Albums of 2017

The year 2017 will go on record as the first year I bought more downloads of albums than CD’s. I guess I’ve finally succumbed to the idea that a digital download is just as good as the compact disc. All things being equal, I prefer a complimentary copy of the vinyl with my purchase of the download. So, without any further digressions, here are my top 40 albums of 2017 with streaming links if I could find one.

rvg
1. RVG – A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend)
This Australian band’s debut album grew slowly on me. It’s initial pressing sold out before anyone outside their circle even heard about them. Rooted in some of the best Australian bands like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. Soaring guitars and lyrics filled with the bleakness of real life fueled songs that got better and better with each listen.

fazerdaze
2. Fazerdaze – Morningside (Flying Nun)
I was surprised not to see this album on more year end lists. Blissed out bedroom pop that is in the same realm as the better-known Jay Som. For my money though, Fazerdaze has a better hit ratio.

bedouine
3. Bedouine – S/T (Spacebomb)
This record came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing else this year. Part Carpenters, Jim Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian who goes by Bedouine posses a smooth and soothing voice and made the comfort record of the year.

cableties
4. Cable Ties – S/T (Poison City)
The debut LP from this Australian trio was full of piss and vinegar. The songs were based on great grooves the reminded me of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the angst-ridden vocals of Jenny McKechnie flashed with hints of Sleater Kinney. A band to be reckoned with!

melenas
5. Malenas – S/T (El Nébula)
Melenas from Pamplona, Spain take their Flying Nun records and translate them into toe tapping Spanish jangle. Who new that Jangle pop was a lingua franca? If world peace ever happens, expect Melenas to be featured on the soundtrack.

baxter-dury
6. Baxter Dury – Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
On his fourth album, Ian Dury’s kid delivers a brilliant set of songs. From the sleaze of the opener Miami to the filth laden vocals of guest Rose Elinor Dougall to the surprisingly clean cameo of Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson this record keeps you on your toes.

UVTV
7. UV-TV – Glass (Deranged)
The debut record from this Florida trio had the sugar-coated blitzkrieg pop reminiscent of the Primitives combined with Spacemen 3 druggy drone. The louder you turned it up the better it gets on this brilliant record.

girlray
8. Girl Ray – Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
This trio of teens from Wales deliver bouncy, breathless pop that sounds like part bucolic beauty and part wild overgrown garden. Elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Kevin Ayres lend excitement to Earl Grey and make them a band I’m excited to see what comes next for them.

lars
9. Lars Finberg – Moonlight Over Bakersfield (In the Red)
Striking out on his own, or retreating back to his hometown of Bakersfield, California? A little bit of both as the Intelligence front man and founder teams up with Ty Segall to make a solo record that sounds like an Intelligence record. I love the circuitousness of it all and truth be told, Lars could make a record of him blowing into beer bottles and I’d probably love it.

zebra
10. Zebra Hunt – In Phrases (Tenorio Cotobade)
I chose not to make a separate list of Seattle albums this year due to the issue of the seemingly disappearing Seattle scene. Thankfully the city still has these fellows who make Feelies-Flying Nun styled jangly pop that is second to none. Album number two from Zebra Hunt sees the band maintaining the insanely high level of quality of their debut.

groupd
11. Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)
This seemed to be an odd team-up, but it worked. The two bands, one from the Sahara, the other from France met in the desert to meld their styles and come up with avant desert grooves that shake rattle and roll like rock and roll is supposed to do.

feature
12. Feature – Banishing Ritual (Upset! the Rhythm
Make a record. Break up. Release the record. This trio of women seemed to have it somewhat backwards, but their Wire inspired pop that scratches, rubs and soothes sometimes all at once makes for a winning record.

star
13. Star Tropics – Lost World (Shelflife)
Chicago’s Star Tropics blend of indiepop jangle, Sarah records, For Against and New Order won’t win them any awards for originality, but the quality of their songs and the atmosphere they create is no rip-off either.

owens
14. Kelly Lee Owens – S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
For fans of Kate Bush, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins Kelly Lee Owens is a godsend. You hear elements of all the aforementioned, but nothing obvious due to Owens skipping off down her own path of ethereal pop bliss.

blacksprings
15. Black Springs – When We Were Great (Oven Material)
Instead of calling this an album, Black Springs chose to call When We Were Great a compilation of songs from their past giving you the idea that the band are no longer together. Mystery aside, this record has elements of dreampop, shoegaze and jangle and a confidence that has me pulling for them to make another record.

alvvays
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
I nearly wrote this Canadian band’s sophomore effort off, until Lollipop came up on shuffle one day. That song reminded me how effortlessly easy this band makes great pop songs. After Lollipop, Plimsoull Punks hit me, and after that Not My Baby and I was a believer again.

destroyer
17. Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
With Ken, Dan Bejar has fully stepped into the Scottish rain soaked landscapes of the Blue Nile. The sound is majestic and the outlook is dreary and sad, but with Bejar you get laughs with your tears. It was unfortunate that he decided to forgo appearing on the latest New Pornographers LP this year, but that means this album is all top shelf stuff.

bboys
18. B Boys – Dada (Captured Tracks)
I loved how Dada seemed to be both punk and post-punk at once. Or maybe it was the goth sound made me think of Christian Death and the Chameleons. Who knows, but it was loud and fun. I also loved how there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.

clap
19. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
After teaming up with Paul Simon last year, Cristiano Crisci returns with album number two of dark world inspired rhythms. A Thousand Skies is cut from the same cloth of tribal rhythms and slithering melodies that veer towards drum and bass, but he adds some guest vocalists this time around.

Priests
20. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
Washington, DC’s Priests ably carry on the politically informed pop/punk that was championed by a litany of bands from the nation’s capital. Nothing Feels Natural Feels urgent and agitated and under attack. Priests kick back and write songs worth rallying around, which is much needed in this day and age of moral drift.


21. Flat Worms – S/T (Castle Face)
Flat Worms which features former members of Dream Boys, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees hit the ground running on this pummelingly great record. Lead off song Motorbike sets the scene of this menacing record. They’re sound like a biker gang that digs Suicide, but thinks synths are for poseurs. Big and bad!

shabazz2
shabazz1
22. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star &
Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines(Sub Pop)

I guess the two Shabazz Palaces LP’s from this year are considered a rap album, but it’s so out there in terms of mainstream rap that I don’t consider it as such. This is sci-fi fantasy that transcends musical boundaries. You like the Peter Thomas Orchestra? How about Can? That Clap! Clap! record? And a thousand other things. You can probably come at these two records from a hundred different directions and still dig them both.

motroper
23. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response (Good Cheer)
Mo Troper’s second album may not change the world, but it’s pristine orchestral pop will restore your faith in it. This is wide-eyed, wide-screen beautiful stuff likely influenced by albums by Jellyfish, Jeremy Egnik and Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground.

holiday
24. Holiday Ghosts – S/T (PNKSLM)
Manchester’s Holiday Ghosts self-titled debut is a bouillabaisse of low-key, unpolished pop. The group have a lot in common with bands like the Pastels, Comet Gain and the Envelopes. The vocals are shared between band members giving the album the feel of a vaudeville variety, but they keep the plot tight and the songs sweet.

sleaford
25. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas (Rough Trade)
You would think that after high rate of release this duo keeps up that they’d run out of ideas, but English Tapas sees no let up and in fact may their best one since Austerity Dogs. Mop Top even sees them introduce a melody and chorus, and gasp, no swearing. Are they aiming for the charts?

world
26. The World – First World Record (Upset! The Rhythm)
Take a tiny bit of Banarama, and add in some Specials and Selector and you get a sort of idea of what the Bay Area’s the World are going after. Steeped in 80’s punk and ska and sporting pop an astute pop sensibility First World Record is a sax laden tour de fun.

novella
27. Novella – Change of State (Sinderlyn)
Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.

proto
28. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Domino)
Protomartyr’s fourth album is a towering achievement. It simultaneously comments on the sorry state of society, shares its rage and does so with songs that make you want to raise your fist and shout the chorus. Up the Tower, Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague are among the band’s best. My only complaint about this album is that the best stuff is hidden on side two, but that is minor.

slowdive
29. Slowdive – S/T (Dead Oceans)
It’s weird to think that Slowdive were scoffed at by the British press during their first incarnation in the 1990’s. That press is long gone, out of business. Slowdive are still with us and making brilliant music. Their self-titled comeback is packed full of dreampop featuring both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals. Slowdive can still conjure it.

business
30. Business of Dreams – S/T (Kocliko Records)
Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts strikes out on his own into the world of 80’s inspired synth-pop. Inspired by the death of his father, Cunningham made a record that is personal in nature but its pop hooks combination of synthesizers and guitar riffs make it more than palatable to general populous.

spinning
31. Spinning Coin – Permo (Domino)
After a handful of singles, Glasgow’s Spinning Coin finally deliver the goods in their debut long player. As you might expect it’s a combination of ramshackle Pastels like pop and good natured Teenage Fanclub guitar pop.
https://spinningcoin.bandcamp.com/

jana
32. Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)
Juana Molina has been making records for a while now. Halo is her seventh album. Her formula hasn’t changed too much over the years, creating loops and building them up into a bricolage. In the past it could get busy, but Halo sees her cleaning things up a bit and delivering more straightforward earworms.


33. Oh Sees – Orc (Castle Face)
At this point, a jaded listener might think Oh Sees records are delivered off a conveyor belt, one that changes its name after each new model. Dropping the Thee, John Dwyer’s group sees no creative letdown despite fewer letters. In fact, Orc delivers classic sounding rippers interspersed with Eno style ambience.

stevens
34. The Stevens – Good (Chapter Music)
Album number two from the center of the Melbourne indie scene, didn’t seem to get the attention of their debut. Too bad, because this batch of songs is high quality. At 18 tracks, Good has that uncanny quality that Guided by Voices had in that run in the Bee Thousand to Under the Bushes era.

last
35. Last Leaves – Other Towns Than Ours (Lost & Lonesome/Matinee)
Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser.

faith
36. Faith Healer – Try ;-) (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert was a member of the Edmonton punks Tee-Tahs .That is in the past and this is her second album as Faith Healer. Try ;-) lives on the same planet of the Brewis brother’s Field Music. Combine Jallbert’s croon and her ability to write a good pop hook you have something special.


37. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura (Castle Face)
Kelley Stoltz may have peaked commercially on his Sub Pop debut Below the Branches when his song Birdies Singing was being used in commercials. I haven’t heard him in any commercials since, but honestly the guy keeps releasing great albums. Solid through and through and Que Aura is no different from the previous four in that regard.

corridor
38. Corridor – Supermercado (Requiem Pour Un Twister)
Supermercado is Spanish for grocery store. Corridor is French for angular pop. Supermercado is the second album from Montreal’s Corridor and it is a brilliant melange of pop and sharp jabs and lots of hooks.

rays
39. Rays – S/T (Trouble In Mind)
Rays do great Modern Lovers style rock. The songs feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but they end up making it through each one without the doors flying off the speeding dilapidated vehicle.

trementina
40. Trementina – 810 (Burger)
On their second album, Chile’s Trementina forego the obvious shoegaze effects and travel down a far more interesting path of warped dream pop that only the Swirlies have dared to go before.

October Round Up

October was a long month, but to the best of my ability I’ve recollected what happened in the last 31 days. Since this blog has been neglected for many more than the last 31 days, a few things may have slipped in that took place 61, 91, or even 121 days ago.

Display Homes
This single is a great example of a Pylon influenced groove combined with current climate change dilemma that the world is now in. Who says you can’t dance to the apocalypse?

Savak
Album number two from this New York band is no let down. The record is full of
urgent, politically astute, post-punk songs. My favorite is buried near the end. Keys to the City is an hallucination inducing slice of Byrdsian psychedelic haze.

RVG
This Australian band who likely count the Triffids and U2 and maybe even the Go-Betweens as influences, self-released their debut album earlier this year and it instantly sold out of the first vinyl pressing. The excitement has not died down, and it’s been repressed. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Neutrals
When I first heard Motorcycle Cop from this Bay Area band I thought it might have been a direct decedent of the Pastel’s Speeding Motorcycle. On second thought, it might just be an ode to Larry Baker and Frank Poncherello. Whatever it is, it’s brilliant!

Last Leaves
The Lucksmiths broke up some years back and chief songwriter Marty Donald went into semi-retirement. I’m glad it wasn’t permanent, and now he’s got the boys back together minus drummer and lead singer Tali White. Mr. Donald can still turn a phrase and his voice reminds me a little of Max Eider of the Jazz Butcher. The only song I remember Marty singing in the Lucksmiths was their cover of the Magnetic Fields Deep Sea Diving Suit. Maybe they could do a cover of Partytime or D.R.I.N.K.

Holiday Ghosts
Maybe I just have the Pastels on the brain (or the Clean, Coconut Coolouts or Modern Lovers for that matter), but Falmouth, England’s Holiday Ghosts have a similar ramshackle approach to pop music as that Scottish institution. Their debut album is lots of fun, with songs that make you want to wiggle your extremities.

A Certain Smile

Portland’s A Certain Smile played in Seattle last weekend opening for Zebra Hunt and Math & Physics Club. I won’t go into how Portland is beating Seattle right now in great new bands to get excited about, but I will say that this band’s debut is an understated janglepop beauty!

Deadbeat Beat
Detroit, Michigan band Deadbeat Beat released When I Talk To You on cassette way back in 2011. Six years later it get’s a vinyl treatment. Make no mistake this record is an early 10’s surfy-garage rock classic that is has elements of Buddy Holly, Beach Boys, and Agent Orange.

Protomartyr

Another Detroit band, this one with a new record on a new label. Formerly signed to Seattle’s Hardly Art, these Motor city post punks moved on to Domino for album number four and it’s nearly as good as their high point (in my opinion) Under Color of Official Right. Live, they’re like going 10 rounds in a heavy weight fight. They’re set a Chop Suey here in Seattle was an Olympia beer fueled pummeling. I left feeling battered and bruised, and woke up swollen and sore the next morning. It was great.

Landlines
Portland’s Landlines remind me of Sloan around their Twice Removed and One Chord to Another era. Their songs are catchy, classic sounding pop. This is their second album and it would seem that their well of great songs is very deep.

The World
This Bay Area band has a white hot sound that will get you on the floor skanking. Great saxophone bits juxtaposed with angular guitar bits. I feel like the World is what the Specials would have evolved into if they would have gotten King Tubby to produce a third album. Anxiously awaiting on the dub version of this record!

Dead Leaf Echo
The cover of New York shoegaze outfit Dead Leaf Echo new album looks like it came out on 4AD in the 80’s, and sounds like it was made in the shoegaze heyday of 90’s. Funny because Guy Fixen (Moose, My Bloody Valentine) helped record it and the cover was designed by 4AD alumna Timothy O’Donnell.

Slowdive

The last time I saw Slowdive play was at CMJ in 1991. I have vague recollections of that show where they were on a bill with Blur and Levitation. Last week in Seattle their show at the Neptune Theatre was mesmerizing and imprinted (hopefully) long-term memories in my cerebral cortex. The reformed band’s new LP is top notch, but it was Catch the Breeze, Avalyn and their cover of Syd Barrett’s Golden Hair that were massive sounding and downright otherworldly!

Tender Age Get High

tenderage
The first Tender Age single reminded me of Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. it was methodically austere and moody. The Portland band are back with their second single that shows them tweaking things just a little to deliver a warmer and more ethereal sounding record. In other words they’ve turned up the shoegaze dials on the guitars. It’s still good, but different from their first single and veers into the same sonic territory as the Wildhoney album from earlier this year. It also begs the question, how many more records do I need to buy that sound like My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse and Slowdive? I guess one more wouldn’t hurt.

You get the vinyl or download from SINIS Recordings bandcamp page.

Wild for Wildhoney

wildhoney

Shoegaze bands are a dime a dozen these days which is something I never would have predicted 20 years ago. So the genre lost the battle but apparently won the war, but sometimes the victors get a little cocky. Originally a derogitory term, bands now brandish that tag willy nilly without sometimes knowing what they’re talking about. One of the first and foremost things about the OG shoegaze was that at its heart there were always great songs. It wasn’t just noise. It was verses and big choruses. Bands actually wrote songs first and then bent their tremelo bars around them, instead of many of today’s poseurs who bend their guitars around nothing much.

There was a method of songs first reverb second. Baltimore’s Wildhoney adhere to that tried and true approach. Their debut album Sleep Through It is one of the best albums to come out in the shoegaze genre (or any other genre for that matter) in a while. This quintet of youngsters lean in direction of the more ethereal regions, looking to the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. The influences may be easy to spot, but they take them and make something slightly different, brighter and alluring. Fall In and Molly belong on any best of shoegaze mix. Their two previous singles (Seventeen and a re-recorded Super Stupid) make welcome curtain calls as well. They even throw in an instrumental tribute to Flying Saucer Attack. These kids know how to deliver quality noise drenched pop with a sense of history and an ear for melody. Do not miss!

The album Sleep Through It is out in the US on Forward Records and everywhere else via Deranged Records.

Wildhoney Ready Debut Album

wildhoney

After two singles that are as good as anything that came out during the the first generation of shoegazing, Baltimore’s ecstasy inducers Wildhoney are not taking their feet off of the pedals. The band is readying their debut album for release in January on Forward/Deranged Records. Fall In is the first song the band have released from the forthcoming Sleep Through It and it may be their best yet. The way singer Lauren Shusterich’s voice floats over the haze of guitars is otherworldly – part Liz Fraser, part Rachel Goswell. Wildhoney are without a doubt the new shoegaze royalty!

stream: Wildhoney – Fall In

Wildhoney Keep the Good Stuff Coming

wildhoney

With all of the excitement surrounding the Slowdive reunion, you would think folks would be tempted to delve into some great shoegaze happening right now instead of 20 years ago.  I don’t know what the future holds for Baltimore shoegazers Wildhoney. Will they be revered on 10 or 20 years? Who knows and who cares, because right now they are the hottest bunch of pedal loving, hallucination inducing, blistering guitar benders going today. Their second single came out recently on Photobooth records and dare I say, it bests last year’s debut. Seventeen has a slight ‘Funky Drummer” beat,  maelstrom of guitars and angelic vocals, it’s part MBV, part Slowdive, and some Lilys.  Folks, singles don’t get much better than this.

The band are planning a full length for later this year, and plan to tour the East Coast as well. In the meantime you can buy the physical old school 7-inch single from Photobooth Records or the download from the band themselves.

Kaleidoscope of Flyying Colours

flyyingcolours

One of the best EP’s to come out last year belonged to Australia’s Flyying Colours and now thanks to Shelflife Records here in the US (and Club ac30 in UK) we can hear this euphoria inducing record on vinyl. The EP contains five songs and not one of ’em could be considered filler. I remember back in the 90’s you would pick up the Melody Maker or NME and barely a week would go by when there was not some brand new blissed out guitar pop band that had just put out an amazing single. Later on they called it shoegaze (funny how we call it shoegaze today without a hint that it was originally coined as an insult.) but at the time it was My Bloody Valentine inspired hazy noise-pop.

Flyying Colours EP is destined to be grouped in with some of the classic EP’s of that golden shoegaze era. Like I said every song is killer, but WavyGravy is especially sure to please with its adrenalin shot of blistering guitars and Ride-like drony harmonizing vocals, but my favorite on the EP has to be Feathers. It jangles its way to my heart, and then bursts out of its downbeat cocoon near the end with a chorus that soars up to the tops of the trees. Along with Day Ravies, Flyying Colours are making Australia start to look like the new mecca for those in love with guitar drenched psychedelic pleasures.

Snap up this limited edition vinyl before it’s gone. You can order the Flyying Colours EP from Shelflife Records.