I didn’t do a Top 10 or Top 25 for music this year, in part because I didn’t want to and in part because I was focused more on creating my own music than I was listening to others. But looking through my iTunes library to see what I have been listening to, I notice that there was a lot of interesting music released (or re-released) over the past twelve months, including new music from two long-dormant names: My Bloody Valentine and Boards of Canada. Both of those works were quite good, especially mbv (I thought BoC’s was a bit too derivative of their older stuff, but then I haven’t listened to it as carefully as I could).
But the album that I listened to more than any other this year was UHF by Hacker Farm, a British artist who makes wild, crazy music from (apparently) DIY projects and scrap (or something like that). Yes, this album came out at the end of 2012, but I didn’t hear it until 2013, after reading an article in Wire and then ordering the CD from the UK. UHF is a messy, chaotic work that goes in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, most of them sinister and all of them interesting. The tracks range in tone and style, from wild, sci-fi atmospherics (“Burlington,” which features a voice-over advertising a town that seems straight out of The X-Files) to V/VM-like noise collages (“Konrad”) to mutated pop tunes trapped in jars of noise and static (“One, Six, Nein” and “Grinch”). Throughout, the senses of foreboding and anxiety are mixed with a determination to fight back against the forces that seem to have crushed the spirits of those who would prefer a world that wasn’t dominated by drones, spies, and greed.
I had this album running in a loop in my car for most of the year as I drove around the city that I currently call home, a place that has been annihilated by the recession, a place with rampant poverty and unemployment, a place that (until recently) seemed to be on the verge of despair and collapse. UHF was a perfect soundtrack for such a world. That this is both the most depressing and the most hopeful album of the year says a great deal about the artist who created this and the world in which we live.