22 Albums for 2022

gemma
1. Gemma Rogers – No Place Like Home (Tiny Global Productions)

Easily the most played album in my house this year even though it came out in the middle of the year. West Londoner Gemma Rogers’ debut album is nearly perfect in my book. it’s smart, danceable and oh so catchy. She combines the brilliance, intelligence and humor of Ian Dury and Kirsty MacColl into something familiar and new at once. My Idea of fun is such a smart and sad take on alcoholism and opener Stop is an undeniably catchy commentary on internet. Time of Your Life sounds like a long lost Marr/MacColl collaboration. Song for Cities channels old and new Specials into a new anthem. Those are the highlights, but there ain’t a bad one in the bunch here.

mattiel
2. Mattiel – Georgia Gothic (ATO)

Mattiel Brown’s voice has an obvious similarity to Siouxsie. It’s confident and powerful but the rest of Mattiel really sound nothing like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Georgia Gothic is her third album and best yet. Opener Jeff Goldblum spins a yarn about a guy who she met in the bathroom that looks like a younger Jeff Goldblum. Lighthouse is urgent and anthemic. Subterranean Shut-In Blues smartly repurposes the Dylan song for the pandemic. These songs have some obvious influences, but they use them as jumping off points and the duo’s confident delivery make them sound new and unique, churning the blues, White Stripes and goth pop influences into something that is impactful and unforgettable.

savak
3. Savak – Human Error/Human Delight (Ernest Jenning)

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

viagra
4. Viagra Boys – Cave World (Year0001)
Swedish weirdo punk rockers are nothing if not entertaining. Sort of a combination of Devo and Tom Waits. Cave World, their third album seems to be a commentary on the dumbing down of the western male that is often disturbing, hilarious and spot on all at once. Troglodytes, liars, thieves, gun-toting unstable anti-vaxers are rampant in the world of the Viagra Boys. Near the end of the record, Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson makes an appearance on Big Boy which is a perfect fit. Life in the gutter is fascinating and bleak, but it sounds pretty good as told by Viagra Boys.

bug
5. Bug Club – Green Dream in F# (Bingo)
Bug Club are a busy band. Their single and EP from last year were favorites round here. Then they put out two digital singles early this year that were also favorites round here. Then an album proper Green Dream in F# showed up in October and of course it’s another favorite round here. Their is no downturn in quality and the group have been bitten by the space bug with songs titles like Little Coy Space Boy, Sitting on the Rings of Saturn, Love Letters From Jupiter and Some Things Sound Better in Space. Hopefully planet Earth will get connected to the trio’s seemingly endless stash of Beatles meets Jonathan Richman meets Richard & Linda Thompson inspired greatness.

kemi
6. Kemi – Kemi (Inåt Bakåt)

If this was 1987 Gothenburg, Sweden group Kemi would have been on 4AD and likely would have been on the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation comfortably along side of Cocteau Twins Dead Can Dance, Dif Juz and This Mortal Coil. Their dark, synth heavy sound evokes grey skies and the cold war bleakness of the 80’s. Vocals are in Swedish and range from hopeful and angelic courtesy of Maja Millner (also of Makthaverska) to hopeless and dark when the boys sing. Din Blick and Existens are two easy highlights on this short eight song album that will have you digging back into your 80’s catalog while you anxiously await Kemi next move.

dehd
7. Dehd – Blue Skies (Fat Possum)

This Chicago trio have knack for simple stripped down slacker songs that are super catchy at a rudimentary level. Blue Skies is their third LP and in my opinion their best one so far. It’s got so many infectious choruses that the CDC put out a warning. They’re like a slacker Beach Boys or a drowsy Go-Go’s and Dream On, Bop, Bad Love and Memories are songs that have been soundtracking the early summer days.

ligua
8. Linqua Franqa – Bellringer (Ernest Jenning)

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

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

charlotte
10. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul – Tropical Dancer (DeeWee)

On her first two EP’s Charlotte Adigéry was solo, on her first LP, she’s got a partner to share the spotlight, Bolis Pupul. She’s also loosened up showing a sense of humor that allows her to address sensitive political topics in an friendly manner that isn’t off putting or preachy. That positivity and humor also comes across live, as Adigery and Popul were a ton of fun at their Barboza show in Seattle this spring. Tropical Dancer walks a tightrope of the political, provocative and propulsive.

ribbon
11. Ribbon Stage – Hit With the Most (Perennial Death)

All of the great indiepop records can’t come out on Slumberland. New York City based indiepopers Ribbon Stage slipped in a near perfect Shop Assistants, Small Factory, Aislers Set inspired record that didn’t seem to get as much attention as I would expect a record this good to get. Maybe the kids these days aren’t as enamored with the lo-fi pop perfection as they were back when the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls were tearing up the internet combining DIY punk ethos with sweet pop hooks.

gold
12. Gold Dust – The Late Great Gold Dust (Centripetal Force)

The second album by Gold Dust, which is really mainly Stephen Pierce with some help from friends (including J Mascis on one song) is combination of the Paisley Underground, bucolic British folk, and Laurel Canyon influences.  Even though Gold Dust are based in Easthampton, Massachusetts, they sound like they could be the east coast descendants of LA’s Beachwood Sparks. The laid back, spaced out jams on The Late Great Gold Dust are capable of elevating your existence into some other plane, or if you’re not down with that sort of mumbo jumbo, they can at least de-stress help you to leave your anxiety behind for a moment or two.

eggs
13. EggS – A Glitter Year (Howlin Banana)

After a single, ep and various other releases, the French EggS get it together in a big way and released an LP. Originally I had them pegged with an obvious Flying Nun/Clean fetish. A Glitter Year sees them taking that original inspiration and blasting off to new reaches. The vocals sort of sound like a combination of John Cale and Iggy Pop and the band get a little help from Camille Fréchou and Margaux Bouchaudon, of En Attendant Ana on this record too. Not a total reinvention of their original sound but evidence they are full of ideas and capable of delivering on them. This record has its heart on its sleeve and feels gritty and urgent but it’s never overdone or overwrought.

nilufer
14. Nilufer Yanya – Painless (ATO)

Born and raised in London. The daughter of Turkish father and Irish mother. Her take on rock is a fresh take of dance music, punky pop, dreamy indiepop, soul and current top 40. Stabalise sounds like she stole a Clash riff and transmogrified it into something frantic and urgent, but decades removed from 1976. She deftly combines beats, riffs and pops hoods in what sort of alludes to cut and paste, but pulls it together into fully fleshed out wonderful pop songs.

fleuralbum
15. Fleur – Bouquet Champetre (Soundflat)

The second album from these dutch francophiles continues down the 60’s inspired ye-ye path popularized by such French pop luminaries as Serge Gainsbourg Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Johnny Hallyday. Bouquet Champetre as its cover suggests has more of a groovy psychedelic flair to than the debut’s more garage-girl group bent. The label mentions the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as influences. So, yeah it’s a total throwback, but the songwriting by Arjan Spies and the voice of Floor “Fleur” Elman bring this era back to life to everyone that missed it in its original go round.

thus
16. Thus Love – Memorial (Captured Tracks)

Back in the late 80’s there was a band in Morgantown, West Virginia in the early part of my college days that were sort of goth, but obviously dug U2 and the Chameleons and I always thought that Captured Tracks would be a great fit for them to reissue the songs they released on cassette at the time. My hunch is further confirmed with Thus Love’s album. This band from Brattleboro, Vermont share a small town heritage, a love of a big dark guitar sound and an ability to craft great pop songs with it. Memorial is a great post-punk, goth-tinged record that evokes the afore mentioned groups as well more recent believers like Interpol and RVG.

loose
17. Loose Fit – Social Graces (Fatcat)

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

guv
18. Young Guv – III & IV (Run For Cover)

The Guv, Ben Cook adhere’s to the more is more credo. Depending how you got III and IV, two single albums released month apart or the double album, it was a wealth of 60s jangle and 70s powerpop goodness. Each and every one of the Twenty-four songs is packed with great riffs, sweet vocals and tons of hooks. Fans of the Byrds, Cheap Trick, Mathew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, if you haven’t picked this up yet you will shake your head in wonder as to why this isn’t burning up the AM radio waves in your electric car. (Oh yeah, electric cars don’t have AM radio and AM radio doesn’t play music anymore).

theon
19. Theon Cross – Intra-I (New Soil)

Theon Cross’s second LP came out at the tail end of 2021, with the vinyl finally trickling out in 2022 due to the great vinyl production backlog. Cross is a Tuba player, a member of Sons of Kemet, and has worked with Makaya McCraven. Reasons enough to give this a listen. Add the insane album cover, and someone like me cannot resist temptation. I suppose this could get slotted into the jazz bin or even the electronic bin. It’s got so much going on and all of it mind blowing and infinitely interesting. Throw in some dub, ambient and hip-hop and you’ve got a record that defies category and beguiles at every turn.

doe
20. Doe St – Doe St (Legless)

it could be for Boomgates and Twerps fans of which I count myself. Side one, track one Race to 25 is a total dandy of a song, and honestly they could retire after just this one and go down as one hit wonders in some corner of the dark web of the oscure indie-internet. No need though, they’ve got more in the tank and deliver the rock and roll on all seven songs on their first LP. I often question whether or not I really need a physical artifact of music that I like, but when I turn up Doe St to high volume I am unable to resist an temptation that music this good creates when sharp object scrapes across a flat disc.

seat
21. Seatbelts – A World Inbetween (Rooftop)

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

tallies
22. Tallies – Patina (Hand Drawn Dracula)

You’re probably well aware of the other Toronto based dreampop Canadians Alvvays who seem to rightly get a lot of attention. There is more from up there in the great white north where Alvvays came from and Tallies are much, much more. Their second album is better than their first and that’s saying something. The Toronto band continue to mine the dreampop vein with an ability not just to sound dreamy, but to write songs that stick with you. Singer Sarah Cogan has got a great voice that often evokes the Sunday’s Harriet Wheeler and along with that UK band they also share an appreciation of the Smiths and other jangly guitar bands.

Here are 22 more LP’s because there were so many good records this year.

The Sadies – Colder Streams (Yep Roc)
Field School – When Summer Comes (Bobo Integral)
Boat – No Plans To Stick the Landing (Magic Marker)
Star Party – Meadow Flower (Feel It)
Stroppies – Levity (Tough Love)
Alvvays – Blue Rev (Polyvinyl)
Lady Wray – Piece of Me (Big Crown)
Pale Blue Eyes – Souvenirs (Full Time Hobby)
Lande Hekt – House Without a View (Get Better)
Spacemoth – No Past No Future (Wax Nine)
Soundcarriers – Wilds (Phosphonic)
Destroyer – Labyrinthitis (Merge)
Yard Act – The Overload (Island)
Soft Estate – The Painted Ship (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino)
Charlie Crockett – The Man from Waco (Son of Davy)
The Jazz Butcher – The Highest In the Land (Tapete)
Jim Nothing – In the Marigolds (Meritorio)
Cool Greenhouse – Sod’s Toastie (Melodic)
Dumb – Pray 4 Tomorrow (Mint)
Love Burns – It Should Have Been Tomorrow (Calico Cat)
Robyn Hitchcock – Shufflemania! (Yep Roc)

21 for 21 – Albums of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

a3837716799_10
12. JJ Ulius – Vol I (Mammas Mysteriska Jukebox)
This solo effort from JJ Ulius who is also in Monokultur and Skiftande Enheter is a sparse and arty endeavor. It sounds like it could have been akin to the moody Wolfgang Press or the slowest of Crystal Stilts songs. It’s moody with lots of space between guitar riffs, sparsely populated with synths and dark plunging bass and vocals in Swedish. There are brief flashes of pop that surface here and there, but mostly this record relishes in the dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 19 more to make at an even 40.

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

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

anika
24. Anika – Change (Sacred Bones)

vanish
25. Vanishing Twin – Ookii Gekkou (Fire)

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

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

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

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

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

dummy
31. Dummy – Mandatory Enjoyment (Trouble In Mind)

chai
32. Chai – Wink (Sub Pop)

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

weaver
34. Jane Weaver – Flock (Fire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

cover
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.

cover Melenas - Dias Raros
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.

apartments
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.

toughage
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.

cover
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.

cover
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.

Web
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.

fleur
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.

bdrm
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.

GH 1192-12JktTemplate.indd
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.

mattberry
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.

popfilter
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.)

snogs
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.

ringo
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.

tapeworms
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.

cover
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.

galore
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.

kellylee
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.

cover-12
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.

cover
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.

cover
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.

tara
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.

cover
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.

inspiration
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.

cindy
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).

reds
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.

cover-4
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.

cover
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.

sweepingpromises
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.

snails
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.

elrichman
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.

cover
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.

cover-9
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.

lavendar
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.

marker
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

boat

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

MoTroper

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

cowboys

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

slum

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

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.