The Best Music of 2012
by Justin Downes
I realize we are midway through 2013 and I am only now getting around to publishing my “Best of…” list for 2012, but I have been in rehab just like all GREAT rock and roll critics should be. As I started listing my favorite records of last year, I was reminded of earlier time before I was a tastemaker. Back then music was more honest and pure, and I still possessed the naivete of youth that has since been swept away in a tide of shitty records, only to leave a vacuum filled by narcissistic cynicism.
That earlier time was the year 2006, and I was about to enter my senior year of journalism school. I had decided to stick around the big, dirty, crime ridden city for the summer and soak up the local culture before I embarked upon a noble career as an important journalist. A journalist who writes groundbreaking stories that make the masses wag their tongues in anticipation of lapping them right up off the page. I pictured my near future self as waking up hungover to a phone call from my editor screaming something about deadlines as I silently hang up the phone on him mid-sentence and glance over at the waitress passed out in my bed to make sure she wasn’t woken up.
At least, the hangover part came true.
The culmination of my enlightened summer was a stop at one of those totally unique, once-in-a-lifetime destinations: A three-day music festival held in a city park during the height of the sweltering heat of a Midwest summer. Just me and 15,000 other white college-aged boys, girls, and androgyny greedily displacing indigent local residents from one of the few refuges they have from brutally soaring temperatures. Everyone was packed genitals-to-posteriors between two massive stages that were competing at deafening volume for the attention of our eardrums in a dense open air space. It was there I found myself enthralled by some of the most genuine musical acts in the history of recorded music, but there was one moment in particular that set me on a collision course for my destiny.
Upon entering the park grounds, I was immediately swept up by a tribe of suburban youths wearing nothing but tiny pairs of bright green underwear. They had decorated their exposed skin with war paint and wore headdresses of majestic feathers not unlike the Native Americans I had viewed pictures of on Wikipedia. Most Notably, their tongues were plastered a thick bright orange color from consuming some native concoction that blended an energy drink with a malted alcoholic beverage. I stood astonished at this incredible and respectful tribute to a people who were mercilessly decimated by colonists of this great land. Before I could engage these strange youths in conversation and learn more of their ways I was suddenly pushed toward the nearest stage by a short, shirtless, barrel chested, pot-bellied, sweaty bear with a great beard. As he shoved me with all of his weight he only shouted a single word repeatedly, “HAM! HAM! HAM! HAM! HAM!”
As he pressed me deeper into the crowd, eventually crushing me against the barricade before the stage, a realization struck me that “Ham” must be the name of the musical group about to perform. Along with having my rib cage compressed against a metal barrier, the moment Ham took the stage it knocked the breath right out of me. At this very moment I knew that I was born to write about music.
Some members of Ham were dressed as bananas and others as ambiguously fascist military officers! A few of them were bananas outfitted as ambiguously fascist military officers! They had a 90s indie rock guitar sound with a 80s synth rock keyboard backbeat! They had songs with elements of klezmer and juju! They had a soulful horn section and backup singers! Not one, but TWO songs had guest appearances by popular hip-hop artists of the day. They didn’t do an encore, they smashed their gear and let it create a wall of sound. I was baptized that day in a musical revolution and reborn as Lester Bangs with music blogs and better drugs.
Things have changed a lot since way back in the year 2006. Music has lost its heart and soul while I have been trying to save my own soul by keeping the flame of hipster elitism alive and imbibing in enough alcohol, cocaine, and oxycontin to stop the heart of a grizzly bear. Here are the 10 records that I picked to represent the best of the sorry state of music in 2012. I highly recommend buying them, if you can find them. I know you’ve never heard of them.
- Funderpants – s/t
- Cupcake Icing – All I Want to Do is Share Things with You
- The Bison – Extinction Event
- Raw Honey Rustla’ – Artisanal Athletic Shoezzz
- Darkness Falls but I Have a Flashlight – Through Bang Covered Eyes
- Gravel Crunch – Live at the Missouri State Fair 2011
- Cody Frank – Double Shots and Rest Stops and Bikini Tops
- 8-Bit Bar Band – Bleep! Bloop! Bleep! Dance!
- Polar Icecaps – Drifting Out to Sea
- Stamford Dearmark – Some Poetry I Found in the Bathroom