Lions In My Own Garden: Enter Gurgles

gurgles

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when you were shopping for new stereo equipment, the go to disc for stereo salesmen was a Steely Dan or Chicago album to show off the hi-fi racks. I haven’t been into a stereo store in years, but I bet a few sales guys still reach for the Dan when showing off their wears. Well all you stereo salesmen I’ve got just the record to help sell loads more equipment in your shop.

Early last year, you might remember Bradford’s best Gurgles releasing their debut 7-inch single. Since the 7-inch single buying public has shrunk more than video rental market you might have let it pass you buy. No matter, Bradford’s best have returned with their debut album that they’ve christened Gurglefirst? It’s a big sounding and playful record that doesn’t sound too big or too playful. In other words, it’s just right. Their keyboard driven songs have elements of gospel, new age jazz and 80’s pop. You might ask how could a band that combines the syncopated jazz of Steely Dan, the gospel spells of Prefab Sprout  and sudden swerves into into psychedelic Hawkwind  territory succeed? I don’t know, but Gurgles do.

Both songs from last year’s single make welcome returns and are just as impressive a second time around. New songs like Eccleshill ring in with a tight chorus while the Fender Rhodes keyboard climbs the spires. Weakdays has a great bluesy riff while How Could I Tell adds some Krautrock elements into the mix while singer Augustine sounds like Paddy McAloon has temporarily taken him over. Ably recorded by MJ of Hookworms, Gurglefirst? is a record that begs to be blasted, but don’t worry if you don’t have one of those expensive hi-fi’s it sounds just as good bleeding into your ears from a pair of cheap ear buds.

Gurglefirs? is available on vinyl, CD and download from Gurgles’ bandcamp.

Another Year, Another List: Best of Albums 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIM083.Paperhead.Africa-Avenue-LP.jkt
22. Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)
The third album from Nashville’s Paperhead has a definite antique glow to it. Africa sees the band maturing quickly and features their best songs yet. In the garage-psych realm of things (Face to Face era Kinks and Rubber Soul Beatles) it don’t get much better than this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December Top 10

1. Hookworms


The Hookworms have gone upwards at 45 degrees into double vegetation on their new album Hum. Smart move including last year’s excellent single Radio Tokyo on the album. The Leeds band keep on keeping on with their brand or crazy psych rants, only this time it’s crazier, psycier and rantier.

2. Dreamsalon

Seattle’s Dreamsalon recently unleashed their second album on the populous and as far as I can tell the world is all the more gloomier and paranoid for it. From the northern England by way of Seattle school post punk, their mix of the Fall, Bunnymen and Gang of Four is a concoction few have gotten right, but this band excels at.

3. Weak Boys

Sydney Australia’s Weak Boys do something that I wasn’t sure was possible. They’ve successfully combined the garage aesthetics of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, the pop smarts of Smudge and the clever lyrical bent of the Lucksmiths into their debut album Weekdays/Weekens. Not weak at all!

4. Fat Creeps

Must Be Nice the debut album from Fat Creeps came out this summer, but I didn’t finally discovered it until last month. A kid today would probably say they are similar to Bleached, No Joy and the Vivian Girls. An older fellow might compare them to Throwing muses, Breeders and Scrawl. All of those bands work as a jumping off point, but Fat Creeps take their influences and weave their own narrative.

5. Small Reactions

Atlanta’s Small Reactions write motorik pop songs without the use of computers or other futuristic machines. They use the classic guitar, bass and drums combination to create their propelling rhythmic pop. Their self-released debut album could be the brother of the Hookworms’ Hum, and deserves more attention than it’s received so far. Damn it’s a crowded world!

6. Unlikely Friends

The first fruits of  Unlikely Friends the collaboration between BOAT’s D. Drane and Math & Physics Club’s Charles Bert has finally arrived and it’s a 10 pound 3 ounce bundle of joy. Can’t wait to hear the siblings!

7. Ariel Pink


I’m not sure about Ariel Pink, not because of his alleged misogynistic comments related to Madonna, but because of his kitchen sink approach. His new album is all over the place. Put You Number In My Phone is brilliant understated pop, but don’t think for a moment that the album is full more of them. There are goth numbers, industrial numbers, circus numbers, commercial jingles, you name it. I get that it’s his act, but it makes for a disconcerted record, but at least it’s not boring. If you missed the 90’s and Denim then Pom Pom is Denim on Ice for your generation.

8. Be Forest at the Josephine, Seattle
be forest at the Josephine
The show that nearly didn’t happen. Italian dreampoppers Be Forest were in Seattle without a show to play, but the fine folks at the Josephine accommodated them and their tour mates Tennis System on late notice. A quartet on record, Be Forest were touring as a trio. They overcame a few sound problems to play an ethereal set that featured some nice guitar playing reminiscent of the style Julian Swales of the Kitchens of Distinction used to do, making it sound like there were two or three guitarists instead of just his one.

9. Thigh Master

Hailing from Brisbane, Thigh Master must have some knowledge of a certain band from that same city because there are similarities they have that certain band that are hard to ignore. The band’s first 7″ is three songs of bouncy, jangly, and slightly garagey pop that are bound to not just to excite fans of Suzanne Somers but of the Go-Betweens as well.

10. Lists
cobain
Tis the season for lists. Best records, worst records, most mediocre records, best album covers, worst album covers, best reviews, best comments, best shows, you name it there is a list for it. Does anyone do a list of the best lists? Probably not, that would be kinda excruciating, not to mention redundant.

Gurgles Gospel for Non-Believers

gurgles

Gurgles are from Leeds. They’ve just released their first single and it’s quite a delight. It’s light and airy and full of life. Think High Llamas, Steely Dan, Jim O’Rourke, Prefab Sprout and Chicago. The keyboards pump sound out like they’re powered by a steam engine while the singing verges on new age gospel. I know. When I first heard it I wasn’t sure, but I found myself hitting play again and again, and the next thing I know I find myself buying the single. Recorded by MJ of Hookworms, so the sound is raw and bleeds a little to make this otherwise slick sounding record oscillate with just enough grime. What an opening salvo for this brand new band!

stream & buy: Gurgles – You Send Me Up / You’re Madder Than Me

2013 Singles of the Year Countdown: 25-1

After a slight delay (I like to pretend I was creating anticipation) here are my top 25 singles of 2013. Seattle is in the mix with 20% of the spots in the top 25. Maybe I’ve been here so long that I’ve been taken over by NW provincialism. I doubt it. These records would be here not matter where I might reside. My provincial list should follow sometime next week.
swiftumz
25. Swiftumz – Willy (Sugar Mountain/Divis and Mason)

Swiftumz released two singles simultaneously one day this past fall. One was a re-recording of the excellent Luv Ya 4 eva from his debut album. The second one came in a sleeve of globular sugary goo that was an excellent indicator of what’s inside. Candy sweet Buzzcocks inspired riffs and saccharine vocals drip from this and every time I play it I have to clean the sweaty syrup from my turntable.

WeekofWonders
24. Week of Wonders – Piggybacks (HHBTM)

Leif Anders’ old band Orca Team kind of disappeared one day and from its carcass appeared Week of Wonders. It was as if Anders had been reborn on a tropical island with a brand new band. Wonders never cease here as the bright steel drum sounding guitars surround you and pull you into a conga line through an abandoned factory.

CircularKeys
23. Circular Keys – Eurogrand (Bedroom Suck)

Reading this list you might get the idea that all I listen to is shoegaze, indiepop, garage and psych pop. Well I like a bit of dub and trip hop now and again too. It loosens your joints and keeps you spry. This Australian duo are utterly supple on their debut single. Extra points for spicing up this year’s countdown.

proto idiot
22. Proto Idiot – You’re Wrong (Trouble In Mind)

Proto Idiot is Manchester resident Andrew Anderson. This isn’t his debut, but it was the first I had heard of him and his Clean meets Soft Boys meets Television Personalities wonderfully warped take on pop, and a wonderful introduction it is.

VeronicaFalls
21. Veronica Falls – Nobody There (Self-released)

I don’t think I’ve heard a Veronica Falls song I didn’t like. Nobody There is no exception, but it’s even better than most of their songs, mostly due to the wonderful harmonies at the end of the song that puts them in the realm of the Stone Rose debut.

RawPrawn
20. Raw Prawn – None Left (RIP Society)

Maps are swell and Raw Prawn obviously love Swell Maps. The jaggedy dissonant guitars puncture your safe place and invade the living room. This was released way back in January and I haven’t heard much from them since, but hopefully they’re preparing their next salvo of cacophony real soon.

peoplestemple
19. People’s Temple – Brand New Thing (Trouble In Mind)

Peoples’s Temple are no strangers to my year end lists, but usually they’re on the albums list. This year sees them only releasing a single. It is of such high quality, that it kept me satiated. This Lansing Band sounds like a combination of Them and psychedelic Rolling Stones, and will undoubtedly end up on a children of children of Nuggets box set at some point in the future.

zebrahunt_beaches
18. Zebra Hunt – Beaches of LA (Manic Pop)

Man if there was a band like this that lived in my town I would count myself one of the luckiest fools on the face of this pale blue dot.  Take a little Clean, some Shins and a bit of Go-Betweens and you’ve got the perfect combination (yes, I am a lucky fool). Beaches of LA shows the cool slow burn side of Zebra Hunt, but to the same deadly effect.

tullycraft
17. Tullycraft – Lost In Light Rotation (Fortuna Pop)

I was in the car the other day with my kids and this song came up on the shuffle play (a family that listens to Tullycraft together stays together). When the chorus “ray-gun ray-gun” came in, both kids immediately began singing along to it like it was second nature. After it was over they both said that they didn’t like the song. Sometimes the genius of a pop song is its ability to get you to sing it even when you don’t admit to liking it. Nice cover of Yaz’s Bad Connection on the flip side too.

casualsex
16. Casual Sex – Stroh 80 (Moshi Moshi)

Have you ever wondered what a David Bowie and Edwynn Collins collaboration would sound like? Casual Sex have got your number. This is like Station to Station era Bowie hanging out with the leather clad Collins from the tail end of the Orange Juice.

felines
15. Felines – A Man Stuck In Your Mind (Soundflat)

Another killer single this year from Denmark’s all girl garage supremos. They seem to have an innate ability to make simplicity sound vital. Nothing fancy, just songs that swagger with confidence and flat out rock.

slushy
14. Slushy – Candy (Randy)

This Chicago duo have got a sweet tooth for the Beach Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ramones and Teenage Fanclub. Two songs here and nothing wasted. It’s economical and efficient. Just like candy. Candy is the ballad on the A-side, while the more energetic Pocket showcases their ability to rock out. A near perfect record.

flowers
13. Flowers – When You Lie (Cloudberry)

Big fuzzy drums that sound like they were recorded in an elevator shaft and vocals that echo like fallen angels, this London band’s debut was an instant love affair for fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain,the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. Few bands can generate beauty from white noise, but Flowers are a welcome addition to this elite club.

talbotadams
12. Talbot Adams – Red Diamonds (Spacecase)
Red Diamonds has many similarities to I’ve Been Everywhere and This Land Is Your Land. Some might call that an overstatement, but Talbot Adams’ trip across the Great White North is a classic in waiting.

marketsquares
11. The Market Squares – Afternoon Tide (Market Square)

This collaboration between Paul Messis and the Sufis is a psych dream team. The sinuous guitar lead of Afternoon Tide sticks to your bones long after it’s over. Not surprising that this record sounds like it was recorded 45 years ago given Messis’ and the Sufis’ penchant for classic garage psychedelic sounds.

BeForest
10. Be Forest – Hanged Man (WWNBB)

Italy’s Be Forest wonder in a wood of dreampop. Guitars swoop in from tall trees while the forest floor is soft and pillowy. The forest is slowly transformed as snow begins to descend. Finding shelter beneath a majestic evergreen you listen as the snow falls. When you dig out you discover an wood nymph singing a Japandroids song.

youngsinclairs
9. Young Sinclairs – Engineer Man (Market Square)

Albums, singles, solo records, and demos trickle out from head engineer Sam Lundsford at a fairly constant rate. He seems to have a endless source of paisley coloured songs that he feeds into the pipeline of the internet. Engineer Man is apparently an old song he re-recorded for this single. A good thing too, because it’s way too good to leave on some dusty bandcamp page.

AfraidofStairs
8. Afraid of Stairs – I Lit Up (Dufflecoat)

It has been some time since we’ve heard from Sweden’s Afraid of Stairs, seven years in fact.  I had this single originally slated in at around number 40 when I started gathering my list, but it kept getting better and better every time I listened to it. They sort of shed their shoegaze influences for big sounding straight ahead pop. At first I thought they might have lost the plot, but really they seem to be juggling about eight story lines at once.

zebraHunt_only
7. Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out (Tenorio Cotobade)

On only their second single Zebra Hunt already seem to have pop genius figured out. Only Way Out is a near perfect song stretching like a rubber band to unimaginable length and then it snaps. It’s not the song itself that inflicts pain, it’s the brevity of this pop nugget that does it. Luckily there’s a repeat button.

saunayouth
6. Sauna Youth – False Jessie (Static Shock)

Usually a cover as the A-side means a band is lacking ideas, but Sauna Youth’s C-86 take on Pissed Jeans hardcore False Jessie is like the flip side of Fucked Up’s C-86 fetish. I hope Pissed Jeans aren’t getting any royalties from this because these damp youths own False Jessie.

Blooper
5. Blooper – You Won’t Miss Me (Manic Pop)

The Razorcuts and the Buzzcocks have got nothing on Seattle’s Blooper. This record is so intensely good, you can play it 100 times in a day and it won’t loose any of its maniacally measured propulsion. Keep the singles going steady Blooper.

Wildhoney
4. Wildhoney – Like Me (Nostalgium Directive)

While everyone was awestruck about My Bloody Valentine dusting off a bunch of b-sides and calling it an album this year, Baltimore’s Wildhoney put out the best slice of MBV inspired shoegaze since Isn’t Anything hit the shelves in record stores. Jaw dropping, ear bursting stuff. No big deal.

VicGodard
3. Vic Godard – Caught in Midstream / You Bring Out the Demon In Me (AED)

Oh my, this record is delight, and for you trainspotters the other record in the countdown to feature saxophone. The postman always delivers, and Vic Godard when he’s not delivering mail he’s delivering amazing stuff like this soulful blast of age-defying goodness. Who says you can’t have two careers?

krista
2. Krista – Space Tom Test (Stones Throw)

Some astronaut sings Major Tom from space and people think it’s so poignant. Never mind the guy can’t sing. Vex Ruffin can sing, no doubt and Jame Pants can lay down a fat beat so the next time your in space sing this astronaut dude.

Hookworms
1. Hookworms – Radio Tokyo (Too Pure)

The Hookworms album was pretty good, no? Well this single put it in the dust and in the style of groups that know they can clean the floor it wasn’t even on the album. The swirling organ, the nutso guitar and the psychotic refrain of “It freaks me out” are like being in the eye of the storm. Things are swirling around your cocoon until a flying livestock punctures it and then your in the mayhem, the wondrously insane bovine induced mayhem.

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

Railroad Jerks

snidelywhiplash

Traams, walk the fine line of angular post punk and hypnotic motorik inspired grooves. You get the feeling listening to their debut album Grin that  they were eavesdropping while the Wedding Present were recording Seamonsters with Albini, were in Stockton at Pavement‘s inception, have th’ Faith Healers Lido stuck in their van’s cassette deck, have drank at the fountain of Klaus Dinger, and hang out with the Hookworms. I know that last one is true since MJ of the Hookworms along with Rory Attwell  recorded Traams debut album.

Grin is a blood brother of Hookworms’ amazing album Pearl Music. Singer and guitarist Stuart Hopkins has an unhinged voice that could go off the rails at any moment giving the songs an unpredictability while the underlying guitar bass drum hypnosis by way of spiral scratch grooves keep you tied to the tracks. The last couple of weeks as I’ve been tethered to this record I’ve felt like the cartoon damsel in distress tied to the tracks as Traams locomotive rumbles down the tracks. Are the Traams Snidely Whiplash or are they my Dudley Do-Right? Tune in next time for “This is the very last traam” or “Blogger on the tracks.”

stream: Traams – Flowers (from Grins out on Fat Cat Records)