Every year, at some point in January, I make a long list of what music I thought was great in the previous year. This list is usually scrawled out as a Facebook note or onto defunct personal blogs but–for 2012–Bobby asked if the list could be shared on The Fox Is Black. Why not?! Thus, a very long list of what I thought of music in 2012 and a few items to look out for in 2013.
One thing to keep in mind before reading is that the items shared are from a personal point of view that electronic music is the only music to be listened to. Moreover, I have been on the hunt for the Best Dance Album Of All Time since I was born and have yet to find what I think is a suitable filler for that title. If things lack vocals or rely on sounding like robots in various forms of stress, I apologize. If anything, hopefully you find an artist/song/album or two that is new to you. With that, enjoy.
Best Remix Of 2012: Benoit and Sergio’s Remix of “Corinne” by Metronomy
Likely Benoit & Sergio’s climax before descending into schlocky better-than-most electro pop, their remix of Metronomy’s “Corinne”” was a stroke of genius. It illustrated an electronic dance act at their most delicate and their most creative, turning the song and the idea of a remix inside out. It’s more of a cover than anything else and it kicked every other remix released in 2012 right in the pants. (These were the only rivals.)
Best Proof Of Concept: Holly Herndon’s Movement
Holly Herndon is 2012’s late-in-the-year breakout newcomer. Her Rvng Intl. Movement was a step inside of her mind and aesthetic and–most importantly–into her talents. When she isn’t being delightfully heady and conducting experiments surrounding the human voice, she can crack out a techno ball buster like “Fade,” which certainly was my dance/techno track of the year. It was unrivaled. Herndon is poised to rule 2013 if she can edge a hair out of experimentation and into the mindset of a Panorama Bar legend.
Most Overrated: Grimes
Not only does she sing like an adult baby but Grimes represents an aesthetic that is entirely too trying-too-hard and misguided. She has talent, yes, but it is lost in theatrics and associating herself with acts like Brooke Candy. There are three gems from Visions and the rest are an excellent attempts at being weird to be weird. She comes off a lot like the electronic, more hipster Lana Del Rey. Just read this. (Note: That houseboat story used to be the majority of her Wikipedia page.)
Most Overrated II: Julia Holter
Julia Holter is pretty. She can make pretty music. Can she make pretty ambient music? Not really. Can she make pretty pop music? Not really. Can she make pretty electronic music? Not really. She has talent and people think she is hot but, boy, does her ambient/pop/electronic mash end up being so super boring. There is hope for her!
Lost Most Steam: Charli XCX
Coming into 2012 on the charging neon dolphin that was “Nuclear Seasons” (above), Charli XCX was poised to be the goth-pop wunderkind I have always dreamed of. She slowly slid down a hill during 2012 with the OK “You’re The One” into the fine Heartbreaks And Eathquakes mixtape into the meh “Cloud Aura” with Brooke Candy. Now she has just become a lame one woman Spice Girl who basically is singing over old Gold Panda songs. Dang: she had–and may still have–so much potential.
Top Pop Dog: Sky Ferreira
Unlike fellow July 2012 V Magazine cover fellows Charlie XCX and Grimes, Sky Ferreira finally came in to her own in 2012. She hit people’s radar with great pop efforts like “One,” a cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal” and Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back,” and “99 Tears.” None of those songs really broke or did much of anything but establish that she was a somebody. With this years Ghost EP, she made a scrapbook of references and non-music collaborators like Terry Richardson and Hedi Simane–and captured every hipster and music loving heart with “Everything Is Embarrassing” (above) and “Lost In My Bedroom.” After all these years, Sky has found her home.
Song Of The Year: Solange’s “Losing You”
I have a theory that Solange is just a puppet for Beyonce to play out her counter-cultural musical fantasies on. She does have “indie” music street cred and style–but “Losing You” was her time to explode as a legit musician. Produced by all-the-rage-now Blood Orange (who also did Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing”), the song is the happiest breakup/breakdown song. It’s essentially the cool kid party song answer to “Since U Been Gone.” If it hasn’t ruled house parties you’ve been to last year, it will this year as it trickles down.
Song Of The Year II: Roisin Murphy’s “Simulation”
Everyone loves Roisin Murphy. She can do no wrong with her infectious pop. She has been out of commission having kids but poked her head out in 2012 with “Simulation,” a return to her bawdy dance ways stretch over ten minutes of delightful high hat. The song’s release is a big tease for her next move. I mean, we are still waiting for the follow up to 2007’s Overpowered…
Party Song Of The Year: Scissor Sisters’ “Let’s Have A Kiki”
Perhaps only for gays, “Let’s Have A Kiki” is the hysterically dancey sing-speak song alluding to drag queen sex that made everyone in 2012 want to have a kiki. It is wonderful.
:( Teengirl Fantasy
Teengirl’s Tracer was just so dry. Boring. Forgettable. There wasn’t even a takeaway song like “Cheaters“! It was a sad follow up to 2010’s excellent 7AM. They can rebound. We know it.
:( :( Presets
I love The Presets. I had been waiting and waiting and waiting for a follow up to 2008’s Apocalypso for what felt like forever and it finally came in 2012: Pacifica. When I first heard single “Youth In Trouble,” I was stoked because the first thirty seconds are so promising and then…it turns into heartless roboyelling and drops. I didn’t realize it then but it was basically foreshadowing to a very meh full length release. Bummersville, you guys.
Best Thing From 2011 Discovered In 2012: Molly Nilsson’s History
I had no idea Molly Nilsson existed until mid-2012 (although I had a feeling someone else was behind John Maus’ “Hey Moon!“). Hearing her 2011 release History is undoubtedly one of the best records of the 2010s and was one of the top albums I listened to this year. Too bad it came out the year before! The video for “I Hope You Die” is one of the best of the year, too.
Gender Of The Year: Female
The one thing that is dominating this list are female artists. Thus, the ladies ruled the world of music (for me) in 2012. Way to go, girls!
Best Best Of: Goldfrapp’s The Singles
I would never normally celebrate a Best Of album because, well, it isn’t new music: its just fancy rereleases. That’s boring. Perhaps I am getting old or perhaps this one captured my youth but Goldfrapp’s The Singles album was so fucking great and illustrated how fantastic the band is–and how great their singles really are. Opting to make it a quick fourteen release was great too: that was all we needed from them!
Best Follow Up: Wild Nothing & Actress
Wild Nothing and Actress are very good acts. Different, yes, but both are great. This year they both had follow ups–Nocturne and R.I.P, respectively–that both improved upon their freshman releases and blossomed with each listen. It is very rare that an artist can do this.
Made A Great Album With Terrible Album Art…Again: Bat For Lashes’ The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan’s Bat For Lashes has put out three albums and all of them have fucking terrible, embarrassing, cringeworthy album art. Her 2012 release followed suit–but the music? God. Her best release yet! Congrats, Natasha: keep making great music with awful art!
Best First Effort: Diiv
At first I mistook Diiv for Wild Nothing on drugs. Surprise: they are a band! Oshin was an abstract rock effort that embraced being weird in a normal way and embracing instruments over vocals. I cannot wait to see what they get into next.
Biggest Surprise: Black Marbles’s A Different Arrangement
A friend texted me “Listen to Black Marble’s ‘Cruel Summer.'” in October. I did. Then I listened to their debut A Different Arrangement. I was so super impressed: it’s like a gothic 2012 Bronski Beat album but really, really well done. Where did they come from? Can they make more songs like “Cruel Summer”? Please say yes.
You Made An Album?
All of these musicians made albums in 2012. Did you remember they did? I did not!
Beach House’s Bloom
Crystal Castles’ (III)
Diamond Rings’ Free Dimensional
Twin Shadow’s Confess
El Perro Del Mar’s Pale Fire
The Crystal Ark’s The Crystal Ark
Guiltiest Pleasure: Trust’s TRST
This goth/electropop band ruled the first half of 2012 and was certainly the It band to take down. Was their album good? Hell no. It is so cheesy and like someone stuck a microphone up the devil’s ass and pulled out this candy corn of an album. It will be interesting to see how Trust evolves, though.
Best Mix: Tiga’s Non Stop
Aside fom ZZT, Tiga is infallible. He is brilliant and infectious and basically is synonymous with the word “party.” His Non Stop mix was a survery of influences and is as consistent and weird as you want it to be. Now, if only we could get a new album out of him… (Note: His music video for “Plush” is so hysterical and debuted on the mix. Watch it above.)
Best Mix Runner Up: Bicep’s Beats In Space Mix
Bicep’s Beats In Space mix was a collection of releases, lost tracks, and snippets collaged together in the most danceable way of the year. There is something about these guys, something so sexy and cool, that demands you listen to whatever they are up to. Perhaps it is just the name?
Best Music Video: Grimes’ “Genesis”
Okay, sure, she is overrated and I do not like her and I am mad that she steals voguing from gays/Paris Is Burning/Madonna but, dang, is that music video she directed for “Genesis” so stupid great. This is because:
A.) You probably thought Brooke Candy was her and were mindfucked;
B.) It’s the best song on the album;
D.) Pussy hat and swords;
E.) Silly costume dancing in the desert;
F.) Sad 1990s goth kids in Beverly Hills.
It borders the continent of Trying Too Hard and Brilliance but I have to hand it to Claire Boucher: this is great. You should direct more.
You’re Back! Lindstrøm
Boy, has it been a while since Lindstrøm put out a decent release! Six Cups Of Rebel was a bit of a snooze and a sad adjustment to pizazzless Lindstrøm. Thankfully, having producer Todd Terje mix his other 2012 release Smalhans led to a return to form and generous nod to Microhouse. Keep this up, Lindstrøm!
Glad It “Clicked”: Azealia Banks
I wanted to hate Azealia Banks. She appears to be a grating, obnoxious, overhyped, homosexual culture thief that was made to be the female opposition to Tyler The Creator. Well, she isn’t and I learned this from caving and giving the New York emcee’s 1991 a try. How great is this? Dance music *and* femme empowered rap? Yes, please. Every track on the EP (save for that le shite outro on “Van Vogue“) is a 2012 classic. More, Azealia, more!
These were the top albums of the year. They deserve a mention.
John Talabot’s ƒIN
Andy Stott’s Luxury Problems
Laurel Halo’s Quarantine
Shed’s The Killer
Light Asylum’s Light Asylum
Jam City’s Classical Curves
Ricardo Villalobos’ Dependent And Happy
Barker & Baumecker’s Transsektoral
Austin Cesear’s Cruise Forever
There Is No Teenage Love’s There Is No Teenage Love
Taragana Pyjarama’s Tipped Bowls
Best Ambient: Kyle Bobby Dunn’s Bring Me The Head Of Kyle Bobby Dunn
I was unfamiliar with Kyle Bobby Dunn until 2012. What a delightfully focused ambient artist! Bring Me The Head Of Kyle Bobby Dunn is a collection of slowly shifting white puffs of sound. I have no idea how KBD makes his music but it was the best ambient release since Eluvium’s 2007 Copia.
Album Of the Year Runner Up: Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s Black Is Beautiful
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland (also known as Hype Williams) made one of the weirdest, best albums of the year with Black Is Beautiful. The electronic album excels because it is very coherent in its incoherence: you have bizarro vocals, you have tight, woozy songs, there is a lack of clear titles, they cut in and out of each other, and some racial tension is tossed in, too. That last item–embodied by the title “Black Is Beautiful” and cover that literally screams “EBONY”–frames the tracks as this lost experimental album from the 1980s Detroit or Chicago deep house scene. It very obviously is not. Jam City’s insane Classical Curves fights for this title but, ultimately, Dean and Inga edge it out.
Album Of The Year: Voices From The Lake’s Voices From The Lake
Rarely does an album come out at the beginning of a year and nothing compares to it for the rest of the year. Voices From The Lake did that in 2012 with their building LP that was one long song. In my mind, it is the first release that actually rivals Manuel Göttsching’s 1984 hour long recording, E2-E4. It’s a storm that was so unexpected from Italian producers Donato Scaramuzzi and Giuseppe Tillieci. This album set the pace for last year’s doom techno explosion of Andy Stott, Laurel Halo, Shed, Austin Caesar, Holly Herndon, and more. These guys are the future.
To Review In 2013: Terre Theamiltz’s Soulnessless
Terre Theamiltz (who you may recall from) is the best working electronic artist and certainly the most challenging. In 2012, Thaemlitz shared what was supposedly the “longest album ever released.” It stretches over a day long and is supposed to be a beautiful behemoth. It comes as a MicroSD and includes multiple (long) songs and remixes by Theamiltz’s K-S.H.E. and DJ Sprinkles. This is something I am dying to hear and chew on for about a month. You can get the album here if you’d like to take on this challenge, too.
Least Excited For In 2013: 2004
So, The Knife, Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child, The Strokes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs have “new releases” coming out this year. These artists are fantastic, sure, but–save for Justin Timberlake–the rest of these acts are “getting the old band back together” because they have nothing else good happening for them. Get all excited as you can but let me remind you: the last thing The Knife did was an opera, the last thing Justin Timberlake did was Trouble With The Curve, the last thing Destiny’s Child did was dress weird, the last thing The Strokes did was stop making music, and the last thing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was something by Karen O. None of these releases will topple anything they’ve previously released and all will likely verify that sometime’s it is okay to be retired.
A Household Name In 2013: Haim
This girl group of three sisters were everywhere last year in Los Angeles. By the end of the year, they had floated beyond our city and all across the United States and Europe–and everyone loves them. They are a very healthy entry into the girl pop-rock world and they feel so fresh yet so classic yet so now. These girls are going to be the new It band this year.
Most Excited For In 2013: Cassy
Cassy is one of the best electronic artists working now. Although she has been letting singles and mixes out since 2001, she has yet to release a full length album–until now. She has been tugging our ears along for over a decade and she is finally going to give us a giant dance cake to feast on. The album is also being released on techno legend Carl Craig‘s label Planet E. This may be the perfect dance album that I have been searching for all of my life.