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Hometown Heroes: the best local albums of 2012

Atwell Baker

Snifter” / “De Sol” EPS

The tracks on these two EPs from the Providence producer make up in depth and texture what they may lack in runtime. There’s scarcely a track over a minute long, as Baker piles looping, jazzy piano riffs on top of stutter-stop click tracks and crackling vinyl that should drive hip-hop vocalists looking for beats to rhyme over into fits of ecstasy. - Luke O’Neil

DAVID WAX MUSEUM

Knock Knock Get Up

The fourth time was the charm for this indie-folk band anchored by David Wax and Suz Slezak. Their first three albums as David Wax Museum were sweet enough, but on “Knock Knock Get Up” they stretched and aligned all the elements that make them such a joy in concert. Producer Sam Kassirer drew out the inherent chemistry Wax and Slezak share; Wax is the heart of the band, but Slezak is its soul. Never have they sounded so compelling as on “Will You Be Sleeping?” and “Wondrous Love,” a pair of bookends that capture what makes this album so special. - James Reed

DEBO BAND

Debo Band

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Given the widespread attention it received, Debo Band’s full-length debut on Sub Pop Records was among the more high-profile albums by a local band this year. And it warranted every accolade and hype that came its way. Led by Danny Mekonnen, the group, whose members are mostly based in Jamaica Plain, riffs on the golden age of Ethiopian pop and funk while sounding very much like a scrappy young band intoxicated by the freedom to do whatever it wants. - J.R.

H.W.

Wall Papered Exit Wounds

H.W.’s intensely personal and introspective work isn’t necessarily an easy listen, but why should it be? Swaying between cathartic release and emotional relapse, the album, thanks in part to some superb production from MobRobb, finds H.W. successfully connecting his own experiences with larger philosophical ideas in ways few other local rappers even attempt. - Martín Caballero

J THE S

The Last Days

After releasing a prolific volume of mixtape material over the past years, J the S (Greater Good) made his long-awaited conceptual album worth the wait: With a sharp ear for diverse beats and a mature sense of composition, J the S impresses on “Last Days” by balancing pointed sociopolitical commentaries with personal stories and a few upbeat radio jams. - M.C.

M. CONSTANT

Bugged

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Another young producer pulling from the intersection of EDM, hip-hop, and soul, M. Constant stacked heavily effected vocal textures, sitars, and other outre instrumentation on top of glitchy-hip-hop beat static on tracks like “Us Tempenauts,” and his sound-collage percussion on “Transitrip” opened up a heady conceptual space. - L.O.

New Highway Hymnal

Whispers

Bring out the doomsday droning bass line and whipping searchlight guitars of “Through Stained Glass” for the first bitter glimpse of the way this highway leads. “Whispers” is this workhorse band’s debut full-length, but things seem perfectly rotten already as the band channels zombie nightmares of Iggy Pop and the Cramps, all scorched tape levels and migraine reverb. “I work in a factory/ We make some bombs/ I work in a factory/ I was open before dawn,” deadpans Hadden Stemp. Fear this band’s productivity. - MATT PARISH

PILE

Dripping

No band in town — or anywhere — is wrecking melodies as efficiently as this bizarro grunge-land band right now. On “So Hard,” Pile flirts with about a dozen shards of anthem-worthy melodies in about two minutes before retreating into a haze, and diving into the monolithic riffs of “The Browns.” The layered chords are thick with dissonance, the asymmetrical beats tumble like drum sets tossed down the stairs, and every wry vocal feeds on playground bipolar outbursts. Sounds like a recipe for force-fed weirdness, but these crooked moves unfold like clockwork. - M.P.

CHRIS SMITHER

Hundred Dollar Valentine

When you’re consistently good at what you do, you run the risk of people taking you for granted. Smither, who now lives in Amherst after many years in Arlington, does not release halfhearted records at this point in his career. The folk-blues singer and songwriter is too seasoned for that. Working again with David “Goody” Goodrich, his regular producer over the past decade, Smither kept “Hundred Dollar Valentine” focused on his nimble guitar playing and his voice, which resonates even more the older Smither gets. - J.R.

SOUL CLAP

EFUNK

A big year for the head of the Boston EDM class saw the release of this hit full-length, and the launch of their already taste-making Soul Clap Records label. “EFUNK” was a primer in the versatile duo’s aptitude with a variety of genres, from house to electro to disco to hip-hop and funk, all of which had us, and people throughout the world, dancing. - L.O.

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