Albums of 2012 you haven't heard of but should definitely check out.
From post-punk to alternative hip-hop, from singer-songwriter to electronic jazz!
Another year and the musical wheels keep turning. Meanwhile, our sounds keep mixing and changing. Isn't it exciting?! I wanted to start this review by making something very clear. THIS IS ONLY MY OWN OPINION! However, I take music very seriously and absolutely love every second I spend listening to it, so I hope my opinion counts.
Read this, check out the music, and draw your own conclusions. I can't help to be an individual with his own musical taste. I did try to please people with other tastes and added things I would normally not listen to but can still appreciate for its creativity. So, without any further ado and in no specific order, I give you my favorite albums of 2012. Let's start with some post-punk!
There's just something about this album that makes me want to shake my body awkwardly to it all night long. It is bands like these that are carrying postpunk into the 21st century. Sure, they're not revolutionizing the genre, but it just sounds so good! Each song is packed with memorable bass lines that will stick in your head for a while, and the song "ABC City" sounds like it should be the soundtrack to a movie full of teenage angst and rebellion. If you are a fan of bands like Joy Division, Talking Heads, Television, or even Sonic Youth, then you will probably enjoy this album. Give these cool shoe-gazing dudes a try!
This is globalization right here: the British Council deciding to support a Colombian supergroup in order to explore the tropical sounds of the region. What is the result? An absolute marvel of an album that makes Cumbia sound modern and shine like never before. It will definitely resonate for people who are into latin beats. But if you're not into that, you will still appreciate it for the fusion they have made with other genres, like reggae, ska, and even hip-hop! In fact, one of the songs includes an 82 year old man rapping for the first time in his life. If that's not innovative, I don't know what is. Get up and celebrate latin culture with this beautiful album. ¡Viva Colombia!
Sufjan Stevens: Silver and Gold
What can I say about this man that hasn't been said already? The guy is a genius. He hops from one genre to another like it is no big deal. His debut album, "A Sun Came," sounds medieval, yet so fresh.
For his next project, he decided to make an electronic experimental album based on the animals of the chinese zodiac. The thing was a wild trip. After this he started his great 50 States Project, in which he would try to write an album for every state. So far he has only done Michigan and Illinois, but they were both masterpieces. Sufjan is able to mix American history with biblical themes and his own life experiences to make tales of epic proportions.
This is also the time in which he started playing his trademark banjo. If you are dubious about the banjo's awesomeness watch this video. If this doesn't move you, you are a heartless being:
The guy is a bottomless pool of emotion. After Illinois, Sufjan has been submerging deeper and deeper into electronic music, never losing his soul in the process, though. In 2010, he released the critically acclaimed Age of Adz, where he reinvents himself once again. The result is epic. One of the songs, Impossible Soul, is 25 minutes long!
Now, in 2012, he released Silver and Gold, a collection of Christmas songs like you have never heard before. His lyrics are so honest, which is not something we are used to when it comes to christmas songs. He doesn't sugarcoat things and shows the true face of Christmas, beautiful and crooked at the same time. The song that stands out the most is Christmas Unicorn, a twelve-minute long extended metaphor of a magical unicorn that symbolizes Christmas. Halfway into the song, however, it turns into a cover of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart. That's right, Sufjan decided to mix a Christmas song with one of the most tragic songs ever written. But, believe it or not, Sufjan made the lyrics sound...hopeful.
Only Sufjan, guys. Only Sufjan.
Death Grips: The Money Store
My one and only hip-hop review in this article. Death Grips have been pretty groundbreaking in the past years. To begin with, the beats and the electronic background just sound so fresh, like something that's never been done before in hip-hop. The lyrics stand out a lot as well. And I must warn you, they are extremely graphic, to the point of making you nauseous. This is all part of the personality that the vocalist is trying to portray. He is the real hip-hop gangster, coming straight from the streets, hating on the police with all his soul.
Death Grips really sounds like a step forward in hip-hop. They portray a very disturbing reality and make it sound slick at the same time. Do check them out!
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
This is another album that is hard to digest. It is a 54 minute long instrumental album made up of only 4 songs. When you have an album like that, things don't flow they we way you are used to. There is much more repetition, subtleties...However, don't shy away from this album just because it is not what you're used to. Embrace it! The thing is like a slow trance. Just close your eyes, and let every glitch, every chime, every sliding guitar make its way up your spine, into your brain, slowly massaging the wrinkles. You will forget what year it is. Only the music will exist. Now you're in the middle of a battle between good and evil. You don't root for either one; you're just a neutral observer. And you like what you see.
The Tallest Man On Earth: There's No Leaving Now
Kristian Matsson is like a reincarnation of Dylan, born in Sweden and ready to rock the new century. He is just one slick guy who only needs a guitar and his voice to evoke emotions that other bands can't evoke. Others have tried and failed, but he pulls it off thanks to his outstanding guitar skills, his beautiful raspy voice and his cryptic lyrics. If you haven't heard about him yet, I feel a little sorry for you. Let me make your day, though. This next video made me fall in love with Kristian.
For his new LP, Kristian did not drift very far away from his classic success formula. The biggest difference between this album and the rest is definitely the instrumentation. It contains some piano, bass and drums. Kristian has described it as a very brittle sound, one which could fall apart at any time. His voice and guitar definitely have the main role, and that's the way it should be.
Deerhoof: Breakup Song
Deerhoof started out as a 90s noise rock band. However, they have changed a bit throughout every album. This last LP is very beat-driven, something you can dance to easily. As always, they sound very childish, like kid's music for adults. The vocalist sounds like an anime little girl and sometimes the music will just make you giggle. This album would be the perfect thing to listen to while playing in a bouncy castle. Hey! Let that inner child come out! Check this album out, as well as the video they released to go with it.
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Then the Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Fiona Apple is by far my favorite female singer-songwriter. Say goodbye to any Adele or Lana del Rey kind of crap. Fiona kicks all of their asses. Her lyrics are so honest, painful and quirky, singing about werewolves and the wavelengths of colors. She is an open book to her listeners, revealing her weaknesses and her inner beauty.
She has a powerful voice, which is surprising, because she is the skinniest girl you will ever see. And to make it even better, she plays the piano like a goddess, hinting at jazz at certain times but always keeping it weird, painfully honest and original. Fiona is the real deal, no sugarcoating. I also suggest listening to her previous works. Here is the Idler Wheel's first single.
Portico Quartet: Self-titled
Portico Quartet sound so fresh! They are an instrumental jazz band with an electronic influence. In their third album, they keep doing their thing, mixing great saxophone melodies with beats and loops. I highly recommend the song Ruins.
Alt-J(â): An Awesome Wave
I saved the best for last, guys. This band is exciting. They don't sound like anything I have heard before. The lead guitarist sometimes taps his guitar with a piece of metal, and the lyrics are mindblowing...but the thing I like the most about An Awesome Wave is how they used vocal harmonies. I hadn't been this excited about harmonizing since I discovered Fleet Foxes. Musically, it sounds so interesting. It's a weird mix between bizarre and classy. The feelings and mood they seem to evoke are universal, enticing all people groups and cultures around the world. Remember this band and stay alert for any upcoming albums. I leave you with one of my favorite songs from this LP. It has been a pleasure to review the music of this year. Lets hope the future only holds more rich sounds for our everhungry ears.