The Artists Pick the Best of 2012, Part 1

by Arnold Pan

25 December 2012

Rockstar playing solo on guitar © Vlasov Volodymyr. Image via 

Arbouretum and more...


Arbouretum’s Dave Heumann

A brief list of the best music-oriented things that happened in 2012, according to me:

  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Ramada Inn”: This one I’m putting at the top because, well, it’s Neil Young at his best, which is better than pretty much anyone else at their best.

    I first heard it when someone had put a recording of one of his shows from a recent tour up on a blog somewhere, and someone else linked to it on Twitter. Crappy audience recording notwithstanding, this song shone like a gem. It seemed to hold within it nearly every facet of human experience, as if this song itself contained the world entire. I listened to it for weeks before it was officially released, and then when I heard the proper studio recording it did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. Incredible.

  • Seeing K-X-P live in Dublin: We had just played the downstairs room at Whelans Live in Dublin. That night after we’d played, we were invited to check out the other show that was going on that night upstairs. We’d never heard of K-X-P before, but were buoyed by the enthusiasm of having just played ourselves, and also curious to see what this mysterious band from Finland with a hyphenated acronym for a band name was all about.

    Well, it was fucking amazing. The singer had some kind of sampler thing going that he was tweaking when not hurling out some heavily-effected vocals, the bass player just kind of hung out and grooved hard while looking spooky as shit, and the drummer…man, that guy could really lay down some serious beats! I don’t think I’m capable of describing how utterly transfixed we were by this performance, but suffice it to say that we were all completely blown away. We were all in the front row dancing, actually, which is incredibly rare for us, as anyone who knows us can attest to.

  • Luke Roberts, “His Song”: We had Luke opening for us and traveling with us during our European spring tour. I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d heard a few songs and thought they were pretty good, but that didn’t in any way prepare me for the actual experience of getting to know this guy and his music. Luke is the real deal. It doesn’t get any realer, in fact. His songs just sort of burrow into your head and stay there, revealing new aspects every time you hear them, or even every time you hear them in your head. He’s the closest thing this era has to Townes Van Zandt, and I mean this not in the sense that he’s at all derivative (he’s not), just in the sense that he exudes that level of potent reality through his songs. If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll know what I mean.

  • Die Antwoord, “Baby’s on Fire” video: This video is one of my favorite-ever videos for the following reasons…

    1. It’s hilarious.
    2. Yolandi. I’ll leave it at that.
    3. There’s an awesome E30 BMW drifting and kicking up dust clouds. I’m a huge fan of BMW, and the E30 body style reigns supreme. Well, that and the E36.

  • Red River Dialect, awellopontheway: This is probably my favorite band in England right now, and the record is spectacular. It was financed completely through an indiegogo campaign, and to my ears sounds as good as anything to come out of a major studio. There’s an infectious fervor that permeates this violin-tinged folk-rock, music that Ben Chasny called “some of the greatest fist-in-the-air fisherman jams since the Waterboys.” I’m inclined to agree, despite never actually having heard the Waterboys.

  • Playing with Sidi Toure at the Thrill Jockey 20th Anniversary show in London: I’ve been listening to Malian music for many years now—it’s been an absolutely huge influence on my guitar playing. All of us in the band have been, in fact: Tinariwen, Oumou Sangare, Toumani Diabate, this is the kind of thing we listen to in the van. So when Anthea from the London Thrill Jockey office called me and asked if it would be okay to have Sidi Toure play a song before our set, I was like, “Are you kidding, of course, it’s okay!”

    After I got off the phone with her, I started daydreaming about how cool it would be if he actually played a song with us. We had been doing an arrangement of our song “Tonight’s a Jewel” in a North African style anyway, so I figured this would be perfect. He was into the idea, so after he played a song on his own, we opened our set with it. Yes, I was actually trading licks with Sidi Toure. Total mind-blower.

  • Microkingdom live at Scapescape, Baltimore: Microkingdom plays jazz, sort of. I’m not really sure what to call it, but they themselves call it “zone variance of extra-cognitive spiritual magnetism, or No Jazz”. At Scapescape, a summertime music/arts festival in Baltimore, Microkingdom took the stage at the Windup Space as a quartet, the usual trio of Redman, Miller, and Dierker, plus Chris Pumphrey (Rhodes), who is one of the most lucid, enthusiastic, and head-bangingest guys to have ever touched a keyboard. It was pure bliss hearing and watching these fellows weave in and out of some of the most incredible dynamic and textural musical landscapes known to mankind—truly awe-inspiring. My consciousness was reduced to a puddle on the floor as I tried vainly to understand how they were doing it, any of it.

  • Meeting Jeffrey Johns in Bristol, UK: Jeff Johns isn’t a musician, really, just a guy. He is, however, quite possibly the best music fan of all time, and he came to three of our shows in 2012. When we played Bristol back in May, there was this gigantic guy with a head of curly blond hair standing right in front of me as we were setting up, a guy who, once the music started, was dancing and rocking out continuously. I have been around people rocking out before, of course, and inclined to do it myself at times, but this guy took it to a whole new level, energizing all of us and inspiring us to play at our best. It came as little surprise, then, to find out that there is actually a mini-documentary made about him, actually an interactive documentary with many segments. To watch this in its entirety is to love this man. I am not joking.

    Arbouretum’s fifth album, Coming Out of the Fog, will be released by Thrill Jockey on January 22, 2013.


    Bad Cop

    Top 10 moments of 2012:

  • Touring with Cage the Elephant across the entire country in a month back in April.

  • METZ’s set at the Sub Pop showcase at CMJ was insane. It really reminded me of how awesome music is.

  • CMJ, in general, was a crazy experience this year. We had a huge crew with us (Bad Cop, Western Medication, and Ghost Dance), so it felt like we got to take over the city for a few days.

  • Springfield, Missouri: We have been watching this scene grow tremendously this year. It’s like Nashville, circa 2009; can’t wait to see all the awesome things to come out of that city next year.

  • Jeffery Drag Records picked up in a huge way this year. We have been lucky enough to make records for some of the best bands Nashville (and the rest of the country) has to offer.

  • Being in New Orleans on 4/20 at House Of Blues, playing before Curren$y. Wow.

  • Looking up during our set in Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and seeing ourselves being broadcast on a three-story Jumbotron facing Las Vegas Blvd. We had no idea that was going down.

  • Recording our new record at Battletapes with Brad Shultz producing.

  • Having our homie Brian Mayo driving us on tour all over the country. Hands down the funniest, most hatin’-on guy we know. Thanks Mayo!

  • Getting a HUGE box of custom rolling papers for Natural Child in the mail for our label. Holographic, embossed, high quality papers that literally had us drooling. Look it up!

    Bad Cop, from Nashville, Tennessee, released a split 7” with Turbo Fruits on Jeffrey Drag in July 2012.


    Beach Fossils

  • Lower, Walk on Heads
  • Death Grips, The Money Store
  • Lust For Youth, Growing Seeds
  • Mac DeMarco, 2
  • Warthog, Chain Wallet Sessions

    Beach Fossils will be releasing a new album, Clash the Truth, on February 19, 2013, via Captured Tracks.



    Top 10 favorite albums, songs, things of the year:

    1. Le1f’s live performance at CMJ
    2. Lemonade, “Neptune”
    3. Grimes, Visions
    4. Soso, T.T.I.D.S.D.I.E.U.I.C.
    5. Azealia Banks, “Luxury”
    6. David Greilsammer’s solo piano performance at the Mostly Mozart concert series
    7. Yolandi Visser from Die Anwoord
    8. Mars Volta, “Lapochka”
    9. Royal Canoe, “Nightcrawlin”, especially the vocal solo by guitarist Bucky Driedger and epic ending
    10. Sun Glitters mixtapes

    Beca released her Born to Fly EP in Novemeber 2012 on This Is Music Ltd.


    Black Marble’s Ty Kube

    1. Holograms, Holograms
    2. Rosenkopf , Rosenkopf and live
    3. YOU. brick cassette tape
    4. Killer Mike, R.A.P Music
    5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and live
    6. Hank Wood and the Hammer Heads, Go Home
    7. Sad Boys demo cassette
    8. Lives of Angels, Elevator to Eden reissue of original mixes
    9. Total Control, Henge Beat
    10 Void Vision, Live

    Black Marble released A Different Arrangement on Hardly Art in October 2012.



    In no particular order:

  • Mississippi Records’ five-vinyl-LP African Guitar Box
  • Grimes’ music videos for “Oblivion” and “Genesis”
  • Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang, En Yay Sah
  • Death Grips and Epic Records falling out over No Love Deep Web
  • Delicate Steve’s live show
  • Peaking Lights, Lucifer
  • Onuinu, Mirror Gazer
  • Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras Meet the Congos, Icon Give Thank
  • Major Lazer, featuring Amber Coffman, “Get Free” (the Jamaica video)
  • Jason Urick’s rip of Sandwidi Pierre’s Le Troubadour de la Savane on ghostcapital

    BRAINSTORM released its new album Heat Waves (Tender Loving Empire) in October 2012.


    Brown Shoe

  • Delta Spirit, “Time Bomb”
  • Grizzly Bear, “Yet Again”
  • Smoke and Jackal, “No Tell”
  • Metric, “Breathing Underwater”
  • Kelli Scarr, “Dangling Teeth”
  • Local Natives, “Breakers”
  • Sigur Ros, “Rembihnutur”
  • Jay-Z & Kanye West, “No Church in the Wild”
  • Spencer & Antfood, “Trek”
  • Cat Power, “Ruin”

    Folsom, California-based indie rock band Brown Shoe released The Gift Horse in 2011.

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