2019 Singles of the Year

singles
There hasn’t been much music blogging going on around here lately, but that doesn’t mean that music fandom has gone to bed. I guess this blog is part of a seemingly larger trend of the slow disappearance of the music blog. I guess a person can only sustain rabid fandom for so long. Nonetheless, the 7-inch single is still a thing and so is TFK year end singles list.
melanas
1. Melenas – Ya No Me Importa (Elsa/El Nebula)

This Spanish group who just signed with Trouble In Mind in the US follow up their ace debut LP from a couple years back with this 7-inch. It has a manic jangle that evoke the Dum Dum Girls and Shop Assistants. Spain lately has been carrying the indiepop flame for the rest of the world and these ladies are lead torchbearers.

2. Ducks Unlimited – Get Bleak (Bobo Integral)

Per capita, Canada have better quality indie bands than its wayward neighbor to the south. Toronto’s Ducks Unlimited are a fine example of a band taking 80′ UK jangle of the like of Azetec Camera and the Bluebelles adding their own twist and making it sound fresh and new.

3. Constant Mongrel – Experts In Skin (Upset! the Rhythm)

Australian post-punkers come up with a Chameleons – Comsat Angels inspired dark raging beauty of a song. In the post punk hey-day of the early 80’s the fear was of nuclear holocaust. Fast forward to today where we not only have that worry, but add to it global warming, and general anarchy. Experts in Skin’s dark dour groove will at least get you on the dance floor as the world burns.

4. Den Baron – Bonving (Cloudberry)

Apparently there is a little-known sport called Bonving where you throw shoes across a field into an opponent’s waste bin. It was invented by the Swedish band Eggstone and never really took off, except in certain circles in Germany. That’s where Den Baron come in singing this ode to the sport. Judging by the jangly sprightliness of this song they really love Bonving.

5. Automatic – Calling It (Stones Throw)

You won’t find a single guitar in songs by this LA band, just sharp Tubeway Army synths, slithery grooves and icy cool vocals. Calling it packs an intense wallop while the b-side synthesizes the Delta 5 classic Mind Your own Business.

6. Bananagun – Do Yeah (Anti Fade)

Bananagun’s Do Yeah channels  some sunny Donovan into the garage and comes up with a trippy garage rock  number that evokes daisies and Cameros. Not bad for a first single from a bunch of Melbourne youngsters.

7. Failed Flowers – Faces (Slumberland)

This single sees Fred Thomas and Anna Burch getting the band back together. Side A is Anna and the B-side is Fred. Can’t decide which is better, but I have definitely decided I need to hear more of this!

8. A Certain Smile – Cherry Bomb (Jigsaw)

Portland’s A Certain Smile return with a blistering single that buzzes from the turntable vibrating the room with warm poppy vibes. B-side Original Replacement sounds like an ode to the Replacements in not only name, but also its similarity to Hear Comes a Regular.

9. All We Are & Alex Kapranos – Heart Attack (Speedy Wunderground)

The arch duke Alex Kapranos turns in an impressive impression of Ian Dury on This single. Heart Attack gets you moving with a funky disco groove and provides many reasons to be cheerful despite singing about a life threatening situation.

10. Makthaverskan – Demands (Run for Cover)

It’s been a few years since it seemed like there was a new great Swedish band every other week. Gothenburg’s Mathavershakan jangle and rock sounding like a band that grew up in 80’s Los Angeles and moved to UK in the 90’s and then ended up in Sweden in the 00’s. Classic sounding pop that cuts straight to the chase.

11. Mr Ben & the Bens – Nova Scotia (Bingo)

Great Gorky’s! A UK band with a delightfully disarming ode to the Pop Explosion music festival that took place back in the 90’s in Halifax. Great big guitars blast out and give way to meandering synths to make this quirky hit.

12. The Proctors – Letters To the Girl (Shelflife)

The Procotors have been around since the mid-90’s. Letters to the Girl may be the pinnacle of their existence. It’s a soaring song with jangling guitars an airy melody and a earworm of a chorus.

13. Ex-Void – Only One (Prefect)

Former Joanna Gruesome members form a new band that sort of sounds like their old one,but also nods at 90’s indie trio Small Factory. Only One sounds like they caught lightening in a jar. Hope there’s more where that came from.

14. Current Affairs – Buckle Up (dotx3)

Buzzing Wire like guitars and possibly some Chameleons dark urgency ringing In there along with plucky vocals reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux make for quite a ride back to the 80’s and some riding through territory as the Constant Mongrel single above.

15. Eggy – Billy (Spoilsport)

More slightly askew, garage-y Melbourne goodness courtesy of Eggy. Four songs here, the highlight being Bar Fred which drives itself into your personal comfort bubble and makes it more comfortable.

16. Tiña – I Feel Fine (Speedy Wunderground)

The Speedy Wunderground label has a strong 7-inch singles game. They don’t adhere to a narrow aesthetic except quality pop. Tiña provide a Camper Van Beethoven style riff and mix in some Wonder Stuff to come up with a slice of pop magic.

17. eGGS – A Certain Smile (Howlin Banana)

(Not the DC/Northern Virginia/TeenBeat Eggs) Parisian eGGSindie rockers follow up their 10″ from last year with two more jangly numbers inspired by Flying Nun bands like the Clean and the Bats. A Certain Smile blends in some early Church sounds as well for winning combination, and the b-side Picture Book lays down some drone-y driving vibes to complete a darn good single.

18. Tight Knit – Too Hot (Not Unloved)

Tight Knit’s lo-fi pop will have you guessing 90’s Olympia, Washington. Nope. Melbourne, Australia 2019. Too Hot has an endearing demo sound quality that makes it sound like you’re in the same room as the band. Add in some jangling guitar and catchy melody and you’ve got indiepop gold.

19. Wild Honey – Naive Castle (Slumberland)

Wild Honey’s contribution to the Slumberland singles club sees them pulling inspiration from Heaven or Las Vegas era Cocteau Twins. They’ve shed some of their shoegaze haze and replaced it with chiming pop hooks. It feels like a logical progression to the bands evolving sound and west coast relocation.

20. Le SuperHomard – Domino (Elefant)

Le Superhomard could have take the rest of the year off after releasing their excellent LP Meadow Lane Park, but instead chose to team-up with Tahiti 80’s Xavier Boyer. Both songs feature Boyer on vocals and effortlessly mesh Le Superhomard’s swirling synth pop with Tahiti 80’s lounge pop.

21. Penelope Isles – Chlorine (Bella Union)

Chlorine is a slice of UK guitar pop wormed its way into my favorite songs despite the inane lyrics and no actual chorus. “Chlorine you itch my feet,
You make me clean, Or so it seems, You make me smell a certain way sings Jack Wolter. Ah, the joys of learning how to do your own wash.

22. Vital Idles – Break (Upset! the Rhythm)

Break A as well as the other three songs here are exercises in restrain and patience. I keep expecting each song to explode into a giant freak out, but Glasgow’s Vital Idles are experts in holding back and yet somehow make each song compelling and interesting.

23. Cabin Essence – For Your Love (Good Land)

With a name like Cabin Essence you’ve gotta assume a heavy Beach Boys vibe, right? Landlocked in Milwaukee, they must store up the sunshine in barrels and funnel it into songs like For Your Love which they can play through the cold winter months to keep themselves going.

24. Tyvek – Changing Patters of Protective Coating (Self-released)

Detroit punks still going after all these years. This four song single keeps to the band’s pointy pop punk formula sandwiching two instrumentals with two of Kevin Boyer’s better songs.

25. Sex Sucks – Safe Pain (Croq/Mac)

French band seemingly inspired by Australian group the Triffids offer up this wide screen dramatic pop platter. All three songs conjure up vibrant drama painted with bits of organ, guitar and memorable choruses.

26. Group Photos – Safety (Box Bedroom Rebels)

Hailing from the inland empire down in southern California, this dreampop band effortlessly create atmospheric pop that glides off the turntable. This being a Box Bedroom Rebels release, you get seven songs on the vinyl and additional 3 on the download and still it’s not enough.

27. Rubber Blanket – New Garbage Truck (Space Case)

Wounded Lion’s Brad Eberhart and Lars Finberg of the Intelligence team up to make this slightly silly little ditty. An ode to the cleanest garbage truck in town may not be for everyone, but then if it was you wouldn’t be here.

28. Working Mens Club – Bad Blood (Melodic)

Bad Blood is a bit of Franz Ferdinand inspired pop from this young group withthe potential to get young folks off their phones and onto the dance floor. The b-side is a more in the Joseph K – Orange Juice vein and slightly more interesting because of it.

29. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – In the Capital (Sub Pop)

In the Capital features a chorus that evokes classic stuff written by Grant McClennan. It breezes over you, and at first you don’t quite notice it, but then it faintly tugs at you and soon you want to hear it again and again.

30. Cozy Slippers – A Million Pieces (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)

This cozy Seattle group channel early 10,000 Maniacs on the guitar driven a-side and the Bangles on the b-side. A perfect match.

31. Carla Dal Forno – So Much Better (Kallista)

So Much Better sort of reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock’s Raymond Chandler Evening with its noir-ish and eerie feel. “The Pavement is beneath me and a sense of pending doom” sings Dal Frono and you know it ain’t good. Is it a murder that hasn’t happened yet?

32. Lake Ruth – Extended Leave (Slumberland)

New York City’s Lake Ruth subscribe to the same channels as Stereolab, Broadcast, Vanishing Twin and Le Superhommard of swirling synths, icy vocals and looping rhythms. Extended Leave is a autumnal tune that whooshes by in a huff, and pulls you along towards the light.

33. RVG – Alexandra (Our Golden Friend)

RVG finally follow up their jaw-dropping debut with this single. It’s good, but doesn’t quite reach the highs of A Quality of Mercy. Still, Alexandra is good, mostly due to band leader Rommy Vager dramatic singing and her ability to just about any old thing to life.

34. Euromilliard – Élève Modèle (Polly Maggoo)

Euromilliard are like a French version of Australia’s Eddy Current Supression Ring. They make a groove based post punk racket with a singer that has a delivery somewhere between singing, talking and yelling. Élève modèle is a ragging song and nearly worth the €666.66 it costs to download it.

35. The Cool Greenhouse – Landlords (Drunken Sailor)

The Cool Greenhouse are like an absurdist version of the Fall. With Landlords you know it was inspired by that Manchester band, but they take it to such an extreme that it goes beyond the influence into something that is entirely itself which is minimalist programmed beats and blips with a guy talking about seemingly random stuff. I can’t get enough of it.

Nearly Half Past Half Past

This list of mid year notable albums was supposed to done a month ago, but things move slowly when you’re slow. Here are a bunch of records I like from the fist half of this year in no particular order. Not a definitive list but more of a sign post so I can look back and see where I was in the middle of 2019.

daisies
Daisies – Daisies (Perennial Death)
When you think Olympia, Washington you think the Capitol of Washington state, or K records and DIY indie rock. I would wager that St. Etienne and Shortwave Set don’t immediately come to mind. Thanks to the CCFX-CC DUST-TransFX folks this left field beauty that melds psychedelia and dancy synths into something unexpected.

jeanines
Jeanines- Jeanines (Slumberland)
Some folks would call this a quintessential and classic Slumberland record. Some would scratch their heads and wonder what that even means. Translation, autumnal jangle pop that is as economical as Guided By Voices and hauntingly bittersweet as the Mama’s and the Papas.

holidayghosts
Holiday Ghosts – West Bay Playroom (PNK SLM)
Album number two from these Modern Lovers meets Pastels beatniks sees them still flying under the radar. Not sure how accurate internet radar is for this sort of thing these days, but I love rollicking ramshackle rock and roll like this.

joshua
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality (Eremite)
This is considered jazz or experimental tonal jazz or some other mumbo jumbo. This is hypnotic, trance inducing music that you shouldn’t listen to while operating heavy machinery. There should be a warning sticker on the cover about the dangers of listening to it and ending up somewhere and not knowing how you got there. Better than drugs.

patio
Patio – Essentials (Fire Talk)
Every time a song from Essentials pops up on shuffle play I think it’s a 90’s indie rock like Helium or Scrawl. This Brooklyn trio nods to the 90’s with their angular hooks and minimal pop but adds an airy sophistication to the update that sound for the new millennium.

trade desires
Zebra Hunt – Trade Desire (Tenorio Cotobade)
Seattle’s Zebra Hunt keep going as the world swirls around them, releasing a solid LP ever few years. The fact that their label is in Spain and they’ve toured that country more extensively than their own speaks volumes about the discerning tastes of the record buying public on the Iberian peninsula and how too many hometown folks don’t appreciate what’s in their own back yard.

vanishingtwin
Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology (Fire)
Fire records, Vanishing Twin’s record label has got a lock on Broadcast inspired bands with this, Death & Vanilla and Jane Weaver. This mines similar territory to my favorite Broadcast album The Noise Made By People. Yes, points off for not being original, but they add enough nuance to it to make it easy to ignore where it came from and just appreciate where it is.

mcfarlin
J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – Ta Da (Hobbies Galore)
Unbeknownst to me, the Twerps were a band with an amorous couple at its core and that couple decided to call it quits thus dissolving one of my favorite Australian bands of the past five years. Martin Frawley and Julia McFarlane have both released albums this year, but McFarlane’s is the one that wormed its quirky head into my list of favorites. Minimalist and quirky, this not what you would probably expect from one half of the Twerps, but welcome nonetheless.

bvs
The BV’s – Cartography (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
This English-German duo excell at moody, atmospheric pop that may remind more than a few folks of one or two bands on Sarah records or even the Durutti Column. Some might call it dreampop, but these guys are too darn moody for a tag like that. Cartography has couple immediate songs and some that meander and others that will take a few listens to really appreciate. This one grows on you and peels away its layers on repeated listening. Worth it!

intelligence
The Intelligence – Un-Psychedelic In Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting)
I have no idea what the title to the Intelligence’s latest album alludes to. This former Seattle relocated to the fake surfing environs of So-Cal a few years back to continue their warped Ventures inspired glue sniffing weirdness. Hive minded Lars Finberg appears to be on the wagon, but there is no discernible drop off in quality here. Perhaps this is really what he’s like? I hope so.

sacred
Sacred Paws – Run Around the Sun (Merge)
Golden Grrls offshoot/continuation second album is brighter and richer sounding to my ears than their debut. Rachel Aggs’ (also of Shopping & Trash Kit) guitar playing is a perfect mix of indie jangle and afro-pop rhythm. The vocal interplay between her and Eilidh Rodgers is life-affirming. Add in some horn parts and you’ve got this really exiting record.

rodrigo.jpg
Phillipi & Rodrigo – Paciencia (DeeWee)
If you recall and appreciate the excellent Bungalow Record label that was based out of Berlin in late 90’s and early 2000’s and their penchant for quirky electronic based pop like Czerkisky, Le Hammond Inferno and Ladytron, then DeeWee is a label you should follow. Phillipi & Rodrigo are a Brazillian duo that would have fit in perfectly on Bungalow with their soundtrack inspired dance music.

french
French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself? (Danger Collective)
Funny how 80’s inspired music and movies have not gone out of style. I wonder if it registers with the young ones when movies like Spiderman loosely ape John Hughes’ teen movies like Ferris Bueller and Pretty In Pink in theme and soundtrack? Weird Science was a super hero movie after all, wasn’t it? Instead of Oingo Boing or Romeo Void, movie soundtrack folks might consider Los Angeles’s French Vanilla to fill out the soundtrack for the next teen inspired comedy super hero film. Danny Elfman, if you’re listening…

olden
Olden Yolk – Living Theatre (Trouble In Mind)
Living Theatre is album number two from the former Quilt guy Shane Butler. and continues to mine the rich pastoral inspired folky motorik vein of the their debut. It’s a sweet spot that is often better described as psychedelic folk music. This album is like an herbal soothing of the Free Design and Stereolab blended with the swirling pastoral vibes of a band like the Essex Green. Lovely stuff.

catele
Cate Le Bon – Reward (Mexican Summer)
Cate Le Bon’s DRINKS collaboration with Tim Presley has the minimal with a disregard for pop hooks. She seems to have taken that DRINKS minimal and inserted the missing pop hooks for fifth album. Reward rewards with minimalist pop perfection.

winona
Winona Forever – Feelgood (Kingfisher Bluez)
Feelgood is the second album by these Canadian coastal transfers (Vancouver to Montreal) with a soft spot for ill-considered tatoos and yacht rock. The warbly, jazz-influenced guitars remind me a little of Mac Demarco, Crystal Skulls and Mild High Club, but they have smooth pop intuition that smooths over any quirky edges.

cowgirl
Cowgirl In Sweden – S/T (Courtesan Music)
A Mysterious record that seems like it just wasn’t made for these times. It’s title is a wink and nod to the great Lee Hazlewood. With an eye to the past and the obscure, these misty eyed songs that are steeped in nostalgia right down to the limited pressing of 300 and no digital version to be had.

neutrals
The Neutrals – Kebab Disco (Emotional Response)
2017’s Motorcycle Cop put this San Francisco band on my radar. Their debut keeps them firmly planted in my sights. like Art Brute and This Many Boyfriends, Scotish transplant Allan McNaughton has an infectious fandom for indie rock and music culture and a sense of humor to go along with it.

weyes
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
The United States is so far removed from the hyperinflation, gasoline lines and presidential impeachment of the 1970’s that it is surprising that an album like this could be so popular. I think that previous sentence contained a little too much irony, sorry. Titanic Rising is a fantastical record that is parts Elton John, Carpenters and Joni Mitchel. Natalie Mering has conjured up quite a record with her melodramatic vocals that crescendo on nearly ever song. Dramatic stuff that feels like a child of the 70’s looking for her divorced parents.

rozi
Rozi Plain – What a Boost (Memphis Industries)
Spare and spatiatous songs swirl and intertwin themselves into you consious, like a minimalist Juana Molina. Rozi Plain blends folk with electronic sounds that sounds like Sea and Cake deconstruced bossa nova post rock. What a Boost is her second album and the perfect soundtrack for a gray and overcast day.

piroshka
Piroshka – Brickbat (4AD)
Piroshka seemed to garner a lot of attention for being a band that counted as members folks formerly of Lush, Moose, Modern English and Elastica. Sure Berenyi’s voice is hard not to associate with Lush, and you may recognize a Moose guitar flourish here and there but right from the album’s start you realize this group aren’t looking toward the past.

concerns
The Concerns – County Blue (War Hen)
Eternal Summers drummer Daniel Cundiff strikes out on his own for an album with some helpf from the Young Sinclairs’ Sam Lunsford and John Thompson. It’s steeped in 80’s alternative like REM, the Railway Children and a touch of Prefab Sprout. Cundiff doesn’t have a domineering voice, but he can deliver a hushed hook and with the jangly guitars, flourishes of synthesizers, and a few well placed horns makes County Blue an understaded winner.

edwynn
Edwyn Collins – Badbea (AED)
This is his best record since he had the stroke. Opener It’s All About You has the energy and spite of Georgeous George opener the Campaign for Real Rock. Hell, the entire album has that driving northern soul element that most of Collins best records always had. The guy sounds like he’s rejuvinated and ready to keep making more beauties like this.

forster
Robert Forster – Inferno (Tapete)
Robert Forster albums aren’t quite as rare as the return of the Locusts, and I look forward to them more than a swarm of insects. Inferno follows 2015’s Songs to Play which is only fours years and a short spell. Inferno teams him with producer Victor Von Vugt who also produced his first solo album Danger In the Past 29 years ago. The former Go-Between still has a knack for putting a song together. No Fame is pure Go-Betweens brilliance and Life Has Turned a Page ranks up there with Darlinghurst Nights as one of his better nostalgia tinged semi-autobigraphical ramblers.

kiwi
Kiwi Jr – Football Money (Mint)
More great Canadian pop in the mid-year list. Toronto’s Kiwi Jr fit somewhere between Sloan, Pavement, Beuhlah and Parquet Courts and seem cool with being uncool. By uncool, I mean cool in certain circles that are uncool from the outside looking in. They march to their own beat, sing odes to Burt Bacharach and Brian Jones and are more fun than 90% of the records in my house.

durant
Durand Jones and the Indications – American Love Call (Colemine)
No retro soul album could ever be considered groundbreaking, but then when did the last groundbreaking record come out. American Love Call one thing and it does it very well. The retro soul on album number two is a little more toned down and smoother sounding than the debut. It’s Heavy on the strings and romancing and sounds as smooth as silk.

lesuper
Le Superhommard – Meadow Lane Park (Elefant)
This year has seen no shortage of records influenced by Stereolab and Broadcast which is fine by me. Le Superhommard lean more towards the Stereolab side of the teeter-totter with their ping-pong synths and bouncy melodies. Meadow Lane Park is not just one or two good songs and rest filler, it’s packed full of beauties.

marblearch
Marble Arch – Children of the Slump (Géographie)
The second album from this Parisian band is more of a full band affair but keeps some of its predecessor’s bedroom pop ideas, just fleshes them out with a fuller sound. Children of the Slump with its driving bass, flourishes of synthesizers and gangling guitars is dreamy, atmospheric and aching. Old folks will think Low-Life era New Order, younger ones might think Craft Spells or Wild Nothing.

dumbthings
Dumb Things – S/T (Bobo Integral)
This record was digitally released in 2018, but got a vinyl release early this year so slips in on the technicality that I missed it the first time around. Hailing from Brisbane, the hometown of the Go-Betweens and possibly named after a Paul Kelly song gets my attention. Kindred spirits of the Twerps, Feelies and Zebra Hunt their self-titled debut is a worthy and good company of all of the above.

specials
The Specials – Encore (Island)
The name the Specials carries a lot of weight in certain circles and it’s a questionable call naming this a Specials album (They could have gone with Fun Boy Three), but this is probably as close to a real Specials reunion album we’re ever going to get and I’ll take it. With Terry Hall in the fold it would be hard to go wrong, add in some quality Lynval Golding songs and you’ve got pretty good record.

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Here are a few more notables, that didn’t quite make the first cut, but worth checking into.

rose
Rose Elinor Dougall – A New Illusion (Vermilion)

sleaford
Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive (Extreme Eating)

stroppies
The Stroppies – Whoosh (Tough Love)

uranium
Uranium Club – The Cosmo Cleaners(Static Shock/Fashionable Idiots)

homecurrent
The Home Current – Civilian Leather (Castles In Space)

gunn
Steve Gunn – The Unseen In Between (Matador)

hobbies
Possible Humans – Everybody Split (Hobbies Galore)

patience
Patience – Dizzy Spells (Winona)

tacocat
Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place (Sub Pop)

ffc
Flying Fish Cove – At Moonset (Help Yourself)

PipBlom_Boat.jpg
Pip Blom – Boat (Heavenly)

Le Jardin de Flying Fish Cove

ffc

Another dispatch from Seattle. This time we catch up with indiepop up and comers Flying Fish Cove. Their debut album At Moonset came out on Help Yourself Records a little over a month ago. They are anchored by the songwriting couple Dena Zilber and Jake Jones and write an innocent brand of pop that has touches of Elephant 6 psychedelics, pastoral folkiness akin to Essex Green, and DIY P.U.N.K. reminiscent of Heavenly.

The album’s cover evokes a tropical paradise where cheetah cubs and friendly lizards hang out underneath double rainbows and twin crescent moons. The album conjures a make believe in light of harsh reality which seems to tips its hat to recent covers of like-minded Seattle bands like Mommy Long Legs and Tacocat. It wouldn’t be out of place on K or Magic Marker, packed full of immediate songs that range from ramshackle to swooning synth-tinged odes. Zilber has a sweet voice that gives you the impression she speaks from experience, while the lone Jones vocal on Cammy the Camry has a Jim Ruiz lounge style to it.

Just when I was giving up on the Seattle scene’s ability to generate new bands , Flying Fish Cove appear and deliver this beguiling beauty. Cheers!

Trouble In This Town: Zebra Hunt’s Trade Desires

trade desires

Living in Seattle at present requires one to be economical, especially if you’re trying to hold it down with the influx of tech usurpers. Folks used to move here for aesthetic reasons, but now that just comes with the package. It’s taken for granted, or just a bonus. You can tell by the shift from quirky and slightly run down shop fronts and houses to sleek, new and mundane shop fronts and townhouses and the tall buildings that keep edging out further and further from downtown. For a few years, it seemed like anyone with an artistic bent was packing up and heading out of town. That left Seattle tipping into a somewhat unenviable circumstance of being like every other fucking city.

Thankfully a few have stayed around and stuck it out. If i were an optimist I might even tell you that things are looking up, at least on the band front. Zebra Hunt have been a light in the darkness these last five or so years and their beacon continues to shine on their third album Trade Desires. At eight songs, it is economical. The band packs its punches and doesn’t waste time on any feints or diversions. Zebra Hunt continue their janglepop mastery and add a handful of new classics like Two States, See Through You and Coral Scenery to their cannon. They also make a Fresh & Only’s song sound like they wrote it and stretch out on the nearly seven minute Don’t Say Anything.

Every time a new Zebra Hunt album comes out, I count myself lucky that I live here. The PNW is known for its snow capped volcanoes, soggy grey days, hoppy beer, and if Zebra Hunt has anything to say about it, jangle pop.

The EP is Back!

So far this year, the best, or at least the most interesting stuff seems to be coming out in the extended play format, also known as the EP. Perhaps this is the best length for a release in 2019? A single is so fleeting, and who has time to sit through a 10 song LP?  The three to six song EP just might be the future. The EP takes many forms: the download, a cassette, a CD and even sometimes vinyl.  There’s something on each of those formats in this roundup of  2019’s EP highlights. Endeavoring to be format agnostic blog, I revel in the diversity of formats and make no claims of the superiority of one over another. Just make sure you have a computer :-/
displayhomes
Sydney’s Display Homes have been teasing a new EP for a month or two now. E.T.A. sees its release date keep getting pushed out. It was February, now it’s March 22. The band have made two songs from the four song available on their bandcamp. This cassette release follows up 2017 hit single Climate Change and has some high expectations to live up to, at least for me. Even if it’s 50% as good, it’ll be more than good enough.

seeds
Most bands giving away their music on the internet do it because no one will buy it. Seeds of Doubt are clearly doing it wrong. I would pay for this sort of thing and I bet a few others would too. the Band is moniker in which Chris Hopkins records under. He’s sort of like a modern day Cleaners from Venus in that he seems to just want to get his music out there. No complaints here as this four song EP is great and features Lerryn Whitfield as guest lead vocal on one song Big Boss which may be the high point of this EP of many highs.

Beauty Parlor are from Fort Worth, Texas and sound like they could have been on  February’s Mojo magazine cd which featured the likes of Prefab Sprout, Marine Girls, Orange Juice, Felt, and Microdisney. Fall In Love is a four song EP that is steeped in 80’s indiepop magic minus the horrible reverb heavy drums that were so prevalent.

corduroy
The first thing that Baltimore’s Corduroy bring to mind is the way the singer sings slightly off key in an endearing way similar to some of those classic Pastels records. Comparing them a little to Tullycraft wouldn’t be unheard of. They also aren’t afraid to employ a little REM jangle to this six song EP that comes in download and cassette. A quick skip across the country over to Seattle and the Regrets and their energetic Endless Desire EP. The singer has powerful delivery that sounds a little like D. Crane of Boat and the playing is tight in a kind of fey-powerpop tilt, which in my opinion is a genre that needs to be created if it hasn’t been already. Sensitive powerpop for socially awkward types who like to rock. there’s a ton of us out there and we could really get behind a band like this.


Charlotte-Adigéry

You may remember Charlotte Adigéry‘s EP from a couple years ago. She’s back with another one called Zandoli. Its five songs see the Belgian-Caribbean singer giving us a better idea of her individuality. It’s less synthetic and icy sounding and more organically funky sounding as if she’s melting a glacier right into the Orinoco. I hope and LP is in the future after this pair of promising EP’s

coolgreenhouse2
Over in England, there’s a great label, Market Square Records that released the first single from the Cool Greenhouse. I love the Quietus review where they ask, “How much irony and repetition can we take? Really quite a lot, when it’s as good as this”. Part Yummy Fur, a good dose of Mark E Smith and enough repetition to send you into and endless loop of endless loops.

aberdeen
It’s curious how the internet treats geography sometimes. The Vapour Trails, purveyors of 60’s inspired jangle rock seem to be from Aberdeen. Aberdeen, where? Washington, Kurt Cobain’s hometown? I doubt it and am assuming it’s Scotland, but a cursory look on the old internet and your guess is as good as mine. Regardless of a sense of place, there is a strong sense of the Byrds and the Church and a healthy dose of good songs. Ok, it’s an EP so it’s only three songs, but there’s not a clunker in the bunch.

Notable Albums of 2018

Beating my Chinese New Year deadline by nearly two months, here is my list of favorite records of the past 12 months. Was it this year that the music blog officially died? It seems like more are going dark, and fewer are starting up. I shall endeavor to do better this year. This year also saw the really bad idea of labels not including downloads with copies of vinyl records. If you are one of those labels, please reconsider. I love the download card! My record player does not travel well and I hate buying stuff twice.

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1. Lime Crush – Sub Divide (Fettkakao)
Finally, an LP to follow up this Austrian band’s ace 2015 7”. Sharp, punky numbers full of spite, humor and a little sax. All three songs from that single smartly resurface here and a surprise vocal from Calvin Johnson at the end ties the it all together.

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2. Spirit of the Beehive – Hypnic Jerks (Tiny Engines)
Hypnic Jerks (I love that title) is the third LP from this Philly band. It has elements of Deerhunter, Lilys, Brainiac, Swirlies and many other unsung, underground darlings in my record collection.

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3. Dumb – Seeing Green (Mint)
Most would file Dumb under Pavement/Parquet Courts, but I dig way these Vancouver underground rockers’ punky songs evoke Big Boys, sport an offbeat sense of the absurd and (probably) make an unintentional nod to Stewart Copeland’s alter ego Klark Kent.

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4. Shopping – the Official Body (Fatcat)
For album number three (why does nobody call the third album their junior effort) Shopping rip it up and start again. Not exactly, but they employed Edwyn Collins to produce the record. Their brand of dancy post-punk benefits from an infusion of Orange Juice to make it their most accessible record yet.

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5. Jonathan Fitoussi & Clemens Hourriere – Espaces Timbres (Versatile)
This duo employ vintage modular synthesizers to create ambient landscapes that share topographical similarities with Kraftwork’s Radioactivity and Eno’s ambient stuff. Rarely does ambient music feel so powerful, but this record is juiced with the ability to make one feel they are floating into other realms.

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6. Free Love – Luxury Hits (Full Ashram)
The Glasgow duo formerly known as Happy Meals smartly change their name to Free Love for their debut LP. Luxury Hits is 80’s style synthpop made with updated tech and the song Playing as Punks may be my favorite song of both 1988 and 2018.

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7. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is a Reptile (Impulse)
I didn’t even know that the Impulse label still existed as a label that put out new stuff. This is the group’s third album and its tuba, trombone, sax, clarinet attack spans Mingus, Jamaican ska/reggae, Coltrane and Sun Ra. Remarkable, even for non-jazz aficionados like myself.

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8. Shannon Shaw- In Nashville (Easy Eye Sound)
Is it ok to say that I like this better than any Shannon & the Clams albums? The Shaw – Auerbach collaboration reminds me a little of accomplished pop-psych that came out of the Del Shannon – Andrew Loog Oldham collaboration.

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9. Flasher – Constant Image (Domino)
I love how this DC band blend Hometown influences like Unrest and Holland with Three O’clock style paisley underground into a brilliant record that goes against the current grain. If this came out 25 years ago it woulda been on Teenbeat fer sure!

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10. Gwenno – Le Kov (Heavenly)
For her sophomore album Gwenno has switched from singing in Welsh to singing in Cornish, a minor detail probably for most of us who speak neither. Whatever language she sings in, Gwenno excels at the lingua franca of krautrock-psychedelic-soundtrack strain of rock.

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2018 Singles of the Year

The last few years, I have thought that there wouldn’t be enough singles to do top singles of the year list, but each year I look at the stack of singles that I’ve accumulated and realize that the 7-inch (and 10-inch) single still lives. Thank god there are still a few of us out there!

1. Wesley Bright & the Honeytones – Happiness (Colemine)
Step back and make some room for this floor filler. Soul in this sort of throwback style seems to have a core audience but little critical acclaim. That seems to matter less in this time of algorithmic recommendations. So I hope you have smart music playing device that slipped this hot little number by this Rubber City Beekeeper in between some Ottis Redding and Al Green.

2. False Tracks – Down There (Self-released)
When I saw that this Baltimore Philly band featured former Ropers Greg Pavlovcak and Mike Hammel I was interested. I was really hooked by the power chord blasts that were part glam swagger and part post punk urgency.

3. The Orielles – Bobbi’s Second World (Heavenly)
Two brand new songs not found on the debut LP also from this year. One is a cover of Peggy Gou’s It Makes You Forget and the other an original, Bobbi’s Second World. Both up the infectious energy of their LP and sparkle with Bananarama 80’s fun.

4. Mikah Wilson – Sunshine Grooves (Burger)
Sunshine Grooves is bright, shiny and sunshine drenched pop that many will associate with the Beach Boys, Zombies and Emmitt Rhodes from the late 60’s and early 70’s heyday of that style. So nice to hear it alive and well in the dark days of 2018.

5. Husbands – Karlstad EP (Box Bedroom Rebels)
The Box Bedroom Rebels label has perfected the art of fitting an album onto a seven inch record. Oklahoma City’s Husbands fill it up with tons of Weezer like power pop with a devil may care attitude straddles the tightrope of rock gods and geekdome.

6. Honey Radar – Psychic Cruise (Chunklet)
The elusive Honey Radar love to put out singles of severely limited quantity, often on lathe cut vinyl. Psychic Cruise was no different in its being limited and certainly no different from the band’s high quality output of short, psychedelic bursts of distorted, hazy pop.

7. Girl Ray – The Way We Came Back (Moshi Moshi)
Recorded after last year’s debut, The Way We Get By was written by singer Poppy Hankin when she was sixteen. The band describe it as a plump cow that needed to be milked. It does go down smoothly and leaves a nice mustache.

8. Beachtape – Fix It Up (PNKSLM)
Brighton’s Beachtape continue the long line of beach named bands not sounding like the beach. No Frankie and Annette or Beach Boys here. This is straight up 90’s inspired indie rock pop.

9. Datenight – My Car (Goodbye Boozy)
Meaty jangle from Memphis that sounds influenced by the jangly Flying Nun bands or yore. I was kind of surprised at how these guys flew under the radar given their style and the usual fervid fandom that ensues. Either it’s going out of style or my ear for it is waning. Someone should invent a music blog to bring attention to this sort greatness.

10. Art Sick – Going Down (Yr First Crush Records!)
Quality indiepop in the vein of Tiger Trap and Small Factory from this Oakland trio with a strong pedigree. The band includes former members of Burnt Palms, Lunchbox and Kids on a Crime Spree. Going Down keeps the 90’s indiepop flame alive.

11. Parsnip – Feeling Small (Anti Fade)
Parsnip’s second single ups the quirkiness factor a touch, but the band continue their endearing ways on Feeling Small. It’s a little bit of cartoon bubblegum, some oompa circa the Kinks Face to Face and then topped off with a modern day lo-fi sensibility.

12. EggS – I Fell In Love (Hellzapoppin)
The EggS of Paris, not to be confused with the Eggs of Arlington, Virginia, bust out quite convincingly on their debut single. The aloof vocal reminds me a bit of Steve Kilby of the Church and the droney pop that the band seems to excel at has a certain Clean quality to it.

13. Child’s Pose – Feral (Nervous Energy)
Sauna Youth spin-off band sound like their relationship would suggest. Wired songs, Intelligently and tightly wound so that they pop themselves into your consciousness for immediate satisfaction.

14. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – He’s On Time (Colemine)
Apparently the Harlem Gospel Travelers were literally students of Eli Paperboy Reed in a gospel class the singer was teaching. It must have been a very hands-on class, because Reed brought them into a studio to record this single. Based on He’s On Time, Reed is a very good teacher.

15. The BV’s – Every Story is a Ghost Story (Cloudberry)
The BV’s remind me of a more masculine sounding Field Mice. The band excels at creating moods with the chiming guitars and plaintive vocals. No one can afford a vinyl copy of Emma’s House these days and my guess is that you won’t be able to afford this one in 30 years either.

16. Blushing – The Truth (The Nothing Song Records)
If you are aching for a dreampop fix, look no further than Austin’s Blushing. The Truth may be their best song yet. The way they weave their tremolo guitars into webs of dewy goo evokes those early Lush EP’s.

17. Terry Vs Tori – Larusso (Box Bedroom Rebels)
Spain’s Terry Vs Tori in 2018 remind me of France’s Les Molies in 1994. Which means nothing to no one, unless you remember that gentle, understated pop from 24 years ago. No matter, you should snatch up this single if you dig indiepop of the Sarah variety.

18. The Shifters – Just Sat Down (Digital Regress)
Every time I listen to the Shifters I marvel at how much they remind me of early Fall, but at the same time are foraging off on their own unbeaten track. Sure, if MES were still alive today he would slag them off songs like the killer Melbourne & Monash Youth League as ripping off the Fall. I can’t think of a higher compliment.

19. Cool Flowers – Pig Charade / Angry (Self-released)
Portlands’s Cool Flowers fly so far under the radar they didn’t even bother to put their single on soundcloud or bandcamp. “So what” you say, I use Spotify. Good luck brother. Dub inspired glory on both sides inspired by the Public Image Limited and Scientist. A great reason to buy a record player.

20. Okama Flannel Boy – Carolina St. (Cloudberry)
Mexico city indiepawpers peddle some excellent rockabilly/Smiths/Orange Juice riffs on this single. Fernando Torres apparently is the man behind the flannel and his delicate voice and knack for a hook make this record sparkle atop the pile of all to self-aware also-rans.

21. Tiny Fireflies – Nothing (Self-released)
Nothing sees Tiny Fireflies relocating from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, though they traipsed across the country to record it with Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor) in Brooklyn. Nothing was then mixed by Ian Catt. Makes sense, as this is a fine example of some top shelf dreampop combining sad longing of the Trembling Blue Stars and atmospheric weight conjured by Slowdive.

22. Jackson Politik – Psycho-mania (Market Square)
Andy Jordan has a number of music persona’s and Jackson Politik is the latest. Psycho-mania sounds as its title advertises. The b-side Well-adjusted Australians is my favorite here. It sounds like a companion song to the Jazz Butcher’s Southern Mark Smith in both sound, topic, and even the tiny Max Eider guitar solo. More of this sort of thing please!

23. Amyl & the Sniffers – Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled) (Flightless)
Australian punks Amyl & the Sniffers put out a white hot compilation of their EPs earlier in the year and then followed it up with this worthy companion to the Stooges’s I Wanna Be Your Dog. It was a good year for this band, and can’t wait for what they have in store for us.

24. Lithics – Photograph of You (Thrilling Living)
Lithics deal in such sharp edged rock that it’s downright dangerous. Pack away your balloons and beach balls while listening to Photograph of You because the the icy cold shards of shrapnel coming off of this record is sure to puncture the most staunchly optimistic soul and make them stagger and question their rosy disposition.

25. Peach Kelli Pop – Which Witch (Mint)
Inspired by Red Cross’ Posh Boy EP, this six song seven inch contains short, sharp pop that leaves you wanting more and wishing each song was twice as long.

26. Stiff Love – Attitudes (Feel It)
Olympia, Washington’s Stiff Love, who formed in 2017, fit perfectly into that town’s punk-riot-do-it-yourself aesthetic. Attitudes combines 70’s guitar riffs with punk rock in your face flamboyance. This is white hot glammy goodness.

27. Mush – Gig Economy (Dipped In Gold Recordings)
From the ashes of the Too Pure Singles Club, comes Dipped in Gold Recordings and their first release from Leeds band Mush and it’s a spazzy symphony. A permanent job with benefits could be going the way of the Dodo, and rocking out to the next global economic meltdown never sounded so wonderfully unsettling!

28. The Stroppies – Maddest Moments (Tough Love)
The Stroppies tick all the boxes on the indie cred check list. Members for the Twerps, Dick Diver and the Stevens. Check, check, check. Compared to the Flying Nun bands like the Clean and the Bats. Check and check. Maddest Moments isn’t drop dead immediate, but it worms its way into you’re consciousness with off kilter melody and workman like playing. It’s comfortable like a favorite sweater.

29. Jay Som – Pirouette (Polyvinyl)
Melina Duterte’s (aka Jay Som) single from early in the year was fuzzy sounding, sleepy eyed follow up to her album the previous year. Pirouette is as lively as anything she’s done previously and moves her from bedroom into the kitchen, slicing up a nice chunk of powerish pop.

30. Skiftande Enheter – Mördande Rutin (Market Square)
Further north than Scotland, straight outta Sweden and out-yumming the Yummy Fur are Skiftande Enheter. I have no idea what they’re singing about but count me in on this DIY punk on cross country skis.