2012 Top 10 ListGary Trimarchi (The Basement Couch)
The Top 10:
10. Redd Kross - Researching The Blues
Redd Kross is back and man is it good to hear the little brothers of the LA power-pop scene again! Even as they enter their 40s, Redd Kross still sounds young and energetic, serving up 10 new tracks of their usual punky aggression, but with a more mature sound. Tracks like "Choose To Play" and "One Of The Good Ones" show a substantial growth in their sound, but other one's like the lead single "Stay Away From Downtown", bring us back to the days of classic Kross.
Favorite Track: Dracula's Daughter
9. Mystery Machine - Western Magnetics
I talked to Luke Rugalsky around this time, last year. Back then, Western Magnetics was supposed to be an EP. In an awesome move, it was moved up to a full album and I'm so glad these extra tunes were brought out. Western Magnetics exemplifies any and every sound that fans of this Canadian shoegaze outfit has come to know. Classic fans will enjoy the lush "Pronto", while fans of their poppier material will gush over the hook filled "Runaways".
Favorite Track: Japanese-Dads
8. Kurt Baker - Brand New Beat
With a punky attitude, a poppy sound, and an undeniably 80s fashion sense (At least according to his album covers), Kurt Baker comes to us 10 tracks that both Marshall Crenshaw and Frank Portman would be proud of. The seamless walk of the line between pop and punk on tracks "She Can Do It All" and "Weekend Girl" should be cliff-notes for how to do pop-punk right.
Favorite Track: Don't Go Falling In Love
7. Bob Mould - Silver Age
Hail to the king baby! No one can write a song like Bob Mould and Silver Age proves that this veteran still has it. The pure energy of the lead off single "The Decent" got me so hyped for this album that I thought I was doomed for disappointment. What I got exceeded my expectations and even turned a few of them on their heads, with slower ballads like "First Time Joy". This man is also a BEAST live. His best album since his self-titled in 1995.
Favorite Track: Keep Believing
6. Ben Kweller - Go Fly A Kite
Listening to Ben Kweller's "Go Fly A Kite" is like seeing an old friend on summer vacation after coming home from college. It's got a sense of nostalgia to it that many albums can't pull off. In fact, I'd say it's the best in that league since Joel Plaskett Emergency's "Ashtray Rock". The album has that perfect balance of stadium anthems ("Mean To Me") and bar ballads ("I Miss You). If Kweller can keep improving upon this new image that he's grown over the past 10 or so years, I'll be happy to keep listening.
Favorite Track: Jealous Girl
5. Ben Folds Five - The Sounds Of The Life Of The Mind
I know, I know, these guys have been plastered all over Youtube for the past couple on months, but let's be honest, this album is amazing. Ben Folds Five returns after a long hiatus to bring what I consider their best album yet, pianos blazing. Much like Voltron, what might seem like a scattered mess at first, with sound hopping tracks like the operatic "Erase Me" and the "Raw Hide" inspired "Do It Anyway", this album forms something spectacular in the end. The series of emotions that are covered on this album is astonishing and is a shoe in for #5.
Favorite Track: Sky High
4. A B & The Sea - Constant Vacation
Chances are you haven't heard of this band...and after you do, you might want to beat the crap out of me. This album is so love or hate that it boarders on being a paradox. However, what pulls Constant Vacation to excellence for me, is the songwriting itself. Even at it's poppiest "In The Sunshine" it's able to draw you in with clever lyrics. But even if you DON'T like the poppier stuff, there's more than enough indie-rock goodness like "Bone Dry" and "Taking It All Away" to keep you listening. So, please, give these guys a chance.
Favorite Track: Short Straight Bangs
3. Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
What can you say about Nada Surf? The amount of changes this band has been through is astonishing. Coming from their biggest hit "Popular", you wouldn't expect a band like this to age well, but they did...oh they did. Taking notes from Teenage Fanclub, Nada Surf has shifted from post-grunge punks into full on power-pop superstars. The harmonies and melodies on songs like "Waiting For Something" and "Teenage Dreams" are so smooth that I could slide around on them for hours.
Favorite Tracks: Let The Fight Do The Fighting
2. Abandoned Pools - Sublime Currency
Tommy Walter has come a long way from being known as the bassist for Eels. Abandoned Pool's first album gained some positive critical response after being featured on MTV's unjustly canceled Clone High, but after that, we only had one more album that didn't do nearly as well as the first. But after signing to Tooth And Nail, Walter brings us what I consider his masterpiece. It's hard to accurately describe Sublime Currency, but to put it simply, this is what pop in 20 years will sound like, to me. The mix of synths, samples, and Walter's angsty voice bring about a lush environment with an overall positive vibe. It's almost as if Walter caught a bit of what new wave did in the 80s and brought into a modern day context. From the staggeringly beautiful "Marigolds" to the pop rock perfection that is "Hype Is The Enemy", I can't say enough good things about this album.
Favorite Track: Unrehearsed
1. Archie Powell & The Exports - Great Ideas In Action
My top two records of the year could easily keep switch places constantly. I really had to think for weeks about which one I truly loved more. But, what it came down to was innovation vs. tradition. Using nothing but classic rock and power-pop methodology, Archie Powell has brought me an album that I really have no words to describe. Every single track could be a hit. Not only that, but it's one of the few albums that I just got right away. I enjoyed every track on the first listen through. What makes the album work is Powell's knowledge of what's made rock work in the past. He's not peddling out basic pop-punk tunes like Green Day is these days. He's giving them the emotion they deserve. His sarcasm, his sincerity, his raw energy is more than enough to keep me listening full through every time. The music itself is brilliant. The mix of a 70s pub-rock sound and current pop-punk is so damn good that I literally can't think of anything to describe it. Oh, and don't even get me started on the keys on this album, Steve Nieve would cry. If Powell doesn't have some kind of rock chart success in the coming years, I will be dumbfounded. I'd think of tracks to recommend to start you off, but you really have to listen to the whole thing. It's something else.
Favorite Track: All The Same (But, seriously, pick up this damn album).
DIIV - Oshin
With a great lead single ("How Long Have You Known?"), I was ready to get transported to a time in indie rock had a slew of awesomeness. Their style reminded me a surfier Galaxie 500. However, one of the biggest faults in Oshin is the fact that it relies too much it's production to immerse you into a shoegazy world full of distortion with a summer twist. That's all fine and dandy, but when I have trouble telling one track from the next, it begins to get a bit stale. But, given that this is only their debut, I'm willing to bet that something good is bound to leap forth on their next album. However, I still think this is a good album if you're in the mood for something you can just relax to.
Favorite Track: Air Conditioning
The Wellingtons - Hey Hey!
A small, but sugary-sweet, sampling from Zac Anthony and co. to tide you over until the next album.
Favorite Track: Devil In A Cardigan
The Aquatic Safety - The Aquatic Safety
Matthew Pop's (Winner of last year's album of the year) side-project brings some lo-fi greatness to your ears.
Favorite Track: Nothing Is Something!
Actionslacks - EP
The Bay Area's best kept secret drops what might be their last release and if it is, then they're going out in style.
Favorite Track: Don't Merit A Mention
Ash - Little Infinity
The best band from Ireland ever gives us some pretty remarkable, if not bizarre covers.
Favorite Track: Hello Goodbye
One word to describe 2012: Comeback
A prediction for next year: I dunno...