Let's see: harvests are deteriorating, polar icecaps are melting, eternal global war is a way of life, and people seem to think that Japandroids are the future of rock. That's right, all signs of imminent societal collapse. Here's a tour through the accelerating descent through song into madness that was 2012.
PUSSY RIOT, "Панк-молебен :Богородица, Путина прогони" :: Forget recordings and tours — the most potent moment of pure rock in 2012 was a blurry YouTube clip of a protest poem performed in a Russian Orthodox church. The Riot crew did more than just get the Grey Lady to print the word "pussy" — they mainstreamed fist-in-the-air revolution and displayed a going-to-prison-for-your-ideals fearlessness.
DEATH GRIPS, "Bass Rattle Stars Out the Sky" :: Whether you think they self-destructed or hit their stride, there's no dispute that Death Grips were the most fascinating musical unit of the year. Leaking their own album, getting themselves dropped by their label, and, oh right, filling two whole albums with righteous anger and pounding-yet-vaguely-new-wave-ish tunesmithery — DG definitely #DGAF.
LANA DEL REY, "Ride" :: "Video Games" introduced LDR as a vulnerable ingénue, ready to wilt at the bright lights and ensuing criticism. But her powerhouse Born To Die (Interscope) showed a formidable artiste with a vision of 21st-century pop stardom to match the hype.
NICKI MINAJ, "Pound The Alarm" :: "Bottle, sip, bottle, guzzle, I'm a bad bitch, no muzzle": in 2012, Minaj took her guest-rap bona fides and parlayed them into chart gold via a mix of strange-qua-strange and adrenalized '90s-rave. "Pound the Alarm" and megasmash "Starships" proved that Minaj has the pop goods to effectively peddle her weirdness to the masses.GRIMES, "Genesis":: In this age of austerity, Claire Boucher may be the future of bands: one woman, some samplers and synths, and an impeccable ear for both the weird and the catchy. Visions (Arbutus) is the sound of tomorrow's sci-fi pop/R&B today, put together low-budget with style and heart to spare.
FRANK OCEAN, "Pyramids" :: Bucking the 2012 trend of minimalist R&B is this towering epic that reaches Cecil B. DeMille levels of lavish and bizarre allusions: "Set the cheetahs loose/They have taken Cleopatra," Ocean's patient loverman gently croons, amidst Prince idolatry and a fucking John Mayer guitar solo.
BLACK BREATH, "Endless Corpse" :: Amid a sea of unmemorable sludge emperors, metal was kept interesting in 2012 primarily by bands who displayed a debt to hardcore. A prime example is the bruising punch of Black Breath, who mixed scythe-against-pavement guitar screech and '70s-horror-movie spine-tingle to produce a potent and pissed-off screed.
AMANDA PALMER, "Do It With a Rockstar" :: Palmer's 2012 will be a case study in MBA courses for decades, what with managing to extract a million-and-change from her following sans industry assistance — waving her outside-of-society freak flag, she used those e-bucks to fashion a glob of pure glam theater-rock more potent and vital than anything she has done before.
TAYLOR SWIFT, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" :: It's official: the war between pop and indie is so on. Ostensibly a breakup ode, this juggernaut single is a potent backhand smack at Indieboy Nation and a sassy rejoinder to those who scoff at the recent pop renaissance that will someday come to define the current musical era.
BRUNO MARS, "Locked Out of Heaven" :: Mars and his crew, sneaking into the Temple of Carnality whilst pilfering several key '80s Police hits in the process, hit pop paydirt here from the first snare hit — catchy enough to have eight-year-olds humming "Your sex brings me to paradise," so good that their parents are too busy snapping their fingers to care.