Opening Rant about Critics being Bad People:
Everyone, including myself, seems to be saying it was “another weird year for music.” I’m going to stop all that noise and say it was just another year of music.
As consumers of culture, our expectations have exceeded what is possible. We expect everything to be our new favorite, and if it isn’t, it’s disposable. Music critics are a sad example of this trend. These fair-weather fans seem to thrive off of inviting newcomers to the castle, only to throw them back onto the streets the next year, despite their behavior. Last year’s case-in-point was Radiohead, whose King of Limbs was nothing short of an absolute triumph of modern music elders staying not only relevant, but ahead of the pack.
I would argue that this year’s ritualistic critic sacrifice was Animal Collective. Merryweather Post Pavillion received a 9.6 from Pitchfork and this years playfully flawed, but equally lively full-length Centipede Hz received no mention in any category. You critics are meanies and I imagine you are bad friends.
NAT’S TOP 10 2O12
1. Animal Collective-all 2012 releases
Yup, Centipede Hz is a hot mess. Merryweather turned out to be un-follow-up-able. Here AC tries too much: up the tight pop sensibility, pile on endless layers of sound, and somehow simultaneously become more organic. The end product sounds much like the cover art looks… a glorious, enticing mess. They also had difficulty reproducing these songs live from too many toys/not enough breathing room.
At the same time, Centipede is so damned brave and colorful that it won me over in the end. When their gamble pays off, re-listen to single “Today’s Supernatural,” they remind me there is no one else like them and they are still more psychedelic and tuneful than, well, you.
The release of Transverse Temporal Gyrus offers a great companion piece. Recordings from the sound installation/performance they did at the Guggenheim, these tracks reveals the other extreme of loose sound collage, and should be more than enough to quell any sell-out fears from longtime fans. They are still the same old bros… chill out.
appropriately awesome/sloppy video for Today’s Supernatural…
2. Die Antwoord-Ten$ion
Why do critics act like Antwoord doesn’t exist? What’s the deal?
Yeah, Ten$ion has it’s share of embarrassing, skippable moments for sure (please don’t bring skits back). But the hits, of which there are plenty, make me want to party with them… forever.
I want the internet to uncover hidden gems from the corners of the earth. I want the internet to empower sound makers to spread their unconventional gospel. Here it is.
FattyBoomBoom video…skip the Gaga hospital scene.
3. Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin-Instrumental Tourist
Even being a huge fan of both Hecker and Oneohtrix, this album demolished all expectations. Two artists at the forefront of genre boundary demarcations, offering a full-length of true collaboration. Arguably more beautiful and strange than either’s previous work, Instrumental Tourist is just what you’d expect: washing archaic synth with the occasional antagonist sound stab.
Praying to see these two on stage together in NYC this year.
promo video for track “Intrusions”…
4. Vladislav Delay-Kuopio
Electronic music is gaining recognition to the US music listener. But ya’ll are way behind. What is often deemed forward thinking electronic has likely been done twenty-some years ago over in that thing called Europe.
Vladislav Delay has relentlessly pushed forward from the “clicks and cuts” blueprint of the late 90’s with an extremely consistent output. This year’s Kuopio challenges the listener with lush dub rhythms that refuse to fall in the right place. Future trip.
5. Dominic Fernow-all releases
Dominic Farrow’s output as Vatican Shadow and Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement was one of the most exciting events of the year. An unstoppable force, he is multiple one-man scenes. As VS he is guru of damaged boombox beat nostalgia. As RSE he is the shaman of sewage, found-sound jungle rituals. These recordings could come from any era, but likely the future.
VS live in 2012 at Krakow/Unsound
6. X-TG: Desertshores/The Final Report
Ex-Throbbing Griss members covering Nico’s Desertshores in its entirety, completing a project begun by the now deceased TG member Sleazy. Elders of strange, industrial honorably update their approach and it generally works. The companion album, The Final Report, is the last studio album Sleazy took part in. Here X-TG really opens up into more exciting territory, allowing abrasive elements to step on top of the mix. At best it sounds close to a Coil record. I miss Coil.
X-TG live 2012/Bologna (first live show as XTG). Coolest uncles and aunts in the world.
7. Burial-Truant/Rough Sleeper ep
I’ve only heard the sound samples. I’m still waiting for my vinyl to arrive from the UK. I’m sure I’ll love it and put it at #7.
in its entirety:
8. Silent Servant-Negative Fascination
Much like Vatican Shadow, Silent Servant uses damaged machine beats to link earlier industrial music to current trends in noise-to-techno. SS is better than most, with a true sense of dance music fluctuations and some real production know-how. Better than expected.
rad live footage from 2011
9. Mount Eerie-Clear Moon
Phil Elvrum returns from the mountains, in a way. Recent years have seen him drifting too far from civilization, his music becoming just for him, personal meditations on being lost in the wilderness. I even sometimes forgot to read the postcards he sent. Here, particularly on Clear Moon (he also released Ocean Roar), he has returned to the village, and he has new stories, new revelations. Phil can sing about nature all he wants.
10. Ariel Pink-Mature Themes
I sure did love Ariel’s early tape collage albums. A total revelation and inspiration. Then, he got a band and it lost that special something. Now, with Mature Themes, he has made it work. These songs, while stand alone and longer in form, contain his endearing, goofy, retro charm. Ariel smokes the real stuff.
live2012 footage… perfect. feedback. awkward. lyrics that include “Dr. Mario.” slips into “Love Me Do”?! pure pink!
Other artists that I listened to and didn’t absolutely hate: Crystal Castles Grimes, Krallice, Light Asylum, Death Grips, Cut Hands, Pete Swanson, Holy Herndon…