This Little Underground 

The best (and worst) of 2012

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Nation, it's that time again when we treat Orlando like the center of the motherfucking cosmos and dispense the annual Underground awards to the area's best (and worst) of 2012.

OW already recognized Orange You Glad Festival and Festival of Light & Sound in July's Best of Orlando issue, but I officially echo those picks here. As for the rest …

The Undies

Best new Orlando bands: It was a strong year for Florida with acts like Hundred Waters, Levek and Beach Day breaking nationally. But an inordinate amount of interesting new locals also stood out: Bog Prophet (one sick-ass sludge brute); Boy Division (thrillingly severe New Wave-steeped post-punk); the Dark Sixties (bad-tripping surf-rock for freaks); Day Joy (a bursting cloud of prismatic dream-folk); Girls on the Beach (the biggest garage-rock sonics in the city); Hau Zarest (a richly toned, highly musical hardcore outfit); Hussy (daring avant-punk noise); Jr. Meowzer (red-lining pop-punk revving with '90s fuzz); Portals (post-hardcore power, post-rock expansiveness); Shew'Bird (spare Americana with a deep country croon); Sowester (a spacey alloy of sludge, doom and stoner metal); Trails (mind-shattering, genre-splintering experimental rock duo); Wekiwa (a dark, atmosphere-thick guitar-and-electronics duo); xxyyxx (forward-thinking electronic beat-scaper already garnering national attention).

Best new Orlando releases: AMiAM – The Combine (golden-era hip-hop freshness by one of Orlando's most natural-born rappers); In Curses – Reaching Field (polished, genre-defying, vocal-centric album led by Solillaquist siren Alexandrah Sarton); Junior Bruce – The Headless King (a molten slab of murderous, skin-peeling Southern metal); the New Lows – I Couldn't Sleep (an energized album built on unassailable pop-punk fundamentals); Roadkill Ghost Choir – Quiet Light EP (a prime-time folk-rock work that's a dizzying tip of the iceberg for this band of seriously talented young men); Wet Nurse – Daily Whatever (perfectly pitched between scruff and punch, this is the year's best local garage-punk record); the Woolly Bushmen – self-titled (faithful but feverish, this is party-starting frat-rock straight outta the garage).

Biggest nightlife loss: Mark Wayne. Few have left a deeper, more distinctive mark on Orlando than this patriarch of legendary local lounge act Mark & Lorna.

Best sound experience: Steven Head's parking lot project. Appearing at the Tiny Waves anniversary and the Accidental Music Festival, this Flaming Lips-inspired multi-car experiment was a spatial sonic wonder.

Best new label/scene: Relief in Abstract Records. Besides just a banner, these kids created an entire micro-scene for themselves built on current, tasteful electronic music.

Artiest scene-makers: Tiny Waves. Their events were consistently as much art installations as they were shows in the way they transformed the spaces they occupied.

Best return: Orlandooom. This O.G. heavy-music booking posse reanimated just in time to take the place of 90 Proof Productions (who deserve this year's title for "best heavy booking" and will exit the game next year), thereby ensuring that the evil will continue uninterrupted.

Best scene galvanizer: RalphFest. In its second year, it now involves multiple live stages, a Seminole County Public Schools music scholarship and a night of unconditional scene unity. And, even if for just one evening, it brought back Lorna Lambey!

Best studio: North Avenue Studios. The Orange City studio has made a national name for itself through its trailblazing Web series, Off the Avenue, a prominent feature channel on Consequence of Sound that celebrated its 100th episode in August.

Heaviest weekly night: Juggernaut (Tuesdays, Backbooth). In a downtown landscape of dance nights, this new heavy metal congress stands defiant. And since the Falcon has recently started Metal Mondays, perhaps heavy metal itself should be crowned this year as "scene queen."

Best theme night: Shoegaze (the Falcon). Regularly featured DJ Chad Beachy really hit the sweet spot with his well-curated audio-visual ode to the fuzz and the noise.

Best role-play: Melvins tribute (Will's Pub). Bob on Blonde went balls-out for this one, doubling its personnel to capture the Big Business-era Melvins. Man, that shit was boss.

Worst development: Fewer venues. Fewer public DIY stages are never healthy, and too many closed this year – like Substance, Blank Space and Sip (though that'll soon be the new Matador, so woot!).

Worst area act: Kitty Pryde. This applies more to her abysmal live ability than her recordings, though those aren't the nuggets of Tumblr-era intelligence that some try-too-hard bloggers ascribe to her.


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