Seer cover artAs this year comes to a close, and I spent more time than ever having to watch movies, as a newly inducted member into the Florida Film Critics Circle (including Hollywood fare! Blech), I felt a bit slack about my longtime experience covering music. So I wanted some help with a survey of some of the best albums 2012. I asked musicians, DJs and general local music scenesters of South Florida (current and past) to share their top 10 albums of 2012.

The tastes represented here are eclectic, and, as inspired by my first contributor, Emile Milgrim of Other Electricitiesand Sweat Records, include no music journalists who are pandered and marketed to by music labels. I therefore, humbly put my lists and thoughts at the end of these 12 notable personalities. Yet, I was pleased to find that within these varied lists, the one album I dared to call a masterpiece in 2012 appeared six times, far more than any other album (and the guy behind it laughed at me!)— hence the headline image.

I had attempted for a moment to survey a top 10 ranked list, but these people are not ones who follow rules easily, hence you can expect many albums ranked in no particular order and even albums from years outside 2012 and lists that did not care to limit themselves to 10 choices. I believe these are all genuinely beloved releases and should provide many intriguing discoveries for adventurous music-types.

Those included in this informal survey are all random people I know who responded to my request mostly via Facebook. I know plenty more people who could have provided intriguing lists, so if you feel left out… never fear, there is always next year.

Without further ado, on to the lists:

Emile Milgrim
Owner at Other Electricities

Ten 2012 albums listened to most (in no particular order):

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch vinyl

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
Lee Fields – Faithful Man
Aesop Rock – Skelethon
Loscil – Sketches From New Brighton
Micachu & The Shapes – Never
Bat For Lashes – Haunted Man
Open Mike Eagle – 4NML HSPTL
Doseone – G is for Deep
Jeans Wilder – Totally
Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist

Honorable Mentions (note: my record label released some of these)

holly hunt year one cover

Holly Hunt – Year One
Bacanal Intruder – Do While, If Else
Motèl Mari – Eternal Peasant
Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms
Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
Giulio Aldinucci – Tarsia
Dan Deacon – America
Serengeti – C.A.R.
Black Marble – A Different Arrangement
Orcas – Orcas

Reissues of Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, Stereolab, Califone, Sea & Cake, Tortoise, Crass, Codeine, Wendy Rene, Alvarius B., Destroyer, Blur, Sugar.

Sleeper hit of the year: Pepe Deluxé – Queen Of The Wave

I’m sure I’m forgetting something… It should also be noted that I probably listened to Belle & Sebastian more than anything. They’re my Beatles.

Richard Vergez
Member of the instrumental band Möthersky

Agent Side Grinder – Hardware

Agent Side Grinder – Hardware
Excellent post-punk from Sweden. The aesthetics of Cabaret Voltaire, the fury of Swans, and the precision of Kraftwerk. Saw them live in Berlin this year, fantastic energy.

Raime – Quarter Turns Over a Living Line
A complete deconstruction of electronic music. Terrifyingly beautiful.

Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music
Zoned out super heavy minimalism from this Australian duo. Loads of atmosphere and droning mantras disguised as rock. Sounds like drugs.

Pye Corner Audio – The Black Mill Tapes
A collection of original analog tapes brought back to life on this double LP from UK label Type. Dark and desolate soundscapes built from vintage synths and drum machines.

Swans – The Seer
Another amazing full-length from one of the world’s most uncompromising and prolific bands. Hypnotic, cathartic and dynamic. Although I can do without the Karen O track.

Slug Guts – Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat

Slug Guts – Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat
Another Aussie release. Nasty and dirgey rock ‘n’ roll a la Birthday Party. As if they dug up the bones of Roland S. Howard himself and slapped six strings on him.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Everything you would expect from a Godspeed record. Weird tape loops, slowly building phrases, crescendos, Middle Eastern flourishes, and tons of despair. Even some spacey Hawkwind moments.

Cult of Youth – Love Will Prevail
Dark folk with a good post-punk energy. See also Death in June.

Tamaryn – Tender New Signs
Lush, swoony, reverby shoegaze stuff. Tamaryn stays consistent.

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
This made the list only because it is the worst thing I’ve heard all year and Scott is a genius for convincing the public to spend a shit on this record. Unlistenable. Piss taker of the year award goes to Scott Walker.

Alex Caso
a.k.a. Musician/DJ Alx Czo

Top 10:

Tame Impala – LonerismTame Impala – Lonerism
Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Soft moon – Zeros
Swans – Seer
Sad Souls – Apeiron
Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourists
Laurel Halo – Quarantine
The KVB – Always Then
Echo Lake – Wild Peace
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

Notable 5 I couldn’t fit:

Brian Eno – Lux
Grimes – Visions
Gary War – Jared’s Lot
Mirroring – Foreign Body
Lust For Youth – Growing Seeds

Mikey Ramirez
Operations manager at Radio-Active Records

In no particular order:

Cult Of Youth – Love Will PrevailCult Of Youth – Love Will Prevail
Swans – The Seer
The Wake – Here Comes Everybody (reissue)
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Ceremony – Zoo
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Moritz Von Oswald – Fetch
Gaslamp Killer – Breakthrough

Steven Toth
a.k.a. Mr. Entertainment of the band Mr. Entertainment and the Pookie Smackers

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light1. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
2. Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory
3. Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben
4. Earth – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light II
5. Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
6. Ian Hunter – When I’m President
7. Kramer – Brill Building
8. Holly Hunt – Year One
9. Swans – The Seer
10. ZZZ’s – Prescription

re-issues:

Michael Chapman – Rainmaker
Captain Beefheart – Bat Chain Puller
The Reactions

Music-related film:

Waiting for Sugarman – Rodriguez

Alex Gimeno
a.k.a. Musician/DJ Ursula 1000

Poolside – Pacific Standard TimePoolside – Pacific Standard Time
Seahawks – Aquadisco
Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams (Psychemagik Remix)”
The Fangs – Vampire Vamp
Toy – Toy
Purson – Rocking Horse
Temples – Shelter Song
Boston Bun – Housecall
The Three Degrees – Maybe (reissue)
The Primitives – Echoes and Rhymes

Pocket of Lollipops
a.k.a. musicians Maite Urrechaga and Tony Kapel

The-Kills-The-Last-Goodbye-single-2012The Kills – “The Last Goodbye” EP
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Crystal Castles – III
Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels – “Join My Militia”
Unrest – Perfect Teeth (reissue)
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Animal Collective – Centipede HZ
Jack White – Blunderbuss
The Ting Tings – Sounds From Nowheresville
Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
Santigold – Santigold (2008)

On heavy rotation at the couple’s home this year:

Sonic Youth – Destroyed RoomSonic Youth – Destroyed Room
Versus – Deep Red
Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Modest Mouse – Building Nothing Out of Something
Pink Floyd – Umma Gumma or Obscured by Clouds
Bat for Lashes – Fur & Gold
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Efterklang – Tripper
The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free

Aramís Lorié
Managing Partner & Co-Founder Grand Central

Listed in no particular order:

The XX - CoexistThe XX – Coexist
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (2010)
Crystal Castles – III
Beck – Song Reader ( I haven’t heard it or attempted to play it yet, but concept alone is immensely brilliant)
Lower Dens – Nootropics
Tanlines – Mixed Emotions
Hundred Waters – Hundred Waters
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (great fabrication of an artist)

John Physioc
Assistant Manager at Miami Beach Cinematheque

Listed in no particular order:

Brian-Jonestown-Massacre-AufhebenThe Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben
The Soft Moon – Zeros
Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Swans – The Seer
Tropic of Cancer – The End of All Things
Tales of Murder and Dust – Hallucination of Beauty
The Limiñanas – Crystal Anis
Matthew Dear – Beams
The Blondes – Blondes
Starred – “Prison to Prison” EP

Jsin Jimenez
“Doer of Jobs” at (((SHAKE)))

Grimes – VisionsGrimes – Visions
Beach House – Bloom
Holly Hunt – Year One
Traxman – Da Mind Of Traxman
Tnght – Tnght
Swans – The Seer
Mala – Mala In Cuba
Ryan Hemsworth – Last Words
Metro Zu – Mink Rug
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Juan Montoya
Guitarist (currently member of Atlanta-based MonstrO, but formerly of Miami greats Torche, Floor and Ed Matus’ Struggle)

Manray – TournamentManray – Tournament (2011)
Order Of The Owl – In the Noon of the After Day
Kavinsky – Drive Movie Soundtrack (Even though it’s from 2011, I spent the whole year listening to this)
Melvins – The Bulls and the Bees
Biters – “Last of a Dying Breed” EP

Can we finish it off with albums I wished would of come out? I can even title them:

My Bloody Valentine – Eternal Wait
Aphex Twin – Beyond Babylon
Trans Am – Fluid To It
Melt Banana – Nude Mood
Danzig – Sangre Nuestro

Carl Ferrari
Guiatarist of Gypsy Cat

Kurt Rosenwinke – Star of JupiterKurt Rosenwinke – Star of Jupiter
Elisa Weilerstein with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle – Elgar and Carter Cello Concertos
Dead Can dance – Anastasis
Lenacay – Ryma
Esperanza Spalding – Radiomusic Society
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor II
Bomba Estereo – Elegancia Tropical
Brooklyn Rider – Seven Steps
Earth – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light II
My Bloody Valentine’s long awaited follow-up to Loveless

Hans Morgenstern
writer of this blog

Jazzy cover art designed by Bert Rodriguez. Image courtesy of Spielberger.comFinally, my top 10 albums of 2012 (and I really feared I wasn’t going to be able to come up with one based on all the film reviewing I did this year [that list will be out tomorrow, by the way]. Another note, as you can tell by the contacts above, I am too partial and precious to my local music scene to pick out local artists, for fear of leaving someone out, but let my coverage this year of Holly Hunt, Boxwood and Spielberger stand for itself.):

Swans – The Seer
I declared it a masterpiece to the creator’s face, and I am happy to own up to it here. It’s a difficult one to listen to from start to finish, from it’s near 2-hour runtime to its sweeping range of emotions, and its dynamics between noisy indulgence and soaring symphonic qualities. I doubt most modern musicians have the kind of talent Michael Gira has and know how to use it as well.

Beach House - Bloom cover art. Image courtesy of Sub Pop RecordsBeach House – Bloom
Another album of bold declaration to the songwriter’s face. I told singer Victoria Legrand that no album has grabbed me with such immediacy since the album that topped my 2010 list. I feel obliged to own up to that and place it after the masterpiece of 2012. Though I interviewed several other musicians, as the coverage of Swans and Beach House on this blog shows, I feel genuinely lucky to have been able to talk to the artists behind some of the greatest albums of the year. To hear these two as much as I did and study them as deep as I did and not get tired of them, either, stands as testament to that.

Grizzly Bear – Shields
I wished I could have written as extensively about and talked to the artists behind this album, but no tour down here made it hard. I was skeptical about this release, as Grizzly Bear has only turned further and further away from its brilliant moody, abstract and atmospheric debut, Horn of Plenty with each release. However, Shields, it’s fourth full-length, had so much genuine soul, it swept away all doubts with each song.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature ThemesAriel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
I had heard this man’s prior work, but was never blown away … until Mature Themes. It jumps genres with a glee I have not seen since I first heard Ween, 20 years ago. It even had progressive rock elements that remind me of very early Brian Eno. Anyone who can do that deserves props.

Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance
So, lead singer/guitarist Bradford Cox of Deerhunter often gets all the attention for the work in the brilliantly noisy Deerhunter, but I am partial to the band’s shy guitarist Lockett Pundt. His contributions are the band’s catchiest and most indulgent. It’s all on display here, his second solo album under the moniker of Lotus Plaza.

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
It’s been a long time since a Spiritualized album took ecstatic turns into blissful, noisy jams. This album has several of these moments.

Faust - 10 handmade artFaust – 10
It may seem hardly fair to include an unreleased album on my list, but Faust is one legendary group, and it is damn sad that legal issues has kept 10 unreleased. A resourceful bootlegger manufactured two runs on vinyl, and I was lucky to have been led to a copy. The works on here are some of the best I have heard featuring founding members Jean Hervé Péron and Werner “Zappi” Diermaier since the original line-up’s masterwork Faust IV.

Diiv – OshinDiiv – Oshin
I was drawn to the wit and atmosphere of the album cover, something that has not happened to me in years. The contents did not disappoint! By tuns Krautrock-inspired droney to as catchy as the Cure, Oshin was one of the best blind-buy album surprises of my life.

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
It’s a sad shame that gossip rags/blogs seem attracted to hounding Apple. She is one of the most talented performers I have ever seen, and a brilliant songwriter, as well. Her raw delivery and energy are an impressive thing to capture on vinyl, and this was definitely one of the year’s highlights. Between her soulful growls and her resonating piano are brilliant, human insights few pop artists know how to tune into.

Just to off-set things, too, number 11 is an obscure honorable mention:

Birthmark - AntibodiesBirthmark – Antibodies
One of the great but little recognized albums I have heard this year comes from Birthmark. This is the on-going side-project of Nate Kinsella, formerly of Joan of Arc and Make Believe. It features the familiar deconstructive, yet still catchy approach of songwriting that defined his earlier bands. However, Kinsella brings together elements of classical instruments and electronics, and mixes them together to compliment and contrast each other to brilliant effect.

Off-setting things some more: Music documentary of the year goes to: LCD Soundsystem – Shut Up and Play the Hits

OK, so I haven’t seen the buzzy Searching for Sugarman or Marley documentaries, but I cried a tear the moment Murphy sang the lyric “this will be the last time” during “All My Friends.” So this is the way LCD ends, with a bang and a whimper. The documentary is brilliantly mixed by James Murphy himself featuring bombastic performances of the band’s final show at a sold-out Madison Square Garden interspersed among Murphy’s contemplative musings of why he ended it. The blu-ray release features the ultimate  bonus feature, as it includes the entire three-and-a-half-hour MSG show spread across two blu-ray discs. LCD Soundsystem was indeed one of the most amazing bands of the turn of the millennium. They will also go down as one of the best live experiences of my life, which makes the dissolution of the band all the more tragic.

P1000579

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

With the arrival of daylight saving time this Saturday, here comes a special all-night out on Miami Beach: Sleepless Night Miami Beach. Every once-in-a-while Miami Beach is not about the club scene and partying at night. On Saturday night, as the populace “falls back” an hour, South Beach will host as many as 150 cultural events during the annual 13-hour night with an event that has only happened bi-annually since 2007. It follows in a tradition that first began in Paris as Nuit Blanche.

You want to see everything that will go down, maps, details and all? Go to the event’s homepage, to download this year’s 29-page program guide. The wonderful thing about keeping up with this blog is the inside scoop that seems to fall my way. Gabó hinted at what he had planned in my interview with him (Gabriel Pulido brings soundtrack craft to the early films of Luis Buñuel). Now he has revealed what movie will form the basis of his collaboration with visual artist Buzzeye. Check out  the clip below, which demonstrates the sort of visuals that will be “wall-casted” on the Frank Gehry-designed New World Symphony wall as part of the night, at 1 a.m. (the hour just before the time shift, so be aware):

The music and re-mixing of dialogue is Gabo’s handiwork, while the film was “deconstructed” and “colorized” by Buzzeye. I’m sure I need not mention the Italian classic’s title to readers of this blog.

I also received a phone call from Carl Ferrari, who will perform his hybrid jazz-Flamenco style with dancer Ana Miranda, at the start of the evening, at 6 p.m., on the second floor of the Miami Beach Public Library, another nice piece of architecture in itself. I wrote about him here: Happy re-birth day to Miami-based musician Carl Ferrari.

Throughout the night, the Miami Beach Cinematheque will actually project outside its venue, on to the surrounding buildings from all seven of its giant windows. The looping film project, Sonámbula by Dinorah de Jesús Rodriguez, will start projecting at 9 p.m. As the MBC calendar event space describes: the images are culled from “classic vintage film imagery that addresses the topic of sleeplessness or insomnia and the magical phenomenon of sleepwalking. Snippets from such classics as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari will mingle with recurring images of giant eyes that blink with the electrifying movement created by hand-scratching on the imagery and the mechanical whirring of several 16mm projectors.” A few months back, the MBC’s director, Dana Keith, and I had chatted about how cool it would be to have the famous 24-hour film the Clock play inside the venue, but that was not going to happen (the night is 13 hours, after all, not 24).

Of course, that’s just a taste of the scores of events (and I am sure there will be plenty of unofficial ones) happening that night. All events are FREE and start at 6 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. with a free breakfast on the beach for those who can survive the 13-hour night.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I have been real busy as of late working other blogs with film and music pieces, plus I am brewing up some interesting exclusives for Independent Ethos. But today, I must pause to note that this day marks one year since one of South Florida’s greatest guitarists died and came back to life.

A few days ago, I wrote a brief profile piece on Carl Ferrari and his work for his band Gypsy Cat on Beached Miami, ahead of this “re”birth day, Aug. 28. Click the Beached Miami tile below to read it (and get a free download of “Zambra,” a mesmerizing, 11-minute-plus slow burn of a piece that highlights Ferrari’s plucking acrobatics):

It’s a short profile piece mostly focused on this man who should have been dead after suffering an electric shock on stage that stopped his heart. His savior, Alex Logan, a friend/musician/paramedic, describes that terrifying day last year in the piece.  “I remember I dropped down to my knees and prayed to God to keep him good and safe,” he told me over the phone. He said he had spent close to 10 minutes giving Ferrari CPR until paramedics arrived.

The profile was also in promotion of the release of the debut album by Gypsy Cat, which came out this past June. The eponymous debut sure is something different from the music I first heard him performing in the mid-nineties. He was the lead guitarist in what I described in the piece above as the “gloom-rock outfit Swivel Stick.”

This new CD opens with distinctive polyrhythmic beats of hand drums and hand claps, establishing it as Flamenco-influenced. “Nuestra Rumba” then continues on a rolling guitar rhythm featuring two intertwining melodies on one acoustic, sealing the Flamenco quality. But then a soprano sax offers a jazzy accompaniment, which the guitar joins. The instrumental pulls and melts into this shifty, yet cozy amalgam of very distinct styles, setting up the record’s unique sound. It also features more meditative pieces, like “Preludio” and a daring reinterpretation of the horn master Miles Davis’ “So What” with electric guitar at the center, not to mention the mp3 noted above. You can stream tracks from the full album here:

Check out Gypsy Cat’s Bandcamp page

I did not have space to share all the Ferrari-related news in the piece on “Beached Miami.” He also told me he is not necessarily done with Swivel Stick. During a recent phone conversation, he was fast to tell me that he maintains an affection for the dark, hardcore rock of Swivel Stick, which actually evolved to a more jazz-influenced group, often featuring several John Coltrane pieces in its repertoire. In fact, Ferrari assured me he’s not done with Swivel Stick, as he plans to have their unreleased 1998 album available to the public soon. “It’s pretty much finished except [producer] Frank [Albergaria] is pretty obsessed with it. He’s been mastering it for a while. That will be just an Internet release. I’ll set up a Bandcamp where people can download it for free.”

Anyway, that’s some extra news about this talent from Miami, and it’s a good thing for music to still have him around. Happy Re-Birthday, Carl!

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)