A List Too Small – My Favorites of 2012
Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.
This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World. What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me? In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it? There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.
If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing. If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world. Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend. When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on. Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend. Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.
Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived. I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums. Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013. I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.
I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.
Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)
1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau
2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records
3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence
4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music
5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k
6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory – Felte
7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k
8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label
9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein
10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music
11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian
12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records
Individual Tracks (from other albums)[vimeo http://vimeo.com/46499688]
1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released
2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound
3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records
4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino
5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh
6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture
1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released
2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines
3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k
Record Labels Noted Above
Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/
Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/
Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/
One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html
Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net
Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/
Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.
Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/
Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Machinefabriek & Celer: http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/ & http://www.thesingularwe.org/fs/
Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/
Twigs & Yarn – The Language Of Flowers
Flau28 CD – Time: About 43 Minutes (Also available in 12” vinyl LP)
Artists Website: http://www.twigsandyarn.net Record Label Website: http://www.flau.jp
Mastered by: Nick Zammuto: http://www.zammutosound.com
Tracks (*Note: Track order according to iTunes readout appears to be in reverse order, although the music order is correct. The track order that follows is properly sequenced with the sound files on the CD and has been confirmed with the artist.)
1) Laverne; 2) Static Rowing; 3) If Were An Artery; 4) Conscious Strings; 5) Mermaid Wetness; 6) An Honest Moment; 7) Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin; 8) Bristle Of Mundane; 9) Flowers Thirsty; 10) Marigold Ride; 11) Strings Of Complacency; 12) Learning To Glisten
I sometimes listen to shortwave radio, late into the night, or in the early morning, as signals and sleep drift; voices and sounds emerge and disappear. Every so often my radio will lock in on a clear signal, and for a time there are voices from foreign lands, interesting new music, field correspondents reporting, or the strange sounds of open carrier frequencies waiting for a signal to fill them.
The Language Of Flowers is the enchanting (and often quirky) new album by Twigs & Yarn, and it has some parallels to late night radio listening, a mixing of familiar sounds, music and fleeting recollections. Both artists and musicians, Stephen Orsak resides in Texas, and Lauren McMurray is in Japan, and their work takes shape over the airwaves, satellites and international cables via computers and ftp servers. I didn’t discover Twigs & Yarn on my own; I have Michael Cottone of The Green Kingdom to thank for introducing me to their works. I come across new artists by exploring record label websites, visiting the few record shops that are left and (often the best method), word of mouth from musicians and friends. I don’t yet have the LP version, but the CD is packaged in a letter-pressed hand decorated collage (each one is slightly different).
The album opens with the mysteriously diaphanous Laverne, which shimmers like filtered sound-light on a bright morning, then passes quickly into the gentle swaying of Static Rowing. The fourth track Conscious Strings is both the clear reality of a solo acoustic guitar, combined with the meandering voices of a daydream. Some tracks seem to blend together as observations shift, and there is peaceful warmth in the sounds of a given day, whether inward looking as in Mermaid Wetness (with ingeniously repeated cadenced sound-samples) or outward as in the strangely discordant An Honest Moment which merges into street sounds, bells, voices, and then into a tranquil music box and electric guitar reflection in Rosy Cheeked Pumpkin reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’ pedal steel work on his album here is what is.
Bristle Of Mundane is an unexpected contrast, which opens with a heavily-distorted music box, eventually settling into gentle waves. The experience of late night radio listening is present in Flowers Thirsty, tuning in and out from pop-music radio samples to a distant ebb and flow of music and whispers, the mind drifts late into the night, until being awakened by the radio-alarm (this is my favorite piece on the album, mysterious and great keyboard sounds). The gentle pulsing organ of Marigold Ride contains a soft repeated vocal, flowing into acoustic guitar of Strings Of Complacency (sounding a bit like some recent solo guitar work of Ant Phillips combined with light treatments from Eno’s Julie With from the album Before And After Science). Learning To Glisten is the postlude to the album, the purest of all the tracks, with little sonic movement, and is a soothing close.
The Language of Flowers is like rotating a radio tuning knob late at night, or peering into a window overlooking a secret garden, or ephemeral visions in a dream. It’s an assemblage of existence all around, from the broadest landscapes down to the tiniest whispers, and even memories of childhood games as in the gently spirited and delightfully melodic third track, If I Were An Artery. The music, field recordings, samples and instrumentation are assembled with an idiosyncratic aplomb that yield a very cohesive and soothing quality, like a less energetic, more contemplative version of works by The Books combined with gossamers of the dearly departed Sparklehorse. So, it makes complete sense that Nick Zammuto (ex-Book) mastered this album; a symbiotic chemistry.
The Green Kingdom – Incidental Music
Tench – TCH03: CD Time: 39:58
Record Label Website: http://www.tenchrec.com/
More on this release: http://www.tenchrec.com/TCH03.html
Artist Website: http://thegreenkingdom.wordpress.com/
Available at: http://darla.com/
1) Three Friends Of Winter; 2) Backyard Epiphany; 3) Over Treetops; 4) Cherry Theme; 5) Slow Bloom; 6) Green Theme; 7) Floatation Themes; 8) rshda; 9) Whispered Through Pines
Whether in a conscious state of reverie or in the pre-waking hours when fleeting visions come forth into the camera obscura* of the mind, there are moments where hanging onto the edges of dreams is perhaps more desirable than even slumber. And after the dreams end, in the glistening haze of the morning, The Green Kingdom’s latest album, appropriately titled Incidental Music, is the soundtrack for this quietude.
My first experience with Michael Cottone’s work was on the Home Assembly’s #HAM004 album from 2010 entitled Prismatic, and his more recent album Egress on Nomadic Kids Republic #011. Incidental Music holds time in suspension with subtle rhythms, and gentle yet tangible instrumentation (crystalline guitars, keyboards, kalimba and minimal processing) that encourage a calm wandering state of mind. Although different and original in his approach, there are some similarities in the feeling and sound in Cottone’s work to Dictaphone’s recent album Poems From A Rooftop (Sonic Pieces) and The Boats album Ballads Of The Research Department (12k), two albums that I like very much. It is evident that great care was taken in the recording of this album, and it has been beautifully mastered by Tench’s M. Ostermeier.
Three Friends Of Winter is the placid introduction, a point of awareness without a concrete reality. Backyard Epiphany is serene in its sense of movement and passage of time. Over Treetops is the beginning of a gentle awakening. There are Satie-esque moments of allure as in Cherry Theme and Green Theme, even after a chimed nudge opening in Cherry Theme. Slow Bloom and Floatation Themes blur the sense of time. rshda is the most ethereal track on the album; the moment before stirring, where reality is still beyond reach. The album closes with a gentle awakening in Whispered Through Pines.
There was a place-holder for album #TCH03 at Tench Records for some time. Now the mystery is solved, and the void filled with these delightfully tranquil scenes and halcyon musings from The Green Kingdom.
* Tip of the hat to Mr. Williamson.