American music lover and blogger John Brunner just sent me his great list of his personal best records of 2012. He is writing for a fantastic site called Mezzic
I nearly cheated this year and added Altos’ long awaited debut three-song album. The Milwaukee-based mini-orchestra, who formed back in 2004, released their first recorded music seven years after; and it was a gem. But to be chronologically strict, here are my favorites of 2012:
Field Report – Field Report
“I Am Not Waiting Anymore” is one of the singularly most powerful proclamations of seizing life’s reins for your well-being. I had the luck of seeing Conrad Plymouth, the precursor to Field Report, in Wisconsin. Chris Porterfield’s folk is immensely intimate to the soul, a testament to his time in DeYarmond Edison before that spoke split into Megafaun and Bon Iver.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis -The Heist
Prior to “Same Love” and “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore was selling venues out in America left and right. The independent rapper, down to using a U-haul for his business, exploded this year beyond Seattle’s city limits. He already won the hearts of his city, and America’s anthem for equality “Same Love” has enraptured the nation. Rightfully so, it’s a beautifully personal album through and through.
P.O.S – We Don’t Even Live Here…
Never Better came in 2009. By 2011, Stefon had started testing new waters with Gayngs, the collaboration Four Fists with Astronautalis, and a monster of a song foretelling dance-rap in “Get Down.” The song instantly convinced non-rap fans to set aside prejudices, and just go nuts. We Don’t Even Live Here… got stopped out of the gates, however, when Stefon disclosed he could not tour due to his kidneys being “garbage” and needing to be replaced. It was a pity, since WDELH is his best to date; even bringing out a better rap feature from Justin Vernon than Vernon did for Kanye West.
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Venues are being upgraded across North America as we speak. Rightfully so. While many people started to criticize the group towards the dawn of 2013, their masterful An Awesome Wave was undeniably one of the top debut albums from a band in recent memory.
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
“We are Cloud Nothings. There is no encore.” Dylan Baldi and Cloud Nothings gave the highest energy, most brutal concerts of the past year both at SXSW in Austin and at Point Ephémère in Paris. “Wasted Days” is a veritable rejection of traditional punk song structure nearly attaining 9 minutes in length, reaching what Green Day helplessly tries to cling to since their success with American Idiot. This album brought me back to high school going to grimed punk and ska shows in bowling alleys and roller rinks.
Phox – Friendship
Monica Martin was so terrified to sing that she broke down after the first concert, even after using a megaphone as a way to shield her stage fright. Yet when recordings emerged, Madison, Wisconsin became aflutter over a voice that, personally, sounded like it came from the City of Angels instead of a place with a restaurant serving 150 local beers and cheese curds. Alongside Matt Holmen and four fellow high school amigos, Friendship became one of the most erratically charming, earnestly gorgeous pieces of indie music in recent years. Obviously it had to come from Baraboo, home of the Circus World Museum.
Purity Ring – Shrines (pic byOliver Peel)
Passion Pit had a hell of a time topping “Sleepyhead.” You lay all your cards out, and then have to deliver. Purity Ring did the same, but succeeded to match the expectations with their debut Shrines after cryptically unveiling “Belispeak” and “Ungirthed.” The otherworldly “Saltkin” easily lands in the top three songs of the year.
Y La Bamba – Court the Storm
There are a lot of people who do folk, even female fronted folk or indie. Luz Elena Mendoza and Y La Bamba are an exception. Yes, “Court the Storm” features Neko Case, with whom they opened for in the past, and those transcendent melodies people seek out Grizzly Bear for. However, it’s the infusion of traditional Mexican folk that sets the Portland group apart from the majority of indie groups these days. Paul Cameron joins along with Ben Meyercord in having a much more prominent role than on Lupon. There wasn’t a song more impactful than “Bendito” this year, as it’s sound silently tanked the heart two-thirds of the way in to Luz’s ever strengthening voice.
Poliça – Give You the Ghost (pic by Oliver Peel)
Channy and Poliça were everywhere, especially in Europe with numerous trips to Paris. People were just fascinated by the dual drums and lithe singing slipping between percussion, bass and synths. Though it hearkens back to Digitata, another group under Ryan Olson’s creative umbrella, nothing could attain the hypnotic essence of Give You the Ghost.
Wiping Out Thousands – This Came First
Alaine had to check with her roommates on who this Taylor kid was while studying at McNally Smith College of Music. He sent a Facebook message without them ever knowing each other before, looking for a new singer keen on Nine Inch Nails and Portishead. What came next was a series of teasers, singles, an EP, and topping headliners YACHT at their own concert. Electroclash accurately describes This Came First, an amalgamation of electro (as on the funky “Hips”), overpoweringly balanced synths and screaming riffs (“Creation”), or addictive collisions of cohesive noise over spoken word poetry (“Below Tripping”). I truly hope they stick together for the long haul, even if Taylor’s not keen on Alaine’s fondness for Colin Meloy.