Music/Popular Culture

Great music of 2012: the (slightly past) halfway check-in, part 1

I always do my year-end best music list, but it’s also fun to take note of where we are at the halfway pole. Or, in this case, the 7/12 pole. So here’s some of what I’ve been digging on so far this year.

The BlueflowersStealing the Moon – Their 2011 release was one of my very best of the year, and you can look forward to hearing more about Stealing the Moon come December. Tony Hamera, Kate Hinote et al draw sounds from a variety of wonderfully diverse moments and places in our musical memories. You might hear a snatch of guitar that reminds you of Peter Buck, for instance. There’s a cinematic minor-chord noir vibe throughout. And I’m getting a sort of hip-goths-at-Palisades-Park trip from the organ on “Hole of Sorrow,” which is one of my four or five most-played tracks this year.

Love it, love it, freakin’ love it.

Alex ClareThe Lateness Of The Hour – You’ve heard bits and pieces of this one licensed all over the place this year. At first I was a bit perplexed. The first track I’d heard was distinctly neo-Soul, and to be sure Clare emerges from that context. But much of the disc is decidedly more modern in its ethos. Check the aggressive instrumentation of the lead track, “Up All Night,” for instance. Which is wonderful. Soul revivalism a la The Dap-Kings is marvelous, but I’m a huge fan of taking those influences and moving the genre forward.

Gentleman JesseLeaving AtlantaOkay, I’ll keep this simple. Imagine that it’s 1978 again. Elvis Costello, New Wave and Pub Rock roam the Earth. It’s not groundbreaking, but damn it’s fun.

GossipA Joyful Noise – Oh my. Beth Ditto is now firmly established as our reigning party-dance-rock diva and Gossip is The B-52s for this generation. Yes, this disc is their most polished, their most techno yet, but if you think that means the edge is gone, you couldn’t be much more wrong. Gods, Ditto is a butt-shaking goddess.

Ida LongWalk Into the Fire – The Baron Bane frontwoman is back with a solo effort that eschews some of the band’s accessibility for a distinctly artier sound. The Kate Bush comparisons I’ve been making are more evident here than ever.

MetricSynthetica – 2009’s Fantasies was one of my favorites and it spawned “Help I’m Alive,” one of the year’s best tunes. The thing about a sound like theirs, though, is that you can crank out a song or two, but sustaining it and growing it is another challenge altogether. Whatever worries I might have had about the band lapsing into homogeneity didn’t survive the opening lines, though. Sure, the disc begins with an achingly beautiful synth swell, but then Emily Haines lays this on us: I’m just as fucked up as they say / I can’t fake the daytime…

Synthetica is a pretty album, but so far it’s striking me as far more substantial than most everything else in a disposable genre.

So Happy Friday, and enjoy. Something tells me I’ll be back with more.

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