Another Year, Another List: Best of Albums 2014

January 4, 2015 at 11:14 am | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music | 3 Comments
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Here are the non-Seattle albums that spun the most in my rabbit hole over the past 12 months. The countdown starts with number 40, so you will have to scroll all the way down to find number one. For the first time I think, it contains some albums that did not see a physical release. With more and more music being exclusively released to air conditioned server farms I wonder if we’ll see a day when the minority of the list is made of records that had the privilege of getting a physical release? Most folks with all of their fancy means of consuming streams of music call that progress. Me, I just try to roll with it.

cold-beat-over-me
40. Cold Beat – Over Me (Crime On the Moon)
Truth be told, I like Cold Beat more than Hanna Lew’s previous band Grass Widow. The post-punk vibes on Over Me are just the right mix of early Dum Dum and Vivian Girls melodies and the spiky, jangly playfulness of Wire and Tubeway Army. High points like the stellar Mirror hit the ungodly sweet spot of driving beat, dissonance, and melody.

Hookworms_the_Hum_cover
39. Hookworms – The Hum (Domino)
My main complaint with the Hum is that it’s nearly a carbon copy of last year’s number one album Pearl Mystic. The same interludes that have roman numerals for titles and it even contains last year’s number one single Radio Tokyo. That complaint is also why I still love this album. It’s nothing new, but it’s totally solid.

SGL
38. Skygreen Leopards – Family Crimes (Woodsist)
It’s hard to believe that Skygreen Leopards have been a band since 2001 and that this is their eighth album. The band have been quietly churning out wonderful psychedelic beauties inspired by Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds and the Television Personalities for quite a long whild. This may be their most accomplished record to date, and if you like this, there is a treasure trove of Skygreen Leopards to discover.

smallreactions
37. Small Reactions – Similar Phantoms (Self-released)
Another self-released record in this year’s count down. I have a feeling in another year of two the list will be a majority of self-releases. Atlanta’s Small Reactions conjure krautrock from the below the Mason Dixon line. Influenced by Can, Stereolab and probably the Wedding Present, which makes them strangers in a strange land. Similar Phantoms is the real deal with some amazing bass playing (I’m still in awe that it’s not machine). Tons of pulses and killer grooves that will vibrate and rattle your too comfortable existence.

pheromoans
36. Pheromoans – Hearts of Gold (Upset the Rhythm)
If you were to judge this album by its cover you might think that Pheromoans are an odd lot who are into druids, fantasy game-play and general weirdness. You would be mostly right.  This equally prolific and obscure band have released their most consistently entertaining album yet, knowing how to keep things interesting with just the right amount of weirdness and melody.

ramonalisa
35. Ramona Lisa – Arcadia (Terrible)
Ramona Lisa is solo nom de guerre of Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. Obviously influenced by Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins and Goldfrappe, but still able to make esoteric synthetic sounds in a mold all of her own. This record seemed to get written off as just a minor solo excursion by most, but it delighted me throughout the year and I have a feeling it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

verticalscratchers
34. Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge)
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen this record in the used bins around time. Every time I see it I fight the urge to buy it again and gift it to someone. John Schmersal was in Brainac and Enon and you can hear those bands in Vertical Scratchers, but it’s the organic feel to it that harks back to the Elephant Six collective of the 90’s that really makes it endearing.

ratcolumns
33. Rat Columns – Leaf (RIP Society)
Rat columns achieve a zen like balance of murky depths and pristine shimmery pop. Guitars glisten with rays of light over a cold dark expanse. Rat king David West likes to straddle the extremes the way that the Church and the Cure always did. Recorded with the help of Kelley Stoltz, Leaf is just the right elixir of light and dark.

alpacasports
32. Alpaca Sports – Sealed With a Kiss (Luxury)
Sweden’s Alpaca Sports is most definitely twee, but their brand of twee is almost subversive. So cute and cuddly that you know that they have a dark side. They probably hide their death metal records when friends come over. Sealed With a Kiss is a record that could melt a cold dark heart with its sweet sugar charms. You can always hide it when your metal friends come over to visit.

Lauras
31. The Lauras – The Lauras (Self-released)
There’s something both so right and so wrong about giving away an album this good for free. Wrong, because there was a time when bands this good could sell records. Right, because well, music this good for free is like free beer. You can’t believe your luck. Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Laura’s would not have been out of place on the One Last Kiss compilation that came out on SpinArt in 1992. Their swirling guitars and ethereal vocals remind me of the Lilys and the Swirlies with a bit of bossa nova thrown in for good measure.

TySegal
30. Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)
My main complaint about der wunderkind Ty Segall has been his inability to be consistent. He seems to have conquered this weakness on his double LP Manipulator. Taking a T-Rex blueprint and running with it he strings together 17 songs that maintain consistency throughout. The kid may have finally done it.

pow
29. Pow! – High Tech Boom (Castle Face)
Hi Tech Boom is a commentary on the current state of affairs in certain desirable cities. Techie nerds with their high salaries and bad taste are infiltrating the system and making it nearly impossible to eke out a living. No one knows that better than Pow! who come from the San Francisco bay area. Their post-apocalyptic vibes are akin of Devo the A-Frames and the Intelligence. And you thought Logan’s Run was just a movie.

flowers
28. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
Recorded with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler this London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.

talbotadams
27. Talbot Adams – Talbot Adams (Spacecase)
For all intents and purposes, this was Talbot Adams’ debut album. Last year’s download only album was made up mostly of acoustic self-produced home recordings was a self released download only record. Now he has a proper band and has delivered an electric powerpop record with a psychedelic streak to it.

univers
26. Univers – L’estat Natural (Famelic)
Barcelona based moody rockers Univers live in the sun, but  sound like the moody cellar dwelling southern cousins of Girls Names, early Cure and Big Country. L’estate Natural is sung in their native Catalan, adding a bit of mystery to its onslaught of soaring and darting guitars.

exhex
25. Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)
Mary Timony has been in her share of good bands. She could proudly retire with her resume of Autoclave, Helium, the Spells, and Wild Flag. Thankfully she’s not ready to hang up her axe. Ex Hex is in different league from all of those bands. Slick pop inspired by Cheap Trick and the Pretenders that is all killer and absolutely no filler.

sugarstems
24. Sugarstems – Only Come Out at Night (Dirtnap)
Sugar Stems singer Betsy Heibler has an amazingly strong voice. It easily cuts through her band’s twin guitar powerpop attack. Containing a great mix of Cheap Trick, the Bangles, the Nerves, this is easily one of the best powerpop records of the past few years.

vicgpdard
23. Vic Goddard – 1979 Now! (AED)
Somehow Vic Goddard has been hoarding this treasure trove of northern soul since 1979. The guy can really keep a secret. A few have leaked out here and there like Holiday Hymn, but the majority are brand new to nearly everyone. Classic stuff 35 years later from the postman who thankfully rings twice!

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22. Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)
The third album from Nashville’s Paperhead has a definite antique glow to it. Africa sees the band maturing quickly and features their best songs yet. In the garage-psych realm of things (Face to Face era Kinks and Rubber Soul Beatles) it don’t get much better than this.

butterthechildren
21. Butter the Children – True Crime (Self-released)
Former members of Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs follow up their 2012  self-titled EP with a stormy noisepop beauty that features the siren-like vocals of Inna Mkrtycheva. This album is too good to be a free download, but that’s what it is. Everyone count your chickens!

seapinks
20. Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks (CF)
On the fourth Sea Pinks album former Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan continues his west coast jangling affectations only this time he adds a cello into the mix with superb results. The cello adds a melancholy element to his airy songs making for the best Sea Pinks album yet.

The_Proper_Ornaments_-_Wooden_Head UltimatePainting_CoverArt-608x608
19. Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head (Slumberland) / Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting (Trouble In Mind)
Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare was a busy guy this year and there wasn’t even a new Veronica Falls album. He was at the center of two excellent records this year nonetheless, both of which shared an affinity with the Velvet Underground. For the first act, he teamed up with the Argentinian Max Claps in Proper Ornaments for a haunting set of songs that added in some Left Banke for good measure. Act two was Ultimate Painting, his collaboration with the Mazes’ Jack Cooper. This one was more straightforward Velvets stuff, but great songwriting refurbished a tried and true model.

quilt
18. Quilt – Held In Splendor (Mexican Summer)
The Boston band’s second album surpasses their good debut with a batch of psychedelic circle dances that sparkle and shimmer, effortlessly creating their own brand of psych with one foot in the past and other in the next star system.

omipalone
17. Omi Palone – Ome Palone (Faux Discx)
The singer of Omi Palone has a baritone voice that makes you wonder what Calvin Johnson is up to these days. It’s a little more polished than that Olympia band’s oeuvre, but contains many of the same unique melodic twists and turns. This London band have quietly released a concise and economical (it’s only 8 songs) of blistering jangle reminiscent of Beat Happening, Butterglory and the Clean.

nun
16. Nun – Nun (Aarght!/Avanti)
Melbourne’s Nun play dark, piercing, icy coldwave inspired music. Their debut album sounds so cold and detached that you’ll need to bundle up and experience it with friends to withstand its isolation inducing aura.

soundcarriers
15. Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)
I love how Nottingham’s Soundcarriers use their Free Design influence as inspiration. At times sounding as innocent as that late 60’s / early 70’s cult band  and others they can sound sinister and mysterious. They even enlist the help of Elijah Wood on a 12 minute trippy soliloquy to add to the surrealism of the entire endeavor.

chookrace
14. Chook Race – About Time (Self-released)
About Time was only released in December, but the debut record from this Melbourne trio is so immediate it easily climbed into the upper reaches of my top 40. The album is filled with boy-girl harmonies and jangling guitars that have similarities with the Bats and early REM.

sleaford
13. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
This was the year that Sleaford Mods blew up. Well, at least in certain internet circles. They are certainly better known than they’ve ever been. Their distinctly British style of rap is not for the faint of heart, as this duo rages against the ruling class machine and mainstream bullshit over spare and ragged beats. No one else this year sounded this angry nor delivered their angst in such a manic and entertaining way.

asunnydayinglasgow
12. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Lefse)
A Sunny Day in Glasgow turned a major page on Sea When Absent. Previously they were a mild mannered shoegaze band that kind of floated through you with little effect. They’ve kept their shoegaze roots, but morphed into a bigger life affirming pop band that demands attention with their new form of shoegaze gospel.

PeterEscott
11. Peter Escott – The Long O (Bedroom Suck)
Peter Escott is also the singer of the Native Cats from Tasmania. On the Long Glow Escott wrote, played and rececorded everything. He sticks to piano and other keyboard oriented sounds that evoke an understated psychedelic tone that warms the sole and fits comfortably next to Frank Tovey, the Cleaners from Venus and Robyn Hitchcock.

woodentops
10. Woodentops – Granular Tales (Cherry Red)
After reuniting to play some shows the Woodentops finally decided to record a follow up to their 1988 album Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway. You know it’s the Woodentops as soon as you hit play, though the band don’t come off as hyper as they did 25 years ago which wouldn’t make sense since it’s been so long. It’s decidedly darker but still danceable and utterly delightful.

Gwenno
8. Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf (Peski)
Former Pippette Gwenno’s first solo album is a strictly Welsh affair. Inspired by Welsh sci-fi writer Owain Owain and sung in Welsh, Y Dydd Olaf is a sublime affair with rubbery beats, ethereal vocals and spacey vibes in the vein of Broadcast and Stereolab.
totalcontrol

7. Total Control – Typical System (Iron Lung)
On the follow-up to 2011’s Henge Beat Total Control dial up a slightly more sedate and accomplished collage of synth-based pop. Lead by Australian garage rock luminary Mickey Young, the band delve into Ideal Copy era Wire, New Order and Depeche Mode territory while keeping their punk rock urgency and attitude intact which is truly a feat.

alvvays-self-titled
9. Alvvays – Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
This year’s countdown contains five self-released albums. There’s a ton of great records out there, only there aren’t enough labels to release them. Apparently this record came out as a self-released cassette over a year ago because they couldn’t find a label to release it. Polyvinyl finally came through to make this dreampop beauty available to the world at large.

tayi bebba cover
6. Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)
Tayi Bebba is something of a concept album where Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci takes you on a megatransecto of an island’s micro climates, villages, pastures and other not so physical planes. He uses a palette of sounds culled from field recordings, tribal rhythms, creek crossings, big beats, jungle vibes and trade winds to paint quite an adventure of a record.

GOtoobeeds
5. Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting (12xU)
Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds like a good double entendre peppered with a tight jagged riff. Their debut album, is an elixir inspired by Pavement, the Fall and Wire (obviously) and packed full of adolescent energy, anger, spite and most importantly fun.

Primitives
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (elefant)
A couple years ago Coventry’s Primitives reunited and released a covers album to mixed reviews. It turns out that it was just a warm up to the real goods. Spin-O-Rama surpasses all of their early work. It’s slightly more understated, but more long-lasting. They still deal in autumnal and sprightly 60’s inspired pop but the production is more sedated and the hooks are longer lasting this time.

HollieCook_cover
3. Hollie Cook – Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Hollie Cook’s second album is more tropical pop from the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. Her collaboration with Prince Fatty continues to produce sensual reggae infused pop, filled with strings and Cook’s easy croon. Twice is great batch of songs including her ode to her former bandmate Slits singer Ari Up.

Tee-Tahs
2. Tee-Tahs – Buzzkill (self-released)
I don’t know what the legal limit of fun is in Edmunton, Alberta is, but Tee-Tahs have undoubtedly exceeded it on their debut album. This band doles out kinetic, irreverent fun. They’ve got an ear for a good chorus and can role phrases that are guaranteed to rile certain segments of the population. On Fun Forever they sing, “Kicking cans and breaking stuff, Fucking guys in parking lots, I don’t really give a fuck, I just wanna have fun forever.” It’s the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks updated by a bunch of Rat Babes for the millennial bunch.

Protomartyr
1. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)
Earlier this year Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey wrote a review of the latest Interpol album because apparently a lot of people think his band sound like them. For the record, Casey doesn’t think they sound like Interpol and neither do I. They definitely have some post-punk roots, though more along the lines of the Chameleons (think Return of the Roughnecks), but there’s more, so much more here! Casey is one of today’s best lyricists who talks more than sings over his always solid and inventive band. They cook their Detroit roots into each of the tracks on Under Color of Official Right. The name of the album, the legal term for extortion, was inspired by the corruption trial of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. There are few albums these days that make you actually think. Protomartyr do what the best punk and and postpunk records from the past have done, grab you with their hooks and then send you to the library to do some research.

Best of 2013: Seattle Records

January 14, 2014 at 8:04 am | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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The older I get the more I think that there should be a new music moratorium every January so that you can catch up on all of the stuff that you missed from the previous year. Yeah, I know that ain’t gonna happen. So here we are. It’s not quite mid-January, and here I am hoisting upon you dear readers one more 2013 list. I promise that this is the last one. It’s kind of a special one because it is my favorite records from my adopted hometown. If I didn’t live in Seattle some of these records would have been in my best albums of the year. Also, if I didn’t live here I probably would have missed some of these since you actually have to live in a local scene to hear the local scene. Here is the best stuff that I discovered through osmosis, going to shows, and reading local blogs and papers. Picking a favorite record from my fair city is like picking a favorite child. I love them all the same, at least that’s what I tell them.
universepeople

Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)

Universe People incorporate the sweetness of Dolly Mixture, the arty obtuseness of Wire, the irreverence of the Fall and humor of the Intelligence onto their debut album. This, in my book, is the perfect elixir.

stream: Universe People – Druids

SeanNelson
Sean Nelson – Make Good Choices (Really Records)

In a year where major web sites seemed to publish Morrissey’s every move, former Harvey Danger Sean Nelson released his debut solo album that was as literate, sharp and self-deprecating as anything the Mozzer has done in the last 20 years. Throw in some cocktail jazz and some Zombies psychedelia and you have a pretty darn good album.

stream: Sean Nelson – Creative Differences

dreamsalon
Dreamsalon – Thirteen Nights (Captcha)

Formerly known as Evening Meetings, the rechristened Dreamsalon tighten things up a little on Thirteen nights and aren’t afraid to let the hooks fly. Post-punk dourness that is part moody Echo and the Bunnymen and part piss and vinegar of the Fall through the lens of Seattle punk cognoscenti.

stream: Dreamsalon – In the Air

Trevor
Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs (Swoon)

One of only two EP’s in this list of records, but well worth checking out. Trevor Dickson is in the Nightgowns, but here he takes a dash of Sinatra, some Joao Gilberto and some northwest ingenuity to come up with Summer Legs, one of the best songs I heard this year.

stream: Trevor Dickson – Summer Legs

laluz
La Luz – It’s Alive (Hardly Art)

Four girls from a city with barely a hint of sunshine and marginal wave action d make a timeless glassy sounding surf record. They sound like they’ve been doing this for ages. The guitars shoot the curl and the harmonies flash off the water like rays of sun in your ears.

stream: La Luz – Big Big Blood

Wimps
Wimps – Repeat (End of Time)

The debut album from Wimps gives me the impression that they’re punk classicists. Repeat is the classic punk formula of guitar, bass and drum and a healthy sense of humor courtesy of Rachel Ratner’s knack for being able to make life’s disappointments still sound disappointing, but with in an irreverent humorous slant.

stream: Wimps – Slept in Late

boat
Boat – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)

Sometimes when a band consistently releases great albums filled with hooky pop people start taking them for granted. Pretend To Be Brave is their fifth album of slightly fractured, eternally hopeful indiepop. BOAT continue to capture my imagination, I wish more people would allow themselves to be swept up into their brightly colored superhero world.

stream: BOAT – Interstellar Helen Keller

Purrs
Purrs – The Boy With Astronaut Eyes (Fin)

The Purrs deliver again with another hallucinogenic masterpiece. Guitars swoop and dive  in and out while singer and bassist Jima takes you on a ride in a derailed monorail to some seedy interstellar locale. The perfect soundtrack to navigating globular clusters.

stream: Purrs – Over and Out

MAPC
Math and Physics Club – Our Hearts Beat Out Loud (Matinée)

Math and Physics Club have certainly been called twee, but on their third album they veer more towards soft rock and that is no bad thing. Kids these days have a penchant for Paul Simon and Cat Stevens records, and MAPC with their sweet and tender songs evoke those fellows while still keeping their indiepop/twee roots intact.

stream: Math & Physics Club – We Won’t Keep Secrets

ChastityBelt
Chastity Belt – No Regerts (Help Yourself)

Chastity Belt shocked the internet with their band photo that featured singer Julia Shapiro wearing a steak locked over her crotch. Based on last year’s Ponytail single, we already knew that they could be insolent and funny, but could they deliver a full album that sustained that brashness? Chastity Belt seem to not give a shit about anything except making good record,s and they’ve succeeded at that. Fuck everything else.

stream: Chastity Belt – James Dean

jetmanjetteam

Jetman Jet Team – We Will Live The Space Age (Saint Marie)

Erik Blood better watch out, because Jetman Jet Team are coming up fast in his rear view mirror to try and usurp his shoegaze king of Seattle crown.  Heavy MBVisms abound, but they also incorporate some of the whiteout techniques of Flying Saucer Attack and even some of that smoke and mirrors hypnotism employed often in 1970’s Germany. This is mind-expanding,tremelo bending, psychotropic miasma.

stream: Jetman Jet Team – Deep Space

neighbors
Neighbors – I Love Neighbors (Self-released)

Poor Neighbors. This was scheduled to come out as a 10″ EP on Manic Pop Records, but the release date unfortunately coincided with the implosion of their record label. Left to their own devices, the band released this as bandcamp virtual record. That’s unfortunate because my record player would have gotten a real thrill playing this record which takes Pavement, REM, Camper Van Beethoven and the Wedding Present throws it into a blender and comes up with best smoothie I ever had.

stream: Neighbors – What You See In Me

We-Are-Loud-Whispers

We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)

Sonya Wescott who you may remember as half of Arthur and Yu made a trans-Pacific album with Ayumu Haitani who resides in Japan. While the obvious parallel is the Postal Service and the electronic blips reinforce that parallel, We Are Loud Whispers are more ear tickling and anthemic.  I get the feeling that they’ve got a few Field Mice and St. Etienne records on top of owning everything that Morr records has ever released. Subtle and sublime.

stream: We Are Loud Whispers – Western Town

2013 Singles of the Year Countdown: 50-26

January 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Best of, Best Singles List, Lists, Music | 3 Comments
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Will the 7-inch single ever go away? Probably not anytime soon, but it seems to be getting pressed up in smaller and smaller batches. This year I saw many single being released in editions of as little as 100 copies. Are there really only about 100 of us left out there that buy these things? As painful as it is to think about it, I know the answer is probably yes. A combination of high postage costs and pressing these things in such tiny quantities makes the price of the average 45 about $10. That’s pretty crazy when you can buy the mp3 version for about $2. There were more than a couple records that I didn’t buy this year because the cost of the record plus postage put the price at or above $2o. Sadly, vinyl has quickly become something for people with a large amount of disposable income. I’m hoping I can make a profit on these things when it’s time for my kids to go to college.

joannagruesome
50. Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush (Fortuna Pop!)

Sugarcrush was thee standout track from the Gruesome’s debut record. So how do you get people to buy the single of a song they may already have? You put a cover of Galaxy 500’s Tugboat captain on the B-side of course. It’s the gentle comedown from the candy head explosion of the A-side.

cosines
49. Cosines – Hey Sailor Boy! (Fika)

I love a good split personality between the A and B sides of a single and the Cosines are like the Batman villain Two-Face. One side is sweet and swooning like the Essex Green and the other chugs and drones sorta like Stereolab. A fine debut from this London band.

EatingOut
48. Eating Out – Burn (Suicide Squeeze)

I wonder if Nü Sensae drummer Daniel Pitout is a fan of the Family Cat, because Come Around could be a direct descendant of River of Diamonds. He probably doesn’t have PJ Harvey penciled in, but perhaps he has one of the Courtneys lined up for backing vocals on his next single.

diat
47. Diät – Everyday (Iron Lung)

Dark post apocalyptic wallop from this Berlin group who made an appearance on last year’s countdown. This is only their second single. They like to take their time and for good reason. It takes time to feed angst to this degree.

HauntedHearts
46. Haunted Hearts – House of Lords (Zoo)

Weird how I think that I may like this single better than anything that Dee Dee has done in Dum Dum Girls or her hubby Brandon has in Crocodiles. Maybe they should ditch their respective bands and tie the knot musically as well.

Cassolette
45. Cassolette – Return to Sender (Manic Pop!)

Florida’s Cassolette sound like they’re from Boston circa 1991. Combining the Blake Babies and Belly to great effect. Return to Sender will send you to the right address and B-side Ricki Lake gets points for combining mainstream with indiepop culture.

Kids
44. Kids on a Crime Spree – Creep the Creeps (Slumberland)

I’m a sucker for songs with hand claps and whistling. This song probably would have charted higher if it had some whistling in it. As it is, Creep the Creeps is a solid 44 with killer hand claps and gigantic riff that should get you clapping along.

Verma
43. Verma – Ragnaraak (Hozac)

I think Verma holds the honor of longest single in this year’s countdown. Stuffing six and a half minutes onto one side of a 45 is a feat in itself, add to it a mean psychedelic maelstrom of a song and you’ve got something that rivals the Hookworms in damaged heavy psych intensity. Watch out for these guys.

caligiraffes
42. Cali Giraffes – All My Life (Fin)

The Cali Giraffes have had an album in the can for ages but the stars have not aligned when it comes to actually getting it released. If this single is any indicator (it is) it will be a doozy. We already knew that Kim Warnick was highly gifted in the skills of the pop song and All My Life is simply confirmation. The B-side is just as good with her buddy Mikey Davis on vocals. Somebody release this album!

menacebeach
41. Menace Beach – Drop Outs (Too Pure)

You know, you subscribe to a 7-inch singles club and you get a bunch of recyclable plastic. You forgo subscribing and the singles club and it starts putting out the good stuff. Luckily Too Pure allows you to buy individual records from their singles club because this Menace Beach record with it’s lazy slacker riff and chorus will have you reaching for your wallet.

TeardropFactory
40. Teardrop Factory – Topshop (Faux Discx)

Faux Discx has been putting out heavy blissed-out jams for some time now. In fact I’ll pretty much buy whatever they put their name on. Brighton’s Teardrop Factory have got a thing for downer drenched songs and so do I.

Corey3-outlines
39. Corey – Is It Really Real? (Permanent)

Corey is Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts in case you didn’t know. This record takes Love & Rockets Motorbike and goes off on some fuzzy dovetail tangent from which you will not want to return. Hope your state doesn’t have a helmet law.

DavidKilgour
38. David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – Christopher Columbus (Merge)

David Kilgour keeps putting out stellar records. This year the only thing I think he released was this, a glassy ode to the guy who ‘discovered’ America. This strangely sounds like Under the Milkyway by the Church, but with less heroin, which is a good thing.

ketamines
37. Ketamines – All the Colours of Your Heart (Pleasence)

The Ketamines were on a roll this year, striking a pop vein and mining it to its fullest. This was number one of four singles that you were supposed to collect all of to create a collage from the covers. I only got two of the four, but even though my collage is incomplete All the Colours of Your Heart eases my pain of not having a complete set.

toxie
36. Toxie – Newgate (Goner)

Ah yes, some things go together like Memphis and C-86. Maybe it’s not C-86, but it’s definitely peanut butter and chocolate. Some might call it accidental genius, but the EP that they’ve subsequently released is evidence that that this is no accident.

lovers-without-borders
35. Lovers Without Borders – Detective (K)

One of two records on the countdown that contains saxophone. What’s happening here? Karl Blau teams up with Jessica Bonin and Alex Parrish for lo-fi indiepop bliss, that’s what’s happening. Throw in a cover of Lois’s The Second Most Beautiful Girl in the World and you’ve got a hit record (in my mind).

LaLuz
34. La Luz – Brainwash (Suicide Squeeze)

Earlier this year I heard two people in a record store here in Seattle talking about La Luz. The general gist of the conversation was that La Luz were OK but not worthy of the hype they were receiving in town because they were third, fourth, fifth or sixth generation surf pop. No one complains when the next ‘Michael Jordan’ is romping through the NBA do they? La Luz are the next Dick Dale and you should rejoice.

BirthdayKiss
33. Birthday Kiss – Can You Keep a Secret? (Death Party)

This is a classic pop single, precisely winnowing into you conscious whether you want it to or not. It’s not overtly dance oriented like St. Etienne, but it reminds me of them in the way that it slyly hooks you in with it’s chorus. Undeniable.

RainbowGunShow
32. Rainbow Gun Show – Cinderella Sizzle (Hozac)

Hozac are like the record kings of Chicago, fishing bands out of the music meat grinder for the rest of us to enjoy. Rainbow Gun Show are just one more example in a long line of records held together by animal intestines. Actually this fuzzy synth single is sort of a-typical for the label with very little blood noticeable on the surface of this buzzy pop record, but then there is no accounting for taste.

SeaPinks

31. Sea Pinks – Exploded View (CF)

Sea Pinks front man Neil Brogan left his other band Girls Names for which he was the drummer to concentrate full time on the Pinks. So the question is, can they get better? Indeed. This record as limited to 100 copies because you weirdo millennials don’t think you need to buy records anymore. You can own it digitally. Yeah, right. That’s like saying you own the air you breath. Sea Pinks are nearly as precious.

Heathers
30. Heathers – Teenage Clothes (Death Party)

Heathers are from LA so it’s no surprise they effortlessly combine a bit of sparkly jangle of another sunny day (they keep coming), some dusty sadness from being lost in a canyon and unsure of which direction to go, and some androgynous lyrics about your mother’s teenage clothes that keep you on your toes. All the ingredients for a great single and Heathers assemble these rummaged items perfectly.

Vacations
29. Vacations – Purple Slumber (Play Pinball)

Vacations are the project of Fungi Girls’ Jacob Bruce and it seems he had a few special songs saved up for this single. This record is like an indie kid’s little helper as it bounces and jangles along in violet inducing languor. Better than Valium.

Schonwald
28. Schonwald – Mercurial (Hozac)

This record blazes along some futuristic highway the way Xmal Deutschland and Clan of Xymox used to do. If 4AD was half the label that it was, Italy’s Schonwald would be signed to them, but luckily Hozac aren’t beneath donning a little black eyeliner to release this record.

slowcoaches
27. Slowcoaches – Thinkers E.P (Icecapades)

Slowcoaches are obviously influenced by the 90’s indierock aesthetic of Urusei Yatsura , Pavement and Dinosaur Jr and I can’t really claim that they’re breaking any new ground but Thinkers rages into your head with its rumbling bass, fingers on the chalk board guitar squall and singer Heather Perkins’ vitriolic delivery taking me back to a time of unbridled enthusiasm for this kind of thing. Nothing has changed and maybe that’s a good thing.

laughingleaves
26. Laughing Leaves – Everyday (Self-released)

This was another great year for music coming out of Australia. It’s like Sweden a few years ago, where every week seemed to yield a new band bubbling up with a drop dead good record. Laughing Leaves from Geelong create great 60’s inspired raw garage rock in the vein of early Kinks and Them. Four songs on this 7-inch and they all could’ve been singles.

Best of 2013: Albums

December 22, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Posted in Best Albums List, Best of, Lists, Music | 11 Comments
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Usually I save the albums list for last, but in an attempt to actually publish my year end list of albums before the end of the year I’ve opted to kick off the Finest Kiss list season with my favorite records of the year. At first glance, my year end list looks like it might be a Slumberland vs. Chapter Music slug fest as both of those labels put out some of my favorite records of the year. Certainly they would tie for the best label ballot.

Hopefully there are a few records in here that you agree with, one or two that you might not have heard and I’m sure there are some you will disagree with. That’s the fun of list making, putting it out there so others can scoff at your taste in music. In the next week or two I hope to publish my list of the best Seattle records of the year and my annual top 40 7-inch countdown.

Minks
30. Minks – Tides End (Captured Tracks)
The Minks second album is part Depeche Mode and part New Order which surprisingly seemed to miss getting much attention this year. Guitars and synths are employed with a strict adherence to writing super catchy songs that are lighthearted fun. Cynics will cry that it’s derivative, but they’re a bunch of bores that want all their music to sound important. Sometimes it’s just supposed to be fun.

stream: Minks – Doomed and Cool

Liminanas et la musique d'ascenseur
29. The Limiñanas – Costa Blanca (Trouble In Mind)
The Limiñanas are not quite classic french pop. More like classic french pop through a haze of hashish wafting from a dark room filled with strange characters smoking from hookahs. Their third record sees them expanding their Velvet Underground sound onto other shores of their Mediterranean local further honing their unique blistered white out sound.

stream: The Limiñanas – My Black Sabath

theStevens
28. The Stevens – A History of Hygiene (Chapter Music)
What would happen if the Clean met Guided by Voices in a dark garage or a deserted beach? They would leave as the Stevens of course. After self-releasing an EP last year that had many folks excited the Melbourne band return with their debut opus of 24 songs that barely last minute each. Each one is miniature pop masterpiece that will have you shaking your head at how easy they make it look.

stream: The Stevens – Hindsight

girlsnames
27. Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
Northern Ireland’s Girls Names have taken dark era Cure and added some early Railway Children and Echo and the Bunnymen and come up with a potent hypnotic concoction for their second album. This has been my go-to record when the need comes to escape the realities of life and zone out into the horizon. I think some might call it a lifesaving record for that reason.

stream: Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression

CateLeBon
26. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum (Wichita / Turnstile)
For her third album Cate Le Bon picked up and moved to Southern California, but I don’t think that the change in geography has altered her bohemian prog psychedlia. She still sounds like she could have been the kid sister of Kevin Ayres, but where Ayres often lost the plot Le Bon has a very good idea of where she’s going and Mug Museum is a trip worth taking.

stream: Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You

warmsoda
25. Warm Soda – Someone For You (Castle Face)
We knew that Mathew Melton was capable of pop goodness from his previous band Bare Wires, but Warm Soda sees him honing his powers to killer effect. Some For You is like the Raspberries mixed with Teenage Fanclub and King Tuff. The hits keep coming and coming on this record.

stream: Warm Soda – Jeannie Loves Pop

Beaches-She-Beats
24. Beaches – She Beats (Chapter Music)
Invariably a band that likes to lock into hypnotic psych rock grooves is full of older dudes with beards, but Beaches is the exception to this unwritten rule. This groop of five women deftly lay down the grooves that will make lesser bands wanting to shave their beards and take up religion. Many of the songs on this record don’t hit you immediately but I found myself pulled back into repeatedly listenings by an almost supernatural hypnotic pull.

stream: Beaches – Dune

sleaze
23. The Sleaze – The Sleaze (Total Punk)
I have no idea if the Sleaze are broken up or not. Some reports said this was a posthumous release and then they turned up at SXSW and played a bunch of shows. Punks are so irreverent and like to keep you guessing by not playing the game. This record is white hot and it wouldn’t surprise me if the band flamed out making it. Somehow keeping a flame this bright burning for any length of time is near impossible, but thankfully they new when to bottle it.

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

courtneys_cover
22. The Courtneys – The Courtneys (Hockey Dad)
The Courtneys brand of DIY pop takes a little from bubblegum, punk and powerpop to make a completely likeable debut record. Not taking themselves too seriously they write odes to Keanu Reeves, 90210 and being poor.  A record with a knack for hitting you in the funny bone and the pop jugular at the same time.

stream: The Courtneys – K.C. Reeves

waxidols
21. Wax Idols – Discipline and Desire (Slumberland)
The UK music hype machine ain’t what it used to be, but it still can rally to pull the whites over our eyes from time to time. This year all the talk about post punk strong woman rock centered around the underwhelming Savages while San Francisco’s Wax Idols quietly put out the better record. Discipline and Desire evokes the roar of the Sound, Comsat Angels and the Chameleons while at the same time not really sounding like any of them. A powerful amazing album that in years to come will probably take on the same reverent status as From the Lion’s Mouth, Waiting for a Miracle, and Strange Times.

stream: Wax Idols – AD RE: IAN

frowningclouds
20.5 Frowning Clouds – Whereabouts (Anti Fade)
The Frowning Clouds could be the Mantles cousins from down under. They add a little more Kinks intensity to their sound and come up with a winner. Whereabouts is their second album and they’ve got a batch of great harmonies and riffs that continue on the upward trajectory set by their first album. Keep your eyes on this Melbourne band.

stream: Frowning Clouds – Shoe Suede Blues

mantles
20.0 The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)
The Mantles sound harks back to a to the 60′s and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. I had a feeling that their second album was going to be something special when I heard the Kelley Stoltz would be producing it. His production makes the lines cleaner and bends the light just right on this batch of dusty canyon pop.

stream: The Mantles – Marbled Birds

eatlights
19.5 Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living (Great Pop Supplement/Rocket Girl)
Every now and then I like to put on a record that makes me feel like I am floating in space. Ladies and gentlemen, this record creates zero gravity with its motorik grooves that you will put it on repeat to avoid re-entry.

stream: Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

cavernofantimatter
19.0 Cavern of Anti-Matter – Blood-Drums (Grautag)
Tim Gane, who was one of the masterminds behind Stereolab, has kept a fairly low profile since Stereolab called it quits. Cavern of Anti-Matter is his new band and they not surprisingly lean in a motorik direction and seem to be heavily influenced by Neu. Some would say that it borders on a tribute record but these instrumentals pulse so easily into your conscious you can tell the Gane has found a new lease on life making this record.

stream: Cavern of Anit-Matter – Irridated Dream Mouth

jacco
18.5 Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
This is the second best psych pop record to come out this year. Gardner is young and loves Syd Barret but he plays it pretty straight. Cabinet of Curiosities sounds great, but I often got the feeling that Gardner wasn’t weird enough. He sounds like he likes weird, but it felt like he was playing a part. Hopefully time will pass and his eccentricites will grow to enhance his already sharp psych pop senses.

stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King

lovefromlondon
18. Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (YepRoc)
Love from London is the best psych pop record to come out this year. The only problem is that rock is not an older fellow’s game, so Hitchcock mostly got fair to middling reviews for this album because he’s not new, but let me restate, this was the best psych pop record to come out this year, or last year for that matter.

stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Strawberries Dress

KingKrule
17. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther Sounds)
Leave it to a 19 year old kid from the UK to make a record that sounded like nothing else this year. Krule or Archy as his mother calls him, works from a rough pallet of jazz, punk, funk, dub and trip hop to come up with a batch of pop songs that he sung over with his thick south London accent.

stream: King Krule – Border Line

sleafordlads
16. Sleaford Mods – Austerity Lads (Harbinger Sound)
Sleaford Mods have inherited the brilliance of John Cooper Clark, Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder. This record is not for the faint of heart with expletives strewn about like cigarette butts in the airport smoking lounge. There are so many killer beats and and lines on this record I feel like I need to listen to it about 50 more times to really get it. Watch your back though, these hoodlums from the gutter will steal the shirt off your back if they think it looks good.

stream: Sleaford Mods – The Wage Don’t Fit

heavytimes
15. Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)
Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but Heavy Times are not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills or the Bats too and let it fly.

stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse

blouse
14. Blouse – Imperium (Captured Tracks)
Portland’s blouse thankfully decided a change was in order for their second album Imperium. They changed from an average synthpop band to a brilliant guitar pop band. Imperium employs narcotic guitars and ethereal vocals with devastatingly effective results. Who knew that inheritors of the Cocteau Twins, Julie Cruise, Broadcast and Wendy and Bonnie trophies would turn up in stumptown?

stream: Blouse – Eyesight

Ketamines
13. Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters (Southpaw)
Canada’s Ketamines come from a garage rock background, but on You Can’t Serve Two Masters they shed many of the garage rock pretenses and go the quirky power pop route. The sound is cleaner and lyrics are pointed and since the sound is cleaner the vocal melodies shine brighter. It’s deft move and shows you what a brilliant band the Ketamines are.

stream: Ketamines – Don’t Stop

DickDiver
12. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)
On Calendar Days, Dick Diver combine the melancholy melody of the Go-Betweens and the comfortable familiarity of the Lucksmiths and the dustiness of the Triffids. It’s a classic Australian born album that evokes its sense of place, while speaking in the universal pop tongue so you can enjoy it no matter what continent you reside on.

stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt

Outfit
11. Outfit – Performance (Double Denim)
Liverpool’s Outfit offer up the best record in synthpop since Hot Chip’s The Warning or Metronomy’s The English Riviera. The blips and electronic crackle from the grooves of this record with a cold disaffection reminiscent of the Notwist, but Outfit warm up the electronic pathways with a strong sense of melody. That combination of warm and cold gives this record its staying power.

stream: Outfit – Thank God I Was Dreaming

joannagruesome
10. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister (Slumberland)
Joanna Gruesome are sugar coated spazzy noisepop with a soft side and a goofy name. Part Veronica Falls, part Los Campesinos and likely some Boyracer hidden there as well. This record undoubtedly had a guaranteed niche audience, but what was surprising was that seemed to have broken through the niche barrier when they came over to play at CMJ in New York. The recognition was justifiable, and if they decided to actually do a tour beyond a few US cities I could see their brand of skewed pop connecting even more. Bonus points for coming up with the best lyric of the year: “Bah, Bah, Bah, my head explodes.”

stream: Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush

dirtbombs
9. Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! (In the Red)
How do you follow up your tribute album to Detroit techno? If you’re the Dirtbombs you deliver your long threatened bubble gum rock tribute record. Since it’s the Dirtbombs, it’s a unique take on that genre that employs two drummers and leader Mick Collins’ gravely delivery. Collins is well known for incorporating a myriad of influences into the Dirtbombs sound. We knew he had some unadulterated pop leanings and this record confirms it in wonderful technicolor.

stream: Dirtbombs – Hot Sour Salty Sweet

dreamboys
8. Dream Boys – Dream Boys (Art Fag)
Sometimes bands with exquisite taste end up making albums that are hollow imitations of their heroes. This is not the case with Los Angeles band Dream Boys. In fact they’ve made a record that equals and maybe even surpasses some of the wonderful records made by the jangly masters of old like Bif Bang Pow, Aztec Camera, the Bluebells, and Close Lobsters.

stream: Dream Boys – Holding Pattern

Lady
7. Lady – Lady (Truth and Soul)
When someone tells you that they don’t make them like they used to, hand them this record. Lady who are actually two ladies Terri Walker and Nicole Wray have delivered, with the help of an ace backing band, a 60’s soul-inspired record that might just restore your faith in the entire manufacturing process…of everything.

stream: Lady – Money

Oogaboogas
6. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (AARGHT!)
The first Ooga Boogas album did noting to prepare you for the greatness of this their second album. Mikey Young of Eddie Current Suppression Ring is a band member and may have had some influence them becoming a cleaner more patient group, but it’s singer Leon Stackpole’s lyrics and delivery that put this record in the realm of greatness. Part Mark E Smith and part James Murphy, he rants and raves and even sings a little too. Some of the songs are sung from the point of view of some not so savory characters making it sometimes uncomfortable, but the band holds you in check whipping up a thick sheet of groove behind him.

stream: Ooga Boogas – Studio of My Mind

RayDavies
5. Day Ravies – Tussle (Pop Frenzy)
Some people think that it is amazing that shoegaze is still a thing. Those people are nuts. How could you not expect bands like Slowdive, Chapterhouse and the Pale Saints not to have inspired generations to come with the great records they made back in the original wave of shoegaze. Day Ravies take that inspiration and employ their deft pop sensibilities to it and come up with something to be reckoned with whether you’re familiar with the history of shoegaze or not.

stream: Day Ravies – Pinky

VisionFortune
4. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discx)
This album has eight tracks on it, but you could argue that it’s one long song. Vision Fortune don’t make it easy for you. If you saw this record in the store you could easily pass it by thinking that it’s Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido. Imagine if you bought it thinking that and then got home put in on your stereo only to find squalls of feedback and pulsing bass roar from your speakers. You would either take it back or turn it up. You already know the correct choice.

stream: Vision Fortune – XVII

La Femme
3. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin (Born Bad)
The record sounds like it could have come out on Bungalow back in the 90’s. You may remember the space age surf, synth and dance records that the German label put with some regularity back then. La Femme know their surf records and also probably like a bit of Depeche Mode as well as some Intelligence records but that doesn’t go the distance in describing the fun and fascination of listening to this album. Pity the people that thought that the Daft Punk record was the best French album of the year and give them this record.

stream: La Femme – Antitaxi

prophethens
2. Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)
New Zealand’s Prophet Hens sort of came out of nowhere and swept me off of my feet with their Chills meets Belle and Sebastian pop alchemy. Both of those bands are highly regarded and the Prophet Hens may be better than both. Granted they haven’t written a Pink Frost yet, but many of the songs here are nearly as memorable and lead me to believe that they just might have something of the Pink Frost caliber in them.

stream: Prophet Hens – Pretty

hookworms-pearl-mystic
1. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo/Weird World)
I wrote in my mid-year round up that the Hookworms were sitting on top of the best album of the year. Since then nobody was able to topple them from that teetering pile. Pearl Mystic is like a pendulum that swings from unhinged and crazy to mellow and droning. I don’t think I’ve ever hung out this much with a schizophrenic and liked it.

stream: Hookworms – Form & Function

2012: My Year In Records

January 3, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music | 1 Comment
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Here’s the list of my favorite albums outside of Seattle for 2012. You may think it’s late, but you should know I got it done before the Russian New Year. Kevin Shields, you still have a few more days.

exlovers

1. Exlovers – exlovers (Young And Lost Club)

Exlovers had my favorite single of 2011 and now my favorite record of 2012. Their debut album is a dreampop masterpiece that was a long time coming from this London band. I didn’t think I would ever hear a record this accomplished after the shoegaze/dreampop heyday of the 90’s. I hope that this album being criminally ignored by nearly everyone does not deter this amazing band from persevering and making another one.

You’re So Quiet:

tyvek
2. Tyvek – On Triple Beams (In the Red)

This is an off the rails punk rock concept album about Tyvek’s hometown of Detroit and its urban blight slowly being turned back into an agrarian based metropolis. On Triple Beams sees Tyvek living up to the promise of their early singles and then exceeding it.

Wayne County Roads:

boomgates
3. Boomgates – Double Natural (Bedroom Suck)

The half sung half spoken delivery of Eddy Current Suppression Ring frontman Brendan Huntly may be an acquired taste for some, but combined with Steph Hughes’ sweet croon and songs that bring to mind the brilliance of the Go-Betweens Double Natural is a sure winner.

Flood Plains:

hospitality
4. Hospitality – Hospitality (Merge)

Hospitality effortlessly do cocktail jazz, indiepop and smooth pop, but you get the feeling that they are pulling their ideas from a larger pallet that includes some things that you wouldn’t expect like Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren to name a few and that is what makes this record sound so familiar but different at once.

Eight Avenue:

FrankieRose
5. Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Slumberland)

Frankie Rose sloughed off the distortion and kicked it into hyperdrive on her second album. Slick space-age pop that I imagine if we still had a Space Shuttle program, would be playing in the cockpit on every lift off.

Night Swim:

Cate Le Bon
6. Cate Le Bon – Cyrk (The Control Group)

The Welsh chanteuse melded Velvet Underground with Kevin Ayers to come up with the best psychedelic record I heard all year.

Falcon Eyed:

cats
7. Cats on Fire – All Black Shirts to Me (Matinée)

Pop music rarely sounds this elegant and regal. All Black Shirts To Me is an assured jewel in the Cats On Fire crown.

It’s Clear Your Former Lover:

borednothing
8. Bored Nothing – Bored Nothing (Spunk)

Seems like anything coming out of Melbourne in 2012 was worthy. Fergus Miller’s (aka Bored Nothing) take on bedroom pop went from sad and introspective to blissed out dreampop. More than just another bedroom pop record and more than worthy.

Popcorn:

seapinks
9. Sea Pinks – Freak Waves (CF)

Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan is not only prolific, but talented as well. Sea Pinks third album is their best yet. Freak Waves is a jangly take on the classic Beach Boys model.

Lake Superior:

lawrence-arabia
10. Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow (Bella Union)

New Zealand’s James Milne knows how to do orchestral pop. The Sparrow is his third album as Lawrence Arabia and it’s a moody, pensive and playful feast of the ears.

The Bisexual:

terry-malts

11. Terry Malts – Killing Time (Slumberland)

San Francisco punks delivered a debut record full of blitzkrieg pop. Every song is no holds barred sing-along sweaty mosh pit.

Nauseous:

Baddat
12. Bäddat För Trubbel – Värdighet (Punks Only)

Not speaking a word of Swedish did not stop me from loving Bäddat För Trubbel’s second album. They employ influences like Eddy Current Supression Ring and Blumfeld and they aren’t afraid to have a guy who plays saxophone the band. True punks!

Det här jobbet:

intelligence
13. The Intelligence – Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me (In the Red)

Mad thinker Lars Finberg upped and moved his band from Seattle to LA. The only thing I can complain about is that they don’t play Seattle as much any more. Otherwise, the Intelligence deliver another fractured masterpiece.

Techno Tuesday:

deeptime

14. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)

Formerly known as Yellow Fever, Austin, Texas duo Deep Time’s self-titled first album after their rechristening is a pure minimalist’s delight.

Bermuda Triangle:

gap-dream
15. Gap Dream – Gap Dream (Burger)

Gabe Fulvimar’s Gap Dream is a wonderful debut. Kind of a psychedelic droner’s pop paradise.

Feast of the First Morning:

parquetcourts

16. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools)

Parquet Courts deliver a taut cow punk record out of seemingly nowhere. The proverbial new kid in town Andrew Savage formerly of Fergus & Geronimo moved to Brooklyn, started a new band and came up gold.

Yonder is Closer to the Heart:

Eternal-Summers

17. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior (Kanine)

Eternal Summers seem to grow leaps and bounds with each release and Correct Behavior continues their upward trajectory. Nicol Yun’s songs get better and bigger sounding and when she lets the drummer have some like on Girls In the City it’s like the frosting on the cake.

Millions:

theseesee
18. The See See – Fountayne Mountain (The Great Pop Supplement)

The See See go on a wondrous psychedelic tour de force on their second album. Fountayne Mountain is the sound of a band peaking. Drug reference intended.

Automobile:

supervacations
19. Super Vacations – Heater Pt. II (Funny Not Funny)

I love how after I listen to this album I feel like I have to wash the filth from body. Richmond, Virginia’s Super Vacations know the ins and outs of getting down and dirty and this record is an expressway to those dirty depths.

Faded Leather Jacket:

popsingles
20. Pop Singles – All Gone (Vacant Valley)

More Melbourne goodness in this year’s list. Pop Singles’s debut record was an unexpected surprise and the best heart-on-the-sleeve-jangle-pop record of the year.

All Gone:

toughshits

21. The Tough Shits – The Tough Shits (Burger)

Don’t let Philadelphia’s Tough Shits fool you. They want you to think that they’re a bunch of irreverent slackers, but their mothers know that their tender pop loving hombres and this record is all the proof you need.

Cats and Dogs:

ThisManyboyfriends
22. This Many Boyfriends – This Many Boyfriends (Angular)

The debut album from Leeds’ This Many Boyfriends is love song to records, love songs and misfits. Sometimes songs that are meant to be funny wear off quickly, but this album isn’t too funny for its own good. It’s merely poignant.

Tina Weymouth:

strategy
23. Strategy – Strategy (Peak Oil)

Portland, Oregon resident Paul Dickow has many personas. His album using the Strategy moniker was a playful take on electronic music that took notes from Ultramarine and Yello in the way it incorporated pop songs with dub, kraut and weird.

Sugar Drop:

GrassWidow
24. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)

San Francisco trio Grass Widow finally embraced their full pop-selves on album number three. Internal Logic was brilliant for the way it juxtaposed minimalist instrumentation with lush harmonies.

Milo Minute:

PeoplesTempleMoreLP300
25. Peoples Temple – More for the Masses (Hozac)

Either I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid or Lansing, Michigan’s Peoples Temple are. Their second album ups the dose and rattles the psyche. The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request was a good psychedelic record. Peoples Temple start with that blueprint and out psych the Stones and everyone else for that matter.

Nevermore:

chainandthegang
26. Chain and the Gang – In Cool Blood (K)

On Chain and the Gang’s third album leader Ian Svenonius gets a little more playful. He shares vocals with new member Katie Alice Greer and records the entire thing in mono. Kind of throwback but these ears, timeless.

Free Will:

crushedstars
27. Crushed Stars – In the Bright Rain (Simulacra)

In the Bright Rain lives under gray skies and rains down melancholia and cascades of guitars to beautiful effect. Being lonely, sad and out of sorts hasn’t sounded this good since the At Swim Two Birds album back in 2009.

Brighter Now:

prissyclerks
28. Prissy Clerks – Bruise Or Be Bruised (Forged Artifacts)

The debut album from this Minneapolis was a sweet bite of 90’s indierock slathered with twee and powerpop condiments. Sweet, sour and definitely hot!

Death Wish:

literature-arab-spring-280x280
29. Literature – Arab Spring (Square of Opposition/Austin Town Hall)

Former Austin and now Philadelphia band Literature are well read in the details of adrenaline fueled jangle pop. They deliver a wide eyed beauty in their debut album Arab Spring.

Push Up Bra:

macdemarco
30. Mac DeMarco – Mac DeMarco 2 (Captured Tracks)

On his second album, Montreal’s Mac DeMarco delivers a batch of skewed guitar pop gold. He seems be to posses the songwriting sensibilities of Nilsson, Lennon, Ayers and T Rex and he may be just as eccentric as them too.

Cooking Up Something Good:

Oh Seattle, So Much To Answer For (Favorite Seattle Records of 2011)

January 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music, Seattle | 1 Comment
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I took a year off from doing a favorite Seattle records list due to lazyitis (sorry Seattle). Here’s my top ten records from my fair city for 2011 (sorry Seattle).


1. Seapony – Go With Me (Hardly Art)
Twee is alive and well in Seattle. Seapony kind of came out of nowhere late last year. They put their debut album out on local label Hardly Art, played countless shows around town and generally put the Northwest back on the map when it comes to indiepop.
mp3: Dreaming


2. Charles Leo Gebhardt IV – Begin Again (GGNZLA)
Leo Gebhardt plays guitar in a few Seattle bands, but it’s his solo stuff that really shines. Begin Again was his second release for the enigmatic Seattle label GGNZLA. Begin Again is full of rollicking and playful, Kinks inspired narratives.
mp3: Chapel of Roses


3. BOAT – Dress Like Your Idols (Magic Marker)
BOAT keep delivering hook laden albums sparked with humor and conviction. Like the Young Fresh Fellows before them, these industrious fellows create unforgettable pop right under the city’s collective noses. Dress Like You Idols contains some of the band’s best songs yet.
mp3Forever in Armitron


4. Cute Lepers – Adveture Time (1-2-3-4 Go!)
Adventure Time is Cute Lepers’ third (and best) album. It’s  full of glammy punk rock similar to the Rezillos. Songs full of high fructose corn syrup, actually, no they’re probably full of maple sugar, because they’re sweet and good for you. Hell, just eat them out of the box with a spoon.
mp3Misdirected


5. Emuul – The Drawing of the Line (Digitalis)
This record kind of popped up on my radar from nowhere, or maybe it condensed from a passing cloud. Emuul is the latest moniker of Kyle Iman and The Drawing of the Line is hypnotic music that will put you in a dreamlike state.  Don’t let that fool you, there are pop songs under the gauze of this instrumental electronica.
mp3Expectations


6. Webelos – Shadow Seasons (self-released)
Shadow Seasons sounds like it could have come out on Teen Beat back in the early 90’s. It’s a quirky little fellow with propulsive bass driven songs. Think Unrest, Eggs and the Monochrom Set.
mp3: If You Choose To Stay


7. Craft Spells – Idle Labor (Captured Tracks)
This record was made in a bedroom in Stockton, California, but by the time it came out Justin Vallesteros had relocated Craft Spells to Seattle.  Idle Labor is heavily influenced by the romantic synthpop of the 80’s. Bouncy, longing pop songs that could make you forget what year it was.
mp3: After the Moment


8. Witch Gardens – Alice, Agatha, Branch, & Christ (self-released)
If ever there was a band meant to be on K records, Witch Gardens is it. This is pure ramshackle pop fun by a band seemingly making it up as they go. I love what they’ve come up with so far which is primarily this cassette.
mp3: Softball Chick


9. Gold Leaves – The Ornament (Hardly Art)
I loved Arthur & You’s In Camera. Sadly, that band seems to be no more, but Grant Olson of the duo returned as Gold Leaves this year and it kind of picks up where Arthur & Yu left off. The Ornament is rich and velvety bringing to mind the cinematic records of Lee Hazelwood.
mp3: The Ornament


10. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground – Introducing (Suburban Home)
Even living in Seattle, you might not have heard about the second album from Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground. Maybe it was the odd choice of a title for album number two. Whatever the case, there was little pomp around its release especially compared to the first one, and I’ve yet to see it in a record store in town. Too bad, because it’s nearly as good as their debut and goes to the same tin pan alley, psychedelia, kaleidoscopic pop well.
mp3: Oh Lord, I Hate You California

Honorable Mentions:

Pony Time – Pony Time (Per Se) | Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop) | Night Beats -Night Beats (Trouble In Mind) | Erik Blood – Music From the Film Center of Gravity (Self-Released) | Consignment – New Low (GGNZLA) | Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge) | Green Pajamas – Green Pajama Country (Green Monkey)

2011: My Year In Records

December 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music | 12 Comments
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A year end albums list is kind of a strange thing, especially when it’s one person compiling it. Since this blog is a committe of one, it can become quite capricious. In all likelyhood I wrote about some records this past year that I was overtly enthusiastic about at the time. Now the end of the year rolls around and some of those records are not on the list. “What gives?” you might ask. It’s hard to remember which label flew me to Tahiti and which one comp’d my CMJ this year, so I may have forgotten to include a few records that I thought at the time were great.  These are the records that left an impression on me over the course of the last 12 months, paylola or not…


1. Destroyer – Kaputt (Merge)
Was this record flying in the face of fashion or swimming in it? These days I can never tell. Dan Bejar controls the vision of Destroyer and I have been following his erratic course for years, but nothing has ever grabbed hold of me like Kaputt did. Up until this point the minimalist keyboard focused Your Blues had been my favorite Destroyer album. That album from 2004 subtly evoked Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Microdisney, and Felt, but  Kaputt goes hook line and sinker for that sound and comes up with the huge treasure of the “big music”. Do not be afraid of the saxophone (the Waterboys weren’t)! This record evokes a time in music when highly stylized, heart on the sleeve pop was de rigor in some parts of the world. Even if you’re old enough to remember it, Destroyer do it in an entirely new and fresh way.
mp3: A Savage Night At the Opera


2. Total Control – Henge Beat (Iron Lung)
Total Control march to the beat of a different tune, one that will floor you. At least it did me. Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young and Daniel Stewart of UV Race combine to fabricate Tubeway Army, the Fall and Neu! If you dare listen to this record it will totally control your life.
mp3: See More Glass


3. Sweet Bulbs – Sweet Bulbs (Blackburn)
Sweet Bulbs can bend a guitar with the best of them. They sound like they’re torturing their guitars the way the Swirlies, the Lilies and of course My Bloody Valentine. Like all great bands, they broke up after making their first album. This is it, but don’t fret, they are now called Heaven’s Gate. So the magic is still happening, only under a different name.
mp3: Kissing Clouds


4. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
Was a time when a record like this would have been on a major label. Pop songs that are so immediate and infectious that labels would have been falling over themselves to sign them. The world turned upside down a few years ago and bands like Veronica Falls sign to indies like Slumberland. If you dig the Bats and Wedding Present jangle of yesteryear, then I guarantee you will not be able to say no to this maelstrom of a record.
mp3: Bad Feeling


5. Wild Swans – The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years (Kitten Charmer)
Wild Swans in their initial incarnation released one seminal single and then disbanded. In their second incarnation they released two so-so albums. You might think that after one reformation that the next one might be worth sitting out, but they don’t say the third time is a charm for nothing. The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is full of bitterness and pining for a better idealized past. A quest to return to those days is vividly chronicled here and makes a Wild Swans that far outshines anything from their past.
mp3: Chloroform


6. Sea Pinks – Dead Seas (CF)
This jangly record with simple songs that cut to the quick seemed to keep popping up on my turntable and on my headphones. Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan got his band-mates to back him up on Dead Seas, and in my opinion surpass their other band. That of course is a matter of opinion, Girls Names are no band to be sneezed at. Sea Pinks songs subtly evoke the Smiths while sounding nothing like them. A seemingly simple and understated album that peels like an onion.
mp3: Heir Apparent


7. Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy (Slumberland)
When I first heard that Mitch Easter was producing Big Troubles second album, the first thing that popped into my head was Moose. Moose started out as a shoegaze band, but hired Easter to produce their first album and their sound changed from My Bloody Valentine to Tim Buckly and Fred Neil. Big Troubles following a similar path went from their first album, a noisy affair to nuance of psychedelic sounds of the paisley underground.  I don’t give Easter all the credit for the metamorphosis, but I’m sure he definitely helped.
mp3: Misery


8. Useless Eaters – Daily Commute (Tic Tac Totally)
Yeah, Iceage got a lot of press for their album New Brigade, but Useless Eaters’ Daily Commute was my favorite art punk album of the year. Sure it sounds like it was recorded on a boombox in the kitchen, but you can’t keep a great songwriter down. Simply put, this record rips, and if it would have had better production you would be reading about it on sites much more popular than this one.
mp3: Daily Commute


9. A Classic Education – Call It Blazing (Lefse)
Bologna, Italy’s A Classic Education debut album is a melancholic charmer. Call It Blazing holds songs like sunken treasure in its depths. Luckily it doesn’t take a submarine to get to its yearning, oceanic pop that recalls the  genius of the Chills and the Shins.
mp3: Can You Feel The Backwash


10. Twerps – Twerps (UnderwaterPeoples)
I was somewhat intrigued by Twerps’s handful of singles, but not smitten. Smart kids that they are, they used the singles as building blocks, kind of feeling their way about until they got to a place that they were writing songs that they felt were worthy of a long player. This record is wise beyond it’s years. It echoes back so much of the amazing history of Australian pop like the Church, Paul Kelly, and the Go-Betweens. They’ve set quite a high bar for their follow-up.
mp3: Dreaming


11. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer (Merge)
Eleanor Friedberger is one half of the brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces. She’s not old enough to remember the late 60’s and 70’s, but she’s made a record that sounds like she is. It has this strange Jackson Browne or Jim Croce feel to it. It’s kind of a folk record, but it has a weird soulfullness to it that pulls it out of the folk genre. Nothing else sounded remotely similar to Last Summer. A unique record from a unique voice.
mp3Roosevelt Island


12. Mind Spiders – Mind Spiders (Dirtnap)
Mind Spiders deftly jumps from Jay Retard, to T Rex to Love and Rockets and then back again. It’s like being lost in the funhouse. You can’t find your way out, but you kind of don’t want to get off either.
mp3: Go!


13. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland)
The Crystal Stilts are not a live band, but give them a studio and they will kick your ass. In Love With Oblivion dredges the ghosts of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Bo Diddly, and Felt  from unmarked graves and breathes new life into them.
mp3: Sycamore Tree


14. Ringo DeathStarr – Colour Trip (Club AC30)
I have to admit. I was hot and cold on this record. First I was hot because it’s infectious shoegaze is pretty hard not to like if you already lean in that direction. Then I saw them live and was convinced that they used Auto-Tune on the album, because they couldn’t carry a tune to save their lives. Then I said fuck it, the songs are great and the record is amazing, who cares if they really can’t sing, they know how to use a studio. It never stopped me from loving the Stone Roses.
mp3: So High


15. Indian Wars – Walk Around the Park (Bachelor)
Seems like in a year when Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs got their props, critics would have dug a little deeper to find something that hadn’t been polluted with the whiff of success. Vancouver, BC’s Indian Wars bust through saloon doors and shoot up the bar the way the Long Ryders and Gun Club did in the past. Bands like this worry me. Why? Because they’re so damn good and nobody knows it. Too good to last? Hope not.
mp3Tuscaloosa Bar


16. German Measles – A German Joke is No Laughing Matter (Krazy Punx)
Funny how everyone bumming out over the fact that Art Brut are no longer funny missed this record. The German Measles did the prudent thing for any ‘funny band.’ They broke up after making their first album. It’s not belly laughs and punch lines, it’s just spot on observations about everyday life and raw spartan punk rock that sticks to your bones like oatmeal.
mp3: Totally Mild


17. Top Sound – Top Sound (Ça Ira)
Sweden’s Top Sound took their time getting their debut album together but it was well worth the wait. It grabs from the High Llamas, Stereolab, Style Council, and the Aluminum Group to create a bright sounding, highly stylized (erm) top sound.  This is toe-tapping and finger-snapping good. Those may not be the sweaty and bloody rock n’ roll terms you’re looking for in a rock album, but it ain’t all chicks and whiskey.
mp3: A Matter of Precision


18. Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming (Daptone)
In a time when there seems to be old soul compilations coming out every other week, 62 year old Charles Bradley burst on the scene with his brand new old soul. He was the singer in a James Brown cover band before being discovered by Daptone Records. Bradley has a gritty, working man’s soul voice that makes the songs feel current even though he’s firmly rooted in the past. This, amazingly is his debut album.
mp3: Lovin’ You, Baby


19. Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes (Downtown)
Soprano Rachel Zeffira teamed up with the Horrors singer Faris Badwan to make an moody record that stalks will stalk your stereo. The two apparently bonded over a mutual appreciation of 60’s girl groups. That affectation permeates the record, but it’s not like any Ronettes album you’ve heard. It’s dark and eerie and teams with both Zeffira’s high notes matched with Badwan’s low ones. An otherworldly record.
mp3: The Best Person I Know


20. People’s Temple- Sons of Stone (Hozac)
Play Sons of Stone for someone who hasn’t heard it and you could pass it off for a lost psych record from the 60’s that was left off of Nuggets. Hell, People’s Temple kept coming up on shuffle and I kept getting fooled myself. This Lansing, Michigan band are named after Jim Jones’ cult that committed mass suicide in the 1970’s. Instead of spending your hard earned cash on another Rolling Stones reissue, drink the juice and joion the People’s Temple.
mp3Where You Gonna Go?


21. Cave – Neverendless (Drag City)
I love this album because it seems to conjure the lost art of  the motoric. Mostly instrumental jams that bring Neu! to mind, but by way of Chicago. Perhaps the windy city has given up on the artery clogging deep dish pizza and gone for the heart healthy Kraut!
mp3: W U J


22. Comet Gain – The Howl of the Lonely Crowd (What’s Your Rupture?)
One thing about being a music blogger, you can keep putting records by perennially ignored bands on your list. Comet Gain have been around forever putting out difficult and rewarding albums. This one is no different. They are in my imaginary R&R hall of fame along with the likes of the Fall, the Mekons and the Pastels.
mp3: An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls


23. Wax Idols – No Future (Hozac)
Former Punx Heather Fortune goes it alone and inserts sex, fear, goth and serial killers into her brand of punk rock. It’s not all sex and death, you get the rough with the smooch, as she’s got a soft side too and a voice that can go from sensitive to tough in an instant. No Future has got depth and Wax Idols have a future.
mp3: Hitman


24. Walls – Coracle (Kompact)
Walls’ second album oscillates wildly between kraut, shoegaze and electronica. This could be a gateway album from stepping from one of those genres into another or the perfect music for stepping into that nebula on the cover.
mp3: Heat Haze


25. The Dirtbombs – Party Store  (In the Red)
You wouldn’t believe how many albums have been shuffled in and out of slot number 25 this year. It was a brutal fight, but the Dirtbombs persevered with their double Detroit muscle. Double because this the Dirtbombs tribute to their hometown. Techno classics from techno ground zero are covered with aplomb in this garage meets techno groove fest that is weird, infectious and above all danceable.
mp3: Sharevari

Best Reissues of 2011

December 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Posted in Best of, Lists, Music, Reissues | 10 Comments
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Why is it that the older you get the more old music you buy? Probably because as you get older you start to realize how little you know about music. Here’s to all the labels that do the crate digging for you, because there is no way in hell you could have found all of this stuff on your own. Here are the top 15 reissues that I crossed paths with this year.

1. El Rego – El Rego (Daptone)

I was vaguely familiar with El Rego and his infectious African soul from a couple of his songs being on the Analog Africa compilations African Scream Contest and Legends of Benin, but really I bought this record based soley on it’s eye-catching cover and it didn’t disappoint. You might think that tiny Benin is to small to have its own godfather of soul. Wrong, and after hearing this, I’mu hoping that this only volume I. The vinyl version comes with a bonus 7-inch to further entice you.
mp3: El Rego – Hessa

2. Groove Club Vol. 1: Le Confiserie Magique (Lion)


There’s a ton of great French psychedelic pop spread across 22 tracks on this compilation. When you talk French pop, the first thing you probably think of is the ye-ye girls, but this compilation argues that you should open your mind.
mp3: Bernard Chabert – Il Part En Californie

3. Martin Newell – Songs for…A Fallow Land (Fixed Identity)


Martin Newell is a prolific fellow. His band the Cleaners from Venus released treasure troves of albums to virtually no acclaim. Songs for…A Fallow Land was released as a cassette in 1985 while the Cleaners were still going. This record is further proof that Newell’s songwriting talents are as deep as he and his band the Cleaners from Venus are obscure.
mp3: Martin Newell – Gamma Ray Blue

4. Pakistan Folk and Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976 (Sublime Frequencies)


It’s kind of amazing how many of these instrumentals sound surf inspired.  Dick Dale and the Ventures have got nothing on bands like the Panthers, the Aay Jays and the Blue Birds. They effortlessly mix the east with the west making for a wild ride.

mp3: The Panthers – Malkaus

5. The Sound of Starke Adolf vol. 1 (Plastilina)


This is the sound of Goteburg, Sweden circa 2001 and the club Starke Adolf that a few bored indiepop geeks decided to start. The Sound of Starke Adolf is a mouthwatering sample of jangly twee/indiepop songs they played at the club. Nineteen obscure pop gems that are just waiting for someone to rediscover in their little corner of the world.

mp3: The Danny Says – The Boy Formerly Known as Me vs. The Girl Formerly Known as You

6. Bay Area Retrograde Vol. 1 (Dark Entries)


This compilation unearths some excellent archealogical finds from the obscure and little known Bay Area synth, new wave and dark wave scene of the 80’s. There’s is the aggressive post punk sounds of Nominal State and Batang Frisco, the silly sounds of Necropolis of Love, the new wave of Los Microwaves and the gay sounds of Danny Boy and the Serious Party Gods. A lot to discover and little something for everyone.
mp3Nominal State – Middle Class

7. Index – Black Album + Red Album + Yesterday & Today (Lion)


This came out at the very end of last year, but too good to leave off of this year’s list. Index formed in Detroit in 1967 and recorded two records that went unnoticed until 80’s. By then their records were impossible to find. This two disc compilation gathers both albums and an additional 17 songs. It’s dark, bleak and droning garage psych and they reinvented the Byrds’ Eight Miles High long before Husker Du ever set hands on it.  Fans of the Sonics, Spacemen Three, 13th Floor Elevators and the like will not be disappointed.
mp3: Index – Israeli Blues

8. Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story (Light In the Attic)


Compared to Motown, Mowest (Motown’s effort to set up a west coast operation) was a giant failure, but as a compilation Mowest is a complete success. The best stuff here is from Frankie Valley and Four Seasons and Odyssey. There are echos of the classic sounds of Motown, but it’s filtered through Ray-Bans. There is also some great psychedelic folk on here courtesy of Odyssey, who’s song Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love loans itself as the title of this album.
mp3: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – The Night

9. Bambara Mystic Soul (Analog Africa)


Analog Africa only put out a couple records a year using the quality not quantity rule.  Every release is extensively researched, comes with a thick booklet of interviews with the musicians and labels that originally released the records in Africa. This compilation focuses on Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta. It makes a great companion to the Ouaga Affair compilation that was released on Savannahphone in 2009. This record will shake the dust off of any preconceived notions you may or may not have had about sub-Saharan Africa and will get any party jumpin’.
mp3Issouf Compaore – Dambakale

10. Chicas – Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974 (VampiSoul)


Chicas is one quirky and enlightening compilation that documents the feminine side of Spanish pop in the 60’s and 70’s. Like any good history lesson there is good and bad, but the good here outshines the few head scratchers. There’s a little bit of everything here: soul, garage, folk, pop and some choice covers like Lia Uya’s version of Three Dog Night’s Liar which totally reinvents the song. London and Paris weren’t the only cities swinging in the 60’s.
mp3: Lia Uya – Mientes

11. The June Brides – London, England 1984-1986 (Social)


Walking into a record shop and seeing this in the bins gives one the feeling of comfort similar to still being able to buy a newspaper at a coffee shop. This vinyl only retrospective is beautifully packaged, contains liner notes courtesy of Phil Wilson and Simon Beesley and is chock full of jangly horn laden pop gems for fans of the Go-Betweens and Orange Juice who want to dig a little deeper.
mp3: June Brides – In the Rain

12 Dalek I – Compass Kum’pas (Medical)


Seattle’s Medical Records seems to keep diving down into the depths and resurfacing with sunken treasures on a very consistent basis. Dalek I was the collaboration of liverpudlians Alan Gill and Dave Hughes.  This minimalist synthpop classic came out 1980 but you can hear it’s influence in countless records in the DFA catalog of today.
mp3: Dalek I – Destiny (Dalek I Love You)

13. Left Banke – Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina & The Left Banke Too (Sundazed)


Where did baroque pop originate? Who knows, but a good place to start your search would be with the Left Banke. If you’re short on cash, go for the debut Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina for those obvious two reasons, but the follow up has it’s charms that you don’t want to deny yourself. I can pretty much guarantee that whichever one you choose, you’ll be back for the other one pretty soon.
mp3: Left Banke – Pretty Ballerina

14. Pale Saints – The Comforts of Madness (ORG)


1990 was a long time ago in indie years, but when you place the needle on this record it sounds as fresh and exciting as it did to a know-nothing college kid way back then. You could call it shoegaze, but it’s too strange and off kilter with it crazy rhythms and raw production to be so easily pigeonholed. It kind of defies categorization as all the best records do. Featuring Ian Master’s delicate voice, Graeme Naysmith’s slashing guitars and Chris Cooper’s amazing drumming, the Pale Saints debut album is a record of which I never tire.
mp3: Pale Saints – Sight of You

15. The Resonars – Bright and Dark (Burger)


Burger is mostly known for releasing cassettes, but give them a record they really like and they’ll give it the vinyl treatment. The Resonars second album Bright and Dark came out in the middle of CD golden age, 1999 to be exact, on the Get Hip Label.  I missed it in 1999 and probably so did many others. Not happening this time. This psych gem plucks from the Hollies, Byrds, Beatles, Long Ryders and the Rain Parade to make a stone cold classic that virtually nobody heard the first time around.

mp3: The Resonars – The Golden Age

A Few More if that wasn’t enough:
Ishilan n-Tenere – Guitar Music from the Western Sahel (Mississippi/Sahelsounds) | The Psychedelic Aliens – Psycho African Beat (Academy Records) | Lou Champagne System – No Visible Means (Medical) | Jeff & Jane Hudson – Flesh (Captured Tracks) | The Servants – Youth Club Disco (Captured Tracks) | Chalk Circle – Reflection (Mississippit/PPM) | Radio Dept. – Passive Aggressive (Labrador) | Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust (Yep Rock) | Fac. Dance (Strut)

2010: My Year In Records

December 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Posted in Albums, Best of, Lists, Music | 11 Comments
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Looking at the lists from the indie cognoscenti this year my eyes tend to get heavy and it becomes hard to stay awake. I’m beginning to see why my grandfather wasn’t able to stay awake when he watched the Dukes of Hazzard with me when I was a kid. I’m not quite to that point yet, as I was able to keep myself lucid long enough to compile my top 25 albums of the year. Have at it.

1. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax (Goner)
Some long-time fans have quipped that Rush To Relax isn’t as good as its predecessor Primary Colors, but for me this was the year of Eddy Current Suppression Ring.  Finding Rush to Relax in the used bin for 99 cents was the start.  Next Anxiety whacked me on the head with its brute force, then their longer jams like Turning Out and Second Guessing bowled me over, and if that wasn’t enough they beguiled with the heartfelt politeness of I Can Be a Jerk and Gentleman.  Finally their status was cemented by their live show at Vera Project.  In a dry house following two hardcore punk bands, the band put on a clinic on how to rock out with their solid rhythm section, slicing guitars and unique gloved front man. Nobody came close to Eddy Current Suppression Ring this year.

mp3: Anxiety

2. Intelligence – Males (In The Red)
Well, the Intelligence came kinda close.  Lars and company pumped up the fidelity on record number six and came out all the better for it.  For the first time ever this was a full band and the claustrophobic weirdness that permeates all previous Intelligence records was stretched, torn and punctured to create new sounds.  Fidelity aside,  this batch of songs with the likes of Tuned to Puke, Like Like Like…, The Beetles and Estate Sales may be the strongest yet.

mp3: Tuned to Puke

3. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (Heavenly)
After suffering a stroke, Edwyn Collins may not have his guitar playing skills back yet, but his songwriting and singing skills are have returned fully intact.  Losing Sleep sees Collins enlisting the help of friends like Johnny Marr, The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand, Roddy Frame, Drums to name a few.  At first it was kind of a surprise to hear Collins duet with so many of his guests, but the album’s sound is so cohesive it doesn’t distract because you can tell that Ryan Jarmin, Alex Kapranos, Romeo Stodart and Jonathon Pierce are such Collins fans.

mp3: Losing Sleep

4. Les Cox Sportifs – Scheiss Mit Reis (Sea)
Les Cox Sportifs caught my imagination, and no it wasn’t their name that did it.  Their sparsly played rhythmic songs and odd lyrics put them defiantly in the weird corner and that’s a corner I gravitate to.  Their combining of Bo Diddly, the Fall, Modern Lovers, Yummy Fur and Country Dick Montana was a soup that I kept lapping up all year long.

mp3: John E Millais

5. Kellies – Kellies (Rastrillo/Crang)
The self-titled third album from this Argentinian all girl band was part post punk, part art school, and should have come with a warning label because every song contains a deadly hook.  Why have you not heard of these ladies you may ask.  That’s a damn good question, and if you’ve been around these parts much, you probably have.

mp3: Hit It Off

6. Eternal Summers – Silver (Kanine)
Roanoak, Virginia’s Eternal Summers are  the simple combination of guitar and drums, but are most certainly more than the sum of their parts and  a good reason for that is Nicole Yun’s big confident voice. First single Pogo was big and catchy and the immediacy of Disciplinarian and the moodiness and beauty of songs like Salty and Bully In Disguise keep you firmly planted.

mp3: Pogo

7. Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenburg (FantasticPlastic)
Formerly known as Radio Luxembourg, Race Horses broke out of the gate this year with their first album Goodbye Faulkenberg.  Being from Wales you might guess they have a psychedelic leaning the same as Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and you would be right but they carve out their own  niche of strange beguiling pop too. Actually it’s more like a wide swath that ranges from Love, Dexy’s, Can, Mahler, Gilber & Sullivan, Scott Walker and Os Mutantes to name a few of the records they list on the inner sleeve as influences on this album.

mp3: Cake

8. Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
Seems like every year Kelley Stoltz puts out a record it ends up as one of my favorites.  I write something about how he conjours the past with songs that evoke the likes of the Kinks, Harry Nilson and Fred Neil.  With To Dreamers Stoltz does it again with seeming ease, but he incorporates more lush orchestration this time,  does a little krautrock, and includes a cover of Big Boy Pete’s 1965 lost classic Baby I Got News for You even doing some sleuthing to pull in Pete Miller to play on it. I keep expecting the well to run dry for Stoltz, but it looks like he’s in no danger of that.

mp3: I Remember, You Were Wild

9. Sourpatch – Crushin’ (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
San Jose’s Sourpatch probably at some point  have made a pilgrimage to Sacramento to pay tribute to Tiger Trap and Rocketship.  After doing so they came back home and made this record.  Their ability to conjure that sound from that time might be called nostalgic by some but these kids are way too young to hold any nostalgia for the 90’s.  Crushin’ is just some kids from San Jose making beautiful twee racket.

mp3: Crushin’

10. Weekend – Sports (Slumberland)
Sports begins with an unassuming jangle. Soon an eerie howl is heard in the distance and then it becomes more prominent.  At about a minute and a half in, the jangle turns into a buzz-saw and the howl to piercing growl.  Weekend don’t lift their collective boot from your neck over the next 45 minutes.  Sports pummels but like someone that doesn’t know what’s good for them I keep coming back for more.

mp3: Coma Summer

11. Wounded Lion – Wounded Lion (In the Red)
Wounded Lion are probably a little too weird to ever go mainstream, that’s why they’re on this list.  Jokes aside, Wounded Lion killer modern day Modern Lovers fueled rock brings it.  No filler here: The one-two punch of Hungry? and Creatures In the Cave is hard to resist. Degobah System must have been unjustly cut from Star Wars Episode IV and Pony People (having been on a now out of print S-S seven inch) Those are only a few reasons I love this record.

mp3: Hungry

12. Young Sinclairs – Chimeys (Chimney Sweep)
The Young Sinclairs are the vehicle of Sam Lunsford who over the last four years has self-released loads of cd-r’s and tapes. Last year Kindercore put out an LP that cherry picked the best tracks from those releases giving them a little larger audience.  Finally the band endeavored to release and album on the Chimney Sweep label on vinyl this year.  Chimey’s is psychedelia done so well it will make you think of so many bands like them that have gone before.  It will also have you searching through your closet for those paisley shirts you hope you never threw out.

mp3: Future Man

13. Frankie Rose & the Outs – Frankie Rose And The Outs (Slumberland)
I must say that after seeing Frankie Rose and the Outs at SXSW this year I wasn’t really looking forward to her album.  Everything was drenched in reverb to the point of barely being able to make out the songs. There is no such problem with this album.  It is a sublime record that eschews the ramshackle garage sound of her former band and goes for a more classic sound and totally succeeds.

mp3: Candy

14. Boston Spaceships – Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBVI)
Funny how my interest in Robert Pollard ebbs and flows.  There was a high point in the 90’s and then it dipped in 00’s. Now that we’re in the 10’s Pollard is back in my good graces and Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is a prime example as to why.  While everyone was running around talking about the Guided By Voices reunion, this album was released and criminally ignored. It rivals and surpasses the last five GBV albums.

mp3: Track Star

15. Cinema Red & Blue – Cinema Red & Blue (What’s Your Rupture)
I hesitate to call this a supergroup, but it’s a pretty damn good one.  David Feck of Comet Gain, comes over to New York and gets some Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistors and one Amy Linton to help out on this album. Apparently it was recorded in a week, but it has warmth and familiarity like these old friends have been playing together for years.

mp3: Ballad Of A Bus Stop

16. Allow Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop)
Allo Darlin’ sealed the deal with their rousing show at the Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle this fall. Their slightly twee, slightly country ukulele driven songs have a sweet niavty to them that makes you want them to take them under your wing and give them a good home.  My copy has found one on my stereo and it’s even muscled out a few lesser records from the cd player.

mp3: The Polaroid Song

17. Standard Fare – Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Bar None)
This and Allo Darlin were like sister records for me this year.  I couldn’t think about one without the other popping into my head.  Standard Fare packed a little more muscle, but it was coming from the same place. Well maybe not the exact same place when you consider their song 15 is about falling for a teenager.  Not your typical indiepop.

mp3: Fifteen

18. Art Museums – Rough Frame (Woodsist)
This record was a pleasant surprise, evoking the Television Personalities and early Creation records. It’s short at only nine songs, but it left a lasting impression on me.  The songs are done in low key, lo-fi way.  The steely guitars and programmed drums provide a synthetic psychedelic feel.  The vocals strain to reach the high notes, but the songs are warm, fuzzy and earnest which makes these part-time punks’ debut hard not to like.

mp3: Sculpture Gardens

19. Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange (In the Red)
The Fresh & Onlys are still way too prolific for their own good.  I feel like we’ve seen them grow up before our eyes.  Where some bands hold back releasing songs, choosing to keep a stash in case of writer’s block, the Fresh & Onlys lay it all on the line putting everything out for better of for worse.  After two diluted albums last year, the band chose to only release one album this year and are the better for it.  Every song is autumnal intoxication and their secret weapon guitarist Wymond Miles astounds throughout with his leads.

mp3: Waterfall

20. The Lights – Failed Graves (Wantage)
The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while.  Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far.  There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now.  Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson firecly clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums.  The intensity on Failed Graves nearly replicates their live show.  Dissonant guitars, pummeling rhythm section come at you through the speakers and the needle threatens to fly from the record.

mp3: Famous Gunshots

21. Gigi – Maintenant (Tomlab)
After this album I am convinced that Nick Krgovich of No Kids is a pop maestro.  How else could he write and orchestrate an album like this.   The songs have a 60’s Phil Spector feel crossed with Cole Porter, putting him in a league with Stephen Merrit’s Sixths albums.  There are too many highlights to list here, but the Rose Melberg sung Alone At the Pier, Karl Blau doing The Old Graveyard and Zac Pennington’s Dreams of Romance are already classics in my house.

mp3: The Old Graveyard

22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
4AD does not carry the cache that it once did, but Earthquake the first song on Halcyon Digest totally evokes that label’s heyday, sounding like Dif Juz, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil all at once.  Bradford Cox is up to his old shoegaze tricks on Halcyon digest, but it’s Locket Pundt’s songs that lifted this album to the top of the stack this time.  Desire Lines and Fountain Stairs offer hazy bursts of sunshine to Cox’s Halcyon gauze.

mp3: Desire Lines

23. The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas (Trouble In Mind)
Je Ne Puis Pas Trés Drogué.  Well I am after this record.  The Limiñanas is full of hallucinogens, twelve doses to be precise. I hope their record label doesn’t get arrested for sending these things via the US Postal Service.  It could be a real scandal. I can see the headlines now: American Label implicated in French drug trafficking.  Giant hits of acid found in the form of 33 rpm records.  I ordered 10 copies.

mp3: Down Underground

24. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Hozac)
At first glance you might say Australia’s Super Wild Horses take their cue from the riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s, but their sound and style goes a little further harking back to that movement’s predecessors like the Breeders and Scrawl.  The grrrl duo switch off  between minimal drums and minimal guitar to deliver short sharp shocks trading off vocals and harmonizing on songs that transcend their primal beginnings. Not sure how much Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring who twiddled the knobs on this record had to do with the magic that Fifteen conjures, but if I were a betting man I would say not very much.

mp3: Goldentown

25. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
Like the Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall came of age in 2010, albeit at a much younger age.  Melted is where Segall got off the garage bus and tripped onto the magic buss.  Don’t get me wrong, he still rocks out, but it’s in full technicolor instead of the previous black and white.  Songs like Bees are meaty beaty big and bouncy and Sad Fuzz rains down on you like he’s finally gotten to the point of being able to incorporate those top shelf influences into his songs. Listening to Melted you can  see that Segall freed his mind and the possibilities are endless.

mp3: Caesar

Honorable Mentions:
Magic Bullets – Magic Bullets (Mon Amie) / Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling (Bella Union) / Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks) / Rose Elinor Dougall – Whithout Why (Scarlett) / Idle Times – Idle Times (Hozac) /  Radio Dept. – Clinging To a Scheme (Labrador) / Seinking Ships – Museum Quality Capture (S-curve) / Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Sub Pop) / Splinters – Kick (Double Negative) / Math and Physics Club – I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do (Matinee) / Katerine – Phillippe Katerine (Barclay) / The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) / White Wires – WWII (Dirtnap) / Dead Ghosts – Dead Ghosts (Florida’s Dying) / Harlem – Hippies (Matador) / Vic Godard – & Subway Sect – We Come As Aliens (Overground)

Best of the Rest: Favorite Albums of 2009

January 1, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Posted in Best of, Lists, Music | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As I said previously in my list of top Seattle albums of the year, my favorite three records came out of Seattle this year.  Because of that, this list begins at number four.  Judging from the number of contenders I cut from this list, it was a pretty good year for the album.  They may not be selling like they use to, but more people are making them than ever before.  Here’s to a year in which it was truly a task to keep up.

4. Crayon Fields – All the Pleasures of the World (Chapter)

Album number two from Australia’s Crayon Fields tripped the light fantastic not tripped since the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle.  Watery guitars and feathery strings mixed with precious vocals to make a record that I handled with care so as not to damage its frail pop songs.  That’s an exaggeration of course, but these songs will have you floating like a feather in the breeze.  Everything on this record is in it’s right place.  The Crayon Fields have attempted and intricate balancing act and gracefully succeeded.

mp3: Disappear

5. Brilliant Colors – Introducing the Brilliant Colors (Slumberland)

The cup definitely spilled over with C-86 inspired girl groups this year, but the Brilliant Colors were my favorite of the lot.  Instead of going for the twee-er side of things, they leaned more towards the punks with their Raincoats, Slits who were precursors to the whole C-86 movement. Every song on Introducing adheres to strict punk rock rules of  two minutes, super catchy, and blistering.

mp3: Absolutely Anything

6. At Swim Two Birds – Before You Left (Vespertine & Son)

Not since the Trembling Blue Stars’ Her Handwriting has their been a breakup album this raw, this heart-wrenching, this desolate, or this beautiful.  If you are Montgolfier Brothers fan, then Robert Quigly’s warm, melancholic voice will not be new to you.  If you are unfamiliar, then you will be enveloped by this record.  It has elements of Babybird, early Spiritualized, Simon Raymond’s unheralded solo album Blame Someone Else and some Blue Nile.  Before You Left is a slow burner, that will burn brightest on those lonely nights when you are all alone.  Sometimes sad albums are the best things to listen to when you are sad.

mp3: The Night We Ran Away

7. Obits – I Blame You (Sub Pop)

One part Hot Snakes, one part Edsel, one part killer rhythm section.  This album rocked like elder statesmen giving the kids a lesson in how to actually rock. It’s primal enough to get your blood pumping, but complex enough to keep your interest (all year long as is the case since this came out way back in March).  In a year where tons of  bands were at the beach making laid back sun in your face tunes, the Obits were kicking sand in everyone’s faces mixing Gang of Four funk with Dick Dale guitars.  Yow!

mp3: Two-Headed Coin

8. Tyvek – Tyvek (Siltbreeze)

It’s kind of funny, the amount of attention that this record’s cover has gotten.  It must be a real threat to a would-be punk’s sense of punk mentality to like a record who’s cover looks like it was designed by Nick Park.  To my mind post-punk was always a ton more interesting than anything punk ever wrought, and Tyvek are decidedly post-punk, pulling influences from disparate places to make a tour de force.  From the Joy Division like instrumental interludes to the Gang of Four-like guitars, or the way Kevin Boyer shouts out the address in the song Hey Una reminding me of Grant Hart’s 2541, or the two part Building Burning bringing back memories of early Fall.  Tyvek are the best parts of  geek, intellectual, punk, and they have a sense of humor.

mp3: Summer Things

9. Tap Tap – On My Way (Stolen)

If anyone has captured the essence and spirit of the Chills (besides Martin Phillips himself of course) it’s Thomas Sanders.  Sanders’ other band Pete & the Pirates were a top pick last year and I’m looking forward to their new album in the coming year, but Tap Tap nearly made me forget about his other band.  Tap Tap doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Pete & Pirates, except that it’s a little more moody and introverted with quiet vocals and slithering guitars.  On My Way will literally sneak right up on you and wrap itself around you.  Compared to this, the first Tap Tap record sounded like half finished demos.  Thomas Sanders really hitting his stride as songwriter.

mp3: El Gusano

10. Cerys Matthews – Don’t Look Down (Rainbow City)

Cerys Matthews, the former Catatonia singer has been quietly putting out solo albums since her band called it a day back in 2001.  Don’t Look Down is her fourth album and it’s really the first one I’ve taken note of since her Catatonia days.  She recorded two versions of the record with slightly different running orders and a few different songs  on each one.  One versionis sung in her native Welsh and and another in the more familiar English. No matter the language you choose to hear Don’t Look Down in, it’s a delight as Matthews goes from lush orchestral songs, to ones that sound like some long lost show tune,  to more straightforward pop numbers.  The album sometimes walks a fine line between sugary sweet pop and the vapid kind that seems to dominate the charts in the UK.  To my ears, it’s the former, and I can’t seem to get some of these songs out of my head.

mp3: A Captain Needs a Ship

mp3: Mae Angen Llong Ar Gapte

11. Jacuzzi Boys – No Seasons (Florida’s Dying)

On the surface, Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys appear to be just another garage tinged rock band, but upon further examination you start to realize that it’s a little bit more complex than that.  For starters this album was recorded at the Living Room, not a garage.  No Seasons has a distinct Feelies vibe.  Like the Feelies, Jacuzzi Boys like to whip their songs up into a maelstrom and they also seem to dig the Velvet Underground, Television and the Byrds. Just listen to Komi Caricoles and tell me I’m wrong.  But they also have a love of the 13th Floor Elevators that gives the record a more wild and unpredictable feel to it.

mp3: Komi Caricoles

12. So Cow – So Cow (Tic Tac Totally)

Technically this is a compilation or reissue, but really it’s the first many of us ever heard of Brian Kelly’s one man band So Cow.  Tic Tac Totally cherry picked the best tracks from Kelly’s self-released CDr’s and put them down on a slab of vinyl.  So Cow songs are short blasts of DIY pop, parts Television Personalities, Beat Happening and Pastels These 18 songs may grab, jar or caress you and sometimes all three at once.

mp3: Casablanca

13. Pants Yell! – Received Pronunciations (Slumberland)

It’s the little things that makes some things so special.  Little things like the guitars in the song Rue de la Paix sounding like Felt, the packaging with Japanese obi strip, or the crisp, yet simple production of this record.  Attention to detail is the bookish Pants Yell! forte.  They’ve simplified their sound a little, (gone are the horns of last year’s Allison Statton) stripping down to guitar, bass, drums and Andrew Churchman’s smooth croon.   A near perfect little record.  I don’t even mind it when Churchman sings “I never trusted Toby, or his long hair”.

mp3: Frank And Sandy

14. The Clean – Mister Pop (Merge)

You would think that with the number of times I’ve seen some new band get compared to the Clean that their latest album would have gotten more accolades, especially when Mister Pop is arguably the best album the band has made (remember that Compilation is just that, a compilation).  Mister Pop is the Clean at their most sanguine with all three members contributing top notch songs.  Asleep in the Tunnel could be one of my favorite Robert Scott songs ever, David Kilgour gives us the beautiful In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul and Are You Really on Drugs, while his brother Hamish contributes one his best in years Back In the Day.  Every song leads into the next, there are no non-sequiter instrumentals (Moon Jumper is perfect and integral) or throw-away half songs.  It’s a concise well thought out album that floats along putting you into a dream-like warm euphoric state.  At least it does me.

mp3: In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul

15. Taken By Trees – East of Eden (Rough Trade)

This has to be one of the best surprises of the year.  Victoria Bergsman had left the Concretes a few years back to go solo with her Taken By Trees project.  Album number one had many thinking (myself included) that although she had a great voice, she missed the songwriting of her former band.  No such doubts on album number two.  A complete rethink with Bergsman traveling to Pakistan to record East of Eden, and taking on an entirely different feel to anything she’s done previously.  Her child-like, angelic voice is still here, but this album of songs has a earthy eastern feel to it that doesn’t feel forced at all.  Her songs easily meld in with the eastern influences and at times are completely immersed, coming out all the better for it.

mp3: Anna

16. The Horrors – Primary Colors (XL)
I nearly didn’t pay this record any mind, because their debut was a non-melodic record with a bad a Birthday Party fixation.  Primary Colors is like the Radiohead’s the Bends, a sophomore album that leaves the debut in the dust.  The Horrors have moved on to more melodic territory, mining the rich vein of Chameleons, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sound and the Comsat Angels, straddling the line of stadium rock, goth, and pop. Not only do they get the feel right, they do it with great songs.

mp3: Who Can Say

17. Real Estate – Real Estate (Woodsist)

This New Jersey band’s debut came off sounding like a long lost David Kilgour album (Sugarmouth or A Feather In the Engine anyone?). I don’t know where exactly in New Jersey Real Estate is from, but my guess would be somewhere along the shore where you can kick back around a bonfire on the beach after the sun has just set with the fire crackling and the constant rhythm of waves crashing to the sand.

mp3: Beach Comber

18. The Spires – A Way of Seeing (Bee House)
If you’ve hung out at this blog for any amount of time you’ve probably figured out that the Chills are one of my favorite bands.  With this album, the Spires pretty much made up for the MIA Chills.  It’s uncanny how much singer Jason Bays sounds like Martin Phillips and how the music takes on this jangly sing-song thing that Chills did so well.  A Way of Seeing is such an accomplished record that it’s hard to believe it was self-released.  Thank god for DIY!

mp3: The Afterlife

19. Girls – Album (True Panther/Fantasy Trashcan)
This record has a distinct 50’s vibe mostly due to Christopher Owens’ emotive voice.  He reminds me of Danny Zuko, this big masculine, leather jacket wearing guy with a voice that betrays his sensitive side.  Musically, it hops around a little more from Beach Boys to My Bloody Valentine and places in between. The style doesn’t really matter though, because every song is packed with memorable hooks, the best of which is the epic centerpiece Hellhole Ratrace.  A real beauty.

mp3: Hellhole Ratrace

20. Mannequin Men – Lose Your Illusion, Too (Flameshovel)
About ten years ago a band like the Mannequin Men would have been hailed as potential saviors of rock n’ roll.  Since rock doesn’t need saving these days, they flew under the radar.  The Mannequin Men like the Strokes before them and the Replacements before them can’t decide if they want to be snotty or sensitive. The album cover and songs like Rathole and WTF LOL argue for the former, but Exquisite Corpse and Judy go for the latter.  That’s what makes the Mannequin Men so essential, they can do both.

mp3: Massage

21. The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath (Merge)

With each new Clientele record, the vocal reverb gets turned down further and the smooth pop thrills get turned up.  I remember back in the day, you would have to strain to understand Alasdair MacLean’s lyrics because  of the echo on his voice was so great.  The Clientele are the perfect example of a band that have developed into accomplished and confident musicians along the road of their career.  This is the fourth proper album, and I don’t know if I could say it is the best one, but it’s as good as any that came before which is saying something.  It has an autumnal sound and feel to it, but turning it up as loud as you can will enhance your ability to soak in the sounds and pleasures that Bonfires on the Heath serves out listen after listen.

mp3: I Wonder Who We Are

22. Summer Cats – Songs for Tuesdays (Slumberland)

One of my biggest musical regrets of this year was that I missed Summer Cats when they played in Seattle this summer.  It was a house party, and I can only imagine how they shook the joint with their energetic, anthemic indiepop.  This was the year that we finally got a full album from these feline Australians after many singles and eps.  Songs for Tuesdays plucked the best songs from their previous releases and injected some new songs as well as styles into the mix.  The ace Stereolab-ish singles Let’s Go and Lonely Planet are included, but there were new favorites to be found like the lovely duet In June, the Triffids-like Maybe Pile and St. Tropez. A record that is perfect any day of the week or year for that matter.

mp3: In June

23. Let’s Wrestle – In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s (Stolen)

These guys seem to get pegged as Fall fans, mostly because of Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’s off kilter, slightly tone-deaf vocals, but Let’s Wrestle are a whole lot goofier than the Fall ever were.  In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s is a strangely titled record, but it gives you an idea of this bands slanted and enchanted take on life. Decidedly lo-fi, lo-budget, but spot on.  Gonzalez has tons of bon mots, but the line No matter How many records I buy, I can’t fill this void could be the best lyric to describe record collector geek types ever.

mp3: I Won’t Lie To You

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