Here’s a mix of some of my favorite 2012 songs. A lot of overlap with my top album list, obviously, but there’s some other things too.
Also I’ll note, I’m pretty sure Big Boi’s album would have made my list and near the top, it’s awesome, but it didn’t come out in time. Artists, release your albums before mid-December, thanks.
Anyway, year over, now it’s 2013.
biting my lip as confidence is speaking to me
Tramp is the album that I listened to the most all year long, the album I kept turning back to, woke up with it in my head, wanted to hear it again and again. Sharon Van Etten has expanded her palette a bit, using more electric guitar and intensity, but still maintaining her beautiful hypnotic melodies.
The songs hit on a lot of emotion, in a very conversational lyric tone–that’s her style–but instead of feeling extremely personal, that conversation invites you into the songs and moments. As great as her voice is, I think this is her talent. Her words have some wordplay and cleverness, so it’s not just pure emoting, but still many times it sounds as if she’s just talking to herself. But instead of feeling like eavesdropping on someone, it feels real, a mirror, a landscape. The conversation goes all over from frustration to humor and sadness to confusion and clarity, and often all in the same song.
I lived with this album for most of the year and it impressed me more than any other in 2012.
Sharon Van Etten “We Are Fine”
Sharon Van Etten “Leonard”
i used up all my affection
Spiritualized just continues dropping albums full of blues, feedback, gospel, drugs, love, pain, intensity, the sun, repetition, catharsis. None of these things are new, this their seventh album. This is pure Spiritualized, striking and affecting, a brilliant mix of simple parts making something more. This is what they do.
(This is, though, the worst album cover I’ve ever seen.)
Spiritualized “Get What You Deserve”
Spiritualized “Little Girl”
scaredy rabbits make good paper ghosts
In reading through the lyrics of The Haunted Man in the liner notes, I noticed that there are a lot of exclamation points. “Thank god I’m alive!” “Let the perfume drip, let it rise!” “I’m in bloom! Oh yeah!” “Baby throw your head back! Let your hair down!” “And we’re only but a second away!” “And the headiness howls, rise and rise!” In a way, this sums up the album.
Some of Khan’s earlier records (also amazing) are more dreamy, goth, fanciful than this one. The Haunted Man feels more real and earthy: nature lurks in most of the songs, sex in others, little bits of the haunted past here and there, the beats pulse and thrive, and above all, it feels alive. That’s her exclamation here, song after song. This is what it feels like to be alive.
The title implies some sort of haunted feeling, the album cover makes that explicit: the weight of someone else on your shoulders. But instead of feeling the burden, it makes her exclaim.
Bat For Lahes “All Your Gold”
Bat For Lashes “A Wall”
intractable and bad for your health
This, I believe, is essentially a Trembling Bells record–they wrote and performed almost everything, but the addition of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy as a singer on the songs is quite cool. Trembling Bells’ singer is like the opposite of Billy–soaring British female vocals mix with Billy’s earthy Americana voice. And together, they bring an edge to their swirling mad folk sound to these songs about beauty and destruction and destructive beauty and beautiful destruction.
Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy – Every Time I Close My Eyes (We’re Back There)
Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy “I Can Tell You’re Leaving”
million particles born today
David Byrne & St. Vincent made the nerdiest album of the year, which if you know anything of Byrne and Annie Clark is hardly a surprise. They created an idea first–horns!–and built off that, together. From what I’ve read, they traded lyrics back and forth too, finishing and adding lines, a true partnership. That said, a lot of the words do sound Byrne-esque, in how they effortlessly go from minutiae (watching TV, valentines, dinner party) to bigger ideas (“the forest awakes,” “outside space and time,” etc.).
There are a few songs on here which sound very much like their respective solo work, but when they do songs like “Why” or “Lazarus” where they go back and forth, it’s as good as anything they’ve done alone. They actually don’t “duet” much, which allows both their talents through. The ideas here are plentiful and thoughtful, which is exactly how you could describe David Byrne and St. Vincent individually.
Actually these are the toughest albums to write coherently about; this is just a bunch of ramble ideas I’ve had while listening. But albums like Love This Giant have a mystery to them, something that will keep revealing itself over time.
David Byrne & St. Vincent “Optimist”
David Byrne & St. Vincent “Lazarus”
if you miss my interpretations
I honestly know almost nothing about Bear (The Ghost). I happened on their album at some point though, and couldn’t get it out of my head. It kept climbing up my list, as I liked it more with every listen.
Their warm sound led to numerous plays–no required constant plays–as it fits all sorts of situations: both being played loud and soft, as background music or being trapped with it on a drive, during moments of contemplation or dancing around.
Since these are just 5 songs, all fairly lengthy, I could only share one mp3 here due to WordPress’ file size limits. And I would ask everyone to hear it all instead of just a song. Bear (The Ghost) also does not appear to be on Spotify or anything like that. However, you can listen to their album on their website here:
And I absolutely encourage everyone to do so. Bear (The Ghost) is my favorite new band that I found in 2012.
Ah I wanted to write a bit more about Hello Seahorse! But it’s late and I haven’t the time and I’ve already fallen off my countdown schedule so I’ll be quick. And besides, Hello Seahorse! is from Mexico, and they sing entirely in Spanish so I honestly have no idea what the songs are about anyway. These could be horrible lyrics for all I know. (Don’t ruin the mystery for me if you know Spanish, thanks.)
But still, they get some fun drama out of their songs, and almost always get a good sense of movement in their music. The singer has a pretty powerful voice, which always adds to their momentum. The songs have drive, and even without knowing what they’re talking about, that much is evident.
Hello Seahorse! was one of the highlights for me at Coachella this year and this album, which came out 6 months later, did nothing to diminish that.
Hello Seahorse! “La Flotadera”
Hello Seahorse! “Para Mí”
white wind to shatter the scenery again
Sexy dark grooves, School Of Seven Bells-style
School Of Seven Bells “White Wind”
School Of Seven Bells “Low Times”