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)

Spanish Tops

It’s good to see Pamplona, Spain’s Melenas returning with album number two. Their 2017 self-titled debut was a nice surprise that saw the band working in the realm of Flying Nun jangle with some additional guitar drone that brought to mind the Bats, Look Blue Go Purple and the Shop Assistants. It didn’t get much attention due to its Spanish-only release. Same for last year’s single Yo No Me Importa. Though both are out of print and going for semi-big bucks on discogs, so someone is paying attention. The new album Dias Raros which gets a US release courtesy of Trouble In Mind records should help get the group some more deserved attention and wider availability especially if you prefer hard copy music. 

Dias Raros features some new facets to their sound. Lead track Primer Tiempo features great droning keyboards that evoke classic kraut influenced stuff and bands like Electrelane and Stereolab.  Los Alemanes has similar hypnotic affects. The production and playing on this record sounds like it’s improved from their debut. The band feel more comfortable with different tempos and more space in their sound as is evident in songs like El Teimpo Ha Pasado and En Madrid and the guitar solo in 29 Grados. There are some great uptempo rockers here too. 3 Segundos, No Puedo Pensar and Ya No Es Verano are bonafide future jangle classics that even the most jaded indie rocker would find it hard not to nod along to.  If you haven’t noticed from the song titles that everything is sung in Spanish, it is. But even with my rudimentary Spanish skills I find myself singing along to some of the choruses (probably incorrectly). If you’re a fan of the jangly Dunedin sound of 80’s Flying Nun and your Spanish is better than mine, you will too.

BOAT Call It a Comeback

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You probably don’t know this, but I was a member of BOAT for a very brief time. I showed up for one of their album release shows, I think it was for the Dress Like Your Idols album at the Tractor. To my surprise the show was sold out. D Crane spotted me in line and I told him I didn’t have a ticket. Immediately he grabbed M McKenzie, got his wristband and gave it to me and gave his own wristband to my buddy who was also without a ticket.  A little apprehensive about impersonating members of BOAT, D Crane told me not to worry because the opening band had about 12 members and there was no way the door guy would know if we were really in the band or not.It’s a great example of how down to earth this band is and how they don’t take themselves too seriously (Their Instagram is called Sloppypopstagram and they still book shows using their fictitious manager H. Fozzleberry).

It’s been seven years since BOAT put themselves into storage. In the meantime they’ve collaborated with Math & Physics Club as Unlikely Friends for three albums and some shows. When a band with a low-profile like BOAT reforms, it doesn’t really bring with it the massive expectations concocted by fans and the media. This seems to have played in the band’s favor as D Crane and J Long traded demos back and forth. The songs for album came together in secret and with zero expectations from anyone except from the band themselves.

So what do we get with the new BOAT LP in 2020 as the band enter their 40’s (their golden years)? Believe it or not, we get the best BOAT LP yet. It’s not a concept record per se, but you could argue that it’s their mid-life crisis. Most folks have panic attacks and nervous breakdowns, BOAT writes a bunch of hits about it, infusing self-effacing humor, drum loops, bleeps and bloops, killer guitar riffs and chest thumping choruses. Metabolism, In the Water, the title track, So Many Reasons Your Turns Gray, I believe In the Principle, Loneliness Kills and the Ballad of Gaz Coombes all deserve to be considered as some of the best songs the band has written.  The guys are obviously rejuvenated and at the peak of their pop powers and make a good argument that older guys can still bring it.

 

The Big Takeover has D Crane giving a play by play for each track on Tread Lightly worth checking out.

Timeless Melodies

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When we last caught up with Portland, Oregon’s Mo Troper it was 2017 and his very good album Exposure and Response. He’s still writing top quality pop songs on album number three which is called Natural Beauty. Where Exposure employed the services of Richard Manning of Jellyfish fame for the horn and string arrangements, this album sees Troper handling most of them himself with now obvious quality degradation.

Natural Beauty is a solid batch of songs (Almost Full Control, Come and Get Me, and Jaz from Australia are all standouts). The obvious standout song here (and one of his best songs yet) is Your Boy. It’s two minutes of sheer pop brilliance in the vein of the La’s There She Goes. Maybe it’s the similarity the two songs share in their choruses (“There she goes” vs “There goes your boy”), or it could be the jangly guitar intro, or perhaps it’s the fleeting brevity of the song. Whatever the case, it was the reason the repeat button was created. I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t start hearing it used in many upcoming romantic comedy movies. Get it below before it’s discovered and killed by corporate America.

Singing Cowboys

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The original singing cowboy was Gene Autry which has little to do with the Cowboys of this post. These Cowboys don’t come from Texas, instead they call the flatlands of Bloomington, Indiana home. The band seemed to start gaining some attention when Hozac released their 3rdLP in 2017 and those positive notes continued with last year’s the Bottom of a Rotten Flower which had elements of the Kinks, Who and Guided by Voices along with tight post punk riffs to keep it in the corral.

Continuing their prolific ways, Room of Clons was released by the band last month and has been really clicking with me. Wise Guy Algorithm is great midwest post punk featuring snotty similarities with Uranium Club, Devo and Pere Ubu. The Beige Collection has a great gothic feel to it. Days with its kazoo and Queen Bee Real Estate with it’s saloon piano and bounciness both sound like they could have been an outtake from Kinks Face to Face or maybe the Apples in Stereo. It doesn’t stop there either. The Human Puzzle channels some serious Television in it and Martian Childcare shows that the band can do straightforward pop and like some of the best feature a killer chorus shrouding much darker subject matter.

I can’t say that Room of Clons is their best album because I have yet to get them all. I can say that it’s a subtly great record that is very midwestern in style with nods at other eccentric mid west bands of past and present. Not flamboyant, but done with such a confidence that could be mistaken for flamboyance. Like most great records, it keeps you guessing.

So-Called Dangerous

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Anyone out there remember Slum of Legs? They released a couple really good 7-inch singles back in 2014 and 2015, so you could be forgiven for scratching your head in wonder. The Brighton, UK band’s perseverance is our fortune, because they now have a shiny new self-titled debut album. In case you need a reminder, they come from the Velvet Underground, the Fall, and Comet Gain school of jangly drone that breaks any melodic rules you may have concocted for that sort of music. Featuring a violin prominently, the group play by a different set of rules. They can do anthem type rockers, but love to devolve into full-on raging cacophony.

Benetint & Malevolence starts the record, alluding to a Scottish highlands atmospheric feel and that slowly builds and builds until you find yourelf in the middle of a good old midwestern thunderguster. The band also smartly bring back their eponymous theme song that originally appeared on their first cassette, and get playful sounding on I Dream of Valves Exploding. I appreciate the breadth of topics that the group tackles, eschewing the overdone typical love song thing. A good example of this is the song Baader-Meinhof Always Look So Good In Photos. Pop terrorists taking on real life terrorists. It rightly gives the listener the impression that she really needs to be on her toes if she’s committing to this band. Who said pop music wasn’t dangerous?

Le Jardin de Flying Fish Cove

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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

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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.

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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Midyear Notables or Oh Yeah I Almost Forgot About This Blog

Hopefully your RSS reader still works and this popped up. My excuse for lack of content here at the Finest Kiss is that I’ve been too busy listening to records. To catch everyone up on my life, here are 30 or so records that are at the top of my pile so far for 2018. Seems like a lot, but I still feel like I left a lot of good stuff out.

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Anna Burch – Quit the Curse (Polyvinyl)
Burch was in the Sarah Records influenced Failed Flowers with Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me. Here debut solo album has a nod or to towards K Records, specifically Lois Maffeo, with its 90’s style indiepop and understated sardonic pop.

beachhouse
Beach House – 7 (Sub Pop)
Baltimore’s Beach House are a prolific duo and their many records seem to have building up to their seventh appropriately titled album. If you recall late period Cocteau Twins when they were at the height of their ethereal powers, then yuo will no doubt already own this.

blueslawyer
Blues Lawyer – Guess Work (Emotional Response)
With their tendrils firmly wrapped around the Oakland, California indie scene, Blues Lawyer do lo-fi wiry punk ditties that bring to mind contemporaries the Rays and early influencers like Television Personalities and the Tronics.

cavern
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade (Duophonic)
Tim Gane’s post-Stereolab groop puts it all together on their third album. It’s full of experimental Kraut excursions and just enough song structure to keep it from going off the rails.

cutworms
Cut Worms – Hollow Ground (Jagjaguwar)
Tons of Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly in Hollow Ground, which flies in the face of present day music. What’s wrong with this one man band Max Clark and his compulsion of a bygone era? Who cares, when it sounds this good.

datenight
Datenight (US) – Comin Atcha’ 100MPH (Drop Medium)
Anyone remember that Box Elders record from a ways back? If not, you probably are familiar with the Clean. This Nashville band reminds me of both.

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Dumb – Seeing Green (Mint)
Most would file Dumb under Pavement/Parquet Courts, but I dig way these Vancouver 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.

flasher
Flasher – Constant Angel (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!

freakgenes
Freak Genes – Qwak Qwak (Drunken Sailor)
Sparse lo-fi punky songs from a guy from Proto Idiot and another guy from the Red Cords. On LP number the duo add some synths to their garage arsenal of sound. I’m not sure why they’re dressed as ducks on the cover, maybe it’s a result of some gene splicing experiment gone awry where they tried to genetically modify the DNA of Buzzcocks, Syd Barret and Howard the Duck.

girlsnames
Girls Names – Stains on Silence (Tough Love)
On their fourth album, Northern Ireland’s Girls Names plunge themselves down into a dark, dark place. It’s not as immediate as previous efforts, but I think I like this new one more than anything they’ve done so far. It brings to mind the moody “difficult” post punk the Sound’s All Fall Down and Comsat Angels’ Sleep No More.

goatgirl
Goat Girl – Goat Girl (Rough Trade)
London’s Goat Girl sound like a 1980’s 4AD band from the United States. Translated, that means think Throwing Muses and Pixies. Throw in a little PJ Harvey and Gallon Drunk and you’re only missing Steve Albini, who apparently was too busy playing poker to records their debut LP.

greensea
Green Seagull – Scarlet Fever (Mega Dodo)
From the If it ain’t baroque then surely its psychedelic school of 60’s rock revivalism, comes Green Seagull’s debut LP. Both of last year’s excellent singles reappear here to re-mezmerize, but there are many new songs drenched in kaleidoscopic harmonies and 12 string guitars that are just as worthy.

gwenno
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.

holliecook
Hollie Cook – Vessel of Love (Merge)
Swapping out Prince Fatty with Youth to produce her third album of tropical reggae vibes, Hollie Cook doesn’t miss a step. There are fewer string arrangements, but one half of Public Image Limited (Jah Wobble and Keith Levene) and a top batch of songs make barely noticeable.

hookworms
Hookworms – Microshift (Domino)
Hookworms started out as a screaming maelstroem inspired by Thirteenth Floor Elevators, but with each album they have sanded down the roughness of their sound little by little and now Microshift sees them morphing into Depeche Mode. Not quite, but they do employ some fast fashion into this record to thrilling effect while still keeping their slightly unhinged attitude.

insecure
Insecure Men – Insecure Men (Fat Possum)
The new band from Saul Ademczewski formerly of Fat White Family is light, playful and unassuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. With a name like Insecure Men and sounding like it they were influenced by Harry Nilson, the Lightening Seeds, Love & Rockets and Captain Sensible, Ademczewski an his collaborator Ben Romans-Hopcraft stay on the pop rails just barely.

itchy
Itchy Bugger – Done One (Low Company)
This record appears to bit of an anomaly, a dude from bands that sound nothing like the Clean, Television Personalities, and the Art Museums makes an album that makes a record that sounds like it was directly influenced by those bands. What a crazy wonderful world.

espaces
Jonathan Fitoussi / Clemens Hourrière – Espaces Timbrés (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.

laluz
La Luz – Floating Features (Hardly Art)
I suppose it isn’t all that surprising that a surf band from Seattle would move to Los Angeles. Who wants to surf (or play beach parties for that matter) the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest when sunny SoCal is just down the I-5? With some production help from Dan Auerbach and sporting a slightly more muscular tone, these former Seattle ladies seem to have adjusted to their new locale quite nicely.

laylamas
Lay Llamas – Thuban (Rocket)
Lay Llamas essentially is Italy’s Nicola Giunta creating multi-textured psychedelic rock. On Thuban he has a few guest to help him out including Goat and Clinic, but this is his show of rhythmic dalliances into north Africa, Thailand and the Beta Band’s Edinburgh.

lithics
Lithics – Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars)
I recommend Lithics second album and first for Kill Rock Stars knowing that their sparse, mechanical clang is not for everyone, but for those who like cold hard surface on which to reproduce…Hell even if you don’t and want something cold, sharp and hard to jar you from your comfort zone then this is it.

mapc
Math & Physics Club – Lived Here Before (Fika)
Math & Physics Club have been known to cover REM, I remember them doing an excellent version of Shaking Through from Murmur, so it not surprising to hear them dropping REM references throughout Lived Here Before. Don’t worry, if you are a fan of their subtle understated pop, they haven’t gone all End of the World as We Know it. They have this great ability to subtly incorporate influences without them overpowering their own of delicate pop.

melodys
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage (Fat Possum)
The second effort from Melody Prochet was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. Instead of the focused pop of her debut, she teams up with members of Dungen to make a psyche rock amoeba built on improvisation and fear of being fenced in. It has a random kitchen sink feel at times, but it sounds adventurous and exciting.

olkenyolk
Olden Yolk – Olden Yolk (Trouble In Mind)
I always wonder when a member of a band, say Shane Butler of Quilt, starts another band, what does that mean for the other band? Are they kaputt, or just taking a break? Bultler is joined by Caity Shaffer and they come off sounding like a long lost 60’s California folk group that has a thing for the German motorik beat. A near perfect combination of the two and my new chocolate & peanut butter.

orielles
The Orielles – Silver Dollar Moment (Heavenly)
I’ve seen the Orielles described as being, baggy, shoegaze and C-86. They’ve been compared also to the Pastels, Pink Floyd, Belly and Orange Juice. For the record I’m not going to add to that confusing list of comparisons. I will say that this trio’s debut album is strong in the pop department and has something for nearly everyone.

cover
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake (Rough Trade)
The new PC’s album was produced by Danger Mouse, reminds me of the Beastie Boys Check Your Head era funk and Spoon’s sparse percussive pop. Wide Awake might be their best since their debut Light Up Gold.

patois
Patois Counselors – Proper Release (Ever Never)
Charlotte, North Carolina’s first impressed with 2015’s Clean Skits single on Negative Jazz. The seven piece band are a kin to Protomartyr, with a seriously lower profile. Their debut album is full of post punk, art school ditties reminiscent of Pere Ubu, the Fall and Fugazi and every bit as worthy of your hard earned money.

Horology
Red Red Eyes – Horology (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)
This year I’ve felt a strong Broadcast influence in the rock continuum and UK duo Red Red Eyes are another piece of anecdotal evidence for my case. It’s not a Broadcast tribute mind, Horology is moody, mysterious, trippy and not afraid to borrow from Massive Attack and Serge Gainsbourg either.

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The Roves – The Roves (One Man Movement)
This London band’s debut album is a jangly throwback to classic 60’s pop records that were packed with two and tree minutes pop songs and not a dud to be found in the bunch.

saysue
Say Sue Me – Where We Were Together (Damnably)
The undeniably catchy Old Town is a slice of classic indiepop, but it’s sort of a red herring too. Say Sue Me hail from South Korea and it’s obvious they are fans of the UK indiepop style, but they paint from a bigger pallet of surf inspired guitars and effects laden dreampop.

shannon
Shannon Shaw – Shannon 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.

shopping
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.

sonsofkemet
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.

virginiawing
Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow (Fire)
This is the first Viginia Wing I’ve bought since EP on Faux Discx. I love it. Touches of Taken by Trees, Hector Zazou, and Broadcast, the latter which (as you can probably tell) seems to be so prevalent in my listening tastes lately.