The Fresh & Onlys -- "Yes or No"
My favorite Fresh & Onlys album used to be the mid-fi pop glory of Grey-Eyed Girls, until the band released Long Slow Dance, which confidently soared to remarkable new heights. It's the cleanest sounding set from the group yet, full of songs that are layered and dynamic while retaining Tim Cohen's touching sense of melancholy.
Blackbird Blackbird -- "Tear"
SF's Mikey Maramag served up lush, beat-driven songs on 2012's Boracay Planet, blending organic and electronic sounds into tracks suited equally well for a set of headphones or the dancefloor. An upcoming tour with Starfucker is just the latest high profile slot for this young talent.
Social Studies -- "Away For The Weekend"
With Developer, their second full length, Social Studies crafted one of the year's best indie pop albums. Between Natalia Rogovin's compelling vocals and the group's tight musicianship, it's a mature, thoughtful batch of songs that should win them plenty of new fans.
Friendzone -- "!!-MAJOR"
Our Bay Area rap mixtape was one of our more popular podcasts this year, and a lot of that had to do with the work of Friendzone. This Oakland duo has produced some of our favorite songs for Main Attrakionz and others, and the flawless Collection I underscored the depth of their instrumental compositions. Hopefully, the duo's song on A$AP Rocky's anticipated major label debut is the first step in a lot of long overdue recognition.
Antwon -- "Living Every Dream"
The Bay Area has a wealth of rappers with unique personalities, but Antwon emerged as the year's most promising. The San Jose rapper's End of Earth mixtape had an eclectic set of beats that were weird or catchy or, most excitingly, often both, and his funny, vulgar, and dark lyrics offer a welcome unpredictability.
Ceremony -- "Hysteria"
It was something of a surprise when Matador Records announced that they'd signed Rohnert Park hardcore band Ceremony. Their debut for the label, Zoo, which arrived in March, showed that the band had retained its intensity amid the heightened profile, and backed it up with relentless touring throughout the year.
Golden Void -- "1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)" (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
Given the band members' backgrounds in Earthless, Roots of Orchis, and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, it wasn't much of a surprise that Golden Void's debut rocked, but the LP was a welcome chance to hear Isaiah Mitchell as a strong vocalist in addition to a phenomenal guitar player. The band's psychy jams have a nice vintage feel, and the solos are killer -- what more could you want?
Jessica Pratt -- "Night Faces"
That White Fence's Tim Presley set up a record label to release Jessica Pratt's debut album should be the only endorsement one needs to offer. Give this self-titled record a listen, and you'll find stellar psych-folk that rewards -- and demands -- close listening, and the emergence of an amazing new SF talent.
The Mallard -- "There She Goes Again" (Velvet Underground cover)
Did any Bay Area band play more local shows this year than The Mallard? Was any band as reliably entertaining live? That The Mallard fit so well alongside so many other bands speaks to the power of the group's idiosyncratic, stripped down rock and roll. Here's to expecting more people to get wise to this band, and the great Yes on Blood, in 2013.