2012...The Highs, Lows & Mediocrity of The Year In Alternative Music


Australia was Awesome!

The Land Down Under produced the most musical highlights of 2012.  From the exhilaration of Last Dinosaurs' 'Zoom', Made in Japan's classic Alt Rock that brought to mind bands of yore (The Ocean Blue, classic Echo & The Bunnymen) & the retro rock of Millions, 2012 was the year of Australian Alternative Rock! 

My head was rattled by the myriad of new bands streaming from the continent.  Singles like New Navy's 'Zimbabwe', Jubilants' 'Fiasco', & the neo-classic 'Unsatisfy' from Nantes excited me more about Australia than even the early 1980's with INXS, Hoodoo Gurus & Midnight OilGlass Towers gave us the brilliantly gritty single 'Tonight' but the big winner was the genre smashing 'Dark Again' by Gold Fields

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Melbourne's Northeast Party House who did a better job of sounding like Bloc Party than Bloc Party did in 2012!  Their singles 'Pascal Cavalier' & 'Stand Tall' did just that.  Finally, there's Oceanics, whose 'The City' single rounded out a bursting at the seams group of extraordinary Australian bands.

I have to give a hearty "Thank You" & praise to the web site that helped me discover many of the bands mentioned.  That site is the Aussie based Indie Shuffle If you're not aware of it, do yourself a favor & visit it often.  Your ears will be better because of it! 

Other Highlights...

Americana, The French, Brits & Babes

The Aussies weren't the only ones contributing to a great year in Alternative/Indie Music.  I cannot leave out the contributions of my United States.  In fact, some of the most impressive releases of the year originated Stateside. 

I can't say one without the other.  Saint Motel & Bad Veins produced the most interesting & invigorating LP's of the year. They're similar in that they both have tongue firmly planted in cheek but neither is an Oingo Boing/Devo incarnate.  Saint Motel can't be categorized because of their musical & lyrical virtuosity.  Bad Veins is sing-a-long heaven.  2012 was their year.  Magnet Magazine's best LP of 2012 was The Walkmen's "Heaven."  And it was a worthy candidate for anyone's best of list.  Another candidate for me was the 2012 offering by Silversun PickupsThey still sound like Smashing Pumpkins & ironically The Pumpkins (in whatever incarnation they're in) released their best LP in 15 years!  But for me, this year, the 'Pickups' out 'Pumpkined' the 'Pumpkins'.     

Wild Nothing produced the best shoegaze of the year on the "Nocturne" LP with the single 'Shadow'.  The Indie supergroup Divine Fits provided the equally impressive 'My Love is Real'.   'Anna Sun' by Walk The Moon made me relive the exhilaration of youth, while The Soft Pack made me hanker for a 'Tallboy'!  Crocodiles provided the best in Indie Noise with 'Surfing Lucifer' while Dinowalrus gave us the dreamy yet dancey groove of 'The Gift Shop'.  Not to be outdone, Chicago's Gemini Club was pure indie/electronica pop perfection with 'By Surprise'. 

The New York/German duo of Light Asylum gave me hope for a new uprising in Industiral/Dance with songs like 'Hour Fortress'.

Oxford MS, yes Mississippi, proved it's no cultural wasteland regardless of what the rest of the country says.  They gave us ILLLS & the awesome E.P. Dark Paradise.

The French were not sleeping on their croissants in 2012.  Citizens! released their "Here We Are" LP mixing Franz Ferdinand with with the attitude of an upbeat Bryan Ferry.  Truthfully, they're a British band but they are on a French label!  Work with me here.  I have to write to the tagline. 

I think these guys are French but you can't trust the goddamn internet!  Oh Dear Vegas! provided one of the best chorus' of 2012 with their single 'Modern Love'.

Enough with The French & French by association.  On to the U.K.  Anyone familiar with me knows I'm a bit of an anglophile.  2012 did not disappoint.  Arctic Monkeys destroyed all pretenders to the Alt Rock throne (including you Black Keys) emerging with a sample of their forthcoming LP in the form of the singles 'R U Mine' & 'Electricity'.  Sheffield's, The Crookes provided the driving sing-a-long 'Afterglow',  Zulu Winter was equally compelling with songs like 'Key To My Heart' & 'Silver Tongue.

The Coexist LP from The XX contained the most impressive understated single of the year with 'Angels'.   The Cribs provided another dose of brashness & Maximo Park released their best LP to date with The National Health while the Indie-Pop of Two Wounded Birds made for an enjoyable Summer.

London's The Ghosts released a slice of dream pop heaven with the Enough Time E.P.  Little Comets showed maturation & virtuosity with songs like 'Western Boy' from the Life is Elsewhere LP.  Man Without Country carried the flag for great indie-electronca with the 'Puppets' single surfing the wake made by M83 & Neon Indian in 2011.    

But the U.K. highlight of the year for me came in the form of a scraggly bunch of kids (can any of them be 18?), called Evans The Death.  Singles from their self-titled debut, 'Telling Lies' & 'A Small Child Punched Me in The Face,' made them the most refreshing newcomers of 2012!

There's noting more than upside for Evans The Death.  Camera Obscura is probably fortunate that they didn't have a release in 2012.  They might not have compared favorably! 

I can't leave out the 2012 contributions from U.K. vets Richard Hawley & Charlatans front man Tim Burgess whose single 'White' was the most pleasant song of the year.  Egyptian Hip Hop also returned with the slinky single 'Syh'.


I know it sounds misogynistic.  But frankly women have been the predominant story in Alternative Music for the past four plus years.  Whether it's all female members like Girl in A Coma, solo artists, the focal point in a duo, or fronting bands of various makeups, the chicks have made a compelling case that the world of music is no longer a man's world!

The Royalty, Tennis & Boy were the triumvirate of women led neo-classic groups in 2012.   The Royalty & Tennis maintained a classic girl group vibe with an indie edge.  The duo of Boy, with the LP Mutual Friends, was just a refreshing indie-pop gem.  The super sisters Tegan and Sara graced us with the single' Closer' as a Tease for their forthcoming LP Heartthrob.

I couldn't get the single 'Mondays' by Bleech out of my head from the moment I heard it.  Similarly, Vivian Girls' Katy Goodman, re-incarnated in 2012 as La Sera and the single 'Please Be My Third Eye' was a rash of undeniable indie-rock joy!  Foe started 2012 with the LP Bad Dream Hotline.  It was the LP Garbage wished they would've released instead of the tragic piece of aural fluff they came out with. The Duke Spirit produced a candidate for LP of the year with the excellent Bruiser.  

But the real winner of the fairer sex Indie sweepstakes was a trio of sisters from sunny California.  Haim was deservedly buzzed about seemingly the entire year.

2013 appears as though it's going to be an larger year for the girls.  If you feel no joy listening to 'Forever', you should question your humanity!

'Gainseville' by Pure Bathing Culture, 'Afghan Hound' by Manor (who should've been included in my Aussie roundup), 'Friend Crush' by Friends & 'Scavenger' by School of Seven Bells round out the feminine highs for the year. 

As proof that 2012 was an amazing year in Alternative/Indie music here are more artists I failed to mention previously. 

Julien K continues out of the ashes of Orgy with the great LP We're Here With You.  The Ravonettes returned with Observatory & another fuzzed out classic single, 'She Own The Streets'.  Silver Age continued Bob Mould's mastery of this phase of his impeccable career while Diamond Rings dazzled with his latest Free Dimensional. 

Another band I hold high hopes for is Dear Prudence Their 2012 single 'Valentine' was another adrenaline inducing single from the year. 

Purity Ring became another worthy buzzed about band in 2012.  'It's My Part' from Jonquil was the feel good song of the Summer.  Young Unknowns became very 'known' in my world with the release of the You Are A Young Unknown E.P. & the single 'Target Practice'.  'Colours' from Young Liars had the best chorus of the year. 

Finally, there was the Ska tinged Indie-Pop of Wild Belle & their great single 'It's Too Late' as well as the future pop of Chad Valley & Twin Shadow.  Moones capped off the year with the manically brilliant 'Better Energy'.

I'm exhausted!  2012 was an excellent year in music.  I can only hope than 2013 can keep up with the pace.  If you didn't see a mention of your favorite Alternative/Indie band or artist, there could be a good reason.  I missed them by accident, I didn't hear them for some reason or they will be mentioned when I cover the mediocre & the lows of 2012.