While lists are a fun way to recap the year, ranking music always strikes me as a bit silly, especially when so much influential and genre changing releases came out in 2012. For this list, I chose to highlight 5 of the best influential artists that broke new ground without any sort of ranking system. These artists are simply sharing their unique music with the world with no pretention, and to honor them, here are the 5 that I personally enjoyed hearing from the whole year through:
It’s hard to put such a legendary producer on here when so many new artists have broken new ground this year, but with the release of Until The Quiet Comes and the tour that accompanied it, it would be a crime not to mention the guy. Flying Lotus’ has an unparalleled ability to create some of the most personal, groundbreaking, and moving music available to modern listeners – Until The Quiet Comes feels like a different story written individually for each listener. That ability is something 99% of producers hope to accomplish and never do, and that’s what makes FlyLo’s albums such a treat to listen to. Music aside, the art that was a direct response to the album made a splash as well. Between Khalil Joseph’s short film and Beeple’s quick preview clips, Flying Lotus sparked a hugely positive contribution to both music and art in 2012. Hats off.
I just mentioned in my previous paragraph that there were a flurry of new artists making huge contributions to music in 2012, and Wassabii most definitely falls into this category. While he may very well have created one of the best experimental/explorational albums of 2012, I saw a total of zero promotion from him. Upon talking to him about the album, it is abundantly clear that James Wasserman (Wassabii) creates music for one purpose – to share with the world his unique perception of the events happening around him, whether there be fame involved or no. He released a whopping 3 albums this year, ranging from hip-hop inspired sample work to ambient instrumental melodies. The reason I chose to include him on this list was not because of the large volume of work he produced, but because of his most recent album, Bedroom Noise. I know I said that FlyLo’s ability to connect with his audience on a personal level was unparalleled, but I may need to retract that statement. Bedroom Noise is absolutely one of the most raw, passionate, and incredible albums I’ve heard in 2012, if not ever. That’s a huge fucking statement, and I really mean it. If you’re short on time, listen to ‘Voices From The Bedroom’. If you’re not, and I highly recommend you not to be, put on some headphones and listen to this album the whole way through, perhaps at a park. On second thought, sit in your bed, or in your most personal space, and reflect on your year and the changes you hope to make in 2013. Let the noise fill your brain, and feel Wasserman’s most personal feelings flow through you. Best 2.99 you’ll spend all year.
Here’s that same problem of wanting to talk about all these great new artists but still needing to pay homage to the legends that continue to put out the most incredible music available to listeners. I guess that really isn’t so much of a problem…either way, Squarepusher’s 2012 album Ufabulum was one of the most creative projects released this year. The blips and blops and drum n bass and accompanying art are all just so unique and groundbreaking. His performance at HARD Summer was phenomenal as well – very few producers produce and play music with as much passion as Squarepusher. It takes me back to the days I first heard Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James album, and while Ufabulum might not be one of the top 50 albums ever made like James’ was, it certainly takes you on a unique journey in a similar way. One of my favorite things about both the album and accompanying performance was the clear Squarepusher style – it is abundantly clear that he had a vision and enacted that vision perfectly both audibly and visually, and that vision happened to be phenomenally brilliant.
If you had a gander at our top 25 dance tracks of 2012 list, you know we’re big fans of U.K. duo Bondax. They’re just young kids making incredible music, and in my eyes that always bears a mention. It’s almost weird to put them on a list of experimental producers – while their brand of future garage is completely unique to them, it still feels familiar and accessible, maybe because of the phenomenal sample choice and manipulation in every goddamn one of their tunes this year. Not only that, they played a whole mess of energetic shows and released a bunch of great mixes. This is another case of artists that make music to do just that. They want to share their unique sound with the world, and the world is very receptive. Looking forward to the undoubtedly wonderful things to come from them in 2013.
The Gaslamp Killer
All of my friends are complaining about the amount of time I’ve spent talking about how wonderfully brilliant GLK has been this year. Between his debut album [appropriately named] Breakthrough, the continuing success of Low End Theory, constant international gigging, one of the greatest essential mixes ever recorded, and great contributions to the Brainfeeder crew/label, GLK owned 2012. While his talent has been undeniable since he started DJing, he stepped out of his comfort zone and really did something special in 2012. While so many electronic artists took the explosion of dance music in America and shit on it for money, GLK and the entire Brainfeeder crew were some of the few artists to stay true to themselves and give the people of the world real music [not to say I would lump his tunes into a category as narrow as ‘dance music’]. While everyone sat on their asses and talked about how many new subgenres there are, GLK changed the face of music as we know it. Simply put, he raised the bar, and it’s going to be real hard for anyone to do as much good for electronic music as GLK did in 2012.