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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 10 Best San Francisco Indie Rock Records of 2012

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Well, it was another solid year for loud guitar music from the Bay Area. And out of the dozens of worthy releases this year, we've culled these 10 picks for the best rock albums from San Francisco in 2012. Here they are, in no particular order:


Two Gallants

The Bloom and the Blight


After a brief time away, S.F. country-blues-rock duo Two Gallants returned in 2012 with their heaviest effort yet. While there's still plenty of the bluesy flourishes and sepia-toned hints of Americana here -- see delicate acoustic ballad "Broken Eyes," for example -- the focus of The Bloom and the Blight is on the angst-laced thrashing that fills most of the other songs. Luckily, Adam Stephens' voice is perfect for that sort of attack -- nasal, gritty, able to be wound high into the upper registers, it's a big part of the reason songs like "Ride Away" come off as genuine instead of affected. Two Gallants' older material sometimes suffered from a sense of trying too hard; thanks to Stephen's affecting vocals and Tyson Vogel's thundering drum work, The Bloom and the Blight tries just as hard as it needs to. -- Ian S. Port

See also: S.F.'s Two Gallants: Back After a Long Break, and Better Than Ever


Synthetic ID


[1-2-3-4 Go!]

San Francisco post-punk quartet Synthetic ID established itself with the release of a 7-inch single early this year and sustained our interest with a slew of consummate live appearances. The group's debut LP, Apertures certainly reinforces Synthetic ID's staying power. The sparseness of Apertures' individual performances is enthralling. Synthetic ID doesn't rely on saturated noise to create its neurotic mood -- it uses restraint and sparse performances that actually maximize the sense of seething urban tension. Guitarist Jake Dudley conjures serpentine leads and a particular restlessness percolates in the mix, while vocalist Nic Lang's monotonous shout provides an ideal counterpoint to the volatility. -- Sam Lefebvre

See also: Promising Punk Outfit Synthetic ID Wants to Make You Feel Alienated and Vulnerable


Six Organs of Admittance


[Drag City]

The genesis of Ben Chasney's first proper electric Six Organs of Admittance album has its roots back when the gifted guitarist first started playing with mighty local legends Comets on Fire a decade ago. Ascent doesn't quite scorch the brainpan with the same raw, psychedelic abandon that Comets was known to conjure, but there's no denying the unhinged exuberance that working with the band once again brought to Chasney's playing on this effort. The epic fuzz workout "Even If You Know" and the dramatic electric recasting of early Six Organ songs "Close to the Sky" and "One Thousand Birds" bristle with a ferocious energy that begs for more output from this joyful reunion. -- Dave Pehling

See also: Live Review, 9/22/12: Six Organs of Admittance Pummels and Soothes at Bottom of the Hill


Chuck Prophet

Temple Beautiful

[Yep Roc]

An album of breezy Americana-rock from one of our best local songwriters mythologizing this gorgeous, crazy city we all call home? Yeah, we'll take that. Chuck Prophet did his adopted hometown a solid with Temple Beautiful, compiling centuries of San Francisco myths and rumors and legends into a batch of songs as edifying as they are exciting. Don't take Prophet's lyrics too seriously, 'cause he didn't exactly fact-check this stuff, but the details don't matter as much as the album's spirit. There's a bittersweet lament about the lost days of the Castro's Halloween street parties, a portrait of the outsize personas of locals Willie Mays and Carol Doda, and an account of the riots that happened after the tragic murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk. History aside, Prophet's lean songwriting and the capable backing of his band, the Mission Express, help make this one of the most notable local releases of any genre in 2012. -- Ian S. Port

See also: Chuck Prophet's S.F. Album Gets the Facts Wrong, But the Feelings Right

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