January 23, 2013
Endless Sound’s 2012 Review

I’m a bit late to doing one of those semi-obligatory year-end recaps, but things have been busy recently. Better late than never, here we go.

There were a lot great new releases last year. My favorite album from last year was easily the ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ soundtrack. The documentary covers the search for the reclusive Sixto Rodriguez and the effects his music had in apartheid-era South Africa. Though, technically, it is a reissue of previously released music, it is an amazing body of songwriting that has a timeless resonance. The film is currently in contention for the Oscar for Best Documentary. I would recommend this album to anyone and everyone. 

Because a full review of each of my favorite releases from last year would take up an unwieldy amount of time, I’m going to do a quick run down in no particular order.

St.Vincent -KROKODIL (7 inch single)


After releasing the majestic album ‘Strange Mercy’, Annie Clark released the ‘KROKODIL’ single as a Record Store Day exclusive. The title track is an uptempo punk number that ramps up the aggression that underpins some of her work. The b-side ‘GROT’ is an even more drastic musical turn as she veers into a musical direction that has much more in common with Stoner and Doom Metal than anything else. ‘GROT’ is an unforgiving and menacing song. The choral vocal sample that loops beneathe the song helps give it a strange beauty. 

The Men - Open Your Heart


One of my favorite things about this record was how wonderfully sequenced the album was, it played through the way that a great mixtape/cd does. Lots of great tunes that are heightened by a raw but crisp production.

Metric - Synthetica


I picked up this album towards the end of December and felt bad for doing so after I listened to it. Metric absolutely delivered in their songwriting and performance. The songs are eminently catchy, fun, danceable, introspective but not overbearing. Singer Emily Haines is now one of my favorite vocalists now. The heart of the album seems to be the low-key track ‘Dreams So Real’. The question it poses is one that can easily apply to any artist. 

Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense


Few bands manage to blur the line between aggressive and precise musicianship with a genuinely caustic wit. FOTL have no such problem. Andy Falkous writes the kind of lyrics that will leave you intrigued and chuckling from time to time. Make no mistake, they are a band whose musical and lyrical output will definitely cause you to think. Favorite tracks from this record include ‘Beneath The Waves An Ocean’, ‘I Am The Least Of Your Problems’, ‘Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop’. 

A Place To Bury Strangers - Onwards To The Wall EP/ Worship LP


A Place To Bury Strangers followed up their highly acclaimed album ‘Exploding Head’ with the twin released of the ‘Onwards To The Wall’ EP and ‘Worship’ LP. The familiar blown out distorted layers of noise masking highly catchy gems still applies. The both releases vary in their use of using live and programmed drumming. Some of the most explosive tracks included ‘I Lost You’, ‘So Far Away’, ‘You Are The One’, ‘Mind Control’, and ‘Revenge’. This is a band best experienced at FULL VOLUME.

The Hives - Lex Hives


Unlike many of the other bands that emerged around the same time as The Hives they never broke up or went away. ‘Lex Hives’ is a maturation of the music they made around the time of ‘Veni Vedi Vicious’ and ‘Tyrannosaurus Hives’. It’s a very fun record to listen to and delivers on all of their traditional strengths. When it comes to live performances few bands go as all out as they do to ensure you’ll have a good time. 

Melody’s Echo Chamber - Melody’s Echo Chamber


The self-titled debut of Melody’s Echo Chamber is not a groundbreaking record, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Their sound merges a retro-pop atmosphere that is tinged with psychedelic and garage rock influences. That should come as no surprise since Kevin Parker of Tame Impala was behind the boards for this record as well as on it as a performer. Melody’s voice recalls some of the haunting charms that the late Trish Keenan of Broadcast occupied, as well as breeziness of some 60’s bossa nova. I’m very curious to hear where they might be for a second record. 

The Henry Clay People - Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives


'Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives' bristles with the tension that occupies the lives of the modern 20/30 something year old struggling to find a place in the world. Don't let that description weigh you down, the music pummels through twelve songs in about thirty minutes. It is a fully mature album that still finds the time to let itself have fun before reality creeps in. Though the future of the band is cloaked in uncertainty there is no doubt that this record would be a feather in the cap of any band. 'The Fakers', 'EveryBandWeEverLoved', 'Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives' are all excellent tracks to get started with if you're not already familiar.

Shawn Lee - Synthesizers In Space


Contemporary groove master Shawn Lee is a shape shifting entity that makes some of the deepest grooves today. ‘Synthesizers In Space’ sees him take an astral journey with dubbed out bass and percussion. With the exception of one of two tracks this is an instrumental record. This is the perfect record to groove to on a late night drive through the city. 

David Byrne & St.Vincent - Love This Giant


While the pairing of David Byrne and Annie Clark may seem odd at first, it makes a lot more sense when hearing the results. ‘Love This Giant’ exists as an entity apart from either of their bodies of work. The pivot point of the musical arrangements is the brass section that colors every song. The inclusion of such instrumentation adds a dynamic layer that is not commonly found in popular music. Their is enough experimentation and catchiness to make this a fun listen for fans of either artist. 

Beth Orton - Sugaring Season


A full six years passed between Beth Orton’s previous record ‘Comfort Of Strangers’ and her new album ‘Sugaring Season’. ‘Sugaring Season’ has a restrained power that is rooted in the acoustic instrumentation that contrasts against some of Orton’s best songs and performances to date. The lead-off single ‘Something More Beautiful’ lives up to everything that its title implies. This is a magnificent record for those introspective moments in life. 

Menahan Street Band - The Crossing


The retro-soul sounds of Menahan Street Band are the perfect soundtrack to just about any day. It’s easy to imagine this album being the soundtrack to 1950’s drama set in the  inner-city as it is to have this be the grooving soundtrack to your summer. Their music has been sampled by various rappers and producers, so that should clue you in as to the type of grooves you’ll find on this album. When not promoting their own records they double as the backing band for the magnificent soul singer Charles Bradley. 

Other records I enjoyed from last year:

Deftones - Koi No Yokan

The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania

Wild Belle - Keep You (12 inch single)

Red Kross - Researching The Blues


Also, very good chance that I will be doing another of these posts that will be devoted exclusively to some of my favorite local band releases from LA last year.

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