iTunes is said to hold a catalogue of over 28 million songs. Suffice to say, navigating such a technologically-enhanced musical climate is as exciting as it is daunting. With that in mind, compiling any ‘best of’ list will inevitably lead to omissions and late entries – here’s a word on some outstanding examples.
Grimes – ‘Visions’
Surely an obvious absence, Visions failed to capture my attention in the way that it would the alternative audience. Claire Boucher’s futuristic take on traditional pop structures is certainly interesting, but many cuts from the record feel like unfinished demos or sketches as opposed to fully-formed songs. The past year has seen a handful of female musicians re-route pop into unlikely territory, but the artificiality of Visions made its results rather hit-and-miss. Despite this, the strength of singles Oblivion and Genesis remain stellar examples of a talent that would benefit from further nurturing.
Miguel – ‘Kaleidoscope Dream’
Miguel Pimentel’s recasting from a major-label sleeper success to alternative-friendly classicist was one of the most positive surprises of the year. Releasing his sophomore effort late in the year – which would have easily made the mid-range of my Albums list – he took the traditional sensuality of Marvin Gaye, the glam sensibility of Prince, and fused it with a modern sonic landscape. Emmy-nominated single Adorn sounds like a Sexual Healing redux, while Bruno Mars could only wish he had penned the sweet-talk of Do You. A record with many parallels to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Kaleidoscope Dream may not have such lyrical power, but compensates with strong musical vision and a respectful interpretation of true R’n’B.
THEESatisfaction – ‘awE naturalE’
In just 30 minutes, the singer-rapper duo of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White admirably squeeze some heavy and diverse qualities into their modest debut. While the feel-good neo-soul groove of QueenS is the most easily accessible of their work, it’s the more politically-edged cuts such as Earthseed that pack the biggest punch, detailing the home truths of the African-American Lesbian community in America. Sitting at the cusp of my ‘Albums of 2012′ list, it was only omitted on account of many songs’ abrupt endings and lack of progression, made all the more frustrating for the talent is undeniably there. Still, this is an understated record deserving of your attention.
Beach House – ‘Bloom’
You’ll need to remind yourself that this is Beach House’s fourth LP, because Bloom certainly won’t do it for you. The band have already managed to get an admirable amount of mileage out of their dream-pop aesthetic, and after the breakout success of 2010’s Teen Dream this record feels like a missed opportunity to expand and progress as a band.
John Talabot – ‘Fin’
Another late entry like Miguel, the Spanish DJ/Producer’s eagerly-anticipated debut was an expansive interpretation of bedroom dance, floating between Deep House, Balearic beats and old-school disco. The only release this year that managed to feel nocturnal yet sun-kissed, old yet new, defined yet abstract. Were it not for the solid comeback from Orbital, Fin would easily have found itself at the tail-end of this years list.