2012: A few of my favourite things

It was the year of the Apocalypse. Nothing to do with the Mayan doomsday. More that so many things in my world came to an end, some for the better but mostly for worse. But then….life goes on. And art saves. These are some of the things from 2012 that made me think, made me dream, made me happy to be alive.

The Music.
For all that I talk about Goth, there is precious little Goth music I get excited about anymore. Well, of the stuff that gets tagged as Goth by its creators anyway. But there is a never-ending supply of new music that is dark and romantic, dangerous and danceable, minimal and macabre. In other words, Goth. They just file it somewhere else in the shops.

One of my favourite new-ish groups is Britain’s The XX, a love child of The Cure and various Northern soul, if said baby had died in childbirth and become a ghost. Their second album Co-Exist has been on repeat for me for months, a haunting listen in the truest sense. Bat For Lashes had a new one, and while I wish The Haunted Man was something more, something truly extraordinary, it has its moment of grace and beauty. The Raveonettes continue to delight me with fuzzy garage noise in a way the J&MC never quite could. Both their Into the Night EP and Obsverator album were never far from reach.

In the not at all Goth but still rocking my world category, I finally came ’round to overlooking the stupid band name Grizzly Bear and all the indie hipster accolades to embrace that band’s beautiful 21st century rock album Shields. Ditto psychedelic Aussies Tame Impala, but I guess with an album called Lonerism, I was destined to eventually fall for them.  …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead reminded me how much I used to dig that band with its raucous Lost Songs. I welcomed the return of the Deftones too. But of all the loud rock records this year I kept coming back to JapandroidsCelebration Rock. It made me dance wilder. Run faster. Scream louder. And feel better.

As for disappointments, well, I still can’t get into How to Destroy Angels. And that solo album from Interpol’s Paul Banks seems to have gone in one ear and out the other for me. But to make up for it, I had the discovery of Canada’s Cold Specks. Her debut album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, a collection of very old-school mournful soul,  topped my ballot for the Polaris Music Prize here, and I had the pleasure of introducing her at the gala awards ceremony, where I did my best to convince the industry crowd that her “death blues”  was in fact, Goth. Also quite surprisingly, watching Dead Can Dance at the Sony Centre, live for the first time in a decade and realizing that, with the elimination of their organic (and presumably expensive) band of live drummers and the introduction of more samples and keyboards, they’ve finally turned into a Goth band. Next to hearing Lisa Gerrard sing “Sanvean” one more time, my most memorable live show was Justice headlining the Hard outdoor festival here at Fort York in the middle of a downpour. We didn’t know if the show would go on, but we waited, so, so, so soaked. And then it did. And we danced. And it was grand.

But what might in fact surprise you, gentle reader, is that my favourite album of the moment seems to be from Alicia KeysGirl on Fire doesn’t have the best title track/lead single, but “New Day” got me out of bed more than once, and the ballad “Not Even the King” is one of those tunes that I simply cannot listen to just once. I’ve worn out the replay button on that one. In years to come, I think it will be a classic. Here is it, for you….

The Films.
So many bummers. Dark Shadows. The Dark Knight Rises. And yes (sigh) even Prometheus, which I didn’t hate like most Alien fans but it certainly did not blow my mind as I had hoped.  Instead I had the insanely hilarious and clever Cabin in the Woods, a cinematic love letter to monster movie fans if ever there was. And thanks to more stellar programming from the Toronto International Film Festival, I thoroughly enjoyed tons of scary flicks new and old this year, from Neil Jordan’s return to vampires, Byzantium to Guillermo del Toro giving a master class in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Most arresting: the TIFF world premiere of West of Memphis, another documentary about the West Memphis Three case, but this time produced in part by Damien Echols himself, the man who spent almost 20 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, mostly because he was a freak in a very wrong place in a very wrong time. More than all the Paradise Lost films, it will shell-shock you by the injustice, then and now. Being in a theatre with Echols, now free, but not yet exonerated, was kind of surreal. So was witnessing what happens when you put Johnny Depp (one of the film’s producers) in a room. I thought I had seen celebrity frenzy before but this was some next level hysteria. I hope it brings attention to this powerful documentary, and to this case, which is not yet over.

The Books.
Truth be told, I spent most of this year writing my own new book, How to Kill a Vampire. Which meant powering through dozens of novels and non-fiction titles about the various aspects of the nosferatu. I was pretty happy to finally get around to reading all the American Vampire comics, because they seriously rock. But in all honestly, much of it is a blur. So tell me what to read next. I need new poetry, new horror, new cultural studies, new classics, to take me new places in 2013.

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