2012 was a great year for live and studio-re music. This year saw great music from young, web-addled upstarts and seasoned rockers. I had to opportunity to attend concerts from countless genres and write on a few of them as a freelancer. For brevity, I’ll include five of my favorite songs of this year. At the end of this post, there is also a Spotify list for the rest of my selections for 2012.
- 5. Grimes – Genesis
Vancouver’s Claire Bucher’s project Grimes is the most popular example of what I call a retro-Cyberpunk music wave coming out of Canada, which includes artists like Purity Ring, Crystal Castles and Mathematique. The single “Genesis” is a refreshing take on drum ‘n’ bass rhythms that includes airy pop vocals on the studio mix. I may have rated this song higher had I not been disappointed by Grimes’ live performances, which had her desperately trying to reach high studio notes and gagging. While her artistic vision is charming, she has to practice much more before I can consider her more highly on this or any critical pedestal.
- 4. Karin Park – Fryngies
Swedish women seem to be the most reliable class of artists to deliver great music. My favorite artist from the class this year was the eerie Karin Park. The industrial composition and Park’s raspy, wide-ranging vocals in “Fryngies” displayed an uncommon level of anguish and grit, even to someone like me, who dabbles in aggressive music.
- 3. Michael Kiwanuka – Tell Me A Tale
I usually try to avoid the staid genre of Roots Revival. However, Afro-British musician Michael Kiwanuka’s debut album Home Again shows that he knows, and more importantly feels, the Blues. My favorite track in Kiwanuka’s debut was the first rack “Tell Me a Tale”, which featured a jazz-like ensemble to go with his timeless take on the Blues.
- 2. Santigold – Disparate Youth
Santigold returned to the spotlight this year with her mix of Atlantic-tropic rhythms and Afro-punk rock energy in Master of My Make-Believe. I had the privilege of seeing her live with an understated goth-pop singer Charli XCX opening. Santi White shared the stage with a backing band and two silent Caribbean dancehall showgirls. Santi’s second single “Disparate Youth” includes a laid back dub rhythm and an undercurrent of discontent, calling to the Lost Boys of Peter Pan fame.
- 1. Poliça – Lay Your Cards Out (feat.Mike Noyce)
The Minneapolis quartet Poliça’s debut album Give You the Ghost certainly delivers a phantasmal mix of trip-hop and ambient rock. Singer Channy Leanagh employs Auto-Tune as an opaque screen to her voice as opposed of an artistic crutch.The track “Lay Your Cards Out” includes a kinetic drum duel between Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu that elevates the music from mopey to energetic.