I can’t say I’ve heard enough new releases this past year to have a “best of” list, but here are some of the favorites that I did hear, in no particular order:
Ben Frost & Daniel Bjarnason – Solaris
This record takes on the ambitious task of creating a new score to Tarkovsky haunting classic “Solaris”, the result are a powerful, worthy blend of orchestral composition and visceral sound design. I didn’t hear much about this one and as I spend more time with it I’m sure it’ll continue to reveal new details.
Dan Deacon – America
Although I didn’t feel that “America” evolved much from Deacons prior record, “Bromst”, it has some expansive, grandiose moments that remind of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, and I love his style of spazzy, midi minimalism.
Janel & Anthony – Where is Home
Fellow Cuneiform artists Janel & Anthony experiment with exotic, beguiling melody, ambient and progressive sensibilities in just the way I like. I’m still kicking myself for missing both their Brooklyn show and their Sonic Circuits Festival show.
Grizzly Bear – Shields
This one blew me away. It brings so many things together in such a beautiful, cohesive way – poignant writing and performances, detailed production that experiments with spaces, textures and at times undercurrents of violent noise, harmonies and riffs that sound at times like something the Bad Plus’ might play. Most people like anthems, they’re anthems for a reason – they’re powerful, but I’m often annoyed by the manipulative and obvious ones that many bands use, on Shields Grizzly Bear employs anthems that grip you slowly and subtly.
Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe
I love Bobby Womack, but I wasn’t really expecting to like this record. However Damion Albarn’s futuristic and funky production together with his soulful voice has a bit of magic to it. Sort of like something Thom Yorke would make if he had grown up in the black church.
Vijay Iyer – Accelerando
Using minimalism, the avant-garde and groove Vijay’s trio has really hit on refined, powerful sound. I think I’ve heard him say that the Duke/Mingus/Max record “Money Jungle” is one of the main inspirations of this trio, and that’s one of my favorite records of all time, totally unique in Jazz, and I wish more bands took their point of departure from it.
Peter Wright – Folk Songs and Blackness
I’m a fan of drones and starkness whenever it’s done well, Peter Wright reminds me of Loren Connors in that way. This record is only $5 at bandcamp.com
Ergo – If Not Inertia
I’m really proud of this record, but was disappointed that critics, by and large, seemed to have missed out on it. For a record with the least amount of written material I’ve ever done, we rehearsed more than any other record to achieve a very refined sound and new approach for the group. I understand that there are too many great records coming out every year and a lot of artists doing incredible work, so I tried not to have too big a pity party for myself, but I felt somewhat vindicated that Destination Out, a blog that I read and respect felt the same way.
Thanks for reading and supporting, I’m very much looking forward to some good things in 2013, including: developing my first sound installation at Alfred U’s Institute of Electronic Arts, releasing the first Cherubim record, a two month residency in Lithuania, and hopefully recording the next Ergo record, stay tuned!