Continuing with our year-end panorama, Rocks Off asked our contributors a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: What was your favorite local album of 2012?
ALEXA CRENSHAW: Whatever I say here, I'm going to want to take back shortly because there's so much good stuff out there, y'all. Although they haven't released an album this year, I ran across one of Listenlisten's tracks which lead me to stream their  dog LP a bit. listenlisten's folk is simple, yet scenic. [If a 2010 record became someone's favorite in 2012, we're not going to quibble -- ed.]
COREY DEITERMAN: Buxton's Nothing Here Seems Strange is the culmination of the sound the La Porte natives have been pursuing for years now. It felt like we waited on this one forever. I talked to the guys in the band repeatedly and the question that was always on the tip of my tongue was "when will there be a follow-up to A Family Light?" The answer was always, "when it's finally done."
Well, the New West Records debut from our folky indie-rock band has proven to not only be worth the wait, but delivers on the all promise shown by their earlier releases. Combining the members' disparate influences (from Nick Cave and Wilco to Bjork, Converge, and Circa Survive) to form a cohesive whole, it's not only a great album but all the work that went into the production has made it one of the best sounding releases of the year as well.
CORY GARCIA: excuseMesir were my big discovery at the Houston Press Music Awards, but there was a problem: they didn't have an album for me to listen to constantly. Luckily, they rectified that soon after with the release of With You In Mind, fully capturing the the mix of Kelsey Lee Brand's vocals and the jazzy math-rock playing of the rest of the group that won me over in person. Honorable mention to Bang Bangz who would easily win a "Best Local Release to Listen to While Driving Around at Night" award, if there was one, for their self-titled EP.
CHRIS GRAY: I am going to choose Milton Hopkins' & Jewel Brown's eponymous CD that came out on Austin's Dialtone Records back in May, just to remind all you kids out there -- he said, shaking his cane from the front porch -- that there is a scene out there far, far away from Mango's, Walters and Fitzgerald's. (All places I love, bless their hearts.) These two seasoned Houston R&B performers poured about a century's worth of experience, give or take, into an album of what we call "grown folks' music," and it's good. Really fuckin' good.
JOHN SEABORN GRAY: A tie between Benjamin Wesley's Think Thoughts and Second Lovers' Wishers, Dreamers & Liars. Think Thoughts is full of heart, smarts and insane creativity; nothing else sounds quite like it. Wishers, on the other hand is the quintessential good old-fashioned folk rock album. Perfect for the car ride home from the bar.
JEF WITH ONE F: Kathryn Hallberg's Nocturnal EP can calm the most restless minds with her songs. No matter what's going on in your life, when the soft sounds of "Move On" or quiet ode to nighttime contemplations "Nocturnal" comes on, it just seems like life hits a little less hard. I don't know what I'd do without her.
MATTHEW KEEVER: The Manichean's Lovers. I've been of fan of these drama junkies for a few years now, and I was ecstatic to hear Lovers. Like their previous EPs, Lovers has a distinctive air of mystery, as listeners follow a story arc that is sometimes difficult to grasp, but like abstract poetry, the music, lyricism and delivery is so on-point that you end up getting lost in it all the same.
CHRISTINA LYNN: I wanna go with the Free Radicals' The Freedom Fence. It's like the Houston answer to Joe Jackson's Night and Day, which felt like a musical walk through New York City.
SHEA SERRANO: I suspect it's The Niceguys' James Kelley, though I may be wrong. It might be Dustin Prestige's Plaid or Delo's HP3 or Le$'s Struggle... or The Outfit's SS&R or Killa's WTTFF or Undergravity's Underdawgs or one of about seven others.
NATHAN SMITH: My vote goes to the Linus Pauling Quartet's Bag of Hammers (right). In addition to featuring the year's best cover art, it's chock-full of heavy, stoney grooves that sound equally great live and blasting out of the stock speakers of a used car.
MARCO TORRES: Grandfather Child's Grandfather Child -- another case of an underappreciated talent who flew under the our radar but were later signed and hopefully on to bigger and better horizons. Even after seeing them live more than a few times over the last two years, I never expected their self-titled debut to rattle me the way it did.
The combination of the tearfully sweet wine of Lucas Gorham's lap-steel guitar and the country-blues vocals makes this album top-notch. My favorite tracks are "Can't Seem To Forget" (that breakdown is downright killer!) and "Magical Words."
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