2012 was a whirlwind. Suddenly there are so many truly creative and forward-thinking bands in the Bay Area that it’s almost impossible to keep up. Cohesive, considered scenes have sprung up, representing almost any genre you can think of—but somehow the landscape feels supportive across the spectrum. From the unsparing darkwave of Chasms to the vibrant no-rave arpeggiations of Uncanny Valley, the gorgeous sample-based dreamscapes of Elephant & Castle to the casual brilliance of rappers like Antwon and producers like Friendzone, the Bay Area is exploding with new perspectives and ideas. Do I even need to mention the gains made by the many excellent dance and experimental producers in the Bay (Holly Herndon, Avalon Emerson, Pod Blotz, Believe, Group Rhoda, J&E, Yalls, Giraffage, et al. to infinity)? Naturally, there's no shortage of incredible psych rock (see Lumerians, Moon Duo, Sleepy Sun). Wax Idols exist. And the Soft Moon just released another brilliant LP. We are living in a time of great musical abundance.
However, for me, this year was all about the project of one Russell Butler, aka Black Jeans. My introduction to Black Jeans was at an intimate, intense performance at the upstairs of Public Works. Butler, who was born and raised in Bermuda, is a captivating solo performer. His commanding baritone echoes out over endless waves of sequenced analog synthesizers and drum machines, programmed so as to impart an almost compulsory feel: you must dance. And dance you will. Over the half-dozen times I’ve seen Butler play this year, his live show has transformed into a sort of ominous, danceable communion, a catharsis rooted in motion and powerful, repetitive rhythms. Strains of acid techno and house have started to show into the new Black Jeans material, and they are welcome. But the uncompromising darkness and intensity of Butler's songs remains. The cassette Butler released on the Oakland label Tundra Dubs label has been sold out for a while now. Lucky for us, the debut Black Jeans LP is set to appear on AMDISCS sometime in 2013-- definitely one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
Dylan Travis leads Some Ember.Tags: Best of 2012, Black Jeans