The Top 10 Phoenix Albums of 2012
Not only do I think The Signal by Local Wizards was the most interesting album to come out of Phoenix in 2012, but it also accurately conveyed a distinctly Arizonan experience: bored youth, deep heat, blurry nights, and vague dread. The second full-length solo venture of ASU student Kendall Hunter, The Signal cycles his effusive vocals through a series of hazy Deerhunter textures, heavily processed guitar, and empty freeway beats.
Opener "Sticks and Leaves" has the jangly tempo and languid guitar of fellow blithe suburban rockers Real Estate, but lines like "I'm facedown and floating in my swimming pool" flip the Jersey band's trademark nostalgia into early-twenties angst. The title track uses a deceptively funky handclap rhythm to offset the bone-dry heartbreak and loss of the lyrics. Even The Signal's more straightforward offerings have dark matter lurking underneath. "Thomas Kinkade" is the most blatant rock song of the bunch, a mid-tempo ripper built around a distorted keyboard motif, yet the lyrics narrate a Lynchian house party with women throwing works by the famed schlock artist into a fire while mixing drinks in a garbage disposal.
It's laptop-glow Ambien rock, it's QuikTrip Garagebandcore, and it couldn't have been made anywhere but the suburban desert. --Chase Kamp
Lauren Farrah was a rising force in 2012, and her debut EP, Great Expectations, ensures that her presence will only continue to be praised. The five tracks on the album display impressive passion and playful emotion, ranging from vulnerable and haunting to commanding and assertive.
It's an album that you can sip easily like a glass of Glenlivet, consuming mouthwatering swirl after swirl, growing warmer and cozier as the album moves on. Farrah's velvety alto vocals smolder, and her thoughtful songwriting and often-wondrous puzzlement is delightful. The songs have a type of nouveau-Americana style, accented with a poppy edge, sometimes gravitating towards soft rock ("Head vs. Heart"), sometimes towards country ("Great Expectations"), and sometimes towards whimsical blues ("I Was Wrong"). Which makes sense, since Farrah cites such influences as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and works side-by-side with many artists who are tinged with folksy rock and country.
Her lyrics search through her soul, giving a glimpse of how she has gone through her life, spending time as a CTI (cryptologic technician interpretive) in the Navy before signing to River Jones Music. Farrah isn't afraid to explore her disorders, but she retains a kind of reassuring faith. The beauty's not always in the destination; sometimes it's all about the journey. -- Lauren Wise