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.
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.
Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ Bout You
Buy: Get a copy of channel ORANGE over at Amazon.
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.
Traxman – Footworkin On Air
Buy: Pick up Da Mind of Traxman over at Planet Mu.
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.
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.
DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1
Download: Head over to the Hush Hush Records page to download this mix.
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.
Danny Brown – Witit
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.
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.
Burial – Kindred
Buy: Download a copy of the Kindred EP directly from Hyperdub.