Friday, June 28, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2012

Here is a repost of my Best Albums of 2012 list that originally appeared last year ago on CHIRP Radio’s Web site...

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2012. The next list is from Blog Manager Clarence Ewing.

1. Helado Negro – Island Universe Story One (Asthmatic Kitty) Roberto Carlos Lange, aka Helado Negro ("Black Ice Cream") uses the strong Latin American influences from his South Florida birthplace to create humid, hazy experimental electronic landscapes using tape loops, strategically placed feedback, and what sounds like found objects, backed by thudding beats and thick bass lines. It’s not quite Avant-Garde and not quite Dance music and not quite Eletro-Pop; It's a unique combination of the best of all of these genres that I suspect I’ll be listening to a lot for years to come. Favorite Tracks: “Con Mi Suerte,” “Enfocando”

2. Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Captured Tracks) Further solidifying his place in the Dream-Pop scene, the 2nd album from Wild Nothing (aka Jack Tatum) features more of the refined, polished, relentlessly gentle sound (a combination of jangle-pop guitars and synth-based bass and drums) he first emerged with in 2010. Along with Island Universe, this is one of the all-around best sonically crafted albums I've heard this year. Favorite Tracks: “Through the Grass,” “Nocturne”

3. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror (Mom + Pop Music) If you weren't picking up what Alexis Krauss and Derek Edward Miller laid down on their 2010 debut Treats, this record isn't going to change your mind. For others, this album is satisfying proof that their explosive sound, an awesomely unique dialect of noise and melody, wasn't a one-shot gimmick. Bonus points for their roof-raising performance at Pitchfork this past summer. Favorite Tracks: "Leader of the Pack," "Comeback Kid"

4. Crystal Syphon – Family Evil (Roartorio) A debut album over 40 years in the making, this is textbook '60s psychedelic rock (bluesy guitar lines, Hammond organ fills, trippy folk harmonies, hippie lyrics about love, the universe, nature, and the evils of corruption and war) with an earthy, unsentimental garage-rock edge. Formed in Merced, California in 1965, Crystal Syphon was successful on the West Coast ballroom circuit but never managed to cut a record deal, which led them to becoming one of the "lost" bands of the era until this year. This album collects a number of tracks from ’67 and ’68, including a performance at the famous Fillmore West in San Francisco. Favorite Tracks: "Have More of Everything," "Marcy, Your Eyes"

5. Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang - En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop) A joyously energetic combination of traditional music from Sierra Leone and modern electronica with a relentless double-time beat, Janka Nabay's album represents one musician's efforts to keep a style of music alive despite a war that is tearing his homeland apart, with help from a group of Brooklyn musicians that include past and former members of Skeletons, Charilift, Saadi, and Starring. The instruments swirl around the pulsating rhythm, adding their own colors and textures and building on the songs' propulsive flow - it's almost impossible to sit still while listening to them. Favorite Tracks: "Eh Mane Ah," "Feba"

6. Tim Maia - World Psychedelic Classics 4: Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia (Luaka Bop) Sebastiño Rodrigues “Tim” Maia is an icon in Brazilian music who interpreted American Soul and Funk in a way that made him a superstar in his home country while also helping establish the US Civil Rights-inspired Black Rio movement. This retrospective, a collection of his Soul and Funk hits directly inspired by the greats like James Brown and Barry White, covers Maia’s career arc from his deportation from the US, where he learned his craft as a young man, to his rise to superstardom in his homeland and subsequent involvement in a religious cult. Even when blatantly plugging his sect’s holy book Universe in Disenchantment in the middle of his songs, it’s impossible to deny Maia’s talent and the music that comes straight from his soul. Favorite Tracks: "Let’s Have a Ball Tonight," "Ela Partiu"

7. Candice Anitra - Big Tree (Heart Sleeve) Candice Anitra's sound on her sophomore album (which she financed through Kickstarter) is unmistakably RnB, but like a big tree, the music branches out all over the place to pop, electronica, and jazz. The record's lean, efficient 3-4 minute gems give Anitra’s smooth, passionate, seductive voice plenty of room to shine while she sings about love, nature, and the universe. The grace and power of her vocals are more than a match for the deep beats and waves of electronics that back her up. Why is this woman not more famous??? Favorite tracks: “Big Tree,” “Angry Sea of Me”

8. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz (Domino) By slamming together exotic, complex rhythms, opaque, tribalistic vocals, and abstract, cutting-edge electronics, then fingerpainting melodies with the resulting noisy sparks, Animal Collective proved long ago they are speaking a different musical language than most of their contemporaries. While the band’s 9th studio album is not as overtly personal as their previous full-length Merriweather Post Pavilion, a critical half-step toward traditional Pop music structures the band took on that album is still evident on this one. It's a change that has enabled them to add a bit more melodic focus to their efforts without losing the vibrant strangeness that made them so iconic to begin with. Favorite tracks: “Today’s Supernatural,” “Rosie Oh”

9. Various Artists - PDX Pop Now! 2012 (Self-Released) PDX Pop Now! is a community-based organization dedicated to showcasing Portland, Oregon's independent music scene. Their annual compilation of volunteers’ favorite tracks of the year blows away any stereotypes of the region’s musical makeup as Grunge, Grunge, and more Grunge. There’s some serious Pop, Rock, Country, Rap, Folk, Electronica, Jazz and Avant Garde happening in the Great Northwest. Favorite Tracks: “Stop the Show,” Garage & Grace,” “Get Alive,” “Ride for My City”

The Big Pink – Future This (4AD) The music on the second full-length album by UK duo The Big Pink is the kind of loud, sprawling pop that made Oasis famous almost 20 years ago, performed with the same kind of confident strut, but with a Hip-Hop feel and a wall of sound mix that feels like everything is turned up to "9" but still balanced just right. Using the energy of rave music to make pop songs, this band's sound is tailor made to fill up an arena and keep heads bopping and feet moving. Favorite Tracks: “Give It Up,” “Jump Music”

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