Craig Hlavaty's 10 Best Houston Albums of 2012

It's that time of year -- or at least it has been since, like, November -- for rock writers to show everyone else how cool they think they are with their year-end best-of lists. How obscure can you get? How controversial can you be with your choices?

"If only Honey Boo Boo released album that I could put next to Frank Ocean!" says one blogger to himself as he makes his Top 50 that no one will ever read. Who the fuck is Grimes anyway?

This best-of list is geared towards my favorite local albums of the year, the ones that grabbed me and shook me for weeks and months on end. No beers. shots, or free merch were involved.

I swear.

10. Come See My Dead Person, Come See My Dead Person This was a late-comer this year, releasing just a few weeks back. The gypsy-folk-rock-bleeders' self-titled album was heralded by lead single "John Doe," a grim and grimy bounce through the graveyard or the killing floor of a slaughterhouse.

9. Female Demand, Outside the Universe Luckily the now-defunct Female Demand dropped this LP before they called it quits. Outside the Universe, their first full-length LP after two EPs. is infinitely groovier and more aggressive than the two EPs. Bassist Bradley Muñoz and drummer Jonathan Perez created one of the most hectic live experiences we've seen in years in their time, trapping crowds inside a harsh bubble of sound, sweat and light.

8. A Sea Es, A Sea Es Austin Smith wowed me with his multilayered, kaleidoscopic sound on A Sea Es' 11-track debut album. Fans of Animal Collective, Harry Nilsson, ELO, Frank Zappa, T. Rex and the Beach Boys will not be disappointed.

7. Sunrise And Ammunition, Tesseract Zooming into my radio late in 2012 was Sunrise & Ammunition's Tesseract, one of the most live and amplified local albums of the year. The power trio benefited from production and mixing by NY-based producer Jesse Cannon, who streamlined the harsher elements of S&A's last two EPs into something less scatterbrained.

6. Weird Party, Hussy Weird Party is like this elusive black bear of Houston that appears randomly from the wilderness, mauling a few passersby, dropping an eight-cut album called Hussy with a pair of huge tits on the cover onto the public, and then retreating, not to rest, but to wait. More, please.

5. Buxton, Nothing Here Seems Strange Buxton has been on the road touring behind their New West debut for the majority of the past year, putting in work for an album into which they had poured the last five years of their lives. Nothing Here Seems Strange got progressively better with each listen, no small feat when most 2012 albums are one-pump chumps. "Oh My Boy" and "Boy of Nine" are two of the biggest standouts, building up promise for an even more harrowing follow-up.

4. The Niceguys, James Kelley There was nothing nice about the Niceguys' James Kelley. Burly, angry, imposing, and fucking exciting, tracks like "OVERTOAST" and "Ain't Life Grand" made Kelley an instant HOU classic. Cheers to the money gods.

3. Grandfather Child, Grandfather Child This past year, Grandfather Child band leader Lucas Gorham told me something about his band that most other acts in town wouldn't have the stones to utter anywhere. "I like to think that when someone sees a Grandfather Child show, they are experiencing a church service devoid of religion," said Gorham. "No disrespect to religion." His band's self-titled debut made good on the promise of their long-running live shows, with nine tracks of salacious Prince- and Frank Zappa-infused stomp -- with an ever-so-light touch of twang.

2. Venomous Maximus, Beg Upon the Light It's been a while since an album came from a Houston band that made me wanna light black candles in living room and put a druid's cloak on my dog. No telling how many times I caught myself at the gym trying to replicate Bongo's drumming on the elliptical machine. I only fell down once. All jokes aside, this was probably the best Texas metal album of 2012. This is the band's first full-length LP, coming on the heels of last year's The Mission EP, and it's a fun, riff-heavy, assaultive party album.

1. BLACKIE, GEN No one in Houston was this bare and honest this year. GEN didn't prove that B L A C K I E is gifted; no, he did that a long time ago with hundreds of sweat-stained gigs across the globe. GEN proved that Michael LaCour is in this for life, not as a musician, but as a capital-A Artist.

GEN largely left behind the walls of sound you know from B L A C K I E's last three EPs and 2008 debut LP Wilderness of North America for horns, keyboards, acoustic guitars, haunting, harried, and hellish choruses, that remind the listener more of blues than the damaged hip-hop that made him an underground institution. It was folk fed through his noise thresher.


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