12 Albums for 2012

Remembering this year's must-hear local records

By Portland Monthly Staff December 26, 2012

"Call Me Maybe," but listen to these albums definitely. We replay the Portland records PoMo reviewed in 2012. 

La Grande, Laura Gibson
What we said: "
After her masterful 2009 album, Beasts of Seasons—an understated reflection on mortality and death—folk goddess Laura Gibson’s third solo outing, La Grande, turns now to the richness of life and inner fortitude." Read the rest.

Totalwerks Vol 1, One Model Nation
What we said:
"With dead fads running rampant—to wit, ankle warmers, desert boots, and ’80s dance nights—a new krautrock album may not raise many eyebrows. But add in Dandy Warhols front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor, a graphic novel illustrated by Jim Rugg, and a bevy of cohorts including actor-musician-historian Donovan Leitch, and you’ve got more than just a side project." Read the rest.

Port of Morrow, The Shins
What we said: "While earlier Shins albums are characterized by their minimal constructions, often centered on an acoustic guitar and deft songwriting, Port of Morrow is a dense and layered album rife with electric guitars, woozy synthesizers, bellowing trumpets, and various other instruments that create a straightforward, yet unmemorable, dance-rock. It’s much more akin to Broken Bells’ upbeat yet unimpressive, electronic-infused offerings (Mercer’s band with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton) than to The Shins that changed Natalie Portman’s life." Read the rest.

A Wasteland Companion, M. Ward
What we said: "In an era of elusive stylistic chameleons, Ward remains a reliably honest and thoughtful songwriter, one who scours American musical traditions for things he can use to amp up the charm of his own compositions." Read the rest.

A Joyful Noise, Gossip
What we said: "Since Gossip’s start 12 years ago, it’s had a battle cry that simply proclaims: "Our mission is to make you dance, and if you’re not gonna dance, just stay at home and listen to the oldies station." Though A Joyful Noise is all nightclub glamour in place of basement punk grit, the band unequivocally stays true to this mission statement." Read the rest.

Cool Nightmare, Radiation City
What we said:
"Radiation City excels at elegant dialogues between genres, effortlessly weaving Roland 808 cowbells under classic Latin rhythms; layering shoe-gaze coos over spring-reverbed jangle." Read the rest.

A Monument, Tu Fawning
What we said: "From the opening notes of the first track, 'Anchor,' it’s clear that the band’s self-production is lusher and more approachable. At times recalling the Swedish electronic group the Knife, Tu Fawning’s drums and synths roll together, tumbling forth hand in hand, spurred on by Corrina Repp’s elegant, haunting voice." Read the rest.

Let's Make Love Come True, Monarques
What we said: "Frontman Josh Spacek (formerly of Oh Captain, My Captain), whose voice is a youthful, yearning mixture of Clyde McPhatter and George Michael, is so completely over the top in his exuberance that he sounds half crazy...And when you Saran-wrap his Pollyanna proselytizing in bouncy, doo-wop pop that would seem better suited to a Sha Na Na album, it’s a lot for a curmudgeonly critic to take in. But when I found myself whistling “Hidin’ Out” for some 12 straight hours, I knew my gloomy goose was cooked." Read the rest.

Negotiations, The Helio Sequence
What we said: "Helio’s hotly anticipated fifth album, Negotiations, reins the psychedelics in a bit. The staccato drums, heavy synth, and fluttering guitar hooks of singer/guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer/keyboardist Benjamin Weikel remain, but there’s something more organic to the sound this time: amid the robotics lies a bigger heart." Read the rest.

Heat Waves, Brainstorm
What we said: "After being voted third in Willamette Week’s Best New Band poll last year and picked up by beloved local label Tender Loving Empire, Portland’s Brainstorm is riding a current of buzz that has finally come ashore with Heat Waves, a sophomore record of sophisticated art pop that swirls with potential." Read the rest.

Dust Diaries, Robin Jackson
What we said: "Jackson inhabits a world where people call one another “darling,” make love in the rain, and put on dancing shoes. While it’s not the world in which I currently live, and I fear Dust Diaries retro stylings retread some of its music community’s well-worn ground instead of taking certain risks, I can nonetheless imagine it serving as soundtrack to NE Portland-style dinner parties in old Victorian homes where the phonograph sure does look cool, and, gosh, the cocktails taste swell, and don’t the girls just look smashing in their vintage lacy dresses?" Read the rest.

Hungry Ghost
What we said: "Hungry Ghost extrapolates from a bluesy, guitar-forward template into a gloriously unpredictable din that recalls better times, when finesse-heavy power trios like Firehose, House of Large Sizes and local heroes Hazel (“High” especially sounds like vintage Hazel) were cheerfully cutting and pasting jazzy skronk, Martian funk, and dexterous rock riffery into magnificent post-punk collages." Read the rest.

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