Obligatory backwards-gazing for 2012
By Erika Elizabeth
I’m not into making year-end lists as a rule. I end up over-thinking the process – yes, I like this selection of records from the last 12 months, but do I like them more than the records I would have put on last year’s version of this list, or are they just better than all of the mediocre things I had to hear in 2012? What about all of the great shit from this year that I haven’t even heard yet that I’ll ultimately wish had made the cut for this round-up? I wouldn’t even try to do any sort of qualitative or numerical ranking of my selections, and saying this music was “the best” of the year seems very misguided when I still haven’t caught up on so many things I intended to seek out.
This is my awkward, long-winded way of saying that I put this list together only because Everett (repeatedly) asked me to, despite how neurotic this concept might make me (and despite the fact that it’s not even mid-December yet). Here’s some music that I liked in 2012, with the caveat that this is far from exhaustive. I’m leaving out the stuff that my Collapse Board comrades have already covered (off the top of my head: The Twerps, Halo Halo, Prinzhorn Dance School, The Maxines, Woollen Kits) so that I don’t turn this list in even later than I already am. The last thing I need is to invoke Everett’s wrath.
Banditas – Get Behind Us LP (Ride The Snake)
Banditas are an all-lady Massachusetts trio who play garage rock with a high & lonesome country streak, sort of like Patsy Cline fronting The Velvet Underground over a Phil Spector beat. [Sharp intake of breath. Oi, Erika! No! – Ed] Their songs alternate between tales of tears-in-your-beer heartbreak and growling these-boots-are-made-for-walking revenge, all with three-part harmonies that will make you melt (before they spit in your face). If they do another series of Girls In The Garage compilations 30 years from now, I’d hope that Banditas are on it.
Burnt Palms – Burnt Palms (self-released)
I’ll bet that this band gets compared to Best Coast pretty often for mostly superficial reasons – they’re a lady-dominated band from California playing love songs with sand and sunshine being two recurring topics. Which sucks for Burnt Palms, because this is everything that the last Best Coast album should have been – just slightly rough-around-the-edges fuzz-pop with lyrics that are straightforward without being completely vapid. I have a total soft spot for the Breeders-patented formula of sweet female vocals over crunchy guitars, and this band kind of nails it.
Crooked Bangs – Crooked Bangs LP (Western Medical)
Bilingual French/English garage rock with a considerable early 80s Euro femme post-punk bent (like The Mo-dettes at double speed), except they’re from Texas. It’s three of my favorite things colliding, enough so that I’ll overlook the fact that as a Houston expatriate, I’ve been conditioned to be ambivalent about anything and everything coming out of Austin.
Evening Meetings – Evening Meetings LP (Sweet Rot)
Dark post-punk from some movers and shakers who have done time in a slew of other bands in the Pacific Northwest (A-Frames, The Intelligence, Factums, The Lights, Love Tan, etc). Evening Meetings are haunted by the twin ghosts of Mark E. Smith and Jeffrey Lee Pierce, but they also never let you forget that this came out in 2012 and not 1981 (although ‘Street Level’ does sound dead-on like it could be an outtake from Fire Of Love, which I’ll let slide because that album was pretty much all I listened to for a month straight this summer).
Outside World – Seaside Nowhere cassette (Night People)
I saw Outside World play a show a few months ago at the DIY space where I volunteer. They were awkwardly sandwiched on the bill with a couple of hardcore bands and, not surprisingly, were less than enthusiastically received. Me, on the other hand – I’m probably not giving anything away about myself when I tell y’all that my main motivation for going to see Outside World was because I had seen the words “Flying Nun” thrown around as a descriptor for their sound, even though they’re from Chicago. I don’t really think they’re as Flying Nun-y as they are textbook 90s American college rock, which really just means that they’ve got their bases covered in terms of plainly unassuming male/female vocal interplay & abundance of jangly/fuzzy guitar (to break it down for my fellow nerds, think more Small Factory/Versus and less Bats/Chills). But I love that shit, too.
Pop Singles – All Gone LP (Vacant Valley)
Does it make me an ignorant American if I compare Pop Singles’ take on jangly, literate Australian pop music to The Go-Betweens? I’m sure one of the resident Australians here will tell me, but in the meantime, this makes me think of early era Go-Betweens in all of the best ways. Sensitive, scrappy and clever in equal doses. [Close, but it’s more similar to The Apartments, actually. Same era, same city, different band – Ed]
Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – split LP with Peak Twins (Bedroom Suck/Night People)
Australian bands were seriously hitting it out of the park left & right this year, but I think the Scott & Charlene’s Wedding side of this split LP might be my favorite thing to come from Down Under in 2012 (which is saying a lot, trust me). I’ll drop the F-word again and bring up the fact that like their label-mates Outside World, getting pegged as Flying Nun disciples is what initially made me seek out this band (I’m predictable like that, so sue me). Scott & Charlene’s Wedding do much more justice to that tag though, striking a balance of melancholy jangle and slightly off-kilter hooks that would do The Clean proud. Can we also talk about how much I love a band that can work the line “blood was pissing everywhere all over the place” into a completely infectious pop song about workplace injuries? Fuck you, Slayer!
Sightlines – Summer EP cassette (Radical Clatter)
When I thought I had reached my fill of bands choking themselves in reverb to obscure mediocre songs this year, this cassette of two-minute, no frills, buzzsaw-pop songs from the three dudes in Vancouver’s Sightlines seemed almost earth-shattering in comparison. It’s catchy and pogo-worthy as hell, channeling a very early 90s Superchunk kind of vein, in spirit if not exactly in sound. You could call it pop-punk, and I would if I wasn’t afraid of that description conjuring up all the wrong sorts of things in your mind. Put this in the tape deck of your shitty car while you drive around all night with your friends drinking giant fountain sodas from the suburban convenience store because it’s SUMMER and that’s what you’re supposed to do, if teen angst coming-of-age movies have taught me anything.
Sourpatch – Stagger & Fade LP (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
As I mentally struggled with compiling this list, one of the things that kept me going was thinking about how “best of whenever” round-ups usually tend to be heavy on releases from the latter part of the year, if only because that’s naturally what is fresher in our minds come December. And I didn’t want this list to fall into that trap. This Sourpatch LP was something that I played to death for a stretch of this year, but my perception of time over the past 12 months has gotten so warped that I couldn’t remember with any kind of certainty whether this actually came out in early 2012 or late 2011 (turns out it was February). Good, because I didn’t want to have to try to think of a loophole I could use to include it. Classic, crushworthy sugar-coated pop songs for the part-time punks.
Terry Malts – Killing Time LP (Slumberland)
Slumberland Records got really prolific this year, which in theory might have been my dream come true if we were talking about a time when that would have meant a constant influx of Henry’s Dress and Boyracer records, but it’s 2012 and that kind of looking backwards and fetishization of the past is completely pointless. Having said that, I kind of found myself wishing that Slumberland had scaled their release schedule back a little this year after a few too many of their records left me cold, and I say this because I CARE. Terry Malts were a notable exception, maybe in some small part because unlike some of their label-mates, they’ve broken away from simply retracing the classic Slumberland C86-praising noise-pop blueprint that is back in vogue again. But really, it’s because I fucking love hyperactive Buzzcocks-inspired pop with a little bit of punk snot.
The Trypes – Music For Neighbors LP (Acute)
Nervous and nerdy jangle meets droning Velvet Underground-isms from the early 80s, featuring all of the members of The Feelies at one point or another. Acute Records deserve to be sainted for dragging the sorts of lost post-punk gems out of the closet that they do, especially considering that only five of these songs had previously seen the light of day, and you get 13 (13!) more of them here. Am I cheating by slipping a reissue into this list? If I am, too bad.
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Erika Elizabeth is a librarian-by-training, record store girl-by-calling in Portland, Oregon. She puts sounds together for listening here: http://www.awkward-noise.blogspot.com