The Best of 2012

I figured I’d wrap up 2012 with a series of Top 5 lists to share the different ways I enjoyed music over the course of the last year, probably in part because I just finished re-reading Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity which, like the movie, has lots of Top 5 lists created by Rob, Dick, and Barry. All of this is, of course, purely subjective… I don’t pretend to have been exposed to a broad array of music, so I’m sure there’s some amazing stuff out there that not only does not appear on my lists, but that I’ve never even heard of. But such is life. So with that…. on to the lists!

Top 5 New Releases in 2012

1. Fearless – Legend
2. Live at Gamla Bíó – Agent Fresco
3. Division of Culture & Tourism – Ghostigital
4. K2R – Halleluwah
5. Börn Loka – Skálmöld

I feel like this list might seem a bit pretentious, since all these bands are from Iceland… and I am not. However, with Iceland Airwaves being the biggest week each year on my calendar, and considering how many bands I saw there this year (36), it kind of makes sense. Ironically the only one of these I have on vinyl is K2R, though I do have the limited edition vinyl release of Ghostigital on order. And unintentionally this is a pretty good mix of genres – goth/electronic (Legend), alt (Agent Fresco), industrial (Ghostigital), hip hop (Halleluwah), and hard core metal (Skálmöld).

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands

1. Legend (Iceland)
2. Lama (Finland)
3. Ghostland Observatory (Texas)
4. Skálmöld (Iceland)
5. Shabazz Palaces (Seattle)

Most of these bands, other than maybe Legend, are not new. But they were new to me in 2012 – I’d never heard of them before. I also had the opportunity to see all of them except Lama live over the course of the year, which certainly increased my interest and appreciation in them. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

 1. Miranda – Tappi Tikarrass
2. Rokk Í Reykjavík
3. The Fourth Reich
– Þeyr
4. Seattle Syndrome, Vols. 1-2
5. Mistakes 7″ – Gruppo Sportivo

The top two on this list came from an unexpected source – the flea market in downtown Reykjavik. I figured I was already done with all my vinyl buying when we walked in, but there was a seller with tons of vinyl including these hard to find gems. They weren’t cheap, but both were on my short list of things I wanted to find while I was in Iceland, so I was happy to pay the price. The Fourth Reich was a surprise find at Trash Palace in Stockholm. The Seattle Syndrome records came to me a day apart, and from different sources, and are a great snapshot of the early 1980s Seattle music scene. The Gruppo Sportivo 7″ I ran across in someone’s garage, and it sort of opened my mind to taking a chance on stuff that I wasn’t familiar with.

Top 5 Live Shows

1. Agent Fresco (acoustic) – Nordic House, Reykjavik
2. Legend – Gamli Gaukurinn, Reykjavik
3. Ghostigital – KEX Hostel, Reykjavik
4. Devil Makes Three – Showbox Market, Seattle
5. Ghostland Observatory – Showbox SODO, Seattle

I could have easily gone strictly with shows we saw at Airwaves, but the two Seattle entries were both strong and featured bands I really like a lot. The Agent Fresco show was the best, hands down, as the intimacy of the tiny Nordic House venue and the emotional power of the show was almost overwhelming.

Top 5 Favorite Places to Buy Records

1. Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2. Easy Street Records, Seattle
3. Trash Palace, Stockholm
4. Jive Time, Seattle
5. Amoeba Records, Los Angeles

I found great stuff in all these places in 2012, and hope to shop at four of them again in 2013 (unfortunately I have no plans to go back to Sweden…). They all have great selections and are well organized, and I could spend hours flipping through their inventories.

Top 5 Websites

1. Dust & Grooves – Record collector profiles and photos
2. Vinyl Noize – Blurbs on rare punk and metal vinyl for sale on eBay
3. Discogs – THE place to research artists and records
4. I Love Icelandic Music Blog – No longer getting new posts, but still great
5. Wikipedia – It has it’s limitations, but a good place to get basic info on bands

Top 5 Music Books

1. Stuð vors lands by Dr. Gunni
2. Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
3. Everybody Loves Our Town by Mark Yarm
4. Iggy Pop – Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka
5. How Music Works by David Byrne

All in all it was a great year, musically speaking (and in lots of other ways as well, to be sure). My vinyl library grew considerably (see photo) – I’m not sure how many new discs I added, but in all honesty it has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 or so. I suspect that will slow down a bit in 2013… but then again, we’re hoping to go to Iceland twice next year (fingers crossed), and we’re planning to hit up Tokyo as well… so time will tell.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings!

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