Cross - "Die Forever" (Sophomore Lounge): Definitely one of my favorite releases of the year, if not my favorite. R. Clint Coburn's channeling of Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison through Ma Turner's resinous Sabbath riffs have garnered nothing but repeated listenings on my part. A complete flag wave of influences rechurned into something pretty damned creative and new.
J. Marinelli - "Young Spillers" (Stencil Trash) and split cassette with The Elsinores (Karmic Swamp/Space Cadet): Banging and clanging one man band that goes in the red and seeps out some of the best melodic breaches of songwriting I know from this region. This man is a songwriting machine, and the songs have stayed in my head all year.
Plastic Bubble - "Treble Treasure Chest" (Carpathian Cassette Label) - Louisville power pop that breathes the atmosphere of twee in such catchy manners. A decade long vision realized by singer/songwriter Matt Taylor finally fruiting and well worth the wait. Lo fi orchestrations and brockled with so many shades and colors it's beautiful piece.
Furlong/Sick City Four split seven inch (Gubbey Records): Gubbey's split series continues with this combination of the erect lo-fi of scene staples Furlong meeting the sax-cornet-guitar-drum rumble of the legendary Sick City Four's style of jazz that always seems to explore sound in general.
Humongous - "Miniature Pinschers" (Black Velvet Fuckere Recordings/Adept Recordings/Consanguinous Records): Up there as one of the most creative rock recordings released this year, Humongous mixes genres and influences into something that is basically undefinable. From catchy country melodies next to frantic cornet rock to exploratory garage jazz, this is one of the most inventive albums released this year. Any year.
Kirk Kiefer - "Sailing Stones": Singer/songwriter Kiefer's return after the demise of long time band Yardsale, this album is a soulful and blissful mix of catchy and intelligent country/folk/roots-based fun. A layered culmination that shows love for 60s pop defined in a variety of territories that all seem to work.
The Debauchees - "Schrodinger's Cat Is Dead": Self released masterpiece debut from a band of 19 year olds that can only mean insane things to come. This female fronted trio has continued to catch attention with their creative mix of new wavish mirth. They have definitely developed into an original sound that is not present in any other act in Louisville that I've heard. So impressive.
Giving Up - "(Peace Sign/Frown Face)" (Sophomore Lounge): Warbly, energetic, melodic, harmonic duels between organ and guitars that sing-songs through sad and happy in some unreal lo-fi heaven. Really. It was hard for me to stop listening to this album. I'm mad at how good it is.
French Letters - "In Tongues": Not a regional release, but a Seattle band featuring Kentuckian/Ohioan poet/singer Michael Crossley, this is swagger in the form of a bluesy combination of the Stones and the Stooges that is cemented by Mike's mind bleeding and orgasming all over the page. Songs about guns, drugs, girls and the love of fried chicken taken to a religious place.
Tropical Trash: "Fear of Suffering" (Sophomore Lounge): The seven inch of seven inches this year, Tropical Trash confused and melted me with their strange disjointed, confrontational rock. This record reached into my prostrate. I made me anxious and happy with its scariness. Loud destructo-insanity noise.
Ninnie - "Freedom Rings Placed Within" (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts): Once an outlier of warblish country music that reflected creative introspection on classic female country music (Cline, Lynn, etc), Ninnie's music here grows sparse and oftentimes mysterious, anchored in an electric dulcimer and her voice and her mind, which goes unpredictable places. I liken this to breaching country and instead mining into the drones of Velvet Underground areas.
Tender Mercy - "The Road to Good Intention Is Paved with Hell": Mark Kramer's concentrated meld of guitar and voice that creates a lush, moody album that braves through minimalism into a propounded beauty of a project.
Madame Machine - s/t seven inch (Noise Pollution): A recording of scene veterans Salena Filichia, Stephen Shoemaker and David Cundiff delving into their own frazzle of prog-rock and synthish new wave that blew my mind upon its release. "Snakeface" gets my vote for best song of the year.
The Bottom Sop - "The Bottom Sop": Definitely one of my favorite releases of the year, this debut EP from rests easily in the realm of older, classic country, while still sounding 2012. Sure, full disclosure included that this features my brother, singer/songwriter Derrick Wade Manley, but I've explained that already. I'm completely impressed with his Haggardish vocals harmonizing and dueting with Lindsey Anderson's powerful voice. A recorded honky-tonk.
Seluah - "Red Parole" (Karate Body Records) - The return of Seulah saw the band sink into a noirish setting of Sabbathy thick rock that teeters between Blue Cheer riffs and villainous electronics. At times it almost gets trails into ambience that could be the soundtrack for some unreleased film.
Adventure - "Brou-Ha-Ha": A wonderful mix of upbeat power pop and great tearjerkers with a lean into country and garage territories, always straddling the line between the two. Both Joe and Phil Medley's songwriting skills are heavily evident all over this disc.
Benanthrope - "Saddest of Bastards": Intriguing debut from multi-instrumentalist Ben Anthrope (aka Ben Lally), this EP walks through various lo-fi/experimental versions of blues, country and folk. Each song is crafted as a soundscaped house for some great lyrics, all incorporating a variety of instruments.
Whistle Peak - "Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls" (Karate Body Records): Released earlier in 2012, this album offers some amazing experimental pop that soothes itself in a layered pop. Elements of folkish pop bathed in electronics that gets memorably dream-like real fast.
J. Glenn - "Magick Eagle Ate the Magic Snake": Total DIY second release from J. Glenn, formerly a one-man-band, always experimental in his directions and presentation. Glenn's songwriting always gets to me, being founded in country elements, but rarely staying in one place, placing punk and garage in loosely.
Life Partner - "Dogs" (Sophomore Lounge): Based in Chicago, released by Louisville-based SL, this is the pet project of Aaron Osbourne. A down-strummed, distorted acoustic piece that elevates depression and humor onto stilts. Low-burning songs that stay in your head after you hear them once.
Black God - "Two" (No Idea Records): Goddamn awesome real Louisville hardcore. This band does no wrong. They blew my mind at Cropped Out in 2011. The recordings are just as good.
She Might Bite - "Feral": So good. "Feral" captures the heavy harmonies so well laid down by Tara Kimes, Miranda Cason and Kathryn Slaughter that make this band so unique. All three musicians on this record bring so much energy to their instruments, swinging through plunked bass, surf guitar and pounded drums. I can never get "Gimme Orange" out of my head.
Again, not even close to a complete list of some of the great stuff that came out in 2012 in and around the area. Check out some of the other summations of the year on these fine Louisville-based blogs:
The Decibel Tolls
And sorries to the bands I didn't make it to. So many good recordings out of this region this year, it was difficult to stay ahead. Onward.