The first album of 2012 that poked me in the ribs was Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. Dark, carefully messy, with well timed samples underpinned by skittish intelligent beatitude (‘Not proper music!’ screamed the 14 year old Pitchfork work experience kid as they did an image search for foxes that look like Ed Sheeran). A ninety odd second a capella tale of mental illness at first seemed a bit odd, but in the context of an album laced with the less desirable thoughts that inhabit many a human mind, it worked well. There are songs within songs within songs so if you’re not too keen on one, don’t worry too much as it will change in 12 seconds. Love it or hate it, elements of this dark, sometimes sinister album will be around for years as it’s sampled, looped and reused by the hip hop community. Rest assured – there is no morris dancing and the guest glockenspiel solo from the Mumford pig does not materialise.
Dark and sinister are not adjectives that could ever be levelled at Canada’s Kid Koala. Possibly the happiest and most fun man in the music industry, he embarked on a new project in 2012. With his college band Bullfrog, Koala played the turntables along with ‘proper’ musicians (*waves at Pitchfork work experience kid who is now licking pictures of Taylor Swift*) meaning his style is far removed from traditional hip hop artist/producers. Everything, every sound every note is a potential instrument. Imperfection is to be flaunted; it’s all about the vibe. For this project, the weapons of choice were a couple quarter of a century old samplers picked up from Craigslist. Koala used the 3.5 floppy discs to record 10 second samples, then ditching the sequencer, punched the pads to record live his own interpretation of the blues. The result? A blues album. A very good blues album. A bourbon swilling, tobacco rasping, boot stomping, desperation seeping, finger gnarling, slip sliding, sawdust kicking, thoroughly modern old fashioned blues album.
Metz also hail from the slopey north shores of Canada, and for their eponymous album they went to the crate marked ‘Sup Pop’s early 1990s releases’, found the blueprint, blew the dust of it, looked at it for a few seconds, squinted, realised they were holding it upside down, turned it around, paused, thought ‘Not bad. But needs stronger tunes and more RAAAH!’ So they added said ingredients, and off they went to create a devastating, yet pleasurable sonic assault. Rather like being punched in the ear drum by a knuckle duster wearing Scarlett Johansson.
Chinese Water Badger’s latest Opus was one that many thought would not see the light of day what with the now near legendary Jonny ‘Two Hats’ McGraw feared dead after overdosing on aviation fuel, on…oh, I’m making this one up.
Grimes. I thought this was going to be the genre of music rather than as it turns out Claire Boucher’s stage name *closes wiki*. So I ignored it. (I rather like artists using their names for bands - and sometimes it can work quite well as *opens wiki* Leslie Feist, Bob Lemonhead or Jeff Fuck Buttons can attest to *closes wiki*). But Ms Boucher’s fare isn’t post-industrial-grime-step-dub-face but rather a wonderful kaleidoscope of discordant beats, spiralling electronic beeps and squawks combined with several layers of breathy vocal samples (*watches as Pitchfork’s work experience kid self combusts in a cloud of guitar shaped RAGE*). It’s rather akin to putting a sack on your head, going on the waltzers at the local fun fair and listening to colour yellow. In a good way. Fucking hell. Just found out she’s Canadian as well.
Finally, Flying Lotus with Until the Quiet Comes. Got to be honest here. A mate said I would really like it, but I haven’t listened to it properly yet. Probably Canadian. Probably doesn’t use proper instruments. Probably hated by Pitchfork.