The 10 Best San Francisco Indie Rock Records of 2012

The Fresh & Onlys
Long Slow Dance
[Mexican Summer]

According to singer Tim Cohen, The Fresh & Onlys had a simple agenda going into this year's Mexican Summer debut: "We tried to write good songs, play them really well, and make them sound really good," Cohen told us in September. "Then we thought, 'Why haven't we been doing this the entire time?'" We don't know, but there's little doubt that Long Slow Dance is the prettiest, most polished album this S.F. psych-pop band has released yet. Though long lumped in with the local garage rock scene -- not least because the bands have shared bills for years -- the Fresh & Onlys are working toward a different end, as Long Slow Dance makes clear. The album's centerpiece is a gorgeous but unmistakably dark look at the pain that true love can exact, led by washes of acoustic strumming and glimmering lead guitar work of the great Wymond Miles. There's a tunefulness and bleak, honest sensitivity here that we always sort of knew the Fresh & Onlys had in them. With Long Slow Dance, it's been realized. -- Ian S. Port

See also: Love Like Fire: The Fresh & Onlys find the thorny side of romance on "Long Slow Dance"

Terry Malts
Killing Time

It's an old formula: Write simple, catchy pop songs, then play them loud and fast with lots of distortion and charisma. And you know what? It works really well, as local trio Terry Malts display on their full-length debut. Possibly the most unabashedly fun record on this list, Killing Time turns on a Ramones-y spray of ooh-ooh background vocals and fuzz-blasted major-chord melodies from the very first song, and doesn't stop until more than half an hour has gone by. Highlights include the indelible, crackling strut of "Tumble Down," the navel-gazing pummel of "I'm Neurotic," and the relentless, hooky "Nauseous." But with the whole record swathed in glorious storms of feedback and distortion, you can't really go wrong with any of these highly digestible songs. -- Ian S. Port

See also: Take a Fuzzed-Out 'Tumble Down' With S.F.'s Terry Malts

Thee Oh Sees
Putrifiers II
[In The Red]

While their protege Ty Segall got louder than ever this year, Thee Oh Sees got more melodic -- and made arguably their most satisfying album since 2009's Help. There's still plenty of the band's classic, chaotic assault, but this time the energy is capped with a veneer of British Invasion-style harmonies and a few of the droning instrumental departures we saw on last year's Carrion Crawler/The Dream. There's a new, hypnotic flavor to the music Thee Oh Sees are making these days, and a new sense of adventure, too -- note the hints of trumpet on the gorgeous "Hang a Picture" if you don't believe us. They're hard as ever to label, but whatever John Dwyer and Co. are doing, it's working. -- Ian S. Port

See also: Live Review: Thee Oh Sees, Real Estate, and a Bunch of Cool Kids Relax in the Redwoods at the Woodsist Festival

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