Words by Ben Van Houten
When it was pitched, this episode was known informally as an “underrated bands” mix, a label that seems as unworkable as it feels insulting. In an age of increasing access to an perpetually growing volume of music, and a culture that focuses on always keeping an eye out for the next big thing, the idea that any band could hold any attention long enough to be over-/under-/rated at all seems unlikely. Forget ratings and rankings: just remembering what you like can be a challenge enough while being constantly bombarded with new music.
With that in mind, as we approach 2012’s halfway point, here’s a mix collecting eleven bands, some local, some not, that have all released interesting albums this year. These records may have slipped past you when they first came out — and include some that we haven’t written about much or at all — but they’re some of the recent works that continue to stick with me even as new sounds stream forward every day. These days, that’s no small feat.
About the bands:
Mac DeMarco – “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans”
In March, Captured Tracks released Rock and Roll Night Club, a terrific collection of warped and inventive bedroom pop songs from Vancouver’s Mac DeMarco.
Billy & Dolly – “Gold”
This SF duo’s second album delivers classic-feeling power pop, aided by tight harmonies and recording help from Papercuts’ Jason Quever.
Royal Headache – “Down the Lane”
Although frequently categorized as garage or punk, this Australian act’s catchy melodies would survive close scrutiny even with the fuzz removed.
The Mallard – “Vines”
Like their Castle Face Records brethren, The Mallard have been playing a ton of shows this year, and the band’s psychy, noisy take on garage rock is a unique and exciting one.
Royal Baths – “Darling Divine”
After relocating to New York from the Bay last year, Royal Baths released Better Luck Next Life, a collection of raw, Velvets-inflected songs in February.
Chuck Prophet – “Castro Halloween”
As a love letter to SF, Chuck Prophet’s latest, Temple Beautiful, would have probably stuck with us regardless of its quality. Thankfully, though, it’s also an impressive collection of songs from a veteran with a unique ear for hooks.
PS I Love You – “Sentimental Dishes”
After releasing a terrific debut, this Ontario duo returned earlier this year with Death Dreams, an album that is just as noisy and addictive as its predecessor.
Digital Leather – “Hot Bubblegum”
Displaying an uncommon earnestness, Modern Problems soars above the bedroom/lofi pop norm with a slate of should-have-been pop hits.
Donovan Quinn – “Shadow on the Stone”
One half of Skygreen Leopards, Quinn also recorded and produced Honky Tonk Medusa, an intimate, lyrically-rich affair.
Seventeen Evergreen – “Burn The Fruit (Pegasus)”
This SF duo’s recent album, Steady On, Scientist!, offers an expansive and psychedelic take on danceable electro-pop.
Windy & Carl – “Remember”
Windy & Carl have been recording ambient-drone songs for almost two decades, but the poignant tracks on the band’s latest album, We Will Always Be, are regarded as among their all-time best.