2012 Top 100 LPs #4-1: Field Music, Kendrick Lamar, Mouse on Mars, Matsuki Ayumu
Published on December 25th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Yes, it’s…Rocksucker’s Top 100 Albums of 2012!
Rocksucker listened to a lot of albums this year and conferred varying degrees of merit (in quail form) upon them based on our own spurious criteria…
…and now we bring you our favourite hundred of them, counted down in order arbitrarily/for fun. By dint of mathematics (specifically 4 x 25), top spot shall be revealed on Christmas day. Now, let’s get crackling, and then cracking…
4. Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics
Yet another master class of synaesthetic, architecturally constructed, technicolour and totally bonkers electronica from a German duo boasting one of the most enviable back catalogues of the modern era. As we said in our review: “[it’s] a seminar of what pop music might sound like if it was all – the entire history of it – condensed together in the blown artificial mind of a robot on acid, a futuristic and glacial yet warm and colourful trip through thirteen typically distinctive and addictive songs… An astonishing and ambitious undertaking that ups an already first-class game.” Oh, and last month’s mini-album WOW was pretty darn ace too. We can’t wait to see where they go from here, especially as they’ve now been granted the platform of Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label.
All together now: “cock-blocker…Facebook’s a cock-blocker!”
3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Yes, yes, everyone’s been going loopy about this, the Compton rapper’s major label debut, but it’s with good reason: it’s dark, funky, moving, brimming with character, frequently otherworldly and lyrically astounding. Furthermore, it’s sufficiently multi-faceted to put even some of his hometown’s greatest names into the shade, so unless this proves to be an Illmatic-style stumbling block – that is, in a ‘how on Earth to top this?’ kind of way – then hip-hop may have found the next great visionary it’s been crying out for. Leeringly strutting one moment, stark and haunting the next, luxuriously jazzy samples scattered elsewhere: basically, if Outkast carried more emotional baggage then one of their first three albums might’ve sounded like this.
2. Matsuki Ayumu – One Billion Year Record
What would happen if Gruff Rhys and early Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci followed Cornelius into that machine from The Fly? Why, Matsuki Ayumu would bound out throwing crazy, futuristic colours and psychedelic sunshine over everyone and everything in his path. Signed to Cornershop’s Ample Play label, this Japanese genius represents 2012’s great discovery for anyone who wants pop music to take that next great evolutionary step while losing none of its ability to energise you, make you smile, make you fall in love and leave you as lysergically disoriented in the sweetest possible way. It may not quite clock in at one billion years but it’s a double album’s worth of deliriously discordant three-minute pop gems nevertheless, and even if you don’t know a word of Japanese you’ll still find yourself singing along somehow. Welcome this crazy cat to your hearts, minds, ears and souls, people.
…and Rocksucker’s Album of the Year for 2012 is…
1. Field Music – Plumb
Earlier this year, Rocksucker finally got around to listening to Field Music. The Sunderland duo’s prosaic name had previously failed to pique our curiosity, but a glowing recommendation from Sweet Billy Pilgrim main man Tim Elsenburg prompted a Spotify checkout of their latest album Plumb; suffice it to say, we subsequently purchased all four of their LPs, as well as those released under the monikers School of Language and The Week That Was, vehicles designed to give precedence to the respective (not to mention considerable) talents of constituent brothers David and Peter Brewis.
We could bang on about the strength of their entire back catalogue, but such is the nature of this list that we shall focus on Plumb. Plumb was everything we wanted to hear at the time of initial exposure but couldn’t seem to find anywhere else: complexly laid-out, challenging pop music somehow invested with warmth, melody and sunny good vibes/moonlit ambience (both are nailed here). The confounding feats of time signature trickery and genuinely epic riffery demand association with the worlds of prog and math-rock, but the abundance of timeless tunes and two-minute running times doesn’t tally with the clinicalness inherent in those genres. Musical brainiacs could salivate over these tracks, yet the milkman could whistle them on his rounds: this was a revelation to us then and remains so now.
Basically, the classic pop melodies strip the proggier elements of bombast, and the proggier elements prevent the classic pop melodies from settling into a comfort zone. It’s a symbiotic relationship propelled heavenwards by Field Music’s remarkable aptitude for each, a convergence of soufulness and showiness that manifests itself as something brimming with humility, good humour and the kind of pure liquid love that coursed through the greats of ’60s and ’70s pop. There are even moments of lush orchestration, another potentially alienating factor that the brothers Brewis manage to wield with an elating lightness of touch. Those strings and twinkling keys on album opener “Start the Day Right”? They sound like the sun rising on a particuarly fresh morning, and segue seamlessly into a quite monstrous guitar riff that has been lodged firmly in Rocksucker’s cerebral cortex for months now, rarely far away from breaking out as frenzied humming and gentle head-banging at any spare moment. Ooh…there it goes again…
Already Plumb has laid bare what it’s all about – that is, the imagined result of what might have happened had The Beatles invited Yes in as guest collaborators circa Abbey Road – but it never gets any less compelling or exhilirating from thereon in. We get the gentle yet rousing “Sorry Again, Mate”, the perturbed funk and background bubbles of “A New Town” (featuring this year’s second best riff, after the one from “Start the Day Right”), the urgent Who-i-ness of “A Prelude to Pilgrim Street”, the twinkly twilight of “So Long Then”…we could go on and on, so let’s just say that these fifteen tracks are not just uniformly superb but also lead into one another with the kind of natural guile that’s hard to pinpoint. It could be a rock opera were it not so…human.
What’s left to say? Well, both David and Peter sing with a smooth, airy understatedness that perfectly emphasises the sweetness within the sounds conjured by their multi-instrumentation, while lyrically there is plenty to cling to in spite of all the distractions presented by the music. “Can I afford another day on my own / Sat in the kitchen with the radio on?” – yes, if it happens to be playing Field Music. (Rocksucker trusts that the sentiment shall override the cringeworthiness of that hackneyed journalistic construct.)
Plumb is structured like a day, starting with an awe-inspiring sunrise and erring increasingly towards the nocturnal as it goes on; as such it feels like the lifeblood of the universe, the sort of music – namely, the very best – that could be a natural element or byproduct of the world and its processes, as opposed to the sheen-laden, ‘target market’ tripe that continues to swarm planet Earth like so many Big Macs and Made in Chelseas.
Field Music place themselves in resolute opposition to the vacuousness and hyperbole of the music industry, and that this will continue to inhibit them commercially is both undoubted and considerable cause for someone – anyone, whoever runs the joint – to reassess how the whole darn shooting match operates. They’re not trendy enough for the NME to give two hoots, but they tick all the boxes that actually matter in the fullness of time.
Oh yes; they’re ace live, too.
Give it up for Field Music, and the rest of Rocksucker’s Top 100 Albums of 2012 charters! Happy holidays, everyone!