Midyear Notables or Oh Yeah I Almost Forgot About This Blog

Hopefully your RSS reader still works and this popped up. My excuse for lack of content here at the Finest Kiss is that I’ve been too busy listening to records. To catch everyone up on my life, here are 30 or so records that are at the top of my pile so far for 2018. Seems like a lot, but I still feel like I left a lot of good stuff out.

annaburch
Anna Burch – Quit the Curse (Polyvinyl)
Burch was in the Sarah Records influenced Failed Flowers with Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me. Here debut solo album has a nod or to towards K Records, specifically Lois Maffeo, with its 90’s style indiepop and understated sardonic pop.

beachhouse
Beach House – 7 (Sub Pop)
Baltimore’s Beach House are a prolific duo and their many records seem to have building up to their seventh appropriately titled album. If you recall late period Cocteau Twins when they were at the height of their ethereal powers, then yuo will no doubt already own this.

blueslawyer
Blues Lawyer – Guess Work (Emotional Response)
With their tendrils firmly wrapped around the Oakland, California indie scene, Blues Lawyer do lo-fi wiry punk ditties that bring to mind contemporaries the Rays and early influencers like Television Personalities and the Tronics.

cavern
Cavern of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade (Duophonic)
Tim Gane’s post-Stereolab groop puts it all together on their third album. It’s full of experimental Kraut excursions and just enough song structure to keep it from going off the rails.

cutworms
Cut Worms – Hollow Ground (Jagjaguwar)
Tons of Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly in Hollow Ground, which flies in the face of present day music. What’s wrong with this one man band Max Clark and his compulsion of a bygone era? Who cares, when it sounds this good.

datenight
Datenight (US) – Comin Atcha’ 100MPH (Drop Medium)
Anyone remember that Box Elders record from a ways back? If not, you probably are familiar with the Clean. This Nashville band reminds me of both.

umb
Dumb – Seeing Green (Mint)
Most would file Dumb under Pavement/Parquet Courts, but I dig way these Vancouver rockers’ punky songs evoke Big Boys, sport an offbeat sense of the absurd and (probably) make an unintentional nod to Stewart Copeland’s alter ego Klark Kent.

flasher
Flasher – Constant Angel (Domino)
I love how this DC band blend Hometown influences like Unrest and Holland with Three O’clock style paisley underground into a brilliant record that goes against the current grain. If this came out 25 years ago it woulda been on Teenbeat fer sure!

freakgenes
Freak Genes – Qwak Qwak (Drunken Sailor)
Sparse lo-fi punky songs from a guy from Proto Idiot and another guy from the Red Cords. On LP number the duo add some synths to their garage arsenal of sound. I’m not sure why they’re dressed as ducks on the cover, maybe it’s a result of some gene splicing experiment gone awry where they tried to genetically modify the DNA of Buzzcocks, Syd Barret and Howard the Duck.

girlsnames
Girls Names – Stains on Silence (Tough Love)
On their fourth album, Northern Ireland’s Girls Names plunge themselves down into a dark, dark place. It’s not as immediate as previous efforts, but I think I like this new one more than anything they’ve done so far. It brings to mind the moody “difficult” post punk the Sound’s All Fall Down and Comsat Angels’ Sleep No More.

goatgirl
Goat Girl – Goat Girl (Rough Trade)
London’s Goat Girl sound like a 1980’s 4AD band from the United States. Translated, that means think Throwing Muses and Pixies. Throw in a little PJ Harvey and Gallon Drunk and you’re only missing Steve Albini, who apparently was too busy playing poker to records their debut LP.

greensea
Green Seagull – Scarlet Fever (Mega Dodo)
From the If it ain’t baroque then surely its psychedelic school of 60’s rock revivalism, comes Green Seagull’s debut LP. Both of last year’s excellent singles reappear here to re-mezmerize, but there are many new songs drenched in kaleidoscopic harmonies and 12 string guitars that are just as worthy.

gwenno
Gwenno – Le Kov (Heavenly)
For her sophomore album Gwenno has switched from singing in Welsh to singing in Cornish, a minor detail probably for most of us who speak neither. Whatever language she sings in, Gwenno excels at the lingua franca of krautrock-psychedelic-soundtrack strain of rock.

holliecook
Hollie Cook – Vessel of Love (Merge)
Swapping out Prince Fatty with Youth to produce her third album of tropical reggae vibes, Hollie Cook doesn’t miss a step. There are fewer string arrangements, but one half of Public Image Limited (Jah Wobble and Keith Levene) and a top batch of songs make barely noticeable.

hookworms
Hookworms – Microshift (Domino)
Hookworms started out as a screaming maelstroem inspired by Thirteenth Floor Elevators, but with each album they have sanded down the roughness of their sound little by little and now Microshift sees them morphing into Depeche Mode. Not quite, but they do employ some fast fashion into this record to thrilling effect while still keeping their slightly unhinged attitude.

insecure
Insecure Men – Insecure Men (Fat Possum)
The new band from Saul Ademczewski formerly of Fat White Family is light, playful and unassuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. With a name like Insecure Men and sounding like it they were influenced by Harry Nilson, the Lightening Seeds, Love & Rockets and Captain Sensible, Ademczewski an his collaborator Ben Romans-Hopcraft stay on the pop rails just barely.

itchy
Itchy Bugger – Done One (Low Company)
This record appears to bit of an anomaly, a dude from bands that sound nothing like the Clean, Television Personalities, and the Art Museums makes an album that makes a record that sounds like it was directly influenced by those bands. What a crazy wonderful world.

espaces
Jonathan Fitoussi / Clemens Hourrière – Espaces Timbrés (Versatile)
This duo employ vintage modular synthesizers to create ambient landscapes that share topographical similarities with Kraftwork’s Radioactivity and Eno’s ambient stuff. Rarely does ambient music feel so powerful, but this record is juiced with the ability to make one feel they are floating into other realms.

laluz
La Luz – Floating Features (Hardly Art)
I suppose it isn’t all that surprising that a surf band from Seattle would move to Los Angeles. Who wants to surf (or play beach parties for that matter) the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest when sunny SoCal is just down the I-5? With some production help from Dan Auerbach and sporting a slightly more muscular tone, these former Seattle ladies seem to have adjusted to their new locale quite nicely.

laylamas
Lay Llamas – Thuban (Rocket)
Lay Llamas essentially is Italy’s Nicola Giunta creating multi-textured psychedelic rock. On Thuban he has a few guest to help him out including Goat and Clinic, but this is his show of rhythmic dalliances into north Africa, Thailand and the Beta Band’s Edinburgh.

lithics
Lithics – Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars)
I recommend Lithics second album and first for Kill Rock Stars knowing that their sparse, mechanical clang is not for everyone, but for those who like cold hard surface on which to reproduce…Hell even if you don’t and want something cold, sharp and hard to jar you from your comfort zone then this is it.

mapc
Math & Physics Club – Lived Here Before (Fika)
Math & Physics Club have been known to cover REM, I remember them doing an excellent version of Shaking Through from Murmur, so it not surprising to hear them dropping REM references throughout Lived Here Before. Don’t worry, if you are a fan of their subtle understated pop, they haven’t gone all End of the World as We Know it. They have this great ability to subtly incorporate influences without them overpowering their own of delicate pop.

melodys
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage (Fat Possum)
The second effort from Melody Prochet was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. Instead of the focused pop of her debut, she teams up with members of Dungen to make a psyche rock amoeba built on improvisation and fear of being fenced in. It has a random kitchen sink feel at times, but it sounds adventurous and exciting.

olkenyolk
Olden Yolk – Olden Yolk (Trouble In Mind)
I always wonder when a member of a band, say Shane Butler of Quilt, starts another band, what does that mean for the other band? Are they kaputt, or just taking a break? Bultler is joined by Caity Shaffer and they come off sounding like a long lost 60’s California folk group that has a thing for the German motorik beat. A near perfect combination of the two and my new chocolate & peanut butter.

orielles
The Orielles – Silver Dollar Moment (Heavenly)
I’ve seen the Orielles described as being, baggy, shoegaze and C-86. They’ve been compared also to the Pastels, Pink Floyd, Belly and Orange Juice. For the record I’m not going to add to that confusing list of comparisons. I will say that this trio’s debut album is strong in the pop department and has something for nearly everyone.

cover
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake (Rough Trade)
The new PC’s album was produced by Danger Mouse, reminds me of the Beastie Boys Check Your Head era funk and Spoon’s sparse percussive pop. Wide Awake might be their best since their debut Light Up Gold.

patois
Patois Counselors – Proper Release (Ever Never)
Charlotte, North Carolina’s first impressed with 2015’s Clean Skits single on Negative Jazz. The seven piece band are a kin to Protomartyr, with a seriously lower profile. Their debut album is full of post punk, art school ditties reminiscent of Pere Ubu, the Fall and Fugazi and every bit as worthy of your hard earned money.

Horology
Red Red Eyes – Horology (Where It’s At Is Where You Are)
This year I’ve felt a strong Broadcast influence in the rock continuum and UK duo Red Red Eyes are another piece of anecdotal evidence for my case. It’s not a Broadcast tribute mind, Horology is moody, mysterious, trippy and not afraid to borrow from Massive Attack and Serge Gainsbourg either.

roves
The Roves – The Roves (One Man Movement)
This London band’s debut album is a jangly throwback to classic 60’s pop records that were packed with two and tree minutes pop songs and not a dud to be found in the bunch.

saysue
Say Sue Me – Where We Were Together (Damnably)
The undeniably catchy Old Town is a slice of classic indiepop, but it’s sort of a red herring too. Say Sue Me hail from South Korea and it’s obvious they are fans of the UK indiepop style, but they paint from a bigger pallet of surf inspired guitars and effects laden dreampop.

shannon
Shannon Shaw – Shannon in Nashville (Easy Eye Sound)
Is it ok to say that I like this better than any Shannon & the Clams albums? The Shaw – Auerbach collaboration reminds me a little of accomplished pop-psych that came out of the Del Shannon – Andrew Loog Oldham collaboration.

shopping
Shopping – The Official Body (Fatcat)
For album number three (why does nobody call the third album their junior effort) Shopping rip it up and start again. Not exactly, but they employed Edwyn Collins to produce the record. Their brand of dancy post-punk benefits from an infusion of Orange Juice to make it their most accessible record yet.

sonsofkemet
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is a Reptile (Impulse!)
I didn’t even know that the Impulse label still existed as a label that put out new stuff. This is the group’s  third album and its tuba, trombone, sax, clarinet attack spans Mingus, Jamaican ska/reggae, Coltrane and Sun Ra. Remarkable, even for non-jazz aficionados like myself.

virginiawing
Virginia Wing – Ecstatic Arrow (Fire)
This is the first Viginia Wing I’ve bought since EP on Faux Discx. I love it. Touches of Taken by Trees, Hector Zazou, and Broadcast, the latter which (as you can probably tell) seems to be so prevalent in my listening tastes lately.

Best of Something

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.

placestohide
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.

intelligence
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.

kingcyst
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
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
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.

chills
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
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
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.

FPOP189_LP_OUTER_v6_TTO
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.

coldbeat
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.

courtneybarnett
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.

dieverboten
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.

downtownboys
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
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.

girlsnames
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
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.

eternalsummers
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
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
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.

robertforster
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.

NicHessler
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.

bestfriends
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.

nicolewillis
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.

DayRavies
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.

expalt
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
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.

knifepleats
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.
fireworks
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!

saunayouth
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.

primitiveparts
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
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
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.

kitchensfloor
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 2015 LP cover PRINT READY
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.

woolenmen
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.

saunandstarr
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.

jessicapratt
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
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.

vietcong
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.

frankieandwitchfingers
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – Frankie & the Witch Fingers (Permanent)
Best Garage Rock Album: This album made me appreciate the saturated garage rock genre again.

theeohsees
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.

sheeragony
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.

willieweird
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

joannagruesome
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.

tamvantage
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.

shifters3
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.

Emergency Third Rail Power Triptych

girlsnames

Girls Names continue their upward trajectory by releasing an eleven minute opus called Zero Triptych. The Belfast band fly over a motorik beat that kicks up camel dust from an old trip that the Church took on Myrrh back in ’85 and then blasts off into a globular cluster of some nether region. Not bad for a song inspired by three panel paintings from the middle ages. Depending on your circumstances you might remember the Church and their song Myrrh. It was an obtuse song about wine, gold, personal favors, drum kits and the birth of Christ. Zero Triptch picks up where Kilby and company trailed off with the sound of aliens landing, obliterating space and time and taking us through a wormhole that dusts you with myrrh, frankincense and gold, skips over an obelisk, a couple monoliths and then leaves them all behind.

Word on the street is that this is going to be released only as a 12″ single and won’t be on their next album, so plan accordingly.

In the Pink

seapinks

Northern Ireland doesn’t have a west coast, so I can only imagine that Sea Pinks are left to conjure sunny wide open California scenes through their music. Top Pink, Neil Brogan was originally the drummer in Girls Names but left that band to concentrate on his band Sea Pinks. For good reason, as he seems to have an endless supply of lush, jangle filled songs in his head. Sea Pinks’ music has an affinity with the US west coast due to Brogan’s smooth tenor which evokes the lugubriousness of the Beach Boys, combined with the guitars cracking with the dusty jangle of the Byrds.

Brogan’s boyish tenor could make him an honorary Beach Boy. It’s smooth and easy on the ears, lending a sense of melancholy to these otherwise upbeat songs. The new album Dream Tracks, their fourth, is not drastically different from the previous three, but in little ways you can tell that Brogan is stretching out as a songwriter and open to incorporating a more varied pallet of sounds onto his records. The inclusion of cello on songs like Dream Happening and Invisible Lines provides more depth to the sound, while Meat and Drink employs a undulating Stereolab-like bass which adds something new to the jangly Sea Pinks cannon. These additional embellishments mesh easily with Brogans top songwriting talent to produce what may be the best Sea Pinks album yet.

stream and purchase: Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks

In a Big Univers

universe

Barcelona based moody rockers Univers released their debut album last month. It is a soaring and fuzzy beauty full of cascading guitars and sullen vocals.  They could be Spain’s version of Girls Names, southern cousins of early Cure or even Big Country minus the e-bow/bagpipe guitars. The band have flown under the radar here in the States probably because they choose not to sing in English and their records don’t get released over here, but you the savvy internet user of 2014 can find out about bands like this with the simple click of a hyperlink. They played SXSW earlier this year to little fanfare. I found out about them by fortuitously reading about them on Brooklyn Vegan and Cloudberry Cake Proselytism on the same day. I clicked a link, listened, and bought the record.

Even though L’estat Natural is all sung in Catalan , Univers speaks the universal language of big guitars and lots of reverb which is more than enough to make this record compelling even for non-Catalan speakers. The dual guitar attack and driving rhythms make it really chug along even if the slightly monotone vocals every once in while threaten to derail it. It’s a fun, solid album and recommended to fans of any of the aforementioned bands.

L’estate Natural is available from Famèlic Records.

Best of 2013: Albums

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

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

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

stream: Minks – Doomed and Cool

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

stream: The Limiñanas – My Black Sabath

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

stream: The Stevens – Hindsight

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

stream: Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression

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

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

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

stream: Warm Soda – Jeannie Loves Pop

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

stream: Beaches – Dune

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

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

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

stream: The Courtneys – K.C. Reeves

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

stream: Wax Idols – AD RE: IAN

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

stream: Frowning Clouds – Shoe Suede Blues

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

stream: The Mantles – Marbled Birds

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

stream: Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living

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

stream: Cavern of Anit-Matter – Irridated Dream Mouth

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

stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King

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

stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Strawberries Dress

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

stream: King Krule – Border Line

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

stream: Sleaford Mods – The Wage Don’t Fit

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

stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse

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

stream: Blouse – Eyesight

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

stream: Ketamines – Don’t Stop

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

stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt

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

stream: Outfit – Thank God I Was Dreaming

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

stream: Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush

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

stream: Dirtbombs – Hot Sour Salty Sweet

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

stream: Dream Boys – Holding Pattern

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

stream: Lady – Money

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

stream: Ooga Boogas – Studio of My Mind

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

stream: Day Ravies – Pinky

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

stream: Vision Fortune – XVII

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

stream: La Femme – Antitaxi

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

stream: Prophet Hens – Pretty

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

stream: Hookworms – Form & Function

Midway and Buried in Records- Part 2

Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.

Myron

Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)

It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends.  Top notch stuff.

stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know

daughn
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)

Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80’s inspired pop from a unique voice.

Stream: Daughn Gibson – The Pisgee Nest

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

Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin.  This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.

stream: Universe People – Druids

girlsnames
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)

The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It  didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.

Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines

oogaboogas
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)

Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet UndergroundTubeway Army, the Fall,  Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.

stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember

HOL2

House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)

House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.

stream: House of Love – Holy River

jacco
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)

Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.

stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King