This is what a year sounds like: 2012

And so to the annual round up of what I’ve been listening to over the last 12 months. There have been some real disappointments in 2012, (Animal Collective, The XX, Julian Cope; to name a few), and there has been nothing completely ‘new’ that has knocked me for six. Death Grips came close, but I’m convinced that was as much to do with the hype as anything else. A storm in a teacup me thinks, albeit one that is almost the perfect accompaniment to a dying music industry.

This year I discovered some old music that did excite me though. The first up was Can, which considering my post-punk tastes, is surprising that I hadn’t listened to them before, taking into account how influential they were to many of the innovative bands that came immediately after the Sex Pistols et al. I heard a Can track on the radio early in January, I can’t remember which song it was, and it blew me away. Was this really the same band that I had passed off as a bunch of hippies in my teens? (Although now I think about it, I may have got them mixed up with Gong back then). I immediately trawled iTunes, and after listening to various tracks and reading several reviews, plumped to download ‘Tago Mago’. I couldn’t believe that I had previously dismissed this band. And when ‘The Lost Tapes’ came out in Spring—unearthed recordings that (mostly) hadn’t seen the light of day—I snapped it up. This release, without a shadow of a doubt, is easily my favourite record of 2012.

A similar experience happened when I discovered Brian Eno’s early work this year. Obviously I knew Roxy Music, and of Eno’s work with Bowie and Talking Heads. I also own several of his more recent ambient releases. However, I knew nothing of his first few solo albums until Mark Riley played ‘Needles In A Camel’s Eye’ from ‘Here Comes The Warm Jets’ on 6music. Why had I not heard this until I reached my 44th year? How could that happen? Needless to say I quickly bought ‘Warm Jets’, ‘Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy’, and later in the year, ‘Before And After Science’. Thanks Mark.

Discovering pre-Midge Ure Ultravox was a pleasant surprise as well, after a friend did me a copy of ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ Considering that all I knew of them was the 1980s pomp they produced when I was in my teens, and automatically hated, this was a revelation and got me questioning how many other bands have shamed their preceding history by their later output? While I never thought I had heard it all, I was surprised to discover so much old music that was so good this year, which means there is potentially lots more out there waiting to be discovered. This, in itself, is probably the single most exciting thought I’ve had about music in recent years.

There have been some good re-releases and compilations this year which, keeping on the old music theme, kept me going considering the brevity of exciting new material. Keith Hudson’s ‘Rasta Communication’, The Beat’s first two albums, various Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Joe Gibbs compilations have kept the Dubdog happy. Rediscoveries included The Fall’s I Am Kurious Oranj, which proved not to be as good as I remember it being first time around, The Stranglers’ ‘The Raven’, which did prove to be as good as the first time around, if not better; and Crass’s ’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ was rewarding in a way it wasn’t first time around.

As for new music, it is always good to hear the strained tones of Mark Stewart, regardless of the quality of the music that is backing him. Burial has continued to be interesting, and DELS released an EP at the end of the year which makes his album due in 2013 one to be on the watch list. The Mogwai and Björk remix albums were different enough from their originals to be included in this list, and both had some great moments. The first half of The Pre New’s ‘Music For People Who Hate Themselves’ got repeat playings when it was first released, particularly while driving, but David Byrne and St Vincent’s brass band experiment proved ultimately too much across an entire album for me, which means as a whole, I haven’t really given it the time of day such a work probably deserves. Godspeed and The Swans returned, literally with (musical) vengeance, and I never thought I would ever listen to Neneh Cherry again in my life, but her work with jazz trio The Thing is inspired, particularly their take on The Stooges ‘Dirt’. And lastly, two albums distinctly different from each other that I couldn’t help returning to over and over again, were Chairlift’s ‘Something’, which reminded me of Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls first album, (sadly not available digitally); and Wrongtom and Deemus J’s ‘In East London’, which careers over pretty much every dancehall and reggae sub-style you can imagine, and is all the more enjoyable for it.

So that’s my recorded year. Live, edited highlights include The Ex with Brass Unbound who were phenomenal, (as was the whole evening they curated at Cafe OTO early in December). Liars bought WIXIW to life in Norwich and are now on my list of bands to go out of my way to see when ever they tour the UK again. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins gave a very special and atmospheric performance of Diamond Mine, again, in Norwich. Other folk included Billy Bragg playing Woody Guthrie at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket, and the instrumental Spiro at the newly formed Folk East Festival were excellent with their post-rock take on folk music, (my pretentious description). Nathaniel Robin Mann was incredible not once, but twice in Ipswich and at Folk East—check him out, there’s plenty on YouTube, you will NOT be disappointed. However, I can’t complete the list without mentioning how much fun it was seeing Adam Ant play in Ipswich. He’s not someone I would have travelled far to see, but as ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ is a favourite album of mine, I felt obliged as he was only down the road. The set predominantly featured punk-Ants material, which worked surprisingly well after all these years and kept me happy, and the enthusiasm among the packed crowd for the pop-Ants tracks was infectious. However, as tempting as it was, I managed to resist doing the Prince Charming dance.

The List

The Conversation (The Original Soundtrack) – David Shire
Lee “Scratch” Perry – Nu Sound & Version
Gold Panda – DJ-Kicks
Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory
Can – Tago Mago (40th Anniversary Edition)
Ultravox! – Ha!-Ha!-Ha!
Josh T. Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen
Chailift – Something
Gonjasufi – Mu.Zz.Le
Yannis Kyriakides & Andy Moor – Rebetika
Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets
Django Django – Django Django
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir – Ten Thousand
MGMT – Congratulations
Various – The Wire Trapper 26 (Edit)
Dub Colossus – Dub Me Tender Vol 1 & 2
Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
Barry Adamson – I Will Set You Free
DJ Food – The Search Engine
Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet
Burial – Kindred EP
The Stranglers – The Raven
Field Music – Plumb
Electricity In Our Homes – Dear Shareholder
R.U.T.A – Gore
Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks
The Fall – I Am Kurious Oranj
Mark Stewart – The Politics Of Envy
Spiro – Kaleidophonica
Trembling Bells and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – The Marble Downs
Joe Gibbs – Scorchers from the Early Years (1967–1973)
Joe Gibbs – Scorchers from the Mighty Two
The Pre New – Music For People Who Hate Themselves
Death Grips – The Money Store
Public Image Ltd. – One Drop EP
Public Image Ltd. – This Is PiL
Dubwood Allstars – Underdubwood
Various – Ska-ing West
Various – Mento & RnB
The Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It (Deluxe re-release)
The Beat – Wha’ppan (Deluxe re-release)
Liars – W I X I W
Various – Wire Tapper 29
Crass – 10 Notes On A Summers Day
Julian Cope – Psychedelic Revolution
Nathaniel Robin Mann – Animateddog’s Scraps 2: The Gathered Flecks Of Hope And Sorrow
Robert Wyatt – Nothing Can Stop Us
Beak> – >>
Dead Rat Orchestra – The Guga Hunters of Ness
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Can – The Lost Tapes
Can – Monster Movie/Delay 1968
The Ex – Joggers and Smoggers
Amadou & Mariam – Folila
Micachu and The Shapes – Never
The Ex – Dignity Of Labour
The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace
Gallon Drunk – The Road Gets Darker From Here
Various – Deep Roots Observer Style
Matthew Dear – Beams
Four Tet – Pink
Adrian Sherwood – Survival & Resistance
The Raincoats – Moving
David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
The xx – Coexist
Getatchew Mekuria + The Ex + Friends – Y’Anbessaw Tezeta
Jack Lewis and Awkward Energy – Lvov Swims The Williamette
Brian Eno – Before and After Science
Death Grips – No Love Deep Web
The Swans – The Seer
The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Keith Hudson – Rasta Communication
Wrongtom Meets Deemas J – In East London
Neneh Cherry and The Thing – The Cherry Thing
Bo Ningen – Line The Wall
Esbjörn Svensson Trio – 301
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Friends – Disco Devil: The Jamaican Discomixes
Various – Reworks_: Philip Glass Remixed
Photek – Ku:Palm
Björk – Bastards
Mark Stewart – The Exorcism of Envy
Mogwai – A Wrenched Vile Lore
Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
Brian Eno – Lux
Anne-James Chaton & Andy Moor – Le Journaliste
Burial – Truant / Rough Sleeper
DELS – Black Salad EP

  1. But there’s still a few days of 2012 to fit in some more listening, and to perhaps discover THE album of 2012! No Alt-J, Flying Lotus or Perfume Genius for instance. And I’ll have to quickly spend a few hours checking out some of names on your list before the year’s close. Not the Paul Weller though…

  2. You’ll be pleased to know that 2012 was the year I finally ‘got’ The Mountain Goats though.

  3. Listening to the ‘Rough Trade Counter Culture 2012’, which came through my door this morning, hoping to find that previously overlooked gem.

    Welcome to the Mountain Goats fraternity, but I’m afraid that ‘Transcendental Youth’ was one of my disappointments of the year. Not enough of the raw, bleak, sardonic bitterness that I love.

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