Albums of 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Singles of the Year Countdown: 10-1

The 7-inch single has been around since 1949. That’s 62 years and counting! In my humble opinion the 7-inch single is still the essence, pinnacle and acme of pop perfection. Optimally, it’s one song, one side (Some try to squeeze on more). That’s no room for screwing up. You always hear that releasing a 7-inch is a money losing proposition, but that thankfully, doesn’t keep pop geeks from doing it. In honor of true blue pop geek vinyl junkies out there, here is the fourth and final installment of the annual Finest Kiss top 40 7-inch singles countdown.

1. Exlovers – Blowing Kisses (Young and Lost Club)

Exlovers have been around since 2007 and have a couple singles and an EP under their belt, but nothing that reaches the heights of this amazing single. Blowing Kisses breathes the rarefied air that Chapterhouse was imbibing around the time of Whirlpool. Flip it over and the B-side Moth-eaten Memories is just as good but shows that they can do more than just write a go-for- the-jugular pop song. They do epic well too.

mp3: ExLovers – Blowing Kisses

2. Boomgates – Layman’s Terms (SmartGuy)

Brendan Huntly gets his punk rock barbaric yawp kicks in his other band Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Boomgates showcase sensitive side. There’s a little Go-Betweens, a little Mekons and some Comet Gain in their songs. Layman’s Terms has this plaintive yearning sound with just enough muscle to carry it through.

mp3: Boomgates – Layman’s Terms

3. Nick Waterhouse – Is That Clear (Innovative Leisure)

Nick Waterhouse is maybe a kid genius, or just an old soul in a 24 year old’s body. He’s obsessed with old obscure 45 singles and hangs out with Ty Segall and isn’t afraid to use the Saxophone. Is That Clear is an intense, crisp and surprising single from someone his age. He adeptly uses horns, piano, and back up singers to killer effect. A cover of Them’s I Can Only Give You Everything is a good indicator of where he’s coming from. He’s got an album in the can due out in April.  Can’t wait.

mp3: Nick Waterhouse – Is That Clear

4. Radar Eyes – Miracle (Hozac)

The jangly guitar intro of Miracle makes me wonder if Chicago has some kind of Paisley Underground. Probably not, paisleys don’t grow in the frozen tundra, or maybe they do. They’re kind of like magic mushrooms, you just have to know where to look. Look no further than Miracle, it’s euphoria inducing.

mp3: Radar Eyes – Miracle

5. Golden Grrrls – New Pop (Nightschool)

Glasgow’s Golden Grrrls released two high quality singles this year. New Pop just edged out their first single Beaches in my book. Why? Because its hyper guitars and girl-boy vocals easily induced wild dancing and general craziness in my house whenever it was played, that’s why.

mp3Golden Grrrls – New Pop

6. Evans the Death – Threads (Fortuna Pop!)

Blistering guitars and the cool killer voice Katherine Whitaker make for an undeniable combination. It’s hard to believe that this was Evans the Death’s first ever single. They sound like they must have known what they were doing at inception. This record pulls from so many great bands that have gone before to create something fresh sounding. I want to know what documentary it is that Whitaker sings about that she should not have watched. My guess is Faces of Death.

mp3Evans the Death – Threads

7. Still Corners – Cuckoo (Sub Pop)

This is plucked from the Still Corners album, Creatures of an Hour which is good, but spotty. Cuckoo was rightly identified as single material. Its icy Broadcast-like groove gets me every time.

mp3Still Corners – Cuckoo

8. Andy Human – Toy Man (Tic Tac Totally)

Andy Jordan displayed his dark side earlier in the countdown as Lenz. Andy Human showcases his lighter, playful side that hung out with the Duckman, loved pink and went to prom where OMD was playing.

mp3: Andy Human – Toy Man

9. The Limiñanas – (I’ve Got) Trouble In Mind (Trouble In Mind)

This was a tour only single which is a pity. It’s like preaching to the converted. Anyone showing up at a Limiñanas gig already knows this French band can cut a groove plus large que La Manche, and this record does exactly that. It also gives their label the perfect theme song. Bonus!

mp3: The Limiñanas – (I’ve Got) Trouble In Mind

10. Puberty – Invitations (Telephone Explosion)

The idea behind Puberty was for Intelligence duo Lars Finberg and Susanna Welbourne to shed their instruments and front a band of ringers.  Haskins, Ash and J weren’t available so they got Hernandez, James, Church and Jaworski (sounds like a law firm) for their band. Invitations sounds spacey and remote, and it slithers around just enough to be freaky. In a year where there were no releases from the Intelligence, this will more than do.

mp3: Puberty – Invitations


I remember this time I was lost north of Boston trying to get to Salem to check out a witch trial and the House of the Seven Gables. I stopped at a gas station to get directions and the guy at the station told me to go through Puberty, and stay straight to get to Salem. Looking at the map, I couldn’t find Puberty. So I ask him, “Where’s Puberty?” He tells me to just keep going down the road I’m on and it’s the next town. I show him the map and say I don’t see a Puberty on the map. He points at Peabody and says it’s right here.

If you’re looking for a new Intelligence single, you won’t find it. Instead, Lars Finberg and Susanna Welbourne of the Intelligence have a new band called Puberty. Last winter the band debuted themselves at Trainwreck which was a series of dance parties slash shows they put on in a set of train cars south of downtown Seattle. While not a far cry from the Intelligence, Puberty open things up a bit more and look to Tones on Tail and Funboy Three for inspiration. Finberg and Wellbourne sing and are backed up by some Seattle ringers that include Dave Hernandez (Shins & now Intelligence) on guitar Curtis James (Old Haunts) on drums, Drew Church (Cops) on bass and Michael Jaworski (Cops, Sunset Booker and Mt Fuji owner) on keyboards. The first single from Puberty is due on Toronto, Canada’s Telephone Explosion.  The two songs on the single are miles beyond the demo’s that were floating around last year at this time.  Check out Invitations below with it’s spaghetti western guitar intro and watch Telephone Explosion‘s site for ordering information any day now.

Intelligence on the Intelligence

The new Intelligence album is called Males and is out on In The Red on 24 August. (I feel like MBV…actually this post would stop after the first sentence, the album artwork would be larger and a lot more of you would be looking at this if that were the case.)

This record is reported to be a full band effort as opposed to the regular Lars doing it all himself thing.  As evidenced by the track list it contains some songs previously released elsewhere, though they are undoubtedly rerecorded.  Chris Woodhouse is in the producer’s chair , as well as now being a full time member of the band.

1.  Bong Life
2.  Tuned To Puke
3.  Sailor Itch
4.  The Universe
5.  Like Like Like Like Like Like Like
6.  Estate Sales
7.  Mom Or A Parking Lot
8.  White Corvette
9.  The Beetles
10.  Chateau Bandit
11.  Males

In other related Intelligence news: this Thursday is the final Trainwreck of the summer.  Trainwreck is the monthly party that happens at the Orient Express where half of the Intelligence (Finberg and Susannah Welbourne) get all gussied up and perform as Puberty.  You don’t want to miss it.

Trainwreck to Puberty

Books away, pencils out.  Pop quiz time.  First question, Puberty is:

A. The House Band for the new monthly Trainwreck dance-debauchery party at the Orient Express.

B. Side project of Intelligence dynamic duo Lars Finberg and Susanna Welbourne.

C. That awkward stage that all humans go through to reach sexual maturation, and that most would like to forget.

D. All of the above.

The answer of course is D, but for purposes here we’re (mostly) interested in A & B. The Intelligence could never be accused of being a slacker band.  Last year they released two albums and they have one ready to unleash on us this year already.  Besides being prolific in the albums department, they seem to be perpetually on tour. So where do Mr. Finberg and Ms. Welbourne find the time for this new side project?  Obviously some people need much less sleep, and don’t have a weakness for goofing off and wasting time surfing the internet like some of us.

Besides Puberty, Finberg and Welbourne have concocted a vehicle so to speak for their new band, a monthly party called Trainwreck that happens in a set of old railway cars from the 40’s that by day goes by the Orient Express, a restaurant where you can eat in the confines of the glorious past.  Setting foot in the place is like stepping back into a different time, they are all connected, but not in line like a train, so wondering around in them is kind of like going through a maze.  Finding the men’s room and getting back can be an adventure in and of itself. Just having this place as a divey bar you can go to and tie one on, is a good thing, but when you add a dj, a drag queen and Puberty you get something pretty damn cool.

Hosting the night was Kissee Simmons, the drag queen with a New Yawk accent.  S/he introduced the band with her 2 pack a day voice, making up new last names for Lars (I think she called him Lars Fishburn and Lars Fishburg) and offered Chex Mix to everyone.  The band, and it was an actual band, consisted of Dave Hernandez formerly of the Shins on guitar Curtis James (Old Haunts) on drums, Drew Church (Cops) on bass and Michael Jaworski (Cops) on keyboards.  This left Finberg and Welbourne to ham it up and have a blast.  It was pretty obvious that both or them were having a good time, they were decked out in all white and wore shades.  They shared vocals on every song while the band, all dressed in matching pink tuxedo jackets, held a solid groove throughout.  The sound isn’t much of a departure from the Intelligence aside from the shared vocals, but it was a pleasure to finally hear a full band behind an Intelligence project.  I was especially into hearing Churche’s nimble playing, which added the backbone that is often absent in an Intelligence gig.

They did an economical set of eight songs, including a cover of Generation X‘s Kleenex.  At one point Lars grabbed a giant strobe light that looked like weighed 50 pounds, and turned it on the packed train car.  It felt like we were speeding down a mountain side on a set rickety tracks, perilously close to going off the rails.  You definitely don’t want to miss the next Trainwreck.  Puberty departs on the Orient Express again on March 4th and April 1st.  All aboard!

mp3: Puberty – Parties

mp3: Puberty – Haunt My Trash

The mp3’s are courtesy of Puberty and the Stranger.  Also, a more in depth look at Puberty can be had at the Seattle Weekly, and you can see a few more photo’s from the night over at my Flickr.