Tags: Bäddat För Trubbel, Boomgates, Bored Nothing, Cate Le Bon, Cate On Fire, Chain and the Gang, Crushed Stars, Deep Time, Eternal Summers, exlovers, Frankie Rose, Gap Dream, Grass Widow, Hospitality, Lawrence Arabia, Literature, Mac Demarco, Parquet Courts, People's Temple, Pop Singles, Prissy Clerks, Sea Pinks, Strategy, Super Vacations, Terry Malts, The Intelligence, The See See, The Tough Shits, This Many Boyfriends, Tyvek
Here’s the list of my favorite albums outside of Seattle for 2012. You may think it’s late, but you should know I got it done before the Russian New Year. Kevin Shields, you still have a few more days.
1. Exlovers – exlovers (Young And Lost Club)
Exlovers had my favorite single of 2011 and now my favorite record of 2012. Their debut album is a dreampop masterpiece that was a long time coming from this London band. I didn’t think I would ever hear a record this accomplished after the shoegaze/dreampop heyday of the 90’s. I hope that this album being criminally ignored by nearly everyone does not deter this amazing band from persevering and making another one.
You’re So Quiet:
2. Tyvek – On Triple Beams (In the Red)
This is an off the rails punk rock concept album about Tyvek’s hometown of Detroit and its urban blight slowly being turned back into an agrarian based metropolis. On Triple Beams sees Tyvek living up to the promise of their early singles and then exceeding it.
Wayne County Roads:
3. Boomgates – Double Natural (Bedroom Suck)
The half sung half spoken delivery of Eddy Current Suppression Ring frontman Brendan Huntly may be an acquired taste for some, but combined with Steph Hughes’ sweet croon and songs that bring to mind the brilliance of the Go-Betweens Double Natural is a sure winner.
4. Hospitality – Hospitality (Merge)
Hospitality effortlessly do cocktail jazz, indiepop and smooth pop, but you get the feeling that they are pulling their ideas from a larger pallet that includes some things that you wouldn’t expect like Steely Dan, Randy Newman and Todd Rundgren to name a few and that is what makes this record sound so familiar but different at once.
5. Frankie Rose – Interstellar (Slumberland)
Frankie Rose sloughed off the distortion and kicked it into hyperdrive on her second album. Slick space-age pop that I imagine if we still had a Space Shuttle program, would be playing in the cockpit on every lift off.
6. Cate Le Bon – Cyrk (The Control Group)
The Welsh chanteuse melded Velvet Underground with Kevin Ayers to come up with the best psychedelic record I heard all year.
7. Cats on Fire – All Black Shirts to Me (Matinée)
Pop music rarely sounds this elegant and regal. All Black Shirts To Me is an assured jewel in the Cats On Fire crown.
It’s Clear Your Former Lover:
8. Bored Nothing – Bored Nothing (Spunk)
Seems like anything coming out of Melbourne in 2012 was worthy. Fergus Miller’s (aka Bored Nothing) take on bedroom pop went from sad and introspective to blissed out dreampop. More than just another bedroom pop record and more than worthy.
9. Sea Pinks – Freak Waves (CF)
Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan is not only prolific, but talented as well. Sea Pinks third album is their best yet. Freak Waves is a jangly take on the classic Beach Boys model.
10. Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow (Bella Union)
New Zealand’s James Milne knows how to do orchestral pop. The Sparrow is his third album as Lawrence Arabia and it’s a moody, pensive and playful feast of the ears.
11. Terry Malts – Killing Time (Slumberland)
San Francisco punks delivered a debut record full of blitzkrieg pop. Every song is no holds barred sing-along sweaty mosh pit.
12. Bäddat För Trubbel – Värdighet (Punks Only)
Not speaking a word of Swedish did not stop me from loving Bäddat För Trubbel’s second album. They employ influences like Eddy Current Supression Ring and Blumfeld and they aren’t afraid to have a guy who plays saxophone the band. True punks!
Det här jobbet:
13. The Intelligence – Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me (In the Red)
Mad thinker Lars Finberg upped and moved his band from Seattle to LA. The only thing I can complain about is that they don’t play Seattle as much any more. Otherwise, the Intelligence deliver another fractured masterpiece.
14. Deep Time – Deep Time (Hardly Art)
Formerly known as Yellow Fever, Austin, Texas duo Deep Time’s self-titled first album after their rechristening is a pure minimalist’s delight.
15. Gap Dream – Gap Dream (Burger)
Gabe Fulvimar’s Gap Dream is a wonderful debut. Kind of a psychedelic droner’s pop paradise.
Feast of the First Morning:
16. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools)
Parquet Courts deliver a taut cow punk record out of seemingly nowhere. The proverbial new kid in town Andrew Savage formerly of Fergus & Geronimo moved to Brooklyn, started a new band and came up gold.
Yonder is Closer to the Heart:
17. Eternal Summers – Correct Behavior (Kanine)
Eternal Summers seem to grow leaps and bounds with each release and Correct Behavior continues their upward trajectory. Nicol Yun’s songs get better and bigger sounding and when she lets the drummer have some like on Girls In the City it’s like the frosting on the cake.
18. The See See – Fountayne Mountain (The Great Pop Supplement)
The See See go on a wondrous psychedelic tour de force on their second album. Fountayne Mountain is the sound of a band peaking. Drug reference intended.
19. Super Vacations – Heater Pt. II (Funny Not Funny)
I love how after I listen to this album I feel like I have to wash the filth from body. Richmond, Virginia’s Super Vacations know the ins and outs of getting down and dirty and this record is an expressway to those dirty depths.
Faded Leather Jacket:
20. Pop Singles – All Gone (Vacant Valley)
More Melbourne goodness in this year’s list. Pop Singles’s debut record was an unexpected surprise and the best heart-on-the-sleeve-jangle-pop record of the year.
21. The Tough Shits – The Tough Shits (Burger)
Don’t let Philadelphia’s Tough Shits fool you. They want you to think that they’re a bunch of irreverent slackers, but their mothers know that their tender pop loving hombres and this record is all the proof you need.
Cats and Dogs:
22. This Many Boyfriends – This Many Boyfriends (Angular)
The debut album from Leeds’ This Many Boyfriends is love song to records, love songs and misfits. Sometimes songs that are meant to be funny wear off quickly, but this album isn’t too funny for its own good. It’s merely poignant.
23. Strategy – Strategy (Peak Oil)
Portland, Oregon resident Paul Dickow has many personas. His album using the Strategy moniker was a playful take on electronic music that took notes from Ultramarine and Yello in the way it incorporated pop songs with dub, kraut and weird.
24. Grass Widow – Internal Logic (HLR)
San Francisco trio Grass Widow finally embraced their full pop-selves on album number three. Internal Logic was brilliant for the way it juxtaposed minimalist instrumentation with lush harmonies.
25. Peoples Temple – More for the Masses (Hozac)
Either I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid or Lansing, Michigan’s Peoples Temple are. Their second album ups the dose and rattles the psyche. The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request was a good psychedelic record. Peoples Temple start with that blueprint and out psych the Stones and everyone else for that matter.
26. Chain and the Gang – In Cool Blood (K)
On Chain and the Gang’s third album leader Ian Svenonius gets a little more playful. He shares vocals with new member Katie Alice Greer and records the entire thing in mono. Kind of throwback but these ears, timeless.
27. Crushed Stars – In the Bright Rain (Simulacra)
In the Bright Rain lives under gray skies and rains down melancholia and cascades of guitars to beautiful effect. Being lonely, sad and out of sorts hasn’t sounded this good since the At Swim Two Birds album back in 2009.
28. Prissy Clerks – Bruise Or Be Bruised (Forged Artifacts)
The debut album from this Minneapolis was a sweet bite of 90’s indierock slathered with twee and powerpop condiments. Sweet, sour and definitely hot!
Former Austin and now Philadelphia band Literature are well read in the details of adrenaline fueled jangle pop. They deliver a wide eyed beauty in their debut album Arab Spring.
Push Up Bra:
30. Mac DeMarco – Mac DeMarco 2 (Captured Tracks)
On his second album, Montreal’s Mac DeMarco delivers a batch of skewed guitar pop gold. He seems be to posses the songwriting sensibilities of Nilsson, Lennon, Ayers and T Rex and he may be just as eccentric as them too.
Cooking Up Something Good:
Tags: Allah-Las, Dizzy Eyes, Grass Widow, Hausu, Ketamines, Terry Malts, The British Public, The Silver Factory, Wax Idols, Whirr
The 7-inch single has been around since 1949. That’s 62 years and counting! In my humble opinion the 7-inch single is still the essence, pinnacle and acme of pop perfection. Optimally, it’s one song, one side (Some try to squeeze on more). That’s no room for screwing up. You always hear that releasing a 7-inch is a money losing proposition, but that thankfully, doesn’t keep pop geeks from doing it. In honor of true blue pop geek vinyl junkies out there, here is the third installment of the annual Finest Kiss top 40 7-inch singles countdown.
11. Wax Idols – All Too Human (Hozac)
All Too Human exudes attitude, which doesn’t mean shit if you don’t have a song to back it up. No problem in that category either. Wax Idol’s debut single with it’s knifing guitars and big hooks immediately made me a fan. Yes I can get sucked in that easily.
mp3: Wax Idols – All Too Human
12. The Silver Factory – The Sun Shines Over You (Elefant)
Part classic Scottish pop like early Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and the Pastels, part Stone Roses and all Byrds (and a little Monkees too), the Silver Factory’s debut single was four songs of near pop perfection.
mp3: The Silver Factory – The Sun Shines Over You
13. Terry Malts – I’m Neurotic (Slumberland)
Terry Malts are punks. They’re also pop geeks. This single came out of nowhere and cut to the quick. No filler. I’m Neurotic, Distracted and Where Is the Weekend? all kick sand in your face. I don’t remember sand in the face feeling this good.
mp3: Terry Malts – I’m Neurotic
14. Hausu – She’s a Babe (LebenStrasse)
I kind of think of Portland’s Hausu as contemporaries of Seattle bands like Craft Spells, Sea Pony and Stephanie. Kids inspired by obscure bands (Orange Juice is an obvious reference here) that happened long before they were born. Who says kids don’t know any history these days?
mp3: Hausu – She’s a Babe
15. Grass Widow – Milo Minute (HLR)
Grass Widow demonstrate their uncanny ability to simultaneously sound laid back and tightly wound. Milo Minute is their own, but it fits perfectly with their covers of two punk classics the well known (Wire’s Mannequin) and the not so well known but equally good Neo Boys’ Time Keeps Up.
mp3: Grass Widow – Milo Minute
17. Dizzy Eyes – Let’s Break Up the Band (Hardly Art)
I love a good mystery. Vancouver, BC’s Dizzy Eyes released a single single and then there were rumors of the singer being deported. Could it all have been an elaborate scheme? Release a single live it out and then disappear, it’s been known to happen.
mp3: Dizzy Eyes – Let’s Break Up the Band
18. The British Public – Bears (Tip Top)
There were a ton of bands that were aping the 90’s in some form or other this year. At first it was like candy and then it was like too much candy. Not the case with the British Public. I still can’t get enough of Ba Ba Ba Ba Bears!
mp3: The British Public – Bears
19. Allah-Las – Catamaran (Pres)
On first listen you might file this one away as garage rock, but it’s just too damn hi-fi to be garage. Recorded by Nick Waterhouse (who we’ll be hearing from again on this list I suspect), no record sounded better than Catamaran blasting from my stereo this year.
mp3: Allah-Las – Catamaran
20. Ketamines – Line By Line (Hozac)
This song is like a drug, oh wait, I think it’s about drugs. Line By Line sounds like a twee version of the Intelligence (on drugs). I can’t really think of a better compliment than that.
mp3: Ketamines – Line By Line
Tags: HoZac, Slumberland, Terry Malts, Wax Idols, Wimps
Funhouse, Seattle, 10 November 2011:
One of the best punk albums to come out this year is Wax Idols‘ No Future. The Oakland, California band’s debut is influenced by late 70’s early 80’s classic punk period bands like the Buzzcocks, and the Avengers. What makes it so great is that it isn’t just punk by numbers. The record is enhanced with a gothic influence that makes it not only rock, but haunt as well. It’s got punk style anthems with call response choruses, but it also has lighter side that is plain old classic pop. Wax Idols is band in name but really the moniker for the songs of the intense, passionate and always entertaining Heather Fortune.
Live Wax Idols are a four piece band with an all girl front line of guitars and bass and a guy on drums. Fortune demonstrated disaffected confidence as she and her band delivered punk their punk anthems fast and hard with barely a breath or word between songs. Even with a second guitarist, Fortune still played all the lead parts. Only putting down her guitar for their final song when the band was joined by Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham for a cover of Christian Death‘s Romeo’s Distress. This allowed her to become more animated, grabbing a bar across the top of the stage and lean out toward the audience. If there were more people packed close to the stage I bet she would have dove into them. Fortune obviously know her history. She has even taken a punk moniker in changing her last name from the given Fedewa to Fortune the way so many of the legendary punks of the past. Wax Idols are a product of the rich west coast punk history that remains largely unexplored by today’s current scene and they give good cause to keep those history books up to date.
Wax Idols are on tour with fellow Oaklanders the Terry Malts. Prior to becoming a punk trio they were the Magic Bullets. After some kind of catharsis they saw the punk light and haven’t looked back. They crashed through their highly melodic catchy Ramones like set. It was fun, but would have been more fun if there had been a pit of sweaty punks slamming. That goes for the Wax Idols set too. Hopefully if both bands keep at it they’ll start to draw enthusiastic crazy tatood punks the way the Spits and Thee Oh Sees do.
The first band of the night was Seattle’s Wimps. Wimps are pretty new (so new they don’t even have a web site), but the band is made up of veterans. Singer and guitarist Rachel Ratner also fronts the duo Butts and is a member of Partman Parthorse. Bassist Matt Nyce is in Consignment who have just released their first album on GGNZLA. I don’t know if drummer Dave Ramm has another current band but he was a former drummer for the Intelligence, which is kind of like saying he was a former guitarist in the Fall. Wimps kind of sound like Ratner’s other band Butts mainly because she sings and plays guitar in both, but Wimps aren’t as jokey. Super catchy short punk songs with crisp guitar that sounds like it is influenced by early 80’s Dischord records. Good stuff.
I didn’t stick around for all of the final band Dude York. They’re from Seattle too. Their first song was called Fuck City and it occurred to me while they were playing it that Fuck City is a much better name for a band than Dude York. They kind of reminded me of Too Much Joy with their jokey banter and revved up power pop.
Tags: Magic Bullets, Slumberland, Terry Malts
I wondered why the press release for the new Terry Malts single was so sketchy. All this stuff about them being mysterious and no one knowing who these enigmatic bay area punks were. It’s not like they’re wearing giant eyeballs on their heads when they play. So why the obfuscation? Are they trying to keep it a secret because their boss doesn’t like moonlighting? At first I thought it was a Weekend side project where they shoveled some dirt away from their melodies, but it turns out it’s a Magic Bullets side project where they shovel some dirt on top of their melodies.
Terry Malts are a trio of bullets who shed their Orange Juice affectations and don a punk rock leather jacket with Ramones and Redd Kross badges on it. The Go-Betweens were never considered punks, but the chorus of Distracted is a dead ringer for Lee Remick.