In only approximate order of favoriteness, here is my year-end wrap-up. As usual, a few of the entries on the following list were released earlier than 2012, but that is when I discovered them, so I'm allowing some slack. Though most were actually released in 2012.
This year I acquired about the same amount of new music as last year: roughly 150 new releases from around 120 bands, almost all released within the last 3 years.
Number of those bands that I saw perform this year: 22.
Number of those bands that performed at DNA Lounge this year: 2.
Here's your shopping list:
Metric - "Synthetica"
I still prefer "Fantasies", and this one took a little while to grow on me, but now I think it's incredible. Except for the Lou Reed song, which should be killed with fire as soon as possible.
Garbage - "Not Your Kind of People"
It's been seven years since they released "Bleed Like Me", possibly their best album, but that's a long time and so I was worried. I'm happy to report that they've still got it. This one is maybe a bit more on the "rock" side, though they have some mellow numbers too. I do especially enjoy the Terminator name-check on "The One".
Blood Red Shoes - "In Time to Voices"
A bit heavier but less frenetic than their earlier stuff. I saw Garbage live for the first time ever this year, and then rushed over to another venue to catch Blood Red Shoes on the same night -- and though Garbage put on a great show, Blood Red Shoes blew them away. The fact that it was in a small venue instead of an impersonal, gigantic theatre helped, but still. Go see these guys!
Purity Ring - "Shrines"
I guess it's a testament to their success that, when I heard my first song by these guys at the beginning of the year, searching for "Purity Ring" turned up a lot of creepy Do Not Want, but these days, they seem to have taken over most of the first page of hits, so, well played. They have a sound like not a lot I've heard before, kind of an chopped-up underwater feel, and I like her vocal style. They also put on a very cool live show, with the stage filled with strange egg-pod-looking light-reactive midi triggers.
Ultraísta - "Ultraísta"
Layered mellow female vocals over heavily produced, noodly synths. Here's every other review of this band: blah blah blah Radiohead blah blah blah. I never liked Radiohead so I don't know, but this is good stuff. I enjoyed their live show, too; great use of visuals, and a lot of the vocal loops were done live with sampler pedals instead of backing tracks, which is always nice.
Vanbot - "Vanbot"
Icy electro-pop, maybe in the vein of the first Lykke Li album. This has kind of an 80s feel to it. The emotional plaintiveness of it will probably make it a great breakup album, so keep it in mind for that. This is definitely music to mope to. I mean that in a good way, honestly.
Voltaire Twins - "Cabin Fever" & "Apollo"
They said in an interview, "Our band has the most boring name ever: our last name is Voltaire, and we're really twins." Well, lead with your strengths. They both sing, and their voices work well together. Musically I'd compare them to Ladytron.
The Dollyrots - "The Dollyrots"
Good old-fashioned pop-punk! You can't really go wrong with these guys. I contributed to their Kickstarter for this album, which was a neat experience.
Wazu - "Robobo"
Both male and female vocals, drum machines, and spooky guitars with a little bit of a twang. There's some Depeche Mode influence in here, so if goths listened to any music that wasn't released in the 90s, they might listen to this.
DarkDriveClinic - "Noise In My Head"
My friend Rebecca from Stripmall Architecture and Halou made this album with John Fryer of This Mortal Coil (and who has produced NIN, Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode and a zillion other bands). It's much harder than Stripmall is; it's electronic enough that I wouldn't really call it "rock", but it does stray toward the "industrial" end of things. Her voice is awesome. She does some yelling.
Niki and the Dove - "Instinct"
A mechanically-separated cream of Fleetwood Mac, Thomas Dolby, The Knife and Kate Bush? I saw them twice this year! Their stage presence is weird and awesome, like it's dressed up in the 80s fantasy mysticism of a movie like Legend or Labyrinth.
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - "Out of Frequency"
This is such an odd band, and very hard to characterize. I don't really listen to anything else that sounds like this. I guess you'd call it jazz/funk? Not usually my thing. But this gets its pop hooks into me. I liked the previous album, Fruit, more, but this one is fun, too. Heart Attack is a great, completely nonsensical song.
Desire - "II"
This band is Chromatics / Glass Candy with a different singer, so: sultry, morose and a little loungey. Presumably it's all from 19A0 like the rest of the Drive soundtrack (on which their song Under Your Spell appears: a song I find I can listen to on repeat a very large number of times.)
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling - "The New Number 2" & "Questions Are a Burden to Others"
These two write angry, girl-screamy post-punk about The Prisoner. Yes, the 60s TV series. I barely even remember the show, but I dig these songs. It actually makes me want to go back and watch the show again. I know I'll regret that. I should just stick to these albums instead. They also do a fabulous cover of First We Take Manhattan.
The Wonder Villains - "Zola", "Ferrari", & "TV"
Speaking of TV: The Wonder Villains don't technically have a full-length album out, but they have ten tracks on three EPs, so that's basically the same thing. I saw these guys at SXSW knowing nothing about them except that they seemed to have written a song about Heroes (yes, the TV series) and what I learned at that show was that they were really good, adorable, and write pop-rock songs exclusively about TV shows and crushing on celebrities. If you took my advice last year and listened to Fight Like Apes, you may notice a Casio-drenched similarity here.
Dwntwn - "Cowboys" & "The Red Room"
Another "no album but a pair of EPs" situation. Dreamy synthpop, some of which reminds me of the mellower side of Crystal Castles (musically, not so much vocally). I first heard of these guys when they played at Blow Up at DNA Lounge this year, which was unusual because they're not really the kind of music that that party tended to feature.
Dean Garcia - "Das Haus Volume One"
Dean Garcia was the non-singing half of Curve, and this is his latest solo thing, working with various vocalists who are not Toni Halliday. Musically it's all over (his) map, from shoegazer to industrial, so at least some part of this may help with your Curve withdrawl.
iamamiwhoami - "Kin"
Still completely nutty, still awesome. I wrote a long blog post about these guys a couple years ago.
Zambri - "Glossolalia" & "House of Baasa"
Spooky pop filled with lots of distorted atmosphere. They sound a little bit like Creep or Zola Jesus, so does that make them witch house?
Meg Myers - "Daughter in the Choir"
I picked up this album because of the song Monster, which is a great anthem of self-loathing, but it's the very odd song Tennessee -- enumerating a fantastic set of hipster douchebags -- that turned out to be my favorite.
Ladyhawke - "Anxiety"
It's more of a rock album than her first, but it still sounds like the second coming of Kim Wilde to me.
Of Verona - "The White Apple"
Moody female-fronted rock, in the Metric vein (but not that close).
Giana Factory - "Save The Youth"
I like to imagine that "Giana Factory" is the name of the Scandinavian facility where all of these icy, female-fronted minimal electronic bands are manufactured and assembled.
And with that, I've again run out of steam. Like I say every year, I find the writing of these reviews to be exhausting, but I hate it when I read the "top ten" lists of other people and they're just lists with no explanation, so I make a token effort. Here are a few more bands that you should also check out, and take it as no affront to them that I timed out before writing about them:
- Linea Aspera - "Linea Aspera"
- Blouse - "Blouse"
- 2:54 - "2:54"
- Poliça - "Give You the Ghost"
- Rebecca & Fiona - "I Love You, Man"
- Kap Bambino - "Devotion"
- Soft Metals - "Soft Metals"
And I'll throw these on the list as "honorable mention", despite their having not yet released an album's-worth of tracks:
- Nightmare Fortress - "Until the Air Runs Out"
- Glass Lux - "Glass Lux"
- Icona Pop - "Nights Like This"
- Lescop - "Lescop"
- Bitches - "Buster"
And finally, here's mixtape 124, which includes one track by (almost) all of the above artists.