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2012: Jon Treneff

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Our Seattle correspondent has your basement bands covered, including albums from Sic Alps, Protomartyr and Times New Viking.

2012: Jon Treneff

Label: Sweet Rot | Release Date: August 16

Recent transmissions from the silent dons of the Seattle underground. These guys have been behind some of the best, and most underappreciated bands in the city for over a decade now. They’ve already switched it up again since this was recorded, now working with a slightly altered lineup as Dream Salon. From The Lights to Love Tan to the A Frames — everything these people do is worth your time.

Label: Siltbreeze | Release Date: October 16

Pleasant surprise from relative outliers in the Aussie scene. I hadn’t paid much mind to this band before, but Go Easy sees them beginning to carve a corner to call their own in the increasingly crowded underground of the land down under. There’s a common DNA thread running through that will resonate with fans of countrymen Total Control, UV Race, or Kitchen’s Floor, but with a ragged soulfulness that pulls just as much from classic rock as punk and new wave.

Label: Urinal Cake | Release Date: October 2

Along with bands like Gardens and the always excellent Tyvek, Protomartyr are helping put Detroit back on the map after the decade-long garage blues yawn-a-thon brought on by the success of The White Stripes. Referencing the post-punk caterwaul of The Fall and DC-oddballers The Monorchid, Protomartyr display an intelligence, hunger, and humor that’s been missing from many of the more recent domestic swipes at this sort of thing.

Label: Siltbreeze | Release Date: October 16

What can I say. To paraphrase Dave Martin, “It’s a record that says Times New Viking on the cover.”

Label: Dark Entries | Release Date: September 25

Probably the reissue I listened to the most this year. Early 1980’s elegiac synth pop that can actually support the weight of New Order comparisons. There’s certainly no lack of obscure lost synth records seeing the light of day right now, but not many of them have songs like these. A cut above.

Recordings are supposedly in the works, but it’s been more than enough just to see these Unwound veterans back in the world making music again. Taking a decade off seems to have only sharpened their edge, because these people are making music that’s fiercer, hungrier and more vital than most bands half their age. No one has managed to replicate or improve on what Unwound were doing at the top of their game, and watching Survival Knife only hammers the point home: these guys have something special that only they can do. Welcome back.

Label: Drag City | Release Date: September 18

A highly contentious record around the virtual offices of Dusted. Haters keep hating, but this was the record I’d been waiting for Sic Alps to make for a minute now. After a mixed bag of singles and the sprawling endurance test of Napa Asylum, I, too, was about ready to throw in the towel with this crew, but Sic Alps proves that Mike Donovan can make a concise, and even pretty, pop record if he chooses to. Goodwill back in the bank.

Label: Captured Tracks | Release Date: October 16

I was fully prepared to dismiss this based on the cover’s assemblage of overworked 20-something hipster signifiers. But fuck it — good songs is good songs. The best moments here achieve the same magic as early Cass McCombs or The Sleepy Jackson (anybody?).

By Jon Treneff

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