Friday, December 28, 2012

Favorites of 2012

Tyler + Brandon + Carter + Alisa

25. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse (In The Red)
When he's not making an ass of himself dismissing all that isn't rock, Ty Segall is a pretty cool fuckin' dude. None of his (many) records this year represent that better than Slaughterhouse; the loudest, rawest, most in-your-face garage rock record of the year. Sounding like he got amped up on some proper drugs and told his band to play something TRUE, he turns on the tape and has at it. Question is, how'd they manage to pull off all those catchy hooks? --Tyler Chambers

24. James Ferraro - Sushi (Hippos in Tanks)
Ever since the Skaters' fizzling-out, each consecutive James Ferraro release has raised the bar in his efforts to be postmodern and technologically satirical-- I mean, look at that font. Sushi falls in line with Ferraro's embrace of all things uncomfortably digital, but the execution is far more commendable than what was accomplished on last year's iPad-centric Far Side Virtual. Voices, pops and work-appropriate synths are manipulated to stuttering microhouse and vaportrap proportions that may either evoke wonder or disgust depending on your taste or lack thereof. --Carter Mullin

23. Ultraísta - Ultraísta (Temporary Residence)
After almost two decades of guiding Radiohead into martyrdom, it was only right for Nigel Godrich to get out and start making some proper tunes of his own. Ultraísta is the perfect way to make it happen. Guided by the sultry hypnosis of vocalist Laura Bettinson, these 10 seductive color-wheeled vignettes flirt with synth pop, new wave, and trip hop, blinded by a flashing floodlight revealing the spectrum of their colored silhouette, resulting in the best pop record of the year. How appropriate David Lynch would remix "Strange Formula"; sophisticated pop music for neon lounges draped in blood red curtains, zigzag patterns highlight the floor, and a small stage for Ultraísta to play phantoms on. Are we really here, or is it all just a dream? --Tyler Chambers

22. Moth Cock - Moth Cock (Tusco/Embassy)
You can read my full review of this record, but suffice it to say that this is a record full of stony drones, screeching hiss, and morphing, creepy alien horns that really make you wonder just what the hell is going on. Oh, and did I mention the A-side of the record plays backwards? --Brandon Greter

21. Weird Dreams - Choreography (Tough Love)
Even when Weird Dreams are flaunting menacing song titles like "666.66" or "River of the Damned", their debut album still rings loudly as a cute, affable pop album that never dwindles in the melody department. It may be an overwhelming 45 minutes, for every saccharine verse rises to an ecstatic, syrupy chorus. Choreography doesn't really say anything, but it does sing it pretty well. --Carter Mullin

20. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
I've always put it upon myself whenever I listen to a Godspeed record to make sure it's away from what I'm normally doing. In most cases it's taking my dog on a walk; a really long walk that ends up lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour. Not that Godspeed's music can't be enjoyed in other ways, I just think it would be difficult to get the same experience out of taking in a slowly scaling, 20+-minute epic passively, sitting down staring into a computer screen, vs. being out in the open, walking to the sound of the stirring, inevitable climax with every sense of your being in full attention of the song. Not everybody's opinion can hold equal, and not everybody's going to listen to this music and hear what I hear. But, I do believe the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor commands a thrust for adventure, an open-ended journey through music's many horizons that no two people will experience the same. It's music for the big picture; songs that challenge predictable notions and in the process stimulate the mind, delving through the recesses of grave memories, deep ideas, sentimental reflections, and moving recollections until a breathtaking emotional catharsis leaves a grand impression on what the future can be to those who wish to escape the predictability, lies, and corruption of the world we live in for their own ultimatum. --Tyler Chambers

19. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange (Def Jam)
I'll admit that I wasn't a fan of Nostalgia, Ultra. and the first time I listened to Channel Orange, I wasn't impressed-- boy did that change. What we have here is perfectly crafted alterna-pop, proving once again that the dirty south can do no wrong. Frank Ocean crafts beautiful melodies on this album, both with instruments and with his voice. This record was a lot more drug-inspired than I expected, and if you're looking for the next bunch of sing-a-long party tunes, look no further. --Brandon Greter

18. Gimu - A Silent Stroll on Sombre St. (Constellation Tatsu)
Shrouded in mystery and passionate like few other albums were this year, A Silent Stroll on Sombre St. is the drone perfected. Similar to William Basinski's gradually disappearing disintegration loops, as each song is relatively simple, usually opening from a cloud of hostility, as an impending siren slowly rises from the ashes, swaying up and down through the rusty tunnel surrounding it before the matter is exhausted out a pipe and into a twisted gaseous state to float onwards in the skies. With his magnum opus, Gimu creates short heartaches wrapped in veils of emotional wear and tear; static, noise, and buzz light a spark trailing down a dreary wick, slowly leading to a series of roaring explosions, expanding the sky in a immensity of light, color, and smoke. --Tyler Chambers

17. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (Interscope / Aftermath / Top Dawg)
Kendrick Lamar is clearly saving lyrical significance these days, with his self-proclaimed debut good kid, m.A.A.d city exploring young love, peer pressure, violence, martyrs and misconceptions of reputability among a plethora of subjects that overstep its Compton setting. As great as the story is, these are just beautiful songs. The hook on "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" is rife with drama and the passion he seeks from seclusion, the instrumental of "Sing About Me" conjures images of paintings that would grace Miles Davis albums and hang from small-scale café walls, and the Janet Jackson sample laced into "Poetic Justice" embellishes an otherwise austere beat with small splashes of color. Studying good kid, m.A.A.d city's narrative is one thing; appreciating the music itself is another. --Carter Mullin

16. Discoverer - Tunnels (Digitalis)
This was a really tough category for me, because 2012 had a lot of great synthesizer music come out. We saw amazing records from Motion Sickness Of Time Travel, Hive Mind, Raglani, Emeralds, and Headboggle, just to name a few, but I really think Discoverer's Tunnels really set the bar on just want a synth record should sound like. It's cold, but not too cold, its dancey, but not shake-ya-ass-dancey, more like, nod-your-head-dancey. It evokes thoughts of modern legends like Oneohthrix Point Never, as well as classic synth gods like Tangerine Dream. Almost instantly Tunnels transports the listener to the great disco in the sky, and I never want to come back down. --Brandon Greter

15. Crystal Castles - (III) (Casablanca)
I've been a Crystal Castles fan for a long time now, and I've always been afraid they would put out a bad record. Too poppy, not crazy enough, to watered down. It seems instead, with the release of (III), they've gone in almost the opposite direction, becoming stranger, less accessible, and perhaps even isolating all but the most dedicated fans (of which there is no shortage). Crystal Castles seems to have taken a turn to the darker side of the spectrum, evoking more elements of noise, witch house, and drone music with them on their descent into madness. What I've always loved about this band is that they don't really give a shit, and that attitude shines through in their music. --Brandon Greter

14. Laurel Halo - Quarantine (Hyperdub)
To me, truly touching music should trigger a nostalgic nerve, and I feel as though I've been listening to Quarantine for years without even remotely understanding it yet. It could just be that it reminds me of certain things (maybe Elizabeth Fraser, early Björk) but it doesn't quite sound like anything else. What Quarantine should be considered is an archetypal ambient pop record: at her voice's most euphoric passages ("Airsick", "Thaw", "Light + Space"), Laurel Halo organizes her melodies into verses and choruses over a nearly formless backdrop, with no convolution and drawing attention solely to the abstruse beauty of her songwriting and the frail tones discreetly placed throughout. --Carter Mullin

13. Swans - The Seer (Young God)
First and for most when I think about great albums of all-time, their power rests in the idea of escapism. When I sit down and start to dissect the year's best music, the single solitary piece that defined it all will always be the one that took me the furthest away from reality; into a state of solace curated by the album's presence. Strip away the nonsense of the band's legacy and the 30 years it took to create, and you have the most brooding, massive, and intense album of the year. The fiery filth of ablazed occult life on Disc 1. Introduced by the processed mind-altering, cult-cleansing "Lunacy", the numbing fury of the mad king "Mother of the World", the haunting fireside prelude "The Wolf", the monumental epitaph at the center of a fallen civilization "The Seer", the rolling pummeled chant in the distance "The Seer Returns", the nightmare of hellish infinity "93 Ave. Blues", and the dreary work-chant gospel of "The Daughter Brings the Water". Further one you're greeted by the enchanted spiritual ecstasy of Disc 2. Opening with the lovely horizon-eyed ballad "Song for a Warrior", the towering colossus in the sky with the heart of a thousand souls "Avatar", the fire exposed folk lament billowing majesty back to the ground "A Piece of the Sky", and the watershed eye of the beast at the end of all things "Apostate". Exhilarating, enchanting, exhausting and empowering-- no album this year was better. --Tyler Chambers

12. Tame Impala - Lonerism (Modular)
"Am I getting closer? Will I ever get there? Does it even matter?" Lonerism is all about the idea that real life is just something else. Kevin Parker is the mastermind behind Tame Impala and is without the doubt, the most talented musician right now. He records alone in his bedroom and captures the feelings of endless daydreams and escaping real life in his music. Each track on this record is nothing short of pure bliss. --Alisa Rodriguez

11. King Tears Bat Trip - King Tears Bat Trip (Table & Chairs)
A hellishly distorted tenor sax, brutal noise guitar, powerful afro-beat buildups, and endlessly catchy fuck-all grooves hypnotize in an absolutely unrelentingly insane album from start to finish over the course of two mind-numbing "songs". King Tears Bat Trip's debut is one of the most thrilling and engaging jazz albums I've heard in a long, long time. --Tyler Chambers

10. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
I'm not one to pretend I know what I'm talking about when it comes to metalcore, or that I listen to it much, but there's something about Converge that's always managed to hold my interest. With a genre so built around speed, intensity, and brutality, it's easy for it to fall apart when any one part isn't working; be it vocals, guitars, drums, etc. Here Converge get it all right: fierce vocals, chaotic and snarling guitars, and pummeling drums with enough rhythm sense to avoid sounding grating and indecisive. Though it's also a matter of how they handle their brutality, and All We Love We Leave Behind sees the band balancing their signature relentlessness, with slower, equally engaging sludge jams to create the most complete metal experience of the year. --Tyler Chambers

9. DIIV - Oshin (Captured Tracks)
We all remember when "Doused" came out and how excited we were for the release of Oshin. For some it was a disappointment upon release, for me it was perfect. I would spend endless nights listening to it, dreaming of better days with no fears or worries. Their songs have hit me in my highest and lowest of points in life. For me, DIIV are one of those bands that I never want to let go of, no matter how much I fall in love with something more. --Alisa Rodriguez

8. Teen Suicide - I Will Be My Own Hell Because There Is a Devil Inside My Body (Self-Released)
Feel free to associate Teen Suicide with faux depressed Tumblr posts and chorus-quoting status updates, but the now-defunct Maryland act have standout songwriting and versatility on their side: The piano and string touches on "Give Me Back to the Sky" feel cut straight from the same cloth as Leaves Turn Inside You, while the bedroom-keyboard pop of "Cop Graveyard" conjures nostalgia from the days of The Unicorns. Once the sentimentality inches toward sappiness, a Waka Flocka Flame-referencing snippet will bar any hindrances with cynicism. --Carter Mullin

7. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
Andy Stott's change in trajectory and double-EP revamp last year was distinctly cavernous, and anyone aware of those may consider his full-length followup only a minor bent to the bleak dub techno they remember. Calling solely upon his former piano teacher for vocal contribution, Stott finds a beautiful way to obscure the divide between human and mechanical timbres. --Carter Mullin

6. bvdub - Don't Say You Know (Darla)
I'm surprised it took this long to create the kind of epic, monolithic sized ambient drum 'n bass tracks of Don't Say You Know, but thankfully it happened at all. bvdub has managed to stay prolific over the past couple of years with an array of techno and ambient albums, but Don't Say You Know feels important. Every track basks in gorgeous puddles of ethereal drones, slowly building and building, until being taken over by a charging drum 'n bass pattern lifting the mix to a skyward climax high above the clouds. It's deeply affecting music, with the same emotional tug as the grandest, prettiest post-rock, but also has the spirit and mystical qualities of ambient and new age. --Tyler Chambers

5. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky)
Lockett Pundt's project never seems to get as much recognition as it deserves. Spooky Action at a Distance is a huge step from the Ableton recordings of The Floodlight Collective. Here, he went straight into a studio and recorded each track all on his own. Pundt is not just a member of Deerhunter, but a musician who is capable of creating beautiful soundscapes effortlessly. --Alisa Rodriguez

4. Mac DeMarco - Rock and Roll Night Club (Captured Tracks)
Mac DeMarco deviated far from the innocence and charm of his former band Makeout Videotape with his solo debut. Those who thrive off nostalgia associated with Elvis would likely be offended by the sheer sleaze DeMarco douses the persona in. That has an appeal in and of itself, though, and paired with the fluidity provided by a radio station motif makes Rock and Roll Night Club brim with personality. --Carter Mullin

3. Death Grips - The Money Store (Epic)
Epic had a swell year, with at least one of its big three (The Idler Wheel, Pluto, The Money Store) topping someone's list. Future's auto-tuned croaks do sound pretty weird stumbling over those bloopy, arpeggiated trap beats, but The Money Store is easily the top contender for "Most Peculiar Major Label Decision Made" this year. With more convoluted production and a hungrier MC Ride, Death Grips have surpassed their excellent debut in every respect. --Carter Mullin

2. Merchandise - Children of Desire (Katorga Works)
I first got into Merchandise last year and the last song I drove home to on New Years Eve was "I Locked the Door". It's a 3-minute track with a hypnotic 80's drum beat and crooning vocals awash in an ocean of haze. I always hoped they would come back with another record and sure enough they did. Children of Desire is one of the finest releases and undoubtedly the most underrated of this year. There are only six tracks on this record, two of them being 11 minutes long each. The one that hits me harder than any other song I heard this year is called "Roser Park". I remember listening to it while driving back home from Madison with a friend and we could not get over how beautiful it was. Till this day, I still can't. --Alisa Rodriguez

1. Mac DeMarco - 2 (Captured Tracks)
Mac DeMarco is like the ideal friend who's funny, crazy, delightful, and always nice at the same time, down for anything but understands when enough is enough. I'm not sure how I came to such a conclusion, but the careless utopian backyard daydream that is 2 is enough to feel like I've got a good understanding of the man. Jangly, innocent, and off-color like a fuzzy mid-90s children's show (Pete & Pete I'm looking at you), stripped of any gimmicks and blissfully ignorant to an increasingly pessimistic world. 2 is a lot like a modern day version of R.E.M.'s Murmur in that the songs are incredibly simple and familiar, yet hold a sophisticated charm that nobody is tapping into at this level. It's subtle and irresistibly honest, a quiet force. --Tyler Chambers