timscience: (robotdancer)
So then, time for the traditional end of year roundup, several days late because of the enormous LiveJournal fail of new year.
2012 has been pretty good as far as I’m concerned, as shown by the fact that at least five albums which would for sure have been in last year are edged out. However, top ten means top ten not top fifteen – that’s THE RULES. Some of my choices have been described in the past as “a bit Shoreditch” by SOMEONE WHO WILL REMAIN NAMELESS but I have decided that, you know what? That isn’t a bad thing. Say what you like about the red trousered community, they have an ear for exciting new music and a willingness to go to obscure indie gigs that I no longer wish to be cynical about. It's not like they're George Osborne or anything.

Anyway, here we go:

Disappointment of the year: Good Don’t Sleep by Egyptian Hip Hop. A few years ago J and I disagreed over this band at Dot to Dot – I was rather taken by their shambolic charm whereas she lambasted them as overprivileged stoners. On the basis of this album which has been THREE YEARS in the making, she wins. There are elements of tune here but by and large they are lost in a sea of self-indulgence. I suspect that the consumption of massive quantities of weed may have been a factor. Say no to drugs, kids.

Honourable mentions:

Pacifica by The Presets. It says something about the musical quality of 2012 that there is a Presets album that is not in my personal top ten. This is the one where, having done the indie album (Beams) and the techno album (Apocalypso) they go all pop in a Pet Shop Boys kind of way. Lovely but really, boys, the lyrics – sort it out.

Held by Holy Other. The natural evolution of Witch House, I guess, into a kind of spacious indie R’n’B. See also Grimes and Purity Ring, who are also good, but this is better than both of them.

Anxiety by Ladyhawke. It’s all gone a bit Bonnie Tyler, frankly. I hated this at first but have since grown to like it. Not enough for the top ten though.

Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by godspeed you! black emperor. Is the exclamation mark in the right place or have they moved it again? Is the lowercase thing a THING? These thoughts and more may or may not go through your head as godspeed do their thing of unfolding tunes v___e___r___y    s___l___o__w___l___y until they turn into enormous riffs that blow your shit up.

Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells. It was always going to be hard to follow up “Treats” and Sleigh Bells almost managed it. Almost. They clearly couldn’t use the same production trick again, so it’s a little dialled down this time, so the rockers don’t work as well. However, there are a whole bunch of sweet pop songs which now have the space to shine through suggesting that they have found a way forward.

Instinct by Niki & The Dove. Another Dot to Dot favourite. Not in because about half of it had already been released as singles and B-sides which I already owned, and there was nothing as good as “DJ Ease My Mind” on the rest of it. Not that it was bad, mind.

White Math by Blanck Mass. Blanck Mass discovers rhythm and – shock horror – drums. This is ace although tbh it could easily be a Fuck Buttons record. Doesn’t get on because it’s a two track EP lasting only 20 minutes. Them’s the rules.

And so to the utterly subjective Top Ten albums of 2012.

10) Kill for Love – Chromatics.

I was slightly surprised to discover that eMusic had not got it wrong and that the scrappy punky Chromatics were, in fact, the same Chromatics as this – the spacious, spectral disco outfit. Apparently there was some kind of Damascene conversion. I have been listening to Chromatics a fair bit this year (not least because their old track “Tick of the Clock” seems to have been discovered by whoever compiles TV soundtracks) and it keeps growing on me. A big influence on the remix I did for Tiger Mendoza which you can still buy at a surprisingly modest price. Well done Johnny – now hurry up with the next Glass Candy record why don’t you?

9) Wixiw – Liars

Their best album yet, more immediate than “Sisterworld” but still retaining the experimental weirdness. Odd and haunting with occasional moments of euphoria, the best of which is “Brats”, a track which would be best described as banging techno if anyone but Liars had made it.

8) BLCKLSTRS – Blacklisters

“You need to listen to this great new track. It’s called ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’”
“Club Foot by Kasabian isn’t new…..”
“No, not ‘Club Foot’ by Kasabian. This is ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’ by Blacklisters”
“Yes. They’re like the new Mclusky or something. It isn’t a cover, they’ve just named their song ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’”
“What, are they Kasabian fans or something?”
“It’s hard to tell but I think probably not”.
“Not ‘Club Foot’ by Kasabian then.”

7) Synthetica – Metric

I dunno, there’s something about Metric. There’s no reason for me to like their stuff. The same ingredients reshuffled as Broken Social Scene don’t do it for me at all. The instrument arrangements are nothing out of the ordinary, they aren’t especially experimental, and their guitarist wears an annoying trilby. And yet, I love ‘em. I think it’s just that they write really good songs.

6) III – Crystal Castles

It’s a fair bet that pretty much anything Crystal Castles choose to release will be in my top ten and this is no exception. This was made using all analogue equipment although you can’t really tell. Manages to combine all the ingredients of rave into something simultaneously both euphoric and bleak, most obviously in “Sad Eyes”, the closest Crystal Castles will ever get to a club banger.

5) Master Of My Make-Believe – Santigold

Santigold’s been away for a bit and consequently I guess this is something of a make or break record. Hopefully make, with pop sensibilities offset by utter lunacy. In her live show at the Wireless festival this year (surprisingly low on the bill) she managed, in a half hour show, to fit in two costume changes, a pantomime horse and a stage invasion without slowing down the pace at all. Quality.

4) We’ll Be The Moon – Fixers

Fixers were clearly the standout at the Punt a couple of years back and this album should have pushed them to mainstream success, if it weren’t for some kind of weirdness involving their label dropping them a couple of days before release and consequently this getting no publicity at all. Another of those records I keep coming back to. I still don’t really see the Beach Boys comparisons though. Fixers are different, and better.

3) the plot against common sense – Future of the Left

After the new Mclusky, here come the old Mclusky (or something) with a truly great record, accompanied by a hilarious internet spat with a Pitchfork reviewer who took it to task for “corporate slickness” (in fact it sounds as if it was recorded in a tin bucket, which is one of its more endearing features). Ranges from the splenetic (“sheena is a t-shirt salesman”) to the immense (“notes on achieving orbit”). SHALALALALALALALA LALALALALALA!!!!!

2) NO LOVE DEEP WEB – Death Grips

This record counts as a 2012 release because of what can only be described as a truly epic act of internet trolling by Death Grips, who have managed to sabotage everyone involved’s chances of ever making any money from it by leaking it onto the internet early with cover art consisting of an erect penis with the album title written on it with a sharpie, then responding to their record company’s rather plaintive note asking them to stop with the comment “HAHAHAHA FUCK OFF”. None of which should put you off – this is stripped down, aggressive, startling and original. Speaking of which……

1) Light Asylum – Light Asylum

2012 was all about Light Asylum as far as I am concerned. Someone described them as sounding like Grace Jones fronting Suicide, I guess this is at least a reference point (as are 80s synthpop and most prominently NY electro) but Light Asylum are a lot more than a collection of references. Brutal drum breaks, minimalist synth lines, the nerve to keep a song tight until the last chorus and suddenly let it take off, Shannon Funchess’ extraordinary voice, and, in case you missed them (as some reviewers seem to have done) arresting, headspinning, dark and glorious tunes.


12/11/12 18:45
timscience: (SHOTP)
OK we have a remix out on the new Tiger Mendoza e.p. I am quite pleased with it.

I have been listening to the Chromatics a fair bit as you may be able to tell.

unable to embed properly as lj STILL has problems with iframes what is this the 20th century?

Ours is the Space Heroes silent disco RMX in case you were wondering.
timscience: (croppedsausage)
This year’s personal top ten. By and large 2011 was not quite as inspiring as 2010 – there was no “Hidden” or “Tearist” to surprise and enthral me, but on the plus side the sheer amount of good stuff is high – I had to shuffle the top ten around a few times as I kept thinking of new stuff. Contains, now I think of it, a surprising amount of drone-based music. Noise is the new melody, I guess.
Oh, and the PJ Harvey album might well be amazing but I wouldn't know as I have not heard it.

Before we kick off:
On everyone else’s top ten but didn’t do it for me 1) – Skying by The Horrors. Not sure why, loved “Primary Colours”. Just something missing.
On everyone else’s top ten but didn’t do it for me 2) – Gloss Drop by Battles. Too many notes, my dear Mozart.

Could have been a contender prize – Happiness by Hurts. Is prevented from topping the list by the fact that it actually came out in 2010, it’s just I was a bit late getting to it. Never mind, eh? Likewise Body Talk by Robyn.

Disappointment of the year – Living (2009 – present) by Tearist. Some points I guess for reintroducing the concept of the rubbish live album. Some excellent songs including relative newies "Break Bone", "Civilisation" and "Wiped Out", but unfortunaltely it appears to have been recorded with a single cheapo mic out in the audience, rendering it almost unlistenable and certainly getting nowhere close to capturing the awesomeness that is Tearist live. There’s a difference between “raw” and “shit”, people.

Special mentions:
Work Work Work by HTRK. I only discovered HTRK this year but I love’em. Would have got on but the best HTRK album is “Marry Me Tonight” which is ineligible as it’s a few years old.

Tidal Rave by Unicorn Kid. Doesn’t get on because it’s only a 4 track EP. Does however contain the amazing “True Love Fantasy”.

Conatus by Zola Jesus. Although I love Zola Jesus, this album doesn’t get on because it’s exactly the same as “Stridulum”. No, honestly, it’s identical.

New Harmony by Gyratory System. Sounds like an off kilter electro album. Is in fact made almost entirely of treated brass instruments. Contains a guy in his 60s playing the tiniest trumpet in the world.
I thought more people in Oxford would have heard of them, given the excellent reviews in the Guardian and the NME, and their presence on the super trendy Angular label, but when we put them on in the cellar, about 4 people turned up. Oxford’s loss, frankly.

So to the top ten:

10) Polinski – Labyrinths.
65daysofstatic keyboard player moonlighting on solo project. Soaring electro with proper tunes and everything. Specified Bison Grass vodka on his rider (subsequently drunk by Jo). All round nice guy.

9) Cut Copy - Zonoscope.
Pretty much the same as “In Ghost Colours”, got a bit of a kicking for that. Don’t know why. “In Ghost Colours” was ace, and so is this.

8) Future of the Left – Polymers are Forever.
New e.p. from FOTL released rather quietly a month or so ago. The band has had some personnel changes and expanded to a 4 piece and struck out in a (slightly) different direction with a dash of post-punk mixed into the usual acerbic shouting.
I love FOTL. They’re so angry about everything.

7) Mirrors – Lights and Offerings
Let me tell you I was a bit surprised when I looked and found this came out n 2011. I assumed it was a couple of years old, so rapidly have Mirrors dropped off the critical radar since. It seems a little unfair – if it had come out about six months earlier the 80s revival crew would have been all over this. Give it a chance, it’s lovely.

6) Korallreven – An Album by Korallreven.
I actually have NO IDEA why I like this, as it has great dollops of 90s ambient cheese, reverb-y acoustic guitar and cod-reggae stabs. It should be the worst thing in the world ever. But somehow it’s actually rather fine.

5) Blanck Mass - Blanck Mass.
This is one of Fuck Buttons solo project. I assume it’s not the guy who does the beats, because it sounds pretty much like Fuck Buttons without the beats – an hour of uncompromising drones and distortion. Nonetheless, surprisingly tuneful. Sort of.

4) WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain.
Ah, Wu Lyf. It doesn't seem like proper Wu Lyf unless you have trawled through a thousand misspelt internet forums looking for shitty 128kbps MP3s. Has the magic gone now we know who they are and have seen their faces and everything?
Answer: No. Although the vocals still sound like the Vic Reeves club singer doing Rod Stewart. TRUFAX.

3) Necro Deathmort – Music of Bleak Origin.
If you saw them at Audioscope you’ll understand. DOOM + techno – how can it be wrong?

2) Metronomy – The English Riviera.
A weird feeling as a band I always felt was MY SPECIAL SEKRIT went overground big time with this. It is slightly annoying that people who I was banging on to about Metronomy five years ago, to general lack of interest, are now telling me how great they are as if I didn’t know already, but you can't hold a grudge against all these latecoming fair weather fans. Not after you've weighted their bodies and dropped them in the Thames.
Anyway, this is a brilliant record, accessible yet still full of the off-kilter strangeness that make Metronomy so compelling.

Which brings me to a surprise number one –

1) Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club – Bag of Meat.
An enormous bass riff. A song about a card trick WITH A CHIMP. Shouting. Other shouting in harmony. Some tunes! (thankyou, I thought you’d forgotten how to do them after “Love On An Oil Rig”). Frenzied drumming. Some more, bigger, tunes. VEGC return to form and come good with their best album so far.
timscience: (SHOTP)
This is probably a meme somewhere. Whatever. Before we start, a few things to get out of the way:

Disappointment of the year:
MGMT – Congratulations
What on earth were you thinking? This is bobbins. It’s like prog, but without the Wagnerian lunacy that is prog’s redeeming feature. From the interviews they’ve given, it seems as if they have decided pop music is beneath them. Wrong decision.
The sound of a moderately talented indie band disappearing up its own arse.

Honourable mentions:
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Don’t get me wrong, I love LCD, but they have now made the precise same album three times. It’s a very fine album, but a fourth time would be jumping the shark. James Murphy seems to agree.

Holy Fuck – Latin
Doesn’t make the cut because it’s not quite as good as “LP”.

Darkstar – North
Elegiac, piano led synthpop, not dubstep at all. Doesn’t make it because the best tune on it is a Human League cover, and because live, the singer is quite annoying.

M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
Panned by the critics, unfairly, I feel. “Teqkilla” and the Sleigh Bells sampling “Meds and Feds” are as good as anything she’s ever done. Doesn’t make it because of the cod-reggae bollocks of “Story to be Told” and “It Takes a Muscle”, and because it was utterly eclipsed by the live show with added BASS.

Coloureds – Cameleopardalis
Local boys produce an excellent EP, which doesn’t make it because, being an EP, it only has three tracks (plus three remixes, but frankly two of them aren’t that great).

So, then, to the utterly subjective best albums of the year, in reverse order.


Remixes of last year’s “Get Color” by the likes of Salem, CFCF and Tobacco plus new track “USA Boys”. HEALTH continue to work the Indie/Metal/Electro crossover genre. This album is approximately a million times better than that sentence makes it sound. Awesome live, by the way.

9) New Young Pony Club – The Optimist

A make or break album for NYPC after jumping record labels and losing the guy with the porn star tache. Tahita introduced the live show with “Hello, we’re New Young Pony Club….back from the brink”. Hopefully this album sold enough to keep them going because it’s lovely, ditching the sarcastic spoken word vocals and allowing her to actually sing, which she turns out to be quite good at. Maybe now they can stop endlessly rereleasing “Ice Cream”.

8) Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

“Demon Days” was critically lauded but for some reason didn’t quite grab me. No idea why. This, on the other hand, hit the spot. Best track – Glitter Freeze, a glam rock stomp featuring an incomprehensible rant from Mark E Smith.

7) Chew Lips – Unicorn

This won’t be in everyone’s top ten. Fairly standard Kitsune female fronted electro, doesn’t even contain the hit critically acclaimed singles “Solo” and “Salt Air”. In because I keep coming back and playing it again, because it’s gorgeous.

6) Salem – King Night

Call it Drag, call it Witch House, call it Night Bus – this is the genre that defined hipsterism in 2010. Equally, it is the genre that those same people will drop like a hot potato in 2011. The critics who loved this album will be saying “Salem? Never heard of them, and besides, they were always shit”.
To be fair, the band haven’t helped themselves, with a string of irritating interviews and atrocious live performances, but this is a brilliant album that deserves better than the already-nascent backlash. Enjoy it while you can.

5) Tobacco – Maniac Meat/Mystic Thickness

Tobacco is the side project of some guy in Black Moth Super Rainbow, who I’d never heard of before. This album basically consists of huge basslines, crunchy synth chords, and noise. One of the tracks, “Creepy Phone Calls”, also crops up as a remix on the HEALTH album. They have three completely different tracks all called “Nuclear Waste Aerobics”.
That is all you need to know about Tobacco.

4) Tearist – Tearist

Like an electro version of The Creatures (minimalist Siouxie Sioux side project) consisting of simple synth lines, krautrock style drum loops and incomprehensible vocals. Nothing about it should work, and yet there is something oddly compelling about it. Another record I keep coming back to and playing, and the only record ever to have prompted me to buy a booster pack from eMusic becasuse I just couldn’t wait for my monthly downloads to clock before grabbing it.
The second witch house act to make this year’s top ten. There would probably be more if the acts concerned would release actual records I could buy instead of making me chase them through obscure internet forums (are you listening, White Ring?). I guess I must be a hipster then. This sounds nothing like the Salem record. It’s almost as if these bands aren’t that similar at all but have been pushed together into an artificial genre by lazy journalists but THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN.

3) Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)

In an interview in the Guardian, the famously grumpy Ethan Kath took great offence when the interviewer suggested that he writes great pop songs. He is wrong.
This record is ravier than a ravey thing. At a rave. Like the first album, it has a series of instantly memorable hooks which have been corroded almost, but not quite, into unlistenability. Works astonishingly well live.

2) Sleigh Bells – Treats

This record consists entirely of stomping beats, repetitive lyrics and enormous riffs. The production sounds like the whole thing has been fed through the automatic gain control on an old tape player. You remember, that button that cut out everything except the drums whenever there was a snare hit and rendered everything else unrecognisably distorted. It is insane. It is also a great pop record.
Somewhere there is an alternate universe in which Sleigh Bells and Crystal Castles duke it out for the Christmas Number One spot. I wish I lived there.

And finally….drum roll….

1) These New Puritans – Hidden

Yes, I know, it’s topped everyone’s list this year. That’s for good reason. This is a record of astonishing ambition that pretty much carries it off. Features a lead single – their best hope of an actual hit – seven minutes long, veering from taiko drum enhanced dancehall to Britten-inspired woodwind. The rest of the album is the same, only more so.
TNP’s record company gave lead Puritan Jack Barnett carte blanche to do what he liked, on the grounds that the boss reckons he’s a genius and is prepared to back him up to and possibly beyond bankruptcy. What he liked involved spending six months in Eastern Europe, teaching himself to score for woodwind, and experimenting with Foley film FX techniques. “Hidden” is the result.
The album is not without flaws. Barnett’s voice is very much a love it or hate it proposition, and someone needs to have a word about lyrics (“Some of these trees have been growing for years….” well, yes, that’s what trees do). But somehow the flaws pull it together, make it a more human proposition, and hint at the fact that there is still space for this band to get even better.
Brought to life at the Barbican where there was much enthusiastic smashing of watermelons (duct taping cream crackers to a watermelon then hitting it with a hammer sounds like a skull exploding, see?) and a giant drum taller than I am.
Taking to the NME Barnett floated the idea that the next record will be three minute pop songs. I have no idea what a three minute pop song is like in his world, but I can’t wait.

May 2017

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