Best Local Album of the Past 12 Months

Girl Talk

Jenn Malzone has never lacked outlets for her estimable piano chops or her smirking, strident vocals. In the past few years, she has performed and recorded with the chamber-pop quartet Paper Dolls (RIP) and the buzzy, hook-handy Tight Pants Syndrome. But with the piano-centric Middle Class Fashion, Malzone has found her sweet spot. Along with bassist and harmony vocalist Brian McClelland (also in TPS) and drummer Brad Vaughn, Malzone released the fourteen-track Girl Talk, and plenty of local gigs and community-radio support helped these tunes stick like bubblegum in the heads of many happy listeners. In fact, Girl Talk was the second-most played album on KDHX (88.1 FM) for the first half of 2012 (right after another local band, Rough Shop, and its fine LP Beneath the South Side Bridge). It's not hard to hear the appeal: big, thick, bouncy chords underpin the many pop-happy moments, while the album's few solemn stretches, like the achingly beautiful "Sweet," are tempered with plaintive chords played tenderly. But such tenderness is muted by some lyrical wit. God help the suckers on the business end of Malzone's pen — a coterie of losers and lousy lovers get told in glorious kiss-off fashion on this LP. At least they can say they inspired a great pop song or two.

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