In Gang Gang Dance, Brian DeGraw helps make screwed up electronic music that is still somehow danceable and hooky. In his bEEdEEgEE project, he expands on the dancier side of things, weaving expansive electronic tapestries rooted in house and new wave, with the help of a couple of awesome guest singers (CSS’s Lovefoxxx, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, among others). Douglas Armour’s yearning voice makes “Empty Vases” into ace emotional electro-pop. His GGD bandmate Lizzi Bougatsos lends some of her ethereal coo to the jittery “Overlook,” which feels as close to their band as anything on this album. And Taylor makes “(F.U.T.D.) Time of Waste” a great, hedonistic party jam about having lots to do yet getting nothing done—“all I wanna do is fuck up the day” has to be one of the great all-time slacker lines, while Lovefoxx’s turn over the big, dreamy beats of “Flowers” has got to be the highlight of the entire album. Yet even with these high-profile guest spots, DeGraw is still just as dazzling on his own, spinning various distorted percussive elements into a dizzying stew on “Bricks” and creating a distinctive early house homage with “Like Rain Man.” It’s late in the year, but bEEdEEgEE is making a bid for year-end-list relevance with the stunning Sum/One.
Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. I've worked in Hollywood for eight years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 - at the San Francisco store. This is my extensive list of 2012 releases that I fell in love with or had serious affairs over the past 365 days. 2012, for me, was a surprising and amazing year in music. Nearly all 50 releases here could have been a Top-Ten contender almost any other year, and the Top Ten is full of records that could easily have been #1.
50 Essential Albums of 2012
1. SCOTT WALKER Bish Bosch (4AD)
The 6-year-long wait was well worth it, as is usually the case with Walker. This isn't the latest indie background music du jour - It's an Absurdist's symphony. Melody is eschewed for repetition, but you still walk away with the damned thing in your head. E-bows, machetes as percussion and disturbing (as well as amusing) scatological metaphors are some of the unlikely ingredients that make up this terrifying (and weirdly infectious) beauty. There's really nothing else like it, so enjoy figuring it out for the rest of your life.
Animal Collective – Transverse Temporal Gyrus
Ripped from elsewhere on the Amoeblog: In March 2010, Animal Collective and visual artist Danny Perez put on an installation called "Transverse Temporal Gyrus" at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. For the audio, each member of the band made individual sounds and songs. Over the course of two 3-hour performances, the basic tracks were fed into a computer program that randomized the track order, and sometimes randomly combined stems from one track with stems from another. The program also panned the music in various directions around a 36 channel surround sound system that ran through 36 speakers set up from the top of the Guggenheim's ramp to the bottom. The music on this 12" is a collage made consisting of the original tracks, as well as live recordings made inside the Guggenheim before the doors were opened to the public. It will be the only physical format on which any of the music will be released.
Plus it’s new Animal Collective!
Arcade Fire – Sprawl II
Arcade Fire’s Blondie-ish “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” was undoubtedly the highlight of The Suburbs and showed the band still has some tricks up its sleeve. The Soulwax remix included here tastefully gives it the dancefloor feel it calls for without just throwing a house beat over the song and calling it a day.
It seems like Jamie Stewart had been putting out a new album every year... I am not complaining though! I love this man. But it is hard to keep up with everything he does. If he isn't releasing a brand new album then he is probably releasing a live album, a remix album, a collaboration of some sort, or an EP, or single, or 7". Sade should be ashamed of herself! How long did it take her to make her new album? 10 years. Xiu Xiu was just getting its start when the last Sade album came out. During those nearly 10 years, Xiu Xiu had released about 10 albums and 10 7"s. He has also put out a remix album, a couple of singles and EPs and a couple collaboration albums. Additionally, he took it one step further last year when he released a 12 disc/12 month music subscription service limited to only 50 super fans. The amazing thing about Jamie Stewart, the man behind Xiu Xiu, is that everything he puts out is good. I still have not been let down. Each new album and single is as good and brilliant as the last. He keeps putting out weird and experimental albums that are also somehow extremely accessible. Xiu Xiu is sort of like the experimental version of Morrissey. Just as dramatic and catchy. Just as well written and brilliant. I first became a fan of Xiu Xiu about 8 years ago when I had first moved to Los Angeles. I saw them for the first time at the Smell and was immediately a fan for life. I had never seen anything like Xiu Xiu and still haven't. He took all the things that I loved about pop music and new wave music, punk, indie rock and classical and glitch electronica and mixed them all up together. I was impressed and wanted more. Luckily for me, Jamie Stewart and Xiu Xiu have been very busy.
Wesley Eisold has garnered cult status among many young malcontents for his work in hardcore/noise-punk groups like Give Up The Ghost and Some Girls. So to some it came as bit of a shock when Eisold unveiled his latest project: Cold Cave, a synth-heavy Pop-Industrial group also featuring the likes of Caralee McElroy of Indie-Pop-Noise Experimentalists Xiu Xiu and Noise/Power Electronics Guru Dominick Fernow, aka Prurient.
Early Cold Cave recordings (collected on the CD compilation Creamations, released earlier this year) feature Eisold, mostly solo, building the skeleton for the group. Those tracks lean more towards the noisy and atonal side of things. However, on two now-out-of-print 12" vinyl singles released in late 2008 (The Trees Grew Emotions and Died ) and May 2009 (Etsel & Ruby) the project slowly began to lift its more oppressive atmospheres and mine and expand its dark retro/futurist pop-scope as more members fell into its ranks.