Top Austin Albums of 2012: #50-41


Now that you’ve enjoyed our Top Austin Songs of the Year, we’ve got our Top Austin Albums this week. You can sample songs from each album in the playlist feature right below these words. Let us know what you think and hopefully we can help you discover some amazing new artists!


50. Dikes of Holland – Braindead USA

I’m notoriously fickle when it comes to the “garage” style of rock and punk, but Braindead USA is the kind of garage that I dig. To their detriment I feel that garage acts often get too caught up on trying to sound lo-fi, raw, and un-produced, but on here Dikes of Holland do all of this while also bringing a metric ton of fury wrapped in a solid sheathe of electrifying compositions. Braindead USA crackles with energy over 12 tracks of jagged guitars, crashing drums, and the occasional rock organ. Despite having that “same-y” quality many garage and punk tracks tend to get criticized for, Braindead USA‘s songs vary the formula enough to catch the listener’s attention and get them caught on the uniqueness of a particular hook or beat. Add to that the fact that the duality of Dikes of Holland’s two vocalists keep things interesting (with Liz Herrera’s tracks particularly conjuring pleasing images of classic Blondie tunes) and Braindead USA is a top garage pick for 2012 to be sure. For fans of: Blondie, The Obits, The Marked Men – Brian

Dikes of Holland - 'Streetwalker'

49. Leopold & His Fiction – 3

3 earns its title for being Leopold & His Fiction’s third album, and their sound is still developing. What 3 proves is that Leopold are capable of operating in any number of milieus. Whether it’s the sweet, gentle ballad of “Ride” or the frenetic groove of “Golden Friends;” the psych-rock of “Weeds” or the singalong stomp of “Yeah Boy,” Leopold deliver strong songs with great musical performances. Their old-school, traditional feel provides cohesion to the record without ever sounding dated, and makes it sound familiar even on its first listen. For fans of: Junior Kimbrough, The Steepwater Band, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Carter

48. Shakey Graves – The State of Texas Vs. Alejandro Rose-Garcia

This is how good Shakey Graves is. A seven-song EP of castoffs and B-sides that was only available for a few short days is still one of the better records of the year. Over half of these songs are live takes. “Built to Roam” appears here in a rawer version than the studio one that shone on Roll the Bones. “Feel Good Smell Good Woman Blues” is a ridiculous song whose brief spoken word intro makes it infinitely better. Even the “studio” songs are great, though. “Halloween” is as haunting as anything Shakey’s released before, and “Once in a While” is a gorgeous little number. If this is Shakey Graves’ idea of a throwaway project, then the sky’s the limit for his next “official” release. For fans of: Devendra Banhart, Taj Mahal, Elliot Smith – Carter

Shakey Graves - 'Halloween'

47. Residual Kid – Faces

Dan and I got a chance to talk to this prepubescent trio after their performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest this year. This was after seeing them bring down the house in person at our unofficial SXSW party. There’s an irresistible energy that Residual Kid bring to the stage as they sound better than your middle school band could have ever dreamed for. On record, though, you don’t see their cherubic faces producing this music, and you can’t even tell their youth. This EP is incredibly self-assured and powerful with a set of solid songs that reveal a lifetime of promise ahead. For fans of: Nirvana, Mission of Burma, Refused – Carter


MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR’s self-titled debut takes you through a smorgasbord of different influences that include: garage rock, experimental rock, art pop and more. At times, MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR sound like Grizzly Bear but then they transform into more of a Hüsker Dü type sound. This range is impressive for the two-piece which features Adrian Sebastian on guitars and vocals and Andrew Torrey on drums. Throughout the album tight drumming and strong vocals are the constant and help make the album surprisingly cohesive given the range of sound. Give this 5-song EP a listen if you’ve been dying to hear something fresh. For fans of: Grizzly Bear, Husker Du, Battles – Dan

MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR - 'In the Caribbean'

45. Black Pistol Fire – Big Beat ’59

Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen are clearly talented instrumentalists with an insane amount of energy. Their sound is rooted in classic rock and blues, and they are at their best on Big Beat ’59 when they are using those influences as a jumping off point to craft their own unique style. On tracks like “Beelzebub” and “Hot Mess” they strip down their massive bluesy distortion into more country-tinged stomps. On “Young Blood” and “Slow Burn” they take their classic rock into slower territory to great effect. And with the remaining tracks they perfect the kind of heavy Texas-influenced blues that makes it hard to believe they moved here from Canada. For fans of: Black Keys, White Stripes, The Pack a.d. – Carter

44. The Black Owl Society – The Black Owl Society

The Black Owl Society’s debut EP is an engaging declaration of the blues. This power trio is classic in the sense that they draw from a wealth of Delta blues-ish influences from across the 20th century. Each member of the group has been performing for years, and it shows in the strength of their musicianship throughout the record. Whether it’s on the slow-burner “Down” or a harder rocking number like “See My Jumper on the Line,” these guys deliver expert performances that rock as hard as anyone. For fans of: Soundgarden, The Black Keys, R.L. Burnside – Carter

The Black Owl Society - 'Burn the Past'

43. Boyfrndz – All Day Pass

You’d have to be forgiven for thinking that this Austin 3-piece were actually more like 4 or 5, so big is the sound present on their full-length debut All Day Pass. Grandiose and lofty like Austin heavy-hitters Explosions in the Sky, but artfully fractured in the same vein as the earlier works of such math rockers as Don Caballero, Boyfrndz offer a challenging, spacey brand of noise that’s as technically layered as it is rewarding. For fans of: Oxes, Hella, Don Caballero – Brian

Boyfrndz - 'All Day Pass'

42. These Mad Dogs of Glory – Sweet Appalachia

Maybe it’s just the Northeasterner in me that I still haven’t been able to fully shake since moving to Texas, but TMDoG sound great. They channel the rootsy spirit of a summer Vermont barn-raising (not actually something I’ve experienced) through some country twang and a dash of pedal steel. In a year when Austin artists communed with nature through their music, TMDoG were no slouches. In just five songs, they exert remarkable range and depth of emotions, while keeping the energy high. For fans of: The String Cheese Incident, Ryan Adams, Drive-By Truckers – Carter

41. Language Room – Skin & Heart & Lungs

Maybe you don’t like some of the other recordings on this list. You’re turned off by the lo-fi recording quality, bracing sounds or challenging structures. Language Room has got you covered. Their pop-rock is eminently approachable with its clean sound and soaring hooks, without ever sounding too saccharine. “Open Air” could sound right at home on KGSR alongside any of its current programming, while “Breachers” offers a bit of a darker edge. Language Room are the band that are cool enough to appeal to the East-siders and accessible enough for the West-siders. For fans of: The Temper Trap, Coldplay, fun. – Carter