ITM’s 30 Albums Of 2012
In 2012, when so much of our daily music fix is streamed on Soundcloud or consumed in Beatport-sized samples, it can be easy to forget about albums. But you’d do so at your own peril, because this has been a first-rate year for long players. In revisiting some of our favourite albums of 2012, there’s been head-nodding, table-tapping, leg-jiggling and occasional fist-pumping at the inthemix Editorial desk. In pulling together just 30 standouts from the hundreds of local and international releases, it’s inevitable we’ve missed a few you loved. That’s what the comments section is for.
#30 Deadmau5 – > album title goes here <
Like all things Deadmau5 does, > album title goes here < cleaved opinion right down the middle. First, there were the reviews that went to town on it, such as Alexis Petridis’s widely-shared critique in The Guardian. “It’s derivative, clichéd and gives the impression of having been made by someone who’s never danced in their life, but in a purely technical sense, it’s extremely well produced, punchy, powerful, with a strong grasp of dynamics and occasional flashes of a deft melodic touch.” The team at FACT Mag took it far further into all-out assassination: “Joel Zimmerman is awful – one of music’s anti-Christs, to be filed with Fred Durst, Pendulum and whoever wrote the song about the dogs being let out.”
For our reviewer, who didn’t come in as “a Deadmau5 fanboy”, > album title goes here < impressed. “I don’t think there’s enough of a consistent sonic identity on here to make > album title goes here < worthy of total classic status, but at the same time, there isn’t a single dull moment,” summarised ITM’s Ed Montano. With the distance of a few months, this feels less like the definitive Deadmau5 LP fans had wanted, and more like a stop-gap. That’s not to say it’s half-done, but we’re left again with the feeling of a compilation of tracks rather than a whole album.
“Hopefully next time, and I know I say this every fucking time, I’ll have this year off touring and put together something that tells a story,” Zimmerman said after the release of > album title goes here <. Now, that is an event worth holding out for.
Words: Jack Tregoning
#29 Zedd – Clarity
Each year, Stereosonic has a breakout star. From the first stop in Sydney to the Brisbane finale, Zedd was that guy in 2012. His sets on the Hard L.A. stage were masterclasses in crowd-pleasing, all slick highs and high-impact drops. DJing in front of thousands is something 23-year-old Anton Zaslavski has had to learn on the job, but in the studio he’s assured beyond his years. Listening to Zedd’s debut album Clarity, you can hear why Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry have tapped his production talents. In moulding himself as a pop star gun-for-hire, he hasn’t aped the Calvin Harris formula. For someone working in highly-polished dance-pop, Zedd has edge.
Clarity is led by three missives that tap directly into America’s ‘EDM’ awakening: Shave It Up (previously Shave It, but now buffed up with some swelling strings), the title track and Spectrum. Like Porter Robinson, Zedd has a canny way of working syrupy vocals into anthems that make you want to climb onto the nearest pair of shoulders. With Clarity, Zedd has made a real abum, not just a resumé to present to the Biebers. He wears his influences openly – case in point: the Justice homage Stache – but forges his own melodic sensibility on standouts like Codec and Epos. Downtempo moments are given short shrift: this is an album built for peaktime. And it works.
Words: Jack Tregoning
#28 The 2 Bears – Be Strong
When Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard formed side-project The 2 Bears with Raf Rundell around 2009, little would he have expected their output to be ridiculously described as ‘pop-hip-house’ or ‘rave-garage’. Listen to The 2 Bears’ debut album Be Strong a few times over, however, and you can – to a certain extent – understand how listeners might have dreamed up such descriptions of their sound. For the most part, uplifting house is the order of the day here, but delve a little deeper on Be Strong and you’re likely be charmed by an array of downtempo electronica, hip-hop and disco influences, as well as leftfield and ever-so-slightly pop-tinged sounds, contributing to a pretty slick package overall.
What’s on offer is eminently enjoyable: feel-good music, expertly produced by two likeable British chaps who don’t take themselves too seriously. While it’s not quite ‘pop-hip-house’ or ‘rave garage’, there are sufficient pop access points throughout that make it an accessible, and altogether fun, release. It’s hard not to get swept up in it all.
Words: Tim McNamara
#27 The Gaslamp Killer – Breakthrough
While the full frenetically-paced 47-minutes of The Gaslamp Killer’s debut isn’t perfect, Breakthrough is nothing if not an ambitious release. The Brainfeeder-signee’s own press described the album “a manic and mystic trip through the mind of a madman” and sure enough, this is a full-on listening experience. With tracks often coming and going in the space of two minutes, different sounds (strings, 8-bit bleeps and psychedelic crescendos, to name a few) clocking by at warp-speed and a dark, often sinister mood throughout, the soundscape The Gaslamp Killer’s crafted is almost overwhelming. For the casual listener, Breakthrough might feel all a bit much. But when you’re in the right headspace, it’s precisely that sprawling insanity that makes you feel you’re listening to the work of a genius.
Words: Katie Cunningham
#26 Guy Gerber – Fabric 64
While in previous years, inthemix has featured mix-compilations in this list, in 2012 we decided to hone it to just albums. By this criteria, Guy Gerber’s Fabric 64 might look like an outlier. However, while most recruits for Fabric’s illustrious series present their volume like a DJ mix, Gerber went the production route, creating 16 tracks to work as a full composition. (He’s of course not the first Fabric name to treat his instalment as an artist album-of-sorts: Shackleton, Omar-S, and Ricardo Villalobos all took a similar approach.) In the producer’s own words, the mix is “a collection of moments and 70 minutes inside my mind and heart”. It was an audacious move, but it pays off in an effort that’s as seductive as it is seamless.
Words: Jack Tregoning
#25 Michael Mayer – Mantasy
Michael Mayer did not set out to reinvent his sound on Mantasy, his first album in eight years. For a few months at the beginning of 2012, Mayer turned his mind exclusively towards production, working nocturnal shifts in the sub-basement under the Kompakt office. While his previous long-player Touch was something of a rush-job, Mantasy took time. The result is a sleek, slow-burning album that coaxes you gradually to the dancefloor. It’s got that wry Michael Mayer signature too; melancholy mingled with a streak of humour.
It’s all brought together by a killer closing anthem, Good Times, sung by Jeppe Kjellberg of WhoMadeWho. As Mayer put it to inthemix, it’s about “that feeling of being freshly in love and wanting to leave everything behind, just running together towards the light. On the other hand, of course, it’s an allegory of being in a club, the party’s great, and people are standing there with their smart-phones in their hands, Twittering, taking pictures, whatever, instead of dancing. It drives me nuts sometimes.” It’s a bittersweet end to an album that shouldn’t fly under your radar.
Words: Jack Tregoning