Albums of 2017

The year 2017 will go on record as the first year I bought more downloads of albums than CD’s. I guess I’ve finally succumbed to the idea that a digital download is just as good as the compact disc. All things being equal, I prefer a complimentary copy of the vinyl with my purchase of the download. So, without any further digressions, here are my top 40 albums of 2017 with streaming links if I could find one.

rvg
1. RVG – A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend)
This Australian band’s debut album grew slowly on me. It’s initial pressing sold out before anyone outside their circle even heard about them. Rooted in some of the best Australian bands like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. Soaring guitars and lyrics filled with the bleakness of real life fueled songs that got better and better with each listen.

fazerdaze
2. Fazerdaze – Morningside (Flying Nun)
I was surprised not to see this album on more year end lists. Blissed out bedroom pop that is in the same realm as the better-known Jay Som. For my money though, Fazerdaze has a better hit ratio.

bedouine
3. Bedouine – S/T (Spacebomb)
This record came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing else this year. Part Carpenters, Jim Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian who goes by Bedouine posses a smooth and soothing voice and made the comfort record of the year.

cableties
4. Cable Ties – S/T (Poison City)
The debut LP from this Australian trio was full of piss and vinegar. The songs were based on great grooves the reminded me of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the angst-ridden vocals of Jenny McKechnie flashed with hints of Sleater Kinney. A band to be reckoned with!

melenas
5. Malenas – S/T (El Nébula)
Melenas from Pamplona, Spain take their Flying Nun records and translate them into toe tapping Spanish jangle. Who new that Jangle pop was a lingua franca? If world peace ever happens, expect Melenas to be featured on the soundtrack.

baxter-dury
6. Baxter Dury – Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
On his fourth album, Ian Dury’s kid delivers a brilliant set of songs. From the sleaze of the opener Miami to the filth laden vocals of guest Rose Elinor Dougall to the surprisingly clean cameo of Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson this record keeps you on your toes.

UVTV
7. UV-TV – Glass (Deranged)
The debut record from this Florida trio had the sugar-coated blitzkrieg pop reminiscent of the Primitives combined with Spacemen 3 druggy drone. The louder you turned it up the better it gets on this brilliant record.

girlray
8. Girl Ray – Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
This trio of teens from Wales deliver bouncy, breathless pop that sounds like part bucolic beauty and part wild overgrown garden. Elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Kevin Ayres lend excitement to Earl Grey and make them a band I’m excited to see what comes next for them.

lars
9. Lars Finberg – Moonlight Over Bakersfield (In the Red)
Striking out on his own, or retreating back to his hometown of Bakersfield, California? A little bit of both as the Intelligence front man and founder teams up with Ty Segall to make a solo record that sounds like an Intelligence record. I love the circuitousness of it all and truth be told, Lars could make a record of him blowing into beer bottles and I’d probably love it.

zebra
10. Zebra Hunt – In Phrases (Tenorio Cotobade)
I chose not to make a separate list of Seattle albums this year due to the issue of the seemingly disappearing Seattle scene. Thankfully the city still has these fellows who make Feelies-Flying Nun styled jangly pop that is second to none. Album number two from Zebra Hunt sees the band maintaining the insanely high level of quality of their debut.

groupd
11. Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)
This seemed to be an odd team-up, but it worked. The two bands, one from the Sahara, the other from France met in the desert to meld their styles and come up with avant desert grooves that shake rattle and roll like rock and roll is supposed to do.

feature
12. Feature – Banishing Ritual (Upset! the Rhythm
Make a record. Break up. Release the record. This trio of women seemed to have it somewhat backwards, but their Wire inspired pop that scratches, rubs and soothes sometimes all at once makes for a winning record.

star
13. Star Tropics – Lost World (Shelflife)
Chicago’s Star Tropics blend of indiepop jangle, Sarah records, For Against and New Order won’t win them any awards for originality, but the quality of their songs and the atmosphere they create is no rip-off either.

owens
14. Kelly Lee Owens – S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
For fans of Kate Bush, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins Kelly Lee Owens is a godsend. You hear elements of all the aforementioned, but nothing obvious due to Owens skipping off down her own path of ethereal pop bliss.

blacksprings
15. Black Springs – When We Were Great (Oven Material)
Instead of calling this an album, Black Springs chose to call When We Were Great a compilation of songs from their past giving you the idea that the band are no longer together. Mystery aside, this record has elements of dreampop, shoegaze and jangle and a confidence that has me pulling for them to make another record.

alvvays
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
I nearly wrote this Canadian band’s sophomore effort off, until Lollipop came up on shuffle one day. That song reminded me how effortlessly easy this band makes great pop songs. After Lollipop, Plimsoull Punks hit me, and after that Not My Baby and I was a believer again.

destroyer
17. Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
With Ken, Dan Bejar has fully stepped into the Scottish rain soaked landscapes of the Blue Nile. The sound is majestic and the outlook is dreary and sad, but with Bejar you get laughs with your tears. It was unfortunate that he decided to forgo appearing on the latest New Pornographers LP this year, but that means this album is all top shelf stuff.

bboys
18. B Boys – Dada (Captured Tracks)
I loved how Dada seemed to be both punk and post-punk at once. Or maybe it was the goth sound made me think of Christian Death and the Chameleons. Who knows, but it was loud and fun. I also loved how there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.

clap
19. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
After teaming up with Paul Simon last year, Cristiano Crisci returns with album number two of dark world inspired rhythms. A Thousand Skies is cut from the same cloth of tribal rhythms and slithering melodies that veer towards drum and bass, but he adds some guest vocalists this time around.

Priests
20. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
Washington, DC’s Priests ably carry on the politically informed pop/punk that was championed by a litany of bands from the nation’s capital. Nothing Feels Natural Feels urgent and agitated and under attack. Priests kick back and write songs worth rallying around, which is much needed in this day and age of moral drift.


21. Flat Worms – S/T (Castle Face)
Flat Worms which features former members of Dream Boys, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees hit the ground running on this pummelingly great record. Lead off song Motorbike sets the scene of this menacing record. They’re sound like a biker gang that digs Suicide, but thinks synths are for poseurs. Big and bad!

shabazz2
shabazz1
22. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star &
Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines(Sub Pop)

I guess the two Shabazz Palaces LP’s from this year are considered a rap album, but it’s so out there in terms of mainstream rap that I don’t consider it as such. This is sci-fi fantasy that transcends musical boundaries. You like the Peter Thomas Orchestra? How about Can? That Clap! Clap! record? And a thousand other things. You can probably come at these two records from a hundred different directions and still dig them both.

motroper
23. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response (Good Cheer)
Mo Troper’s second album may not change the world, but it’s pristine orchestral pop will restore your faith in it. This is wide-eyed, wide-screen beautiful stuff likely influenced by albums by Jellyfish, Jeremy Egnik and Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground.

holiday
24. Holiday Ghosts – S/T (PNKSLM)
Manchester’s Holiday Ghosts self-titled debut is a bouillabaisse of low-key, unpolished pop. The group have a lot in common with bands like the Pastels, Comet Gain and the Envelopes. The vocals are shared between band members giving the album the feel of a vaudeville variety, but they keep the plot tight and the songs sweet.

sleaford
25. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas (Rough Trade)
You would think that after high rate of release this duo keeps up that they’d run out of ideas, but English Tapas sees no let up and in fact may their best one since Austerity Dogs. Mop Top even sees them introduce a melody and chorus, and gasp, no swearing. Are they aiming for the charts?

world
26. The World – First World Record (Upset! The Rhythm)
Take a tiny bit of Banarama, and add in some Specials and Selector and you get a sort of idea of what the Bay Area’s the World are going after. Steeped in 80’s punk and ska and sporting pop an astute pop sensibility First World Record is a sax laden tour de fun.

novella
27. Novella – Change of State (Sinderlyn)
Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.

proto
28. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Domino)
Protomartyr’s fourth album is a towering achievement. It simultaneously comments on the sorry state of society, shares its rage and does so with songs that make you want to raise your fist and shout the chorus. Up the Tower, Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague are among the band’s best. My only complaint about this album is that the best stuff is hidden on side two, but that is minor.

slowdive
29. Slowdive – S/T (Dead Oceans)
It’s weird to think that Slowdive were scoffed at by the British press during their first incarnation in the 1990’s. That press is long gone, out of business. Slowdive are still with us and making brilliant music. Their self-titled comeback is packed full of dreampop featuring both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals. Slowdive can still conjure it.

business
30. Business of Dreams – S/T (Kocliko Records)
Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts strikes out on his own into the world of 80’s inspired synth-pop. Inspired by the death of his father, Cunningham made a record that is personal in nature but its pop hooks combination of synthesizers and guitar riffs make it more than palatable to general populous.

spinning
31. Spinning Coin – Permo (Domino)
After a handful of singles, Glasgow’s Spinning Coin finally deliver the goods in their debut long player. As you might expect it’s a combination of ramshackle Pastels like pop and good natured Teenage Fanclub guitar pop.
https://spinningcoin.bandcamp.com/

jana
32. Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)
Juana Molina has been making records for a while now. Halo is her seventh album. Her formula hasn’t changed too much over the years, creating loops and building them up into a bricolage. In the past it could get busy, but Halo sees her cleaning things up a bit and delivering more straightforward earworms.


33. Oh Sees – Orc (Castle Face)
At this point, a jaded listener might think Oh Sees records are delivered off a conveyor belt, one that changes its name after each new model. Dropping the Thee, John Dwyer’s group sees no creative letdown despite fewer letters. In fact, Orc delivers classic sounding rippers interspersed with Eno style ambience.

stevens
34. The Stevens – Good (Chapter Music)
Album number two from the center of the Melbourne indie scene, didn’t seem to get the attention of their debut. Too bad, because this batch of songs is high quality. At 18 tracks, Good has that uncanny quality that Guided by Voices had in that run in the Bee Thousand to Under the Bushes era.

last
35. Last Leaves – Other Towns Than Ours (Lost & Lonesome/Matinee)
Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser.

faith
36. Faith Healer – Try ;-) (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert was a member of the Edmonton punks Tee-Tahs .That is in the past and this is her second album as Faith Healer. Try ;-) lives on the same planet of the Brewis brother’s Field Music. Combine Jallbert’s croon and her ability to write a good pop hook you have something special.


37. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura (Castle Face)
Kelley Stoltz may have peaked commercially on his Sub Pop debut Below the Branches when his song Birdies Singing was being used in commercials. I haven’t heard him in any commercials since, but honestly the guy keeps releasing great albums. Solid through and through and Que Aura is no different from the previous four in that regard.

corridor
38. Corridor – Supermercado (Requiem Pour Un Twister)
Supermercado is Spanish for grocery store. Corridor is French for angular pop. Supermercado is the second album from Montreal’s Corridor and it is a brilliant melange of pop and sharp jabs and lots of hooks.

rays
39. Rays – S/T (Trouble In Mind)
Rays do great Modern Lovers style rock. The songs feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but they end up making it through each one without the doors flying off the speeding dilapidated vehicle.

trementina
40. Trementina – 810 (Burger)
On their second album, Chile’s Trementina forego the obvious shoegaze effects and travel down a far more interesting path of warped dream pop that only the Swirlies have dared to go before.

Best of Something

I hope you looking for a few more records to buy before the wave of 2016 releases hits I didn’t count them and they’re in no particular order but each album won in its own unique category. I don’t have any small statuettes to hand out, but I gave each of my favorite albums an award.

placestohide
Places To Hide – Strange Lyfe (Irrelevant)
Best Posthumous Album: This Atlanta band broke up before releasing their second album. Great punk and post punk anthems in the vein of X, Versus and Seam.

intelligence
The Intelligence – Vintage Future (In the Red)
Best Album by an Ex-Seattle Band: I say this about every Intelligence album, but it was their best record yet.

kingcyst
King Cyst – King of New York (Underwater Peoples)
Best Canterbury Scene Influenced Album: The Brooklyn group’s second album had me checking the release date on this whimsical beauty.

protomartyr
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Best Post-Punk Rust Belt Album: The third LP by this Detroit band continues the upward trajectory initialized by last year’s Under Color of Official Right.

wildhoney
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Topshelf)
Best Shoegaze Album: Shoegaze has officially become a genre of music, but so few bands in the genre understand that you still need to write great songs to accompany the tremelo bar and effects pedals. That’s not a problem for Wildhoney.

chills
The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
Best Comeback Album: After years of personal struggles, Martin Phillips finally reinitialized the Chills and created masterpiece that sounds like he hadn’t been out of the game over 20 years.

helen
Helen – The Original Faces (Kranky)
Best Album That Sounds Like It Was Mastered from a Cassette: Liz Harris aka Grouper goes down the Black Tambourine / Vivian Girls rabbit hole and emerges from a mountain top.

shopping
Shopping – Why Choose (FatCat)
Best ESG-Gang of Four Inspired Album: The London band’s second album is not vastly different from their debut except that the songs are bigger, better more tightly wound.

FPOP189_LP_OUTER_v6_TTO
Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek (Fortuna Pop!)
Best Album by Large Flightless Birds: Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa switched from bass to guitar in her new band and comes up with a more rawkus but no less poignant record.

coldbeat
Cold Beat – Into the Air (Crime On the Moon)
Best Polar Ice Cap Melting Album: Former Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew immerses her band into an 1980’s inspired synth pop sound that on the surface sounds cold, but has a warmth and playfullness on its underbelly that could be blamed for contributing to global warming.

courtneybarnett
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Best Stream of Conscious Album: I was surprised at how polarizing this record was, it seemed like you either loved it or hated it. I was a fan of how Courtney Barnett innately was able to make her stream of conscious lyrics make sense over some incredible hooks.

dieverboten
Die Verboten – Die Verboten 2007 (Deewee)
Best Album from 2007: Recorded eight years ago, the Belgian Krautrock influenced collective finally got around to releasing their debut this year. As you might have guessed it sounds timeless.

downtownboys
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
Best Timely Punk Album: It seemed like this Providence, Rhode Island band hit on all the top issues in America (Police Killings, Black Lives, and the 1% to name a few) on Full Communism. Add in a twin saxophone bed of chaos and you have the best pure punk record I’ve heard in a long time.

finnmark
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Best Indiepop Album by English People Masquerading as Scandinavians: Part Cats on Fire and part Lucksmiths this erudite record caught my indiepop fancy.

girlsnames
Girls Names – Arms Around a Vision (Tough Love)
Best Album by a Former Slumberland and Captured Tracks Band: Girls Names slightly reinvent themselves on their third LP. It’s darker, colder bleaker and better than anything they’ve ever done.

hooton-tennis-club
Hooton Tennis Club – Highest Point In Cliff Town (Heavenly)
Best Album of Shambolic Anthems: Hooton Tennis Club sound like they’ve got a Pavement attitude and the pop licks of Teenage Fanclub. Formidable attributes that they employ to precise effect.

eternalsummers
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Best Comeback Album by a Band the Never Went Away: Roanoke, Virginia’s Eternal Summers never went away, in fact they’ve been consistently putting out records. Gold and Stone sees them taking a great leap in consistency and quality to make their best album since their debut.

grubs
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs (Tuff Enuff)
Best Album by a Joanna Gruesome Spin-off: Grubs also get an award for the shortest album of the year. These 11 songs fly by in about 20 minutes but leave a lasting impression thanks to singer Roxy Brennan sweet voice.

hierophants
Hierophants – Parallax Error (Goner)
Best Devo Inspired Album: Australia’s Hierophants debut channels Chuck Berry, Beach Boys but mostly Devo to jarring effect. Disconcerting, discombobulated and disgreat.

robertforster
Robert Forster – Songs to Play (Tapete)
Best Album that References Twitter: When artists incorporate references to the internet I usually cringe, but Robert Forster does it in smile inducing way on Let Me Imagine You. It was good to have one of the masters back.

NicHessler
Nick Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
Best Album by a Yay! Records Alumni: Formerly playing under the Catwalk moniker Nick Hessler decided to ‘solo’ on his debut LP. Soft Connections is a brilliant slice of Aztec Camera inspired pop.

bestfriends
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. (FatCat)
Best Garage Rock Inspired by Orange Juice: Best Friends’ debut isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering or revolutionary. It’s just plain fun.

nicolewillis
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
Best Helsinki Soul Album: Brooklyn born Willis and her Finish Soul Investigators made one of my favorite soul revival records of the year.

DayRavies
Day Ravies – Liminal Zones (Sonic Masala)
Best Album by a Fake Kinks Revival Band: On their second LP, Sydny’s Day Ravies shed any hint of shoegaze and go for a raw psychedelic sound and prove that they’re good at that too.

expalt
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Right (Kanine)
Best Jangle Pop Album: You can’t always be right, but at least you can sound good even if you favor sonically dissonant pop. If this is album is wrong, I don’t want to be right

outfit
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Best Mark Hollis Revival Album: The sophomore album from Liverpool’s Outfit was entrancing. It contained no obvious hits, but it was a record that easily commanded my interest listen after listen.

knifepleats
Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound)
Best West Coast 90’s Indiepop Album: Rose Melberg finally decides to revisit her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor roots with her new band and proceeds to satisfy the soul.
fireworks
The Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Best Buzzy Noise Pop Album: An intensely energetic debut based on a Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and the Razorcuts. This one was right in my wheelhouse!

saunayouth
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Best Album by a band With an Alter Ego: No their not Sonic Youth’s alter ego, Sauna Youth moonlight as Monotony. Distractions was tour de force of frantic noisy anthems influenced by the Fall and Wire.

primitiveparts
Primitive Parts – Primitive Parts (Trouble In Mind)
Best Blur Album This Year: Male Bounding and Sauna Youth members team up for a straightforward maelstrom of sharp guitar focused punkish pop.

valet
Valet – Nature (Kranky)
Best Cocteau Twins Impersonation: This Portland group start anew on Nature and thanks to Honey Owens ethereal voice aim for the stars.

traams
Traams – Modern Dancing (FatCat)
Best Krauty-Shouty Album: I really liked Traams’ debut album, but Traams fine tuned their sound into controlled chaos to take Modern Dancing to the next level.

kitchensfloor
Kitchen’s Floor – Battle of Brisbane (Bruit Direct)
Best Dissonant Brutalist Album: Battle of Brisbane has topical similarities with Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument, but Matt Kennedy’s Kitchen’s Floor sounds angrier and ready for a fight.

Terrible Truths 2015 LP cover PRINT READY
Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths (Bedroom Suck)
Best Intensely Laid-back Album: This album had some similarities with the Shopping LP, but Terrible Truths somehow accomplish the trick of sounding tightly wound and laid back at once.

woolenmen
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
Best Monument to the Have Nots: Portland’s Woolen Men combine elements of Wire, the Wipers and  REM to create a passionate document berating the new rich and lingering recession.

saunandstarr
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Best Surprise Album by Back-up Singers: Starr Duncan Lowe and Saundra Williams  were backup singers for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I think they will have their own permanent gig after this stellar debut.

jessicapratt
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Best Album to Listen to Under a Pink Moon: If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.

twerps
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Best Australian Album to Sound like It’s from New Zealand: No sophomore slump problems from this Melbourne band, in fact they appear to be a bottomless well of pop goodness.

vietcong
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (JagJaguwar)
Best Ballsy album by a band with no Balls: This Canadian band take their sound from many brave sounding bans like Gang of Four, the Comsat Angels and the Chameleons. Too bad they’re waffling under pressure to change their name.

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

theeohsees
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Best John Dwyer Album of the Year: The most varied and consistent album yet from this perennial favorite.

sheeragony
Sheer Agony – Masterpiece (Couple Skate)
Smartest Canadian Rock Album With an Old Guy on the Cover: How smart?  How about combining mod era Lilys with the skewed pop of the Shins to come up with an endlessly interesting and engaging LP. This Montreal group seem to already have mastered everything on their debut.

willieweird
Willie Weird – The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird (Stroll On)
Best Album to Go Off the Deep End: Kelley Stolz’s alter ego comes up with a fractured pop gem

joannagruesome
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Best Album to Supply a Vegetarian Source of Protein: The second album of jarring pop from this Cardiff group really sticks to your ribs.

tamvantage
Tam Vantage – Life in High Definition (Lost and Lonesome)
Best Album by a Pop Single: The debut solo album from former Pop Singles front man is a complex and accomplished record.

shifters3
The Shifters – The Shifters (Comfort 35)
Best Hex Enduction Album: This was the first time I can ever remember not buying the new Fall album. I smartly spent my money on the Shifters’ cassette instead.

A Belated List: Top 40 7-Inch Singles of 2014

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.

wildhoney16
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.

bradle_char_luvjonesc_101b
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.

Primetime
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.

Primitives_-_Spin-O-Rama_single
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant)
Classic 60’s inspired, sunny psychedelic single.The Primitives stormed back on the scene with this record.

giorgio
5. Giorgio Murderer – Primitive World (Goner)
Buck Biloxi’s alter ego obsessed with Star Trek. Insanely insane.

dayravies
6. Day Ravies – Hickford Whizz (Beko)

Day Ravies move beyond their shoegaze roots and move into full pop bloom.

bentcousin
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.

gurgles
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.

PANG_cover_web
9. Pang – Young Professionals (Grazer)

Bay area young professionals second single is glamorous sounding, jagged, Wire influenced brilliance.

Primitive_Parts_iTunes_Packshot
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!

g1atgg
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.

suburbanhomes
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.

closelobsters
13. Close Lobsters – Kunstwerk in Spacetime (Shelflife)

The return of the Close Lobsters was a wonderful sound to behold.

courtneys
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.

mantles
15. The Mantles – Memory (Slumberland)

The Mantles seem to be able to effortlessly write these dusty Byrdsian gems.

juniore
16. Juniore – La Fin Du Monde (Enterprise)

Suave, spaghetti-French pop that pulls in some Limiñanas along with a bit of Françoise Hardy.

crimsonwave
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.

fleshworld
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.

slumoflegs
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.

hierophants
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.

kingtears
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.

ubertrager
22. Ubertrager – Neben Mir (Great Pop Supplement)

Amazing how much this sounds like Broadcast. Otherworldly!

institute
23. Institute – Giddy Boys (Kartorga Works)

Debut single from Austin band sounding like their from Australia. The Austin Ausmuteants?

primitivepartstv
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.

dreamboys
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!

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26. Wimps – Distraction (Help Yourself)

Short, sharp punk from Seattle’s slackers in chief.

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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.

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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.

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29. Woolen Men – Real FX (Loglady)

More tightly wound jangle from this Portland trio.

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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.

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31. Cavern of Anti-Matter – Total Availability And The Private Future (Peripheral Conserve)

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.

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32. Paellas – Cat Out (Self-released)

The formerly moody Paellas, shake the lead out and get downright dancy. New direction 100 percent approved.

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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.

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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.

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35. Tender Age – Anything (Track & Field)

Portland’s Tender Age evoke’s Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. Dark and dreamy.

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36. Sleaford Mods – Loan Shark (Apocolypso)

A bit more glitchy and more experimental backing provides great backdrop for another rant.

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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).

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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.

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39. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself (Goodbye Boozy)

Prolific Aussi synth punks crash the party with this blistering guitars and head flexing vocals.

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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.

Rat Columns Emerge From the Murky Depths

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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!!!

Pop Is Dead In This Town…Long Live Pop

Kelley Stoltz @ Chop Suey, Seattle | 7 October 2013

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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.
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stream: Kelley Stoltz – Are You My Love (from Double Exposure out on Third Man Records)

[youtube http://youtu.be/Dxoa6opMfK0]

Top 40 Singles of 2012: 20 – 11

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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.

VeronicaFalls
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.

Vermillion
13. Vermillion Sands – Summer Melody (Shit Music For Shit People)

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.

GuyHarvey
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?

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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.

Lamps
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.

agdoom
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!

Twerps
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.

jgruesome
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!

KeelHer
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.

The Intelligence Finally Found in the Back of the Galaxy

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.