With the last few fireworks shooting off rooftops in Echo Park, we've just passed the halfway point in the year, time again to weigh in on some of our favorite releases. In two parts, RFSL editors bring you the best we hear from the trenches of the Silver Lake and eastside club circuit.
Brad Roberts, Senior Editor -The Best of 2012 (first six months)
1. Torches - Heads Full Of Rust
I've watched this band blossom over the past year and was so looking forward to this release that I may have been over-anxious and consequently, it took a few weeks for this to take root in my head. Now that it has I'm at the point where each new listening makes me appreciate it more and more. Beautifully produced and performed, it could easily be the launching pad for these purveyors of smooth, shimmering, psychedelic indie rock with a brain. It's already affixed in my memory as the album I'll always relate to as the soundtrack to the summer of '12. The sparkling quality their music has live is perfectly recreated here.
2. Lost In The Trees - A Church That Fills Our Needs
Like the album above, this one was also a slow burner, worming it's way into my dreams because of the unusual and unpredictable nature of the songwriting. It flits from style to style, alternating orchestral bombast with chamber music delicacy. The sudden chord, key and tempo changes keep you on the edge of your seat, and made me revisit it more and more to try to figure it out. Music like a puzzle, written by, and sung with a uniquely flexible voice by Ari Picker. The music surges and roars, them calms itself suddenly, like an ocean. They sound just like this live as well.
3. Auditorium - Nights Worth Living EP
This band leaped into my consciousness during their first song at the Bootleg Bar last March where I got their full-length album from last year and this new 2012 EP release. The album is great, but this EP contains four songs that could each individually be seen as the best song of the year. Powerfully strong harmony vocals, lead by classically-trained Spencer Berger illuminate fine songwriting. Listen to "The Sex Offenders" or "Rabbit Rabbit" and hear the perfect balance of instrumental and vocal elements. Never overdone, and eloquently beautiful.
4. Horse Feathers - Cynic's New Year
Another band I should have known about before, but it was at The Echo on May 31 when I went to see Fort King and Portland band Horse Feathers were headlining.
5. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben
All the music I've enjoyed this year shares a common quality of superb vocals. Brian Jonestown Massacre have been a favorite of mine ever since I was introduced to their music in 2006 and to hear this triumphant return to form by this enigmatic and and sometimes frustrating band is a real bonus. The languished vocals of Anton Newcombe always draw me in and hypnotize me filling me with nostalgia.They revisit all the familiar metaphysical and spiritual touchstones of the sixties, that has always been a hallmark of their sound, and here, beginning with an Indian Raga-like "Panic In Babylon" it wanders from genre to genre and it's irresistible rock all the way. After all the ups and downs this band has been through, it's nice to hear them sing: "Somehow...they are...still friends". Love the echoey flute. Takes me to a long ago time.
Other Local Best:
Little Red Lung - Little Red Lung
Rollicking orchestral rock featuring the sultry, breathy urgency of Zoe-Ruth Erwins vocals, hovering over a vast array of instruments and sonic embellishments, dramatizing sometimes bizarre and intriguing fantasies. The sonic soundscapes that are so carefully crafted and beautifully applied lift the songs higher and higher till they feel like superstructures.
Bright Beast - Bright Beast
What is this thing called a Bright Beast? It's an amalgam of some of the leading elements from a bunch of local bands making a lot of noise together and having a hell of a time. It's infectious and were it not for the quality of the musicians involved, it might all fall apart. It defies classification, suffice to say, go see them live. You'll get it. It's like electronic dance music for bears in the woods.
Death To Anders - Death To Anders
This year has seen Rob Danson drive a final stake through the heart of Death To Anders, but not before leaving us with what may be the record they're remembered for. This eight-song record is highlighted by some of the finest songwriting of Rob's career and the recording is so pristine, that each element is concise and clear. This is particularly true of Rob's vocals, each word pushed to its limit. Contains favorite songs like "Odessa" and "Anne Marie".
Other National Best:
The Shins - Port of Morrow
At first I thought this was disappointing, but it kept pulling me back over and over until the songs began to play in my head, in the middle of the night even. Realizing they were more cleverly written that at first they seem allowed me to slowly grow into it. I think it represents a leap in maturity from quirky indie to thoughtful and wise.
Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods
There is such an anticipation that accompanies any release by this band that one should be forgiven for underestimating it at the beginning. Like The Shins, this was a slow grower but once I could separate it from their other releases, I could appreciate it on it's own. "Mean Spirits" is one great rock and roll song. Try to sit still.
Next in Part 2, Editor Kathryn Pinto weighs in on some highly subjective picks