My Favorite Music of 2012

There are still some great albums and sin­gles being released mid-Decem­ber, includ­ing a new 12-inch from Bur­ial, which could eas­i­ly be includ­ed here if I had had more time with them before com­pil­ing this year’s list. As always, this is my small con­tri­bu­tion to the mass of music nerd list-mak­ing that hap­pens at the end of each cal­en­dar year. I’m sure I’ve missed some of your favorites and I will like­ly read a lot of oth­er lists to sat­is­fy my curios­i­ty over missed items and unjust dis­missals. I hope you find some­thing to enjoy!

Selections in alphabetical order

Burial — Kindred

Hyper­dub have released two 12-inch records from Bur­ial in 2012. If you like Bur­ial you like­ly know what to expect. No sur­pris­es here: crack­ly atmos­phere, meta-rave son­ic vocab­u­lary, skit­tery per­cus­sion… All the things I always love about Bur­ial, no mat­ter how same‑y it’s start­ing to get. The only sur­prise, then, could be that I’m still not tired of Bur­ial music.

Burial + Four Tet — Nova

The hic­cup­ing chords sound at first like a by-the-num­bers House cliché but soon feint and side­step into new angles by shift­ing to a new syn­co­pa­tion with each mea­sure. The whole thing repeats after four bars so the ini­tial dis­ori­en­ta­tion leaves as your brain learns the rhythms.

Evy Jane — Sayso

I got obsessed with this song after the first time I heard it. Lan­guid mum­bled deliv­ery over a slow sexy beat. What’s not to love?

Hello Skinny

Named after a song by The Res­i­dents, Hel­lo Skin­ny is a project by drum­mer Tom Skin­ner who plays with Ethio-jazz leg­end Mulatu Astatke’s band. The music is informed by jazz, elec­tron­ic music, Afrobeat, post-rock, and of course The Res­i­dents, but sounds like none of those (except when faith­ful­ly cov­er­ing “Hel­lo Skin­ny”). The fusion is con­vinc­ing and real­ly great fun.

Blake Fleming — Time’s Up

Daz­zlingkill­men were one my favorite bands ever, in no small part because of the drums. This all-per­cus­sion record is avail­able for free from Free Music Archive and will soon be released on vinyl thanks to a suc­cess­ful Kick­starter cam­paign. In his own words:

Time’s Up is an all per­cus­sion based record. The idea was to make sin­gle length songs (3–4mins more or less) out of noth­ing but drum and per­cus­sion instru­ments, hope­ful­ly pro­vid­ing “hooks” not nor­mal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with such music. It’s part Bboy per­cus­sion throw­down, This Heat homage, Hybrid African, Afro-beat and myself.

Flying Lotus — Until the Quiet Comes

I con­nect­ed with this record in a way that I nev­er did with Cos­mo­gram­ma. I think that the pac­ing and the atten­tion paid to bal­anc­ing den­si­ty and space make this an acces­si­ble lis­ten while still retain­ing the sense of curios­i­ty and onrush of ideas we’ve come to expect from Fly­Lo.

LV — Sebenza

This stands apart both from the UK Bass club cul­ture from which it sprang and the South African elec­tron­ic music scene of the vocal col­lab­o­ra­tors. LV have been one of my favorite dance music teams in the last few years because they always feel loose and propul­sive. The drum pro­gram­ming retains a “live” feel in many of their tracks but still feels like the future now.


Sen­si­tive­ly placed songs float in a fog of tex­tured ambi­ence. The famil­iar will occa­sion­al­ly stretch and smear into the back­ground noise for a while before gen­tly return­ing to sing some more hushed lyrics in your ear. Very nice­ly exe­cut­ed.

Oren Ambarchi — Sagittarian Domain

This was a depar­ture from the more exper­i­men­tal gui­tar decon­struc­tions of pre­vi­ous releas­es. A pseu­do-krautrock groove, rem­i­nis­cent of revival­ists like Pharoah Over­lord, anchors the music while gui­tar parts bloom over the top with enough rep­e­ti­tion and sta­sis to give a chance for a fuzzy moss to grow on top of that. The emo­tion is then ratch­eted up in the lat­ter third of the piece with string quar­tet glis­san­di join­ing the dis­tort­ed peals of gui­tar and feed­back until the whole thing crash­es and recedes, leav­ing only the strings play­ing gen­tle har­monies to the close. Immense­ly sat­is­fy­ing.

Les Sins — Fetch/Taken

Les Sins is Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick prov­ing that he can make very tasty dance music, indeed. It’s got enough diag­o­nal move­ment to keep things inter­est­ing rhyth­mi­cal­ly and melod­i­cal­ly but is def­i­nite­ly intend­ed to make you move more than think.

Cristian Vogel — The Inertials

Cris­t­ian Vogel is one of my favorite sound design­ers in elec­tron­ic music. His sounds have grit, breath, and just the right amount of men­ace to inti­mate dan­ger with­out pulling you out of the moment/movement.

The xx — Coexist

As with Bur­ial, this release con­tains no sur­pris­es but that’s just fine with me. More melan­choly songs with clean gui­tar lines placed just so. The beats have advanced as could be expect­ed with Jamie xx’s grow­ing pro­file as a DJ and pro­duc­er but it all still feels like The xx.


If you want some more 2012 good­ies, go check out this mix I post­ed on mix­cloud:

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