album is fantastic from start to finish.