By Kathryn Pinto
Early in July Brad Roberts gave you his picks for the best music of the first half of 2012 and we promised you a Part II. Summer is lazy; there are lots of shows to see. After a little vacation, here are my album picks for January to June of this year. This is not a comprehensive list--there are far too many albums released for one person to absorb everything--but it's an opportunity to point out some of the best music we’ve heard this year with a focus on emerging acts and live music.
Rademacher - Baby Hawk (Part III of III) (Self released, 2012)
Baby Hawk III is simply the record I’ve wanted to listen to more than any other this year. Malcolm Sosa’s songwriting is unparalleled, but it is his chemistry with his band (particularly Kim Haden) and effervescent production from Josiah Mazzaschi at the Cave Studio that lifts the Baby Hawk trilogy above all earlier Rademacher records. Impressively, Sosa's lyrics create expansive visual imagery with very few words. “We were all drunk and dreaming/popcorn on the ceiling” from “Who Knew Love” might be one of the most evocative turns of phrase I’ve heard this year. The instrumentation and production on Baby Hawk III percolate up through the songwriting, setting loose the tracks to be something that compels you to roll down your car window and sing out to the summer sky.
Auditorium - Nights Worth Living (EP) (Self released, 2012)
There are so many good things going on here. Spencer Berger as a one-man show is an enormously talented songwriter and vocalist, but he’s also not afraid to be uncool, or more precisely, to be unhip. Free to geek out in both writing and arrangements, Berger fills these songs with tremendous heart and humor. “The Sex Offenders” could be the most wrong thing written in a song except that it rings true and very funny. “There's a bunch of sex offenders living down the street from me/
But I guess if they've found forgiveness in the law/
Then there's probably some hope for me.”
Japandroids - Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl, 2012)
Sometimes music at its most essential is a physical thing. It’s the way guitar strings and vocal chords vibrate, sound waves push through the air. It’s the heavy weight of damp sweat in the air, bodies so close together at a show that someone else’s saturated t-shirt slides against your skin. It’s about raw release. Music like this doesn’t care about beautiful construction--just holding itself together enough to shout along, raise a first, and push toward the front of the stage. Go for broke sound, all guitars and exhilaration. Japandroids call it Celebration Rock.
Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory (Carpark 2012)
If an album can be all physical exhilaration, then like the Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory, it can be unbridled emotion. On “Wasted Days” Dylan Baldi sing/screams, “I thought. I would. Be more. Than this,” abrading his lyrics through his throat as if he were working his way back from a fine 320-grit sandpaper rougher and rougher down to 80-grit with each verse. There are some pretty beautifully intricate guitar lines and yeah, plenty of hooks, too, giving these tracks a complexity that raises them above some hypenate emo post punk.
Geronimo Getty - Darkness Hides (Self-released, 2012)
After hearing Geronimo Getty shows for more than a year, seeing every configuration of the band from a stripped down set of only Aaron Kyle (of Le Switch) and a guitar to a full five-piece band complete with Kyle’s excellent long time guitarist Chris Harrison, the album arrived in the mail. The walk from the mailbox to the stereo was one of those now rare, but welcome, moments when one can pause to imagine what an album is going to be like. Hope it will capture the feeling of an opening set in a small club on a Saturday night, that long second between final note and applause when everyone in the place stares down dewy-eyed into their drinks. Darkness Hides does not disappoint.
Marvelous Toy - Not Moving (Self-released, 2012)
Marvelous Toy eschews the trendy, aligning itself with a tradition of songwriting echoed in the band’s name, (a hat tip to the Peter, Paul & Mary song of the same title). The counterpoint of upbeat melody lines and energetic performance against considerably more grave lyrics makes this album work. One minute you’re dancing around your kitchen until you realize you’re singing about a subway crash or location scouting a suicide. Released early in the year and made up of many tracks included on the 2011 EP Not Moving, it would be a shame to overlook the first full album from Marvelous Toy.