On another note…

On another note entirely, Seattle once again failed to come off as a particularly “cool” place. We commented last year how the city occasionally appears to be stuck in the ’90s, and that mentality didn’t appear to have changed much over the past 12 months. Make no mistake—by US standards, Decibel is an incredibly forward event; however, being at the festival rarely felt like taking a stroll on the cutting edge. A lot of that had to do with the crowd, which, in proper West Coast fashion, included a heavy contingent of aging former ravers. We don’t mean to appear shallow, but the general motif was an odd cross of tech-industry business casual (lots of fleece, windbreakers, and boot-cut jeans), grunge leftovers, and fashion cues seemingly inspired by the movie Waterworld. Although the music was undoubtedly the most important thing at Decibel, it was striking how the Seattle crowds came across as almost aggressively unfashionable. When traveling from out of town for a festival, particularly one focused on underground electronic music, most attendees want to feel like they’re mingling with a hip, in-the-know group of people. Instead of that, we often found ourselves in a sea of geeky diehards and goofy Burning Man castoffs.

I had the privilege of covering a couple Decibel Festival shows this year. It was the first time I’ve attended dbFest, a world-renowned electronic music festival now in its 10th year, and it struck me as a pretty cool event. Shawn Reynaldo, the editor of tastemaking online electronic music magazine XLR8R apparently thought differently. This paragraph follows another of about the same length where he complains about the rain.

The full review is on XLR8R.

My favorite albums of 2012

Writing a “best albums of the year” list is little more than an recipe for present posturing and future embarrassment. That said, as someone whose opinions about music get published on a blog with a lot more readers than this one, I feel like I should broadcast my tastes for transparency’s sake. Also, these things are fun to write. So here’s a top-10 list, with some very brief write-ups for each choice, plus a Spotify playlist at the end if you’re into that.

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1) Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city: The most impressive thing I’ve heard all year, hands down. A great performance from Lamar, most notably for his storytelling—a “socially conscious” rap album that treats its subjects deftly and with empathy, and is all the more powerful for it.

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2) Tame Impala, Lonerism: If only every band who bills itself “classic rock” or “psychedelic” were as adept at synthesizing its influences, and as unafraid to push its sound in new directions, as these dudes from western Australia. Stunningly good.

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3) Hot Chip, In Our Heads: No singles the caliber of “Boy From School” or “Ready For The Floor” (though “Look At Where We Are” comes close), but plenty of jams. The quality here is more consistent than anything Hot Chip has ever produced. 

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4) Daphni, Jiaolong: Brainy, fractal house music from Dan Snaith. It sounds a lot like the last album from his main band (Caribou’s Swim, released in 2010), but entirely instrumental. Fascinating  beat experimentation.

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5) Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE: Nearly as good as everyone says it is.

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6) Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory: The best punk/harder rock album I heard this year, and also the one with the clearest commitment to songcraft.

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7) Grizzly Bear, Shields: The world’s most tasteful prog rock band.

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8) Chairlift: Something: Immaculately polished electro-pop from a band previously best known for having a song that sounds like Feist in an iTunes commercial. Still shocked by how good this album is.

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9) Dirty Projectors, Swing Low, Magellan: In which Dave Longstreth learns to write love songs, and sounds all the more human for it.

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10) THEEsatisfaction, awE naturalE: A compact, expertly produced (those beats!) hip-hop/R&B hybrid.

Honorable mentions:

LPs:

Purity Ring, Shrines | Perfume Genius, Put Yr Back N 2 It | Erik Blood: Touch Screens | Japandroids, Celebration Rock | Beach House, Bloom | Spoek Mathambo, Father Creeper | Shigeto, Lineage | Bear in Heaven, I Love You, It’s Cool | Grimes, Visions | Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe

EPs:

Mister Lies, Hidden Neighbors | Pure Bathing Culture: s/t | CFCF: Exercises  | Daniel Rossen, Silent Hour/Golden Mile | Matthew Dear, Headcage

Playlist (songs from every album listed, as well as some other stuff I liked):