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Best Albums of 2012, part 1 of 4

Mar

27

by

I was looking over my music collection the other day and noticed that when I sorted it by date, the number of albums I have released over the past 3 or 4 years is much smaller than previous years. And an alarming number of the newer releases I have are from old groups. Last year I picked up new albums by such ancient bands as The Beastie Boys, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys, Radiohead, Mogwai, Jane’s Addiction, Daft Punk, and Atari Teenage Riot. Sure, they all still make great music but they’re also all just a few years away from artificial hips and pill cases with the days of the week marked on them.

This could only mean one thing: I’m in danger of becoming one of those out-of-touch old people who doesn’t understand new music. Back when I spent way too much time seeking out new music I used to hate how older folks seemed proud of not knowing anything about music the kids listen to these days. It’s still annoying. Nostalgia is always overrated, but it’s especially the case nowadays when you can read tons of music reviews for free and hear samples of music without having to go to that one store that will let you listen to their used section on a CD player.

As an attempt to reverse this disturbing trend, I’m giving myself this assignment to write some short reviews of new albums every few months this year. So here we go.

Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

Sometimes when I’m listening to new music, I imagine I’m one of those music executives that used to exist before the internet killed all the bureaucrats in the industry. It’s fun to try to predict the band’s trajectory: What the singles on the album will be, what their live show would be like, where they’ll tour, which specific demographics they’ll appeal to, which satin baseball jacket I’d wear to try to sign them, that sort of thing. Sleigh Bells is one of those bands where I immediately realized it would be the perfect band for me to play the role of an overly enthusiastic music exec because it would be easy to go through the “We’re gonna make you kids big stars!” speech.

Their first album Treats, released not even a year ago, was a lot of fun to listen to at inappropriately loud volumes. But its simplicity implied that they were still just finding out what kinds of sounds work best for them as a duo. Reign of Terror sounds like they’ve matured enough to really explore the studio space as Bruce Dickinson used to say, but not quite so much as to lose the energy that makes them fun.

*

Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions

This guy’s real first name is Quincy so it’s easy to imagine that his persona developed in a way that was influenced as a reaction to that. And it’s even easier to imagine that scenario playing out when you listen to his music. It’s edgy and sometimes angry but at the same time has this elegant simplicity. He’s a member of a group called Black Hippy and some of the members show up as guests. This is the perfect album to shove in the face of your nostalgia-drunk friends who always insist that everything was better 5-10 years ago.

*

Grimes – Visions

One depressing part of this finding new project I’ve given myself is that when you look the artists up on Wikipedia to learn a little about them, sometimes you learn that they’re seven years younger than you.  And then you find out that’s already had a more interesting life than you.

Grimes is the stage name of Claire Boucher. A few years ago she got expelled from college and then built a 20 foot houseboat to sail down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. The boat broke down in Minnesota and the police impounded it. Those details along with the album artwork might lead you to believe she’s some one-woman crust punk band, but it’s this is some bizarre indie dream pop stuff. It sounds like it belongs being played in some arthouse cinema or an underground coffee house.

*

Dr. Dog – Be the Void

I don’t care if hippies like this band, and I won’t let them use their weird reverse psychology to make me hate Dr. Dog out of spite. They’re just that good.

Dr. Dog first came to my attention a year or two ago when they killed at South by Southwest and Wired wrote about them. They rotate on vocals and seem to have a great intuition on determining which band member’s voice works best for each type of song. They seem to be moving away from their more lo-fi roots with this album, but it really works for them. Unlike a lot of bands that start off that way, this band isn’t hiding behind a lot of distortion to compensate for a lack of talent and ability.

*

Venetian Snares – Fool the Detector

For the nearly 7 billion people on Earth who don’t pay much attention to the breakcore scene, Venetian Snares is the project of Canadian producer Aaron Funk. Remember Aphex Twin? Venetian Snares is kind of like if you layered two or three Aphex Twins on top of each other, shook it around, and took away its anti-anxiety medication.

There’s nothing extra-special about Fool the Detector as far as Venetian Snares releases go. It’s no Rossz csillag alatt született, which as far as I’m concerned is Funk at his best. But if you feel like breakcore just might be for you, this is a good way to give your ears a 20-minute test. If they don’t bleed by the end of the four tracks, check out the rest of his discography.

*

Mouse on Mars - Parastrophics

Mouse on Mars is one of those bands I think I picked up on from this amazing late night radio show I used to get from the University of Toronto’s public radio station that would play all kinds of quicky stuff for hours on end. This album will eventually turn you into a robot. A super-advanced Ray Kurzweil AI kind of robot though, not some retro 80s bullshit. So it’s great to listen to if you’re working on something monotonous like music reviews or if you’re into this “spring cleaning” thing I keep hearing about.

*

Crudbump – Real Art

Crudbump is the pseudonym used by a guy who just goes by Drew. You might know Drew as the guy who does the very funny Toothpaste For Dinner webcomic. “But Josh,” you’re probably wondering, “Can that kind of humor translate to the form of pretty crude laptop rap?” Well, imaginary reader, you won’t be surprised to learn that the answer is yes. Yes, it can.

*

Adam WarRock – You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?

I’m not including this one because I had the privilege of interviewing WarRock on the day it was released. I wanted to interview him because he’s awesome. So it’d be wrong to imply that I’m being unethical here. That’s not to say that I’m opposed to being unethical, so all you publicists can feel free to send me free stuff.

You could check out the metric shit-ton of free tracks and mixtapes on the Adam WarRock website, but that’s really only going to give an rough approximation of how much these 15 tracks rule. And if you’re looking over the titles of the songs, don’t be discouraged if there are a bunch of references you don’t get. He’s such a good lyricist that you feel like you get the references even when you don’t.

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  • Cernunnos

    Rossz csillag alatt született is Venetian Snares most popular and iconic album, probably, however I would say that Doll Doll Doll is the go-to album for a crash course in the VS methodology as well as an example of just how incredible (and terrifying) breakcore can be.

    • http://www.buffalobeast.com/ Josh Bunting

      Doll Doll Doll is a good one. Winter in the Belly of a Snake too. This track is kinda epic too.

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