Jen Schande, the indie songstress who split a 7” with The Cribs, and played in San Francisco’s Boyskout, launched her debut solo project 19: Songs for and Inspired by Valencia Chapter 19 in July 2012. Schande’s musical take on the autobiography by Michelle Tea displays complete ownership of 1990s indie rock – where mood, tone and angular guitars weave a narrative of attitude, wandering, wondering, lust and cycles.
With this, and other ambitious records to her credit, Ghettoblaster had to ask Schande what other 2012 releases blew her mind this year. These are the records that she was digging this year…
My top 11, in no particular order. I cheated with an extra, sorry about that….
Night Manager – S/T LP & Ghost-EP – Self Released
I love this band so much it’s ridiculous. They split this year and I had a good old fashioned sulked about it for a good day or two. Night Manager are one of those bands where you can instantly tell where they’re coming from musically, pick out the influences and instead of falling into the “Well, I’ve heard it before, but it’s cool” camp, you find yourself overwhelmed with ecstasy thinking “Holy shit! I totally get this and I am SO on board!”. Pretty much anything this band puts out, I love. The singer’s voice kills me. KILLS me. Kills me.
Grass Widow – Internal Logic – HLR Records
I have zero idea where to start in trying to describe or explain how much I love this band and how important I think they are. Grass Widow are, in a sense, the musical embodiment of your dream soul mate – talented, intelligent, unique and provide a perspective that makes you feel, think, grow and strive to be better. The musical-creative connection these girls have is undeniable and it pretty much commands respect. You don’t so much exist on the same plane as Grass Widow, but you are invited to walk alongside them and it’s the best invitation you’ll ever get.
Freelove Fenner – Pineapple Hair E.P. – Fixture Records
One of the best cassette tapes that has come may way in a long time. Worry not, they are bandcamp too, so you can hear their greatness if you are sans cassette player. My friend/bandmate Jim sent me a link to this band and I say thank you kind sir for that. They are slightly more poppy than what I usually listen to, but I really love what they’re doing. It’s stripped down ‘90s indie, with a pop bent, with really subtle psychedelic influence and the main vocals remind me of Amy Linton, which is a very, very, very good thing. The last release this band put out was in 2009, so I hope I don’t have to wait until 2015 to see what they do next.
Beach House – Bloom – Sub Pop
Goddamn Beach House make beautiful music. They are so hypnotic and I love the way they pull you into multiple directions simultaneously. Right now there’s not a lot of surprises with Beach House. In my opinion, I feel like you know exactly what you’re getting with their music yet they still manage to impress at with every song. Their music reminds me of a Rothko painting, the shape may not change much, but just the slightest change in shade and you enter a whole new world of feel and perspective. It’s going to be interesting to see how, should the time come, their sound evolves significantly and how their audience will take to that journey. No matter what the fate may be, I’m up for the ride.
Lee Renaldo – Between the Time and Tides – Matador Records
I love the sound of Lee Renaldo’s voice. It’s so soothing, despite the darker themes within the poetry he spins. Maybe it’s the poetic nature of his lyrics that add to the calm amidst the dark, who knows, but regardless there’s something about his songs that have always drawn me in completely. His songs always were my favorite songs on Sonic Youth album, and this album doesn’t disappoint on any level. Listening to the record I kept having his brilliant lyric from Mote in my head, ‘Put “Me” in the equation, it’s alright”, as it’s high time we started giving Lee’s math our direct, undistracted focus.. I had a dream recently that I was asked to play guitar on Lee Renaldo’s next solo album and I woke up ecstatic. Naturally, reality kicked in and that dream was instantly designated to the “Chalk that up to things that will never happen” category. Ah well, one can dream.
Talk Normal – Sunshine – Joyful Noise
I forget exactly how I came across this band, I think it was a friend’s post on Facebook or something like that, but both the video and the song I saw/heard, “Bad Date”, blew me away. They are weird, but not in an off-putting way- more in a way that makes you want to run home, hit play and record and just get weird with noise in a blissful fire dance. Listen to “Shot This Time”, you’ll get what I mean. They rhythms are penetrating and the musicianship is not to be brushed aside. I hope more than anything to get a chance to see this band live, I can’t wrap my head around how mesmerizing that would be.
Ace Bushy Strip Tease – Outside It’s Cold Just Like the Inside of Your Body And – Discount Horse Records
Right now, there’s some brilliant indie rock happening in the UK. Absolutely amazing – and not just because it’s ‘90s fueled either, but because it’s really fucking good. Apparently Ace Bushy Striptease are in the Bob Pollard school of prolificness- releasing multiple albums and singles a year. I’m excited about this band, they definitely have an American indie influence in their music – think Sebadoh and Pavement, chockfull of fun punk spirit with a great use of guy-girl vocals, and of course their own twist on the songs they write. Their songs have multiple writers and singers which give you the feel that this band is an amazing collective, fun, clever and supportive. If there’s anything this band does exceptionally well, is remind you how exciting playing music is and their infectiousness is a breath of mud needed fresh air.
Joanna Grusome – S/T 7″- Happy Happy Birthday to Me
These youngsters have got an LP coming out on Fortuna Pop soon, so odds are you’ll be hearing all about them in the not too distant future. We had the great pleasure of playing with them in London in November and it’s been a long time since I have been that excited to have been completely blown off-stage by another band. All I could do is watch them and think “Kids of today have got it right”. We can thank My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies, and their own clever, clever invention for reenforcing faith in what the next generation of bands will innovate. Plus they are loud as fuck when they play live, which I appreciate.
Radstewart – Demos – Self-Released
Four very nice, very fun, sickeningly talented boys from Cardiff who we were super lucky to meet while on tour. They remind me of the perfect science experiment, where one successfully mixes the genes of The Fall, Pavement and youth to see what would happen Well, I’ve seen Radstewart and they have stolen a piece of my heart. Funny, catchy and remind me of everything that is right with music.
Sweat Lodge – S/T – Self-Released
Sweat Lodge are one of my favorite bands in the Bay Area right now. They embody the spirit of rock, creation and just full-blown going for it, no boundaries, no rules, no limits. They are one of best live acts you’ll see, and their songs will stay in your head for days. It’s cool though, you don’t really want it any other way.
Mist Giant – False Revival – Self-Released
Fuck this band. Seriously. Fuck them. I say that because I love them, I say that because their songs are some of the most intelligent, brilliantly laid out compositions you will ever hear, and I say that because they broke up. Fucking broke up. Fuck. Within Mist Giant’s music, every note has equal parts intention and emotion- if any accidents are present they come off as planned because of how strongly the layers and dynamics of the song are bound together. With vocals both haunted and haunting vocals, ethereal sounds, they are the perfect soundtrack for treks through the abyss. And they will take you there, oh yes…..yes they will.
Honorable mentions: K-Holes – Dismania – Hardly Art, Ty Segal – Twins – Drag City, Rodrigues – Cold Fact (re-issue) – Light in the Attic
Bands to look out for in 2013: Big Drag, Night Call, Bam! Bam! – all have releases coming out, all will blow you away.