The end of the year is the one time on the music industry calendar when the critics take center stage, as best-of lists flood the Internet. While performers become either the objects of affection or the cause of disappointment each December, PopMatters is giving the artists a chance to play critic, asking them to let us in on the albums, songs, musical moments, and whatever else (President Obama’s re-election, Mars Curiosity Rover, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, anyone?) that struck their fancy in 2012. What you’ll see is a broad range of favorites—some echoing the critics, but many not—as well as a good dose of holiday camaraderie among peers.
1. Tame Impala, Lonerism
2. The xx, Coexist
3. Howler, America Give Up
4. Grizzly Bear, Shields
5. King Tuff, King Tuff
6. Grimes, Visions
7. Twin Shadow, Confess
8. Chairlift, Something
GRMLN released a self-titled EP on Carpark in October 2012.
Helado Negro’s Roberto Lange
These are just the things that I listened to and really loved this year. Here are bands that I worked with this year whose records are great too: Bear in Heaven’s I Love You It’s Cool, Guy Fantastico’s Dreamboat, and Sinkane’s Mars.
Monoton, Realtime + Monotonprodukt 07: I first came across Monoton from a friend. It’s got all the right minimal arrangements for minimal repetitive percussive music. Dance movements and the way it transmits all these slow nuanced swells. It was originally released in 1982, but it feels more current than any other electronic music being made…or maybe just more tactile.
Gerry Read, Jummy: I first came across Gerry hearing his 12” “Patterns”. The B-side “Last Time” stuck with me more. The vocal stabs and just this classic house bounce reeled me in. On Jummy, its super stripped down and very collaged rhythms all lock in like overlapping shadows. They are all soft, but have this weight behind them. Song highlight: “Make a Move”.
TOPS, Tender Opposites: I like TOPS because the whole album is like them pushing to make this boogie record, but everything is just their own vibe. There’s nothing boogie about it, but they have this groove that’s so nice. It’s really some daydreamy dance music. The song “Rings of Saturn” is highlight for me.
Kim Ann Foxman, Creature EP: I play this when I’m alone at my house and dance or when I jog. I love this song.
Matthew E. White, Big Inner: There’s a really beautiful classic craft to this record. Listening to it gives you the sense of how ideas can be documented through music. There is such a literal connection between the players and the music that is so clear that the imagery of those two things coming together gets drawn in front of your eyes. The highlight song for me is “Gone Away”.
Mouse on Mars, WOW: MOM are classic to me. I’ve been listening to their music for a long time. They ingrained so many creative thoughts on how to approach music. When I first started making electronic music in 1999, I had just began using a sampler called the MPC 2000, and the way MOM would put their compositions together with cut-up sounds gave me the inspiration to follow their lead. I never tried to mimic, but really listened for inspiration and enjoyment. This release WOW was their second this year, after their Parastrophics release, which was their classic style and the sum of all they’ve done since their last record. WOW, on the other hand, is great…it’s all the smaller details pushed around and pared down to simpler rhythmic structures, overlapped with fucked textures and densities in implied rhythms.
Holly Herndon, Movement: I first heard of Holly stumbling upon a promo video for her new record. The sound immediately wrapped me up because it was refreshing, but also because it sounded like a song I always wished that had been expanded on by Grace Jones on her album Slave to the Rhythm. I went and saw Holly perform at Roulette in Brooklyn soon after, and everything she was doing resonated with me. Her album has been stewing with me a lot recently. The highlight song is “Breathe”.
Jared Wilson, For Professional DJ Use Only + Ghettoblaster 12”: I’m a huge fan of acid and electro. The simplicity and the reverbs on the sounds on these records are my soft spot.
Vladislav Delay, Espoo: The first time I heard Vladislav Delay was when I got the album Anima. I really didn’t know what I was listening to at the time. It was like a dubbed-out broken sequence. Shit was great. Also the Chain Reaction stuff he did back then. Fast Forward to this EP: It has the same soft jerky tendencies, but almost less blurred, just on the surface enough to start making out some of the details. The slow reveal on the song “Olari” is what makes me go back to that record.
Atomic Forest, Obsession: I know this was released a long time ago. This shit is just so raw. I love how the guitars are just chilling on top with the drums. The song “Sunshine Day” is fresh.
Helado Negro collaborated with Asthmatic Kitty labelmate Julianna Barwick to form Ombre, which released Believe You Me in 2012. He will have a new solo effort out in March 2013.
The Helio Sequence
1. DIIV, Oshin
2. Menomena, Moms
3. Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship
4. Beach House, Bloom
5. Tame Impala, Lonerism
6. Ultraísta, Ultraísta
7. Lackthereof, Building Personal Strength
8. Pure Bathing Culture, Pure Bathing Culture EP
9. Chairlift, Something
10. Opossom, Electric Hawaii
Here are my top 10 songs of 2012:
1. Menomena, “One Horse”
2. DIIV, “How Long Have You Known”
3. Beach House, “New Year”
4. Here We Go Magic, “Alone But Moving”
5. Tame Impala, “Apocalypse Dreams”
6. Mirroring, “Drowning the Call”
7. Ultraísta, “Bad Insect”
8. Lower Dens, “Propagation”
9. ERAAS, “Fang”
10. Lotus Plaza , “Jet Out of the Tundra”
The Helio Sequence’s latest full-length effort Negotiations came out on Sub Pop in September 2012.
The History of Apple Pie
Beak>, >>: It’s got a bit of everything you’d want; the usual krautrock, motorik rhythms, analogue synths, psychedelia, big stoner riffs, and it’s even better than their first album.
Weird Dreams, Choreography: For me, it’s Choreography by Weird Dreams. The shimmering guitars and dreamy harmonies of Choreography were a perfect accompaniment to my summer.
DIIV, Oshin: Another great release from NYC label Captured Tracks. Dark bass lines and shimmering guitars riffs that stay in my head for days!
Also, Tame Impala, Lonerism...
The History of Apple Pie releases its full-length debut Out of View (Marshall Teller) on January 29, 2013, and is one of PopMatters’ Hopes for 2013.
Holograms’ self-titled debut was released by Captured Tracks in July 2012.
Hunx of Hunx and His Punks
1. Grass Widow, Internal Logic
2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes
3. The Cleaners From Venus reissues
4. Bleached, live @ the Rookie Prom
5. Saba Lou ,“Until the End”
6. Dragonette, “Live in This City”
7. Ke$ha, “Die Young”
8. Geneva Jacuzzi, live @ Cheetah’s Strip Club
9. Deep Time, “Clouds”
10. The Barbaras, 2006-2008
11. Veronica Falls, “My Heart Beats”
12. The Babies, Our House On The Hill
13. Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
14. Jaill, Traps
15. Ssion, Bent
16. Pizza Grrrls, live @ Boys Club
17. Donny and Joe Emerson, Dreamin’ Wild reissue
18. Crazy Band, live @ the Smell
19. One Direction, Up All Night
20. Blood Diamonds, featuring Grimes, “Phone Sex”
Hunx released Hairdresser Blues vis Hardly Art in February 2012.
Bay Area rapper IamSu! released the $uzy 6 $peed mixtape recently, along with KILT earlier in 2012.
Incite’s Richie Cavalera
1. Deftones, Koi No Yokan
2. Sylosis, Monolith
3. Lamb of God, Resolution
4. Gojira, L’Enfant Sauvage
5. Testament, Dark Roots of Earth
6. Cattle Decapitation, Monolith of Humanity
7. Soulfly, Enslaved
8. Black Breath, Sentenced to Life
9. Cancer Bats, Dead Set on Living
10. Muse, The 2nd Law
Incite released All Out War on Minus Head in November 2012.
Jellyfish and more...
Jellyfish’s Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.
1. Father John Misty, Fear Fun: This is the only new thing I have been impressed by in 2012. And this is no small offering. Every track is a songwriting and production masterpiece. Forward thinking and classic all at the same time. Piles of talent coming from Josh Tilman here. He and his band are the real deal. If there were actually another nine new releases that impressed me enough to include in a best-of list, I would assume I was on another planet and this would be the best year for music in a long, long time. Thanks for asking for my opinion.
Alt-rock pioneers Jellyfish dig into their archives for a pair of 2012 releases, with Live at Bogarts and Stack-a-Tracks, both on Omnivore.
Jemez Mountain Hawkz
1. Various Artists, Country Funk 1969-1975
2. Bill Wilson, Ever Changing Minstrel reissue
3. Allah-Las, Allah-Las
4. Andrew Bird, Break It Yourself
5. Arron Embry, Tiny Prayer
6. Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold
7. Don and Joe Emerson, Dreamin’ Wild
8. Sad Baby Wolf, “Everything Is”
9. Black Apples “Cover Up/ Morning Song”
10. Whispering Pines, Whispering Pines
Jemez Mountain Hawkz released their Hey-Mez EP in October 2012.
J*DaVeY’s Jack Davey
1. 2 Chainz, “No Lie”
2. Gary Clark Jr., “You Saved Me”
3. Miguel, “Adorn”
4. The Knux, “Animal”
5. Kid Cudi, featuring King Chip, “Just What I Am”
6. Allah-Las, “Tell Me (What’s on Your Mind)”
7. Cash Out, “Cashin’ Out”
8. Pyyramids, “That Ain’t Right”
9. Hanni El Khatib, “Come Alive”
10. Defsound, “Look Like Me”
Electro-soul group J*DaVeY recently came out with a double EP LO-F!.
Steve Kalinich & Jon Tiven
1. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, M.A.A.D. city
2. Lady Gaga, Born This Way
3. Jay -Z & Kanye West, Watch The Throne
4. Adele, 21
5. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
6. Taylor Swift, Red
7. Kid Rock, Rebel Soul
8. Jack White, Blunderbuss
9. Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls
10. Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe
11. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
12. Bob Dylan, Tempest
13. YO MA MA, Shortcuts to Infinity/Symptomology
1. Kalinich/Tiven aka YO MA MA, Shortcuts To Inifinity/Symptomology
2. Van Morrison, Born To Sing
3. Dorothy Moore, Blues Heart
4. Debbie Davies, After the Fall
5. Ruthie Foster, Let It Burn
6. Bob Dylan, Tempest
7. King Mob, Force 9
8. Leslie West, Unusual Suspects
9. Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe
10. Michael Burks, Show of Strength
(All over the age of 50)
11. Dylan LeBlanc, Cast the Same Old Shadow
12. Andreas Werner, Good Side of Crazy
13. Bottletree, Bottletree EP
Songwriters whose work has been performed by artists from the Beach Boys to B.B. King to Alex Chilton, Steve Kalinich and Jon Tiven worked together as YO MA MA, releasing Shortcuts to Infinity/Symptomology (MsMusic) in 2012.
King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas
1. Audacity, Mellow Cruisers
2. Gap Dream, Gap Dream
3. Chris Weisman, Beatleboro
4. White Fang, High Expectations
5. Natural Child, For the Love of the Game
6. The Memories, The Memories
7. Tame Impala, Lonerism
8. Hector’s Pets
9. Fletcher C. Johnson, Salutations
10. The Babies, Our House on the Hill
King Tuff released a self-titled album on Sub Pop in May 2012.
1. Gangnam Style
2. Gangnam Style
3. Gangnam Style
4. Gangnam Style
5. Gangnam Style
Gangnam Style kind of sums up my year in music.
K Ishibashi, performing as Kishi Bashi, released his first LP, 151a, on Joyful Noise in April 2012.
1. MHz, Legacy
2. Copywrite, God Save the King
3 Copywrite , God Save the King UK
4. Stu Bangas & Vanderslice, D.W.A.
5. Double AB & Dub Sonata, Media Shower
6. Nas, Life Is Good
7. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.D. city
8. Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradictions
9. Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes
10. RZA, Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack
Along with RML, Kount Fif released The Swashbuckler Vol. 1: The Viking Wars on Man Bites Dog in March 2012.
Kylesa’s Laura Pleasants
1. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction
2. Torche, Harmonicraft
3. Witchcraft, Legend
4. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy for the Damned
5. Killing Joke, MMXII
6. Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind
7. Krakow, Diin
8. Unsane, Wreck
9. Gojira, L’Enfant Sauvage
10. Baroness, Yellow (only)
Kylesa issued From the Vaults, Vol. 1 (Season of Mist), a collection of rare and unreleased tracks, in November 2012.
Lavender Diamond released its second album Incorruptible Heart via Paracadute in September 2012.
Brooklyn-based fuzz-rock band Lightouts released two singles, The Big Picture and The Cure for Shyness, in 2012
Murder by Death and more...
Linus Pauling Quartet
Highlights of 2012:
Daniel Johnston’s “Space Ducks”: OK, sure, it’s not an album, it’s a video game for the iPad, but holy moly, what an awesome and weird game! I’d easily put it alongside Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery as a game that really feels like a game MADE for the iPad. It plays beautifully, the cut scenes are hilarious, and the narrative is totally bizzarro, involving ducks battling Satan in space is just…well, just something that only Daniel Johnston could have cooked up. Bonus points for the horribly catchy theme song. (Ramon)
Wo Fat, The Black Code: I just found out about this band earlier this year and have been a huge fan ever since I heard the first note. And live, holy crap you just need to see them to believe them. These cats from Dallas aren’t just a stoner rock band, they are like the heaviest shit you can drop! The rhythm section is amazing unto itself, but when the guitar kicks in, the trio rips a hole in the fabric of space and time that would make Hawkwind curl up into a fetal position and cry for additional doses of Melnibonéian noidel to sustain itself through the onslaught. Yeah, they’re that good. (Ramon)
Various Artists, For Lee Jackson in Space: Lee Jackson was a music writer in north Texas who was a huge supporter of psychedelic music and had many friends and colleagues in that community. Unfortunately he passed away due to complications from ALS, and his friends asked bands to contribute to a compilation in his honor. Ninety-four bands participated (including LP4), and if you want to get an incredible representation of all kinds of unusual, dreamy, psychedelic, or just straight-up heavy music, you can’t do better than this compilation (Clinton)
The success of marijuana legalization ballots in Washington and Colorado: This briefly restored my faith in democracy and in people’s common sense. It seems like it will only be a matter of time before the nation as a whole realizes the futility of pot prohibition. (Clinton)
“The Year of the Drummer”: The whole Bill Ward vs. Black Sabbath drama really got me to thinking. Drummers are always underappreciated, and while I make no claim to understand the financial hassles that led to him being excluded from the new Sabbath album currently underway, a silver lining is that it led a lot of people—including myself—to think about what a tremendous contribution Ward made to Sabbath’s sound, and how critical a good drummer is to a band’s success. Ward listened to the music, he understood phrasing, with tremendous feel, dynamics, and soul. We feel pretty lucky to have a guy with those same characteristics as our drummer, and though we recently thought about replacing him with someone else, she wouldn’t answer our phone calls, and probably isn’t old enough to buy us beer anyway. So we decided to keep Larry. (Clinton)
Sleep, Dopesmoker: I picked up a copy of the CD and was pretty much blown away; I had never heard the original version. I think I drove to lunch, ate some tacos in the car, went downtown to run an errand and did some other stuff, and the CD player’s track indicator was still on “1”. You can’t beat that. (Clinton)
El-P Cancer 4 Cure + Aesop Rock, Skelethon: I came up very interested in that second wave of hip-hop, the stuff from the late ‘80s, and had been feeling that hip-hop in general had been on a long slow descent in quality since that time. But when I finally came around (late) to discovering Company Flow and the Def Jux people, I found a little corner of hip-hop I could thoroughly enjoy, and the release of these two albums in 2012 was a collective highlight for me, simply because I wasn’t sure if these two artists were still going to issue albums or not. Discovering that not only were they still active, but doing some of their best work, was a definite highlight for me. (Charlie)
Mars Curiosity Rover: With the exception of Charlie, the rest of us grew up across the street or near the Johnston Space Center, so that has forever corrupted our music with a fixation on space, science, and monkeys. So I, for one, just couldn’t get enough of the whole crazy scheme they devised and watching it go down perfectly was aces! If I were president, I’ll tell you one thing, NASA would be funding the most insane shit scientists could dream up. (Ramon)
The Announcement of more Star Wars movies: If there is one thing that comes up often in drunken band discussions, it’s fuckin’ Star Wars. New films will only mean longer, more insane beer-fueled shit-talking that will start off with a discussion of the merits of Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting and then spiral into Clinton standing on a table drunkenly shouting how he should be allowed to rule the world with an iron fist so that he can legalize pot, so as to hoard it all, and take all vintage guitars, gear, and beer. Thanks George, now we’ll never get anything done! (Ramon)
Brownout, Oozy: They are from Austin, TX and are a grimy funk band. Lots of horns and percussion. They are truly bad ass! (Steven)
Texas psych band Linus Pauling Quartet put out its eighth album Bag of Hammers in September 2012.
Lost Boy ?
More information on the enigmatic artist known as Lost Boy ? can be found at his Bandcamp site.
Musical Moments, Songs, Albums
JD McPherson, “North Side Gal”
Here We Go Magic, “How Do I Know”: That became my new hop-out-of-bed, jump-in-the-shower, and get-my-day-started song, finally de-throning “Dancing in the Dark”. Also it has one of my favorite music videos of all time.
Dirty Projectors, “Swing Low Magellan”: Such a pretty simple song with a very beautiful, complex melody. Also one of the best live shows and best albums of the year.
Emily King, Radio: Even though this record came out last year, it is still one of our favorites and we can listen to it on repeat. (It also happens to be the ultimate make-out record!)
Ry Cooder, “Humpty Dumpty World”: One of the best sounding recorded songs we’ve heard in a long long time from one of the most political and powerful sounding records from this year.
You Won’t, Skeptic Goodbye: Any song from their record is one of our favorite songs of the year.
Kishi Bashi, “Manchester”: Enough said. Our favorite “break out” song of the year.
Bahamas, Lost in the Light
Grizzly Bear, Shields: And they do it AGAIN!
Lucius released its debut EP in 2012.
METZ’s Chris Slorach
Toronto’s METZ released its self-titled debut (Sub Pop) last October, ranking #44 on PopMatters’ best albums of 2012 list.
Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire
Mount Moriah has a new album, Miracle Temple, forthcoming on Merge on February 26, 2013.
2012 top 12 in chronological Order from Mark Arm
Playing with OFF! and Grinderman in Australia (Yes, that was last December, but I’m including this because top 10 lists, screw December).
El Rancho, an uncrowded long left 20 minutes north of Perfect Rivermouth #27 (featured in the film Siestas & Olas)
Packing my house with so many good friends on my 50th.
Feedtime: I never thought I’d get to see them, much less share a bill with them.
Washington & Oregon Coast (There’s no chronology here, because it can be great throughout the year.)
Watching Haramafuji win two consecutive tournaments without a single loss and his subsequent promotion to Yokozuna.
1994 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese
Swans, The Seer (Holy shit!)
The results of the Washington State and national elections, highlighted by watching Karl Rove deny reality when Ohio was called for Obama. Suck it, Karl!
Covering Minor Threat’s “Filler” with Bitch Magnet.
Johnny Sangster’s recording & mixing and Bob Weston’s mastering
The night of Poggio Di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 97, 98, 99, 01, plus a couple of others whose names were lost in the fog of wine.
Guy Maddison’s top 10 list
1. Coco Marie Maddison’s first words and steps.
2. Barack Obama’s re-election.
3. Sydney Swans win the Premiership.
4. Mudhoney complete their new album.
5. Aung San Suu Kyi elected to parliament in Myanmar.
6. Bradley Wiggins becomes the first Englishman to win the Tour de France, and perhaps the first Mod to win any sporting event, ever.
7. Convinced 3 other people to join me in eating fermented, icelandic shark.
8. Mudhoney finally played Mogwai’s ATP curatorship.
9. Stoofvlees or Carbonade Flamande recipe perfected.
10. Seattle Cyclocross season 2012—by the way, can Seven Cycles give me a “Mudhoney” frame for next season?
Mudhoney is releasing its ninth album Vanishing Point through Sub Pop on April 2, 2013. A documentary about Mudhoney, I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney, is available, as is the Mudhoney: Live in Berlin, 1988 DVD (!K7), released earlier in 2012.
Murder by Death’s Matt Armstrong
1. Swans, The Seer
2. The Life and Times, No One Loves You Like I Do
3. Future of the Left, The Plot Against Common Sense
4. My Jerusalem, Preachers
5. Cursive, I Am Gemini
6. David Byrne & St. Vincent, Love This Giant
7. Torche, Harmonicraft
Honorable mentions to Neurosis and Deftones. I have heard nothing but good things about their new albums, but I did not get around to hearing them yet because I actually listened to the entire Swans record.
Murder by Death released Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon on Bloodshot in September 2012. Their track “I Came Around” placed at #41 on PopMatters’ list of best songs of 2012.