In 2012, Thanksgiving is more necessary than ever. With respect to the historical significance of the holiday, it’s become a lot more than a celebration of tradition. It’s a day when we’re offered the chance to step back, look at the big picture, and appreciate the value of so many of the things we take for granted on a day to day basis. Considering how quickly things move now, this is a much-needed opportunity to take a time-out.
We’ve got 364 other days to complain about all the annoying shit in life, so today we give thanks. Of course friends, family, and health come first, but we decided to be extra thankful this year and take a look at some trends in music that have us feeling appreciative this year.
Here are the 2012 music trends we’re thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.
Hit “next” or click the picture to read on…
The goth revival
Darkness in popular music has always been present, but in the past year it has been embraced as much as ever before, and genres like pop, generally associated with a more bright, lighthearted approach, have taken a dive into a new, more interesting world. Some of the best, and most critically acclaimed pop albums of the year (Grimes’ Visions, Purity Ring’s Shrines, Crystal Castles’ III) have mastered the art of music more fit for a cemetery than a frat party. This is much appreciated, and we’re thankful that people are more accepting of a less sugary approach to catchy music.
Purity Ring – “Lofticries”
Grimes – “Genesis”
Crystal Castles – “Affection”
Every year, someone is bound to release an album that exceeds expectations for the form, proving more than just a random collection of songs sequenced in no particular order. 2012 has, so far, proven a particularly great year for the ambitious album. Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is perhaps the best example.
Instead of a series of singles, it presents a cohesive, adventurous full-length statement that felt necessary—not necessary to the year 2012, per se, but necessary as a complete, well-considered piece. For a lot of people, the consumption of music has been reduced to an ongoing quest for singles and fractions of a whole. In some ways, it might just be the natural progression that we should all learn to live with. But when a fully realized project comes out and hits us the way good kid, m.A.A.d. city has, we’re reminded that there is an art to an album that could never be captured with a hit single, no matter how good.
Openness in hip-hop
In a way, hip-hop is such a young genre that it’s more open than most. There is no genre as straightforwardly speaking, unfiltered, and unrestrained as hip-hop, and that arguably makes it the most honest form of music out.
Still, in other ways—especially in the mainstream—hip-hop has been close-minded, immature, and straight up fake. It’s most definitely in its adolescence. But with a wave of newcomers there has been a push to be more accepting and be more open to ideas outside of the norm. Guys like A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, and Kendrick Lamar have proven that you can be a popular artist with major appeal and still defy the stereotypes of what a rapper should say, how a rapper should look, or what kind of direction the music needs to take.
When you step back and look at the big picture, hip-hop still has a long way to go, but it’s clearly moving in all kinds of new directions, and watching it grow is more exciting than ever.
Experimentation in production
While blending genres is nothing new, the possibilities for exciting, unpredictable stylistic melting pots are greater than ever. It’s not uncommon to see elements of radio-ready pop, anthemic EDM, southern hip-hop, and heaping helpings of vocal experimentation fused together into otherworldly and often quite catchy configurations.
Beat makers like Clams Casino, AraabMuzik, Beautiful Lou, and Supreme Cuts mine unusual territory for sampled gold, prizing atmosphere and feeling over needlessly pristine mixes. The Dirty Projectors and Alt-J take sounds and styles we’re familiar with and use studio tricks and odd instrumentation to push expected formulas to new places. And even in more mainstream-leaning pop, outsider elements are starting to creep in and add some much-needed diversity.
To be sure, there’s still plenty of rote wub-wub bass and one note, wall-of-sound rock, rap, and pop production to be found out there, but we live in a golden age for risk takers and in 2012 a lot of producers and artists answered the call.
The R&B Renaissance
You can call the new wave PBR&B if you want, but there’s no denying that R&B started tasting stale to much of the world, and that’s all started to change. Artists like Miguel, How To Dress Well, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd have taken clear, classical influences like Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson (and occasionally less celebrated sources, as evidenced by HTDW’s Live Yourself mix) and crafted deeply personal, eclectic, and refreshingly left-field music that is, on the whole, a bit more serious than the pop-leaning dancefloor or cliché bedroom sounds that have been pumped out over the past years. Even on the most accessible pieces, like Miguel’s “Adorn” or Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” there’s an artistic new feel to it that hasn’t been present in the past decade.
Increasing ease of access to music
Spotify, RDIO, Pandora Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Hypetrak, YouTube, and any number of the seemingly endless sea of music blogs (including a little corner of the Internet known as P&P) has made the access to music less complicated than ever before.
If you’re a music fan in 2012, you shouldn’t be allowed to complain about not being able to find good music, especially when services will suggest songs for you and your friends are probably over-sharing their Spotify playlists and Shazaam tags as we speak. You can stream music on your phone, on your computer, in your car, from your television—shit, they’ll probably have toilets and refrigerators equipped with music streaming capabilities soon. Music is imminently accessible, and although we’re still figuring the whole thing out, we’re getting there.
The continued success and innovation of independent artists
In 2012, a lot of people started talking about major labels becoming obsolete. This isn’t even close to true, as evidenced by the charts, the distribution of money, and the infiltration of the mainstream audience. But the floodgates are opening up. In 2012, it became easier than ever for independent artists to be hear on a scale never before possible, and in a few cases, independent artists surpassed all expectations and dominated the charts without the backing of one of the few major players in the game.
The game is different in 2012, but artists are finally learn how to play it. Instead of jumping into a contract, a lot of artists are taking the time to build things from the ground up, shaping themselves as artists and building fans the right way instead of getting molded and packaged by a label. There’s still plenty of room for improvement on an industry trying to adapt, but we’re thankful that the pathways to independent success are being paved.
The evolution of music blogs
When Pigeons & Planes was starting to get off the ground, things were very different. That old format of “here’s a free song, and another, and another, and another” is fading away. Music blogs have gone from a source for jacking illegal MP3s to a crowd of voices that speak to the culture surrounding an artform that we care very much for.
The importance of music as a product is dwindling. With streaming becoming the way of the future, “owning” music isn’t the point anymore, and if that’s not already the case for you personally, it will be shortly. With that in mind, the role of the music blog is changing. In 2012, many blogs realized this, and the attempt to adapt, create more original content, and reevaluate their purpose has led to great things.
The realization that oversharing isn’t the only way to get noticed
The whole mystery thing might be getting played out, but it’s been cool to see that in an age of information overload, artists are realizing the best way to stand out is by not going along with it. By not sharing every little thing, a lot of acts have become a lot more intriguing. I don’t want to know what my favorite artist eats for lunch every day. I don’t want to know what every song is about or who my favorite artist is with in the studio all the time. Sometimes its good to be surprised and to be able to use your own imagination.
For music enthusiasts, there can be a tendency to nerd out about our favorite things. But when you dissect art too much, it starts to lose its meaning. We start to forget why we like music in the first place, and its usually a very human, emotional reaction that you can’t explain with any amount of information or critical evaluation. It can be fun to delve into all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens during the making of music, but it’s important to remember what draws us to certain song or artist, and it almost never requires us to know all the details.
Resistance to hype
In the past decade, the Internet has played a powerful role in perpetuating unavoidable hype. There are countless voices on the web whose only role is to pick out things of interest, jumble them up into a ball of chum, and drop them into a feeding frenzy of buzz.
In 2012, and interesting thing started becoming the norm: Whenever a new buzz act appeared, instead of the Internet swallowing it up in one big gulp, a lot of people took a taste and spit it back up. For every buzz band or hype act, there were at least a few very strong voices that said, “Fuck this. This sucks. Here’s why.” Some called it hate, but we like to think of it as balance. Without those voices speaking up against the popular opinion of quite often manufactured hype, we’d all be evolving into a bunch of lemmings. 2012 made it clearer than ever that we’re not willing to do that.