I have been covering local music in Columbia for just over 19 years now, and this was perhaps one of the most productive, as well as one of the best years for music around these parts. What follows is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to great local releases from 2012 and I probably could make another totally different top ten list tomorrow that would be equally awesome.
Top Ten Local Releases of 2012
1. Those Lavender Whales, Tomahawk of Praise
Indie rock has a tendency to take itself way too seriously sometimes, but that’s not a problem with the whimsical yet powerful melodies of these songs, which possess an innocence and naivete that belies the deeper layers in each composition. Plus they are just so easy to sing along with it’s like kid’s music for adults.
2. Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Mighty Old Distance and Murky Old Time
It has been a while since a full-on electric band album from Josh Roberts, and the rockers certainly rank with the best of his much-loved back catalog. The jewels here, however, are the quiet numbers, “Just In Time to Lose” and “Steady As We Can.” Perhaps they’re made more poignant and persuasive dropped between the raucous waves of the other tracks, or maybe they are the best songs Roberts has ever written. **K. Oliver**
3. Pan, These Are the Things I Love And I Want To Share Them With You
The whole Post-Echo stable of artists have had a banner year, with the multimedia **Drift** their crowning achievement. As far as the individual bands’ albums go, this one stands out as a majestic, melodic take on the instrumental rock archetype. It’s almost a cliché to say that they don’t need lyrics, but trust me, words would just get in the way of the music Pan makes.
4. The Restoration, Honor the Father
The historical fiction of The Restoration is an unlikely candidate for a great rock and roll album, but Daniel Machado’s possessed carnival barker schtick pushes the potentially dry material into a dunk tank of Dixieland jazz and chamber folk wrapped in near punk-rock energy levels and a lyrical story line just this side of Flannery O’Connor’s **Wise Blood**.
5. Stagbriar, How Fast You Got There, The Holt Sessions
Brother/sister duo Alex and Emily McCollum have the sibling harmony thing down pat, but there’s more here than just some pretty singing. Three brief songs that also enlist Kenny McWilliams of Archer Avenue (the studio where the tracks were recorded), bassist James Gibson, and drummer Colin Brown are polished enough to be potential TV show soundtrack fodder (“Nashville”, anyone?). Their Youtube series “The Holt Sessions” (available on their Bandcamp page as audio tracks) proves they can deliver in a more raw environment as well, revealing musical tastes from Ryan Adams to Radiohead.
6. Post-Timey String Band, Post-Timey String Band
A contemporary take on old-time music that keeps the reverence but skips the rote authenticity for something more organic and emotionally resonant. Kelley McLachlan is by turns a Cary Ann Hearst style spitfire, a gentle folkie, and a brassy Jazz Era cabaret singer, while Sean Thomson’s banjo keeps the ‘string band’ in their sound no matter what direction they are heading.
7. Pandercakes, Paint by Numbers EP
A debut, but with the solid backbone of drummer Logan Goldstein on board and the waif-siren vocals of Desiree Richardson floating above the fray, this is a mighty accomplished-sounding quartet already. These four tunes combine the complex and densely arranged Elephant 6 sound with the psychedelic sheen of 80′s era Game Theory.
8. Fat Rat da Czar, Da Cold War Vol. 3
I’ve just about given up on modern hip-hop with its’ emphasis on bling and crack over banging tracks, but Fat Rat singlehandedly restored my faith this year in at least the homegrown variety. The culmination of years building up “Da Cold War” with DJ Shekeese providing the beats and Fat Rat the streetwise experience, maturity pays off with this final installment of the plan.
9. Parlour Tricks, Parlour Tricks
This is the second time drummer Logan Goldstein has shown up on my list, this time as the protagonist whose enlistment in the band formerly known as Death Becomes Even The Maiden was so game-changing they had to come up with a new name. These tracks take the Mission of Burma and Joy Division cards of the past and deal out a new hand that’s slightly more manic and less depressive, resulting in a jittery bug-out of an album that’s impossible to ignore.
10. The Hollerin’ River Talkers, The Hollerin’ River Talkers
Where local rockers tackle a slate of blues and gospel tunes with utter sincerity and charm. With members of American Gun, the Restoration, Shallow Palace, Whiskey Tango Revue, Mason Jar Menagerie, and more, the result is less an esoteric exercise and more an extended workout of the participants’ collective influences and demons.