Tags: Best Friends, Cold Beat, Courtney Barnett, Day Ravies, Die Verboten, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Expert Alterations, Finnmark!, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Girls Names, Grubs, Helen, Hierophants, Hooton Tennis Club, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Kelley Stoltz, King Cyst, Kitchen's Floor, Knife Pleats, Mammoth Penguins, Nic Hessler, Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Outfit, Places To Hide, Primitive Parts, Protomartyr, Robert Forster, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, Sheer Agony, Shopping, Tam Vantage, Terrible Truths, The Chills, The Fireworks, The Intelligence, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, Traams, Twerps, Valet, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Willie Weird, Woolen Men
I hope you looking for a few more records to buy before the wave of 2016 releases hits I didn’t count them and they’re in no particular order but each album won in its own unique category. I don’t have any small statuettes to hand out, but I gave each of my favorite albums an award.
Places To Hide – Strange Lyfe (Irrelevant)
Best Posthumous Album: This Atlanta band broke up before releasing their second album. Great punk and post punk anthems in the vein of X, Versus and Seam.
The Intelligence – Vintage Future (In the Red)
Best Album by an Ex-Seattle Band: I say this about every Intelligence album, but it was their best record yet.
King Cyst – King of New York (Underwater Peoples)
Best Canterbury Scene Influenced Album: The Brooklyn group’s second album had me checking the release date on this whimsical beauty.
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Best Post-Punk Rust Belt Album: The third LP by this Detroit band continues the upward trajectory initialized by last year’s Under Color of Official Right.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Topshelf)
Best Shoegaze Album: Shoegaze has officially become a genre of music, but so few bands in the genre understand that you still need to write great songs to accompany the tremelo bar and effects pedals. That’s not a problem for Wildhoney.
The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
Best Comeback Album: After years of personal struggles, Martin Phillips finally reinitialized the Chills and created masterpiece that sounds like he hadn’t been out of the game over 20 years.
Helen – The Original Faces (Kranky)
Best Album That Sounds Like It Was Mastered from a Cassette: Liz Harris aka Grouper goes down the Black Tambourine / Vivian Girls rabbit hole and emerges from a mountain top.
Shopping – Why Choose (FatCat)
Best ESG-Gang of Four Inspired Album: The London band’s second album is not vastly different from their debut except that the songs are bigger, better more tightly wound.
Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek (Fortuna Pop!)
Best Album by Large Flightless Birds: Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa switched from bass to guitar in her new band and comes up with a more rawkus but no less poignant record.
Cold Beat – Into the Air (Crime On the Moon)
Best Polar Ice Cap Melting Album: Former Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew immerses her band into an 1980’s inspired synth pop sound that on the surface sounds cold, but has a warmth and playfullness on its underbelly that could be blamed for contributing to global warming.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Best Stream of Conscious Album: I was surprised at how polarizing this record was, it seemed like you either loved it or hated it. I was a fan of how Courtney Barnett innately was able to make her stream of conscious lyrics make sense over some incredible hooks.
Die Verboten – Die Verboten 2007 (Deewee)
Best Album from 2007: Recorded eight years ago, the Belgian Krautrock influenced collective finally got around to releasing their debut this year. As you might have guessed it sounds timeless.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
Best Timely Punk Album: It seemed like this Providence, Rhode Island band hit on all the top issues in America (Police Killings, Black Lives, and the 1% to name a few) on Full Communism. Add in a twin saxophone bed of chaos and you have the best pure punk record I’ve heard in a long time.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Best Indiepop Album by English People Masquerading as Scandinavians: Part Cats on Fire and part Lucksmiths this erudite record caught my indiepop fancy.
Girls Names – Arms Around a Vision (Tough Love)
Best Album by a Former Slumberland and Captured Tracks Band: Girls Names slightly reinvent themselves on their third LP. It’s darker, colder bleaker and better than anything they’ve ever done.
Hooton Tennis Club – Highest Point In Cliff Town (Heavenly)
Best Album of Shambolic Anthems: Hooton Tennis Club sound like they’ve got a Pavement attitude and the pop licks of Teenage Fanclub. Formidable attributes that they employ to precise effect.
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Best Comeback Album by a Band the Never Went Away: Roanoke, Virginia’s Eternal Summers never went away, in fact they’ve been consistently putting out records. Gold and Stone sees them taking a great leap in consistency and quality to make their best album since their debut.
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs (Tuff Enuff)
Best Album by a Joanna Gruesome Spin-off: Grubs also get an award for the shortest album of the year. These 11 songs fly by in about 20 minutes but leave a lasting impression thanks to singer Roxy Brennan sweet voice.
Hierophants – Parallax Error (Goner)
Best Devo Inspired Album: Australia’s Hierophants debut channels Chuck Berry, Beach Boys but mostly Devo to jarring effect. Disconcerting, discombobulated and disgreat.
Robert Forster – Songs to Play (Tapete)
Best Album that References Twitter: When artists incorporate references to the internet I usually cringe, but Robert Forster does it in smile inducing way on Let Me Imagine You. It was good to have one of the masters back.
Nick Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
Best Album by a Yay! Records Alumni: Formerly playing under the Catwalk moniker Nick Hessler decided to ‘solo’ on his debut LP. Soft Connections is a brilliant slice of Aztec Camera inspired pop.
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. (FatCat)
Best Garage Rock Inspired by Orange Juice: Best Friends’ debut isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering or revolutionary. It’s just plain fun.
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
Best Helsinki Soul Album: Brooklyn born Willis and her Finish Soul Investigators made one of my favorite soul revival records of the year.
Day Ravies – Liminal Zones (Sonic Masala)
Best Album by a Fake Kinks Revival Band: On their second LP, Sydny’s Day Ravies shed any hint of shoegaze and go for a raw psychedelic sound and prove that they’re good at that too.
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Right (Kanine)
Best Jangle Pop Album: You can’t always be right, but at least you can sound good even if you favor sonically dissonant pop. If this is album is wrong, I don’t want to be right
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Best Mark Hollis Revival Album: The sophomore album from Liverpool’s Outfit was entrancing. It contained no obvious hits, but it was a record that easily commanded my interest listen after listen.
Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound)
Best West Coast 90’s Indiepop Album: Rose Melberg finally decides to revisit her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor roots with her new band and proceeds to satisfy the soul.
The Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Best Buzzy Noise Pop Album: An intensely energetic debut based on a Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and the Razorcuts. This one was right in my wheelhouse!
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Best Album by a band With an Alter Ego: No their not Sonic Youth’s alter ego, Sauna Youth moonlight as Monotony. Distractions was tour de force of frantic noisy anthems influenced by the Fall and Wire.
Primitive Parts – Primitive Parts (Trouble In Mind)
Best Blur Album This Year: Male Bounding and Sauna Youth members team up for a straightforward maelstrom of sharp guitar focused punkish pop.
Valet – Nature (Kranky)
Best Cocteau Twins Impersonation: This Portland group start anew on Nature and thanks to Honey Owens ethereal voice aim for the stars.
Traams – Modern Dancing (FatCat)
Best Krauty-Shouty Album: I really liked Traams’ debut album, but Traams fine tuned their sound into controlled chaos to take Modern Dancing to the next level.
Kitchen’s Floor – Battle of Brisbane (Bruit Direct)
Best Dissonant Brutalist Album: Battle of Brisbane has topical similarities with Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument, but Matt Kennedy’s Kitchen’s Floor sounds angrier and ready for a fight.
Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths (Bedroom Suck)
Best Intensely Laid-back Album: This album had some similarities with the Shopping LP, but Terrible Truths somehow accomplish the trick of sounding tightly wound and laid back at once.
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
Best Monument to the Have Nots: Portland’s Woolen Men combine elements of Wire, the Wipers and REM to create a passionate document berating the new rich and lingering recession.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Best Surprise Album by Back-up Singers: Starr Duncan Lowe and Saundra Williams were backup singers for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I think they will have their own permanent gig after this stellar debut.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Best Album to Listen to Under a Pink Moon: If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Best Australian Album to Sound like It’s from New Zealand: No sophomore slump problems from this Melbourne band, in fact they appear to be a bottomless well of pop goodness.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (JagJaguwar)
Best Ballsy album by a band with no Balls: This Canadian band take their sound from many brave sounding bans like Gang of Four, the Comsat Angels and the Chameleons. Too bad they’re waffling under pressure to change their name.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – Frankie & the Witch Fingers (Permanent)
Best Garage Rock Album: This album made me appreciate the saturated garage rock genre again.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Best John Dwyer Album of the Year: The most varied and consistent album yet from this perennial favorite.
Sheer Agony – Masterpiece (Couple Skate)
Smartest Canadian Rock Album With an Old Guy on the Cover: How smart? How about combining mod era Lilys with the skewed pop of the Shins to come up with an endlessly interesting and engaging LP. This Montreal group seem to already have mastered everything on their debut.
Willie Weird – The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird (Stroll On)
Best Album to Go Off the Deep End: Kelley Stolz’s alter ego comes up with a fractured pop gem
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Best Album to Supply a Vegetarian Source of Protein: The second album of jarring pop from this Cardiff group really sticks to your ribs.
Tam Vantage – Life in High Definition (Lost and Lonesome)
Best Album by a Pop Single: The debut solo album from former Pop Singles front man is a complex and accomplished record.
The Shifters – The Shifters (Comfort 35)
Best Hex Enduction Album: This was the first time I can ever remember not buying the new Fall album. I smartly spent my money on the Shifters’ cassette instead.
Tags: Ausmuteants, Bent Cousin, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Charles Bradly, Cheap Riot, Close Lobsters, Courtneys, Crimson Wave, Day Ravies, Dick Diver, Dream Boys, Flesh World, Giorgio Murderer, Girl One and the Grease Guns, Gurgles, Heathers, Hierphants, Institute, Juniore, Kelley Stoltz, King Tears Mortuary, LaRose Jackson, Menace Beach, Paellas, Pang, Primetime, Primitive Parts, Primitives, Sleaford Mods, Slum of Legs, Suburban Homes, Tender Age, The Mantles, Thigh Master, Twerps, Ubertrager, When Nalda Became Punk, Wildhoney, Wimps, Woolen Men
If they keep putting them out, I’ll keep buying them and counting them down. Here’s my take on the 2014 singles scene. You don’t need eharmony to find a great single, just peruse this list.
1. Wildhoney – Sixteen Forever (Photobooth)
Baltimore band’s second single is even better than their first. Effortlessly great shoegaze. Look out for their debut LP early in 2015.
2. Charles Bradly & LaRose Jackson – Luv Jones (Daptone)
This one came out of nowhere and flew under most everyone’s radar. Charles Bradly and LaRose Jackson sound great together and the flip side has him sounding a bit like the Specials. A certified classic.
3. Primetime – Tied Down (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos)
UK group influenced by Wire and Elastica, only they don’t steal riffs. Solid debut single that indicates greatness.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant)
Classic 60’s inspired, sunny psychedelic single.The Primitives stormed back on the scene with this record.
5. Giorgio Murderer – Primitive World (Goner)
Buck Biloxi’s alter ego obsessed with Star Trek. Insanely insane.
6. Day Ravies – Hickford Whizz (Beko)
Day Ravies move beyond their shoegaze roots and move into full pop bloom.
7. Bent Cousin – Dizzy (Team Love)
Twins from Brighton mix a little bit of rap with indiepop. It shouldn’t work but of course it does since it’s right here at number seven.
8. Gurgles – You Send Me Up (Saltaire)
Gurgles take Steely Dan and Prefab Sprout and turn it up so that it bleeds out of your headphones.
9. Pang – Young Professionals (Grazer)
Bay area young professionals second single is glamorous sounding, jagged, Wire influenced brilliance.
10. Primitive Parts – Open Heads (Sexbeat)
Members of Male Bonding and Sauna Youth, Primitive Parts excel in jangly power pop that reminds me of Modern Life Is Rubbish era Blur. Strong!
11. Girl One and the Grease Guns – Bashed Beaten & Broken (Squirrel)
Alter egos of the Manhattan Love Suicides deal in old drum machines, synths and detached vocals with decided industrial slant.
12. Suburban Homes – The Suburban Home EP (Market Square)
Mysterious punks from the suburbs on written by Paul Messis and on Paul Messis’s label. Raw angry and very good.
13. Close Lobsters – Kunstwerk in Spacetime (Shelflife)
The return of the Close Lobsters was a wonderful sound to behold.
14. Courtneys – Mars Attacks (Hockey Dad)
The second single in this year’s countdown to feature a rap. Vancouver’s Courtneys follow up last years great debut with more of their good thing.
15. The Mantles – Memory (Slumberland)
The Mantles seem to be able to effortlessly write these dusty Byrdsian gems.
16. Juniore – La Fin Du Monde (Enterprise)
Suave, spaghetti-French pop that pulls in some Limiñanas along with a bit of Françoise Hardy.
17. Crimson Wave – Say (Accidental Guest)
Former Wild Honey singer goes two for two with bands and singles. Her new band Crimson Wave is off to an auspicious start with this Scrawl influenced record.
18. Flesh World – A Line In Wet Grass (Iron Lung)
Jess Scott, formerly of Brilliant Colors fronts Flesh World. A Line in the Wet Grass is a maelstrom with a pop song in the middle just struggling to escape.
19. Slum of Legs – Begin To Dissolve (Tuff Enuff)
Slum of Legs combine dissonance and melody into a delicious stew topped off with a violin chaser.
20. Hierphants – Nothing Neu (Goodbye Boozy)
Featuring members of Ausmuteants and Frowning Clouds, you might expect Hierphants to sound like a garage band with Devo leanings and you would be right. Nothing Neu, but good nonetheless.
21. King Tears Mortuary – Grease Trap (Vacant Valley)
Power pop from Sydney that recalls southern fried college rock from the 80’s. Surprised Mitch Easter didn’t have a hand in this.
22. Ubertrager – Neben Mir (Great Pop Supplement)
Amazing how much this sounds like Broadcast. Otherworldly!
23. Institute – Giddy Boys (Kartorga Works)
Debut single from Austin band sounding like their from Australia. The Austin Ausmuteants?
24. Primitive Parts – TV Wheels (Faux Discx)
Primitive Parts make their second appearance in the countdown. Quality and quantity. Lookout for their debut coming later this year on Trouble In Mind.
25. Dream Boys – Positive Arguments (White Iris)
Bluebells, Bif Bang Pow and Three O’Clock fans rejoice, Los Angeles’ Dream Boys follow up last year’s LP with more jangly goodness!
26. Wimps – Distraction (Help Yourself)
Short, sharp punk from Seattle’s slackers in chief.
27. Kelley Stoltz – Cross Your Mind (Stroll On)
Stoltz keeps cranking out classic pop whether you like it or not. The guy’s a machine. Dig the ode to Echo & the Bunnymen xylophone solo too.
28. When Nalda Became Punk – Indiepop Whatever (Shelflife)
From Spain, but riding a wave of Swedish Pop, When Nalda Became a Punk feature jangly guitars and life affirming choruses.
29. Woolen Men – Real FX (Loglady)
More tightly wound jangle from this Portland trio.
30. Cheap Riot – Part Time Vacancy (Croque Macadam)
A great debut single from punk-party mods who remind me of Television Personalities and the Buzzcocks.
The cover looks like something Jack Kirby might have drawn for the Fantastic Four back in the 60’s. Meanwhile Tim Gane continues his odes a future that never was.
32. Paellas – Cat Out (Self-released)
The formerly moody Paellas, shake the lead out and get downright dancy. New direction 100 percent approved.
33. Thigh Master – Head of the Witch (Tenth Court)
Jangly garage pop that is bound to not just to excite fans of Suzanne Somers but is likely to make fans of the Clean the Go-Betweens happy as well.
34. Twerps – Back To You (Merge)
More Australian pop you say. Yes they just keep coming. Sounding a little like the Moles in the intro, this one is the lead single from the upcoming LP.
35. Tender Age – Anything (Track & Field)
Portland’s Tender Age evoke’s Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. Dark and dreamy.
36. Sleaford Mods – Loan Shark (Apocolypso)
A bit more glitchy and more experimental backing provides great backdrop for another rant.
37. Heathers – Fear (Death Party)
Single number two from this LA band delivers more hardy jangepop. The cool thing about them is how funnel their very English influences (Wedding Present) into a very American sound (Replacements).
38. Menace Beach – Tennis Court (Memphis Industries)
Dreamy female vocals over scuzzy male ones and scuzzy guitars that delivers with a nice big chorus. Just what you should expect from a great single.
39. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself (Goodbye Boozy)
Prolific Aussi synth punks crash the party with this blistering guitars and head flexing vocals.
40. Dick Diver – New Name Blues (Fruits & Flowers)
New Name Blues sounds a little more experimental and less straightforward than their usual strummy goodness, adding in some saxophone to keep things interesting.
Tags: Cure, Kelley Stoltz, Mickey Young, Rat Columns, RIP Society, The Church, Wire
How many sweet spots lie between Wire‘s 154 and Of Skins and Heart by the Church? By my estimation there are at least a few hundred and Rat Columns‘ second album hits a good many of them. The San Francisco by way of Australia band have just released their second album Leaf on Australia’s RIP Society records. It was recorded in San Francisco at Kelley Stoltz‘s Electric Duck Studios. Main Rat David West employed the aid of both Stoltz and Mikey Young (Total Control & Eddie Current Suppression Ring) to make the record.
Where the first Rat Columns album was murky and dense, album number two sheds opaqueness for sunnier realms and glistens in the pop sun. The first song Straight to hell with its shinny and shimmering guitar immediately lets you know that this Rat Columns album is a more immediate infectious beast than its predecessor. The second song Another day with its Cure-like synthy intro and bouncing bass reinforce the fact. You can just imagine Kelley Stoltz swinging by the control room while the band were recording and yelling ‘more pop’ and then sneaking in and dialing up the pop knob just a tad on each of these songs. There were hints and traces of pop genius on the previous album Sceptre Hole, but Leaves goes far beyond anything I was expecting. It still has some mystery to it and can be obtuse in parts the way Wire pushed the boundaries of art and punk on 154, but at its heart it’s in love with jangly bittersweet pop that the Church excelled at on Of Skins and Heart. A great unexpected record.
stream: Rat Columns – Another Day
stream: Rat Columns – Fooling Around
You can stream and buy the download of the album from Rat Columns’ bandcamp. If you’re in the US, Goner has vinyl copies for sale, or if you prefer you can order from RIP Society in Australia. Also, don’t miss Rat Columns on tour later this summer:
29-Aug FRI – SAN FRANCISCO w/ COLD BEAT
30-Aug SAT – OAKLAND
31-Aug SUN – SACRAMENTO
3-Sep WEDS – PORTLAND w/ RUBY PINS
4-Sep THURS – VANCOUVER w/ RUBY PINS? GET IN TOUCH!!!
5-Sep FRI – OLYMPIA w/RUBY PINS
6-Sep SAT – SEATTLE w/RUBY PINS
7-Sep SUN – BOISE w/ RUBY PINS
10-Sep WEDS – ST PAUL
11-Sep THURS – CHICAGO
12-Sep FRI – ANN ARBOR/DETROIT
13-Sep SAT – PITTSBURGH
14-Sep SUN – NEW YORK CITY
16-Sep TUES – BOSTON
17-Sep WEDS – PHILLY
18-Sep THURS – RICHMOND @ GALLERY FIVE
19-Sep FRI – LEXINGTON w/ IDIOT GLEE
20-Sep SAT – MEMPHIS w/ IDIOT GLEE
21-Sep SUN – HOT SPRINGS? w/ IDIOT GLEE
22-Sep MON – DALLAS w/ IDIOT GLEE: Three Links – Deep Ellum, TX, 2704 Elm St
23-Sep TUES – AUSTIN w/ IDIOT GLEE
26-Sep FRI – TUSCON / PHOENIX-TEMPE??? GET IN TOUCH!!!
27-Sep SAT – SAN DIEGO
28-Sep SUN – LOS ANGELES? GET IN TOUCH!!!
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Sub Pop, Third Man Records
Kelley Stoltz @ Chop Suey, Seattle | 7 October 2013
Poor Kelley Stoltz, dropped by Sub Pop after three records, played to a nearly empty Chop Suey last Monday night. I know Seattle is not a pop town and it skews more toward beard and flannel rock, but I really thought that there were more than ten folks in this town that are big enough fans of Stoltz’s near flawless pop to get off of their butts on a Monday night and come down for show. Alas, my faith in the human race and my city’s pop tastes continue to deteriorate. Even though he doesn’t have many fans in Seattle, he is a pillar of the San Francisco scene. Drumming part time for Sonny and Sunsets, producing the latest Mantles album and generally being pillar of the DIY community.
Stoltz had a full band with him (including a saxophone) and was in a gregarious mood despite the turnout. He kicked off the set with Pine Cone, which is his Fred Neil number and his ode to trying to get a pine cone through airport security. He mixed in some other oldies including Every Thought of Coming Back from Below the Branches with songs from his latest album Double Exposure which came out earlier this month on Jack White‘s record label Third Man. Stoltz has been churning out great pop for years and it doesn’t look like his well is running dry yet. The new songs were the highlights. The Johnny Cash bass of Are You My Love, the icy cool Double Exposure and the sweat Marcy all more than filled empty room. I was hoping to get to hear him play Kim Chee Taco Man the quirky first single from the record and Inside my Head the droney number that ends in something of a glassy Harold Budd/Brian Eno ode, but Stoltz being the showman, knows how to leave them wanting more. He closed his set with an energetic cover of the Compulsive Gamblers girl-group inspired Think It Over which saw him put down his guitar and totally go for it. A real blast!
Near the end of the set two frizzy haired guys were dancing in front of the stage. They were enthusiastic, but Stoltz deserves more than two geeky guys dancing in front him and a third one writing about the show.
stream: Kelley Stoltz – Are You My Love (from Double Exposure out on Third Man Records)
Tags: Aggi Doom, Guy Harvey, Joanna Gruesome, Keel Her, Kelley Stoltz, Lamps, Sugar Stems, Twerps, Vermillion Sands, Veronica Falls
11. Kelley Stoltz – Caroline (Les Disques Steak)
How many songs have been written about Caroline? Who knows? Kelley Stoltz adds one more to the list, but instead of being about Caroline it’s about all the songs that have been written about Caroline. It’s kind of like looking into a mirror reflecting a mirror with a great pop song for the soundtrack. Put it on repeat for optimum effect.
12. Veronica Falls – My Heart Beats (Slumberland)
Veronica Falls’ autumnal jangle is perfect for any season. My Heart Beats does not let up from the full throttle that the band was operating at on their debut album from last year, in fact it ups the ante. This record has got the oddsmakers putting the chance of sophomore slump for their album due early next year at about a 1000 to 1.
If spaghetti westerns were still being made, I imagine that Italy’s Vermillion Sands would be littering the soundtracks with their flipped out slightly countrified brand of garage rock. Summer Melody with it’s warbly guitar and bouncy rhythm kicks up some great Italian dust.
14. Guy Harvey – The Rope (Mayo Factory)
Florida’s Guy Harvey are named after the artist that is more synonymous with Jimmy Buffet than indie rock. Their single from early in the year doesn’t really evoke images of sword fish and marlins, but it is bolstered with beautiful sad melody and piano crescendos that left me wanting more from this seemingly reclusive band. Will they make another record or will they choose to pursue careers in snorkeling?
15. Sugar Stems – Greatest Pretender (Certified PR)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Sugar Stems immediately bring to mind the Bangles, but where the Bangles were initially part of paisley underground, the Sugar Stems deal in the skinny tie and straight leg pants of powerpop. Greatest Pretender packs a wallop that you want to keep hitting yourself with.
16. Lamps – All Seeing Eye (Sweet Rot)
You know that eye on top of the pyramid on the back of a one dollar bill? That is the all seeing eye. It knows where you are, what you buy and what you think. You cannot escape it. You need it. It dominates your life. Kind of like this single from the Lamps.
17. Aggi Doom – Bring Me the Head (Soft Power)
Brand new Glasgow band Aggi Doom nearly made the perfect single. The hyper Bring Me the Head brought to mind Gang of Four and Lilliputand with its tribal drums and chanted lyrics. The flip was moody and atmospheric sounding like it was culled from some long lost 4AD single. Aggi Doom, bring me more singles!
18. The Twerps – Work It Out (Underwater Peoples)
The Melbourne scene kind of exploded this year. So many bands releasing so many great records. Well the Twerps were leading the pack. True, their album came out last year, but this quality single easily kept them fresh in our minds.
19. Joanna Gruesome – Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love with Me (HHBTM)
Joanna Gruesome are the zombie sisterhood of their namesake. If you dig distorted pop that jangles and scrapes instead of plucked harp made by elves then you are one of the walking pop dead. Going from record store to record store mumbling to yourself, muuussst fiiiinnnddd mmmorrrre kiiiiiillllleeeerrr popppppp reeeecoorrrrdzzzz. Click!
20. Keel Her – Riot Grrrl (Critical Heights)
Keel Her appeared on the Family Portrait record that came out on Art Is Hard this year. It also featured Gum, Joanna Gruesom, and Playlounge, the cornerstones of a rising blown out pop scene in the UK. Keel Her is the nom de guerre of Rose Keeler-Schaffeler who has released numerous cassettes and singles over the past two years. Riot Grrrl is her roaring x-rated best yet.
Tags: In the Red, Kelley Stoltz, The Intelligence
It’s no secret around here that the Intelligence are one of my favorite bands, period. I’ve been looking forward to their upcoming album Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me all year. The Intelligence use to be based in Seattle and they would play every few months and I could easily get my fix. Well, things changed late last year when main brain Lars Finberg upped and moved down to Los Angeles. I’ve been in withdrawal ever since, so it’s with great relief to hear the first song (They found me in the back of) The Galaxy from their upcoming seventh album . This very song immediately implanted itself in my brain when I first heard it last year at the Crocodile when they played with Kid Kongo. Lars nonchalantly introduced it as an old song. Smart-ass, like he’d been sitting on one of the best songs he’d ever written his entire career. Hell, maybe he did pull it from old cassette and resuscitated it. The guy probably has shoe boxes full of ’em.
mp3: The Intelligence – (They found me in the back of) The Galaxy (from the album Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me due in June on In the Red)
The song is also available on a split 7-inch with Kelley Stoltz. Now if there was ever a record made specifically for me this has gotta be it. The single is limited to 600 copies with 200 of them being yellow colored vinyl. Have at it.
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Les Disques Steak, Sub Pop
The floors of Kelley Stoltz‘ San Francisco digs must be littered with great songs. When he cleans, he probably throws a bunch out into the dumpster because they’re crowding him out. Of course he doesn’t throw all of them out with the dishwater, he sometimes put’s them on wax. As a stop-gap between albums (and recording the next Mantles album) Stoltz has just released a 7-inch single on Les Disques Steak over in France. He’s calling it Two Imaginary Girls: Caroline is the A-side and Marcy is the B-side.
“Caroline, Well you’ve been sung about so many times,” Stoltz deadpans. Yes Caroline has been the muse to many songwriters, but Stoltz’ contribution to the Caroline cannon is easily up there with the best of them. It’s an undeniable rocker with so many hooks in it that when Kelley tried to throw it out it got stuck in the doorjamb. Marcy hasn’t had as many song written about her, probably because it doesn’t roll from the tongue the way Caroline does, but Stoltz makes her name sound pretty in a strange way with his Marcy refrain. This sadder acoustic beauty is B-side in name only. Only 300 of these records were pressed up, so head on over to Les Disques Steak to get a copy.
Tags: Allo Darlin', Art Museums, Boston Spaceships, Cinema Red and Blue, Deerhunter, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Edwyn Collins, Eternal Summers, Frankie Rose and the Outs, Fresh & Onlys, Gigi, Kelley Stoltz, Kellies, Les Cox (sportifs), Race Horses, Sourpatch, Standard Fare, Super Wild Horses, The Intelligence, The Lights, The Limiñanas, Ty Segall, Weekend, Wounded Lion, Young Sinclairs
Looking at the lists from the indie cognoscenti this year my eyes tend to get heavy and it becomes hard to stay awake. I’m beginning to see why my grandfather wasn’t able to stay awake when he watched the Dukes of Hazzard with me when I was a kid. I’m not quite to that point yet, as I was able to keep myself lucid long enough to compile my top 25 albums of the year. Have at it.
1. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax (Goner)
Some long-time fans have quipped that Rush To Relax isn’t as good as its predecessor Primary Colors, but for me this was the year of Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Finding Rush to Relax in the used bin for 99 cents was the start. Next Anxiety whacked me on the head with its brute force, then their longer jams like Turning Out and Second Guessing bowled me over, and if that wasn’t enough they beguiled with the heartfelt politeness of I Can Be a Jerk and Gentleman. Finally their status was cemented by their live show at Vera Project. In a dry house following two hardcore punk bands, the band put on a clinic on how to rock out with their solid rhythm section, slicing guitars and unique gloved front man. Nobody came close to Eddy Current Suppression Ring this year.
2. Intelligence – Males (In The Red)
Well, the Intelligence came kinda close. Lars and company pumped up the fidelity on record number six and came out all the better for it. For the first time ever this was a full band and the claustrophobic weirdness that permeates all previous Intelligence records was stretched, torn and punctured to create new sounds. Fidelity aside, this batch of songs with the likes of Tuned to Puke, Like Like Like…, The Beetles and Estate Sales may be the strongest yet.
mp3: Tuned to Puke
3. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep (Heavenly)
After suffering a stroke, Edwyn Collins may not have his guitar playing skills back yet, but his songwriting and singing skills are have returned fully intact. Losing Sleep sees Collins enlisting the help of friends like Johnny Marr, The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand, Roddy Frame, Drums to name a few. At first it was kind of a surprise to hear Collins duet with so many of his guests, but the album’s sound is so cohesive it doesn’t distract because you can tell that Ryan Jarmin, Alex Kapranos, Romeo Stodart and Jonathon Pierce are such Collins fans.
mp3: Losing Sleep
4. Les Cox Sportifs – Scheiss Mit Reis (Sea)
Les Cox Sportifs caught my imagination, and no it wasn’t their name that did it. Their sparsly played rhythmic songs and odd lyrics put them defiantly in the weird corner and that’s a corner I gravitate to. Their combining of Bo Diddly, the Fall, Modern Lovers, Yummy Fur and Country Dick Montana was a soup that I kept lapping up all year long.
mp3: John E Millais
5. Kellies – Kellies (Rastrillo/Crang)
The self-titled third album from this Argentinian all girl band was part post punk, part art school, and should have come with a warning label because every song contains a deadly hook. Why have you not heard of these ladies you may ask. That’s a damn good question, and if you’ve been around these parts much, you probably have.
mp3: Hit It Off
6. Eternal Summers – Silver (Kanine)
Roanoak, Virginia’s Eternal Summers are the simple combination of guitar and drums, but are most certainly more than the sum of their parts and a good reason for that is Nicole Yun’s big confident voice. First single Pogo was big and catchy and the immediacy of Disciplinarian and the moodiness and beauty of songs like Salty and Bully In Disguise keep you firmly planted.
7. Race Horses – Goodbye Falkenburg (FantasticPlastic)
Formerly known as Radio Luxembourg, Race Horses broke out of the gate this year with their first album Goodbye Faulkenberg. Being from Wales you might guess they have a psychedelic leaning the same as Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and you would be right but they carve out their own niche of strange beguiling pop too. Actually it’s more like a wide swath that ranges from Love, Dexy’s, Can, Mahler, Gilber & Sullivan, Scott Walker and Os Mutantes to name a few of the records they list on the inner sleeve as influences on this album.
8. Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
Seems like every year Kelley Stoltz puts out a record it ends up as one of my favorites. I write something about how he conjours the past with songs that evoke the likes of the Kinks, Harry Nilson and Fred Neil. With To Dreamers Stoltz does it again with seeming ease, but he incorporates more lush orchestration this time, does a little krautrock, and includes a cover of Big Boy Pete’s 1965 lost classic Baby I Got News for You even doing some sleuthing to pull in Pete Miller to play on it. I keep expecting the well to run dry for Stoltz, but it looks like he’s in no danger of that.
9. Sourpatch – Crushin’ (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
San Jose’s Sourpatch probably at some point have made a pilgrimage to Sacramento to pay tribute to Tiger Trap and Rocketship. After doing so they came back home and made this record. Their ability to conjure that sound from that time might be called nostalgic by some but these kids are way too young to hold any nostalgia for the 90’s. Crushin’ is just some kids from San Jose making beautiful twee racket.
10. Weekend – Sports (Slumberland)
Sports begins with an unassuming jangle. Soon an eerie howl is heard in the distance and then it becomes more prominent. At about a minute and a half in, the jangle turns into a buzz-saw and the howl to piercing growl. Weekend don’t lift their collective boot from your neck over the next 45 minutes. Sports pummels but like someone that doesn’t know what’s good for them I keep coming back for more.
mp3: Coma Summer
11. Wounded Lion – Wounded Lion (In the Red)
Wounded Lion are probably a little too weird to ever go mainstream, that’s why they’re on this list. Jokes aside, Wounded Lion killer modern day Modern Lovers fueled rock brings it. No filler here: The one-two punch of Hungry? and Creatures In the Cave is hard to resist. Degobah System must have been unjustly cut from Star Wars Episode IV and Pony People (having been on a now out of print S-S seven inch) Those are only a few reasons I love this record.
12. Young Sinclairs – Chimeys (Chimney Sweep)
The Young Sinclairs are the vehicle of Sam Lunsford who over the last four years has self-released loads of cd-r’s and tapes. Last year Kindercore put out an LP that cherry picked the best tracks from those releases giving them a little larger audience. Finally the band endeavored to release and album on the Chimney Sweep label on vinyl this year. Chimey’s is psychedelia done so well it will make you think of so many bands like them that have gone before. It will also have you searching through your closet for those paisley shirts you hope you never threw out.
mp3: Future Man
13. Frankie Rose & the Outs – Frankie Rose And The Outs (Slumberland)
I must say that after seeing Frankie Rose and the Outs at SXSW this year I wasn’t really looking forward to her album. Everything was drenched in reverb to the point of barely being able to make out the songs. There is no such problem with this album. It is a sublime record that eschews the ramshackle garage sound of her former band and goes for a more classic sound and totally succeeds.
14. Boston Spaceships – Our Cubehouse Still Rocks (GBVI)
Funny how my interest in Robert Pollard ebbs and flows. There was a high point in the 90’s and then it dipped in 00’s. Now that we’re in the 10’s Pollard is back in my good graces and Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is a prime example as to why. While everyone was running around talking about the Guided By Voices reunion, this album was released and criminally ignored. It rivals and surpasses the last five GBV albums.
mp3: Track Star
15. Cinema Red & Blue – Cinema Red & Blue (What’s Your Rupture)
I hesitate to call this a supergroup, but it’s a pretty damn good one. David Feck of Comet Gain, comes over to New York and gets some Crystal Stilts, Ladybug Transistors and one Amy Linton to help out on this album. Apparently it was recorded in a week, but it has warmth and familiarity like these old friends have been playing together for years.
mp3: Ballad Of A Bus Stop
16. Allow Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop)
Allo Darlin’ sealed the deal with their rousing show at the Jewelbox Theatre in Seattle this fall. Their slightly twee, slightly country ukulele driven songs have a sweet niavty to them that makes you want them to take them under your wing and give them a good home. My copy has found one on my stereo and it’s even muscled out a few lesser records from the cd player.
mp3: The Polaroid Song
17. Standard Fare – Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Bar None)
This and Allo Darlin were like sister records for me this year. I couldn’t think about one without the other popping into my head. Standard Fare packed a little more muscle, but it was coming from the same place. Well maybe not the exact same place when you consider their song 15 is about falling for a teenager. Not your typical indiepop.
18. Art Museums – Rough Frame (Woodsist)
This record was a pleasant surprise, evoking the Television Personalities and early Creation records. It’s short at only nine songs, but it left a lasting impression on me. The songs are done in low key, lo-fi way. The steely guitars and programmed drums provide a synthetic psychedelic feel. The vocals strain to reach the high notes, but the songs are warm, fuzzy and earnest which makes these part-time punks’ debut hard not to like.
mp3: Sculpture Gardens
19. Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange (In the Red)
The Fresh & Onlys are still way too prolific for their own good. I feel like we’ve seen them grow up before our eyes. Where some bands hold back releasing songs, choosing to keep a stash in case of writer’s block, the Fresh & Onlys lay it all on the line putting everything out for better of for worse. After two diluted albums last year, the band chose to only release one album this year and are the better for it. Every song is autumnal intoxication and their secret weapon guitarist Wymond Miles astounds throughout with his leads.
20. The Lights – Failed Graves (Wantage)
The Lights have been trolling around the seedy side Seattle for quite a while. Ten years on and Failed Graves is only the band’s third album but my favorite so far. There were more than a couple times this year when I was standing either in the Funhouse or the Sunset watching them storm through a set thinking that they were the best live band going in Seattle right now. Craig Chambers in a suit looking like a huckster that plays a mean guitar, Jeff Albertson firecly clutching his well worn bass while PJ Rogalski wailed on the drums. The intensity on Failed Graves nearly replicates their live show. Dissonant guitars, pummeling rhythm section come at you through the speakers and the needle threatens to fly from the record.
mp3: Famous Gunshots
21. Gigi – Maintenant (Tomlab)
After this album I am convinced that Nick Krgovich of No Kids is a pop maestro. How else could he write and orchestrate an album like this. The songs have a 60’s Phil Spector feel crossed with Cole Porter, putting him in a league with Stephen Merrit’s Sixths albums. There are too many highlights to list here, but the Rose Melberg sung Alone At the Pier, Karl Blau doing The Old Graveyard and Zac Pennington’s Dreams of Romance are already classics in my house.
mp3: The Old Graveyard
22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
4AD does not carry the cache that it once did, but Earthquake the first song on Halcyon Digest totally evokes that label’s heyday, sounding like Dif Juz, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil all at once. Bradford Cox is up to his old shoegaze tricks on Halcyon digest, but it’s Locket Pundt’s songs that lifted this album to the top of the stack this time. Desire Lines and Fountain Stairs offer hazy bursts of sunshine to Cox’s Halcyon gauze.
mp3: Desire Lines
23. The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas (Trouble In Mind)
Je Ne Puis Pas Trés Drogué. Well I am after this record. The Limiñanas is full of hallucinogens, twelve doses to be precise. I hope their record label doesn’t get arrested for sending these things via the US Postal Service. It could be a real scandal. I can see the headlines now: American Label implicated in French drug trafficking. Giant hits of acid found in the form of 33 rpm records. I ordered 10 copies.
mp3: Down Underground
24. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Hozac)
At first glance you might say Australia’s Super Wild Horses take their cue from the riot grrrl movement of the early 90’s, but their sound and style goes a little further harking back to that movement’s predecessors like the Breeders and Scrawl. The grrrl duo switch off between minimal drums and minimal guitar to deliver short sharp shocks trading off vocals and harmonizing on songs that transcend their primal beginnings. Not sure how much Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring who twiddled the knobs on this record had to do with the magic that Fifteen conjures, but if I were a betting man I would say not very much.
25. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
Like the Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall came of age in 2010, albeit at a much younger age. Melted is where Segall got off the garage bus and tripped onto the magic buss. Don’t get me wrong, he still rocks out, but it’s in full technicolor instead of the previous black and white. Songs like Bees are meaty beaty big and bouncy and Sad Fuzz rains down on you like he’s finally gotten to the point of being able to incorporate those top shelf influences into his songs. Listening to Melted you can see that Segall freed his mind and the possibilities are endless.
Magic Bullets – Magic Bullets (Mon Amie) / Lawrence Arabia – Chant Darling (Bella Union) / Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks) / Rose Elinor Dougall – Whithout Why (Scarlett) / Idle Times – Idle Times (Hozac) / Radio Dept. – Clinging To a Scheme (Labrador) / Seinking Ships – Museum Quality Capture (S-curve) / Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Sub Pop) / Splinters – Kick (Double Negative) / Math and Physics Club – I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do (Matinee) / Katerine – Phillippe Katerine (Barclay) / The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (Domino) / White Wires – WWII (Dirtnap) / Dead Ghosts – Dead Ghosts (Florida’s Dying) / Harlem – Hippies (Matador) / Vic Godard – & Subway Sect – We Come As Aliens (Overground)
Tags: Kelley Stoltz, Sub Pop
For a while there, you couldn’t turn on the TV without one of Kelley Stoltz‘ songs blaring from the boob tube being used to hock credit cards, hotels, Volvos and Viagra (not true). My guess is that about 70% of of Kelley Stoltz fans do marketing for a living. The rest of us do other stuff. To Dreamers is Kelly Stoltz third album for Sub Pop and number six overall if you’re counting. The man is still fastidiously solo, in his house crafting multilayered pop songs all alone and getting by with a little help from his friends when necessary. The guy is meticulous, every listen seems to provide some new found sound on every listen.
While To Dreamers is primarily a guitar album, Stoltz incorporates horns into a handful of the songs. The effect is subtle, and they are so deftly employed that you sometimes think they’re another guitar. On the opening Rock & Roll With Me I didn’t notice them until the second or third listen. I Like, I Like features a saxophone right up front, but not in your face like Springsteen and John Cafferty. You almost have to struggle to hear it near the end of the song, instead of it breaking out into some kind crazy solo.
The Kinks, Beach Boys and Harry Nilson are still ever-present in Stoltz’s antique glow, but he seems to be broadening his pallet this time out, because I swear I hear some Electric Light Orchestra (Rock & Roll with Me), Fred Neil (Pinecone), Bowie (Fire Escape), and Krautrock (Keeping the Flame) not to mention a bit of post punk droning in places. When he’s not being a rock n’ roll star, Stoltz works in a record store in San Francisco, and you see how the dusty stacks of vinyl seep into his mind and keep expand his musical horizons. To Dreamers benefits from Stoltz’ ever expanding musical palette, making it a more varied record and so far, my favorite of his albums. The record ends with the pensive Bottle Up which gives a nod with it’s baritone guitar to Jack Nitzsche‘s Lonely Surfer. Stoltz’ sixth album is another solo triumph, shooting the curl at some obscure California break. I just hope that there are some people back on the beach watching besides those in the TV commercial making business.
Stream: To Dreamers
Check out this video made by Yours Truly about the making of To Dreamers. Sounds like Mikey from Eddy Current Suppression Ring turned Kelley onto doing the cover of “Big Boy” Pete Miller’s Baby I Got News for You.
Tags: A Frames, Aislers Set, American Analog Set, Animals That Swim, Blumfeld, Boat, Broadcast, Cornelius, Electrelane, Gentleman Jesse, Go-betweens, Goldfrapp, Graham Coxon, hollAnd, Human Television, Intelligence, It's Jo and Danny, Katerine, Kelley Stoltz, Moose, Pants Yell!, Pelle Carlberg, Radio Dept., Rough Bunnies, The Fall, The Tyde, Tom Vek
I was going to do a list of my favorite records of the 00’s, but as I was getting my list together I started to realize it was kind of boring. Really, how many music blogs do you need to tell you the same thing? That’s when I began thinking about the records that came out over last 10 years that I thought were criminally ignored, or just didn’t seem to get a fair shake. So what I’ve got for you is a list of my most underrated albums of the decade. Every one of these records shoulda been a hit, but because the world is a cruel, cruel place they never were.
Putting this list together was a lot of fun, because it allowed me to make amends for some records that I missed the year they came out. There is not a year that goes by that I don’t discover my favorite album from the previous year in March of the next year. And so it goes….you’ll find a lot albums on this list that never made one of my year end lists from the past ten years. I can assure you though, that everyone of these would make my top 100 albums of the aughts. I just thought focusing on the underdogs would be a little more interesting than seeing some list with the same records as every other list out there. Hope that I have half-succeeded. Oh, and yeah, I know that the decade is officially over at the end of 2010, but I start counting at zero.
It’s Jo and Danny – Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy (2000: Double Snazzy)
This was one of those buys where I was in a record store flipping through CD’s and saw a cover that caught my eye. I remember opening it up and seeing that Dan Treacy of Television Personalities had written the liner notes and thinking, that it’s got to be good. Unheard, I bought this at some overpriced record shop in Paris (I’m so cosmopolitan) and it soon thereafter became my favorite record for months on end. It’s got elements of Mazzy Star and shoegaze, but seems to carve out it’s own space making it kind of unclassifiable and kinda special. They would put out three more albums in the decade, but none came as close to perfection as Lank Haired Girl. To this day, I have no idea which one is Jo and which one is Danny.
The Fall – The Unutterable (2000: Eagle)
It’s just like Mark E Smith to come back from near disaster with an amazing album. After being arrested for assault of his then girlfriend Julia Nagel in New York and having his long time band quit on him Smith returned with an entire new band and the Unutterable. He’d done it before, releasing Extricate after Brix left him, so there is some sort of precedence. It’s amazing how the Fall can still sound vital some 30 years into it, but they do, and this is example number one for the aughts (see also Heads Roll and Country on the Click).
Moose – High Ball Me (2000: Le Grand Magistery)
Moose never officially broke up, so I still hold out hope. High Ball Me was their fourth and last album. All three previous records were criminally ignored, so why should this one be any different. The perennial underdogs, Moose made such great albums to the delight of those lucky enough to hear them. High Ball Me is no different except that this one got released not only in the UK but in the US, a first for the band. There was no slide in quality on High Ball Me. Incorporating Nilson, Buckly, Hazlewood and House of Love into an intricate wall of sound that Phil Spector would envy. It’s downright lush!
Broadcast – The Noise Made By People (2000: Warp)
Before Broadcast became a laptop band, they were actually a real band and The Noise Made By People was the culmination of their autumnal space-age pop. It had an icy cold and unfeeling demeanor like Nico, but there was a glow to it like the Mamas and the Papas and a fiery intensity like Jefferson Airplane. You get the picture, it has a definite 60’s feel to it, but it has it without sounding too derivative. I remember seeing them at the Knitting Factory in LA for their tour to promote the album, and Broadcast as a full band in a live setting so greatly surpassed what they had put down on tape. Trish Keenan’s voice, the retro light show, the noise created by the keyboards, but mostly the guitars filled the room with a hazy shade of winter. Take note chillwave/laptop groups, you need a band, otherwise it’s just watching a guy clicking a mouse.
Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain (2000: Mute)
Some of the sounds on Goldfrapp’s debut album are otherworldly. It’s all strings and computers, but it sounds like it came from outer space. Outer space circa circa 1960, something akin to Peter Thomas’s soundtrack to Raumpatrouille. Alisson Goldfrapp looks like she could have been a Bond girl and has a voice to match. Before making Felt Mountain with Will Gregory, she had appeared on albums by Tricky and Orbital, so this record and its cinematic trip hop didn’t come out of nowhere, but the yodeling kind of did.
The Aislers Set – The Last Match (2000: Slumberland)
You know what I do with this album? I probably shouldn’t say this, but I only listen to the Amy Linton songs. No offense to Wyatt Cusak (he sings 3 of the 14 songs on the album), but I’m a sucker for that girl group sound augmented with a big wall of guitars and that is what Linton specializes in. The Aislers Set are kind of the Rosetta Stone of Slumberland, the linchpin of the label that links the seminal Black Tambourine to the current crop of bands like Lichtenstein, Brilliant Colors, Grass Widow, and Frankie Rose. If there was a song that came out in the year 2000 that is better than the lead off track The Way To Market Station, I have yet to hear it.
Animals That Swim – Happiness From a Distant Star (2001: Snowstorm)
Admittedly Happiness from a Distant Star is not the best Animals that Swim album, that honor would got to I was the King, I Really Was the King, but Animals that Swim are so good that their third best album (they only made three) is better than anything someone like Sufijan Stevens could ever, ever come up with in his wildest dreams. Singer Hank Stars is like the UK version of Silver Jews’ Dave Berman. He paints vivid pictures of the down on their luck and downtrodden characters and does it with such an eye for melody and melancholy that you find yourself swept up in stories about Uncle Mackie, aliens and letter writing.
The American Analog Set – Know By Heart (2001: Tigersyle)
Up until Know By Heart, American Analog Set were background music to me, but with this record they seemed to grow some teeth and develop a pulse. It’s still mellow, but there is a welcome tension to their songs. The band create a hypnotic swirling sound that is so crisp and clean you could eat off of it. Although the playing is at the forefront (the drumming is lovely), front guy Andrew Kenny comes to bat with some really strong pop songs. The Postman is pretty unforgettable and Aaron & Maria is the poppiest thing that AmAnSet have ever laid to tape.
The Tyde – Once (2001: Orange Sky)
Back in 2001 I wrote that the Tyde answer the question: What if Felt were from Southern California? Darren Rademaker is an obvious fan that Birmingham, UK band, but you can also tell he knows his local history, showing an appreciation of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. When this record came out in 2001 I was living down in San Diego, the perfect place to hear it. Once was meant for the beach, surfing, getting good and high and eating at Swami’s Natural Food Cafe on a sunny Encinitas day.
Cornelius – Point (2002: Matador)
Japanese pop alchemist Cornelius is a master of precision and layering on texture after texture onto the frame of a pop song. A song might start with a water drop, become a trickling stream and end up a waterfall. Each part taken by itself seems so basic and simple, but as they layer upon one another the complexity in it all becomes apparent. Cornelius has this uncanny ability to create these engineering marvels and still make them sound vibrant, catchy and exiting. If you ever have the chance to see him live jump at it, you will not regret it. A true master builder at work.
Radio Dept. – Lesser Matters (2003: Shelflife/Labrador)
Lesser Matters has not lost a spec of goodness since I first heard it back in 2003. I never get tired of Johan Duncanson’s sleepy singing over top of the band’s over-modulated drums and feedback tinged guitars. I hesitate to call it Swedish shoegaze, but they do seem to worship at the alter of the Mary Chain, albeit with synthesizers and cheap drum machines. Later on in the decade Sophia Copula would put their music into movies and they would become somewhat more well known, but the band still seem to be a secret.
A Frames – 2 (2003: S-S Records)
Any one of the A-Frames records could be on this list. The Seattle goth-punks birthed three albums in the early aughts and every single one of them was worthy. Their paranoid, doom-laden, angular take on punk rock comes off as it was made in A Brave New World. Everything is sterile, there is no emotion, and the skies are gray with nuclear fall-0ut. Their second album, intuitively titled 2 has just enough pop juxtaposed with dread to make it a winner. The band would go on to sign with Sub Pop for their third album, before drummer Lars Finberg would leave to concentrate on his other band the Intelligence. The A Frames are what so-Cal punks DI would have been if they lived in the Pacific Northwest deprived of sun, surf and girls. Feel the angst!
Graham Coxon – Happiness in Magazines (2004: EMI)
Blur. Bleh. Blah. Kind of sums up my opinion of Blur as their career progressed. I just kind of lost interest. Blur guitarist Graham Coxon always seemed like he was the conflicted member of the group, not really embracing their super-stardom, keeping his foot in the lo-fi with his solo albums. After he left the band, his records moved away from the feedback drenched jams to became a lot more structured and pop focused and Happiness in Magazines is easily his best record. He drafted Blur producer Stephen Street to twiddle the knobs and he showed up with his grade A songs. There’s the straightforward pop of Spectacular and Freakin Out, but he delves into the blues on Girl Done Gone and is downright funny on Bottom Bunk. I think with Happiness In Magazines Coxon reaches a level of comfortable with who he is and it shows.
Katerine – Robots Après Tout (2005: Rosebud/Barclay)
When this came out, I called it a freak-show in a jewel case. I stand by those words, but I mean them in the best possible way. Just by glancing at the cover you might get the idea that this is not your normal album. Yeah, Katerine is French, so maybe it was cool to walk around in pink silk turtlenecks and women’s underwear back in 2005 somewhere in France, but I kind of doubt it. Philippe Katerine’s records seemed to be getting stranger and stranger and this is the wacked out amazing culmination. I think I like the really over the top songs the best. The club-y strangeness of Borderline, the disco of 100% VIP and the funky Cornelius-like Qu’Est-Ce Qu’Il A Dit ? No matter what shade of strangeness you gravitate to, you will undoubtedly find it on this record and probably end up dancing to it.
Rough Bunnies – Rough Bunnies Saved My Life (2005: Self-released)
Frida and Anna are the Rough Bunnies. They’ve also been The Flame and Inside Riot, but Rough Bunnies is their favorite band. They’re kind of Riot Grrl, they’re kind of Moldy Peaches, but mostly they’re Swedish punks releasing cd-r’s. The songs are immediate and the Bunnies greatest concern seems to be to get it on tape before they forget it. So everything has a ramshackle, but endearing feel to it. The Bunnies are prolific as they are obscure, popping out CD-r’s like, umm rabbits. They nearly signed to Alan McGee’s Poptones and Fine Arts Showcase did an entire album of Rough Bunnies covers. Where do you start? Rough Bunnies Saved My Life might be their best album, and if you like it there’s a treasure trove waiting for you.
Human Television – Look At Who You’re Talking To (2005: Gigantic Music)
Ahh, the jangling 80’s. You know the saying, they don’t make ’em like they use to. Human Television take it to heart and conjure the ghosts of the Rain Parade, Dumptruck, the Feelies and Let’s Active. They write melancholy sounding songs punctuated by bright chiming and jangling guitars. It’s a tried and true juxtaposition, and Human Television do it so well that they are excused for not bringing something new to the table. Each and every one of these songs will make you shake your head in wonder at how good it is. How good? To paraphrase the album: sunshine on your face, room spinning round your head good.
The Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart (2005: Yep Roc)
2000 marked the release of the first Go-Between album in 12 years, Friends of Rachel Worth, and 2005 marked the release of this, the final Go-Betweens album because of Grant McClennan’s sudden death in 2006. On Oceans Apart, McClennan was ever-present with his classic wistful pop songs as always. He always seemed to be able to reel off perfect pop without even trying and Boundary Rider and Finding You are among his best. But, on Oceans Apart it was Robert Forster that put this record on the map as my favorite Go-Betweens album. His frantic opener Here Comes a City, historical reminiscing rampage of Darlinghurst Nights and beautiful Lavender put this Go-Betweens album in the hallowed company of 16 Lovers Lane.
Tom Vek – We Have Sound (2005: Go-Beat)
I can’t help but think that if this album was released two or three years later it would have been much bigger. Of course I’m usually wrong about things like this, but singles like Nothing But Green Lights and A Little Word In Your Ear mine similar veins as what James Murphy gets called a genius for. Vek was in his early 20’s when he made We Have Sound, writing and playing everything. It was such a stellar debut, and the future looked so bright the guy was wearing shades. That was 2005, oh Tom where have you disappeared to?
Blumfeld – Verbotene Fruchte (2006: Sony/BMG)
The number one album of 2006, well at least here at the Finest Kiss. Obviously the band were nonplussed about the dubious honor, deciding to break up in early 2007. Verboten Fruchte is probably the German band’s most fleshed out record with lots of keyboards and even strings and horns. Like Love circa Forever Changes they’ve thrown off their garage rock roots and blossomed into a more nuanced and textured way of doing things. All of that fancy stuff can’t mask the garage rock origins of the band, it just shows their restlessness, and wanting to stretching out and trying new things. If you’re like me, this record will have you reaching for your German-English dictionary, so you know what exactly you’re singing along to.
Kelley Stoltz – Below the Branches (2006: Sub Pop)
There is one group of people who I know loves this record. Advertisers and marketing dickies have latched onto Below the Branches and won’t let go. You can’t turn on the TV these days without hearing a song from it. Kelley Stoltz can sell other people’s products with his music, but has trouble selling his own records. Below the Branches is chock full of classic pop, one listen and you’ll want to start a marketing company.
Holland – The Paris Hilton Mujahideen (2006: Teenbeat)
Almost coming off like a Guided By Voices record with short songs that are so catchy you can’t believe he only made them a minute and a half long. Shards of guitar crash down on echo-y bass and keyboards as one man band Trevor Kampman croons with an icy disconnectedness. The production is so clear, yet the songs are so jarring and choppy that they literally reach out and grab and shake you. Kampan is jaded, and down about the state of the world. Paris Hilton Mujahideen is good illustration of the world back in 2006. Not much has changed.
BOAT – Songs That You Might Not Like (2006: Magic Marker)
Seattle bands that love power pop and have a sense of humor, may sound like an oxymoron, but BOAT picked up the torch that was passed to them from a rich lineage that includes the Young Fresh Fellows, The President of the United States of America, Harvey Danger and even Mudhoney. Songs That You Might Not Like wasted no time in firing salvo after salvo of funny, sad, heart-on-the-sleeve power pop. How could you not like a bunch of guys that drink too much soda, cruise in minivans, destroy noise rock bands, get called reptile boy, have ninjas sitting on their couch at home, and use skeleton keys? This was their first record, and they would only get better.
Pants Yell! – Alison Statton (2007: Soft Abuse)
At first I was perplexed by Pants Yell! naming their record after the Young Marble Giants singer and not sounding anything like them. Then I thought, I named my blog after a Boo Radleys song and never write about that song or the band. I won’t deny it, Pants Yell! are twee, but it’s twee with melancholy and attitude. They actually sound equal parts Housemartins and Lucksmiths. Singer Andrew Churchman has an instantly memorable voice and this record equals any album from either of those two previously mentioned bands. The only problem with Alison Statton is getting passed the first song More Purple, it’s so damn good you’ll find yourself hitting rewind and never get to the rest of it.
Pelle Carlberg – In a Nutshell (2007: Labrador)
Pelle Carlberg is a clever fellow. He’s got nothing but bad luck, a wonky wheel on his shopping cart, a crap career as a pop singer, and a broken clock. Carlberg got an ace up his sleeve though, his ability to make his mundane life seem so interesting. He’s funny, self-deprecating, has a better command of English than most native speakers, and has a pocket full of pop songs that will make your ears prick up. In a Nutshell was his second solo album after his band Edson broke up and it’s the one where he put all the pieces together to come up with something that people like Morrissey and Billy Bragg have long since stopped making.
mp3: Pelle Carlberg – Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls
mp3: Pelle Carlberg – I Love You, You Imbecile
Electrelane – No Shouts No Calls (2007: Too Pure)
One of the great disappointments of 2007 for me was Electrelane. After making what I would argue is their best album they went and quit. No Shouts No Calls was the Brighton, England band at their most melodic and immediate. The production is raw with the drums nice and in your face, they way Albini made the Wedding Present sound on Seamonsters. The songs contain elements of twee-pop and Kraut-rock combining to form melody driven grooves. They can be gentle and understated like on Cut and Run or lay it all out on songs like Tram 21 and To The East. I hold on to the hope that they really meant it when they said that they were going on indefinite hiatus, and not really actually quitting.
Intelligence – Deuteronomy (2007: In the Red)
Up until Deuteronomy the Intelligence were decidedly lo-fi, but in 2007 the band’s mastermind Lars Finberg decided to turn up the bass and make a record that didn’t sound like the treble button was stuck at 11. There are elements of darkness that his former band the A Frames excelled in, but the genius of Deuternomy is it’s skewed take on pop that he would later take to another level on this year’s Fake Surfers. Intelligence records are like trip into the head of Finberg, and his world is a weird, wild, funny place place. Weird like the Residents, wacked like Brainiac but catchy as Devo.
Gentleman Jesse – Gentleman Jesse (2008: Douchemaster)
Jesse Smith’s likely heros include Nick Lowe, Paul Collins, Elvis Costello and Paul Weller. These names certainly command respect, but the style of power pop that they are so well known for is decidedly out of style these days, and the likely reason that this album got no traction when it came out last year. That’s the only reason I can think of because back in the old days when a record like this came out, it was blasting out of dorm rooms and cars everywhere. Nowadays it’s all about headphone music and records that need to be heard blasting at full volume into the open air suffer.