And so another year passes, a musical roller coaster for me in which I almost totally lost faith in new music and returned to the comfort of the sounds of the nineties that I grew up with, wrapped in nostalgic bliss yet not quite so blind as those who obstinately argue that the music of the (insert appropriate decade here) was far and away the best with a 100% guarantee that this decade will coincide with the said individuals teenage years.
Last Fm always surprises me, again this year with Johann Johannsson feauturing so highly, i expect this is due mainly to his excellent Copenhagen Dreams, a collection of short piano and drone pieces perfect for soundtracking the cold winter. Nice also to see a healthy presence from two long terms favourites Belle & Sebastian and Brigitte Bardot.
For some reason I have been wondering along in plain ignorance of the fact of such mediums as The Hype Machine, Soundcloud, Spotify and more recently Ex.Fm, all of which have recently played a key part in restoring my faith in modern music, offering a plethora of sounds and a continual stream of related tracks. And so my musical philosophy has taken a dramatic shift away from having to hear a full album, after all, if we are honest most albums and most "good" albums at that only really have two or three "killer" tracks, and isn't it almost always the case that a bands first few EP's and album are the ones that you cherish the most, it's a rare thing that a band will go on to make album after album of tracks that have that quality and creativeness of the early offerings. Clearly there ARE bands that do this, but compared to the vast amount of music out there its a clear minority that succeed.
Hence my new focus is on individual tracks, quality over quantity and this in turn has led to my move from here to Tumblr yourdrums.tumblr.com for a more track based blog which shares a love of art and music alongside tumblr's delightful interface. Time is hard to come by these days so why not fill it with only the best and most exciting new music.
Instead of the normal end of year album list here are some of the tracks that have hit the spot for me over the last 12 months.
Single of the Year
Having already impressed with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs infected Wait, Airhead put out an absolute killer follow up on the always reliable R&S Records. Pyramid Lake backed with the equally fantastic Black Ink were two of the best and freshest tracks I heard all year round...
Boomkat: "'Pyramid Lake' is about as daring as straight-up club killers come, its grimy flow propelled by insane, chicaning drum edits and a mutant energy that reminds us a little of Untold's early material. "
Joy Orbison, Boddika & Pearson Sound produced an equally fantastic and stripped down piece complete with Missy Elliot (?) sample...very nice
As far as catchy pop songs go, there were few tracks out there that had the instant appeal of Grimes rubbery Oblivion, it staked its claim for a place in your heart from roughly 0.01 seconds into the track and by the time you reached the girl band "ooo-ee-ooo"s at 50 seconds you were well and truly sold, a delightful pop song that you're better off not knowing the lyrics to.
On the subject of catchy pop, Charli XCX treated us to at least two tracks that were pretty much the audio alternative to love at first sight. The excellent Valentine and You're the One had us reaching for the repeat button and will no doubt live on for many more plays.
Nite Jewel's stripped down charity shop sound came good on the wonderful One Second of Love
Perhaps more mainstream than the territory this blog would normally venture towards is a lovely piece of friday night feel good. Undeniably great, so catchy.
I'd tampered with "Chillwave" / Hypnagogia or whatever they're calling it these days, Toro Y Moi/ Rangers et al but this year thanks mostly to the excellent Portals Blog and much more recently Hearing Gold there seemed to be no end to the wave of bands creating this lovely skittery, sleepy music. For anyone not in the know the Portals monthly mixtapes would be a very good place to start.
Again undoubtedly you will have probably heard this track by now, if not i'm sure you will be play it at least five times in a row as soon as you hear it. Purity Rings Fineshrine was one of those songs, much like Grimes Oblivion where you felt like you'd known it years even before the intro had finished. Amazing track.
At perhaps the furthest possible end of the spectrum to Purity Ring are xxyyxx who completely stole my heart with the really quite wonderful woozy dream of a track About You, sounding like one last ditch effort at saving a memory, all the colours slowly blending together, the details blurring into one fuzzy mess, ridiculously good.
Patchwork carved out similar goods
Summer Occasion too...
Lapalux continued to impress with their beautiful artwork and music (of course)
Blue Hawaii's In Two ventured along similar paths
Leapling's Seventeen was delightful in its simplicity and honesty.
My favourite Portals Mixtape discoveries
A little more you may wish to investigate
Voices. The female voice is a magical instrument and as always there were a number of great tracks that utilised it in its barest format not least the wonderful Born Whole by Brooklyn based Doe Paoro, vocal rollercoaster, occasionally belting out vocal lines that could well take the place of a lead guitar. Born Whole was a truly special track.
First Aid Kit have long been a source of quality and this years album The Lions Roar did not disappoint, my favourite track by them however was one that has a very scarce internet presence, the wonderful country inflected B-Side to Emmylou, I Just Needed a Friend was a delightful piece of Country that you simply could not ignore, although it seems the rest of the world did with its only presence being the below youtube video.
Returning from an indefinite length of obscurity was New Yorker Fiona Apple, her track Every Single Night from the critically acclaimed and strangely titled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, was lovingly remixed by the ever impressive, yet poorly named LOL Boys to give us a fantastic 4 minutes of pop.
Empress Of teased us with a collection of 1 minute...ish tracks entitled Colorminutes and slowly leaked to youtube before blowing us away completely with the epic and really quite majestic Don't Tell Me.
Wall. perfected the term Minimal with the delicate Magazine, perhaps one for those disappointed by the latest offering from the XX.
Chromatics were the most classy band of 2012, slick to the end from the press shots to the beautifully produced sounds, very Drive-esque but as I've always found over an album the quality tends to fall short, but when they are good they are so so good.
For straight out indie the following hit all the right spots for me.
Elsewhere Moons remix of DIIV's How Long Have You Known made the original completely redundant
Kitty Pryde's Okay Cupid took bedroom pop and teenage
obsession to a whole new level
Still Corners and Chvrches have been blogged to death but both tracks are undeniably brilliant
I feel i've barely touched the surface...all the below are great too...enjoy!
And lest we not forget, see you in 2013!
Nigel & The Dropout - Folderal (2015)
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