With 2012 coming to a strong end, many music publications have begun the process of naming the best albums of the year.
Caught up in the present moment, it’s easy to lose sight of what is good just for now and what will actually last.
What may not be currently placed in high regard will surely grow in strength over time and will make an even greater change in 2013.
Although overlooked, underrated and perhaps even unknown, this is a countdown of five exceptional albums this year.
5.) Lil B, God’s Father
Bay Area rapper Lil B has had what may be his most prolific year in music, challenging all norms of the rap game. His unconventional approach has led him to such decisions as releasing an 855 song mixtape and adopting the world’s first feline rapper.
However, his mixtape, God’s Father, may be his most consistent and serious release this year.
From the metaphysical narration of “The BasedGods Layer” to the melancholy fan service of Final Fantasy-sampled closer “I Love You,” Lil B manages to showcase all facets of his personality, demonstrating such a highly critical and intelligent sense of self-awareness that any sort of analysis that has previously denounced his sense of humor may falter.
In God’s Father, Lil B shows that he is at the top of the game in his own world.
Delusional as that may sound, Lil B is still empathetic and conscious, displaying a sense of sensitivity that other rappers are still conflicted to show.
Many continue to try and emulate Lil B’s style, yet fail to retain his honesty. God’s Father is the perfect example of that and how rap will continue to change in 2013.
4.) Shinsei Kamattechan, Tanoshiine
A play on the words tanoshii (fun) and shine (die), Shinsei Kamattechan of Chiba, Japan released an expectedly absurdist fifth album, continuing to only improve on their anthemic noise-pop.
In celebration of Tanoshiine, the band recently put on a symbolic performance that was entirely surrounded by live video feed from Nico Nico Douga (a Japanese video site equivalent to YouTube where users can post reactions in real time), paying homage to their early days when they gained notoriety by posting videos on Douga.
This approach came with a sense of relevance to the band.
Their interpretation of the feelings of isolation and connection over the digital divide demonstrates both technology’s plunders and accomplishments as related to the youth of today. Their simultaneously punk-rock sense of rebellion has made Tanoshiine an album that is right for the moment now and for many more to come.
3.) Slime Girls, Vacation Wasteland
Slime Girls was one of many emerging chiptune artists this year. Chiptune, a music genre dedicated to making sounds that replicate the music of outdated video game consoles, aims to recreate a certain feeling of warmth and nostalgia, which Slime Girls demonstrated perfectly with his debut.
Vacation Wasteland received positive recognition, being likened to the music of chiptune heroes Anamanaguchi and turning chip-music into a hyperactive pop-punk journey. With cyberpunk themes and anime culture references tuned to a surf rock vibe, it came out to be one of the most feel-good albums of the year.
2012 was difficult for the chiptune scene. Its premier music gathering, New York’s Blip Fest, finally closed its doors, but in January 2013, Los Angeles welcomes Frequency, the newest chiptune festival, which will further open the doors for chiptune-based music.
Slime Girls will be one of several artists at Frequency, ringing in the new year with a new approach to old sounds.
2.) Kyary Pamyu Pamyu,
Pamyu Pamyu Revolution
Despite PSY’s “Gangnam Style” making K-Pop an international sensation, it did little to challenge Western people’s perception of how different foreign music can be. Japan’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu released Pamyu Pamyu Revolution this year and released her own YouTube hit with “PONPONPON.”
Produced by Yasutaka Nakata, whose “futuristic idol” sound has been seen in some of Japan’s most successful groups.
Groups included techno unit Perfume, who went back to his roots with Pamyu to create a nostalgic and playful album.
It suited Pamyu’s eccentric roots in Harajuku fashion and Nakata’s early dwellings in Shibuya-kei, a sub-genre of Japanese Pop (J-Pop), which emphasizes elements of bossa nova, jazz and electronic music.
Lacking of substance it may be, Revolution holds onto a refreshing and positive aestheticism that can only be aligned with the power of J-Pop. With MTV launching a new site called MTV81 to promote J-Pop to Western audiences and Pamyu preparing to embark on a world tour, Revolution will truly take its form and make 2013 the year of J-Pop.
1.) Kindan no Tasuketsu,
Hajime Ni Ai Ga Atta
Hajime Ni Ai Ga Atta literally translates to “There Was Love in the Beginning,” a fitting title that encompasses much of the sound on Kindan no Tasuketsu’s debut album.
The seven-member group who only go by nicknames such as Roller Girl and Kazunari Magnoila, came into the limelight of the Japanese indie scene this past year with their single “Toumeikan,” a heartrending six-minute anthem which is also the centerpiece of their stunningly diverse debut album.
Despite little recognition in the United States, their sound is highly westernized, combining elements of early J-Pop and piecing it together with psychedelic experimentalism that can be likened to groups such as Animal Collective.
Throw in the guitar-pop sensibilities of groups like The Cure and The Smiths and set that into a modern electronic approach that can easily fit within Los Angeles’ Low End Theory scene and you have something relatively close to Hajime Ni Ai Ga Atta.
Although the band itself is stuck between retaining pop sensibility and a cryptic sense of imagery, Hajime Ni Ai Ga Atta feels cohesive and emotionally fulfilling despite sounding like a demented mixtape.
Kindan demonstrates much of the bravery and honesty that is missing in music today and their challenging, yet simultaneously catchy debut is indicative of a group of artists who want to do everything their way.