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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