2011: My Year In Records

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

I Know Someone Who Knows Someone Who Knows Mike Sniper Quite Well


German Measles come off like a ramshackle party band live, and on record they…come off like a ramshackle party band. Singer Nik Curtin has a flat dry delivery that kind of reminds of Mark E Smith, though he’s nowhere near as tone deaf. Formerly known as the Japanese Beetles, the band changed their name to German Measles after a heckler at a show  came up with it.  The band have put out an EP on Captured Tracks and a single on Wild World and are set to release their first long player on brand new label Krazy Punx (Krazy Punx is a collaboration of What’s Your Rupture and former members of Seattle’s Coconut Coolouts) called A German Joke is No Laughing Matter.   The band contain two dudes formerly in Cause Co-Motion so you know they’ve got some C-86 cred.  Their sly indie humor reminds me of the Television Personalities and the Pooh Sticks and their pop chops deliver the goods in a consumer friendly biodegradable package.  This is rudimentary rock that is pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face and skip in your step.  Totally Mild  turns the Fall‘s Totally Wired on it’s head while Average is an ode to mediocrity that should have been written in by someone back in the slacker heyday. Moscow Street is punk ode to Chinatown, and Olivia’s Eyes trips the garage psychedelia in the same way that last years Colour Vibration (which makes an appearance in a re-recorded version). The German Measles know how throw a party and they really don’t care if you come, but based on this evidence I wouldn’t miss it.

mp3: German Measles – Average (get yourself sick, order up A German Joke is No Laughing Matter from Krazy Punx)

In other Krazy Punx news the fledgling label is also putting out records by Silver Shampoo and Bill Cosby & His White Pudding Pops.  Here in Seattle, the Cocounut Coolouts and TacocaT have formed a Pudding Pops tribute band that played last week.  I missed it, so I’m hoping they play again.  You can check out a video I shot of them a while back at Chop Suey when the Coolouts opened for Personal and the Pizzas and the Spits.

Singles of the Year Countdown: 10-1

We’ve made it to the fat on top, or the fruit at the bottom, in other words the top ten…I bought way too many seven inch singles this year. I’m not trying to brag. It’s a problem really. The seven inch is like crack to the record geek, a fleeting moment of pop perfection and then it’s off to either flip the record or put on another one. This was a daunting task this year and I feel like I left out a lot of stuff, but a top 60 would have been too much and limiting it to 40 makes you have to really decide, what were your favorite singles of the year. Without any further ado, here are numbers 10-1.

1. Unnatural Helpers – Sunshine/Pretty Girls (Hardly Art)

Here’s what I said back in April when this record came out: I can state unequivocally that the A-side Sunshine / Pretty Girls is the best Unnatural Helpers song I’ve heard, and it could very well be the anti-summer jam of the erm, summer, though it’s a bit early to predict those kinds of things.

Back to present, it turns out it was the anti-summer jam of the summer and the year for that matter at least for me.  At a minute and 55 seconds, Sunshine/Pretty Girls is over before you know what hit you, and it has you jumping up from the chair to pick up the needle and put it back down again in a futile attempt to keep the euphoric endorphins induced by this song flowing.  This is everything a great pop record should be, a pummeling guitar riff, second guitar diving in, strained words through gritted teeth, girl singing backing harmonies, lyrics about smoking and drinking till you die and a killer sleeve by CMRTYZ.

mp3: Sunshine / Pretty Girls


2. Tender Trap – Do You Want a Boyfriend? (Slumberland)

I said it succinctly back in June and don’t think I can improve on my description of this near perfect single: Oh my (Talula) Gosh, The new single from Amelia Fletcher’s Tender Trap is Heavenly.  Not only that, Do You Want a Boyfriend? is smart, cute (does he have to like the Jesus & Mary Chain?  Yeah, that would be heaven!), packed full of harmonies and sees the band swinging back towards a more guitar oriented blast of sound reminiscent of Fletcher’s two earlier bands.

mp3: Do You Want a Boyfriend?


3. The Limiñanas – I’m Dead (Hozac)

The Liminnanas suddenly appeared on the scene with singles on both Trouble In Mind and Hozac, a posthumous release of their former band Les Bellas and then an album on TIM all within a few months. It was like they had been stockpiling songs getting ready for a barrage.  I’m Dead was the opening salvo and turned heads with its Spectoresque garage coupled a hint of Morricone.  It rode a sparse echo filled groove and penetrated the dark side for three minutes of eerie pop bliss that was hard to forget.

mp3: I’m Dead


4. Outdoor Miners – Twelve Hundred Dollars (Pop Echo)

With slicing angular guitars and lazy slacker vocals Edmunton, Alberta’s Outdoor Miners on their debut single evoke a time not too long ago when it took way too long to download a web page so an entire album was out of the question. You still went to the record store on Tuesday’s to pick up the new releases, and seeing Pavement on daytime MTV was an amazing thing.  In other words 90’s indie guitar rock is back!

mp3: Twelve Hundred Dollars


5. Myron and E with the Soul Investigators – It’s A Shame (Now Again)

Brought to my attention by Fire Escape Talking, I was unsure if this was not some lost soul record that he normally posts.  No, Myron and E hale from California and they get together somehow with Finland’s Soul Investigators to make records that don’t sound of this time.  It’s a Shame is a stone cold classic, right down to its Shoo bee-doo-wah’s.

mp3: It’s a Shame


6. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Fragile (Pop Sex Ltd.)

Edwyn Collins tweeted at some point this year that he’d seen the future and it was Frankie and the Heartstrings.  If the future is big sounding heart on the sleeve pop then Frankie and the Heartstrings are it.  Fragile with its quiet versus and bombastic chorus is everything an A-side could ever hope to be in the past, present or future.

mp3: Fragile


7. Catwalk – (Please) Don’t Break Me (Captured Tracks)

Will 2011 be the year that indiepop broke?  With likes of Wild Nothing, Sea Pony and now Catwalk getting so much positive attention this year, anything is possible.  Catwalk’s previous two singles on Yay! were beauties and the streak continues onto Captured Tracks.  This sunny yet sad 60’s inspired pop song could have fit on the  Bus Stop Label’s Peppermint Stick Parade from 1995.  As it is, it stands on its own quite nicely at the number seven spot.

mp3: (Please) Don’t Break Me


8. Liechtenstein – Passion For Water (Fraction)

Sweden’s Liechtenstein besides having a Passion For Water, have an evident passion for Dolly Mixture, bouncy bass lines, wonderful horns and angelic oohh’s.  The band have put out some excellent singles to date, but I think this may be the best one yet.

mp3: Passion For Water


9. German Measles – Color Vibration (Wild World)

German Measles are the epitome of ramshackle, their songs seem like they hang from within an inch of collapse.  Live,  even more so.  Color Vibration is an ode to getting high off one’s sense of vision.  It rumbles along threatening to collapse at any moment, only to see our heroes preserver almost to very end when the song ends with an explosion.

mp3: Color Vibration


10. Felt Letters – 600,000 Bands (M’lady)

With 600,000 Bands Felt Letters summarize with pinpoint accuracy and humor the craziness that is today’s music landscape.  Former Nation of Ulysses singer Ian Svenonius delivers his spot on observations over a musty gin joint backing  provided by Brendan Canty of Fugazi and Tom Bunnell.  “Everybody wants you to listen to theirs, but you can’t right now because you’re listening to this.”

mp3: 600,000 Bands

[40-31] [30-21] [20-11] [10-1]

This Is Partytime

The Beets, German Measles & Coconut Coolouts at the Funhouse, Seattle | 30 April 2010

New York’s ramshackle, frumpy party scene visited the Funhouse on Friday night for some debauchery, good times and music. Seattle’s Coconut Coolouts played hosts, opening the night with their version Pacific Northwest garage party rock. The Coolouts have boiled party rock down to a science of two stand-up drummers, Bruno Kirby on keyboards, a primal stomp and some well chosen covers. It seems like every time I see them, they pull a new obscure jem out of their back pockets, this night it was Comander Cody’s Two Triple Cheese, Side Order of Fries.

German Measles are another punk rock party band, but of the east coast kind.  They seem to enjoy getting drunk, stumbling around on stage while trying to play their songs. Their song Wild Weekend kind of sums up the band’s modus operandi: C’mon baby and party with me, take some drugs and party with me…We’re gonna drink as much as we can! The band contains Arno and Alex formerly of the defunct Cause Co-Motion! who seem to be the mellow half. The crazy drunk half consists of members of Nik Curtin and Serge Pinsky who also are in the Beachniks with JB from Crystal Stilts. Their EP on Captured Tracks and Color Vibration single (Color Vibration kind of reminds me of a lo-fi version of Alternative TV’s Action Time Vision) on Wild World are well worth getting, but I’m not sure I can give the same endorsement for their live show. When they act like sloppy drunks, pouring beer on their heads, and drinking out of the cans thrown on stage it’s probably funny to their friends, but it doesn’t go very far in winning new fans. They were kind of lovable and fun, but I say that only because I was already a fan based on their records. Bassist Serge Pinsky was a monster, playing it like a guitar. I was just hoping for a bit more. Maybe when they get older and tired of partying?

mp3: German Measles – Color Vibration (from the Color Vibration 7″ on Wild World)

mp3: German Measles – Wild Weekend (from the Wild EP on Captured Tracks)

German Measles didn’t stop partying after their set, they were front and center for their friends the Beets, falling over each other, and throwing their shirts on stage. The Beets seemed to take their antics for granted and the four piece ripped through a birthday fueled set. It was bassist Jose Garcia’s birthday, so the band did a special birthday set complete with birthday song which had the audience singing the refrain Joooseee,  and Batman Piñata.  Beets records are more  lo-fi than most and that’s saying something these days.  They sound like they were recorded down a drain with the vocals coming up from a few leagues beneath that.  Live, they appeared lo-fi with singer and guitarist Juan Wauters’ guitar looking like something he salvaged from a second hand store. It had wires coming out of it from all directions, scribbles all over it and pick-up duck taped to it.  Appearances were deceiving though, with Wauters bounding about on stage with his pogo jumps, while playing with aplomb.  He was a maelstrom in a bottle, while their piccolo player sat crossed legged at the back of the stage.  I don’t know if the Beets brought their fans from Queens or not, (I do know they brought one of the Vivian Girls with them, I spotted Kickball Katy rocking out a side of the stage) but the audience seemed to know quite a few of the songs, singing the choruses.  When they brought the Piñata out, the German Measles were wrestling with each other on the floor and I half expected it to explode with airplane bottles of liquor, but it was just candy.  It was probably a good thing, I don’t think anyone there need another ounce of alcohol.

mp3: The Beets – Happy But On My Way (from Spit On The Face Of People Who Don’t Want To Be Cool on Captured Tracks)

mp3: The Beets – Don’t Fit In My Head (from Don’t Fit In My Head 7″ on Captured Tracks)