2012 – the year of the Olympics, the apocalypse, the year that saw a song in Korean become the most watched video on YouTube and a British X Factor runner-up become the biggest band since the Beatles. Here are my personal highlights of 2012 in music followed by an extended playlist of the best and the rest.
2:54 – Scarlet
My favourite breakthrough band of the year, a melancholy girl-shoegaze band who sound like they listened to The Cure’s darker tracks, bought some awesome guitars/amps/pedals and rocked out hard and slow to create their debut self-titled album. Scarlet is my personal favourite.
Grimes – Oblivion
Claire Boucher’s striking take on electronic music sounded amateurish to me at first but soon grew on me because of its originality. I later found out she produces her tracks in lightning speed, getting everything down before she forgets it, and without giving it chance to be over-thought or over-produced. She’s also know to use fasting and amphetamines to reach new levels of lucidity and workrate. She probably needs to chill a little but these tunes are good. The video for this track is also pretty cool.
Whirr – Junebouvier
This northern California sextet make richly distorted, big guitar tracks with sweet melodies. Something that’s quite common these days, though Whirr’s take on it is original, listenable and rock-out-to-able.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Only In My Dreams
Ariel Pink’s eccentric 70s-throwback sound has a few interesting, juxtaposed qualities – melodic, bright yet dark and grubby, almost perverse, as heard on 2010’s Before Today. His most recent offering has this bright little tune on which sums him up perfectly.
Another day, another band defying search engine optimisation best practice with a stupid name made up of characters, a la †‡†, Gr†ll Gr†ll, ℑ⊇◊⊆ℜ and GL▲SS †33†H.
But we all gave ∆ (now known as alt-J after the keyboard shortcut for the Greek letter Delta, try it, it’s fun! ∆∆∆∆∆!!) a chance after serious backing from their label drowned is un marketing for their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’. It transpired to contain some really well-produced tracks reminiscent of Jose Gonzalez with heavy trip-hop and dub influences and has become one of the most loved albums of 2012. It has since won the Mercury Music Prize and BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year.
Grizzly Bear – Yet Again
Having always been a sucker for a bit of Grizzly I can only say I’m glad they’re hitting us with more of the same experimental psychedelic rock. This is one of their catchiest tunes with characteristic warm guitars, jazzy drums and smooth, echo-laden vocals but the album has many more treats if you’re that way inclined.
Tame Impala – Elephant
Taking some interesting cues from late-Beatles (Helter Skelter, Revolution) as well as garage rock I really love the crunchy guitars, curveball time signatures and dynamics of this track.
M.I.A. – Bad Girls
OK, so not the most amazing track M.I.A. has done but the video is quite remarkable and she is a pretty awesome artist. Somehow she’s entered the Minaj/Gaga/Azelia-ruled mainstream whilst being truly challenging and multi-dimensional. If more mainstream artists were like her the world would be a better place.
Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
You may be sick of hearing this track but there’s little debate that this is a great song full of subtle instrumentation, emotive vocals and a pure, homemade feel to it that’s very seductive. A lot of people who bought the album were disappointed with Gotye’s other tunes and in reality Wally’s unlikely to come up with something this good (or successful) ever again. But he’s probably not too bothered about that, he’ll be too busy watching YouTube parodies of himself, and coining mad bank through publishing 🙂 Again, a great video which has racked up well over a third of a billion views!
Extended Best of 2012 Playlist