Tags: Husker Du, King Kong, Minutemen, Seam, Squirrel Bait, Superchunck, The Cure, The Smiths, Versus
It’s always intriguing to hear how kids today interpret influences like the Cure, the Smiths, and the Minutemen. I like it best when it comes out sounding like something unexpected. One of the surprise records of this year has been the second album from Atlanta’s Places To Hide. The band name check all three of those bands mentioned, and synthesize it into punk-pop-emo-something that has elements of Versus, King Kong, Seam, and Squirrel Bait, but really it just Places To Hide sounding like something brand new.
The singing is shared by Kyle Swick and Deborah Hudson and I prefer Hudson’s lazy stoned delivery, but Swick is no slouch either. His Spooky Molder and Mullholland are excellent critiques on urban culture and the racist south. Hudson’s songs are more esoteric, but she has such a cool voice you spend the extra time to figure it out. Her B. Murphy is akin to Robyn Hitchcock‘s Raymond Chandler Evening, a murder mystery that you’ll never figure out.
The only bad thing I can say about this band is that I can’t believe that they had the audacity to break up before this record was even released. This album probably won’t get much attention because of their premature disassemble, but it shouldn’t stop you from being a fan of one of the best records this year.
Tags: Blur, Male Bonding, Omi Palone, Primitive Parts, Sauna Youth, The Kinks, Trouble In Mind
Much ado was made about the return of Blur earlier this year, and then after everyone heard the new record it quickly flamed out. Not surprising since it featured little of Graham Coxon’s sharp, jabbing guitar playing. If you like were hoping for something along the lines of Modern Life is Rubbish then Primitive Parts‘ debut album should do the trick.
Kevin Hendrick and Robin Christian of Male Bonding and Lindsay Corstorphine of Sauna Youth combine to create minor maelstroms of sharp guitar focused punkish pop. Sometimes a band shoots their wad on one or two singles and then releases a disappointing album. This is not the case with Primitive Parts. They deliver on the promise of last year’s two very good 7-inch singles on Sexbeat and Faux Discx, and then some!
Primitive Parts LP Parts Primitive is out now on Trouble In Mind Records
Tags: Felt, My Bloody Valentine, Shoegaze, Sinis Recordings, Slowdive, Tender Age, Wildhoney
The first Tender Age single reminded me of Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. it was methodically austere and moody. The Portland band are back with their second single that shows them tweaking things just a little to deliver a warmer and more ethereal sounding record. In other words they’ve turned up the shoegaze dials on the guitars. It’s still good, but different from their first single and veers into the same sonic territory as the Wildhoney album from earlier this year. It also begs the question, how many more records do I need to buy that sound like My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse and Slowdive? I guess one more wouldn’t hurt.
You get the vinyl or download from SINIS Recordings bandcamp page.
Tags: Bailter Space, Catherine Wheel, David Kilgour, Fishrider Records, Straitjacket Fits, The Shifting Sands
New Zealand record label Fishrider Records has ably picked up the baton from Flying Nun in recent years. A quick look at their track record and you see albums from the Prophet Hens, Males, Trick Mammoth and Death and the Maiden. All informed by their country’s past, but fresh and new sounding as well. Fishrider continues its kiwi streak with the sophomore album from the Shifting Sands.
Cosmic Radio Station is a record that was made by three guys who run a music venue near Dunedin called Chick’s Hotel, so you can assume they know their stuff. And of course they do. Their brand of pop is the fuzzy downtrodden sort. They have a bit of the Straitjacket Fits to their sound and at times they threaten to launch into Bailter Space territory. Both tendencies get the stamp of approval from this blog. They also have a more whimsical side which is demonstrated on a couple of pretty instrumentals that sound like they could be from David Kilgour‘s bag of tricks. And of course after a quick glance at the liner notes I see Mr. Kilgour is lending a hand and some shimmering guitar licks to the title track and Coming Back, one the album’s standouts. Part past, part future, the Shifting Sands aim hits the right cosmic spot.
Tags: Minutemen, REM, The Clean, Wire, Woodsist, Woolen Men
You might remember San Francisco band Pow!‘s album Hi-Tech Boom from two years ago. It was a punk filled diatribe against zombie tech workers taking over their city. In the two years since, the zombie tech worker cancer has moved up the coast to Portland (and Seattle). The nouveau riche are clogging up the city’s’ arteries, causing the cost of everything to go up, encouraging developers to come into neighborhoods and level older cheaper housing to build shiny new, and more expensive housing. Neighborhoods that once were quirky, weird and cool become bland and boring. Where once there was a record store now stands a bank. where there was a fun dive bar or DIY space now stand condominiums and high end furniture stores with on the ground floor.
Like their bay area brethern Portland’s Woolen Men aren’t going take it sitting down. Their new album Temporary Monument is about the experience of their city changing into something that they no longer recognize and don’t much like. On the album’s opening song Clean Dreams they’re choked by the dust of high-rise pits being dug, crowded out and feeling alienated in a city they see changing for the bad before their eyes. The feeling of alienation in their hometown continues on songs Alien City, Life in Hell, Hard Revision and the title track.
Musically, Woolen Men continue on the same trajectory of jangly and jagged guitar riffs inspired by the Clean, the Minutemen, dB’s and Wire. All three members write, sing and play guitar which lends a diversity to the album. Mostly the songs veer toward high energy rage, but they can dial it back and sound pretty like on Walking Out and After the Flood which is so introspective and sad it sounds like it could have been REM‘s Automatic for the People.
If this were just a record railing against the mallification of urban cores it might grate at your nerves over a full album, but Woolen Men take you through the full seven step grieving process with a deftness and ingenuity that could if directed in the right way could create an insulated pocket of creative utopia.
Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument is out now on Woodsist.
Tags: Comet Gain, Courtney Barnett, Fortuna Pop, Hefner, Lucksmiths, Mammoth Penguins, Standard Fare
You may remember Emma Kupa from Standard Fare who released two fine albums of polite indiepop and called it a day two years ago. Since then, Kupa has switched from bass to guitar, found some new band mates and started a new band called Mammoth Penguins. Their first album is called Hide and Seek. Of course it has similarities with Standard Fare and if you aren’t the inside baseball type of indiepop fan you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a new Standard Fare record.
For you inside baseball folks, Mammoth Penguins excel more in fuzzy and rawkus guitar licks than their forebearers and they also seem like they’re having more fun. Heck they’re even game for throwing in some 60’s girl group style ooh-ooh’s except it’s they boys doing it. Some of the reviews I’ve read lament the fact that Mammoth Penguins sound a little less polished, but I like things a little unhinged in places. And not to worry, everything is held down by Kuppa’s easy voice and her great lyrics. She has a way of making fractured relationships and social anxiety sound fun and romantic. She also has a keen sense of what it’s like to be in your late 20’s having an early mid-life crisis. The record has elements of Courtney Barnett, the Lucksmiths and Comet Gain easily switching between sweet and sublime to shouting and rocking the while keeping you on the edge of you seat with the lyrics. I’m not sure why they’re called Mammoth Penguins and you’re sure to get an odd look if you recommend them to friend. Hopefully your friends won’t be put off by a few over sized penguins.
Mammoth Penguins’ album Hide and Seek is out now on Fortuna Pop!
Tags: Bee Gees, Boolteans, Carpet People, Jigsaw Records, Ladybug Transister, Liechtenstein, Moon Types, Park Hotell, Pelle Carlberg, Popundret, Rough Bunnies, Shout Out Louds, Wannadies
Take a little bit of Ladybug Transistor and some Pelle Carlberg and the Bee Gees and you get an idea of what Stockholm, Sweden’s Moon Types are up to on their debut single. Moon Types remind me of a time not long ago when every week featured a new band from Sweden. It’s cooled down a little since those days, I suppose all of those bands like Park Hotell, Popundret, Boolteans, Carpet People, Liechtenstein, Wannadies, Rough Bunnies and Shout Out Louds have all hung up the rock and roll spandex to settle into lives out of the indiepop spotlight.
Know the Reason features a wonderful trumpet and a jangly riff that could thaw the iciest of hearts. Nothing’s Holy and Do It All Over Again have a slight country tinge to them, but it’s Swedish country so they kick up a different sort of dust. It’s nice to see there’s a new band from Sweden pick up the indiepop torch again.
You can stream and buy Moon Types’ single from their record label Jigsaw Records.
Tags: Courtney Barnett, Dick Diver, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Faith Healer, Finnmark!, Fireworks, Flesh World, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Frida & Ale, H Hawkline, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Male Gaze, Menace Beach, Nic Hessler, No Joy, Outfit, Rozi Plain, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, TheeSatisfaction, Twerps, Unlikely Friends, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Young Guv, Zebra Hunt
This was supposed to be a mid-year list. Actually it still is, but it’s month late. What does that make it? I’m still calling it a mid year list since I saw mid year lists in May. It’s also not as diverse as I was hoping it would be as you will likely notice that the letter F is over-represented here. Hopefully some of the other letters will get a little more attention in the year end list. Hope you find something you might have missed and it’s in reverse alphabetical order for your convenience!
Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)
It just so happens that doing this list in reverse alphabetical order puts my favorite album of the year so far at the top of the list. How’s that for coincidence? Hopefully you already know and own this record. If not, you need it in your life because who doesn’t need a little kiwi flavored jangle served up by this Seattle trio?
Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)
Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook will through you for a loop if you’re expecting hard core here. This is Cheap Trick style power pop mixed in with blue eyed soul and 80’s top 40 that is undeniably great.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Deranged)
Sleep Through It is full of shimmering anthems in the classic pop mold. Wildhoney’s debut album easily places them at the top of the heap of the shoegaze revival.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
An album of bleak post punk that sounds like it could have been made during the age of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race. It’s like twisted a time warp back to the era of the Comsat Angels and the Sound.
Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Indiepop supergroup debut album that softens the edges of BOAT and adds some teeth to Math & Physics Club. The perfect Seattle elixir.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Melbourne’s Twerps deliver the Flying Nun influenced jangly goods on their second LP. Fans of the Go-Betweens, Feelies and the Bats take note.
TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sup Pop)
The otherworldly second album from the interstellar Seattle hip hop duo is spiritual and strange at once. If psychedelic hip hop were a genre this would be at the top.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Finally an Oh Sees LP that marries John Dwyers more experimental solo outing material with his band’s freak outs.
The Shifters – ST (Comfort 35)
Sure, the Fall put out a new record this year, but for my money Australia’s Shifters do it better in 2015. Full of bile, but they have a playfulness to them that is missing from the band that undoubtedly inspired them.
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Taught, anxiety filled post punk jams from this London band are designed for those who prefer their music played with sharp jabs and shouted choruses.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Sharon Jones backup singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe finally come to the front of the stage to take the spotlight and give us a smooth soul classic.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.
Rozi Plain – Friend (Lost Map)
For her third LP Rozi Plain paints from a bucolic pallet to give us music of rolling hills and wandering brooks.
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Second album from Liverpool quintet evokes the greatness of Talk Talk and the Blue Nile.
No Joy – More Faithful (Mexican Summer)
With the help of Jorge Elbrecht this Montreal dreampop have produced an intricate studio creation that is a marvel to he ears.
Menace Beach – Ratworld (Memphis Industries)
Want to relive those 90’s indie rock glory days, Menace Beach are here to help. Their debut album is super charged with great riffs and choruses.
Male Gaze – Gale Maze (Castle Face)
Male Gaze have an intensity about them that puts them into the same league with A-Frames. Their debut album is steeped in post-apocalyptic paranoia that never goes out of style.
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Album number two from Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome is as high quality as their debut. It continues the uncanny mixture of sweet choruses, mad freak-outs and made freak-outs and sweet choruses.
Nic Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
I feel like Nic Hessler’s debut album would have gotten more attention if he would have stayed with his Catwalk moniker. Marketing aside, Soft Connections is beautiful record of accomplished pop that is as good as anything Aztec Camera ever did.
H Hawkline – In the Pink Condition (Heavenly)
Welsh musician H Hawkline, also known as Huw Gwynfryn Evans fits right in with some of his more famous psychedelic countrymen like Gruff Rhys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon who also produced the album.
Former Rough Bunnie Frida teams up with Ale of Le Man Avec Les Lunettes to create a wonderful little folk record retains the same innocent playfulness of Rough Bunnies.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – ST (Permanent)
Los Angeles garage maestros by way Bloomington, Indiana have put out the best garage rock record of the year. Yeah, I know it’s only August, but I sincerely doubt anything will surpass this white hot record.
Flesh World – The Wild Animals In My Life (Iron Lung)
An intense and textured debut from former this bay area band lead by Jess Scott formerly of Brilliant Colors. Tons of guitars create a dense o wall of sound and makes this record beg to be played at maximum volume.
Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Switch Me On is packed full of adrenaline fueled pop songs. Fuzz pop blasts that outfuzz all other fuzz pop.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Singer Edward Forth has a deep baritone that reminds you of Edwynn Collins on one of the most understated and pleasure inducing indiepop record of the year.
Faith Healer – Cosmic Troubles (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert aka Faith Healer is also a member of Edmonton garage rockers Tee-Tahs who put out one of my favorite albums of last year. Faith Healer is an entirely different thing, but no less good. Cosmic Troubles is full of easy psychedelic jams in the vein of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon. I wonder if she’s got some Welsh in her?
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Eternal Summers’ fourth LP is their best one yet. It’s full of buzz and jangle with just right amounts of polish and tarnish.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovani)
Downtown Boys debut LP rages against the machine of of capitalism, sexism, racism, queerphobia, fascism, and boredom to the unstoppable sound of a twin sax tsunami. Hardcore never sounded this inviting and inclusive.
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (Trouble In Mind)
Dick Diver have many similarities with their fellow Australians Twerps. They jangle, sound a little like the Go-Betweens but Dick Diver aren’t afraid to get a little weird and experiment a little more on their records. Melboure, Florida is their third LP and though not as immediate as 2013’s Calendar Days, it sticks to the bones.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)
Courtney Barnett’s stream of conscious lyrics are endlessly interesting to interpret and decipher and you have ample opportunity because the songs are so good on her debut LP that they beg to be played again and again.
Tags: Chicago, Gurgles, High Llamas, Hookworms, Prefab Sprout, Robert Wyatt, Steely Dan
Back in the 70’s and 80’s when you were shopping for new stereo equipment, the go to disc for stereo salesmen was a Steely Dan or Chicago album to show off the hi-fi racks. I haven’t been into a stereo store in years, but I bet a few sales guys still reach for the Dan when showing off their wears. Well all you stereo salesmen I’ve got just the record to help sell loads more equipment in your shop.
Early last year, you might remember Bradford’s best Gurgles releasing their debut 7-inch single. Since the 7-inch single buying public has shrunk more than video rental market you might have let it pass you buy. No matter, Bradford’s best have returned with their debut album that they’ve christened Gurglefirst? It’s a big sounding and playful record that doesn’t sound too big or too playful. In other words, it’s just right. Their keyboard driven songs have elements of gospel, new age jazz and 80’s pop. You might ask how could a band that combines the syncopated jazz of Steely Dan, the gospel spells of Prefab Sprout and sudden swerves into into psychedelic Hawkwind territory succeed? I don’t know, but Gurgles do.
Both songs from last year’s single make welcome returns and are just as impressive a second time around. New songs like Eccleshill ring in with a tight chorus while the Fender Rhodes keyboard climbs the spires. Weakdays has a great bluesy riff while How Could I Tell adds some Krautrock elements into the mix while singer Augustine sounds like Paddy McAloon has temporarily taken him over. Ably recorded by MJ of Hookworms, Gurglefirst? is a record that begs to be blasted, but don’t worry if you don’t have one of those expensive hi-fi’s it sounds just as good bleeding into your ears from a pair of cheap ear buds.
Gurglefirs? is available on vinyl, CD and download from Gurgles’ bandcamp.
Coming back from the dead is easy. Staying alive after you’ve come back from the dead, now that’s the trick! So far, even after a huge 21st celebration the basementcast is still alive, and it doesn’t even need an ICU. So hook yourself up to a heart monitor and press play and see which of these 24 tracks makes your heart flutter the most.