Best Maine albums thus far in 2012

Oh, how guilty I feel, when I get emails and messages from local bands and artists asking them to review their new albums. I feel like such a bad little rock journalist and Maine music cheerleader, when I have to say, “No, not this week, or next week either; I plan these columns out weeks in advance.” To that end, and considering what a wealth of new music is coming out of every corner of the state, I’m instituting a new policy: every three months I write something detailing all the new Maine albums and EPs that have come out in those previous months that I’ve had a chance to listen to. So here you go, babies. If you released something and you’re not on here, for pete’s sake, contact me!

Jeff Beam – Be Your Own Mirror
Lo-fi is the name of the game with Jeff Beam’s new nine-track album. This Portland singer-songwriter – and third member of The Milkman’s Union – wrote and recorded the whole thing himself. It’s hushed and frequently lovely, like an Elliott Smith album without the pathos, or a more subdued Grizzly Bear. Layers of gorgeous guitar builds on top of gentle percussion, producing a subtle dynamism. In fact, the more I listen to it, the more I’m impressed. I’m listening to it as I type this and I don’t want to stop. Highly recommended.

The Modest Proposal – S/T
I loved this band so much when I saw them at KahBang last year — six hyper-enthusiastic, tie-wearing high schoolers, jumping around, bursting with rock n’ roll fever. And they were really good! And fortunately for us, their debut self-titled LP is just as fun as I had hoped, at once a power-pop album and a nostalgic blast of 80s and 90s funk rock, peppered with saxophone and anchored by Phillip Rogers’ voice, as natural a rock star instrument as there is.

Mines of Paris – Go Play Outside
Anyone think Mines of Paris lead singer Ron Belanger sounds a lot like D. Boon from the Minutemen? Anyway, this Bangor quartet has two things that a lot of alternative rock bands don’t: an essential understanding of melody, and a sense of humor. “Go Play Outside” is a satisfying, radio-ready rock, especially on the outstanding “How Long?,” a fuzzy anthem that local radio should totally pick up on.

Crunk Witch – Faith in the Thief
One of the most bizarre bands I’ve ever heard come out of Maine, made all the more bizarre by the fact that they’re tucked away up in Presque Isle, a city not known for its electro metal jazz pop scene. And yet, there’s something irresistible about them: they’re so weird and all over the map that they boomerang around back to something resembling normal. “Faith in the Thief” isn’t easy listening, but it will most certainly entertain you, and it’s clearly made by two people who understand something about all the genres they gleefully skip through.

Arborea – Red Planet
Warm, expansive, shimmering and, at times, deeply haunting, the Lewiston duo Arborea has toured relentlessly and written and recorded at nearly the same pace. “Red Planet,” it’s uncompromisingly gorgeous new album, sounds like the soundtrack to some faraway desert, or an Arctic landscape. This is music of solitude and deep contemplation. Shanti Curran’s voice is clear and bell-like, while Buck Curran’s evocative guitar spans all kinds of genres; folk, country, bluegrass, Arabic and Indian sounds, blues, noise. Utterly unique and mesmerizing.

Dean Ford – CTRL
The pink-coiffed Portlander Dean Ford may be complete in his transition from melodic rocker to self-made electro-pop star with “CTRL,” a six-track EP that owes a lot more to bands and artists like Of Montreal, Prince, Robyn or Lady Gaga, rather than the Beatles or Elvis Costello. But while his outlook is now more digital than analog, he’s still got that trademark knack for hooks, as on lead single “It’s the Feeling,” a glittery, 80s-style dance floor track.

Coloradas – S/T
This bluegrass collective — featuring the vocal and songwriting talents of longtime Portland musician Roy Davis and Bernie Nye — put out an LP of sweet, harmony-laced back in January. It’s laid-back, it’s smart, and it’s awfully pretty, with articulate mandolin dancing in and out of every track, from the wistful “This Isn’t Love, Natalie” to the contemplative “Red Dress.” It’s the best roots album to come out of Portland this year.

Rural Electric – Fess Point
And the jangle has it. This Belfast band, who were nearly six years in the making with a follow up album to “The Road To Hell Is Paved,” don’t play out much, don’t promote themselves, and generally keep an extremely low profile. But that doesn’t mean “Fess Point” isn’t a good album; it is. It’s exquisitely crafted indie rock, like early R.E.M., but with a country sway like the Jayhawks. It’s very much worth listening to, but don’t expect to see them play live.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.