16 of the Best Local Releases of 2012 1/2

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As we wind down the month of June and find ourselves square in the middle of 2012, there's that old familiar nudge to gather, quantify, qualify and categorize the local music we've enjoyed so far this year. Here are some of of favorites.

Pinkish Black Pinkish Black It's been a long, strange trip for Fort Worth duo Pinkish Black, culminating in May's self-titled debut LP on North Texas label Handmade Birds. The result is a heavy dose of doom theatrics, carried out by keyboardist Daron Beck's spectral verse, and drummer Jon Teague's rhythmic focus. - Audra Schroeder

Joseph SoMo "Kings & Queens (Throw It Up)" Denton's Joseph SoMo has been on fire lately, dropping a barrage of YouTube covers that have amassed more than 1.2 million views. In April, he released his "Kings & Queens" single, produced by Cody Tarpley, in lieu of his forthcoming debut mixtape. "Kings & Queens" is an uptempo celebration of the night, sure to strike a chord with even the most monochromatic of critics. - Austin Staubus

Eyes Wings and Many Other Things Napalm Beach Dallas' vinyl and tape label Pour le Corps has been releasing a steady stream of experimental, electronic and psych from regional and national acts, lovingly accented with fantastic album design. Guitar/synth duo Colin Arnold and Sean French, aka Eyes, Wings and Many Other Things, turn in something meditative with Napalm Beach, an album which contemplates sound and design rather than ramping up to the overdone loud-quiet-loud formula. - Audra Schroeder

Danny Rush Brown and Blue Daniel Folmer's second album under the name Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers picks up where his first left off, chronicling his self-imposed exile to a dude ranch in Central Texas and subsequent return, and rolling through honky-tonk-ready originals like "Pray N Pray," "MACHINE (MONOPOLOWA)" and "New Last Name." Any Folmer release is worth your attention and this one is no different. - Andy Odom

Bad Design Bad Design This Denton four-piece recorded its debut album live, and it certainly sounds like they do in a venue like Bryan Street Tavern or Rubber Gloves. The band happily wears its post-hardcore influences on its sleeve -- Fugazi, Jawbox and Cursive to name a few -- and has an incredibly compelling song featuring a finger-tapping guitar line ("The Whale"). It will restore your faith in the legacy of Dischord Records. - Eric Grubbs

Cozy Hawks No Blues In a scene seemingly lacking in good ol' power pop, Cozy Hawks are a breath of fresh air. They bring to the stage an aggressive, Teenage Fanclub-infused sound, and their EP No Blues captures the vibe perfectly. Recorded with Justin Collins (who's worked with just about every other band in Denton as a musician or producer), the album is urgent and punchy. It's only available on their Bandcamp page at the moment, but that also means its only $5. Well worth the investment. - Andy Odom

Nervous Curtains Fake Infinity This Dallas synth/drum trio created an elegant, dark labyrinth via their second album. In a feature story I did earlier this year, I said Fake Infinity was "almost metal in concept, but Krautrock in its execution," and I stand by my statement. - Audra Schroeder

Daniel Hart The Orientalist Much has been written about violinist Daniel Hart, who seems to have performed with just about every important artist of the last decade. His high-profile collaborations have overshadowed one of his most impressive works: The Orientalist. The album, comprising mostly of immaculate pop songs with gypsy hints -- all heavy on the violin, of course -- was produced by Hart, Jim Eno (Spoon) and St. Vincent, an artist whose early work featured Hart's violin. But The Orientalist isn't a violin album. It's a pop record that reveals Hart's talent as a songwriter. This album is on course to be my favorite local album, and Hart's live performances are just as good. - Daniel Hopkins

Crushed Stars In the Bright Rain Crushed Stars' seventh album clouds the mind. Though the summer heat has just started throwing its jabs, this record gives a sense of cool, as songwriter Todd Gautreau whispers his way through nine songs. The guitars echo and reverberate like drops of water on broken glass, and Bright Rain rarely changes course from its bittersweet mid-tempo meanderings, which is just fine. It's the kind of record that can carry an attentive listener away. - Daniel Hopkins

Tum Tum ft. Dorrough & B-Hamp "Yeah Doe" Hometown hero Tum Tum, known best for his Southern classic "Caprice Music," dropped what is perhaps his catchiest single to date, "Yeah Doe", featuring Hulk ENT labelmates Dorrough and B-Hamp. Produced by Bux, Tum Tum delivers a punch over a menacing 808 and infectious hook. Could this finally be Tum Tum's time to shine? Only radio will tell. - Austin Staubus

Ynfynyt Scroll Let Me See It EP One of the DJs of DFW gang Track Meet, Rodrigo Diaz has an ear for the sickest '90s club beats and a futuristic aesthetic that makes for a radical, engaging listen. Let Me See It, released on Ben Aqua's #Feelings label, shows just how dance music can evolve. - Audra Schroeder

Blessed Isles Caroline EP There's a lot of shoegazing going on with Toby Pipes and Nolan Thies, who have performed with Little Black Dress for several years. Former Hourly Radio singer Aaron Closson enlisted the two for his Blessed Isles project. Their initial offering is a five-track collection of uptempo shoegaze-inspired songs, tipping the hat to Cocteau Twins. Archaic drum loops and trebled-out guitars and keys coat Closson's songs like a hard candy shell. If anything, this EP whets the appetite for the full-length album set to come out on St. Marie Records later this year. - Daniel Hopkins

Jerrod Medulla Speak Easy A slick country album that never feels overly polished. The smoky rock that Medulla folds into his honky-tonk recipe has a satisfyingly robust flavor. Also, it's not a small deal that he landed a duet with the hotter-than-sin Lindi Ortega. Their duet, "How Bad," is a jazzy, noirish number that would be tough for many pseudo tough guys to pull off. - Kelly Dearmore

Mind Spiders Meltdown Has Mark Ryan ever had hook-writer's block? The local linchpin has been pumping out high-octane riffage for over a decade now, first with the Reds and Marked Men, and now with Mind Spiders, who've released their second great album in as many years. In a weird way, Meltdown might be the most accessible batch of songs Ryan's ever put together, drawing inspiration from beach pop and surf to complement its proto-punk roots. Ultimately, though, it's an album overflowing with nervous energy, and a gripping statement that should only sound better with age. - Zach Hale

Jay Fresh "Diamonds" remix by Blue Collar Prophet Jay Fresh emerged late last year with "The Delta Project," a mixtape with Pretty Lights. He's followed that up with the Jus-Stone the Great-produced remix of "Diamonds," executed with precision and clarity, as Conception Crafters continues to polish this rising star. - Austin Staubus

Sarah Jaffe The Body Wins Sarah Jaffe could have played it safe. Instead, the songwriter dove into uncharted waters, knowing damn well she may never make it out. The Body Wins is the dynamic manifestation of Jaffe's creative arsenal, a far cry from the endearing, if somewhat callow folk for which she made her name. With studio sensei John Congleton at the helm once again, she sounds right at home in her new skin. - Zach Hale

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