I didn’t get as much swag this year, which was disappointing. (I think it probably had to do with the huge buzz that Interactive commanded, which drew some free free free away from the music portion.) However, I do still have some highlights from the stuff I emerged with.
Best Free Album: Separate Tongues by Defining Times. This release blew my mind with its excellent art-rock. The control that the band exercises when deciding between gentle, minimalist composition and towering rock moves was striking. They can do beautiful and powerful with equal success, which is a rare distinction. “Swan Dive” is an impressive earworm of a tune, not relenting its hold on my ears for several days. Fans of Sigur Ros will find much to love in Defining Times.
Best EP: In the Dead of Summer by Desi Roses. Half of Desi and Cody, one of the best bands I saw, continued impressing me with a six-song set of folk/country/Western swing. Desirae Roses’ vocals are impressive in their ability to convey emotion, and the tunes sway with an easy confidence that make me want to press repeat. They’re going on a tour of the west this next two weeks; if you’re out there, you should check them out.
Most Surprising Music: Young Blood Rising by The Del Toros. After seeing an absolutely powerhouse rock performance by this quartet, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that their album finds a neat analogue in Needtobreathe. Both bands can really rock when they want to, but they fill out that skill with pop-rock, acoustic pop, and even some southern rock chops. This creates a varied listening experience that propelled me through the 13-song album. The nearly 7-minute opener “Kick Drum Blues” was especially gripping.
Best Song I Found Buried in a Compilation Album: “Hold Ya” by JKL, on 2012 Indie Music Channel Awards Edition. The joyful sound of it reminded me a great deal of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I Love You),” and that’s always a good thing.
Their music is pretty awesome too: the opening track of their latest album is a version of the theme from Zelda: Link to the Past‘s Dark World theme. BOSS.
Honorable Mention: O Conqueror‘s slick cardstock flyer got me to their webpage, where their moody, acoustic-led indie rock impressed me.