Catching Up With 2017 or What’s Happened So Far

Looking at these 28 albums and then looking at my meager postings for this year I’ve come to the realization that if I could just bring myself to post 1.07 times per week I could have dispensed with doing this mid-year round up. The one thing I have going for my lack of weekly motivation is that at least I have a little bit of perspective. At least that’s what I tell myself. And on the bright side of things, if I would have generated 1.07 posts per week then this post probably wouldn’t exist because that would have put me up around 1.11 post per week, which is virtually unattainable. That would be like, hall of fame blogging.

b boys
B Boys – Dada
I could be easily convinced that Brooklyn band B Boys are really Parquet Courts in disguise. I’m gullible, but I’m also a sucker for this kind of Devo meets Wire meets Tubway Army stuff and Dada rocks it like it’s 1979.

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Beach Fossils – Somersalt
I actually wasn’t expecting to like the third Beach Fossils album after the lull of their second one, but they sound reinvigorated on their new label for their third album. The album features a guest appearances from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, rapper Cities Aviv, and gauzy pop influenced by High Llamas, the Bee Gees and Burt Bacharach.

blacksprings
Black Springs – When We Were Great
I keep expecting the Australian well of goodness to dry up any day now, but this year has featured so many quality releases from down under that the well is deeper than most. This Sydney band makes mellow jangly goodness that has much in common with Teenage Fanclub, the Earthmen and Dick Diver. Back in the 90’s something of like this would likely have come out on Summershine records.

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Bonnie Doon – Dooner Nooner
These Canadian female punk rockers don’t seem to adhere to any conventions and that is a good thing. You could describe Dooner Nooner as a punk record, but it’s a scattershot of so many influences that it may not adhere to your notion of punk rock. It’s a record with a day-glow, Rocky Horror Picture vibe steeped in surf-horror-goth greatness.

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Cable Ties – Cable Ties
More Australians infiltrating the mid year run-down of notable records. Cable Ties are three piece Melbourne band who deliver a blistering punk vibes on their debut album and answer the question of what an Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Sleater Kinney team-up would sound like.

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Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies
Fresh off of last year’s collaboration with Paul Simon, Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci unleashes his second album as Clap! Clap!. Only two of the 15 tracks top 3 minutes, so it’s a delightful collage of West African rhythms and Mediterranean sounds both sampled and live for the short attention spanned.

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Dag – Benefits of Solitude
When an Australian band makes an album of songs that are slightly melancholy, a little bit jangly, and tinged with some violin and acoustic guitar it’s hard not to compare them to the Go-Betweens. So I won’t. Ha!

fazerdaze
Fazerdaze – Morningside
Do artists still make songs that are intended to be heard from loud speakers or do they assume their songs will be heard through a cheap pair of earbuds? I don’t know if that thought ever crossed New Zealand’s Amelia Murray, but her bedroom pop from half a world away buzzes your brain in both scenarios. Songs like Misread and Lucky Girl would have been staples on 90’s alternative radio, but also sound great on your home made playlist.

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Feature – Banishing Ritual
If Wire had been three girls instead of four boys I imagine they would have called themselves Feature. Featuring members of Slow Coaches and Sauna Youth this band are lightening hot and exude loads of attitude on the ten songs on their debut. Too bad they’ve apparently already broken up.

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Glaciers – Living Right
Melbourne’s Glaciers excel at making shimmering janlgy pop. Their debut is full understated, autumnal songs that evoke memories of the Railway Children and early Church.

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Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla – Sahara – Session
An unlikely combination of French weirdo’s Cheveu and the Western Saraha’s ultimate wedding band Group Doueh makes for one of the most compelling and interesting albums of the year so far. It’s quite a juxtaposition and provides a full spectrum of gothic progginess to swirling vocal chants to guitar noise freakouts.

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Jay Som – Everybody Works
Jay Som is really Melina Duterte. She is a mastermind of bedroom pop and is a kindered spirit of Amelia Murray’s Fazerdaze. Duterte, likes chunky guitar riffs and floating vocals. It’s an tried and true combination that in the right hands really pays off, like on Everybody Works.

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Hater – You Tried
On their debut album, Sweden’s Hater hit the sweet spot of chiming guitars and emotive vocals. I use to think that the Swedes had a lock on this sort of thing with the likes of the Wannadies, Ida Maria and Fine Arts Showcase, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard something this good from above the 55 parallel.

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Lake – Forever or Never
Lake are masters at creating lush sounding songs that sound like they are from another world, one where the sun always shines, folks say hello when they pass you on the street and everyone owns at least one Free Design album. This is their eighth and most accomplished album yet.

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Manuela – Manuela
Manuela Gernedel and former Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy are a couple and a band. Their first album is a low key affair that has elements of 80’s synth bands and 70’s prog rock. A weird combination, but that’s sort of the point.

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Mega Bog – Happy Together
Formerly based in Seattle, Erin Birgy has taken her Mega Bog to LA for record number two. It’s a cornucopia of goodness. Each time I listen to it I heard something new. Hector Zazou, Kate Bush, Cate Le Bon and Kevin Ayers all get mixed in to the broth.

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Novella – Change of State
I love a band that improves on their debut because so often it is the opposite. Recorded by James Hoare in his studio, Change of State takes its cues from bands like Moonshake, Broadcast and Unrest yet make a wonderful hypnotic sound that is uniquely their own.

Priests
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Washington, DC’s Priests have made a record that has two personalities. Side one is the angry, bluesy punk persona that will get you riled up. Side two veers into the post punk lane with more melodic songs to sooth the post meltdown blues. For those of us listening on electronic devices, the band provide an interlude to separate the two sides of themselves.

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Proper Ornaments – Foxhole
Former Veronica Falls guy James Hoare is a busy guy. Between Proper Ornaments, Ultimate Painting and various and a sundry recording efforts, I doubt we’ll see a Veronica Falls reunion anytime soon. This record has a downbeat vibe, heavily influenced by Velvet Underground and the Chills. This record is like your favorite sweater, well worn, but comfortable.

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Rays – Rays
It seems that about five or so years ago half the bands I liked were from the San Francisco bay area. Now a band from the bay area is a rarity. Rays make up for the population collapse with a ramshackle beauty that brings to mind Comet Gain.

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Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular
It took seven years for this former Pippett follow up her debut album. The time off allowed her to refine the pop hooks of this batch of songs. It’s a meld of dance music but has enough guitars and a nod or two to Klaus Dinger’s motorik beat. A stellar second album and worth the wait.

sacredpaws
Sacred Paws – Strike a Match
Glaswegian duo make hyper, tightly wound, horn-tinged pop with more energy than ten cups of coffee. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that they are related to bands like Shopping, Trash Kit and Golden Grrrls and if you are a fan of any of those bands, Sacred Paws are likely already in your record collection.

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Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
You might think that Sleaford Mods would have hit the bottom of the barrel by now with their rapid fire social commentary over sparse beats, but of course you’d be wrong. Their first LP for Rough Trade may be the dynamic duo’s best yet.

slowdive
Slowdive – Slowdive
As a rule, reunion albums are a bust. There’s always an exception to a rule, and of course Slowdive, smart-asses that they are make that point. Shoegaze of course, never went out of style and 20 years after breaking up they return with a record not quite as good as Souvlaki, but better than Just for a Day.

summer fiction

Summer Fiction – Himalaya
Sometimes I feel like I’m still catching up with last year, or the year before for that matter. This album originally came out in 2015, but thanks to Pretty Olivia’s vinyl reissue this beautiful album came to my attention. Himalaya is full of exquisite, ornate pop influenced by Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Jellyfish. Worthy of more attention in any year.

UVTV
Trementina – 810
On their sophomore album, Chilean shoegazers Trementina move more into a dreampop sound but are no less successful. On side two, A Place Up In the Sky hits the heights of the Swirlies’ Pancake Cleaner, which is no small feat.

UVTV

UVTV – Glass
This Florida band has unleashed a ripping record for their debut. Side one has the fire of the Shop Assistants and the Primitives, while side two goes for more of a Spacemen 3 vibe. Both are equally great.

UVTV
Zebra Hunt – In Phases
I have a weakness for bands who carry a torch for the Go-Betweens, the Clean and the Feelies. Seattle band Zebra Hunt continue their torch carrying on their sophomore album which features better production and the same high quality song writing. Most folks look to Australia these days for their jangly rock fix, but I don’t need travel any further than Ballard to get my fill.

Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Feature

feature Photo by Owen Richards

Wouldn’t ya know it, one of the better records of the year comes out by a band that’s already broken up. Punk trio Feature released their debut LP Banishing Ritual last month, but have already moved on.  Too bad, because, this group has attitude and style combining elements of Brilliant Colors and early Lush and the Ramones into and undeniable punk melange. The lead off track Psalms grabs your attention immediately with its Lush meets Ramones riff and harmonies. The highlight of the record is Schedules Align which starts with a killer riff and features a monotone melody made infamous by OG punks Wire. Like most great records, Feature’s debuts molds its influences into something that sounds at once familiar and new and exciting.

I wonder if anyone could convince Sauna Youth‘s Jen Calleja, Slow Coaches‘ Heather Perkins and Liv Willars to get back together and make another record? Maybe selling a couple hundred thousand of their debut long player would do it. I bought one so the rest of you 199,000 get on it and do your duty.

Vinyl available from Upset the Rhythm and download/stream from bandcamp.

Lake Serene

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Some groups sound so damn polite, like they would take you in if you showed up on their doorstep shivering in the freezing rain and give you some dry clothes, a seat by the fire and a warm drink. Lake are one such group. Some of their songs sound downright churchly. The Free Design always gave me the same impression, dealing in lush, bucolic pop paintings that could only offend if you find politeness offensive.

On their new album Forever or Never they leave the Olympia, K Records stable for the pastures of Hamburg, Germany’s Tapete records. The band are still based around the Puget Sound, now calling Whidbey Island their home. Label change aside, the band continue down their garden path into summer’s cauldron with everything in full bloom. Songs like Christian Comedians with its lush string parts takes some cues from Seeds of Love era Tears for Fears and XTC‘s Skylarking. You can almost see the pollen floating in the air. Other tracks hint at light 70’s funk akin to Hall and Oats, while many are fine with just being their unique brand of childlike wonder juxtaposed with smooth rock vibes.

Lake sound like real pros dealing in stealthy psychedelia. Everything is proper, fully enunciated and always polite. Come in out of the rain and warm up to Forever or Never.

Stream / Buy Lake – Forever or Never.

Rolling Coastal Blacking Out or Something Like That

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One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.

Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.

One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.

One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!

Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:

    • In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
    • Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
    • The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
    • They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
    • They just keep getting better!
    • They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?

UV-TV

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Gainsville, Florida’s UV-TV obviously have great taste. Side one of their debut LP Glass bounds from Shop Assistants to Primitives and Black Tambourine. It doesn’t let up from the gas pedal once forcing its blissed-out sonic assault down your throat. Singer Rose Vastola has a saccharine sweet voice that easily breaks through the shards of noise put down by guitarist Ian Bernacett. Every song is a heart attack.

Side two stretches their pallet beyond the saccharine noise pop of side one. The songs are longer, more brooding and go for a different pop jugular. The Chameleons, Spacemen 3 and the Gun Club all pop into the frame of reference. No matter how you like getting your pop fetish tickled, I highly recommend tuning into this record!

Glass is out on Deranged Records, the same label that released Wildhoney‘s Sleep Through It.

No Cruise Required to Appreciate These Glaciers

glaciersHere’s to the folks who scour the internet for hidden beauties like this album from Melbourne, Australia’s Glaciers! Living Right is a fine piece of jangly goodness that deserves a wider audience. It came out last year on bandcamp, but has recently been released on vinyl by new Spanish label Meritorio Records.

The eleven songs on Living Right evoke the Railway Children and early records by their fellow countrymen the Church. The songs have an easy, mellow vibe that is slightly melancholy but brilliant and breezy. With only one record, these youngsters have plunked themselves right into the long lineage of shimmering jangle pop bands, many of which are long forgotten by most folks. Thankfully there are bands in far off corners of the world who still make this beautifully sublime kind of thing and others who feel it necessary to press it onto vinyl.

Buy a download or record of the Glaciers’ Living Right from Meritorio Records.