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.

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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.

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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.
 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Emergency Third Rail Power Triptych

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Girls Names continue their upward trajectory by releasing an eleven minute opus called Zero Triptych. The Belfast band fly over a motorik beat that kicks up camel dust from an old trip that the Church took on Myrrh back in ’85 and then blasts off into a globular cluster of some nether region. Not bad for a song inspired by three panel paintings from the middle ages. Depending on your circumstances you might remember the Church and their song Myrrh. It was an obtuse song about wine, gold, personal favors, drum kits and the birth of Christ. Zero Triptch picks up where Kilby and company trailed off with the sound of aliens landing, obliterating space and time and taking us through a wormhole that dusts you with myrrh, frankincense and gold, skips over an obelisk, a couple monoliths and then leaves them all behind.

Word on the street is that this is going to be released only as a 12″ single and won’t be on their next album, so plan accordingly.

The Inaugural Monthly Top Ten List

You may have noticed that I’ve been struggling to keep up around here: fewer and fewer posts, overflowing in box, long beard and unclipped nails. In an effort to get back on track and clean myself up I’m going to try and start doing a top ten list for each month of things that I’ve neglected to post about in the past month. Well, I’m already behind seeing as it’s October and I’m doing a top ten for September. Before it gets any later, here are ten things from the last month that merit some recognition.

1. The Aislers Set at Neumos

Aislers Set at Neumo's, Seattle

The Aislers Set breifly reunited for the Chickfactor 20th anniversary shows back in 2012. I saw that show and it was good, but seeing them a couple weeks ago in Seattle was even better. This was a brief West coast tour celebrating the reissue of all three of their LP’s from the 90’s (Slumberland & Suicide Squeeze). Linton and company were in top form this night performing their glistening pop that never got old.

2. The Intelligence at Lo-Fi

The Intelligence at the Lo-Fi, Seattle
Sadly the Intelligence are no longer based in Seattle, so the opportunities to see them live have greatly decreased since Lars Finberg’s migration to L.A. Other things have changed as well, This is not your kid brother’s Intelligence. Although this was a release party for reissue of their first LP Boredom and Terror (In the Red), they played a bunch of new songs that featured a powerful rhythm section and meaty jam sections to them. A far cry from the bedroom tape hiss of that first record. No, they haven’t turned into Phish, but they’ve evolved into something even more formidable than before. Can’t wait to hear the new album!

3. Fresh Hop Beer

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It’s harvest time and up here in the pacific NW, and that means hops. Fresh hop beer is made with hops just picked off the vine and when it’s done right, it’s a fruity mouthful of flavorful beer. You have to be quick though, because it’s made in limited quantities and it goes fast. Recommended ones that I’ve tasted this year include Fremont’s Cowiche Canyon, Fort George Fresh IPA and Schooner Exact’s Amarillo Fresh Hop. Still hoping to get a taste of Bale Breaker’s Piled High!

4. Erik Blood – Cannons Vol. 1 
Erik Blood, the guy that made a shoegaze record about porn has switched gears slightly into electronics and motorik beats. His new four song EP (free to download at his bandcamp) features Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler.

5. Fat White Family – I Am Mark E Smith 
I was nonplussed over Fat White Family’s debut album last year, but this new single has got my attention. They may be claiming to be the Fall front man, but they sound like they’ve been hanging out with David J and Daniel Ash.

6. Primitives – Spin-o-Rama 7″ 
The Primitives have a perfect pop single in Spin-o-Rama. It’s Bright and sunny. It’s got hand claps. It’s under three minutes and leaves you wanting more. You hear it once and you can immediately sing it. I defy you to to find a more immediately infectious song that’s come out this year.

7. Go-Betweens Box Set – G Stands for Go-Betweens (Domino)

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Just the other day I was pining for someone to reissue the Go-Betweens catalog on vinyl, since I never see them in the used bins. I should have been more specific in my wishing and added that they be individually released and affordable. Domino announced last week that they are planning a box set containing the first four Go-Be’s LP’s and four CD’s of rare stuff. It’s due to be released in January of 2015 and it’s only $160. Looks like I’ll still be scouring the used bins. Oh well.

8. Tacocat – Bridge To Hawaii (Hardly Art)
In between listening to and singing songs from Frozen my daughter will sing or play Tacocat’s Bridge to Hawaii. The first time this happened I did a double take and couldn’t figure out where she heard it. I like to think she heard it from me, but with kids these day’s you don’t want to ruin it for them by letting them know you like it too.

9. Butter the Children – True Crime 
When Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs split up after releasing one stellar self-titled LP, two bands immediately emerged from their ashes. The Butter the Children sect (Heaven’s Gate is the other sect) continue the warbly, spazzed-out guitar attack of Sweet Bulbs and feature Sweet Bulbs singer Inna but she’s more forward in the mix which I think makes for a unique and better combination. The band put up their album on bandcamp as a free download. I don’t know if this means they gave up trying to get it released by a label, broke up, or are simply a benevolent noise pop band.

10. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
I wasn’t sure after the first few listens to Flowers debut album. They seemed to have toned down the noise for something more subtle. Recording with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler the 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.

Too Punk to Give a Fuck

Weekend with loaner bass

Sometimes you meet a microphone stand that you just want to fight. Last night at Barboza, moody post punkers Weekend were scheduled to play. Their alter ego’s who don’t seem to give a fuck are who actually played. I don’t know if bassist and singer Shaun Durkan had taken the wrong elixir or was off on a bad trip,  but he appeared to be in an erratic state almost from the start of his band’s set.  During the first song of their set the mic stand went floppy, drooping down to his knees, Durkan seemed slightly perturbed by this, but not too upset. The guitarist came over to fix it in the middle of the song and all was good.

Not quite. Durkan then proceeded to grab the mic stand and wrestle with it. Apparently the stand was more stable than he was, because he lost his balance in the mic melee and bounded out into the audience, in the process whacking his bass against the monitor and then the floor. Song over. He picks up the pieces of the mic and his bass with the help of the band and the Barboza sound guys. He tries to tune his bass only to discover that one of the tuning nobs is bent so badly that he can’t tune it. He hurls some incoherent insults at the audience and then asks with a smirk if anyone has a bass he can borrow. Nobody is eagerly volunteering their instrument having seen the damage he’s done to his own guitar so the band proceed to play another song with the broken bass and no vocals since the mic seems to have lost round one. The bass player from the opening band Haunted Horses takes pity and bravely offers up his bass. Another song is played with the loaner bass but the mic still doesn’t work. Durkan is visibly annoyed that the mic could not withstand his attack, so he walks off the stage at the end of the song. The rest of the band look like they’re not sure what to do so they walk off the stage while the sound guys fix stuff.

Eventually Weekend come back out and play End Times and everything seems ok, but not for long. Coma Summer is next and it looks like Durkan wants to fight the mic stand again. It’s almost a like a total replay of the first round, except this time he’s fighting with someone else’s bass guitar. Not Ok. The sound guy rushes to the stage, grabs the bass from Durkan and walks off with it. Show over.

Upset that he didn’t get the chance to destroy someone else’s instrument, Durkan grabs his board of effects pedals and lifts it above his head and slams it to the stage. House lights, queue exodus. Not quite. Durkan comes back out yelling at nobody in particular and lumbers to the merch booth where he hopes to sell some t-shirts and records. Worst show I’ve seen since the Fall in 94 at the Black Cat in DC.

cities

I missed first opener Haunted Horses, but caught Cities Aviv who is really just a guy and a laptop. He’s from Memphis and makes industrial noise come from his laptop. Sometimes it was abrasive loud, sometimes it was ambient loud. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded cool.

Dark Things

Crystal Stilts at Barboza, Seattle | 15 October 2013

crystalstilts

Crystal Stilts played to a dark room with blurry images projected onto a white sheet at the back of the stage last Tuesday night at Barboza. They seem like a band of recluses and would probably prefer to perform in complete darkness. Front man Brad Hargett still seems a bit awkward as the center of attention and guitarist JB Townsend still likes to lurk in the shadows, but there was just enough darkness and just enough light in their performance to make it great one.

They lunged into their set with Spirit in Front of Me the first song on their new album Nature Noir. It owes more than a little to Velvet Undergrounds‘s I’ll Be Your Mirror and All Tomorrow’s Parties. In fact, Crystal Stilts sound one Nico short of becoming the VU. I doubt Hargett would take it as a compliment, but his monotone is closer than I thought to Nico’s , so maybe all they need is banana.

The new album doesn’t have any obvious singles, but it is their most accomplished and varied record yet. It sees them deftly using strings on a few songs making it reminiscent of the Bunnymen‘s Ocean Rain in parts which is new for them. Of course they didn’t have a string section this night being so far away from home, but they didn’t really need one. The band were in a zone. With the lights off and the focus on the music, the band were shadows on the stage and they liked it that way. The set mixed favorites like Crippled Croon, Sycamore Tree, and Love is Wave in with the new slower more confident sounding songs like Star Crawl, Future Folklore and Worlds Gone Weird. This night was by far the best I have ever seen the Stilts play.

The band still come off as tenuously comfortable on stage, but this time the awkward tension was softened by the dark and intimate confines of the venue. Some bands wither with age the Crystal Stilts continue to lurch into new dark psych corners and scramble new cloudy nebulous heights both on record and in person.

stream: Crystal stilts – Future Folklore (from Nature Noir out on Sacred Bones)

Midway and Buried in Records – Part 4

It’s Thursday and part four of the midway round-up. Feeling overwhelmed yet? I am. I don’t know if I can make it to Friday. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found at least one thing that tickled your toes enough to buy a record or at least like them on facebook. A like on facebook or a follow on twitter is like money in the bank for bands, right? Getting money for your records is so old school. These days it’s all about social networking your record so that share prices for the internet fat cats increases. So go do your part.

visonfortune
Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discs)

There are many reasons to love this record. First the cover is a total red herring. If you buy this expecting Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido then you’ve got a surprise in store for you. The song titles are all roman numerals and there is a side F and side V. Nothing is as it seems as the first buzz of guitars kicks off the album sounding like the beginning of Anthrax by Gang of Four.  It only gets better from there as it envelops you and you don’t know if you’re listening to XX, XIII or XIX and you don’t care. This is an album meant to be listened to in its entirety of full effect with each song leading into the next, but I’ll put one below to stream anyway. You can stream the entire thing here.

steam: Vision Fortune – XXII

prophethens
The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)

The Chills are back after more than a ten year hiatus, but the big news out of New Zealand this year is the Prophet Hens first album. Taking the Chills torch and running away with it.

stream: Prophet Hens – Easy As The Sun

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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 not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills and let it fly.

stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse

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Lady – Lady (Truth & Soul)

Lady is actually two ladies, Terri Walker and Nicole Wray who have silky smooth voices and a penchant for 60’s soul. Classic soul albums are still being made and not just by guys who were there in the classic times like Lee Fields and Charles Bradly, but youngsters like Lady.

stream: Lady – Sweet Lady

waxidols
Wax Idols – Discipline & Desire (Slumberland)

Surprisingly it turns out that Wax Idols music DNA, contains strands of the Sound, Chameleons, Comsat Angels, Christian Death, and Love and Rockets. After a debut album that leaned to the cut and dried garage punk, Discipline and Desire leans decidely to the dark side of pop and is infinitely more interesting and engaging. It’s what all sophomore albums should be, a major improvement and fearlessly forging out in new directions.

stream: Wax Idols – Sound of a Void

We-Are-Loud-Whispers
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)

It was kind of a bummer when I came to the realization that there would never be another Arthur and Yu album, and we all know that people are still not giving up hope for another Postal Service album. We Are Loud Whispers is not quite either one of those but since Sonya Westcott of Arthur & Yu is one half of We Are Loud Whispers it’s not a stretch in that direction. Combine the spare electronic backdrops provided by Ayumu Haitani and you have a stretched reference to the Postal Service. In any event this record is full of understated beauty that deserves some of your valuable attention.

stream: We Are Loud Whispers – This Time

excops
Ex Cops – Ture Hallucinations (Other Music)

“New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like.” Their debut album True Hallucinations is an exquisit dreampop/shoegaze record.

stream: Ex Cops – You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb

Midway and Buried in Records- Part 2

Welcome to day two of the half year round-up. Giddy-up! Here are the next set of seven records from the first half of this year that I think deserve your attention. It’s kind of an eclectic bunch but in at least one warped world they go quite well together.

Myron

Myron & E – Broadway (Stones Throw)

It seems like it’s been ages since those first couple Myron & E singles came out. I had nearly lost hope of them ever releasing an album, but the wait was worth it. Broadway is more than worth the wait, evoking Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On which is no easy feat. The Motor city may be bankrupt, but its soul legacy keeps paying dividends.  Top notch stuff.

stream: Myron & E – They Don’t Know

daughn
Daughn Gibson – Me Moan (Sub Pop)

Part of Me Moan sounds like Gibson grew up with the Stuart Copeland and Stan Ridgway song Don’t Box Me In on repeat. The other part sees Gibson reading from the same book as Dan Bejar was on Destroyer’s Kaputt. Both parts consist of lush and sweeping 80’s inspired pop from a unique voice.

Stream: Daughn Gibson – The Pisgee Nest

universepeople
Universe People – Go To the Sun (Little Black Cloud)

Descending from the Intelligence family tree, this Seattle trio fronted by Australian ex-pat Jo Claxton deliver serrated pop that teases and caresses before puncturing skin.  This very sharp record deserves way more attention than it has received, because it’s pretty damn brilliant and would look fine next to your Intelligence, Fall and Dolly Mixture records.

stream: Universe People – Druids

girlsnames
Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)

The new life sounds like dark era Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography) without being too obvious. It  didn’t immediately grab me, but its hypnotic bass and vocals has made gradually overcome my conscious and now The New Life is my go-to record when the need often comes to zone out into the horizon which is quite often.

Stream: Girls Names – Drawing Lines

oogaboogas
Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (Aarght!)

Ooga Boogas have not left their garage roots, but the garage has been remodeled or converted rather. The record walks the line between ECSR and Total Control and sidesteps into Velvet UndergroundTubeway Army, the Fall,  Modern Lovers and the Soft Boys territories.

stream: Ooga Boogas – A Night to Remember

HOL2

House of Love – She Paints Words In Red (Cherry Red)

House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers acrimoniously left the band during the recording of the band’s second album. Since then he mad ammends with HOL frontman Guy Chadwich and they made a reunion record Days Run Away back in 2005. It was ok. Eight years later they’ve record a follow up that is immediate, elegant and while not quite reaching the heights of their debut it feels like they’ve recaptured the fire that blazed in their creative partnership.

stream: House of Love – Holy River

jacco
Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)

Dutch wunderkind pulls out all the psychedelic stops on his debut album. Amazing harmonies done to the backing of exquisite chamber pop backing. If you ever thought that the Left Bank sounded too effeminate and that Syd Barrett was too zany Gardner strikes just right balance.

stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King

Midway and Buried in Records- Part 1

This week we are featuring some of the best records of the first half of 2013. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, but this year is not typical. It’s on a trajectory to overwhelm any attempt at a year end list so I’m splitting it up. Some of the albums I’ve mentioned on these pages, others I’ve been keeping to myself. Everyday this week I’m going to feature seven records that deserve your or someone else’s attention. Here are the first seven.
hookworms

Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo)
What do you get when you combine the 13th floor elevators with the Spacemen 3. I’m sure many bands have tried this approach, but none have ever succeeded as wildly. At this point Hookworms are sitting on top of the best record of the year.

stream: Hookworms – Since We Have Changed

boat
BOAT – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)

When D Crane sings in the song Problem Solvers “We’re just another average America band” with such earnestness that you wonder if he’s thinking about throwing in the towel. Think about it, what if Boat were average? The masses would like them and they’d be rich. I like to think of them as standing on the top the belle curve fighting off the hordes with their indelible pop and unbridled charisma.

stream: BOAT – Problem Solvers

mantles
The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)

The Mantles hark back to a to the 60’s and the Byrds. They are like the Greene and Greene of current day rock and roll. Architects of a back to basics approach that adorns with earthly tones to create a thing of beauty. When I heard that the  album was to be produced by Kelley Stoltz, I had it pegged as a winner from the start and yet somehow it still exceeded my expectations.

stream: The Mantles – Hello

bleached
Bleached – Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans)

“After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.”

stream: Bleached – Looking For a Fight

lovefromlondon
Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (Yep Roc)

“If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock.”  I was an idiot when I was 20.

Stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Be Still

songs
Songs – Malabar (Popfrenzy)

A band named Songs is questionable, but luckily I didn’t let their poorly chosen name stop me from listening to to this fine psychedelic pop album. Parts of it remind me of Game Theory, but being Australian they probably have been influenced by the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. This is their second album and it drips confidence and probably would have been a hit back in the major label heyday garnering a US deal and tons of play on college radio in a college town near you.

stream: Songs – Boy/Girl

sleaze
The Sleaze – Tecktonik Girlz & Other Hits (Floridas Dying)
You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

Meet Me On the Internet

I remember my first job out of college, I worked with guy who met his wife on the internet. It kinda freaked me out, but that was years ago and now if you didn’t meet your significant other on line you might be in the minority. The new Terry Malts single is a direct commentary on today’s downward spiral of social networking. It’s as good as anything on their album, which says to me that these guys are for real.  They also do a cover of the Durutti Column‘s Don’t Think You’re Funny. A  punk band that plays hard to get! I think I might be in love with the Terry Malts even though I met them on line.

stream: Terry Malts – Disconnect

The single is out on Log Lady records and is a split with Dead Angle who are ex-Tartans. The Tartans put out a couple excellent singles for Yay! and one for Cloudberry. Their new incarnation, Dead Angle are less overtly twee and employ a similar buzz-saw guitar approach. When I was in Brooklyn recently for the Chickfactor shows, I was record shopping and found myself wrangling over 7-inch records with them. We nearly came to blows over a Heavenly single. Kidding, they were very polite, and we ended up doing rock paper scissor for it (though I still think they cheated).  While you’re over at Log Lady, be sure to check out the Grandma’s Boyfriend and Moonbell records. You can’t go wrong with those either.

stream: Dead Angle – Why Don’t You

Frankie Rose: The Next Generation

Frankie Rose & Dive at Neumo’s, Seattle | 25 April 2012

Many of the reviews of Frankie Rose‘s second album Interstellar have  been about how it was a huge leap from her lo-fi roots. Previously when I saw Frankie Rose a few years ago at SXSW just prior to her releasing her debut album Frankie Rose and the Outs, she was mostly still feedback and distortion. Live she may still have been reveling in reverb, but on record she had already begun to shed a lot of her Shit Storm-Vivian Girls-Crystal Stilts past. On Interstellar she continues on that same trajectory, employing the services of dance producer Le Chev to push her even further into new realms. Interstellar is steeped in 80’s Cure records and current day Swedish pop which itself is heavily influenced by those same Cure records.

Wednesday night at Neumo’s Frankie appeared wearing a black puffy pirate shirt that could have been borrowed from one of Prince‘s  Purple Rain entourage. She brought with her a solid band who had no problem recreating the icy sounding pop from Interstellar and slightly transforming the songs from her first album into shimmering celestial bodies similar to their Interstellar brethren. She seemed much more at ease as the frontperson compared to when I saw her a few years ago, talking about inane things like the rain and threatening a Sister of Mercy cover between songs, but doing it in a very likeable way. She’s an expressive singer, you can tell that she believes in her songs and delivers them with an excitement and intensity that is engaging to watch. She had  a bunch of reverb on her vocals, but I don’t think it was there to hide anything, just to make her voice sound bigger which it did quite well. Her encore of Pair of Wings may have been my favorite song of the night. Songs like Know Me  and Had We Had It are the ones that grabbed my attention from listening to the record at home, but Pair of Wings which was written by her former Shit Storm band mate  Wu Li Leung, transcended  those 80’s Cure records and delved into Abba-esque stratospheres and left me with an entirely new perspective on her already stellar Interstellar.

stream: Frankie Rose – Pair of Wings (from Interstellar on Slumberland Records)

Dive who are fronted by Beach Fossils guitarist, Kurt Cobain doppleganger and oversized sweater wearing Cole Smith are on tour with Frankie Rose serving as designated openers. On record so far, Dive sound very similar to Beach Fossils, but live they veer more towards instrumental guitar jams that remind me a little of Mogwai. Smith sings, but it wasn’t the focus. Live, Dive are all about the guitars. The twin attack was good for a few songs, but it seemed like every song went for the same trick which after a few songs, wasn’t so much of surprise. They’ve got something good to build on and I’ve liked their  singles to date. It will be interesting to see if their album due in June on Captured Tracks can sustain the excitement generated from their initial singles.

Stream: Dive – Geist
(from upcoming 7-inch on Captured Tracks)