June Top 10

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The Umbrellas – Write It In the Sky (Slumberland)
The young Umbrellas have really outdone themselves this time. After one single and an album, their new single Write It In the Sky reaches heights beyond anything they’ve done previously. It sounds like Sunny Sundae Smile era MBV, a dash of the noisier side of Sarah Records and some long lost paisley underground group. The guitars are buzzing, the vocals are breathless and the backing vocals are from the heavens. Singles like this will restore your faith in humanity. It did mine.

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Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band – Dear Scott (Modern Sky)
Michael Head has never been one to adhere to a frantic release schedule when it comes to albums. His previous bands Pale Fountains, Shack and the Strands all had great but sporadic runs and his latest group is no different when comes to release schedule or the high quality standards he’s set with his previous groups. Dear Scott is decidedly downtrodden in nature, but beautiful in its delivery. There are well placed strings and horns that add flourishes to songs that sound well worn and comfortable and nestle themselves easily into your new set of favorite songs.

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Soft Estate – The Painted Ship EP (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)

Soft Estate are a somewhat mysterious minimalist electronic Swedish group. There is an obvious Broadcast feel to their songs. They also remind me a little of some of the esoteric sounds that Ian Masters was involved in after he left Pale Saints. Everything here is very intriguing and on songs like Cindy you can hear their potential mastery of the moody pop song. Ones to watch, perhaps.

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Flasher – Love Is Yours (Domino)
Washington, DC’s Flasher are back with album number two, but things have changed a little bit. They’re down to a duo and their songs don’t shy away from obvious infectious pop. The new LP is full of dancy pop that has saccharine elements of Ultra Vivid Scene and a bit of Unrest obtuseness with an eye to get played on the indie dance floor. Songs like I’m Better and Love Is Yours certainly deserver to get their chance to make you boogie.

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Holiday Crowd – Party Favours (Shelflife)
Canada certainly has a leg up on indiepop these days. Ducks Ltd of course come to mind when you mention Toronto indie bands and the latest Holiday Crowd single jangles its way right into the conversation with its guitars that jangle and post-Smiths flamboyant melody. Holiday Crowd aren’t exactly prolific but with quality like this I’m happy to let them take their time and get it just right. Party Favours is some top shelf indiepop that shouldn’t be missed.

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Boat – No Plans to Stuck the Landing (Magic Marker)
It’s so great to have BOAT back in fold after that brief hiatus in second half of the previous decade (the 2010’s to you youngsters). Their Evel Knievel themed new album is there second after regrouping for 2020’s Tread Lightly. D Crane and the fellows still have the knack for writing super catchy chest thumping songs. This one is a pandemic inspired group effort with lots of guests, many of which appeared on the group’s slopyypopstagram Instragram live video shows during the height of the pandemic. Many new BOAT classics are added to the cannon on this sprawling album. Toll Booth City and Warm Up the Choppers are quintessential BOAT, but they stretch out on Dog Days and My Haunted Friend with the help of guests like the Feelies Glen Mercer and Karl Blau.

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Anteloper – Pink Dolphins (International Anthem)

Anything trumpet player Jamie Branch does is golden in my opinion. Here she teams up with a couple Tortoise alumni, Jeff Parker and Jason Nazary. I could take or leave Tortoise, with the exception of the remixes of Millions Now Living Will Never Die that appeared as Tortoise Remixed. In any event, this reinforce my original statement that Jamie Branch can do no wrong. Anteloper incorporates Branch’s envelope pushing jazz with electronics and stirs it up into a remarkable, challenging and unique musical brew.

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Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance (Matador)

Horsegirl’s debut single Ballroom Dance last year was drop dead amazing. It sounded like they had it all figured out from the get go. The debut album is a slight disappointment if you’re measuring it against their first single. Taken by itself, Versions of Modern Performance is perfectly fine. It’s actually quite fitting that it came out on Matador. This Chicago trio of youngsters use the 90’s indie rock heyday as their touchstone and have much in common with the likes of 18th Dye, Helium, Sonic Youth and Pavement. Maybe they don’t have it all quite figured out like I initially thought, but Versions of Modern Performance is on the right track.
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Sylvia Platters – Youth Without Virtue (Self Released)

I gotta hand it to our neighbors to the north, because the Canadians (see Ducks Ltd and Holiday Crowd) have cornered the market on jangly, Smiths, Bluebells, Siddeleys inspired pop. Another feather (or leaf) in the Canadian cap comes from British Columbia’s Sylvia Platters. Their newest five song EP is festooned with beautiful guitars and melodies that are inspired by the 80’s UK indie scene. Doldrums and Blue Juniper take no prisoners. I especially love how Blue Juniper effortlessly fuses in some Paisley Underground into its jangling tempest. A super fun listen.

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My Life In the Sunshine – Nabil Ayers
I’ve been on a music book reading rally in the last few months. Nabil Ayers who along with Jason Ayers opened the Sonic Boom Record shop in Seattle back in 1997 is pretty well known to Seattle music folks. For those outside the Pacific NW, he also played drums in Seattle bands the Lemons, Alien Crime Syndicate and the Long Winters and is the current head of Beggars Group in the U.S. which includes the 4AD, Matador and Rough Trade labels. That’s all very interesting, but how he got there is much more interesting. His mother had a very short relationship with jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers. It was a mutually agreed upon situation between his mom and Ayers that begat Nabil. This book is a fascinating musical journey to try and connect with his father and his father’s side of the family.

May Top 10

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Linqua Franqa – Bellringer (Ernest Jenning Record Co)

Linqua Franqa is what Athens, Georga’s Mariah Parker goes by. She’s a rapper, an activist and a politician. Practicing what she preaches, Parker has knack for delivering her message with a spoonful of sugar.  It’s got a great bunch of diverse influences including some trip hop, some daisy age rap and edgy socially conscious edutainment. Parker has great delivery that can be serious, edgy, and fun depending on the topic. My favorite track is the Of Montreal collaboration Oh Fxck which combines De La Soul sunshine and the Pharcyde lunacy.

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Dehd – Blue Skies (Fat Possum)

This Chicago trio have knack for simple stripped down slacker songs that are super catchy at a rudimentary level. This record’s got so many infectious choruses that it’s been hard for me to forget them. They’re like a slacker Beach Boys or a drowsy Go-Go’s and Dream On, Bop, Bad Love and Memories are songs that have been soundtracking the early summer days.

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Stroppies – Levity (Tough Love)

Since their first EP a number of years ago the Stroppies have been consistently interesting. Levity keeps it up and delivers some great songs too. The songs fill the spectrum from quirky, jangle to droners and have elements that will remind you of quality groups like XTC, Pavement the Chills and the Bats.

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Lande Hekt – Romantic (Emotional Response)

Romantic is a great sleepy bedroom pop song. Think Fazerdaze, Snail Mail, Jay Som or Alvvays. The flip has a beautiful cover of the Wedding Present’s Octopussy, practically making it her own. This single is so good, it’ll make you go out searching for all of Hekt’s other records, and the one that’s coming out this fall.

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Pinch Points – Process (Exploding In Sound Records)

I love the touch points that the song Reasons to be Anxious evokes, Ian Dury’s Reasons to be Cheerful and Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Anxiety. They sound more like the later ,but with some jaded humor of the former. Throw in some Minutemen and you’ve got a genius trifecta.

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Ghost Power – Ghost Power (Duophonic Super 45s)

Tim Gane of Stereolab collaboration with Jeremy Novak is a variation on his Caverns of Anti-Matter. This all instrumental album is fun and frolicking with lots of Peter Thomas Orchestra space age playfulness along with more modern throwbacks like Vanishing Twin.

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Japanese Breakfast – Sable (Original Video Game Soundtrack) (Dead Oceans)

I can’t remember what possessed me to buy this video game soundtrack. Maybe it was the Miyazaki inspired cover or the biz that the Japanese Breakfast album got last year. She sings on a couple tracks and Glider is sublime, but the rest of the 30 plus tracks are Eno inspired ambience that scratches an itch I must have had.

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Hydroplane – Hydroplane (Efficient Space)

There appears to be a Cat’s Miao resurgence of late. That band lead by Bart Cummings in the 90’s had an ambient spin-off group Hydroplane and this was their first LP which only came out on CD at the time. These songs are super low key and quiet with the occasional drum machine. Nothing earth shattering just something to sooth your nerves. Look out for a Cats Miami vinyl reissue out soon.

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Astrel K – Flickering i (Duophonic Super 45s)

Rhys Edwards left Ulrika Spacek and moved to Stockholm, Sweden and started Astrel K. This is a little more earthly compared to Ulrika Spacek kraut influenced rockers. Flickering i is cosmic psychedelic fare that sits well with Broadcast, Lightspeed Champion, a little Field Music and Gruff Rhys solo albums. The record has been growing on me, and somehow snuck itself into May’s favorite release list.

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Mark Lanegan – Sing Backwards and Weep

Not a record, but a book recommendation for number ten this month. Mark Lanegan’s autobiography came out a couple years ago and chronicles his childhood in Ellensburgh, Wa, to his time as the singer in the screaming trees, through his solo records and Queens of the Stoneage collaboration. He battles addiction the entire time and is brutally honest about his drug dependence and his relationships. He provides an inside take on the Seattle scene during its grunge heyday and it’s surprising how vividly he remembers it all given he was strung out nearly the entire time. It’s fascinating and depressing at the same time. I remember at the time thinking how fascinating and simultaneously depressing Bob Mehr’s Replacements biography Trouble Boys was. Lanegan’s autobiography takes it to another level.

April Top 10

In honor of slackers everywhere, here is my April top ten just before June is about ready to start.

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Savak – Human Error / Human Delight

Usually bands five albums in don’t have much left in the tank to surprise you. Hell, most bands don’t even make it to album number Three. New York City’s Savak defy all of these unwritten rules and deliver their best record yet. Named after the Iranian secret police that terrorized that country under the Shaw, Savak do not fear controversy and exude melodic and intellectual confidence. Human Error / Human Delight expertly meshes post punk and classic rock into a nearly perfect album. The group has two singers and songwriters – Sorab Habibion (Edsel, Obits) and Mike Jaworski (Cops) that keeps the record balanced between dissonant grooves and more classic sounding rockers. Side one is nearly perfect, blasting off with No Jazz, No Blues lays down the gauntlet for change both for themselves musically and for everyone else socially and otherwise. Cold Ocean thrills with its brilliant Television like guitar lick and the numbing droner Set Apart. Side Two nearly keeps up with both quality and surprises making this one of my top records of the year so far.

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Loose Fit – Social Graces

When I first saw the name Loose Fit, I thought that they might be a Happy Mondays cover band. They’re not. Though like the that Manchester group, this Australian group’s is pretty good good at laying down the grove. Their debut record is a mover, pretty much guaranteed to get you going if you’re into the jittery grooves inspired by groups like Pylon, Public Image Limited and more recently French Vanilla. Every song builds on quality dance rhythms peppered with jagged guitars and bits of saxophone. Anna Langdon’s deadpan vocals take the party to the next level with her pithy barbs and zingers.

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Charley Crockett – Lil G.L. Presents: Jukebox Charley
Charley Crockett nonchalantly pumps out one or two records per year. Since I’m still playing last year’s Music City USA and Lil’ G.L. Presents 10 For Slim I didn’t think I needed another Charley Crockett record just yet, but what the hell. This one is made up exclusively of covers including two from late Tom T Hall. Hall’s Lonely In Person is a highlight here. Another highlight is Dennis Linde’s “Where Have All the Average People Gone” which was made popular by Roger Miller. He swaps out Average with Honest, since the average people are everywhere, to make it more timely

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Seatbelts – A World Inbetween

James Madden and Ryan Murphy of Hooton Tennis Club started this new band with Abi Woods and took a jaunt up to Scotland to record some of their songs with Edwyn Collins. The group had been letting songs trickle out on the internet to tease folks. A World Inbetweeen plucks the best of those familiar songs and adds some newer ones. Opener Citylines is lush and lofty evoking groups like Prefab Sprout and Pulp. Another Passing Day is nearly as good and the playful Hey, Hey Tiger is silly and fun. Woods’ songs provide a good juxtaposition and add some grit to the album. Her Super Stardom merits the Go-Betweens comparisons that the band have seen sent their way and Inspiration for Robots sounds inspired by Neil Young and Patty Smith.

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The Hazmats – Empty Rooms

The Hazmats are some dudes from hard core groups Chubby and the Gang, Game and Big Cheese. Surprise! They’re also Wedding Present fans. This two song single jangles with indie charm that might surprise you. If Fucked Up can cover the Shop Assistants and Another Sunny day then big tough guys showing a penchant for more melodic fare shouldn’t come as such a surprise.

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Lime Crush – Timewaster

Austria’s Lime Crush follow up their 2018 LP with this three song single. It’s nice to know they’re still a band and still ably working in the minimalist stripped down punk rock line of things while employing jagged guitars (similar to Lewsberg) and a dissonant melodic touch that keeps things on the tightrope without crashing down.

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Wet Leg – Wet Leg

No sooner than when this album came out, it seemed like the backlash started. The duo’s Chaise Longue single from last year was nearly able to achieve the feat of crossing into the mainstream hence the pushback from certain corners. Soooo, if you haven’t given Wet Leg a chance which seems pretty unlikely, you could do a lot worse. The album is packed with punchy, drole numbers that are hard to not like. They employ the best parts of the Breeders, Elastica and Pavement and do it while adding in their understated irony to it all.

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Jeanines – Don’t Wait for a Sign

Queens indiepop phenoms are back with their second record. The first one sort of came out of nowhere and I instantly fell for it. Don’t Wait for a Sign doesn’t have that same element of surprise, but it sounds more confident and wiser. Continuing to collaborate with Jed Smith (Mick Trouble and My Teenage Stride), Alicia Hyman excels at creating an autumnal jangle of longing nostalgia akin to the Bats and the Mamas and the Papas. On their best songs like That’s Ok, Dead Not Dead  and Got Nowhere To Go where they combine the light and the dark, being upbeat and sad at once is where the Jeanines are at their best.

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Neutrals – Bus Stop Nights EP

Oakland’s Neutrals slip back into our collective consciousness with this four song seven inch single. These DIY jangly songs are sure to connect with fans of Television Personalities and Emotional Response labelmates Mick Trouble. The stand-out song Gary Borthwick Says is an ode(?) to that friend or relative that everyone has probably experienced at some point in their lives who stretches the truth and exaggerates their connections, qualities and achievements. I appreciate how good they are at identifying everyday scenarios and making memorable songs about them. A gift for certain.

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Stiff Richards – Stiff Richards

This one is a reissue of the 2017 self-titled debut from these Australian punkers. All of Stiff Richards albums seem to fly off the shelves as soon as their released and go out of print. I’m guessing this reissue will go out of print again soon. The lightening in a jar quality of these songs is so visceral that folks can’t stop themselves from forking over their harder earned cash. Employing bits of the Saints, Eddy Current Suppression Ring as well as the Damned. The record is all killer. Strung Out, Little Creature and Brainwashed are all classic punk songs that would fit nicely on a mix tape of that sort of thing and maybe even overshadow some of the older classics.

March Top 10

I’m falling behind, but endeavoring to keep it going here. Who knows? April’s top 10 could be posted next week!

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Star Party – Meadow Flower
I feel compelled to lead off this month’s top ten with a Seattle duo that has me stoked. Star Party do it up nicely with lots of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine vibes. I’m a sucker for fuzzy guitars and heavy reverb on the vocals which this has in spades. It’s also got a few sneaky heavy metal and punk vibes on You & Me and Shot Down that adds to their DIY maelstrom. Meadow Flower’s eight songs blasts by you in less than 20 minutes, giving you some serious whiplash. This more than delivers on the promise of their 2020 demo EP. If you missed that one, be sure to check out their killer cover of Dylan’s All I Really Wanna Do.

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Doe St – Doe St
I heard Doe St over on the still ripping Did Not Chart blog. It’s only Q1 2022 and he’s over there getting all frothy how this is album of the year. And it could be for Boomgates and Twerps fans of which I count myself. Side one, track one Race to 25 is a total dandy of a song, and honestly they could retire after just this one and go down as one hit wonders in the obscure indie-internet-??? No need though, they’ve got more in the tank and deliver the rock and roll on all seven songs on their first LP. I often question whether or not I really need a physical artifact of music that I like, but when I turn up Doe St to high volume I am unable to resist an temptation that music this good creates when sharp object scrapes across a flat disc.


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Theon Cross – Intra-I
Theon Cross’s second LP came out at the tail end of 2021, with the vinyl finally trickling out in 2022 due to the great vinyl production backlog. Cross is a Tuba player, a member of Sons of Kemet,  and worked with Makaya McCraven. Reasons enough to give this a listen. Add the insane album cover, and someone like me cannot resist temptation. I suppose this could get slotted into the jazz bin or even the electronic bin. It’s got so much going on and all of it mind blowing and infinitely interesting. Throw in some dub, ambient and hip-hop and you’ve got a record that defies category and beguiles at every turn.
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Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul
On her first two EP’s Charlotte Adigéry was solo, on her LP, she’s got a partner to share the spotlight, Bolis Pupul. She’s also loosened up showing a sense of humor that allows her to address sensitive political topics in an friendly manner that isn’t off putting or preachy. Tropical Dancer walks a tightrope of the political, provocative and propulsive.
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Mo Dotti – Guilded Imagery
The second EP from LA’s Mo Dotti is mini shoegaze/dreampop masterpiece that seems to be inspired by two of my favorite things: classic first wave shoegaze of the early 90’s by the likes of Lush, Boo Radleys and Moose and the American version DIY inspired by that UK scene that popped up soon thereafter in bands like the the Swirlies and Veronica Lake and Lorelei (all three found on the One Last compilation). The first song Loser Smile has classic written all over it. They throw in a cover of the 6ths’ All Dressed Up In Dreams for good measure which also links them to the One Last Kiss compilation, as Stephen Merritt’s other band Magnetic Fields was on that comp as well. Serendipity?

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Sob Stories – Fair Shakes
Go old fashioned power pop never goes out of style (because it never was in style?). There are loads great records in this underappreciated style where sweet guitar hooks and melodies are delivered in rapid fire succession and every song sounds like a hit. Why are they not international stars? I wish I knew. I do know that this album from Oakland’s Sob Stories will grab anyone who owns those Rhino DIY Powerpop compilations by the ears and force their purchase of it as soon as they hear it.

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Ex-Vöid – Bigger Than Before
Ex-Vöid are Ex-Joanna Gruesome, at lease singers Lan McArdle and Owen Williams are (Williams also teams up with another former Joanna Gruesome teammate in Tubs). This album has been a long time coming. Ex-Void released their first sing in 2019 which raised some expectations that more was in short order. Well, patience pays off because Bigger Than Before is fully baked and super tasty. Its full of short, sharp, jabs of pop songs. The press kit says that it’s inspired by the Byrds, Big Star and Teenage Fanclub which I hear, but they add a fuzzy sheen to it that evokes Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh too.

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Destroyer – Labyrinthitis
The latest album from Dan Bejar’s Destroyer continues on a similar trajectory that started around time of the Kaputt album in 2011. He’s slowly morphed from Bowie into New Order, Prefab Sprout or the Dream Academy. Labyrinthitis which is a condition where the inner ear becomes inflamed causing vertigo and hearing loss which Bejar apparently is affected by may explain why this album isn’t as strong in the melody department as previous efforts, or maybe it’s just intentional. Many of the songs are built around delivering a general feeling instead of impacting the listener with the usual Behar vocals eccentricities. Don’t fret, Bejar still has some great lines (Been meaning to wear my hair like this for ages, and the band don’t need a singer, the band needs needs a helping hand). It’s a different Destroyer album, but built around similar scaffolding.

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Mick Trouble – It’s Mick Trouble’s Second LP
Hey, it’s record number two from the slightly less mysterious Mick Trouble. Back when his first single and album came out, people were a buzz about who this guy was. Was it some private record from the early 80’s that someone dug up? Who was this Mick Trouble guy? Now we know it’s Jed Smith formerly of My Teenage Stride. Even though the fun of the mystery is gone, the second LP is no less alluring. Smith/Trouble has a knack for writing punky, powerpop ditties that sound like well worn classics.

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Model Zero – Little Crystal
This single from this Memphis group channels rubber city rockers Devo along with some Idiot era Iggy Pop. Both songs channel good-time vibes and feature just the right amount of electronic sounds and guitars peppered with super catchy choruses. Totally fun single!

February Top 10

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Skiftande Enheter – Öppna Landskap EP

If you hadn’t noticed, magic is happening at Happiest Place records. They’ve put out great singles by Friendly Boyfriend and Typical Girls and cross pollinate with Mamma’s Mysterious Jukebox (JJ ulius & Loopsel anyone? Hell yeah!). Their 2019 LP was good, but wasn’t nearly as exciting as this new single. They don’t sing in English the way so many Swedish post punk and pop bands have in the past, but these songs are so immediate and catchy that you won’t be looking for a translation app, because it will grab onto you! Definitely single of the month. No contest.

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The Bug Club – Intellectuals

While I still wait for my vinyl copy of last year’s wonderful Pure Particles, the Bug Club obviously understand my frustration because they’ve gone and said fuck this production backlog and gone and put out another set of songs. This time it’s digital only and to be honest I can’t blame them. They even keep it interesting, by packing five songs into one. You may think it’s a 10:42 song, but it’s actually five! Can nothing stop this trio? Certainly not the peer pressure of dividing their songs up into individual files! This is more of their raucous brand of Richard & Linda Thompson meets Jonathan Richmond meets Wave Pictures perfection. Not limited and not delayed. Pick it like a flower in the rain and Enjoy now!

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Love, Burns – It Should Have Been Tomorrow

That Phill Sutton guy just keeps impressing. You might know him from groups like Comet Gain, Soft City and Pale Lights. Love, Burns is his latest endeavor. The album capitalizes on the brilliance of the 2020 Gate and the Ghost single. Both songs from that single show up here along with much, much more. Jangling guitars and Stutton’s croon are hard to beat and sound timeless, especially if you dig bands like the Weather Prophets and Lloyd Cole and Commotions.

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The Jazz Butcher – The Highest in the Land


Pat Fish, aka the Jazz Butcher, passed away late last year after a long illness. His persona was enigmatic, but his records were always engaging. The podcast 50 Years of Fun did an excellent tribute on a recent edition. The guy wrote so many great songs, and he continued to keep delivering great ones to the very end. Highest in the Land was completed before his death and employed the efforts of longtime co-conspirator Max Eider. It also isn’t one of those for completists only type of albums. Fish is obviously prescient of his time on earth with an eye to letting folks know that it isn’t only running out for him, but everyone. It’s not all dark, opener Melanie Hargreaves’ Father’s Jaguar has a nostalgic flare with its playful cocktail jazz reminiscent of his Glass Records tenure. He’ll be missed, but thankful to have this final missive.

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Partner Look – By the Book

Partner Look’s Geelong single from last year came in at lucky 13 in 2021 singles countdown. Chicago label Trouble in Mind saw fit to step up and put out their debut album (That’s good for my pocketbook). The group seem to have much in common with the Stroppies. They have a lighthearted charm and general sense of wonder in their songs. They don’t exactly sound like the Talking Heads, but they have this quality gives you the impression that they think that some of the rules don’t apply to them. Loads to enjoy on By the Book while alluding to greater potential that has me excited to see what is next for this Australian group.

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Royal Arch – La Nuit

Greece strikes again. Sharing a record label with Youth Valley, this Greek band impress on their debut single. La Nuit features big guitars a solid rhythm section (the unsung secret ingredient of shoegaze) to create an impressionistic atmosphere. Royal Arch’s sound fits nicely into that early 90’s UK shoegazer genre that still has legs after all these years.

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Reds Pinks & Purples – Slow Torture of an Hourly Wage

Glenn Donaldson has always been prolific (Art Museums, Skygreen Leopards, Vacant Gardens, Blithe Sons, etc.) but he seems to have hit on a mother vein of inspiration recently with his nom de plume Reds Pinks and Purples. While the USA waits for the Summer at Land’s End LP to make it to shops, Donaldson, not constrained by mortal production backlogs went and put out a download only single so fine that it’ll make you forget whatever you just heard. The Slow Torture of an Hourly Wage is a song that Morrissey would kill for to bring him out of irrelevance. Featuring a maudlin harmonica melody that sort of reminds you of Hand in Glove, but since the 80’s are 40 years ago and old idols have fallen your mileage may vary.  The fact that Donaldson tosses great shit like this off for free has me questioning the internet economy.  Can someone make this an NFT of this so this guy can get paid?

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Kahil El’Zabar Quartet – A Time for Healing

Drummer, percussionist and renaissance man Kahil El’Zabar has worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon and has a discography that is immense and daunting for newcomers (like me). The first four tracks on A Time for Healing stretch out in many directions. The repetitive percussion of title track has some hypnotic commonalities with another Chicago percussionist Josh Abrams. Drum Talk incorporates African rhythms and vocals to create an intense séance. Urban Shaman has a playful African feel that reminds me a little of the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band. There’s more too. A tribute to saxophone player Eddie Harris that kicks up some soulful dust and covers of John Coletrane’s Resolution from a Love Supreme and Gershwin’s Summertime.

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Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Britt Daniel has a filter in his brain that must cause him to hear things differently from the rest of us. The first song on Lucifer on the Sofa is a cover of Smog’s Held. Bill Callahan’s original is emotionally raw and drips with bodily fluids. Spoon’s version takes the murky lo-fi vibe and zaps it with an electricity that brings it brand new meaning. It’s the only cover on the album, as Daniel and company are obviously not in need of much help in the creativity department. Granted, recently they’ve sort of fallen from the high points of Kill the Moonlight, Girls Can Tell and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but they’ve never jumped a shark. Sofa fits perfectly into a slot next to their best records. Make sure you stay late for the last song and title track as it’s the best of the lot as far as I’m concerned.

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The Buntingford Long Playing Record

Look for the second album by Mick Trouble to show somewhere in next month’s roundup. In the meantime, take listen to this long lost document of the Buntingford scene circa 1980. It’s chock full of lo-fi punk rock recorded on the cheap, but provides champagne thrills.  Many of the groups adhere to the Dean Tracey Television Personalities style of punk, but  there are one or two left turns down the post punk lane to keep things varied. Nearly every song is a hit and listening to this makes me wonder how the heck the tiny town of Buntingford produced something so good and so unheralded.

January Top 10

In a feeble attempt to post more content and leave a bread crumb trail to what I was listening in 2022 I’m gonna try and do a monthly round up of music that caught my attention. So it doesn’t get out of hand, I’m limiting each month to ten things. Here is January’s top 10.

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Soundcarriers

The Nottingham band’s fourth album and first in eight years quickly sold of the vinyl version, but is in unlimited streaming and download formats. Apparently, folks like this group. If you do and missed out on a physical copy, word on the IG is, that they are planning vinyl reissues of all four of their albums in April. As for the new album Wilds, it’s brilliant in the Broadcast, psychedlic 60’s way of things. The percussion on this record is such a wonder to feel. A Hypnotizing and groovy record.

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Lewsberg

Speedy Wunderground single are recorded in a single day with no lunch break according to their web site. They are also pressed in limited quantities. There are a number of other rules they adhere to and they break a few too. Like splitting a song onto two sides of a 7 inch single. That’s what they’ve done for this Lewsberg stormer of a song Six Hills. Lucky for us, it’s also streaming so you don’t have to buy two copies to hear the entire thing uninterrupted. Lewsberg do Velvet Underground with a Dutch accent and a sense of humor. Also worth Checking out is their third LP In Your Hands that came out digitally last year with vinyl due in March.

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Field School

Charles Bert is best known as the singer for Olympia, Washington’s Math and Physics Club. He’s also been seen in Tacoma’s Unlikely Friends, but now he’s decided to strike out on his own. MAPC dealt in the twee/indiepop universe, Bert’s Field School aligns itself more in the East River Pipe, Guided By Voices and last year’s Idle Ray side of things. Gritty, raw guitars, unrequited love and instant melody make this EP must hear stuff.

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Wesley Bright

Remember Wesley Bright and the Honeytones’ number one hit Happiness back in 2018? The sweet soul beekeeper is back, only this time with a rock steady beat. This single is a collaboration with the Soul Chance and it’s a near perfect melding of Bright’s sweet vocals and reggae backing. You might think that January is a terrible time to put out these tropical vibes, but my guess is that Colemine are banking on this record heating up the airwaves over the next few months and arriving just in time for summer for regular folks. Or, you can grab it and go on vacation now.

wray

Lady Wray

Lady Wray, aka Nicole Wray was also one half of the duo Lady (with Terri Walker) who’s 2013 album was a favorite around here. Wray released her first solo album Queen Alone in 2016. She’s been releasing singles in between albums and this LP collects most of them, tidying things up nicely so you don’t have to go compiling things yourself. The production is silky smooth and perfectly fits with Wray’s voice that has classic soul in it, along with modern inflections that make this sound old and new at once.

art

Art Sick


I thought Artsick’s 2018 single Going Down was going to be one of those one and disappear deals, but the Oakland trio have said not quite so fast, and came up with this brilliant album. The sound is a kindred spirit to San Jose’s Sourpatch and steeped in 90’s indiepop with some obvious inspiration from the likes of Tiger Trap and the Blake Babies. These songs are filled with sunny innocence, DIY aesthetic and killer pop instincts. Hard not to get bitten by the bug of this album. Yes, they still make them like this. What a relief.

mattiel

Mattiel


This single came out early last year and this duo have been around for the last five years. Their debut was put out by Burger and they have been on Heavenly and now ATO. Well, it finally got through my thick skull and I am now counted as the recently converted. Those Words has a classic modern rock sound that reminds me of Siouxsie and the Banshees the Smiths and some Long Blondes. It shoulda been on someone’s top 7 inch singles year end list! Listen up folks, the new album due in March looks to be just as good as this single (The first single Jeff Goldblum is clever). Even if its cover kinda makes me cringe.

astral

Astral Brain


Another one that I missed from last year. What was I doing? File Sweden’s Astral Brain into the Broadcast and Stereolab bin along with Soundcarriers, Vanishing Twin and Death and Vanilla, but put them near the top of the heap. The Bewildered Mind is their debut album and it is packed full of beguiling cinematic pop. I went through and obsessive period last month where I listened to the song A Dream too much and started seeing vision of the Beach Boys, Free Design and Wendy and Bonnie dancing in my head. It was pretty great.

Yard Act


The last thing we need is another band with a talking singer (I don’t want to be nice…haha). Well maybe one more is all right. Yard Act joined the ranks of talking bands in 2020 with their novel hit Fixer Upper which put them on the talking map. The debut album the Overload demonstrates they’ve got more where that came from. Good songs and good beats and good pointed riffs even if there is a lot of talking. If they make it big, I could see them considering a move to L.A.

lucky

Lucksmiths


You know what else the world needs? More vinyl reissues. Speaking of which, vinyl reissues have been trickling out of the Lucksmiths catalog beginning a few years ago with Naturalist. Last year we got A Good Kind of Nervous and now comes Why Doesn’t That Surprise Me which is in most peoples’ top three Lucksmiths albums. I mean, Broken Bones, Synchronized Sinking and the Year of Driving Languorously are undeniable, right? Then you add a few snaps and crackles and getting up from your chair to hear the second half, why wouldn’t you want to trade in your worn out CD for a vinyl copy? No matter your preferred format, it’s good to get reacquainted with this 20 year old classic.

21 for 21 – Albums of the Year

Hey, who’s up for one more 2021 best of list? Granted, there may be debate about the actual possibility of anything from 2021 even qualifying for best of status due to the lingering pandemic and everyone and everything being on hold or delayed. In the spirit of delay and linger, here is my list of favorite records from the year that never really seemed to get off the ground. I could give some excuse about how this list was delayed due to staff shortages or the global supply bottleneck, but in reality, bands have had more time to record and with digital releases they seem to have managed to deliver many great records even during these strange times. Also, I’ve had more time to listen to them. My only real complaint is that I’ve missed the opportunity to hear most of them live. Here’s looking towards getting back to normal and better times.

quivers
1. Quivers – Golden Doubt (Ba Da Bing/Bobo Integral/Spunk)
Another Australian group delivering their second album (third if you count their REM Out of Time covers LP). Ringing guitars and top notch melodies build on the promise of the You’re Not Always On My Mind single from last year. If you dig late 80’s college rock (and I do) then this one will be in your wheelhouse. If you don’t know what late 80’s college rock is, Golden Doubt, with its heart on its sleeve and a bounty of great pop songs will give you a pretty good idea and possibly convert you into one and send you down a path adorned with Go-Betweens, Prefab Sprout and the Triffids.

flyying
2. Flyying Colours – Fantasy Country (Poison City/Club AC30)
Australian group flyying in with their second album of shoegaze symphonies and it is a very satisfying record. No let down and possibly an improvement over their debut.  You don’t have to listen to closely to hear the great pop songs buried beneath the wash of guitars. The first two songs Goodtimes and Big Mess should be included in any shoegaze best of mix tape. The group also broaden their scope beyond mere pedals with a few moody motorik ones like It’s Real and White Knuckles.  Shoegaze records continue to be a plenty each year, but there are few that even come close to being this good. Fantasy Country ranks up there with the best of the genre.

arlo
3. Arlo Parks – Collapsed Into Sunbeams (Trangressive)
Collapsed Into Sunbeams has gotten quite a bit of attention this year. It won the UK Mercury Prize and garnered much airplay on local radio station KEXP which is where I heard it. Probably a record that I wouldn’t have thought I would have liked, but it has successfully nudged into regular spins over here at Finest Kiss central. The album has a subtle R&B vibe throughout, combining Sade with Jay Som. The Lyrics are Parks’ highly personal but hopeful sounding bedroom pop is like a cool drink on a hot day.

ducks
4. Ducks Ltd – Modern Fiction (Carpark)
Few likely noticed that Toronto based duo Ducks Ltd went from Unlimited to Limited sometime after releasing their debut single back in 2019. The minor name change likely due to the wetlands and waterfowl organization of the same name. Nothing else has changed as their top quality jangle pop continues in top form. This record is so full of snappy barn burners that bring to mind such great jangle pop bands like Close Lobsters, Bluebells the Bats and Brilliant Corners while demonstrating an ability to keep it fresh. If you were a fan of the unlimited version of these guys, the limited version is even better.

charley
5. Charley Crockett – Music City USA (Son of Davy)
This album caught my eye and ear while record shopping this summer. It quickly became a favorite. Charley Crockett is mighty prolific, this being one of two albums he released this year and his 10th album in six years. Music City USA was my intro, but it was also the entry into the Charley Crockett rabbit hole. Apparently a distant relative or Davey, born and raised in southern tip of Texas this country crooner started a bluesman and gradually blended into country and he’s covered many country classics (his version of Jamestown Ferry is the tops). Music City is a full on country classic that is so immediate you think it’s a covers record.

dean
6. Dean Wareham – I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of LA (Double Feature)
It’s hard to believe that this is the first album of (mostly) new material in seven years from Dean Wareham soundtracks and covers albums aside. With classics from the Galaxie 500 and Luna catalog under his belt, he really doesn’t have much left to prove. So how do you find the motivation to record one of your best albums of you career? Biding your time and self-imposed deadlines? Who knows, but this solo album firmly notches itself up there with his best stuff. Wry, humorous, world weary lyrics, sleepy melodies and the sublime guitar solos that you are accustomed to are all in bountiful supply. I’m happy to wait long years between Wareham albums if the quality is going to be this good.

bug
7. The Bug Club – Pure Particles (Bingo)
You may have seen Bug Club’s Checkmate single at number two in the singles countdown, as it turns out they also put out this mini-LP in 2021 too. The only think working against this Welsh trio in 2021 was the vinyl manufacturing backlogs as this one is still waiting for the vinyl version to exist. Pure Particles is a svelte record full of smart, poppy garage rock. Nine songs influenced by Jonathan Richman (see song Jonathan’s Gone), Violent Femmes and Patty Smith and not a clunker in the lot. If there is more where this came from, then can these Welsh folks be stopped from world domination of the indie scene? I’m pulling for them!

subway
8. Subway Sect – Moments Like These (GUNinc/Texte und Töne)
Vic Godard and his Subway Sect have been at it since the late 70’s. The last we heard from him as the Subway Sect was 2014’s 1979 Now LP produced with Edwyn Collins (He also popped up with solo LP with 2019’s Mum’s Revenge). For Moments Like These he employs the production talents of Mick Jones (Clash & Big Audio Dynamite). This LP is evidence that the man is still having fun and going his own way. Opener Since the 80’s has a nostalgic regretful feel, while other songs sound like a party. Sharks ‘N’ Vipers is blast with it’s rhythmic chorus and Jelly Legs is a funky mess. They throw in a surf instrumental some bluesy pop with Commercial Suicide Man and a closing time closer with Time Shoulda Made a Man of Me. Godard’s gravely croon doesn’t seem to age and even at his ripe old age he still sounds pithy and playful.


9. We. The Pigs – We. The Pigs (Dreams Never End)
This album came as a surprise. The scuzzy Swedish shoegazers had a great single back in 2017 on the Discos De Kerlian label, but I hadn’t heard much since. Obviously they were holed up working on this masterpiece of a record. They’ve got the sound and the songs. Everything is draped with ethereal guitars and wistful vocals, but the secret sauce here is how the band is unafraid to get all scuzzy and into the gutter on songs like Goodbye, Closer and Fuck Your Songs.

super
10. Maxwell Farrington & Le Superhomard – Once (Talitres)
France-based Australian Maxwell Farrington has a deep croon that puts him in the Tom Jones, Scott Walker, Neil Hannon and Lee Hazlewood corner of some rock and roll showbiz ven diagram. His team-up with Christophe Vaillant of Le Superhomard might seem odd on paper, but totally works in a kitschy, 60’s Las Vegas sort of way. Farrington could be singing about doing his laundry and make it sound grandiose. If you dig big dramatic sounding pop songs served with side of kitsch (and I do) then here’s a record for you.

goat
11. Goat Girl – On All Fours (Rough Trade)
Even today when there are no UK music weekly papers, bands still seem to struggle to maintain attention they get for their debut album when it comes to their second album. The excitement seemed to die down about this London band, but in my book, their second album improves on their first with a more coherent and consistent approach and a batch of better songs. The songs are sneaky good. They don’t seem to shout for your attention, they take a more stealthy approach and get your defenses down and then pretty soon you find yourself all wrapped up in the swirling melodies and hypnotic vocals of these songs.

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12. JJ Ulius – Vol I (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)
This solo effort from JJ Ulius who is also in Monokultur and Skiftande Enheter is a sparse and arty endeavor. It sounds like it could have been akin to the moody Wolfgang Press or the slowest of Crystal Stilts songs. It’s moody with lots of space between guitar riffs, sparsely populated with synths and dark plunging bass and vocals in Swedish. There are brief flashes of pop that surface here and there, but mostly this record relishes in the dark.

saint
13. Saint Etienne – I’ve Been Trying To Tell You (Heavenly)
Full of obscure samples, and barely containing what you would call an obvious hook an album full of mid-tempo chillouts might not be considered top notch Saint Etienne, but Saint Etienne are not like other groups. This reinvention or detour is endlessly intriguing and exciting. These aren’t dance tracks, they move back and forth from ambient to dub. I always wondered what would happen if they went down the rabbit hole of the track Wilson on their debut. Would you like some sweets Willy? Come on auntie we’ll miss the bus…This is what I had in mind.

chills
14. The Chills – Scatterbrain (Fire)
When Martin Phillips resurrected the Chills around 2013 and released Silver Bullets in 2015 I had no idea he would continue on a pace that rivals the original Chills epoch. Scatterbrain showcases Phillips’ songwriting genius. He seems like a Brian Wilson type of savant with his ability to craft pop genius with his unique Chills sound appearing to be effortless. Songs like the title track, Little Alien and You’re Immortal reach some lofty heights set by such great LP’s like Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb.

smallbreed
15. Small Breed – Remember a Dream (Bickerton)
Small Breed are from the current day Netherlands, but Remember a Dream sounds like it was born in the psychedelic 60’s past. The production is super clean and the songs aren’t just paeans to the past. Well, maybe they are, but they sound so good, you can put your Beatles, Kinks, and Moody Blues albums away for a bit.

boys
16. The Boys With Perpetual Nervousness – Songs From Another Life (Bobo Integral)
Named for a Feelies song, and making great harmony laden jangly power pop in the vein of Teenage Fanclub with a little bit of Mathew Sweet on top, this duo of fellows, one from Edinburgh, Scotland and one from San Sebastian, Spain deliver a polished, sweet set of songs on their second album.

idle
17. Idle Ray – Idle Ray (Life Like)
Fred Thomas is best known for his band Saturday Looks Good to Me. He’s also released quite a few solo records. Idle Ray is his latest endeavor and it has a definite 90’s indie guitar sound to it. Crossing Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh with F.M . Cornog’s East River Pipe with a bit of Pollard’s concise brilliance, Idle Ray reminds us of classic 90’s indierock and also of Thomas’s songwriting gifts.

amyl
18. Amyl & the Sniffers – Comfort To Me (ATO)
Amyl and the Sniffers finally deliver on the promise of their first two EP’s. Comfort To Me is full of raw, fun, catchy punk rock. This Melbourne, Australia group are fronted by the charismatic Amy Taylor who is great at delivering mosh friendly choruses that even in these days of maintaining distance from your fellow punks, will have you yearning to sweat in the pit as you shout lyrics to Freaks to Front.

motor
19. Motorists – Surrounded (Bobo Integral)
This debut LP is so good sneakily borrowing from greats like Wire, Television, REM and Pavement. Motorists are further evidence that Canada is fruitful ground and they’ve got comrades in arms in like minded groups Kiwi Jr and Dumb. There are so many classic sounding songs on this record, its an embarrassment of riches. One song jangles and the next one hypnotizes, it’s an album full of sharp angles and surprises.

chime
20. Chime School – Chime School (Slumberland)
You always need to watch out for the drummer. They can be sneaky so and so’s holding all their best songs back for themselves. That appears to be what Andy Pastalaniec just did. The San Francisco Bay area drummer has been in quite a few notable groups (Seablite, Cruel Summer, and Odd Hope), but this is the first time he’s struck out on his own. Chime School is a jem of a record for jangle-pop and early Creation records fans. It’s chock full of upbeat numbers that are virtually guaranteed to get your foot tapping and your head bopping.

pharoah
21. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra – Promises (Luaka Bop)
Ya can’t listen to pop songs 100% of the time. This album was my respite when I wanted to chill out and not worry about the world. This team-up of Floating Points dude Sam Shepherd, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony is a one of kind moment not because it hasn’t been done before, but because of how good it is at doing it. Sanders, who played with John Coltrane in the 60’s is still making records that challenge into his 80’s. This ambient record was conceived of by Shepherd and will appeal to fans of Eno, Harold Budd or stuff like In a Silent Way by Miles Davis.

Here are 19 more to make at an even 40.

massage
22. Massage – Still Life (Mt. St. Mtn.)

snapped
23. Snapped Ankles – Forest of Your Problems (Leaf)

anika
24. Anika – Change (Sacred Bones)

vanish
25. Vanishing Twin – Ookii Gekkou (Fire)

roy
26. Roy – Roy’s Garage (Idée Fixe)

sleaford
27. Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs (Rough Trade)

kiwi
28. Kiwi Jr. – Cooler Returns (Sub Pop)

carwyn
29. Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Mas (Banana & Louie)

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30. Dom & the Wizards – The Australian Cyclone Intensity Scale (Tenth Court)

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31. Dummy – Mandatory Enjoyment (Trouble In Mind)

chai
32. Chai – Wink (Sub Pop)

silver
33. Silver Synthetic- S/T (Third Man)

weaver
34. Jane Weaver – Flock (Fire)

reds
35. The Reds Pinks & Purples – Uncommon Weather (Slumberland)

ocean
36. Blue Ocean – S/T (Paisley Shirt)

ghosts
37. Holiday Ghosts – North Street Air (Fatcat)

fake
38. Fake Fruit – S/T (Rocks In Your Head)

La Femme_ Paradigmes
39. La Femme – Paradigmes (Born Bad)

pachyman
40. Pachyman – The Return of… (ATO)

21 for 21 – 7″ Singles of the Year

You likely noticed there ain’t much music blogging going on around here lately. Life moves pretty fast and finding time and motivation to write about music has been a challenge. I find that sitting in front of a screen after sitting in front of screen for a full work day is less exciting than it used to be. I still love listening to records every chance I get though, so I’ve brushed off the cobwebs that have been collecting in this space for a year end list or two. First up, are 21 of my favorite 7″ singles of the past 12 months.

wetleg
1. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue (Domino)
Single of the year that seemed to pop up in random places in my somewhat isolated 2021. On the radio, in a grocery store, on my phone and finally on my turntable. Chaise Longue was so catchy and its quippiy lyrics so funny and its ability to percolate into multiple strata of society isn’t that surprising. Like Blur’s Song 2 in its immediacy (and hopefully soon a stadium staple like that one) but far sharper. Chaise Longue’s dry sense of humor didn’t so much drip, but evaporate into you. It was exciting to hear it every time I heard it and after 100 listens I’m still not sick of it.

bugclub
2. The Bug Club – Checkmate (Bingo)

Wales band that seems to be flying under the radar for now, but this single along with their LP this year should hopefully change that. Sharp lyrics and manic riffs on Checkmate make this white hot. You get three more songs with this tiny piece of wax and all are great. It’s what I imagine a garage band would sound like if Kevin Ayres had been born in 2000 and met a bunch of ex-Johanna Gruesome kids and started a band.

cdg
3. CDG – Unconditional EP (Domestic Departure)

Coming out of Portland, Oregon, CDG aka Conditioner Disco Group revel in early the early 80’s post punk sound. J. Nickel who is the main conditioner also has allegiances with other Portland post punk notables Collate and the Bedrooms. CDB lean heavily towards the Fall, PIL, and Gang of Four. The best of this five song lot is Remove Officer with its funky groove and effeminate accent is difficult to ignore and bound to get stuck into a repeat listening loop on your device.

horsegirl
4. Horsegirl – Ballroom Dance (Sonic Cathedral)
These Chicago youngsters seemingly appeared out nowhere this summer. Fully formed and moody, Ballroom Dance sounds like it was written by a group that has been worn down by the world and nostalgic for a better time. I guess we all are these days no matter how old we are. A brilliant shooting star of a song. Here’s hoping there’s more where this came from.

smog
5. The Smog – Set In Stone (Going Underground)

The Smog are from Japan. This is their third single (the first two are OOP but free downloads). I can’t tell you if it’s their best, but I can tell you its raw punk energy is infectous. Both Set In Stone and Lost My Mind are top notch punk songs, injecting full doses of bands like Wire, early Cure, Minor Threat and the Damned. Lost My Mind may be slightly better with it’s riff and great chorus. I can only hope that they won’t stop after only three singles.

friendlybfriend
6. Friendly Boyfriend – Pick Up! (Happiest Place)

I remember hearing Gone for a Time, the lead track here, for the first time and getting swept up with its weirdly warped guitars and prominent bass riff. It was odd, but good. Sorta reminding me of the lo-fi Swirlies trying to do MBV but with a weird Swedish pop sensibility. I bought the single right away. Record arrives a few weeks later, I put it on and track two is a cover of the Clean’s Beatnik. I think this could be start of a beautiful relationship.

paleblueeyes
7. Pale Blue Eyes – Motionless (Broadcast)
The first single from this trio from the UK hinterlands blends two of my favorite styles of rock n’ roll – hypnotic motorik grooves and waves of brilliant shoegaze guitar. Motionless floats with the ease of a group that are firing on all cylinders or maybe a fully charged battery as I’d like try to make more carbon neutral analogies. No matter your preferred mode of motorized transport, this soundtrack will do nicely as the mile markers fly by.

delivery
8. Delivery – Floored (Spoilsport)

Another Australian band in the countdown, Delivery slot themselves in closer to the rowdier post punk Australian crowd like Ausmuteants and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. There isn’t a bad move in any of the four songs on this single. Floored is a caffeine fueled beauty, the Explainer sounds like they borrowed an Intelligence riff from Icky Baby and Rubber sounds like they may have been listening to some Sauna Youth. Delivery’s tasteful influences and inspirations keep the arty post punk flame burning in my record collection.

harelem
9. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – Nothing But His Love (Colemine)

The Harlem Gospel Travelers followed up their 2019 LP with two singles in 2021. The group started and mentored by Eli Paperboy Reid continues its singles winning streak with the spirited Nothing But his Love. It’s got an innate sweetness that takes hold and carries you with it.

oftropique
10. Of Tropique – Woo (Electric Cowbell)

The second Japanese group in this year’s list, Of Tropique’s Woooo is an energetic instrumental that blends The Beat’s March of the Swivleheads with Esquivel eccentricities. Endlessly fun, and I can only imagine that the clarinet player needs a break after playing this one.

catw
11. The Catenary Wires – Mirrorball (Shelflife)
The single from Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey’s follow a long line female-male duos like Lee and Nancy, Sonny and Cher, Kenny and Dolly, and erm…Jason and Kylie who’s electric chemistry combine to ignite a great pop song. Under the Mirrorball is a nostalgic trip to the disco and discovered appreciation for music discounted in past. Accompanied by a great horn part, this indie song about disco is pretty darn great.

stephen
12. Stephen’s Shore – Brisbane Radio (Meritorio)

A Swedish group with a penchant for jangly pop influenced by the Byrds singing about Australian radio pulls together some seemingly disparate threads. All of that aside, the twangy pop of Brisbane Radio is so well done and infectious you’ll be checking the back of this to see if it really isn’t a reissue from the summer of love or the paisley underground.

partner
13. Partner Look – Geelong (I Heard a Whisper)

This Australian group features two German sisters based in Melbourne and their partners (hence the name I suppose). Geelong nestled on the water southwest of the much larger Melbourne seems to have been a satellite base for many recent bands in the Melbourne scene. Partner Look’s song of the same name is an obvious ode to this small town on the bay. “Close to Melbourne, close to the sea close to you, close to me. Everybody moves… ” A little like a post card from Geelong. Makes me want to book a trip and soak up the sun and sounds.

habibi
14. Habibi – Somewhere They Cant Find Us (Kill Rock Stars)

These Brooklyn based ladies haven’t exactly been prolific with only two albums in the past seven years, but this single follows last year’s Anywhere But Here LP, so it could be the start of a quicker pace for the band. Both songs have a little bit of Luscious Jackson/Breeders spin-off group Kostars and ESG style funky post punk dance groove. Loads of with style, attitude and a low key sense of humor make this a very solid effort.

uni
15. Uni Boys – Long Time No See (Curation)

This Orange County, California band started in their teens and has already released two download only albums. This is their first single for Curation (sounds like Creation) the label started by the the Beachwood Sparks Brent Rademaker. Uni Boys have and old school power pop rock and roll sound. Both side of this single are worthy of comparisons with late 70’s groups like the Nerves, the Shoe and the Low Numbers.

tubs
16. The Tubs – Names EP (Trouble In Mind)

More goodness from the Tubs (last year at this same #16 with I Don’t Know How It Works. Uncanny!). This four song single sees the group expanding their sound with better production and better songs. Singer Owen Williams, formerly of Joanna Gruesome, sounds like a cool mesh of Dave Wakeling and Lou Barlow. There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, all sporting fun, catchy guitar riffs and memorable melodies. Crystal Ball, the final song is sort of fun curve ball too, going for an obvious Felt sound and succeeding there as well.

intell
17. The Intelligence – Celebration Ratio (Leisure World)

You might think that the seven inch vinyl single is an outmoded format. Well, the Intelligence and the Leisure World records have one for ya. How about a record that bends? Fold it up and put it in your pocket. Nearly as light as an mp3 or a stream, but you can hold it in your hands. Celebration Ratio seems to find inspiration in the fidelity and recording style of older Intelligence LP’s like Deuteronomy and Fake Surfers while still keeping it fresh and smart. The Intelligence keep going, consistently putting out great records, even one’s that bend.

wray
18. Lady Wray – Through It All (Big Crown)

The beginning of Through It All threatens to go off the rails right from the start. Nicole Wray’s, aka Lady Wray voice gets synthesized into some high pitched ear worm that at first feels like a fly buzzing around your ear. Almost like a minor annoyance to get your attention. Then you hear the rock steady beat, backing singers and the warm, sweet unsynthesized croon of Wray. Pretty soon you can’t get Through It All out of your head.

typicalgirls
19. Typical Girls – Miata (Kanine)

Another repeat from last year and at the same spot too. I swear I didn’t intend it. Typical Girls’ follow up single to last year’s debut 7-inch is a double A side. The flip Nice Boys is my favorite here, combining some of the Radio Dept’s more melancholy synth tendencies with Taken by Trees own brand of melancholy. They throw in a dance beat to brighten it up a tad and voila, something their own that is worthy of its inspirations.

youthv
20. Youth Valley – Young Sad Lovers (Make Me Happy)
Youth Valley’s Young Sad Lovers with its subtle motorik groove, guitars that evoke big wide open wintry landscapes and slightly fey vocals could be mistaken for a Swedish guitar group from the early 00’s like the Mary Onettes or even 80’s UK indie band like the Field Mice. This Greek duo pack two winners onto the vinyl version of this single and slip in a bonus track into the digital version. All three cut from the same cloth and all three increasing my hopes that an LP or another single is on the way in 2022.

shopwindoe
21. The Shop Window – Out of Reach (Spinout Nuggets)
Out of Reach has the ring of classic UK indie guitar pop. Ringing guitars and a driving beat topped off with an anthemic melody and chorus. The song is seemingly inspired by the isolation and lost days of the global pandemic. I imagine it would be great to hear live with its Mighty Lemon Drops meets Chameleons sound. Here’s to better days ahead and maybe a chance from folks to hear it live.

22. Eggs – Greatest Hits Ep (Perfect)
23. Floating Room – Shima (Famous Class)
24. Sundae Painters – Aversion (Leather Jacket)
25. Collate – Medicine (Domestic Departure)
26. The Smashing Times – Dreams on Union (Painter Man)
27. BOAT – My Haunted Friend (Magic Marker)
28. Swansea Sound – Indies of the World (HHBTM)
29. Lavender Blush – Sundays (Blue Aurora Audio)
30. Ghost Woman – Lost Echo’s (Full Time Hobby)
31. Telephone Numbers – Leviathan (Fruits & Flowers)
32. Tough Age/Dumb – Pizza Punks (Mint)
33. Mandarinaduck – Super Long Life (Box Bedroom Rebels)
34. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – Fight On! (Colemine)
35. Chubby & the Gang – Lightning Don’t Strike Twice (Partisan)

7″ Singles of 2020

Welcome to the annual singles countdown here at the Finest Kiss music blog (is blog still the right term?). If you’re new here, we’ve been doing these singles countdowns since 2008. The basic rule is that it had to be released on a 7″ single to qualify, which as the years go by really limits the field. Also, it’s gotta be something I like, which narrows the field even more. Here are 30 records that I bought and loved in 2020.

quivers
1. Quivers – You’re Not Always On My Mind (Turntable Kitchen)
This song was bubbling around last year, got played a bunch on local Seattle radio station KEXP and finally got a 7″ release at the very tail end of 2019. So technically it’s a 2019 single, but this is my blog and my countdown and shipping from Australia during Covid takes longer than usual so You’re Not Always On My Mind didn’t arrive at Finest Kiss headquarters until early 2020. Quivers style of pop is close to the Catchers and the Go-Betweens with their gangling guitars, swell bass, and a contradictory chorus that is hard to forget. You’re Not Always On My Mind could have been single of the year in most years but thankfully it found me in a year when great pop songs were constant lifesavers and this one brought up my spirits on many occasions. Note, the band just released an album that covers REM’s 1991 Out of Time LP on Seattle label Turntable Kitchen that is well worth hearing as well.

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2. Vicky Tafoya – Forever (Penrose)

I would like to thank Vicky Tafoya for bring back full circle in my love of girl group pop. I remember going through a phase of digging noisy feedback drenched lo-fi indie rock influenced by the Crystals and Shangri-Las. The Vivian Girls song Where Do You Run To is a prime example of this. Now that I’m older and wis…well I’m just older, I don’t necessarily need the difficult feedback to appreciate 60’s girl group pop. A perfect example of my evolution is this Vicky Tafoya single. Tafoya has been around a while, but hasn’t recorded much so I hope Forever isn’t a one-off single and that she’s just getting re-started.

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3. The Cool Greenhouse – Alexa! (Melodic)
The Cool Greenhouse know comedy gold when they see it. Alexa! very humorously mocks those smart spearkers that folks can’t seem to live without. Alexa, email my credit card details to my contacts list. Alexa, open the pod bay doors. You get the idea. Cortana makes a guest appearance and the Cool Greenhouse continue to employ repetition (They are repeatedly making great records) to their advantage.

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4. Romero – Honey (Cool Death)

Powerpop never made anyone rich except for maybe Cheap Trick, but don’t tell Melbourne’s Romero. Honey is a brilliant debut single. A threadbare song that sounds like it was made in 70’s with a riff written with a four neck guitar in mind. It’s about something that mysteriously went down at the discotheque with killer chorus featuring vocals that bleed just a little into the red giving it a mysterious hazy urgency.

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5. The Shifters – Left Bereft (Captured Tracks)
Left Bereft sounds like it could be set in a post apocalyptic world or today. According to the band it’s “an overly simplified rabble-rouser that people who maybe use English as a second or third language can understand and maybe feel a bit of solidarity. I like to imagine drunk students in France listening to it whilst wrestling on the kitchen table.” Their Fall-ism’s abound here, but it’s so good (and Mark’s gone) that I’m just happy there’s band doing similar stuff at such a top level quality while putting their own stamp on it.

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6. The Radio Dept. – You’re Lookin’ At My Guy (Just So!)

By now, the Radio Dept. can do whatever they want and I’ll probably buy without even listening first. The A-side is a cover of the Tri-Lites 1964 single. The cover brings to light a 60’s soul influence that I hadn’t really noticed before now. It’s done in their own unique style. They seem to reach deep and go for throwback to Lesser Matters with more blown out guitars that gives it a more raw and lo-fi feeling. Even when they decide to pull a deep cut from the 60’s, this group continues to keep it fresh

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7. The Umbrellas – Maritime E.P. (Syncro System)

This is what I always hope for when a band releases killer songs as download only or a cassette…that someone will see fit press it to vinyl. That is what happened with the Umbrella’s Maritime EP. Released as a cassette in 2019 and then straight to vinyl in 2020! The SF band push the right indiepop buttons, taking some raw Beat Happening and adding some Small Factory and Versus. And it ain’t just the right influences they’ve got songs too, four of ’em that’ll have you wishing for more.

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8. Jeanines – Things Change (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)

Last year’s Slumberland debut LP was quite something and the band didn’t waste anytime following it up with this single. It continues their brilliant Siddeleys (they covered that band’s Falling Off My Feet Again) and Mama’s & the Papas (no cover yet) inspired pop. These four songs are a little more acoustic based, but still autumnal and jangle filled to the brim.

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9. Ribbon Stage – My Favorite Shrine (K)

It’s easy to forget about stuff that’s up here in the Pacific Northwest. K Records down in Olympia have been keeping the International Pop Underground going since the 1980’s. Their release schedule has slowed, but quality singles like this Ribbon Stage 7″ continue to validate their importance. My Favorite Shrine easily falls into the Dolly Mixture – Vivian Girls – Black Tambourine category of lo-fi guitar pop with melancoly vocals buried in the mix to perfect effect.

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10. The Altons – When You Go (Penrose)

Daptone started up their Penrose offshoot label this year to showcase the new soul in So-Cal (Soul-Cal?) and they didn’t hold back. Vicky Tafoya is up there at number two and here are the Altons at a solid number 10. The sweet soul falsetto will slow your life down and put you in an enviable state of mind where the rat race fades away, the sun is setting, the waves are lightly massaging the sand and you are reclined with your favorite drink taking it all in. This record really will take you there.

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11. Fleur – Petit Homme De Papier (Bickerton)

Cool submarine bass-line, skronky horns (or are they kazoos), and a riff that transports you into a pair of flares strutting down a sunny Marseille boulevard circa 1967. It’s amazing what a analog record can still do in digital age. Fleur isn’t French and isn’t old enough to remember the 60’s (neither am I) but it’s so good that being fooled is half the pleasure.

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12. Capitol – Weathered (Kingfisher Bluez)

Ontario, Canada’s Capitol (is Toronto) take a big step forward with this single. It’s moody, soaring, hopeful and blistering. It reminds me when I heard Interpol which reminded me of when I first heard the Chameleons which reminded me of how much I love sort of thing. Weathered has a great guitar lead, a circular melody and backing vocals courtesy of Charlotte Grace Victoria(ELIO) that takes this single to the next level.

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13. Doug Shorts – Money (Daptone)

Chicago’s Doug Shorts has been flying under my radar for years. Daptone smartly snapped him up and has put out a handful of his singles over the past few years. This one is steeped in 80’s Rockwell vibes. The electronic flourished beats akin to Space Invaders fuels the greatness here because Shorts has a sincere delivery with no detectable note of irony. How good is Money? I have been known to be in the kitchen belting out “I’m about that money” on repeat while flipping pancakes on the griddle.

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14. Love, Burns – Gate and the Ghost (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatte)

Pale Lights’ Phil Sutton steps out and starts another band with some of the usual suspects (Kyle Forester & Gary Olson) for this breezy single. Gate and the Ghost is pretty and brilliant with a Belle & Sebastian acoustic strum and Bluebells pop sensibility.

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15. Neurotic Fiction – Romance (Specialist Subject)

This four song single has lots going for it. Manic pop thrills along with slightly askew vibes that recall Pylon, Gang of Four and the Talking Heads. It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all great, but Mi Mi Mi Mascota with its twangy angular jabs applies its post-punk acupuncture to my tender spots.

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16. The Tubs – I Don’t Know How It Works (Perfect)

Ex-Joana Gruesome folks go all in on the strummy jangle popularized by the Chills and the Bats in the early Flying Nun days. Both sides of this single are top notch. I Don’t Know How It Works is a plaintive strummy number while the flip Silver Moon with its keyboard bit has a strong Chills pedigree.

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17. Shadow Show – What Again Is Real? (Hypnotic Bridge)
This Detroit trio released their debut album on the now defunct Burger Records. It was pretty solid but not flashy. This follow up heavy psychedelic single is great. It drips with garage cavewoman vibes and creates a green haze that fills your mind with weird hallucinations. B-side is a cover of the Feminine Complex song Is This a Dream? replacing the organ with dense guitars and essentially making it their own.

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18. Astrel K – You Could If You Can (Duophonic)
Astrel K is Rhys Edwards of Ulrika Spacek. Where Ulrika Spacek do prog-psycchelic rock, Astrel K is more playful and terrestrial, exhibiting some Gorky’s Zygotic Mnyci-like eccentrics that make it a fun three minute and thirty second ride.

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19. Typical Girls – Typical Girls EP (Happiest Place)

This Gothenburg, Sweden trio continue the long line of great indie pop from that country that seemed to peak at the end of the previous decade with that whistling song. The standout song on this three song single is Girl Like You which definitely has some similarities in its approach with the Concretes and Peter Bjorn and John. I for one am glad pop like this is still a thing.

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20. Neutrals – Personal Computing (Slumberland)
The bay area band with a Scottish accent have a similar sense of humor to the Cool Greenhouse (see Alexa above). Personal Computing is Neutrals’ ode to old tech. The song is full of funny one liners for the over 40 crowd and 20 something computer geeks about the bad old days of personal computer when programs were delivered to memory from a cassette tape. The only thing missing here is the dial up modem sound.

21. The Reds, Pinks and Purples – I Should Have Helped You (I Dischi Del Barone)
22. Archers of Loaf – Raleigh Days (Merge)
23. CB Radio Gorgeous – Mid Fit (Thrilling Living)
24. Mt. Mountain – Tassels (Six Tonnes De Chair)
25. Vanishing Twin – In Piscina! (Fire)
26. Native Cats – Two Creation Myths (Rough Skies)
27. Ghost Power – Asteroid Witch (Duophonic)
28. Tommy and the Commies – Hurtin’ 4 Certain (Slovenly)
29. Tomorrow Syndicate – Populous (Polytechnic Youth)
30. The Nix – The Highest (Moshi Moshi)

Albums 2020

You probably wondered (if you wondered at all) if this blog is still alive. Did it get some sort of respiratory disease and reside? Nope, if anything it’s fallen out of its owner’s purview due to the internet being taken over by corporations and this blog’s inability to prompt you to look at it more (can I interest you in push notifications?). Nonetheless, if not more for me than you, here are 35 of my favorite records of 2020. Here’s to hoping we have something in common as well as some differences!

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1. Coriky – S/T (Discord)
Ian MacKay and Amy Farina’s two albums as the Evens were ok, but they were lacking a certain something. Turns out it was MacKay’s former Fugazi bandmate bassist Joe Lally. Pop and politics is back on the menu here akin to early Fugazi and Mackay’s one-off Egg Hunt single he did with Minor Threat bandmate Jeff Nelson. The coolest thing about it all is way they incorporate 60’s pop like the Byrds and the Kinks into their punk pedigree to create something fresh yet familiar, providing something for dads, grads, and streamers. This album is prime evidence (see Clean Kill, Last Thing, and Have a Cup of Tea) demonstrating that there’s more left in the tank for aging punks everywhere to fight the power.

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2. Melenas – Dias Raros (Trouble In Mind)
On their second album the Melenas continue to progress and come up with a winning combination of bright indie pop juxtaposed with moody drone. The Pamplona group sing in Spanish, but speak in the indie lingua franca sporting elements of the Bats, Electrelane and the Pastels. Dias Raros exudes a new confidence and added muscle that wasn’t evident on their debut. 3 Segundos is a ripper of a song and  Ciencia Fiction pops off with a wild abandon that would have made Witman blush. This record is a flagship for the vibrant Spanish indie scene and worthy of your hard earned cash.

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3. The Apartments – In and Out of the Light (Talitres)
The Apartments lead by Peter Milton Walsh have been around since the mid 1980’s, but In and Out of the Light is only their second album of the 2000’s. Besides the fact that Apartments albums are rare, it really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do. It’s got a dark yet hopeful quality to it that reminds me of the Blue Nile and At Swim Two Birds. Walsh’s voice carries the weight of the world with it and evokes landscapes and emotions with his slightly raspy delivery and sparse instrumentation. A well placed horn parts and minor keys abound encouraging you to put another log on the fire and look out at the falling snow.

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4. Tough Age – Which Way Am I? (Mint)
Album number four from this Canadian band is full of jangly Flying Nun inspired songs. One, called Penny Current Suppression Ring sung by bassist  Penny Clark is about getting a demo rejected by Flying Nun. So they take your Flying Nun and raise it an Eddy Current Suppression Ring? Good songs, sense of humor, take my money.

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5. Peel Dream Magazine – Agitprop Alterna (Slumberland)
Peel Dream Magazine songs ping-pong between My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab inspirations. Every song creates a warm cocoon of buzzy vibrations, droning keyboards and sighing vocals that wrap around each other creating a sweet spot as each song worms its way to the inner ear.

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6. Destroyer – Have We Met (Merge)
Dan Bejar has a formula that he has loosely stuck to since Destroyer’s Kaputt in 2011. This album stays in the same synthesizer romance lane as Roxy Music and the Blue Nile. This batch of songs are some his best in a while and they are also replete with Bejar’s idiosyncratic humor.

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7. RVG – Feral (Fire)
For their second album, RVG hire a producer Victor Van Vugt to perhaps emphasize their grimier side. To my ears there isn’t much difference which is fine since this band really doesn’t need much help sounding great. The songs feature soaring guitar riffs reminiscent of 80’s postpunk greats like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Triffids.

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8. Fleur – S/T (Bickerton)
Dutch singer Floor Elman goes by Fleur. She teams up with guys from and instrumental group Les Robots to make a French ye-ye pop record that sounds like it was born in a garage and then taken for a walk on the beach. Authentic and fun.

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9. Bdrmm – Bedroom (Sonic Cathedral)
Just when you thought shoegaze was dead, Hull’s Bdrmm come along and revive it. Their debut album balances a gray sky moodiness with a few bright sun breaks of ringing guitars that the Chameleons and the Cure were always so adept at.

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10. Jack Cades – Perfect View (Bickerton/Beluga)
The Jack Cades specialize in 60’s inspired garage rock. Their second album is quite good. Just the right amount of reverb, an eye for a good hook and a perfect amount of psych rock influence. So good, it might get you double checking the track list of the Nuggets box set to see if it’s OG.

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11. Matt Berry – Phantom Birds (Acid Jazz)
Matt Berry is an actor, comedian and musician. He’s made a lot of records, Phantom Birds is his 8th and based on its quality he’s not running out of ideas. It’s got a 60’s country feel in the vein of the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and Dylan’s Nashville Skyline with a little bit of kitschy funkiness thrown in to make sure it’s not a paint by numbers sort of think.

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12. Pop Filter – Banksia (Bobo Integral)
Melbourne, Australia’s Ocean Part rebrand themselves as Pop Filter and remove any self-imposed rules to make their debut album. A motoric groove here, an acoustic number there, some synth-laden janglers sprinkled in for good measure all while adhering to that Melbourne indie aesthetic that seems to keep going and going. (Note: The band released a second LP this month that I’ve yet to hear.)

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13. The Snogs – Boyfriend’s Dead (Paisley Shirt)
San Francisco’s Paisley Shirt splashed onto the scene this year with some great finds. Santa Cruz, California’s Snogs sound like they’re from Olympia, Washington. The baritone vocals will definitely remind you of a certain flagship K records band. Even if they don’t, you’ll still dig the DIY sound, youthful enthusiasm and infectious songs.

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14. Ringo Deathstarr – S/T (Reverberation Appreciation Society)
Austin, Texas shoegazers had been quiet for a bit, but return with quite a statement. They are masters at creating noisy sound collages that can sooth and blister and this record has some of their best of both.

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15. Tapeworms – Funtastic (Howlin’ Banana)
This French group sound like a bunch of mad scientists. I could imagine that they’ve got a few Elephant 6 records, some Swirlies and Lilys to go along with their MBV. Funtastic is exactly that, innocent sounding buzzing pop ditties and the sound of band having a blast.

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16. Pictish Trail – Thumb World (Fire)
Pictish Trail is Johnny Lynch who also runs the Lost Map record label which is quite excellent in its own right. Thumb World is the best Pictich Trail album yet. It’s got a DIY electronic feel which has never been a huge deal in rock and roll, but I’m a sucker for that everything and the kitchen sink mentality where he’s not trying as much to get kids on dance floor, but more for the satisfaction of just getting you nodding along, tapping your toes and opening up the window.

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17. Galore – S/T (Rocks In Your Head)
The bay area has a bit of history of generating groups inspired by Flying Nun records. Galore, like Brilliant Colors before them make jangly pops songs in the vein of Look Blue Go Purple. It’s a low key, sort of ramshackle brilliance that Galore excel at.

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18. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound)
On her second album, Owens covers Radiohead and duets with John Cale, but it’s still her show. The combination the of bloops and bleeps with her ethereal vocals give you the feeling of being under, gliding on a wind gust and breaking through the atmosphere into low orbit.

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19. Bananagun – The True Story of Bananagun (Full Time Hobby)
Combining the Byrds with Os Mutantes, Melbourne’s Bananagun create a tropical psychedelic rock record of extreme interest. It’s got cool wah-wah riffs and slinky beats and spacey ideas. Everything old is new again if you wait long enough and Bananagun deliver their take on this sound at a time when nobody was expecting it.

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20. Porridge Radio – Every Bird (Polyvinyl)
Abrasive pop in the vein of Protomartyr, Shame and PJ Harvey. Singer Dana Margolin can shout and scream with the best of them, but she includes just enough sweetness in her choruses that kept me coming back to this album.

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21. Aoife Nessa Frances – Land of No Junction (Basin Rock)
She didn’t seem to get as much attention as Aldous Harding or Cate LeBon, but her talent is at that level and this album rivals anything either has done. These psychedelic tinged folk songs may require several listens before they hit home, but with little but time on my hands I was happy to let it happen. This could be the low key sleeper album of the year.

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22. Tara Clerkin Trio – S/T (Laura Lies In)
The seven tracks on the debut album by the Tara Clerkin Trio are not exactly verse-chorus-verse songs. They allude to those kinds of songs which is what initially catches your attention, but once they get your attention they take you to places you weren’t expecting to be taken. Which, when I come to think of it, is the reason I listen to music in the first place.

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23. Boat – Tread Lightly (Magic Marker)
Seattle’s Boat took a hiatus six years ago, and returned this year with Tread Lightly. Singer Dave Crane got the guys back together and they picked up right where they left off. Longer in the tooth and slightly more grey in the beard, but no less precise in their idiosyncratic pop sensibilities. Tread Lightly could be the best Boat album, but I think that with every new Boat album.

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24. Roy – Peace and Love and Outer Space (Idée Fixe)
Sometimes it’s ok to judge a book or a record by its cover. Toronto prog-pop collective Roy give exactly the right impression with the cover of Peace and Love and Outer Space. Super fury space jams that are perfect for surfing on a rocket among other things. Step in, step on. Seatbelts are optional.

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25. Cindy – Free Advice (Paisley Shirt/Mt St Mtn/Tough Love)
This year SF band Cindy were plucked from obscurity into internet cult fandom with their second album, but it may as well have been their first since they were so under the radar. Free Advice is a record that is made for these times. Super chill, nearly hushed vocals accompanied by glacial guitars and some nice synthesized sounds. Galaxie 500 fans take note and snatch it up before it goes out of print (again).

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26. The Reds, Pinks and Purples – You Might Be Happy (Tough Love)
Glen Donaldson who’s been in a few of notable groups like Art Museums and Skygreen Leopards now uses The Reds, Pinks and Purples to gift us with his pop magic. You Might Be Happy has a sadness permeating from it, but it’s not a downer. It’s more of a nostalgic feeling that it gives off. I’ve seen a lot of Sarah records comparisons which isn’t far off. It’s post-post Sarah too, inheriting from the likes of Trembling Blue Stars and running with it.

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27. The Cowboys – Room of Clons (Feel It)
Bloomington, Indian’s Cowboys do smart(ass) post punk in the vein of Devo and Uranium Club, but they do straightforward pop too. On Wise Guy Algorithm (a nominee for song of the year) The singer sorta sounds like Feargal Sharkey until he hands the mic to one of his band mates for some of the other songs like the Kinks-Apples in Stereo inspired and kazoo laden Days. Recommended to folks who like curve balls served up in their rock ‘n roll.

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28. Lake – Roundelay (Off Tempo)
Lake have been a Pacific Northwest treasure for going on 15 years now. Roundelay sees them at the peak of their powers. Clearly influenced by likes of the Carpenters, Stereolab, Free Design and Jim O’Rourke, but operating outside of any trends or indie zeitgeist. Singers Eli Moore and Ashley Eriksson’s sound like they grew up singing in an Olympia church choir and then went home and played K records on their turntables. Smooth rock never sounded so smooth and exciting at once.

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29. Sweeping Promises – Hunger For a Way Out (Feel It)
Boston’s Sweeping Promises have gotten compared to 80’s post punk girl groups like Lilliput, Girls at Our Best! and Delta 5. Their minimalist and angular sound certainly merits it. I really like how they avoid any glossiness to their sound, going instead with a demo like quality to the recording which adds to the energy and allure of the album.

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30. Snails – Hard-Wired (Glass Modern)
On their follow up to 2016 debut album, Bristol’s Snails sound just as good and deliver higher quality set of songs. Hard-Wired is full of pastoral melodies and bucolic harmonies. It puts a smile on your face like when the sun peaks over the hillside in the early morning, the dew glistens on the grass and the birds start to sing.

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31. Elrichman – Heaven’s Mayor (Bobo Integral)
Paul Elrichman is from Toronto, but this record seems to have a Scottish indie flare to it. His warm tenor and impressive studio creations are reminiscent of the Bluebells, Aztec Camera and Orange Juice. Each song seems to start out with catchy riff and vocal drawing you immediately in and his instrumental wizardry is fully capable of making you think he’s hired a string section and a horn line.

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32. The Cool Greenhouse – S/T (Melodic)
The Cool Greenhouse are into 4CHAN and Harry Potter and I bet the Cool Greenhouse are into CB too. I had my ears on (good buddy) for this record based on the rad-ness of their Cardboard Pet 10″ and London and Landlords singles and it didn’t disappoint. Minimalist repetition along with humorous erudite lyrics keep it endlessly interesting and fun.

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33. Shopping – All or Nothing (Fat Cat)
The final show I saw in 2020 was Shopping at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard. It was March just before everything shutdown for COVID. It was packed and the band thanked everyone for risking it to come out. The UK trio were in synch that night as they are on All or Nothing. They effortlessly build riffs into anthems in an 80’s post-punk dance style that keep the politics of dancing on message and feeling good.

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34. Lavender Blush – The Garden of Inescapable Pleasure (Shelflife)
Another San Francisco band in this year’s list (what’s going on down there?). If you dig the BV’s then Lavender Blush are gonna be a pleasure. They like big guitars and seem a bit moody and are obviously influenced by UK indie bands that lean toward the Sarah records catalog. Their pop sensibilities and dour attitude are a combination really works.

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35. Marker Starling – High January (Tin Angel)
Marker Starling’s style of pop is light and slightly funky. The Aluminum Group come to mind, but he’s definitely a Steely Dan fan and very likely into Prefab Sprout. Do I really need to say more to convince you? Ok, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier provides her cool vocals on two songs too. Now, is Marker the captain of your heart? I hope so.

25 More records that I really liked:
Islet – Eyelet (Fire)
The Stroppies – Look Alive! (Tough Love)
Thibault – Or Not Thibault (Chapter Music)
Cloth – S/T (Last Night From Glasgow)
Flat Worms – Antarctica (Drag City)
The Bats – Foothills (Flying Nun)
Shabaka & the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse)
Cmon – Mix of Nations (Mexican Summer)
A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around (Elefant)
Anna Högberg Attack – Lena (Omlott)
Slum of Legs – S/T (Spurge)
Jet Stream Pony – S/T (Shelflife)
Double Date With Death – L’au-Dela (Howlin Banana)
Mo Troper – Natural Beauty (Tender Loveinf Empire)
Jeff Parker & the New Breed – Suite for Max Brown (International Anthem)
Kelley Stoltz – “Ah! (etc​)​” (Agitated)
Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Again: A Re-imagining by Makaya McCraven (XL)
Lars Finberg – Tinnitus Tonight (Mt St Mtn)
Sault – Untitled (Rise) & Untitled (Black Is)
Green Seagull – Cloud Cover (Mega Dodo)
Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today (Domino)
The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers (Carpark)
Tidiane Thiam – Siftorde (Sahel Sounds)
Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (International Anthem)
Luke Haines & Peter Buck – Beat Poetry for Survivalists (Cherry Red)