I can basically second Brandon’s anticipation of new music from the Magnetic Fields and Frankie Rose, especially since both have released promo tracks that sound so wildly different from their most recent releases.
Stephin Merritt’s last release with the Magnetic Fields (Realism) struck me as music for musicologists: humorless and self-congratulatory where his best stuff has always been wry and deceptively unassuming. It’s also heartening to hear those trademarked tinny synths on the aforementioned “Andrew in Drag” — those cheap sounds are part of the bizarre alchemy that made the MFs’ dizzying run through the ’90s so virtuosic and yet somehow approachable (culminating, of course, with the unimpeachable 69 Love Songs) .
Frankie Rose released an album (with the Outs) in 2010 that had a lot in common with Girls Dum Dum and Vivian (naturally, Ms. Rose was a member of both bands). “Know Me”, while not exactly rejecting that blueprint, throws new influences (Brandon called them dreamy and I’ll go with slick) in the mix and the results are more than promising.
Rather than spending this entire post congratulating my colleague on his impeccable taste, I’ll point out a few more 2012 items I’m looking forward to:
Lower Dens – Nootropics (05/1 Ribbon)
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Jana Hunter does any more. After two albums and an EP of psych-folk released under her own name, the first Lower Dens album hit in 2010. With her new bandmates, her sound became decidedly more plugged in and blissed out, but their new album (with new members and on a new label) seems to be headed in a more rhythmic direction. Yes, please.
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (02/7 Jagjaguwar)
If Sharon Van Etten is ever going to blow up, it will be with this record. Her quiet 2009 debut got its fair share of love and a year later her more assertive sophomore effort gained her some more traction in indie circles, leading to her third album on her third label. This one features a veritable rogues gallery of talent — Matt Barrick (Walkmen), Zach Condon (Beirut), Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Julianna Barwick and Aaron Dessner (the National) — but Van Etten has hardly given up creative control. (You really ought to check out the performance of this song on Fallon.)
Xiu Xiu – Always (03/6 Polyvinyl)
It’s hard to be indifferent to the music that Jamie Stewart makes. He does a lot of yelping over dissonance, I guess. Ten years into the Xiu Xiu brand, I still love it.
of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks (02/7 Polyvinyl)
The last oM record should have been a lot bigger, what with appearances by Solange Knowles and Janelle Monáe and a tour that produced a bewildering cynicism when critics should have been more content to be bowled over by ridiculousness.
In the cinematic world, The Playlist has really done all the work for us, breaking down their most anticipated releases of the year into indie, foreign-language, escapist/popcorn, and, er, films. It will almost definitely be a stellar year at the movies.