Restorations and more...
Australia’s the Lucksmiths, one of the smartest indie-pop bands of the ‘90s and ‘00s, broke up in 2009. In 2011, three of the four members announced their new band Last Leaves, with an MP3 of a demo version of one song. It was exhilarating for fans; the song itself is familiar yet fresh, with Marty Donald’s less polished voice lending a new tone even while the lyrics are similarly witty and effecting (“the past is just a single-star motel / it’s nowhere you should dwell”). Here’s hoping 2013 brings both a full record by Last Leaves and renewed attention on Donald as one of the great songwriters of our times, his bandmates no slouches either. Their record label Lost and Lonesome Recording Co. has the release date for their new album as “Coming sometime soon… 2013-15?”, so we might have to keep hoping for a while. Dave Heaton
This New Zealand trio came seemingly from out under a rock with their brilliant eponymous titled debut album. Although it was originally released on a small Kiwi label, it saw a proper UK issuing this year once British radio picked it up and put it into rotation. Sounding like a throwback to 1981’s post-punk scene, Opposite Sex was a clarion call of anthemic, scrappy rock and roll. From the jittery, angular “La Rat” to the ramshackle “Sea Shanty”, Opposite Sex was full of pop gems that, despite their reliance on past sounds, seemingly sounded utter fresh and original. The three almost anonymous members of the band (they only go by their first names of Lucy, Tim and Fergus) are still enrolled in university and are concentrating on their studies in addition to their double-duty in the band, playing to enthusiastic audiences in their homeland; here’s hoping that the rest of the world catches on and understands the sheer power of the music that this group has unleashed on their debut, which definitely needs to be heard by as many people as possible. Zachary Houle
Next year’s best hope is this year’s best kept secret. With debut LP Holiday, Brooklyn’s Port St. Willow—primarily the project of vocalist Nick Principe—is no exception. Marrying Principe’s silky, almost effortlessly operatic falsetto with an able vocabulary of post-rock arrangements, these songs are not only moving, but impressively full-fledged and rich with dramatic flairs. The album’s pacing contrasts foggier, formless sound pieces (“Two Five Five Two”, “Corners”) with rousing, percussive mini-epics, like “Tourist” and “North”. It’s the latter tracks that highlight PSW’s live show, where Principe performs with a three-piece. Wherever 2013 finds Port St. Willow, Holiday is a rich and expertly textured debut. I hope there’s more on the way. Zach Schonfeld
On the strength of their 2011 self-titled debut full-length and a 2012 7” single, Restorations made fans of gritty, American punk take notice. That’s not because they showed unpolished promise, or because they were hitting their stride, but because they sounded like a bomb that could explode at any minute. This Philadelphia five-piece borrows from the Replacements and Constantines and emanates a poetic and booming sound all their own. Tracks build with such intensity that this reviewer stood motionless and speechless at a performance in Melbourne earlier this year; their songs have the ability to grab you, though it’s not a matter of the songs not letting go. Instead, Restorations is the kind of act that carry listeners. A recent signing to SideOneDummy and a new LP slated for early 2013 produced by Jon Low (Kurt Vile, Dr. Dog) will mean big things for these affable, down-to-Earth dudes. Joshua Kloke
Standing out from the usual flood of Brooklyn-based bands that emerge year-in, year-out, the Sanctuaries recalled the calm, New York cool of Lou Reed—the perfect escape from the abundance of electronic beats and experimental squawks that can overwhelm those who follow the scene closely. The band’s debut album Annette features jangly guitar strums, prominent organ chords, a well-drilled rhythm section flow and main man David Stern’s classic indie pop songwriting, all of which was further punctuated by the release of Not Guilty, an EP loaded with remixes of the band’s work plus a handful of originals. 2012 was the year the band cut their teeth in the studio, earning plenty of kudos from their NYC contemporaries. But 2013 will hopefully see greater recognition on a national level for this capable four-piece. Dean Van Nguyen