Jun 26, 2013

2012 Year In Review Part II: The EPs, The Reissues/Comps, The Live

As we continue on with the look back at 2012, I've decided to do things slightly different for this portion this time. Instead of just breaking it into EPs and other non-album items, I've pulled out a third category to cover my favorite live releases of the past year. Without further ado...

The Top Ten EPs of 2012:

1. Dawn Richard - Armor On (Our Dawn)
Dawn Richard was already on my radar thanks to her work on the still criminally underrated Diddy Dirty Money record, Last Train To Paris. But in the intervening years she's really revealed herself as her own unique voice in the R&B world. This EP, if you can call something 45 minutes long an EP, was the introduction to her Goldenheart trilogy, but to date I think it's her most cohesive statement. Just full of her own sound that is truly unique and worlds away from what the Rihanna's of the world are doing now.

2. Azelia Banks - 1991 (Interscope)
Because we really needed a hip house resurgence, seriously. But whatever the genre tag you wanna give her, Azelia is a true talent to watch out for. "212", justifiably, got the most buzz, but each of the four tracks on here is a winner. I can't wait to hear her full-length.

3. Katy B - Danger EP (Columbia)
Her debut album snuck up on me in the end, I found it to be a lot more engrossing and varied than I had initially thought. Even more surprising was the way this EP snuck out into the world and unleashed "Aaliyah" on an unsuspecting public. Easily her best song yet and proof that she's only getting started. The other three songs are interesting diversions on her sound, but "Aaliyah" on its own was enough to catapult this EP to my top 5.

4. Dum Dum Girls - End of Daze (Sub Pop)
These girls aren't only perfecting their fuzzy take on girl-pop, but they're pretty much perfecting the art of the EP. Their 2011 EP topped my list that year and this one is nearly as good. Three songs were, perfectly great, outtakes from Only In Dreams, but it is the Strawberry Switchblade cover that won me over.

5. Inverloch - Dusk/Subside (Relapse)
Or the newest project from Paul and Matthew from the legendary Disembowelment, actually Inverloch started out as a vehicle to just cover Disembowelment songs. Thankfully they kept on and released their own material, even if it amounts to only a short EP thus far. They've got their own, surprisingly varied take on doom, but it still ties into the blunt force trauma of the parent band. I can't wait for a full-length.

6. Blues Pills - Bliss (Crusher)
This is one of the band's I discovered by trawling through all of those stoner rock blogs out there, though Blues Pills rocks more of a 70s hard rock sound than anything else. It's a great one though and I think they've got big things ahead of them.

7. Todd Terje - It's the Arps (Smalltown Supersound)
"Inspector Norse" made quite a stir on the internet, but I found the whole EP to be quite a thrill. It's more of that space-disco kind of stuff that guys like Prins Thomas and Lindstrom do so well, but with a more grounded take.

8. Melvins - The Bulls and The Bees (Scion A/V)

People want to complain about Scion bringing their commercial intents to metal, but I think they're actually pretty subtle and doing a lot of good for young bands. Not that the Melvins are remotely any sort of "young" anything, but its great to get a free EP from them, no matter the source. Even better is how damn good this is. They've been on one hell of a streak since the merge with Big Business and this is another five great tracks.

9. Craft Spells - Gallery (Captured Tracks)
Another result of my ongoing love affair with the Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, Craft Spells have a wonderfully retro dream-pop sound that proves even more effective in the limited doses of the EP format.

10. Burial - Kindred EP (Hyperdub)
It took me a long time to come around on this guy and, honestly, I think I prefer his material from the last few years over the super hyped early stuff. This EP in particular finally helped me realize how great he was, I love the unsettled feeling that creeps up my spine while listening.

The Top Ten Reissues/Compilations of 2012:
1. Can - The Lost Tapes (Spoon)
Of course a great band like this is going to have a great pile of studio scraps. Essential listening.

2. Blur - Blur 21 (Food/Virgin/Parlophone)
Nothing new, naturally, but a gorgeous package and a great way to get everything wrapped up at once.

3. The Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness [Deluxe Reissue] (EMI)
Another gorgeous package, this time appending a lot more studio scraps to one of my all-time favorite albums.

4. Witch - We Intend To Cause Havoc! (Now Again)
A killer four-disc retrospective of an African zam-rock band that deserves to be worldwide huge. This makes for amazing listening.

5. My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything/Loveless/EPs 1988-1991 (Sony)
Cheating a bit here, but 2012 finally saw the release of the long-rumored reissued MBV albums and EPs collection. Great to have cleaned up copies of the two albums, but even better to have all the EPs collected for those of us that missed out on 'em the first time.

6. Causa Sui - Pewt'r Sessions 1-2 (El Paraiso)
7. feedtime. - The Aberrant Years (Sub Pop)
8. Kylesa - From the Vaults, Vol. 1 (Season of Mist)
9. Various Artists - Country Funk 1969-1975 (Light in the Attic)
10. Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band - One of My Kind (Team Love)

The Top Five Live Releases of 2012:
1. Swans - We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head (Young God)
2. Phish - Chicago '94 (JEMP)
3. Sonic Youth - Smart Bar: Chicago 1985 (Goofin')
4. Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day (Atlantic/Swan Song)
5. Blur - Parklive (EMI/Parlophone)

Jun 25, 2013

2012 Year In Review Part I: The Introduction

Wow. I was giving myself grief for being so far behind with my 2011 wrap-up that I waited all the way until January 10th to start it. Well, look now and weep, oh me of January 2012. I didn't get around to starting my 2012 warp-up until damn near July! The usual excuses start in - work, kid, life, blah blah blah.

For me personally, 2012 was a pretty hectic year, but an enjoyable one. Hectic because we spent the latter part of the year house hunting and trying and re-trying to sell our old one. It all paid off in the end though, we were able to find a wonderful new house (though we didn't close on it and move in until January, so that one will have to wait for my 2013 wrap-up sometime in... oh, November of 2014). Anyway, work continued to be mostly fulfilling, if at times frustrating. Our firm interviewed for, and won, a rather significant renovation at my alma mater for which I'm the project manager. It's a feather in my cap, but also a maddening process at times. Working with higher education clients is a whole new ball game. But mostly 2012 was about watching our son grow and continue to amaze us at every turn. There's a lot of things I can say here about how wonderful being a father has been, but I'll save that for now. Suffice it to say, I didn't really realize how much love I was capable of having for a human being.

 Musically, well, 2013 was much like any other year. It seemed disappointing at stretches, but seemed to be overflowing with riches at others. It all depended on how much effort I was taking to hear new things. It's hard to pinpoint any easy, overarching trends in my 2012 listening, it seemed like I spent most of the year just wolfing down new stuff. I feel like I was just barely trying to keep my head above water with all of the interesting looking new releases pouring over me (a trend that, much as I may have hoped for otherwise, doesn't seem to have slowed down in 2013 as much as I'd like). I continued to really delve into metal, making lots of side-trips into the progressive end of things. I dug even deeper into stoner metal, a sub-genre that really seems to know how to use the internet to its advantage, with tons of blogs and tumblrs plowing through the detritus and pointing out the gems. I drifted even further away from hip-hop at the start of the year, but when I made the (much. much, much) belated realization that I'd be better off troweling the mixtape circuit for good, new stuff than waiting for pop radio to deliver me something worthwhile, I found a lot to enjoy.

A lot of my favorite artists offered up new albums to adore and cherish - Baroness, Converge, Neil Young, El-P, Neurosis and Pig Destroyer come immediately to mind. A few artists I'd mostly given up on came back to surprise me in a big way, I'm mostly looking at Fiona Apple, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Spiritualized here. Most notably, though, were the bands that came out of nowhere to really part my hair. Before 2012 began I couldn't have told you a thing about Goat, Author & Punisher, Horseback, or Aluk Todolo. But by December, I'd really spent a lot of time with each of them. I love it when that happens, even after all these years.

Anyway, the next several posts will help to (finally!) clear things out from 2012. But, before all that, a quick look back:  

Albums of the Year:
2003: Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
2004: Modest Mouse - Good News for People who Love Bad News
2005: Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
2006: Mastodon - Blood Mountain
2007: Battles - Mirrored
2008: Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
2009: The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
2010: Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
2011: Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

 Songs of the Year:
2003: "Hey Ya" - Outkast
2004: "Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand
2005: "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
2006: "When You Were Young" - The Killers
2007: "Stronger" - Kanye West
2008: "Time To Pretend" - MGMT
2009: "My Girls" - Animal Collective
2010: "Fuck You" - Cee-Lo Green
2011: "Super Bass" - Nicki Minaj