ANBAD doesn’t exist in a vacuum, you know.
I mean, yes, it kind of does, as evidenced by all the thrusting up-and-comers that make up ANBAD’s Bands Of The Year.
But the point I’m making is that ANBAD has to be aware of the outside world to sniff out the new bands – so here’s ANBAD’s look back at 2012: chiefly the bands, albums and news too big to feature on ANBAD but ultimately too big to ignore.
THE DEATH OF ADAM YAUCH
The Beastie Boys, in the mainstream UK viewpoint at least, are still regarded as goofy pop-rap pranksters, and whilst there is an essential element of truth in this, the B-Boys are/were so much more than that.
At heart, the Beasties were driven by the desire to innovate (see their remarkable run of four genre-bending albums from Paul’s Boutique to Hello Nasty) but also their belief in doing the right thing.
Much of the latter was driven by MCA, a man who incorporated peace, Buddhism and gender equality into hip-hop – ideas which are still mainly absent in hip hop even now.
Couple this with a crazily rare determination to retain a sense of humour about music – whilst being deadly serious in the manner of making it – and it’s easy to see that his criminally early death is a monumental, terribly sad loss on a thousand important levels.
An artist too young to drink at his Hype Hotel gig at SXSW, but with an enviable depth of lush sounds at his agile fingertips, and a deft feel for song structure that marked Mmoths out as one of the figureheads of the new breed of young musician that plugs away quietly in his bedroom and then amazes the world with his close, warm, personal music.
NEW YORK CITY
ANBAD spent the first few months of 2012 in NYC, causing trouble for the kind souls at the Hype Machine. It took me until now to fully digest what NYC is, even though it’s actually blindingly obvious: NYC is the centre of the world/universe/your ego.
This is simultaneously as good and as bad as it sounds; or, to put it another way, as good you want it make it. Here, capitalism is made steel, concrete and taut flesh, all thrusting as high as they possibly can, scratching the clouds, tempting you to climb (and maybe fall).
Beyond this portentious musing, I finally achieved a long-held ambition and stood on the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington, as featured on the cover of Paul’s Boutique. It felt great. But, despite what the young ‘n’ moneyed will tell you, gentrification does not add character, and it looks better on the LP cover. Such is life.
TWIN SHADOW’S CONFESS LP
Glancing back over the Beastie Boys’ career, it was noticeable how much goofing around and – whoah – having fun was a legitimate way to behave in the headier days of 80’s/90’s pop culture. Now, a New Seriousness has descended over music, and fun is for losers.
This would be fine if bands played it straight, but most hide behind a thick veneer of irony, clutching their influences like a pastiche-plastered shield, getting their excuses in first, not daring to keep their faces straight for real.
But Twin Shadow is the real deal: in turn agonisingly talented, handsome, gifted and aware. His new-wave-tinged songs are not mere impersonations, but meaningful, and are accompanied by accompanying art that veers close to pretentiousness, and just about gets away with it, just as good art ought to do.
You’re probably better-off reading my stream-of-consciousness thoughts on “South By” from the time.
MUMFORD AND SONS GO GLOBAL
One wag pointed out to me that Marcus Mumford, aside from having the most upper-middle-class name of all time, is essentially a one-trick-pony: albeit he has one very good trick.
And he’s right: all of Mumford’s songs sound the same: inoffensively MOR, and as rousing as a campfire singalong which stirs up childhood urges. Their music is perfect for soundtracking both first dances and final farewells at nice, middle-class weddings and funerals worldwide.
Truly, we have the first Daily Mail Superband, and the final confirmation that guitar music isn’t dead: it’s just retired and taking it nice and easy from now on, thanks very much.
ALT-J’S APPEARANCE FROM NOWHERE TO ENORMOUSNESS
Regardless of what you think of Alt-J/∆’s music, one thing is almost probably true: you hadn’t heard heard of them in January, and now they’re everywhere. Some consider their familial Music Biz connections to be slightly dubious, but such thinking ignores the fact that Alt-J deserve their rapid rise, simply by producing a collection of songs that dare to step to a slightly different drum.
And, if anyone still doubted the power of music blogs: here’s a band that were supported heavily, early on and along the course to prominence by the same music blogs that experienced pangs of existential crisis at various points during 2012.
FINALLY, SOME THOUGHTS ON GUITAR MUSIC’S CAREFULLY PRE-MEDITATED AND ALREADY-TIRESOME “COMEBACK” IN 2013: