Melody Prochet's project swiftly picked up steam in 2012, going from anonymity to buzz-band in the space of single "Crystallized." Recorded between France and Australia with Kevin Parker of retro-rockers Tame Impala, Melody's Echo Chamber specializes in sweet, swirling, cotton-candy psychedelia; all backwards tape phasing, bubbly modular synths, effects-drenched guitars, and liberal use of echo. The debut, self-titled MEC LP (issued by Fat Possum) doesn't, however, try and recreate some '60s Golden Age with its psychedelia; instead, it's informed by a host of late-'90s/early-'00s revivalists; with Prochet's musical debts to Pram, Broadcast, and Blonde Redhead all being suitably sizeable.
As solo songstress, Nedelle Torrisi release one of the prettiest albums of the 2000s, From the Lion's Mouth, before her time fronting Cryptacize alongside Chris Cohen made for two really-impressive but completely-underrated LPs, 2007's Dig That Treasure and 2009's Mythomania. After a stint singing for Sufjan Stevens, Torrisi has debuted a new project, Paradise. Thus far, it's more a Tumblr account than a fully-fledged band, but the first officially-unveiled Paradise single, "Psychic Returns," is one of the songs of the year. Chronicling the end of her relationship with Cohen over echoey guitars, sweeping synths, and fluttering harp (played by members of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and Nite Jewel), Torrisi lets loose in her glorious voice; a random live-video version enough to send shivers up your spine.
People Get Ready feature ex-Yeasayer drummer Luke Fasano, which is notably given that they, on songs like "Shoe" and "Three Strangers," sure sound a lot like Yeasayer. The Brooklyn quartet were founded by dance choreographer Steven Reker (who's worked with David Byrne), and also feature Jen Goma of Philadelphia dream-poppers A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and they recorded their debut, self-titled LP in upstate New York with composer (and Byrne collaborateur, solo act, and honorary Parenthetical Girl) Jherek Bischoff. The ten-song set features plenty of multi-part vocal harmonies, jaunty guitar jangle, thundering percussion; and on songs like "Windy Cindy" and "Orange Grove," there's a definite sense of motion at play in the songs; these the soundtracks to the dance-pieces in Reker's mind.
In an era of earnest personal biographies and Twitter feeds detailing the contents of artists' breakfasts, there's sure charm in an anonymous band billing themselves as "lovers from Monaco, raised in a cave of gold." Phèdre, instead, hail from somewhere in New Brunswick, although who knows if that's the truth. Their oddball, self-titled debut LP is big on myth-making, mischief, and musical monkeyshines; taking cues from such singular stylists as Aphex Twin, Ariel Pink, and the Magnetic Fields, the trio author a warped take on classic pop, running a jones for glam-rock and new-wave through a barrage of effects both analog and digital, distorting old tropes into insane new shapes, jukebox standards as seen in a funhouse mirror.
Pure Bathing Culture
Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille started playing together as members of the Vetiver touring band, when they decided to strike out on their own. Moving from New York to Portland, the duo called themselves Pure Bathing Culture (I'm in the 'awesome' camp on their band-name), and rolled tape with thee almighty Richard Swift. The results: a sweeeet four-song debut EP, initially self-released but since picked up for European release by Memphis Industries. Their music is full of rickety drum-machines, waves of echoey guitar, and squiggly keyboard lines, but they combine to sound sweaty and summery, the songs lolling with a leaning, easy sway, as if languorously lazing in a hammock. "Ivory Coast" and "Gainesville" play up that oceanic, seaside-summertime vibe, and Versprille's voice shines bright throughout.
The UK press buzz for Savages hit fever-pitch not long after the London quartet had hit the stage for the first time; the band's fearsome, ferocious liveshows becoming, almost immediately, the stuff of legend. A live video for "City's Full" went into circulation, stoking the fires of hype that have, at times, threatened to engulf the budding band. Thus far, Savages have only put out one 7-inch single —"Flying to Berlin" b/w "Husbands"— but it's a good one. The band pick up on the spirit of post-punk Britain perfectly, their wiry, taut, stripped-down, lurching racket reminiscent of The Delta 5, the Au Pairs, the Pop Group, and Wire, with singer Jehnny Beth offering a genuine star quality out front. Savages have already become UK festival staples; come 2013, world domination may beckon.
Teen sounds like a verily iconic bandname, but, here, it's not: the Queens-based quartet merely taking their name from their leader, Teeny Lieberson. Lieberson left Here We Go Magic to play in a band with her sisters; and though their gender and handle may suggest, to many, a raucous garage-rock combo, Teen are anything but. Instead, their debut LP, In Limbo, is a noisy rock record with touches of psychedelia and experimentalism; its love of dissonance and opaque density presided over by producer Pete 'Sonic Boom' Kember (of, way back in the day, Spacemen 3). Since dropping the disc, Teen have been remixed by Dan Deacon and Peaking Lights, and have hit the road, determined to grow into a noisier, nastier live act.
After debuting with the impressive "Diamond Look" single late in 2011, Québecois combo Tops confirmed their Best New Band status with their debut LP, Tender Opposites, which instantly leapt atop the ranks of the Best Albums of 2012. Issued on the awesome Arbutus imprint (home of Grimes, Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage et al), the record introduced not just a band, but a whole shimmering world of sound; a faded vision of decaying glamor writ in swathes of reverb, glissando guitars, and Jane Penny's sorrow-tinged singing. If the most impressive thing about Tender Opposites is its immersive sound, the songwriting runs a super-close second; the band blessed with an ability to make even their haziest, laziest of dream-pop melodies memorable.
After Austra became one of last year's big breakouts, it set the stage for Trust to have a coming-out party in 2012. Here, Austra drummer Maya Postepski gets even more electronic, and even more goth, working with baritoned vocalist Robert Alfons on club bangers dark, dramatic, and anthemic. Like Light Asylum, Trust harken back to the era of New Order, Depeche Mode, Yazoo, D.A.F. et al; making depressed disco from a bank of unfeeling, frigid cold-wave synths. Their debut LP, Trst, both fits into the current musical mood whilst subverting it. Sure, it's another all-electronic album in a year of synthesizer fatigue, but there's no blurry tape-sheen, winking humor, or R&B vibes: instead it's a big, clean, proudly over-the-top slice of moodiness.
I understand you have to be careful nominated a band as 'new' when their debut LP was first released late in the year prior, but Yamantaka//Sonic Titan effectively arrived unto the world at large in 2012. Their LP, initially self-pressed in 2011, was officially released by Paper Bag Records, a rerelease which coincided with the band's Polaris Prize Short List nomination, for best Canadian album of the year. The Montréal-born, Toronto-based duo's conceptual, theatrical take on tribal psychedelia draws from stoner-rock, black-metal, Kabuki theatre, and Boredoms. Live, it's a wild ride: closer to performance-art than regular rockshow; Yamantaka//Sonic Titan having already staged a rock-opera (in drag), and with plenty more kooky projects likely in the pipe. Glad to have them around.