22 of Wallace Wylie’s favourite songs of 2012 (most of which are actually from 2012) so far
Laurel Halo – MK Ultra
I’m not sure what to say about this song, or indeed what to say about Laurel Halo’s music in general. The moods and emotions that the album conjures up are definitely unfamiliar. You will find no comfort here. The melodies are jarring, yet they have a way of burrowing into your consciousness. If you threw this on at a party, it would probably clear the room. You can’t keep relying on Trout Mask Replica for that old trick, so make some space on your shelves for Laurel Halo.
The Magnetic Fields – God Wants Us To Wait
Track 1, and you’re already hooked. Two minutes, and you want more. The lyrics are hilarious, the groove is essential. Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is the best Magnetic Fields album since the last one you thought was good. For a while, it proudly held the title of Wallace’s Favourite Album of the Year So Far, though it may now have slipped a couple of places.
Duke Ellington – Fleurette Africaine
Another song that appeared in my life recently thanks to a used CD. Recorded in 1962, the music feels like a meditation on sadness and hope. It sounds like some melancholy spirit moving unseen through a rainstorm. Characters sit alone, or together, in houses and bars waiting for the rain to pass. A funeral march continues defiantly. The piano is telling us that in spite of the injustice, in spite of the pain, in spite of the insurmountable odds, and in the face of our unavoidable demise, life contains moments of real beauty. From somewhere, people find the strength to keep going, and that in itself is something to celebrate. It you ever reach the point where you wonder why you bother, listen to this song.
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Chromatics deal in late night, hazy, inscrutable situations and scenarios. Their records are lessons in ‘80s tinged atmospherics. I realise that every other band that exists right now seems to deal with ‘80s tinged production sounds, but Chromatics do it right. Their songs engulf you. You begin to imagine that each encounter in your life has sinister or dramatic undertones. Drive around playing Chromatics’ albums and suddenly downtown neon feels exciting, enticing. Out there on the shadowy midnight streets, love is both ending and beginning. The purpose of mood music is to enhance your surroundings. Chromatics do it right.
Dirty Projectors – Gun Has No Trigger
There’s a lot of chatter around Dirty Projectors. They seem to bring out the two worst traits of American cultural commentary: pseudo-intellectualism and anti-intellectualism. On the one hand, we have to read repeatedly that David Longstreth writes music for two or three voices, as if that really means anything other than an appeal to ignorance, while on the other hand we get indie dudes up in arms at the slightest hint or mention of musical theory. No way, indie dudes like it from the heart, preferably with facial hair. Indie dudes adopt the Goldilocks principle when it comes to evaluating musicians: they like them if they’re not too smart, not too dumb, but just right. This chatter can distract you from the fact that Dirty Projectors are, at this point, a fantastic band, and that ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ doesn’t sound a million miles away from Edwyn Collins circa I’m Not Following You. When did that become a problem?
Just-Ice – Cold Gettin’ Dumb
A match made in heaven: Just-Ice letting loose over Kurtis Mantronik’s beats. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mantronix just fine, but MC Tee threw too many rhymes at you that were just plain silly. Not so Just-Ice. The album Back To The Old School, released in 1986, straddled a strange axis of new school and electro, while Just-Ice’s growling persona predicted the coming of Gangsta Rap. This song came into my life around three years ago and its immense power and impact is hard to shake off.