Spread out across venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn, this year’s CMJ Music Marathon provided a glimpse at some of the year’s best emerging artists in addition to a healthy lineup of veteran performers. With five days of showcases and concerts to attend, the festival offered something for everyone, with bands representing a variety of genres.
Last month ALARM presented its 50 favorite albums of 2012, an eclectic, rock-heavy selection of discs that were in steady rotation in our downtown-Chicago premises. Now, to give some love to tunes that were left out, we have our 50 (+5) favorite songs of last year — singles, B-sides, EP standouts, soundtrack cuts, and more.
Every other Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.
Hospitality: “Friends of Friends”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Hospitality-Friends-Of-Friends.mp3|titles=Hospitality: “Friends Of Friends”]
When Brooklyn’s Hospitality surfaced in 2008 with a six-song EP produced by Karl Blau, there was, naturally, immediate blogosphere buzz surrounding the band. Its poppy, minimalist sensibility catered to the indie-pop avenues it was exploring. The songs were spirited, displaying immense capability and promise. With that potential and talent came a signing to Merge Records and the band’s proper debut LP (produced by Shane Stoneback), which revives several songs from the EP while adding a few more, just for good measure.
From the moment that the album starts, there is something very warm and welcoming about the arrangement and composition. Album opener “Eighth Avenue” starts with acoustic strumming and persistent, steady drumming, immediately calling to mind early Belle and Sebastian work. The song builds gradually, integrating keyboards, harmonies, feedback, and percussive ornamentation, but it never strays far from its sunny-day feel. It is a laid-back indie-pop treasure that is sure to give first-time listeners a reason to give the rest of the album a chance. And once that happens, you’re roped in for the duration of the record.
Wye Oak: “Civilian”
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/wye_oak_civilian.mp3|titles=Wye Oak: “Civilian”]
Since its debut album in 2008, Baltimore indie duo Wye Oak has drawn a concerning amount of comparisons to Yo La Tengo. But despite the group’s occasionally mellow tones and deliberate tempos, singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack have presented more than pleasant, easy-going moods since If Children, that promising debut.
Even onstage, Wye Oak builds a full sound largely from Stack’s straightforward but well-defined drums and Wasner’s warm and often loud guitar playing, which is very resourceful on its own. (Stack also plays some keyboard parts with one hand while drumming.) Though they always manage to sound like a fleshed-out band, the two reap at least one benefit of a two- (or even one-) person act, which is that sonics don’t distance them from the meat of a song. Even the streaks of feedback on If Children tracks “Warning” and “Orchard Fair” felt at one with the progressions of the songs, certainly anything but careless or sloppy.
And even the things that make Wye Oak records a bit difficult say more for them than against them. The sample of indistinct chatter that begins the new Civilian, for instance, gives opener “Two Small Deaths” an aptly unsettling place from which to sneak up. Don’t count on re-settling all that often, even when things are as pretty as you’d expect.
Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on AlarmPress.com. Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.