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.