Denney & The Jets :: Denney & The Jets EP
On "Fun Girls," Nashville's Denney & The Jets dish out rock 'n' roll as it was originally intended to be played: fast and loose, sweaty and fun, and fit for the dancefloor. With this new EP, the band's unleashed their finest sounding recording to date. When not cranking out Chuck Berry-worthy scorchers like "Close The Blinds," the band slows into drunken bar sing-along territory, as on "Paranoid," where Denney comically laments: "Honey we used to fuck. Now all you want to do is make love, but I don't like it that way."
Allah-Las :: Tell Me What's On Your Mind 7"
The Allah-Las earned the top spot on this list last year with the gritty hip-twisting surf-infused rock cuts "Catamaran" and "Long Journey." Here, they take up right where they left off, with the splashy and transportive instrumental groove "Sacred Sands" and the infectious chorus and dexterous guitar maneuvers that flesh out A-side AM radio throwback, "Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)"—both vital pieces of the band's standout debut long-player, also out this year.
Burnt Ones :: Protection Circle 7" // Meet The Golden One 7"
Along with contribution's to Burger Records' Weiner Dog Benefit compilation and Castle Face's Velvet Underground covers record, Burnt Ones released two gloriously fuzzed-out glam-rock 7"s this year that play like unholy odes to Marc Bolan. Drums smack and guitars roar as singer Mark Tester nonchalantly coos his breathy melodies over the humming energy of foot-stomping, fist-pumping A-side anthems "Meet The Golden One" and "Protection Circle." The "Meet The Golden One" jacket art by William Keihn is also one of our favorite layouts of the year.
Francisco The Man :: Tiger 7"
While "Tiger," the excellent A-side to Francisco The Man's newest 7" muscles up sludgy drums and slinky guitar play, it's the 6-plus-minute B-side "Broken Arrows" that has us spinning this record over and over again: a sweeping cinematic foot-race decked out in rousing harmonies and a bass line that at the 1:57-mark goes wonderfully bat-shit. There's dynamic and compelling experimental flourishes here, but they're all neatly contained within the structure of a foot-tapping, head-banging uptempo rock number that never loses its razor-sharp focus.
Teen Mom :: Mean Tom EP
If I were a legitimate journalist, this would be a conflict of interest: I put out this record on my imprint Analog Edition. But in this space, I'm just a dude sharing music that I love, and I'd be lying if I didn't list this EP as one of my favorites of the year. In fact, I've played few records more than this debut from DC trio Teen Mom. The contrasts between the seemingly disparate elements—funked-out bass work, splintering drums, walls of distorted guitar, and the sweet whispery vocals—turn these self-described "love ballads" into dynamite pop music.
FIDLAR :: No Waves / No Ass 7"
Los Angeles punks FIDLAR released one of our very favorite 7"s of 2011 via DIYDUI. The talented degenerates returned this year with two equally impressive releases on new label Mom + Pop: the Don't Try EP and the ravenous pedal-slammed-to-the-floor meth-fueled No Waves / No Ass 7". "I need a new body and I need a new soul," sings frontman Zac Carper on "No Waves," where the narrator is seemingly trapped in rehab dreaming of all the beer, crack, heroin, and most importantly, waves, he's missing out on. Carper has an extremely dark sense of humor, which pairs perfectly over this track's crushingly fast engine-roaring pace.
Foxygen :: Take The Kids Off Broadway EP
Foxygen is two guys in their early twenties that sound like The Rolling Stones at their most whimsical and experimental: it's rock 'n' roll as sung by lounge singers riding on heavy doses of uppers and hallucinogenics. Sam France and Jonathan Rado re-imagine styles popularized by The Kinks and Stones within their own thoroughly modern tapestry: it's hyper, jumpy, and appears best suited for our attention-span-free generation, but it's also masterful, playful, and wickedly fun. There's a complete lack of inhibition and an unhinged creative force that makes this young band's music as joyous as it is exciting.
King Tuff :: Wild Desire 7"
"Wild Desire" rivals any song Kyle Thomas released this year as King Tuff. The sludgy guitar riff that opens the track sounds straight out of the 1970s rock handbook—a magical beast part Cheap Trick, part KISS—and then "Wild Desire" really takes off: launching rocket ship-like into the burning-hot stratosphere of the Tuff-verse. B-side "Hole In My Head" is no joke either, showcasing more of Tuff's six-string chops and seemingly unshakable creative ambition. Thomas, part basement troll and part power-pop and guitar God, playfully mixes his outsider eccentricities and considerable skill here into punchy rock 'n' roll perfection: a true legend in his prime.
Watch: King Tuff - "Wild Desire" // Buy from Suicide Squeeze
Pure Bathing Culture :: Pure Bathing Culture EP
Much like the pristine album cover for this debut EP, former Vetiver bandmates Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille have crafted a refreshingly clear and elegant pop sound for their new project Pure Bathing Culture. While the band tonally recalls many a 1980s soft-pop ballad, it's without a hint of irony or cheesiness. Guitar tones are borrowed from the Reagan years and re-contextualized in the contemporary, breezy, and subtly engrossing bubblegum-flavored pop melodies of "Lucky One" and "Ivory Coast." This 4-track EP is all about song craft and rewarding simplicity—and it delivers.
Fletcher C. Johnson :: Messin Up My Mind 7"
Brooklyn eccentric Fletcher C. Johnson dishes out a lean two-song serving of carefully-honed pop-punk on his second 7". While the A-side boasts the snappy garage-strummer "Messin' Up My Mind" ("must have been messin' up my mind / must have been messing up my hair"), it's the flip-side that steals the show with the doo-wop inflected "Lost My Head," which features one of our very favorite musical moments of the year: a short monologue where Fletcher offers advice from his mother. "Have fresh flowers around the house," he says, "always bet it all on Double Jeopardy," and "keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out."
Warm Soda :: Reaction 7"
The first release from Warm Soda—the new project of leather-jacketed glam, power-pop, and punk mastermind Matthew Melton—is a homerun: the year's best 7" art packed with two sticky syrupy gulps of scorching fuzz-dripped rock music. All Melton's signature moves—muted guitars, snappy solos, glam-smacked drumming, hushed gravely vocals—are amplified and cranked to the max on A-side romper "Reaction," perhaps the young Oakland songwriter's most expertly crafted track yet. In what we consider a match made in wax heaven, the trio has a full-length follow-up slated for release in 2013 on Thee Oh Sees' imprint Castle Face Records.
Dum Dum Girls :: End of Daze EP
If Dee Dee Penny was channeling the vocal vibrato and charm of Chrissie Hynde over her band's last LP Only In Dreams, on The Dum Dum Girls' new End of Daze EP she easily transcends all previous comparisons. Dee Dee's voice appears in each of the EP's 5 tracks as a sweet crystalline work horse, carving through clouds of guitars and distortion like a knife through warm butter. When it's not the honed hook-laden melodies sucking you in, it's Dee Dee's siren-like call: tracks like the slow-building "Mine Tonight" and the infectiously epic "Lord Knows" don't just get played once, they swallow you up into endless dreamy loops.
Haim :: Forever EP // Don't Save Me 7"
Los Angeles sister's Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim have been making music together since they were kids, but it wasn't until this year's 3-track Forever EP that they found the right mix of sonic magic to release it to the public—and the wait was worth it. Forever's Kate Bush-inspired 90s R&B-flavored pop and the crushing 7" Don't Save Me are filled with jumpy complex dance rhythms, rich polyphonic vocal performances, and a bright wistful lust for life. In 2012, Haim have produced smart and indelible works of pop music that effortlessly bridge the sometimes perilous gaps between independence, talent, and the cultural mainstream.
Natural Child :: Bodyswitchers Pt. II 7"
Along with two raucous full-lengths, Natural Child released what may be their finest 7" to date this year—one that recalls a young Neil and his Crazy Horse stoned out of their minds in a sweaty barn unleashing a mean nasty fit of rock 'n' roll. "Bodyswitchers, Pt. II," a follow up to an instrumental bass jam released on an early EP, shows Natural Child at their best: building from a slow loose groove into a heady mess of fuzz and angry release. The flip side, "Mother Nature's Daughter," also works out the trio's skilled interplay and dynamics, switching between hushed harmonies and head-clearing gain-heavy guitar riffage.
TV Torso :: Clear Lake Strangler EP
The bass synth that kicks open "No Idea Why" is a behemoth of auditory candy broken into pulsating 1/16 notes that over three-and-a-half minutes is punctuated by sledgehammer drums and frontman Matt Oliver's woozily emotive vocals, which sound as if Spoon's Britt Daniel were transmitting the end of the world from the moon. "No Idea Why," first released as a single, gets new legs on this EP via "Prismatic Ideation," a near-three-minute spacey tremolo-infused introduction that serves as the calm before the storm, and the concluding title-track, which all together has this fan fervently waiting in anticipation for the band's very first LP.