2012 has not been the easiest of years. It has not been the worst, certainly, it has been pure fucking Gold compared to 2001, but there have been times when it would have been oh so easy to chuck it all in… It started well: Resolutions are for people that don’t know what they’re doing with their lives, but that’s not to say I didn’t have some vague battle plan. Satan & Megastar rode horses through the snowy Swedish forests before returning to the UK for T.O.Y.S to play a New Years Party in Leeds. Then I turned 30. A milestone overshadowed by the fact that all I could think about was AACRII and the Dewey Decimal System. But we played our first show, albeit in disguise as a Moldy Peaches esque indie pop duo before realising we hated everyone and everything (most of all ourselves) too much to pull that shit off with any authenticity and decided to make the music that came most naturally to us. Doom laden pop. As so often happens, we created a myth that threatened to swallow us both. We had created it so we knew how to out smart it. Or so we thought. Before we realised that the myth had become a reality it was too late. I have lost count of the number of times we have come to, amongst the debris, eyes blazing, knives out, gold buzzing through our veins. Some of this we managed to capture on tape. Some of it slipped through our fingers. All of it happened, and, despite nearly killing each other twice, something has always managed to pull us back from the brink.
I spent most of this year becoming a Master of Libraries, and as such (not that I would have read anything that was written this year anyway) have only had the pleasure of reading for, uh, pleasure, for the last couple months of the year. That said, I have been inspired and illuminated by them perhaps more than ever before. I admit, circumstance has as large a part to play as the words themselves, but, still, these are the books that have kept me above water this year.
Alastair Brotchie – Alfred Jarry: A Pataphysical Life
Hermann Hesse – Steppenwolf
Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
Aleister Crowley – Diary of a Drug Fiend
Aleister Crowley – The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
John Steinbeck – To A God Unknown
As for music, after watching a documentary about George Clinton and finally grasping the fact that there is so much more to Funk than the Red Hot Chilli Peppers I spent a lot of the year listening to little else. Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop, Maggot Brain and Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow have rarely left the turntable (okay, iTunes playlist). As well as Curtis Mayfield (who I somehow managed to write about in my dissertation), Sly & The Family Stone etc. Inbetween the funk and trying to keep up with 2012’s releases I listened to as many Motown artists as possible as well as the excellent One Kiss Can Lead To Another (Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found) compilation. As for the best of this year:
The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
The Mountain Goats always seem to release a new album exactly when I need it. Yes, of course it is just for me. This year has been no exception. I heard this live version of Harlem Roulette before hearing the album. There is an intensity about this performance that isn’t quite duplicated on the record of which it is one of the standout tracks. I won’t gush-unnecessary, instead I’ll point you towards Wednesday Clubber Max Broady’s excellent Review.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
There isn’t really anything I can say to do this band or this record or their career any real justice. I saw them play about ten years ago in the middle of winter in a freezing cold church in Birmingham and it blew my mind… and then at The Forum in London this year when they obliterated what was left of it.
Liars – WIXIW
Once again, Liars defied all expectations by releasing a record that managed to sound both exactly like a Liars record and a record by a completely different band at the same time. There are not many artists that can pull off this trick so effectively and consistently and it is what makes their records so appealing. Well, that and the fact that they don’t really put a foot wrong.
Cate Le Bon – Cryk
Unlike the other records in my Top 5, Cate Le Bon was completely new to me, her first album having somehow passed me by. Dave from T.O.Y.S played me her track Fold The Cloth during one of our all night musical exchanges and I was hooked immediately. The best description I have heard (and stolen) is to imagine if John Cale had taught Nico to sing with a Welsh accent.
Liechtenstein – Fast Forward
Back in the Manhattan Love Suicides days we played at Hamburg Pop Fest. We rolled into Germany, as we did most places, with nothing but our Fuzz Pedals, hoping (assuming) we could blag some guitars from someone. Those people happened to be Liechtenstein who turned out not only to be lovely people but also the best band of the weekend. Their new album is a masterclass in pop and Passion For Water more than any track this year stopped me going insane whilst shelving library books when I should have been writing essays (recording hits).
Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory
Anyone who even casually knows me will know how important Guided By Voices are to me. I had my suspicions about their reunion this year and although they haven’t snuck into the Top 5 their 3 (yes, 3) albums this year have all been, well, they have all had their moments of untouchable class. As always, they have also had less successful moments, but without those it just wouldn’t be a Guided By Voices album. Not quite an Alien Lanes or a Bee Thousand but hearing Tobin Sprout and Robert Pollard together again filled my brittle heart with unadulterated joy.
The Sea and Cake – Runner
I’ve been a big fan of Tortoise and various of their related and associated projects for a long time now, but, as always, something slipped past me, so over the last eighteen months I have had the pleasure of becoming aquainted with The Sea and Cake’s excellent back catalogue as well as Runner, their record from this year. An understated band, but one that manages to stand out of the crowd by referencing musical influences that a lot of other bands either ignore or don’t understand. Runner is the best thing they’ve done since Nassau, in my humble opinion.
Clinic – Free Reign
I have loved Clinic since the day I first heard IPC Sub-editors Dictate Our Youth. I think that was about the time I realised that the NME just wasn’t catering to my tastes anymore and I began to seek out the music (scene) that I now don’t know what I would do without. They consistently and effortlessly combine some of the coolest (fuck it, they are cool) moments from Music’s history into a Cement Mixer and, well, Free Reign isn’t as immediate as their previous couple of efforts but far more rewarding. It is worth pointing you towards the excellent Museum Records who this year have also released two EPs by Jellystone Park, the band that would eventually become Clinic.
Sun Kil Moon – Among The Leaves
This year saw Mark Kozelek returning to the Sun Kil Moon moniker and releasing what, for him was a strange beast. 20 odd tracks long and, what’s that, jokes? Lily and Parrots having soundtracked the break up of previous relationships, I expected Among The Leaves to ease the summer’s heartache, but to my surprise it forced a smile.
Taken By Trees – Other Worlds
I had forgotten how much I loved the previous two Taken By Trees albums so it was a joy not only to thoroughly enjoy their latest offering but also rediscover Open Field and East of Eden. Like The Sea and Cake, you can put on a Taken By Trees album and, if you’re not careful it can play through without you even noticing it. However, give it your undivided attention and it will reveal itself to you in all it’s splendour.
Adam John Miller, 11.12.2012