Top Austin Albums of 2012: #20-11




20. Ringo Deathstarr – Mauve

The last year or so has been huge for Ringo Deathstarr, what with their international touring, major press attention and two high-quality album releases. The more recent of those is Mauve, which builds off of Colour Trip’s excellent songwriting by incorporating even more noise. On songs like “Please Don’t Kill Yourself” and “Do You Wanna,” Ringo Deathstarr illustrate their knack for writing hooks, while on songs like “Rip” and “Drag” they revel in more languid and ethereal sounds. This record sees this talented trio expanding their palette in multiple ways, all while remaining true to their shoegaze roots. For fans of: My Bloody Valentine, the Dandy Warhols, The Black Ryder – Carter

19. Shivery Shakes – Shivery Shakes

On their 5-song debut EP, William Glosup’s sloppy quartet offer up some high-quality 60s-inspired rock n’ roll. Centered around album highlight “Stay Young,” the EP explores the trials and joys of being young in the midst of the Great Recession. The lyrics describe a world of uncertainty and weariness, but the music bolsters those sentiments with memorable hooks, bouncy rhythms and whistle solos. With more bite than your average 60s revivalists, Shivery Shakes offer an auspicious debut. For fans of: Black Lips, King Khan, Harlem – Carter

Shivery Shakes - 'Stay Young'

18. The Capitalist Kids – Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene

Austin’s prolific political punks came back this year with their third full length and it may just be their best yet. Here’s the kicker though: it’s full of love songs! Lessons on Love… skates gracefully between political snark, finger-pointing anthems, and blisteringly fast ballads in a way that few bands could accomplish. The Capitalist Kids manage to find the Goldilocks zone with every song in providing politics without being preachy and love songs without the sap. If you can’t get your toes tapping to this album then you may be a robot or possibly a Republican. For fans of: Bad Religion, Screeching Weasel, Green Day – Brian

The Capitalist Kids - 'Three-Oh'

17. Marmalakes – In Arnica

Here’s what I love about In Arnica, and hopefully this makes sense. Chase Weinacht and company are never in the way of their songs. They never feel like a chorus must go here or a drum fill must go there. They let the songs go where they must as the gorgeous notes and rhythms wrap around the poetry of the lyrics. They play to drunk crowds looking to party on weekend nights, but have the audacity to make the quietest record of their short career rather than give in to what anyone might demand of them. In four breathtaking songs, In Arnica shows us “the significance of space,” as the group sings on “Septimus Warren Smith,” and they deliver one of the more riveting listens of the year. For fans of: Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, the Lumineers – Carter

16. Lonesome Heroes – Daydream Western

It’s not hard to see why the Lonesome Heroes are one of the few country-sounding groups to capture the attention of the Red River/East 6th crowds. Rich Russell and Landry McMeans produce music with hushed voices and spare arrangements, demanding listeners’ attention through their subtlety. They mix soaring choruses (“Sparrow Horse”), minor-key Americana grooves (“Seeing Is Believing”), and more traditional country aesthetics (“Don’t Play to Lose”) into a sound that paints the picture of rural Texas like no one else. For fans of: Leo Rondeau, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch – Carter

15. Frank Smith – Before You Were Born

Though “A Decline” is the catchiest single off Before You Were Born, it’s a bit misleading. In the context of the record, you can hear the country-rock strains in its pulsating rock rhythms, but the rest of the album showcases the country-rock roots flavor that Frank Smith do so well. The ballad “Homecomin’ Hater;” the waltz of “Hearing Voices;” the insistent “Fire Sleepin’;” the roots jam band of “Monsters.” Every entry on this record has bite no matter the musical style. With all that Texas-style attitude, you’d never know this group was fronted by a Boston transplant. For fans of: Steve Earle, My Morning Jacket, Lucero. – Carter

Frank Smith - 'A Decline'

14. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu

Clearly Gary Clark Jr. is the best Austin guitarist in a generation, but that didn’t automatically mean he would be able to sustain an album’s worth of great singing and songwriting too. After more hype than a Puff Daddy video, Blak and Blu put any of those concerns to rest. Sure, Clark shines on the blues-oriented numbers here, but his best guitar solo occurs on the classic soul ballad “Please Come Home.” The hip-hop-tinged adult contemporary number “The Life” shows just how wide Clark’s range is, but at the end of the day it’s the dirty tracks like “Numb” that illustrates exactly why Clark is such an important talent. For fans of: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Alicia Keys – Carter

13. Belaire – Resonating Symphony

Resonating Symphony, Belaire’s second album, follows five years after debut Exploding Impact was released. On both albums, you’ll hear Cari Palazzolo’s sweet vocals backed by carefully crafted indie pop. On this year’s release, you’ll hear more acoustic instrumentation including violin, piano and guitar whereas on Exploding Impact you’ll hear more electronic melodies and synth lines. On Resonating Symphony, Palazzolo’s voice still shines and Belaire has successfully created a full album of indie pop tunes that are pleasing to the ears. For fans of: The Bird and The Bee, Best Coast, Camera Obscura – Dan

Belaire - 'This Could Take All Night'

12. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Lost Songs

You know you’re in for a ride as soon as lead track “Open Doors” kicks into high gear just before its one-minute mark. For the next 45 minutes, Trail of Dead slays like almost never before. Even on a slower number like “Flower Card Games” there is an underlying intensity that few artists can parallel. Many have critiqued Trail of Dead’s albums since 2002’s Source Tags and Codes, partially due to their prog-rock tendencies. On Lost Songs, they shed all of that baggage. A song like “Catatonic” draws from hardcore punk, for example, but is delivered in the kind of hard rock style that only Trail of Dead can pull off. Along with last year’s Tao of the Dead, Lost Songs suggests that Trail of Dead is at their creative peak 15 years into their career. For fans of: Sparta, Secret Machines, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Carter

11. The Couch – The Couch

Whenever a band has a self-titled album that is not their debut album, it’s a sign of a newfound identity or self-assuredness (see Blink-182, for example). And on The Couch, The Couch illustrate why they’re one of the best rock bands in town. Full of swagger and solos, there’s rarely a dull moment on The Couch. From “Kick the Can” through “Ghost” to “Kaiser,” the Couch offer stripped-down, straight-ahead classic rock n’ roll. There are so many highlights on this record that it almost isn’t fair. Filled to the brim with great songs and musicianship, The Couch show that there’s still a ton of life left in good old fashioned rock n’ roll. For fans of: Franz Ferdinand, My Brightest Diamond, Cage the Elephant (specifically that 2008 self-titled record that totally kicked ass I don’t care what anyone else says) – Carter

The Couch - 'Ghost'