Best Albums of 2019

Beating my self-imposed deadline by weeks, here is the Finest Kiss top 30 albums of last year. The list has been set for weeks, but the pesky writing part always causes a bit of delay. I don’t know, do you prefer a straight up list, or do you like a little reasoning and argument as to why a certain album is in solidly at number 12? Personally, I like lists that have a little bit of writing. Anyone can slap together a list of stuff, but when you actually have to write something about it inspires some more consideration. Ok, I know, boring music blogger talk. Please proceed.

1. Kiwi Jr – Football Money (Mint)

Football Money grew and grew on me throughout the year. This young Toronto band deftly combined the pure pop of the Kinks, Zombies and the Smiths with the more askew angular ideas of Pavement and Parquet Courts and ably added in off the wall humor inspired by Jonathan Richman.  Songs like Salary Man and Football Money grab you with their immediate urgency and then roll you over and rub your belly with their innate pop sensibilities. These guys are sneaky and I love it. They can get you pumping your fist in the air with their rockers like Leslie and then cool it down with brilliant balladry of Swimming Pool, a song that references the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and sounds like a better psychedelic cousin to Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).  Kiwi Jr’s debut album is nearly perfect. No pressure on the follow up fellas.

2. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains (Drag City)

It had been over ten years since David Berman ended his previous band the Silver Jews.  Most folks were aware of his mental health struggles and it was never certain that he would make another record. Well, he persevered, “spending a decade playing chicken with oblivion” to give us Purple Mountains, delivering the album a mere month before losing his game of chicken. The album is musically understated (his band is Woods’ Jeremy Earl, Jarvis Taveniere and Aaron Neveu) giving Berman’s lyrics the spotlight. He has a way with a rhyme and an uncanny ability to make the absurd and mundane beautiful and interesting.  Snow Falling on Manhattan  will be a future winter classic while Storyline Fever and All My Happiness is Gone are beautiful, brilliant, humorous, sad and ever so poignant given the circumstances. They don’t make many like Berman and his star shined brilliantly, but not long enough.

3. Holiday Ghosts – West Bay Playroom (PNKSLM)

Any band that can combine the Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers, Bats and the Pastels into a record that makes its influences known but not overwrought deserves some acclaim. Album number two from Falmouth’s Holiday Ghosts is a delight. It’s packed full of black turtleneck wearing, clove cigarette smoking, toe-tapping surf-garage rock numbers that are so well done, you’ll be calling your friends and inviting them over for a hootenanny.

4. French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself? (Danger Collective)

French Vanilla are a Los Angeles band that sound inspired by 80’s bands like Romeo Void, Waitresses, and Oingo Boingo. Funny how 80’s inspired music and movies have not gone out of style. I wonder if it registers with the kids when a movie like Spiderman loosely apes John Hughes’ teen movies like Ferris Bueller and Pretty In Pink in theme and soundtrack? Wasn’t Weird Science a super hero movie after all? Instead of the English Beat, Oingo Boing or Romeo Void, movie soundtrack folks might consider any song from How Am I Not Myself to fill out the soundtrack for the next teen inspired comedy super hero film. Danny Elfman, if you’re listening…

5. Jeanines – Jeanines (Slumberland)

I’ve never been very good at predicting the future, but who doesn’t like to prognosticate? I hope I’m wrong, but this record has lost classic written all over it. Twenty years from now, old bearded millennials will be scavenging used bins for the Jeanines’ album for its autumnal jangle and frosty melodies that drip down on a sunny spring day melting the winter cold from the trees. Duo Alicia Jeanine and Jed Smith are firmly planted in the lore of Veronica Falls, Dum Dum Girls and the Shop Assistants and smartly possess the economical mindfulness of Guided By Voices. Don’t miss this classic.

6. Capitol – Dream Noise (Meritorio/Kingfisher Bluez)

Hamilton, Ontario’s Capitol are very adept at generating moody post-punk noir that takes flight. File them under the Cure, Adorable, the Sound and Chameleons. Dream Noise is an appropriate title and it is filled with great pop songs full of cascading guitars and motorik-based beats.

7. Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess/Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks (It’s OK)

What do you do if you release two killer EP’s in a year? You put them together onto an LP is what. That is exactly the smart move that London’s Dry Cleaning (who remind me a little of Salad’s shrouded pop with the bouncy rhythms of Trash Kit) did here to create one great record from two. Singer Florence Shaw kind of sings/talks over angular backgrounds, can create atmosphere with her delivery alone, and knows how to use a curse word.

8. Metronomy – Metronomy Forever (Because)
I can be hot and cold with Metronomy. Sometimes they deliver a record that’s packed with great stuff, and sometimes they miss. Metronomy Forever might be not contain any misses. It’s full of sugar coated synth pop with a sense of space and a knack for staying with you like an everlasting gobstopper.

9. Robert Forster – Inferno (Tapete)

If ever there was an example to illustrate quality over quantity it would be Robert Forster’s album output since the death of his Go-Betweens partner Grant McLennan in 2006. Inferno is only his third album since then, but it may be his best. He teams up with producer Victor Von Vugt who also produced his first solo album Danger In the Past 29 years ago. The former Go-Between still has a knack for writing a song. No Fame and Inferno are pure brilliance and Life Has Turned a Page ranks up there with Darlinghurst Nights as one of his better nostalgia tinged semi-autobigraphical ramblers.

10. Big Quiet – Interesting Times (Unblinking Ear)

When I first I heard this record, I thought that Mitch Easter must have come out of semi-retirement and teamed up with Susanna Hoffs to make a record. I was half right, Mitch Easter is indeed behind the production board here for Big Quiet’s debut LP. The band though are responsible for classic paisley jangle that evokes everything from the Bangles, REM, and Let’s Active. It ain’t pastiche though, it’s a corker that belongs right up there with those greats.

11. Sneaks – Highway Hypnosis (Merge)

Eva Moolchan AKA Sneaks, finally delivers on the promise of here previous two albums. Where those records had promise, they never brought it home. Whether it was due to the brevity of the songs or being held back by fear of not being punk enough. Sneaks, finally says fuck it, and delivers a great batch of songs inspired by the likes Young Marble Giants, MIA and Bratmobile.

12. Durand Jones & the Indications – American Love Call (Dead Oceans)

No retro soul album could ever be considered groundbreaking, but then when did the last groundbreaking record come out? American Love Call does one thing and it does it very well. Album number two is a little more toned down and smoother sounding than the debut. It’s Heavy on the strings and sounds as smooth as silk.

13. Le Superhomard – Meadow Lane Park (Elefant)

This year has seen no shortage of records influenced by Stereolab and Broadcast which is fine by me. Le Superhomard lean more towards the Stereolab side of the teeter-totter with their ping-pong synths and bouncy melodies. They have a keen pop sensibility, with Scandinavian influences like Abba and the Cardigans elbowing in on the Stereolabisms to make this a very delightful affair.

14. Jamie Branch – Fly or Die II (International Anthem)

Chicago label International Anthem has been on a run of late, putting out some of the most exciting sounding albums in any genre. They focus on jazz and avant garde, and Jamie Branch’s second album is a little of both. Branch plays the trumpet, and even takes the vocal mic on this record. Prayer for a Amerikkka pt. 1 & 2 sees her push A Love Supreme from the gospel to the political over a menacing grove interspersed with blasts of horn. Elsewhere she get’s playful like on Simple Silver Surfer with its latin influence. This record keeps you on your toes and makes jazz accessible for those who might normally steer away from a jazz record.

15. Woolen Men – Human to Human (Eggy)

Down in Portland, Oregon Woolen Men keep on keeping on and releasing quality album after quality album. Human to Human is their latest and grooviest. The rhythm section has always been an important element of this post punk band but on Human to Human it is front and center. The songs are tight and confident (Mexico City Blues and Ecstasy of an Ant are two of their best songs) and the band are so locked into it that they even do an instrumental workout to flex their collective muscles. Could this be peak Woolen Men?

16. Ride – This Is Not a Safe Place (Wichita)

Ride reunited in 2014 and then released their comeback album Weather Diaries in 2017 which was promising as far as comebacks go. Their second post reformation LP though, really validates the band’s reformation. It uses the band’s shoegaze/dreampop sound as a launching point into new areas of sonic revelry and features some of the best songs the band has written in Clouds of Saint Marie, Repetition and Future Love.

17. Automatic – Signal (Stones Throw)

This Los Angeles trio make snyth pop sound dangerous. With no guitars in sight, their debut album calls on influences like Tones on Tail (Kevin Haskin’s daughter Lola Dompé is the drummer), Suicide, Gary Numan and Delta 5 (they cover Mind Your Own Business) and features attitude and atmosphere in spades.

18. The Reds Pinks and Purples – Anxiety Art (Pretty Olivia)

Glenn Donaldson bands have made regular appearances in this blog’s year end album lists. That Art Museums is still a favorite and the last Skygreen Leopards was a doozy. He’s back with The Reds Pinks and Purples and it features a little something for fans of the Art Museums and Skygreen Leopards. Donaldson has voice that evokes nostalgia and sadness. Combined with 12 string jangling guitars and general lo-fi sensibility the record isn’t meant to impress on the first listen, but rather slowly attach itself to you.

19. Cate Le Bon – Reward (Mexican Summer)

Cate Le Bon had a busy year, producing a Deerhunter LP, collaborating on another one with Bradford Cox, and this album her latest masterpiece of avant-pop. She’s an explorer, taking us along with her in endless endeavor to keep the pop song interesting. Where some of her recent work could be described as difficult, Reward is nothing of the sort. It’s never obvious or straightforward, but the edges have been softened making this an enjoyably, slightly experimental experience.

20. Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology (Fire)

Fire records, Vanishing Twin’s record label has got a lock on Broadcast inspired bands with this, Death & Vanilla and Jane Weaver. The Age of Immunology mines similar territory to my favorite Broadcast album The Noise Made By People. Yes, points off for not being original, but they add enough nuance to it to make it easy to ignore where it came from and just appreciate where it is.

21. The Young Sinclairs – Out of the Box (Requiem Pour Un Twister)

Quite a few bands get points taken off their score due to their songs sounding too much alike. Roanoke’s Young Sinclairs do not have that problem. Their creative juices flow from spacey drones reminiscent of Spiritualized, paisley jangle of the Church, folky harmonies of Buffalo Springfield, downbeat synths evoking New Order and Sam Cook inspired soul and that’s only half the record. Out of the Box is exciting because you never get bored and are surprised with every turn they take. What can’t this band do and do well?

22. Dumb Things – Time Again (Coolin’ By Sound)

This low-key Australian band hailing from Brisbane, the hometown of the Go-Betweens and possibly named after a Paul Kelly song, Dumb Things push all the right buttons. Their sophomore LP was released late last year with little publicity. It maintains the high quality standards set by their first album and sits comfortably beside your Dick Diver, Twerps and Chook Race records.

23. Zebra Hunt – Trade Desire (Tenorio Cotobade)

On their third record, Seattle’s Zebra Hunt continue their janglepop mastery and add a handful of new classics to their repertoire like Two States, See Through You and Coral Scenery. They also make a Fresh & Only’s song sound like they wrote it and stretch out on the nearly seven minute Don’t Say Anything. At only eight songs, Trade Desire is economically minded record with no filler or fluff.

24. Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality (Eremite)

I think this record is considered jazz or experimental tonal jazz or some other mumbo jumbo. To me, it is hypnotic, trance inducing music that you shouldn’t listen to while operating heavy machinery. A warning sticker on the cover about the dangers of listening to it and ending up somewhere and not knowing how you got there should be placed on it. Better than drugs.

25. The Intelligence – Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting)

I have no idea what the title to the Intelligence’s latest album alludes to. This former Seattle band relocated to the fake surfing environs of So-Cal a few years back to continue their warped Ventures inspired glue sniffing weirdness. Main brain Lars Finberg, appears to be on the wagon, but there is no discernible drop off in quality here. Perhaps this is really what he’s like?

26. Blue Jeans – Adult Hits (Bobo Integral)

This Ann Arbor, Michigan band is made up a veritable who’s who of the indiepop underground and the AllMusic writers bullpen. Tim Sendra of Veronica Lake, Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good To Me and Failed Flowers and Heather Phares who’s name I see quite a bit (along with Tim’s and Fred’s) on the AllMusic site. Adult Hits has a 90’s feel to it and a solid sense of humor. Opener Goodbye Forever has a Swirlies guitar buzz. We Hate Summer may be the best pro-winter anthem ever, “direct sunlight makes me wanna cry,” and “gimme gimme long sleeves” never fail to make me smile and the choruses on this song and many others will easily make their marks in your pop conscious.

27. Flying Fish Cove – At Moonset (Help Yourself)

At Moonset is a tropical indiepop paradise. It’s soggy and warm with an innocent brand of pop that has touches of Elephant 6 psychedelics, pastoral folkiness akin to Essex Green, and DIY P.U.N.K. reminiscent of Heavenly. The songs range from ramshackle to swooning synth-tinged odes, all delivered with a confidence and professionalism that belies the indiepop aesthetic.

28. BV’s – Cartography (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)

This English-German duo excel at moody, atmospheric pop that may remind more than a few folks of one or two bands on Sarah records or even the Durutti Column. Some might call it dreampop, but these guys are too darn moody for a tag like that. Cartography has couple immediate songs and some that meander and others that will take a few listens to really appreciate.

29. Neutrals – Kebab Disco (Emotional Response)

Yank a Scottish guy out of Scotland and plop him down in the sun warped California bay area near a Kebab shop that doubles as a disco and you get this Swiss loving, CHiPs loving, slacker love record. Parts Art Brut, Ballboy and Television Personalities, Neutrals know a good joke, a top tune and great riff when they hear one.

30. The Divine Comedy – Office Politics (Divine Comedy Records)
I went through a Divine Comedy phase back in the 90’s around the time of the Liberation, Promenade and Cassanova albums. Fell off the wagon around Regeneration and picked up Office Politics this year on a whim. Happy to report that Neil Hannon is still a curious fellow doing his own thing with a sharp ear for a melody and weird streak in him that really keeps things interesting. Office Politics is a concept album about the office, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how songs like the Synthesizer Service Center and Philip And Steve’s Furniture Removal Company fit into the concept and I don’t really care. Hannon is still following his comic muse.

Honorable Mentions
-Small Crush – Small Crush (Asian Man)
-Comet Gain – Fireraisers Forever! (Tapete)
-Daisies – What Are You Waiting For (K/Perennial)
-Marble Arch – Children of the Slump (Géographie)
-Piroshka – Brickbat (4AD)
-Edwyn Collins – Badbea (AED)
-J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – TA DA (Hobbies Galore/Night School)
-Amyl & the Sniffers – Amyl & the Sniffers (ATO)
-Detox Twins – Dead Horse Ghost (Polytchnic Youth)
-Girl Ray – Girl (Moshi Moshi)
-Pernice Brothers – Spread the Feeling (Ashmont)

Nearly Half Past Half Past

This list of mid year notable albums was supposed to done a month ago, but things move slowly when you’re slow. Here are a bunch of records I like from the fist half of this year in no particular order. Not a definitive list but more of a sign post so I can look back and see where I was in the middle of 2019.

Daisies – Daisies (Perennial Death)
When you think Olympia, Washington you think the Capitol of Washington state, or K records and DIY indie rock. I would wager that St. Etienne and Shortwave Set don’t immediately come to mind. Thanks to the CCFX-CC DUST-TransFX folks this left field beauty that melds psychedelia and dancy synths into something unexpected.

Jeanines- Jeanines (Slumberland)
Some folks would call this a quintessential and classic Slumberland record. Some would scratch their heads and wonder what that even means. Translation, autumnal jangle pop that is as economical as Guided By Voices and hauntingly bittersweet as the Mama’s and the Papas.

Holiday Ghosts – West Bay Playroom (PNK SLM)
Album number two from these Modern Lovers meets Pastels beatniks sees them still flying under the radar. Not sure how accurate internet radar is for this sort of thing these days, but I love rollicking ramshackle rock and roll like this.

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality (Eremite)
This is considered jazz or experimental tonal jazz or some other mumbo jumbo. This is hypnotic, trance inducing music that you shouldn’t listen to while operating heavy machinery. There should be a warning sticker on the cover about the dangers of listening to it and ending up somewhere and not knowing how you got there. Better than drugs.

Patio – Essentials (Fire Talk)
Every time a song from Essentials pops up on shuffle play I think it’s a 90’s indie rock like Helium or Scrawl. This Brooklyn trio nods to the 90’s with their angular hooks and minimal pop but adds an airy sophistication to the update that sound for the new millennium.

trade desires
Zebra Hunt – Trade Desire (Tenorio Cotobade)
Seattle’s Zebra Hunt keep going as the world swirls around them, releasing a solid LP ever few years. The fact that their label is in Spain and they’ve toured that country more extensively than their own speaks volumes about the discerning tastes of the record buying public on the Iberian peninsula and how too many hometown folks don’t appreciate what’s in their own back yard.

Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology (Fire)
Fire records, Vanishing Twin’s record label has got a lock on Broadcast inspired bands with this, Death & Vanilla and Jane Weaver. This mines similar territory to my favorite Broadcast album The Noise Made By People. Yes, points off for not being original, but they add enough nuance to it to make it easy to ignore where it came from and just appreciate where it is.

J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – Ta Da (Hobbies Galore)
Unbeknownst to me, the Twerps were a band with an amorous couple at its core and that couple decided to call it quits thus dissolving one of my favorite Australian bands of the past five years. Martin Frawley and Julia McFarlane have both released albums this year, but McFarlane’s is the one that wormed its quirky head into my list of favorites. Minimalist and quirky, this not what you would probably expect from one half of the Twerps, but welcome nonetheless.

The BV’s – Cartography (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
This English-German duo excell at moody, atmospheric pop that may remind more than a few folks of one or two bands on Sarah records or even the Durutti Column. Some might call it dreampop, but these guys are too darn moody for a tag like that. Cartography has couple immediate songs and some that meander and others that will take a few listens to really appreciate. This one grows on you and peels away its layers on repeated listening. Worth it!

The Intelligence – Un-Psychedelic In Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting)
I have no idea what the title to the Intelligence’s latest album alludes to. This former Seattle relocated to the fake surfing environs of So-Cal a few years back to continue their warped Ventures inspired glue sniffing weirdness. Hive minded Lars Finberg appears to be on the wagon, but there is no discernible drop off in quality here. Perhaps this is really what he’s like? I hope so.

Sacred Paws – Run Around the Sun (Merge)
Golden Grrls offshoot/continuation second album is brighter and richer sounding to my ears than their debut. Rachel Aggs’ (also of Shopping & Trash Kit) guitar playing is a perfect mix of indie jangle and afro-pop rhythm. The vocal interplay between her and Eilidh Rodgers is life-affirming. Add in some horn parts and you’ve got this really exiting record.

Phillipi & Rodrigo – Paciencia (DeeWee)
If you recall and appreciate the excellent Bungalow Record label that was based out of Berlin in late 90’s and early 2000’s and their penchant for quirky electronic based pop like Czerkisky, Le Hammond Inferno and Ladytron, then DeeWee is a label you should follow. Phillipi & Rodrigo are a Brazillian duo that would have fit in perfectly on Bungalow with their soundtrack inspired dance music.

French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself? (Danger Collective)
Funny how 80’s inspired music and movies have not gone out of style. I wonder if it registers with the young ones when movies like Spiderman loosely ape John Hughes’ teen movies like Ferris Bueller and Pretty In Pink in theme and soundtrack? Weird Science was a super hero movie after all, wasn’t it? Instead of Oingo Boing or Romeo Void, movie soundtrack folks might consider Los Angeles’s French Vanilla to fill out the soundtrack for the next teen inspired comedy super hero film. Danny Elfman, if you’re listening…

Olden Yolk – Living Theatre (Trouble In Mind)
Living Theatre is album number two from the former Quilt guy Shane Butler. and continues to mine the rich pastoral inspired folky motorik vein of the their debut. It’s a sweet spot that is often better described as psychedelic folk music. This album is like an herbal soothing of the Free Design and Stereolab blended with the swirling pastoral vibes of a band like the Essex Green. Lovely stuff.

Cate Le Bon – Reward (Mexican Summer)
Cate Le Bon’s DRINKS collaboration with Tim Presley has the minimal with a disregard for pop hooks. She seems to have taken that DRINKS minimal and inserted the missing pop hooks for fifth album. Reward rewards with minimalist pop perfection.

Winona Forever – Feelgood (Kingfisher Bluez)
Feelgood is the second album by these Canadian coastal transfers (Vancouver to Montreal) with a soft spot for ill-considered tatoos and yacht rock. The warbly, jazz-influenced guitars remind me a little of Mac Demarco, Crystal Skulls and Mild High Club, but they have smooth pop intuition that smooths over any quirky edges.

Cowgirl In Sweden – S/T (Courtesan Music)
A Mysterious record that seems like it just wasn’t made for these times. It’s title is a wink and nod to the great Lee Hazlewood. With an eye to the past and the obscure, these misty eyed songs that are steeped in nostalgia right down to the limited pressing of 300 and no digital version to be had.

The Neutrals – Kebab Disco (Emotional Response)
2017’s Motorcycle Cop put this San Francisco band on my radar. Their debut keeps them firmly planted in my sights. like Art Brute and This Many Boyfriends, Scotish transplant Allan McNaughton has an infectious fandom for indie rock and music culture and a sense of humor to go along with it.

Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
The United States is so far removed from the hyperinflation, gasoline lines and presidential impeachment of the 1970’s that it is surprising that an album like this could be so popular. I think that previous sentence contained a little too much irony, sorry. Titanic Rising is a fantastical record that is parts Elton John, Carpenters and Joni Mitchel. Natalie Mering has conjured up quite a record with her melodramatic vocals that crescendo on nearly ever song. Dramatic stuff that feels like a child of the 70’s looking for her divorced parents.

Rozi Plain – What a Boost (Memphis Industries)
Spare and spatiatous songs swirl and intertwin themselves into you consious, like a minimalist Juana Molina. Rozi Plain blends folk with electronic sounds that sounds like Sea and Cake deconstruced bossa nova post rock. What a Boost is her second album and the perfect soundtrack for a gray and overcast day.

Piroshka – Brickbat (4AD)
Piroshka seemed to garner a lot of attention for being a band that counted as members folks formerly of Lush, Moose, Modern English and Elastica. Sure Berenyi’s voice is hard not to associate with Lush, and you may recognize a Moose guitar flourish here and there but right from the album’s start you realize this group aren’t looking toward the past.

The Concerns – County Blue (War Hen)
Eternal Summers drummer Daniel Cundiff strikes out on his own for an album with some helpf from the Young Sinclairs’ Sam Lunsford and John Thompson. It’s steeped in 80’s alternative like REM, the Railway Children and a touch of Prefab Sprout. Cundiff doesn’t have a domineering voice, but he can deliver a hushed hook and with the jangly guitars, flourishes of synthesizers, and a few well placed horns makes County Blue an understaded winner.

Edwyn Collins – Badbea (AED)
This is his best record since he had the stroke. Opener It’s All About You has the energy and spite of Georgeous George opener the Campaign for Real Rock. Hell, the entire album has that driving northern soul element that most of Collins best records always had. The guy sounds like he’s rejuvinated and ready to keep making more beauties like this.

Robert Forster – Inferno (Tapete)
Robert Forster albums aren’t quite as rare as the return of the Locusts, and I look forward to them more than a swarm of insects. Inferno follows 2015’s Songs to Play which is only fours years and a short spell. Inferno teams him with producer Victor Von Vugt who also produced his first solo album Danger In the Past 29 years ago. The former Go-Between still has a knack for putting a song together. No Fame is pure Go-Betweens brilliance and Life Has Turned a Page ranks up there with Darlinghurst Nights as one of his better nostalgia tinged semi-autobigraphical ramblers.

Kiwi Jr – Football Money (Mint)
More great Canadian pop in the mid-year list. Toronto’s Kiwi Jr fit somewhere between Sloan, Pavement, Beuhlah and Parquet Courts and seem cool with being uncool. By uncool, I mean cool in certain circles that are uncool from the outside looking in. They march to their own beat, sing odes to Burt Bacharach and Brian Jones and are more fun than 90% of the records in my house.

Durand Jones and the Indications – American Love Call (Colemine)
No retro soul album could ever be considered groundbreaking, but then when did the last groundbreaking record come out. American Love Call one thing and it does it very well. The retro soul on album number two is a little more toned down and smoother sounding than the debut. It’s Heavy on the strings and romancing and sounds as smooth as silk.

Le Superhommard – Meadow Lane Park (Elefant)
This year has seen no shortage of records influenced by Stereolab and Broadcast which is fine by me. Le Superhommard lean more towards the Stereolab side of the teeter-totter with their ping-pong synths and bouncy melodies. Meadow Lane Park is not just one or two good songs and rest filler, it’s packed full of beauties.

Marble Arch – Children of the Slump (Géographie)
The second album from this Parisian band is more of a full band affair but keeps some of its predecessor’s bedroom pop ideas, just fleshes them out with a fuller sound. Children of the Slump with its driving bass, flourishes of synthesizers and gangling guitars is dreamy, atmospheric and aching. Old folks will think Low-Life era New Order, younger ones might think Craft Spells or Wild Nothing.

Dumb Things – S/T (Bobo Integral)
This record was digitally released in 2018, but got a vinyl release early this year so slips in on the technicality that I missed it the first time around. Hailing from Brisbane, the hometown of the Go-Betweens and possibly named after a Paul Kelly song gets my attention. Kindred spirits of the Twerps, Feelies and Zebra Hunt their self-titled debut is a worthy and good company of all of the above.

The Specials – Encore (Island)
The name the Specials carries a lot of weight in certain circles and it’s a questionable call naming this a Specials album (They could have gone with Fun Boy Three), but this is probably as close to a real Specials reunion album we’re ever going to get and I’ll take it. With Terry Hall in the fold it would be hard to go wrong, add in some quality Lynval Golding songs and you’ve got pretty good record.


Here are a few more notables, that didn’t quite make the first cut, but worth checking into.

Rose Elinor Dougall – A New Illusion (Vermilion)

Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive (Extreme Eating)

The Stroppies – Whoosh (Tough Love)

Uranium Club – The Cosmo Cleaners(Static Shock/Fashionable Idiots)

The Home Current – Civilian Leather (Castles In Space)

Steve Gunn – The Unseen In Between (Matador)

Possible Humans – Everybody Split (Hobbies Galore)

Patience – Dizzy Spells (Winona)

Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place (Sub Pop)

Flying Fish Cove – At Moonset (Help Yourself)

Pip Blom – Boat (Heavenly)

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.

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.

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.

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 – 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 – 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.

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 – 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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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! – 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.

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 – 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.

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 – 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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 – 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.

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.
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!

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.

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 – 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 – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 – 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Robert Forster’s Ten Best


Last week I was reading a list of the top ten Stereolab songs that somebody put together for the Stereogum site. I disagreed with 90 percent of the choices. So I thought to myself, I should make a list that you can disagree with 90 percent of the selections. With the Go-Betweens you either lean towards Robert Forester or Grant McLennan. The younger me was a McLennan guy, the older me is most certainly a Forester disciple. Since McLennan’s untimely death Forster is all we’ve got. He’s reportedly working on his sixth solo album so what better reason to choose him for this first semi-irregular installment of Ten Best.

10. Make Her Day (Go-Betweens – Bright Yellow Bright Orange -2003)
This comes from one of the slighter Go-Betweens albums, their second reunion album. This song flew under my radar until I saw them play it live on what became their final tour of the US. It was at the Triple Door here in Seattle. Forster counted it off tapping his boot against the stage floor. The jangling warmness filled the room and this song just bloomed. This recorded version doesn’t quite reach those heights I experienced seeing it performed live that night, but it is close. A shame they buried at the end of Bright Yellow Bright Orange.

9. Warm Nights (Robert Forster – Warm Nights -1996)
I remember when Warm Nights came out and how disappointed many were about it. After all, it was a Robert Forster album produced by Edwyn Collins. It had to be good. I guess we were expecting something else. Hindsight provides some clarity thankfully. The slight country tinge is something Forster has explored a lot on his solo records and that is present here, but there is also Television-esque guitar that gives this song a different feel than much of his catalog. His previous record was an all covers album titled I Had a New York Girlfriend, but this is his most New York sounding song he ever wrote.

8. Dear Black Dream (Robert Forster – Danger In the Past -1990)
Dear Black Dream comes from Forster’s first solo album. After the breakup of the Go-Betweens he went to Germany and recorded it with Mick Harvey of the the Bad Seeds. It was well known that Forster was the one who often struggled with writers block while McLennan seems to have an endless supply of songs. So it was kind of surprising that Danger In the Past bettered McLennan’s Watershed. Dear Black Dream has a gospel feel to it, like he’s elated to have come out of the murk of being in the under appreciated Go-Betweens and the idea of wide open roads ahead brought excitement and hope to his song writing.

7. Surfing Magazines (Go-Betweens – Friends of Rachel Worth -2000)
This song comes from the Go-Betweens’s first album after reuniting after 12 years apart and four solo albums. Surfing Magazines successfully unites the whimsy of adolescent dreams of being a surf bum and dropping off of the grid with becoming an adult and the knowledge that those were just dreams. You get the feeling from the song’s poignancy that he thinks he should have really been a surfer, or at least still wonders what might have been.

6. Spring Rain (Go-Betweens – Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express -1986)
McLennan and Forester both had distinct styles, but every once in a while they would write a song that sounded like the other one. Spring Rain had a killer hook and beautiful guitar solo that gave you the feeling that the two were living closely together. This was written after they’d moved to London from Brisbane so they probably were.

5. The Circle (Robert Forster Calling from a Country Phone -1993)
Forster’s second album is his best one and unfortunately the only one that was never released in the US. Go figure, the curse of the Go-Betweens continues I guess. The Circle married the pop smarts of the Go-Betweens with country twang and charm. He seems like he’s having fun, like he did when he sang odes to Lee Remick and Karen.

4. People Say (Go-Betweens second 7″ single -1979)
In the liner notes of the Go-Betweens best of 1978-1990, Forster said that, “Sometimes I think this is the best song I’ve ever written.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s got a great old time organ throughout and the line “The clouds lie on their backs, rain on everyone, But you always stay dry, You got your own private own sun” which is a classic. Not bad for the second single out of the gate.

3. Darlinghurst Nights (Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart -2005)
If under duress and I had to pick a favorite Go-Betweens album, I might pick their final album Oceans Apart. That is due to the number of high quality Forster songs on it. The best one is Darlinghurst Nights, which is a tour through the past that begins with an acoustic guitar and Forster opening a notebook and progresses into a frenzy of horns while people and places streak by. It’s a glimpse of the past that like all great songs, provides more questions than answers.

2. Lee Remick (Go-Betweens first 7″ single -1978)
Forster wrote both sides of the first Go-Betweens single. This was the A-side. A Two and a half minute ode to a screen jem of the past. “She was in The Omen with Gregory Peck, She got killed, what the heck?!” Not taking himself too seriously, and not knowing that he had a written a classic song at his first go. The song that launched a thousand indiepop groups.

1. Draining The Pool For You (Go-Betweens – Spring Hill Fair -1984)
Forster as the pool boy. Not for long, because he knows that he’s too smart for this kind of gig. Of course it’s analogy for many of life’s unfair predicaments. Here Forster takes the mundane experience of pool cleaning and makes it into an ode of contempt. He’s draining the pool, but not the way you think. He’s got a chip on his shoulder, knowing that these Hollywood stars could just as easily be draining the pool for him.

The Old Masters Still Have It

Old, but not in the way

In his song Nothing on My Mind, Paul Kelly (53) said, “I never did one damn good thing ’til I was over thirty.” Well, everyone in this post is well over thirty and doing some pretty damn good things. Dedicated to the old guys that have still got it, believe it or not there are a few of us still around. Maybe I’ve taken notice of these older guys because I just had a birthday and I’m feeling mortal (unlike when I was in my 20’s and was immortal), but it seems like there are a number of artists, as they have aged have remained relevant and engaging with their music.

Wire (Colin Newman: 54,Graham Lewis: 55,Bruce Gilbert: 61,Robert Gotobed:57) comes to mind, these guys are all pushing 60 and are making music that is nearly as good as what they made in their 20’s and just as good as what they made in their 30’s. If you didn’t pick up Read & Burn 3 last year it’s well worth it, 23 Years Too Late from that ep was my favorite song of last year. The band will be releasing their 11th album on 7 July, it’s called Object 47, because it’s the 47th record in their discography, of course.

Mark E. Smith (50) is another of these guys that just keep ticking, the guy just does not let up. He’s got a new Fall album and an autobiography to boot. The new Fall album is called Imperial Wax Solvent and it’s out next week. He’s got a new set of musicians (surprise), as the Americans who backed him on Reformation Post TLC are gone. I don’t think they were sacked, they just had other things going on, as in their own band. Imperial Wax Solvent is decent as far as Fall albums go, but it looks like the real entertainment lies in MES’s autobiography. The Guardian published an article of excerpts that had me laughing out loud more than a few times. Here’s his take on foodies:

It’s a strange phenomenon, people discussing their lunches. Kids used to do that at school. But now I’ll get on the bus, or I’ll be sat in the pub, and all I can hear is people discussing the contents of their guts or the meal that they’ve got in their heads: “I had some nice tomato sauce last night with chips.” I don’t know why they’re telling you this.

mp3: The Fall – Wolf Kidult Man (from Imperial Wax Solvent)

Excerpts from the autobiography: Guardian Article (Extracted from Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith)

The next gentleman is Robert Forster (50) who I recently wrote about so I won’t go into much detail about his new record. Except to say that it’s out next week on Yep Rock. I came across this really good article written by, non other than the man himself. In it he goes into depth about the creative process he and Grant McLennan had fallen into at the start of writing songs for the next Go-Betweens album, how it drastically changed and how the solo album came about.

The Times article: Former Go-Between Robert Forster pays tribute to his mate with Evangelist

Another older gentleman Jarvis Cocker, (44) has recently said he’s gonna have another record out by the end of the year. Apparently he’s got a few songs written. I’m guessing he’s gonna have Richard Hawley (40) on it again, but only time will tell. In the meantime you can check out this video of one of the new songs

Video: Jarvis Cocker – Girls Like It Too (live in Argentina)

Edwyn Collins (48.) has been recovering from a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered back in 2005. Last year he put out his sixth solo album, Home Again which was recorded before the hemorrhage. He’s back to the point where he can play live again, and from the reviews I’ve seen he’s quite capable. Roddy Frame (44) of Aztec Camera has been accompanying him, which makes these shows even more enticing. The Vinyl Villain has an excellent review of a recent gig in Edinburgh. I’m resigned to the fact that Edwyn will not likely cross the Atlantic again to play, but reading this review makes me want to splurge on a plane ticket. Here are the rest of dates for you lucky people in L’Angleterre.

04-24 Newcastle, England – Northumbria University
04-25 Manchester, England – Manchester University
04-26 Leeds, England – The Cockpit
04-29 London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire

The last bunch of old guys are Sloan (Chris: 39, Andrew: 40, Patrick: 38, Jay: 39), who surprised a lot of people recently by announcing the release of their brand new record Parallel Play. I thought that their last one, which contained no less than 30 songs, might have cleared the vaults, but that is not the case. The new record is shorter, but from the sounds of it just as good ans Never Hear the End of it. Since everyone in the band writes songs, they split it up pretty evenly here, everyone contributes 3 with the exception of overachiever Andrew who has 4. He’s the oldest, so that’s probably why he got the most.

mp3: Sloan – I’m Not a Kid Anymore (from Parallel Play and quite appropriate for this post)

buy: Sloan – Parallel Play

Alone Again Or

Robert Forster as the Evangelist
Go-Between, Robert Forster is back with his fifth solo album, though not by choice. He and Grant McLennan were working on the follow up to the Go-Between’s Oceans Apart when McLennan suddenly and shockingly died in his sleep. I still remember the last time I saw the Go-Betweens, they were touring for Ocean’s Apart and stopped in Seattle for a beautiful show at the Triple Door. They were both so alive with their band, Grant and Robert on guitar, Adele Pickvance on bass and Glenn Thompson on drums. They sounded so good. Mixing new songs with the old just made me buzz with anticipation of what these guys were still capable of next. It is so rare for a band that gets back together after breaking up ever getting close to past glories. Well I would argue that the Go-betweens met them and surpassed a lot of those old glories.

Thankfully Robert Forster has seen fit to carry on without his other half, because it sounded like he wasn’t sure he was going to carry on with music. His doubts were allayed when apparently the record just came together over the summer, it sounds like it was kind of a meant to be thing. It’s called The Evangelist and contains three song he wrote with the late McLennan. He also has his former Go-betweens Pickvance and Thompson back as his rhythm section and he’s even employed Mark Wallis and Dave Ruffy (who produced Oceans Apart), for production duties. The record itself is not a far cry from Oceans Apart. It starts out with some organ leading into a surfy guitar riff that makes you feel like you’re on the beach at sunset. I thought Forster wrote some of the best songs on Oceans Apart, he seemed to have hit a vein of gold in his writing. The new album shows he’s still mining that vein, even incorporating some country influence that was so prevalent on his his early solo albums. There are also some beautiful string arrangements courtesy of Audrey Riley as well as lovely female backing vocals evident in the haunting last song From Ghost Town. This is indeed a Robert Forster solo record and easily rivals Calling from a Country Phone (my favorite of his solo records), but the ghost of his songwriting partner emanates throughout it, in the lyrics, the guitar and just how when you hear a Forster song, you expect to hear a McLennan on right after. I for one am grateful that he decided to carry on without his friend and give us this ‘solo’ album.

mp3: Robert Forster – Pandanus (from The Evangelist)

buy: Robert Forster – Evangelist (pre-order, out 29 April)

A few more from Forster’s other solo albums:

mp3: Robert Forster – Dear Black Dream (from Danger in the Past)

mp3: Robert Forster – The Circle ( from Calling from a Country Phone)

mp3: Robert Forster – 2541 (from I Had a New York Girlfriend) a Grant Hart cover