2012 Top Ten List Spotlight: Darek Mazzone

For the rest of the year, we’ll be spotlighting our KEXP DJs Top Albums of 2012, leading up to our 2012 Top Album Countdown, as voted on by our listeners! Voting ends on Friday, December 21st, so let us know your favorites now, and tune in on Friday, December 28th to hear if your picks made the list!

Baba Maraire at KEXP, 03/27/12

Baba Maraire at KEXP, 03/27/12 // photo credit: Dave Lichterman (more photos)

Darek’s 2012 Top Ten Albums

First off, I really don’t like number porn. I get sucked into it, too, but I don’t like contributing to it. Top 10 of this, the Ultimate Top 3 of that, is usually disappointing since it tries to quantify too much. Having vented on that, here is my Top 10 for 2012.

First, a bit of reflection:

2012 is the year when we are supposed to turn the calendar around, or the apocalypse is coming, I’m not sure exactly what the cataclysm is about, but it means that this year might be the last year for music, so it’s a heavy list to try to make.

Focusing on International music is daunting since it’s the entire freaking planet and its musicians, and the fact that at KEXP we get to play what we want and like, that means it’s also compilations of amazing tracks from the past to phenomenal tracks just made this week. It’s a broad field and trying to narrow that down to 10 or even less is kind of nuts, but here you go.

2012 was a huge year for DISCOVERY.

Great Labels such as Soundway, Analog Africa, Sublime Frequencies and many more helped us discover killer music through some wonderfully edited (curated) compilations. These focused on Funk, Disco, Psychedelic, Rock or Rawk. These records were a great way for people to discover grooves that resonated with their usual tastes.

New artists came to the forefront with some of the best releases I’ve heard in a while and there was a huge noise from Korea with PSY‘s “Gangnam Style,” which became the number one song of the year worldwide. Last year, KPop was just a buzz, now it’s a global force. Lots of people will see if there is anything else coming from PSY. Is it just a one-hit wonder that will be replayed in 10 years in a 2012 rundown of “where are they now,” or is it the first crack at our Blade Runner-like Future of Sino-American-Brazilian Global Culture?

Global Artists tend to incubate in an environment where there isn’t much pressure for them to gigantically succeed. They sell a few records and tour where they can. They produce and write what they want and focus on finding ways to really express themselves, honestly. When they get big that equation can change quickly.

I’ve been a fan of the Somali rapper K’naan since he broke 4 years ago. His songs of the Somali experience and what it meant to him as an artist were refreshing and some of the best hip hop of its time. He got big. His record in 2012 was a disaster of commercial hiphop bullshit and had none of the authenticity and international honesty of his previous work. I wrote him off as another Global artist who got sucked into the machine and was forced to produce music for WalMart. His piece in the New York Times recently presented an amazing telling of what that process was like for an artist that I found riveting. It finishes with this quote “I may never find my old walk again, but I hope someday to see beauty in the graceless limp back toward it.

This has echoed for me since it’s a story of many Global artists who succumbed to the fruits of Commercial success and lost their artists soul in the process. 2012 has been a great year for music, one of the best I’ve ever heard, there are more channels to hear music now than ever before which means its noisier than ever. To really be heard you need to be authentic as well as good.

Here is my Top 10:

rank artist album label
10 Ba Cissoko Nimissa Cristal
9 Maga Bo Quilombo Do Futuro Post World Industries
8 Baba Maraire Wona Baba Maraire Maraire Enterprises
7 Arnoldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra, Toumani Diabate, Curva Da Cintura Mais Um Discos
6 Amadou and Mariam Folila Nonesuch
5 Bombino Agadez Cumbancha
4 Fatoumata Diawara Fatou World Circuit
3 Tim Maia Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia Luaka Bop
2 Tinariwen Tassili V2
1 PSY 6 part 1 YG Entertainment

Darek Mazzone is the host of Wo’ Pop, on the air Tuesday nights from 6-9PM.

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