Tags: Courtney Barnett, Dick Diver, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Faith Healer, Finnmark!, Fireworks, Flesh World, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Frida & Ale, H Hawkline, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Male Gaze, Menace Beach, Nic Hessler, No Joy, Outfit, Rozi Plain, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, TheeSatisfaction, Twerps, Unlikely Friends, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Young Guv, Zebra Hunt
This was supposed to be a mid-year list. Actually it still is, but it’s month late. What does that make it? I’m still calling it a mid year list since I saw mid year lists in May. It’s also not as diverse as I was hoping it would be as you will likely notice that the letter F is over-represented here. Hopefully some of the other letters will get a little more attention in the year end list. Hope you find something you might have missed and it’s in reverse alphabetical order for your convenience!
Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)
It just so happens that doing this list in reverse alphabetical order puts my favorite album of the year so far at the top of the list. How’s that for coincidence? Hopefully you already know and own this record. If not, you need it in your life because who doesn’t need a little kiwi flavored jangle served up by this Seattle trio?
Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)
Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook will through you for a loop if you’re expecting hard core here. This is Cheap Trick style power pop mixed in with blue eyed soul and 80’s top 40 that is undeniably great.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Deranged)
Sleep Through It is full of shimmering anthems in the classic pop mold. Wildhoney’s debut album easily places them at the top of the heap of the shoegaze revival.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
An album of bleak post punk that sounds like it could have been made during the age of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race. It’s like twisted a time warp back to the era of the Comsat Angels and the Sound.
Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Indiepop supergroup debut album that softens the edges of BOAT and adds some teeth to Math & Physics Club. The perfect Seattle elixir.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Melbourne’s Twerps deliver the Flying Nun influenced jangly goods on their second LP. Fans of the Go-Betweens, Feelies and the Bats take note.
TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sup Pop)
The otherworldly second album from the interstellar Seattle hip hop duo is spiritual and strange at once. If psychedelic hip hop were a genre this would be at the top.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Finally an Oh Sees LP that marries John Dwyers more experimental solo outing material with his band’s freak outs.
The Shifters – ST (Comfort 35)
Sure, the Fall put out a new record this year, but for my money Australia’s Shifters do it better in 2015. Full of bile, but they have a playfulness to them that is missing from the band that undoubtedly inspired them.
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Taught, anxiety filled post punk jams from this London band are designed for those who prefer their music played with sharp jabs and shouted choruses.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Sharon Jones backup singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan Lowe finally come to the front of the stage to take the spotlight and give us a smooth soul classic.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
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.
Rozi Plain – Friend (Lost Map)
For her third LP Rozi Plain paints from a bucolic pallet to give us music of rolling hills and wandering brooks.
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Second album from Liverpool quintet evokes the greatness of Talk Talk and the Blue Nile.
No Joy – More Faithful (Mexican Summer)
With the help of Jorge Elbrecht this Montreal dreampop have produced an intricate studio creation that is a marvel to he ears.
Menace Beach – Ratworld (Memphis Industries)
Want to relive those 90’s indie rock glory days, Menace Beach are here to help. Their debut album is super charged with great riffs and choruses.
Male Gaze – Gale Maze (Castle Face)
Male Gaze have an intensity about them that puts them into the same league with A-Frames. Their debut album is steeped in post-apocalyptic paranoia that never goes out of style.
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Album number two from Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome is as high quality as their debut. It continues the uncanny mixture of sweet choruses, mad freak-outs and made freak-outs and sweet choruses.
Nic Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
I feel like Nic Hessler’s debut album would have gotten more attention if he would have stayed with his Catwalk moniker. Marketing aside, Soft Connections is beautiful record of accomplished pop that is as good as anything Aztec Camera ever did.
H Hawkline – In the Pink Condition (Heavenly)
Welsh musician H Hawkline, also known as Huw Gwynfryn Evans fits right in with some of his more famous psychedelic countrymen like Gruff Rhys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon who also produced the album.
Former Rough Bunnie Frida teams up with Ale of Le Man Avec Les Lunettes to create a wonderful little folk record retains the same innocent playfulness of Rough Bunnies.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – ST (Permanent)
Los Angeles garage maestros by way Bloomington, Indiana have put out the best garage rock record of the year. Yeah, I know it’s only August, but I sincerely doubt anything will surpass this white hot record.
Flesh World – The Wild Animals In My Life (Iron Lung)
An intense and textured debut from former this bay area band lead by Jess Scott formerly of Brilliant Colors. Tons of guitars create a dense o wall of sound and makes this record beg to be played at maximum volume.
Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Switch Me On is packed full of adrenaline fueled pop songs. Fuzz pop blasts that outfuzz all other fuzz pop.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Singer Edward Forth has a deep baritone that reminds you of Edwynn Collins on one of the most understated and pleasure inducing indiepop record of the year.
Faith Healer – Cosmic Troubles (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert aka Faith Healer is also a member of Edmonton garage rockers Tee-Tahs who put out one of my favorite albums of last year. Faith Healer is an entirely different thing, but no less good. Cosmic Troubles is full of easy psychedelic jams in the vein of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Cate Le Bon. I wonder if she’s got some Welsh in her?
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Eternal Summers’ fourth LP is their best one yet. It’s full of buzz and jangle with just right amounts of polish and tarnish.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovani)
Downtown Boys debut LP rages against the machine of of capitalism, sexism, racism, queerphobia, fascism, and boredom to the unstoppable sound of a twin sax tsunami. Hardcore never sounded this inviting and inclusive.
Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida (Trouble In Mind)
Dick Diver have many similarities with their fellow Australians Twerps. They jangle, sound a little like the Go-Betweens but Dick Diver aren’t afraid to get a little weird and experiment a little more on their records. Melboure, Florida is their third LP and though not as immediate as 2013’s Calendar Days, it sticks to the bones.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)
Courtney Barnett’s stream of conscious lyrics are endlessly interesting to interpret and decipher and you have ample opportunity because the songs are so good on her debut LP that they beg to be played again and again.
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: Birthday Kiss, Cali Giraffes, Cassolette, Corey, Cosines, David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights, Diät, Eating Out, Haunted Hearts, Heathers, Joanna Gruesome, Ketamines, Kids on a Crime Spree, La Luz, Laughing Leaves, Lovers Without Borders, Menace Beach, Rainbow Gun Show, Schonwald, Sea Pinks, Slowcoaches, Teardrop Factory, Toxie, Vacations, Verma
Will the 7-inch single ever go away? Probably not anytime soon, but it seems to be getting pressed up in smaller and smaller batches. This year I saw many single being released in editions of as little as 100 copies. Are there really only about 100 of us left out there that buy these things? As painful as it is to think about it, I know the answer is probably yes. A combination of high postage costs and pressing these things in such tiny quantities makes the price of the average 45 about $10. That’s pretty crazy when you can buy the mp3 version for about $2. There were more than a couple records that I didn’t buy this year because the cost of the record plus postage put the price at or above $2o. Sadly, vinyl has quickly become something for people with a large amount of disposable income. I’m hoping I can make a profit on these things when it’s time for my kids to go to college.
50. Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush (Fortuna Pop!)
Sugarcrush was thee standout track from the Gruesome’s debut record. So how do you get people to buy the single of a song they may already have? You put a cover of Galaxy 500’s Tugboat captain on the B-side of course. It’s the gentle comedown from the candy head explosion of the A-side.
49. Cosines – Hey Sailor Boy! (Fika)
I love a good split personality between the A and B sides of a single and the Cosines are like the Batman villain Two-Face. One side is sweet and swooning like the Essex Green and the other chugs and drones sorta like Stereolab. A fine debut from this London band.
48. Eating Out – Burn (Suicide Squeeze)
I wonder if Nü Sensae drummer Daniel Pitout is a fan of the Family Cat, because Come Around could be a direct descendant of River of Diamonds. He probably doesn’t have PJ Harvey penciled in, but perhaps he has one of the Courtneys lined up for backing vocals on his next single.
47. Diät – Everyday (Iron Lung)
Dark post apocalyptic wallop from this Berlin group who made an appearance on last year’s countdown. This is only their second single. They like to take their time and for good reason. It takes time to feed angst to this degree.
46. Haunted Hearts – House of Lords (Zoo)
Weird how I think that I may like this single better than anything that Dee Dee has done in Dum Dum Girls or her hubby Brandon has in Crocodiles. Maybe they should ditch their respective bands and tie the knot musically as well.
45. Cassolette – Return to Sender (Manic Pop!)
Florida’s Cassolette sound like they’re from Boston circa 1991. Combining the Blake Babies and Belly to great effect. Return to Sender will send you to the right address and B-side Ricki Lake gets points for combining mainstream with indiepop culture.
44. Kids on a Crime Spree – Creep the Creeps (Slumberland)
I’m a sucker for songs with hand claps and whistling. This song probably would have charted higher if it had some whistling in it. As it is, Creep the Creeps is a solid 44 with killer hand claps and gigantic riff that should get you clapping along.
43. Verma – Ragnaraak (Hozac)
I think Verma holds the honor of longest single in this year’s countdown. Stuffing six and a half minutes onto one side of a 45 is a feat in itself, add to it a mean psychedelic maelstrom of a song and you’ve got something that rivals the Hookworms in damaged heavy psych intensity. Watch out for these guys.
42. Cali Giraffes – All My Life (Fin)
The Cali Giraffes have had an album in the can for ages but the stars have not aligned when it comes to actually getting it released. If this single is any indicator (it is) it will be a doozy. We already knew that Kim Warnick was highly gifted in the skills of the pop song and All My Life is simply confirmation. The B-side is just as good with her buddy Mikey Davis on vocals. Somebody release this album!
41. Menace Beach – Drop Outs (Too Pure)
You know, you subscribe to a 7-inch singles club and you get a bunch of recyclable plastic. You forgo subscribing and the singles club and it starts putting out the good stuff. Luckily Too Pure allows you to buy individual records from their singles club because this Menace Beach record with it’s lazy slacker riff and chorus will have you reaching for your wallet.
40. Teardrop Factory – Topshop (Faux Discx)
Faux Discx has been putting out heavy blissed-out jams for some time now. In fact I’ll pretty much buy whatever they put their name on. Brighton’s Teardrop Factory have got a thing for downer drenched songs and so do I.
39. Corey – Is It Really Real? (Permanent)
Corey is Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts in case you didn’t know. This record takes Love & Rockets Motorbike and goes off on some fuzzy dovetail tangent from which you will not want to return. Hope your state doesn’t have a helmet law.
38. David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – Christopher Columbus (Merge)
David Kilgour keeps putting out stellar records. This year the only thing I think he released was this, a glassy ode to the guy who ‘discovered’ America. This strangely sounds like Under the Milkyway by the Church, but with less heroin, which is a good thing.
37. Ketamines – All the Colours of Your Heart (Pleasence)
The Ketamines were on a roll this year, striking a pop vein and mining it to its fullest. This was number one of four singles that you were supposed to collect all of to create a collage from the covers. I only got two of the four, but even though my collage is incomplete All the Colours of Your Heart eases my pain of not having a complete set.
36. Toxie – Newgate (Goner)
Ah yes, some things go together like Memphis and C-86. Maybe it’s not C-86, but it’s definitely peanut butter and chocolate. Some might call it accidental genius, but the EP that they’ve subsequently released is evidence that that this is no accident.
35. Lovers Without Borders – Detective (K)
One of two records on the countdown that contains saxophone. What’s happening here? Karl Blau teams up with Jessica Bonin and Alex Parrish for lo-fi indiepop bliss, that’s what’s happening. Throw in a cover of Lois’s The Second Most Beautiful Girl in the World and you’ve got a hit record (in my mind).
34. La Luz – Brainwash (Suicide Squeeze)
Earlier this year I heard two people in a record store here in Seattle talking about La Luz. The general gist of the conversation was that La Luz were OK but not worthy of the hype they were receiving in town because they were third, fourth, fifth or sixth generation surf pop. No one complains when the next ‘Michael Jordan’ is romping through the NBA do they? La Luz are the next Dick Dale and you should rejoice.
33. Birthday Kiss – Can You Keep a Secret? (Death Party)
This is a classic pop single, precisely winnowing into you conscious whether you want it to or not. It’s not overtly dance oriented like St. Etienne, but it reminds me of them in the way that it slyly hooks you in with it’s chorus. Undeniable.
32. Rainbow Gun Show – Cinderella Sizzle (Hozac)
Hozac are like the record kings of Chicago, fishing bands out of the music meat grinder for the rest of us to enjoy. Rainbow Gun Show are just one more example in a long line of records held together by animal intestines. Actually this fuzzy synth single is sort of a-typical for the label with very little blood noticeable on the surface of this buzzy pop record, but then there is no accounting for taste.
31. Sea Pinks – Exploded View (CF)
Sea Pinks front man Neil Brogan left his other band Girls Names for which he was the drummer to concentrate full time on the Pinks. So the question is, can they get better? Indeed. This record as limited to 100 copies because you weirdo millennials don’t think you need to buy records anymore. You can own it digitally. Yeah, right. That’s like saying you own the air you breath. Sea Pinks are nearly as precious.
30. Heathers – Teenage Clothes (Death Party)
Heathers are from LA so it’s no surprise they effortlessly combine a bit of sparkly jangle of another sunny day (they keep coming), some dusty sadness from being lost in a canyon and unsure of which direction to go, and some androgynous lyrics about your mother’s teenage clothes that keep you on your toes. All the ingredients for a great single and Heathers assemble these rummaged items perfectly.
29. Vacations – Purple Slumber (Play Pinball)
Vacations are the project of Fungi Girls’ Jacob Bruce and it seems he had a few special songs saved up for this single. This record is like an indie kid’s little helper as it bounces and jangles along in violet inducing languor. Better than Valium.
28. Schonwald – Mercurial (Hozac)
This record blazes along some futuristic highway the way Xmal Deutschland and Clan of Xymox used to do. If 4AD was half the label that it was, Italy’s Schonwald would be signed to them, but luckily Hozac aren’t beneath donning a little black eyeliner to release this record.
27. Slowcoaches – Thinkers E.P (Icecapades)
Slowcoaches are obviously influenced by the 90’s indierock aesthetic of Urusei Yatsura , Pavement and Dinosaur Jr and I can’t really claim that they’re breaking any new ground but Thinkers rages into your head with its rumbling bass, fingers on the chalk board guitar squall and singer Heather Perkins’ vitriolic delivery taking me back to a time of unbridled enthusiasm for this kind of thing. Nothing has changed and maybe that’s a good thing.
26. Laughing Leaves – Everyday (Self-released)
This was another great year for music coming out of Australia. It’s like Sweden a few years ago, where every week seemed to yield a new band bubbling up with a drop dead good record. Laughing Leaves from Geelong create great 60’s inspired raw garage rock in the vein of early Kinks and Them. Four songs on this 7-inch and they all could’ve been singles.