The Cherry Thing
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Upon reflection, one of 2012's most counterintuitive pairings makes tons of sense. First off, Scandinavian avant-jazzers The Thing named themselves after a tune by vocalist Neneh's trumpet-playing father, Don Cherry. More substantively, their squeal-stomp had not been challenged much by collaborations with Otomo Yoshihide and Jim O'Rourke. Neneh changes all that: Her playful, pop-inflected vocals bring a worthy tension to this album -- from her original "Cashback" to covers of Madvillain ("Accordion") and Suicide ("Dream Baby Dream"). The best skronk-and-vocals album in recent memory.