Split This!

Ginnels & Tangible Excitement!

I’m usually not a fan of split singles or split releases due to the strong possibility of having to pay twice as much for half of what I want, but if ever there was a split release that shoots a that theory to shit it is this Ginnels & Tangible Excitement! split 12″. Tangible Excitement! is Scott Stevens of Summer Cats, Stew Anderson of Boyracer and Mark Monnone of the Lucksmiths along with some help by the likes of Gary Olsen (Ladybug Transistor), James Hoare (Ultimate Painting/Veronica Falls) and Jeremy Underwood (Gold-Bears). It’s an all-star lineup with a performance to back up their stats. Opener Northland Food Court has a Love Forever Changes vibe to it courtesy of its Mexican tinged acoustic guitar riff and Olsen’s trumpet. It’s a stunner and worth the price of admission, but there’s more. Baby’s Seen This Scene Before has the sound of an indiepop classic and Effectively Wild is the almost Boyracer-like with it’s buzzy guitars knocking another one out of the park.

There’s no time to catch your breath unless your’re slow to the turntable to flip the record because the Ginnels side ain’t no minor league fare. Mark Chester is a prolific fellow who has a number of releases on cassette and recently a few on vinyl via Tenorio Cotobade. Here we get three great new Ginnels songs. Easier When I’m Gone has a chorus that is part Teenage Fanclub and part Superchunk and easily get’s stuck in your head. Whew! Reason To Be Helpful might just be my favorite Ginnels song yet with its thumping soulful bass, cool lazy guitar riff and super furry vibes. This is one split release you need to buy two of so you can file one under Ginnels and the other under Tangible Excitement!

Order up your copy (or copies) over at Emotional Response.

SxSW: Day Three

Friday started at Club DeVille at another Brooklyn Vegan event.  Greenpoint, Brooklyn band Twin Sister were playing an early set at noon.  A Lunch time gig, or breakfast rather, for the late risers in Austin is a toughone .  The band sounded ok, maybe a little sleepy.  I really like their freely downloadable ep Vampires with Dreaming Kids, but they didn’t play my favoirte song from it, the Cocteau Twins-like Ginger.

Up to this point corporate America had been hidden from SxSW experience.  Arriving at the Fader Fort that was no longer the case.  Walking through a clothing store to get into the the free booze fest was like the walk of shame.  Once through with no purchases, we headed for the stage to catch local band Harlem. Their short set was fun, but the huge festival like stage was a little too big for this garage band.  They hopped around, switched instruments and seemed to have a good time anyway.

Vancouver’s Japandroids were next and what was a mostly empty space for Harlem quickly became a packed one for this guitar and drums duo.  One thing I will say about Japandroids, they have some really big amps.

We stayed put for Drums, who were a bit over the top. I think that’s the point though.  They looked like they could have been on Factory records circa 1985 with they eye make up and styled hair.  The band appeared to be barely playing, leading me to believe that most of the music was pre-recorded.  Drums seem to be a vehicle for front man Jonathan Pierce, who pranced and posed around the stage and at times sounded more than a little like Martin Fry of ABC.

On our way over to catch the last part of the Trouble In Mind show at the Longbranch, we hit up a taco wagon for some grub and got to the Longbranch just as Ottawa’s White Wires were launching into the a-side of their Trouble In Mind single, Pretty Girl.  Their set was easily the best of the day, a rollicking good time filled with gigantic hook after gigantic hook, powerpop in the vein of such classics as the Nerves and the Breakaways.  I’m really looking forward to album number two from these guys due out on Dirtnap later this year.

Austin’s Hex Dispensers were next, and they let us have it with their hi-octane, slightly sinister punk rock.  Bill mentioned they sounded more like the Damned than the Fall for which they seem to be named.

Women’s restroom signage.  The Longbranch restrooms, won the Trainspotting award for worst restrooms of the week. Wish I would taken a photo, but I was trying to get out as fast as I could.

As we left the Longbranch, across the street on a patch of grass in front of car wash, the zany Woo-man and the Banana launched into a set of catchy garage rock.  At first it seemed like a joke, the drummer in a banana suit and the singer in a chartreuse wig and dress, but the Chicago band seemed to have their shit together.  They said they’d be there all night or at least until someone made them leave.

We didn’t stay to see if they were gonna get booted, instead we headed over to Cheer-up Charlies to see the Mantles, but that turned out to be a boondogle, as they were running behind and we were forced to endure Sun Arwas.  Not wanting to miss Standard Fare at the Slumberland/Cake Shop show we bailed before the Mantles made their appearance.  On our way, we ran into Mark Manone, former bassist of the Lucksmiths, he was here playing with Still Flyin’ and gave us an update on what the rest of the Lucksmiths are up to (not much musically).

Arriving at the Mohawk we saw a line down the block, but splurging for a wristband does have some advantages.  We walked right past everyone in line straight into the Mohawk.  Standard Fare did not disappoint with their sweet, smart pop.  The Sheffield band’s album is getting a release here in the states on Bar None so hopefully they’ll be back.

I missed Reading Rainbow to run over to Beerland to see what time Wounded Lion were going to be playing at the In The Red show.  Found out it wasn’t in cards tonight if I wanted to see Frankie Rose and the Outs, so I headed back over to the Mohawk in time for Australia’s Summer Cats.  They played all the hits including Let’s Go, Lonely Planet,In June and threw in a Left Bank cover for good measure.  I am a Summer Cats fan, and even with the hits, the set seemed a bit lackluster.  They seemed to be having fun though, mentioning how their set was sponsored by some kind of spray-on pancake product.  Must be an Australian thing.

By this time the Mohawk was filling up.  Frankie & the Outs were up next, and the rest of her other band Dum Dum Girls were in the house to see her. Frankie was sporting a hat with a wide brim, a flowing large sleeved shirt and a ton of reverb.  Too much reverb.   A lot of the songs had a surf, Link Ray feel to them but you couldn’t make out a single lyric, nor could you make out a single word she uttered between songs. The 7 inch on Slumberland and the new songs up on her myspace are all quality, but she needs to dial the reverb down for gigs.

Next up were San Francisco’s Grass Widow who currently have a two ep’s to their name, one on Make a Mess and the other on Captured Tracks, and an album due sometime soon on Kill Rock Stars.  The trio were charming, noisy and a little bit twangy.  I thought they were a neat combination of Tiger Trap and Freakwater, something you certainly don’t hear every day. Pains of Being Pure at Heart were the headliners, but  I decided to take a rain check and head home in hopes of making it through one more day shows.  On our way back we stopped for a late night bite at Taco Cabana.  There were surprisingly no bands playing there, but Ty Segall was in line behind us with same idea.

Best of the Rest: Favorite Albums of 2009

As I said previously in my list of top Seattle albums of the year, my favorite three records came out of Seattle this year.  Because of that, this list begins at number four.  Judging from the number of contenders I cut from this list, it was a pretty good year for the album.  They may not be selling like they use to, but more people are making them than ever before.  Here’s to a year in which it was truly a task to keep up.

4. Crayon Fields – All the Pleasures of the World (Chapter)

Album number two from Australia’s Crayon Fields tripped the light fantastic not tripped since the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle.  Watery guitars and feathery strings mixed with precious vocals to make a record that I handled with care so as not to damage its frail pop songs.  That’s an exaggeration of course, but these songs will have you floating like a feather in the breeze.  Everything on this record is in it’s right place.  The Crayon Fields have attempted and intricate balancing act and gracefully succeeded.

mp3: Disappear

5. Brilliant Colors – Introducing the Brilliant Colors (Slumberland)

The cup definitely spilled over with C-86 inspired girl groups this year, but the Brilliant Colors were my favorite of the lot.  Instead of going for the twee-er side of things, they leaned more towards the punks with their Raincoats, Slits who were precursors to the whole C-86 movement. Every song on Introducing adheres to strict punk rock rules of  two minutes, super catchy, and blistering.

mp3: Absolutely Anything

6. At Swim Two Birds – Before You Left (Vespertine & Son)

Not since the Trembling Blue Stars’ Her Handwriting has their been a breakup album this raw, this heart-wrenching, this desolate, or this beautiful.  If you are Montgolfier Brothers fan, then Robert Quigly’s warm, melancholic voice will not be new to you.  If you are unfamiliar, then you will be enveloped by this record.  It has elements of Babybird, early Spiritualized, Simon Raymond’s unheralded solo album Blame Someone Else and some Blue Nile.  Before You Left is a slow burner, that will burn brightest on those lonely nights when you are all alone.  Sometimes sad albums are the best things to listen to when you are sad.

mp3: The Night We Ran Away

7. Obits – I Blame You (Sub Pop)

One part Hot Snakes, one part Edsel, one part killer rhythm section.  This album rocked like elder statesmen giving the kids a lesson in how to actually rock. It’s primal enough to get your blood pumping, but complex enough to keep your interest (all year long as is the case since this came out way back in March).  In a year where tons of  bands were at the beach making laid back sun in your face tunes, the Obits were kicking sand in everyone’s faces mixing Gang of Four funk with Dick Dale guitars.  Yow!

mp3: Two-Headed Coin

8. Tyvek – Tyvek (Siltbreeze)

It’s kind of funny, the amount of attention that this record’s cover has gotten.  It must be a real threat to a would-be punk’s sense of punk mentality to like a record who’s cover looks like it was designed by Nick Park.  To my mind post-punk was always a ton more interesting than anything punk ever wrought, and Tyvek are decidedly post-punk, pulling influences from disparate places to make a tour de force.  From the Joy Division like instrumental interludes to the Gang of Four-like guitars, or the way Kevin Boyer shouts out the address in the song Hey Una reminding me of Grant Hart’s 2541, or the two part Building Burning bringing back memories of early Fall.  Tyvek are the best parts of  geek, intellectual, punk, and they have a sense of humor.

mp3: Summer Things

9. Tap Tap – On My Way (Stolen)

If anyone has captured the essence and spirit of the Chills (besides Martin Phillips himself of course) it’s Thomas Sanders.  Sanders’ other band Pete & the Pirates were a top pick last year and I’m looking forward to their new album in the coming year, but Tap Tap nearly made me forget about his other band.  Tap Tap doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Pete & Pirates, except that it’s a little more moody and introverted with quiet vocals and slithering guitars.  On My Way will literally sneak right up on you and wrap itself around you.  Compared to this, the first Tap Tap record sounded like half finished demos.  Thomas Sanders really hitting his stride as songwriter.

mp3: El Gusano

10. Cerys Matthews – Don’t Look Down (Rainbow City)

Cerys Matthews, the former Catatonia singer has been quietly putting out solo albums since her band called it a day back in 2001.  Don’t Look Down is her fourth album and it’s really the first one I’ve taken note of since her Catatonia days.  She recorded two versions of the record with slightly different running orders and a few different songs  on each one.  One versionis sung in her native Welsh and and another in the more familiar English. No matter the language you choose to hear Don’t Look Down in, it’s a delight as Matthews goes from lush orchestral songs, to ones that sound like some long lost show tune,  to more straightforward pop numbers.  The album sometimes walks a fine line between sugary sweet pop and the vapid kind that seems to dominate the charts in the UK.  To my ears, it’s the former, and I can’t seem to get some of these songs out of my head.

mp3: A Captain Needs a Ship

mp3: Mae Angen Llong Ar Gapte

11. Jacuzzi Boys – No Seasons (Florida’s Dying)

On the surface, Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys appear to be just another garage tinged rock band, but upon further examination you start to realize that it’s a little bit more complex than that.  For starters this album was recorded at the Living Room, not a garage.  No Seasons has a distinct Feelies vibe.  Like the Feelies, Jacuzzi Boys like to whip their songs up into a maelstrom and they also seem to dig the Velvet Underground, Television and the Byrds. Just listen to Komi Caricoles and tell me I’m wrong.  But they also have a love of the 13th Floor Elevators that gives the record a more wild and unpredictable feel to it.

mp3: Komi Caricoles

12. So Cow – So Cow (Tic Tac Totally)

Technically this is a compilation or reissue, but really it’s the first many of us ever heard of Brian Kelly’s one man band So Cow.  Tic Tac Totally cherry picked the best tracks from Kelly’s self-released CDr’s and put them down on a slab of vinyl.  So Cow songs are short blasts of DIY pop, parts Television Personalities, Beat Happening and Pastels These 18 songs may grab, jar or caress you and sometimes all three at once.

mp3: Casablanca

13. Pants Yell! – Received Pronunciations (Slumberland)

It’s the little things that makes some things so special.  Little things like the guitars in the song Rue de la Paix sounding like Felt, the packaging with Japanese obi strip, or the crisp, yet simple production of this record.  Attention to detail is the bookish Pants Yell! forte.  They’ve simplified their sound a little, (gone are the horns of last year’s Allison Statton) stripping down to guitar, bass, drums and Andrew Churchman’s smooth croon.   A near perfect little record.  I don’t even mind it when Churchman sings “I never trusted Toby, or his long hair”.

mp3: Frank And Sandy

14. The Clean – Mister Pop (Merge)

You would think that with the number of times I’ve seen some new band get compared to the Clean that their latest album would have gotten more accolades, especially when Mister Pop is arguably the best album the band has made (remember that Compilation is just that, a compilation).  Mister Pop is the Clean at their most sanguine with all three members contributing top notch songs.  Asleep in the Tunnel could be one of my favorite Robert Scott songs ever, David Kilgour gives us the beautiful In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul and Are You Really on Drugs, while his brother Hamish contributes one his best in years Back In the Day.  Every song leads into the next, there are no non-sequiter instrumentals (Moon Jumper is perfect and integral) or throw-away half songs.  It’s a concise well thought out album that floats along putting you into a dream-like warm euphoric state.  At least it does me.

mp3: In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul

15. Taken By Trees – East of Eden (Rough Trade)

This has to be one of the best surprises of the year.  Victoria Bergsman had left the Concretes a few years back to go solo with her Taken By Trees project.  Album number one had many thinking (myself included) that although she had a great voice, she missed the songwriting of her former band.  No such doubts on album number two.  A complete rethink with Bergsman traveling to Pakistan to record East of Eden, and taking on an entirely different feel to anything she’s done previously.  Her child-like, angelic voice is still here, but this album of songs has a earthy eastern feel to it that doesn’t feel forced at all.  Her songs easily meld in with the eastern influences and at times are completely immersed, coming out all the better for it.

mp3: Anna

16. The Horrors – Primary Colors (XL)
I nearly didn’t pay this record any mind, because their debut was a non-melodic record with a bad a Birthday Party fixation.  Primary Colors is like the Radiohead’s the Bends, a sophomore album that leaves the debut in the dust.  The Horrors have moved on to more melodic territory, mining the rich vein of Chameleons, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sound and the Comsat Angels, straddling the line of stadium rock, goth, and pop. Not only do they get the feel right, they do it with great songs.

mp3: Who Can Say

17. Real Estate – Real Estate (Woodsist)

This New Jersey band’s debut came off sounding like a long lost David Kilgour album (Sugarmouth or A Feather In the Engine anyone?). I don’t know where exactly in New Jersey Real Estate is from, but my guess would be somewhere along the shore where you can kick back around a bonfire on the beach after the sun has just set with the fire crackling and the constant rhythm of waves crashing to the sand.

mp3: Beach Comber

18. The Spires – A Way of Seeing (Bee House)
If you’ve hung out at this blog for any amount of time you’ve probably figured out that the Chills are one of my favorite bands.  With this album, the Spires pretty much made up for the MIA Chills.  It’s uncanny how much singer Jason Bays sounds like Martin Phillips and how the music takes on this jangly sing-song thing that Chills did so well.  A Way of Seeing is such an accomplished record that it’s hard to believe it was self-released.  Thank god for DIY!

mp3: The Afterlife

19. Girls – Album (True Panther/Fantasy Trashcan)
This record has a distinct 50’s vibe mostly due to Christopher Owens’ emotive voice.  He reminds me of Danny Zuko, this big masculine, leather jacket wearing guy with a voice that betrays his sensitive side.  Musically, it hops around a little more from Beach Boys to My Bloody Valentine and places in between. The style doesn’t really matter though, because every song is packed with memorable hooks, the best of which is the epic centerpiece Hellhole Ratrace.  A real beauty.

mp3: Hellhole Ratrace

20. Mannequin Men – Lose Your Illusion, Too (Flameshovel)
About ten years ago a band like the Mannequin Men would have been hailed as potential saviors of rock n’ roll.  Since rock doesn’t need saving these days, they flew under the radar.  The Mannequin Men like the Strokes before them and the Replacements before them can’t decide if they want to be snotty or sensitive. The album cover and songs like Rathole and WTF LOL argue for the former, but Exquisite Corpse and Judy go for the latter.  That’s what makes the Mannequin Men so essential, they can do both.

mp3: Massage

21. The Clientele – Bonfires on the Heath (Merge)

With each new Clientele record, the vocal reverb gets turned down further and the smooth pop thrills get turned up.  I remember back in the day, you would have to strain to understand Alasdair MacLean’s lyrics because  of the echo on his voice was so great.  The Clientele are the perfect example of a band that have developed into accomplished and confident musicians along the road of their career.  This is the fourth proper album, and I don’t know if I could say it is the best one, but it’s as good as any that came before which is saying something.  It has an autumnal sound and feel to it, but turning it up as loud as you can will enhance your ability to soak in the sounds and pleasures that Bonfires on the Heath serves out listen after listen.

mp3: I Wonder Who We Are

22. Summer Cats – Songs for Tuesdays (Slumberland)

One of my biggest musical regrets of this year was that I missed Summer Cats when they played in Seattle this summer.  It was a house party, and I can only imagine how they shook the joint with their energetic, anthemic indiepop.  This was the year that we finally got a full album from these feline Australians after many singles and eps.  Songs for Tuesdays plucked the best songs from their previous releases and injected some new songs as well as styles into the mix.  The ace Stereolab-ish singles Let’s Go and Lonely Planet are included, but there were new favorites to be found like the lovely duet In June, the Triffids-like Maybe Pile and St. Tropez. A record that is perfect any day of the week or year for that matter.

mp3: In June

23. Let’s Wrestle – In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s (Stolen)

These guys seem to get pegged as Fall fans, mostly because of Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’s off kilter, slightly tone-deaf vocals, but Let’s Wrestle are a whole lot goofier than the Fall ever were.  In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s is a strangely titled record, but it gives you an idea of this bands slanted and enchanted take on life. Decidedly lo-fi, lo-budget, but spot on.  Gonzalez has tons of bon mots, but the line No matter How many records I buy, I can’t fill this void could be the best lyric to describe record collector geek types ever.

mp3: I Won’t Lie To You

Endless Summer Cats

summer cats songs for tuesdays

Well, it’s Tuesday, time to pull out the new Summer Cats record Songs for Tuesdays and give it a spin.  I think that this album may be misnamed, songs for the whole damn week more like.  After putting out a handful of eps on Cloudberry, WeePOP!  Scratching Post as well as singles on Slumberland (split with POBAH), Cloudberry (again and single of 2008 around these parts) and Knock Yr Socks Off (split with Aux Autres) these Australians are set to release their debut long player next week on that label that I can’t seem to stop mentioning, Slumberland.

A few of the songs from their stellar afore mentioned singles make reappearances here, albeit in rerecorded versions.  So Let’s Go and the Lonely Planet jangle a little more than they did on their vinyl versions and Kraut a little less.  Former Earthman Scott Stevens sings most of the songs but  he takes a back seat on Maybe Pile and Christopher Wren  no let down in quality is suffered from the different lead singer, in fact it adds to the album’s charm.  There is also the  duet In June that could be the standout track on the record, it reminds me of the Hummingbirds or the Go-Betweens, great Australian company to be in.  The band are making a short trip over to the West Coast of the US to celebrate the album’s release.  A rare treat, in fact their first ever trip over here to play.  Catch them if you can, so you don’t regret it!

mp3: Summer Cats – In June (from Songs for Tuesdays on Slumberland)

Sat July 11 @ Mai’s Cafe, VENTURA CA w/ Sea Lions
Sun July 12 @ Part Time Punks at The Echo, LOS ANGELES, CA w/ The Tartans
Mon July 13 @ The Knockout’s All Fall Down night, SAN FRANCISCO, CA w/ The Tartans, Magic Bullets
Wed July 15 @ The Blue Lamp, SACRAMENTO, CA w/ The Tartans, Baby Grand, English Singles
Thu July 16 @ The Backspace,  PORTLAND, OR w/The Tartans, Soft Paw
Fri July 17 @ New Crompton house, SEATTLE, WA w/The Tartans

Singles of the Year…Literally

This year seemed to be the year in which the 7″ single returned to prominence.    It’s not like it ever really went away, but this year bands and labels were putting them out left a right.  Vinyl in general, is making a resurgence with the prevalence of file downloading a cd is just a lousy digital copy that takes up too much space, whereas a slab of vinyl is more like a work of art with it being big enough to actually appreciate the cover art.  It also comes in many shades, with colored vinyl showing up almost as much as the standard black even though its sound quality is supposedly inferior to good old black.   Records these days have a one of kind feel to them or at least one of  limited run, making you feel like you really buying something besides just the music.  I probably haven’t bought this many records since the indie heyday of the early 90’s.  It was fun again to hang out by the record player and change the record every three minutes, and I did this quite a bit, nearly spending all my listening time at home doing just that.  In celebration of it’s return, I’m compiling my favorite 7″ singles of the year, my only requirements are that it had to be put out this year on a 7″ and I had to actually buy it.  So here is what got the most spins in my house, you will have to take my word for it since my turntable doesn’t keep track of  play counts.  Now go out and buy some records!

summercats

1. Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (Cloudberry)
This number one was a no-brainer for me.  With it’s pulsing keyboards and  killer guitar riff, this was on my turntable nearly every evening for a good month.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that Australia’s Summer Cats are working on a full length.  It will easily one of my most anticipated records of next year.  Or instead they could just put out singles like this all next year and I would completely happy.

catwalk

2. Catwalk – Past Afar (Yay!)
Apparently Oxnard, California has a killer scene at the moment and Yay! records has signed every single band in the scene.  Catwalk’s second single for the label is a sad, energetic beauty that has elements of the Close Lobsters as well as Blueboy.  How can you get any closer to heaven than that?

liechtenstein

3. Liechtenstein – Apathy/Security by Design
(Fraction)
Ennio Morricon moved to Sweden and got a sex change?  No Liechtentein, three women from Goteborg, Sweden put out an amazing record.  Their second single had everyone excited who heard it, and how could you not be excited? That’s the beauty of the single, you put your best foot forward.  It’s like Security by Design, two killer songs and a whole lotta mystery just like all those great girl groups from yesteryear, they need not release anything more to be cemented into music history.

nodzzz

4. Nodzzz – I Don’t Wanna (Make a Mess)
The Nodzzz couldn’t keep this record in print and it’s easy to see why, when you hear its raw bass line and punk rock chorus.  It’s only a minute and a half, so you’ll be picking up the needle and putting it back at the start to play it again quite frequently.

muslims

5. Muslims – Parasites (I Hate Rock n Roll)
San Diego’s Muslims are no more, they’ve gone and changed their name to the Soft Pack for reasons only they know.  Listening to this harks back to the day when the band were irreverent, in your face, snot nosed punks.  I’m not sure what they are now, but this single will have you on your knees praying that the name is the only thing they’re changing.  Killer cover of Spacemen 3’s Walking With Jesus gets best cover of the year without a doubt.

tartans

6. The Tartans – Cats of Camerford (Yay!)
Horns, horns, horns! It’s easy to forget how much a great horn line in a song can just put it over the top.  This ranks up there with Brideshead’s  Real Art as a killer pop song with a more killer horn hook.

jesuisanimal

7. Je Suis Animal – Painted In my Face
(Cloudberry)
French name, Norwegian band, singing in English, swirling Broadcast/Stereolab sound, and an a-side to die for.   The Scandinavians never cease to amaze me with their uncanny ability to arrive fully formed with style and songs that seems like they should take years to develop.

boat

8. Boat – Topps (Magic Marker)
Boat are one of my favorite bands in Seattle and they really outdid themselves with this record.  It was named after the baseball card company and came with a deck of hand drawn trading cards that included the band’s favorite baseball players as well themselves sporting baseball caps, cool badges with the band in their baesball getup and of course a stick of gum.  Topps is just that, with it’s shakey keyboards, economical guitar riff and hyper Boat-esque chorus, it’s got it all, a wife, a job, a record store that knows it’s name and friend in every town.

wakethepresident

9. Wake the President – You Can’t Change that Boy/Kingfishers – Make Me Sad (Electric Honey/Aufgeladen Und Bereit)
First of all the Kingfishers doing a cover of Vic Godard’s Make Me Sad would for some, be worth the price of admission, but Glassgow’s Wake the President are more than happy to steal the show with their original slice of Godard/Orange Juice pop.  It’s one of those songs that make you want to bounce around on the furniture.  I’ve been reprimanded a couple times for doing  just that while listening to this.

blackmountain

10. Black Mountain – Lucy Brown (Sub Pop)
For its 20th anniversary this past summer Sub Pop started its third incarnation of its singles club.  I joined figuring it would be kinda cool getting a surprise in the mailbox every month.  November’s edition was the best surprise yet.  I have kinda ignored Black Mountain up until this single, but Lucy Brown has bitten me with it’s scuzzy bass and bluesy vibe.   This rocks so hard it was more than worth the price of joining this club.

sexykids

11. Sexy Kids – Sisters are Forever (Slumberland)
Jeeze, with Slumberland putting out a slew of killer albums and singles this year, I was both surprised and amazed when a few weeks ago that the label announced it was putting out a couple more singles.  Sisters are Forever, one of those singles, is a perfect pop rush.  Tie a double knot and don’t forget to buy this.

jonathanrichman

12. Jonathan Richman – You Can Have a Cell Phone That’s Ok But Not Me (Vapor)
OK, everyone has a cell phone, right?  Well not Jonathan Richman, and he says he’s doing just fine, well at least he seems to be, even if he doesn’t get a sound check.

bears

13. Bears – Making Something(Impose)
A record player,  a sunny summer afternoon and a Bears record go along way to a blissful existence.  I don’t think I need to really say anything else about this sublime record, I really can’t think of a better way to spend  two minutes.

twig

14. Twig – Ciao Ciao Bomb (Cloudberry)
Earlier in the year I wrote about how there seemed to be this Orange Juice resurgence happening.  Twig singer Henrik Linden could be Edwynn Collins’ long lost cousin and Ciao Ciao Bomb could be an unearthed OJ song.  Twig are no cover band though, their originals are classics in their own rite and this single as well as their album Life After Ridge on Plastilina is proof positive.

viviangirls

15. Vivian Girls – Wild Eyes/My Baby Wants Me Dead(Plays With Dolls)
It wasn’t the a-side that did if for me it was the rocking jam of a b-side that got me.  Crashing guitars and then silence followed by the eerie singing of ‘My baby wants me dead, he wants to put a knife in my head’.  It’s downright spooky.

tpobpah

16. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Everything With You (Slumberland)
TPOBPAH seem to be poised to just become huge next year, and this single will certainly wet your appetite for next year’s album.  It’s a rush of saccharine pop that’s like a wedding, something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

moscowolympics

17. Moscow Olympics – Still (Fraction)
This was the first official release from the mysterious Phillipeans’ Moscow Olympics and what an introduction.  Dreampop at its most dreamy.

boxelders

18. Box Elders – Hole in my Head(Grotto)
Omaha, Nebraska’s Box Elders are like a diamond in the rough, there surely cannot be a kiwi scene in the nation’s midsection can there?  This record just does not get old with me, it even sounds like it was recorded 20 years ago with a decidedly lo-fi feel that you just can’t fake.

surefirebroadcast

19. Surefire Broadcast – When I Need Someone/Some Seek While Some Find (self-released)
This is kind of a cheat, since I don’t actually own this 7″, only a cd-r of it.  But it exists and it was recorded by Dustin Reske of Rocketship.  Surefire Broadcast are easily one of my favorite bands of the moment and this record is the perfect evidence, with it’s almost grungy guitar juxtaposed with boy-girl vocals that swirl around each other into undeniable pop sunshine.

timesnewviking

20. Times New Viking – Stay Awake (Matador)
If you’ve made it this far, you may need to be jarred out of your complicity and Times New Viking are the perfect thing for that.  Discordant noise has never sounded better, at least to these ears.

Enivrez Vous avec Summer Cats

You may or may not know (or care) that Stereolab have new album out. I still like Stereolab, but they seem to have come to a point where they have genericized their sound so much that it’s great background muzak.  I like the new album Chemical Chords, but the music sounds so refined that it has been smoothed of all its rough edges. Take me back to the days of Super Electric or the Seeming and the Meaning or Metronomic Underground where the band seemed to have more angst in them and could lite it up with a dirging groove. Like I said, the new record,  is descent, but like the High Lamas (Sean O’Hagen does all Stereolab’s string arrangements) their recent albums just don’t compare to their earlier work. It’s good, but they seem to have lost the edge which made their earlier music so engaging.  I can’t really find anything really wrong with it, but I also can’t find anything that they’re doing that is new or immediate. It seems like the band have for the last four or five albums been on a quest to perfect their sound, making minor tweaks here and there and in doing so have sanitized their sound to a point where it’s hard to engage it.  Maybe that’s the point.  I’m sure Stereolab will continue putting out albums every few years and for some reason I’ll keep buying their albums, out of habit I guess.
the old:
mp3: Stereolab – Super Electric (from Switched On)

the new:
mp3: Stereolab – Self Portriat With “Electric Brain” (from Chemical Chords)

The answer to my Stereolab wo’s has come in the form of an Australian band calling themselves Summer Cats. Their latest single the Lonely Planet, out on Cloudberry is two minutes of krautish swirling guitars and organ with a monotone boy-girl vocal that even starts out with the French Je t’aime a la Stereolab. The Summer Cats feature Scott Stevens of the Earthmen, who were a jangly, pop band that weren’t afraid to rock out. The Earthmen released a bunch of singles and a couple albums in the 90’s on Summershine down under and on Seed here in the United States. The Summer Cats have hints of jangle, especially on their earlier stuff, but they seem to be mining gold with the Kraut direction they’ve been going on both the Cloudberry single and the split single they just released on Slumberland with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.   Stuff like this keeps me buying records, not out habit but out of the sheer fact of being blown away when I hear something this immediate and cracking.

mp3: Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (buy the single from Cloudberry)

mp3: Summer Cats – Let’s Go (buy the single from Slumberland)

And here’s one from the Earthmen, in case you were wondering.

mp3: The Earthmen – Stacey’s Cupboard