Tags: Secret Identity Records, Space Case Records, Talbot Adams
I have been a bad blogger lately, neglecting this page even more than usual. I got the new Talbot Adams album sometime last year, played it a bunch, loved it, and then buried beneath a bunch of other records. In my attempt to organize, I was filing records this weekend and was reminded of my remiss when Community/Recession Era popped up from behind a stack of LP’s sitting on the floor. I immediately pulled out the orange disc and played it.
The album is a low key affair, consisting of Adams and his guitar (mostly acoustic with a handful of electric ones), but it has this subtle psychedelic quality to it that gives you something to keep coming back. It’s a little Doug Tuttle, Bert Jansch and Richard Davies. Adams’s songs provide a grounded perspective to life in general and seem like an open book into his tender soul. In the hands of a lesser artist it could become a mundane trudge, but Talbot Adams is a tower of song that demands to be heard.
Tags: Beach Boys, Left Banke, Market Square Records, Paul Messis, Talbot Adams
Mississippi’s Talbot Adams quickly follows up last year’s self-titled album with a new single on Market Square Records. Green Girl is strummed psychedelic bliss over a melodic bass line that swirls into your being like a warm summer breeze. The flip side I Love You So has a Phil Specter wall of sound that gently leans into you with its sha-la-la’s and Adams’ easy southern tenor. Pretty pop for your turntable.
Tags: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Alpaca Sports, Alvvays, Butter the Children, Chook Race, Clap! Clap!, Cold Beat, Ex Hex, Flowers, Gotobeds, Gwenno, Hollie Cook, Hookworms, Lauras, Nun, Omi Palone, Paperhead, Peter Escott, Pheromoans, Pow!, Primitives, Proper Ornaments, Protomartyr, Quilt, Ramona Lisa, Rat Columns, Sea Pinks, Skygreen Leopards, Sleaford Mods, Small Reactions, Soundcarriers, Sugar Stems, Talbot Adams, Tee-Tahs, Total Control, Ty Segall, Ultimate Painting, Univers, Vertical Scratchers, Vic Goddard, Woodentops
Here are the non-Seattle albums that spun the most in my rabbit hole over the past 12 months. The countdown starts with number 40, so you will have to scroll all the way down to find number one. For the first time I think, it contains some albums that did not see a physical release. With more and more music being exclusively released to air conditioned server farms I wonder if we’ll see a day when the minority of the list is made of records that had the privilege of getting a physical release? Most folks with all of their fancy means of consuming streams of music call that progress. Me, I just try to roll with it.
40. Cold Beat – Over Me (Crime On the Moon)
Truth be told, I like Cold Beat more than Hanna Lew’s previous band Grass Widow. The post-punk vibes on Over Me are just the right mix of early Dum Dum and Vivian Girls melodies and the spiky, jangly playfulness of Wire and Tubeway Army. High points like the stellar Mirror hit the ungodly sweet spot of driving beat, dissonance, and melody.
39. Hookworms – The Hum (Domino)
My main complaint with the Hum is that it’s nearly a carbon copy of last year’s number one album Pearl Mystic. The same interludes that have roman numerals for titles and it even contains last year’s number one single Radio Tokyo. That complaint is also why I still love this album. It’s nothing new, but it’s totally solid.
38. Skygreen Leopards – Family Crimes (Woodsist)
It’s hard to believe that Skygreen Leopards have been a band since 2001 and that this is their eighth album. The band have been quietly churning out wonderful psychedelic beauties inspired by Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds and the Television Personalities for quite a long whild. This may be their most accomplished record to date, and if you like this, there is a treasure trove of Skygreen Leopards to discover.
37. Small Reactions – Similar Phantoms (Self-released)
Another self-released record in this year’s count down. I have a feeling in another year of two the list will be a majority of self-releases. Atlanta’s Small Reactions conjure krautrock from the below the Mason Dixon line. Influenced by Can, Stereolab and probably the Wedding Present, which makes them strangers in a strange land. Similar Phantoms is the real deal with some amazing bass playing (I’m still in awe that it’s not machine). Tons of pulses and killer grooves that will vibrate and rattle your too comfortable existence.
36. Pheromoans – Hearts of Gold (Upset the Rhythm)
If you were to judge this album by its cover you might think that Pheromoans are an odd lot who are into druids, fantasy game-play and general weirdness. You would be mostly right. This equally prolific and obscure band have released their most consistently entertaining album yet, knowing how to keep things interesting with just the right amount of weirdness and melody.
35. Ramona Lisa – Arcadia (Terrible)
Ramona Lisa is solo nom de guerre of Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. Obviously influenced by Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins and Goldfrappe, but still able to make esoteric synthetic sounds in a mold all of her own. This record seemed to get written off as just a minor solo excursion by most, but it delighted me throughout the year and I have a feeling it will continue to do so for a long time to come.
34. Vertical Scratchers – Daughter of Everything (Merge)
You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen this record in the used bins around time. Every time I see it I fight the urge to buy it again and gift it to someone. John Schmersal was in Brainac and Enon and you can hear those bands in Vertical Scratchers, but it’s the organic feel to it that harks back to the Elephant Six collective of the 90’s that really makes it endearing.
33. Rat Columns – Leaf (RIP Society)
Rat columns achieve a zen like balance of murky depths and pristine shimmery pop. Guitars glisten with rays of light over a cold dark expanse. Rat king David West likes to straddle the extremes the way that the Church and the Cure always did. Recorded with the help of Kelley Stoltz, Leaf is just the right elixir of light and dark.
32. Alpaca Sports – Sealed With a Kiss (Luxury)
Sweden’s Alpaca Sports is most definitely twee, but their brand of twee is almost subversive. So cute and cuddly that you know that they have a dark side. They probably hide their death metal records when friends come over. Sealed With a Kiss is a record that could melt a cold dark heart with its sweet sugar charms. You can always hide it when your metal friends come over to visit.
31. The Lauras – The Lauras (Self-released)
There’s something both so right and so wrong about giving away an album this good for free. Wrong, because there was a time when bands this good could sell records. Right, because well, music this good for free is like free beer. You can’t believe your luck. Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Laura’s would not have been out of place on the One Last Kiss compilation that came out on SpinArt in 1992. Their swirling guitars and ethereal vocals remind me of the Lilys and the Swirlies with a bit of bossa nova thrown in for good measure.
30. Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)
My main complaint about der wunderkind Ty Segall has been his inability to be consistent. He seems to have conquered this weakness on his double LP Manipulator. Taking a T-Rex blueprint and running with it he strings together 17 songs that maintain consistency throughout. The kid may have finally done it.
29. Pow! – High Tech Boom (Castle Face)
Hi Tech Boom is a commentary on the current state of affairs in certain desirable cities. Techie nerds with their high salaries and bad taste are infiltrating the system and making it nearly impossible to eke out a living. No one knows that better than Pow! who come from the San Francisco bay area. Their post-apocalyptic vibes are akin of Devo the A-Frames and the Intelligence. And you thought Logan’s Run was just a movie.
28. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
Recorded with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler this London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.
27. Talbot Adams – Talbot Adams (Spacecase)
For all intents and purposes, this was Talbot Adams’ debut album. Last year’s download only album was made up mostly of acoustic self-produced home recordings was a self released download only record. Now he has a proper band and has delivered an electric powerpop record with a psychedelic streak to it.
26. Univers – L’estat Natural (Famelic)
Barcelona based moody rockers Univers live in the sun, but sound like the moody cellar dwelling southern cousins of Girls Names, early Cure and Big Country. L’estate Natural is sung in their native Catalan, adding a bit of mystery to its onslaught of soaring and darting guitars.
25. Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)
Mary Timony has been in her share of good bands. She could proudly retire with her resume of Autoclave, Helium, the Spells, and Wild Flag. Thankfully she’s not ready to hang up her axe. Ex Hex is in different league from all of those bands. Slick pop inspired by Cheap Trick and the Pretenders that is all killer and absolutely no filler.
24. Sugarstems – Only Come Out at Night (Dirtnap)
Sugar Stems singer Betsy Heibler has an amazingly strong voice. It easily cuts through her band’s twin guitar powerpop attack. Containing a great mix of Cheap Trick, the Bangles, the Nerves, this is easily one of the best powerpop records of the past few years.
23. Vic Goddard – 1979 Now! (AED)
Somehow Vic Goddard has been hoarding this treasure trove of northern soul since 1979. The guy can really keep a secret. A few have leaked out here and there like Holiday Hymn, but the majority are brand new to nearly everyone. Classic stuff 35 years later from the postman who thankfully rings twice!
22. Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)
The third album from Nashville’s Paperhead has a definite antique glow to it. Africa sees the band maturing quickly and features their best songs yet. In the garage-psych realm of things (Face to Face era Kinks and Rubber Soul Beatles) it don’t get much better than this.
21. Butter the Children – True Crime (Self-released)
Former members of Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs follow up their 2012 self-titled EP with a stormy noisepop beauty that features the siren-like vocals of Inna Mkrtycheva. This album is too good to be a free download, but that’s what it is. Everyone count your chickens!
20. Sea Pinks – Dreaming Tracks (CF)
On the fourth Sea Pinks album former Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan continues his west coast jangling affectations only this time he adds a cello into the mix with superb results. The cello adds a melancholy element to his airy songs making for the best Sea Pinks album yet.
19. Proper Ornaments – Wooden Head (Slumberland) / Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting (Trouble In Mind)
Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare was a busy guy this year and there wasn’t even a new Veronica Falls album. He was at the center of two excellent records this year nonetheless, both of which shared an affinity with the Velvet Underground. For the first act, he teamed up with the Argentinian Max Claps in Proper Ornaments for a haunting set of songs that added in some Left Banke for good measure. Act two was Ultimate Painting, his collaboration with the Mazes’ Jack Cooper. This one was more straightforward Velvets stuff, but great songwriting refurbished a tried and true model.
18. Quilt – Held In Splendor (Mexican Summer)
The Boston band’s second album surpasses their good debut with a batch of psychedelic circle dances that sparkle and shimmer, effortlessly creating their own brand of psych with one foot in the past and other in the next star system.
17. Omi Palone – Ome Palone (Faux Discx)
The singer of Omi Palone has a baritone voice that makes you wonder what Calvin Johnson is up to these days. It’s a little more polished than that Olympia band’s oeuvre, but contains many of the same unique melodic twists and turns. This London band have quietly released a concise and economical (it’s only 8 songs) of blistering jangle reminiscent of Beat Happening, Butterglory and the Clean.
16. Nun – Nun (Aarght!/Avanti)
Melbourne’s Nun play dark, piercing, icy coldwave inspired music. Their debut album sounds so cold and detached that you’ll need to bundle up and experience it with friends to withstand its isolation inducing aura.
15. Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)
I love how Nottingham’s Soundcarriers use their Free Design influence as inspiration. At times sounding as innocent as that late 60’s / early 70’s cult band and others they can sound sinister and mysterious. They even enlist the help of Elijah Wood on a 12 minute trippy soliloquy to add to the surrealism of the entire endeavor.
14. Chook Race – About Time (Self-released)
About Time was only released in December, but the debut record from this Melbourne trio is so immediate it easily climbed into the upper reaches of my top 40. The album is filled with boy-girl harmonies and jangling guitars that have similarities with the Bats and early REM.
13. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
This was the year that Sleaford Mods blew up. Well, at least in certain internet circles. They are certainly better known than they’ve ever been. Their distinctly British style of rap is not for the faint of heart, as this duo rages against the ruling class machine and mainstream bullshit over spare and ragged beats. No one else this year sounded this angry nor delivered their angst in such a manic and entertaining way.
12. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Lefse)
A Sunny Day in Glasgow turned a major page on Sea When Absent. Previously they were a mild mannered shoegaze band that kind of floated through you with little effect. They’ve kept their shoegaze roots, but morphed into a bigger life affirming pop band that demands attention with their new form of shoegaze gospel.
11. Peter Escott – The Long O (Bedroom Suck)
Peter Escott is also the singer of the Native Cats from Tasmania. On the Long Glow Escott wrote, played and rececorded everything. He sticks to piano and other keyboard oriented sounds that evoke an understated psychedelic tone that warms the sole and fits comfortably next to Frank Tovey, the Cleaners from Venus and Robyn Hitchcock.
10. Woodentops – Granular Tales (Cherry Red)
After reuniting to play some shows the Woodentops finally decided to record a follow up to their 1988 album Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway. You know it’s the Woodentops as soon as you hit play, though the band don’t come off as hyper as they did 25 years ago which wouldn’t make sense since it’s been so long. It’s decidedly darker but still danceable and utterly delightful.
8. Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf (Peski)
Former Pippette Gwenno’s first solo album is a strictly Welsh affair. Inspired by Welsh sci-fi writer Owain Owain and sung in Welsh, Y Dydd Olaf is a sublime affair with rubbery beats, ethereal vocals and spacey vibes in the vein of Broadcast and Stereolab.
7. Total Control – Typical System (Iron Lung)
On the follow-up to 2011’s Henge Beat Total Control dial up a slightly more sedate and accomplished collage of synth-based pop. Lead by Australian garage rock luminary Mickey Young, the band delve into Ideal Copy era Wire, New Order and Depeche Mode territory while keeping their punk rock urgency and attitude intact which is truly a feat.
9. Alvvays – Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
This year’s countdown contains five self-released albums. There’s a ton of great records out there, only there aren’t enough labels to release them. Apparently this record came out as a self-released cassette over a year ago because they couldn’t find a label to release it. Polyvinyl finally came through to make this dreampop beauty available to the world at large.
6. Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)
Tayi Bebba is something of a concept album where Italian maestro Cristiano Crisci takes you on a megatransecto of an island’s micro climates, villages, pastures and other not so physical planes. He uses a palette of sounds culled from field recordings, tribal rhythms, creek crossings, big beats, jungle vibes and trade winds to paint quite an adventure of a record.
5. Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting (12xU)
Pittsburgh’s Gotobeds like a good double entendre peppered with a tight jagged riff. Their debut album, is an elixir inspired by Pavement, the Fall and Wire (obviously) and packed full of adolescent energy, anger, spite and most importantly fun.
4. Primitives – Spin-O-Rama (elefant)
A couple years ago Coventry’s Primitives reunited and released a covers album to mixed reviews. It turns out that it was just a warm up to the real goods. Spin-O-Rama surpasses all of their early work. It’s slightly more understated, but more long-lasting. They still deal in autumnal and sprightly 60’s inspired pop but the production is more sedated and the hooks are longer lasting this time.
3. Hollie Cook – Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Hollie Cook’s second album is more tropical pop from the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. Her collaboration with Prince Fatty continues to produce sensual reggae infused pop, filled with strings and Cook’s easy croon. Twice is great batch of songs including her ode to her former bandmate Slits singer Ari Up.
2. Tee-Tahs – Buzzkill (self-released)
I don’t know what the legal limit of fun is in Edmunton, Alberta is, but Tee-Tahs have undoubtedly exceeded it on their debut album. This band doles out kinetic, irreverent fun. They’ve got an ear for a good chorus and can role phrases that are guaranteed to rile certain segments of the population. On Fun Forever they sing, “Kicking cans and breaking stuff, Fucking guys in parking lots, I don’t really give a fuck, I just wanna have fun forever.” It’s the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks updated by a bunch of Rat Babes for the millennial bunch.
1. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)
Earlier this year Protomartyr frontman Joe Casey wrote a review of the latest Interpol album because apparently a lot of people think his band sound like them. For the record, Casey doesn’t think they sound like Interpol and neither do I. They definitely have some post-punk roots, though more along the lines of the Chameleons (think Return of the Roughnecks), but there’s more, so much more here! Casey is one of today’s best lyricists who talks more than sings over his always solid and inventive band. They cook their Detroit roots into each of the tracks on Under Color of Official Right. The name of the album, the legal term for extortion, was inspired by the corruption trial of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. There are few albums these days that make you actually think. Protomartyr do what the best punk and and postpunk records from the past have done, grab you with their hooks and then send you to the library to do some research.
Tags: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Alpaca Sports, Carsick Cars, Cheatahs, Doug Tuttle, Hollie Cook, Katerine, Metronomy, Posse, Pow!, Quilt, Ramona Lisa, Talbot Adams, The People's Temple, Thee Oh Sees, Woodentops
You guys probably thought this was over. Nah, I was just giving everyone a day of rest. So now we are at the end of the middle of it. A little longer but packed full of worthwhile stuff. I left a few out, because…because why? Because I’m tired and I want to get back to listening to records.
Hollie Cook – Twice (Mr. Bongo)
Hollie Cook who is the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook has mastered it on album number two. Her brand of tropical/pop/reggae/dub sounds so fresh that you will wonder why nobody has come up with this elixir before. Twice has lush orchestration, obscure samples, phat beats and always Ms. Cook’s simmering voice bringing everything to brilliant life.
stream: Hollie Cook – Ari Up
You’ve heard it before. Band reunites, makes album after 20 year hiatus. Album sucks. It’s enough to make you ignore your glory days. The Woodentops are here to show you that old people don’t suck. After calling it a day 22 years ago the band are back with a new album. Yes they’ve aged, but they’ve made a record that holds onto the manic energy of their first incarnation, while adding a gravitas that makes up for any spring they may have lost in their steps. Granular Tales surely isn’t’ the record they would have made as follow up to Woodenfoot cops on the highway 20 years ago. It’s most likely much better.
stream: Woodentops – Third Floor Rooftop High
Ramona Lisa – Arcadia (Terrible)
Ramona Lisa is Caroline Polachek of Charilift. Her first solo album Arcadia is entirely and electronic affair, but it doesn’t sound cold or stilted at all. It is spacious and playful with a similar aesthetic to a Kate Bush or Goldfrapp record. She’s also brought an A list of songs so this is anything but some throw away indulgence solo album.
stream: Ramona Lisa – Backwards & Upwards
Talbot Adams – Talbot Adams (Space Case)
Talbot Adams self-titled solo album is wall to wall quality. What kind of quality you ask. Quality in the caliber of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Wreckless Eric. Thing is, it came out on a tiny label and got no press. People complain all the time that music sucks these days. It doesn’t suck you just need to dig because Columbia Records is not bankrolling artists anymore, so you are not going to hear this stuff on the radio or read about it on your favorite indie music web site. Shame.
stream: Talbot Adams – Nashville Avenue
Carsick Cars – 3 (Maybe Mars)
If you hadn’t heard China is rising. The sleeping dragon has awoke so it is only a matter of time before the country moves beyond exporting smart devices and cheap toys and starts exporting rock n’ roll. At the forefront of the invasion and hailing from Beijing, this Chinese trio make noisy grooving kraut influence rock. It certainly isn’t a homegrown sound, but they do it very well. Three (coincidentally their third album) was co-produced by the Clean’s Hamish Kilgour and former Spaceman Sonic Boom.
stream: Carsick Cars – 15 Minutes Older
The People’s Temple – Musical Garden (Hozac)
Musical Garden might be the best People’s Temple record yet. The Lansing, Michigan band’s brand of heavy psych-gararge- punk hits the right nerve sounding raw, unhinged and just about to take a sip of Kool-aid.
stream: The People’s Temple – Smooth Move
Posse – Soft Opening (BADH)
Posse’s second album Soft Opening is just about perfect in lonely, melancholy and druggy kind of way. It will likely remind you of great records from the likes of Galaxy 500, Versus and Acetone. Its sharp guitar and vocal interplay between co-singer-guitarists Paul Wittmann-Todd and Sacha Maxim compliment each other as if they’ve been playing together all their lives. It’s a record with a measured confidence giving you the impression that Posse are wise beyond their years.
stream: Posse – Interesting Thing No. 2
A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent (Lefse)
Every good band evolves of course, and A Sunny Day in Glasgow have progressed from being an airy shoegaze band whose songs sometime floated by without anyone taking notice to being a band that has retained its shoegaze roots but with a major focus on out and out pop. Singers Anne Fredrickson and Jen Goma combine their voices to create powerful attention grabbing songs while the rest of band provide big swirling and sweeping frameworks to hang their voices.
stream: A Sunny Day In Glasgow – In Love with Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)
Quilt – Held in Splendor (Mexican Summer)
Quilt pluck strings from psychedelic era Beatles, unearth dusty jangle from the Byrds and sprinkle misty mountain vocal harmonies from Crosby Stills and Nash all over the place. The Boston band’s second album surpasses their good debut with a batch of psychedelic circle dances that sparkle and shimmer, effortlessly creating their own brand of psych with one foot in the past and other in the next star system.
stream: Quilt – Tired & Buttered
Katerine – Magnum (Riviera)
Katerine started out making indiepop, then moved onto electronic, got really weird somewhere in there, became an actor, started his own girl group and now has gone disco. Over here in the states there is a large group of folks who worship Serge Gainsbourg. His records get reissued on a regular basis, and he gets tribute records made to him. I can only imagine that after Katerine passes away the same thing will happen to his records. In the meantime you have to call France to buy any of his stiff. His latest Magnum is loads of fun and slightly ironic based on the cover, but it also has some great beats and more than its share of excellent songs.
stream: Katerine – Les Dictateurs
Alpaca Sports – Sealed With a Kiss (Luuxury/Dufflecoat)
Is it possible to like both the angry Sleaford Mods and Protomartyr and happy Alpaca Sports? Maybe I like too much stuff but in my house there is a place for both. This Göteborg, Sweden duo explore the unbearable lightness of being twee on their debut album. It’s full of sunny harmless sounding fun, but underneath there is pain, hurt and anger. Sounding sweet and harmless isn’t as easy as you think and neither is making a record this intelligent and catchy.
stream: Alpaca Sports – He Doesn’t Even Like You
Pow! – Hi Tech Boom (Castle Face)
Hi-Tech Boom sounds like it was recorded in the 80′s, but it is a commentary on the current state of affairs in the Bay Area. High cost of living and high salaried tech workers pricing everyone out and vanillafying the place. Pow! sound numb, robotic in their outrage. Like everyone these days they are desensitized to the absurdity of reality. Let this record numb you so you feel no pain as the rich eat you.
stream: Pow! – Fire Hose
This Metronomy might not be what you’re expecting. It’s full of downbeat bedroom pop. It takes a few listens to adjust to it being so low key and understated, but the rewards are long lasting. Aquarius is the immediate one, but Love Letters soon grabs you with it’s piano riff and then Factory sounding instrumental Boy Racers hits you unexpectedly. Reservoir soon follows and before you know it you even like the most difficult ones.
stream: Metronomy – Aquarius
Doug Tuttle – Doug Tuttle (Trouble In Mind)
Former Mmoss guitarist strikes out on his own into New Hampshire’s White Mountains and conjures a brilliantly understated psychedelic masterpiece. Sometimes he sounds like he’s been listening to some West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, but he never goes off on the benders that that band did. The psych with a strict adherence to pop.
stream: Doug Tuttle – Forget the Days
Thee Oh Sees – Penetrating Eye (Castle Face)
It’s a brand new Thee Oh Sees. Dwyer decided to split with the rest of his band, but when it comes to records that doesn’t really matter since he usually records everything himself. As far as Thee Oh Sees albums go this one veers towards the more mellow psych side of things, like a sister of the Casstlemania record. Except that it isn’t quite that simple since there are few corkers in this batch of songs as well which contributes to the nice balance between hot and cool which is something new for this band.
stream: Thee Oh Sees – Encrypted Bounce (A Queer Song)
Cheatahs – Cheatahs (Wichita)
Cheatahs come from London, but the four guys in the band are from Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. There are obvious similarities to Swervedriver on their debut album as well as Buffalo Tom, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. You may have to pinch yourself as you reach for your copy of Melody Maker to make sure that you haven’t warped back to the 90’s. Nope, you haven’t, but this is good enough to make you think you might have just for a minute.
stream: Cheatahs – Geographic
Tags: Cate Le Bon, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, Nick Lowe, Spacecase Records, Talbot Adams, The Chills, The Moles, Ty Segall
Everyone’s in a band these days. Even solo acts give themselves a band name to give you the impression that they’re a gang of cool kids. I suppose it isn’t very punk rock or cool to be a solo artist. Are there any Elvis Costello’s, Leonard Cohen’s, Nick Lowe’s, Kate Bush’s or David Bowie’s these days. Yeah, I know those guys are actually still alive. What I mean, is there anyone new putting his or her name up on the marquee of that caliber? Very few people come to mind. Cate Le Bon, Ty Segall and Mac DeMarco are all I can think off the top of my head. One more you can add to that very short list is Talbot Adams. Adams was in a band called the Black & Whites who put an album out on Douchemaster in 2008 and then broke up in 2011. Now he is solo and not using a faux band name to masquerade his solo career. He doesn’t need to, as is evident on his newly released self-titled solo album.
For all intents and purposes, this self-titled album is his debut LP. Last year’s download only album was made up mostly of acoustic self-produced home recordings. Now he has a band and it’s electric. Drummer Beau Bourgeois and bassist Matt Patton to complete the power trio. The record is sort of powerpop with a psychedelic streak to it. Adams sings with an intensity the way Elvis Costello did when he was an angry young man but he tempers it with a smooth sophistication that was often present in Nick Lowe’s albums. He also employs some gentle psych touches that bring to mind bands like the Chills and the Moles. This record has all the ingredients to destine it to pop classic status, at least in realm of cult classics, and in my book there is no higher honor.
Tags: Afraid of Stairs, Be Forest, Blooper, Casual Sex, Circular Keys, Felines, Flowers, Hookworms, Krista, Market Squares, People's Temple, Proto Idiot, Raw Prawn, Sauna Youth, Slushy, Swiftumz, Talbot Adams, Tullycraft, Veronica Falls, Vic Godard, Week Of Wonders, Wildhoney, Young Sinclairs, Zebra Hunt
After a slight delay (I like to pretend I was creating anticipation) here are my top 25 singles of 2013. Seattle is in the mix with 20% of the spots in the top 25. Maybe I’ve been here so long that I’ve been taken over by NW provincialism. I doubt it. These records would be here not matter where I might reside. My provincial list should follow sometime next week.
25. Swiftumz – Willy (Sugar Mountain/Divis and Mason)
Swiftumz released two singles simultaneously one day this past fall. One was a re-recording of the excellent Luv Ya 4 eva from his debut album. The second one came in a sleeve of globular sugary goo that was an excellent indicator of what’s inside. Candy sweet Buzzcocks inspired riffs and saccharine vocals drip from this and every time I play it I have to clean the sweaty syrup from my turntable.
24. Week of Wonders – Piggybacks (HHBTM)
Leif Anders’ old band Orca Team kind of disappeared one day and from its carcass appeared Week of Wonders. It was as if Anders had been reborn on a tropical island with a brand new band. Wonders never cease here as the bright steel drum sounding guitars surround you and pull you into a conga line through an abandoned factory.
23. Circular Keys – Eurogrand (Bedroom Suck)
Reading this list you might get the idea that all I listen to is shoegaze, indiepop, garage and psych pop. Well I like a bit of dub and trip hop now and again too. It loosens your joints and keeps you spry. This Australian duo are utterly supple on their debut single. Extra points for spicing up this year’s countdown.
22. Proto Idiot – You’re Wrong (Trouble In Mind)
Proto Idiot is Manchester resident Andrew Anderson. This isn’t his debut, but it was the first I had heard of him and his Clean meets Soft Boys meets Television Personalities wonderfully warped take on pop, and a wonderful introduction it is.
21. Veronica Falls – Nobody There (Self-released)
I don’t think I’ve heard a Veronica Falls song I didn’t like. Nobody There is no exception, but it’s even better than most of their songs, mostly due to the wonderful harmonies at the end of the song that puts them in the realm of the Stone Rose debut.
20. Raw Prawn – None Left (RIP Society)
Maps are swell and Raw Prawn obviously love Swell Maps. The jaggedy dissonant guitars puncture your safe place and invade the living room. This was released way back in January and I haven’t heard much from them since, but hopefully they’re preparing their next salvo of cacophony real soon.
19. People’s Temple – Brand New Thing (Trouble In Mind)
Peoples’s Temple are no strangers to my year end lists, but usually they’re on the albums list. This year sees them only releasing a single. It is of such high quality, that it kept me satiated. This Lansing Band sounds like a combination of Them and psychedelic Rolling Stones, and will undoubtedly end up on a children of children of Nuggets box set at some point in the future.
18. Zebra Hunt – Beaches of LA (Manic Pop)
Man if there was a band like this that lived in my town I would count myself one of the luckiest fools on the face of this pale blue dot. Take a little Clean, some Shins and a bit of Go-Betweens and you’ve got the perfect combination (yes, I am a lucky fool). Beaches of LA shows the cool slow burn side of Zebra Hunt, but to the same deadly effect.
17. Tullycraft – Lost In Light Rotation (Fortuna Pop)
I was in the car the other day with my kids and this song came up on the shuffle play (a family that listens to Tullycraft together stays together). When the chorus “ray-gun ray-gun” came in, both kids immediately began singing along to it like it was second nature. After it was over they both said that they didn’t like the song. Sometimes the genius of a pop song is its ability to get you to sing it even when you don’t admit to liking it. Nice cover of Yaz’s Bad Connection on the flip side too.
16. Casual Sex – Stroh 80 (Moshi Moshi)
Have you ever wondered what a David Bowie and Edwynn Collins collaboration would sound like? Casual Sex have got your number. This is like Station to Station era Bowie hanging out with the leather clad Collins from the tail end of the Orange Juice.
15. Felines – A Man Stuck In Your Mind (Soundflat)
Another killer single this year from Denmark’s all girl garage supremos. They seem to have an innate ability to make simplicity sound vital. Nothing fancy, just songs that swagger with confidence and flat out rock.
14. Slushy – Candy (Randy)
This Chicago duo have got a sweet tooth for the Beach Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ramones and Teenage Fanclub. Two songs here and nothing wasted. It’s economical and efficient. Just like candy. Candy is the ballad on the A-side, while the more energetic Pocket showcases their ability to rock out. A near perfect record.
13. Flowers – When You Lie (Cloudberry)
Big fuzzy drums that sound like they were recorded in an elevator shaft and vocals that echo like fallen angels, this London band’s debut was an instant love affair for fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain,the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. Few bands can generate beauty from white noise, but Flowers are a welcome addition to this elite club.
12. Talbot Adams – Red Diamonds (Spacecase)
Red Diamonds has many similarities to I’ve Been Everywhere and This Land Is Your Land. Some might call that an overstatement, but Talbot Adams’ trip across the Great White North is a classic in waiting.
11. The Market Squares – Afternoon Tide (Market Square)
This collaboration between Paul Messis and the Sufis is a psych dream team. The sinuous guitar lead of Afternoon Tide sticks to your bones long after it’s over. Not surprising that this record sounds like it was recorded 45 years ago given Messis’ and the Sufis’ penchant for classic garage psychedelic sounds.
10. Be Forest – Hanged Man (WWNBB)
Italy’s Be Forest wonder in a wood of dreampop. Guitars swoop in from tall trees while the forest floor is soft and pillowy. The forest is slowly transformed as snow begins to descend. Finding shelter beneath a majestic evergreen you listen as the snow falls. When you dig out you discover an wood nymph singing a Japandroids song.
9. Young Sinclairs – Engineer Man (Market Square)
Albums, singles, solo records, and demos trickle out from head engineer Sam Lundsford at a fairly constant rate. He seems to have a endless source of paisley coloured songs that he feeds into the pipeline of the internet. Engineer Man is apparently an old song he re-recorded for this single. A good thing too, because it’s way too good to leave on some dusty bandcamp page.
8. Afraid of Stairs – I Lit Up (Dufflecoat)
It has been some time since we’ve heard from Sweden’s Afraid of Stairs, seven years in fact. I had this single originally slated in at around number 40 when I started gathering my list, but it kept getting better and better every time I listened to it. They sort of shed their shoegaze influences for big sounding straight ahead pop. At first I thought they might have lost the plot, but really they seem to be juggling about eight story lines at once.
7. Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out (Tenorio Cotobade)
On only their second single Zebra Hunt already seem to have pop genius figured out. Only Way Out is a near perfect song stretching like a rubber band to unimaginable length and then it snaps. It’s not the song itself that inflicts pain, it’s the brevity of this pop nugget that does it. Luckily there’s a repeat button.
6. Sauna Youth – False Jessie (Static Shock)
Usually a cover as the A-side means a band is lacking ideas, but Sauna Youth’s C-86 take on Pissed Jeans hardcore False Jessie is like the flip side of Fucked Up’s C-86 fetish. I hope Pissed Jeans aren’t getting any royalties from this because these damp youths own False Jessie.
5. Blooper – You Won’t Miss Me (Manic Pop)
The Razorcuts and the Buzzcocks have got nothing on Seattle’s Blooper. This record is so intensely good, you can play it 100 times in a day and it won’t loose any of its maniacally measured propulsion. Keep the singles going steady Blooper.
4. Wildhoney – Like Me (Nostalgium Directive)
While everyone was awestruck about My Bloody Valentine dusting off a bunch of b-sides and calling it an album this year, Baltimore’s Wildhoney put out the best slice of MBV inspired shoegaze since Isn’t Anything hit the shelves in record stores. Jaw dropping, ear bursting stuff. No big deal.
3. Vic Godard – Caught in Midstream / You Bring Out the Demon In Me (AED)
Oh my, this record is delight, and for you trainspotters the other record in the countdown to feature saxophone. The postman always delivers, and Vic Godard when he’s not delivering mail he’s delivering amazing stuff like this soulful blast of age-defying goodness. Who says you can’t have two careers?
2. Krista – Space Tom Test (Stones Throw)
Some astronaut sings Major Tom from space and people think it’s so poignant. Never mind the guy can’t sing. Vex Ruffin can sing, no doubt and Jame Pants can lay down a fat beat so the next time your in space sing this astronaut dude.
1. Hookworms – Radio Tokyo (Too Pure)
The Hookworms album was pretty good, no? Well this single put it in the dust and in the style of groups that know they can clean the floor it wasn’t even on the album. The swirling organ, the nutso guitar and the psychotic refrain of “It freaks me out” are like being in the eye of the storm. Things are swirling around your cocoon until a flying livestock punctures it and then your in the mayhem, the wondrously insane bovine induced mayhem.
Tags: Douchemaster, Guided By Voices, Richard Davies, Simon and Garfunkel, Spacecase Records, Talbot Adams, The Bevis Frond, The Moles
I loved Talbot Adams‘ single that came out on Douchemaster almost three years ago. It was an understated affair that had elements of Guided by Voices and Simon and Garfunkel. After the break-up up his garage rock/power pop band the Black and Whites, Adams decided to go completely solo, writing and recording everything himself. He also dialed down the volume and sweat a little and recorded a set of acoustic based psychedelic pop.
Space Case records has just released two more fruits of Adam’s solo effort that acts as kind of a travel log. The A-side Red Diamonds finds the singer traveling across Canada and reminiscing about secret spots he’s come across in the great white north. Not Even Europe goes to the old world rhyming the sights in verse as he attempts to forget a bad relationship. His phrasing and slightly English singing accent brings to mind the Moles’ Richard Davies. No doubt, this is classic pop on par with some of the greats.
If you are not the record buying type you can get an entire album of Talbot Adams’ songs called Weekend that contains both songs from his new single, a couple from his previous one and a few more over at his bandcamp page.
stream: Talbot Adams – Red Diamonds (from the new Space Case 7″)
Tags: Aias, For Ex-Lovers Only, Fungi Girls, Heavy Times, Math & Physics Club, Mirah, Proper Ornaments, Sourpatch, Talbot Adams, Yuck
I bought way too many seven inch singles this year. I’m not trying to brag. It’s a problem really. The seven inch is like crack to the record geek, a fleeting moment of pop perfection and then it’s off to either flip the record or put on another one. This was a daunting task this year and I feel like I left out a lot of stuff, but a top 60 would have been too much and limiting it to 40 makes you have to really decide, what were your favorite singles of the year. Here are numbers 40-31.
I admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to Mirah in recent years, but I do pay quite a lot of attention to Mississippi Records, so that led me to buying this record. The song Don’t appeared on the compilation The Old Days Feeling in a different version, but that version didn’t prepare me for this Patsy Cline inspired beauty. It has a warmth that you might not have thought that records could have any more and the b-side The Tears That Fall with its strings and horns is no slouch either. This record makes me pray that she’s planning a whole album in this style.
San Jose’s Sourpatch owned my record player for a good part of the year and just as I had properly killed their album Crushin’ they go and release this single to take over my record player again. They called the sides to the single This side and Other side, but I call them Tiger Trap side and Small Factory Side. In my little corner of the basement where the record player sits that is as close to perfection as it gets.
mp3: Deli Dream
Every band should have a self-titled theme song and Barcelona’s Aias do just that with their horn laden song Aias. These ladies put a twist on the girl group, C-86 phenomenon by singing in Catalan. Note to old people who always say it’s a lovely tune but I can’t understand what their saying: Uh, yeah.
More 90’s sounds in this year’s countdown, you will quickly figure out that this is a recurring theme. Georgia first appeared on the split record Yuck did with Cleveland’s Herzog on the Transparent label. Fat Possum new a good thing when they heard it and smartly released it as an A-side themselves. The guitars remind me of Teenage Fanclub from their Bandwagonesque heyday, but Teenage Fanclub never had the secret weapon of girl harmonies.
This Orlando, Florida band lay down a slab of white noise in Coffin. A melody carefully buried underneath six feet of squalling guitars that does their namesakes proud. I wonder if the Magic Kingdom has a Black Tambourine ride yet?
For a second I thought BOAT picked up and moved back to Chicago. No, it seems that Heavy Times just mine the same vein of sloppy, but friendly sounding pop. Like BOAT, Heavy Times’ sound is steeped in the 90’s and these two songs will make you nostalgic for Hale Bopp, Boris Yeltsin, the Wonderbra and umm, Grunge.
mp3: No Planes
Guided By Voices with Beach Boys Ooohh’s is probably all that needs to be said about this former Black and Whites front man who became a dad and turned down the volume and intensity. What he left out in those two areas, he more than made up for in pop hooks. This single contains four songs all under the two minute mark. It’s like a cliffs notes for pop songs. Who said taking the shortcut never paid off?
Math & Physics Club don’t get out much but when they do they make the most of it. Jimmy Had a Polaroid was the first single from the band’s second album and not a huge departure from their previous output, but when you’ve got a timeless sound and the ability to evoke bygone nostalgia that makes you ache for those days of really awful photos that faded to nothing a week later, then why mess with a good thing.
mp3: Jimmy Had a Polaroid
Sometimes it’s not the A-side of a single that grabs you, hell the Smiths’ How Soon Is Now? was a b-side. Doldrums tucked away on the flip side of Turquoise Hotel has this great little riff that gets stuck in your head like glue. These youngsters from Cleburne, Texas have quickly learned the art of seduction and Doldrums is prime evidence. Looking forward to full swoon when album number two comes sometime next year.
Named after a Free Design song, the Proper Ornaments make warm, plaintive and fuzzy psychedelia. The Ornaments are two dudes who are no strangers to the seven inch single having been in the Sexy Kids and currently also in Veronica Falls. This is quiet and seductive music that is like a warm blanket on a cold night.