Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Me Gusta Music of 2012 (In No Particular Order)

Me Gusta: The Best Shit of 2012

I did the same thing last year before I declared my blog officially dead. You can check that one out if you'd like. It's a lot more succinct than this one will be. I want to give you guys a little more than one grammar-error filled sentence about some good music. Unfortunately, this list is a bit shorter because I was out of the music loop this year thanks to laziness. Here's my list of the good shit, in no particular order. That'd take way more work.

From Stereogum
Die Antwoord is probably one of the weirdest groups to come from a random foreign place in a while. Yolandi Visser and Ninja--who bears a crazy striking resemblance to Hitler sometimes--made a rave-worthy single that perfectly aligns with the increasing popularity of the Eurodance/Eurotrash movement. And as usual, no Die Antwoord video is complete without a weird video to go along with it. I mean, if you saw a roach in your breakfast, I'm pretty sure it'd kill your appetite. Great song, even if critics gave the album Ten$ion shitty reviews.

Here is my issue with Sleigh Bells--and a few other notables on this list, actually. Their debut album Treats was AH-MAZING. You had all the hits. You had "Tell 'Em," you had "Riot Rhythm" which is STILL fucking used in trailers for movies and commercials, you had "Kids," and "Rill Rill" with an awesome use of a Funkadelic sample. Great. Cool beans. Come 2012 and Sleigh Bells COMPLETELY FALLS THE FUCK OFF. Seriously? What is it with the sophomore album slump that has been killing damn near every once-good artist and relegating them to almost obscurity? Santigold is another prime victim of this, but I'll get to her later. Notice that "Crush" is not even a single. They opted for "Comeback Kid" which was a fail IMO because "Crush" is so much poppier and catchy. You can't argue with "I got a crush on you" as the chorus, backed behind hand claps, their signature guitar, and Alexis Krauss' baby-soft singing voice and raucous yell. Maybe if they could figure out a way to switch it up a little--the whole doom metal/hip-hop thing they seem to love works but seems a bit tiring after a while--they could have kept up their 2010 hype. 

Yes I know that this song is grossly overplayed. Yes I know that they only blew up because of this song and experienced so much more fame than they ever would have if the original members of the Format hadn't broken up. I know. But this is a catchy ass song. This is how you do it. And it's not totally lame and uninspired. This is such a fifties-inspired little ditty. Not to mention, it's a song for a generation. We don't give two shits about the future, we only care about what's going on right now. The hot girl/guy we're trying to take home, the good time that we're laboring for to have something cool to tell our friends later, and the drinks we should have said no to but we didn't. Perfect generational-defining song. Fun. should seriously thank their lucky stars that they managed to survive the general obscurity of most pop-punk legends who attempt to cross over into the mainstream and end up a casualty. (Sorry, Patrick Stump.)

From Chicago Reader
Chief Keef...How do I even begin to describe this nigga? Well, we could start with all of his troubles with the law, but we'd be here all day. We could start with how he is only SEVENTEEN and has already caught the attention of GOOD Music. The dreadlocked Chicago native is one of the most popular members of the city's "drill music" scene. Honestly, there is something so simple yet so good about this music. I'd normally call it trill. It just gets you amped. A barrage of artists like him are going to spring out from nowhere and completely take over hip-hop. We will be 808-ed and high-hatted out for years to come, and we have this guy--whose also a father, I may add--to thank for it.

The Mars Volta are well known for their proggy arty style. Songs that last longer than six minutes. Songs in their native tongue. Weird album covers. So it is not surprise that their 2012 album, Noctourniquet is rife with the same. There's something about this song and the blurred fashion in which the words "I used to hear it even in your laughter" blend so seamlessly over an otherwise cacophonous collection of clutter. (Yes, I was going for alliteration, there. Sue me.) And once the song is over, it's over, ending as abruptly as it came barreling in.

If Nicki Minaj is capable of doing nothing else, she is good at making singles. And that doesn't really say much, in my opinion. Nicki is a tried-and-true example of an artist who probably started off with good intentions and actual talent but eventually pissed away any artistic merit by becoming a slave to the evil corporate music machine. Back when Nicki was clever, she was good. So her body was scrutinized by everyone who said her ass was as real as her hair. Fine. But at least she had some substance for it to not matter. Come 2012, and she's singing fucking "Starships" and most of her rhymes are just words that RHYME. Nothing more, nothing less. No cleverness, no thought. So here she is, Nicki Minaj as the simplest thing an artist can be: a single churner. Because who really needs an album when the radio can either make or break you? It's just an accessory these days, especially for her. However, I will admit that "Beez in the Trap," featuring another new-but-not-really artist by the name of Tity Boi 2 Chainz was a damn good single. A club banger is all she can shoot for anymore.

From GorillaVsBear

Santigold is yet another victim of the sophomore slump I previously mentioned with Sleigh Bells. I almost didn't put this song on the list, but it was among the only ones I didn't hate besides "Look at These Hoes." Santigold's 2008 self-titled debut was the bombshit. I was happy to FINALLY have a black chick as an indie icon. Come on, most of her songs were fucking EVERYWHERE. In beer commercials, Gossip Girl, and plenty of other places that elude me. But here comes this year's Master of My Make Believe and she lost me. Too depressing, too seemingly thought out. The beauty of her first CD was that it did what it wanted. It was everything; reggae, electronica, even a little hip-hop. This one was rife with too many messages of disenfranchisement. I get it. It's fine to be sad, but this one was just too much and did not live up to the hype surrounding Santigold. I actually wrote a proper review here if anyone wants to know more about why I hated it.

Lead singer Bethany Cosentino is good at writing songs about being hurt, being some guy's favorite booty call--"Our Deal"--wishing to be someone's girlfriend--"Boyfriend"--and other forever alone musings. This one is of absolutely no difference. Even though she is clearly hooked up with Wavves lead singer Nathan--as evidenced by that July/August 2012 Spin cover--she's still good at being heartbroken. With lyrics about sticking with some fucktard who treats her horribly because she's convinced she won't find a guy like him, it's crystal clear Cosentino knows how us logic-impaired females think.

Victoria Legrand has discovered the key to Beach House's success. And she's sticking to it. With her infamous airy, diaphanous voice wafting gently over the prettiest sounds you've ever heard, it is one of the ten tracks from their latest effort Bloom that solidify them as dream pop connoisseurs. Best listened to during an intense stare-off with the moon or a burgeoning sunrise.

Brit band Alt-J (which for the hipsters with Macs will know, is a command that creates a triangle) popped out of nowhere this year and created this lovely piece of fuck music. Slow and seductive, with the lead singer moaning about triangles, his "favorite shape," he commands a lover to tessellate with him until morning comes. One of my favorites from their CD next to the much poppier "Breezeblocks" and the more interesting "Fitzpleasure," Alt-J's debut album An Awesome Wave already proves to be the album everyone will flock back to when their sophomore clunker hits the airwaves.

From UsherWorld
Since when did Diplo get so noticed? First Beyonce's terrible album 4 was Diplo-fied and now Usher has snagged Thomas Wesley Pentz for him latest release. R&B artists are finally taking note: it's okay to experiment. Not all lovemaking songs have to be the same. What I love about Diplo's production here is that it's not too much. It doesn't overshadow Ursh's falsetto and it doesn't take anything away from an otherwise typical song about a breakup. Now someone tell Beyonce that lifting a Major Lazer beat to spice up an otherwise boring album won't really get you that far.

Purity Ring and Musiq Soulchild must have gone to the same song-naming school of smushing words together. This song is trill-lite. Almost like Alexis Krauss to Sleigh Bells, Megan James adds her perfectly feminine vocals to hip-hop dream-pop tinged instrumentals and pulls it off with finesse. Just think of them as Sleigh Bells for the non-Bro.

I think 2012 was definitely the year of 2 Chainz, who has actually been in the game for a looooong time. Formerly known as Tity Boi--thank GOD he changed his name--you might remember him for being in Playa's Circle. Remember this? Yeah. Totally him. Anyways, 2 Chainz broke the fuck out and garnered a buttload of collabos in the process, most notably with Nicki Minaj and Drake's, hip-hop's awkward Canadian representative. (Seriously. He reminds me of Butters. All good-natured hanging with a bunch of assholes...) Even though his lyrics suck an unwarranted amount of booty, 2 Chainz is good at putting together catchy, bass-busting beats. This is car music. This is club music. This is what 2 Chainz is good at.

"Live for the moment. Never care about longevity. Please," Ira Wolf Tuton pleads in one of Yeasayer's singles from the newest album, Fragrant World. Honestly, such a truer statement has never been spoken. Yeasayer's previous album, Odd Blood is among my top favorite CDs of all time, and with messages such as living in the moment, World may also be a contender.

From Hearty Magazine
Apparently, according to Diplo and Nicky da B, "expressing yourself" is all about shaking that ass while being commanded to "spread your legs and arch your back, go up and down and make it clap." Diplo lays down his golden production fingers for yet another track that will pretty much inspire most every girl--including me--to learn to how to make it clap. Trust me. It's not as easy as it looks.

*sighs* I have SO MUCH HATRED for Animal Collective. SO FUCKING MUCH. They are not even victims of the sophomore slump because they already put out so much material. This is their 9th studio album. But let's backtrack to their 8th studio album, 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is generally lauded as their best work and also most commercially successful. Let's not fuck around here: they got HELLA famous from "My Girls." It was as poppy as a group like AC could get. They did everything right. The production was on point, the songs were cute--if you don't believe me, listen to "Bluish"--and even the album tracks were as good as the singles--if you don't believe me, listen to "Brother Sport." So then you'd think they'd come back strong with an ever better album? WRONG. Instead, we get this haphazardly produced turd called Centipede Hz. Cluttered, barely intelligible, all-over-the-place nonsense is what this album is. And the worst part? The song on my list--which has NO FUCKING TRACK UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE THAT ISN'T A LIVE VERSION--is probably the cleanest song on the album and it wasn't a single. This is probably one of the only songs that would be the smoothest transition between Pavilion and Hz. But AC was probably under this weird self-fulfilling prophecy that they had to outweird themselves to keep themselves relevant. Well, in this case, it was too much of a good thing that was actually a bad thing.

Behold and love this giant! Probably one of the better collaborations, and surprisingly modern, St. Vincent and David Byrne of the Talking Heads teamed up to create a brass-laden collection of sounds. Ignore the shitty cover. There's good music hiding underneath. This is one of my favorite tracks, which lured me in with the stuttering opening. Soon as the horns kick in, and that hip-hop inspired beat begins, you're pretty much set. And any catchy tune that talks about television and how bad it is for you is a great message, right? The whole album is an awesome merger of old and new and how bringing the two together does wonders for the ear.

"Sometimes I feel like the shit, sometimes I feel like I'm shit." And so begat the most honest representation of the human existence. Converse, for its "Three Artists. One Song." campaign pulled James Murphy of the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz, and Andre 3000 of (now-defunct?) Outkast together to make the most awesome ode to insecurity. As eloquently put by a YouTuber underneath the comments, the song can be likened to getting drunk/high. The first few minutes is the initial drug usage. When Andre 3000 chimes in and starts screaming about how he's the shit, it's the high. Slowly but surely, the comedown, when 3 stacks is lamenting about how he feels like shit. Fifteen minutes is just enough time to go from feeling awesome to feeling worthless.

First off. For anyone who doesn't know what he means, how about a vocab lesson? "Read" is a verb that usually means to devour a book. But in this case, it means he's "reading" a person. He's seeing this bitch out. He is breaking down who she is and that this girl is a slut. Basically, this song is about slut-shaming done over a skittering, minimal-as-FUCK drum beat. No wonder Katz is on Diplo's label Mad Decent. 

More successful than neo-funkster Nikka Costa, less relevant than Raphael Saadiq, the Heavy has been toughing it out since their 2007 debut Great Vengeance and Furious Fire. With yet another tune that's been heavily used in commercials--much like "How You Like Me Now?" the Heavy is still hellbent on reviving funk for the masses. Honestly, we need more people like them. There should be a league of modern funk artists who can finally see the fruit of their labor and not be shoved into the abyss for creating good music. And while we're making that league, let's dig Van Hunt out of that hole, too.

With the help of Drake, Lil' Wayne, and Rick Ross, another hip-hop newcomer gets by with the help of his friends...and a 2 Live Crew sample. Dirty, disgusting, and another trill masterpiece added to the stripper music lexicon, it is impossible to not even fathom dropping it low to this one. 

I think we all know by now that Grizzly Bear is good. Moving on...

We all have the grandest time trying to sing the reggae chorus hook that no one understands! It was the year of GOOD Music. Kanye, Big Sean, Pusha T, and yet another cameo by 2 Chainz rolled through and created a monster of a jam. And since Kanye loves to sample damn near everything, this song wouldn't be complete without the ominous sample from Scarface that separates the first half of the song from the beginning. Gotta hand it to the International Asshole. He's good at making hits, regardless of the song length. ("Monster" is 6:18. This one is 5:34, abnormally long for hip-hop tracks, IMO. But then again, Yeezy makes it work!)

Everyone had gotten their panties in a wad because Muse was experimenting with dubstep on The 2nd Law, their latest release. I say, what the fuck is the big deal? Muse has always been tinkering with electronica. It's kind of their thing. Was anyone that astonished that they'd eventually try to see what dubstep would offer them? And here, it works for them. It's not too much. You still have instruments, and it's still a great song. Sometimes, it's good to dip off into the mainstream pot and grab a few things. Just don't take too much, is all.

More witch house than ever, Crystal Castles is back with their third album, (III). Still sticking with their creep-trill elements, it doesn't look like they're abandoning what's made them famous anytime soon.

I have always thought this song was an appropriate album starter. Plus, it has that quiet/loud aesthetic that still stands the tests of times. (Thank you, Pixies.) Dirty Projectors proved that losing one of your bandmates--Angel Deradoorian peaced the fuck out after falling out with David Longstreth, the voice you mainly hear--means nothing to your success. Swing Lo Magellan yielded a few good tunes from the record including the singles "Gun Has No Trigger,"and "The Socialites." With the humming and hand-claps, less-is-more approach, and harmonies by Amber Coffman and the new girl, this song was bound to be praised.

Frank Ocean is the truth. Not only did he successfully manage to stand out in a group with fucking Tyler, the Creator, snag critical acclaim before even putting out an album, but he even grabbed some great artists to guest on his full-length debut, Channel Orange. One of 2012's buzz artists, it's easy to see why. He's an amazing singer and his lyrics are deep and thought-provoking. The lovely "Pink Matter" with the aforementioned 3 stacks is a shining example, with themes that almost beg to ask the question "why am I here?" And then the guitar kicks in, signaling Dre's arrival, telling the audience that since the lady's been gone, he's been "having withdrawals. Ain't myself at all, had to tell myself naw." Does it get any more real than that?

Another soul-reared song makes the list as Electric Guest sways us with a cooler-than-cool piano riff. The brother of The Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone gives us music for the grown and sexy set and yet another track that's been used by commercials. The key to success!

From MyOldKentuckyBlog

Dent May has something in common with Animal Collective. No, not sucking really bad. But both have an extreme Brian Wilson influence. The Beach Boys lead singer has left his influence all over these two, and it is very apparent with May. Listening to "Home Groan," one could definitely smell Wilson all over this track. Here, May complains of not wanting to move to New York or SoCal. So wherever he is, it's just fine with him. Point taken.

This song sounds like the precursor to a teenage makeout in an eighties movie. Much like M83 creates epic music as if John Hughes were still alive, Bear in Heaven has a contender here. The build-up here is insatiable. And when the lead singer wails, "Go aheeeeeeeeeeead and make me crazyyyyyyy," it's the vocal representation of every couple's beating heart before the big smooch. I just...I just fucking love this song. 

I get into everything super late, which might explain why most of this list doesn't even represent much of the last half of 2012. I just heard this song in the beginning of December and I shat a brick when I saw it was Thom Yorke and Flea. Radiohead and RHCP. What. Thom Yorke has been dabbling with electronica forever. You know he was relieved to finally stop jerking it and make it a reality. This is one of his many forays and it just sounds amazing. It's Yorke lamenting over a really awesome beat as he usually does. I think my brain exploded at the idea of two musical greats coming together and making such an awesome song. I don't think there's much more to say other than me fangirling extra hard. Moving on.

More production by Mike Will Made It, who also produced "Mercy" and "No Lie." Lil' Wayne and 2 Chainz make guest appearances on the track, another ode to strippers. This track marks Juicy J's triumphant return to the music scene after a brief period in hiding. I hated the fuck out of this song at first, but like most trill music, it grew on me. Dammit. I should just come on out and say it. Travis Porter, Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Future, Meek Mill, Chief Keef, if I ever say I hate you, odds are, I'll end up liking you eventually. Keep the stripper songs coming.

Now here's a powerful ass song. Cat Power, AKA Chan Marshall, has been through some shit. Lackluster love life? Check. Declining mental health? Check. She's already got the two main ingredients for a good album. So what's a girl to sing about when she's been through it all? Well, you could sing about travelling everywhere, seeing people struggle way worse than we could ever imagine, and then weep for those who complain about trivial matters "when some people ain't got shit to eat." Preach, sister. Amid a piano and drum beat, Marshall is able to zap us out of our quotidian nonsense and deliver the wake up call. To herself? To the rest of the world? Maybe if we traveled that far and wide, we'd have a different perspective, too. 

From Stereogum
Hot Chip has been at it for a long time. They are the nerds who refuse to give it up. I have a lot of respect for them. I've been in the know about these boys since 2008 when I first heard "Shake a Fist" from Made in the Dark. Such an amazing album couldn't topped in my opinion. The songs were too strong, too good to be replicated by future efforts. I was right. Kind of. One Life Stand was particularly mediocre and though I haven't heard the whole thing yet, In Our Heads stands a good chance to be just as not-all-that-great. But the first single from the album is a strong, house song. It starts off slow and spins out of control into this beautifully produced song that almost sounds like some new ground. It's not that typical of Hot Chip, in my opinion. They're used to lots of glitchy, bloopery music. This song is mature, it's not bloopy at all, and is actually quite chill. Therefore, I applaud you, Hot Chip, for trying something a little new and succeeding in your exploits. Now excuse me. I have to go listen to more music that probably should have made this list. 

What did I miss? What did you like? Let me know, and happy 2013! More good music awaits us!

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