2019 Singles of the Year

singles
There hasn’t been much music blogging going on around here lately, but that doesn’t mean that music fandom has gone to bed. I guess this blog is part of a seemingly larger trend of the slow disappearance of the music blog. I guess a person can only sustain rabid fandom for so long. Nonetheless, the 7-inch single is still a thing and so is TFK year end singles list.
melanas
1. Melenas – Ya No Me Importa (Elsa/El Nebula)

This Spanish group who just signed with Trouble In Mind in the US follow up their ace debut LP from a couple years back with this 7-inch. It has a manic jangle that evoke the Dum Dum Girls and Shop Assistants. Spain lately has been carrying the indiepop flame for the rest of the world and these ladies are lead torchbearers.

2. Ducks Unlimited – Get Bleak (Bobo Integral)

Per capita, Canada have better quality indie bands than its wayward neighbor to the south. Toronto’s Ducks Unlimited are a fine example of a band taking 80′ UK jangle of the like of Azetec Camera and the Bluebelles adding their own twist and making it sound fresh and new.

3. Constant Mongrel – Experts In Skin (Upset! the Rhythm)

Australian post-punkers come up with a Chameleons – Comsat Angels inspired dark raging beauty of a song. In the post punk hey-day of the early 80’s the fear was of nuclear holocaust. Fast forward to today where we not only have that worry, but add to it global warming, and general anarchy. Experts in Skin’s dark dour groove will at least get you on the dance floor as the world burns.

4. Den Baron – Bonving (Cloudberry)

Apparently there is a little-known sport called Bonving where you throw shoes across a field into an opponent’s waste bin. It was invented by the Swedish band Eggstone and never really took off, except in certain circles in Germany. That’s where Den Baron come in singing this ode to the sport. Judging by the jangly sprightliness of this song they really love Bonving.

5. Automatic – Calling It (Stones Throw)

You won’t find a single guitar in songs by this LA band, just sharp Tubeway Army synths, slithery grooves and icy cool vocals. Calling it packs an intense wallop while the b-side synthesizes the Delta 5 classic Mind Your own Business.

6. Bananagun – Do Yeah (Anti Fade)

Bananagun’s Do Yeah channels  some sunny Donovan into the garage and comes up with a trippy garage rock  number that evokes daisies and Cameros. Not bad for a first single from a bunch of Melbourne youngsters.

7. Failed Flowers – Faces (Slumberland)

This single sees Fred Thomas and Anna Burch getting the band back together. Side A is Anna and the B-side is Fred. Can’t decide which is better, but I have definitely decided I need to hear more of this!

8. A Certain Smile – Cherry Bomb (Jigsaw)

Portland’s A Certain Smile return with a blistering single that buzzes from the turntable vibrating the room with warm poppy vibes. B-side Original Replacement sounds like an ode to the Replacements in not only name, but also its similarity to Hear Comes a Regular.

9. All We Are & Alex Kapranos – Heart Attack (Speedy Wunderground)

The arch duke Alex Kapranos turns in an impressive impression of Ian Dury on This single. Heart Attack gets you moving with a funky disco groove and provides many reasons to be cheerful despite singing about a life threatening situation.

10. Makthaverskan – Demands (Run for Cover)

It’s been a few years since it seemed like there was a new great Swedish band every other week. Gothenburg’s Mathavershakan jangle and rock sounding like a band that grew up in 80’s Los Angeles and moved to UK in the 90’s and then ended up in Sweden in the 00’s. Classic sounding pop that cuts straight to the chase.

11. Mr Ben & the Bens – Nova Scotia (Bingo)

Great Gorky’s! A UK band with a delightfully disarming ode to the Pop Explosion music festival that took place back in the 90’s in Halifax. Great big guitars blast out and give way to meandering synths to make this quirky hit.

12. The Proctors – Letters To the Girl (Shelflife)

The Procotors have been around since the mid-90’s. Letters to the Girl may be the pinnacle of their existence. It’s a soaring song with jangling guitars an airy melody and a earworm of a chorus.

13. Ex-Void – Only One (Prefect)

Former Joanna Gruesome members form a new band that sort of sounds like their old one,but also nods at 90’s indie trio Small Factory. Only One sounds like they caught lightening in a jar. Hope there’s more where that came from.

14. Current Affairs – Buckle Up (dotx3)

Buzzing Wire like guitars and possibly some Chameleons dark urgency ringing In there along with plucky vocals reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux make for quite a ride back to the 80’s and some riding through territory as the Constant Mongrel single above.

15. Eggy – Billy (Spoilsport)

More slightly askew, garage-y Melbourne goodness courtesy of Eggy. Four songs here, the highlight being Bar Fred which drives itself into your personal comfort bubble and makes it more comfortable.

16. Tiña – I Feel Fine (Speedy Wunderground)

The Speedy Wunderground label has a strong 7-inch singles game. They don’t adhere to a narrow aesthetic except quality pop. Tiña provide a Camper Van Beethoven style riff and mix in some Wonder Stuff to come up with a slice of pop magic.

17. eGGS – A Certain Smile (Howlin Banana)

(Not the DC/Northern Virginia/TeenBeat Eggs) Parisian eGGSindie rockers follow up their 10″ from last year with two more jangly numbers inspired by Flying Nun bands like the Clean and the Bats. A Certain Smile blends in some early Church sounds as well for winning combination, and the b-side Picture Book lays down some drone-y driving vibes to complete a darn good single.

18. Tight Knit – Too Hot (Not Unloved)

Tight Knit’s lo-fi pop will have you guessing 90’s Olympia, Washington. Nope. Melbourne, Australia 2019. Too Hot has an endearing demo sound quality that makes it sound like you’re in the same room as the band. Add in some jangling guitar and catchy melody and you’ve got indiepop gold.

19. Wild Honey – Naive Castle (Slumberland)

Wild Honey’s contribution to the Slumberland singles club sees them pulling inspiration from Heaven or Las Vegas era Cocteau Twins. They’ve shed some of their shoegaze haze and replaced it with chiming pop hooks. It feels like a logical progression to the bands evolving sound and west coast relocation.

20. Le SuperHomard – Domino (Elefant)

Le Superhomard could have take the rest of the year off after releasing their excellent LP Meadow Lane Park, but instead chose to team-up with Tahiti 80’s Xavier Boyer. Both songs feature Boyer on vocals and effortlessly mesh Le Superhomard’s swirling synth pop with Tahiti 80’s lounge pop.

21. Penelope Isles – Chlorine (Bella Union)

Chlorine is a slice of UK guitar pop wormed its way into my favorite songs despite the inane lyrics and no actual chorus. “Chlorine you itch my feet,
You make me clean, Or so it seems, You make me smell a certain way sings Jack Wolter. Ah, the joys of learning how to do your own wash.

22. Vital Idles – Break (Upset! the Rhythm)

Break A as well as the other three songs here are exercises in restrain and patience. I keep expecting each song to explode into a giant freak out, but Glasgow’s Vital Idles are experts in holding back and yet somehow make each song compelling and interesting.

23. Cabin Essence – For Your Love (Good Land)

With a name like Cabin Essence you’ve gotta assume a heavy Beach Boys vibe, right? Landlocked in Milwaukee, they must store up the sunshine in barrels and funnel it into songs like For Your Love which they can play through the cold winter months to keep themselves going.

24. Tyvek – Changing Patters of Protective Coating (Self-released)

Detroit punks still going after all these years. This four song single keeps to the band’s pointy pop punk formula sandwiching two instrumentals with two of Kevin Boyer’s better songs.

25. Sex Sucks – Safe Pain (Croq/Mac)

French band seemingly inspired by Australian group the Triffids offer up this wide screen dramatic pop platter. All three songs conjure up vibrant drama painted with bits of organ, guitar and memorable choruses.

26. Group Photos – Safety (Box Bedroom Rebels)

Hailing from the inland empire down in southern California, this dreampop band effortlessly create atmospheric pop that glides off the turntable. This being a Box Bedroom Rebels release, you get seven songs on the vinyl and additional 3 on the download and still it’s not enough.

27. Rubber Blanket – New Garbage Truck (Space Case)

Wounded Lion’s Brad Eberhart and Lars Finberg of the Intelligence team up to make this slightly silly little ditty. An ode to the cleanest garbage truck in town may not be for everyone, but then if it was you wouldn’t be here.

28. Working Mens Club – Bad Blood (Melodic)

Bad Blood is a bit of Franz Ferdinand inspired pop from this young group withthe potential to get young folks off their phones and onto the dance floor. The b-side is a more in the Joseph K – Orange Juice vein and slightly more interesting because of it.

29. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – In the Capital (Sub Pop)

In the Capital features a chorus that evokes classic stuff written by Grant McClennan. It breezes over you, and at first you don’t quite notice it, but then it faintly tugs at you and soon you want to hear it again and again.

30. Cozy Slippers – A Million Pieces (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)

This cozy Seattle group channel early 10,000 Maniacs on the guitar driven a-side and the Bangles on the b-side. A perfect match.

31. Carla Dal Forno – So Much Better (Kallista)

So Much Better sort of reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock’s Raymond Chandler Evening with its noir-ish and eerie feel. “The Pavement is beneath me and a sense of pending doom” sings Dal Frono and you know it ain’t good. Is it a murder that hasn’t happened yet?

32. Lake Ruth – Extended Leave (Slumberland)

New York City’s Lake Ruth subscribe to the same channels as Stereolab, Broadcast, Vanishing Twin and Le Superhommard of swirling synths, icy vocals and looping rhythms. Extended Leave is a autumnal tune that whooshes by in a huff, and pulls you along towards the light.

33. RVG – Alexandra (Our Golden Friend)

RVG finally follow up their jaw-dropping debut with this single. It’s good, but doesn’t quite reach the highs of A Quality of Mercy. Still, Alexandra is good, mostly due to band leader Rommy Vager dramatic singing and her ability to just about any old thing to life.

34. Euromilliard – Élève Modèle (Polly Maggoo)

Euromilliard are like a French version of Australia’s Eddy Current Supression Ring. They make a groove based post punk racket with a singer that has a delivery somewhere between singing, talking and yelling. Élève modèle is a ragging song and nearly worth the €666.66 it costs to download it.

35. The Cool Greenhouse – Landlords (Drunken Sailor)

The Cool Greenhouse are like an absurdist version of the Fall. With Landlords you know it was inspired by that Manchester band, but they take it to such an extreme that it goes beyond the influence into something that is entirely itself which is minimalist programmed beats and blips with a guy talking about seemingly random stuff. I can’t get enough of it.

Albums of 2016

bentcousin2016
1. Bentcousin – Bentcousin (Team Love)
I was genuinely surprised this record did not get more recognition, but maybe the world no longer pines for wonderful pop records? The Orange Juice meets St. Etienne album had it all, including a dynamite Dino Jr cover.

chook
2. Chook Race – Around the House (Tenth Court/Trouble In Mind)
A lot of people still worship at the alter of Flying Nun. If you are one of those folk then I’m sure you were bowing down to this record all year. Best jangle pop album since the Bats’ Fear of God.

whyteh
3. Whyte Horses – Pop Or Not (CRC)
Another record that seems to have flown under the mass media radar. Shame, because it is classic sounding stuff that shares a love of Stone Roses, Broadcast and Free Design.

cityy
4. The City Yelps – Half Hour (Odd Box / Emotional Response)
A noisy little thing full of piss and vinegar that had the lo-fi sensibilities of a Boyracer album and great story telling of Animials that Swim.

fieldmusic
5. Field Music – Commontime (Memphis Industries)
The Brewis brothers released their best record yet, heck even Prince liked it.

terrymalt
6. Terry Malts – Lost at the Party (Slumberland)
The Bay area’s Terry Malts struck pop-punk gold on album number three where they combine old school punk like 7 Seconds with post punk wonder of the Chameleons. Every song is a killer sing-along anthem.

woods
7. Woods – City Sun Eater In the River of Light (Woodsist)
Sometimes you lose track of a band after they release LP after LP of similar sounding music. On Sun City Eater the band incorporate African influences to brighten their sound and make a stand out record.

goon
8. The Goon Sax – Up To Anything (Chapter)
Brisbane teen band who count Louis Forster the son of the Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster as a member got a lot of attention for that mere fact. Due to the album contained top quality indie pop akin to Beat Happening and the Pastels the attention kept coming all year.

coldp
9. Cold Pumas – The Hanging Valley (Faux Discx)
Moody post-punk that was a perfect soundtrack to this year of the winter of our lives.

monomyth
10. Monomyth – Happy Pop Family (Mint)
Velvet Underground, the Byrds and fellow countrymen Sloan all figure into the recipe for this sublime and understated album.

kikagaku
11. Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass (Guruguru Brain)
These Japanese renaissance men paint from a pallet of folk, psych and prog that meanders into dark fantastic places and then blasts out them into dry canyons on the California coast.

lithics
12. Lithics – Borrowed Floors (Water Wing)
This Portland band’s tightly wound, minimalist songs on Borrowed Floors always find their groove and then shatter floor.

witching
13. Witching Waves – Crystal Cafe (Soft Power/HHBTM)
The sophomore album is chock full of swirling, jagged songs with ambient interludes. A perfect combination of rough and smooch.

pooches
14. The Pooches – The Pooches (Lame-O)
I love bands that write songs about obsessing about records and the Pooches Heart Attack is perfect in that regard. Combine that with a lazy southern jangle that reminded me of REM and you have a great album.

finks
15. The Finks – Middling (Milk)
If you combine the easy going erudite nature of the Lucksmiths with the down home comfort of label mate Courtney Barnett you have this wonderful record from Melbourne’s Minks.

realnumbers
16. Real Numbers – Wordless Wonder (Slumberland)
Minneapolis’ Real Numbers finally release a full length album and their Television Personalities meets Buddy Holly inspired DIY pop is more then enough to fill two sides.

terry
17. Terry – Terry HQ (Upset the Rhythm)
Terry and the Shifters (they shared a split cassette release a few years ago) carry the Fall torch down under. Terry are the hippy-Pavement side of the coin and dial up just the right amount of dissonant yawp on their debut LP.

lionsden
18. Lion’s Den – Lion’s Den (Lazy Octopus)
Lion’s Den take their innate Swedish pop sensibilities and dirty them up with their brand of idiosyncratic garage rock, sounding sort of like the Intelligence meets Neil Armstrong.

asondas
19. As Ondas – Mares (Jigsaw)
Shopping spin off band mine some early New Order veins and insert some Young Marble Giants to create a beautifully understated record.

snails
20. Snails – Safe in Silence (Self-Released)
I’m not going out on a limb by drawing a family tree that shows Snails at the tip of the Beatles, Kinks, Kevin Ayers, Kate Le Bon family tree.

radiodept
21. Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love (Labrador)
These guys work at a slow pace so every record feels like an event. With barely a guitar in the mix this event was their mellowest outing to date, but no less arousing or compelling.

protoidio
22. Proto Idiot – For Dummies (Bad Paintings)
I’m a sucker for any Television Personalities influenced band and these guys had me plunking down some cash for their smart UK garage punk.

omni
23. Omni – Delux (Trouble In Mind)
Delux caught me off guard with its tightly wound and spiraling guitars that reminded me of Joseph K and Magazine, yet there is a slick 80’s quality to their sound that also evokes mainstream bands like Flock of Seagulls and Thomas Dolby.

hisclancy
24. His Clancyness – Isolation Culture (Maple Death)
A Classic Education’s Jonathan Clancy other band is a tour into a darker side of things. Book-ended by two excellent motorik tracks and stuffed with exquisite downtrodden pop reminiscent of East River Pipe and the Shins.

tyvek
25. Tyvek – Origin of What (In the Red)
Origin of What is not quite the tour de force that 2012’s On Tripple Beams was, but Kevin Boyer and crew still deliver. The scope is broader and their social consious punk rock addresses wider topics beyond their native Detroit. Extra points for including Tyvek Chant because every band should have their own chant.

rebelkind
26. Rebel Kind – Just For Fools (Urinal Cake)
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti group excels at jangly harmony filled wonder on their second album, combining influences like the Softies and Look Blue Go Purple.

verner
27. Verner Pantons – First Album (Curly)
The Paisely Underground is long gone, but its influence is lasting as evidenced in Portland’s Verner Pantons. Dusty psychedlia with a slight country tinge will remind many of the Syd Griffin and the Long Ryders.

katejack
28. Kate Jackson – British Road Movie (Hoo Ha)
Former singer of the Long Blonds, Kate Jackson made this album years ago with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and there it sat until this year. Lucky for us that Kate decided to finish it. Jackson has a great voice and Butler’s guitar is a perfect compliment.

savak
29. Savak – Best of Luck In Future Endeavors (Comedy Minus One)
Once a punk always a punk and these punk veterans made one of the best politically aware records of the year. A soundtrack for taking to the streets!

lawarab
30. Lawrence Arabia – Absolute Truth (Flying Nun)
James Milne infuses his Harry Nilsson highly stylized pop with some dance beats and makes his best album yet.

ural
31. Ural Thomas & the Pain – Ural Thomas & the Pain (Mississippi)
Ural Thomas has been a fixture in the underground PNW soul scene going back to the 1950’s. This record hasn’t received the attention that Charles Bradley’s Changes has but it’s just as good if not better.

martha
32. Martha – Blisters In the Pit of Your Heart (Dirtnap)
UK sucre popsters deal in high fructose pop like Joanna Gruesome and Los Campesinos! It sounds better the louder you make it with power chords slapping you to attention and choruses that will make your head explode.

honeyradar
33. Honey Radar – Blank Cartoon (What’s Your Rupture)
If you prefer your pristine pop savaged by distortion and difficulty then Blank Cartoon will put the cobwebs into your clarity.

puberty
34. Puberty – Puberty (Born Bad)
Intelligence side project that sat in moth balls for a couple years. More tongue and cheek than the Intelligence with a decided nod to Tones on Tail, it may never have been said before, but this Puberty is fun.

hooton
35. Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates (Heavenly)
Produced by Edwyn Collins, the sophomore LP from Hooton Tennis Club takes the good parts of Britpop and adds their laid back style for a winning volley that sustains itself into extra sets.

quilt
36. Quilt – Plaza (Mexican Summer)
Quilt continue to hone their psych-pop on their third album and come up with their most consistent and satisfying record yet.

flyying
37. Flyying Colours – Mindfullness (AC30)
Australian shoegazerrs who like extra letters also like extra tremelo. A classic sounding record that sits comfortably next to MBV, Chapterhouse and Slowdive.

jangle
38. The Jangle Band – Edge of a Dream (Pretty Olivia)
Appropriately named Australians descending from the Rainyard and the Palisades, Edge of a Dream is a record you immediately feel comfortable with. Like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, but the conversation picks up like you saw each other yesterday.

prophet
39. The Prophet Hens – the Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (Fishrider)
Wonderful Shapes was not as immediate as the Prophet Hens’ debut, but it has a lasting power to it. More complex and varied, it continued to delight and surprise me throughout the year.

lakeruth
40. Lake Ruth – Actual Entity (The Great Pop Supplement)
New York City’s Lake Ruth have an elegant baroque sound that feels a little bit like Broadcast meets Left Banke. Actual Entity was their debut album, yet it sounds like they’ve been at since the 60’s. A timeless sounding record with memorable songs.

Lake Ruth

lakeruth

If this were an outdoor blog you might be asking, where the heck is Lake Ruth? Since this is a music blog I don’t need to give you directions, hopefully you know where to find records on the internet. Hewson Chen of The New Lines, Matt Schulz of SavakHoly Fuck,  Enon along with vocalist Allison Brice from The Eighteenth Day of May opened up their resort earlier this year with a single that was like a cool drink perspiring on the arm of your Adirondack chair while you gazed at the ripples spreading out on the glassy lake.

If you are a fan of Chen’s New Lines, you will be likely be staying a while at Lake Ruth.They have expanded and updated the place with the luxurious long player Actual Entity. You get the sense that the place was built in the 60’s by a French architect who went to school in Berlin and studied Italian Renaissance. Also I think the place may have been used as the set for some long forgotten sci-fi television series, but I can’t be certain.  Grab a copy and see if you can figure it out.