Friday 13 January 2012, 12:07
New year, new music. BBC Album Reviews Editor Mike Diver looks at some of the collections coming the listening public's way in the first three months of 2012.
Hi, readers. Now, there are lots, and lots, of great new albums forthcoming in early 2012. But this selection of 10 represents the most interesting sets I've had the pleasure of investigating - some at length, some through teasing snippets and cheeky samplers. I hope you enjoy exploring these sounds as much as I am...
Young Magic - Melt
(Released 20/02/12; Carpark Records)
This trio might call NYC home, but its members hail from far and wide. Singer/producer Isaac Emmanuel is an Australian who maintained contact with fellow countryman Michael Italia while travelling through Europe and subsequently Mexico throughout 2010, and the two finally met in New York with some portable recording equipment and a host of ideas. Soon enough Indonesian-born vocalist Melati Malay joined the pair, and Young Magic was formed. The band's sound is one that presents passing parallels with the disparate likes of Animal Collective, Baths, J Dilla, Grizzly Bear and Flying Lotus. There's a lot happening in their mix, and it's happening brilliantly. Melt is already a firm favourite on the office stereo (i.e., my PC and iPod), and I'm certain that its appeal will last long beyond the spring.
Watch the official video for Sparkly (external YouTube link)
Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It
(Released 20/02/12; Organs/Turnstile)
Perfume Genius is the musical moniker that Seattle resident Michael Hadreas releases his heart-breaking electro-emo-soul under. His debut disc, 2010's Learning (BBC review), was a strikingly tender and introspective collection that marked the arrival of a remarkable talent. Think a magical but melancholic midway point between The xx and Sufjan Stevens. This rather fuller-of-sound follow-up certainly delivers on the promise of its predecessor, increasing the confidence (lyrics are clearer, melodies bolder) without compromising the tremendous atmosphere this musician is capable of creating. If you're not welling up somewhat come the climax of discomfortingly intimate closer Sister Song, you might consider medical help.
A free download of the track All Waters is available from the Turnstile website (external link)
Hooray For Earth - True Loves
(Released 27/02/12; Memphis Industries)
Another group of not-native New Yorkers gearing up for the release of their debut LP (although True Loves has been available stateside for a while), Hooray For Earth may be familiar to regular 6 Music listeners as the title-track from this set earned itself an A-list spot in 2011. The songs of core member Noel Heroux, who also produced the album, will attract comparisons to MGMT, Empire of the Sun and Milagres: this is buoyant, bright and inventive indie fare for listeners who want to smile along to the sounds of their wireless. It's also superbly catchy - again, those familiar with the set's lead single will know that only too well. Expect this celebratory collection to soundtrack some of life's better bumps along the road during 2012.
Watch the official video for True Loves, and for Sails (external YouTube links)
Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
(Released 30/01/12; Polydor)
One of 2011's most talked about new artists (real name: Lizzy Grant) releases her first major label LP at the end of January, and expectations for it are high following the New Yorker's chart success with Video Games, which peaked at nine on the UK chart back in October 2011. Her follow-up single, this collection's title-track, has been just as impressive at eating up airplay; although with the surprise factor its maker offered first time around gone, it wasn't quite as big a hit with the critics. With the unlikely presence of Fame Academy winner David Sneddon amongst the songwriters on this set, Born to Die is, hopefully, going to be full of surprises rather than a procession of Video Games sound-alikes. What's certain: this album will be a hit.
Watch the official video for Born to Die (external YouTube link; contains scenes which may offend)
Gang Colours - The Keychain Collection
(Released 27/02/12; Brownswood)
Will Ozanne is Gang Colours, a producer from Southampton signed to Brownswood (at least partially) on the recommendation of Mercury Prize-nominated rapper Ghostpoet. The Keychain Collection builds upon the alluringly oddball sounds conjured on his In Your Gut Like a Knife EP of 2011, and takes a turn for the down-tempo, the end product coming across like the album James Blake should have made last year (i.e. one that combined his hard and soft sides without losing sight of both). At times beautiful, at others frantic of beat, and never less than wholly beguiling, The Keychain Collection perhaps isn't the most immediate electronica (broadly speaking) set you'll hear in 2012, but it'll certainly be amongst the most interesting.
Listen to the single Fancy Restaurant on the Brownswood website (external link)
The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know
(Released 06/02/12; FatCat Records)
This Scottish outfit has previously released two albums of ear-rattling raucousness, and live they've been known to flatten venues entirely (well, it's felt like it...). But No One Can Ever Know represents a dramatic change of direction, with feedback reduced to a bit-part presence and crisp synths coming to the fore. And it works, too: what could have been a disastrous experiment, an audience-alienating excursion into indulgence, is anything but. TTS's third long-player is cunning in its conciseness, so immediate but lasting of impression that the listener can have it go around three times in a row and not tire of a note. With Andrew Weatherall aboard as 'anti-producer' for this set, and a production style reminiscent of Martin Hannett's, the group has wisely done its homework ahead of pressing onwards with a new sound, and the results are frequently stunning.
Listen to the single Sick on Stereogum and download the track Another Bed for free at The Skinny (external links)
Breton - Other People's Problems
(Released 26/03/12; FatCat Records)
The second dazzlingly good LP to come from the reliable FatCat stable at the start of 2012 is this, the debut album from south London art-and-films-and-music collective Breton. An intense mix of chopped-out chords and pounding beats, as hypnotic as it is hyperactive, this is music that redefines what it means to be a 'guitar band' in 2012: invention as a priority, accessibility a lovely bonus. Other People's Problems features the band's two tracks of 2011 - Edward the Confessor and The Commission - alongside further adventures at the fringes of contemporary pop; or, rather, what pop could be in a parallel dimension. It's challenging at times, astonishingly instant-of-fix at others, but throughout this collection quality control is maintained in a very appealingly singular style.
Watch the official videos for The Commission and Edward the Confessor (external YouTube links)
Spoek Mathambo - Father Creeper
(Released 12/03/12; Sub Pop)
Johannesburg-based Mathambo has been pushing his 'township-tech' onto the 'net for a couple of years, but 2012 will be a watershed year for the producer as Sub Pop release his second album to a worldwide audience. Father Creeper is an intriguing collection which subverts traditional notions of world music, incorporating elements of stateside rap, TV on the Radio-styled indie inspiration, and guitar work which flits from highlife melodies to crunching power chords. It's weird, but uncommonly wonderful, Mathambo's esoteric approach to music-making reaching maturity after his cover of Joy Division's She's Lost Control got a boatload of bloggers in a merry spin last year. This: bigger, bolder and brighter than your average.
Watch the official video for Control (external YouTube link), and listen to the album track Put Some Red On It at the Sub Pop website (external link)
Django Django - Django Django
(Released 30/01/12; Because Music)
Hailing from east London, this four-piece has been bubbling under for a wee while; but their debut album is going to, hopefully, position them alongside the likes of The Beta Band in the hearts of those who like their pop a little peculiar. While the very thought of another rising outfit from the 'E' spread of capital city postcodes has been known to send critics fleeing, this lot formed at art school in Edinburgh and haven't (yet) demonstrated much of predilection for drainpipe trews and hanging about fleetingly fashionable grot-holes. This is all intoxicating rhythms and considered cadence, with underlying constituents emanating from post-punk and (dare one say it?) rather funky forerunners. It's itchy stuff, at times impatient to reach a climax, at others rather more content to trundle away with focus left blurry, the joy of creation more important than instantaneousness. But those familiar with Steve Mason's old crew, and fond of the work of British Sea Power and the Super Furry Animals, will surely fall head over heels for this set.
Listen to the track Default at the band's official website (external link) and watch the official video for Waveforms (external YouTube link)
Grimes - Visions
(Released 12/03/12; 4AD)
Newly signed to 4AD, Grimes is the alter-ego of one Clare Boucher, a Canadian whose Halfaxa collection attracted a spread of acclaim upon its UK release in 2011 (BBC review). Visions is Boucher's fourth release in just two years, and represents a significant advancement from previous sets: whereas before comparisons came easy to the experienced ear, now Grimes has found a most singular voice. With influences coming from as diverse corners as IDM and New Jack Swing, Boucher isn't an artist to sit in creative stasis and rest upon any laurels; so, Visions is a complete realisation of her already expressed potential, a distilled and potent brew that's certain to leave the listener drunk on its delights. Says the artist of her music: "It is both an ethereal escape from, and a violent embrace of, my experience." Says this critic: it's powerful, haunting and occasionally harrowing stuff.
Listen to the track Genesis at the 4AD website (external link) and watch the official video for the non-album track Vanessa (external YouTube link)
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