That Was 2012: Our Year-End Lists
The atmosphere inside The Nash during its grand opening concert on a warm night back in early October was positively electric. A fast-paced flurry of a finger-snapping bebop filled the air as a quintet of jazz musicians led by legendary drummer Lewis Nash, the namesake of the new downtown Phoenix music venue, laid down their rhythms at a breakneck pace.
As members of the audience let loose with catcalls and hollered their approval, Nash relentlessly thumped the skins during a frenetic drumming solo before joining with rest of the performers -- including bassist Christian McBribe, pianist Cedar Walton, and guitarist Russell Malone -- and building the crescendo into an explosion of jazz that marked the climax of their set. Then, there was nothing but applause.
It was a thrilling ending that served as the official beginning of The Nash, a combination concert hall and music education center run by Jazz in Arizona. Its arrival was one of the higher profile venue debuts that took place in the Valley during 2012, a year that saw the opening of several other unique joints around town, as well as the departure of several iconic and long-running establishments.
Top 20 Phoenix Concerts of 2012
We saw a lot of great shows this year -- traveling far and wide to festivals, small club gigs, and gigantic arena shows.
Narrowing down our favorite shows to the most mind-blowing 20 wasn't easy, but it was a lot of fun. Check out our list, and be sure to browse through some of the stunning images caught by the New Times photo staff in 2012.
2012 wasn't really a bad year for local hardcore and metal music, but there seemed to be more noteworthy demos circulating around than official releases.
Now, I understand that the distinction between a demo and an official release is really just a matter of using the word "demo" to describe the release, and that some people do limited runs of demos with most of the common packaging of an official release, but reviewing a demo is problematic because it is an implied work in progress, a musical rough draft. All the releases in this list are, at least in terms of their branding, final products. I can praise and criticize them without anyone giving me the excuse that they are just demos.
You can also find some of them at local record stores like Revolver and Eastside, and buy the ones you can't find there directly from the labels who put them out.
With that, I give to you my picks for the top 5 best local (non-demo) heavy music releases of 2012.
This time of year is fun-slash-maddening for us goofy music critic types. It's a time for poring over notes, for obsessively analyzing what made the records we loved so great.
Of course, they can't all be winners, can they? As we dug into our Best of Lists, we turned up a few disappointments, too. What follows is our individual reflections on albums, trends, and -- in at least one case, the geopolitical antics -- that musically bummed us out this year.
What records or songs let you down? Let us know in the comments.
Top 5 Genre-Bending Electronic Albums of 2012
I initially conceived this list as a starting point to further explore of one of the biggest albums of the year: "Ayo, if you liked that Grimes record, this shit is pretty good, too." The Korean and Japanese pop influence on Visions made it easy to like, but it was the gauzy textures, unconventional song structures, and understated vocal subtleties that made it addictive.
Last year's weird electronic pop champ was synth theorist John Maus, and now Claire Boucher is an even more prominent figure in the legion of programmers, producers and reformed noiseniks stretching familiar forms. While they might not sit comfortably with every Grimes obsessive, these five albums pulled from various experimental electronic sources to each make a memorably skewed engagement with pop in 2012.
Let's face it, the Mayan Calendar thing is kind of silly, but I'm still obsessed with it because I often ruminate on The End. It's an important scenario to consider, no matter how unlikely, because it makes us ask the Big Questions and wonder how meaningful/meaningless our lives truly are.
One of my favorite films is Melancholia, which features Kirsten Dunst nakedly staring at a large blue planet that is going to collide with Earth and destroy all life. It's stunningly begs the question, if you had 24 hours left before the world was smushed into nothing, what would you do? Cower in fear or commit suicide? Have sex or shoot up heroin? Just watch?
Dunst pretty much says anything you do is "a piece of shit." And she's half-right, but whatever your choice, it reflects deeply on you, no matter if it's meaningless. For me, I'd put on a vinyl record or two and just wait. And I'd smile and I'd smile and I'd smile.
Here are five albums from this year that make the perfect soundtrack for your apocalypse, coming this year or next.