2012 is upon us, so here are a few albums to look out for in the coming year. Our RPM selection at WLFM might not be that great, but there’s plenty of awesome music heading our way soon- so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled!
1. Grouper – Violet Replacement
Liz Harris released two spectacular records last year: A I A Dream Loss and A I A Alien Observer, both of which found places in many a year-end list. And if Grouper hadn’t released much since 2008’s Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, she appears to be taking this as a cue to put out as much as possible this year. Last month we god her collaboration with Ilyas Ahmed, and coming soon is ‘Foreign Body’- an album she’s working on with Seattle’s Tiny Vipers. And although I’m definitely looking forward to those, I’m most interested in Violet Replacement, an album she’s just about to start touring in Europe. Made up of tape samples and field recordings, it should be released within the next few months. It’s hard to know what to expect, but it sounds like it’ll be a fresh sound for Harris, who has perfected the recording of reverb drenched guitars paired with reverb drenched vocals, so I’m definitely interested to see how it turns out.
2. Zammuto – Zammuto
Nick Zammuto, one half of the Books, started his own band last year, and they’re set to release their debut album on April 3rd. Earlier this month they put out an EP- Idiom Wind, most of which sounds a lot like the Books’ latest effort The Way Out without the ‘found sound’ samples that the Books are known for. Listening to it, it’s hard to classify it as ‘collage music’ (arguably the only satisfactory genre to put the Books into) but it’s difficult to place it anywhere else. Clattering beats and bouncing synths meet sweeping strings and all sorts of other sounds- perhaps most importantly though, Nick seems to be using this album as an opportunity to sing more- something we heard bits of on The Way Out. Definitely an album to get excited about, listen to Idiom Wind below.
3. The Avalanches – Untitled (On a Saturday’ / ‘Friday Night Fever’)
We’ve been waiting for this one for about ten years now- ever since The Avalanches released the brilliant and bizarre Since I Left You. Perhaps this album is the Chinese Democracy of the indie world, but it really does look as if it might be released this year. They’re apparently working with Jennifer Herrema of RTX on a song called ‘The Stepkids’, and have made various tweets about the new album in recent months (even hinting at the album title, in parentheses above!). Is this any more meaningful than their mysterious blog and myspace posts that assured us that the album would be out in both 2008 and 2010? Probably not, but we can keep our hopes up (and subsequently blame the band for our disappointment when they fail to come through).
A little late, but sort of relevant nonetheless; here are my favorite tracks of the past year- complete with comments!
Make sure to tune in to WLFM on Monday night from 10pm-12am to hear these tunes and more- plus all sorts of witty commentary.
10.Lana Del Rey – Video Games
Sneaking into my top ten tracks of the year is Lana Del Ray- who unfortunately has not come close to writing anything as good as this single since its release (although her forthcoming debut album could prove me wrong). Once described to me as ‘Rebecca Black with a harp’, Del Ray is reaching out to the same indie-pop crossover market that Florence and the Machine were a few years ago- traditionally stunning vocals over the piano-based ‘organic’ pop music that’s becoming all too common. Here, however, it works- combining its pop sensibilities with solid songwriting.
9.The-Dream – F*** My Brains Out
Maybe it’s just refreshing to listen to more straightforward songs about sex and drugs (and Frank Ocean’s Novacane narrowly missed out on this list), but the quality of the influx of R&B in ‘top 200’ music this year has been impressive to say the least. However, it probably still holds true that ‘F*** My Brains Out’ is successful just because of how entertaining it is. (Note: songs starts at 4:32, after the not-quite-as-good ‘Body Work’)
There isn’t much left to say about Yuck- they wear their influences on their sleeves, but whether they’re emulating Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, or whoever else- they do it well. Get Away sounds exactly like it should: a mid-90s chart-topper- and hell, they even have a female bassist to boot.
7. Gruff Rhys – If We Were Words We Would Rhyme
Super Furry Animals have been on an indefinite hiatus for about a year now, which gave Gruff the time to put out another wonderful upbeat solo LP- Hotel Shampoo. Perhaps there are stronger tracks on it than this one, but as far as light-hearted love songs go, this is as good as it gets.
6. Azealia Banks – 212
Banks has been building quite the reputation recently, largely due to her potty-mouthed lyrics paired with her innocent image. She’s also apparently guilty of trying to claim this beat as being her own (understandable, as it’s an insanely good track), and of spatting with Kreayshawn. But it’s not like it matters- 212 is brilliant from start to finish. Basically everything that Nicki Menaj does, only a whole lot better, Azealia’s rapid-fire rapping bounces all over the place, and her singing is up there with the best of her contemporaries.
5. James Blake – I Never Learnt to Share
It took me a while to warm to James Blake, probably because of the initial descriptions of sappy autotuned R&B mixed with dubstep. But really, he’s something else altogether- much closer musically to the two-step UK garage influenced dubstep of Burial and Four Tet, and his vocals are twisted and warped to create interesting textures rather than keep him in tune- traits that this song display seamlessly. And along with the aforementioned bands, Blake manages to be one of those up-and-coming artists who is actually pushing the boundaries of various genres- something you’d hope we’d see more of in new music.
4. Radiohead – Give Up The Ghost
The King of Limbs was released online last year during WLFM’s annual trip to Bjorklunden. And while our general opinion at the time of our first listen (as a group) went something like- “well, this sure isn’t In Rainbows”- I stuck it on my mp3 player and went for a walk to give it another shot. And there, on the icy shores of Lake Michigan (as cliché as it may sound), it really sunk in for me- the music seemed to fit right in with the frozen landscape. It might not be their best album, but this track in particular conveys more emotion than perhaps anything they’ve done prior.
3. Destroyer – Suicide Demo For Kara Walker
The 1980s has been making a pretty big comeback in the indie world over the past few years, and while a lot of it has been dreadful (see: Bon Iver does Phil Collins) Dan Bejar of Destroyer has managed to make it work. The reverb drenched saxophones mesh perfectly with the atmospheric pads that build up the songs, and by toning down his ‘unique’ vocal affectation Bejar has managed to put out some of the best music of his career. This song in particular has its words written by the artist Kara Walker (as per the title), and though they seem slightly out of place, this only furthers the sense of disconnection the song generates.
2. Bill Callahan – Riding For the Feeling
“In conclusion, leaving is easy when you’ve got some place you need to be” Bill Callahan has an uncanny ability to write seemingly simple lyrics that hit hard. Furthermore, he’s been doing it for about twenty years now and although his music has become decidedly less lo-fi, it’s only gotten better. A few years ago he released Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, adding all sorts of 70s sounding strings to his Americana-styled music with the result being one of the best albums released that year. But now, stripping those strings away again, it’s evident that even without their addition he’s added more depth and feeling to his songs than ever before.
1. Wilco – One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)
Wilco may have suffered from a sharp decline in quality over the past ten years, and at face value a twelve minute closing track sounds like a disastrous idea. But somehow it works- successfully repetitive in the way that when listening, you just don’t want it to come to an end. And maybe I’m just a sucker for laid back folk songs about overbearing fathers, or maybe it’s that I have a soft spot for Sunday mornings in general (and by dragging itself out so much, it flawlessly creates that Sunday-morning feeling). But as far as I’m concerned, I’m just happy to see Wilco return to form.