21 for 21 – 7″ Singles of the Year
You likely noticed there ain’t much music blogging going on around here lately. Life moves pretty fast and finding time and motivation to write about music has been a challenge. I find that sitting in front of a screen after sitting in front of screen for a full work day is less exciting than it used to be. I still love listening to records every chance I get though, so I’ve brushed off the cobwebs that have been collecting in this space for a year end list or two. First up, are 21 of my favorite 7″ singles of the past 12 months.
1. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue (Domino)
Single of the year that seemed to pop up in random places in my somewhat isolated 2021. On the radio, in a grocery store, on my phone and finally on my turntable. Chaise Longue was so catchy and its quippiy lyrics so funny and its ability to percolate into multiple strata of society isn’t that surprising. Like Blur’s Song 2 in its immediacy (and hopefully soon a stadium staple like that one) but far sharper. Chaise Longue’s dry sense of humor didn’t so much drip, but evaporate into you. It was exciting to hear it every time I heard it and after 100 listens I’m still not sick of it.
2. The Bug Club – Checkmate (Bingo)
Wales band that seems to be flying under the radar for now, but this single along with their LP this year should hopefully change that. Sharp lyrics and manic riffs on Checkmate make this white hot. You get three more songs with this tiny piece of wax and all are great. It’s what I imagine a garage band would sound like if Kevin Ayres had been born in 2000 and met a bunch of ex-Johanna Gruesome kids and started a band.
3. CDG – Unconditional EP (Domestic Departure)
Coming out of Portland, Oregon, CDG aka Conditioner Disco Group revel in early the early 80’s post punk sound. J. Nickel who is the main conditioner also has allegiances with other Portland post punk notables Collate and the Bedrooms. CDB lean heavily towards the Fall, PIL, and Gang of Four. The best of this five song lot is Remove Officer with its funky groove and effeminate accent is difficult to ignore and bound to get stuck into a repeat listening loop on your device.
4. Horsegirl – Ballroom Dance (Sonic Cathedral)
These Chicago youngsters seemingly appeared out nowhere this summer. Fully formed and moody, Ballroom Dance sounds like it was written by a group that has been worn down by the world and nostalgic for a better time. I guess we all are these days no matter how old we are. A brilliant shooting star of a song. Here’s hoping there’s more where this came from.
5. The Smog – Set In Stone (Going Underground)
The Smog are from Japan. This is their third single (the first two are OOP but free downloads). I can’t tell you if it’s their best, but I can tell you its raw punk energy is infectous. Both Set In Stone and Lost My Mind are top notch punk songs, injecting full doses of bands like Wire, early Cure, Minor Threat and the Damned. Lost My Mind may be slightly better with it’s riff and great chorus. I can only hope that they won’t stop after only three singles.
6. Friendly Boyfriend – Pick Up! (Happiest Place)
I remember hearing Gone for a Time, the lead track here, for the first time and getting swept up with its weirdly warped guitars and prominent bass riff. It was odd, but good. Sorta reminding me of the lo-fi Swirlies trying to do MBV but with a weird Swedish pop sensibility. I bought the single right away. Record arrives a few weeks later, I put it on and track two is a cover of the Clean’s Beatnik. I think this could be start of a beautiful relationship.
7. Pale Blue Eyes – Motionless (Broadcast)
The first single from this trio from the UK hinterlands blends two of my favorite styles of rock n’ roll – hypnotic motorik grooves and waves of brilliant shoegaze guitar. Motionless floats with the ease of a group that are firing on all cylinders or maybe a fully charged battery as I’d like try to make more carbon neutral analogies. No matter your preferred mode of motorized transport, this soundtrack will do nicely as the mile markers fly by.
8. Delivery – Floored (Spoilsport)
Another Australian band in the countdown, Delivery slot themselves in closer to the rowdier post punk Australian crowd like Ausmuteants and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. There isn’t a bad move in any of the four songs on this single. Floored is a caffeine fueled beauty, the Explainer sounds like they borrowed an Intelligence riff from Icky Baby and Rubber sounds like they may have been listening to some Sauna Youth. Delivery’s tasteful influences and inspirations keep the arty post punk flame burning in my record collection.
9. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – Nothing But His Love (Colemine)
The Harlem Gospel Travelers followed up their 2019 LP with two singles in 2021. The group started and mentored by Eli Paperboy Reid continues its singles winning streak with the spirited Nothing But his Love. It’s got an innate sweetness that takes hold and carries you with it.
10. Of Tropique – Woo (Electric Cowbell)
The second Japanese group in this year’s list, Of Tropique’s Woooo is an energetic instrumental that blends The Beat’s March of the Swivleheads with Esquivel eccentricities. Endlessly fun, and I can only imagine that the clarinet player needs a break after playing this one.
11. The Catenary Wires – Mirrorball (Shelflife)
The single from Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey’s follow a long line female-male duos like Lee and Nancy, Sonny and Cher, Kenny and Dolly, and erm…Jason and Kylie who’s electric chemistry combine to ignite a great pop song. Under the Mirrorball is a nostalgic trip to the disco and discovered appreciation for music discounted in past. Accompanied by a great horn part, this indie song about disco is pretty darn great.
12. Stephen’s Shore – Brisbane Radio (Meritorio)
A Swedish group with a penchant for jangly pop influenced by the Byrds singing about Australian radio pulls together some seemingly disparate threads. All of that aside, the twangy pop of Brisbane Radio is so well done and infectious you’ll be checking the back of this to see if it really isn’t a reissue from the summer of love or the paisley underground.
13. Partner Look – Geelong (I Heard a Whisper)
This Australian group features two German sisters based in Melbourne and their partners (hence the name I suppose). Geelong nestled on the water southwest of the much larger Melbourne seems to have been a satellite base for many recent bands in the Melbourne scene. Partner Look’s song of the same name is an obvious ode to this small town on the bay. “Close to Melbourne, close to the sea close to you, close to me. Everybody moves… ” A little like a post card from Geelong. Makes me want to book a trip and soak up the sun and sounds.
14. Habibi – Somewhere They Cant Find Us (Kill Rock Stars)
These Brooklyn based ladies haven’t exactly been prolific with only two albums in the past seven years, but this single follows last year’s Anywhere But Here LP, so it could be the start of a quicker pace for the band. Both songs have a little bit of Luscious Jackson/Breeders spin-off group Kostars and ESG style funky post punk dance groove. Loads of with style, attitude and a low key sense of humor make this a very solid effort.
15. Uni Boys – Long Time No See (Curation)
This Orange County, California band started in their teens and has already released two download only albums. This is their first single for Curation (sounds like Creation) the label started by the the Beachwood Sparks Brent Rademaker. Uni Boys have and old school power pop rock and roll sound. Both side of this single are worthy of comparisons with late 70’s groups like the Nerves, the Shoe and the Low Numbers.
16. The Tubs – Names EP (Trouble In Mind)
More goodness from the Tubs (last year at this same #16 with I Don’t Know How It Works. Uncanny!). This four song single sees the group expanding their sound with better production and better songs. Singer Owen Williams, formerly of Joanna Gruesome, sounds like a cool mesh of Dave Wakeling and Lou Barlow. There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, all sporting fun, catchy guitar riffs and memorable melodies. Crystal Ball, the final song is sort of fun curve ball too, going for an obvious Felt sound and succeeding there as well.
17. The Intelligence – Celebration Ratio (Leisure World)
You might think that the seven inch vinyl single is an outmoded format. Well, the Intelligence and the Leisure World records have one for ya. How about a record that bends? Fold it up and put it in your pocket. Nearly as light as an mp3 or a stream, but you can hold it in your hands. Celebration Ratio seems to find inspiration in the fidelity and recording style of older Intelligence LP’s like Deuteronomy and Fake Surfers while still keeping it fresh and smart. The Intelligence keep going, consistently putting out great records, even one’s that bend.
18. Lady Wray – Through It All (Big Crown)
The beginning of Through It All threatens to go off the rails right from the start. Nicole Wray’s, aka Lady Wray voice gets synthesized into some high pitched ear worm that at first feels like a fly buzzing around your ear. Almost like a minor annoyance to get your attention. Then you hear the rock steady beat, backing singers and the warm, sweet unsynthesized croon of Wray. Pretty soon you can’t get Through It All out of your head.
19. Typical Girls – Miata (Kanine)
Another repeat from last year and at the same spot too. I swear I didn’t intend it. Typical Girls’ follow up single to last year’s debut 7-inch is a double A side. The flip Nice Boys is my favorite here, combining some of the Radio Dept’s more melancholy synth tendencies with Taken by Trees own brand of melancholy. They throw in a dance beat to brighten it up a tad and voila, something their own that is worthy of its inspirations.
20. Youth Valley – Young Sad Lovers (Make Me Happy)
Youth Valley’s Young Sad Lovers with its subtle motorik groove, guitars that evoke big wide open wintry landscapes and slightly fey vocals could be mistaken for a Swedish guitar group from the early 00’s like the Mary Onettes or even 80’s UK indie band like the Field Mice. This Greek duo pack two winners onto the vinyl version of this single and slip in a bonus track into the digital version. All three cut from the same cloth and all three increasing my hopes that an LP or another single is on the way in 2022.
21. The Shop Window – Out of Reach (Spinout Nuggets)
Out of Reach has the ring of classic UK indie guitar pop. Ringing guitars and a driving beat topped off with an anthemic melody and chorus. The song is seemingly inspired by the isolation and lost days of the global pandemic. I imagine it would be great to hear live with its Mighty Lemon Drops meets Chameleons sound. Here’s to better days ahead and maybe a chance from folks to hear it live.
22. Eggs – Greatest Hits Ep (Perfect)
23. Floating Room – Shima (Famous Class)
24. Sundae Painters – Aversion (Leather Jacket)
25. Collate – Medicine (Domestic Departure)
26. The Smashing Times – Dreams on Union (Painter Man)
27. BOAT – My Haunted Friend (Magic Marker)
28. Swansea Sound – Indies of the World (HHBTM)
29. Lavender Blush – Sundays (Blue Aurora Audio)
30. Ghost Woman – Lost Echo’s (Full Time Hobby)
31. Telephone Numbers – Leviathan (Fruits & Flowers)
32. Tough Age/Dumb – Pizza Punks (Mint)
33. Mandarinaduck – Super Long Life (Box Bedroom Rebels)
34. The Harlem Gospel Travelers – Fight On! (Colemine)
35. Chubby & the Gang – Lightning Don’t Strike Twice (Partisan)