Last week, I tried narrowing down all the music I’d listened to this year from talented locals. It being 2012, I aimed for a "Top 12."
It was half-on-a-whim, you know, almost perfunctory or knee-jerk, really, indulging the typical trend of music critics parsing their picks this time of year. You see these kinds of things everywhere on blogs or zines or wherever you’re cultivating the culture-buzz.
Part of me is so self-consciously-certain that I could never absolutely narrow the myriad output of music (even just from our percolated pocket of bands, here, in SE-Michigan to a limited listing like this) – but then, I still figured this would be a fine opportunity to share/stream some of what I considered to be the most impressive, notable songs released this year.
Oh, and before I start this list… I wanted to nod to a benefit show for FernCare Free Health Care Clinic, this Friday, hosted at the Loving Touch in Ferndale and featuring iconic/esoteric/neo-psychedelic-pop songwriter Troy Gregory, along with preeminent robo-punk-rocker Carjack and groovy/spooky-post-punk artisans Pupils.
On with (the rest of) the countdown:
6. TIE – The Sights – Left Over Right -with- Fawn – Coastlines
Oak Park’s 21st century garage-blues bard Eddie Baranek not only got more daring on this album, (bringing in an electrifying new line-up solidifying over the last two years worth of worldwide touring, inviting harmonica hellstorms, trombone jousts and psychedelically-warbled guitar effects), he also got more personal (as well as more, well, funky). This is that point where the jutting, monosyllabic swaggerer of garage-rock-days-gone-by grows into a refreshingly frank songwriter, still able to ignite a rafter-rattling boogie, freed of self-consciousness.
...and FAWN...Full, loud, fast, fibrous power-pop…sweeten it with harmonies, chop and scatter it up with post-punk rhythms, keep all guitars firing full-on throughout and implant some undeniable ear-worms. This Ferndale quartet’s debut crashes, end-over-end with waves of effervescent/bristling guitar-heavy mini-anthems.
Listen: Fawn - "Break It Off"
5. Phantasmagoria – Currents
Detroit’s electro-pop wunderkinds – knotty, nifty layers of lulling loops, spacey synths and percolating beats sheathed with dreamy drones unveiling an advanced (for their barely-legal-drinking-ages) sensibility for atmospheric arrangements blending trip-hop’s heady torch songs onto a left-field hip-hop styled detached decanting of fuzz-burst rhythms.
Listen: Phantasmagoria - "Habitats"
4. Lightning Love – Blonde Album
The definitive catchy indie-pop crew; stripped-down piano-led jams laced with dangerously-indelible melodies. This band, based between Hamtramck and Ypsilanti, have been honing their knack for jaunty twirlers and pirouetted waltzes for five-plus years now – all of it essentially building up to this album. It’s their pop-rocks-poured-into-Pepsi moment…
Listen: Lightning Love - "So Easy"
3. Pink Lightning - Happy To Be Here
Any slow part of these songs is tinged with the same kind of anxiety struck at the roller-coaster-cab’s ominous lurching at the very top of the slope… click-click-click-cli—ick…then the drums tumble back in and the bass starts rollicking, guitar like a fire-whip and accordion, yes accordion, hummin and heavin with anarchic splendor at the riotous dance-rock dust-up. Our singer’s fuzzed-out effusions add a tweaked carnival barker’s bolstering to this blend of punk-punctured disco and rubbery indie-funk mutations.
Listen: Pink Lightning - "Worms"
2. Johnny Headband – Who Cooks For You
Uncanny charms illuminate this groovy post-disco funk-pop epic. And yes, “epic,” because this local trio (who’s recording HQs are based in Ferndale) set out to make a show-stopper on record, something that matched or transcended the explosive kinetic kicks and bass-whipped ballets of their live show… When an album matches that extravaganza…man, it’s hard to sit still.
“Hot Button Topic” is …my favorite song of the year. iTunes shows I’ve replayed it 17 times…all 8 minutes of it.
1. The High Strung - ?Posible o' Imposible?
Unavoidable, undeniable…extraordinary. This album was 10 years in the making; even if its songs were written in a spurt just last year, even if the recording only took a few weeks; even if the melodies mused, the rhythms discharged, the effects bedazzled were all only zeroed in on during comparatively brief and explosive moments of creativity in their local rehearsal space.
It’s the sound of a band, something like a rock 'n' roll band, edified, coagulated, now fibrous and fleshed-out. This Detroit-quartet are known for clatter-kicked 3-minute-rigid-rock whirls pillared with spindly bass grooves, fast, fill-happy drum tumbles, slithery psyche-rock guitar constellations and high, hazy vocals unleashing a load of literary-aiming pop-novellas. Imposible is where all their years of collaboration converged, the flavors, the shades, the signatures, blazed with augmented definition.
Honorable Mention – (singles)