Tag Archives: Angel Haze

AiA’s Man/Woman/Band/Singer/Guitarist/Bassist/Drummer/MC of 2012


Yes, it’s another end of year list, but instead of doing my top albums I wanted to take a different tack and give credit to individuals who have particularly shone rather than the works they have made. Consider this the inaugural AiA Awards, so without further ado, allow me to present the winners.

Man of 2012 – Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus

Steven Ellison aka Flying LotusSuper-producer Flying Lotus is the first winner of AiA’s man of the year. It was started by his incredible album ‘Until The Quiet Comes’ which merges Jazz and Electronica beautifully, and weaving in guest spots from Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu into a fluid album that visits so many musical areas while still being one coherent journey through his mind. But what separated Ellison from any other person making brillaint albums, is that this great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane also had a secret identity, as the elusive rapper Captain Murphy. Murphy became quite a talked about figure despite (or because of) his anonymity after the mixtape ‘Duality’ was released, and it’s easy to see why, as the flow is superb and the beats are fantastic. When a live performance revealed Murphy to be Ellison it all made perfect sense, and so this year’s man of the year goes to the man who can make the best electronic album around, and then stun everyone with some seriously good rapping credentials, letting everybody know Ellison is a proper genius.
Honourable mentions: PSY, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd.

Woman of 2012 – Claire Boucher aka Grimes

Claire Boucher aka GrimesBoucher earns her place here not only for making the album ‘Visions’ that won her such universal acclaim from journalists, blogs and other musicians alike, but also for the seamless way she has taken an important role in popular culture. Grimes’ music has seemed somewhat ubiquitous this year, and that’s because of the way she bridged the Electronica and Indie music worlds. In doing so she made herself somewhat of an icon. She manages to reverse the ever-so-slightly-annoying trend of modern electronic pop music makers being a shadowy male behind a laptop with a pretty girl doing vocals, which always seemed a little bit sexist, as if women were only the pleasant window-dressing to a clever man’s work. Grimes is a powerful, solo female icon at the top of her genre. She’s also responsible for breaking a number of smaller artists onto a larger stage, particularly Twigs, who seems to be her English counterpart. She only really ‘broke’ this year, but has garnered pretty much universal respect, all the while being truly weird, which is refreshing as we’ve had far too many overly pleasant musicians and it’s time we had some musicians who weren’t afraid to look and sound like nutters. So for her success, her pop culture position and her willingness to embrace weirdness, Claire Boucher is our woman of the year.
Honourable mentions: Angel Haze, Lucy Rose, Sharon Van Etten.

Band of 2012 – Death Grips

Death GripsThis was the easiest pick of any of the categories of these awards. Simply put, Death Grips have redifined whatever they’ve touched. Whether it is the fact that they put out two albums in 2012, the first of which redefined rap music, merging it with Punk, Industrial and Techno to make music that sounds like nothing ever made by anyone, ever, and the second that redefined their own sound, pushing their creations to a darker, more minimal edge without losing any of what made the first special. Then there’s when they proved themselves the last true punk band alive (or pulling off the year’s greatest publicity stunt) by splitting from their label, cancelling their summer tour, and giving away their awesome second album of the year for free on the internet, and posting private emails from their label on facebook. Oh yeah, and there’s the small matter of making the cover art for said second album a penis with the album title written on it. They have awed the music industry and in a time where it was becoming all to easy to moan about bland major label control of music, Death Grips were a slap in the face to 2012.
Honourable mentions: Alt-J, AlunaGeorge, Purity Ring, TNGHT.

Singer of 2012 – Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)

Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)The vocalist for one of 2012’s best new arrivals, Alabama Shakes, was probably the main draw for this band. Howard managed to bring all the class and cool of soul and combine it with a passion and energy that perfectly fitted the retro rock’n’roll that the outfit produced. Comparisons to Janis Joplin made perfect sense as Howard’s power and intensity were clear to anyone who encountered the band.
Honourable mentions: Jehn Beth (Savages), Frank Ocean, Tom Williams, Mark Lanegan.

Guitarist of 2012 – Jack White

Jack White2012 was another year in which Jack White proved why he’s such an icon of modern music. His album ‘Blunderbuss’ stole from any and all styles of music available, led by himself and his iconic guitar playing. There are very few people who can pull of riffs like Jack White can, whether  it’s in the crackle of songs like ‘Sixteen Saltines’ or his cover of ‘I’m Shaking’. But what truly marks White out from the crowd of brilliant guitarists, even more than his ridiculous multi-faceted role as head of a label, collaberator etc. is his restraint. White never takes his guitar where it doesn’t help the song he’s crafting, he wasn’t afraid to have piano lead many of his songs from ‘Blunderbuss’ to ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’, proving that one of best modern musicians around also has one of the smallest egos in music (and also one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen in the video below).
Honourable Mentions: Douglas Castle (Peace), Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden).

Bassist of 2012 – Ayse Hassan (Savages)

Ayse Hassan (Savages)If you’re gonna form a post-punk band then there’s one member of your band that has to be the rock you bass yourselves on (see what I did there). Ayse Hassan provided this for one of the many ‘return of guitar music’ acts to arise in 2012. Hassan’s bass work is as solid as anything you’re gonna hear this year, its pounding drive absolutely core to what makes Savages stand out from the crowd. All the tension, aggression and menace is right there in the bass line. The obvious reference point here is Joy Division, but comparisons to The Cure work equally well. Songs like ‘Flying To Berlin’ and ‘City’s Full’ (the one in the clip below) are pretty much powered by basslines, and even their best track ‘Husbands’ hinges on Hassan holding its chaos and calm together. And last of all, she has the most awesome name of anyone on this list.
Honourable mentions: Chris Bierden (Poliça), Lesley Hann(Friends), Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden).

Drummer of 2012 – Thom Green (Alt-J)

Alt-J's Thom GreenThis was the second easiest choice to make after Death Grips for band of year. Simply put no one else’s drumming skills and style have caused as much of a stir as Green’s stickwork. He managed to find a place for acoustic drumming in areas where it seemed electronic and programmed kits were king, and his metronomic and cymbal-less sound has become iconic, and it won’t be long before generations of Alt-J influenced drummers start forming bands and getting airplay, all mimicking Green’s sound. Tracks like ‘Something Good’ and ‘Dissolve Me’ use complex but natural patterns to capture your ears and drag you deep into the song. With An Awesome Wave, Green put himself at the forefront of modern drumming, best in 2012, no contest.
Honourable mentions:Fay Milton (Savages), Drew Christopherson & Ben Ivascu (Poliça).

MC/Rapper of 2012 – Angel Haze

Angel HazeHaze wins rapper of 2012 because every blogger and music journo absolutely shat themselves over her this year. And it’s ver easy to see why. Haze is absurdly talented, her 2012 mixtape RESERVATION took her to the top of the game pretty much instantly with tracks ‘New York’ and ‘Werkin Girls’ scoring radio plays and viral successes. Female rappers have a tendency to be categorised and patronised, overlooked when it comes to best rapper lists, but Haze’s sheer force and will stunned many instantly, her absurdly audacious claim to ‘run New York’ sounded like a true threat to any established rapper. Haze is also marked out with a horrific past story (documented in her version of ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’) and combines it with a ferocious intelligence, apparently only being persuaded into moving from poetry to rap by a friend. Regardless of any of that though, Haze wins 2012 out of sheer skill, testament to the admirable nature of the Hip-Hop industry that all it takes to make it is ability, none of the bullshit that infests the alt/indie scene.
Honourable mentions: Kendrick Lamar, El-P, Killer Mike.

So there we have it, the top pretty much everything for 2012 (I excluded producer because it’s clear who would’ve won it). I’m a bit sad there was no place for Purity Ring or Poliça but that’s the point of these things I guess. Hope you enjoyed reading it and feel free to disagree violently in the comments below.

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All The Best Free Music (BTS, Angel Haze, She Makes War, Entrepreneurs, Childish Gambino)


The crazy way the music industry works means that a lot of bands are desperate to get their music out there at any cost. As a result, there’s a huge amount of great free music released every week. This post is a collection of the proper releases that you only need to click a download link, be it a mixtape, and EP or an album. All of these are worth your time and space on your mp3, and all are 100%, no strings, free.

Balance and the Traveling Sounds – Lost Luggage EP

You may remember BTS from the very first review I did on this site, and they’re back with another free EP for you. In the time since ‘Departure EP’, BTS have been honing their skills and they tear out of the block with the raucous ‘Jump To It’, a perfect blend of funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop (SoulHipJaFunk) trumping anything they’ve done on Departure. They keep up the pressure with ‘CREAM/No Diggity’ and ‘Shakedown’, both returning to the smoother sounds that were a highlight of Departure. Next comes ‘You Just Ain’t Right’ which is downright epic, a SoulHipJaFunk-mini-opera, that rises and falls with a crazy plot. ‘Make Your move’ turns in a more hip-hop direction, reminiscent of early OutKast, before ‘California Love (BTS Mix)’ closes things up bringing the EP back to the fusion that makes ‘Jump To It’ so great.Balance and the Travelling Sounds - Lost Luggage EP

The EP is classic BTS, showing a group of insanely talented musicians playing at the top of the game, but more importantly, bringing all these talents together to create focused funky hits that cross genres as easily as any of the greats. Click on the album art above to go to the bandcamp page where the EP can be downloaded. For free. There’s no excuse not to get this.

BONUS – BTS Beatsman EBO has put out a free album of his beats, sick, old-school sounding instrumentals. The perfect backing music, or ideal for chilling, you can get it again, FOR FREE, by clicking here.

Angel Haze – RESERVATION (mixtape)

I don’t normally put much up about rappers’ mixtapes, but this needs spreading. This is N.Y. rapper Angel Haze’s debut mixtape and it puts her straight into the best I’ve heard this year. This is a whole other league to the big female rappers like Nicki Minaj or even Azealia Banks, mainly cos this mixtape just oozes pure class. Haze offers a bleak look at her influences: “I didn’t really have many. I’ve only been inspired by destruction, sadness, & experiencing what it is to suffer. Honestly the strongest influences in my life & my work have always been whomever it is that I love.” If she isn’t absolutely massive this time next year, then the world is just wrong. Many of the songs on RESERVATION are highlights, particularly the poetic second track ‘Wicked Moon’, but ‘New York’ is likely to be the most succesful. Not only because it’s a killer flow over one of Gil-Scott Heron’s coolest songs (‘N.Y. Is Killing Me’), but also hearing her reference Nas and Lil’ Kim hints at the league she could enter if she keeps up work of this quality.

The mixtape is free from Haze’s website here. Any fan of any hip-hop at all has to get this.

She Makes War – Little Battles

She Makes War made waves in 2010 when she released Disarm, her debut album. Now she’s back with its follow up, Little Battles, and it’s no less impressive. SMW, real name Laura Kidd, has even been kind enough to offer fans the chance to pay anything they want for the digital release, which means you can get a whole album’s worth of grungey doom-pop for absolutely nothing. Kidd’s sound is a merger of heavy guitar rock with lilting melodies, layered vocals and drifting ukelele, securing a very unique style of her own. The only downside is that with the free download there is a live recording of track ‘Minefields’ which is so awesomely done, that it’s a shame the recorded song can’t match its power. It might just be me relishing the use of real drums over electronic ones though.

Little Battles can be bought for nothing from the She Makes War bandcamp page, where you can also reward Laura for her work by buying a physical copy or a kaboodle of extra bonus items. Also you can follow the links on their to get the cracking debut Disarm for free as well, and it’s an equally good record as this latest one.

Entrepreneurs – The Florida Root Canal

Entrepreneurs is the solo project of Adam M. Crisp, and if you’re likely to have heard of him it’s as producer of FOE’s fantastic debut album Bad Dream Hotline. While the moniker Entrepreneurs has put out some cracking edgey music, with guest spots of artists from Ghostpoet to the aforementioned FOE. However what features here is a beat tape called, bizzarely, The Florida Root Canal. What it is, is an Avalanches-esque race through tonnes of samples.

It can be downloaded directly from this word.

Childish Gambino – ROYALTY (mixtape)

Childish Gambino is another artists that I reviewed when I first started blogging, and it’ll bring delight to many to know that before this season of community started filming he was able to make a mixtape. Gambino is as sick and hilarious as always and there are some cracking guest appearances, the pinnacle of which is none other than Tina Fey on the final track.

It can be downloaded from any site, but here’s a link

Tina Fey raps from 4:99. This is not a joke. (also this song features my new favourite line: ‘we in this bitch like we fucking a dog or some shit’)

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