Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: EPs, etc.

1. Kitchen's Floor-Bitter Defeat
No one else came close this year. Two songs of heartfelt, savagely emotional white blues from Brisbane (the digital version includes two alternate takes and a track from Matt Kennedy’s pre-KF project). Kennedy has been bashing out noisy, tuneful downer pop for years now, but this is easily his best work. I won’t bother going into detail on this one-I wrote a longreview of it earlier this month-and most of you have probably heard this one already. If you bought one record in 2012, I hope it was this one; if you buy one in 2013, make it this. 

2. Meat Thump-Box of Wine
These two songs do battle with The Men’s “Turn it Around” as the best piece of rock ‘n’ roll released in 2012. They’re a testament to Brenden Annesley’s song-writing talents, his sense of humor, and the strength of the Aussie rock scene right now. Both songs clang,bang, and drag themselves through an alcoholic muck of Cleveland-indebted riffs and rhythmic patterns, while Annesley deadpans tales of alcoholic impotence, indifference to things that ain’t fun, and boxes of wine. Annesley will be much missed for a number of reasons; one of them is that we can’t look forward to more Meat Thump songs. If you buy two records in 2013, this should be the other one.

 3. Muuy Bien-s/t 
--> I didn’t listen to a lot hardcore this year, but this was the best HC record I did hear-probably in part because it’s art punk, not hardcore per se. Muuy Bien managed the unlikely feat of convincingly recreating the vibe of The Middle Class’ “Out of Vogue” EP on this one. The speed, the snide vocals, the arty pretensions: it’s all there. Four truncated hardcore punk tracks, none of them longer than a minute, followed by a weirdo guitar instrumental closer to John Fahey than the Germs. This one is a real keeper. Buy it from Mellow Riot records.

4. Piresian Beach-Alle Falle
 Zsofia saved the best for last. The final PB record really pulled together the garage punk ramshackleness and psychedelic tinge of her previous records, and stitched them together into 6 songs to get zonked on acid to. The ramshackle punk vibe, in fact, cedes center stage to a big guitar sound, especially on “Play Today,” and Zsofia’s hazy, wasted singing voice is perfect for it. This EP is like a warm bath to sit in while grooving on hallucinogens. Pop a beer, settle in, and enjoy the freakout.

 5. Sonic Death-Gothic Sessions
  Sonic Death could very well be The Sonics caught in a time portal and somehow spirited away to Petrograd. If you want to hear the best that the international garage scene has to offer in 2012, this is where to start. All of the songs on this EP are real songs: they have discernible, distinct beginnings, middles, and endings, instead of just being whambam pieces of noise. Sonic Death knows their rock ‘n’ roll history but unlike a lot of bands working in this genre, they’ve managed to create a sound all their own.  I hadn’t heard this EP since reviewing it back in May, and I had forgotten that every song here stands on its own. SD has released a slew of excellent records this year; start with this one, then wind your way through their twisted maze of garage wizardry.
 6. Wild Moth-s/t
San Francisco’s Willd Moth is a band to watch in 2013. I’m just gonna quote my buddy Max’s writeup of these guys: “Wild Moth wastes no time in making with a cacophony of hooks and croons whose assault on your eardrums leaves a sticky residue in your brain. Pretty, almost bubblegum components are thrown together in a manic frenzy.” Seriously, this EP is a fantastic piece of bittersweet guitar-driven pop, bitter enough to nurse your depression with but catchy enough that you can hum along to most of these songs. Get into it. 

 7. Buso-3E
Everyone and their fucking brother is making synth-based new/post/dark/cold/whateverwave these days. Most of this stuff is a stinking pile of shit. It helps, if you’re going to make a stinking pile of shit and call it music, if you can hide your lack of passion or skills behind a synthesizer, since played the right (wrong) way, it hides this lack of the essentials behind mechanical efficiency.

Buso’s “3E” was one of the few convincing pieces of bedroom synth music I heard this year. “Summer Skins” in particular is a majestic synth-guitar combination with a killer series of guitar notes stretched out over a numbing synth beat. It’s a simple song but for whatever reason, this guy does it like he means it. “Mutual Valley” could be everyone’s favorite dance song in hell, while “leaving” is a blissed out crescendof of swirling effects and a clanging beat. Check this out to remember why you got into “coldwave” in the first place.
 8. Nite Fields-Vacation
This was the other good darkwave (or whatever the hell you wanna call synth-driven post punk) EP I heard this year. The beat and guitar riff of “Vacation” are absolutely infectious, and if anything could get me out of my chair and onto the dance floor, it would be this. The track gradually builds and builds, flattens out into a fuzzy bridge, then closes on a clattering cluster of organ notes. “Hell/Happy” is more introspective, for the morning after an excessive bender. Treat these two songs as a bracket for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

 9. Batu Kan Pesti Rokona-Mezofoldi Kozmosz
Strictly for the adventurous and the truly weird among my readers. I think that this one will be forgotten about and then, maybe twenty years down the line, some overeducated music nerd will rediscover dude and laud him to the skies. Long after it’s too late to do Batu or anyone else any good, of course.

Anyway, on this EP we’re treated to a truly confusing and challenging hodgepodge of punk, space rock, improvised guitar experimentation, and just plain eccentricity. There are traces of Opus Null’s sound-dude plays guitar in that band-but this goes way off the deep end. “Araben’ is a mid-tempo krautpunk (think Teenage Panzerkorps on even more drugs) banger that slips off into fuzzed out, drum-less humming. Things get really interesting on “Panelhazi Ugros,” though, and showcases what makes this record so memorable. Batu develops a series of guitar soundscapes that are inimitable; psychedelic rock is a genre of music, but his guitarscapes are psychedelic in that you imagine whole landscapes when listneing to them.

 10. A Black People-Red Eyes
Big ups to Robert at Terminal Escape for turning me on to this band. A Black People does a great job of reviving the sound of early ‘80s SoCal deathrock bands (45 Grave, Christian Death) etc. while keeping up a snide, snotty punk vibe under the macabre façade. This EP is ragged and crude, and attractive for just those reasons. The singer sounds like the snotty, holier-than-thou pretentious asshole who works at your local record store, who goes home every night and gets bombed out listening to Sisters of Mercy. Unlike most bands in this genre, ABP strings together two 7 minute+ songs that are worth listening to in their entirety. Play on, kiddies, play on.

Other Hot EPs:
Summer Schatzies-Take me to Bohemia
Preludes-New York
Solar Snakes-s/t
Useless Eaters-Addicted to the Blade
Walrus-Odobenus Rosmarus
Teen Suicide-Goblin Problems

Top Five Cassette Releases:
Faggettes-Vols. 1 & 2
Trauma Harness-The Way you Press Harder
Kent State/Doleful Lions split
Psychic Blood-Autumn Curses
The Feeling of Love-So Chocolate

 Best Demos:
Violent End
Michael Wohl

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