From hip hop to horror-step, goth to Grimes, trap to techno, rock to rave and so on and so forth, here’s a list of the best in show from 2012. It’s been another righteous year for music and it’s only fair that we share the major players and remarkable rhyme-sayers that filled the AIAIAI airwaves. Those who enter 2013, we salute you with the AIAIAI Best of 2012 Playlist!
So the world didn’t end, we didn’t experience a mass-awakening that turned us into some kind of computerized, agrarian civilization and the economy still exists. Even though most of us can agree that watching the news was anything but uneventful, the extreme and fantastical predictions for 2012 never really came to their improbable fruition. Who knows, maybe 2013 will be the year that we finally get our fission-powered jetpacks? If Canada really has invented that invisibility cloak we dare say that anything and everything should be possible.
Those of you who follow the exploits particular to AIAIAI, may have an inkling that It was an intensely busy year for us. Big releases, the planning of new colabs and the usual range of opportunities and problems that present themselves over the course of a year in a headphone company kept many an employee sweaty-browed, busy-handed and perpetually Skyping. However, whenever things get a little too heated, there’s always music and the life of the party in a company that revolves around sound will never be anything else than the office stereo. Likewise, with the addition of fresh-faced new blogging talent, our interest in a variety of new vibes were piqued and our horizons were considerably widened.
While recounting the greatest hits, be they blog-based or office-occuring, it brought on the awareness that a strange thing happened to music in 2012: After years of everyone trying to sound like someone else it was as if musicians woke up to the realization that the next cool thing is quite simply to be yourself. In any case, we think that there was a noticeable sense of artistic freedom in the air. A feeling that standing on your own two feet is preferable to standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were. Check our interview with rising Danish chanteuse, MØ for elaboration.
Still, It’s not that there weren’t noteworthy blasts from the past. Psychedelic rock as perpetuated by Tame Impala and the
like continued its fuzzed-out victory lap, and the 2012 dance floor was to a certain degree - and perhaps somewhat inevitably – shrouded in the sonic cloak of the 90s. The fascination with the ghosts of 20 years past seems hard to shake, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because when it comes down to it, isn’t the past the only inspiration we really have?
The future hasn’t happened yet, (even if William Gibson would seem to suggest otherwise) and the present is an exceedingly messy, fucked up cacophony of very complex geopolitical shifts and a million voices chatting away at once on this thing we call the internet, so maybe some of us should give our obsession with newness a rest and the artists a little breather…
In the end what it all of the above boils down to is this: we like music and this is the music that floated our collective boat in 2012. Enjoy.
Major Lazer – ‘Get Free’
Seems like Diplo is catching a lot of flack these days. We have to confess that we haven’t followed him closely enough to judge whether or not he deserves the antipathy, but it’s hard to find fault with his bro-down with Switch for the simple reason that it moves asses AND minds simultaneously. ‘Get Free’ is both a testament to the power of a great vocalist and a firm favorite of our product developer, so there you have it.
Brassica – ‘Lydden Circuit (Capracara remix)’
Brassica have always been one of those criminally underrated synth-wizard acts that nerds (like us) have been dying to tell everyone about for ages. But now it seems like things are picking up for them with features in i-D and interviews in Dazed. This Capracara remix is definitely where it’s at and yet more proof that we’ll always have room for impeccably produced, dark, uplifting synth melancholy
Tame Impala – 'Elephant’
What the fuck is it about those longhairs from Tame Impala that makes you want to abandon rationality, put on a smelly lambskin vest and go Kerouac’ing on the Australian camino? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s because they’re sort of an updated version of Steppenwolf and we dig Easy Rider? Answers in an email, please…
John Talabot – ‘Oro y Sangre’
Dense, gauzy and beautiful; JT literally hit all the right buttons with his album ‘Fin’ that landed somewhere in the colourful intersection between visceral art and pristine pop. ‘Oro y Sangre’ is the sort of heavy mission music that’s appropriate for exploratory space travel and teary-eyed goblin funerals. A keeper, in other words.
Action Bronson & Riff Raff – ‘Bird on a Wire’
‘Blow a kiss to my dick, wash my body with a sponge/feed me flavored rices, put the chronic in my lungs’. Heavy-set loudmouth Action Bronson set the bar pretty high for rambling bon-vivant rhymes in his introduction to this effort with man of the moment and Dazed cover star, Riff Raff. Hip hop’s had a good year and these somewhat unlikely stars were undoubtedly spearheaders of the new school.
Hot Chip – ‘Flutes’
These guys just keep getting better and better.
Matthew Dear - 'Her Fantasy'
Well, there's no way that Matt Dear isn't included in this list. One of the tracks of the year complete with Kenneth Anger-inspired visuals. Choice.
Kenton Slash Demon - 'Ore'
Directed by our friends at Dark Matters and our former graphic designer, the brilliant Emperor of Antarctica, the promo for Kenton Slash Demon’s new single is a digital acid trip that toys mercilessly with your tender retina - and the track is every bit as mindbendingly rad.
Spleen United Feat. Gitte Nielsen - 'Misery'
We've said it before and we'll said it again: there will never be an AIAIAI list without shameless nepotism. And to be honest, wouldn't excluding our own graphic designer's band be a shitty thing to do? Check out Spleen United's saucy hook up with the very well-endowed Gitte Nielsen. It will enrich your existence.
Horrid Red – ‘Heavy Night of Eyes’
On paper, a San Francisco-based synth-goth outfit singing in German about the end of the world may seem ill-advised, but in digital soundwaves we think you’ll agree that it’s the most deliciously disturbing mix of things.
War – ‘Brodermordet’
In that same vein of punky, Armageddon-pop we find War, a Danish duo comprised of Elias from Iceage and Loke from Sexdrome. When we first heard this we thought it sounded a bit like Suicide on a merry-go-round. Now we think it’s the echo of an illuminati revolution. Go figure.
Quaker – ‘Fitta Happier’
The heaviest of the heavy brass-bravado came courtesy of this irresistible, Geoff Barrow-produced joint that saw Quaker enlist Stones Throw’s mighty Guilty Simpson on MCing duties – which did coincidentally made it all sound like Godzilla was attacking Japan while rocking a New Era cap. Fresher than fresh.
Kendrick Lamar – ‘Swimming Pools’
Noticing a pattern yet? Hip hop is back in full force in year’s list and Kendrick Lamar debut LP is one of our undisputed favorites from 2012’s pack of solid hip hop releases. If is there is a ‘sound of 2012’ is just might be Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools’.
Fatima Al Qadiri – 'Ghost Raid'
Kuwait-born Fatima Al Qadiri continues to take no prisoners with the excellent ‘Ghost Raid’
MØ – ‘Maiden’ (Yen Sleep Remix)
Our very own graphic designer, Kasper, remixed MØ’s marvelously fucked up single to devastatingly effective effects. Those 808 handclaps sound like Gandalf (white version) clapping his hands to make the Earth move and the whole thing is just such a brilliantly medium-paced yet grandiose, electronic piece of work that we’ll now shut up and let you listen to the track.
Blondes – ‘Wine’
There are times when I think they should just ban all that pseudo-psychedelic fluff they call trance nowadays and just use Blondes as the text book definition instead. This is one of those times.
Addison Groove - 'I Go Boom'
The main man SBKTRKT played one of this year's stand out Boiler Room Sessions where he dropped this track. Does it get better than that? Not really.
Grimes – 'Genesis'
To be perfectly honest, the fact that this track made it into our list may have something to do with the video being so good and Claire Boucher AKA Grimes being so very hot in that seapunk/cybergoth/eco-warrior style that she rolls in. Still, the track IS dope as hell and it does function as the perfect soundtrack to the artsy, edgy, new feminist escapades making this a tight and coherent package.
Jacques Greene – ‘Prism’
Ok, it’s time to turn up the BPM a little bit. This is one of those glamorous, syncopated UK house jams that should be enjoyed on a Tokyo Dance floor along with a crowd of Brooke Candy look-a-likes. Failing that, sitting in your Copenhagen flat in your underpants (which I happen to be doing right now, coincidentally) will just have to do. In a year where there was more than enough post-dubstep fodder, Jacques Greene provided one of the essentials.
Blawan – ‘Why They hide Their Bodies Under my Garage’
Remember hearing this the first time on Boiler Room where it made Grimes dance and everyone else freak out. This is heavy, tight and scary with that indefinable Blawan X-factor, which keeps you revisting the dark banger again and again. And again and again and again.
Tomas Barfod – 'November Skies' (Jerome LOL remix)
Our talented friend’s album is one of 2012’s essentials and this remix from Jerome LOL manages the improbable feat of speeding up Nina Keinert’s immaculate vocal to chipmunk speed and pulling it off too. Respect
Vessel – ‘Court of Lions’
Tri Angle’s latest signing knocked our socks off with a track that sounds like the actual, physical realization of warp drive technology. Ladies and gentlemen, the 22-year-old Bristolian producer known as Vessel is floating in space.
Lone – ’Crystal Caverns 1991’
Because we can never EVER resist the sound of oldschool rave.
Frank Ocean – ’Pyramids’
No one does stripper melancholia quite like Frank Ocean (except maybe The Weeknd).
Rustie – 'Frazzle'
So much fun in one track ought be banned. Luckily for us the authorities have yet to catch on to the fact that this hyper-talented Scotsman makes music that should be classified as an class A drug. It was another vintage year for Rustie and this was undoutbtedly one of his finest efforts.
TNGHT – 'Higher Ground'
Trap music was here there and everywhere in 2012 and Rustie’s old pal Hudson Mohawke showed us just how potent the new breed of trap-inspired tomfoolery can be through his collaboration with Lunice. Murdered out music for your escape from New New York.
Andres – ‘New for U’
Don’t hate just because everyone else put this at the top of their list. There’s a reason for that and the reason is this: once you get past the first few listens, you go from ‘meh’ to ‘I’m now fully enveloped in a universe filled with sun-drenched evening vibes and butter-y, 90s-indebted DJ Premier strings in a classic house stylee and there’s no way I’m ever going back to real life’. So silky-smooth, so subtly superior.
Todd Terje – ‘Inspector Norse’
Last but certainly and in no way least, the track, which has caused an unmentionable number of stupid dance moves in numerous AIAIAIers, finishes off this year’s list. Some day neuroscientists will inadvertently stumble upon the secret to Todd Terje’s cramming of pure love into music and they will call it the Toddanomaly. Until then there’s Inspector Norse.
That was it for 2012. We hope you have an unspeakably excellent 2013!
- The AIAIAI crew