SANDRO PERRI Impossible Spaces (Constellation Records)
Easily the most confounding sound I heard this last year. In all truth, this record was released in late 2011, but I didn't find any indicators pointing towards it until this year. Perri is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer from Toronto, Canada who also creates electronica under the name Polmo Polpo. On Impossible Spaces, Perri presents a light, meandering soul in a voice that sometimes reminds me of Michael Franks, sometimes Antony, sometimes Christopher Cross. It's a strange tone to hear in 2012, but it is all couched and wrapped in, levitated and nudged along by a busy production of electronica, (fretless?) bass, warped keyboards and processed saxophone that keeps pulling my ear deep into its sheer inventiveness. Guaranteed to confuse.
MOUNT EERIE Clear Moon ((P.W.Elverum & Sun)
One of this year's two "sister" releases (with Ocean's Roar), Clear Moon, is issued, as it should be, on clear vinyl. Phil Elverum, the creative force behind Mount Eerie and its former incarnation, Microphones, is a master of mood. His albums are for headphones, for closed eyes, akin to sitting alone (or with silent friends) in the forest or on some chilled rocky outcropping from where you can see no sign of civilization and yet always aware that its there.
From the lyrics of "Through The Trees Pt.2":
I meant all my songs
not as a picture of the woods
but just to remind myself
that I briefly live.
The gleaming stone,
the moon in the sky at noon
there is no other world
and there has never been.
TY SEGALL Twins (Drag City)
There's truly been enough said on many, many other posts about this record and I don't have much to add. It's a clear fruition of a current Bay Area vibe that blends a brutal garage attack with savvy, almost sing-songy melodies. It gets under your skin and deep into your booty bones. After that, well, nature just takes its course.
This appearance on David Letterman shows what we're dealing with here: probably one of the most ferocious performances to hit that stage in years!
THEE OH SEES Putrifiers II EP (In The Red)
Close akin to Ty Segall, but working the Bay Area garage mines much longer are John Dwyer and his amazing THEE OH SEES. In my opinion the greatest freak-your-butt-off-on-the-dancefloor band currently working. They keep making really, really great records and they keep putting on really, really great shows. The attack is huge, the melodies are weird and pretty and infectious and if you get in sonic range you will sprain your tail feather! They are quickly becoming my "most seen live" band. Purtrifiers definitely does not fit the traditional meaning of the term "EP," as it contains 10 songs. The track "Lupine Dominus" is a real high point in their career packed with high points and its video is great wordless, short-story film making that all film students should study: sex-sturbing!
LED ER EST The Diver (Sacred Bones)
Sacred Bones has become a really excellent label. You can go to their stable and pretty much pick a winner with your eyes closed. Led Er Est's latest is digging through the minimal wave sound that has become the flavor with which I would most identify 2012's reigning underground trend. However, except for a few darksynth dancefloor nods ('Kaiyo Maru,' 'Divided Parallel,' 'La Lluvia Y Memoria') the rest of the album is much more Coil than Gary Numan. Brooding and beautiful collage structures for night scenes.
If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die (Burger)
I saw these guys open for THEE OH SEES last year in Long Beach and was stunned. Apiece with the evening's blistering garage vibe, but with a little more of the SoCal surf vibe in the mix. Remember when Jesus & Mary Chain really knew how to drive a garage/surf anthem off the tracks? You don't? Oh, right...I'm old.
SOFT MOON Zeros (Captured Tracks)
Zeros is, for the most part, an instrumental album. Even what vocals appear are there as more texture to layer on the darkness. There's a clear line of philosophy between mid-80s 4AD recordings by Cindytalk (hear "It's Luxury") and the oeuvre of this one-man band, Luis Vasquez. The bass is very Cure and the atmosphere is dark and gothy and only sometimes danceable ('Zeros,' 'Die Life,' 'Lost Years'), and that might even be a stretch as the atmosphere is so thick. Great deep layers of bass, guitar, drum-machine and lots of electronic textures to get buried beneath.
MERIDIEN BROTHERS Desesperanza (Sound Way)
Sometimes you just need something that weirds you out clear to the bone.
You can read another review by AMOEBA's World Music Buyer here: http://www.amoeba.com/blog/2012/10/los-angeles-me/meridian-brothers-desesperanza-.html
I, too, was reminded of the Latin Playboys on first listen. So playful and funny and spooky and just plain weird. The title track is a real stand-out for me, clearly revealing the traditional rhythms beneath Eblis Alvarez' near dead-pan delivery.
HOLOGRAMS Holograms (Captured Tracks)
Ultimately nothing new going on on this record, but sometimes its just exciting to taste that old wine from new bottles. Joy Division, very early Killing Joke, lots of different influences that these Scandinavian kids wear on their sleeves, but the raw sparks they throw make it one of the year's better rides.
TWIN SHADOW Confess (4AD)
It shouldn't work. There's something very Corey Hart "Sunglasses At Night" about George Lewis Jr.'s TWIN SHADOW output. He uses the word 'heart' more often than should be allowed and it's all so expectedly painful, these workings and mis-workings of love. But it's all handled with the right amount of swagger and brattiness and truly elegant panache. There's such balance to these songs; never too beaty, never too whispy, the tuneful balanced by the crude, the near-whispered offset by the shout. The rhythms are clearly 80's (the opening bass and drums of 'The One' seem a direct tribute to Pat Benatar's 'Love Is A Battlefield'), and Lewis clearly has a way with lyrics that find a way to retell the old story. All in all a significant accomplishment that deepens as the songs settle in over repeated listens.
Re-Issue and Re-births:
Various Artists ITALIA NEW WAVE (Spittle)
Subtitled, "Minimal Synth, No Wave & Post Punk Sounds From The 80's Italian Underground." OK. I'm on board. Who knew? The insipid "Days" by Jeunesse D'Ivoire is to be avoided, but otherwise not a throw-away track in the bunch. Stand-outs include N.O.I.A.'s funk-synth "Forbidden Planet," "Your Eyes" by State Of Art and the deep pulse of Fockewulf 190's "WeAre Colder."
TIM MAIA Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul Of Tim Maia (Luaka Bop)
This Vol. 4 of Luaka Bop's 'World Psychedelic Classics' series was 10 years in the making. Very little here I would classify under 'psychedelia' (other than the lyrics), but it is all super groovy latin-tinged, funk-soul, proto-disco not too far afield from Funkadelic's classic recordings. Maia's vocals have a gravelly undertone reminiscent of Taj Mahal in the lower registers and the overall thickness of his delivery, for some reason, seems of a piece with the funk. All four sides of this release are gem-studded, but the very last track, 'Rational Culture' is the stunner; a bubbling funk-disco universal consciousness realization manifesto that should be on every disco night playlist. "We're gonna rule the world. Don't you know? Don't you know?"
Various Artists PERSONAL SPACE: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 (Chocolate Industries)
Could this be the best collection ever made?! God love the bin-diggers! It starts strong and then just lifts up and away! If Guitar Red's "Disco From A Space Show" doesn't blow you right out of the room you betta' check a pulse! Funk-eologist Dante Carfagna has compiled a masterpiece of off-kilter, early electronica-steeped funk that just gives and gives. SERIOUSLY! Hear this!