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Locals Only: Favorite Releases of 2012

Good afternoon everyone!  I hope this post finds you doing well!  We're doing good over here at Spanspek Headquarters, thankful for a year of many blessings, including the return of Comrade in Exile and festival co-organizer Israel Flores!

And as 2012 comes to an end, we thought it'd be nice to share with you, our lovely reader, some of our favorite local releases of the year.  I'm sure it's no surprise that we love homegrown music and are always looking for ways to share that love with you.  So without further ado, here's our Favorite Local EP/LP's List of 2012!


Achievement House (Fresno, CA)
Heart Archers

Fervent singing and a fondness for elaborate surf rock mark a solid release from the Fresno four piece. Achievement House succeeds in creating self-assured songs brimming with inventiveness. Aided by the robust drumming of new addition Anthony Barba, singer Whitney Freeman is free to showcase her towering vocal abilities.


Joel Robert Melton (Fresno, CA)

Lush atmospherics and colorful tenors envelope the ear on the sophomore release by Joel Robert Melton, guitarist/vocalist with indie up-and-comers Light Thieves.  Melton’s constructions feature washed out vocals spreading existential dread over beautifully plucked strings.  Clever turns of phrase and beating heart percussion round out a cohesive and engaging album.  


Sci-Fi Caper (Fresno, CA)
Sci-Fi Caper (Album only available at shows)

Friendcore favorites Sci-Fi Caper deliver an endless supply of hooks in an album that never stops to rests.  In songs like the instantly hummable "Summer Bummer" or the hyperactive "Way Back When" the band effectively kicks out the jamz, getting all the people in the house to say yyeahhhh! 

Natural Thrills (Fresno, CA)

The follow up by Tokyo Death March wunderkind Kevin Figueroa offers much in the way of his former bands sensibility.  Impressionistic guitar textures, groove inducing bass, and the attack of Kaleb Saldate's drumming combine to form rich compositions that, while lacking the vitality of Figueroa's earlier works, are often thrilling.

Strawberry Jam (Fresno, CA)

Guerilla street performer Amber Fargano leads a self-proclaimed “bad ass babe band” in a rousing live performance recorded at Fresno’s Audie’s Olympic Tavern.  Equal parts Sonic Youth and 50’s girl group, Strawberry Jam play ukulele rock that’s brittle, but goes down smooth.  Performing for an adoring audience, the band soars.

Tyrannosaurus Zebra (Visalia, CA)
Striped Horse Dinosaur

Tyrannosaurus Zebra is the go to group for manic folk punk. Their latest brings reliably raucous energy, but adds nuance. The unruly "Pinhead" is matched with the tender “Genuine”, in which singer/guitarist Ralee Drennin quietly intones, "Who's gonna solve your problems?" over sparse guitar. This band just might solve yours.

Ornery Ones (Fresno, CA)

Shambolic and utterly enjoyable, the debut EP by this Valley super group deserves multiple listens. Tracks like "Meatball Magic (The Song)" rest confidently on jangly guitars and the charming, off-kilter vocals of singer James Brittain-Gore.  Melodic low ends and terrific drumming add to an album that portends greatness to come.

Basura (Fresno, CA)
Basura (Album only available at shows)

Longtime staples in the Fresno "roc en espanol" scene, ska/punk band Basura stay true to their reputation as fun loving luchadores, while adding layers not seen previously.  Amidst songs of wrestling matches are accounts of crossing the border and losing one's soul to a life of crime.  A great listen. 

Slow Season (Visalia, CA)
Slow Season

Channeling the spirit of Appalachian folk through the lens of Led Zeppelin bombast, Slow Season crafts an album unique in its cohesion.  Though songs range in style from the Earth shattering “Heavy” to the mandolin dirge “Ruah”, every track feels utterly essential.  A great first run from the Visalia newcomers.

Fierce Creatures (Fresno, CA)
Catacomb Party (Paper Garden Records)

In a year that saw performances at the South by Southwest festival, the execution of a flawless “Catacomb Party” in Fresno's Fulton Mall, and signing to the Paper Garden Records label, is it any surprise that Fierce Creatures released one of the best albums of 2012?  The superb Catacomb Party sees the band reaching for new heights, adding further colors and textures to an already dense sound.  Vocalist Amanda Valdez in particular shines on “Magical Disappearing Acts”, a dreamlike piece imbued with the gentleness of thoughts drifting through space.  The future is in flux for Fierce Creatures, who recently saw the departure of singer Mathr De Leon.  However that may be, at present, the band can do no wrong.

Honorable Mention:

Session (Fresno, CA)

Purveyors of the type of "modern rock" vilified by denizens of the Internet, the New Rock 104.1 house band nonetheless succeeds in creating Billboard ready tunes that are hard to resist. This is evident in the sultry “A.M. Love”, where singer Jordan Poytress croons for a lover to hurry home.

In addition to all the groups listed above, a number of other great local bands released fantastic songs this year.  As such, we've included a Favorite Tracks of 2012 List (by bands not in the top 10).  Do yourself a favor and check out the songs below, then go out to your nearest venue and watch the bands live!

Light Thieves (Fresno, CA)
“Good Fortune”

When lost within an otherworldly dream scape populated by forbidding shadows, do not fear, for this ebullient band of thieves will guide you towards the light.

Cabin Fire (Fresno, CA)
Cathedrals of Information (Never Lost Records/Driftwood Records)

An utterly invigorating assault on the senses. Blistering distortion and hurricane level drums combine for a one minute journey into oblivion.

Ocher (Visalia, CA)

A perfect distillation of 90’s nostalgia, meant to evoke the passing of a long Valley day spent hanging out with your stoner friends.

Pro Wings (Hanford, CA)
“On Days”
2 Song Demo

Mellow indie rock for slow dancing under the stars. Just one in a number of exquisitely constructed pop morsels from the Kern County natives.

Collecto (Fresno, CA)
“8th Wonder”

Infectious beat to soundtrack the coming robot apocalypse. Humanity has lost. Skynet has taken over. All your base are belong to Collecto.

Kooleidoscope, (Sanger, CA)

An ode to not giving a fuck by a bold new voice in the local hip hop scene. Smooth old school production by beat maker DA backs up a tale of new beginnings.

Kinship (Mendota, CA)
“Noble Savage”

A monster single from a Fresno mainstay. Conjures visions of a relentless Charles Bronson exacting bloody vengeance on his foes.

Copper & Glass (Fresno, CA)
“All My Life”

Alt. country newcomers with a polished sound and positive vibe. A strong release about staying true to the ones you love.

Murder Park (Fresno, CA)
"Speaking in Cursive"

An indie corrido from one of Fresno's most eclectic minds.  Singer/guitarist Garth Clifton angrily mutters along to a waltz from another dimension.

Sea of Sound (Fresno, CA)

Polished to a fine sheen, Sea of Sound's "Rogue" has a melodic alternative sound which has won them plenty of fans in their short time together.

Honorable Mention:

Werebear (Orosi, CA)
“First Bite”
(Disclaimer: this is the band of Spanspek co-organizer Cristobal Carrillo)

A first person account of a murderous night out on the town, for the beast in all of us. Happy hunting.
And that's it!  We hope you enjoyed the list and we hope that you check out every band live!  Thank you all again for a wonderful year.  Happy holidays and we'll see you in 2013!


Israel Flores and Cristobal Carrillo


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