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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




ANBAD is running through the best new bands of the year. For explanation of why and howclick hereFor the Top Ten, try here (10-6) and here (5-3) and for the great bands that just missed out, here (15-11).

And so, for the second time in three years, ANBAD’s New Band of the Year is from the Iberian peninsula: after Youthless won me over with their pristine clatter-pop in 2010, here, from the stridently different city of Barcelona comes Seward, defiantly obtuse, thrillingly inventive and stubbornly odd.

And here’s an equally odd disclaimer: You may not love Seward from the very start. I worry that I’m building up expectations of a complex band that need approaching carefully. But bear with me.

They’re fascinatingly unlikely winners, for all sorts of reasons, but chiefly for a reason I outlined in my original post: they make the type of music I never enjoy – and yet, here they are, labelled as the best new band of 2012.

So what is about them that allowed them to ride slipshod over my preconceptions? And why are they the best of the year?

Well, this is what ANBAD said about Seward when I first saw them, and it hopefully explains their charm:

“Instead of describing what a remarkable band Seward actually are, or how they achieve remarkableness, maybe it’s best to describe the moment that their drummer – a man rapt at the array of gentle, subtle noises a drumkit can make – wound up a toy tin robot and let it dance on his snare drum as he continued playing with a string of rusted cowbells.”

As you can gather, there is something about Seward that can only be fully understood by seeing them live.

And this is heavily and deliberately encouraged: their web presence is vanishingly small, so you will be lucky to find a video of them (though there is a rare one in my original post).

So, you’ll need to hunt the band down, and see and feel them for yourself. And that’s kind of the point of Seward – they are reality in the face of virtual reality. But more of that in a while.

If you can’t see them live, why not listen to this *World Exclusive* first stream of their brilliant, gently sprawling new song Sesame:

—-Sesame will BRB—

(Sesame was recorded in one and only live studio take in Barcelona and mixed and mastered by Matt Pence at The Echo Lab in Denton, Texas, BTW)

I understand Seward will be divisive. You may think, at first listen, that their music is too outré for you. But you’ll immediately recognise that Seward are rare.

There is life in Seward’s music, a humanity that most bands find near-impossible to weave into their music. Sesame, for example, is gorgeous – truly gorgeous – when it allows itself to momentarily blossom; if, of course, you have wholeheartedly bought into the song.

Seward are boldly serious in an age of wimpy irony: they mean it, and are not afraid of holding this honesty up for their audience. They tease their audiences’ understanding of their intent, slathering terrifically complex, often fun, often simply abstract, songs over the top of their honesty.

Another snippet from my first post on them:

There are many bands who approach music like Seward doThey are all, without exception, shit. They are all indulgent, self-centred, and unkind to their audience.

Seward are the exact opposite: their timing is perfect, their noises are specific and considered, and their purpose may not be defined, but it is rational. The band is lost in the beauty of noise-making, and the path it beats into human consciousness.”

I can’t add much to that, other than acknowledge this one, quite lovely truth: whenever people have asked me this year who is the best new band at the moment, I tell them that it’s Seward.

They’re the band who, in 2012, have left the biggest impression and have impressed me most with the breadth of their ambition and vision. You may not love Seward from the very start, but many of life’s greatest pleasure take work, and patience, and a clear mind. Dig deep in Seward. Find time to spread your fingers into every crevice.

VIDEO // Seward – Grandma Sleeping With Book
—–video will BRB—


ANBAD is running through the best new bands of the year. For explanation of why and howclick here.

For the Top Ten, try here (10-6) and here (5-3) and for the great bands that just missed out, here (15-11).

One of the (many) things that keeps me mentally writhing in pain when picking the year’s Best New Bands is that often, one of them is a band I blogged about recently.

I worry that the only reason I’m singling them out as being especially good is that they are still pinging the synapses of my very short attention span.

And so, I went through the same stupid paroxysms when I selected Straw Bear for the #2 slot in this year’s countdown.

“IDIOT!” screamed my brain, “You only discovered them at the end of November!

And then, I listened to Kitty again. And then I calmed down, and swooned at this lovely, hook-laden, beaut of a song.

Straw Bear – ANBAD said then: “No, it’s not hyperbole – when did you last hear a a hook line as melodically perfect as that present in the chorus of Kitty? This is a song of near-perfect pace, delicious construction, delightful lyrics and sweet intent.”

ANBAD says now: My thoughts have barely changed from the above. In fact, they’ve solidified some other ones too: in a year where I have complained, or at least openly mused, on the paucity of innovative guitar music, Straw Bear has shone some light on what I was actually moaning about.

The problem isn’t really poor guitar bands, or lazy guitar bands who pick up guitars and assume that we will love them regardless, or guitar bands who think they’re edgy (when, with virtually no exceptions, they’re not).

It’s the fact that there are so many guitar bands playing deeply average music that the brilliant, clever, talented ones get smothered. Fortunately, Straw Bear snuck through. They’ve recently been played on national radio, and are building up a head of steam.

They deserve it. Once again, keep an eye out for them in 2013. (And in the meantime, here’s their album Black Bank:


ANBAD is running through the best new bands of the year. For explanation of why and howclick here.

Yikes, we’re rattling through the Top 10 now, aren’t we? If you missed the fascinating and fabulous artists that made up numbers 10 – 6, check them out first, because there are definitely some new bands you won’t want to miss, honest guv.

Once you’re down to the final five, as we are now, the margins get both tighter (why is Band X in second place two spots better than Band Y in fourth?) but also, in a weird way, the choices get easier – some of these next five bands were simply heads, arms and torso above their nearest peers.

Of course, like the X Factor, I’m spinning out the countdown as much as possible. The winner of the moderately-coveted #1 spot will be revealed on Saturday, by the way.

But today, here’s fifth, fourth and third best new band of 2012. They’re all – and this is actual honesty now – brilliant.


5 – Aeirs TV –  ANBAD said then: “the act of extracting rhythm, repetition and – yes – groove from a slim selection of radio buzz, electrical humming and insistent, warped cries. A rare delight for some, and pure pain for others – just as it should be.”

ANBAD says now: Still slightly bewitching, slightly hypnotic but still brilliantly minimal and terrifyingly lean. It’ll still divide opinions, but this is the kind of soft, demanding and insistant techno that this writer, at least, loves.


4 – Blonde Bunny – ANBAD said then: How Do You Cope, Hope?  flits between reference points so subtly that everyone is, at least, convinced that listening further is a good idea. This is a song of technical and sonic brilliance, but, crucially, treads that laser-thin line between brilliant and nonsense with consummate ease. And the song has a false ending. Perfect.”

ANBAD says now: Still swirling and all-encompassing; still careful and overblown, here’s a song that deserves a spin from everyone, simply because everyone will find something to love in it.

Overlong, overwrought and over-theatrical – these are the highest compliments I can pay. Excellent.


3 – Chris Devotion – ANBAD said then: “[this is a] tasty, up-and-at-’em rock  song  A Modest Refusal – the type of song that doesn’t get written often enough, with a howl-along chorus, a genuinely anthemic feel, and the kind of gosh-darn perfect chord changes that make grown men leap about with joy.”

ANBAD says now: I’ve been humming this song all year, and spontaneously breaking out into the chorus whilst walking along the street.

Actually, I’ve also I’ve whistled it whilst at the urinal. I’ve bellowed it in the shower. Do you need another reason?


ANBAD is running through the best new bands of the year. For explanation of why and howclick here.

Yesterday, I began the slightly ludicrous task of ranking this year’s best bands from, apropos of very little, the number fifteen. There are some really good, inventive and outré bands that didn’t make the Top 10, so it’s really worth a look, even if I say so myself.

Do bear in mind, of course, when scrolling through those and these, that the fifteen bands are the best of the approximately 250+ that get featured on ANBAD in various forms over the year.

So these are the ones that really stood out; or are trying something new; or are simply surprising.

And while ANBAD only features bands that are original, different, or just plain complicated, the single thing to remember is that they are all good, and so these following 10 are the best of the best.


10 – Blank Banshee – ANBAD said then: “one spin reveals that W∆VESTEP could not be anything other than a blissful pop song played at 80% speed. Taut, white-bright and pristine… Gorgeous.”

ANBAD says now: A lovely song that transcends any preconceptions you may have of the label Chillwave. Blank Banshee may be hobbled in some cynical eyes by simply being very now, but in fact, he is here on his strengths as a producer of songs that are simply very comforting and good.


9 – BitBasic – ANBAD said then: Brain Plague is a delight, from start to finish. Gentle, careful, sweet and bombastic all at once – and when, half-way through, it cools down, then – glory be! – builds and rebuilds, then takes off once more, your heart will soar.” 

ANBAD says now: Brain Plague is still a song of nuance, smart construction, and everything else – but what time reveals is that it’s a bloody lovely, even slightly touching pop song. Excellent. Keep a close eye on BitBasic.


8 – Osian Rhys – ANBAD said then: “There are times when guitar-based music re-affirms itself. For this listener, these moments become increasingly infrequent. But Osian has produced one of them. Lovely.”

ANBAD says now: Writing beautiful folk songs is not easy, regardless of what Mumford and Sons will lead you to believe.

Welsh lends itself to folk music insanely well. I don’t understand Welsh (despite, ahem, living in Wales for nearly five years) – but you don’t need to to be able to figure out what the gorgeous  A Oes ‘Na Le (I Oeri Gwres Fy Nghalon) is about: the feeling is in us all, lingering, waiting.


7- Kiran Leonard – ANBAD said then: “By romping through the brilliant, endlessly enjoyable Dear Lincoln with panache, gusto and nuance, Kiran has rekindled all those lingering feelings of inadequacy us mere humans felt at that age.”

ANBAD says now: ANBAD got totally wrapped up in the fact that Kiran was 14 when he wrote this song that crackles with brilliance and excitement.

He’s about 17 now. That’s still ridiculously young for a song as smart, sharp and confident as this. He also has a lot more where this came from. With a gentle guiding hand, he can rush onwards and upwards.

6 – Black Seas – ANBAD said then: “Frankly, Black Seas (the song), is the kind of song that broadsides me occasionally, because, at some point (around 1998) I assumed that melodramatic, overblown and theatrical rock would no longer be made. I thought Suede’s Dog Man Star nixed all that.”

ANBAD says now: I wondered, honestly, whether this song and this band would hold my attention after I wrote about them. I wondered if their style would grow tiresome quickly. I worried that it was novelty that was getting me excited.

I was wrong, as always – this song is overblown and ludicrous, yes, but that’s exactly what sets it miles apart, and what makes it so delicious and all-encompassing, like chocolate soup.


ANBAD is running through the best new bands of the year. For explanation of why and how, click here.

Why pick 15 bands as the Best New Bands Of The Year? (Actually, it was 16 – yesterday’s post had a Super Special Bonus Band)

Well, as for most of the exciting things in life, and like some of the bad things too, there are no reasons. There were fifteen great new bands that stuck out over the year, and who am I to argue?

Although it appeared a tough job, it was actually mostly a breeze – all the following songs and bands poked their heads above the rest in one way or another. It was most interesting to see whether my at-the-time thoughts had changed at all.

It says a lot that they all exceeded my original estimations.


15 – Blue Boats ANBAD said then: “If other recent songs have as successfully reached out and patted the listener’s hand more comfortingly, I can’t think of them. A song of real, feathery beauty.”

ANBAD says now: An artist to watch out for, who creates deluxe, delicious and dreamy power-pop.

14 – Hillary and The DemocratsANBAD said thenHillary and the Democrats aren’t a bunch of poseurs – they’re playing good music for the right reasons: to have fun, to share pleasure and with an ethic that prioritises making the best music possible. What more would anyone want? Excellent.”

 ANBAD says now: Let’s Play Kubb is, months later, a song I find myself whistling in the shower. This is about as high as praise gets in the music world.


13 – Dream Sick – ANBAD said then: “Here’s a song that is milky, nourishing and intimately comforting – all whilst acknowledging the transience of life and the importance of closeness. Yikes.” 

ANBAD says now: Dream Sick have hit #13 chiefly for two reasons: their brilliant name, and the extraordinarily lovely chorus that creeps out throughout the song Caravel.


12 – VLAD – ANBAD said then:Caramel, kinky and enticing, is one of those songs that has an innate understanding: guitar music and those who play it have many needs, but also have limitations. The balance here is just about right – the songs caress and sooth, prickle and abrase. It’s a lovely song without ego.” 

ANBAD says now: VLAD are still a rarity, even months later – no artifice, no front, just glossy songs and confidence. They are both lovely to listen to and to behold.

11 – Bagel Project – ANBAD said then: “Structure is out of the window. Finesse is nowhere. Songs are quickly assembled, with little thought given to shape, depth, or complexity. And yet that’s the point. Her collection of songlets, which are part-musique concrete, part sound-sketchbook, are as thrilling as anything I’ve heard for weeks.”

ANBAD says now: A shining example of why I love finding new bands, and the bands I love finding. I’m still unsure as to Bagel Project’s motivations, longevity or ability – but I still love the brilliant naivety of Funmi Wittle’s songs.


ANBAD, like other bloggers, is only human (yes, really), and will indulge in listing its favourite bands from the past year – all the while, of course, complaining about doing the same.

Semi-Ironic Narcissism is what music bloggers do best, after all.

So, here’s the plan – as of today, ANBAD will run through all the best bands of the year, in my particularly humble opinion.

And for the first time, I’m going to try and offer some sort of reasoning for how the bands are chosen, and commentary on what it all means. (Spoiler: not a huge amount).

I mean, it’s not much in the way of novelty, but after nearly five years, it counts as progress, right?

The bands were all chosen on any number of bases, ranging from, but not exclusively:

  • Stickability – a song that wedged madly, happily in my head;
  • Slickability – a band that was impressive by producing really great songs with little or no help from The Pros;
  • Brillability – a band or song that was simply so terrific that only a fool would ignore them;
  • Neo-bility – something so new that they had nowhere else to go but the end-of-year chart;
And finally:
  • Punnability – as always, a jokey name counts double here on ANBAD

And here’s the only real commentary I’ll add: for all the bitching and hand-wringing about the is-it-isn’t-it-dead state of guitar music (much of it from me) – the bulk of the bands who made it to the top of the chart are, indeed, guitar bands.

It’s true that I spent a lot of the year yearning for something different, scratching around away from the six-stringed world, and it resulted in some unusual discoveries – witness the glut of Japanese Glitch-Juke producers who started appearing recently (Here, here and here, for example).

The source of all this yearning was a belief that I still hold: that the bulk of the current guitar bands chasing attention and success are actually chasing ubiquity.

By simply picking up guitars because that’s what new bands do, they’re already chasing their own tail, when they could be doing something just a little bit different and a little bit more daring, and squeezing out something that is – whoah – new.

My favoured theory on the guitar music front is that rock music has, over the last decade, quietly retired into the same roots-y place that Folk occupies: often learnt by rote, usually performed simply because. Music in this position is by no means to be sneered at: it’s often beautiful and thrilling – but there’s no denying that true innovation and guitar music are not as close bedfellows as they used to be.

But what’s maddening is a mass denial that rock is anything other than rebellious – when in fact, the true rebels who express themselves musically put down the guitars a long time ago.

I still think this is true now, even though the majority of my Best New Bands of 2012™ are guitar-flavoured. The ones that got this far are only here because they’ve excelled at making their music, and deep-down, I love guitar-driven songs. But these artists would be here if they were making Neo-Donk remixes of Solange Knowles songs, assuming they were good enough.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin in earnest with numbers 15 – 11. Try to contain your excitement.

But today, here’s one (non-guitar, *SHOCK*) band from 2012 that could, honestly, have snuck into the Top 15, but didn’t simply for the reason that they appeared on ANBAD so late, I forgot to factor them in. Shoddy work, yes. But worth it, because Heavy Heart‘s music is simply lovely.

Heavy Heart – “swirling, warm, orange/gold, and dreamy with snappy beats and jabbering vocals.”