WLFY Best Of 2012

To kick off WLFY's 2012 list week, we begin with our favorites in music outside of albums, individual tracks, and vinyl (those lists are coming soon).  As with all the lists this week, we love to hear your favorites, so leave a comment or let us know on twitter/facebook.

Small Plates Records

As a vinyl fan who has always dreamed of starting my own wax based label, I will always admire people who actually have the guts to go through with it.  That's exactly what the guys at Small Plates Records did a year or so ago and have been pushing out solid release after release ever since.  Be it a band I already knew or a surprise gem, the one thing I count on is that every Small Plates release will have a spectacular design, immaculate vinyl packaging/pressing, and some of the best sounds out there.

Hype Hotel @ SXSW 2012

The Hype Machine presented SXSW "Hype Hotel" with Taco Bell as a sponsor was ripe for me to hate everything about it.  I scoffed at the large lines, the corporate sponsor, and the fact that Hype Machine stole two of my favorite showcase from previous SXSW festivals (I Guess I'm Floating's "Floating Fest" and the Aquarium Drunkard showcase) and shoved them into a huge warehouse.  

Almost every gripe would turn into the "Hype Hotel" slapping me in the face with one of the best times I've had in 2012.  The long line that looked like a two hour wait was lightening fast (maybe waited for 10 minutes tops after doors were open), the corporate Taco Bell sponsor played out more as of a joke...take a free taco if you want it...if not, turn the other way (the smell couldn't be avoided), and even though my favorite showcases we're under one roof...they still had the best showcases at SXSW 2012.  Being able to see Guards, Youth Lagoon, Lee Fields, Jonquil, Jimmy Cliff, Father John Misty, and so many more in one space with free Miller High Life created a festival inside a festival.  I had to remind myself to get out of the Hype Hotel and check out bands I've never seen before...embrace the explorative side of SXSW, but whenever I wanted a safe bet, I went back to the "Hype Hotel" and set after set experienced the best music SXSW 2012 had to offer.

Forecastle Festival

About a month after Forecastle X (a Louisville, KY music festival), my twitter feed was filled with an update that Lollapalooza had evacuated the entire festival, canceled acts, and complaint after complaint rolled in due to severe weather.  This reminded me how perfectly coordinated Forecaste X was, specifically when I remembered that the last day of the festival also encountered severe weather, but the staff made every right decision and shifted the schedule perfectly so every single act booked played their sets.  

This is just one small example of the overall feel of Forecastle X, which I would summarize in one word: smooth.  Not a single act went on late, no complications, and easy accessibility to any show/concession/etc (even though there was a huge crowd).  The festival boasted something for everyone from small indie acts, an entire stage for local bands, headliners, electronica, hip-hop, country, older classic names, all that lead to a great balance between discovering something new and being able to celebrate what you already love.

Pitchfork Classic / Cover Story

Pitchfork will continue to be the most frustrating daily music read online because they have all the resources, audience, and leverage to do whatever they want in the world of alternative music.  Often times they don't take this responsibility seriously and pump out childish reports of "non-news", fashion/video game/comedy spin offs, and reviews that sometimes read as selfish nods to themselves rather then being informative or expressing a clear position on the album.

With that said, the only reason why this is frustrating (hundreds of music websites do what I listed above) is because when Pitchfork is great, they're the best.  In 2012, Pitchfork rolled out two pieces of content that easily landed in my top ten music related items.

First, Pitchfork.TV created the marvelous "Pitchfork Classic," a lengthy documentary series that acts as the visual sibling to the 33 1/3 book series.  The first of the section, an exploration of The Flaming Lips' "The Soft Bulletin" is not only one of the best things Pitchfork has ever done, but it's on my short list of the best music documentaries ever made.  For me, the sign of a great music documentary is when it doesn't just satisfy your fan/geek love for the album/band being featured, rather it changes how you think about and experince the record you already know backwards and forward.  Pitchfork Classic did just that and a more impressive feat in visual documentation I can't think of complimenting.  

Secondly, Pitchfork gave every music website and blog competing with them a big middle finger when they rolled out these stunning HTML 5, interactive interviews/band feature cover stories.  Every once in a while you see the future of something for the first time and with Pitchfork's new features, those who lament the death of the music magazine can breath...there is a new way.  The ability to click on a corresponding song, scroll through the article like turning a page, and the crisp photos constantly morphing...a new Internet experience was born for music fans.  Throw in the fact that these cover stories are informative, interesting, and labored large pieces of music journalism, there is nothing not to love about the direction Pitchfork is moving in with this new section.

The Pass Live @ Z Bar Encore

This selection is truly one of those "you had to be there" moments.  I've often said that so and so band or artist is going to blow the roof off of so and so venue.  As The Pass hit the midpoint of an improvised encore instrumental and the crowd got louder and louder, it felt like the roof could get sucked up into the sky at any moment.  One of the reasons why I'm such an advocate for Louisville, KY's electro/rock/pop/mainstream/indie/etc band The Pass is because they blur almost every line that music fans love to use to box in a band.  The Pass are incredibly talented musicians who can play a  poppy dance tune, a Cure sounding rock track, or launch into a free form jam like they did to get on this list.

I tracked down a video from this encore moment, courtesy of Backseat Sandbar and The Pass who uploaded it after asking around.  It's on camera sound, so you have to put your imagination to work, but for me it was the clear cut best live show moment of my 2012.

Aux. Out.

Like my gripes with Pitchfork (see # 7), Consequence Of Sound and I have our share of disagreements when it comes to what I believe is the responsibility of large readership alternative music website.  Once again, with that said, COS is home to the best section of music journalism on the Internet. I went through Aux. Out. to pull out two or three pieces to highlight, but I ended up copying the links to over fifteen pieces of writing.  In a few days we will be listing our ten favorite music writes of 2012. Three of ten listed write for Aux. Out.  Aux. Out is the new powerhouse of long form music writing and hopefully they continue to write and write and write all 2013.

Room 205: Ty Segall / White Fence 

This will be short and sweet.

Sometimes a band gives a great live video performance.

Sometimes a video company/director perfectly captures a live band performance.

Rarely do you get both.

This is the best of both elements smashing together:


Dan Deacon USA: I-IV

I don't mean this as a slight to the first half of Dan Deacon's album "America", but if USA: I-IV was released as a stand alone EP, it would have been one of the best EPs ever released.  This movement or suite of four songs features all the bombastic qualities I've always loved about Dan Deacon's music, but there is an emotion, focus, and a binding strength between each of the sound changes that elevates these tracks to Deacon's best and most important work to date.  Usually Deacon's work is playful or infectious, but with USA I-VI there is an underlining beauty that elevates this past being just another collection of Deacon tracks and makes these four songs one of the most impressive stretches of music on an album in a long time.

Gold Robot Records

My favorite record label in 2012.  Almost every artist that was released in 2012 under Gold Robot Records was an unknown to me and then became a favorite after a few spins.  Incredibly strong releases from Roman Ruins, Monster Rally, Seamonster, and a 7" from Conveyor marks Gold Robot Records as one of the best tastemakers out there today.  In addition to the amazing finds, every pressing is the most pristine piece of wax candy you've ever held in your hands.  Single gatefolds, colored/clear vinyl, and crisp packaging made receiving each vinyl purchase a treat.

Labels like Gold Robot Records are extremely rare and they are working hard to keep the highest level of quality going. They need support from the individual level and I hope some of you fall in love with Gold Robot Records like I did in 2012.  With each release being extremely limited, now is the time to go over and snatch up some of their releases before they go out of print (The Roman Ruins and Seamonster are a must).

Hopscotch Music Festival

My experience with Hopscotch Festival 2012 started with being denied a press pass.  Music bloggers are touchy about press passes because for many of us it's the only monetary perk of running a non-profit music blog.  I was pissed, but decided to make the trek down to Raleigh, NC and weasel my way into different shows because 1.) I was angry 2.) the lineup was spectacular.  After a beautiful drive from KY to NC, my anger had diminished, I got a festival wristband, and decided to give this festival that had scorn me a fair shake.  The three days I spent at Hopscotch were not only my favorite music related days of 2012, but the best I've had in years.  

What made Hopscotch Festival 2012 so special?  First, the lineup was spectacular.  There was something for everyone with a perfect range between known headliners and undiscovered gems.  Some of the highlights were Lambchop, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Liars, Deerhoof, The Roots, Yo La Tengo, Thee Oh Sees, Dan Deacon, Laurel Halo, Nerves Junior, Spider Bags, and that's considering I missed Killer Mike, Sun O))), Matthew E. White, and many more assumed amazing acts.  The moment I fell in love with Hopscotch Festival was during The Mountain Goats half metal covers/half rarities performance in a stunning opera house.

While many festivals boats great lineups, the performances at Hopscotch felt like special one off events.  At SXSW and CMJ it seems like bands are just going through the motions and playing the current show quickly to pack up and move on to the next show. At Hopscotch, there was an ease and feeling that this perfect marriage between performance and wonderful venue (every venue at Hopscotch was stunning) which resulted in a refresher course on why I fell in love with music in the first place.  If Hopscotch continues to offer the weekend of music they did in 2012, I will never miss it again and I've been telling everyone who will listen how very special this music festival is.


  1. Really hoping to get out to Hopscotch next year. You've been talking it up big time, Zach. Hope it lives up.

  2. @Dante Hoping to rent out a house for a bunch of music bloggers, do it up right.

  3. Really enjoy these 'non-album/ep/track' Best Of Lists you do. Last years was a favourite of mine too. Wish more people would do them.