In our Year in Music issue (Dec. 6, 2012), we at the Scene polled our contributing music writers to determine the 10 best local albums of 2012. We were indeed pleased with the results, from the smartly crafted, weirdo alt-country of local mainstays Lambchop on down the line to the rollicking psychedelic garage rock of Turbo Fruits. But our fair burgh produces more top-notch music than we could ever hope to adequately spotlight, and thus the impetus for the Best Local Rock of 2012 Winter Mix you see before you.
While some of the tracks below weren't eligible for our Top Local Albums of 2012 list because they were featured on EPs, singles and as digital-only releases rather than on proper long-players, others simply landed just outside our Top 10 (young up-and-comers like Jack White and Justin Townes Earle among them, for instance ... you probably haven't heard of those guys). Visit the Scene's music blog, Nashville Cream, to hear the tunes.
Steelism, "Midnight Fetz"
Does Quentin Tarantino know that Steelism exists? Most likely not, because if he did, he probably would have featured the guitar-and-steel duo's riff-a-minute, funk-meets-trad-country instrumental "Midnight Fetz" in a Django Unchained action sequence. Made up of Music City sidemen Jeremy Fetzer and Spencer Cullum Jr., Steelism released their debut eponymous EP in October, and it features the sort of tasteful showboatin' that could only be created in Nashville.
Cortney Tidwell, "Sutures"
In KORT — her country music project with Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner — local singer-songwriter Cortney Tidwell channels the spirit of her late, great songstress mother Connie Eaton. But with her solo material, Tidwell creates dark, gorgeously haunting post-rock melodies that call to mind ice-shrouded Scandinavian landscapes — never mind the fact that Tidwell is a native Tennessean. On Record Store Day, Made in Canada Records issued Tidwell's "Sutures" 7-inch, and the A-side is a shadowy, adrenaline-boosting electronic-rock tune that could be lazily lumped in with performers like Cocteau Twins and Björk, but is honestly a beast all its own.
Quichenight, "Infinity Bends"
From August's Quichenight II, "Infinity Bends" is a bobbing, lo-fi, indie-rocking and at least slightly genius dose of power pop courtesy of frontman/primary Quiche member Brett Rosenberg. Local-rock insiders may detect a bit of good-natured ribbing going on at the expense of some hip punk outfits (maybe?), but there's a little something for everybody in these lyrics: "You can't be punk / Staring at the drummer's junk." Indeed. Quichenight's latest, Quichenight III, will be out this Wednesday, Jan. 9, so catch up with Rosenberg's back catalog before moving on. Recommended if you like Guided by Voices, Superchunk, Big Star, Squeeze.
Mikky Ekko, "We Must Be Killers"
A self-described "post-pop" artist, Mikky Ekko made a big splash this year thanks to collaborations with ultra-hip electronic artist Clams Casino and certified pop star Rihanna. In July, Ekko posted a solo tune, "We Must Be Killers," on his Soundcloud page, and it's a track that marries the vocal-centric arrangement style of emotional rock crooners like Jeff Buckley with the electro embellishments of rock gods Radiohead. We expect even bigger things from Ekko in 2013, and if the rafter-reaching chorus of "Killers" is any indication, those big things will include some goosebump-inducing performances.
Evan P. Donohue feat. Natalie Prass, "Jazzputin"
Local rock fans have awaited a full-length follow-up to chameleonic, power-poppin' rock 'n' roller Evan P. Donohue's 2010 LP Rhythm and Amplitude since its release. We were granted a little peek in April, when Donohue and frequent collaborator Natalie Prass — a very fine local pop songwriter in her own right — released a devilishly smooth, mid-tempo duet called "Jazzputin." The song features wry, cool, collected, excellently executed vocal performances from both Prass and Donohue, as well as some incendiary guitar work from collaborator Matt Campbell. The B-side, "Wish I Was 19," doesn't feature Prass, but it's damn good too. Let's hear that follow-up LP soon, Donohue.
Jack White, "I'm Shakin' "
Jack White's solo debut, April's Blunderbuss, was a busy, active and eclectic collection that featured emotionally prickly acoustic ballads ("Love Interruption") and blown-out holler-along rockers ("Sixteen Saltines") alike. But the album's sole cover, "I'm Shakin' " — written by Rudy Toombs and made popular by Little Willie John — is, ironically enough, perhaps the most Jack White-sounding cut on the album. Playfully love-struck vocals, a bopping progression, sultry female BGVs and a squealing solo? That's JW, all right.
Promised Land, "Fuck Cancer"
Featuring former and current members of local outfits including Denney and the Jets, PUJOL and Fly Golden Eagle, Promised Land unveiled their debut EP, Stoned Eagle, in November. Made up of pop-skewing bar-rock numbers in the vein of Faces, The Kinks and the Stones, Eagle is the sort of 1970s-conjuring rock 'n' roll record you might expect to find while digging through some long-forgotten, dusty old crate of vinyl at the flea market — and "Fuck Cancer" is, for our money, the best and most catchy number in the lot.
Reid Magette and the 1020s, "Hobnobbin' "
Reid Magette is quite possibly the best-kept secret in Nashville, and we really hope nobody sinister gets their grimy paws on him. Magette and his 1020s released June's Shrine of Youth EP via Sturdy Girls Records, and its opening track is a sax-and-distortion-fueled blast of punky, clenched-fist heartland rock. If Bruce Springsteen's tour bus, Wipers' tour van (circa 1984) and Tom Waits' pickup truck collided at full speed and produced a 10-story fireball, "Hobnobbin' " would be the soundtrack to the carnage.
With the release of their eponymous EP in November, moody synth-pop crew Ponychase finally gave locals some hard-copy tunes to go along with their much-buzzed-about live show. Pulling from a slew of New Wave and post-punk influences including The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Cyndi Lauper and even Q Lazzarus, "Believer" excellently delivers the brooding, '80s-inspired dark-pop thing without getting mopey about it.
Penicillin Baby, "Daddy Drove a Hearse"
Psychedelic garage rock. If you've paid attention to the local rock scene over the past couple of years, you may have exhausted your patience for Nuggets-cribbing, DIY rock 'n' roll numbers. But those who happened to pick up Penicillin Baby and Megajoos' Favorite Face Records-released split MEGA/BABY in October may indeed have found a cure for local-garage-rock fatigue: It's as simple as penicillin, baby! Decked out in surfy reverb and topped with a rather exceptional vocal melody, "Daddy Drove a Hearse" is certainly one of the finest overlooked local rock tunes of 2012.
Nahnee Bori, "Iditarod"
Cody Uhler, known for his vocal contributions in KinderCastle and Uncle Skeleton, has the sort of full-throated warble that might call to mind early 20th century ragtime more than early 21st century experimental electro-pop. Still, as Nahnee Bori, Uhler makes sure all the modern blips and bloops are there, and November's Place is an immaculately executed pop album. With its soaring vocal hook, "Iditarod" definitely lands in "undeniably impressive" territory, even if it sounds like it was created by a time-traveling pop-music madman.
Cy Barkley and the Way Outsiders, "So Bad"
Don't tell the cast of ABC's Nashville, but Music City is indeed a bastion of homegrown old-school punk rock. In July, hulking frontman Cy Barkley and his Way Outsiders released So Bad via Infinity Cat Records, and its titular track stands out as a rapid-fire, authentic but not self-serious homage to first-generation punk and Oi! artists like Cock Sparrer and hardcore punkers like Agnostic Front and, of course, Black Flag. It isn't revolutionary in the way punk rock was 35 years ago, but it's got a pair of balls and a shit-eating grin, and isn't that the point?
Justin Townes Earle, "Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now"
Released in March, Justin Townes Earle's fine effort with the protracted title, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, received acclaim, though probably not the amount of acclaim it truly deserved. JTE, who also produced this year's Unfinished Business by Wanda Jackson, nailed the sort of heartbroken resolve we've all felt at one point or another with Nothing's Gonna Change's titular track. A smooth and sweet little folk number haunted by the ghost of an expired relationship, the song is tastefully presented and well performed, with just the right amount of distant horns and twanging lead guitar.
Cherub, "Doses and Mimosas"
Ideal ambassadors of Music City's burgeoning electronic dance music scene, grimy synth-pop duo Cherub unleashed an onslaught of unctuous, nocturnal beats and grooves with February's Mom and Dad. "Doses and Mimosas" demonstrates better than perhaps any other track on the record just how these dudes manage to run the rock-band approach through a lascivious, club-friendly, four-on-the-floor sieve and come out the other side with a substance-abusing, daylight-shunning collection of "Fuck it, let's dance" party jams.
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