Friday, December 21, 2012

Feels Like We Always Go Backwards: The Best Music of 2012

I've been avoiding publishing my year-end list because there's so much to say about the music here and I had anticipated being able to scribe some year-end thoughts on the selections listed below, rather than just blankly tag them for spamming purposes.  I hope to still be able to do this, but oh time it does fly and there's apocalypse now going on all around us and all that.

In short though, it was a phenomenal year for music.  I've got lists at least twice as long as the below of heavily-praised records I haven't gotten around to spinning yet.  Also, zoning in on which albums stood out when your listening habits entail psychogeographical forays into obscure labels at Bandcamp and leaps into Youtube wormholes is taxing, vexing, and perplexing.  As I stated in my previous post, I postponed listening critically for a good part of the year and just dove into the dizzy whirlwind of tunes and tones of 2012 and it's been a bit like a memory-crushing drug binge; you remember sensations more than the names of tracks, first impressions rather than solid standings, mystification rather than comprehension.   In a way, this must be what listening to pirate radio was once like.  Still, it doesn't seem sustainable, as what winds up floating to the top of my brain (as indicated below) is the music with plenty of representation at the level of word counts, while the unsuspecting discoveries slip away from me. 

Regardless, I really do commend the selections on my lists.  I'm not just cobbling together enough music to round it off into a cozy number. Each and every one of the selections on the below lists is terrific in its own rite.  The ordering is bound to change as listening habits do.  With dynamic and moving music like this being made, it's hard to fathom a critical community that piledrives adoration over perversely backwards-fawning R&B or MOR hip-hop or strummy indie fluff or post-hardcore opuses that wouldn't recognize hardcore if it tripped over its grave.  In a banner year for gay rights, "queer" as a synonym for "weird" risked being whitewashed into a bracket of discrimination, difference becoming a fatal stance for a culture with its sites set on assimilation.  I'd take Le1f over Frank Ocean any day though.  If a precondition of equality is that all LGBT dress up and act respectably indistinguishable from their hetero peers, it's just another form of conversion therapy.   In a time when women are finally beginning to outnumber men in terms of producing daring sonics, why settle for the middling passivity of Beach House?  If your puffs of weed smoke find you returning to Kendrick Lamar's same old beats rather than trying to figure out the contours of Jam City, Traxman or Arca, you're not a sonic journeyman, you're a headphone couch potato. 

And then there's Death Grips, who in one of music's gothiest years of record was probably the only group to encompass the brutality of a year of Travyvon Martin, Hurricane Sandy, mass shootings, pedophilic cover-ups, Libor, Gaza assaults, zombie cannibals, indefinite detentions of whistleblowers, drone strikes, further austerity,  et al.- a hardline channeling of anger that's like the digital techno animal lashing out at its Frankencreators.

2012 was devastating, but also liberating.  Though Occupy didn't topple the power structure, they gained undeniable credibility post-Sandy and got a couple candidates from their side of the fence into Congress.  Guns in America seem to be due for a long-awaited twilight. In direct inverse to the norm just a couple years ago, gay marriage won the popular vote in a number of states.   The U.S. is now home to the most progressive drug policy in the world in a couple of its states.  As frustrating as Obama can be, the fact that his opponent did not win can only be seen as a coup in the battle against the race to the bottom.  The Supreme Court and the voting electorate decided that we can't take away people's healthcare, even if the costly band-aid fix of Obamacare kind of sucks.  People power meant cops joining with Anonymous to oppose Westboro Baptist, Wal-Mart working with everything to risk walking off the job,  and fast food employees weighing the benefits of organization.

Likewise, 2012's music contains many reasons to be cheerful, but not to be content.  Music at all times faces the possibility of retreat and that is always more likely the case when we don't recognize the new because we're busy calculating its referents. 

The Best Albums of 2012

1. Death Grips- The Money Store
2. Julia Holter- Ekstasis (listen here)
3. Le1f- Dark York (dl here)
4. Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, The Congos- FRKWYS Vol 9: Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras meet The Congos- Icon Give Thank (listen here)
5. Carter Tutti Void- Transverse
6. Jam City- Classical Curves
7.  Arca- Stretch 2/ Stretch 1
8. Swans- The Seer
9. Mark Van Hoen- The Revenent Diary
10. Andy Stott- Luxury Problems
11. Tame Impala- Lonerism
12. Dan Deacon- America
13. Nick Edwards- Plekzationz
14. Burial Hex- Eschatology II (or the precession of nightfall pt IIL Awaken sons of the fire festival) (listen here)
15. Traxman- Heat EP/ Da Mind of Traxman (listen/dl)
16. Voices from the Lake Featuring Donato Dozzy & Neel- Voices from the Lake
17. Burial-Kindred EP
18. Container- LP
19. Death Grips- No Love Deep Web
20. Stay+-Arem
21. The Weeknd- Echoes of Silence
22. Tig Notaro-Live
23. Perc- A New Brutality EP (listen)
24. Robert AA Lowe- Timon Irnok Manta (listen)
25. Mykki Blanco- The Cosmic Angel: Illuminati Princess (DL)
26. Sculpture- Slime Code
27. Panabrite- Soft Terminal (listen)
28. Animal Collective- Centipede HZ
29. Grimes- Visions
30. Black Moth Super Rainbow-Cobra Juicy
31. Lilxlil- II- Cirrus (listen)
32. Pye Corner Audio- Black Mill Tapes Volume 3: All Pathways Open (listen)
33. Beak>-Beak>> (listen)
34. Opponents- Temple of Decadence
35. Peter Van Hoesen- Perceiver (listen)
36. Liars- WIXIW
37. B. Bravo & teeko- the starship connection
38. Grubby Little Hands- The Grass Grew Around Our Feet (listen)
39. Ship Canal- Please Let Me Back Into Your House (listen)
40. D'eon- Music for Keyboards vol 1 (DL)

The Best Singles/Tracks of 2012

1. Death Grips- Get Got
2. Plan B- Ill Manors
3. Grimes- Oblivion
4. Julia Holter- In the same room
5. Mykki Blanco- Wavvy
6. Jam City- How We relate to the body
7. Perc- A New Brutality
8. Holly Herndon- Fade
9. Tame Impala- Apocalypse Dreams
10. Dan Deacon- True Thrush
11. Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland- The Narcissist
12. Death Grips- Hustle Bones
13. Nicki Minaj- Come on a Cone
14. Jay-Z and Kanye West- No Church in the Wild
15. Traxman- Footworkin on Air
16. Burial- Kindred
17. Blawan- Why They Hide Their Bodies Under my Garage?
18. Maria & the Mirrors- Gemini Save My Life
19. Jessie Ware-110%
20. Andy Stott- Luxury Problems
21. Nite Jewel & Julia Holter- What We See
22. Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny- Sweet Tooth Bird
23. Ital- Boi
24. Stay+- Hush Money
25. Kuedo- Work, Live & Sleep in Collapsing Space/" "(Laurel Halo Mix)
26. Charlie XCX- Nuclear Seasons
27. Darq E Freaker feat Danny Brown- Blueberry (Pills and Cocaine)
28. Tame Impala- Feels like we only go backwards
29. Nicki Minaj- Stupid Hoe
30. Nicki Minaj- Beez in the Trap
31. Le1f- Wut
32. Tame Impala- Elephant (Todd Rundgren Mix)
33. Grubby Little Hands- uneek
34. D'eon- Al-qiyamah
35. Nite Jewel- One Second of Love
36. Jessie Ware- Running
37. Sleigh Bells- Comeback Kid
38. fun.- Some Nights
39. Liars- No 1 Against the Rush
40. Scott Walker- Epizootics!
41. Nicki Minaj- Pound the Alarm
42. Salva & Grenier- forest floor
43. Frank Ocean- Bad Religion
44. Elite Gymnastics- Here, in Heaven 4 & 5 (CFCF mix)
45. David Guetta feat Sia- Titanium
46. Daphni- Ye Ye
47. The Weeknd- Wicked Games
48. The Flaming Lips ft Erykah Badu- The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
49. Jai Paul- Jasmine
50. Kanye West ft big sean, pusha t, and 2 chainz- Mercy (Salva and RM Grime mix)

The Best Old Stuff Newly Released:
Com Truise- In Decay
Carl Craig- Elements
Aaron Dilloway- Modern Jester
Drexciya- Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller
David Lynch and Alan Splet- Eraserhead OST
John Maus- A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material
My Bloody Valentine-Loveless, Isn't Anything, EPs
Jurgen Muller- Science of the Sea
Regis- Adolescence
Laurie Spiegel- The Expanding Universe
Vatican Shadow- Kneel Before Religious Icons

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