It’s the middle of the year, which means it’s time for the music industry’s first round of 2012 listomania — and lo, the first “best of 2012 so far” roundups have already begun to crop up across the Internet. It’s been pleasing to see that some of our favorite albums have had plenty of love on such lists — we’re sure you don’t need us to tell you any more about the likes of Lower Dens, Chromatics, Liars, Death Grips, Leonard Cohen or, of course, Grimes, who may well actually rule the entire world by the end of this year. But there are others that we haven’t been seeing mentioned a whole lot, and thus we figured we’d repeat the feature we did at about this time last year, focusing on albums that everyone seems to have overlooked so far in 2012. We suggest you catch up ASAP, as December’s coming sooner than you think.
Mirroring — Foreign Body
It might be the largely un-Googleable band name, or just that like the solo work of its two protagonists — Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tiny Vipers’ Jesy Fortino — Mirroring’s music has subtle charms that only reveal themselves with repeated, careful listening. Whatever the reason, this excellent collaboration between two of our favorite artists has been largely absent from pretty much every Best of 2012 So Far list we’ve looked at, which is a shame, because it’s beautiful, striking a perfect balance between Harris’s atmospheric drones and Fortino’s acoustic guitar and delicate voice.
Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland — Black Is Beautiful
The fourth album by the duo formerly known as Hype Williams is just as idiosyncratic and strange as we’ve come to expect from them, encompassing everything from abrasive noise to ominous ambient atmospherics, from strange old Bollywood samples to weird distorted spoken word and brooding hip hop. The result is an album that’s as unpredictable as it is consistently intriguing.
Future of the Left — The Plot Against Common Sense
It’s a kinda sad reflection on the state of things that Andy Falkous’s typically coruscating response to a tepid Pitchfork review of The Plot Against Common Sense attracted more attention than the record itself. We don’t want to add to the chorus of comment about the whole thing here, save to say it was difficult to see what a writer who described Falkous as “a personal hero” could find to dislike about this record. To our ears, it’s the band at their surreal, acerbic best — Falkous’s lyrics and delivery are as biting as ever, and he’s lost none of his sense of humor.
Grass Widow — Internal Logic
And while we’re on albums overshadowed by bad reviews — or in this case, offensively ridiculous ones — what about Grass Widow? VICE‘s horrendous “review” of this album — to which our own Judy Berman penned a hilarious response — has proven a depressingly successful piece of trolling, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that Internal Logic is a fine piece of work that deserves far better than to be a footnote to VICE‘s whimsical unpleasantness.
d’Eon — Music for Keyboards Vol. 1
Montreal producer d’Eon’s “real” album dropped a couple of weeks back, and while we’re all for the idea of a crazy concept record about the angel Gabriel containing a track called “My iPhone Tracks My Every Move,” we still prefer this instrumental collection, which d’Eon released quietly for free download earlier this year. Our first impression when we heard it was that it resembled Brian Eno’s work with Robert Fripp in the early ’70s — particularly Evening Star — which is high praise indeed. You can probably still find a download link if you look hard enough — if you like ambient/instrumental music, it’s one of the best things you’ll hear all year.
Perpetually underrated Brooklyn psych combo Woods seem to release at least one excellent record every year, and this year it comes in the form of a split LP with California producer Amps for Christ. It’s a genuine record of two sides — Amps for Christ’s songs are on Side A, while Woods handle Side B, and although there’s only one collaborative song, the record somehow still hangs together with its own internal logic, taking you on a long, spaced-out trip from abrasive noise to gentle, blissed-out psychedelia.
Symmetry — Themes from an Imaginary Film
The Chromatics album has gotten plenty of attention, but Johnny Jewel’s other production this year has rather slipped under the radar — a shame, since it’s just as good and arguably better than Kill for Love. This bumper collection of atmospheric instrumentals is grounded in the work that Jewel did for the Drive soundtrack — for whatever reason, that project didn’t work out, but happily, the music still saw the light of day, and it’s fantastic.
Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury — Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One
Also on the “soundtrack projects that didn’t quite work out” tip, what about Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s excellent synth futurism, originally destined for the Judge Dredd film and eventually released as a stand-alone album?
VCMG — Ssss
This has gotten a reasonable amount of critical attention in the UK — including a rave review from our friends at The Quietus — but relatively little on this side of the Atlantic. We’re not sure why — it’s Vince Clarke and Martin Gore! Making filthy techno! What’s not to like?!
Blues Control — Valley Tangents
This has only just come out, which is perhaps why it hasn’t made it onto many “Best Of” lists — and honestly, its strange and wonderful sounds take some digesting. We’re hoping to see it figure prominently on end-of-year lists, though.