Hard News by Russell Brown

36

Friday Music: A Year of It

It's that time -- but as per last year, I'm not going to call this a "best of" 2012. There is simply too much music available now to say that. I look at other people's best-of lists and see a lot of stuff I haven't even heard -- and then wonder how they've missed the stuff I like. So let's just say this is a list of albums and track that I've enjoyed and played frequently in 2012. You'll have your own, which you should feel free to share.

Albums

Home Brew, Home Brew

Funny, angry, groovy, soulful and sometimes spaced out, Home Brew's debut album packs in more ideas than some hip hop artists manage in a career.  A narrative arc of growing up, having fun and emotional consequence connects the album's "Light" and "Dark" sides, sometimes to blisteringly frank effect. My favourite tune is still 'Good God', which blends a blasphemous indictment of everyone's deity with the gospel shadings of Hollie Smith and Tyna Keelan. Like Andy Murnane said to me this year: "Home Brew are telling you what your kids are doing. Don't be mad at them -- be a better parent."

The Orb Featuring Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Orbserver in the Star House

This got mostly ho-hum reviews, which I think mostly missed the point. The two venerable geezers sound like they're having a lot of fun here -- and that's the context in which this hugely genial record should be heard. A record that reprises both 'Little Fluffy Clouds' and 'Police and Thieves' pretty much has to be a winner, and this is. (NB: It's available in higher bitrates from Juno Downloads.)

Cat Power, Sun

A prodigious artistic reinvention, recorded and played almost single-handed by Chan Marshall herself. Nimble and atmospheric and quite different to anything she's done before.

SJD, Elastic Wasteland

Another reinvention, of sorts. After a quiet couple of years on his own creative account, Sean Donnelly flew solo on this record. It's at once deeply personal and evocative of any number of influences, from krautrock to folk and pop. A keeper.

Lawrence Arabia, The Sparrow

There's less of the musical confectionary of the last album, but still the same wry, observational humour and gold-plated melody. I guess a Christchurch boy's mind would turn to Christchurch, given what's happened there, and most of these songs seem to be reveries of a flat city.

Various Artists, Time to Go - Southern Psychedelic Moment 1981-86

Bruce Russell's smart, surprising, elegantly-annotated compilation sets a standard for explorations of the sprawling Flying Nun catalogue. Not a "greatest hits", or even quite the long-promised Christchurch compilation, but an expertly justified perspective. Worth it for the inclusion of the Playthings' thumping 'Sit Down' alone.

Lana Del Rey, Born to Die

Suck on it, haterz. It's flawed, inconsistent and a little too long, but it's also a unique pop record, with its hip hop beats, string sections and crazy, stacked-up production. I may have been spied in my car, singing along to 'National Anthem'. More than once.

Opossom, Electric Hawaii

From the opening strains of 'Girl', this is an album inspired by and evocative of classic pop. The tuneful DNA is strong in the Nielson family.

Herbs, What's Be Happen?

Herbs' first and best record, and the local re-issue of the year. Songs of social import, Pacific sounds. This still sounds remarkably fresh.

Various Artists, Electrospective

A prodigious, unabashedly Anglophile survey of electronic music, from the Doctor Who? theme to Can, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Mantronix, Radiohead and deadmau5. Sure, there's a David Guetta track, but nothing's perfect in this earthly world.

Moodymann, Picture This (free download)

Cool, slinky and assured: Detroit stalwart Moodymann on the groove for the night-times.

Tracks

Watercolours, 'Night Swimmer'

Less a song than a beautiful, softly-breathing swoon. The first winner of the monthly vote on TheAudience, this tune seems to have set a lot of things in motion for Chelsea Jade Metcalf. It will soon, finally, be available for purchase.

Loui the Zu, 'Smokers Lung'

Another one from the first month of TheAudience and still my favourite Zu tune. We'll be hearing a lot more from this young man.

Daughter, 'Youth' (Love Thy Brother remix)

Daughter, 'Youth' (Allie Farben remix)

Who would have thought that big beats and soppy folk would go together so sweetly? The first remix of the English singer-songwriter is dubstep (folkstep?) and the other is a gorgeous house tune.

Ellie Goulding 'High for This'

Why yes, now you ask, I am a 50 year-old man who sometimes behaves, in a musical sense, like a big girly girl.

John Lennon, 'Sleep' (The Reflex Stems Re-Vision)

A heaving, smokin' take on Lennon's famous out-of-order hatemail to McCartney. (Free download doesn't show in the embedded player, but click through to the track on Soundcloud.)

Kylie Minogue - 'Slow' (Sleng Teng Resurrection Riddim Remix)

Kylie meets Sleng Teng! Who'd have thought?

She's So Rad, 'Confetti'

This makes me think of fireworks in slow motion.

Aretha Franklin, Rock Steady (Bobby Busnach Move Your Hips Remix)

Nearly every week on his Soundcloud account, Bobby Busnach, who was there when disco evolved into house music, releases a new (or sometimes way-back-in-the-day old) remix on his Soundcloud account. You need to be there -- he usually allows only a few dozen downloads before turning them off. This is my favourite from this year's batch, and formed part of my birthday DJ set.

Public Enemy, 'Harder Than You Think' (Featurecast Remix)

A bangin' remix of the tune used so memorably in UK Channel 4's Paralympics promo.

Talking Heads, 'Psycho Killer' (Greg Wilson Edit)

A taut, compelling edit pieced together with the ghetto-blaster beats from Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense movie. A cool classic.

Destiny's Child, 'Say My Name' (Cyril Hahn Remix)

A sensuous reinvention of the original, the downpitched vocal taking it to a whole 'nother place.

Dido, 'Thank You' (Lewd Behavior Remix)

Yeah, I know. A D&B remix of the MOR pop hit. It should suck ass. It actually doesn't.

Esther Philips, 'All the Way Down' (Leftside Wobble Edit)

A typically able scrub-up of a an obscure blues-funk monster from Esther. Every single thing about this is good.

And, hell, that's enough copy-pasting embed code. I'll throw a few more goodies in the comments, but for now -- over to you lot.

PS: Thanks to TheAudience for their sponsorship of this post -- it makes it all just a little bit more worthwhile.

The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:

theaudience

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