Favourite music of 2012

It was very remiss of me, but back in July – after picking my favourite music from the first half of the year for a playlist – I never posted the accompanying background as intended. So it sat there unfinished until now. On the bright side, I’m going to post it now, along with my picks from the second half of 2012, making for a neat two-hander (hopefully). As with all these things, a flick around the blog will usually unearth more info on the tunes, something I’d strongly recommend in all cases.

This week's show was a kind of round-up of my favourite music of the year so far (being that we're about halfway through the calender at this point). If you're a regular listener or check in on the blog regularly, you'll already know what my faves consist of. They're in these playlist posts. But to go with that playlist, I thought I'd gather together some info about the tunes from these pages over the last 6 months. So here they are, starting with that mix.



1. AU feat. Sarah Winchester - Old friend
I must confess that some of the tunes for the radio show were picked on the basis of being short, so that I could squeeze more in. That said, almost anything off the AU album Both lights could have qualified, for me. It's brilliant. Here's the link to my review a few months ago - I do mention 'Old friend' in it, it's stunningly beautiful in fairness (although not necessarily representative of the album as a whole). You can't fake that kind of emotion. Sarah Winchester has sung on each AU album with Luke Wyland and the bond shows.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/04/au-both-lights-leaf-label.html

And here it is on its own.



2. Jherek Bischoff feat. Carla Bozulich - Counting
Another great album on the Leaf label this year. There's always room for chamber pop in my life. Recent words here. Check Bob Lind's original in that review too, with the unmistakeable production by Jack Nietzsche.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/07/jherek-bischoff-composed-leaf-label.html



3. Matthew Bourne - Juliet
And a triple whammy for Leaf, this time a reflective piano-based album that's vaguely post-classical. I say vaguely, because it's very unself-conscious, understated. I love that about it (see Julia Kent's album of last year, Green and grey, for a similar atmosphere). And it features a cover of Charlie Chaplin's tune 'Smile', which just caps it all, basically.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/01/matthew-bourne-montauk-variations-leaf.html



4. Frankie Rose - Gospel/Grace
I was a huge fan of Frankie Rose's debut album, with The Outs, but this album is quite different, although no less lovely. The best way I can find to describe the difference is this (from my review in January) -

The overall effect is of an 80’s English indie band marooned on a space station and communicating home via hushed, nostalgic murmurings of love, set among celestial choirs; occasionally, the ambient haze clears just enough to make out the remembered pitter-patter backbeats and surf guitar twang.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/01/frankie-rose-interstellar-memphis.html



5. Twin Shadow - Five seconds
There's a wonderful lack of cynicism about George Lewis Jr. - the dude just loves music. Put that with killer tunes and you've got glorious pop music.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/05/shorts-for-may.html



6. It's a Musical - Point back
Robert Kretzschmar and Ella Blixt are the personnel in this Berlin-based duo, just drums and synths and two vocals. Perfect electro pop which is great fun - though that's not to be taken to mean that it doesn't also have depth and is brilliantly crafted.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/03/its-musical-for-years-and-years-morr.html



7. Naim Amor - Le revenant / 8. M. Ward - The first time I ran away
I did a blog post around the middle of the year on these two artists. So rather than repeat myself, why not go here and check that.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/06/naim-amor-m-ward-howe-gelb.html

And you'll find the two tunes from the playlist on these links. They're both object lessons in how to create and sustain a mood through a piece of music. It's masterful work and glorious pop music to boot.



9. The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock - The brutal here and now (Part 1)
This tune is from the Dublin band's impressive second album and could well put people of a certain generation in mind of The Pogues. That’s because of the jaunty, banjo-lead melody, but also because of the hard-edged social comment at its core. As well as recognising glorious pop music, we also love it when something that feels like important music comes along. You’ll find some comments on those lines from Allen Blighe of The Spook in this interview I did with him for WeAreNoise zine back in April.

http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/04/the-spook-of-the-thirteenth-lock-interview/



10. Myles Manley - Dream minus one
Another Irish artist I came across for the first time in 2012 and who actually went on to release his debut album later in the year, following the s/t EP which contained this track. Again, I confess I chose this song for the show because it was short, but having said that it is one of my favourite songs from the EP, a beguiling, understated piece of folk pop with beautiful string backing. Manley’s voice, too, is an intriguing and highly unusual instrument.



11. Yawning Chasm - Whispered sun
A Galway duo/trio who purvey a brilliantly intense and deceptively simple slowcore thing. They released three separate EP’s in 2012 but this song beats everything else they did for me. Aaron Coyne’s “whoo-hoos” – a muffled call of the wild - are the icing on the cake.



12. Hidden Highways - Come wander with me
It seems to me to have been an especially strong year for independent Irish releases. This s/t EP from the Limerick duo of Tim Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan contained a song with vintage classic written all over it - Lee and Nancy style, that good. The news that it was a cover of a song with the unlikely origin of an episode of The Twilight Zone only made it more intriguing and perfect, for some reason. A voice like hers is guaranteed to make all men (and women probably) want to wander with her for a long time.



13. Hooded Fang – ESP
Infectious garage pop. Say no more.



14. Electric Guest – Awake
Continuing the garage pop theme, particularly in terms of the bassline, I find. And somehow, this song also reminds me of a cross between Hair, the musical, and The Fifth Dimension’s ‘Let the sunshine in’. People, no greater compliment etc..



15. Neil Cowley Trio – Fable
An album I would never have heard of, only for the fact that Cowley’s label (Naim Jazz) has a pop sibling. It’s an invigorating set of piano/double bass/drum instrumentals, with stirring string accompaniments. This tune is for dancing, making me think of the loopier Michael Nyman soundtracks, as well as some branches of modern English folk music (North Sea Radio Orchestra, William D. Drake, that kind of thing). An interesting character, there’s more background in this interview I did with him last April.

http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/04/neil-cowley-trio-with-the-mount-molehill-strings-triskel-christchurch-15-04-12/

16. Lower Dens – Brains
I also had the great pleasure of seeing this band play live earlier this month (review here - http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/12/lower-dens-w-novo-line-half-moon-theatre-cork-16-12-12/), although, strangely, the tightly coiled power of this motorik beat was a little lost. However, on record, that same pulse has an endless capacity to seem fresh, new and hip-shakingly exciting to me. Every time.



17. Milagres - Here to stay
Glowing mouth was on heavy rotation around my place in Spring 2012, its gleaming pop tunes lodging long in the brain. The genius hook here is the frantic electric piano pattern, taking a Grizzly Bear motif and ramping it up a few notches.



By the way, they pulled a similar trick with this other gem from the album.

*I’ll have more on the Best of 2012 over the next week or so.

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