12 Decembers’ Lush, Heartfelt Pop Wears Its Heart on Its Sleeve (Review)

This remarkably strong debut is filled with simple-yet-affecting tales of love at its best and worst, all wrapped in gorgeous pop arrangements.
12 Decembers - 12 Decembers

Sincerity is a tricky thing to achieve in music. Used to be, a stripped down sound — i.e., a singer and his acoustic guitar, lo-fi bedroom recording aesthetic, simple, unpretentious lyrics — automatically communicated sincerity. But given technology these days, how do you know that what you’re hearing is authentic? It could just be a fancy laptop effect. Even so we deeply crave sincere songs with honest, believable emotions. We affect snark and sarcasm and communicate via clever memes and GIFs but deep down, we want something authentic, especially when we’re being sung to.

Enter 12 Decembers. This seven-piece from California was formed earlier this year and released their self-titled debut in quick fashion. All told, it’s a remarkably strong title filled with simple-yet-affecting tales of love at its best and worst. From all-encompassing crushes and throes of desire (“Melancholia”) to disillusionment and heartache (“Song 2,” “Lovelorn”) to graceful-yet-bittersweet acceptance (“Oxygen”), 12 Decembers covers the gamut of romantic emotions, and does so with grace and yes, sincerity.

So much so that when the band sings such potentially awkward lines as “You appear to me everyday and I hope that you know/I believe that you froze my heart colder than snow” or “I awaken/Lovelorn and forsaken,” they’ve earned the right to do so because they sing about big emotions the only way you should — with hearts worn plainly and clearly on their sleeves.

Of course it doesn’t hurt when such sentiments are wrapped in gorgeous sounds, and 12 December certainly has plenty of those. Considering the number of band-members, you’d expect these nine songs to be lush affairs, and you’d be right. Evoking a blend of Stars’ heartfelt anthemic pop and M83’s ecstatic electro-gaze, 12 Decembers’ sound is remarkably self-assured with absolutely no missteps. These songs are filled with enjoyable details, be it a wall of sound, a jangly guitar, a little piano riff, or some dreamy atmospherics.

The last few weeks of December always seem like a bit of a mad scramble to find those last few releases before the year ends, to feel like you did your due diligence in seeking out the year’s best music. Well, in this case, let me save you some trouble: give 12 Decembers a spin. This is easily one of the best debuts I’ve heard all year long, and these heartfelt songs are going to stick with me well into the coming months.