Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012!

Because its what you do when you have a blog... Oh, and because it's fun... I've made a list of my favourites from 2012!

It turned out to be a great year for music with lots of diverse and interesting shit. No more chill-wave band after fucking boring chill-wave band. Now we have lute-players! Angry black men! White men who wish they were black men! Black men who are high all the time! Hot weirdo-pop girls! People who can play instruments! (!!!!!!!!!) and other shit!

I have to confess that I've been playing catch up the past few months. That Grimes album came out at the beginning of 2012 and I became so infatuated with her that I stopped listening to (or thinking about) anything else. It got to the point where I was crying every night, wishing I was in Montreal, making music and other things with her. And when I realised that this could never be, I stood on the ledge of my Mom's 41st floor apartment, about to end it all. Just as I was about to jump, Jesus whispered into my ear: "Chill the fuck out, dude." And I climbed back into my Mom's apartment and got on a flight back to Cambridge, listening to old Thee Oh Sees albums to sober up....

Anyway, here are the ground rules: TOTAL CHAOS

Well... actually just a little chaos. I don't do albums or songs, I just list artists I liked this year and take it from there. 

Purity Ring

So Purity Ring is a Canadian band (Canada was clearly the place to be this year). They make what I feel to be the most timely music at the moment. There is something very "now" about it. Its all bleepy-bloopy, mind-numbingly catchy, sorta weird, dark, creepy, beautiful, cutesy... and really goddamn fun. Why that set of properties is very "now" I have no idea. But it feels right. Anyway, I really loved their debut album that came out this year. Also, they gave a fantastic performance at P4K fest this year. And I love this fan music video that takes clips from the amazing Swedish rape and revenge film "Thriller: A Cruel Film". 

How To Dress Well

I've been a huge HTDW fan since his 2010 debut album for a number of reasons. He was one of the first people to start to use R&B stuff in experimental indie music and, unlike other PBR&B artists, he's always stayed experimental and didn't just start doing R. Kelly covers. His voice is fantastic on the new album and he's played around with more emotion than before. And the hooks are stellar. He's also a philosophy PhD candidate in Chicago, studying the problem of nihilism in 19th century German philosophy. Huge respect for that. When I was living back in Chicago, he used to come into New-Wave cafe with a mountain of Hegel, dancing along to Wiz Khalifa after picking up his coffee. 

Death Grips

Its been far too long since I listened to a new band and thought: "What the FUCK is this!!!" Yeah, I still have no idea what the fuck kind of music Death Grips is. There isn't anything that sounds quite like it. Its vicious, super angry, has a wonderful sort of seedy, dirty vibe. Its super catchy and almost danceable, but its all just an angry, abrasive mess at the same time. Astounding. Also, the drummer for the band is Zack Hill from the amazing noise-rock band Hella. 

Angel Olsen

I discovered Angel Olsen a few years ago through a newly opened coffee shop in Logan Square, Chicago. After listening to her stuff on myspace (which she later had some sarcastic remarks about, as some of you will know), I completely fell in love with her voice and songwriting. At a time when music has become so techy and always looking for the "next new thing", its SO refreshing to hear Angel crooning in her classic sort of way. This is the kind of music that keeps me up until 4am, crying at how beautiful it is.

Guardian Alien

Shout out to Justin (who's solo stuff just might be on the 2013 list) for turning me onto this wonderful band. This was another "what the fuck" moment. Justin invited me to see them at the Hideout in Chicago over the summer and it was hands-down the best show I saw all year. Their debut album is basically one 45 minute song of pure psychedelic prowess. The drummer (who was in the incredible Black Metal band, Liturgy) is out of his mind, the guitars are so spacey and out there and the singer does a great job of keeping you in a kind of centred, trance-like state throughout the whole thing. It made my ears cry tears of joy. Oh, and Angel Olsen turned up at the show too, so don't just take it from Justin and I.

Jozef Van Wissem (and Jim Jarmusch)

Jozef Van Wissem is a wandering Dutch lute player with a kind of punk aesthetic. The idea he has is to take a way of life that basically doesn't exist anymore --- the wandering, lute playing bard --- and confront Western culture with its past, taking us out of our comfort zones and into an old, forgotten world. Take this idea and combine it with, famous indie-movie director, Jim Jarmusch's noise-guitar and you have one of the coolest things to come out of 2012. To be frank, I love Jarmusch and noise guitar, but if you can get a hold of Wissem's solo stuff --- just the lute playing --- it is so exasperatingly beautiful. 


Superstorms is a new drone/noise project that released its debut self-titled album this year. Yes, it is so little known that there are no youtube links. Hence, the bandcamp link above. This was definitely the best drone album of the year. It's incredibly beautiful. Surprisingly good hang-over listen. It sounds like decay, metal crushing together, love, God and clouds. Who wouldn't want to listen to that! 

Black Hippy #1: Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar has been on the top of a number of "best of" lists this year. Deservedly, in my view. He's part of LA's "Black Hippy Collective" which features a number of rappers on this list. Anyway, its smooth, clever, hilarious and really fucking fun. 

Black Hippy Bonus: Ab-Soul

I get a real kick out of this song.

Julia Holter

Oh my god I love Julia Holter! This stuff is seriously well composed, wonderfully melodic, full of lush textures and intrigue and she has a wonderful voice. Here full debut album this year was certainly one of my top played albums. Like Angel Olsen, this is crying until 4am music.

Willis Earl Beal

Willis Earl Beal is an outsider artist from Chicago. He's got one serious voice and some creative songwriting to boot. From what I've heard, he got his start singing to his Grandmother over the telephone or something like that. Imagine if Daniel Johnston was a) black, b) had soul and c) wanted to be Tom Waits and d) was even a bit more experimental and risk-taking. It's perfect. He gave a heart-wrenching performance at P4K fest this year:

Black Hippy #2: Schoolboy Q

Best party album of the year. Hands-down. Enough said.

Clams Casino

The song above is what it sounds like in my head. And that's not an accident. I actually decided after listening to this song to play the song in my head over and over again until it stuck there. Now I can't get it out, which is exactly what I wanted. Yes, as a result I am smarter, more open-minded about everything and totally chilled out. All of Clams' new stuff this year was amazing, as it was last year as well. Best producer on earth.

Molly Nilsson

Molly Nilsson is a Swedish musician based in Berlin making naive pop-music in a style similar to John Maus (though, dare I say, I think she's a bit better than John Maus). She's on this list because her new album "History" is fantastic and because I found out about her generally this year. Things haven't been the same since. Thank you Molly Nilsson.


Sorry Charles, I really loved Chromatics new album. I think its because my Dad used to drive me around in the car listening to a lot of 70's classic rock and Chromatics kinda pulls at the heartstrings of my half-remembered nostalgia or something. And I think the songwriting is really great and I like that the singer sounds like she doesn't care all that much. Great shit.


I'm not even going here. Hands-down, artist of 2012!

Yeah, I've left out a ton of shit, but I'm tried now and have to wake up earlier to go to Edinburgh in the morning. Hope you liked that! Happy new year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mister Lies

Mister lies is a young producer/philosophy student based in Chicago. This stuff is really smooth and beautiful. Exceedingly chill and elegant. Very very inspired by UK dubstep (the good kind of Dubstep, like Burial, et al). He's picked some catchy enough, just melancholic enough samples, which make for a chilled out, fun and slightly sad vibing out experience. This is really great.


Savages are a fucking amazing new band from London. It's really brutal post-punk. A bit of Joy Division, a bit of psycho-billy and a lot of driving, harsh guitar. They play with a lot of fire too, which is unusual for such a young band. London has so much amazing music coming out of it (always has). It's great to see the scene rocking out more recently in addition to all those electronic artists...

Peaking Lights - Lucifer

Peaking Lights recently came out with this gem of an album. You can listen to the entire thing above. It's a little different from their previous album --- more head-bobby, more trippy, more down-tempo. You feel like your in the clouds a lot. Tasteful simple song-writing. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fear of Men

Fear of Men is a great London/Brighton band trading on a combination of freak-folk, 60's bubble-gum pop and lots of laid-back, yet emotional, vibes. I detect a hint of 90's nostalgia too. Actually, their "Ritual Confession" below reminds me a little of the Cranberries. In any case, it's all really well executed and great to vibe out to.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sand Circles

Sweden's Sand Circles is a really brilliant ambient/electronic project that's just come out with a new album called "Motor City". If you like loopy, new-agey stuff like Blondes and perhaps Oneohtrix Point Never, but wish it was all a little more hazy, blurry and mysterious, then Sand Circles is it. Just catchy and dancey enough, yet contemplative and damaged. Good shit.

And here's an oldie but a goodie....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Molly Nilsson

Molly Nilsson is a Swedish composer based in Berlin who has worked with John Maus and makes a similar kind of naive pop music using simple synths and clever, dramatic lyrics. She recently released an album called "History" and a few of those tracks are below. I, personally, can't stop listening to an older track of her's called "Truth", posted above. This is fun, occasionally goofy, pop music that is, at it's heart, subverting the, usually hard to embrace, nature of experimental music. Excellent stuff.

Also, she actually wrote the standout track on John Maus' new album "Hey Moon".