2012, in its early runnings, has been a pretty unambitious year in as far as media art is concerned. Blockbuster movies only start pouring out this month, and the music world seems to be hiding their big guns for even longer. Enter Bowerbirds, a three-member band from South Carolina who's been kicking around the lower-ranks of buzz-bands for a few years now. While their previous efforts were lovely and promising, The Clearing is their moment, fleshing out previously simplistic songs structures with the likes of violin, trombone, cello, organ, vibraphone, and clarinet. It's a veritable feast for the ears, all blown up into lush cinemascope, gliding on top of lead singer Phil Moore's swooning croon (comparisons to Andrew Bird are wholly justified). The album opens up with early Song of the Year candidate Tuck the Darkness In, and while the rest might not match that tune's grand-standing loftiness, beauty is slathered all over the thing, making The Clearing 2012's most pleasantly surprising music entry thus far.
It's been nearly five years since William Bevan, AKA Burial, has released a proper LP. The disc in question, 2007's Untrue, is looked at by many as a canonical entry into the early, less-boisterous incarnations of Dubstep, so it's no wonder why the dude is still working on a follow up. That's not to say he hasn't been busy, helping out with guest spots and collaborations, and dropping two three-song EPs in the span of a year. Street Halo was originally slotted for inclusion in my Top 50 Albums of 2011, but I eventually decided that it was a bit slight of an offering to compare readily with full-length LPs. The chilled, downcast beats were just as captivating last year as when Bevan initially burst on onto the scene, but they're even better when paired with the thematically identical Kindred. Played back to back, the two make for 50+ minutes of anxious, foreboding, and strangely danceable listening, offering more than enough to keep grey-skys Dubstep fans happy until that long-awaited LP finally drops.
Following her excellent cover of The Strokes' Soma on last year's Is This It? tribute album, Frankie Rose finally gets a chance to show what she her sprawling pop sensibilities sound like in album form. The results do not disappoint. Like Beach House with considerably more caffeine, Rose's songs swirl around in a multi-colored world, fueled by eternally blurry guitar strums, and a singular knack for ear-worm melody. Check out the pop tumble that is Night Swim, or the chant-ready stomp of opener/title track Interstellar. Frankie Rose has always been one to watch, and now, she's one to listen to ASAP.