It is December, the time for mulled wine, family and christmas frenzy. And the time to look back on the year and make some lists. As quality trumps quantity, we decided not to give you the top 50 everything – where you fly over the list and end up only feeding your ego by looking for stuff you regonize, saying: “Hey, you got taste, and I got taste! Aren’t we a cool bunch?” – but to limit ourselves to the best five things in different categories, without ranking them. This way, you can give those some thorough listens and real consideration.
First off are my favorite genres of 2012, and of course they are all dead, or dying. There are two ways “indie” genres die, and that is by lack of interest, or an overabundance of it. Either it does not get popular and won’t gather enough input and dies of inbreeding, or it gets too popular, bastardized and killed by its mutant offsprings. Well, those are some views on it, at least. Let’s try to take a calmer approach, and to not get rushed by the average one year internet lifecycles and overeager hipster discrimitations.
The indie-kids finally learned to play the keyboards again, or at least learned how to use Ableton Live. As with most trends, this one has been going on for some time, but it peaked and maybe already went downhill this year, the most prominent example being Passion Pit’s “Gossamer”. Others that come to mind are Grimes, Alt-J, Chairlift and ::M∆DE::IN::HEIGHTS::. All no favorites of mine, but 2012 wouldn’t have been the same without them.
The nienties were back with force this year, and one of the most interesting developments was the resurgence of rave and drum’n’bass sounds. It is still going hot and has room to flourish, if you ask me, with acts like Physical Therapy, Recycle Culture and Elite Gymnatics hopefully on the brink of a bigger breakthrough.
Closely related to this new rave delopment is what has been called #seapunk. It is more of a visual style though, using early nineties internet videos, manga images and aquatic themes overall. While mostly a closed internet community, it was coined for the public by last year’s #Seapunk Vol.1 by Coral Records Internazionale and gained a boost in attention by Rihanna using the retro-imagery in her SNL appearance this year. Musically, seapunk is related to rave, R&B and trap music.
Speaking of trap, here is where the party was this year. Originating from southern hip hop scenes, what is now called “trap” is dismissed by purists are being on its way to becoming the new “brostep”, i.e. something that the EDM kids ruined for everyone else. Featuring dry snares, bass builds and drops as well as high pitched vocals, trap is made for the dancefloor. It wasn’t helping its reputation that Skrillex recently turned his style this way, but there was some serious thrust behind this genre in 2012, with Diplo, Hudson Mohawke, Flosstradamus and RL Grime at the helm.
And finally, developing out of hypnagogic pop, vaporwave is an underground phenomena just like seapunk. Traced back to Daniel Lopatin’s “Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1” from 2010 it gained some traction by finding a home in L.A. label Beer On The Rug lately, although most artists are still self-releasing. Running by the motto “The Future That Never Was”, vaporwave is nostalgic in its core, and anti-capitalist in the old Marxist sense that you have to accelerate capitalism to the end of its own destruction. It mainly consists of late eighties and early nineties sound relics, alienated by recontextualizing, changing tempo or pitch, or simply chopping everything up. Artists are INTERNET CLUB, MediaFired™, VΞRACOM or Macintosh Plus. One of my favorites is ROMCOM.