It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2012

Here we are again at the end of another year. 2012 was the 6th year of existence for this little blog. Looking back, it’s been kind of a year of recovery for me. Lots of fallout from being unemployed in 2011 finally came to rest in 2012 and I’m finally getting into the swing of a new home, job and direction.

From a music perspective, for me anyway, 2012 was a year of next-releases from a lot of my favorite bands– possibly signaling some confidence and support for the hard-working and long-touring truly independent bands out there.

Here are my 20 favorite releases from 2012 in no particular order:

The Right NowGets Over You – On my “12 Releases I’m looking Forward to in 2012” post– Chicago R&B powerhouse The Right Now delivered their sophomore release this year. A bit of a disclaimer– these guys are my friends and I helped them put out the vinyl version of their debut album Carry Me Home. The band traveled to L.A. to work with Sergio Rios of Orgone in his studio. The resulting record has a great tape-compressed and raw feel. This band gets better every release.

The Pines Dark So GoldA release I was looking forward to. It’s hard to believe that this is the fourth release for The Pines. Again produced by Bo Ramsey, we see the band really falling into their stride. Same formula, but more refined. Brilliant record from beginning to end. Check out their two Daytrotter sessions here and here.

Samuel Locke Ward – Double Nightmare – Iowa City’s most prolific home taper Sam Locke Ward put out an album that was a few years in the making. I was assigned the duty of reviewing this epic release for Little Village Magazine and I loved it. Recommended if you dig Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, Dead Milkmen.

Red River Dialectawellupontheway – I found out about this band/artist through MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, who played a show with him in the UK. He did an indiegogo to fund the release of this album. More British Folk, with a bit of Smiths thrown in for good measure.

Jack WhiteBlunderbuss – A release that is probably on a lot of lists for 2012. Jack White proves he doesn’t need Meg. This album is better than any single album The White Stripes ever put out, though not better than some of the high points in The White Stripes output. But really damn good.

The Surf ZombiesLust for Rust – Local guitar hero Brook Hoover returns with the third surf instrumental album as The Surf Zombies. This time be brings in a couple of bratty punks resulting in the edgiest Zombies album to date. I reviewed the release for Little Village.

Har-di-Harword(s) of whim/Feudal Kind EP’s – Husband and wife band from Cedar Falls, IA manages to create some really amazing Choral Vocals layered on spare instrumentals. I reviewed for the January 2013 issue of Little Village coming up. A surprise Dark Horse addition to this list. Recommended if you like Renaissance, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and Trip Shakespeare.

Gold MotelGold Motel – Greta Morgan and band returned with a 2nd slice of sunny pop goodness. Saw them play in a barn in Maquoketa a couple of years ago and still carry a pretty big torch for this band. They did a really great Daytrotter session in 2011.

Gary Clark Jr Blak and Blu – It seems like this debut release has been coming for a long time. We’ve been hearing live performances for a while anyway. Brilliant album, though some might argue that it doesn’t stay in one style for very long– is it a straight up blues album or is it an R&B album? He did an amazing Daytrotter session that I had the opportunity to hear streaming live while they taped it.

DynorideWhat You Wanted – Quad Cities band brings the sound of the 90’s best noisy energetic punk. I’m not the only blogger who included this on their top list for 2012. I reviewed this for Little Village. It’s free stupid. Listen to it.

Cheyenne Marie MizeWe Don’t Need EP – I had the chance to see Cheyenne at the Mill in Iowa City a few years ago when she was touring for Before Lately. She did a few songs at that show which showed up on this EP. This was a release I was looking forward to.  Check out her two Daytrotter sessions here and here.

Solid GoldEat Your Young – After I heard Solid Gold at the Gayngs Affiliyated showcase, I was really looking forward to hearing the next album from them. It took them a couple of years to get this release out the door, but what a release it is! Solid Gold still holds on to their 80’s New Wave roots (think later Talk Talk), but I think that the time spent in Gayngs may have helped refine their art, as Eat Your Young is the most consistent release to date. I look for them to get snagged by a larger label.

Polica Give You The Ghost – This was on my releases I was looking forward to, but it was kind of a cheat since the band pre-released this album in December of last year. Another band related to Gayngs. Ryan Olson has the Midas touch, I think. Polica moved from his label to Mom+Pop this year and they opened for Bon Iver’s big show in NYC before I got to see them in Dubuque. They played new songs at that show, so I’m hopeful for another album! Check out Polica’s Daytrotter session here.

Calexico Algiers – With the breakdown of Quarterstick records, I was afraid of the fate of Calexico. Fortunately, they have been picked up by Anti- Records and the band recorded in the flood zone of post Hurricane New Orleans (“Algiers” is a section of the city). Great record– lots of diehard fans are bitching because the album is closer to Garden Ruin than Hot Rail.

Jeff Parker TrioBright Light in Winter – On my releases I’m looking forward to. The main guitarist from Tortoise returns for his third-ish solo album on the mighty Jazz and Blues label Delmark Records from Chicago.  This one spent a lot of time in rotation. Jeff’s a busy guy between all of the projects he participates, in so it’s cool that he returned to his own. I could listen to album opener “Mainz” on repeat forever.

Hiss Golden MessengerLord I Love The Rain – I mentioned this in the releases I was looking forward to for 2012. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I already heard parts of this release. MC Taylor decided to rejigger the “bonus” LP of outtakes that came with the preorders of Poor Moon called Lord I Love The Rain. He removed a track and added some and resequenced to make Lord I Love The Rain an album that could stand on its own. Check out the Hiss Golden Messenger Daytrotter session here.

The Sea and Cake – Runner – With the four-year gap between One Bedroom and Everybody, I’m always a bit nervous that The Sea and Cake will disappear again. But, since 2007, The Sea and Cake have enjoyed a very fruitful and creative period releasing four albums and one split single in five years. A really great follow up to Moonlight Butterfly— in fact they kind of act as bookends to each other. Check out their Daytrotter session here.

Kopecky Family BandKids Raising Kids – The debut album for Nashville chamber-pop band Kopecky Family Band follows two really great EP’s. The band has enjoyed a lot of critical praise and some big festival appearances at SXSW and Bonnaroo. Though this album was released in 2012, It looks like 2013 is when it will get some real traction and buzz. Check the Kopecky Family Daytrotter session here.

Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet – Stellar Pulsations – Mazurek is back with a new release on Delmark with a kind of expanded version of his Starlicker lineup. Nice, kind of subdued album (for Mazurek anyway) really focuses on his playing more than any of his other releases. I love “Magic Saturn”– sounds like a modern Jazz classic to me.

Various Artists – Iowa City Song Project – Compilation of Iowa City artists commissioned by the Englert who was celebrating 100 years ( and, to an extent, The Mill which was celebrating its 50th). Bo Ramsey, Pieta Brown, Greg Brown, Sam Locke Ward, Brooks Strauss, Milk and Eggs, Dave Zollo, Emporer’s Club, and many, many more all lay down tracks inspired by Iowa City. I reviewed the album for Little Village.

Stay tuned for my list of releases I’m looking forward to in 2013!