Top Austin Albums of 2012: #30-21




30. The Calm Blue Sea – Arrivals & Departures

It’s difficult to write about The Calm Blue Sea because they operate within that space that can’t be defined by words. Though there are some passages on Arrivals & Departures that incorporate voices (either sung or spoken), it’s a largely instrumental record. It’s also a largely emotional record. The feelings that you get during the final swell of “Samsara” or the beautiful build of “Tesoro” are so intensely personal that it’s hard to judge this record objectively. Suffice it to say that The Calm Blue Sea achieve a beauty in their genre (cinematic post-rock) that is undeniable, even to newcomers. For fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, The Album Leaf – Carter

The Calm Blue Sea - 'Diaspora'

29. The League of Extraordinary G’z – Forever on Your Neck, Ass, & Elbows

This is a different kind of project. Last year, Esbe da 6th Street Bully – one of the leading lights of the Austin rap collective known as the League – passed away senselessly from an undiagnosed pulmonary embolism thanks largely to his lack of health insurance. In tribute to their fallen family member, the rest of the League put together this compendium of Esbe’s best rhymes. Over 74 minutes, they weave in 40 tracks’ worth of verses into a seamless, flowing DJ set that showcases Esbe’s personality and skills. Many of these tracks have appeared in other forms already, but their presentation here makes this a totally original and incredibly meaningful album. The world lost a true talent and Forever celebrates the depths of his contributions. For fans of: Outkast, UGK, Killer Mike – Carter

The League of Extraordinary G'z ft/ Rittz - 'Yes He Is (Rebirth)'

28. Balmorhea – Strangers

While most Austinites know instrumental post-rock through our own Explosions in the Sky, those in the know are enthralled with Balmorhea. Since 2007, they’ve released five studio albums, including this year’s Strangers. Their music is consistently compelling, and importantly, offers a different approach than the one Explosions crafted over a decade ago. There’s very little distortion in Balmorhea’s sound, and they tend to eschew the epic theatrics with which we’re often accustomed in this genre. Instead, on pieces like “Days” or “Shore,” there is a quiet contemplation that makes even the louder parts thoughtful. “Pyrakantha” illustrates that there’s so much more to Balmorhea’s post-rock than pure dynamics. They are able to explore nuances of structure and sound in both intellectual and emotional ways. For fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Message to Bears, Helios – Carter

27. Whitman – Weekends

This might be one of the most appropriately titled albums of the year. Ram Vela and company spend 11 glorious rock songs exploring the debaucherous possibilities of post-college, pre-children weekends. These songs detail arrests, fights, day drunks, sleeping around, bitterness, anger, joy and an array of other emotions. The remarkable thing is how comfortable Vela seems with it all. There’s no longing, wistfulness, or regret. He’s just reporting on his experiences, and they just happen to be awesome and relatable. This album can really only be listened to as the prelude to the most epic nights of your life. For fans of: The Replacements, Flogging Molly, The Gaslight Anthem – Carter

26. David Thomas Jones – Comfort Creatures

Eclecticism seemed to be the name of the game this year in many corners, and Jones provided us with one of the best eclectic releases of the year. Whether he was diving into electro-pop, classic rock, or singer-songwriter ballads, Jones proved himself an innovative arranger, adept musician and impressive songwriter. Everything came together on lead single “Our Lives,” but the record is filled with other impressive moments: the Beatles-esque “Diced Gold,” the T. Rex glam stomp of “Butcher in the Sky,” the soft folk of “Alibi,” and the New Wave power pop of album closer “Coffin Electricity.” When the only complaint that can made about a record is that it covers too much ground, you know that you’re dealing with an abundance of riches. For fans of: Big Star, Guided By Voices, Todd Rundgren – Carter

25. Oh Look Out – Orchestrated Fuzz

Oh Look Out’s JP Pfertner is like an ADD pop poet. Orchestrated Fuzz clocks in at under 20 minutes, despite its nine tracks, and is jam-packed with ideas. Pfertner will just abandon songs at seemingly random or sudden moments (“Monster Fiction”), and jump straight to the next track. Even within a song, the sections might be radically different (“…Or Be Destroyed”). It’s decidedly retro in its musical and lyrical reference points, but the lo-fi recording and frenetic pacing – along with a healthy embrace of studio trickery – make this sound ridiculously contemporary. Earlier this year, I called this “the pop of the future” and I just become more convinced of that with every spin. For fans of: The Rentals, Devo, Superdrag – Carter

Oh Look Out - '...Or Be Destroyed'

24. Markov – The Flatlands

On their sophomore effort Markov strengthen their already a solid sound and come into their own in a big way, while still paying homage to their hardcore heroes. Evoking images of such heavy hitters as Fugazi and Hot Snakes, The Flatlands is steeped in the traditions of hardcore punk. Influences aside, this release sees Markov more fully developing their punk trademark. With piercing guitars, scratch-throated vocals, and ferociously driven rhythm, Markov aim to take no prisoners and make a name for themselves in the annals of hardcore history. For fans of: Hot Snakes, Refused, Fugazi – Brian

Markov - 'Years/Weeks'

23. Driver Friendly – Bury A Dream

Pop punk progenitors Driver Friendly have made a masterpiece of mall punk with Bury A Dream. From start to finish, this record is packed tight with hooks and augmented with sleek backing vocals and horn flourishes. This septet have clearly ingested all of the best influences from around a decade ago and produced something that their forefathers would be proud of. “Messidona” is the clear hit here, but the muted churn of “You’re a Legend, Sir,” the unrelenting earworm “Ghosts” and the yearning “Do Whatever You Want” all deliver on repeated listens. More than just nostalgia for a bygone era, Bury A Dream is a testament to the possibilities of pop music. For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, The All-American Rejects – Carter

Driver Friendly - 'Messidona'

22. Megafauna – Surreal Estate

This is the heaviest rock record of the year. From the first chorus of “Touch the Lion,” Dani Neff and company unleash a torrent of multi-tracked vocals and ultimate riffage that is about as face-melting as it gets. The album continues on for 13 tracks through gems like “Scratch at the Latch” and “Love Project” always bringing the most energy possible. Considering the band derives its name from the word for incredibly large animals, it isn’t surprising that their record sounds like getting your face stomped on by an elephant. You know, in all the most hardcore, badass ways. For fans of: Deerhoof, Led Zeppelin, Joan Jett – Carter

Megafauna - 'Scratch at the Latch'

21. Melogrand – Waves For All Ages

Melogrand’s Debut LP, Waves for Ages, is a glimmering jewel of psychedelic pop. The sextet, replete with Austin music veterans, blend dreamy guitarwork and electronic sounds with deceptively-sweet sounding vocals. Take a listen to “All The Young” and “Modern World” for my favorites off the album and to hear two sides of Melogrand’s sound. “Modern World” is lush and swirling while “All The Young” is more stripped down and deliberate. On both and throughout the album, you’ll hear tight songwriting and intriguing lyrics. Waves for Ages is a must listen if you’re at all looking for pop mixed with something maybe a little different. For fans of The Flaming Lips, Ringo Deathstarr, My Morning Jacket. – Dan

Melogrand - 'Modern World'