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Saturday, Dec 15, 2012
by PopMatters Staff
PopMatters spotlights a few additional 2012 songs that didn't quite crack the Best 75 list.



Frank Ocean
Sweet Life


A full appreciation of “Sweet Life” required it to be coupled with “Super Rich Kids”. Together, both tracks represent Frank Ocean’s fish-eyed lens into the dark lives of LA’s privileged youth. Twenty-five years old now, Ocean spent part of his formative years in Ladera Heights (“the black Beverly Hills”, as he puts it) during American economic prosperity, and his lurid tales of drugged-out days spent lazing at swimming pools perfectly reconstruct this pre-occupy generation feelings of unadulterated boredom and vapid existence. If these feelings of disillusionment with wealth seem vulgar to today’s new-age idealists, it’s still impossible not to be seduced by “Sweet Life’s” smooth arrangement. With its wandering keys, jazzy chords and raucous synth-soaked chorus, this is the most precise example of the comparisons to Stevie Wonder that Ocean has occasionally attracted. Dean Van Nguyen



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Thursday, Dec 13, 2012
PopMatters spotlights a few additional 2012 albums that didn't quite crack the Best 75 list.


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Damien Jurado

Maraqopa

(Secretly Canadian)


Damien Jurado
Maraqopa


Until this year, Damien Jurado had never surpassed the power of his Ghost of David (2000). That album, with a title that referred to Jurado’s friend David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion), was a chronicle of deeply troubled characters whose only comfort was the title song’s promise that “life is short but love is eternal”. Maraqopa (Jurado’s second album produced by Richard Swift) is more lyrical and musically expansive when compared to Ghost of David. The album also finds the singer once again intersecting with Bazan, but this time philosophically rather than referentially. While Bazan has gained a considerable amount of attention in the past few years for resolutely walking away from Christianity, Jurado’s music seems to be increasingly focused on an examination of lasting faith. Maraqopa was inspired by a dream about a rock star that decides to disappear and ends up in a small town that promises him the answers he seeks. Only at the moment of death does he realize the purpose of life. Maraqopa‘s ten songs use that narrative as a springboard for exploring humans’ search for purpose. In “Working Titles”, Jurado sings “I have questions that will lead to more questions.” It’s that very search for knowledge and deliverance that makes the album feel so alive.  —Thomas Britt



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Thursday, Dec 13, 2012
PopMatters spotlights a few additional 2012 albums that didn't quite crack the Best 75 list.


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Soulsavers

The Light the Dead See

(Mute)

Review [1.Jul.2012]



Soulsavers
The Light the Dead See


The Light the Dead See is the product of a sort of alchemy that is extremely rare in rock ‘n’ roll. For their fourth album, producers Rich Machin and Ian Glover paired up with Depeche Mode vocalist Dave Gahan. The result was some of the best work by all involved, a moody, foreboding collection of bluesy, folky rock, a sort of traditionalist counterpoint to Depeche’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. Machin and Glover generated a Pink Floyd-like grandiosity that stopped perfectly short of going over the top. Gahan, though, made all the difference. His lyrics were soul-searching, and his familiar baritone revealed an unprecedented richness and depth. Unknowingly, The Light the Dead See set the bar high for Gahan’s day job.—John Bergstrom



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Thursday, Dec 13, 2012
PopMatters spotlights a few additional 2012 albums that didn't quite crack the Best 75 list.


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Filastine

LOOT

(Muti Music)


Filastine
LOOT


Wherever I go in the world—says this California-born bass producer—I find a shopping cart. So in the interests of nomadism he integrates his gear with shopping carts and joins himself with the locals, whoever they are, a Japanese rap crew for one song, an Indonesian singer for another. He’s strongest when he lets the rest guide him, going long when a Javanese gong wants to go long, bunching up for Balkan brass, and echoing the short syllables of the Japanese rappers with an electronic dit-dit-dit, rolling up and dipping. Works well with others: his activist credentials coming across blatantly in a few songs, more subtly in the rest, when, instead of inserting sampled voices that tell you, “Share the planet, don’t be greedy,” he demonstrates it by taking on Japan then Europe and becoming nearly anonymous, or by covering a local protest song in that place’s language. But the sense of urgent rhythm must be his, this smart combination of stretch-and-yawn plus jitter. Possibly one of the most eager and disciplined international solo acts of the year.—Deanne Sole



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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012
PopMatters spotlights a few additional 2012 albums that didn't quite crack the Best 75 list.


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Sharon Van Etten

Tramp

(Jagjaguwar)

Review [8.Feb.2012]



Sharon Van Etten
Tramp


“Singer-songwriter” can be a damning epithet, since the music world is overpopulated with individuals wanting to express themselves with their guitars. The expectation of expressiveness too often ends up pigeonholing female musicians in the confessional genre (that dogs women in film and literature as well). Though Sharon Van Etten fits squarely within this sometimes tired category, Tramp pushes beyond those limits to offer something truly exciting. On her third album, and first for Jagjaguwar, Van Etten expands her sound with intense arrangements, winding guitars, menacing strings, and melancholy vocal tracks. The lead single, “Serpents”, sums up the success of the album: a slow build that never gives up till it boils over. “We are Fine” shows off Van Etten’s melodic prowess, but luckily coats the quintessential guitar strumming with flexing muscles. Van Etten’s expressiveness is filtered through mumbled delivery, not a sign of self-consciousness, but a hazy world-weariness that matches the richness and strength of Tramp.—Scott Branson



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