Latest Metronome Posts

Brendan’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Brendan Frank; December 14, 2012 at 5:06 PM 

2012 was a year of transitions for me; graduating, finding a job, dissolving a long-term relationship, moving to a different city, and attempting to cope with the end of times is a rather daunting list, in retrospect. My taste is music has shifted as well, in similarly broad strokes. I’ve never before had a top 5 like this. Not that numbering is important, really. I like all these albums enough that parsing out single percentage points between them is probably a waste of time. The exceptions are numbers 1 and 2, which have, from my perspective, quite clearly separated themselves from the pack.

Honourable mentions: Ekstasis by Julia Holter, Tempest by Bob Dylan, and Orcas by Orcas


10.

Liars

WIXIW

[Mute]

WIXIW is just another stop on the bizarre and fascinating route that Liars have been charting for over a decade. It isn’t their best album, but it burrows the deepest. Who could have predicted that a) they would go the minimal electronica route and b) pull it off so successfully?


09.

Frank Ocean

Channel Orange

[Def Jam]

A sprawling, vivid, flawed masterpiece, and a coming out party of unequivocally heroic proportions. The scale and musical latitude of Channel Orange is unheard of in contemporary R&B, and no voice out there invites the use of the word ‘elegant’ like Ocean’s does. Also, “Pyramids”.


08.

DIIV

Oshin

[Captured Tracks]

Emotionally pungent and crowded with cling-to-your-ribs melodies, this won the horse race v. Wild Nothing for my nostalgia trip of the year. I give the edge to Oshin simply because it was such a genuine surprise. Music that sounds this warm and welcoming from the moment you hit play is hard to come by.


07.

Japandroids

Celebration Rock

[Polyvinyl]

At the moment, this is favourite album to get drunk to, likely because drinking is Japandroids’ favourite thing to sing about. Considering what Brian King and David Prowse went through to reach Celebration Rock, it’s a small wonder that it was ever made. That it also happens to be a head-banging, beer-chugging, puke-your-guts-out good time is worth celebrating.


06.

Mesita

The Coyote

[Self-released]

I had never heard of Mesita before BPM stamped a “Recommended” tag on this record, so my out-of-nowhere award goes to The Coyote. James Cooley’s project cuts deeper than you would ever expect, like sifting through old photo albums, jogging memories that you thought you’d long forgotten. “Ken Caryl” and “Out for Blood” are two of my favourite songs of the year.


05.

Andy Stott

Luxury Problems

[Modern Love]

A platter of slow-burning techno that nourishes your brain more than your body. Luxury Problems nails the dizzying trifecta of originality, versatility and evolution. It’s exceptional on every level, and it gets better every time I listen to it, which is often.


04.

Flying Lotus

Until The Quiet Comes

[Warp]

From a technical standpoint, FlyLo’s latest dwarfs everything else on this list. The liquid, dreamlike essence of Steven Ellison’s vision is a wonder to behold, and those ace guest spots don’t hurt, either. Cosmogramma bent space and time, Quiet just becomes it.


03.

Kendrick Lamar

good kid, m.A.A.d. city

[Interscope]

It has become discouragingly rare for an emcee to actually take carte blanche and do something creative with it in the studio. Enter Compton wunderkind Kendrick Lamar. His transition from underground hero on Section.80 to one of the best in the game on good kid now seems like it was inevitable. Your move, Yeezy.


02.

Tame Impala

Lonerism

[Modular]

Even when Kevin Parker is off in his own little world (a regular occurrence), Lonerism is unifying and jubilant in a way that vehemently contradicts its own worldview. Picking favourites is a useless exercise; it’s just one gem after another. Tame Impala might be rock and roll’s most exciting band right now.


01.

Death Grips

The Money Store

[Epic]

The dissent is deafening, I’m sure. I honestly can’t help myself. To my ears, nothing else this year was as thrilling, sonically audacious, or downright fun as The Money Store. Death Grips weren’t long for the corporate world, but they took advantage of it while they had the chance. I still can’t get over the image of a dozen Sony execs listening to this in the boardroom. I’ll see myself out, Colin.

Ryan’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Ryan Lester; December 14, 2012 at 1:50 PM 

Three and a half years ago, I decided to take the plunge into writing about music by starting my own blog (natch). While it was fun putting in my two cents about the day’s music news, my favorite thing to write was record reviews, and nothing made me happier than compiling my favorite albums of the year and writing blurbs for every one of them (usually around 35) for friends, family, and (hopefully) future employers to enjoy. It was a labor of love that I unfortunately did not have the time for this year. However, once I started writing the blurbs for this piece, I could not get myself out of writing in the manner that I had conducted my year-end lists over at Flipside Sounds (which hasn’t been updated since my Top 35 Albums of 2011 list last year). Seeing that was the case, I decided to count down my albums like I have done since I started ranking in 2010, and it is my hope that you enjoy reading this feature as much as I had fun writing it.


10.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Trouble

[Casablanca]

One album that I kept returning to this year was the long awaited debut of Orlando Higginbottom’s Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs project. After spending the last few years refining a sound that anyone familiar with the recent resurgence of UK rave/dance movement could appreciate, Trouble sees the young producer and songwriter making some of the most compulsively listenable songs of 2012. Tracks like “Garden,” “Household Goods” and “Tapes & Money” were mainstays on my playlists this year, as Higginbottom’s pop sensibilities and passive-aggressive laments on love resulted in songs that were affecting, easily relatable, and a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. It will be extremely interesting to see where Higginbottom takes his sound from here, but for the time being Trouble is an excellent electro-pop album that is worth revisiting time and again.


09.

Cloud Nothings

Attack On Memory

[Carpark]

Attack On Memory is one of the most suiting titles for an album in some time. Before this year my perception of Cloud Nothings was that it was an enjoyable, if not particularly memorable, bedroom rock project that was a little too cutesy for my tastes. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer amount of growth and artistic risk that Dylan Baldi and his band undertook for the group’s third album. The sense of ominous tension that made “No Future/No Past” one of the best album openers of the year, Baldi’s newly discovered visceral singing voice, and the knockout of a chorus for “Stay Useless” showed levels of maturity that most would have thought impossible for the band only a year ago. And as a recent college graduate, Baldi’s rallying cry of “I thought I would be more than this!” on “Wasted Days” struck an emotional chord with me like few other songs this year. Through the course of eight bombastic, raw, and vital slices of angst that only someone in their early twenties could muster, Attack On Memory is a statement of intent from a band who was finally ready to be taken seriously.


08.

Brother Ali

Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color
[Rhymesayers]

Brother Ali has a unique gift of calling things how he sees them, and his continued dedication to the social ills of a country on the mend made Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color arguably the most important rap release of 2012. Continuing the trend of 2009’s equally astounding US, Ali tackles heavy topics like war, the cycle of poverty, and the collapse of the American Dream with his one of a kind sense of empathy and perspective. Never once do any of the songs here feel overly preachy or condescending. It is evident through the tone of his voice, the choice of his words, and his unwavering charisma that he empathizes with the subjects of his songs, and that many of the problems faced by the average American are his problems as well. Ali also uses the album as a way of working out some of his personal demons, from struggling with the death of his father to the challenges of family life, and he applies his abilities just as effortlessly when the subject is himself. While he is rightfully unpleased with the America of 2012, the album never falls victim to its own heaviness, and evidence of Ali’s optimism despite the hardships are evident throughout. Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color sees the underground veteran continue along his artistic peak from three years ago with a new sense of purpose and confidence that make the album a must hear for anyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop.


07.

Beach House

Bloom

[Sub Pop]

After reaching an apex with 2010’s Teen Dream, Beach House returned this year with the equally strong Bloom, an album that proved their dream-pop formula has lost none of its luster. Few groups are capable of recycling a sound across multiple albums, but when there is such a strong sense of craft and constant innovation within the template it is hard to get upset. This is the case with Bloom, as Victoria Legrand and Alex Scully continued to prove that they are masters of downbeat ethereal haziness. Songs like “Myth,” “Lazuli” and “New Year” are fine additions to the Beach House cannon, with Legrand’s gorgeous alto continuing to grow stronger, her arrangements still high up in the clouds, and Scully’s astounding guitar work combining to create a blissful musical landscape that mask Legrand’s laments. While it may not carry the sheer element of surprise and artistic growth evident on Teen Dream, Bloom succeeded in reaffirming that Legrand and Scully are still the best at what they do.


06.

DIIV

Oshin

[Captured Tracks]

2012 was a particularly good year for straight up guitar rock, and Oshin was one of the genre’s crowning achievements. The six-string talents of Zachary Cole Smith and Andrew Bailey made for some of the most heady and transcendent guitar lines of the last few years, their riffs and licks swirling and ringing out like a more experimental variation on the Atlantic chimes of Cole’s Beach Fossils and Real Estate. However, what really elevates Oshin is the insistent and propulsive rhythm section of Devin Ruben Perez on bass and former Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt. They provide a forceful and driving backdrop over which Cole and Bailey can let their imaginations run free, resulting in a sound that is at once invigorating and inventive. Tracks like “How Long Have You Known” “Human” and “Doused” continue to reveal new nuances upon repeated listens, and even the instrumental tracks qualify as essential listening. Demonstrating an effortless approach to songwriting, Oshin is a fine achievement that is the first of hopefully many to come for DIIV.


05.

TNGHT

TNGHT

[Warp]

Check out our Top EP’s list for my thoughts on this astounding release.


04.

The Walkmen

Heaven

[Fat Possum]

Ten years on, and the Walkmen are still incapable of making a bad record. After the slight retread of 2006’s A Hundred Miles Off, the band have produced some of their best work displaying a level of maturity and dedication to artistic growth that makes them unique amongst their peers from the NYC Indie Class of 2002. Heaven is as good of a victory lap as anyone could have hoped for, as the band sound content with their position while still remaining aware of how to maintain the spirit that resulted in their third consecutive masterstroke. Frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s voice continues to impress, and songs like “We Can’t Be Beat,” “Heartbreaker,” and the title track sees him crooning with a sense of elegance that is in perfect sync with his accomplished bandmates. Paul Maroon is still one of the most criminally underrated and talented guitarists around, and bassist Walter Martin, keyboardist Peter Bauer and drummer Matt Barrick sound just as confident in their ability to craft memorable soundscapes that are just as important a part to the band’s sound as Leithauser. Heaven is the sound of a band putting an exclamation point on their first decade together through continuing to refine and redefine what it is that makes them one of the most consistent groups of their generation. Though it may not have the same sense of urgency as You & Me or the Sun Records wistfulness of Lisbon, the Walkmen sound positively triumphant here, and the made it known throughout the course of their journey through Heaven.


03.

Grimes

Visions

[4AD]

Claire Boucher has seen her share of backlash since the February release of Visions, mostly in the form of claims that she is a signifier of everything wrong with Tumblr’s focus on image over substance and nothing more than the product of a hype cycle meant to push some massive blogoshpere conspiracy. What these detractors conveniently choose to omit, however, is that Boucher’s Grimes project attracted the most attention on the strength of her songwriting and her uniquely weird approach to electro-pop. Visions is a pop album in the purest sense, albeit one with some of the most unconventional sounds and flourishes you are likely to hear, and it is the enthusiasm and sense of wonder with which Boucher crafted these songs that emits from the speakers. It is easy to take for granted how much of a risk an album like this one really is, as in the wrong hands it could have been an unforgivable mess. The reason it succeeds is based solely upon Boucher’s skills as a songwriter; one needs to look no further than the Japanese inspired sweeping synths and harp tinged etherealness of “Genesis,” Boucher’s complete selling of a sense of longing on “Oblivion,” or the sensual “Skin” to see that she is in complete control of her songs. While people can debate her image and use of the internet to promote herself all they want, the fact remains that Visions is a self-assured debut that built on Grimes initial promise and saw Boucher peaking at just the right time.


02.

Purity Ring

Shrines

[4AD]

Corin Roddick and Megan James of Purity Ring could have cared less about the outside noise that made them one of the most talked about groups of the last two years. On the strength of their revelatory early singles that displayed a sense of identity that many more established acts could only hope for, Roddick’s laser focused synths, vocal manipulations, and Southern hip-hop inspired beats combined with James’ innocent voice and morbid lyrical content to create an extreme sense of anticipation for what the band was capable of on a full-length album. The results were better than anyone could have hoped for, as Shrines is a remarkable debut that proves their abilities while managing to sound like little else this year. Roddick’s production talents are impossible to deny, as his keen ability to inject mood and melody into some of the cleanest sounding drum patterns and snaps heard all year make his arrangements astounding achievements in their own right. However, it is James’ ability to sing with conviction cryptic phrases of cults inside of her, drilled eyelids, and trembling thighs in a distinctly innocent and sweet voice that set Purity Ring apart, and together the two make manage to create an album whose only stumble comes courtesy of Young Magic’s Isaac Emmanuel (seriously, the rapping on “Grandloves” almost manages to completely void an otherwise gorgeous track). More than a year and a half in the making, Shrines is a testament to the virtues of patience and humbleness that resulted in one of the most unique and purely enjoyable listening experiences of 2012.


01.

Twin Shadow

Confess

[4AD]

Few albums have been held closer to my heart than Twin Shadow’s Forget. George Lewis Jr’s 2010 debut injected a sense of romanticism and vitality into the new-wave template in a way that resonated with me on many personal levels, and it quickly secured a spot as one of my all time favorite records. That being said, Confess is an even stronger statement from Lewis, and while it may not hold the same sort of sentimental connection that Forget does, it sees him coming into his own in ways that were only hinted at a couple years ago. The crunching guitars, insistent rhythms and sparkling synths, sound bigger, louder, and more forceful in accordance with Lewis‘ increasing confidence. From the rush of “Five Seconds” to the familiar lovelornness of “Beg For The Night” and “When The Movie’s Over,” Lewis plays the part of the heartsick hedonistic bad boy with class and bravado, qualities that are reflected in his songwriting and ultimately help to make Confess more than just a direct sequel to Forget. It’s no secret that Lewis‘ voice is his secret weapon, and his croon sounds just as yearning and remorseful as ever while releasing chill inducing bellows of “This isn’t love!” on “Run My Heart” and exercising excellent control on “I Don’t Care.” While Lewis self-produced and played most of the instruments on Confess, the band leader that comes out during his live performances with a touring groups is on full display here, and though Lewis may still not want to believe (or be) in love, his chronicling of those sentiments made for an album that, in my opinion, was unparalleled in 2012.

Cole’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Cole Zercoe; December 13, 2012 at 10:55 AM 


07.

The xx

Coexist

[Young Turks]

One of the elements of The xx’s debut album that made it such a success was how fully-realized it was in sound and presentation. Much like Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, The xx sounded like the work of artists far deeper into their career than they actually were. On Coexist, this trend continues, but there’s a layer of subtlety on the record that runs far deeper than that of their debut. The band has always been masterful at translating the emotional atmosphere of whispered bedroom confessions into music, but on Coexist, that atmosphere is so fragile, fleeting, and intimate, it often sounds as if it’s barely there.


06.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

‘Allalujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

[Constellation]

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! places them on the incredibly small list of acts that managed to return from a lengthy hiatus with a work that ranks among their very best. No one can craft the sounds of the apocalypse quite like Godspeed, and in a world that continuously feels as if it’s on the brink of total collapse, their return couldn’t have come at a better time. Don’t Bend! is a symphony of destruction – a proclamation of the end of the world that at once welcomes and fears it.


05.

How To Dress Well

Total Loss

[Weird World]

While The Weeknd uses an R&B palate to craft works of unspeakable menace and unsettlingly vivid moral decay, the closest thing he has to a sibling, How to Dress Well, pulls from that same stylistic pool in order to present a world of staggering loss, frailty, and beauty. There isn’t a single narrator this year that sounds more damaged than Tom Krell, but behind that darkness, there’s an undeniable sense that the void is escapable. Total Loss is a story of recovery, even in the face of unimaginable wreckage, and this elevates it from a work that’s simply bleak, to one that’s beautiful.


04.

Grimes

Visions

[4AD]

2012 was an incredibly strong year for music, in particular for albums either partially or completely electronic in nature. Grimes’ Visions is a stellar example of this digital renaissance – recalling everything from Bjork to Depeche Mode while simultaneously creating its own unique identity. It’s a pop record that’s as sugar-coated as it is off-kilter, and in that striking contrast, it ultimately finds its power.


03.

Chromatics

Kill For Love

[Italians Do It Better]

Like many of the albums on this list, Kill for Love’s primary selling point is in its masterful grasp of atmosphere. It’s dark, dense, and often detached, opening with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” that somehow manages to take that song’s lamentations and increase the tragedy of their tone exponentially. What follows is a record as indebted to the sounds of post-punk as it is new wave – layering the darkness of the instrumental work with a gloss of pop accessibility. Because of this, Kill for Love often works on two levels – initially pulling the listener in through its undeniably New Order-esque electronic sheen only to reveal its underlying sense of sorrow and loss the deeper we delve into its world.


02.

Andy Stott

Luxury Problems

[Modern Love]

Luxury Problems captures the dark side of rave-culture – the 4 a.m. come down on a night fueled by substance abuse and blaring electronic bass. It’s the moment where you’ve realized the party should have ended hours ago – the euphoria has metamorphosed into an inescapable depression, the music has turned menacing, and the people you loved only hours ago are now impossible to endure for another second. Luxury Problems takes you deep down into this darkness – peeling back the layers of the familiar stylistic tendencies of house music and revealing something frigid, murky, and threatening.


01.

Death Grips

The Money Store

[Epic]

Like Sleigh Bells’ Treats, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, The Money Store isn’t notable because it’s loud, but because it redefines what loud can be. Its abrasion and its noise is constructed in a way you’ve never quite heard before – creating a volatility and unpredictability that adds immense power to the song work on display. Through its schizophrenic song construction, the band captures the sound of anguish, collapse, and desperation in a way that’s nauseatingly tangible. Much like a prison riot, The Money Store functions not as a means of escape, but of inflicting as much damage as possible before the inevitable return to confinement.

Will’s Underrated Dance/Electronic/Drone Records of 2012

By Will Ryan; December 12, 2012 at 1:15 AM 

The way it usually works is we hit the reset button at the beginning of January and most of the under-the-radar releases in the year previous might as well not have existed. I wanted to put together a list of a few albums that didn’t make the site’s top 50 or Honorable Mentions list and maybe weren’t necessarily the talk of the town, but deserve a listen from anyone with a passing interest in techno, house, UK bass, weirdo hip-hop, ambient, and drone. I spent most of the year stepping from one alright techno and deep house LP to the next. I feel a little villainous in how little chance I gave some albums, deciding if it didn’t grab me on the first couple listens and if someone didn’t say “hey, no, you should really listen to this” then it wasn’t worth going any further with. Such is the dickish nature of music bloggers. Music is not a commodity, but there’s literally only so much time in a year. The albums below stuck with me, however, and they’re ones I think deserve remembering.


Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka

They!Live

[50 Weapons]

These guys turned enough heads with their cut, “Creeper,” to get signed to Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons imprint and They!Live follows suit in exploring the same hooky, gooey low-end, zero frills house music. Lot of moments of startling beauty here too.


Borealis

Voidness

[Origami Sound]

Canadian ambient techno guy, Jessie Somfay, returns three years after his last record, the excellent A Catch In The Voice, with a lengthy and gorgeous take on Burial-esque UK garage sounds infused with his own vision of unconscious, subaquatic ambient music. A million records have chased Untrue, but this one has much more of a purpose than simply recreating the same atmospheres and textures. Some incredible stuff on here.


Bvdub

All Is Forgiven

[n5MD]

I should probably pay more attention to Bvdub, this being his fourth record of 2012, but I’ve been in the habit of only checking out one of his a year, counting on him to keep putting out the same (good) straight-laced ambient techno-ish record over and over, but All Is Forgiven is a but of a departure, you might say. It’s probably a little bit hyperbolic to call this Clams Casino meets William Basinski, but that’s kinda what it sounds like at times. Cloud rap atmospherics (wha?) in a slowly disintegrating wall of ambiance. These three twenty-t0-thirty minute tracks pile on an ungodly amount of samples, creating beautiful skyscraper-sized compositions.


Dan HabarNam

From The Known

[Exit Records]

Romanian ambient/drum’n’bass producer, Dan HabarNam’s full-length solo debut on D-Bridge’s Exit Records. Dan HabarNam has been running with the Autonomic crew for a bit, but his debut marks him as somewhat of an outsider. From The Known has more in common with Vangelis synth wizardry and subaquatic funk than it does with the rest of the Exit Record signees, but the album contains some of the most engrossing and beautiful sounds I heard this year. It’s like a warm milky blanket.


Demdike Stare

Elemental

[Modern Love]

I’m mainly putting this one on here to remind people it came out. After Tryptych last year, it’s not hard to figure out why this didn’t earn as much attention, but it has its own sonic identity, delving more into industrial territories. And, really, no one can stir mood like Demdike Stare.


Greg Haines

Digressions

[Preservation]

Digressions is an album I’m going to be listening to well into 2013. It’s all ambient strings and piano pieces of such bombastic and prevalent beauty. A little more involved and ‘composed’ than something like Stars Of The Lid, but no less moving.


Phon.o

Black Boulder

[50 Weapons]

Another 50 Weapons release. This time from a German native reinventing himself with the sounds of house and UK garage with a touch of Berlin dub. This one has a lot of pop and club appeal, but it’s intricate and subtle enough to work well in the headphones.


Purl & Deflektion

Growing

[Dewtone]

This is one I hope I get around to reviewing in January. Such beautiful and listenable ambient techno. Kind of a mixture of Kranky-esque synth waves, Kompakt minimal techno, Boards of Canada melodies, and a bit of UK bass thrown in there for good measure. One of the best albums to fall asleep to (in a good way, obviously) I heard this year. The album sleeve is a perfect representation of the mood you’ll hear on Growing.


Raime

Quarter Turns Over a Living Line

[Blackest Ever Black]

Blackest Ever Black is right. This is some of the darkest most evil sounding stuff since, well, Demdike Stare’s 2010 album run probably. These guys build barbed industrial atmospheres with slowed BPMs and jagged synth, strings, and guitar textures. It has more in common with atmospheric doom metal than techno.


Silent Harbour

Silent Harbour

[Echocord]

Some fiercely atmospheric and abstract sub-aquatic computer dub from the man behind the ever reliable Comforce moniker. The rhythms on this one are especially delicious, never really rising above simple suggestion.


Silent Servant

Negative Fascination

[Hospital]

Silent Servant aka Jaun Mendez was a member of the now-defunct collective, Sandwell District, so if you’ve heard that name, you might know what you’re getting into here. Dark post-punk infused industrial techno, antique drums and all.


Supreme Cuts

Whispers In The Dark

[Dovecote]

One of 2012’s most secret successes. Supreme Cuts did a lot this year including a full free mixtape with rapper Haleek Maul. Whispers In The Dark is a heavily emotive take on ethereal beats and modern London sounds with huge melodies and beautiful point A-to-B-to-C song structures.

Johan’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Johan Alm; December 11, 2012 at 11:38 PM 

If someone would’ve told me my ten favourite albums of 2012 would’ve been these a year ago I probably would have said “what?!” as I only knew (and liked) two artists out of the ten prior to this year. Those two would be Ty Segall, who I liked but didn’t love, and Niki & The Dove who I had just discovered with the release of their The Drummer EP in October last year. But hey, this is what’s so wonderful about being a music fan, isn’t it? The discovery of new acts, both actually new (World Tour) and new to you (Jens Lekman, Damien Jurado etc).

Several acts whom I’d previously heard but never become a fan of turned out to become my favourites this year, with Jens Lekman and Damien Jurado being the most obvious examples. Lekman’s beautiful and heartbreaking I Know What Love Isn’t completely blew me away emotionally in a way that I never would’ve expected. And then How To Dress Well did the same a month later with Total Loss. Several of my very favourite acts around ended up further down on the list (The Tallest Man On Earth, Sun Kil Moon and Patterson Hood for example) in favour of new discoveries like John Talabot and DIIV. And Chromatics’ Kill For Love finally overwon my doubts (and it’s own length) and ended up as one of my absolute favourites. Here’s hoping 2013 will bring as many new discoveries.


10.

John Talabot

ƒin

[Permanent Vacation]


09.

World Tour

Believe

[Cascine]


08.

Damian Jarodo

Maraqopa

[Secretly Canadian]


07.

Niki & The Dove

Instinct

[Sub Pop]


06.

DIIV

Oshin

[Captured Tracks]


05.

Ty Segall

Twins

[Drag City]


04.

Chromatics

Kill For Love

[Italians Do It Better]


03.

Japandroids

Celebration Rock

[Italians Do It Better]


02.

Jens Lekman

I Know What Love Isn’t

[Secretly Canadian]


01.

How To Dress Well

Total Loss

[Weird World]

Josh’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Joshua Pickard; December 11, 2012 at 4:14 PM 

2012 was the year of unabashed emotionalism. Whether it was the monolithic rage and horror on the latest record from Swans or the pummeling aggression on All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge, music this year seemed predisposed to elicit sudden and deep-seated reactions from its listeners. And I guess that’s the role which music has always played for those of us so inclined to obsess over every note and lyric, but this year felt different. It felt far more personal than in years past. Instead of going for the grand generic emotional statements (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can produce intermittently staggering works of art), artists in 2012 felt a need to develop a personal relationship with their listeners and to try to confide, inspire, and accuse in equal measure.

This year, like every year before, presented artists who expanded their already well-established sounds and others who took some pretty bizarre detours into relatively new directions. Also, Ty Segall made the electric guitar relevant again. I’ve pulled together a few records, my Top 10 in fact, but as is usual for these kinds of things, this list seems to be in any changing state of flux. I think that’s sort of the point though, right? Not mentioned, and falling just out of the top 10, are excellent records by bands like Flying Lotus, Pallbearer, Lambchop, First Aid Kit, and a host of others. While we may not have had many “event” releases this year, 2012 turned out to be a music lover’s dream, with records that appealed to both the head and the hips and made more people look like idiots—myself included—trying to analyze and deconstruct what many of these records meant. Sometimes I have to remind myself to just forget the criticism and listen to the goddamn music. Maybe I’ll do better in 2013. (Probably not though.)


10.

Killer Mike

R.A.P. Music

[Williams Street]

Favorite Track: “Reagan”


09.

The Tallest Man On Earth

There’s No Leaving Now

[Dead Oceans]

Favorite Track: “Bright Lanterns”


08.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Allalujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

[Constellation]

Favorite Track: “We Drift Like Worried Fire”


07.

Converge

All We Love We Leave Behind

[Epitaph]

Favorite Track: “Aimless Arrow”


06.

Ty Segall Band

Slaughterhouse

[In The Red]

Favorite Track: “Wave Goodbye”


05.

Perfume Genius

Put Your Back N 2 It

[Matador]

Favorite Track: “Normal Song”


04.

Chromatics

Kill For Love

[Italians Do It Better]

Favorite Track: “These Streets Will Never Look The Same”


03.

Mount Eerie

Ocean Roar

[P.W. Eluvium & Sun Ltd]

Favorite Track: “Pale Lights”


02.

El-P

Cancer For Cure

[Fat Possum]

Favorite Track: “Oh Hail No”


01.

Swans

The Seer

[Young God]

Favorite Track: “Mother Of The World”

Colin’s Under-appreciated Guitar Records of 2012

By Colin Joyce; December 10, 2012 at 10:04 PM 

There’s this prevailing thought that seems to kick up around this time of year without fail, that–behold!–the guitar is making its return. Guitar bands are coming back to sway the public from those dudes with laptops who aren’t making “real music” anyway. Yeah, sure. I spent a large portion of my 2012 in some ambient music induced k-hole, far removed from The Vaccines and Palma Violets, or whoever NME’s touting as the savior of their beloved brit-rock–the next band to keep the simmering torch lit by Blur and Oasis alive for another year. I’ll admit a certain sort of ignorance to their clangy inclinations, but I still listened to a lot of “guitar music” this year (whatever that means). Here’s eight (or well, nine) of my favorites in alphabetical order. I mean, maybe everyone’s sold their guitars to buy turntables and maybe people are starting to sell their turntables to buy guitars, but these bands are evidence that that holy grail of guitar music has been right under the music press’ collective nose the whole time.


Alex G

Rules / Trick

[Self-released]

This Philly based practitioner of Pac NW mope rock (think Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith) puts his focus decidedly toward his lyrical expressions, but his brand of straghtforward indie rock feels at once familiar and refreshing. Both Rules and Trick were released over the course of this year and hit at the right moment. They’re downers, but Alex’s nasally voice trudges through the intertwined vines of the instrumentation to create something cathartic and beautiful.


Gap Dream

Gap Dream

[Burger]

This list could have honestly just ended up a list of the 10 best records released on Burger, an LA based refuge of the sounds of years past, perhaps best known for pressing the works of Ty Segall and OFF! to cassette. Gap Dream’s self-titled LP came out earlier this year and functioned a similarly nostalgic look at years past, but as much as their self-titled relies on the intricate guitarwork that marks the label’s releases as a whole, its decidedly more reserved and laid back. Gabriel Fulmivar’s drawl is laconic in a way that J Mascis might admire but instead of ramping up the chaos around his voice, Fulmivar is content to just float along and let his sparse guitar lines do as much of the talking.


Grass Widow

Internal Logic

[HLR]

Grass Widow’s particular brand of post-punk relies on driving guitar work as much as it does their patiently intertwining vocals. Tracks bounce along, sometimes atonal guitars resting atop the consistent pattern of kraut-indebted drumming all the while Raven Mahon, Hannah Lew and Lillian Marling conjure a heavenly float overtop their dangerous din. The sonics of early twee without the sloppy playing and the griminess of bass heavy post-punk without the Manc-y bark that often accompanied it. Highly recommended.


Lower

Walk On Heads

[Escho]

I’ve lavished my praise on Lower’s 2012 EP elsewhere, but just to recap, they’ve got the melodies of Echo and The Bunnymen, the knife’s edge attack of countrymates and Escho labelmates Iceage and a unique warped lyricism all their own. It’s a game of spot-the reference-point, but a rewarding one, not lacking in overwhelming guitar rush.



The Memories

The Memories

[Underwater Peoples]

Portland’s the Memories make sloppy lo-fi rock and roll rave ups about like, girls and getting high. It’s sleepy at times, its simple, its the sort of record that reaffirms why the guitar exists. It’s all pop and hiss and love songs.


Teen Suicide

I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is A Devil Inside My Body

[Self-released]

Sam Ray–the man at the heart of Teen Suicide–may take objection to I Will Be My Own Hell… being termed a guitar album, given his stated goal to write pop songs, but many of the brightest moments find Teen Suicide taking a post-emo strut. Ray begs to be released from his earthly body on “Give Me Back To The Sky” and wails his way through the driving “Have You Been Eating That Sandwich Again.” He trades the guitar for piano on “Grim Reaper” and synth on “Cop Graveyard,” but never loses the spirit of the album. He’s aimed for the ascendant and achieved it. Teen Suicide broke up a couple of weeks ago, but if there’s an album to go out on it’s this one.


The Tough Shits

The Tough Shits

[Burger]

The Tough Shits take the best bits of The Mats’ endearing hooks and marry it to a scuzzy sort of garage rock that could only be found on Burger Records. Lyrically simple, but endlessly catchy and wholly at home within the Burger catalog. It’s endlessly bouncy and happy even if the lyrics take a turn toward the dark at points, as on the Free Energy-indebted anti-self-harm rant of “Early Grave.” The band’s a bit tighter than you might imagine, and makes room for more than a few solos.


Walter TV

Appetite

[Self-released]

Mac DeMarco made a couple of the year’s best guitar records, but our love for his sound has been pretty exhaustive. In Walter TV, his bass player Pierce McGarry takes the lead on a set of tape warped tracks way weirder than DeMarco ever attempted. These songs play like flanged guitar based takes on Animal Collective’s kaleidoscopic pop, all the while featuring guitar lines that had to have come from DeMarco himself in their immediate catchiness. Weird, enrapturing and decidedly mushy on the production end, Appetite shows a lot of promise from what could be dismissed as a side-project to a much buzzed about band. If you always dreamed of a version of Mac DeMarco that was burned out from too many psychedelics, here’s your record.

Josh’s Top Weirdo Records of 2012

By Josh Becker; December 9, 2012 at 10:26 PM 

Weirdness for its own sake isn’t a virtue. But albums that defy genre conventions and attempt a totally unique sound are often among my favorites. Intimidated by neither tradition nor obscurity, artists that make unusual records are in many ways musical scientists, willing to take risks and toy with new or otherwise overlooked noises. And when their experiments are successful–when they combine experimental sensibilities and aesthetic appreciation–these artists deserve a bit of recognition. These records aren’t for everybody, but for those listeners willing to explore the outskirts of musicality, they offer something special. Each year, many weird records are released, and I don’t pretend to have heard most of them. That said, here are ten albums that pushed the envelope without tearing it apart, carving new sonic spaces with thankfully little regard to what music “ought” to entail.


10.

Grischa Lichtenberger

And IV

[Inertia]

While glitch techno isn’t a new genre, here’s a record that manages to fall into that category while also stretching far beyond it. Its erratic percussion belies a subtle yet consistent rhythmic focus. Tracks like “Uu78” and “0311_01 Re 0510_24” seem to be on the verge of collapsing into themselves or falling apart in a state of disjointed disrepair, but they never actually lose momentum or meander into petty abstraction. And there’s a refreshing variety of sounds to be found here that doesnt limit itself to the typical skipping-disc or friend-circuit approach: “Globalbpm” sounds like a remix of someone rubbing a balloon, while “12_11_13_Lv_1_C” recontextualizes a snippet of human speech as something that can sound just as cold and abstract as the surrounding mechanical glitches. And there’s a fascinating interplay between melody and atonal dissonance exhibited on tracks like “1210_08_Lv_4+,” in which beeps and screeches form a strange sort of harmony that sounds alien and robotic but is nonetheless decidedly musical.


09.

Mika Vainio

Fe₃O₄ – Magnetite

[Touch]

As one half of the acclaimed Finnish experimental duo Pan Sonic, Mika Vainio is no stranger to pushing the limits of electronica. But this solo release is something else entirely, a starker and more unsettling beast than anything that duo has created. Beginning with an ominous, lonely clank, Magnetite juxtaposes eerie silence with blasts of digital noise; deep bass tones and bursts of radio static parry with cavernous whooshes, thunderous and distant plodding, bell-like tones, and occasional beeps that sound creepily facile by contrast. If Michael Myers sought to make a “dark ambient” album, this would probably be the result. Like his plain white Halloween mask, this album is staunchly minimal yet nonetheless terrifying. And both seem to be unpredictable, unstoppable forces. Most of all, Magnetite succeeds by making its most unnerving moments not its loudest shrieks or busiest passages but rather its many moments of quiet, the listener breathlessly anticipating what’s going to break the silence (and usually getting it wrong). Despite all this, Magnetite is far from an unpleasant experience; as is the case with great horror movies like Halloween, there’s something undeniably fascinating about the terror we witness that brings us back again and again. Vainio does his job mercilessly well, no telephone cord necessary.


08.

Robert Scott Thompson

Play Is the Supreme Bricoleur of Frail Transient Constructions
[Aucourant Records]

A bricoleur is defined as “one who engages in bricolage,” or “construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand.” Robert Scott Thompson, who heads the Center for Audio Recording Arts at Georgia State University’s School of Music, certainly assembles a bricolage of sounds, moods, and influences, from ambient space music synths to clattering field recordings to modern classical strings, bass flute, and piano. This is an audio collage that respects the individuality of its disparate elements while effectively working them into a coherent whole. A truly abstract work, Play Is the Supreme confronts the listener with the prospect of unrestrained sound. It’s also a remarkably deep recording; Thompson clearly puts his studio expertise to good use, crafting an album that densely teems with activity guided by the experienced hand of a compositional veteran. This album’s cover seems to depict an alchemist at work, and that’s just what Thompson is. These constructions may be “transient,” but they’re certainly not forgettable.


07.

Julian Cope

Woden

[Head Heritage]

Julian Cope is a British rock musician who first rose to prominence as a founding member of the post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes. More than thirty years later, here he is with Woden, which his website describes as a “thirteen-year-old sonic monolith” and an “enormous meteorological cloud of music.” Largely composed using a single synthesizer, this 72-minute composition nonetheless sounds absolutely otherworldly–or perhaps underworldly, given Cope’s interest in Neolithic paganism. What sounds like a rushing wind tunnel envelopes the entire track, with excursions into Eliane Radigue-esque digital minimalism and the haunting medieval echoes of “the Yatesbury bellringers of 1998.” The end result comes across as anything but electronic, at times sounding downright ancient. Fans of Xela’s cassette trilogy (The Illuminated, The Divine, The Sublime) and Kevin Drumm’s omnipresent drones, take note: Woden beckons, though it won’t raise its voice to grab your attention.


06.

Richard Moult

Yclypt

[Second Language]

Like Tim Hecker’s widely praised Ravedeath, 1972, this album was recorded in a church. In both cases, the majestic setting such a building provides seeps into the music, which in this case is a six-track album largely performed by a string quintet. Opening with a plaintive three-part suite (“Apollo Winceleseia”) presumably named after the East Sussex village where the church is located, Yclypt is as beautiful and melancholic as the autumnal forest depicted on its cover. At equal turns harmonious and dissonant, the strings play off each other in layered clusters of pitch and tone; low drones rumble beneath scratchy mid-range chords and intermittent soaring high-pitched notes, the latter of which appear most prominently on “Apollo Winceleseia III.” A panoply of playing styles keeps this half-hour record from ever sounding monochromatic, and Moult does a wonderful job of emphasizing the physical space in which these strings operate; we feel like we’re in the room with these performers, letting their tones wash over us instead of simply hearing recordings of such filtered through digital channels. Yclypt is capped off by the ten-minute “Symbol of an Infinite Past,” a languorous rumination that recalls the chilly sonorities of Brahms.


05.

Bill Laswell

Means of Deliverance

[Innerhythmic]

Bass. I embolden it to highlight the thickness of the instrument, the stark sonorous quality that makes it such a versatile instrument. It can provide the underpinning for the rhythm section of a rock song; it can ride under techno floor-fillers in analogue jabs; it can flow in quietly sparkling arpeggios on any number of jazz and blues records. It’s one of the most important instruments in a band’s arsenal, yet we never hear much of it on its own. Thankfully, Kentucky-born experimental musician Bill Laswell has over the course of his storied career worked to change that, exploring the nuances of the instrument’s timbre as it applies to music from genres as varied as dub, metal, and ambient trance. But with Means of Deliverance, he strips away the accoutrements, wielding only a fretless acoustic bass guitar and giving it a workout seeped in spacious silence and folk traditions. Yep, this is a ten-track collection of bass solos, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Laswell’s tones ring out with rich resonance; he deftly investigates the contours of his instrument with grace and, crucially, patience: he’s obviously a master of his craft, but he never feels the need to show off. There are no runaway jams or sliding scales to be found here; instead, we get a series of meditative explorations of the bass’s upper and lower registers (sometimes acting in unison). Sometimes, on the more “uptempo” moments here, like “Buhala,” it sounds more like Laswell’s providing the bassline for some timeless folk number than trying to show us how deftly he can fingerpick, and it doesn’t even matter that we can’t hear the other hypothetical instruments; he doesn’t need them, as these tracks sound fully-formed and thorough on their own. At other points, such as “Aeon” and “Epiphaneia,” he lets his bass buzz with complete disregard for genre or conventional form. Laswell can do many things with his bass, but his most consistent ability is letting it sing.


04.

Indian Wells

Night Drops

[Bad Panda]

Tennis, anyone? This Italian dude samples sounds sourced from tennis matches, letting them effortlessly bleed into his atmospheric downtempo. On opening track “Wimbledon 1980,” for instance, the sound of a racket striking ball–with accompanying polite audience applause and intermittent grunts–provides the percussion, on top of which he applies delicate layers of synth pads and bass. “It must be one of the most epic tie-breaks played anywhere,” says one delightfully British announcer to another, describing John McEnroe’s well-fought loss to Björn Borg in the men’s sol final at the titular tournament. As the track fades out, we hear the announcer one last time: “What could be better?” Track two, “In the Streets,” uses decidedly more amateur source material, as distant hurried voices call out in some imagined scrimmage or pick-up exhibition and footsteps scuttle across the court (along with, of course, more volleys). “Golden Shoes” is a more delicate affair, with glassy keyboard tones volleying with crisp, hollow beats that recall–what else?–the sound of a confident forehand strike as well as an unexpected choir sample. “Deuce,” on the other hand, begins with the crinkling of old vinyl before introducing a grimey bassline and, uh, marimba accents. And house music handclaps? Are we still hearing tennis sounds here? Doesn’t matter; not even halfway through this album, we’re already sucked into Indian Wells’ dream world. The whole thing is like if Dntel were asked to contribute to a Jock Jams volume, or if the US Open asked Actress to pen its theme one year. Were it any longer, Night Drops might start to become an exercise in gimmickry; as it stands, however, at a lean 37.5 minutes, it’s a perfectly muted and sleek record of downtempo psychedelia (psychedelic downtempo?) that makes for smooth listening on and off the court.


03.

Suzuki Junzo

Ode To A Blue Ghost

[Utech]

On this album, Japanese guitarist Suzuki Junzo wails on his weapon of choice for, like, a fuckin’ hour. Drone, noise, blues, psychedelic rock, ambient, goddamn folk: Junzo approaches a variety of genre influences and proceeds to kick the shit out of each of them. “Shivering Larry’s Last Freak Out” riffs like Skullflower on Klonopin, while “Studies for Three Broken Canes of Dr. Dream” somehow makes howling screeches sound soothing and zen-like. Like the aforementioned Bill Laswell album, Ode To A Blue Ghost is entirely a solo affair, but whereas the former ekes out quiet overtones, Junzo absolutely obliterates his otherwise empty sonic environment with all the crunchy power his electric guitar can muster. That I don’t have more to say about this record is not an indication of anything but my inability to articulate coherent thoughts in the face of Junzo’s epic squalls. This is a good album to get drunk to. If I were still a teenager, I’d like to imagine I’d blast this album alone in my room, a classy take on adolescent angst. Alas, I’m just a twenty-something white dude who’s left to wonder what else is bubbling under the surface in Tokyo. Junzo is a rebel with a singular cause: rocking your face off. Damn, just thinking about this record makes me want a cigarette.


02.

Mendel Kaelen

A Tragedy That Drowned Itself

[Siniszi]

Step one: be Dutch. Step two: find an abandoned Indian harmonium in someone’s basement. Step three: play the harmonium, but don’t focus on the droning tones it produces. Instead, listen to the creaky machinations of the instrument itself: “cranky wooden panels, the squeaking metal pins, and the airwaves escaping from the dilapidated bellows.” Step four: balance the wheezing groans and cranking pumping motions with minimal tonal drifts floating in the background, the inverse of a typical harmonium performance (in which the resultant drones are the focus and the sounds of the instrument itself are an overlooked by-product). Step five: shatter the listener’s expectations of how we approach and appreciate sound and performance. Laboriously show how even in drone music, the medium can very well be the message. Glean poignancy from said creaky machinations. Take as long as you need; Kaelen plays for over an hour on this record. Step six: divide the recording into five pieces, give them cryptically abstract titles (“The Horse,” “The Dream”), and call them a “tragedy” even though it’s anything but. This album is desolate and dreary yet strangely life-affirming, a stunning testament to the merits of old-fashioned human intervention in an increasingly digital industry. The Tragedy That Drowned Itself is not concerned with “what” music sounds like but rather how that sound happens, and it turns out to be a fascinating story we didn’t even realize needed to be told.


01.

LouisEX

Die Leiden Des Jungen Louis Exitus

[Blüthenstaub Musik]

I know literally nothing about this artist beyond the fact that he seems to be German, as evidenced by this album’s release on Roetgen-based label Blüthenstaub Musik. Oh, and this album’s title translates to “The Sorrows Of Young Louis Exitus.” That’s all I’ve got.

And that’s all we need to know. “Intimität” opens the disc with a precious, “Avril 14th”-esque piano phrase. Then, water runs; birds squawk; backmasked piano dripping with synth twinkles jolts the listener to attention; an echoing vibraphone appears, along with an innocuous plucked string section that sounds straight out of Leave It To Beaver. The track constantly seems to be rising to some blissful climax, but then it ends, a lone high-pitched piano note carrying us into track two, “Dein Blick Durchdringt Mich.” A crowd bustles in the background; a harp stutters to life; hearty, darker piano chords seem to herald an imminent beat drop, and we finally get it…in the form of ramshackle woodblocks that recede as suddenly as they appeared. A wash of noise. An actual drumbeat! It lasts for less than a minute.

We can still hear the crowd as well as the piano; ricocheting strings pop up at track’s end. “Wie Dein Herz Mich Trägt” begins with a manipulated acoustic guitar before being joined by shakers, bell-like keyboard, more birdsong, some buzzing insects, and synth-processed cello. The basic repeating melodic phrase is similar to what came before but also somehow different. This whole album progresses organically, each instrumental and harmonic passage arising from that which preceded it, building off what we’ve already heard while subtly prepping us for what’s to come. You know Splash Mountain? How it’s essentially a lazy river ride that ends in a massive steep slide? And how before the drop, we get disingenuously placid animatronics that pretty much retell the stories from Song of the South? Yeah, this album’s kind of like that, only instead of a single drop at the end, we just keep circling the rapids, bumping and rising and cascading our way through all manner of musical storytelling. Each chord passage is heartbreaking; half-remembered melodies float in and out of the listener’s consciousness, as in a dream. When the clap-and-stomp disco beat of “Deine Küsse Letzte Nacht” finally arrives, it’s a revelation, strings providing the most luscious and gorgeous dance music accompaniment since Pantha du Prince’s “Saturn Strobe.”

But LouisEX is far too restless to replicate that lengthy opus, and after a couple minutes, he’s done with it, returning to the backmasked instrumental treatments and windchimes and woodblocks and guitar of…before. Another uptempo beat arrives then pauses then bounces back while reverbed something (xylophone?) provides heavenly accompaniment. We’ve heard these moments before, but at the same time, we haven’t. Time works in strange ways on this album; without ever even approaching redundancy, LouisEX cycles through rhythms and moods with a child’s endless curiosity. Elements from one track mix with those from another to recall a third track’s tune, yet it’s all done in the service of producing something new. “Dann Bist Du Gegangen” melodically recalls the album’s first two tracks, but the jazzy, cymbal-heavy drumbeat is an unexpected twist. Then it cuts out, the plucked strings come back–somehow, this doesn’t sound disjointed at all–and…a man groans? What is going on here? Some themes fade out; others cease suddenly. That LouisEX is able to weave a coherent narrative out of these myriad sonic explorations–modern classical, ambient, glitch, house, folk–is remarkable. And his narrative is filled with home runs; the string section on “Alle Zeit Ungezählt,” for instance, would be enough to carry most techno tracks for a good few minutes at least, but in this case, their snappy rhythmic groove is interrupted then restarted, the musical equivalent of pulling out the cartridge and blowing on it before jamming it back into your Super Nintendo. After three minutes, we get rainfall and silence. We’re only halfway done at this point.

Birdsong and insect buzzing provide a thematic constant, casting an aura of wilderness discovery over the twinkling keys and other sundries. It feels like we’re happily, deliriously in the jungle; have we passed this circle of trees before? They all look kinda the same, but they’re also all different. This one’s got jutting branches that bend like human arms; that one’s got roots we haven’t heard before, a drumbeat that Prefuse 73 would die for; and just up ahead, we can smell the cottony colors of remorse and wistfulness and, strangely, hope. Splash! Have we jumpted in the river? Guitar and shaker. More marimba. I’m not sure whether these instruments are MIDI-produced or actually played. Either way, their variety is impressive, and their emotional range is breathtaking. The return of the delicate piano hammers, and then those aching strings. There’s a cyclical quality to the proceedings here, not so much a guiding focus as it is a seeming force of nature, like the roaring rivers and cries of wildlife that pepper and punctuate this album’s many moods.

Die Leiden Des Jungen Louis Exitus is a genre-hopping tour de force that’s an absolute joy to experience again and again. It’s not even an hour long, but its scope is as vast and distant as tomorrow’s glowing horizon. More than any album I’ve heard this year, Die Leiden sounds alive and teeming with possibilities. As I said earlier, I don’t know who LouisEX is (or whether he’s even a man, for that matter). But if this is what his sorrow sounds like, then can you imagine his happiness? The magic thing is that we can; it’s here, amidst the sadness and the excitement. I’ve been singing this album’s praises all year to anyone who will listen. In fact, if you Google it, a capsule review I wrote for another publication is the second result. But I wish it weren’t; I want Google to be brimming with results, with people talking about this album, with impressions and interpretations and analyses, and most of all, with the music itself. The sliding electric guitar on “Als Du Meine Hand Berührtest” builds into a psych-rock denouement that’s among the most cathartic moments on an album chock full of ‘em. Yet even here, that plaintive piano still makes its presence known. In LouisEX’s world, there’s no such thing as genre: only glorious sound.

Autumn’s Favorite Records of 2012

By Autumn Andel; December 9, 2012 at 9:36 PM 

Let me preface to say for the first time, I was unable to come up with a top albums list based on rankings, which may sound paradoxical since I have been more active than ever with the music scene – spending all morning trying to keep up with all the news from countless music sites. Consequently, this has afforded less time for me to listen to each individual record. You could say the list below (not in any particular order but a subconscious one) was by pure chance. In a parallel universe, I could have picked a whole other set of albums but in this dimension, these releases have conjured emotional connections that have had a profound impact on my cognition.


Delay Trees

Doze

[Soliti]

Released in October on Helsinki-based label, Soliti, the second album from the Finnish dream poppers lightly treads on the experimental, yet retains enough melody to hold onto the audience garnered from their flawless self-titled debut. Doze did not win me over at first but with each rotation, I was slowly falling in love with its ingenuity and sincerity. There are short songs, long songs, songs with lyrics and without, ballads and a fuzzed out jam – a variety that somehow coalesces into a cohesive album. Doze is a refreshing and encouraging piece in a singles-happy age.


 

Bill Ryder-Jones

If…

[Domino]

The former member of The Coral surprised many with this gorgeous concept album heavily based in classical music. Promoted as an imaginary soundtrack to Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, Ryder-Jones’s debut album unearthed a world that is full of aural pleasures, evoking infinite impressions and imageries. This record has eased me into the dreamland on countless nights.


Liars

WIXIW

[Mute]

I didn’t know much about Liars before WIXIW came out. The band known to never make the same record twice churned out their most accessible album yet without sacrificing their integrity. From the hypnotic opener ”The Exact Colour of Doubt” to dance-punk urgency of “Brats”, Liars effortlessly takes you on a journey that you never want to end.


Holograms

Holograms

[Captured Tracks]

I like punk music – in a live setting. But you wouldn’t find me listening to it in the privacy of my home, car, or via headphones. That is until four Swedish lads concocted their own brand of punk with vintage synths and the right balance between angst and melody. I was smitten from the first spin, and realized I had been denying myself something innate.


Jens Lekman

I Know What Love Isn’t

[Secretly Canadian]

The heartbroken Swede with some of the most witty lyrics around made his fans wait almost five years for his third LP. While some argue that I Know What Love Isn’t is not as dimensional as Lekman’s two previous efforts, I would say it is his most cogent and pleasurable album to date, precisely because Lekman keeps giving the same flavor song after song. This formula often falls victim to monotony but in Lekman’s case, it’s nothing short of indomitable beauty.


Cats On Fire

All Blackshirts To Me

[Soliti]

In another timeline, this album could have been produced in the early eighties to be put on a pedestal along with the works of The Waterboys or Orange Juice. On their third LP, Cat’s On Fire champions the vintage without feeling dated – a romanticism that never goes out of style. This Finnish band has been able to reach across Europe, but North Americans are still distant when bands like Of Monsters and Men are finding success here.


Porcelain Raft

Strage Weekend

[Secretly Canadian]

A chance meeting changed my perception. I had heard a couple of songs that sounded amicable enough, but I wasn’t in love until catching Mauro Remiddi (aka Porcelain Raft) in concert. After spending a little time with the artist behind the music, I was compelled to listen with ears wide open and realized how relatable these weightless pop songs were. Strangely, Strange Weekend gave me solace during a time in need.


Choir Of Young Believers

Rhine Gold

[Ghostly]

This was the first album I chose to review in 2012, forcing myself to listen countless times. It’s another work that takes time to register its artistry. This record kind of sums up all my sentiments from the other albums on the list. It’s understated, ruminative, experimental, grand, yet there is a broken bridge to its core – I want to cross the gap to solve the mysterious aura of Rhine Gold, but somehow I know I am never going to get there. I suppose that’s the bulk of its appeal.