It’s day three of my top 50 countdown, meaning we’re in the middle and doing #30 down to #21. Par with how the previous two have gone, we begin with a pair of honorary mentions.
But first, for future reference, here are links to the rest:
Honorary Mention: Pet The Ghost (7″ Single) by Darlings
I loved Darlings’ self-titled LP from 2009 and their follow up EP, Warma in 2010 was pretty phenomenal as well. My first highly anticipated album of 2013 came when the band gave us their 7″ single Pet The Ghost which features the title track as the A side and the bouncy “Shelley” on the B. The B side also features a remix: “Teenage Girl (Andrei 4000 Remix)”.
Perfect Ace is the name of the new LP, and it’s due out in late January. The band has already given us the opening track off the new album, which we’ll cover within the next week. For the single, you can grab it gratis from bandcamp.
This single continues Darlings superb slacker pop (and the LP promises more of the same).
Honorary Mention: The Passage by Rory James And The Majestic
The Passage by Rory James And The Majestic is an album I’ve been meaning to give more attention and some solid coverage, but I have yet to take the time. Hence its presence as an honorary mention in by Best of 2012 Countdown. I have two connections to this band: I interviewed J. Kardong a few years back for an article I penned for Washington State Magazine on his previous band The Wakefields. Here, Kardon lends slide-guitar expertise (he does the same on Sera Cahoone’s Deer Creek Canyon). The album was also produced by my brother-in-law, Matt Paul (well, he’s my brother’s wife’s brother, if that makes sense).
I love this album, and I wish I would have given it a lot more attention in advance of compiling this list. For now, it gets a significant nod for awesomeness. Check out “Gone” below:
30. Spanish Moss And Total Loss by Shout Out Out Out Out
Shout Out Out Out Out is another band that gave us a favorite music video, this one for their Spanish Moss And Total Loss opening track “Now That I’ve Given Up Hope, I Feel Much Better”. All it features is people falling over in their chairs. It is awesome. Spanish Moss has been a regular on my playlist since first hearing “Never The Same Way Twice”.
28. Court The Storm by Y La Bamba
Portland’s Y La Bamba creates Spanish-influenced folk-pop. Right away, you get this with opener “Squawk” and the Spanish-language second track “Bendito”. Court The Storm is their follow-up to equally stunning Lupon and other favorites on the release include “Idaho’s Genius” and “Dialect of Faith”.
Fronted by Luz Elena Mendoza and featuring an old pal, Ben Meyercord, Y La Bamba’s Court The Storm is on Tender Loving Empire, home of Finn Riggins, Jared Mees & The Children, Radiation City and Typhoon. Obviously, they’re in great company.
28. There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson has been recording masterfully crafted folk songs under the name The Tallest Man On Earth since 2006, totaling a pair of EPs and now with There’s No Leaving Now three LPs.
Catchy and melodic, these are singer/songwriter tunes, primarily featuring only Matsson on vocals and plucking an acoustic guitar. That’s it. And he manages to create a world of sound, craft a powerful song, and maintain listener interest throughout.
27. We Were Drifting On A Sad Song by Sleep Party People
With their song “A Dark God Heart”, Sleep Party People have created my current all-time favorite music video (beware, it’s NSFW), which before it was “Rabbit In Your Headlights” by Radiohead / UNKLE. Featuring a melancholy little girl who finds something unspeakable in a bathtub full of denim, it was an instant favorite and I’ve been raving about it ever since.
We Were Drifting On A Sad Song is much like the band’s life performances: peculiar in a good way. Indistinct vocals filtered through various electronics front heavy dance-y electro-pop beats. Live, the band is always clad in giant bunny masks and skin-tight black latex. If that doesn’t make you want to check out this album… well, then there’s something inherently wrong with you.
Split between electro-pop beats and ballad-esque piano/string pieces, We Were Drifting On A Sad Song is about as unique as they come.
26. The Sparrow by Lawrence Arabia
Lawrence Arabia is the project of New Zealand pop artist James Milne, whose CV includes The Brunettes, The Ruby Suns and Okkervil River. That’s impressive. The Sparrow is his latest release and it is packed with suave pop songs like opener “The Traveler”, its falsetto-sung successor “Lick Your Wounds” and the superbly cool “The Bisexual”. If Belle & Sebastian dropped their romantic act, stripped away the heavy instrumentation, hailed from Christchurch, and donned a sense of humor clever but not awkward, it might sound a little something like this.
Check out Lawrence Arabia’s video for “The Listening Times” below:
25. Ozarks by Ozarks
All my friends are in prison / All my friends are a prism begins Ozarks‘ Robbie Augspurger in “Pyramids of Love”. The lyrics are bizarre but fun. You get a lot of that on Ozarks self-titled LP. The album is packed with soft bedroom-style indie pop. Accompanied by Eric Adrian Lee, Augspurger brings to life fifteen tracks on this album; there’s the piano-heavy opening notes of “Strong As Death” and the mysterious “As I Lay Sleeping”. And, along with the aforementioned “Pyramids of Love”, there’s my fiance’s favorite: “Diamonds, Objects of Desire”.
Ozarks is not the most upbeat album — in fact, it’s far from it. Nor is it poppy, though you could call it pop. It’s soft, darkly comedic, and pleasantly morose. It’s quite brilliant.
24. Better Luck Next Life by Royal Baths
San Francisco has a great reputation for garage-psych bands, but one that calls the city home isn’t like the others. Sunny in disposition is not the case here; Royal Baths put a damper on that trend real fast.
Put on Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls during the day, but as soon as dusk sets in, Better Luck Next Life is the album you throw on the record player.
Royal Baths pack their songs with a heaviness that just doesn’t mesh well with daylight. They’re perfect for those moments alone with the bottle, when you want to be a little secluded from humanity. That’s the perfect time to don Better Luck Next Life and give it several repeat spins.
23. People Changes by Nat Baldwin
People Changes is the latest from Nat Baldwin, bassist for Dirty Projectors and former pupil of free jazz artist Anthony Braxton. On his new album, you get plenty of his signature instrument, and you get quite a hefty dose of experimentation. That term, experimentation, is used a few times throughout my 2012 best of list, but it is no more true than when used for People Changes.
I became a huge fan of this record after Baldwin released his video for “Weights” which features a horse, and, of course, a great storyline.
On People Changes, there are moments of crazy experimental breakdowns — this is where that free jazz penchant comes through — and there are moments that are fairly minimalistic in nature. Both keep the listener on their toes, awaiting the unexpected, and craving more.
Album favorites include “Weights”, “Lifted” and “The Same Thing”.
22. Bloom by Beach House
Giving Bloom a really deep listen, the first thing that comes to mind is that Beach House‘s Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally really just picked up where they left off with their 2010 LP Teen Dream, which, in that year, was a top 3 record for that year. If anything, Bloom finds Beach House at their most dreamy yet, which is saying a lot given countless listens to Teen Dream. That term, DREAM, is at the core of this band’s music.
In comparing the two albums a bit closer, there is more progression than initially thought. In particular, looking at “Zebra” of Teen Dream and “Myth” off Bloom, the latter has greater emphasis on the instrumentation and while LeGrand is still very much the focal point of the song (as most vocalists tend to be), the instrumentation seems more a collaboration than an accompaniment.
21. The Sufis by The Sufis
My buddy Justin turned me onto The Sufis earlier this year, posting to my Facebook wall: That reminds me, this came out 4 days ago, you should probably review it as one of the Fuck Yeah albums of 2012. Um… yeah. Fuck Yeah is about right. Adorned with a 60s-style psychedelic pop and birthed from the Nashville garage scene, The Sufis self-titled debut is a true must-hear album for any fan of psych, garage, Nuggets and awesomeness.