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Best Local Albums of 2012
To add one more to the growing list of "best of" lists, here are our picks for best albums.

There was no shortage of great music put out by Milwaukee musicians in 2012. As much is evident in the vastly different lists put out by nearly every local publication, blog and Milwaukeean with a passion for homegrown music and more than 50 Twitter followers. While this list represents the tastes of just two people—with utterly no clue about local hip-hip—tasked with picking a mere 10 of this city’s great audio efforts of the year, consider it a jumping off point to help discover and discuss more local artists that deserve attention.

Jaill – Traps
Faced with the task of following up That’s How We Burn, its locally lauded (but not particularly popular elsewhere) Sub Pop Records debut, Jaill's latest album (and last release guaranteed to be put out on the renowned indie label), Traps, echoes the laid back summertime feel of its predecessor, while lending a dash of depth, both musically and in terms of lyrical content. The jury is still out on the record contract renewal, but Traps has already led to an unmatched bowling alley album release show, a bunch of great music videos, extensive U.S./international touring, lucrative local opening slots for The Hives and Titus Andronicus, a trophy from 88Nine Radio Milwaukee voters and, perhaps most impressively, a Milwaukee Magazine “Best Of” nod for the MKE mainstay. [Tyler Maas]

Juniper Tar – Since Before
I’m supposed to be writing about this year’s best albums, and Since Before is really an album, in the old school, “greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” sense: a carefully composed, emotionally jarring meditation on time, pain, and healing. Though it’s heavy on concept, it never buckles under its own weight, with plenty of tracks like “The Dullest Cleaver” and “After The Tremors” that stand up just fine on their own. [Joe Guszkowski]

Field Report – Field Report
After the whirlwind first full year of existence that found Field Report representing Milwaukee at South By Southwest, accompanying The Counting Crows, Aimee Mann and Megafaun on various tours, and gaining considerable attention throughout the Badger State and well beyond, it’s easy to forget the means of conveyance that took Christopher Porterfield and co. from Conrad Plymouth leftovers to indie rock up-and-comers. The vehicle most responsible for the band’s quick notoriety is its tremendous self-titled debut. The 10-song Field Report is a harmony-laden debut (though parts are re-done Conrad Plymouth songs) that combines Porterfield’s strong voice and knack for telling tragic stories with rock solid, emotive instrumentation from the talented cast of players backing him. Midway through opening track “Fergus Falls,” you’ll begin to understand what all the hype is about. [TM]

Surgeons In Heat – Surgeons In Heat LP
Surgeons In Heat’s self-titled LP has all the qualities of a great lover: cool, smart, easy to get along with, and, of course, sexy. Taking cues from soul, R&B, and '60s pop, the Surgeons In Heat LP is a breeze to listen to, which makes its diamond-cut songcraft that much more impressive. [JG]

Catacombz – Mother Tongue 2
The best way to describe longtime Milwaukee scene staple Catacombz is that it's “very difficult to describe.” However, that vague and altogether horrible generalization should in no way be taken as an insult. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Catacombz latest cassette (yes, cassette) Mother Tongue 2 is the group’s latest venture into the trippy and lawless expanses of musical experimentation. Amid the various vocal effects and off-kilter instrumentation, you’ll find yet another satisfying sonic venture from one if the city’s most underrated acts. [TM]

The Delphines – God Help The Delphines EP
The feisty Delphines came out of nowhere this year to give us three cunningly dark, incredibly catchy collections of hazy garage pop. God Help The Delphines, its latest and finest release, sees the band embracing a slightly heavier approach, while sticking to its stripped-down instrumentation and gritty lyrics. [JG]

The WhiskeyBelles – Whiskey Women
It’s tough to argue that the trio of WAMI Award regulars and festival fixtures released Milwaukee’s best album by an all-female country band this year. But even without the gender and genre modifiers, The WhiskeyBelles debut full-length, Whiskey Woman, is still a damn good release. Before the album’s July 29 release, I wrote, “The seasoned cast of award-winning Wisconsin musicians and vocalists totes ample musical depth to Whiskey Woman, through experienced instrumentation and effortlessly smooth three-part harmonies. Figuratively and literally, WhiskeyBelles stand in no man’s land. The band has too much balls to even bother acknowledging the inevitable Dixie Chicks comparisons.” Title track “Whiskey Woman” and energetic romp “Pills I Took” especially stand out on this promising eight-song introduction to a dream team of versatile vocalists. [TM]

All These Runners – Vacation Days
Coming off 2010’s overlooked Rise Run Fall Sleep, All These Runners felt like a band with something to prove, and it did just that with Vacation Days. Electrified with a breathless energy, it takes on mid-twenties anxiety and heartbreak with smartly written indie pop that’s catchy as hell. [JG]

Sat. Nite Duets – Summer Of Punishment
I might be a little biased in acknowledging Sat. Nite Duets—what with a member of the band comprising the other half of this blog and all—but months before I met Mr. Guszkowski, I wrote favorably of his band’s “brand of unkempt indie rock cooked up at the ‘Throwback Lounge,’ also known as [Sat. Nite member Ben] Gucciardi’s basement studio, is a recipe all its own: ’90s alternative influence, endearingly lo-fi experimentation and a heavy helping of humor.” The quirky quintet puts said recipe on display in its latest full-length Summer Of Punishment. Trading vocal duties and genres on a song-by-song basis, Duets manages its most consistent and enjoyable effort to date, highlighted by the dingy “Genghis Khan” and the affable angst of “Way Behind My Age Group.” [TM]

Young Holidays – Young Holidays EP
For music written and recorded chiefly by one guy – the singular Max Holiday – the Young Holidays EP sounds a lot like a party. Full of claps, shouts, dancy beats and a clattering assortment of instruments, it’s as virile and messy as a UWM kegger. While the songs are compact, they’re surprisingly intricate and complex, with a diverse palate that seats electronic burbles and soaring strings alongside fuzzy guitar and blown-out drums. [JG]

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