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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2012: My Year In Records

Here’s the list of my favorite albums outside of Seattle for 2012. You may think it’s late, but you should know I got it done before the Russian New Year. Kevin Shields, you still have a few more days.

exlovers

1. Exlovers – exlovers (Young And Lost Club)

Exlovers had my favorite single of 2011 and now my favorite record of 2012. Their debut album is a dreampop masterpiece that was a long time coming from this London band. I didn’t think I would ever hear a record this accomplished after the shoegaze/dreampop heyday of the 90’s. I hope that this album being criminally ignored by nearly everyone does not deter this amazing band from persevering and making another one.

You’re So Quiet:

tyvek
2. Tyvek – On Triple Beams (In the Red)

This is an off the rails punk rock concept album about Tyvek’s hometown of Detroit and its urban blight slowly being turned back into an agrarian based metropolis. On Triple Beams sees Tyvek living up to the promise of their early singles and then exceeding it.

Wayne County Roads:

boomgates
3. Boomgates – Double Natural (Bedroom Suck)

The half sung half spoken delivery of Eddy Current Suppression Ring frontman Brendan Huntly may be an acquired taste for some, but combined with Steph Hughes’ sweet croon and songs that bring to mind the brilliance of the Go-Betweens Double Natural is a sure winner.

Flood Plains:

hospitality
4. Hospitality – Hospitality (Merge)

Hospitality effortlessly do cocktail jazz, indiepop and smooth pop, but you get the feeling that they are pulling their ideas from a larger pallet that includes some things that you wouldn’t expect like Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren to name a few and that is what makes this record sound so familiar but different at once.

Eight Avenue:

FrankieRose
5. Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Slumberland)

Frankie Rose sloughed off the distortion and kicked it into hyperdrive on her second album. Slick space-age pop that I imagine if we still had a Space Shuttle program, would be playing in the cockpit on every lift off.

Night Swim:

Cate Le Bon
6. Cate Le Bon – Cyrk (The Control Group)

The Welsh chanteuse melded Velvet Underground with Kevin Ayers to come up with the best psychedelic record I heard all year.

Falcon Eyed:

cats
7. Cats on Fire – All Black Shirts to Me (Matinée)

Pop music rarely sounds this elegant and regal. All Black Shirts To Me is an assured jewel in the Cats On Fire crown.

It’s Clear Your Former Lover:

borednothing
8. Bored Nothing – Bored Nothing (Spunk)

Seems like anything coming out of Melbourne in 2012 was worthy. Fergus Miller’s (aka Bored Nothing) take on bedroom pop went from sad and introspective to blissed out dreampop. More than just another bedroom pop record and more than worthy.

Popcorn:

seapinks
9. Sea Pinks – Freak Waves (CF)

Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan is not only prolific, but talented as well. Sea Pinks third album is their best yet. Freak Waves is a jangly take on the classic Beach Boys model.

Lake Superior:

lawrence-arabia
10. Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow (Bella Union)

New Zealand’s James Milne knows how to do orchestral pop. The Sparrow is his third album as Lawrence Arabia and it’s a moody, pensive and playful feast of the ears.

The Bisexual:

terry-malts

11. Terry Malts – Killing Time (Slumberland)

San Francisco punks delivered a debut record full of blitzkrieg pop. Every song is no holds barred sing-along sweaty mosh pit.

Nauseous:

Baddat
12. Bäddat För Trubbel – Värdighet (Punks Only)

Not speaking a word of Swedish did not stop me from loving Bäddat För Trubbel’s second album. They employ influences like Eddy Current Supression Ring and Blumfeld and they aren’t afraid to have a guy who plays saxophone the band. True punks!

Det här jobbet:

intelligence
13. The Intelligence – Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me (In the Red)

Mad thinker Lars Finberg upped and moved his band from Seattle to LA. The only thing I can complain about is that they don’t play Seattle as much any more. Otherwise, the Intelligence deliver another fractured masterpiece.

Techno Tuesday:

deeptime

14. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)

Formerly known as Yellow Fever, Austin, Texas duo Deep Time’s self-titled first album after their rechristening is a pure minimalist’s delight.

Bermuda Triangle:

gap-dream
15. Gap Dream – Gap Dream (Burger)

Gabe Fulvimar’s Gap Dream is a wonderful debut. Kind of a psychedelic droner’s pop paradise.

Feast of the First Morning:

parquetcourts

16. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools)

Parquet Courts deliver a taut cow punk record out of seemingly nowhere. The proverbial new kid in town Andrew Savage formerly of Fergus & Geronimo moved to Brooklyn, started a new band and came up gold.

Yonder is Closer to the Heart:

Eternal-Summers

17. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior (Kanine)

Eternal Summers seem to grow leaps and bounds with each release and Correct Behavior continues their upward trajectory. Nicol Yun’s songs get better and bigger sounding and when she lets the drummer have some like on Girls In the City it’s like the frosting on the cake.

Millions:

theseesee
18. The See See – Fountayne Mountain (The Great Pop Supplement)

The See See go on a wondrous psychedelic tour de force on their second album. Fountayne Mountain is the sound of a band peaking. Drug reference intended.

Automobile:

supervacations
19. Super Vacations – Heater Pt. II (Funny Not Funny)

I love how after I listen to this album I feel like I have to wash the filth from body. Richmond, Virginia’s Super Vacations know the ins and outs of getting down and dirty and this record is an expressway to those dirty depths.

Faded Leather Jacket:

popsingles
20. Pop Singles – All Gone (Vacant Valley)

More Melbourne goodness in this year’s list. Pop Singles’s debut record was an unexpected surprise and the best heart-on-the-sleeve-jangle-pop record of the year.

All Gone:

toughshits

21. The Tough Shits – The Tough Shits (Burger)

Don’t let Philadelphia’s Tough Shits fool you. They want you to think that they’re a bunch of irreverent slackers, but their mothers know that their tender pop loving hombres and this record is all the proof you need.

Cats and Dogs:

ThisManyboyfriends
22. This Many Boyfriends – This Many Boyfriends (Angular)

The debut album from Leeds’ This Many Boyfriends is love song to records, love songs and misfits. Sometimes songs that are meant to be funny wear off quickly, but this album isn’t too funny for its own good. It’s merely poignant.

Tina Weymouth:

strategy
23. Strategy – Strategy (Peak Oil)

Portland, Oregon resident Paul Dickow has many personas. His album using the Strategy moniker was a playful take on electronic music that took notes from Ultramarine and Yello in the way it incorporated pop songs with dub, kraut and weird.

Sugar Drop:

GrassWidow
24. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)

San Francisco trio Grass Widow finally embraced their full pop-selves on album number three. Internal Logic was brilliant for the way it juxtaposed minimalist instrumentation with lush harmonies.

Milo Minute:

PeoplesTempleMoreLP300
25. Peoples Temple – More for the Masses (Hozac)

Either I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid or Lansing, Michigan’s Peoples Temple are. Their second album ups the dose and rattles the psyche. The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request was a good psychedelic record. Peoples Temple start with that blueprint and out psych the Stones and everyone else for that matter.

Nevermore:

chainandthegang
26. Chain and the Gang – In Cool Blood (K)

On Chain and the Gang’s third album leader Ian Svenonius gets a little more playful. He shares vocals with new member Katie Alice Greer and records the entire thing in mono. Kind of throwback but these ears, timeless.

Free Will:

crushedstars
27. Crushed Stars – In the Bright Rain (Simulacra)

In the Bright Rain lives under gray skies and rains down melancholia and cascades of guitars to beautiful effect. Being lonely, sad and out of sorts hasn’t sounded this good since the At Swim Two Birds album back in 2009.

Brighter Now:

prissyclerks
28. Prissy Clerks – Bruise Or Be Bruised (Forged Artifacts)

The debut album from this Minneapolis was a sweet bite of 90’s indierock slathered with twee and powerpop condiments. Sweet, sour and definitely hot!

Death Wish:

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29. Literature – Arab Spring (Square of Opposition/Austin Town Hall)

Former Austin and now Philadelphia band Literature are well read in the details of adrenaline fueled jangle pop. They deliver a wide eyed beauty in their debut album Arab Spring.

Push Up Bra:

macdemarco
30. Mac DeMarco – Mac DeMarco 2 (Captured Tracks)

On his second album, Montreal’s Mac DeMarco delivers a batch of skewed guitar pop gold. He seems be to posses the songwriting sensibilities of Nilsson, Lennon, Ayers and T Rex and he may be just as eccentric as them too.

Cooking Up Something Good:

Lawrence Arabia in Seattle

lawrencearabia

Back in July James Milne aka Lawrence Arabia quietly released the best psychedelic pop record of the year. The Sparrow is his third album under the Lawrence Arabia moniker. A complex record that can be dark and moody like a Scott Walker album, pensive and melodically playful like a Harry Nilsson one, full of double entendres like something from Cole Porter, and packed with gorgeous string and brass arrangements reminiscent of Burt Bacharach. I’ve fallen in love with the Sparrow over the last few months. It’s a record full of haunting pleasures that increases its hold on you with each listen.

Lawrence Arabia makes a very rare appearance tomorrow (Saturday, 1 December) at the Conor Byrne in Ballard. I doubt he will have a string section with him, but Milne’s songs should able to stand on their own without the fancy trimmings of the album.

full album stream: Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow

Chanting with Lawrence Arabia

Chant Darling came out last year down in New Zealand, and when it came out I made a mental note to pick it up, but that note got lost in some dusty corner of my skull.  Thanks to Bella Union for the second reminder note which amounts to their issuing Lawrence Arabia‘s second album Chant Darling in the UK.  Lawrence Arabia is the nom de plume of Jason Milne who has had his hand in many kiwi productions, most of them associated with the fine Lil Chief record label.  Besides his own previous Lawrence Arabia album, Milne played with Ryan McPhun in McPhun’s Ruby Suns, and teamed up with McPhun again in the one-off Reduction Agents album.  He’s also played with the Brunnettes and toured with Okkervile River and Feist.

Last year Milne struck out on his own in a couple of ways.  He put Chant Darling out on his own Honorary Bedouin label and he packed up and left New Zealand for the UK.    The self-title debut was too synth-heavy and fell little bit flat.  No such problem with the new record, Chant Darling is a major step forward.  It is a much more practiced and thought out affair.  Milne kind of sounds (and looks)  like a young Harry Nilsson meeting Louis Philippe for the first time and arranges his songs using the Brian Wilson by way of Fleetwood Mac school of pop.  There are little effects like the gasp in the song Eye A and the submarine-like bass throughout the record begging you to listen to it on a big hi-fi.  Milne’s time as journeyman musician has payed off, enabling him to incorporate influences from his previous bands like the Ruby Suns in the world music flavor of Auckland CBD Part 2, or the Reduction Agents in the country tinged I’ve Smoked Too Much.  If you are a fan of psychedelic pop this record is a sure thing and a fine addition to the likes of the Crayon Fields, Brown Recluse and the Afternoon Naps.  Bring on the new worldwide Elephant Six Collective!

mp3: Lawrence Arabia – Apple Pie Bed (from Chant Darling)

mp3: Reduction Agents – 80’s Celebration (from The Dance Reduction Agents)

mp3: Lawrence Arabia – Half the Right Size (from the self-titled debut)