As a staff, we all have our own unique musical tastes. Sometimes those tastes overlap stylistically and sometimes they veer off into strange directions galore. Below are our top album lists of 2012, separated by writer and summed up with genre tags.
Vivian Hua - dance, electronic, indie, funk, metal
Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul
Ryan Pangilinan - pop, soul, pop-punk, punk
Peter Woodburn - electronic, hardcore, metal, instrumental
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. This round-up list includes our favorite pop tracks from 2012, listed in a spectrum from the chillest to the grooviest to the...
When I caught up with Midnight Magic in Portland, Oregon, it was a week after the band's original show in the city. They had originally been booked on a Halloween bash that was foiled by Mother Nature, who decided that hurricanes and cyclones should devoid Portlanders of the band's disco-funk-soul stylings. The make-up show, an Ekstasy-sponsored night co-thrown by members of indie house outfit The Miracles Club, took place at a relatively new dance club called The Rose Room -- and somehow, despite all the chaos, Midnight Magic managed to fly in with seven of their nine members.
I had read a handful of pretty mundane interviews on the internet which were basically fixated on simple facts about the band and went no further. Those publications discovered that some members of Midnight Magic moved from Los Angeles to New York together and that others were session players for Hercules & Love Affair and LCD Soundsystem. All that is fine and dandy, but for a band as fiery as Midnight Magic, I felt it necessary to break the mold and get to the bottom of who they actually are as human beings. On the tip of that iceberg was a simple question about their lineup. How and why is that worth it to them to have nine members? Don't they want to make money or find traditional music-making success or whatever?
I felt that answering the aforementioned questions would by proxy answer a lot of other things about Midnight Magic's approach to music-making and life in general. And when all seven members of the band were on hand and pumped to do a group interview, the band's inclusive and playful sound was translated into tangible real life vibrance.
To set the scene: the club itself was too small to house all of us, so we flowed through the emergency exit to perch in the stairwell, nearly locking ourselves out along the way. Keyboardist Morgan Wiley, the longest-limbed of the group, knelt in the center as everyone stood and sat around him. As there was no flat surface present, Wiley became the eagerly self-nominated holder of the recording apparatus, occasionally striking Backstreet Boy-type poses to make sure the microphone was within earshot of whomever was speaking.
His actions were charming, to say the least -- as was the entire interview. So though I usually opt for expository feature articles on bands, this nine-way chat (with seven band members and two journalists) was too rich with laughter, teasing, tongue-in-cheek statements, and all the self-help philosophies one could possibly want (or not want) to pass up a direct transcription. Doing so would have been a disservice to both band and reader, so both of those follow in the full interview below, along with many a hippie star dust quote spoken with full authenticity.
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. Dreamy sounds get unique filters through the eyes of sensational pop artist Beca, indie R&B-influenced BE/\R//FVCE, and doo-wop youngster Kirby Kaiser.
Beca caught our eye earlier this year with her single and music video for "Fall Into Light" (see our interview with Beca and the music video directors).
The lady is now back with "Born To Fly", which features sensual percussive rhythms that balance out breathy, feminine vocals, the combination of which lies somewhere between babymaking R&B material and water-cruising audio-oasis. Her upcoming EP of the same name will be released November 20th via This Is Music LTD.
A generally daunting experience, CMJ Music Marathon hosts an extremely wide range of bands over the course of 5 days in NYC. To those who attempt to tackle this festival, the lineup can seem overwhelming.
One advantage to being a 10-year CMJ veteran is that you not only know to have a strategy; you can put it all in perspective. And it's good to have a basis for comparison, too. From year to year to year, CMJ has progressed, in both good ways and bad. While my first few years felt completely daunting, the past few have felt manageable. There weren't so many bands that both my CMJ partner-in-crime Devorah and I were initially excited about, but that's the thrill of CMJ: discovering new gems. Last year was all about not getting into the right shows and being frustrated with CMJ in general. We went into this year cautiously, but it ended up being much easier to gain entry to shows and all of the venues seemed a bit more relaxed (with the exception of the Ghostface Killah show in Williamsburg on the last night, in which the whole block had to be closed due to overcrowding).
Below are our picks for our favorite bands, of which there were happily a large amount.
SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP
Tuesday, October 16th @ Marlin Room in Webster Hall
Relatively new to the electronic dance scene, Teen Daze impressed me with his newest album Inner Mansions, but his more meandering, spaced out recordings in no way prepared me for the upbeat dance party live performance. Teen Daze stepped on stage and was able to immediately project a sense of intimacy and comfort onto the crowd; it felt like we were in his dorm room, and he was just goofing around on the turntables for us. He was happy to be there playing music, which was a refreshing turn from the previous band (Heavenly Beat) who looked disinterested and aloof. Teen Daze's emphatic DJ dance moves provided some additional fun, and with these moves he held an aura of euphoria that was infectious.
"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. In both today's featured tracks from Toro Y Moi and Shock, the power lies in nuance rather than pounding you over the head with pop hooks.
Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bundick has proven himself time and time again to be adept at shape-shifting through the indie electronic universe, and his latest, "So Many Details", spaces its way though the five-minute mark while feeling infinite. Though not as overtly funky as 2011's Underneath The Pine, "So Many Details" has a quiet allure and power behind it, and moves forward even further from Bundick's blander chillwave days. I can't get enough of this track, and cannot wait for his upcoming full-length, Anything In Return, which comes out January 22nd, 2013, via Carpark Records. The full tracklisting is below, along with 2013 tour dates. The So Many Details 7" comes out November 23rd.
Attending Culture Collide is the easiest and cheapest way to feel like you have been around the world in just four days. When you watch two US bands open a show where groups from Singapore, Argentina and the Netherlands are also on the bill, you start to feel like the most worldly person on the planet. And night after night, numerous different countries were represented under one roof, giving people the opportunity to discover bands that maybe otherwise they would have not come across. Culture Collide deserves praise for making diversity the rule and not the exception. But if I had one suggestion for this young festival, it is to go beyond the comforts of the indie rock and electronic genres a bit. With bands flying in from countries like Peru and Estonia, it'd be nice to take the cultural schooling up a notch and invite bands who are giving new life to traditional sounds from their native countries. It didn't take long for American rock n' roll to start influencing music in other countries, but hopefully a festival like this will help more international sounds infiltrate the US.
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When Brazil's Bonde do Rolê had to cancel because of visa issues, Los Angeles' Poolside stepped in to provide some tropical tunes and funky beats. While not as wild as Bonde do Rolê, Poolside were a pleasant addition to the outdoor portion of the festival. With the sun shining, the duo was accompanied by a drummer and second keyboardist, and provided a nice warm up for a full night of dancing. The main stage would later see Niki & The Dove and of Montreal. Instead of taking an aggressive approach to dance music, Poolside provided a relaxed atmosphere with mid-tempo melodies and calming synth lines. Still, you couldn't help but feel like you were whisked away to some exotic island.
Now in its tenth year, Seattle's Decibel Festival has grown from a tiny electronic celebration to a world-renowned music festival without sacrificing attention to detail along the way. From fabric wristbands to the notable lack of corporate sponsors -- save for ones that directly affect the electronic music scene in some way -- Decibel has retained a number of the charming qualities which usually become lost to larger festivals. Its continued stress on the audio-visual merging of music and motion art continue to push the festival forward as well, as Seattle's best venues were sometimes upgraded with video equipment and makeshift spaces were sometimes transformed into festival-worthy ones.
This review highlights some notable shows from Decibel 2012, ranging from excellent to quite mediocre, and includes write-ups of Andy Stott, Jimmy Edgar, Clark, Demdike Stare, and Orbital.
SEE FULL FESTIVAL RECAP AND PHOTO GALLERY
The Decibel Festival guide claimed that the Warp Records showcase on Wednesday evening would be for fans of Prince, which led to some confusion for me. Would that be in reference to main headliner and mad music scientist Clark? Certainly not. Then who?
The winner of the prestigious association -- and pleasant surprise for the festival -- turned out to be 1983-baby and astrology-enthusiast Jimmy Edgar. Edgar, a most handsome and dapper fellow, rose to the stage behind a stripped-down version of the LED light rig he usually travels with, ready to perform his 2012 Hotflush release, Majenta. No hitches here, it seemed... until the projections behind Edgar began to fill the screen.
The generic and low-quality visuals, which were more suitable for Windows 95 screensavers than for Edgar's clean productions, seemed like a stock offer from Decibel rather than Edgar's own choice. They became a painfully glaring and vibe-dampening reminder that the newfound "necessity" of supplying electronic shows with accompanying visuals can sometimes go awry when the visuals are tasteless, or of a different taste than the musician's music. They were distracting, to say the least, and it was unfortunate that habit dictated that they received much more attention than they warranted. (Apologies, I suppose, if they are indeed Edgar's creation, though I doubt it, and the criticism remains.)
Unfortunate visuals aside, Edgar queued up quite a dance party by passionately embracing every type of electronic music that might even be tangentially related to Prince -- from C&C Music Factory-type club jams and dirty '80s breaks to breathy R&B-influenced slow jams. Soul was at the heart of all of Edgar’s music, and its presence in his body was also clear, from his intense concentration to his spontaneously fabulous uses of vocoder. Such sensory vibage was not lost upon the audience, either. Never have I seen a grouping of men so stoked about the performance of another man, as man after ecstatic man screamed, "Jimmaaaay!!!!!" as though they were going to tear their shirts off in support of Edgar at any given minute. Twas one of the best shows I saw at Decibel, and most certainly one that made a lasting impression.
Bumbershoot still remains one of the more diversely curated festivals in the nation. That is probably why they referred to it completely as Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival. In its 42nd year, the 2012 edition was not lacking in diversity, as the main headliners over the course of Labor Day Weekend varied from Jane’s Addiction to Mac Miller and Skrillex. With six musical stages, and a wealth of other stages hosting comedy acts, readings and various panels, it is impossible to catch everything over the weekend. So here are the highlights instead, not in any particular order of awesomeness.
M83 acquired quite a bit of hype this past year. In fact, 2011 may have been THEIR year. With their hit single "Midnight City," it seemed like nearly everyone was jumping on the M83 band wagon. The funny thing about that is the band has actually been around for years; they released their first record in 2001. Securing a spot on the main stage for Bumbershoot 2012, M83 played to an audience packed with fans and those simply curious about the band.
After witnessing this performance, I can tell you that I've truly never seen anything like it. The intro was a spectacle all on its own with lasers and complex flashing lights that even I have a hard time describing. Both lead singer Anthony Gonzalez and keyboardist/back-up singer Morgan Kibby were extraordinarily entertaining. Their vocals were nearly spot-on with their record, but not in a lip-syching kind of way like we're used to at the award shows. The instrumental drum solos were riveting and exciting. The performance was everything that I hoped it would be, but I'm afraid to say that it is unfortunate that all many are remembering is the crowd of kids rushing to the floor and causing mayhem break loose. You can read all about that mess here. - KATIE NGUYEN
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
This funk/soul band has been around since the mid-'90s, but if you didn’t know any better you would assume they formed in the early ‘70s. Carried on the shoulder by the spectacular voice of Sharon Jones and then brought to the forefront by the impeccable revivalist sound of the Dap-Kings, this big band lives up to all they hype their live show comes with. Despite playing on the main stage of the Key Arena, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were able to generate energy in the crowd that transported you straight back to a seedy bar in Motown Detroit. Their music is approachable by individuals of all ages, as are their tributes to the various dances of the '60s and '70s, which are like an instructional video led by Sharon Jones herself. Her spirit is infectious, even if you weren’t alive to experience the origins of the music the band aims to bring back to a new century. Sharon Jones’ energy, charisma, and stage performance are liable to make her and the Dap-Kings the best set of any festival they attend, and Bumbershoot was no different.
Sifting through mountains of remix trash so you don't have to, in an attempt to find the ones that contribute to their originals. Today, modern Cambodian rock band The Cambodian Space Project get some love from David Gunn, and the single from How To Dress Well's upcoming record, Total Loss, gets remixed by UK producer Koreless.
How To Dress Well just premiered a new track today via NPR, entitled "& It Was U". This post is not about that, though you can listen to that sparse track HERE. Instead, this post is fixated on the remix of "Cold Nites" that UK producer Koreless did, which is like a tinkering melody emanating from an opened jewel box. This track is from HTDW's upcoming record, Total Loss, which comes out on September 17th on Weird World and Acephale. The original, in true Tom Krell fashion, is much more dramatic, somber, and R&B-oriented.
Pre-order the record HERE or HERE. Limited editions available; full tracklisting below.
How To Dress Well - "Cold Nites" (Koreless Remix)How To Dress Well - "Cold Nites" (Original)