As we begin to wrap up 2012, it's time to take stock of the year in music and select our favorites. Team Soundcheck is presenting some of our favorite and least favorite music and moments from 2012, and to help, we've crafted a series of questions including favorite album, favorite song and most memorable concert of 2012.
Here are the picks from the Soundcheck staff:
Today Soundcheck executive producer Joel Meyer gives us his list for 2012.
We also want to hear from you! Fill out Soundcheck's 2012 Music Survey and tell us your picks!
1) Favorite Album Of 2012 -- Django Django, Django Django
This year, I'm giving it to the Scottish band Django Django for its self-titled debut. On it, you hear musicians playing with genre, energy and nostalgia -- and the results are just, well, joyfully weird. "Hail Bop" sounds like The Mamas and the Papas backed by New Order. "Default" can only be described as "Devo skiffle." Not every track is a winner, but Django Django has the strongest first acts of any album this year.
And for those wondering, here's my full list of best albums of 2012:
1. Django Django, Django Django
2. Menomena, Moms
3. Grizzly Bear, Shields
4. Tiny Victories, Those Of Us Still Alive
5. Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship
6. Cat Power, Sun
7. Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again
8. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
9. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
10. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
11. Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan
12. Tift Merritt, Traveling Alone
13. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
14. Death Grips, The Money Store
15. Punch Brothers, Who's Feeling Young Now?
16. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes
17. Heems, Wild Water Kingdom
18. Dr. John, Locked Down
19. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
20. Hot Chip, In Our Heads
2) Favorite Song Of 2012 -- Feistodon, "A Commotion" from "Commotion" b/w "Black Tongue" 7"
I am a sucker for the split single, starting with that Tar/Jawbox 7-inch I bought when I was 15. Still, the Mastodon and Feist collaborative Record Store Day song-trade "A Commotion" b/w "Black Tongue" was deliciously weird in concept and brilliant in execution. "A Commotion" was my favorite track of the year. Also, keep in mind that I would gladly listen to practice tapes of Mastodon’s drummer Brann Dailor and call it album of the year.
Here's how the rest of my best songs list came out:
1. Mastodon, "A Commotion" (from A Commotion b/w Black Tongue)
2. Django Django, "Default" (from Django Django)
3. Alt-J, "Fitzpleasure" (from An Awesome Wave)
4. Cat Power, "Cherokee" (from Sun)
5. Punch Brothers, "Movement And Location" (from Who's Feeling Young Now?)
6. Menomena, "Baton" (from Moms)
7. Sharon Van Etten, "Serpents" (from Tramp)
8. Hot Chip, "Motion Sickness" (from In Our Heads)
9. Death Grips, "Get Got" (from The Money Store)
10. Grimes, "Genesis" (from Visions)
3) Favorite New Band Or Artist Of 2012 -- Tiny Victories
Back in February, the Brooklyn electronic duo Tiny Victories released its five-song debut, Those Of Us Still Alive. There's really no need to check my iTunes library’s play count: This is the record I played the most times this year. Songs like "Mr. Bones" caught my ear because they remind me of the early Magnetic Fields releases: Danceable, creative and emotional. And they stuck with me because of mysterious lines like: "There's more liquor in your glass and champagne in the back, and there are 50 dollar bills in the backseat of cabs.” I clearly live in the wrong part of town.
4) Biggest Musical Surprise Of 2012 -- Best Coast, The Only Place
Some people who assess music for a living -- critics, bloggers, club bookers -- may claim to approach every new release with an open mind. I am not one of those people. I wrestle with musical grudges and sonic biases a lot when digging through my mail. There's a smug, overconfident devil on my shoulder. But I gotta say: He's right a lot of the time.
When he's wrong, I often discover my soon-to-be favorite things. Take Best Coast, for example. I wasn’t a fan of its first album, and I didn’t expect the band to improve with time. Enter producer Jon Brion, who brought out the best in Best Coast and transformed the band’s past liabilities -- the garage sound, the California shtick, the no-frills songwriting -- into the very things I liked most about them in 2012.
5) Biggest Musical Disappointment Of 2012 -- Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves
I considered handing this award to Sigur Ros for Valtari or to Rick Ross for everything that Rick Ross did in 2012. But Sigur Ros is just running its natural course. As for the Big Boss, that guy is just in the wilderness right now. He’ll be back.
More deeply disappointing was the latest from Mark Kozelek's project Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves. This is strictly personal: My desert island disc might be 2003's Ghosts Of The Great Highway. I'm still discovering new things in that album to love. And if called upon, I would take to the streets to defend Kozelek’s previous band, Red House Painters. I even find deep meaning in Kozelek’s tiny on-screen role (and major off-screen role) in the rock film Almost Famous.
But I haven't locked yet with Among The Leaves, and it has me super freaked out. It’s like going out for a drink with an old college friend who just … seems … different. And you want to call all your other friends and ask, "What's wrong with Ted?" But you don't. Instead, you’ll try hanging out with Ted again in two years and things will probably be fine. (You hope.)
6) Most Memorable Concert Of 2012 -- Tie: Bruce Springsteen, The Afghan Whigs, Frank Ocean And Bon Iver
This one is a three-way tie. I'm sorry, I can't pick just one. I saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time on April 6 at Madison Square Garden. It was amazing, and raving about it was a bit like telling people about this great movie called Star Wars. The Afghan Whigs (Terminal 5, Oct. 5) nearly made my "biggest surprise" nomination, as this reunion could have been disastrous. Instead, it rivaled the Springsteen show for its transcendent quality.
And when Frank Ocean and Bon Iver played a sponsored-show at Angel Orensanz Center (Sept. 24), I watched one artist (Ocean) hypnotize the crowd and another (Justin Vernon) blow them away with noise. Bon Iver, whose members were at the end of a long tour and the start of what might be a long hiatus, rocked like a jubilant Crazy Horse.
7) Music Trend Of 2012 -- Arguing About Spotify
Damon Krukowski's November Pitchfork essay about the tiny royalties he receives was the latest and most compelling entry in the new subgenre I call "Screaming About Spotify." It sparked a great conversation online, and it gave me hope that Spotify could become more sustainable and equitable. (I’m a customer.) Also, we're running out of options and time, folks.
8) Worst Music (Song or Album) Of 2012 -- Psy, "Gangnam Style"
I'm going to keep this short: 900 Million YouTube clicks are just plain wrong.