Best of 2012 Part 5

And finally Part 5. Orchestral/Prog/Classical/Choral are the topics under discussion (again, some of these could well find better homes in one of the other links, but who’s counting?).

Best of 2012 Part 5 - all info on this and other 4 parts at theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com by Theundergroundofhappiness on Mixcloud



The Sea and Cake – On and on
Sam Prekop and friends returned with a characteristically lovely album of progressive pop adorned by hushed vocals last year, and none better than this infectious little number.



The Great Balloon Race – Medicated hope
Another very promising Cork band that I came to know for the first time last year, and who released their debut album in December. This tune takes some of the same influences as Prekop – the jerky, jazzy kind – and twists them into a fantastically catchy, restless, beat-driven thing. You’d never know they were huge King Crimson fans, really.

One of the band’s singers, Marcus Gordon, spoke to me (as did The Altered Hours’ Cathal Mac Gabhann, who produced their album) over the course of this interview last month.

http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/12/the-great-altered-balloon-hours-race-compilation-interview/



B. Fleischmann – Your bibles are printed on dollars
Another protest song (there were several of those last year – see also Owensie and Laetitia Sadier in these mixes, for starters), this time in the form of a jaunty electronic blues taking aim at Bono, Sting, and Moody’s, the Ratings Agency. Let’s just reprint the chorus and say no more, other than I find it so loveable.

Your bibles are printed on dollars
Your dollars are printed with blood
Oh God I’m in the corner of the ring
With Bono and Sting.


*No separate audio for this, I’m afraid, but here’s ‘Beat us’, a rousing self-help number from the same album.



FS Blumm & Lucrecia Dalt – Quizas perhaps quizas
A brilliantly wracked and stretched cover of the Doris Day (among others) standard, locating it somewhere between David Lynch and ‘Cry me a river’.



Father John Misty – Nancy from now on
The ex-Fleet Fox struck out for new territory with this spooky little tune, which has a most welcome Harry Nilsson flavour. So, pop music with edge, delivered mousse-smooth.



Wires Under Tension – Coded language for
The Brooklyn duo returned with the epic album Replicant in 2012, full of twisting tunes inspired by math rock rhythms, but with added uplifting orchestral flourishes.



Julia Holter – In the same room
Another one of the albums of 2012, Ekstasis, not so much for the tunes – although it had plenty of those too – but for the sheer vision and single mindedness to produce music this strange and alluring.



Seti The First – Victory Motel
My favourite Irish album of the year, along with Mumblin Deaf Ro’s Dictionary crimes. This one is lead by Kevin Murphy’s cello, with a great supporting instrumental cast of percussion, piano, trumpets and more. The arrangements are restrained, and all the more powerful for that, with an immense emotional pull, of the order of a Dirty Three or a Johann Johannsson.

Kevin explained some of the thinking behind the Seti sound in this Q&A a couple of months back.

http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/11/seti-the-first-qa/



Jon DeRosa – Snow coffin
A wolf in preacher’s clothes on the great Rocket Girl label is a beautiful album of chamber pop from last autumn. This song took the prize for me because of its tough, drone rock core, amidst the heart-bleeding strings, and topped with DeRosa’s majestic croon.



Kyle Forester – Multiple dudes
Another New York album, this one from the Crystal Stilts keyboardist singing the songs of his friend Joshua Stein, with the proceeds going to charity. The songs are hilarious, tender, sorrowful, poetic and superbly self-deprecating. They also remind me a little bit of a B-movie Silver Jews and I can’t say better than that.



Get Well Soon – Roland, I feel you
A genius return from Konstantin Gropper in the shape of The Scarlet Beast O’ Seven Heads, bringing Italian film music of the 1970’s (Morricone, Goblin etc.) to bear on the state of the world today. It all made for an inspiring, widescreen progressive pop, but with a distinct shot of sobriety to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

*By the way, the video is also a masterwork which Tarantino should look at and weep.



Tame Impala – Keep on lying
Lonerism was one of the albums of the year, beguiling, beautiful psych pop, with a melancholy tinge, picking up a thread I’d say from John Lennon’s contribution to Revolver. It’s great to know that someone in the world still thinks that pop music’s boundaries can be pushed this wide.



Sone Institute – Scuppered flow
More sublime cut and paste meanderings from Roman Bezdyk last year with his second album A model life. I wrote a review in August, which included a bit of a retrospective.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2012/08/sone-institute-model-life-front-follow.html

And I mentioned this tune in there –

'Scuppered flow' harks back to Curious memories a little, with its irresistibly wonky combination of guitar and string samples, swinging this way and that. When the drums join on a competing half-beat, it shouldn't all work, but somehow it all does. You've heard of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music); this could be ICOM (Intelligent Chill Out Music).

An intriguing and beguiling album, you could try it in the background at dinner parties but it would quickly muscle its way forward and disturb the entrées. Which is a sign of quality in itself. Another tiny triumph for the Manchester "cottage" label, Front & Follow, which is a seemingly bottomless treasure trove.


I couldn’t find any audio online for this song but it is part of a mix Roman did for Pontone, find it here –

http://pontone.pl/sone-institute-presents-a-model-life/

And here’s the equally wonderful ‘Tradition and dream’ from the album (most of it anyway).



Ombre – Cara falsa
Transcendant choral layers with swirling electronic backbeats, from Asthmatic Kitty labelmates Julianna Barwick and Helado Negro. It all has a rare, unself-conscious beauty and seems like a fitting note to end the review of 2012.

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