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Rocks Off's 10 Best Musical Discoveries of 2012

The thrill of discovering freshly minted treasure or a previously unheralded favorite is one of the main reasons music writers get into this racket in the first place; every so often it can make wading through the ocean of crap mediocrity that is pop music worthwhile. Rocks Off asked our contributors to select their favorite musical discovery from 2012, whether or not it was released this year.

COREY DEITERMAN: "Have I talked about Cloud Nothings enough in these types of things? OK, I'll shut up about them. How about The Menzingers, then? This group failed to impress me with their first two albums, though both of those were lauded by the punk press when they were released. There was just a missing ingredient to what they were doing that failed to capture my imagination. I'm not sure why I stuck around to listen to their latest one, On the Impossible Past, but I'm glad I did. They found the missing ingredient and added it in spades.

Recommended for fans of Weezer (when they were good), The Thermals, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, the Menzingers blend that old school pop-punk sound with a distinct indie-rock flavor to come out with something reminiscent of those combined influences while still unique enough to capture the imagination. These songs are also just damn catchy. Believe me, you won't get "Sun Hotel" or "Gates" out of your head for weeks.

CORY GARCIA: Chvrches is a three-piece electro-pop group from Scotland that has fewer songs than I do fingers, but one of those songs is the completely brilliant "The Mother We Share." The band is heading to Texas for SXSW and I'm already working on schemes to get into their show.

CHRIS GRAY: I am not even close to ashamed to admit that 2012 was the year I became a Little Big Town fan. While I was trolling KILT one day, the Nashville quartet got me with this evil mandolin hook like the guy was choking up all the way on the fretboard, like all the way up, plus lyrics that were the epitome of trashy summer fun ("don't rock the boat while I barbecue"). And a video to match.

The hook for the next single, "Tornado," came in the form of a haunting whistle, and was just as catchy. Eventually I listened to the entire album, also called Tornado, and was more than pleasantly surprised; it's full of clever lyrics and not too much schmaltz, with four-part harmonies that are hard to beat. I am hoping very much to see LBT at RodeoHouston in 2013.

JOHN SEABORN GRAY: God damn, so many... Two Door Cinema Club, The Menzingers, Frank Ocean, Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, Wild Flag and Dirty Ghosts all stand out... a decidedly kickass band out of Austin called Schmillion... probably the biggest, though, was Jesca Hoop. She's utterly amazing and I can't wait to hear more from her. Also, after a few years of kind of liking them, I fell head over heels in love with Shearwater on the strength of their jaw-droppingly gorgeous Animal Joy LP.

CRAIG HLAVATY: Not ashamed to say it, but I bought a lot of Grateful Dead vinyl this year, after getting Sirius XM in my girlfriend's car and discovering the deadicated (wink) Dead channel. The reissue of The Grateful Dead Movie on DVD and BluRay that spurred than on as well.

MATTHEW KEEVER: Macklemore. You're probably all getting tired of "Thrift Shop" by now, but compared to the rest of the music played on mainstream radio, this song has got to be a breath of fresh air. And it isn't even a good representation of the rest of his music, either. Check out "Otherside," "Can't Hold Us" or "The Town" if you want to hear what this Seattle-based rapper is all about. I'm just glad a friend told me about him before he came through town.

CHRISTINA LYNN: For me it was Someday by Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles -- nice little side project.

SHEA SERRANO: The Outfit, Tx. They might be geniuses.

NATHAN SMITH: Like most people who weren't there, I was clueless about Houston's early-'90s rock scene until I watched the new documentary When We Ruled H-Town. What I discovered was that this city had an embarrassment of talented bands ripping audiences apart all over town back in the day, many of whom proved they could still slay at the two-night film showcase/reunion at Fitzgerald's. Cool stuff for a rock history buff.

MARCO TORRES: I admit it... I'm a huge nerd. The only radio I listen to is ESPN sports or NPR. My heart skips with joy each time NPR music teaches me about a fancy new genre or reminds me of forgotten artists that I never knew about. I was delighted to hear a report on Latino USA about The Ghetto Brothers.

This Nuyorican gang turned musical group from The Bronx just re-issued their 1971 album Power Fuerza, an equal-parts hip-hop/jazz/funk/doo-wop/Latin-rock masterpiece. I plug this into my Spotify playlists, turn up the volume, and imagine myself in NYC at the birth of the hip-hop movement that I so dearly love.

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