Musical Year In Review

It’s that time of year again, the end of the year, where every music blogger in the solar system is busy clicking and dragging albums into ‘best of 2012’ playlists, and typing up something laced with wit and irony to complement the end of another twelve-month rotation of our humble little planet. The urge to conform to this trend is great and entirely unavoidable, because really, who wouldn’t pass up the chance to spout their personal faves? Give a little air time [internet time?] to those disenfranchised LPs that you really think should have been “essential 2012 listening.”

As you can guess, I don’t much care for lists of any sort, especially end of the year ones made up of albums everyone already expected to make an appearance. (I’m looking at you, Pitchfork.) Yet at the same time, I understand the universal rule in the world of music journalism: the more you talk about an album, and the more praise you give it, the more popular it’s likely to become. It’s not rocket science, it doesn’t take any sophisticated degree to understand basic marketing concepts. Granted, this is largely true only for powerhouse institutions of music journalism, influenced by labels and corporations even when we like to think otherwise.

I agree that many albums on popular end of the year lists are good, great even, but everyone already knows that. You’ll find that my 2012 lists lack predictable choices, a rather feeble attempt on my part to retain the integrity of my blog and provide my readership with good music that slipped through the cracks. For me, sharing music you think deserves attention through the mechanism of writing is the point of music journalism. I don’t think the albums on big-name lists deserve any more attention, least of all mine. So, here are my 2012 faves that might have passed under your radar over the course of the year. Those that haven’t been reviewed will in due course. Spotify playlists/download links forthcoming. Enjoy.

Top 5 Releases Pre-2012:

Finding new music is often a process not dissimilar from an archeological excavation. The deeper into musical history you dig, the more meticulous your excavation must be. Your tools become more and more specialized as you continue, yet sometimes even these fail, leaving you at a dead end with nowhere to turn. This year yielded many strange musical artifacts, some more enigmatic and obscure than others. Here’s a sample of some of the best treasures I dug up on my aural travels in 2012. In no particular order:

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Bill Fay – Bill Fay (1970)
Brendan Benson – Lapalco (2002)
Frank Sinatra – Watertown (1970)
Paul McCartney – Ram (1971)
Rodriguez – Coming From Reality (1971)

Top 5 Instrumental Releases:

Instrumental albums occupy a strange grey area of my musical taste. They tend to serve as background music when I work or study. Any hint of a lyric and my concentration is broken, focusing on whatever words appear in the music as opposed to my work – so lyricless my study music must be. I don’t pay particular attention to it, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy some more than others. In fact, I’d place many over my favorite lyrically based albums any day.

2012 has been a year of rather extreme amounts of work, which isn’t surprising considering most of my favorite albums of the year are those instrumental study-soundtracks. Assigning any album the label of ‘study-soundtrack’ sounds slightly demeaning, but I don’t intend it as such. The following albums deserve a few sessions of intense consideration before becoming mere study-ambiance. In no particular order:

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Augustus Pablo – Ital Dub (1974)
Bersarin Quartett – ST (2008)
Bill Evans – Portrait In Jazz (1959)
Pharaoh Overlord – Lunar Jetman (2012)
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops III (2003)

Top 5 2012 releases:

Judging from how difficult it was for me to find albums I played the shit out of that were released in 2012, I’d say I don’t really listen to a lot of current releases. At the very least I don’t go out of my way to find ones that hold my interest. When playing the music discovery roulette, you do yourself a disservice by focusing on new releases. For the most part, the albums I enjoyed most this year were not released in the past decade, not even in the past three. Which is probably why I take issue when end of the year lists only include albums released within the year. Sure, it makes sense – you don’t want to include albums people have been exposed to for years because it’s likely people would rather read about relatively unfamiliar releases. Thing is, you don’t have to include older albums everyone has heard. Include older, largely under-appreciated releases. Please please please include older albums.

That being said, I did finally decide upon a solid five favorite 2012 releases. In no particular order (but with emphasis on The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Aufheben):

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 Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben
Django Django – ST
Kettel & Secede – When Can
King Tuff – ST

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