And there you go, it’s December. The world might end in a few days time, so we thought you’d want to listen to some selective listening to leave some cred on your Last.fm scrobbling page before some major Earth-ending catastrophe strikes. But if you don’t believe in that bull, you go Glen Coco. Sorry we didn’t include any Christmas albums, we’re quite secular (separation of church and state). On a side note, we hope you had a good listening year (ear, lol) and do share with us some of the good stuff you had on spin for 2012, we’d like to know!
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Solange / True EP
I think it is time we talk about Beyonce’s younger sister, Solange. While Queen B is all regal and high notes and fashion icon, Solange is the more hip, more hipster, and actually the cooler one. And it shows in her music. Produced by Dev Hynes of Blood Orange (you should also check them out), True is an antidote to pop homogenisation. It is something that sounds different to anything on the radio but could still be on the radio. Loopy percussion, Solange’s airy harmonies, bold synths, and a lot of soul, True is one sonic swirl. Experimental but still grounded, this prelude to a full album is a satisfactory one. And I think I have a favourite Knowles sister now.
Standout tracks: Losing You, Some Things Never Seem To F#cking Work, Bad Girls
Teen Daze / The Inner Mansions
Taking chillwave to even chill-er places, this is The Inner Mansions. After all, it does promise to be an album of a spiritual and musical journey. Already releasing their second album this year (All Of Us, Together dropped in May), this is one introspective yet captivating and relaxing record. Fuzzed out vocals, a percussive heartbeat and clean synths make The Inner Mansions a very ambient and spacey listening experience. There are some curveballs though, the track ‘Union’ featuring Frankie Rose, is more fast-paced, almost rock-like at the beginning and probably the only song with easily decipherable lyrics. Inner Mansions is not much different from their previous material but it possesses the otherworldly and celestial feel Jamison aka Teen Daze set out to achieve. The critics slammed All Of Us, Together for not having ‘soul’, lucky for Teen Daze, seems like they reclaimed it back on Inner Mansions.
Standout tracks: Divided Loyalties, Union, New Life
Asobi Seksu/Boris / Asobi Seksu x Boris
Record Store Day seems to bring out the best in music. Especially when it is a split EP of two totally different bands. In the Black Friday edition, Japan’s shoegaze-iest heavy metal band and New York’s heavily stylish shoegaze band join forces in this split EP. This EP is definitely one of the more outstanding products of Record Store Day. Hear the two bands cover each other with Asobi Seksu doing a shimmery and softer version of Boris’ ‘Farewell’ on the A-side and Boris returning the favour with a cranked up, heavily distorted and sped-up rendition of ‘New Years’ – now titled ‘Neu Years’. Refreshing and heady at the same time, the record is a perfect marriage of Krautrock and Dreampop.
Standout tracks: Neu Years, Farewell
Villes / I've Seen The World EP
When a young band labels its debut EP I've Seen The World, it comes off an empty boast more often than a foretelling of what is to come. In the case of Singaporean post-hardcore band Villes, it's a little bit of both, as the EP mixes in solid, if a little too familiar, musicianship with the admirable vocal performances from harsh vocalist Dominic Tan and guitarist/singer/Shayley-Bourget-soundalike Bryan Ulric Santa Maria being ISTW's most enjoyable elements.
ISTW is clearly influenced by Villes' partiality towards the sonic products of bands such as Of Mice & Men, The Devil Wears Prada and Memphis May Fire and it shows in the the five-song release. Contrasted with their local compatriots, ISTW stands above and beyond what we're accustomed to hearing; a large part of which should be credited to Roland Lim, who produced and mixed the EP. Villes also roped in internationally renowned producer Joey Sturgis to master the album and the extra effort (and money) the band spent provides the EP with the gloss it deserves. ISTW is the product of a promising and highly motivated band and with a debut this sound, I can't imagine what their next release will sound like.
Deftones / Koi No Yokan
When bassist Chi Cheng met with an accident back in 2008, there was uncertainty in the longevity of alt-metal quintet Deftones. With the brilliant 2010 release Diamond Eyes however, they were able to rise above the tragedy to give us an amazing album after two divisive releases. We never thought Deftones would be able to top it but they've silenced the naysayers with Koi No Yokan. Meaning 'Premonition of Love' in Japanese, is arguably Deftones' most consistent and dynamic album since White Pony. Their signature sound, a crushing brew of post-hardcore, heavy metal, trip-hop and electronic music, is retained here, but it never sounds forced or overused. Chino Moreno & co sound as fresh and energetic as ever. Each song is distinct but flow together almost flawlessly, like the good old concept albums of yore. Koi No Yokan may not directly appeal to fans of their earlier rawer sound but if you've played White Pony and Diamond Eyes to death (like us), you'll be more than satisfied with this.
Standout tracks: Rosemary, Romantic Dreams, Tempest
Giants Must Fall / The Leprosy EP
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Giants Must Fall quartet and to be honest we were starting to forget how Whale Song sounded like. So of course when the very intriguing b&w video teaser for their upcoming EP dropped on the internet, our collective ears pricked up in anticipation for the release. And they didn’t disappoint. The Leprosy EP is a remarkable release saturated with soaring guitar-work, lush arrangements and outstanding vocals. The EP is distinctively ambitious and benefits from being well-produced - the crisp quality of each instrumental element is made immediately apparent and amplifies the dreamy, contemplative ambience. It seems that folks of Giants Must Fall decided to go ahead and up the ante, effectively setting a new benchmark for all local self-releases in terms of songwriting and sonic quality. We’re all looking forward to a full-length record in the near future, including remastered versions of their older material.
Standout tracks: Burning Bride, Leprosy, Leprosy [B]
Naomi / Naomi EP
Found this little gem of an EP on /r/postrock a few weeks ago and we seriously have not stopped listening to it. This little UK band won us over as soon as we heard the delicate synth melodies in the second track 'Mirrors'. In fact, the incorporation of deep resonating keys into the build is what makes Naomi such a pleasure to listen to. Extremely catchy and well produced, it’s a solid post-rock release filled with dynamic rhythm, rich tones and intelligent songwriting that shines from start to finish. If you love the chilled out math-rock vibes of Toe and 3nd, you’ll be addicted to this EP in no time at all. We expect great things from this band.
Standout tracks: Mirrors, Footsteps, 1850 Hours
From Indian Lakes / Able Bodies
Good alternative rock is hard to come by these days, with the few exceptions of Circa Survive and As Cities Burn bringing in post-hardcore elements into the indie sound. It’s an evolution of the scene that we once knew - these emo kids grew up and so did their music. The contemplative lyrics, the alternating hard/smooth vocals, the punchy guitar-centric hooks of yesteryear’s emo songs have to be layered cohesively into a more mature, subtle kind of rock. From Indian Lakes pull it all off brilliantly in their sophomore effort and will hold you captivated throughout. Most of it stems from the amazing vocal work of singer Joey Vannucchi who effortlessly switches between sweet croons, yelling chants and quiet whispers in all the tracks. More importantly you could really listen to the sincere passion pouring out in his voice, possessive of a cathartic character not unlike Anthony Green’s or Chris Carrabba’s. So many gorgeous moments in this album, and really well produced for a self-released one.
Standout Tracks: We Are Sick, Stay Outside, Below
Gifts From Enola / A Healthy Fear
Post-hardcore and post-rock: a difficult but not impossible combination of sound. Both genres rely heavily on intricate compositions and guitar driven melodies to create this atmospheric wall of sound. And it’s not a new thing either - bands like Moving Mountains and O’Brother have done it before. But what makes the latest Gifts From Enola release stand out from the rest of their compatriots is that they added a certain upredictable flair to their instrumental execution, an intriguing style of playing that leaves you guessing and wanting more. It’s math-y, it’s post-metal-y, it’s hardcore-esque, it’s a roller-coaster ride of sonic tones and flavor. A Healthy Fear hits the ground running and leaves cities in ruins.
Standout Tracks: Long Weakend, Cherry, The Benefits Of Failure
Text: Daniel Peters, Ilyas Sholihyn, Shaun Tan & Delfina Utomo