Editor's Note: The end of 2012 is upon us, so we thought we'd put a cap on things by sharing some of our personal favorite shows, albums, events and general shenanigans. Join us as we indulge in some navel-gazing!
I am not the most active of local scenesters. I am not up on many of the year's critically-lauded releases. Therefore, consider this a purely subjective, humbly-submitted Top Ten list of music-related items that caught my attention in 2012.
But first, special thanks to Kiernan Maletsky for sticking it out as music editor this year. Not only was he professional and easy to work with, but he was willing to at least consider whatever bizarre idea I proposed ("a piece about GG Allin's critical re-evaluation? Go for it"). So let's wish him luck as he heads to Dallas, and be glad that he's left the section in good hands with Daniel Hill.
10) The Kafkaesque saga of Pussy Riot. I do not want to hear about how tough it is on tour sleeping on people's floors and playing empty bars. I do not want to hear your lukewarm "political" songs that could have been written by any university student armed with a Howard Zinn text. I definitely don't want to see your "transgressive" performance art. Are you willing to risk a two-year sentence in a Siberian hard labor camp for your art? Because that's how two members of this Russian performance collective spent this Christmas. Their transgressive, confrontational acts garnered supportive press worldwide. Even Time magazine nominated them for 2012's "Person of The Year." Sadly, only about 13 percent of Time's readership endorsed them. That's compared to more than half the Time readership who endorsed Korean singer/rapper/invisible horse rider Psy.
9) Liechtenstein, Fast Forward (Fraction Discs CD). Released at the dawn of 2012, this CD was ignored by virtually everyone -- even the indie-pop fans who championed their earlier releases. On Fast Forward, this all-female Swedish trio revisits the early '80s sound of LiLiPut and Kleenex, complete with clipped phrases and vaguely social/political lyrics ("No Idealists Left," "Heads on Golden Plates"), with hints of Bay Area pop band Aislers Set. Completely addictive, and my favorite new release this year.
8) Driving to Farmington, Missouri to see Bay Area three-piece Grass Widow playing at The Vault, only to find out that said club was scheduled to close two weeks later due to lack of interest outside of a small local core. It's a shame to see it go, but hopefully the Vault's example will pave the way for other adventurous performance spaces in other towns in rural Missouri (and elsewhere).
7) Speaking of Grass Widow, their Internal Logic album (HLR CD) is terrific.
6) Mission of Burma at The Firebird. At some point, most band reunions veer dangerously close to the 1950s revues of yesteryear, with one original member and no new songs. Mission of Burma, however, could have played nothing but material postdating their 2002 reunion and brought down the house. Performing at the Firebird as part of a short Midwest tour, this Boston trio sounded absolutely vital and up-to-date, mixing classics like "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" and "Academy Fight Song" with newer gems like "2wice" and "Donna Sumeria." The band also released Unsound this year, a fine new album.
5) "Back to Rockville: An R.E.M. Tribute," Off Broadway. One of an ongoing series of tribute nights presented by KDHX, this evening featured 13 local acts aping a variety of approaches to this most influential of American indie bands. From classics to late-period deep cuts, the whole night felt like a celebration.
4) Local releases. Here's 50 of them. Personal favorites included the piano-driven power pop of Middle Class Fashion's Girl Talk, Bruiser Queen's stomp and stammer (as captured on Swears), Medical Tourists' taut post-punk, Tower Groove Records Compilation, Vol. 1, and Sleepy Kitty's deadly catchy "Don't You Start" -- a nice taste of what promises to be a fine second album. The St. Louis music scene continues to grow and diversify in its own steady way. I've never seen it so healthy in the almost 10 years I've lived in town.
3) Chain and The Gang, Pig Slop Studios. An absolutely incendiary performance by Ian Svenonius and Katie Alice Greer, with a fine backing band including members of Vivian Girls, Coasting and Toxie.
2) DJing for the first time in almost a decade: An hour-long set at the RFT Music Awards' VIP room in June, and then in September for Toxie and Bruiser Queen at the Firebird. I don't have the talent or the drive to play in a band (believe me, I've tried), but playing records or iPod tracks for people is about as fun as it gets. Hopefully more to come in 2013.
1) Numero Group's Shoes reissues. This Zion, IL band has been creating some of America's best power pop since for almost four decades. Not only did it release Ignition, the first new CD in 18 years, but the Chicago label Numero Group released four albums of the band's earliest material, including One in Versailles, Bazooka and Black Vinyl Shoes. These included meticulous attention to detail: Black Vinyl Shoes included the original inner sleeve and T-shirt iron-on transfer, while One in Versailles reproduced the original's pasted-on paper cover. Numero also released an entire LP of demos from Present Tense, Shoes' major label debut.
Honorable Mention: Big Dipper, Crashes on the Platinum Planet (Almost Ready CD); The Trypes, Music for Neighbors (Acute CD); Toxie, five-song EP (Goner cassette); WTNG: Solid Bronze (Numero Group LP); Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland CD); Jennifer O'Connor, live at Foam just after SXSW.