Staff Picks: Best Local Albums and Songs of 2012
Written By: DMD at Large
Recapping the best of 2012, a few senior members of our staff shared their top local picks of the year:
Song: “Ophelia” by Dance for the Dying:
The book geek in me loves and hates literary references in modern music in equal measure—they make me feel either incredibly cultured or like an ignoramus, depending on whether or not I’ve read a particular novel/poem/play. But I do know Hamlet, and I know that Ophelia pretty much always got the short end of the stick, so I’d say she deserves to have at least one super groovy song name after her. This Dance for the Dying track immediately wormed its way into my head and had me belting “Ooo-phe-eee-liii-aaa” through many a terrible evening commute. For its recognition of the underdog, for its infectious melody line, and for its uncanny ability to ease stress-frayed nerves, this Dance for the Dying track is my best song of 2012.
Album: Underneath Eyelids by Frau Eva:
Sadly, 2012 saw Frau Eva announce an indefinite hiatus and performed their final gigs but not before the band bestowed upon its listeners an indelible parting gift—the beautiful and bounteous Underneath Eyelids, which gets my vote for best album of 2012. To be entirely forthright, anything described as “experimental” kind of makes me want to back away slowly, so I approached Frau Eva cautiously. The beautiful thing that happened was that I was both challenged and drawn in by what I heard. I found myself asking “What is this?” in the way you might ask a master chef the composition of a delightful but decidedly foreign-looking dish.
It’s certainly not any musician’s job to cater to genre-cowards like myself, but at the same time it should not be anyone’s pointed mission to discourage novices. Frau Eva offered gentle yet insistent encouragement on this record—urging the listener, with each track, to not be afraid, to come inside and take a look. Underneath Eyelids presented itself like a magical portal, leading from the mundane familiarities of everyday life to the tantalizing possibilities of realms I had never before imagined.
Song: “Pow Wow” by Lightfoot.
Great, simple, escalating track with slinky guitars, triumphant horn melodies, and a beautiful female voice.
Album: Sunday Morning Airplay by Liftoff
This was actually the first album I reviewed for DC Music Download, and although there have been many other good albums; simply none of them had a higher amount of good songs, or a consistently better vibe than this silky, psychedelic adventure by Liftoff. Listening to this album is like wandering through a delightful state of limbo: where various sounds and moods come into play yet the overall atmosphere never falters. There are bubbly tracks like “Summer Song,” colorful, almost disorienting trips like “Autumn,” and smooth, stylish, will-make-you-strut-like-a-secret-agent numbers like “The Morning”. They are also all mixed, mastered, and organized evenly like flavors in a great cocktail. There is a track here and there that may get skipped, (particularly toward the end) but the overall surreal effect this album has overcomes minor faults like these. With everything said and done, the album is never so psychedelic that it becomes off-putting. It’s trance, pop, shoegaze, and hip -hop all rolled into one. And if you want the epitome of cool, listen to “Kool It Man.”
Song: (Tie): “Empire Trashed” by Drop Electric and “Bright Lights” by Adrian Krygowski
Drop Electric dropped one of 2012’s most gorgeous rock songs. Beginning with heavenly vocals awash in atmospheric keyboards, “Empire” builds into shoegaze-disco euphoria before exploding like fireworks as heavy power chords come crashing down to close things out. Epic and emotional, this song takes you on a journey of sound you’ll want to keep traveling over and over.
Adrian Krygowski’s “Bright Lights” takes listeners on a journey, but in a completely different way. Earthy guitars, organ, and drums power Krygowski’s rough-hewn vocals as he travels down an uncertain future by revisiting his past history. “It’s only the start,” he sings, offering what is both a weary statement and a note of optimism. Stripped-down and straightforward, this song seems custom-made for recession-era America.
Album: The Sea by Misun
Singer Nacey’s wistful melodies draw you in siren-like to a shimmering, melancholy world of love, longing, and killer dance music. This EP is a summer fantasy sound-tracked by big beats, colorful synths, and layered production that reveals new treasures with every listen. This is the most creative release of the year.
Song: “U the One I Want” by Heavy Breathing
One of the boldest songs in 2012 was “U the One I Want” by psychedelic/electro rock outfit Heavy Breathing. A slow-tempo track that slowly transitions into a climactic, sonic attack towards the end, this song registers to be unlike anything else produced anywhere. The group used a decent amount of sample recordings for this track, but in no way do they overpower the clarity of the instrumentation throughout, instead giving the song a tinge of playfulness and that classic, retro- rock feel. Not to mention, they have a great and totally NSFW video that puts everything in perspective.
Album: Earlier this month, I spilled my top album picks via Hometown Sounds’ Podcast-check out which ones made my top list.