Frontier Psychiatrist

The Albums We Missed: Winter 2012

Posted on: March 30, 2012


This year, Frontier Psychiatrist has expanded both its staff and its coverage considerably (as evidenced by our recent SXSW overload), allowing us to bring you more thoughts on our favorite records, concerts, books and films than ever before.  Nonetheless, it seems as if every week a new album is released that mesmerizes us but that we fail to share with you.  We’ve addressed this problem to some degree through the use of our Tumblr, but we still fall just a bit short. And so, as we did last year, we will be bringing you periodic round-ups of the best Albums We Missed throughout 2012.  This installment is heavy on the folk with a bit of punk and 80s pop mixed in.  We hope you find something you’ll enjoy. 

Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

Co-editor Keith Meatto and I have spoken at length about the difficulties in addressing race, gender, and sexuality in music criticism.  And, while we feel we’ve negotiated at least a reasonable solution on the first two, the last continues to present problems.  These problems were likely what prevented me from reviewing one of my favorite records of the year thus far, Mike Hadreas’s outstanding sophomore LP Put Your Back N 2 It.  One could argue that the record has more to do with the processing of trauma than with homosexuality per se, but the struggles of young gay men run throughout the record, and, at a loss for how to discuss these in a meaningful way that was neither trite nor patronizing, I found myself paralyzed.  Perhaps one day I will resolve this issue, but in the meantime I will just enjoy the damaged beauty that runs throughout this remarkable record.   The elegance of pain and loss can be a hard sell, and this record is likely to leave you with a tear in your eye, but you are likely to walk away feeling both moved and rewarded.

Mirel Wagner – Mirel Wagner

Nick Drake’s 1972 record Pink Moon is the greatest folk album ever produced, and I will not hear arguments to the contrary.  The intimacy evident on that great record is like nothing produced before or since, and I for one have yet to come across its equal.  Far be it from me to suggest that Mirel Wagner’s self-titled debut reaches these heights, but it is certainly the closest thing I can remember hearing.  While the prospect of a hearing a 23-year-old Finnish-Ethopian woman singing songs about death may not seem particularly attractive, I can assure you that any fan of quiet and introspection in music will be thankful that he discovered this record.  And don’t worry: some fun albums are on the way.

Mirel Wagner – “No Death”

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

Here’s one.  There’s nothing particularly new or innovative in Brooklyn duo Tanlines’ approach to dance pop; their emphasis on 80s FM sounds and strains of world music have been running through the indie world for the last five years at least.  In the execution, however, there have been few bands that have succeeded on this level.  Opening with twin gems “Brothers” and “All Of Me,” Mixed Emotions runs through a sugary set of grooves that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile, something you’ll need after the depressing shit I made you listen to earlier.

Tanlines – “All Of Me”

The Men – Open Your Heart

After the admittedly excellent 2011 debut Leave Home, it is stunning to think how much progress these Brooklyn punks have made in a mere 8 months.  While their debut ran through a number of punk styles that might not be distinguishable to the casual fan, Open Your Heart displays a stunning amount of breadth, running from the bands typical hardcore to Pavement-inspired indie rock and even a tinge of country here and there.  It is the type of ambitious punk record of which this site is particularly fond, and we are likely to have much more to say about it as the year goes on.  Oh yeah, and they put on a pretty kick-ass show too.

SoKo – I Thought I Was An Alien

We in America are often guilty of failing to recognize that other nations have popular cultures as well.  Example #1: Soko, a French actress and chanteuse who has been sampled by Cee-Lo, opened for M.I.A., and been nominated for a César Award, yet whom I’m guessing you’ve never heard of.  I certainly hadn’t heard of her until the recent release of her excellent debut LP I Thought I Was An Alien, a collection of sparse, acoustic-guitar-driven tracks that traverse the full emotional spectrum on the back of the artist’s mesmerizing voice.  Vive La France indeed.

Julia Holter – Ekstasis

As you can see from this article and others we’ve written this year, 2012 has been a tremendous year for women in music.  I told co-editor Keith Meatto earlier this week that my entire year-end top 10 might consist of albums by women, and it is very possible that Ekstasis will stand alone at the top.  No one loves pop music more than me, but referring to Holter as a pop musician seems an indignity: she is a composer in the most classical of senses.  Powerfully emotive yet undeniably cerebral, Ekstasis is beautiful without being trivial, thought-provoking without being tedious.  In short, it is great, and thanks to the new era of music distribution, it has a chance to be viewed as more than just a counterculture curio: it has a chance to actually be heard.  Here’s hoping you’ll take a listen.

L.V. Lopez is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist


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Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.