Best of Sounds 2012

JUICE’s resident Feature and Music Writer attempts the much dreaded year end top 10 list, bother him at [email protected] if you think he’s full of sh*t.

Storytelling in hip hop is a lost art, conscious rap is misguided pontification by self-righteous zealots, and just as male rappers tend to personify hip hop as a woman, they naturally tend to act as if they own her. Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut good kid m.A.A.d city could very well be the best hip hop album in a long while – funny that Kendrick pre-emptively designed the album to be a classic. Like the best of literature, this ‘short film’ (as the cover art says) is subtle in its themes and message. Kendrick, the casual observer of Compton, doesn’t judge his fellow natives, he doesn’t clobber you on the head with a grand righteous hammer. He tells a story without putting himself on a moralistic pedestal. It helps that he’s not only a gifted lyricist – unlike his peers, K-Dot doesn’t use big words for the sake of using big words (looking at you Lupe) – he also has the best voice in hip hop currently.

Because we are prone to hyperbole, channel ORANGE is the zeitgeist album of ’12. Its quality up against other great albums of last year might be a moot point, but you can’t deny that Frank released a time-appropriate record that speaks of hip hop’s changing attitude towards homosexuality without being on the nose about it. An r’n’b album that is atheistic and sexually progressive, Frank never made it to reflect those after all, it just did inadvertently, as all great records are wont to do.

We can’t imagine 2012 without Grimes. Visions was the pinnacle of what seems like a natural progression to the limitless resource that is the internet. The download and Tumblr generation coalesced into a post-genre electronic opus, an MPDG oohs and ahhs over beat music borne of electronica, EDM, and hip hop. Often time her voice acts more as another layer of instrumentation than anything else, you can barely make out the words. Yet that’s the appeal of Grimes, the elven electronic princess that transcends genres and pop homogenisation.

When we feel like Ryan Gosling in a scorpion jacket (hey girl), we put on Chromatics’ latest and go for a night drive. Kill For Love is an album meant to be listened in its entirety. Just as works of fiction in prose and film are to be experienced in its entirety before being judged for the sum of its parts, Kill for Love should be looked at the same way. And this is exactly what elevates the album above other synth pop projects, its grandiose aspirations.

Stefan’s anarchic bark-rap and Zach Hill & Andy Morin’s noise-making are the new voice and sound of punk in 2012. In fact, it’s so punk and loud that even an old school punk rocker once described it as ‘noise’, just as his parents might have labelled his music back then. The Money Store was released on Epic with the label’s higher-ups clueless as to what they were getting, follow-up No Love Deep Web, however, was released illegally to the wrath of Epic – but hey, it was all worth it for the chaos that ensured later. The decade after the noughties needs its own don’t-give-a-f*ck hero after a sterile 10 years.