The Key’s Year-End Mania: Julie Miller’s Top Five Pond-Crossers of 2012

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For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, contributor Julie Miller shares her top five pond-crossers of the year.

I was not always an Anglophile.  It all began when I spent several months studying in London in 2011, chasing down any band from Philly that was playing a gig in any corner of the proverbially foggy city.  But once I returned stateside at the start of 2012, I found myself doing the opposite – chasing down any band from the U.K. that was playing in any corner of Philadelphia (and in one or two instances, New York).  The reverse culture shock was significant and unexpected.  As much as I love Philadelphia and its music community (which is to say, a lot) I spent 2012 pining for a metropolis 3500 miles away.  I tried everything to fill the void, from venturing into Haddonfield, NJ for some fish and chips, to drinking cups upon cups of tea (and, of course, wallowing in my room, staring at the hundreds of pictures I had taken).  But then I noticed that my favorite part of London, its eclectic and eye-opening music scene, seemed to have traveled home with me.  So, here are my five favorite (favourite?) U.K. acts that crossed the pond (either physically or, in one case, sonically) in 2012 to share a bit of the old country with my home city of Philadelphia:

1. Daughter “Youth” The Wild Youth EP

Daughter’s Elena Tonra has the melancholy songs to ease any painful longing, whether it be for a person or a place.  And with only a couple of EPs to their name, Tonra and her bandmates have set their place on both sides of the Atlantic as a band to watch.

2. Ben Howard “Black Flies” Every Kingdom

Though technically released at the end of 2011, Ben Howard’s debut crossed over in a big way in 2012.  Howard proudly carries on the acoustic guitar tradition of John Martyn and Nick Drake but moderns it up a bit with an outdoorsy angle thanks to his surfing background.

3. ∆ (alt-j) “Something Good” An Awesome Wave

These guys just won the Mercury Prize for 2012 (and recorded a great World Cafe session here) so clearly they’re doing something right.  And I think that “something” is representing the adventurous and cutting-edge side of British music that sometimes gets lost in the Brit-pop and classic rock.

4. Dry the River “History Book” Shallow Bed

Like Daughter, East London’s Dry the River specialize in the sound you might imagine a breaking heart would make. Their debut is exquisite and dynamic and takes the notion of British folk to another dimension.

5. Pale Seas “Bodies” Bodies / My Own Mind (single)

Though they are perhaps my favorite musical discovery while I was abroad, Pale Seas have not physically crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. (yet).  They did, however, open for The War on Drugs at a London gig and they just won the 2012 Spotify Artists and Managers award in the “up-and-coming” category so we can be hopeful that the Southampton / London group will visit our shores in 2013 with a full-length in tow.

Honorable Mentions:

Syd Arthur “Edge of the Earth” On an On
Cian Nugent “Grass Above My Head” Grass Above My Head
Michael Kiwanuka “I’m Getting Ready” Home Again

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  • http://twitter.com/fredknittel Folkadelphia

    Dry The River also does a cool cover of Josh T. Pearson.

  • John Vettese

    They’re not a UK establishment per se, but I’ll go on record as saying The Bards on Walnut Street has the best Fish and Chips in the city. http://www.bardsirishbar.com/ When will more stateside places realize that mushy peas are the greatest?!

  • http://www.facebook.com/juliemcenteemiller Julie Miller

    mushy peas = most underrated side dish of 2012. I’ll definitely be making my way to The Bards asap !