There are several things I love about music in 2012. Forced to listen to it for hours at a time, House has finally begun to make some kind of sense to me, though it alternatively plops its repetitive self into the absurd column just as easily. Which parallels my feelings about Jack White’s Blunderbuss. Maybe it was him making a guitar out of his front porch in It Might Get Loud, but I feel like I get White now. A little. Also, some of my favorite musicians put out great music: Leonard Cohen can still get any girl he wants. Bob Dylan is destructive and dirty. Brian Eno is curing sleeping disorders. And Fiona Apple. And Jason Pierce. And Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Holy Fake-End-of-The-World basement tapes clearing house. But moreover is that these albums are good. Miss Apple would rather impale her pale self on something the guy from Saw envisioned than to put out music that wasn’t heart-wrenching and exhaustive and gorgeous. And J. Spaceman’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light is actually listenable as a cohesive album rather than a few skin-flayingly beautiful tracks surrounded by too much mouth harp.
But then there are recent developments as well. The Divine Fits want you to think of them as just another good band, who only care about making great music, as opposed to just another “lame supergroup.” But what about the grand tradition of the Traveling Wilburys and the Highwaymen? Are the Divine Fits the Miami Heat and L.A. Lakers of the modern Indie Rock world? With Spoon bassist Britt Daniel of Spoon sharing mic time with (the now defunct) Wolf Parade’s / Handsome Furs guitarist Dan Boeckner, and drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks plus Alex Fischel on keyboards / guitar, there is no chance of this being just another band. Spoon, while consistently reinventing itself as king of minimal alterna-punk-blues, is anything but inconspicuous, especially to the mainstream rom-com throng. And every Canadian indie-girl’s wetdream has been to get into one of the Wolf Parade teen idol’s skinny jeans. But the proof is not in their pants. It’s in their debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits.
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’
Japandroids: Celebration Rock
Spiritualized: Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Frank Ocean: channel ORANGE
Brian Eno: Lux
Divine Fits: A Thing Called Divine Fits
Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
Cat Power: Sun
Hot Chip: In Our Heads
Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan
Deerhoof: Breakup Song
Death Grips: The Money Store
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, M.A.A.D. City
Beach House: Bloom
Grizzly Bear: Shields
Four Tet: Pink
Tame Impala: Lonerism
Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t
Shugo Tokumaru: In Focus?
Swans: The Seer
Frank Ocean’s channel Orange is honest and hits hard in so many ways I find myself liking. Like Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D. City there is a lurking vulnerability behind the braggadocio. But that’s part of the artfulneess that makes for careers and not just shitty dollar-bin rejects (or iTunes $.89 sales). Much as Grizzly Bear’s past predilection for overly comprehensive composey-ness, the Dirty Projectors Swing Lo Magellan is stripped down yet still complex enough to be consistently engaging and thought-provoking, while rocking. Speaking of bringing the rock, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock does this better than most in recent memory. Must mention Deerhoof‘s Breakup Song, a pop-punk infused 30-minute rollercoaster of fun, propelled in the front by Satomi Matsuzaki’s lyrical bop, backed by Saunier’s thick beat track, and the rambling guitars of Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich. Speaking of speaking Japanese, Shugo Tokumaru’s fifth album, In Focus?, wanders through the candyland-soundscape of multi-instrumental prodigy-hood, with the young wunderkind playing every one of the instruments and creating all other sounds with just the power of his mind and a microphone.