No, this is not a best of 2012 list. Such a claim would be quite a tall order 🙂 These are just a few of my favourite sings (sick, sick, sick) from the year gone by. Again, just a few. I had a fabulous start to the year spending time at an NGO up in the mountains. This post acts partly as musical closure to the year gone by. This list is hugely influenced by the fact that many of its entries are not seen together in a single place. And I think these albums should be heard.
The Bad Plus have been pushing the frontiers of jazz for a dozen years now with their brand of the form laced with pop and jazz. I’ve not heard all of this trio’s albums but the 5 out of their 9 thus far that I have offer a good plot of their course. I find ‘Made Possible’ released in 2012 their most satisfying, a significant stopover on their musical path.
Singer, songwriter, whistler, fiddler – Andrew Bird is all of that and till 2012’s ‘Break It Yourself’, I had not heard of him. This album quickly turned out to be one of my favourites with its very eclectic yet accessible mix of folk, a bit of jazz and even some Caribbean elements.
Shearwater’s ‘Animal Joy’ turned out to be a bit of an ‘under-performer’ on this year’s lists, at least the ones that I’ve read. Odd, because this is such a superbly crafted piece of work. I loved the band’s 2008 effort ‘Rook’ but the exhibition of controlled power riding on soaring melodies heard on ‘Animal Joy’ has made this a favourite.
In sharp contrast, Vijay Iyer Trio’s ‘Accelerando’ finds its place in every one of the year-end lists – of jazz that is – that I’ve come across. Thankfully and very deservedly so. There were so many exceptional jazz records that were released last year giving the lie to all chatter on the genre’s demise – Brad Mehldau Trio’s ‘Ode’, Tim Berne’s ’Snakeoil’, the genre-defying ‘Black Radio’ by the Robert Glasper Experiment that I’ve already written about. ‘Accelerando’ is right up there with these. BTW, the sample here from the album features another favourite, Flying Lotus a.k.a Steve Ellison
When I first came across the track listing of Bevar Sea’s eponymous debut release, I thought it was an EP. That idea was soon enough dispelled when I saw that the 4 songs covered a good 43 minutes. As much as the year past got me to re-discover jazz, it also saw me embrace metal…without wincing. Bevar Sea is acquiring something of cult status in the doom metal circles in India with its searing, epic live performances. I just hope they don’t splinter and go the way of many promising bands from this part of the world. An aside – I wonder how many people who’re familiar with Bevar Sea know what the rather blatant play on a local word used for the band’s name means >;->
Avi Avital is a musician on a mission, to embed the mandolin strongly in the Western Classical music ethos. If the brilliant effort on his performance (accompanied by Kammerakademie Potsdam) of select Bach compositions on the album titled simply ‘Bach’ is an indicator, he’s well on his way to success.
In all the attention given to the works of women artistes – and exceptional ones in the likes of Cat Power, Fiona Apple, St. Vincent (on her terrific duet with David Byrne) – Sinead O’Connor’s ‘How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?’ was largely forgotten. Ever a child of controversy and inconsistency, O’Connor’s 2012 release after a gap of 5 years is a sharp reminder to the world of one of contemporary popular music’s most powerful voices. Her songwriting is less strident in its tone but has lost none of its strength.
To say that I universally enjoy Sonic Youth wouldn’t be right. There are certain moods that I get into when I crave their unconventional brand of rock – it’s been called art-rock. Now that prefix is always ‘you’ve-been-warned’ notice. So when I came across a review of their guitarist (one of them) Lee Ranaldo’s solo album ‘Between The Times & The Tides’ on BobDylanWrotePropagandaSongs I went ahead and got me the CD. And I’ve been thankful to BDWPS ever since. The change from Sonic Youth’s experimentation to a conventional pop/rock structure works in this album’s favour very well.
From one delightful surprise to another. I couldn’t relate to Swans’ earlier works that I had heard. And on ‘The Seer’ Michael Gira’s predilections are made clear on the opener ‘Lunacy’. But I’m extremely happy to say that on this album, it’s the kind of madness that makes for very rewarding music. At no time during the nearly 2 hour long track run has my attention wavered, even after multiple listenings. I perhaps need say nothing more. But if you’d like a full review, you should check Chris’s take on his Note-On-Notes blog.
There are so many others – Frank Ocean, Fiona Apple, Tame Impala, Killer Mike…and there are the singles – Agam’s ‘Swans Of Saraswathi’, Spiritualized’s epic ‘Hey Jane’ on an album that couldn’t quite live up to that start, and yes, you guys at LxL, Adele’s ‘Skyfall’ has quickly become my favourite Bond song. Maybe I’ll just do a short one on singles next week.