November 25, 2012

AwkwardSound Presents: Honorable Mention Albums of 2012

AwkwardSound will imminently be revealing this year's who's who list of great listens in the form of its 25 Best Albums list, but it'd be a shame to pass by some of 2012's other noteworthy and rock solid reviewed releases around these parts that definitely deserve your attention otherwise. In what will surely be a new annual tradition here on AS' year-end schedule, here's 10 albums (in no particular order) that have plenty of redeeming qualities to offer and could possibly become your favorite listen of what was an incredible release year altogether. Some due respect for 2012's Honorable Mention Albums, please...

Beach House - Bloom

Beach House don’t take too many new stylistic risks on their fourth LP Bloom, but what makes their latest effort so remarkable is how they’ve perfected Teen Dream’s swooning organ pop recipe and replicated it over the course of 10 solidly built stories about young love gained and lost, idle living and the unknown. The Baltimore duo has even stated since its release that they see no reason to evolve their sound, and who can blame them if every album going forward engages listeners like a pseudo-"Best of" collection like Bloom?

Chairlift - Something

Former blog-hype band Chairlift find a much richer sound within themselves on their sophomore effort, Something. Here, they're resolving the conflicted identity crisis that left some apparent cracks on their debut, Does You Inspire You? by no longer struggling between weathered twee pop and crystalline electronica. It's the gleaming synth soirees rather than the played-out post-Feist jangle that win out here, and while it's still a very safe soundscape to travel, Caroline Polachek's clandestine vocals and Patrick Wimberly's spot-on production make that certain Something sparkle.

DIIV - Oshin

When he formed his new project DIIV, former Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith was faced with the dilemma of separating its identity from the jangly lo-fi quartet's popular surfside sound. To his credit, DIIV's debut Oshin leaves the sun and sand behind, swimming amongst violent waves and chartering an angstier version of his familiar guitar pop into darker waters. While Smith doesn't completely escape what's become a signature style of his instrumental craftsmanship, Oshin intensely flexes his talents enough to make DIIV stand out as something more than a one-off side-project.

Frankie Rose - Interstellar

Frankie Rose is doing something on Interstellar that is completely futile to her career as a reformed "nu-gaze" member. On the ex-Vivian Girl's first and most absolute solo outing, the Brooklyn darling redefines her identity through riskier avenues she and her counterparts have yet to conquer by going sky-high with impeccable pop tact, and gleaming her sound into the atmosphere instead of muddling it away behind a curtain of fuzz. For each climactic chorus, Ms. Rose leaves herself open to getting lost in a sea of dark matter, but it's the journey and exploration in Interstellar that reveals a brave new world from her sound.

Mr. Dream - Fatherland EP

After dumpster diving into indie rock’s Trash Hits last year, Mr. Dream continue wiping their asses raw with a steady supply of sandpaper riffs and unsanitary thoughts on the Fatherland EP. On this outing, however, the Brooklyn trio seems to be intelligently lurching themselves away from just another group of grunge-era influenced thrashers by inserting their own unconventional wisdom and jocular life experiences into their songwriting, making this one of 2012’s best comedy albums at the same time.

Passion Pit - Gossamer

On their sophomore effort Gossamer, Passion Pit retool the constant party mentality that's been previously associated with their sound by making way for something far more honest, talkative and inviting with Michael Angelakos' heart-on-his sleeve lyrical approach. By being up front about his personal demons on this go, the frontman vilifies himself in order to make the music world see there's a broken reality behind the Boston band's bright-colored bursts of electro-pop. There's no doubt about it -- He and Passion Pit are still allowing listeners to have something "fun," but Gossamer admirably reveals more than just dance music in the process.

Speedy Ortiz - Sports EP

Arguably the biggest dent Western Massachusetts' had on the music world to date was back in the mid-'90s, when Amherst giants Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh alongside Northampton transplants Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon became poster children for Lollapalooza culture, but two decades later, their fossilized riffs seem to be resurfacing again in the scene, namely in this year's Sports EP from Noho's Speedy Ortiz. The five-track listen collectively represents a female interpretation of grunge's down-and-out dude side, as frontwoman Sadie Dupuis makes collateral damage out of songs about boys by rearranging them into athletic-homaging tracks her bros in the back can own up to just the same.

Swearin'  - Swearin'

The debut full-length from Philly transplants Swearin' is the promising void filler for that's been missing in the music world ever since mid-western emo's small room listening experiences and Jawbreaker's career went by the wayside at the turn of the millennium. Former P.S. Eliot frontwoman Alison Crutchfield and her partner, scruffy tri-state scenester, Kyle Gilbride, exchange angsty love woes here that recall Rainer Maria and the Promise Ring, but by barreling them under chunky pop-punk hooks like the Thermals and Japandroids in their simplest form, it puts a ton of ballsiness back into emo.

Titus Andronicus - Local Business

Local Business isn't The Monitor, and well -- It just isn't. As epic as Titus Andronicus' 2010 breakthrough was, Local Business finds the beardy New Brunswick patriot punks exiting theatrical narratives and heading into the bar to kick back a few cold ones with some rowdy pals. It's further proof of Titus Andronicus finding comfort in their new skin with less growl, rickety riffs, punchier choruses and a bit of the E Street shuffle. Thinking about how the tri-state area's punk scene has shifted toward this sound over the past few years with bands like the Men, Nude Beach and Patrick Stickles' BFFs, the So So Glos, the concept of Local Business hits home with the heart of DIY culture ethos.

Ty Segall / Ty Segall Band - Twins & Slaughterhouse

In 2012, San Fran stoner-punk Ty Segall remained as prolific as ever by releasing three new full-lengths in some shape or form, with his latest solo outing and his self-named band offering up the best of both worlds from the next-gen guitar slasher's formula. On Slaughterhouse, he and bandmates Mikal Cronin, Emily Rose Eptsein and Charles Moothart throw out the heavy punk fervor from Segall's garage, making for the artist's most blood curling ride to date. Twins on the other hand is his pop comedown, where Segall gets high off all alone while sitting in a room full of Beatles albums much like he did on last year's Goodbye Bread, but with target precision on the hooks.

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