Let me start off by saying year-end music lists are terrible, unproductive ways to somehow discuss and rank the work of established and up-and-coming artists of the day. I hate list titled in any/all of these formats and more: “Best Albums”, “Best Artists”, “Biggest Letdowns”, “Biggest Disappointments”, “Best Albums by Bands with Stupid Band Names”, “Top Tracks as Rated by Cats”, “Hear and Validate my Complaints About a Bunch of Music Even Though I Don’t Make Music Myself Nor Have Idea Where To Even Begin, What is an LFO?”, “I’m Going To Say A Bunch of Controversial Things Just to Make You Mad, So You’ll Share This Page and I’ll Make a lot of Money, List”
With that being said.. here’s a bunch of music stuff that happened in 2012 that we like. There is no unifying genre, instead creativity, exploration, and modern artistry are the unifying factor. For us, that is what’s most important in steering the future.
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Dirty Projector’s sixth studio album is by far my favorite album of the year, so I figure thats a good place to start. I had known of Dirty Projectors before [easyazon-link asin=”B0082A3GRY” locale=”us”]Swing Lo Magellan[/easyazon-link] but I couldn’t get into them. Straight up, they’re out there. Certainly experimental. Swing Lo Magellan continues that tradition characterized by unique studio techniques, experimental song arrangements, and sweeping harmonies. Still, it is their most “traditional” record. On one YouTube video for the title track, one of the top comments read “the Dirty Projector’s experimenting with accessibility”. Accessibility indeed may be the target of experimentation for the Dirty Projector’s for Swing Lo Magellan, and it turned out quite well. The Projectors use a tight and clean sound palette, and the albums sonic cohesion bring everything together to make a great record. It seems as though the album was meant to be listened to at once, reinforced by the Hi Custodian video they released soon after the record came out. Give yourself 20 minutes, sit back and enjoy.
Ultraísta Releases First Album
Ultraista is the work of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, and Laura Bettinson. Godrich may be the “big” name in [easyazon-link asin=”B008SVS5CI” locale=”us”]Ultraista[/easyazon-link], but Bettinson certainly steals the show. Her light but powerful vocals are sung over the synth textures and driving beats of Godrich and Waronker. It all works quite perfectly. It’s a fascinating look into the mind of the man behind Radiohead’s albums as well. Listen for yourself:
Flying Lotus’ Year
Jazz-driven atmospheric beats are the staple of Steve Ellison, known as Flying Lotus, FlyLo, and as it turns out Captain Murphy. He got more popular than ever this year, and for good reason. The man makes incredible music. He’s become the ambassador for hip-hop inspired electronica, and we couldn’t be happier about it. His fourth album [easyazon-link asin=”B008V4H6N6″ locale=”us”]Until The Quiet Comes[/easyazon-link] was released to mostly positive reviews, but it shook me a bit. His last two albums, Cosmogramma and Los Angeles were so enormous sounding and bombastic that Until The Quiet Comes sounded bare at first glance. Like most good records, it sank it, deep. The record is indeed a minimalist compared to his others, but like Swing Lo Magellan, it’s flirts between cohesion and utter mayhem in just the right ways. The only complaint is that tracks end sooner than I wish. Not a bad complaint to receive Mr. Ellison.
Then, out of nowhere comes Captain Murphy, a masked man of hip hop getting the attention of just about everyone in the business with rumors flying around it was Ellison. Who was it really and why it is such a big deal? Honestly, I think a lot of fans were excited at the prospect of FlyLo getting back on hip-hop, for good reason. After releasing ahalf-hour long music video for the Duality mixtape, Captain Murphy performed live and oh no guess who it is. Favorite tweet of the year:
@flyinglotus: Boohoo Flying Lotus why don’t you make ‘hip hop’ anymore? –>>> http://www.captainmurphy.xxx/ NSFW.
You win Steve.
Beach House’s [easyazon-link asin=”B007LNJ3YS” locale=”us”]Bloom[/easyazon-link]
Beach House is a band I can’t help but root for. I saw them open up for Vampire Weekend a couple of years back, and since have felt some sort of weird connection with them. Isn’t that great when that happens? It’s why you should always get there early enough to see the opener. The Baltimore-based duo released their fourth album this year, opening their sound up immensely and generally being great. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are incredible artists, and achieve a huge sound between the two of them (and a drummer). Their dreamy sound isn’t for all occasions or moods, but when your in the right mood, there’s nothing better. Victoria also put into words what is most frustrating about the music press/industry today, so thanks for this:
Sometimes people talk about music, whether blogs or magazines, in a strange way where it doesn’t seem like they’re actually listening to it. They’re just like, ‘Oh, it sounds like the second album.’ It’s not the best way to listen to music. You can’t direct people, but you can just go, “Hey, I don’t quite know what that means.” In our music, there’s a lot of stuff going on, but the most important thing for us is that we hope it resonates with people. If someone talks about that, we’re going to understand. Whereas if they say, “It really sounds like this,” we’re gonna say, “Uh huh, ok.” You can make a reference to Cocteau Twins, you can make as many references as you want, but I do think the most meaningful thing about our music is the feeling. Via Rolling Stone
Andrew Bird Releases More Great Music (Big Surprise)
Polyrythmic melodies, violin mastery, and just about the best whistling you’ll ever hear are a few reasons why Andrew Bird will go down as one of my all-time favorites. He came out with two albums in 2012: Break it Yourself and Hands of Glory. Both maintain his usual sound, but feel more intimate than his previous releases. It could be that both were recorded in Bird’s barn at his home in Illinois, or that they recorded in ensemble. Whatever it is they’re [easyazon-link asin=”B0097DPWF4″ locale=”us”]both fantastic albums[/easyazon-link], and if your not already of fan of Mr. Bird’s work this is a good a place as any to start.
So there’s a bunch of music for you to listen to and love over the holidays. It’s not everything but that wasn’t the point. Hopefully this will get some of you through the flights, drives, and long nights that bring you to your loved ones. Also worth checking out is XLR8R’s 100 top download list. Free music! Cheers and happy holidays.