Tags: Crater, Erik Bood, Gazebos, Hotels, Lisa Prank, Soucher, Tacocat, The Exquisits, Vats, Versing
Is it too late for a list of my favorite hometown albums from last year? Probably, so go ahead and send a letter to the editor if you are feeling list fatigue. Otherwise continue reading and I promise this is the last one till next year.
1. Erik Blood – Lost In Slow Motion (Home Skillet)
Blood was involved in a lot of records this year, including recording two others on this list (Tacocat & Hotels). For his third album Erik Blood is still a solo act, but it’s mostly in name alone. Irene Barber provides additional guitar and singing throughout while it is book-ended by guest vocal appearances from Ismael Butler and OCnotes. He transcends any shoegaze pigeonhole he may have had and broadens his horizons to wide screen cinematic pop.
2. The Exquisits – Home (Asian Man)
The Exquisits have a sweaty punk sound that brings to mind Van Morrisson, the Hold Steady and Buffalo Tom. I also love the way they deftly incorporate horns into their powerful pop making it even more exciting.
3. Tacocat – Lost Time (Hardly Art)
Album number three finds Tacocat with no shortage of inspiration, Seattle, working on the weekend, X-Files and dealing with idiots on the internet. It is immediate and bright and speaks to you whether you are 14 or 40.
4. Versing – Nude Descending (Youth Riot)
Reason number 99 for why I don’t own a record label: When I first saw Versing they played with the then unsigned So Pitted. A few months later So Pitted signed to Sub Pop and released record. Versing put their dissonant Pavement meets Swell Maps record out about a year later on the tiny Tacoma label Youth Riot.
5. Vats – Green Glass Room (End of Time)
On the radio station that plays in my head, any song from this record would be played in a set that included Gang of Four, Lithics, A Frames and the Pheromoans. With its bony elbows, Green Glass Room makes its own space in the dissonant,/angular/punk room.
8. Hotels – Night Showers (Self-released)
Hotels have been knocking around Seattle for years, and have released a number of albums and singles but none as good as their latest. Enhancing their atmospheric guitar based songs with luscious doses of horns and strings makes Night Showers really pop!
10. Gazebos – Die Alone (Hardly Art)
Recorded by former Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch and fronted by a couple Seattle indierock linchpins – T.V. Coahran who runs Gorgonzola Records and Shannon Perry formerly of Butts and Katharine Hepburn’s Voice. This record feels like it was made by a band of roving minstrels who found some wagons full of amplifiers. It’s loud with a slightly unhinged feel that keeps you on your toes .
Tags: Barrington, Cathys, Contrast, Diet Cig, Gooch Palms, Lime Crush, Moon Types, No Ditching, Ras G, Slum of Legs, Terry
1. No Ditching – Inseparable (Art For Blind)
This five piece have attitude and hooks in spades. Their Inseparabel single is a DIY pop – punk masterpiece in the mold of Bratmobile, Siddeleys, The Razorcuts and Talulah Gosh.
2. Lime Crush – Graveyard (Fettkakao)
Vienna, Austria’s Lime Crush’s debut single was raw punk brilliance.
3. Gooch Palms – Trackside Daze (Urinal Cake)
Australia’s Gooch Palms channel the Ramones and Beach Boys into the number three single of the year.
4. Diet Cig – Sleep Talk (Father/Daughter)
If Small Factory’s Alex Kemp is not the Diet Cig’s spiritual guide then I’m getting senile.
Sidewalk was a swirling hypnotic slice of perfection.
6. Slum of Legs – Doll Like (Tuff Enuff)
The violin riff evoked the Velvet Underground without aping the VU on this excellent second single from Brighton’s Slum of Legs.
7. Ras G – Other Worlds (iNSect)
Brilliant dub madness from Los Angeles’ Ras G.
Former Clor front man Barry Dobbin took his time after Clor ended, but Feverhead was worth the wait.
9. Terry – Talk About Terry (Upset the Rhythm)
Tally ho to this excellent single!
10. Moon Types – Know the Reason (Jigsaw)
Sweden’s Moon Types employ some country, some psych and some pop which are the basic ingredients of many great singles.
11. Cathys – Hysterical Monument (Self-Released)
Sydney band the Cathy’s employing late period Felt to brilliant pop effect.
The Suburban Homes – Conformity In the U.K. (Total Punk)
Lowtide – Julia (Lost & Lonesome)
Bruising – Emo Friends (Beech Coma)
First Base – You’ve Got a Hold On Me (Hosehead)
Foam On The Daydream – Cloe’s Lung (FreakScene)
The Noble Krell – The Velvet You (13 O’clock)
The Death of Pop – Gardens (Too Pure)
Patois Counselors – Clean Skits (Negative Jazz)
Dear Tracks – Wildflower (Track & Field)
The Fallen Leaves – Out In a Forest (Market Square)
The Ghost Ease – Quit Yer Job (Cabin Games)
Les Chausettes – Kate (Punk Fox)
Destiny 3000 – Go Away (RIP Society)
The Young Sinclairs – Change Your Mind (13 O’clock)
Night Flowers – Slee (Dirty Bingo)
Tags: Best Friends, Cold Beat, Courtney Barnett, Day Ravies, Die Verboten, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Expert Alterations, Finnmark!, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Girls Names, Grubs, Helen, Hierophants, Hooton Tennis Club, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Kelley Stoltz, King Cyst, Kitchen's Floor, Knife Pleats, Mammoth Penguins, Nic Hessler, Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Outfit, Places To Hide, Primitive Parts, Protomartyr, Robert Forster, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, Sheer Agony, Shopping, Tam Vantage, Terrible Truths, The Chills, The Fireworks, The Intelligence, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, Traams, Twerps, Valet, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Willie Weird, Woolen Men
I hope you looking for a few more records to buy before the wave of 2016 releases hits I didn’t count them and they’re in no particular order but each album won in its own unique category. I don’t have any small statuettes to hand out, but I gave each of my favorite albums an award.
Places To Hide – Strange Lyfe (Irrelevant)
Best Posthumous Album: This Atlanta band broke up before releasing their second album. Great punk and post punk anthems in the vein of X, Versus and Seam.
The Intelligence – Vintage Future (In the Red)
Best Album by an Ex-Seattle Band: I say this about every Intelligence album, but it was their best record yet.
King Cyst – King of New York (Underwater Peoples)
Best Canterbury Scene Influenced Album: The Brooklyn group’s second album had me checking the release date on this whimsical beauty.
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Best Post-Punk Rust Belt Album: The third LP by this Detroit band continues the upward trajectory initialized by last year’s Under Color of Official Right.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Topshelf)
Best Shoegaze Album: Shoegaze has officially become a genre of music, but so few bands in the genre understand that you still need to write great songs to accompany the tremelo bar and effects pedals. That’s not a problem for Wildhoney.
The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
Best Comeback Album: After years of personal struggles, Martin Phillips finally reinitialized the Chills and created masterpiece that sounds like he hadn’t been out of the game over 20 years.
Helen – The Original Faces (Kranky)
Best Album That Sounds Like It Was Mastered from a Cassette: Liz Harris aka Grouper goes down the Black Tambourine / Vivian Girls rabbit hole and emerges from a mountain top.
Shopping – Why Choose (FatCat)
Best ESG-Gang of Four Inspired Album: The London band’s second album is not vastly different from their debut except that the songs are bigger, better more tightly wound.
Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek (Fortuna Pop!)
Best Album by Large Flightless Birds: Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa switched from bass to guitar in her new band and comes up with a more rawkus but no less poignant record.
Cold Beat – Into the Air (Crime On the Moon)
Best Polar Ice Cap Melting Album: Former Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew immerses her band into an 1980’s inspired synth pop sound that on the surface sounds cold, but has a warmth and playfullness on its underbelly that could be blamed for contributing to global warming.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Best Stream of Conscious Album: I was surprised at how polarizing this record was, it seemed like you either loved it or hated it. I was a fan of how Courtney Barnett innately was able to make her stream of conscious lyrics make sense over some incredible hooks.
Die Verboten – Die Verboten 2007 (Deewee)
Best Album from 2007: Recorded eight years ago, the Belgian Krautrock influenced collective finally got around to releasing their debut this year. As you might have guessed it sounds timeless.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
Best Timely Punk Album: It seemed like this Providence, Rhode Island band hit on all the top issues in America (Police Killings, Black Lives, and the 1% to name a few) on Full Communism. Add in a twin saxophone bed of chaos and you have the best pure punk record I’ve heard in a long time.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Best Indiepop Album by English People Masquerading as Scandinavians: Part Cats on Fire and part Lucksmiths this erudite record caught my indiepop fancy.
Girls Names – Arms Around a Vision (Tough Love)
Best Album by a Former Slumberland and Captured Tracks Band: Girls Names slightly reinvent themselves on their third LP. It’s darker, colder bleaker and better than anything they’ve ever done.
Hooton Tennis Club – Highest Point In Cliff Town (Heavenly)
Best Album of Shambolic Anthems: Hooton Tennis Club sound like they’ve got a Pavement attitude and the pop licks of Teenage Fanclub. Formidable attributes that they employ to precise effect.
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Best Comeback Album by a Band the Never Went Away: Roanoke, Virginia’s Eternal Summers never went away, in fact they’ve been consistently putting out records. Gold and Stone sees them taking a great leap in consistency and quality to make their best album since their debut.
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs (Tuff Enuff)
Best Album by a Joanna Gruesome Spin-off: Grubs also get an award for the shortest album of the year. These 11 songs fly by in about 20 minutes but leave a lasting impression thanks to singer Roxy Brennan sweet voice.
Hierophants – Parallax Error (Goner)
Best Devo Inspired Album: Australia’s Hierophants debut channels Chuck Berry, Beach Boys but mostly Devo to jarring effect. Disconcerting, discombobulated and disgreat.
Robert Forster – Songs to Play (Tapete)
Best Album that References Twitter: When artists incorporate references to the internet I usually cringe, but Robert Forster does it in smile inducing way on Let Me Imagine You. It was good to have one of the masters back.
Nick Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
Best Album by a Yay! Records Alumni: Formerly playing under the Catwalk moniker Nick Hessler decided to ‘solo’ on his debut LP. Soft Connections is a brilliant slice of Aztec Camera inspired pop.
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. (FatCat)
Best Garage Rock Inspired by Orange Juice: Best Friends’ debut isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering or revolutionary. It’s just plain fun.
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
Best Helsinki Soul Album: Brooklyn born Willis and her Finish Soul Investigators made one of my favorite soul revival records of the year.
Day Ravies – Liminal Zones (Sonic Masala)
Best Album by a Fake Kinks Revival Band: On their second LP, Sydny’s Day Ravies shed any hint of shoegaze and go for a raw psychedelic sound and prove that they’re good at that too.
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Right (Kanine)
Best Jangle Pop Album: You can’t always be right, but at least you can sound good even if you favor sonically dissonant pop. If this is album is wrong, I don’t want to be right
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Best Mark Hollis Revival Album: The sophomore album from Liverpool’s Outfit was entrancing. It contained no obvious hits, but it was a record that easily commanded my interest listen after listen.
Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound)
Best West Coast 90’s Indiepop Album: Rose Melberg finally decides to revisit her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor roots with her new band and proceeds to satisfy the soul.
The Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Best Buzzy Noise Pop Album: An intensely energetic debut based on a Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and the Razorcuts. This one was right in my wheelhouse!
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Best Album by a band With an Alter Ego: No their not Sonic Youth’s alter ego, Sauna Youth moonlight as Monotony. Distractions was tour de force of frantic noisy anthems influenced by the Fall and Wire.
Primitive Parts – Primitive Parts (Trouble In Mind)
Best Blur Album This Year: Male Bounding and Sauna Youth members team up for a straightforward maelstrom of sharp guitar focused punkish pop.
Valet – Nature (Kranky)
Best Cocteau Twins Impersonation: This Portland group start anew on Nature and thanks to Honey Owens ethereal voice aim for the stars.
Traams – Modern Dancing (FatCat)
Best Krauty-Shouty Album: I really liked Traams’ debut album, but Traams fine tuned their sound into controlled chaos to take Modern Dancing to the next level.
Kitchen’s Floor – Battle of Brisbane (Bruit Direct)
Best Dissonant Brutalist Album: Battle of Brisbane has topical similarities with Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument, but Matt Kennedy’s Kitchen’s Floor sounds angrier and ready for a fight.
Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths (Bedroom Suck)
Best Intensely Laid-back Album: This album had some similarities with the Shopping LP, but Terrible Truths somehow accomplish the trick of sounding tightly wound and laid back at once.
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
Best Monument to the Have Nots: Portland’s Woolen Men combine elements of Wire, the Wipers and REM to create a passionate document berating the new rich and lingering recession.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Best Surprise Album by Back-up Singers: Starr Duncan Lowe and Saundra Williams were backup singers for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I think they will have their own permanent gig after this stellar debut.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Best Album to Listen to Under a Pink Moon: If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Best Australian Album to Sound like It’s from New Zealand: No sophomore slump problems from this Melbourne band, in fact they appear to be a bottomless well of pop goodness.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (JagJaguwar)
Best Ballsy album by a band with no Balls: This Canadian band take their sound from many brave sounding bans like Gang of Four, the Comsat Angels and the Chameleons. Too bad they’re waffling under pressure to change their name.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – Frankie & the Witch Fingers (Permanent)
Best Garage Rock Album: This album made me appreciate the saturated garage rock genre again.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Best John Dwyer Album of the Year: The most varied and consistent album yet from this perennial favorite.
Sheer Agony – Masterpiece (Couple Skate)
Smartest Canadian Rock Album With an Old Guy on the Cover: How smart? How about combining mod era Lilys with the skewed pop of the Shins to come up with an endlessly interesting and engaging LP. This Montreal group seem to already have mastered everything on their debut.
Willie Weird – The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird (Stroll On)
Best Album to Go Off the Deep End: Kelley Stolz’s alter ego comes up with a fractured pop gem
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Best Album to Supply a Vegetarian Source of Protein: The second album of jarring pop from this Cardiff group really sticks to your ribs.
Tam Vantage – Life in High Definition (Lost and Lonesome)
Best Album by a Pop Single: The debut solo album from former Pop Singles front man is a complex and accomplished record.
The Shifters – The Shifters (Comfort 35)
Best Hex Enduction Album: This was the first time I can ever remember not buying the new Fall album. I smartly spent my money on the Shifters’ cassette instead.
Tags: Car Seat Headrest, Chastity Belt, Childbirth, Detective Agency, Grace Love and the True Loves, La Luz, Pony Time, Telekinesis!, TheeSatisfaction, Unlikely Friends, Wimps, Zebra Hunt
The moss has grown another layer over the past year here in the upper left corner of the U.S. and my stack of records from this Pacific Northwest outpost has grown as well. Luckily I have a cool dry place to store them. Here are my favorite records from Seattle for 2015, center justified for your reading comfort.
My favorite album of the year from Seattle or anywhere. If you’ve been reading along this year you probably could have easily guessed that.
Unclassifiable soul, hip hop, space age record that is part throwback, part social commentary and part bravely looking into the dark distant future.
The best feminist punk rock manifesto with a since of humor since forever.
With the rise of Unlikely Friends, fans of Boat and Math and Physics Club can’t be too sad that neither of those bands released a record this year. I wasn’t.
Michael Lerner eschewed his guitars and started collecting vintage synths to create a record inspired by OMD, Postal Service and Blue Nile.
Enlisting Ty Segall to record their sophomore record La Luz continue to shoot the curl with another great set of surf rock.
Wimps dial up another batch of killer slacker punk rock anthems (if there is such a thing). Their sophomore LP Suitcase sees them getting higher marks in all categories which, given their M.O. is probably exactly the opposite of what they were going for.
The great soul revival of 2015 even reached such remote outposts as Seattle and Grace Love and the True Loves debut album was one of the best soul records of the year from any city.
I’m not sure if Detective Agency would appreciate being called indiepop, but I call ’em like I see ’em and this is some very fine indiepop!
The career of Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest reminds me of Steven Jones of Babybird. Make a bunch of songs in your bedroom and release them and then find a band to re-record the best ones and voila, instant good record rooted in lo-fi but with some new bright corners.
Apparently Fleetwood Mac has permeated the garage rock scene of Seattle. I doubt there are any complicated love quadrangles in this band since they’re a duo. They’re more focused on just delivering a bunch of killer jams.
Chastity Belt got serious on album album number two. Their first LP No Regerts was middle school lo-brow humor compared to Time To Go Home’s more mature and measured sound that is a unique combination of drone and some of that heavier rock from the 90’s for which Seattle is well known.
Tags: Courtney Barnett, Dick Diver, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Faith Healer, Finnmark!, Fireworks, Flesh World, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Frida & Ale, H Hawkline, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Male Gaze, Menace Beach, Nic Hessler, No Joy, Outfit, Rozi Plain, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, TheeSatisfaction, Twerps, Unlikely Friends, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Young Guv, Zebra Hunt
This was supposed to be a mid-year list. Actually it still is, but it’s month late. What does that make it? I’m still calling it a mid year list since I saw mid year lists in May. It’s also not as diverse as I was hoping it would be as you will likely notice that the letter F is over-represented here. Hopefully some of the other letters will get a little more attention in the year end list. Hope you find something you might have missed and it’s in reverse alphabetical order for your convenience!
Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)
It just so happens that doing this list in reverse alphabetical order puts my favorite album of the year so far at the top of the list. How’s that for coincidence? Hopefully you already know and own this record. If not, you need it in your life because who doesn’t need a little kiwi flavored jangle served up by this Seattle trio?
Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)
Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook will through you for a loop if you’re expecting hard core here. This is Cheap Trick style power pop mixed in with blue eyed soul and 80’s top 40 that is undeniably great.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Deranged)
Sleep Through It is full of shimmering anthems in the classic pop mold. Wildhoney’s debut album easily places them at the top of the heap of the shoegaze revival.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
An album of bleak post punk that sounds like it could have been made during the age of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race. It’s like twisted a time warp back to the era of the Comsat Angels and the Sound.
Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Indiepop supergroup debut album that softens the edges of BOAT and adds some teeth to Math & Physics Club. The perfect Seattle elixir.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Melbourne’s Twerps deliver the Flying Nun influenced jangly goods on their second LP. Fans of the Go-Betweens, Feelies and the Bats take note.
TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sup Pop)
The otherworldly second album from the interstellar Seattle hip hop duo is spiritual and strange at once. If psychedelic hip hop were a genre this would be at the top.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Finally an Oh Sees LP that marries John Dwyers more experimental solo outing material with his band’s freak outs.
The Shifters – ST (Comfort 35)
Sure, the Fall put out a new record this year, but for my money Australia’s Shifters do it better in 2015. Full of bile, but they have a playfulness to them that is missing from the band that undoubtedly inspired them.
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Taught, anxiety filled post punk jams from this London band are designed for those who prefer their music played with sharp jabs and shouted choruses.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Sharon Jones backup singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe finally come to the front of the stage to take the spotlight and give us a smooth soul classic.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.
Rozi Plain – Friend (Lost Map)
For her third LP Rozi Plain paints from a bucolic pallet to give us music of rolling hills and wandering brooks.
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Second album from Liverpool quintet evokes the greatness of Talk Talk and the Blue Nile.
No Joy – More Faithful (Mexican Summer)
With the help of Jorge Elbrecht this Montreal dreampop have produced an intricate studio creation that is a marvel to he ears.
Menace Beach – Ratworld (Memphis Industries)
Want to relive those 90’s indie rock glory days, Menace Beach are here to help. Their debut album is super charged with great riffs and choruses.
Male Gaze – Gale Maze (Castle Face)
Male Gaze have an intensity about them that puts them into the same league with A-Frames. Their debut album is steeped in post-apocalyptic paranoia that never goes out of style.
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Album number two from Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome is as high quality as their debut. It continues the uncanny mixture of sweet choruses, mad freak-outs and made freak-outs and sweet choruses.
Nic Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
I feel like Nic Hessler’s debut album would have gotten more attention if he would have stayed with his Catwalk moniker. Marketing aside, Soft Connections is beautiful record of accomplished pop that is as good as anything Aztec Camera ever did.
H Hawkline – In the Pink Condition (Heavenly)
Welsh musician H Hawkline, also known as Huw Gwynfryn Evans fits right in with some of his more famous psychedelic countrymen like Gruff Rhys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon who also produced the album.
Former Rough Bunnie Frida teams up with Ale of Le Man Avec Les Lunettes to create a wonderful little folk record retains the same innocent playfulness of Rough Bunnies.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – ST (Permanent)
Los Angeles garage maestros by way Bloomington, Indiana have put out the best garage rock record of the year. Yeah, I know it’s only August, but I sincerely doubt anything will surpass this white hot record.
Flesh World – The Wild Animals In My Life (Iron Lung)
An intense and textured debut from former this bay area band lead by Jess Scott formerly of Brilliant Colors. Tons of guitars create a dense o wall of sound and makes this record beg to be played at maximum volume.
Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Switch Me On is packed full of adrenaline fueled pop songs. Fuzz pop blasts that outfuzz all other fuzz pop.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Singer Edward Forth has a deep baritone that reminds you of Edwynn Collins on one of the most understated and pleasure inducing indiepop record of the year.
Faith Healer – Cosmic Troubles (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert aka Faith Healer is also a member of Edmonton garage rockers Tee-Tahs who put out one of my favorite albums of last year. Faith Healer is an entirely different thing, but no less good. Cosmic Troubles is full of easy psychedelic jams in the vein of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon. I wonder if she’s got some Welsh in her?
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Eternal Summers’ fourth LP is their best one yet. It’s full of buzz and jangle with just right amounts of polish and tarnish.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovani)
Downtown Boys debut LP rages against the machine of of capitalism, sexism, racism, queerphobia, fascism, and boredom to the unstoppable sound of a twin sax tsunami. Hardcore never sounded this inviting and inclusive.
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (Trouble In Mind)
Dick Diver have many similarities with their fellow Australians Twerps. They jangle, sound a little like the Go-Betweens but Dick Diver aren’t afraid to get a little weird and experiment a little more on their records. Melboure, Florida is their third LP and though not as immediate as 2013’s Calendar Days, it sticks to the bones.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)
Courtney Barnett’s stream of conscious lyrics are endlessly interesting to interpret and decipher and you have ample opportunity because the songs are so good on her debut LP that they beg to be played again and again.
Tags: Beat Happening, K, Olympia, Sub Pop
Beat Happening probably didn’t invent indiepop and twee, but they may as well have. The landscape past and present is littered with references to this band from Olympia, Washington which says a lot about their long lasting influence. Looking at their songs, it’s kind of astounding how many bands have covered them named themselves after their songs, certainly more than those that have named themselves for Velvet Underground songs. Not bad for a band that confessed to writing songs mostly about sex and food. The band never officially broke up, but retired soon after the release of 1992’s opus You Turn Me On. Front guy Calvin still runs K Records and has found other outlets for his unique take on pop in Dub Narcotic, Halo Benders and solo albums. The band never released a best of album, so they seem ripe for a best of list. Here are my top 10 Beat Happening songs, and probably not what would show up on a best of list, but who knows?
10. Other Side (Black Candy 1989) – Beat Happening were a lot of things. They could rock out like the Cramps, be wayward mavericks a la Lee Hazlewood, and of course sound like 60’s beatniks. Other Side comes from Black Candy which is probably considered their weakest album, but they always started their records with a splash and this duet between Calvin and Heather is full of wistful beauty.
9. Tiger Trap (You Turn Me On 1992) – This song starts off Beat Happening’s final album You Turn Me On. Right from the start you know this record is going to be different than the others because they’d never started off a record with ballad and they’d never recorded a seven minute song (Godsend is nearly 10 minutes). Recorded by Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants the droning pastoral jangle of Tiger Trap hypnotizes and soothes you like a babbling brook through a meadow.
8. Not a Care In the World (Sassy Single 1992) – This one was also recorded by Moxham during the You Turn Me On sessions, but it didn’t make the cut and was relegated to a single released by Sassy Magazine (anyone remember their Cute Band Alert?). This one has Moxham’s fingerprints all over it, I would be surprised if he didn’t play guitar on this. Heather usually sang only a couple of songs per record, but they were always highlights and this would have been a great 10th song on Your Turn Me On and hints at what might have been if they had recorded a follow up to their final album.
7. Indian Summer (Jamboree 1988) – Indian Summer may be Beat Happening’s best known song thanks to Luna, REM and Ben Gibbard who have all covered it. This song demonstrates what Beat Happening did so well, it’s so minimal yet paints such a vivid picture. You only hear sparse guitar and drums accompany Calvin’s voice yet it evokes autumnal colors, long shadows and the end of something special.
6. Nancy Sin (Dreamy 1991) – Beat Happening weren’t all campfires and s’mores, Calvin sang about sex a lot and this song is dripping with it. This one has a noir feel to its lust. Probably because Nancy always made me think of Nancy Drew and Calvin wanting to get it on with here. And what red blooded adolescent kid wouldn’t want to get it on with Nancy Drew?
5. Our Secret (Beat Happening 1985) – This was Beat Happening’s first single. Often bands never do better than their first single and Beat Happening set the bar pretty high. They barely knew how to play at this point, but they knew what a great pop song should sound like. Ever the gentleman, Calvin is going to run away with a girl, but first he’s going to have dinner with her family, I assume to tell them of their plans. What a punk.
4. Fortune Cookie Prize (Dreamy 1991) – Heather sings this wistful song evoking the happenstance of love. Sometimes you find it when you least expect it, but the other half doesn’t quite know it. The best love song the band ever wrote.
3. Sleepy Head (You Turn Me On 1992) – You’ve been up for hours, but your partner likes to sleep in. Now the complication comes in. Is this song about letting your lover sleep in, or is it about anxiety and depression about not being able to sleep? Heather’s gentle voice keeps you guessing.
2. This Many Boyfriends Club (Jamboree 1985) – There are some amazing stories of when Beat Happening toured the west coast with Fugazi. Punks there to see Fugazi at the Los Angeles show just didn’t get Beat Happening. One story is of Calvin getting hit in the nose by someone throwing an ashtray at him. He didn’t miss a beat and quoted Darby Crash of the Germs back to the audience, “Somebody broke my nose. Dump the whole balcony.” I don’t know what song they played after that, but I like to think it was this one. All guitar squall and feedback with Calvin doing spoken word that sounds improvised. This Many Boyfriends Club demands your attention and keeps it until mic hits the floor with a thud and a girl screams at the top of her lungs. This is punk!
1. Tales of Brave Aphrodite (Beat Happening / Screaming Trees 1988) – Tales of Brave Aphrodite comes from the four song EP that Beat Happening recorded with Screaming Trees. Calvin went to grade school with Trees singer Mark Lannegan and Lannegan had helped record Jamboree. Beat Happening have said that they felt like Screaming Trees cast off songs were better than their best stuff. Aphrodite really soars thanks to the additional power of collaboration and a swirling organ riff. Even if they didn’t team up with the Trees, this song features some of Calvin’s best lyrics and one of his best melodies. “Silver Aphrodite in her chocolate nightie, Says she wants to try me, she won’t bite me”combines the food and sex theme of Beat Happening into a single line.
Tags: Go-betweens, Robert Forster
Last week I was reading a list of the top ten Stereolab songs that somebody put together for the Stereogum site. I disagreed with 90 percent of the choices. So I thought to myself, I should make a list that you can disagree with 90 percent of the selections. With the Go-Betweens you either lean towards Robert Forester or Grant McLennan. The younger me was a McLennan guy, the older me is most certainly a Forester disciple. Since McLennan’s untimely death Forster is all we’ve got. He’s reportedly working on his sixth solo album so what better reason to choose him for this first semi-irregular installment of Ten Best.
10. Make Her Day (Go-Betweens – Bright Yellow Bright Orange -2003)
This comes from one of the slighter Go-Betweens albums, their second reunion album. This song flew under my radar until I saw them play it live on what became their final tour of the US. It was at the Triple Door here in Seattle. Forster counted it off tapping his boot against the stage floor. The jangling warmness filled the room and this song just bloomed. This recorded version doesn’t quite reach those heights I experienced seeing it performed live that night, but it is close. A shame they buried at the end of Bright Yellow Bright Orange.
9. Warm Nights (Robert Forster – Warm Nights -1996)
I remember when Warm Nights came out and how disappointed many were about it. After all, it was a Robert Forster album produced by Edwyn Collins. It had to be good. I guess we were expecting something else. Hindsight provides some clarity thankfully. The slight country tinge is something Forster has explored a lot on his solo records and that is present here, but there is also Television-esque guitar that gives this song a different feel than much of his catalog. His previous record was an all covers album titled I Had a New York Girlfriend, but this is his most New York sounding song he ever wrote.
8. Dear Black Dream (Robert Forster – Danger In the Past -1990)
Dear Black Dream comes from Forster’s first solo album. After the breakup of the Go-Betweens he went to Germany and recorded it with Mick Harvey of the the Bad Seeds. It was well known that Forster was the one who often struggled with writers block while McLennan seems to have an endless supply of songs. So it was kind of surprising that Danger In the Past bettered McLennan’s Watershed. Dear Black Dream has a gospel feel to it, like he’s elated to have come out of the murk of being in the under appreciated Go-Betweens and the idea of wide open roads ahead brought excitement and hope to his song writing.
7. Surfing Magazines (Go-Betweens – Friends of Rachel Worth -2000)
This song comes from the Go-Betweens’s first album after reuniting after 12 years apart and four solo albums. Surfing Magazines successfully unites the whimsy of adolescent dreams of being a surf bum and dropping off of the grid with becoming an adult and the knowledge that those were just dreams. You get the feeling from the song’s poignancy that he thinks he should have really been a surfer, or at least still wonders what might have been.
6. Spring Rain (Go-Betweens – Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express -1986)
McLennan and Forester both had distinct styles, but every once in a while they would write a song that sounded like the other one. Spring Rain had a killer hook and beautiful guitar solo that gave you the feeling that the two were living closely together. This was written after they’d moved to London from Brisbane so they probably were.
5. The Circle (Robert Forster Calling from a Country Phone -1993)
Forster’s second album is his best one and unfortunately the only one that was never released in the US. Go figure, the curse of the Go-Betweens continues I guess. The Circle married the pop smarts of the Go-Betweens with country twang and charm. He seems like he’s having fun, like he did when he sang odes to Lee Remick and Karen.
4. People Say (Go-Betweens second 7″ single -1979)
In the liner notes of the Go-Betweens best of 1978-1990, Forster said that, “Sometimes I think this is the best song I’ve ever written.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s got a great old time organ throughout and the line “The clouds lie on their backs, rain on everyone, But you always stay dry, You got your own private own sun” which is a classic. Not bad for the second single out of the gate.
3. Darlinghurst Nights (Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart -2005)
If under duress and I had to pick a favorite Go-Betweens album, I might pick their final album Oceans Apart. That is due to the number of high quality Forster songs on it. The best one is Darlinghurst Nights, which is a tour through the past that begins with an acoustic guitar and Forster opening a notebook and progresses into a frenzy of horns while people and places streak by. It’s a glimpse of the past that like all great songs, provides more questions than answers.
2. Lee Remick (Go-Betweens first 7″ single -1978)
Forster wrote both sides of the first Go-Betweens single. This was the A-side. A Two and a half minute ode to a screen jem of the past. “She was in The Omen with Gregory Peck, She got killed, what the heck?!” Not taking himself too seriously, and not knowing that he had a written a classic song at his first go. The song that launched a thousand indiepop groups.
1. Draining The Pool For You (Go-Betweens – Spring Hill Fair -1984)
Forster as the pool boy. Not for long, because he knows that he’s too smart for this kind of gig. Of course it’s analogy for many of life’s unfair predicaments. Here Forster takes the mundane experience of pool cleaning and makes it into an ode of contempt. He’s draining the pool, but not the way you think. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, knowing that these Hollywood stars could just as easily be draining the pool for him.
Tags: Ausmuteants, Bent Cousin, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Charles Bradly, Cheap Riot, Close Lobsters, Courtneys, Crimson Wave, Day Ravies, Dick Diver, Dream Boys, Flesh World, Giorgio Murderer, Girl One and the Grease Guns, Gurgles, Heathers, Hierphants, Institute, Juniore, Kelley Stoltz, King Tears Mortuary, LaRose Jackson, Menace Beach, Paellas, Pang, Primetime, Primitive Parts, Primitives, Sleaford Mods, Slum of Legs, Suburban Homes, Tender Age, The Mantles, Thigh Master, Twerps, Ubertrager, When Nalda Became Punk, Wildhoney, Wimps, Woolen Men
If they keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and counting them down. Here’s my take on the 2014 singles scene. You don’t need eharmony to find a great single, just peruse this list.
1. Wildhoney – Sixteen Forever (Photobooth)
Baltimore band’s second single is even better than their first. Effortlessly great shoegaze. Look out for their debut LP early in 2015.
2. Charles Bradly & LaRose Jackson – Luv Jones (Daptone)
This one came out of nowhere and flew under most everyone’s radar. Charles Bradly and LaRose Jackson sound great together and the flip side has him sounding a bit like the Specials. A certified classic.
3. Primetime – Tied Down (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
UK group influenced by Wire and Elastica, only they don’t steal riffs. Solid debut single that indicates greatness.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant)
Classic 60’s inspired, sunny psychedelic single.The Primitives stormed back on the scene with this record.
5. Giorgio Murderer – Primitive World (Goner)
Buck Biloxi’s alter ego obsessed with Star Trek. Insanely insane.
6. Day Ravies – Hickford Whizz (Beko)
Day Ravies move beyond their shoegaze roots and move into full pop bloom.
7. Bent Cousin – Dizzy (Team Love)
Twins from Brighton mix a little bit of rap with indiepop. It shouldn’t work but of course it does since it’s right here at number seven.
8. Gurgles – You Send Me Up (Saltaire)
Gurgles take Steely Dan and Prefab Sprout and turn it up so that it bleeds out of your headphones.
9. Pang – Young Professionals (Grazer)
Bay area young professionals second single is glamorous sounding, jagged, Wire influenced brilliance.
10. Primitive Parts – Open Heads (Sexbeat)
Members of Male Bonding and Sauna Youth, Primitive Parts excel in jangly power pop that reminds me of Modern Life Is Rubbish era Blur. Strong!
11. Girl One and the Grease Guns – Bashed Beaten & Broken (Squirrel)
Alter egos of the Manhattan Love Suicides deal in old drum machines, synths and detached vocals with decided industrial slant.
12. Suburban Homes – The Suburban Home EP (Market Square)
Mysterious punks from the suburbs on written by Paul Messis and on Paul Messis’s label. Raw angry and very good.
13. Close Lobsters – Kunstwerk in Spacetime (Shelflife)
The return of the Close Lobsters was a wonderful sound to behold.
14. Courtneys – Mars Attacks (Hockey Dad)
The second single in this year’s countdown to feature a rap. Vancouver’s Courtneys follow up last years great debut with more of their good thing.
15. The Mantles – Memory (Slumberland)
The Mantles seem to be able to effortlessly write these dusty Byrdsian gems.
16. Juniore – La Fin Du Monde (Enterprise)
Suave, spaghetti-French pop that pulls in some Limiñanas along with a bit of Françoise Hardy.
17. Crimson Wave – Say (Accidental Guest)
Former Wild Honey singer goes two for two with bands and singles. Her new band Crimson Wave is off to an auspicious start with this Scrawl influenced record.
18. Flesh World – A Line In Wet Grass (Iron Lung)
Jess Scott, formerly of Brilliant Colors fronts Flesh World. A Line in the Wet Grass is a maelstrom with a pop song in the middle just struggling to escape.
19. Slum of Legs – Begin To Dissolve (Tuff Enuff)
Slum of Legs combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew topped off with a violin chaser.
20. Hierphants – Nothing Neu (Goodbye Boozy)
Featuring members of Ausmuteants and Frowning Clouds, you might expect Hierphants to sound like a garage band with Devo leanings and you would be right. Nothing Neu, but good nonetheless.
21. King Tears Mortuary – Grease Trap (Vacant Valley)
Power pop from Sydney that recalls southern fried college rock from the 80’s. Surprised Mitch Easter didn’t have a hand in this.
22. Ubertrager – Neben Mir (Great Pop Supplement)
Amazing how much this sounds like Broadcast. Otherworldly!
23. Institute – Giddy Boys (Kartorga Works)
Debut single from Austin band sounding like their from Australia. The Austin Ausmuteants?
24. Primitive Parts – TV Wheels (Faux Discx)
Primitive Parts make their second appearance in the countdown. Quality and quantity. Lookout for their debut coming later this year on Trouble In Mind.
25. Dream Boys – Positive Arguments (White Iris)
Bluebells, Bif Bang Pow and Three O’Clock fans rejoice, Los Angeles’ Dream Boys follow up last year’s LP with more jangly goodness!
26. Wimps – Distraction (Help Yourself)
Short, sharp punk from Seattle’s slackers in chief.
27. Kelley Stoltz – Cross Your Mind (Stroll On)
Stoltz keeps cranking out classic pop whether you like it or not. The guy’s a machine. Dig the ode to Echo & the Bunnymen xylophone solo too.
28. When Nalda Became Punk – Indiepop Whatever (Shelflife)
From Spain, but riding a wave of Swedish Pop, When Nalda Became a Punk feature jangly guitars and life affirming choruses.
29. Woolen Men – Real FX (Loglady)
More tightly wound jangle from this Portland trio.
30. Cheap Riot – Part Time Vacancy (Croque Macadam)
A great debut single from punk-party mods who remind me of Television Personalities and the Buzzcocks.
The cover looks like something Jack Kirby might have drawn for the Fantastic Four back in the 60’s. Meanwhile Tim Gane continues his odes a future that never was.
32. Paellas – Cat Out (Self-released)
The formerly moody Paellas, shake the lead out and get downright dancy. New direction 100 percent approved.
33. Thigh Master – Head of the Witch (Tenth Court)
Jangly garage pop that is bound to not just to excite fans of Suzanne Somers but is likely to make fans of the Clean the Go-Betweens happy as well.
34. Twerps – Back To You (Merge)
More Australian pop you say. Yes they just keep coming. Sounding a little like the Moles in the intro, this one is the lead single from the upcoming LP.
35. Tender Age – Anything (Track & Field)
Portland’s Tender Age evoke’s Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. Dark and dreamy.
36. Sleaford Mods – Loan Shark (Apocolypso)
A bit more glitchy and more experimental backing provides great backdrop for another rant.
37. Heathers – Fear (Death Party)
Single number two from this LA band delivers more hardy jangepop. The cool thing about them is how funnel their very English influences (Wedding Present) into a very American sound (Replacements).
38. Menace Beach – Tennis Court (Memphis Industries)
Dreamy female vocals over scuzzy male ones and scuzzy guitars that delivers with a nice big chorus. Just what you should expect from a great single.
39. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself (Goodbye Boozy)
Prolific Aussi synth punks crash the party with this blistering guitars and head flexing vocals.
40. Dick Diver – New Name Blues (Fruits & Flowers)
New Name Blues sounds a little more experimental and less straightforward than their usual strummy goodness, adding in some saxophone to keep things interesting.