Top Austin Albums of 2012: #40-31




40. Little Radar – Up in Arms

Little Radar have a delicate touch. Even when they are rocking out, as on album opener “Spitfire,” they do it with care. It’s not that their music is soft or acoustic, but it would work really well in that setting. You can just imagine Sean Hale and company crooning this material on acoustic instruments at your local coffeeshop and the songs would work just as well. On Up in Arms, though, the full band brings each song to life. It just makes it so much easier when you have songs like “MyMyMy” and “Cup O’ Tea” that would sound great in all almost any setting. For fans of: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Band of Horses – Carter

Little Radar - 'Spitfire'

39. A Giant Dog – Fight

While I’m not a huge fan of this most recent “garage” movement, it’s hard avoid while still faithfully reporting on punk music in Austin. For their part, A Giant Dog manages to avoid several of the usual pitfalls of garage punk on Fight. Where typically many bands replicate lo-fi recording techniques and stick to uninspired 3-chord progressions, A Giant Dog mix things up with clever song structures, smart use of rock piano, and dueling male-female vocals. While the overall result is still a throwback to the garage bands of the 60’s and the early punks in the 70’s, there’s something extra that pushes this album beyond simple genre labels in a pleasingly and definitively rocking way. For fans of: The Marked Men, Joan Jett, X – Brian

38. Tiger Waves – Don’t Be Yourself

Tiger Waves’ Don’t Be Yourself EP released in March combines art rock with beachy vocal harmonies and experimental noise. On the well-balanced 8-track album, you’ll hear Brian Wilson-esque vocals supported by lush soundscapes. I was mesmerized by the amazing song arrangements especially on “Summer,” the fourth track on the EP. On this song, vocal lines shift in and out of focus while ambient melodies swirl around in the background. All the songs on the EP clock in under 3 minutes 30 seconds but the scale of the songs’ soundscapes make them seem epic. Give this one a listen through headphones for a trip to psychedelic art pop heaven. For fans of: Sparklehorse, The Beach Boys, Animal Collective – Dan

Tiger Waves - 'I Hope You'll Feel Alright'

37. The Shears – Up We Go

Before the Shears went into hibernation and emerged with a badass electro edge, they released this EP of sunny synth-based pop. These five songs aren’t going to make your parents angry, but they will refuse to ever leave your head. The Shears prove themselves quite adept with a hook here, as they revisit their early “Air Balloon” and present the radio-friendly “123” or the incredibly infectious “She Dances.” It remains to be seen how much of this sound the Shears will keep in their new identity, but fortunately we’ll always have this album. For fans of: Blondie, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lady Gaga – Carter

The Shears - '123'

36. Crooks – The Rain Will Come

Despite appealing primarily to the indie rock crowd on Red River (the demographic we tend to cover most here), Crooks are remarkably country. Songs like “Bar Stool” and “Bendin’ Rules and Breakin’ Hearts” draw straight from the traditional country well, and tejano influences can be heard in the rocker “Corn and Bread” and the ballad “Pull Up Your Boots.” And while the songs don’t seem directly relatable (not many folks in the urbanized Austin could relate to “Peach Pickin’”), Crooks focus on the common humanity of their characters and narrators, whether that be through love or hate. For fans of: The Jayhawks, Reckless Kelly, Lucero – Carter

35. The Gary – Remains

Remains is not a record to take lightly. It’s a heavy rock record, but not quite punk; instead, it’s powerful due to its thudding toms, discordant intervals and mild distortion. Its finest achievement, though, is probably its lyrics. Dave Norwood writes in evocative fragments like, “Two gravities repulsing / A walk in two directions / The process is unpleasant / Nostalgia for the present,” while striving for real emotional depth. It may take a few spins to get into, but Remains is the kind of record that rewards that dedication. For fans of: Minutemen, The Fall, Dinosaur Jr. – Carter

The Gary - 'Fair Weatherer'

34. The Sweet Nuthin – The Sweet Nuthin

This bluesy rock band lights up your speakers on their debut EP. Whether it’s the jangly ballad “Turn Me Out Again” or pounding rocker “Your Mystery is History,” The Sweet Nuthin use classic rock tropes to their advantage, alternately sounding straight out of the ‘70’s and post-Strokes millennial. Opener “Play for Keeps” kicks things off with an intense energy that doesn’t let up until the final notes of the impeccable country-tinged, mile-a-minute classic “One More Way of Moving On.” A lot of bands idolize classic rock, but rarely does it sound this fresh.
For fans of: The Strokes, The Rolling Stones, The Faces – Carter

The Sweet Nuthin - 'One More Way of Moving On'

33. Letting Up Despite Great Faults – Untogether

Relative newcomers to the Austin scene, Letting Up Despite Great Faults has already been releasing records for years and that expertise and polish is apparent on Untogether. Each song is awash in synthesizers, guitar effects and hushed vocals, giving the album a coherently hazy feel from start to finish. Whether it’s an upbeat pop number like “Bulletproof Girl” or the acoustic ballad “On Your Mark,” LUDGF filter great songs through their distinctive style. There aren’t many electro/shoegaze bands in Austin, and LUDGF are showing that there’s rich material to be had there. For fans of: M83, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Gui Boratto – Carter

32. The Soldier Thread – The Bull

On The Bull, The Soldier Thread make the kind of pop music that you love to love. This is not guilty pleasure music, nor is it some sort of bubblegum. Instead, this synthesizer-based rock-pop is moving and engaging; it hits your heart while bobbing your head. This is largely because singer Patricia Lynn explores some pretty complex emotions: risk, regret, despair. On album closer, “We’re Not Going Down,” the band abandons pop pretentions while Lynn offers hope something akin to hope – at least it seems that way after what she’s been through in the previous four tracks. For fans of: Blue October, Metric, Stars – Carter

The Soldier Thread - 'No Parachute'

31. Pswingset – All Our False Starts

For me to compare an album to the mid-Atlantic post-punk music scenes of the late 90’s/early 00’s is high praise indeed and in my mind Pswingset’s debut LP All Our False Starts is worthy of no less. This album is full of the kind of jangly, technical, minor-key, post-punk music that scored much of my 20’s and continues to be a favorite. There’s a moodiness to All Our False Starts that, while subtly reminiscent of mid-late 90’s emo, is at once more mature and less affected. The end result as presented on this LP is both gripping and chill. For fans of: Shudder to Think, Bats and Mice, Sunny Day Real Estate – Brian

Pswingset - 'Husk'