Thursday, 6 December 2012

Best music of 2012, my albums of the year. Part 2

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog listing my favourite albums from the first half of 2012. They were, in no particular order...
  • Tattie Toes, Turnip Famine
  • Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
  • Django Django, Django Django
  • Grimes, Visions
  • Sun Ra, Disco 3000 Concert (re-issue)
  • Lata, Starlings
  • Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
  • Two Wings, Love Springs
  • Hildur Gudnadottir - Leyou Ljosinu
So, six months on, how did the second half of the year measure up? I have to say there was a distinct lack of anything that interesting appearing over the summer. Perhaps the Olympics just blitzed everything else and brought Coldplay and The Who out of retirement to stultify us all. There were some releases that I just found a bit disappointing, such as Baltimore foursome Animal Collective's Centipede Hz. I tried and tried to like this, but the more I listened to it the less enjoyment I got from it. In fact, when they played in Glasgow in November I gave up my tickets as I got a better offer that night (Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells playing in Cottiers). Albums from Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala and The XX left me cold too. Damon Albarn's Africa Express juggernaut rolled into town in a flurry of publicity, but didn't really do a lot to promote the individual artists or shift CDs. The Krar Collective's Ethiopia Super Krar, was the only album I bought on the back of it, a group of musicians formed around the Ethiopian harp (Krar) who spent hours on the night as support to many of the other acts. So in no particular order again, here are some albums which did tickle my fancy in the latter half of 2012. A quick review.

David Byrne and St. Vincent - Love This Giant (4AD)

Youtube link - David Byrne & St. Vincent - 'Who'

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne needs no introduction, but has been ploughing his own furrow for several years, such as recently wiring up a New York building to play a church organ through it. Multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent (Annie Clark) released the fantastic Strange Mercy last year which I still have on my pile of "still listening to" CDs. Inevitably collaborative albums like Love This Giant can sometimes end up being less than the sum of their parts but the tight brass section on many of these tracks carries along a jolly and good natured album. Still not sure what the prosthetics on her face on the album cover is meant to convey. David Byrne's book "How Music Works" is worth picking up too if you haven't come across it yet.

Karine Polwart, Traces (Hegri)

Singer-songwriter Karine Polwart has been a stalwart of the Scottish folk-music scene for years now and this is a gentle, lyrical, musical album. However the words merit some listening to as well, such as on Cover Your Eyes (above) which was inspired by the excellent documentary film "You've Been Trumped" about Donald Trump's horrendous actions in Aberdeenshire pushing through his golf development despite local opposition. If you haven't managed to see the film, seek it out but be prepared to get angry.


Gaslamp Killer, Breakthrough (Brainfeeder)

Read full review of Breakthrough - The Gaslamp Killer on ©

Gaslamp Killer is the name that producer Willie Bensussen goes under. He has worked on Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer and with fellow Californian, Flying Lotus at Brainfeeder Records, but this is his first solo album as musician. It may come as no surprise given that he looks like one of the Freak Brothers that this album is usually described as psychedelic, but where that usually means meandering navel-gazing dullness this album is positively thrumming along and benefits from repeated listening. Some tracks are a bit hit and miss (eg 'Fuck' is worth skipping once you've heard it a few times), but always multi-layered and the knowingly retro sound works a treat, I had this on in the car for weeks.


Flying Lotus, Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)

Flying Lotus is Steven Ellison and like Gaslamp Killer he is based in LA. As he did in his previous album, Cosmogramma, he has plenty of guest musicians (inc. Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke) but it has a more uniform feel this time. Electronic music but lots of jazz influence on these 18 gentle, wee pieces (well his great-aunt is Alice Coltrane). Perfect evening reading accompaniment, if you are in a lighter, cheerier book.

Goat, World Music (Rocket)

Youtube link - Goat, Goathead

Goat hail from Korpolombolo in northern Sweden, a village which they say has a long history of voodoo worship and I didn't think I'd like an album that gets described as experimental psychedelic prog-rock, but I love this album. It's called World Music presumably because they raided the school music instrument cupboard and use rhythms from around the globe here. They are in danger of giving krautrock a good name.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation Records)

Canadian post-rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor (or God's Pee as they have it on the spine of their cd) released their first album in a decade this year. Just four tracks, two long, two short are reportedly covering subjects as diverse as the Arab Spring, Serbian war criminals and Quebec student protests but with their droning instrumental crescendoes, it is not entirely clear what point they're making on these topics. Excellent album though.

Okay, bit of a random list of stuff I've enjoyed and listened to again and again this year. If there is anything you think I should have been listening to instead, please let me know!


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