Best Media 2012: Best Music

Music fans have been blasted between the ears with digital for years, but in 2012 vinyl and, even more remarkably, cassettes began rising from the ashes to again find a small but solid handhold. Music for the Masses headliner Matthew Moyer has kept librarians well apprised of these developments in his unique columns and Q&As. His musical interests are vast and wide ranging, so his best list forgoes mainstream fare for a more eclectic collection that will amaze and elate your more musically adventurous patrons, making your library the best record store in town.

Cult of Youth. Love Will Prevail. Sacred Bones.
Besides running a record label (Blind Prophet) and a record storeCult Of Youth Love Will Prevail1217 Best Media 2012: Best Music (Heaven Street), cultural polymath Sean Ragon has also led his ensemble project Cult of Youth through a series of darkly shimmering albums in thrall to the likes of Death in June and Current 93. His new work injects unprecedented light and color into Cult of Youth’s music, with horns and strings bringing to bear both psychedelic whimsy and baroque flourishes.

Hard Corps. Clean Tables Have To Be Burnt. Minimal Wave.
Continuing an unbroken streak of winning reissues of dark synth’s forgotten treasures is this LP of unreleased tracks from UK synth act Hard Corps, whose sound was a beguiling mix of punishing electronics and the lush vocals of French front woman Regine Fetet (d. 2003). Despite major label albums and tours with Depeche Mode, it never happened for Hard Corps, but their music still sounds timely, modern, and emotive. Kids by the score are ripping off their act.

Killer Mike. R.A.P. Music. Williams Street.
Atlanta-based MC Killer Mike brings a fiery urgency and political KillerRap1217 Best Media 2012: Best Musicsensibility back to hip-hop with this kinetic new record. One could be forgiven for thinking that Killer Mike’s career peaked early with an appearance in 2001 on a Grammy-winning Outkast song, but R.A.P. Music is his most essential moment yet. Crafted with producer extraordinaire El-P, every regional “scene” is touched on and tangled together, while K.M.’s commanding delivery presides over the whole affair, yelling truth to power.

Røsenkøpf. Røsenkøpf. Wierd.
These three young New Yorkers dress like front-row denizens at a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert circa 1981, but when they turn up their instruments, it’s a whole other, louder matter entirely. Røsenkøpf is an angry, bruise-red hybrid of Neu’s motorik precision, Cabaret Voltaire’s discipline through punishment, and, most thrillingly, the fell sonics of black-metal maniacs like Xasthur. A smoldering, distinctly urban dread pervades every chord.

Scott Walker. Bish Bosch. 4AD.
The stuff of which nightmares are made. I’ve discussed reclusivebishbosch1217 Best Media 2012: Best Music songwriter Scott Walker in the past: his abrupt retreat from pop stardom in the 1960s; his embrace of stranger, darker sounds; his glacial working methods. None of this matters when approaching Bish Bosch; this album exists in a void of its own, with no discernible precedents or influences. An eldritch spire of sound, Walker’s rich baritone works itself into all manner of nonlinear shapes over an almost literal world of sound, both found and carefully crafted.

Honorable Mention

Russian Tsarlag. Liquid Nails LP. Personnel.
In stark contrast to the “everything, all the time, now” mentality that the Internet has instilled in us regarding culture, Tampa’s enigmatic dandy, Russian Tsarlag, completely eschews all modern methods of dissemination and promotion of his music. An album will surface, unheralded, on a tiny imprint, sell a couple of hundred copies, and then be gone forever. Don’t confuse quantity with quality; this album, one of about five Tsarlag released this year, is among his finest to date. A murky wedge of depressive sonics that evokes the Cure circa Faith, played through an old transistor radio.

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  1. Steve Kemple says:

    Loving Cult of Youth! Except for Scott Walker & Killer Mike, these all slipped under my radar…so thanks for sharing! I’m listening to Røsenkøpf next.

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