2012: My Year In Records

Here’s the list of my favorite albums outside of Seattle for 2012. You may think it’s late, but you should know I got it done before the Russian New Year. Kevin Shields, you still have a few more days.

exlovers

1. Exlovers – exlovers (Young And Lost Club)

Exlovers had my favorite single of 2011 and now my favorite record of 2012. Their debut album is a dreampop masterpiece that was a long time coming from this London band. I didn’t think I would ever hear a record this accomplished after the shoegaze/dreampop heyday of the 90’s. I hope that this album being criminally ignored by nearly everyone does not deter this amazing band from persevering and making another one.

You’re So Quiet:

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2. Tyvek – On Triple Beams (In the Red)

This is an off the rails punk rock concept album about Tyvek’s hometown of Detroit and its urban blight slowly being turned back into an agrarian based metropolis. On Triple Beams sees Tyvek living up to the promise of their early singles and then exceeding it.

Wayne County Roads:

boomgates
3. Boomgates – Double Natural (Bedroom Suck)

The half sung half spoken delivery of Eddy Current Suppression Ring frontman Brendan Huntly may be an acquired taste for some, but combined with Steph Hughes’ sweet croon and songs that bring to mind the brilliance of the Go-Betweens Double Natural is a sure winner.

Flood Plains:

hospitality
4. Hospitality – Hospitality (Merge)

Hospitality effortlessly do cocktail jazz, indiepop and smooth pop, but you get the feeling that they are pulling their ideas from a larger pallet that includes some things that you wouldn’t expect like Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren to name a few and that is what makes this record sound so familiar but different at once.

Eight Avenue:

FrankieRose
5. Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Slumberland)

Frankie Rose sloughed off the distortion and kicked it into hyperdrive on her second album. Slick space-age pop that I imagine if we still had a Space Shuttle program, would be playing in the cockpit on every lift off.

Night Swim:

Cate Le Bon
6. Cate Le Bon – Cyrk (The Control Group)

The Welsh chanteuse melded Velvet Underground with Kevin Ayers to come up with the best psychedelic record I heard all year.

Falcon Eyed:

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7. Cats on Fire – All Black Shirts to Me (Matinée)

Pop music rarely sounds this elegant and regal. All Black Shirts To Me is an assured jewel in the Cats On Fire crown.

It’s Clear Your Former Lover:

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8. Bored Nothing – Bored Nothing (Spunk)

Seems like anything coming out of Melbourne in 2012 was worthy. Fergus Miller’s (aka Bored Nothing) take on bedroom pop went from sad and introspective to blissed out dreampop. More than just another bedroom pop record and more than worthy.

Popcorn:

seapinks
9. Sea Pinks – Freak Waves (CF)

Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan is not only prolific, but talented as well. Sea Pinks third album is their best yet. Freak Waves is a jangly take on the classic Beach Boys model.

Lake Superior:

lawrence-arabia
10. Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow (Bella Union)

New Zealand’s James Milne knows how to do orchestral pop. The Sparrow is his third album as Lawrence Arabia and it’s a moody, pensive and playful feast of the ears.

The Bisexual:

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11. Terry Malts – Killing Time (Slumberland)

San Francisco punks delivered a debut record full of blitzkrieg pop. Every song is no holds barred sing-along sweaty mosh pit.

Nauseous:

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12. Bäddat För Trubbel – Värdighet (Punks Only)

Not speaking a word of Swedish did not stop me from loving Bäddat För Trubbel’s second album. They employ influences like Eddy Current Supression Ring and Blumfeld and they aren’t afraid to have a guy who plays saxophone the band. True punks!

Det här jobbet:

intelligence
13. The Intelligence – Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me (In the Red)

Mad thinker Lars Finberg upped and moved his band from Seattle to LA. The only thing I can complain about is that they don’t play Seattle as much any more. Otherwise, the Intelligence deliver another fractured masterpiece.

Techno Tuesday:

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14. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)

Formerly known as Yellow Fever, Austin, Texas duo Deep Time’s self-titled first album after their rechristening is a pure minimalist’s delight.

Bermuda Triangle:

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15. Gap Dream – Gap Dream (Burger)

Gabe Fulvimar’s Gap Dream is a wonderful debut. Kind of a psychedelic droner’s pop paradise.

Feast of the First Morning:

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16. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools)

Parquet Courts deliver a taut cow punk record out of seemingly nowhere. The proverbial new kid in town Andrew Savage formerly of Fergus & Geronimo moved to Brooklyn, started a new band and came up gold.

Yonder is Closer to the Heart:

Eternal-Summers

17. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior (Kanine)

Eternal Summers seem to grow leaps and bounds with each release and Correct Behavior continues their upward trajectory. Nicol Yun’s songs get better and bigger sounding and when she lets the drummer have some like on Girls In the City it’s like the frosting on the cake.

Millions:

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18. The See See – Fountayne Mountain (The Great Pop Supplement)

The See See go on a wondrous psychedelic tour de force on their second album. Fountayne Mountain is the sound of a band peaking. Drug reference intended.

Automobile:

supervacations
19. Super Vacations – Heater Pt. II (Funny Not Funny)

I love how after I listen to this album I feel like I have to wash the filth from body. Richmond, Virginia’s Super Vacations know the ins and outs of getting down and dirty and this record is an expressway to those dirty depths.

Faded Leather Jacket:

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20. Pop Singles – All Gone (Vacant Valley)

More Melbourne goodness in this year’s list. Pop Singles’s debut record was an unexpected surprise and the best heart-on-the-sleeve-jangle-pop record of the year.

All Gone:

toughshits

21. The Tough Shits – The Tough Shits (Burger)

Don’t let Philadelphia’s Tough Shits fool you. They want you to think that they’re a bunch of irreverent slackers, but their mothers know that their tender pop loving hombres and this record is all the proof you need.

Cats and Dogs:

ThisManyboyfriends
22. This Many Boyfriends – This Many Boyfriends (Angular)

The debut album from Leeds’ This Many Boyfriends is love song to records, love songs and misfits. Sometimes songs that are meant to be funny wear off quickly, but this album isn’t too funny for its own good. It’s merely poignant.

Tina Weymouth:

strategy
23. Strategy – Strategy (Peak Oil)

Portland, Oregon resident Paul Dickow has many personas. His album using the Strategy moniker was a playful take on electronic music that took notes from Ultramarine and Yello in the way it incorporated pop songs with dub, kraut and weird.

Sugar Drop:

GrassWidow
24. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)

San Francisco trio Grass Widow finally embraced their full pop-selves on album number three. Internal Logic was brilliant for the way it juxtaposed minimalist instrumentation with lush harmonies.

Milo Minute:

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25. Peoples Temple – More for the Masses (Hozac)

Either I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid or Lansing, Michigan’s Peoples Temple are. Their second album ups the dose and rattles the psyche. The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request was a good psychedelic record. Peoples Temple start with that blueprint and out psych the Stones and everyone else for that matter.

Nevermore:

chainandthegang
26. Chain and the Gang – In Cool Blood (K)

On Chain and the Gang’s third album leader Ian Svenonius gets a little more playful. He shares vocals with new member Katie Alice Greer and records the entire thing in mono. Kind of throwback but these ears, timeless.

Free Will:

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27. Crushed Stars – In the Bright Rain (Simulacra)

In the Bright Rain lives under gray skies and rains down melancholia and cascades of guitars to beautiful effect. Being lonely, sad and out of sorts hasn’t sounded this good since the At Swim Two Birds album back in 2009.

Brighter Now:

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28. Prissy Clerks – Bruise Or Be Bruised (Forged Artifacts)

The debut album from this Minneapolis was a sweet bite of 90’s indierock slathered with twee and powerpop condiments. Sweet, sour and definitely hot!

Death Wish:

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29. Literature – Arab Spring (Square of Opposition/Austin Town Hall)

Former Austin and now Philadelphia band Literature are well read in the details of adrenaline fueled jangle pop. They deliver a wide eyed beauty in their debut album Arab Spring.

Push Up Bra:

macdemarco
30. Mac DeMarco – Mac DeMarco 2 (Captured Tracks)

On his second album, Montreal’s Mac DeMarco delivers a batch of skewed guitar pop gold. He seems be to posses the songwriting sensibilities of Nilsson, Lennon, Ayers and T Rex and he may be just as eccentric as them too.

Cooking Up Something Good:

It’s Happening Right Now Down There

Holy cow!  There’s a crazy amount of great music happening in Australia at the moment. The epicenter seems to be the city of Melbourne. It’s like a rat colony down there, where the band population seems to be multiplying exponentially. You have likely already heard about the Twerps, Boomgates, Woolen Kits possibly Dick Diver and a few others, but that is only the tip of the old iceberg. If you live in that city and love janglepop it must be a veritable treasure trove just waiting to be pillaged. If you don’t live there prepare to bust out your credit card because the exchange rate along with shipping costs will make you a lot lighter in the wallet.

Mess and Noise an excellent Melbourne based site had a feature on the Melboure scene back in September that covered  17 bands and pretty much covered it all. So really all I’m doing here is reiterating what they’ve already said, but if you’re like me, sometimes it takes hearing the same thing from more than one place to make you sit up and pay attention and what is going on in Melbourne is well worth paying attention to.


Chook Race remind me of the La’s, only more rough around the edges. Probably what Lee Mavers originally had in mind since he has often disparaged his lone album as being over-produced.

Chook Race’s latest 7-inch can be ordered/downloaded from their bandcamp site.


Bored Nothing were only an honorable mention in the Mess and Noise article, but that was before the their self-titled album on Spunk records had come out. Fergus Miller is a one man band that has made quite and album that is part dreampop, part moody Elliot Smith.

mp3: Bored Nothing – Popcorn (Bored Nothing’s album came out last week on Spunk records.)


Bitch Prefect aren’t Melbourne natives, they migrated from Adelaide, but that lends all the more legitimacy to the scene when bands what to move to a City where everything’s happening. Bitch Prefect’s album Big Time came out earlier this year on Bedroom Suck. It has a ramshackle vibe that is part Wreckless Eric and part Clean.

Bitch Prefect’s debut LP came out earlier this year on Bedroom Suck.


The Stevens may be Melbourne’s worst kept secret. I’ve heard from multiple places that this band is the best band in town. Their ramshackle melodies have some Clean, Pavement and some Lemonheads (or Smudge if you roll that way) in them.
mp3: The Stevens – Alone

The Stevens have and EP you can download for free from their facebook page.

Cat Cat are another transplant, this time from the capitol Canberra via Chicago. They sound like they could have been on the Summershine label back in the day. A little bit of Ripe mixed in the with the Earthmen and some Sea and Cake?

Cat Cat’s most recent album came out last year on Dream Damage and is available from their bandcamp site.


Pop Singles often get compared to the Go-betweens. That was enough for my ears to prick up. Their album All Gone out on Vacant Valley sounds like a very young Go-Betweens, all wide-eyed, head of full steam and obsessed with Dylan, Jonathan Richman and Velvet Underground.

Debut album is out on the Vacant Valley label which is run by bassist Pop Singles’ bassist Peter Bramley.

If that was enough for you here is some further listening: Milk Teddy, Heavy Beach, and Full Ugly.

Beyond Melbourne but worth checking out: Terrible TruthsScraps, and Kitchens Floor