The Best New Artists of 2012

by PopMatters Staff

16 December 2012


20 -16



Before the first note of Oshin was even recorded, DIIV had a stellar recipe for success. First, the members are from the perpetual band-generating capital of the U.S. known as Brooklyn. Secondly, the lineup consists of members of other stellar bands (Colby Hewitt—formerly of Smith Westerns, Zachary Cole Smith has played with Beach Fossils). And finally, they are signed to the fast-growing Captured Tracks label. But DIIV’s talents reach far beyond their “lucky break” pedigree. The band’s shoegaze-style mix of watery guitars and poppy vocals take listeners back to the “college rock” era of the ‘80s, where listeners had to do a lot more legwork to track down such a sound. Take a listen to “How Long Have You Known?” and you can almost smell the must of the dark recesses of a college library. Sean McCarthy




Sweden has a long tradition of bands specializing in the hard rock and proto-metal of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and 2012 yielded a bumper crop of fantastic old-school music. Nothing, though, was anywhere near as quirky and contagious as an obscure band from the north part of the country that came along with an absolute jaw-dropper of a debut album in the summer that became a startling word-of-mouth success. “Have you heard this band?” was the impassioned line that echoed in record stores and the internet, as people tried to put into words just what was so special about Goat. In a nutshell: a bunch of anonymous Swedes playing repetitive krautrock jams accentuated with African chants and percussion, as well as the kind of searing lead guitar that would make Ron Asheton smile if he was still alive. Gimmicky? Oh, hell yes, but then again, rock music is great when there’s a good gimmick, and Goat has a brilliant one. If Goat are unable to top this album—here’s hoping they do—at least we had that fantastic period in 2012 when we writers did our best to convince our friends and readers to hear this amazing, obscure record. Adrien Begrand



Wild Nothing

When Jack Tatum began releasing music under the Wild Nothing banner, he was a 21-year-old college student living in Blacksburg, Virginia, recording primarily to his laptop. Wild Nothing’s debut album Gemini was a charmingly scruffy set of gauzy, dream pop tunes that gave little warning of the remarkable evolution that occurs on this year’s Nocturne. That record is an inviting, endlessly infectious album that has quietly eclipsed highly anticipated sophomore releases from big-ticket bands like xx and Twin Shadow. A nearly flawless set of shimmering, hook-heavy songs, Nocturne sounds like the lost soundtrack to a grainy home movie of someone’s summer vacation, circa 1987. Tatum’s musical touchstones are obvious (tracks like “Midnight Song” and “The Blue Dress” sound more like the Cure than anything the Cure has released in at least 20 years), yet he never sounds beholden to his influences, the mark of a truly skilled composer. In recent months Wild Nothing opened for Beach House and released a video featuring A-list actress Michelle Williams. As the band concludes its first world tour as headliners, anticipation for the follow-up to the still brand new Nocturne has already begun to build. Daniel Tebo



Carly Rae Jepsen

If you like to claim that there wasn’t at least one moment throughout all of 2012 that you didn’t come across Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” by accident and didn’t say to yourself, “Oh, this is great,” then you are a lying like a rug. The pop star broke through after not even being good enough to win Canadian Idol with the song of the summer this year and then even managed to follow that up with the unthinkable: She landed another hit with “Good Time”, her Owl City collaboration that packs as much sugar as a high school vending machine. The most fantastically ironic part of it all is that she’s nowhere near the way she looks or sounds in age. Sure, her appearance suggests the singer is gearing up for a college cheerleading competition, and yeah, that voice is as innocent as a character on Sesame Street (sans Elmo, of course), but there’s no denying the unadulterated amount of gloss that bleeds its way into every bit of her musical output. There will forever be a place for that in this world, and for as much as you may want to think you despise “Call Me Maybe” after the 5,000th time you heard it, there’s still one thing you simply can’t deny: Carly Rae Jepsen sure knows how to get your attention. The fun part now will be watching to see if she can keep it. Colin McGuire



Divine Fits

So, supergroups almost never work. We try to like them, and there are plenty of strong reviews for projects like Monsters of Folk and Broken Bells, but are we still listening to very much of the music? Does anything feel essential? This is what makes the Divine Fits project so satisfying. Equal parts Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs) and Britt Daniel (of Spoon), with a dash of New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown thrown in the mix, the album feels like something we will be listening to deep into 2013. While neither Boeckner nor Daniel try anything particularly novel, if you like any of their previous work, this will sound familiar and enjoyable. Daniel’s contributions include Spoon-worthy “Flaggin’ a Ride” (echoing singles like “I Turn My Camera On”) and “The Salton Sea” (echoing album cuts like “The Ghost of You Lingers”);  Boeckner’s contributions are perhaps even better, including lead single “My Love is Real” and album highlight “Baby Get Worse.” Matt Paproth

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

Black Milk Gives 'Em 'Hell'

// Sound Affects

"Much of If There's a Hell Below's themes relay anxieties buried deep, manifested as sound when they are unearthed.

READ the article