2018 Singles of the Year

The last few years, I have thought that there wouldn’t be enough singles to do top singles of the year list, but each year I look at the stack of singles that I’ve accumulated and realize that the 7-inch (and 10-inch) single still lives. Thank god there are still a few of us out there!

1. Wesley Bright & the Honeytones – Happiness (Colemine)
Step back and make some room for this floor filler. Soul in this sort of throwback style seems to have a core audience but little critical acclaim. That seems to matter less in this time of algorithmic recommendations. So I hope you have smart music playing device that slipped this hot little number by this Rubber City Beekeeper in between some Ottis Redding and Al Green.

2. False Tracks – Down There (Self-released)
When I saw that this Baltimore Philly band featured former Ropers Greg Pavlovcak and Mike Hammel I was interested. I was really hooked by the power chord blasts that were part glam swagger and part post punk urgency.

3. The Orielles – Bobbi’s Second World (Heavenly)
Two brand new songs not found on the debut LP also from this year. One is a cover of Peggy Gou’s It Makes You Forget and the other an original, Bobbi’s Second World. Both up the infectious energy of their LP and sparkle with Bananarama 80’s fun.

4. Mikah Wilson – Sunshine Grooves (Burger)
Sunshine Grooves is bright, shiny and sunshine drenched pop that many will associate with the Beach Boys, Zombies and Emmitt Rhodes from the late 60’s and early 70’s heyday of that style. So nice to hear it alive and well in the dark days of 2018.

5. Husbands – Karlstad EP (Box Bedroom Rebels)
The Box Bedroom Rebels label has perfected the art of fitting an album onto a seven inch record. Oklahoma City’s Husbands fill it up with tons of Weezer like power pop with a devil may care attitude straddles the tightrope of rock gods and geekdome.

6. Honey Radar – Psychic Cruise (Chunklet)
The elusive Honey Radar love to put out singles of severely limited quantity, often on lathe cut vinyl. Psychic Cruise was no different in its being limited and certainly no different from the band’s high quality output of short, psychedelic bursts of distorted, hazy pop.

7. Girl Ray – The Way We Came Back (Moshi Moshi)
Recorded after last year’s debut, The Way We Get By was written by singer Poppy Hankin when she was sixteen. The band describe it as a plump cow that needed to be milked. It does go down smoothly and leaves a nice mustache.

8. Beachtape – Fix It Up (PNKSLM)
Brighton’s Beachtape continue the long line of beach named bands not sounding like the beach. No Frankie and Annette or Beach Boys here. This is straight up 90’s inspired indie rock pop.

9. Datenight – My Car (Goodbye Boozy)
Meaty jangle from Memphis that sounds influenced by the jangly Flying Nun bands or yore. I was kind of surprised at how these guys flew under the radar given their style and the usual fervid fandom that ensues. Either it’s going out of style or my ear for it is waning. Someone should invent a music blog to bring attention to this sort greatness.

10. Art Sick – Going Down (Yr First Crush Records!)
Quality indiepop in the vein of Tiger Trap and Small Factory from this Oakland trio with a strong pedigree. The band includes former members of Burnt Palms, Lunchbox and Kids on a Crime Spree. Going Down keeps the 90’s indiepop flame alive.

11. Parsnip – Feeling Small (Anti Fade)
Parsnip’s second single ups the quirkiness factor a touch, but the band continue their endearing ways on Feeling Small. It’s a little bit of cartoon bubblegum, some oompa circa the Kinks Face to Face and then topped off with a modern day lo-fi sensibility.

12. EggS – I Fell In Love (Hellzapoppin)
The EggS of Paris, not to be confused with the Eggs of Arlington, Virginia, bust out quite convincingly on their debut single. The aloof vocal reminds me a bit of Steve Kilby of the Church and the droney pop that the band seems to excel at has a certain Clean quality to it.

13. Child’s Pose – Feral (Nervous Energy)
Sauna Youth spin-off band sound like their relationship would suggest. Wired songs, Intelligently and tightly wound so that they pop themselves into your consciousness for immediate satisfaction.

14. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – He’s On Time (Colemine)
Apparently the Harlem Gospel Travelers were literally students of Eli Paperboy Reed in a gospel class the singer was teaching. It must have been a very hands-on class, because Reed brought them into a studio to record this single. Based on He’s On Time, Reed is a very good teacher.

15. The BV’s – Every Story is a Ghost Story (Cloudberry)
The BV’s remind me of a more masculine sounding Field Mice. The band excels at creating moods with the chiming guitars and plaintive vocals. No one can afford a vinyl copy of Emma’s House these days and my guess is that you won’t be able to afford this one in 30 years either.

16. Blushing – The Truth (The Nothing Song Records)
If you are aching for a dreampop fix, look no further than Austin’s Blushing. The Truth may be their best song yet. The way they weave their tremolo guitars into webs of dewy goo evokes those early Lush EP’s.

17. Terry Vs Tori – Larusso (Box Bedroom Rebels)
Spain’s Terry Vs Tori in 2018 remind me of France’s Les Molies in 1994. Which means nothing to no one, unless you remember that gentle, understated pop from 24 years ago. No matter, you should snatch up this single if you dig indiepop of the Sarah variety.

18. The Shifters – Just Sat Down (Digital Regress)
Every time I listen to the Shifters I marvel at how much they remind me of early Fall, but at the same time are foraging off on their own unbeaten track. Sure, if MES were still alive today he would slag them off songs like the killer Melbourne & Monash Youth League as ripping off the Fall. I can’t think of a higher compliment.

19. Cool Flowers – Pig Charade / Angry (Self-released)
Portlands’s Cool Flowers fly so far under the radar they didn’t even bother to put their single on soundcloud or bandcamp. “So what” you say, I use Spotify. Good luck brother. Dub inspired glory on both sides inspired by the Public Image Limited and Scientist. A great reason to buy a record player.

20. Okama Flannel Boy – Carolina St. (Cloudberry)
Mexico city indiepawpers peddle some excellent rockabilly/Smiths/Orange Juice riffs on this single. Fernando Torres apparently is the man behind the flannel and his delicate voice and knack for a hook make this record sparkle atop the pile of all to self-aware also-rans.

21. Tiny Fireflies – Nothing (Self-released)
Nothing sees Tiny Fireflies relocating from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, though they traipsed across the country to record it with Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor) in Brooklyn. Nothing was then mixed by Ian Catt. Makes sense, as this is a fine example of some top shelf dreampop combining sad longing of the Trembling Blue Stars and atmospheric weight conjured by Slowdive.

22. Jackson Politik – Psycho-mania (Market Square)
Andy Jordan has a number of music persona’s and Jackson Politik is the latest. Psycho-mania sounds as its title advertises. The b-side Well-adjusted Australians is my favorite here. It sounds like a companion song to the Jazz Butcher’s Southern Mark Smith in both sound, topic, and even the tiny Max Eider guitar solo. More of this sort of thing please!

23. Amyl & the Sniffers – Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled) (Flightless)
Australian punks Amyl & the Sniffers put out a white hot compilation of their EPs earlier in the year and then followed it up with this worthy companion to the Stooges’s I Wanna Be Your Dog. It was a good year for this band, and can’t wait for what they have in store for us.

24. Lithics – Photograph of You (Thrilling Living)
Lithics deal in such sharp edged rock that it’s downright dangerous. Pack away your balloons and beach balls while listening to Photograph of You because the the icy cold shards of shrapnel coming off of this record is sure to puncture the most staunchly optimistic soul and make them stagger and question their rosy disposition.

25. Peach Kelli Pop – Which Witch (Mint)
Inspired by Red Cross’ Posh Boy EP, this six song seven inch contains short, sharp pop that leaves you wanting more and wishing each song was twice as long.

26. Stiff Love – Attitudes (Feel It)
Olympia, Washington’s Stiff Love, who formed in 2017, fit perfectly into that town’s punk-riot-do-it-yourself aesthetic. Attitudes combines 70’s guitar riffs with punk rock in your face flamboyance. This is white hot glammy goodness.

27. Mush – Gig Economy (Dipped In Gold Recordings)
From the ashes of the Too Pure Singles Club, comes Dipped in Gold Recordings and their first release from Leeds band Mush and it’s a spazzy symphony. A permanent job with benefits could be going the way of the Dodo, and rocking out to the next global economic meltdown never sounded so wonderfully unsettling!

28. The Stroppies – Maddest Moments (Tough Love)
The Stroppies tick all the boxes on the indie cred check list. Members for the Twerps, Dick Diver and the Stevens. Check, check, check. Compared to the Flying Nun bands like the Clean and the Bats. Check and check. Maddest Moments isn’t drop dead immediate, but it worms its way into you’re consciousness with off kilter melody and workman like playing. It’s comfortable like a favorite sweater.

29. Jay Som – Pirouette (Polyvinyl)
Melina Duterte’s (aka Jay Som) single from early in the year was fuzzy sounding, sleepy eyed follow up to her album the previous year. Pirouette is as lively as anything she’s done previously and moves her from bedroom into the kitchen, slicing up a nice chunk of powerish pop.

30. Skiftande Enheter – Mördande Rutin (Market Square)
Further north than Scotland, straight outta Sweden and out-yumming the Yummy Fur are Skiftande Enheter. I have no idea what they’re singing about but count me in on this DIY punk on cross country skis.

2017 Singles of the Year 40-21

Hello, and welcome to this year’s singles countdown. You will likely notice that there are few non-7-inch singles in the list this year – 12″ EP’s and Cassettes. This is either due to fewer 7-inch singles getting made or a drop off in my vigilance. I don’t want to speculate on my anecdotal evidence. Broadening the scope of format lets me add some things that normally would be ignored in my year end list making. Hope you find something you love.

omni
40. Omni – Fever Bass (Chunklet)
There must be Joseph K records in Atlanta record stores, or these kids have an internet connection. These two slices of sharp pointed pop will provide a great soundtrack for your version of the herky jerky.

realno
39. Real Numbers – Frank Infatuation (Market Square)
Minneapolis’s Real Numbers follow up last year’s LP on Slumberland with this rerecorded version of Frank Infatuation and a brand new b-side and show us again why we loved their brand of jangly Television Personalities meets Art Museums pop in the first place.

marbled
38. Marbled Eye – EP II (Melters/Digital Regress)
Marbled Eye’s austere post punk features clanging guitars and disaffected vocals. Very good if you like a little bit of A-Frames with some Total Control.

lastleaves
37. Last Leaves – Hinterland (Matinee/Lost & Lonesome)
Marty Donald and most of his former band the Lucksmiths evoke a sense of place starting in the Hinerland and then heading to the beaches of South Australia.

jayvons
36. The Jay Vons – Want You Tomorrow (Wick)
An excellent R&B soul record that could mistaken for a lost classic. Not surprising considering Wick is a spin off label from Daptone.

creation
35. The Creation Factory – Let Me Go (Market Square)
Not on Creation or Factory records, but maybe sounding a little like the Creation. This Los Angeles band slips in from their city’s underbelly with this blast of 60’s infused swirl.

barringtone
34. Barringtone – Dream Boys (Onomatopia)
Former Clor frontman Barry Dobin surfaces every once in a while with a new single. Dream Boys is a slice of avant pop that feels like it’s five songs in one. I like all five.

fireworks
33. Fireworks – Dream About You (Shelflife)
Even with a new singer (Emma Hall is out and Beth Arzy of Trembling Blue Stars & Luxembourg Signal in) the Fireworks still dial up just the right of jangly, fuzzy-buzzy pop.

seize
32. Seize the Chair – Knew You’d Never Been There (Too Pure)
Seize the Chair have a similar aesthetic to Menace Beach, Traams and Hookworms. Lots of guitars, nods to motorik beats and 90’s indie rock.

luxury
31. Luxury Death – Glue EP (PNKSLM)
Glue compiles this Manchester duo’s previous internet singles onto a 10″. Great buzzy guitars and keyboard fueled songs that use the space in between to create drama the way the Pixies used to do.

air-sea
30. Air Sea Dolphin / Honey Radar – Split Single (Chunklet)
I can’t believe this is the only recorded output of Air Sea Dolphin. Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo and James Huggins of Elf Power team up for the sugar crush elephant 6 throwback Exploding that sounds like it could have been on Fun Trick Noisemaker. Honey Radar handle the flip side and more than capable with Spillman Was a Motorhead.

bobby&gene
29. Bob & Gene – It’s Not What You Know (It’s Who You Know) (Daptone)
Bob & Gene first recorded it in 1971. New Fast Automatic Daffodils did it in 1992 (kidding) and then the Inversions re-recorded in 2017 keeping the vocal track. Old, new, whatever. Great!

deathrays
28. Death Rays – The Shape of the Night (Market Square)
Based in Germany and the UK which I suppose used to be the EU, this duo do Suicide influenced drone very nicely.

teleman
27. Teleman – Funf EP (Moshi Moshi)
Teleman have an icy feel that is somewhere between Blur, Bowie and La Düsseldorf. This EP is just the right dosage.

neutrals
26. Neutrals – Promotional Cassette #2 (Self-released)
As the title says, this was released as a cassette. When I first heard Motorcycle Cop I was reminded of the Pastels which given that the singer of this Oakland band is from Glasgow validates my intuition in some random sense.

cover
25. Terry – 8 Girls (Upset the Rhythm)
Terry’s 8 Girls came out down under last year, but was hard to get. Upset the Rhythm saw fit to release it this year. Eight Girls is a dissonant ode to female politicians, while the flip Tippy Toppy Terry is as good a theme song as I could think of for the group.

fieldroute
24. Field Route – Dreaming EP (Box Bedroom Rebels)
Field Route’s single came out way back in January but I still remember it. Parts Ultra Vivid Scene and early Creation records this Manchester band has got it down.

parsnip
23. Parsnip – Health (Anti Fade)
This Australian girl group features members of Chook Race and the Heirophants. This four song single has a Clean vibe given their use of keyboards and laid back feel.

vacantsmile
22. The Vacant Smiles – Messin’ Around (Self-released)
This is a blast of big guitars in the down under scruffy, surf style similar to what the Hoodoo Gurus used to peel off with ease. It appears that a song this good does not warrant getting your record released since the band did it themselves and I for one am grateful.

rbocf
21. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – The French Press (Sub Pop)

This Melbourne quintet could be described as jangly, but they include elements of classic rock to come up with something more interesting than your run of the mill indie jangle pop band. If you’ve heard the Close Lobster’s cover of Neil Young Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) then you have and idea of where Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are coming from.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

peaness
When you tell someone that you’re really into Peaness, it’s all about the accent. Otherwise you could be easily misunderstood. UK indiepop trio Peaness have been bubbling up with a self-released cassette called No Fun and then an internet single Oh George that is so undeniable that it could have you lining up to buy it if it existed in some form where you actually had to line up to buy it.

Take heart patient pop fans, the band now have a 7-inch single out now on Vancouver, Canada’s Kingfisher Bluez. If you are a fan of Standard Fare/Mammoth Penguins or Allo Darlin’ then this record will be one you want to add to your collection. Even if the single contains two songs that were on the cassette and leaves off their best song to date (Oh George), you the erudite pop fan won’t sweat the details because you will want to own one of the best singles of the year and be ready for what these ladies have in store next.

A Weekend of Driving Langorously

driving2

It was a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that means one more day of doing whatever it is you prefer occupying your time with on a regular weekend. In my case you might be surprised to hear that it wasn’t listening to records, because frankly who has the time to sit and listen to vinyl during the waning days of summer? I was listening to music though. Being an American raised in the rural hinterlands of the Midwest my preferred method of listening to music is in the car with the windows down and the sun shining if possible.  So here is my past weekend of highlights in the car. Admittedly this post would have been much better if I would have thought to snap photos at random points from the driver’s side, but that kind of thing is illegal and a might bit dangerous. So better off safe and boring from the photo perspective. It’s all I can do to remember a turn signal sometimes when a good song is turned up loud on the car stereo.

I had listened to the new Tyde record (nice Scott Walker reference on the cover!) a few times sitting at a desk doing work and it didn’t really connect except for the single The Curse In Reverse in which Tyde main guy Darren Rademaker is aided by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to startling good results. But as I crossed the Ballard Bridge with the sun hitting me through the windshield Nice To Know You blasted out of my windows and I immediately got it. This record is not supposed be listened to in an office or a basement. It needs sunshine, wind and at least 35 miles per hour. I was doing an errand, but I passed my turn on purpose to keep listening. Luckily the record only has seven songs on it so I didn’t waste too much petrol.

Later that night I had to run to grocery store to gather some food for the grill. It takes about two songs to get to the store which is just about perfect for a 7-inch single. Often when I’m heading to the store I’ll pick something that I’ve just put onto my phone. In this instance it was the new Hozac single from Soft Candy. The Chicago band sound like LA Paisley Underground and must be fans of  the Rain Parade. The rolling psychedelia of Bixarre Luv Pyramids had me in such a daze that I almost rolled through a red light. I screeched to a halt (I was only going about 10 mph) in time to allow an elderly couple to cross Market Street. I Waited for the light to turn green and as it did the wonderful Kinks like piano of Song for Ellie Mae percolated from the speakers and carried me into the parking lot of the store. Damn I forgot my shopping list!

Late morning on our way to a trail head for a hike in the Cascades we are driving east on the I-90. It’s turning into a good day as the sun begins to burn off the clouds. Of course I’m starting to feel guilty about all of this driving. If I lived on a ranch, I’d take a horse and a Bluetooth speaker, but Seattle doesn’t have any ranches so here I am behind the wheel again listening to Portland’s Verner Pantons who continue the Paisley Underground theme of the prior evening’s trip to the grocery store only they subscribe more to the Long Ryders’ slant of psychedelia. It’s sort of dusty sounding and it makes me wonder if cowboys carry Bluetooth speakers with them on their horses these days, because I can’t think of a better way to listen to this record than on a horse somewhere around Winchester, Washington. As it is, songs like Little Boat, Melancholy Girl and Sarah Saturday get us to the hike much faster than NPR’s Weekend Edition could ever hope to.

A long weekend always has a comedown and needs a soundtrack and by this time I had been in the car way too much but it’s the last hurrah of summer and who wants to be inside? Not me. Earlier in the spring I had trimmed the apple tree in my back yard and there was a pile of wood waiting for just the right night. As I said earlier I don’t own a horse, but I do own a Bluetooth speaker and it was in my back yard as the cool nigh air was kept at bay by the snap and crack of the fire pit. What better soundtrack to fire, stars and general serenity than the new Mild High Club LP  Skiptracing? This group of Los Angeles followers of Steely Dan and High Llamas know how to relax, or at least put their listeners into a state of relaxation. How good? So good I could barely bring myself to put another log on the fire as the soothing sounds of Chapel Perilous floated through the air. Luckily I have a kid or two to do the heavy labor and the repeat button close at hand.

Tomorrow the World!

the world
photo by mike rosati

If you are familiar with Andy Human who’s records are an Ohio elixir of Devo and Pere Ubu and and Pang who’s two 7″ singles pulled in influences like Kleenex and Long Blondes then you probably have a pretty good idea of what the World sound like. To get a better idea , throw in a couple of saxophones into that thought. Now put on the debut single by the Bay area band, close your eyes and you are quickly transported back to the late 1970’s into the world of the Specials, Clash and X-Ray Specs. Your legs begin to twitch and suddenly you’re skanking across the floor to this four song single. Killer!

The single is out on Upset the Rhythm. Watch out for the band’s upcoming US tour and their green flexi too.

Leon

leon

SmartGuy records, the ones who brought you singles by Total Control, the Boomgates and Rat Columns have a new single. Leon Stackpole of Ooga Booga‘s fame using just plain old Leon has just released a four song 7-inch.

The Ooga Booga’s were some weird combination of garage, kraut and disco, but here Leon strikes out down a more pastoral introspective road. Where the Ooga Booga’s sounded like a party band, Leon’s new four song EP is like the comedown. He gets some help on guitar from Ooga Booga’s cohort Mickey Young. All four songs have a Velvet Underground feel to them. Angry Again is dissonant VU, Sentimental Stranger is the sleepy Sunday morning country VU and Eat Sleep and Spy is the pop single buried in the rough. Quality stuff!

 

Dreamin’ Wild

dreamin wild

Melbourne, Australia’s Dreamin’ Wild take some of the bohemian elegance of Jim Sullivan, the mysterious delight of Hopkirk and Lee, the shimmering lugubriousness of the Clientele and the playful beauty of Moose and combine it into one of this year’s great seven inch singles. Doncaster Shadow has a timeless quality about it that you don’t hear too often anymore. They could break up and disappear tomorrow and would have accomplished more than most bands do in a lifetime. Such is the wonder of making just one brilliant single.