Things I Loved in 2012: Part 2

And now for the second part of my random musings on music in 2012… and if you missed it, you can view Part 1 right over here.

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Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

Frank Ocean‘s unfolding story was one of the most beautiful and honest of 2012. His heartfelt letter that touched on his experiences of the past few years and the complexities of human sexuality set the tone for his moving performance of “Bad Religion” on Jimmy Fallon and later release of his excellent debut studio album channel ORANGE. This powerhouse of forward-thinking R&B was a grower for me, the subtlety and strength of Ocean’s earnest compositions unfurling further with each repeated listen. Of course, I don’t think anyone can deny the immediacy of devastating standout “Thinkin’ Bout You”. Take a listen below.

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Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ Bout You

Buy: Get a copy of channel ORANGE over at Amazon.

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Traxman – Da Mind of Traxman

Da Mind of Traxman, another masterpiece of juke from 2012, is one of the most versatile and original offerings in the history of the genre. With savvy vocal flips, slick jazz samples, gritty 303 synth, and brutal, distorted guitar cut-ups, Traxman lays down an LP’s worth of next level shit. The particularly eyebrow-raising album opener “Footworkin on Air” rides in with a hypnotic and ethereal kalimba riff that Traxman deftly deconstructs and reforms over bubbling arpeggios, booming bass hits, and syncopated snare slaps. The mind of Traxman is an otherworldly nebula indeed, so breathe deep and enjoy the trip.

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Traxman – Footworkin On Air

Buy: Pick up Da Mind of Traxman over at Planet Mu.

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Holy Other – Held

A deep, spectral meditation from mysterious Manchester producer Holy Other, Held is exactly the kind of release one might expect from one of Tri Angle Records‘ finest. These compositions are forlorn and brooding at their core, but remain gracefully balanced with euphoric and emotional highs. Haunting vocal fragments pulsate across surging ambience, droning synth, and rich drum work; plaintive calls from beyond the veil that color Held with a mournful and nostalgic hue. Stream the gorgeous title track below and listen in awe as Holy Other effortlessly bends the despondent first half into the transcendent prayer that closes the song.

Buy: Get a copy of Held over at Bleep.

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DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1

I’ve already mentioned Kid Smpl‘s excellent debut LP, but the founding of Hush Hush Records also brought us this sweet night bus mix from label head and KEXP DJ Alex Ruder (aka DJ D’Nelski). A beautiful introduction to these kinds of tunes for anyone who’s slept on it thus far, Distant Lights Vol. 1 blends the cream of the crop from the Hush Hush monthly DJ night in rainy Seattle. An appropriate soundtrack of hazy beats and screwed and spaced out R&B, this mix is drowned in a distinct emotional pulse— don’t be afraid to succumb to the vibes and let yourself feel.

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DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1

Download: Head over to the Hush Hush Records page to download this mix.

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Danny Brown – “Witit”

This track— a bonus track on the deluxe edition of 2011’s stellar XXX-— is nothing short of the most monstrous hip-hop banger to drop last year. SKYWLKR’s production is completely bonkers, a poltergeist beast of subs and ascending synth shrill, and Danny Brown goes straight ignorant on it: “She rubbin’ all on them titties like my name was Biggie / But I don’t know no Diddy, but got Dirty Money with me / Got some Bobby and that Whitney for Christina and Britney / She sippin’ then she get tipsy, then she drop it low and get get it”. This is rap nihilism at its finest.

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Danny Brown – Witit

Buy: Get a copy of XXX (Deluxe Edition) over at Beatport or head to Fool’s Gold Records to get The OD EP picture disc vinyl.

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Perseus – “Seychelles”

This dancefloor banger from French Express label head Perseus may be quite familiar to those of you who checked out Face of Another, the audio/visual mix I made last year with Marilia Maschion. I seriously cannot get enough of this one. Centered on an incredible Toni Braxton sample, “Seychelles” is a deep piece of disco-tinged house that’s as tropical as its namesake. With an infectious chord progression, killer synth tones, and production that’s so crisp and clean, this is easily one of my favorite dance jams of the past few years.

Buy: You can download the “Seychelles” b/w “Love in Zanzibar” single for free from the French Express Soundcloud page.

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Burial – Kindred

Sheesh, what can I even say about Burial? Kindred is yet another masterful and mold-breaking offering from the enigmatic London producer. For these three extended compositions Burial effortlessly cycles through layers and layers of sound, imbuing this EP with unmistakable mood and atmosphere. The dark and seductive title track is eleven and a half minutes of sublime drone, unearthly vocal flips, grimy breakbeat, vinyl crackle, and static that will engulf you. Peerless.

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Burial – Kindred

Buy: Download a copy of the Kindred EP directly from Hyperdub.

Things I Loved In 2012: Part 1

Oh. Hi there. It’s been a while. Let’s get this thing going again, yeah? I’ve missed ya’ll. Enjoy this brief look back at 2012 over the next week before I start tackling 2013.

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DJ Rashad – Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi

The hectic 160 BPM rhythms of juke continue to be transformed by a number of brilliant producers, including some of Chicago’s legendary progenitors of the genre. Founding father of footwork DJ Rashad put out one of the year’s finest LPs with the innovative and inspired Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi, pushing the genre to new limits.

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DJ Rashad – Feelin’

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DJ Rashad – iPod

Buy: Pick up Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi over at Beatport.

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LOL Boys – Fader Mix + Edits

With the highs must come lows… sadly, 2012 signified the dissolution of my favorite rising electronic duo: LOL Boys. With little more than a brief farewell on their Facebook page, this internet-borne collaboration was ended just as they were on the brink of truly breaking out. In their parting, LOL Boys released a zip file of the edits that made up the awesome mix they put together for The FADER back in July. One of the most refreshing and eclectic blends of pop tunes I’ve heard in a long while, this breezy masterstroke was on repeat for weeks after it dropped. Stream that mix and download Edits below.

And hey, it’s not all tearful goodbyes. The silver lining here is that Jerome Potter still carries the LOL torch as Jerome LOL and Markus Garcia is starting to release tracks under the alias Heartbeat(s). Perhaps now we’ll get twice the goodness from these two talented DJs and producers.

Download: LOL Boys – Edits

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Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions

Kendrick Lamar’s instant classic good kid, m.A.A.d city was enough to solidify 2012 as the year that TDE delivered handily on their promise. I just hope that Kendrick didn’t overshadow Habits & Contradictions, the excellent LP that fellow TDE member Schoolboy Q dropped earlier in the year. Between some excellent sample work and production, Schoolboy’s agile and aggressive flow, plus some dope guest spots, this is definitely not to a record be slept on. Stream Schoolboy’s heavy collab with K-Dot himself down below.

Buy: Grab Habits & Contradictions over at Amazon.

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Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven

If you’ve been following my Facebook, Twitter, or Soundcloud feeds, it’s become readily apparent that I am listening to a lot less guitar-centered music these days. However, the infectious garage rock haze of Mrs. Magician‘s stellar debut album Strange Heaven was an undeniable force in 2012. Produced by San Diego legend John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers) and released on his label Swami Records, this effort has helped earn these hometown heroes some much deserved attention and acclaim. They even snatched up a San Diego Music Award last year for “Best Pop Album”, proving that they actually do get some things right over there now and then. Check out the bitingly clever and catchy “There Is No God” below or stream the whole LP here.

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Mrs. Magician – There Is No God

Buy: Pick up a copy of Strange Heaven from their Bandcamp (digital) or over at Midheaven Mailorder (CD/LP).

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Jam City – Classical Curves

If the Night Slugs crew sounds like they came from the future, then Jam City is making music from the furthest reaches of that spectrum. His unconventional approach to electronic music cuts right through the time-space continuum, referencing the dark minimal sounds of early rave and house, but bending them like light through a prism into a refracted sound that is at once abrasive, mesmerizing and very new. Classical Curves is certainly one of the more challenging records I heard this year and requires a bit of time to process fully. But, the rewards at the end of that journey are well-worth it.

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Jam City – Her

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Jam City – The Courts

Buy: Get a copy of Classical Curves over at Bleep.

Kid Smpl – Skylight

Kid Smpl has had an impressive year— from his excellent Escape Pod EP, to his hypnotic performance at Live for the Funk‘s Decibel Festival showcase, his acceptance into the latest session of the Red Bull Music Academy, and of course the release of his beautiful debut full-length on Seattle’s freshest new label Hush Hush Records. A deep exploration of ‘night bus‘ music, Skylight is pure vibe; a slow and subtle atmospheric drone that builds patiently to emotive heights, only to reverberate back into an ambient vapor. This is necessary listening, so turn off the lights, put on your headphones and zone out in this ocean of lush tones and textures.

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Download: Kid Smpl – But I Don’t
Buy: You can buy Skylight over at the Hush Hush Records Bandcamp page.

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Korallreven (feat. Julianna Barwick) – “Sa Sa Samoa” (Elite Gymnastics Remix)

This Elite Gymnastics remix of Korallreven and Julianna Barwick‘s “Sa Sa Samoa” is a massive and authentic jungle rinse-out of the original balearic choral jam. However, to fully appreciate this track, you must watch the video. Equal parts seapunk, dump.fm, classic rave footage, and cosmically poignant Final Fantasy VII dialogue, this intense and assaulting visual speaks to life on the internet like no other. And when that Whitney Houston sample drops in… it’s all over. Ecstasy.

Buy: Download a copy of this track for free (along with the rest of the EP) over at the Acéphale Soundcloud page.