It’s easy to hate New Year’s because it forces you to reflect on time passing—and personally 2012 was the best and worst of times. Musically, I started something a little different this year—I kept month-by-month playlist diaries on Spotify. I created a new playlist on the first of every month and dumped every track I felt the urge to listen to intentionally onto them (nothing casually overheard). What came out was a chronicled examination of my own self-indulgence, struggles and parties. The majority of the music wasn’t new, but here are my clear favorites released this year, in order of favoritism.
Alt-J/ ∆ “An Awesome Wave”
An Awesome Wave is by far my favorite album of the 2012. According to Spotify I have listened to it 1000+ times this year, which is no small feat, it was only released in September domestically. Alt-J (the Mac keyboard command for the delta symbol – ∆) met while studying together (primarily art) at Leeds University in Cambridge, England, and as much as I want to, I am not going to cheapen the territory they have charted by comparing them to Radiohead. They aren’t Radiohead and they aren’t trying. They are original: they make beautiful artistic videos to highlight the epic-soundtrack qualities of the music. They also openly used psychedelics while making this album, so I am convinced there is a meaning I just don’t understand yet. If you get there first, no spoilers.
Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel…”
Fiona Apple rarely makes albums, but when she does, there’s meaning. The album is more comparable to the cult-favorite When the Pawn… in that it has far less pop appeal than her debut Tidal or 2005’s Extraordinary Machine. This is where she is at her best, though her public struggles in the spotlight have continued to bring her mental health into question. She refused to come on stage for almost 45 minutes at a Los Angeles show and apologized when she finally did take the stage claiming stage fright. (I saw her the following day, also in Los Angeles, and she was visibly nervous though completely amazing.) A few weeks later she was arrested for hash and marijuana in West Texas and a couple days later took the stage in Houston where she gave a rambling monologue claiming allegations of abuse and misconduct in the jail, which she “wrote down, encoded and destroyed.” It didn’t make much sense but it really doesn’t matter. Her crazy is what makes her so endearing and relatable.
The Antlers “Undersea”
This epic four-track EP is a divergence from the hipster folk The Antlers are known for. It is a reminder that weed-smoking jams don’t have to be goofy hip-hop. Undersea is cerebral, introspective and escapist, instantly timeless.
Electric Guest “Mondo”
Electric Guest are a Los Angeles-based genre-jumping quartet that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. They make a thinking-person’s pop music. They are catchy, hip, musically innovative and don’t have much depth but shallow music is vastly underrated anyway. It’s musical candy, but the kind you buy at the organic co-op, not the corner store.
Alabama Shakes “Boys & Girls”
They are folky and fun. Don’t think too hard about that though, it’s for fun.
First Aid Kit “The Lion’s Roar”
I really continue to try to hate this band. The whole mystical hippies singing about wolves thing is a huge turn off, but kind of like religious cult-rockers Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, this music is so addictive I can’t help but love it. In the closet, of course.