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Listed: The Dusted Mid-Year Report (2012 Edition)

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The Dusted staff gives into the hype and provides a list of 10 records that stood out during the first half of 2012.

Listed: The Dusted Mid-Year Report (2012 Edition)


In my review of Audience of One, I pegged “Salt” as a track that had the potential to be my favorite song of the year. Six months later, I still find it to be the album’s undisputed highlight, and, if my extremely unscientific estimation is correct, the track I’ve listened to more than any other in 2012. One song does not a great album make, but there’s no question that the lead track here is setting the bar at a spot the others don’t reach. Audience of One, considered as a whole, isn’t Ambarchi’s strongest effort, and it’s decidedly not his Ambarchi-est. But it’s his most exciting music in years. The album’s variations on Ambarchi’s M.O. and the wholly unexpected turns it takes combine with some moving music to put Audience of One at the top of my pile halfway through 2012. (Adam Strohm)


Though it was recorded and performed basically on the fly before a packed room of people, Transverse isn’t really a social album. Sure, the pleasure of creation shared among Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Nik Void is evident in the music. The conversation happening across decades of musical styles — musique concrète, dub, industrial, ambient and drone experimentation, post-punk, techno (and those are just the obvious ones) — is present for all to hear. The very name of the album in this context even suggests a certain social quality. But it’s not something you listen to with other people, recommend freely to coworkers, play to pass the time on public transit, or even talk about much. You listen to it alone, silently, in full, with nothing else happening — too much is happening already to allow for distractions. Months and many listens later, the effort is still worth it. (Patrick Masterson)

“Disappearing Industries”

The lyrics on Grass Widow’s third full-length, Internal Logic, betray a fixation with outer space: transcending earthly boundaries and thinking about the possibilities of other kinds of life. Sure enough, the record’s songwriting exudes a sense of letting-go, abandoning some of the tension that marked their previous LP, Past Time and sounding warmer and brighter throughout. Though their skill is formidable, songs like "Disappearing Industries" and "Cover You" are catchy as anything. At this point, Grass Widow’s signature sum-of-parts sound of closely interlocked bass, guitar and vocal lines is wholly distinct in today’s rock scene, as is their practical and aesthetic commitment to DIY. It gives them a kind of our-band-could-be-your-life vibe — Internal Logic is the sound of playing music with one’s best friends, and might make a listener harbor modest ambitions of doing so herself. (Talya Cooper)


Jam City is the real deal: a dance music artist with a truly unique sound. With Classical Curves, he doesn’t just perfectly recreates 1980s R&B tones; he gives them a modern re-invention. The sounds are instantly familiar, but in this context, they’re utterly alien and off. He takes the template and runs it through 2012’s club ringer, to the point where the unbelievably aggressive dance track "Her" and the lush synth exploration "Love is Real" logically co-exist in the same space. (Brad LaBonte)


Children of Desire is like homecoming and prom night all at once, guitar/synth balladry and last dance melancholy built out of long melodies in the same scale. As the songs rise and fall in graceful, slightly intoxicated grandeur, it’s hard not to mistake their gauzy allure as a nod to when more music sounded like this: a soundtrack to the unending orgasm of late-stage capitalism in the S&L crisis era, or a video store with a fully-stocked new release shelf circa 1988. But the Tampa, Fla., group chooses not to wallow in nostalgia, instead framing this duct-taped decadence against the misgivings and uncertainty of the album’s fictional protagonist, as he is subsumed by the void of self-doubt. As music and as literature, Merchandise have made a brave step forward, penning the only concept album of the young decade that truly matters. (Doug Mosurock)

“Feel Free Section III”

Feel Free is a masterpiece of suspension. It hovers between improvisation and composition, indeterminacy and control, lyricism and abstraction. Duane Pitre devised the piece after moving from New York City, the cradle of American minimalism, to New Orleans, his birthplace; reflecting the volume of the street noise in each burg, it is as spacious as his previous projects were dense. Plucked, struck and bowed strings weave their way through a constantly shifting maze of randomized guitar harmonics, the melodies never predictable and never in disharmony, but consistently gorgeous and light. (Bill Meyer)

“Seven Present Tenses”

Shackleton’s combo package Music for the Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ feels massive in scope and achievement, a bona fide arrival on a bigger stage — mentally, at least — even after achievements like Soundboy Punishments and Fabric 55. The sprawling sci-fi epic Quiet Hour is the first and brand-new part, a soundtrack and movie at once. It’s a vivid tech opera where sheets of destabilizing hand percussion and marimba patterns swirl around no snare to speak of as vocalist Vengeance Tenfold declaims lines that are foreboding and/or strangely uplifting. The real payoff, though, is duration: the music undergirds a judiciously paced story, a flurry of quickening images on top of trance-inducing music. Listen back to Soundboy Punishments and you’ll find that Shackleton hasn’t needed to change his sound all that much in order to fill a much bigger form. He’s more concerned with finding subtler and deeper interactions between layers than in shedding old sounds. So it makes sense that, in the second half, he’s drawn an album’s worth of new material from a new plug-in (the titular Drawbar Organ). Shackleton struck oil eight years ago; may he never stop drilling. (Brandon Bussolini)

“Young Love”

This is the most devastating life-as-a-touring-artist album I’ve heard since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That sounds glib, I’m sure, but I’m dead serious: like Kanye, Mark Kozelek has a knack for painting himself in an unflattering light to strengthen rather than undermine his songs’ poignancy; it’s only shocking in this case because last time I bothered to check, Kozelek’s songs were all about cats and beaches and Spanish boxers. But here he is lurching around the world, loutish and petulant and self-absorbed, "a record to make and a promise to break, a tour in England, a smile to fake," criticizing regional cuisines and contracting minor diseases from one-night stands — only with the same wide-eyed, syllable-swallowing sensitivity he’s always had to life’s ambushes of beauty. It’s not that he doesn’t feel anything; it’s that he feels his feelings the way children feel theirs, making you wonder eventually what’s so great about emotional complexity anyway. In "Song For Richard Collopy," which nearly made me weep on a city bus yesterday, he’s bummed because his favorite guitar repair guy has died; it’s a eulogy that barely registers anyone but the orator, and yet the sentiment is so guileless and honest, so myopically but authentically sad, that it is my favorite distillation right now of the good and the bad about what it means to be human. (Daniel Levin Becker)


Some music is just meant to be experienced alone, and Katie Crutchfield’s solo album as Waxahatchee falls into that sacred category. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a consumer-grade microphone, her gut-wrenching lyrics can puncture the most professional of demeanors, giving voice to the shame and insecurity and confusion we’ve all concealed at some point in our lives. And unlike Elliott Smith or Nick Drake, Crutchfield doesn’t sound like an angel. She sounds real, like someone you know, someone you’ve drank with, maybe someone you’ve loved, maybe even someone who used to love you. When she lets loose, her distorted abandon resembles a pre-studio John Darnielle, and occasionally her lyrics do, too: “And it plays like daytime TV shows, I confuse you / And I tell you not to love me, but I still kiss you when I want to.” You may think you’re too old, too emotionally mature to appreciate American Weekend’s snapshots of young love. And I get it, memories fade. But scars never do, and no one escapes adolescence unscathed. (Otis Hart)


Richard Youngs is a tricky musician to pin down, equally comfortable when dabbling in delicate folk, savage rock or experimental avant-garde explorations. On Amaranthine, he goes for the latter, whilst still maintaining his unique talent for emotionally resonant adventure. Building the four tracks of the album around disjointed percussion and, crucially, his singular voice, Youngs creates dense tapestries where his pathos-filled moans, whispers and laments are surrounded by swirls of ragged guitar, clattering drums and insistent loops. Following on 2011’s magnificent folk masterpiece Amplifying Host, Amaranthine emphatically demonstrates that Youngs is one of the U.K.’s most enduring artists. (Joseph Burnett)

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