Favorite Albums of 2012 - Crawf

Every time I sat down to write anything for any of the publications I contributed to this year (and especially for the TOME), I wanted to start off by saying "I'm sorry." Even right now I want to say "I'm sorry" to whoever is reading this, even if only to apologize for that picture up above there and the ridiculous length of this feature you're hopefully about to comb through. I'm sad to admit that it's absolutely true, but in 2012 I felt an immense amount of guilt  when it came to music and music writing, completely of my own design, of course. With TOME-founder Ryan H. off on his great adventure with his wife Addy in Swaziland, the editorial duties of Tome to the Weather Machine landed squarely on my shoulders. This was matched with the fact that I am still desperately trying to keep up a tenure with my favorite website, Foxy Digitalis, and I also began contributing to Tiny Mix Tapes' Chocolate Grinder section. I was constantly inundated with fascinating new music at every turn to which I just wasn't able to give proper justice. I just didn't have time to write about everything that I wanted to, and my lack of quality time in front of my laptop subsequently meant a lower quality in terms of my actual writing. This year I became painfully aware of how seriously I take this little hobby of mine, and how I truly do wish I was in a better position to actually improve at the craft. As time has ticked by, I've begun to wonder exactly how necessary it is for me to continue writing here since there are so many others who do essentially what we do, only with a lot more agility and accuracy, and ultimately, they're doing it at a higher level of content than I am able to offer in my editorial role at the TOME.  

And yet, I continued to try. I tried to follow a lot of great writers. I tried to set up an office for myself to inspire a regular writing schedule. I tried to find a walkman that sounded good and wouldn't break on me. I tried. And beyond just writing, I also tried to contribute to the great musical conversation in other ways. I continued to play the drums (although I wish I had done a lot more of that). I started a tape label. I organized a music festival, and edited a zine. And in all of these activities, I have to say that if I didn't do a good job, at least I did the best that I could, and that it seemed like a lot of people appreciated what I was able to accomplish. So aside from starting this year end wrap-up by saying "I'm sorry," it's equally important that I begin by saying "thank you" — to everyone who supported the things I thought were important, and the things that I did. No matter what I say or think or write, the truth of the matter is that music continued to be the most important thing in my life in 2012, and I am very proud of what I was able to set my mind to and finish. I guess that ultimately it's also important that I say to myself, "Hey, Crawf man, dude, bro... you did some good stuff this year."

Ok, so 2012... What a weird time we're living in. It feels like I'm looking and listening to the world unfold in front of me through this laptop screen, and that feels very strange and wrong for a lot of reasons. Dramas unfolding, tragedies aplenty, Facebook/Instagram privacy scandals being born, debated, and settled upon in mere hours, it's just nuts! The speed at which information is traveling and the amount of events we all have to be aware of on a daily basis is out of control. And music is no different. Really interesting things were e-mailed to me every day, mailed to me in physical format every week, and that became a bit too much for me to keep up with alone. But things got really crazy as I hung out on Facebook and Twitter for most of my days, following blogs and music journalists I respected closer than ever. Between tapes, LPs, Soundcloud streams, Bandcamp links, Chocolate Grinder mixes, Secret Stashes, The Out Door features, Noise Park renderings of someone else I needed to know about, and of course all of my great cyber-buddies who were releasing their own music or discovering something great and sharing it several times a day, there was just way too much to hear at every turn. And because I happen to like basically everything and have come to trust most of the folks I follow in terms of taste, that created something of a perfect storm for my poor, addled brain.

But enough about how hard it was: How about how great it was? It... it was great. And a lot of fun. While I found myself struggling with concepts as simple as "genre" in 2012, it was just as easy a thing to forget stuff like that at the same time in order to really enjoy what I was hearing. This year perhaps more than any other I can remember since really getting into this blogging/music writing thing, I really felt like my listening experience was as well-rounded as I could possibly make it. I'm going to have to continue my battle with getting over the fact that I'm not really a professional. All that matters in doing this is trusting my ears as best I can, and trying to edit my words so that I'm at least a little bit intelligible. Things I keep telling myself: Be honest when you hear something. Think about how it fits within your perspective. Try to focus on what the musicians' perspectives might have been. What instruments could you hear, what styles would it remind you of, what decades, where were those samples coming from, what other artists did it sort of sound like, and where might this mean music is going tomorrow? A lot of these questions proved impossible to tackle, but they were nonetheless important to think about, and they made the field of music an exciting and continuously curious thing to which I could try and make some semblance of sense.

So below are a few (actually, a bunch... like, fifty of them) records that got the gears turning in my head over the past twelve months, as well as a few of my thoughts on them. I decided again to not rank them. In fact, there wasn't really any special kind of science for how this list was put together, so I hope that's ok with everyone. I started writing, adding records, and stopped when I finally felt like it was at least acceptable. What I really like about this list is that I felt no obligation to pump up the under-appreciated, and I realy feel no remorse in giving even more praise to records that have already received massive accolades from the preverbial masses. This is simply the music released in the passed year that I have enjoyed and am continuing to enjoy, the most. Many of these records made the list within only the past couple of weeks, thanks to the gauntlet of everyone else's year-end lists, which gave me even more to take in and think about. Of course, this thing is ultimately a disaster, missing tons of great music, so it goes without saying (and I say this every year anyway) that Crawf's list is no place to start or end in terms of what the musical story of 2012 actually was. Check out Pete and Ryan and Joey's lists as well, and by the way, thanks a lot to them and to Dylan Chadwick for contributing however many cents they could to ye' Olde TOME's blogroll this year. I love reading about and listening to what they had a chance to hear and review. And thanks again to all you readers, you bloggers who inspired me, you musicians for creating, you music fans for continuing to visit Tome to the Weather Machine and all those other awesome websites, and everyone else, too (even anyone NOT reading this list, that's how thankful I am)! I hope you'll continue to visit us more in the future, where I will continue to keep trying. 2013 is going to get even busier than 2012 was. But I'll keep trying for as long as I can.

Crawf

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DANIEL BACHMAN

SEVEN  PINES

( TOMPKINS  SQUARE )

Here's the first in what will be a long list to follow of people that I have been meaning/wanting to write about forever. I was first introduced to Mr. Bachman's ferocious (yet somehow incredibly delicate) guitar playing late last year when Sam over at Debacle Records sent in the CD release Grey-Black-Green. Seven Pines follows suit with a bit sharper recording fidelity which really makes the strings on his fretboard shimmer with life, his chords flicker like flames atop a forest fire. Tempo like a rock, notes stunningly accurate, Bachman still manages to avoid robotic playing, his brand of fiery folk indelibly human and honest instead. Furthermore, with the amount of notes being played, the tornado of harmonies created and the general mass of actual music being heard, Seven Pines is nonetheless a weightless and breezily beautiful affair.

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WHITE SUNS

SINEWS 
( LOAD )

White Suns straddled the ideals of noise and punk rock effortlessly on their Load Records release this year, nearly carving out their own specific genre. Both free-form and  precisely arranged, each piece on the record has its own specific narrative and trajectory, the trio alternating lead and supportive roles to move across the breadth of the record with shockingly smooth grace considering every sound on the album is as sharp as a shard of glass. Which brings us to more important reasons as to why this rules: White Suns made me want to scrape my eyes out, bleed out my brain, all while screaming at the top of my lungs. Being so uncomfortable never felt so... comfortable, the grotesque so entrancing, alluring, and just plain interesting. Where pain is pleasure, that's where White Suns glows hottest.

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ZAC NELSON

CHARBROILE

( DEBACLE )

Some labels this year were typically unstoppable, pile-driving with release after release of brilliance, per their usual MOs. But a couple of my favorites from the past few years seemed to slow down to a degree, which brings us to Debacle, a label that followed up its year of three trillion or so CD-r releases with only a few albums, instead focusing on a new clothing line (DBL | LTD) as well as turning to vinyl. Zachary Dain Nelson's Charbroile was one of those, a record of such bizarreness it's almost too much to handle. I mean, I reviewed this for the Goldrush Zine earlier this year, but I have to be honest with myself... I failed miserably. If anyone can figure out a proper way to describe what Nelson does in terms of destroying all preconceived notions of what it means to have "pop sensibilities," I'm all fucking ears, people. Better to focus on what we can describe, namely Nelson's ingenius drumming, the crunchy blasts of synthetic bass, catchy melodies, woozy psychedelia, the brilliant cameos from folks like guitar wunderkind Ava Mendoza (more on her in a minute), topped off with Nelson's own signature nasally sneer. With his band Biosexual poised for releases in 2013, Nelson's plot for world takeover was never more imminent than with this release. Sorely overlooked masterpiece, 'nuff said.

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SIC ALPS

SIC  ALPS

( DRAG  CITY )

So. Rock'n'roll, amirite? If you'll indulge me, try to boil the genre down to its purest essence in your mind, what you think of when you hear the mere utterance. Ok, got it? I'd say Sic Alps did that the best in 2012. And the argument may be made that we don't really need that in today's day and age, what with all of the insanity happening with synthesists and solo guitarists, not to mention bands like Each Other miles ahead in terms of compositional ingenuity. But I'm here to make the argument that at the very least, I need what Sic Alps has to offer. The band made rock and roll sound and feel as effortless as it was always meant to be, and not only that, they made it equally effortless to enjoy at the same time. Good songs, played very, very well. What else is there? Rockers, groovers, ballads; the total package, each track more memorable than the last.

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MV & EE

SPACE  HOMESTEAD

( WOODSIST )

MV & EE put on the second best live show I had the chance to see this passed year (anyone who was at the Atlas Sound performance at UMS in Denver wouldn't dare list anything higher than that). So good, in fact, my brain so entirely melted from the bantar's bluthering psychedelia, I went ahead and purchased this recording from Erika Elder and Matt Valentine themselves (who are very friendly folks, by the way). Instead of having an album that relives the live show's headtrip, Space Homestead is much more subtle and controlled, MV's humbly perfect rhythm nicely accented by some drums, and EE's swirling accompaniments a soft and soothing bed for the songwriting to sink into. Neil Young and the Grateful Dead are all over this thing in the best way possible, and MV & EE did a good job of not being a  total knockoff at the same time. Most of their individuality comes in the echo-enchanced vocals that saturate their music, which admittedly can be a bit ear-puckering at times. But that, dear readers, is also just what made this record so close to home, relatable and truly special. Quaint, comfortable, relaxed (even when the intensity is cranked up to 11, see "Too Far to See" especially), Space Homestead just fits like a good pair of jeans, know what I mean?

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DISCOVERER

TUNNELS

( DIGITALIS )

"Tunnels" as a title for this record might be a little misleading, as it lends itself to Earthly references. So unless we're talking about tunneling through the ground of an alien planet, or maybe a celestial skyway connecting the moons of Jupiter, I'm going to suggest we hereby officially change the name of Discoverer's vinyl debut to "Wormholes." I guess it's not quite as catchy... As far as synth records go, Brandon Knocke made one that was among both the most psychedlic and sexy (attributes not commonly found together) in one fell swoop that swept me away again and again, listen after listen. Tones so deep it seemed like you were staring miles into them and beats so smooth it felt like you were gliding along them, a frictionless expanse of sheer groove. I also don't mind bragging that Discoverer was a highlight of GOLDRUSH 2012, inspiring an impromtu rollerskating disco dance sesh from one of our audience members (no shit!). Slam dunk for Brad Rose's Digitalis label, which absolutely killed it at every turn in 2012. And if you weren't aware, Knocke also has another project called Svamps that is gearing up for more in the coming months, so watch out for this guy on all fronts.

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AVA MENDOZA WITH NICK TAMBUrRO

QUIT YOUR UNNATURAL WAYS

( WEIRD  FOREST )

While it doesn't surprise me as to the popularity of people like Marnie Stern and Zach Hill, it is especially confusing that Ava Mendoza and Nick Tamburro don't get the same kind of love from everyone. The guitar-drum duo/combo is a classic one that has produced many classic recordings, but Quit Your Unnatural Ways is at serious risk of being omitted from that canon. These two display an uncanny connection throughout their triumphant recording, dynamically interntwined and unbelievably locked in with one another rhythmically (amazing, considering the malestroms provided by each at numerous times throughout the album). But let's talk about gnarliness. My god, this is gnarly. Which is crazy because of the fact that this is ultimately a jazz record at its core. No one's ever really done this type of duo quite this way, and come to think of it, I'm not sure anyone's ever made jazz quite this way before either (I guess something like John McLaughlin comes sort of close), and come to think of it even more, this album fucking rules. Go buy it.

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INSECT FACTORY

MELODIES  FROM  A  DEAD  RADIO 

( FABRICA  DISCOS  /  INSECT  FIELDS )

Whereas Jeff Barsky's guitar once drenched its listeners' ears with a side of a 7-inch split (last year's astounding "Reflective Chrome Waves"), for his first vinyl long-playing release this year, it crawled all over the skin instead. These are lullabies and love songs for zombies. Prickly sounds that tickle the back of the neck and hypnotic drones that don't fail to make arm hairs stand rapt in attention. Barsky painted his canvas with pallid, sickly sorts of harmonies that were somehow gorgeous and uplifting at the same time. That is, as creepy as things got with Melodies, they also remained positively beautiful. Without a doubt, Barsky is displaying one of the most creative and innovative approaches to guitar composition out there today.

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Former Selves

Many  Moons

( Hooker  Vision )

I'll never forget Paul Skomsvold's performance at Goldrush this past september, the young man hunched over his synth setup and the beautiful watercolor light display flooding his body and the screens behind him, an entire room full of people with their mouths hanging slightly open as the sound smothered the crowd with wave after wave of warming blisss. It's always amazing when an artist who plays such quiet and understated music is able to strangle an audience the way Former Selves did that night. Even when I was outside on the street below checking on something else for the festival, people walking by on the sidewalk stopped to stare up for a minute, wondering what thing could possibily be coating the room upstairs with such a gorgeous set of tones. I guess that nothing could really match the live experience of Former Selves, but Many Moons tries, and at least gets really close — a tape with the prettiest melodies of the year gently dotting planes of soaring ambience. With this, his best recorded statement to date, and a European tour under his belt, Skomsvold just finished up a huge year, and he's still just getting started. 

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EACH  OTHER

TAKING  TRIPS

( PRISON  ART )

Each Other, which rose from the ashes of the previously also-rad Long Long Long, is the first band I can remember giving me that "Eureka!" moment in a long, long time — the feeling of "Yes, these guys get it, they're doing it different and they're not being pretentious about it." I guess the next earliest example I can recall is Women, and of course, Each Other sounds a lot like Women, so that might serve as something of an explanation. But let's give these Canucks a little more credit. Between this and the self-released Heavily Spaced, the quartet cranked out some of the most forward-thinking pop jams of the year, skillfully traversing mixed-meters with finesse while crooning out brilliant vocal harmonies and supremely owning their individual instruments with a dramatic flare. Thrilling excellence. The best part is that the band shows zero signs of slowing down.

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HESSION / WILKINSON / FELL

TWO  FALLS  &  A  SUBMISSION

( BO'  WEAVIL )

Although I used to be a pretty heavy-duty jazz geek some time ago, in recent years my knowledge of the genre has fallen relatively flat. But this live free jazz recording arrived at my doorstep as part of my box for Foxy Digitalis, so first, I listened to it (and reviewed it), and second, it's one of the best records of the year regardless of how much or how little I know about jazz in the contemporary moment. These three are at the top of not just their game, but the game, and as far as free jazz goes, they simply nail it — madness inducing runs from each member of the group that come together into a conversation that, despite its nervous anxiousness, is nonetheless a real musical conversation. That anxiousness is felt palpably in the group's execution, exploding into vocal growls during "First Fall"'s shuddering climax or inspiring some extra-melodic effects from each individual instrument. The connection between the bass and drums is especially impressive, giving the desperate squaks of saxophone a firm forum with which to utterly wail its brains out. At other times the trio was able to calm things down into near ballad-territory, which turned out extremely nice as well. The title here is great: like a boxing match, there's plenty of give and take and a whole lot of energy, both potential and actual. 

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JIB KIDDER

STEAL  GUITARS

( STATES  RIGHTS )

Jib Kidder used music from every decade between 1930 and today to create this masterpiece of collage-art funkiness. But it was the characteristic inclusion (and really, Kidder's obsession with) Country & Western records that made the album stand out from other sample-based recordings. That Southern twang bent these beats into something even nerd-sexier than anything I could have ever dreamed. With the inclusion of some really sweet melodic material, lonesome and weary lyrics, breakneck transitions and shockingly relevant spoken-word interjections, Steal Guitars was an album that felt both historic and futuristic through multiple perspectives at literally each passing moment. Packed with ideas that were both borrowed and imagined anew at the same time, Jib Kidder gave me reason to believe in sample-based music again.

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Actress

R.I.P

( Honest Jon's )

Beat-for-beat and track-for-track, Actress gave the best brain massages around in 2012. Pleasing textures, off-kilter syncopations, and melodies both pointilist and fluid aside (there was plenty of all that to love on this album), it was the combination of dynamics and creative use of the stereo space made this feel truly amazing. Better than sex? Maybe. Pillowy bass hits gently flubbing themselves against the temples and the ping-pong synths panning back and forth through holes in your head... it all scratched the neurons that needed it most just perfectly. Definitely the most interesting and sensory-pleasing take on the dance style of the year.

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RAMBUTAN

THE  TEMPLE  OF  ECHO

( TAPE  DRIFT )

If you didn't think this TOME list was weird enough, you've officially gotten to the weird part. By this point, Eric Hardiman is an absolute veteran, scribing his byline (whether or not under the moniker "Rambutan") on dozens of releases through dozens of different labels over the past several years. And I may be exaggerating, but I really don't think I am... In any case, I've heard only a fraction of the music that he's created, but whenever I do, it's always different and fascinating in its own way. The one I connected with most in 2012 was this CD-r on his own label, Tape Drift, which is a demented, dizzying dance of synths, processors, effects, sounds, textures, and emotions that don't really make a whole lot of sense... And while it might not sound like I'm giving this record much praise, I am not sure what else to say. I just kept coming back to it, if only to make an attempt at unlocking its myriad mysteries, as if I were Dr. Jones himself. The oblong harmonies and crooked digi-beats just tugged at my attention, and I gave it all up to The Temple of Echo: that place where the weirdo in all of us could freely worship.

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Aaron Dilloway

Modern  Jester

( Hanson )

Speaking of weird, of all the unlistenable stuff I listened to over the past twelve months, Modern Jester was the most... listenable of all, which is why I was able to not only grant it repeated spins, but realize its pure brilliance as well. Noise in general can be a tough pill to swallow for many, but the former Wolf Eyes member took his time (this album was several years in the making) to make things at least a little easier on the ears. He did so by using sounds (in large part generated from field recordings gathered around the world, as is my understanding) that weren't so damned sharp. Furthermore, the compositional technique Dilloway used made these textural tape loop jams something interesting to behold at every turn. There were periods of meditative hums, boiling, volcanic explosions, moments of nerve end tingling static, squishy scrambles, and he pared it all out brilliantly into a stew of heaving rhythm, matching sounds together into loops and connecting the dots with seamless transitions.The results left me with a look on my face not unlike the goofus on the front cover there. Nothing short of amazing. 

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THE SEA AND CAKE

RUNNER

( THRILL  JOCKEY )

Oh, the Sea and Cake put out a new record in 2012 you say? On my list, almost a certainty. I dare you to find a bad Sea and Cake album, but I also dare you to find a better album from this band over the past ten years than Runner, arguably their strongest since 2001's Oui. The fact that we're measuring the greatness of these records by the span of more than a decade is impressive enough, but more to the point, indie rock's most reliably great band kept their consistancy streak alive with yet another clean, solid set of songs. This one combined the approach of two of my favorites from the band — the driving pop of Nassau and The Fawn's softer edge and digital-leaning arrangements. All of this, plus the unique harmonies, Sam's smokey vocals, and the band's clockwork rhythmic precision we've all come to expect added up to a Sea and Cake homerun. 

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KILLER MIKE

R.A.P.  MUSIC  

( WILLIAMS  STREET )

Well, a hip-hop record made my list. And this wasn't even the only hip-hop record I dug this year! Ok, so this is a bit self-damning, and makes me look like a total idiot, but If you've been following my year-end exploits here at Tome-central, you may have noticed a severe lack of this genre in the past. 2012 was different, somehow, either because I was actually paying attention, or because it just happened to be an excellent year for hip-hop. Probably a little of both? Either way, I don't mind giving myself a little pat on the back. Anyway, see also Kendrick LamarLe1fJoey Bada$$ and a bunch of others I am continuing to discover and study as time goes by, but see especially R.A.P. Music, which was definitely my favorite. Matched up with El-P producing, Mike's pumelling aggression, acrobatic agility, viscious wit and Southern charm on the mic was spliced with a blitzkrieg of bass and buzzing, synthesized accompaniments. This was one of the few hip-hop albums to hit my ears in recent years that felt fully composed and realized by its creators from scratch. It's also horribly honest, Mike spinning yarns to remind us of just how serious our social problems in this country still are. Though ever-indebted to tradition from the veteran rapper, R.A.P. Music still remained undeniably fresh, forward thinking and appropriately (read: necessarily) political in one of the more turmoil-filled years that America has seen perhaps ever. 

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PANABRITE

THE  SOFT  TERMINAL

( DIGITALIS )

Even when Panabrite got his dimmest or bleakest on The Soft Terminal, the album was still warm and comforting; my happiest of happy places in 2012. The synthesizers of Norm Chambers reflected an inviting, soothing and enveloping bath of beauty. Each synth sounded as though it were a ripple in the waves of your own personal pond. Incredible depth of sound on display here with layer upon layer of melody, Chambers was able to take tightly-wound clusters of notes to create an oppositely wide and spacious sonic environment. In a year with no less than three proper releases, any of which could have made this list since I'd recommend all of them, I  gravitated back to this offering on Digitalis the most. Don't make me explain why, just know that I will treasure this record for years and years to come.

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CHRIS WEISMAN

BEATLEBORO

( OSR  TAPES )

After making my favorite album in 2011 (last year's astounding Transparency), Chris Weisman returned... with... a lot of music. And I listened to all of it, including the approximately 3.5 hour long, 88-track Maya Properties, which probably should have made this list as well. But it didn't: I picked Beatleboro instead, a record with basically just more brilliant songs from a guy that is now locked in solid as my current favorite living songwriter (just passing by Dan Bejar of Destroyer). The musical curiosities and puzzles Weisman stuffs his music with aren't just there to confuse people — these are real human dilemmas. They are the dreams and wonders of a brilliant, imaginitive mind, whittled down to whatever sort of whimsy can fit on a four-track recording (which, consequently, is quite a lot of whimsy). Please see also: Better Psychics. Also: Blanche Blanche Blanche, and everything else OSR Tapes did this year while you're at it, whydon'cha. And everything that came out of Brattleboro, VT too, since something is clearly in the water up there.

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THE WEIRD WEEDS

THE  WEIRD  WEEDS

( SEDIMENTAL )

The Weird Weeds had a lot of underground support with their 2010 release, Help Me Name Melody, back when I didn't know a damned thing about them. And now that they released an even better album that one, it seems like they were largely overlooked, which is a very big bummer. Whether or not they got a ton of reviews (there were actually at least two very good ones that I know of here and here), they still turned in one of the best recordings of not only 2012, but perhaps the past several years. This album brought post-rock back to the front of my consciousness with the band's subtle trick-timing and jazzy harmonics, making my brain do jumping jacks while the soothing mix left my body behind in the jacuzzi. Everything is recorded so beautifully, the band's accuracy and precision in stunning high-definition to perfectly round out the album in a perfect way. Perfectly pure perfection, people. I will get this band to play in Denver this coming year, mark my words.

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FREELOVE FENNER

PINEAPPLE  HAIR  EP

( FIXTURE )

I always like it when a new band shows up on my year-end lists. Enter: this Montreál trio, who brought Young Marble Giants to mind the most with a barren mix on this simply recorded, simple little EP (less than 15 minutes total of music, actually). To a degree, it's true: this really is very simple stuff, but only at face-value. The more and more you listen to these six tracks, the more and more intricate and ingenius the arrangements become (and the more and more you'll find yourself listening to these six tracks more and more...). The bass and guitar swivel and pivot around one another, and it's all propelled by an unrelenting backbeat from a snare that truly pops. Add those sultry, clove-cigarette swirls of vocal melody from Caitlin Loney and you've got the total pop package. Can't wait to see what these guys come up with for the full-length they've got planned for later this year.

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CHROMATICS

KILL  FOR  LOVE

( ITALIANS  DO  IT  BETTER )

One of the unversally-acclaimed releases to hit my list, this one is just a no-brainer — Chromatics created perhaps most consistently stellar album of the year, through-and-through. Every single track is a single, and not only that, a really damned fine single, a hit, a gem sparkling in a sea of gems. Listening is like being in Scrooge McDuck's vault, backstroking through gold coins. Kind of amazing they were able to top their last also-brilliant album, but they sure as hell did, destroying expectations by taking exciting chances with their sound and notably turning in a gutsy cover of "Into the Black," which ended up being a highlight on the album, endlessly haunting and shockingly relevant. Also, it's just nice that there was at least one truly great, straight-forward dance album to see release in 2012. There may have been more, but I must not have heard them and I guess I don't really care. Chromatics, man. Chromatics.

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THE KEVIN COSTNER SUICIDE PACT

STANDSTILL

( MORNING  PONY  Recorder )

I've been waiting an entire year to include this record on this here list, and here I am finally able to do it and I'm not really sure what else I can say. I've written about the KCSP what feels like a million times already, and for some reason I wasn't able to go all in with a full record review of Standstill as I'd promised myself and a lot of other people that I would. But the fact that I didn't get to formally review this doesn't make the record any less special. On their vinyl debut, the quartet melded four minds through an intricate and carefully sequenced set of pedals into one amorphous, liquid, sentient being that could bend light, sound, and time in several different directions at several different instances during the span of a single track, all while remaining achingly emotional. And there were four fairly lengthy tracks on the album, so doing the math that makes for one multi-prismatic, deeply affecting drone statement. Easily their best work to date, and that's not to discount the lovely tape released on Hooker Vision last year either. Oh, and full disclosure: band-member Pete is a current contributor to the TOME and I'm probably going to go to their house to watch a Nuggets game later. Even if those things weren't true, Standstill is still amazing.

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MIRROR TO MIRROR

BODY  MOVING  SLOWLY

( PRESERVATION )

Australian CD label Preservation reprised its "Circa" series of releases again in 2013, and had a phenomenal year in doing so, which I really should have written about on the TOME here, at least a little. With terrific releases from Sparkling Wide Pressure, Panabrite, Seaworthy and others, hopefully the inclusion of this wonderous CD from Alex Twomey's Mirror to Mirror project on this list will rectify my eggregioius lack of coverage. Body Moving Slowly is like ballet happening on my eardrums. With an unfalteringly foward sense of motion, Twomey composed wonderful works of post-classical music, layering synth motifs on top of one another like sections of strings in a grand orchestra. Ambient, but only in function, Body Moving Slowly was a meditative moment in 2012 that inspired deep breaths, introspection, mind-vacation modes of listening while at the same time being rhythmic and through-composed. Nothing else sounded even close to anything like this in 2012, and yet, Mirror to Mirror still sounded so damned familiar. 

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MOUNT EERIE

CLEAR  MOON

( P.W.  ELVERUM  &  SUN )

Phil Elverum and his more-than-capable cast of musicians got back to doing what they do best in 2012, namely breaking my heart. This was only one of two records Mount Eerie released this year, and both go together thematically, painting a portrait of Elverum's home town. But with my ever-business, I really only got to spend any serious time with Clear Moon, although I'm hoping that Ocean Roar will creep on me in the coming months. Aside from the one-off collaboration with Julie Doiron a couple of years back, this is perhaps the best project I have heard come out of Elverum since The Glow pt. 2. The songs on this one are sometimes smothered with droning organs to give the bronzed and rusty folk a cold and windy atmosphere. There was also this impending sense of doom, the songs hovering in a certain mystic mist, a foggy aura that was effortlessly transportive, although it may not have taken people to the place of calming beauty they may been hoping for. Still, Elverum's work showed that emotions themselves could be the destination as much as actual places could — emotion-as-setting. I kind of like that.

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NOVA SCOTIAN ARMS

CULT  SPECTRUM

( DIGITALIS )

While Grant Evans continues excellent work with his wife Rachel in Quiet Evenings, and more recently with the very beautiful Coyote Image Classic, he's also been toying with fascinating new approaches to sound creation and manipulation under his own name. But his efforts in 3-dimensional synth-scapes with Nova Scotian Arms came to a head on Cult Spectrum, which has to be the project's true masterpiece. The record is a work that from its quiet, early moments quickly explodes into widescreen audio-rama and doesn't really quit, creating a universe of sound wherein ghostly apparitions encircle the listener. But even the darkest moments of Evans' work are always defined by their underlying beauty, and the charred embers of glowing sound here hint more at growth and construction than they do decay. A beautifully realized way for the NSA saga to make its final, unforgettable mark. R.I.P., NSA. Long live Grant Evans.

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MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL

MOTION  SICKNESS  OF  TIME  TRAVEL

( SPECTRUM  SPOOLS )

Meanwhile, Grant's wife Rachel Evans hit a new high-water mark for her own Motion Sickness of Time Travel project with this self-titled 2xLP, which is simply a massively beautiful work of art. And people noticed. The record received widespread accolades, landed a very favorable review on Pitchfork, etc., and if you follow her Facebook page, you'll realize she also made just about ever year-end list out there that was even remotely in-the-know as to the current state of experimental music. Pop music infiltrates Evans' brand of ambience in ways not many others are achieving in the contemporary scene, saturating each swell with moments of pure melody magic. And especially inviting/intoxicating are the rhythms and how they phase and fold gently over one another, the ambient underbelly ever-shimmering beneath with an upwards and infinite glow. MSOTT already has another vinyl EP out in 2013 and doesn't show signs of slowing down anytime soon... but secretly I'm gunning for another Quiet Evenings vinyl for the coming year. Whatever happens, the plight of the Evanses is always something to watch with fervent ears.  

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TAME IMPALA

LONERISM

( MODULAR )

"Everything is changing..." sang Kevin Parker during the devasting half-time chorus of "Apocalypse Dreams." But really there were only a few changes to Tame Impala's sound with this new record, although collectively they added up to kind of a big deal. The addition of synths to the mix was an obvious one, but the biggest difference that made this follow-up to the fantastic Innerspeaker miraculously more fantastic was really just... bigness. Bigger. Bigger beats, bigger arrangements, bigger chords. The band's execution here was razor sharp, the production grimey/grungey yet crystal clear, the blasting linear drums grooves on point and exceptional, the vocal harmonies plasmic and prismatic. Lonerism was more volume, more power, more precision — more, more, more, which is just what I wanted from this great band, something I foolishly didn't believe possible. P.S. Wow, did these guys ever save the worst album title in a year FULL of really bad ones (Swing Lo Magellan would be a close second).

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SPARKLING WIDE PRESSURE

NO  NEED  FOR  A  MEANING

( FADEAWAY  TAPES )

I saw a post from a friend who has collected (16) Sparkling Wide Pressure tapes to this point. Now, I am not sure if that was over the course of this past year or not, in fact it's probably not, but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised. Collectively, Frank Baugh must have created the body-of-work of the year for sure, but since I only got my grubby little tape collecting paws on three of them, and I wanted to choose just one for this already-way-too-long list, it's gotta be this tape on Fadeaway. My heart was thoroughly and completely wrenched by this cassette; listening is a muffled mirror, the reflection of a sad gaze, blurred and refracted back through cracked glass. Baugh's work on this tape is certainly about his style, or the intriguing combination of several of them — blues, post-rock, even punk to a degree. It's also about his guitar tones, the musicality, the performance, etc. But more importantly, No Need for a Meaning was one of the only releases in 2012 that really sunk into my skin on a deeply emotional level.

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First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth

Feeble  IN  The  Biome

( Self--Released )

First Dog, along with perma-bro/bud Boy Fruit, saw his first real indie label release this year with the excellent Corecore on Debacle Records. And as much as I really like that CD, even just a single spin through of this incredible album was all I needed to know that Feeble in the Biome is his finest work to date. That is, astoundingly, First Dog continued to not only expand upon his already-perplexing ideas, but execute them better than ever. I've come to realize that FDVCE's style reminds me most of Alphabets, as everything is primarily rhythm- and dynamics-based. Biome is free-form firing squad of syncopation, textures weaving passed one another, interacting through highly advanced mix-meter forums. And the results are simply dazzling, especially consdering how intimidatingly under control everything remains. This is kind of " :0 " stuff here: Why is this possible, why does this exist, and why is this kid not the most famous electronic musician in the world right now? Questions I may not ever be able to answer, but I guess I'm ok with that. This music is just plain smarter than me. And by the way, it's free.

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DEREK ROGERS

SATURATIONS

( GREENUP  INDUSTRIES )

I sure have made a lot out of how crazy the amount of material some of these artists produce in my writings this year. On the one hand, people like Derek Rogers are a bummer because there's simply no way a guy like me, who's already putting fifty unique recordings on a year-end list for his blog, can get to everything they do no matter how talented and amazing they might be. On the other hand... fuck it, I'll take what I can get, and I'll like it. And Saturations is the one from Rogers that I really (and I mean really) got, and really (and I mean really, really) liked. First, it's on vinyl, so there's that little perk. But also, Saturations happens to be unspeakably gorgeous. His talent for multiple personalities peeking through sheets of noisy bliss and serenading seances were in tip top form for this release, but it was the guest spots that really sold the record. Those sonorous strings and the bright and mellow brass giving his music's mossy underbellies a stunning melodic center. Rogers has at least four (there are probably way more I just don't know about) other recordings available for purchase from 2012, and he told me in a dream to expect approximately 200 or so for 2013. And of course I'm only kidding... but am I. Am I, really.

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CONCERN

MISFORTUNE

( ISOUNDERSCORE )

First Nova Scotian Arms, then Concern, eh? Well to be honest, I didn't really know much about Concern before I heard this album, so the fact that this was to be the last proper release under that name from Gordon Ashworth didn't necessarily mean a whole lot to me, although to be certain the fact must be a disappointment to many of his current fans. What I do know is that this album is composed almost entirely out of a 15-string box harp. Through Ashworth's lens, that harp produces cascading and crashing splays of drone, the resonance of which ring all throughout your body, extending out your fingertips and hair follicles well after the needle has made its way around the groove. Simply a stunning and hyper-complex network of pitches and textures created out of something that would seem relatively simple, brilliantly dedicated to wax by Isounderscore, who currently make the absolute best looking albums in existence. In fact, this was easily the prettiest piece of wax to be added to my collecsh in 2012. Essential.

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Boy Fruit

Demonology

( Debacle )

Young Jay Harmon is one of the first artists to consistently get in touch with us here at the TOME. Since that fateful e-mail containing the insane Repulsive, he's been both amazingly consistent and also steadily, slowly improving. Demonology, the official label-debut for Harmon, is still pretty twisted and cockeyed — definitely recognizable as "Boy Fruit" for those familiar with his previous work. But it's also surprisingly straightforward for the guy I once could only accurately describe as sounding like how the monster that killed Lieutenant Yar looks. Boy Fruit's beats still drip at the sides and gurgle deep like a boiling tar pit. But overall things are much more contained and clean, slightly more viscuous and firm, even when the samples cyclone themselves into their lopsided, oblong bumps. Thus this record is more easily describable as simply succulent instrumental hip-hop. He's already released some other excellent work in Demonology's wake, by the way, you should follow him on Facebook for all the latest haps. And if I might make a suggestion, dear Boy Fruit, when are you going to start producing for Jaba the Hut already? 

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KYLE BOBBY DUNN

BRING  ME  THE  HEAD  OF  KYLE  BOBBY  DUNN

( LOW  POINT )

More pillows of beauty from Kyle Bobby Dunn... who's starting to get on my nerves with his consistency. Dunn's music feels very basic with these soft and round tones gingnerly rolling into your ear canals, crescendos of guitars overlapping in a spacious area to give the undeniable feel of a live orchestra in a concert hall. But whether or not a lot of his earlier material sounds really similar to what he's got going on here (and on his follow up, In Miserum Stercus) he's also one of the only droners who I literally kept on repeat throughout 2012. The circular qualities of his music — individual works or even entire albums (such as this one) ending right where they begin in terms of energy and feel — were at their most irresistabe with Bring Me the Head..., begging for repeated cycles unlike any other album like it to see release this passed year. 

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NICHOLAS SZCZEPANIK

THE  TRUTH  OF  TRANSIENCE

( ISOUNDERSCORE )

I wrote a pretty extensive review of this album already, and everything I wrote there still stands, even though The Truth of Transience isn't exactly a record I could put on whenever I wanted. Aside from the fact that this is a vinyl recording and that listening on any other device/format would be sacrilege, Nicholas Szczepanik played into the format's tradition and adherence to ritual by creating a truly immersive and all-encompassing work that was more than just for listening — The Truth of Transience truly is an expression of experience. A project to listen to, study, and wonder, Szczepanik's drones were rule-breaking, game-changing, and remain a fascinating approach to the essence of musical construction at its very core. As a bonus, the album sounds great. Double bonus, it looks amazing, too. 

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SWANS

THE  SEER

( YOUNG  GOD )

I'm not the hardest core of Michael Gira fans out there, but Swans' gothic-folk/metal-opera for the damned was just too epic and massive and all around brilliant to omit from this list. Did I mention this is epic? And massive? Every single track grabs the listener by the collar and shakes them like an abusive parent before briefly calming things down, stroking the hair with gentle pets that are still pensive, potentially threatening. Quite the unforgiving mind-fuck, but also just a raucous and utterly satisfying listen. The Seer was an experience that fed the band's menacing power directly into your own inner-psyche. Such a strange sensation to get pumped up from stuff like this, but damnit if listening didn't make me want to scale a skyscraper. Oh and by the way, from now on any crescendo that isn't at least 12 minutes like the one on this record's half-hour long title track just isn't trying hard enough. The bar has been set.

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SCOTT WALKER

BISH  BOSCH

( 4AD )

The number of times I have listened to Scott Walker's Bish Bosch front-to-back: twice. Twice, all the way through, and it ended up on this list. There were times when I was able to listen to just portions, but those times felt very wrong and incomplete, naturally. When is there really a good time to listen to Bish Bosch anyway? Dinner? Exercising? Are you kidding me? Even though Bish Bosch is one of the more difficult recordings of the past, oh I don't know, century or so, it's important to make at least a little effort, give it a little time. Scott Walker's music must be experienced like taking in an opera, and musically, that's probably the genre to which Bish Bosch comes closest. Fickle frowns abound, flatulence and all, Walker, in his crochety old character, reflected that angry old man in us all, that one who took a beating in 2012 and watched everyone around him take the same shit. There is so little I actually understand about this music, and yet it is so clearly and obviously a stroke of super-genius in my head... sorry I can't be smarter and more helpful about it. Look, read this really good review, call it a day, and just know that I love this album and what Walker has done for the very medium of music itself. 

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C. YANTIS

STRUNG  FIGMENTS

( AVANT  ARCHIVE )

It was an absolute knockout for the guitar, both electric and acoustic, and my favorite solo release that felt truly dedicated to the instrument came from someone I'd never heard of before. His name is Cody Yantis, and I am overjoyed to know that he is actually living in Colorado now (and rumors have him moving to Denver in the next few months... EEEE!). I heard a couple of tapes and collabs from him this year, but nothing had the emotional weight of Strung Figments, a cassette that traverses such an immense range, from astoundingly voluminous heights to equally opposite lows. The melodies alone are beautiful enough, but when filtered through Yantis' set of amps and pedals, splintered out into oblivion, he releases their true electric power, even when the mix is at its most barren and hollow. Raw, painful, and completely gorgeous.

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JOHN SWANA

ABOHM

( GALTTA  MEDIA )

Drums, guitar, synths, bass, abmient, drone, rock, blah, blah, blah... in some respect, my tastes and blogging habits have become pretty predictable around here (sorry about that). But that's why it's so nice to have a label out there like Galtta Media to really mix things up and give us something that is truly, remarkably different. I mean, how often does one get to listen to and enjoy a batshit crazy neo-future-jazz album from a virtuoso electric trumpet player, honestly? The great thing about John Swana's Abohm is that it's not just good because of his incredible performance on the EVI (although make no mistake, he is seriously, seriously good at that thing). This tape is also just stuffed with imaginitive ideas, new takes on concepts like the ballad, up and downtempo IDM, jazz in general, Swana's overall statement floating around in a space of jumbled genres and controlled confusion. No matter which direction the music ricocheted next, the album retained its unabashed neon tone — this is an anthem for silicon valley, braveley tongue-in-cheek yet glossed over with a shinining sense of sincerity. Brilliant.

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High Aura'd

Sanguine  Futures

( Bathetic )

Bathetic killed it especially hard this year, and really I should have listed a shitload of the other shit that they put out, like Padang Food Tigers and Angel Olsen for example. But lo', this list grows long and weary, and I wanted to show High Aura'd a little extra love on my list this year for producing this stunning artifact, especially since I didn't get a chance to officially review it in 2012. Guitarist John Kolodij beat, battered and re-smoothed/sanded/finished his tones on this album into strands of sonic microfiber that came together to form an intricate weave. Thus, the tapestry of Sanguine Futures carries with it satisfying textures that feel both terrestrial (thinking volcanic here) and celestial, also having a far brighter display of colors than the two-tone cover might suggest. At times brutal, but never quite unforgiving with a velvet lining to give even the minor moments a soft and sympathetic touch. Yet another guitarist who really pushed the boundaries of his instrument to produce a deeply affecting work of artistry.

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Jason Urick

I  Love  You

( Thrill  Jockey )

Huh, I just realized that I have the wrong cover art of this album in my iTunes library. Mine is the moon instead of the Earth. Weird, but the tidal associations with the former have me thinking that mine is just as appropriate as what you see embedded in this post. Jason Urick's seasick ambience was one of the more unique sounds of 2012 that I came into contact with, mostly because of its puzzling, mysterious, disguised-yet-undeniable reliance on reggae as a backbone. I Love You is a constantly morphing/shape-shifting swirl of melody and harmony led by seismic heaves of dynamics, music that orbits as it also spins on its own wonky, canted-angle axis. And if it seems like I'm borrowing too much from that magnificent Earth image in terms of themes to write about, that's because of how well all the bits and pieces of this album mesh together. Melodies and styles from around the world swept up in a tropical storm that was a mind-melting experience. Core to ozone, Urick's globe of sound spun me out of control time and again.

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Alphabets

DDR2  /  Haunted

( Self--Released )

I'm including Alphabets here because this album represents as Brad Rose put it a while back, "Alphabets 2.0, unlocked." Truth be told, this is some of the craziest stuff I've heard from Colin Ward yet, with eerie jungle sounds and metallic weaponry clanking away in the periphery, all matched with gunky-grooves and the always mind-boggling syncopation in the bass being of special note. But also, I simply must mention his shockingly, ridiculously, unbelievably amazing performance on the auxiliary stage of Goldrush last year. I can't remember if he played any of the jamz from DDR2 during the set, but my god. In a red poncho with a microphone while his friend projected images of Spore bleeding all over him and across the projector behind, not to mention some of the fattest bass I've heard in a live setting, maybe in years, Ward just leveled the tiny art studio next to the Deer Pile. Be on the lookout for his excellent new tape from Fire Talk soon, and generally just watch for more from him in the future as this kid keeps ever-rising his way to the top. I believe he toured a bit last year, so if he's coming through your town in 2013: DO NOT MISS. PERIOD.

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Mark Przybylowski

Lonely  House

( Gallta  Media )

No one captured the environmental conditions of their music better than Mr. Prezbo here did with but a single mic in an empty house and a guitar, cello, double-bass and voice at his disposal. Dry, hollow, cracked and cold are these melodies, bowed or plucked out into painful strands of frail, melancholic songdom. Talk about slight. Talk about understaded. Figure out what you think embodied those two adjectives most last year, and you're wrong unless you heard and mentioned this tape. An album of classical ballads wasn't a common occurence in 2012 as far as I know, let alone ones on cassette tape. But that made Lonely House stand out especially. It helps that those ballads welled tears and raised goosebumps with every click of the play button.

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Villages

Theories of Ageing

( Bathetic )

Both of the Bathetic records that made this list (see a few selections above) reminded me of the general theme of time passing that drone as a genre is so capable of expressing. Villages' Ross Gentry followed an incredible 2011 with this behemoth of a statement, further exploring this thematic content with a true-to-form concept album. With his home-recording style blown out in stunning fidelity, the very vivid story of life itself felt like it was being told from the end of the temporal spectrum — an old and weary consciousness dreaming, staring back on life through faded musical photographs. It is at once a sad reminiscence, but also a perspective of nostalgic beauty and acceptance. As each track of Theories of Ageing ticks by, smoothly transitioned to disguise the dramatic transformations that take place, the total picture, the timeline itself, becomes a clear and gorgeous cinematic experience when viewed from afar. It should be noted that Theories of Ageing isn't about fearing the unknown or the horrors of death. It's about the beauties we will all surely see at the end. This is that vantage point.

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Macintosh Plus

Floral  Shoppe

( Beer  On  The  Rug )

Macintosh Plus is just one of many guises under the "New Dreams, Ltd." banner that saw several releases via Beer on the Rug this year. I haven't heard all of them, but of the ones I did, and indeed of all the albums released within this "Vaporwave" genre-blanket in 2012 that I had the chance to engage with, Floral Shoppe was the most-seasoned and tasty of them all. By the way, journalists didn't just invent the genre as so many critics would like to argue — as a colleague of mine put it in a discussion, websites like Tiny Mix Tapes and Dummy Magazine (who wrote a definitive article on the phenomenon this year) simply noticed it happening and reported on it, and the name itself actually comes from the genre tags used by these artists on Soundcloud. I'm not as smart as those guys, and not nearly as good a writer, but the best way I can think to describe what this stuff sounds like is 80s pop that has the flu and is high on way too much cough syrup, soaring through the clouds on a hallucinogenic trip. Sample-based music done in an intensely sexy new way, the hyper-familiar cut up with polyrhythmic editing, and the beat being endlessly divisible by thirds and halfs on fleeting whims to give this a steady, if often disorienting pulse. Now, the Asian character fetishization thing? Really not too sure...

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THANIEL ION LEE

WHITE

( HumanHood  Recordings )

This unassuming little CD-r came in the mail tucked away inside a white box with twine tied around it. Curiosity piqued, I soon discovered that it came from an amazing and inspiring human being who happens to have the coolest name on the planet. Thaniel is a young man from New Albany, Indiana who suffers from a joint condition called Arthogryposis, which keeps him permanentaly seated in a wheelchair. Despite his disability, he's still managed to become an incredibly well-rounded artist in a variety of media, dabbling in poetry, long-form writing, sculpture, painting, drawing, and for our purposes here, music. If you have a few hours to spare, I recommend clicking through his awesome website. If you only have about a half hour to spare and are in the mood for some sinister black-metal inspired sheets of textured drone, might I recommend purchasing White from his bandcamp page? I don't want to give you the wrong idea either though: with soft paws, guitar melodies and ebbing layers of harmony are doled out across this record's runtime ever-so-gingerly, White ending up the smooth and sanded platform of porcelain beauty that its packaging and title hint at. A wonderful introduction to an insanely prolific and very talented artist.

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Various Artists

Shadow  Colors  And  Maybe  Insects

( Watery  Starve  Press )

For my very last few entries into this list (thank god), I'm going to be writing about some compilations that I think you guys need to be hip to, since they come from labels that all had fantastic years with several releases each. I guess it's just easier to mention the compilations before releasing you lovely readers to peruse their impressive catalogs at your own pace. Also, these comps serve as truly fantastic albms in their own right, so their inclusion in this feature makes sense for that reason as well. In the case of Watery Starve Press, with contributions from the likes of Transmuteo, Roamer X, Quiet Evenings, Inez Lightfoot, Former Selves, and other heavy hitters in the Southern Cosmic realm of ambience, this California-based upstart made a huge splash. It's pretty easy to get lost in the track listing, forgetting exactly who's making which song, a quality that binds both sides of the tape together in a really special way — all of this music is mystical, weird, and magnetic, hovering around intense feelings of naturalism. I have to mention the artwork as well, featuring beautiful watercolor + collage works from label-head Lynn Fister to announce the label's aesthetic as soft, whispy, and psychedelic. Fister has already issued several fine tapes, and each in every edition carries with it unique packaging, lovelingly hand-crafted by Fister herself. Watery Starve is prepping for a big year in 2013, which should include the release of a chap book and a delicious looking four-way split from Motion Sickness of Time TravelJe Suis Le Petit Chevalier, Fister herself as Aloonaluna, and Birds of Passage, so watch out for a lot more in the future.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

Compilation  #2

( Lillerne  TapeS )

Shocking in its stylistic acrobatics, this compilation is maybe the strongest collection of music from various artists to see tape release this year, arriving at my door after a modest $5 contribution to Lillerne honcho Gabe Holcomb in awesome oversized packaging with excellent cover art to boot. The staples delivered hard here — Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Kevin Greenspon, CVLTS... but the unknown artists revealed through their inclusion made this seem more like an event. Especially Scammers, whose Magic Carpet Ride tape (also on Lillerne) really should been properly included on my list, and Radiator Hospital with their track "Dead as Drums" being probably my favorite tune of the entire year (stream below). This comp is still, and always will be, free for download, so what are you waiting for?

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

The  Lemon  Tape

( Hobo  Cult  /  Kinnta )

The Haiduks' Christian Richer had a very impressive year. His full-length album (as The Haiduks) was an excellent addition to my library, but also his work on this new Kinnta Records imprint made some serious waves. Here he teamed with Hobo Cubes' Frank Oulette to release The Lemon Tape, a compilation which might be remembered as the crowning achievement for both of these prolific artists in 2012. The album includes entries from Montreál's psychedelic/experimental elite, each painting a 60s-twinged, twisting & turning jam, Yesteryear's cover of The Association's "Never My Love" coming out especially delicate. The sum total was fully-fried, fully-weird, fully-consistent, fully-realized, and fully-coma-inducing. The tagline on the cover pretty much says it all... "A psychedelic pop experience presented by Hobo Cult Records and Kinnta Records." Yes, that. Exactly.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

Duets

( Tranquility  Tapes )

Tranquility Tapes held a special place in my heart this year, being key sponsors of Goldrush Music Festival, and resident artist Caroline Teagle taking a lot of time to work very hard on a simply stunning layout for the TOME's first-ever zine. But I've already thanked the shit out of them for that stuff, so I don't really feel like I had any obligation to include them in this list. Except for one thing... this tape is freaking great. A genius concept to begin with, curator Franklin Teagle decided to collect tracks from his favorite sets of musical twos. The result displayed an immense range of sounds and feelings, most of them way out in Martian left-field, but some closer to home than you might expect (see especially Imperial Topaz's super-groovy contribution streaming below). Synths, guitars, bass, vocals, drums — classic instruments were all there, however in-classically employed for these outer-genre, description-dodging space-outs. 

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January 15th, 2013