2012 found me retreating further into the underground than in years past, ostensibly trying to reconnect with my punk rock roots while expanding my ever-increasing love of rap music.
As a result, there isn’t much of a mainstream representation on the lists to come. If I’m doing my job well, you’ll want to read regardless, but I’d never blame the rats for jumping off the sinking ship.
So move ahead and know that the following bands are either 1) something you’ve never heard before and might like or 2) complete and utter aging-hipster bullshit.
Best Music 2012: Honorable Mentions
- Sounds like: Radiohead before it got full of itself, 90s radio alternative with an electro touch.
- What’s the deal? Full disclosure: I am related to Jules Rimet. That said, I’d like to think that I’d be attracted to Halt Construction regardless of blood. Rimet’s debut EP does a great job of establishing a haunting mood that generally dissipates into optimism as he Radiohead’s his way through New York City. Part slow starter, part spiritual story of finding comfort in a new place, Halt Construction is a strong showing.
- Sounds like: A more fun Vampire Weekend
- What’s the deal? It’s hard to imagine a band like White Arrows existing 10 years ago. So much of the band’s appeal comes from its merging of different popular genres: namely, the “world music” revival of Vampire Weekend and the electronic rock of bands like Yeasayer. That said, Dry Land is Not a Myth plays less like a math equation and finds a way to bring a real sense of warmth and fun to its keyboard pop, making some of the year’s best individual songs in the process.
- Sounds like: Superchunk, Sugar, power-pop
- What’s the deal? Chalk this one up to “too many albums, not enough time.” I didn’t come to Silver Age until late in the year and, as such, didn’t feel confident putting it in my final year-end list. Considering its high energy and sweeping maturity, Bob Mould should hold a clinic in how to age gracefully without slowing down. I’m pretty sure that this would be a top 20 album if I had taken more time with it.
- Sounds like: Bjork, PJ Harvey, mope shit
- What’s the deal? Another album I just didn’t have enough time to fully take in. The Haunted Man is a spooky little mood album, one that hints as a much darker core without every fully committing, making it a good companion for very early mornings or very lonely nights.
- Sounds like: Drake without the high school bullshit
- What’s the deal? The Weeknd’s strength is that he has no interest in courting you. His first release is not only a triple album of songs he’s already released for free online, it’s a relentless parade of songs about desperate sex, desperate drug use and desperate self-loathing. So, yeah, not really a super-fun listen. That said, his willingness to explore the darker side of party life coupled with his minimalist abilities make Trilogy an exciting, is somewhat harrowing, listen.
- Sounds like: The Jesus Lizard, Mclusky, the angriest, smartest punk band in the world.
- What’s the deal? My friend Sam summed up the problem with The Plot Against Common Sense when he and I saw Future of the Left in November: when the band aims its ire at specific targets, it’s impact is often dulled. Sadly, Future of the Left appear to be headhunting on their most recent album, taking very specific shots at some topics well below their pay grade. The good news, however, is that when the band loses its targets and lashes out at the world with heavy guitars and throaty screams, they’re still a singular band unlike any other.
- Sounds like: Static Radio NJ, pop-punk from dudes in their 20s
- What’s the deal? Philly’s Luther blew up a little bit, in small-town punk terms, in 2012: a write-up in the Citypaper, an opening gig with Bomb the Music Industry, and a solid performance at the Fest all served to boost their profile. With their hook-heavy brand of pop-punk that goes light on the angst, Let’s Get You Somewhere Else is worthy of the hype.
- Listen to: The Concrete Sound, The Second Star