Best of 2012
With the domestic top ten out of the way, it’s time to move on to our international favourites for 2012. And when I say, “it’s time”, I obviously mean “It’s a week past time” so I apologise for the tardiness. As before, we’ll start with the omissions. At this very second I’m listening to Both Lights by AU and I’m already regretting my decision not to include it in this list. How about this, let’s just pretend that I replaced the Opossom record with AU. Deal? Deal. It was such a good record and more than that, it sounded NOTHING like anything else that came out this year. Listen to this. See what I mean? One of the better album covers for the year too, I might add. Wickerbird, Oberhofer, Kishi Bashi etc. Now the list.
I don’t know, maybe a dude has to ride the H train for a brief stint in life to end up in a space that allows them to make a record like this. As I said, I don’t know. This is a rare case where words might do more to damage your experience of this record by adding to an unecessary preconception. Just get yourself a copy and play these jams loud. Dan Auerbach aids with production and drops a few guitar lines here and there (see ‘Getaway’) but it’s the swampy, voodoo spirit channeling mysticism of the doctor that infuses this with so much funk. I can’t overemphasize the value of this record. My most listened to record of the year and, obviously, my favourite. I’ve avoided delving to deep into his heritage here but if you’re interested there exists a rich catalogue for your later investigation.
I got myself a copy on limited edition blue vinyl (BLUE, PEOPLE!) and it’s been one of the most spun records despite it’s late year release. I do momentarily wonder if it’s sitting so high up my glorious, glorious list because it’s a last quarter release and as such it’s still fresh to me, but then I put it on again, drift back into the wafting haze and realise that everything is once more as it should be. 2 is a record that benefits from a consistancy of sound that belies its capacity to produce stand-out singles. You’ll know a Mac Demarco track before you’ve heard four bars yet somehow you’re able to name each track. Suburban sensibilities pervade a record where Demarco is as happy discussing his favourite brand of cigarette as he is a lost love. All this through the thick wafting haze of Demarco’s home-made opium den. The last cut of the record is ‘Together’ and I’d love to pitch that to you here but I don’t feel it’s reflective of the rest of the record so I’m going with something more par for the course in ‘The Stars Keep On Calling My Name’. Truly though, ‘Together’ is unheard of levels of excellence that demand your attention as soon as you’ve finished reading through this list.
It’s fine to include mixtapes right? Ha, trick question. It’s my blog, I’ll do what I want. I was almost tempted to make the number three record of the year just a series of animated gifs but I figured that you might not be able to see them properly on your mobile device so I relented. Meanwhile, number three is Joey Bada$$. In my falsely humble opinion, 2012 was a bumper year for hip-hop and one of the best outcomes of this was the emergence of PRO ERA. The first to release a mixtape from said crew is the 17 year old Brooklyn rapper Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo or just Joey Bada$$. The record sounds like something from hip-hop’s golden age and features some big samples from Nas, Jay and Doom + the simple decision to pick jazz keys and double bass over an 808. Not conceptually rich as a whole but as a technical rap production it’s out of sight. The kid can flow and pick a beat like noone else so for me, this one’s a no brainer.
The marketing on this thing was half as good as the record, and that’s a high compliment given that the record was dynamite. They released a teaser video for each track, each week, all with the same prairie riding tumble weed vibe and each one getting my blood up slightly more than the last. The record eventually dropped and delivered as hoped. It’s the natural heir to Fleet Foxes pastoral throne though it’ll probably never see the global uptake that Fleet Foxes did but that was a particular time which has since passed. It’s a record of high energy Americana that has more than it’s fair share of builds and crescendos though may suffer from a slight lack of variety. Definitely worth your purchase if you’re a Sound Doctrine reader of old and you miss past organic, folk heavy musings.
Strange Weekend is another of those records that sound as if they just couldn’t be the product of a solo artist yet somehow is. At this point I can’t even recall if it was released early 2012 of late 2011 but I’m going to run with it anyway as it was one hell of a record. Remiddi’s vocals are some of the most interesting of any on this list with a falsetto that changes from track to track. Also, his mid range on tracks like Backwords is undeniably charismatic, sitting on the cusp of androgyny. I’m just now listening through this record again after a very long time without and I can’t help but get caught by the soundscapes that are crafted with so much attention to detail. There’s not a redundant synth line across the record.
I’m sure there’ll be a slew of complaints to the ACCC on the back of this one but I’m going to do it, I’m going to drop Dry The River in here at number seven. Yes, it never saw an Australian release (which is baffling) but it did come out this year (at least in some places). Peter Liddle’s falsetto is something else and they do the grand build particularly well. There might be a little bit of melodrama amongst it all but the quality of the record is evident on immediate inspection. This right here might be the last time you’ll see a folk-rock in an SD best of given the flight of my changing tastes over the course of the year so make the most of it while you can. Simple rythms, simple parts and simple melodies but I still found it moving after multiple listens. Sorry if Vevo makes you watch an ad at the beginning of this one. I’m pretty sure they’re signed with Sony so tweet them all your frustrations.
This is a tough one to address because candidly, you probably know more about The xx than I do. I loved the first record and I love this record but I’ve never spent nights in cold sweat wondering if I’d see them live, nor did I attend the Jamie xx set at GoodGod when last they were out. That said, I did see them play this year and they were, you know, pretty good I guess. Maybe both the live show and this record were dampened by the enormous weight of prehype about them but I was hoping that they’d be both show and album of the year. The record showcases Romy’s vocals more than did their first and the compositions are pretty impressive within something so sparse. For fans of: other music by The xx.
Kendrick has Schoolboy Q and Joey Bada$$ has Capital Steez. For every hype-driven rapper that headds up a clique, there’s a mighty linguist standing in the wings – and just because the limelight is falling a few feet away, don’t think for a second they don’t deserve your attention. Like Joey, Capital Steez dropped his mixtape this year to critical acclaim. He’s propelled by the same love of 90s samples and outstanding loops though his mixtape demonstrate less consistancy/more variety so it kind of fell both ways. The track below is my pick of the bunch not for it’s politically charge rantz but by virtue of that druuuuum track that just won’t quit. Sadly, Capital Steez took is own life on Christmas eve so this is the only release we’ll ever hear from the 19 year old. A tragedy from an artististic standpoint but also just tragic to see any human feel like they couldn’t keep on living.
The duo didn’t deviate too far from what the form that made 2010′s Teen Dream a repeat presence on end of year best of’s which is why the record isn’t sitting higher in my own top 10. The record sounds amazing and Victoria Legrande’s vocals are in better form than ever. That said, it just isn’t that different to Teen Dream, I don’t know. We’ll be seeing them again tonight and I’m pretty excited. Bek’s mum asked us what we were doing this evening and I told her we were going to Beach House. She asked whose Beach House it was. Nawwwwwww. Meanwhile, still a really great record that manages to capture the sensation of intangible loss.
I read a review a while back wherein this record was called New Zealand’s answer to Tame Impala. Firstly, no one really needs to answer Tame Impala. Maybe we just need to agree that Tame Impala are the answer to Tame Impala and leave it at that. Secondly, no band anywhere needs an answer. To be called the answer to any other band seems hugely patronising (in my humble opinion) in that it suggests you’ve heard the first band’s sound before formulating your own in an entirely responsive manner. There’re obviously moments of huge similarity (‘Getaway Tonight’ feels like the biggest Impalan moment) but for me these are separate beasts. It’s easy to call this psychadelia because there’s are fuzzy vocals that soar into the nether parts of this deep sonic bistro but it’s worth recalling that psychedelic doesn’t just mean ‘weird’. Their live set wasn’t what I’d hoped but I’m thinking it may have been an off night. Great band.