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: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Alpaca Sports, Alvvays, Butter the Children, Chook Race, Clap! Clap!, Cold Beat, Ex Hex, Flowers, Gotobeds, Gwenno, Hollie Cook, Hookworms, Lauras, Nun, Omi Palone, Paperhead, Peter Escott, Pheromoans, Pow!, Primitives, Proper Ornaments, Protomartyr, Quilt, Ramona Lisa, Rat Columns, Sea Pinks, Skygreen Leopards, Sleaford Mods, Small Reactions, Soundcarriers, Sugar Stems, Talbot Adams, Tee-Tahs, Total Control, Ty Segall, Ultimate Painting, Univers, Vertical Scratchers, Vic Goddard, Woodentops
Here are the non-Seattle albums that spun the most in my rabbit hole over the past 12 months. The countdown starts with number 40, so you will have to scroll all the way down to find number one. For the first time I think, it contains some albums that did not see a physical release. With more and more music being exclusively released to air conditioned server farms I wonder if we’ll see a day when the minority of the list is made of records that had the privilege of getting a physical release? Most folks with all of their fancy means of consuming streams of music call that progress. Me, I just try to roll with it.
40. Cold Beat – Over Me (Crime On the Moon)
Truth be told, I like Cold Beat more than Hanna Lew’s previous band Grass Widow. The post-punk vibes on Over Me are just the right mix of early Dum Dum and Vivian Girls melodies and the spiky, jangly playfulness of Wire and Tubeway Army. High points like the stellar Mirror hit the ungodly sweet spot of driving beat, dissonance, and melody.
39. Hookworms – The Hum (Domino)
My main complaint with the Hum is that it’s nearly a carbon copy of last year’s number one album Pearl Mystic. The same interludes that have roman numerals for titles and it even contains last year’s number one single Radio Tokyo. That complaint is also why I still love this album. It’s nothing new, but it’s totally solid.
38. Skygreen Leopards – Family Crimes (Woodsist)
It’s hard to believe that Skygreen Leopards have been a band since 2001 and that this is their eighth album. The band have been quietly churning out wonderful psychedelic beauties inspired by Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds and the Television Personalities for quite a long whild. This may be their most accomplished record to date, and if you like this, there is a treasure trove of Skygreen Leopards to discover.
37. Small Reactions – Similar Phantoms (Self-released)
Another self-released record in this year’s count down. I have a feeling in another year of two the list will be a majority of self-releases. Atlanta’s Small Reactions conjure krautrock from the below the Mason Dixon line. Influenced by Can, Stereolab and probably the Wedding Present, which makes them strangers in a strange land. Similar Phantoms is the real deal with some amazing bass playing (I’m still in awe that it’s not machine). Tons of pulses and killer grooves that will vibrate and rattle your too comfortable existence.
36. Pheromoans – Hearts of Gold (Upset the Rhythm)
If you were to judge this album by its cover you might think that Pheromoans are an odd lot who are into druids, fantasy game-play and general weirdness. You would be mostly right. This equally prolific and obscure band have released their most consistently entertaining album yet, knowing how to keep things interesting with just the right amount of weirdness and melody.
35. Ramona Lisa – Arcadia (Terrible)
Ramona Lisa is solo nom de guerre of Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. Obviously influenced by Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins and Goldfrappe, but still able to make esoteric synthetic sounds in a mold all of her own. This record seemed to get written off as just a minor solo excursion by most, but it delighted me throughout the year and I have a feeling it will continue to do so for a long time to come.
34. Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge)
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen this record in the used bins around time. Every time I see it I fight the urge to buy it again and gift it to someone. John Schmersal was in Brainac and Enon and you can hear those bands in Vertical Scratchers, but it’s the organic feel to it that harks back to the Elephant Six collective of the 90’s that really makes it endearing.
33. Rat Columns – Leaf (RIP Society)
Rat columns achieve a zen like balance of murky depths and pristine shimmery pop. Guitars glisten with rays of light over a cold dark expanse. Rat king David West likes to straddle the extremes the way that the Church and the Cure always did. Recorded with the help of Kelley Stoltz, Leaf is just the right elixir of light and dark.
32. Alpaca Sports – Sealed With a Kiss (Luxury)
Sweden’s Alpaca Sports is most definitely twee, but their brand of twee is almost subversive. So cute and cuddly that you know that they have a dark side. They probably hide their death metal records when friends come over. Sealed With a Kiss is a record that could melt a cold dark heart with its sweet sugar charms. You can always hide it when your metal friends come over to visit.
31. The Lauras – The Lauras (Self-released)
There’s something both so right and so wrong about giving away an album this good for free. Wrong, because there was a time when bands this good could sell records. Right, because well, music this good for free is like free beer. You can’t believe your luck. Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Laura’s would not have been out of place on the One Last Kiss compilation that came out on SpinArt in 1992. Their swirling guitars and ethereal vocals remind me of the Lilys and the Swirlies with a bit of bossa nova thrown in for good measure.
30. Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)
My main complaint about der wunderkind Ty Segall has been his inability to be consistent. He seems to have conquered this weakness on his double LP Manipulator. Taking a T-Rex blueprint and running with it he strings together 17 songs that maintain consistency throughout. The kid may have finally done it.
29. Pow! – High Tech Boom (Castle Face)
Hi Tech Boom is a commentary on the current state of affairs in certain desirable cities. Techie nerds with their high salaries and bad taste are infiltrating the system and making it nearly impossible to eke out a living. No one knows that better than Pow! who come from the San Francisco bay area. Their post-apocalyptic vibes are akin of Devo the A-Frames and the Intelligence. And you thought Logan’s Run was just a movie.
28. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
Recorded with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler this London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.
27. Talbot Adams – Talbot Adams (Spacecase)
For all intents and purposes, this was Talbot Adams’ debut album. Last year’s download only album was made up mostly of acoustic self-produced home recordings was a self released download only record. Now he has a proper band and has delivered an electric powerpop record with a psychedelic streak to it.
26. Univers – L’estat Natural (Famelic)
Barcelona based moody rockers Univers live in the sun, but sound like the moody cellar dwelling southern cousins of Girls Names, early Cure and Big Country. L’estate Natural is sung in their native Catalan, adding a bit of mystery to its onslaught of soaring and darting guitars.
25. Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)
Mary Timony has been in her share of good bands. She could proudly retire with her resume of Autoclave, Helium, the Spells, and Wild Flag. Thankfully she’s not ready to hang up her axe. Ex Hex is in different league from all of those bands. Slick pop inspired by Cheap Trick and the Pretenders that is all killer and absolutely no filler.
24. Sugarstems – Only Come Out at Night (Dirtnap)
Sugar Stems singer Betsy Heibler has an amazingly strong voice. It easily cuts through her band’s twin guitar powerpop attack. Containing a great mix of Cheap Trick, the Bangles, the Nerves, this is easily one of the best powerpop records of the past few years.
23. Vic Goddard – 1979 Now! (AED)
Somehow Vic Goddard has been hoarding this treasure trove of northern soul since 1979. The guy can really keep a secret. A few have leaked out here and there like Holiday Hymn, but the majority are brand new to nearly everyone. Classic stuff 35 years later from the postman who thankfully rings twice!
22. Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)
The third album from Nashville’s Paperhead has a definite antique glow to it. Africa sees the band maturing quickly and features their best songs yet. In the garage-psych realm of things (Face to Face era Kinks and Rubber Soul Beatles) it don’t get much better than this.
21. Butter the Children – True Crime (Self-released)
Former members of Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs follow up their 2012 self-titled EP with a stormy noisepop beauty that features the siren-like vocals of Inna Mkrtycheva. This album is too good to be a free download, but that’s what it is. Everyone count your chickens!
20. Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks (CF)
On the fourth Sea Pinks album former Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan continues his west coast jangling affectations only this time he adds a cello into the mix with superb results. The cello adds a melancholy element to his airy songs making for the best Sea Pinks album yet.
19. Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head (Slumberland) / Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting (Trouble In Mind)
Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare was a busy guy this year and there wasn’t even a new Veronica Falls album. He was at the center of two excellent records this year nonetheless, both of which shared an affinity with the Velvet Underground. For the first act, he teamed up with the Argentinian Max Claps in Proper Ornaments for a haunting set of songs that added in some Left Banke for good measure. Act two was Ultimate Painting, his collaboration with the Mazes’ Jack Cooper. This one was more straightforward Velvets stuff, but great songwriting refurbished a tried and true model.
18. Quilt – Held In Splendor (Mexican Summer)
The Boston band’s second album surpasses their good debut with a batch of psychedelic circle dances that sparkle and shimmer, effortlessly creating their own brand of psych with one foot in the past and other in the next star system.
17. Omi Palone – Ome Palone (Faux Discx)
The singer of Omi Palone has a baritone voice that makes you wonder what Calvin Johnson is up to these days. It’s a little more polished than that Olympia band’s oeuvre, but contains many of the same unique melodic twists and turns. This London band have quietly released a concise and economical (it’s only 8 songs) of blistering jangle reminiscent of Beat Happening, Butterglory and the Clean.
16. Nun – Nun (Aarght!/Avanti)
Melbourne’s Nun play dark, piercing, icy coldwave inspired music. Their debut album sounds so cold and detached that you’ll need to bundle up and experience it with friends to withstand its isolation inducing aura.
15. Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)
I love how Nottingham’s Soundcarriers use their Free Design influence as inspiration. At times sounding as innocent as that late 60’s / early 70’s cult band and others they can sound sinister and mysterious. They even enlist the help of Elijah Wood on a 12 minute trippy soliloquy to add to the surrealism of the entire endeavor.
14. Chook Race – About Time (Self-released)
About Time was only released in December, but the debut record from this Melbourne trio is so immediate it easily climbed into the upper reaches of my top 40. The album is filled with boy-girl harmonies and jangling guitars that have similarities with the Bats and early REM.
13. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
This was the year that Sleaford Mods blew up. Well, at least in certain internet circles. They are certainly better known than they’ve ever been. Their distinctly British style of rap is not for the faint of heart, as this duo rages against the ruling class machine and mainstream bullshit over spare and ragged beats. No one else this year sounded this angry nor delivered their angst in such a manic and entertaining way.
12. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Lefse)
A Sunny Day in Glasgow turned a major page on Sea When Absent. Previously they were a mild mannered shoegaze band that kind of floated through you with little effect. They’ve kept their shoegaze roots, but morphed into a bigger life affirming pop band that demands attention with their new form of shoegaze gospel.
11. Peter Escott – The Long O (Bedroom Suck)
Peter Escott is also the singer of the Native Cats from Tasmania. On the Long Glow Escott wrote, played and rececorded everything. He sticks to piano and other keyboard oriented sounds that evoke an understated psychedelic tone that warms the sole and fits comfortably next to Frank Tovey, the Cleaners from Venus and Robyn Hitchcock.
10. Woodentops – Granular Tales (Cherry Red)
After reuniting to play some shows the Woodentops finally decided to record a follow up to their 1988 album Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway. You know it’s the Woodentops as soon as you hit play, though the band don’t come off as hyper as they did 25 years ago which wouldn’t make sense since it’s been so long. It’s decidedly darker but still danceable and utterly delightful.
8. Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf (Peski)
Former Pippette Gwenno’s first solo album is a strictly Welsh affair. Inspired by Welsh sci-fi writer Owain Owain and sung in Welsh, Y Dydd Olaf is a sublime affair with rubbery beats, ethereal vocals and spacey vibes in the vein of Broadcast and Stereolab.
7. Total Control – Typical System (Iron Lung)
On the follow-up to 2011’s Henge Beat Total Control dial up a slightly more sedate and accomplished collage of synth-based pop. Lead by Australian garage rock luminary Mickey Young, the band delve into Ideal Copy era Wire, New Order and Depeche Mode territory while keeping their punk rock urgency and attitude intact which is truly a feat.
9. Alvvays – Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
This year’s countdown contains five self-released albums. There’s a ton of great records out there, only there aren’t enough labels to release them. Apparently this record came out as a self-released cassette over a year ago because they couldn’t find a label to release it. Polyvinyl finally came through to make this dreampop beauty available to the world at large.
6. Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)
Tayi Bebba is something of a concept album where Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci takes you on a megatransecto of an island’s micro climates, villages, pastures and other not so physical planes. He uses a palette of sounds culled from field recordings, tribal rhythms, creek crossings, big beats, jungle vibes and trade winds to paint quite an adventure of a record.
5. Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting (12xU)
Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds like a good double entendre peppered with a tight jagged riff. Their debut album, is an elixir inspired by Pavement, the Fall and Wire (obviously) and packed full of adolescent energy, anger, spite and most importantly fun.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (elefant)
A couple years ago Coventry’s Primitives reunited and released a covers album to mixed reviews. It turns out that it was just a warm up to the real goods. Spin-O-Rama surpasses all of their early work. It’s slightly more understated, but more long-lasting. They still deal in autumnal and sprightly 60’s inspired pop but the production is more sedated and the hooks are longer lasting this time.
3. Hollie Cook – Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Hollie Cook’s second album is more tropical pop from the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. Her collaboration with Prince Fatty continues to produce sensual reggae infused pop, filled with strings and Cook’s easy croon. Twice is great batch of songs including her ode to her former bandmate Slits singer Ari Up.
2. Tee-Tahs – Buzzkill (self-released)
I don’t know what the legal limit of fun is in Edmunton, Alberta is, but Tee-Tahs have undoubtedly exceeded it on their debut album. This band doles out kinetic, irreverent fun. They’ve got an ear for a good chorus and can role phrases that are guaranteed to rile certain segments of the population. On Fun Forever they sing, “Kicking cans and breaking stuff, Fucking guys in parking lots, I don’t really give a fuck, I just wanna have fun forever.” It’s the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks updated by a bunch of Rat Babes for the millennial bunch.
1. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)
Earlier this year Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey wrote a review of the latest Interpol album because apparently a lot of people think his band sound like them. For the record, Casey doesn’t think they sound like Interpol and neither do I. They definitely have some post-punk roots, though more along the lines of the Chameleons (think Return of the Roughnecks), but there’s more, so much more here! Casey is one of today’s best lyricists who talks more than sings over his always solid and inventive band. They cook their Detroit roots into each of the tracks on Under Color of Official Right. The name of the album, the legal term for extortion, was inspired by the corruption trial of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. There are few albums these days that make you actually think. Protomartyr do what the best punk and and postpunk records from the past have done, grab you with their hooks and then send you to the library to do some research.
Tags: Cheveu, Cold Beat, Klaus Johann Grobe, Lunchbox, Nun, Parquet Courts, Sleaford Mods, Slushy, Soundcarries, Vertical Scratchers
Welcome to day two of the second annual Finest Kiss midyear record round up. You are nearly in the middle of the middle of it. It’s like the eye of the storm, isn’t it? Records in a vortex flying around you as you try to reach and grab a few. It should be easier from here on out, because here are ten more excellent records to put your paws on.
Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
Last year this Nottingham duo released the jaw dropping Austerity Dogs album. It was jaw dropping, combining bleakness, humor, profanity and beats to create a rampaging, take no prisoners record. Part John Cooper Clark, Dr. Ocatagon and the Fall the latest Sleaford Mods keeps the boot to the throat with Divide and Exit. Half the time I have no idea what Jason Williamson is going off about, but inevitably he leaves enough bread crumbs on the trail for me to get it, and then it hits like a ton of bricks.
stream: Sleaford Mods – Under the Plastic and N.C.T.
Lunchbox – Lunchbox Loves You (Jigsaw)
Oakland, California’s Lunchbox fluctuate between calling themselves Birds of California and Lunchbox. Who cares what they call themselves when they make records this good. Lunchbox Loves You is full of sugary pop that is guaranteed to put a skip in your step. They hit a number of classic 90’s indiepop reference points including Stereolab, Apples in Stereo, Rocketship and Sprites while sounding still sounding fresh and new.
stream: Lunchbox – Die Trying
Cold Beat – Over Me (Crime On the Moon)
With Grass Widow on ice, bassist Hanna Lew started Cold Beat and since Lew sings and plays bass in both bands Cold Beat has similarities to Grass Widow. But where Grass Widow had a folksier sound, Cold Beat look to the more austere sounds of punk and post punk luminaries like Wire, Tubeway Army and Devo for inspiration.
stream: Cold Beat – Mirror
Cheveu – Bum (Born Bad)
There’s no getting around the fact that this is a weird album. So if you don’t like weird keep scrolling. If you do appreciate the absurd and catchy then these French tricksters may be right up your ruelle. Burn is full of prog-y art school rock that is hard to ignore.
stream: Cheveu – Slap and Shot
Slushy – Pastime Gardens (Grabbing Clouds)
Chicago duo Slushy make fuzzy lighthearted pop in the vein of the Bay City Rollers and early Pooh Sticks and Pop Will Eat Itself. Pastime Gardens is packed full of two minute pop songs that are full unbridled enthusiasm and are certified to provide a good time in any situation.
stream: Slushy – Good Luck Charm
The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)
The Soundcarriers mine similar earth as Broadcast and Stereolab. Entropicalia, their second album, is full of space age grooves and psychedelic meanderings. Part spy movie soundtrack, part Free Design tribute and part deep space exploration. All good.
stream: Soundcarries – Low Light
Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge)
Although this album came out major indie Merge, I feel like it flew under the radar of almost everyone. Vertical Scratchers is the brainchild of John Schmersal who was in Brainac and Enon. The album is chalk full of fractured pop that is part Elephant 6 Collective, Cheap Trick and the Kinks. Killer stuff that deserves more attention.
stream: Vertical Scratchers – Pretend U Are Free
Klaus Johann Grobe – Im Sinne der Zeit (Trouble In Mind)
This Swiss duo combine disco, kraut and prog to come with a ton of fun. This is viscous stuff that sticks in your brain even if you don’t understand the lyrics. The lucid spacey production sounds like they’ve been listening to Peter Thomas and Bertrand Burgalat records.
stream: Klaus Johann Grobe – Between the Buttons
Nun – Nun (Aarght!/Avant!)
Total Control seems to get all the attention for being the Australian punks gone coldwave, but Melbourne’s Nun do piercing, dark and synthy just as well and maybe better. Their debut album sounds so authentic that you will be check to see if it’s a reissue of some lost first generation coldwave band.
stream: Nun – Suppress Electricity
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animals (What’s Your Rupture?)
I was prepared not to like this album after last year’s pretty average stopgap EP Tally All the Things That You Broke but they won me over by not repeating themselves. Sunbathing Animal pulls back a little bit and lets some space in to positive effect. Everyone compares them to Television and Pavement, but on this album I hear Spoon in their use of space and percussion and that makes this second Parquet Courts just as good but slightly different from their first one.
stream: Parquet Courts – Always Back In Town
Tags: Beaches, Blouse, Cate Le Bon, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Day Ravies, Dick Diver, Dirtbombs, Dream Boys, Eat Lights Become Lights, Frowning Clouds, Girls Names, Heavey Times, Hookworms, Jacco Gardner, Joanna Gruesome, Ketamines, King Krule, La Femme, Lady, Minks, Ooga Boogas, Outfit, Prophet Hens, Robyn Hitchcock, Sleaford Mods, The Courtneys, The Limiñanas, The Mantles, The Sleaze, The Stevens, Vision Fortune, Warm Soda, Wax Idols
Usually I save the albums list for last, but in an attempt to actually publish my year end list of albums before the end of the year I’ve opted to kick off the Finest Kiss list season with my favorite records of the year. At first glance, my year end list looks like it might be a Slumberland vs. Chapter Music slug fest as both of those labels put out some of my favorite records of the year. Certainly they would tie for the best label ballot.
Hopefully there are a few records in here that you agree with, one or two that you might not have heard and I’m sure there are some you will disagree with. That’s the fun of list making, putting it out there so others can scoff at your taste in music. In the next week or two I hope to publish my list of the best Seattle records of the year and my annual top 40 7-inch countdown.
30. Minks – Tides End (Captured Tracks)
The Minks second album is part Depeche Mode and part New Order which surprisingly seemed to miss getting much attention this year. Guitars and synths are employed with a strict adherence to writing super catchy songs that are lighthearted fun. Cynics will cry that it’s derivative, but they’re a bunch of bores that want all their music to sound important. Sometimes it’s just supposed to be fun.
stream: Minks – Doomed and Cool
29. The Limiñanas – Costa Blanca (Trouble In Mind)
The Limiñanas are not quite classic french pop. More like classic french pop through a haze of hashish wafting from a dark room filled with strange characters smoking from hookahs. Their third record sees them expanding their Velvet Underground sound onto other shores of their Mediterranean local further honing their unique blistered white out sound.
stream: The Limiñanas – My Black Sabath
28. The Stevens – A History of Hygiene (Chapter Music)
What would happen if the Clean met Guided by Voices in a dark garage or a deserted beach? They would leave as the Stevens of course. After self-releasing an EP last year that had many folks excited the Melbourne band return with their debut opus of 24 songs that barely last minute each. Each one is miniature pop masterpiece that will have you shaking your head at how easy they make it look.
stream: The Stevens – Hindsight
27. Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
Northern Ireland’s Girls Names have taken dark era Cure and added some early Railway Children and Echo and the Bunnymen and come up with a potent hypnotic concoction for their second album. This has been my go-to record when the need comes to escape the realities of life and zone out into the horizon. I think some might call it a lifesaving record for that reason.
stream: Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression
26. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum (Wichita / Turnstile)
For her third album Cate Le Bon picked up and moved to Southern California, but I don’t think that the change in geography has altered her bohemian prog psychedlia. She still sounds like she could have been the kid sister of Kevin Ayres, but where Ayres often lost the plot Le Bon has a very good idea of where she’s going and Mug Museum is a trip worth taking.
stream: Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You
25. Warm Soda – Someone For You (Castle Face)
We knew that Mathew Melton was capable of pop goodness from his previous band Bare Wires, but Warm Soda sees him honing his powers to killer effect. Some For You is like the Raspberries mixed with Teenage Fanclub and King Tuff. The hits keep coming and coming on this record.
stream: Warm Soda – Jeannie Loves Pop
24. Beaches – She Beats (Chapter Music)
Invariably a band that likes to lock into hypnotic psych rock grooves is full of older dudes with beards, but Beaches is the exception to this unwritten rule. This groop of five women deftly lay down the grooves that will make lesser bands wanting to shave their beards and take up religion. Many of the songs on this record don’t hit you immediately but I found myself pulled back into repeatedly listenings by an almost supernatural hypnotic pull.
stream: Beaches – Dune
23. The Sleaze – The Sleaze (Total Punk)
I have no idea if the Sleaze are broken up or not. Some reports said this was a posthumous release and then they turned up at SXSW and played a bunch of shows. Punks are so irreverent and like to keep you guessing by not playing the game. This record is white hot and it wouldn’t surprise me if the band flamed out making it. Somehow keeping a flame this bright burning for any length of time is near impossible, but thankfully they new when to bottle it.
stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls
22. The Courtneys – The Courtneys (Hockey Dad)
The Courtneys brand of DIY pop takes a little from bubblegum, punk and powerpop to make a completely likeable debut record. Not taking themselves too seriously they write odes to Keanu Reeves, 90210 and being poor. A record with a knack for hitting you in the funny bone and the pop jugular at the same time.
stream: The Courtneys – K.C. Reeves
21. Wax Idols – Discipline and Desire (Slumberland)
The UK music hype machine ain’t what it used to be, but it still can rally to pull the whites over our eyes from time to time. This year all the talk about post punk strong woman rock centered around the underwhelming Savages while San Francisco’s Wax Idols quietly put out the better record. Discipline and Desire evokes the roar of the Sound, Comsat Angels and the Chameleons while at the same time not really sounding like any of them. A powerful amazing album that in years to come will probably take on the same reverent status as From the Lion’s Mouth, Waiting for a Miracle, and Strange Times.
stream: Wax Idols – AD RE: IAN
20.5 Frowning Clouds – Whereabouts (Anti Fade)
The Frowning Clouds could be the Mantles cousins from down under. They add a little more Kinks intensity to their sound and come up with a winner. Whereabouts is their second album and they’ve got a batch of great harmonies and riffs that continue on the upward trajectory set by their first album. Keep your eyes on this Melbourne band.
stream: Frowning Clouds – Shoe Suede Blues
20.0 The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)
The Mantles sound harks back to a to the 60′s and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. I had a feeling that their second album was going to be something special when I heard the Kelley Stoltz would be producing it. His production makes the lines cleaner and bends the light just right on this batch of dusty canyon pop.
stream: The Mantles – Marbled Birds
19.5 Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living (Great Pop Supplement/Rocket Girl)
Every now and then I like to put on a record that makes me feel like I am floating in space. Ladies and gentlemen, this record creates zero gravity with its motorik grooves that you will put it on repeat to avoid re-entry.
stream: Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living
19.0 Cavern of Anti-Matter – Blood-Drums (Grautag)
Tim Gane, who was one of the masterminds behind Stereolab, has kept a fairly low profile since Stereolab called it quits. Cavern of Anti-Matter is his new band and they not surprisingly lean in a motorik direction and seem to be heavily influenced by Neu. Some would say that it borders on a tribute record but these instrumentals pulse so easily into your conscious you can tell the Gane has found a new lease on life making this record.
stream: Cavern of Anit-Matter – Irridated Dream Mouth
18.5 Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
This is the second best psych pop record to come out this year. Gardner is young and loves Syd Barret but he plays it pretty straight. Cabinet of Curiosities sounds great, but I often got the feeling that Gardner wasn’t weird enough. He sounds like he likes weird, but it felt like he was playing a part. Hopefully time will pass and his eccentricites will grow to enhance his already sharp psych pop senses.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
18. Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (YepRoc)
Love from London is the best psych pop record to come out this year. The only problem is that rock is not an older fellow’s game, so Hitchcock mostly got fair to middling reviews for this album because he’s not new, but let me restate, this was the best psych pop record to come out this year, or last year for that matter.
stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Strawberries Dress
17. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther Sounds)
Leave it to a 19 year old kid from the UK to make a record that sounded like nothing else this year. Krule or Archy as his mother calls him, works from a rough pallet of jazz, punk, funk, dub and trip hop to come up with a batch of pop songs that he sung over with his thick south London accent.
stream: King Krule – Border Line
16. Sleaford Mods – Austerity Lads (Harbinger Sound)
Sleaford Mods have inherited the brilliance of John Cooper Clark, Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder. This record is not for the faint of heart with expletives strewn about like cigarette butts in the airport smoking lounge. There are so many killer beats and and lines on this record I feel like I need to listen to it about 50 more times to really get it. Watch your back though, these hoodlums from the gutter will steal the shirt off your back if they think it looks good.
stream: Sleaford Mods – The Wage Don’t Fit
15. Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)
Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but Heavy Times are not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills or the Bats too and let it fly.
stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse
14. Blouse – Imperium (Captured Tracks)
Portland’s blouse thankfully decided a change was in order for their second album Imperium. They changed from an average synthpop band to a brilliant guitar pop band. Imperium employs narcotic guitars and ethereal vocals with devastatingly effective results. Who knew that inheritors of the Cocteau Twins, Julie Cruise, Broadcast and Wendy and Bonnie trophies would turn up in stumptown?
stream: Blouse – Eyesight
13. Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters (Southpaw)
Canada’s Ketamines come from a garage rock background, but on You Can’t Serve Two Masters they shed many of the garage rock pretenses and go the quirky power pop route. The sound is cleaner and lyrics are pointed and since the sound is cleaner the vocal melodies shine brighter. It’s deft move and shows you what a brilliant band the Ketamines are.
stream: Ketamines – Don’t Stop
12. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)
On Calendar Days, Dick Diver combine the melancholy melody of the Go-Betweens and the comfortable familiarity of the Lucksmiths and the dustiness of the Triffids. It’s a classic Australian born album that evokes its sense of place, while speaking in the universal pop tongue so you can enjoy it no matter what continent you reside on.
stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt
11. Outfit – Performance (Double Denim)
Liverpool’s Outfit offer up the best record in synthpop since Hot Chip’s The Warning or Metronomy’s The English Riviera. The blips and electronic crackle from the grooves of this record with a cold disaffection reminiscent of the Notwist, but Outfit warm up the electronic pathways with a strong sense of melody. That combination of warm and cold gives this record its staying power.
stream: Outfit – Thank God I Was Dreaming
10. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister (Slumberland)
Joanna Gruesome are sugar coated spazzy noisepop with a soft side and a goofy name. Part Veronica Falls, part Los Campesinos and likely some Boyracer hidden there as well. This record undoubtedly had a guaranteed niche audience, but what was surprising was that seemed to have broken through the niche barrier when they came over to play at CMJ in New York. The recognition was justifiable, and if they decided to actually do a tour beyond a few US cities I could see their brand of skewed pop connecting even more. Bonus points for coming up with the best lyric of the year: “Bah, Bah, Bah, my head explodes.”
stream: Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush
9. Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! (In the Red)
How do you follow up your tribute album to Detroit techno? If you’re the Dirtbombs you deliver your long threatened bubble gum rock tribute record. Since it’s the Dirtbombs, it’s a unique take on that genre that employs two drummers and leader Mick Collins’ gravely delivery. Collins is well known for incorporating a myriad of influences into the Dirtbombs sound. We knew he had some unadulterated pop leanings and this record confirms it in wonderful technicolor.
stream: Dirtbombs – Hot Sour Salty Sweet
8. Dream Boys – Dream Boys (Art Fag)
Sometimes bands with exquisite taste end up making albums that are hollow imitations of their heroes. This is not the case with Los Angeles band Dream Boys. In fact they’ve made a record that equals and maybe even surpasses some of the wonderful records made by the jangly masters of old like Bif Bang Pow, Aztec Camera, the Bluebells, and Close Lobsters.
stream: Dream Boys – Holding Pattern
7. Lady – Lady (Truth and Soul)
When someone tells you that they don’t make them like they used to, hand them this record. Lady who are actually two ladies Terri Walker and Nicole Wray have delivered, with the help of an ace backing band, a 60’s soul-inspired record that might just restore your faith in the entire manufacturing process…of everything.
stream: Lady – Money
6. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (AARGHT!)
The first Ooga Boogas album did noting to prepare you for the greatness of this their second album. Mikey Young of Eddie Current Suppression Ring is a band member and may have had some influence them becoming a cleaner more patient group, but it’s singer Leon Stackpole’s lyrics and delivery that put this record in the realm of greatness. Part Mark E Smith and part James Murphy, he rants and raves and even sings a little too. Some of the songs are sung from the point of view of some not so savory characters making it sometimes uncomfortable, but the band holds you in check whipping up a thick sheet of groove behind him.
stream: Ooga Boogas – Studio of My Mind
5. Day Ravies – Tussle (Pop Frenzy)
Some people think that it is amazing that shoegaze is still a thing. Those people are nuts. How could you not expect bands like Slowdive, Chapterhouse and the Pale Saints not to have inspired generations to come with the great records they made back in the original wave of shoegaze. Day Ravies take that inspiration and employ their deft pop sensibilities to it and come up with something to be reckoned with whether you’re familiar with the history of shoegaze or not.
stream: Day Ravies – Pinky
4. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discx)
This album has eight tracks on it, but you could argue that it’s one long song. Vision Fortune don’t make it easy for you. If you saw this record in the store you could easily pass it by thinking that it’s Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido. Imagine if you bought it thinking that and then got home put in on your stereo only to find squalls of feedback and pulsing bass roar from your speakers. You would either take it back or turn it up. You already know the correct choice.
stream: Vision Fortune – XVII
3. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin (Born Bad)
The record sounds like it could have come out on Bungalow back in the 90’s. You may remember the space age surf, synth and dance records that the German label put with some regularity back then. La Femme know their surf records and also probably like a bit of Depeche Mode as well as some Intelligence records but that doesn’t go the distance in describing the fun and fascination of listening to this album. Pity the people that thought that the Daft Punk record was the best French album of the year and give them this record.
stream: La Femme – Antitaxi
2. Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)
New Zealand’s Prophet Hens sort of came out of nowhere and swept me off of my feet with their Chills meets Belle and Sebastian pop alchemy. Both of those bands are highly regarded and the Prophet Hens may be better than both. Granted they haven’t written a Pink Frost yet, but many of the songs here are nearly as memorable and lead me to believe that they just might have something of the Pink Frost caliber in them.
stream: Prophet Hens – Pretty
1. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo/Weird World)
I wrote in my mid-year round up that the Hookworms were sitting on top of the best album of the year. Since then nobody was able to topple them from that teetering pile. Pearl Mystic is like a pendulum that swings from unhinged and crazy to mellow and droning. I don’t think I’ve ever hung out this much with a schizophrenic and liked it.
stream: Hookworms – Form & Function