January 3, 2013

Decoder's Favorite _____: 2012

Decoder as an entity is one year old, and that's an amazing and exciting thing for us. The first issue of Decoder Magazine, which has turned out to be more of a coffee table reader, is finally being shipped out after a few setbacks. In 2012 Dwight, Liz, and I all had our hearts broken by "real-life" troubles, but the readers and friends of Decoder have been there every step of the way to lift us back up and remind us why we care so much about supporting cool music, art, fashion, recipes and anything else that impresses our artistic tastes. Perhaps the most exciting part of 2012, though, has been watching our team grow. With the addition of new friends we've grown from a team of three to a team of twelve and our quest for expansion is certainly not stopping. 2013 will bring greater change and growth for Decoder as both a magazine and website, but we'll save those surprises for the future. For now let's get going on our favorite things of 2012.

With so many homies and opinions on board, we decided that the usual "Best of 2k12" list wouldn't cut it, so almost everyone on the team has prepared their own list. We wanted to give you guys something a little outside of the usual, so everyone has picked their own way of determining their list. Some of us kept it as simple as our favorite records of the year, and then organized those in different ways (shouts out to Liz for ordering her picks by when she fell in love with each record!) Others decided to pick favorite singles or videos instead of simply records. A few of us even picked a record label in specific and ordered our favorite releases from the said label. We've tried to keep it fun for you, so let's go ahead and jump right into the lists!

In 2012 no label has excited me as much as Мишка has. With a variety of releases all rooted in dance and hip-hop, the music label half of this brilliant design company has put forth twenty or so free releases in 2012, all in the name of spreading great underground sounds. These are my 10 favorite Мишка releases from 2012, along with five of my favorite t-shirt designs that the clothing label has currently available. --Jheri Evans

The-Drum - Sense Net EP
Haleek Maul & Supreme Cuts - Chrome Lips
Xander Harris - Snow Crash
Bruxa - Victimeyez
Cream Dream - Love Letter
Max B & Isaiah Toothtaker - Toothy Wavy
Cities Aviv - Black Pleasure
Ritualz/Funerals - Hypermotion X/Hypermotion B
Children Of The Night - Queens... Revisited
Lockah - Please Lockah, Don't Hurt 'Em EP

Baumgartner/KeeneSounds from Dancin' In The USA, Vol 1 (Log Across The Washer)
Boy FruitZion Nation (self-released)
Hoola Loop

Bruce LanghorneThe Hired Hand (Scissor Tail Editions)
Halasan BazarHow to Be Ever Happy (Moon Glyph)

The Hare and the Moon - The Grey Malkin (Haute Magie)
The Willows
Long Lankin

Imperfect MastersThis Humanly Mess: Music of El Cerrito for Clarinet and Boot, Vol. #23 (Full of Nothing)
Nate HenricksClose Encounters with Green Magic (Patient Sounds)
M. Geddes GengrasBeyond the Curtain (Holodeck Records)
Matt CarlsonAll Moments (NNA Tapes)
All Moments extract

Maharadja SweetsEngines of Joy (Orange Milk)
Majical CloudzTurns Turns Turns EP (Arbutus/Merok)

UnBegun (Dub Ditch Picnic)

Vanilla HammerRetreat (Kaleidoscope)
Burning Sand

WeekendsAcoustic Tape (Friends Records)
Willie LaneGuitar Army of One (Cord-Art)

Favors - Keeper (Future Push)
Strange Hands - Dead Flowers (Shit Music For Shit People)

King Tuff - King Tuff (Sub Pop)
Keep On Movin'
Bad Thing

Leisure Birds - Globe Master (Moon Glyph)

Lillerne Compilation #2 (Lillerne Tapes)
Richard Album - You Can Call Me Album (self-released)
Halasan Bazar - How To Be Ever Happy (Moon Glyph)

The UFO Club - The UFO Club (The Reverb Appreciation Society)

Ty Segall - Twins (Drag City)

Lumerians - Transmissions From Telos: Vol. IV (Hands In The Dark)

Zen Mantra - How Many Padmes Hum? (Muzai)
Tame Impala - Lonerism (Modular Recordings)

Baumgartner/Keene - Sounds from Dancin' In The USA, Vol. I (Log Across The Washer)
Opal Vol. I & II (Moon Glyph)
Velvet Davenport - Dark
Halasan Bazar - Everybody Dies
M. Sage - Illusory Promenade

Tara King th. - Uncolored Past (Part I & II) (Moon Glyph)

Shawn Reed is a national treasure. He’s put out dozens of cassettes and LPs this year, music by artists from all over the world, all wrapped in collages of his own da-da-design, and every single one of them is fascinating. Seriously, all over the world. Seattle. Portland. Chicago. Atlanta. Tampa. Providence RI. Montreal. Calgary. Vancouver. Melbourne. New Zealand. Tokyo. Beijing. It’s amazing, really: Shawn Reed is an artist in Iowa and he somehow finds all this music and makes it physical and still manages to stay alive.

My list has three from Vermont. This likely says something about me that my tenure review committee need not know. At any rate, I picked a release from China for the top spot, because the music is stunning, and because Beiling is a quasi-center of the contemporary art world, and because it’s on the other side of the world, and that’s just too far out to not herald – a guy in the middle of the United States reaching across the planet, releasing that shit. --Joe Miller

Xiao Hong Yu Xiao Xiao Hong - Black Sheep (China)

Ela Orleans/Dirty Beaches - Double Feature Split LP (France/Taiwan)

Happy Jawbone Family Band - The Silk Pistol (Vermont)
Blanche Blanche Blanche - Wink With Both Eyes (Vermont)

Superstar - The Softest Urge (Australia)
Son of Salami - Deli Days (Vermont)

Lantern - Burned Youth (Philadelphia)
While I've avoided ordering these in true chart fashion (can you even rate artists like Panabrite and Huerco S. against each other?), I did put two releases above the others: Moon B's self-released debut is my dream music - the sound I'm looking for every day when I climb into InternetWorld and roll the dice; Frozen Solid was my introduction to Coyote Clean Up and subsequent releases suggest Ice Cold Chrissy will be on a lot of mp3-computerphones in 2013. --Andrew Heuback

01 Moon B - Untitled (self-released; reissued on 12" via People's Potential Unlimited)
01 Coyote Clean Up - Frozen Solid (100% Silk)
02 American Landscape Painting - Luster (Teen River)
02 Huerco S. - Untitled (Opal Tapes)
02 Semya - Golden Days (Leaving Records)
02 Betawave X / MX7 for MYSTERYSEVEN - split (Digitalis Recordings)

02 Coyote Clean Up - Double Doom (I Had An Accident Records)
02 Design - Hangin' (100% Silk)

02 Panabrite - Blue Grotto (Love All Day)
02 Grapefruit - Grapefruit (Field Hymns)
01 Different Sleep - Infinite
02 Tamaryn - I'm Gone

03 Shawn Kemp - Psychic Aviation
04 Madi Diaz - Trust Fall (Jensen Sportag Remix)

05 Sean Price - Battering Bars

06 Lone - As A Child (Feat Machinedrum)

07 Roomrunner - Super Vague
08 Burial - Ashtray Wasp

09 Swing Delux - Triple Water
10 Antwon - Living Every Dream
Honorable Mentions:
Elite Gymnastics - Andreja 4-Ever

Ice Choir - Teletrips
Melody's Echo Chamber - Some Time Alone, Alone

Yppah - Happy To See You

Robert Glasper Experiment - Cherish The Day (Sade Cover)

If you're anything like me, first impressions are pretty crucial when approaching new and unknown art. This is why album art continues to be of highly important value to so many, even in an age where the album as an art-piece itself has been deeply devalued by the rise of digital downloading and the mp3. If a release has striking, interesting, or just plain strange art included in its package, then I'm much, much more inclined to take a listen to what's inside. There've been times where an album with terrible artwork has transcended those boundaries through the sheer awesomeness of the music contained within, true. But I've come to notice as time goes on that my favorite albums also tend have some of my very favorite album covers, as well. Is this a coincidence? Or is it possible that great album art just makes the music itself that much more amazing?

Album art is one of the greatest arguments we have for the album as a whole, complete package, and an even greatest argument for why the album still matters in the digital age. Experimental and underground musicians, of course, have always put nearly as much thought into their packaging as into the music itself. After all, this isn't the best airbrushed tit-shot of Rhianna to entice you into buying her latest pop drivel; this is as inexorable a statement about the artist's intentions as the music itself. So without further ado, I'm providing here my ten favorite album covers of 2012, a year that was incredible for album art. --Zach Corsa

Greetings From Spring Break Tapes, Vol. 1 (Spring Break Tapes)
Lee Noyes & Radio Cegeste - To Orient Themselves With Coastlines (Idealstate Recordings)
Offthesky & Radere - I Will Love You, Always (self-released)
The Cloisters - The Cloisters (Second Language)

We Are The Wooden Houses - Halloween Haarp (Treehouse Orchestra Recordings)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)

Gargle - Glow In The Gloom (Fluttery Records)
Listening Mirror - The Clearing/My Hiding Place (Cooper Cult)

Atay Ilgun & Alper Yildirim - Aokigahara, The Black Sea Of Trees (Weike Editions)
Nils Quak - Aether (self-released
Grimes - Genisis

Groundislava feat. Clive Tanaka - TV Dream

Millionyoung - Youthless

Mykki Blanco - Wavvy

XXYYXX - About You

M.I.A. - Bad Girls

Museum Mouth - Sexy But Not Happy

Frank Ocean - Pyramids

Purity Ring - Loftcries

Justice - New Lands

Because I'm allergic to earbuds, most of my music arrives via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The stations sound great and are open 5 am to Midnight. I know the various styles of the various stations and can plan my routes according to what I want to hear. There were dozens of standouts this year, so I had to be methodical about ranking them. I took many factors into consideration, but decided to give priority to the following:
a. Songwriting
b. Clothing
c. People Standing Around Watching Them
d. Finger Speed
e. Modern Technological Gear
f. Dollars In Cases or Cups
g. Sheet Music
h. Cool Vocal Inflections
Spotify their recordings, and if you're in the Bay Area, check out their live sets.  Happy New Year Everyone! --Jon Bernson

13 Deth to Regulars (Fremont)
12 Radiation Bestie (Civic Center)
11 The Bleachers (Montgomery Street)
10 Disco Cliff (Union City)
09 GANGZ (Powell Street)
08 Freeze Tag (MacArthur)
07 Two 4 One (SFO)
06 French Kick Millions (Lake Merritt)
05 Hot Jello (Glen Park)
04 Turbo Health (Hayward)
03 Jeffrey & The Hooks (Concord)
02 Wank Hilliams (24th Street)
01 Kwiyer (Fruitvale)

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