With 2012 well underway and our feet back under the desk, we’re turning our attention toward the coming year, and what it might hold for the music world. Predicting the course of music is a slippery task at the best of times, but even so, we’re preemptively tipping seapunk as silliest new genre, The Black Keys as the band who’ll earn the Kings of Leon Award (being hated by everyone who used to like them), and the Can box set as the best re-release of the rest of the millennium. But what of artists to watch? Well, after the jump, we’ve chosen the 12 artists who we reckon will (or at least should) own 2012. Let us know your nominations!
Regular readers have most likely guessed this already, but of all the early 2012 albums we’re looking forward to, Grimes’s Visions is pretty much at the top of the list. With her recent signing to 4AD, Claire Boucher now has the weight of one of the music industry’s most beloved and respected labels behind her, and every indication is that Visions is going to be a ripper. In other words, the stage is set for Grimes to do very, very well in 2012. (Also keep an eye on producer Mike Tucker, aka Blood Diamonds, with whom she recently collaborated.)
While we’re on Canadian alterna-pop types, erudite blogger and this Flavorpill writer’s fellow countryman Anthony Carew of About.com anointed “Don’t Leave It to Me” by Mozart’s Sister — aka Caila Thompson-Hannant of Montréal — as his favorite song of 2011… and as ever, his judgement was impeccable. Mozart’s Sister’s sound is built around candy-coated electronic glitches and percussive vocal samples that recall the likes of Camille and tUnE-yArDs, both good signs indeed. So far, she’s only released one solitary EP, and there’s no word of when an album might be due — but if it comes in 2012, we’re definitely tipping it to do well.
As we do pretty much every year, we had our problems with the 2011 installment of NME‘s annual cool list, but the choice of Azealia Banks at the top of said list was a fairly progressive one. At the ripe old age of 20, Banks looks likes she’s on a trajectory from interesting underground artist to genuine commercial stardom, and her presence on the new Scissor Sisters song could well be the move that places her firmly into the mainstream public consciousness. Mind you, it’d help if — just like every other musician in the multiverse — she’d steer clear of Twitter-based silliness.
Star quality, killer songs and a voice that could move mountains… Yeah, we’ve written about Alabama Shakes a lot of late, but if they don’t go supernova in 2012, there’s something very wrong with the world.
Swedish singer Molly Nilsson guested on wrote “Hey Moon”, a cover of which appeared on John Maus’s excellent We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves — she also provides guest vocals on Maus’s version. This may well be where you’re most likely to have heard of her, but she also released an excellent record of her own last year — entitled History, it came out a couple of weeks back to very little fanfare, perhaps because it debuted when everyone had already formulated their end-of-year lists and gone to the pub. If there’s any justice in the world, this collective oversight will be rectified, and Nilsson will get plenty of attention in the year to come.
Our social media director and resident dark music expert Russ Marshalek has been going crazy about UK witch house types CRIM3S ever since he ordered their album late last month. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens to witch house in 2012 — this could be the year that the genre loses momentum, or the year that it goes overground. If it’s the latter, then CRIM3S may well be right up there with Salem in the charge toward the mainstream.
Brooklyn duo Innergaze’s song “Shadow Disco” was probably our favorite dance track of last year, a killer piece of spaced-out neo-disco that fell somewhere between The Emperor Machine and Liquid Liquid. The duo are signed to most excellent label 100% Silk, which released their fantastic four-track Shadow Disco EP last year — while the title track was a highlight, the whole thing was great, a little more polished and perhaps a little more danceable than the lo-fi stylings of their first album, We Are Strange Loops. We’re crossing fingers for a full-length in 2012.
Also on the weird disco front, we fell in love with the work of producer Eddie Ruscha — aka Secret Circuit — a couple of years back via his track “Roll,” which featured on a cracking compilation of neo-Balearic strangeness called Milky Disco (Volume II, to be precise). He re-emerged with an excellent and largely overlooked album called Mystic Sensibilities Of Future Persons last year, 13 tracks of hypercolor dance sounds and pleasantly squelching synths that’s been on high rotation ever since we got our hands on it. Anyway, Tim “Beats in Space” Sweeney is releasing a Secret Circuit 12″ this month, which we’re hoping will be the catalyst for bringing Ruscha’s work to wider attention.
While we loved Ponytail, we can’t help but feel the hyperactive four-piece going their separate ways mightn’t have been such a bad thing, mainly because it provided the catalyst for guitarist Dustin Wong to concentrate on his solo work. Wong’s a remarkable talent, as anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to see him construct a set live with battered Telecaster and a loop pedal will attest. His album Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads is out in February on Thrill Jockey, and we’ve got very good feelings about it.
Someone Ariel Pink-related going overground seems to be becoming an annual occurrence — it was Pink himself in 2010, then John Maus last year… and unless Geneva Jacuzzi has a secret album up her sleeve, then the Pink posse members most likely to break out this year are Puro Instinct. On stage, the precocious and decidedly photogenic Kaplan sisters look like a high school band that’s somehow stumbled into a dream support slot, but their album Headbangers in Ecstasy was a decent piece of work, and has set them up for a fruitful 2012.
We eulogized Of Montreal multi-instrumentalist and übertalent K. Ishibashi’s Room for Dream EP when it dropped in May last year, so we were delighted to see that his Kickstarter campaign to finance the release of a full-length solo album was a resounding success (as, no doubt, were all the people who invested $100 or more and got a 30-second YouTube “song-gram” as a reward). What we’ve heard of the album so far is fantastic, a succession of killer pop songs wreathed in strange and wonderfully intricate arrangements, and we’re definitely looking forward to hearing the finished product. Ishibashi is apparently also opening for Of Montreal on some of the latter’s tour dates this year, so get there early, because he’s pretty great live, too.
La Big Vic
Not many bands can boast a former Japanese boy band singer, an analog synth obsessive, and a classical violinist, and fewer still can do so and end up sounding like a strange and wonderful mixture of Tangerine Dream and Cocteau Twins. The stately, spaced-out grandeur of La Big Vic’s debut album Actually made it one of the pleasures of 2011, and promises excellent things for 2012. Also, one member of La Big Vic (the classical violinist, specifically) is Emilie Friedlander, who used to co-edit the late and much lamented Pitchfork offshoot Altered Zones — it does help to be well-connected, y’know.