Say what you will about the neverending onslaught of Year-End/Best-Of lists clogging up the internets, but this is truly one of the best times of the year to be a music obsessive. Read as many ‘Best Albums of 2012’ lists as you can stand, and discover.
Has it really been 10 years since Pedro and the Lion’s Control sent chills down the spine of anyone with a sociopolitical conscience? (checks calendar, shakes head, feels old). Bazan is currently marking the anniversary of the album that truly announced his former band’s arrival on the relevant scene, playing it front-to-back in its entirety. The album still stands as a landmark moment in Bazan’s long and winding career, when he transitioned from hushed singer-songwriter to rock n' roll catalyst. As Bazan finds himself in mid-career mode, this is only one of many achievements worth celebrating.
If you missed the utterly captivating and groundbreaking musical Fela! last year at the Curran Theater, worry not — now's your second chance to experience something kind of similar and completely fascinating. The connection: Antibalas arranged much of the score for the critically acclaimed musical — most of which was music originally performed by part-reggae legend/part-freedom fighter Fela Kuti — and in the process won over another legion of fans. Antibalas has its own distinct funk and style and edge, of course. Their playful swagger that reminds of the Brazilian tropicalia movement and bands like Os Mutantes. Proof:
When a band wins the Mercury Prize, the prudent music fan takes notice. A glance at an abbreviated list of bands to recently win the award reveals why: PJ Harvey, Elbow, Pulp, Franz Ferdinand, Antony and the Johnsons, the xx, etcetera etcetera. It’s one of the few trusted seals of approval in a fragmented music world that doesn’t always value quality over marketability. Alt-J won the award this year for the inspired pop rock presented on the must-listen An Awesome Wave. It’s a confident, high-concept work of art and statement of arrival — a debut album, believe it or not.
If the indie rock world had its own version of “The Voice,” Santigold would have to be a two-time defending champion. This year’s album Master of My Make Believe is only the latest reminder that Santi White has pipes of, well, gold. The first was her 2008 self-titled album, which revealed vocal chords bending in ways few others would think to try. They zig and zag, and it’s the perfect complement to spazzy, zealous production value. Whatever you’re expecting to hear around each corner, just expect Santigold to shatter said expectations in a hurry. Just the way we like it.
John Darnielle, founding front man of the Mountain Goats and a California native, is one of indie rock’s great wordsmiths and engaging storytellers. He tends to view himself the same way most great men of letters were labeled — a product of a strange but fascinating place. If you’re a California native like me, you’ll pick up on accounts of the physical landscape, as well as intangible landscapes distinct to California — he manages to capture our collective attitudes, narratives and philosophies, if you’re listening through a specific prism.