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15. Terry Malts — Killing Time
Terry Malts, the punk-drunk spin-off of San Francisco outfit Magic Bullets, bottle Buzzcock-like hooks via the Slumberland tradition, perfecting the art of the drums-bass-guitar blood rush, all while never losing sight of what really matters in life: not a whole lot. They’re not trying to pull a fast one here with coded lyrics or deeper meanings. "Where Is the Weekend?" really is a song about being excited for the weekend. It’s an album built upon the American Dream of having nothing to do. There's not a whole lot not to like.
Key Track: “Tumble Down”
14. Death Grips — The Money Store
For punk rock provocation, it’s hard to beat Death Grips' second 2012 record. NO LOVE DEEP WEB was released for free on the Internet against Epic Records’ wishes, a short, angry dick emblazoned on its cover as extra fuck you. But their first, The Money Store, better balanced the unhinged Sacramento band’s ominous rapping and corroded digital nausea with bursts of party-starting, beer-blast hard rock. (Scorpion-stung, drowning, the dollar signs fade from the frog’s glazed eye…)
Key Track: "I've Seen Footage"
13. Dirty Projectors — Swing Lo Magellan
It always feels a little bit cheap when you assert that a band's least "challenging" album is its best, like a tacit admission that would weren't up for whatever noble challenge they'd put forth previously. But with Dirty Projectors and Swing Lo Magellan, it's hard to see it any other way. It's Dave Longstreth's most accessible batch of songs yet, each of them driven by strong melodies and harmonies that are unpredictable but not jarring the way they have been in the past. They'll still surprise you from time to time, but it's just like in baseball: a curveball isn't effective unless you have a fastball to set it up.
Key Track: "Just From Chevron"
12. Divine Fits — A Thing Called Divine Fits
At surface, a band with both Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner as singers might seem a little redundant. An impeccably cool, gravel-voiced rocker on leave. And another one. But there are subtle, complementary differences. Boeckner’s bleeding heart and throbbing, minimal synths in song-to-song call and response with Daniel’s devastating, emotive guitar lines and whiff of inscrutability. It's so much better than a backstage cocktails idea dutifully executed.
Key Track: "Shivers"
11. Chromatics — Kill For Love
Johnny Jewel was born to soundtrack Ryan Gosling’s romantically mute thug in Drive. His music’s soft, yearning disco lines are perfect complement to a muscle car rounding a highway corner on a cliff-front at midnight, rat-eyes focused only on the headlights and the radio, love and murder mingling in mind. Smarting from that perfect moment thwarted, Jewel released two vestigial film scores this year. The discarded one he actually intended for it, and this perfected pop album echo.
Key Track: "Kill For Love"