Tags: Lazy Octopus, Neil Armstrong, The Intelligence, Wimps
I never thought I would hear a band that combined the spazzy pop bliss of Neil Armstrong with the primal pop eccentricities of the Intelligence. Where would I actually look for something like this? The internet of course. Sweden’s Lion’s Den could more succinctly be described as garage pop but that’s too easy. The songs on the trio’s self-titled debut LP seem to have a dry take on the mundane and acidic world (“Waking up is the bitter side of life” and “Denial is my therapy”), but they’re so darn catchy that they still make you feel like a 100 bucks.
It’s got some surfy sounding bits, some rockin’ ones, a few eccentricities and lots of adrenaline. And at ten songs in about 20 minutes it’s a perfect record for these anxiety laden and distraction filled times. Put it on and let it take you for a spin. You’ll be back in 20 minutes, in time for whatever is you didn’t really need to do.
The album is out on Lazy Ocotopus.
Tags: Best Friends, Cold Beat, Courtney Barnett, Day Ravies, Die Verboten, Downtown Boys, Eternal Summers, Expert Alterations, Finnmark!, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Girls Names, Grubs, Helen, Hierophants, Hooton Tennis Club, Jessica Pratt, Joanna Gruesome, Kelley Stoltz, King Cyst, Kitchen's Floor, Knife Pleats, Mammoth Penguins, Nic Hessler, Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Outfit, Places To Hide, Primitive Parts, Protomartyr, Robert Forster, Saun & Starr, Sauna Youth, Sheer Agony, Shopping, Tam Vantage, Terrible Truths, The Chills, The Fireworks, The Intelligence, The Shifters, Thee Oh Sees, Traams, Twerps, Valet, Viet Cong, Wildhoney, Willie Weird, Woolen Men
I hope you looking for a few more records to buy before the wave of 2016 releases hits I didn’t count them and they’re in no particular order but each album won in its own unique category. I don’t have any small statuettes to hand out, but I gave each of my favorite albums an award.
Places To Hide – Strange Lyfe (Irrelevant)
Best Posthumous Album: This Atlanta band broke up before releasing their second album. Great punk and post punk anthems in the vein of X, Versus and Seam.
The Intelligence – Vintage Future (In the Red)
Best Album by an Ex-Seattle Band: I say this about every Intelligence album, but it was their best record yet.
King Cyst – King of New York (Underwater Peoples)
Best Canterbury Scene Influenced Album: The Brooklyn group’s second album had me checking the release date on this whimsical beauty.
Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Best Post-Punk Rust Belt Album: The third LP by this Detroit band continues the upward trajectory initialized by last year’s Under Color of Official Right.
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It (Topshelf)
Best Shoegaze Album: Shoegaze has officially become a genre of music, but so few bands in the genre understand that you still need to write great songs to accompany the tremelo bar and effects pedals. That’s not a problem for Wildhoney.
The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
Best Comeback Album: After years of personal struggles, Martin Phillips finally reinitialized the Chills and created masterpiece that sounds like he hadn’t been out of the game over 20 years.
Helen – The Original Faces (Kranky)
Best Album That Sounds Like It Was Mastered from a Cassette: Liz Harris aka Grouper goes down the Black Tambourine / Vivian Girls rabbit hole and emerges from a mountain top.
Shopping – Why Choose (FatCat)
Best ESG-Gang of Four Inspired Album: The London band’s second album is not vastly different from their debut except that the songs are bigger, better more tightly wound.
Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek (Fortuna Pop!)
Best Album by Large Flightless Birds: Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa switched from bass to guitar in her new band and comes up with a more rawkus but no less poignant record.
Cold Beat – Into the Air (Crime On the Moon)
Best Polar Ice Cap Melting Album: Former Grass Widow bassist Hannah Lew immerses her band into an 1980’s inspired synth pop sound that on the surface sounds cold, but has a warmth and playfullness on its underbelly that could be blamed for contributing to global warming.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Best Stream of Conscious Album: I was surprised at how polarizing this record was, it seemed like you either loved it or hated it. I was a fan of how Courtney Barnett innately was able to make her stream of conscious lyrics make sense over some incredible hooks.
Die Verboten – Die Verboten 2007 (Deewee)
Best Album from 2007: Recorded eight years ago, the Belgian Krautrock influenced collective finally got around to releasing their debut this year. As you might have guessed it sounds timeless.
Downtown Boys – Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
Best Timely Punk Album: It seemed like this Providence, Rhode Island band hit on all the top issues in America (Police Killings, Black Lives, and the 1% to name a few) on Full Communism. Add in a twin saxophone bed of chaos and you have the best pure punk record I’ve heard in a long time.
Finnmark! – Things Always Change (Beko)
Best Indiepop Album by English People Masquerading as Scandinavians: Part Cats on Fire and part Lucksmiths this erudite record caught my indiepop fancy.
Girls Names – Arms Around a Vision (Tough Love)
Best Album by a Former Slumberland and Captured Tracks Band: Girls Names slightly reinvent themselves on their third LP. It’s darker, colder bleaker and better than anything they’ve ever done.
Hooton Tennis Club – Highest Point In Cliff Town (Heavenly)
Best Album of Shambolic Anthems: Hooton Tennis Club sound like they’ve got a Pavement attitude and the pop licks of Teenage Fanclub. Formidable attributes that they employ to precise effect.
Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone (Kanine)
Best Comeback Album by a Band the Never Went Away: Roanoke, Virginia’s Eternal Summers never went away, in fact they’ve been consistently putting out records. Gold and Stone sees them taking a great leap in consistency and quality to make their best album since their debut.
Grubs – It Must Be Grubs (Tuff Enuff)
Best Album by a Joanna Gruesome Spin-off: Grubs also get an award for the shortest album of the year. These 11 songs fly by in about 20 minutes but leave a lasting impression thanks to singer Roxy Brennan sweet voice.
Hierophants – Parallax Error (Goner)
Best Devo Inspired Album: Australia’s Hierophants debut channels Chuck Berry, Beach Boys but mostly Devo to jarring effect. Disconcerting, discombobulated and disgreat.
Robert Forster – Songs to Play (Tapete)
Best Album that References Twitter: When artists incorporate references to the internet I usually cringe, but Robert Forster does it in smile inducing way on Let Me Imagine You. It was good to have one of the masters back.
Nick Hessler – Soft Connections (Captured Tracks)
Best Album by a Yay! Records Alumni: Formerly playing under the Catwalk moniker Nick Hessler decided to ‘solo’ on his debut LP. Soft Connections is a brilliant slice of Aztec Camera inspired pop.
Best Friends – Hot. Reckless. Totally Insane. (FatCat)
Best Garage Rock Inspired by Orange Juice: Best Friends’ debut isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering or revolutionary. It’s just plain fun.
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
Best Helsinki Soul Album: Brooklyn born Willis and her Finish Soul Investigators made one of my favorite soul revival records of the year.
Day Ravies – Liminal Zones (Sonic Masala)
Best Album by a Fake Kinks Revival Band: On their second LP, Sydny’s Day Ravies shed any hint of shoegaze and go for a raw psychedelic sound and prove that they’re good at that too.
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Right (Kanine)
Best Jangle Pop Album: You can’t always be right, but at least you can sound good even if you favor sonically dissonant pop. If this is album is wrong, I don’t want to be right
Outfit – Slowness (Memphis Industries)
Best Mark Hollis Revival Album: The sophomore album from Liverpool’s Outfit was entrancing. It contained no obvious hits, but it was a record that easily commanded my interest listen after listen.
Knife Pleats – Hat Bark Beach (Lost Sound)
Best West Coast 90’s Indiepop Album: Rose Melberg finally decides to revisit her Tiger Trap and Go Sailor roots with her new band and proceeds to satisfy the soul.
The Fireworks – Switch Me On (Shelflife)
Best Buzzy Noise Pop Album: An intensely energetic debut based on a Jesus & Mary Chain, Shop Assistants and the Razorcuts. This one was right in my wheelhouse!
Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Best Album by a band With an Alter Ego: No their not Sonic Youth’s alter ego, Sauna Youth moonlight as Monotony. Distractions was tour de force of frantic noisy anthems influenced by the Fall and Wire.
Primitive Parts – Primitive Parts (Trouble In Mind)
Best Blur Album This Year: Male Bounding and Sauna Youth members team up for a straightforward maelstrom of sharp guitar focused punkish pop.
Valet – Nature (Kranky)
Best Cocteau Twins Impersonation: This Portland group start anew on Nature and thanks to Honey Owens ethereal voice aim for the stars.
Traams – Modern Dancing (FatCat)
Best Krauty-Shouty Album: I really liked Traams’ debut album, but Traams fine tuned their sound into controlled chaos to take Modern Dancing to the next level.
Kitchen’s Floor – Battle of Brisbane (Bruit Direct)
Best Dissonant Brutalist Album: Battle of Brisbane has topical similarities with Woolen Men’s Temporary Monument, but Matt Kennedy’s Kitchen’s Floor sounds angrier and ready for a fight.
Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths (Bedroom Suck)
Best Intensely Laid-back Album: This album had some similarities with the Shopping LP, but Terrible Truths somehow accomplish the trick of sounding tightly wound and laid back at once.
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
Best Monument to the Have Nots: Portland’s Woolen Men combine elements of Wire, the Wipers and REM to create a passionate document berating the new rich and lingering recession.
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Best Surprise Album by Back-up Singers: Starr Duncan Lowe and Saundra Williams were backup singers for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I think they will have their own permanent gig after this stellar debut.
Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Best Album to Listen to Under a Pink Moon: If you didn’t know better, you would assume that this album is 50 years old and was produced by Joe Boyd. Out of time and otherworldly.
Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
Best Australian Album to Sound like It’s from New Zealand: No sophomore slump problems from this Melbourne band, in fact they appear to be a bottomless well of pop goodness.
Viet Cong – Viet Cong (JagJaguwar)
Best Ballsy album by a band with no Balls: This Canadian band take their sound from many brave sounding bans like Gang of Four, the Comsat Angels and the Chameleons. Too bad they’re waffling under pressure to change their name.
Frankie & the Witch Fingers – Frankie & the Witch Fingers (Permanent)
Best Garage Rock Album: This album made me appreciate the saturated garage rock genre again.
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face)
Best John Dwyer Album of the Year: The most varied and consistent album yet from this perennial favorite.
Sheer Agony – Masterpiece (Couple Skate)
Smartest Canadian Rock Album With an Old Guy on the Cover: How smart? How about combining mod era Lilys with the skewed pop of the Shins to come up with an endlessly interesting and engaging LP. This Montreal group seem to already have mastered everything on their debut.
Willie Weird – The Scuzzy Inputs Of Willie Weird (Stroll On)
Best Album to Go Off the Deep End: Kelley Stolz’s alter ego comes up with a fractured pop gem
Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter (Slumberland)
Best Album to Supply a Vegetarian Source of Protein: The second album of jarring pop from this Cardiff group really sticks to your ribs.
Tam Vantage – Life in High Definition (Lost and Lonesome)
Best Album by a Pop Single: The debut solo album from former Pop Singles front man is a complex and accomplished record.
The Shifters – The Shifters (Comfort 35)
Best Hex Enduction Album: This was the first time I can ever remember not buying the new Fall album. I smartly spent my money on the Shifters’ cassette instead.
Tags: Frye Art Museum, In the Red, Seattle, The Intelligence
The Intelligence at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle | 15 November 2015
Why are rock shows always at night and in some beer soaked hall filled with annoying inebriated people? Why can’t they be on sunny Sunday afternoons in a friendly warm room with works of art hanging on the walls and children running around instead? The fine folks at the Frye Art Museum must have wondered this as well and they decided to do something about it by inviting the Intelligence to play their Museum. The Frye is one of the few museums in Seattle to allow free admittance and they extended their gratis support of the arts by putting on this free afternoon show as part of their ongoing Genius / 21 Century / Seattle exhibition. Apparently quite a few other folks are down with this idea too, because the show’s pre-registration was full and there was quite a lengthy stand-by line of people hoping to get in. I was one of them on line and luckily I think we all made it in.
If you haven’t heard, the Intelligence have a new album called Vintage Future. It’s their eighth LP and is easily their best sounding and best recorded one. The band have been increasing their sonic fidelity with each release, though they seem to maintain the same bent humor and attitude that front-man Lars Finberg exhibited since the very first Intelligence 7-inch Boyfriends and Girlfriends back in 2000. Fifteen years is a long time to try and hold your interest, but the intelligence have continued to metamorphosize into a better and better band. As they state on the new record, they refuse to pay the dues, but they also refuse to stay the same which makes a new Intelligence album something I always look forward to.
You may also know that the band no longer call Seattle home since front man Lars Finberg moved down to Los Angeles so this show was something of a homecoming for the band. In their best museum attire (Finberg was sporting some leopard print shades and smart blue blazer that gave him the air of a Hollywood mogul), the Intelligence ripped through about 15 songs that featured many highlights from the new album as well as few classics like Dating Cops, Estate Sales and Back of the Galaxy. The set started with the moody Cleaning Lady that allowed the band to warm up the room with it’s obsessive compulsive refrain of “It’s clean, but it’s not that clean to me.” Parents immediately grabbed their kids to insert earplugs into their little ears.
The new album has a sort of morbid jauntiness to it that is interspersed with aggressive forays of punk rock. Finberg continues his deliver from his deep well of sharp self-deprecating one liners and observations of the absurd (“I’m tired of people who like me”, “I want true love that I can step out on and that I can still count on while she waits with a warm plate”, “Shitty guitars, touring in cars”). Closing the set with Romans another song from the new album, the song’s sinewy guitar rif and patience was the Intelligence at full power. It’s one of those songs that could double in length and continue to please, but they kept to its abridged form. I wonder what the people who were at he Frye to take in the art on the walls thought while the cacophony of the Intelligence bounced into them from around an unseen corner? At least the the band and its audience enjoyed this afternoon dalliance in the museum.
Vintage Future is out now on In the Red Records.
Tags: Aislers Set, Butter the Children, Erik Blood, Fat White Family, Flowers, Hardly Art, In the Red, Kanine Records, Seattle, Slumberland, Suicide Squeeze, Tacocat, The Go-Betweens, The Intelligence, The Primitives
You may have noticed that I’ve been struggling to keep up around here: fewer and fewer posts, overflowing in box, long beard and unclipped nails. In an effort to get back on track and clean myself up I’m going to try and start doing a top ten list for each month of things that I’ve neglected to post about in the past month. Well, I’m already behind seeing as it’s October and I’m doing a top ten for September. Before it gets any later, here are ten things from the last month that merit some recognition.
1. The Aislers Set at Neumos
The Aislers Set breifly reunited for the Chickfactor 20th anniversary shows back in 2012. I saw that show and it was good, but seeing them a couple weeks ago in Seattle was even better. This was a brief West coast tour celebrating the reissue of all three of their LP’s from the 90’s (Slumberland & Suicide Squeeze). Linton and company were in top form this night performing their glistening pop that never got old.
2. The Intelligence at Lo-Fi
Sadly the Intelligence are no longer based in Seattle, so the opportunities to see them live have greatly decreased since Lars Finberg’s migration to L.A. Other things have changed as well, This is not your kid brother’s Intelligence. Although this was a release party for reissue of their first LP Boredom and Terror (In the Red), they played a bunch of new songs that featured a powerful rhythm section and meaty jam sections to them. A far cry from the bedroom tape hiss of that first record. No, they haven’t turned into Phish, but they’ve evolved into something even more formidable than before. Can’t wait to hear the new album!
3. Fresh Hop Beer
It’s harvest time and up here in the pacific NW, and that means hops. Fresh hop beer is made with hops just picked off the vine and when it’s done right, it’s a fruity mouthful of flavorful beer. You have to be quick though, because it’s made in limited quantities and it goes fast. Recommended ones that I’ve tasted this year include Fremont’s Cowiche Canyon, Fort George Fresh IPA and Schooner Exact’s Amarillo Fresh Hop. Still hoping to get a taste of Bale Breaker’s Piled High!
4. Erik Blood – Cannons Vol. 1
Erik Blood, the guy that made a shoegaze record about porn has switched gears slightly into electronics and motorik beats. His new four song EP (free to download at his bandcamp) features Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz and Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler.
5. Fat White Family – I Am Mark E Smith
I was nonplussed over Fat White Family’s debut album last year, but this new single has got my attention. They may be claiming to be the Fall front man, but they sound like they’ve been hanging out with David J and Daniel Ash.
6. Primitives – Spin-o-Rama 7″
The Primitives have a perfect pop single in Spin-o-Rama. It’s Bright and sunny. It’s got hand claps. It’s under three minutes and leaves you wanting more. You hear it once and you can immediately sing it. I defy you to to find a more immediately infectious song that’s come out this year.
7. Go-Betweens Box Set – G Stands for Go-Betweens (Domino)
Just the other day I was pining for someone to reissue the Go-Betweens catalog on vinyl, since I never see them in the used bins. I should have been more specific in my wishing and added that they be individually released and affordable. Domino announced last week that they are planning a box set containing the first four Go-Be’s LP’s and four CD’s of rare stuff. It’s due to be released in January of 2015 and it’s only $160. Looks like I’ll still be scouring the used bins. Oh well.
8. Tacocat – Bridge To Hawaii (Hardly Art)
In between listening to and singing songs from Frozen my daughter will sing or play Tacocat’s Bridge to Hawaii. The first time this happened I did a double take and couldn’t figure out where she heard it. I like to think she heard it from me, but with kids these day’s you don’t want to ruin it for them by letting them know you like it too.
9. Butter the Children – True Crime
When Brooklyn’s Sweet Bulbs split up after releasing one stellar self-titled LP, two bands immediately emerged from their ashes. The Butter the Children sect (Heaven’s Gate is the other sect) continue the warbly, spazzed-out guitar attack of Sweet Bulbs and feature Sweet Bulbs singer Inna but she’s more forward in the mix which I think makes for a unique and better combination. The band put up their album on bandcamp as a free download. I don’t know if this means they gave up trying to get it released by a label, broke up, or are simply a benevolent noise pop band.
10. Flowers – Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do (Kanine)
I wasn’t sure after the first few listens to Flowers‘ debut album. They seemed to have toned down the noise for something more subtle. Recording with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler the London trio won me over with their minimalist approach that evokes the sparseness of Young Marble Giants, the smart intensity of the Spinnanes and the melancholy melodies of Everything But the Girl.
Tags: A Frames, Dragnet Records, Dreamsalon, Dutchess and the Duke, The Fall, The Intelligence, Universe People
Last year Seattle’s Universe People released the very high quality Go To the Sun. Since then Universe leader Jo Claxton has seen her entire rhythm section change. In this new space time continuum Universe People feature drummer Min Yee (Dreamsalon, and A-Frames) and bassist Kimberly Morrisson (Dutchess and the Duke). Their second album is called Universe People Are Coming To the Dance.
Above is the premier of the video for The Modern Girl. It is directed and edited by Claxton and filmed by Kelly Burton who worked with the band on their two previous clips Vampire Prison and Druids. The Modern Girl a clinic in how to do minimal sharp pop right with dissonant elements of early Fall and the Intelligence but with always an eye towards melody. Claxton writes sparse angular songs that will elbow you in the ribs with their sharp riffs, and then continue to keep you off balance with their wry humor. The video is a pin-ball epic in which Claxton attacks Yee and brawls with Morrison. Thankfully they both survive which is more than I can say for former bassist Kellie Payne who was killed in the Vampire Prison video.
Universe People’s second album Are Coming To the Dance is available now digitally on bandcamp. For you vinyl enthusiasts, there are plans for a vinyl version on Dragnet Records later this summer. You can also catch them live next month in Seattle, and Portland.
7/10 Sunset Tavern w/ Amen Dunes
7/19 Foggy Notion (Portland) w/ Appendixes
7/22 Chop Suey w/ Magik Markers
Tags: Born Bad Records, Brainiac, Cheveu, Devo, Hawkwind, The Intelligence, Wall of Voodoo
I like weird and I like good and Cheveu fits that description. The French band has just released it’s fourth album titled Bum and it just might be their best and weirdest record yet. How could they surpass their cover of Vanilla Ice‘s Ice Ice Baby in terms or strangeness you ask? Ok, maybe Bum isn’t their overtly strangest album. Actually they dial down one kind of weird and dial up another kind. Before they came off as arty punks willing to graffiti over anything, on Bum they are more into a prog rock otherworldly weirdness. They take elements from bands like Hawkwind, Wall of Voodoo, the Intelligence, Brainiac and Devo and come up with something all their own.
You can stream/buy/download the record from Born Bad Records’ bandcamp page.
stream: Cheveu – Juan In a Million
Tags: A Frames, Captcha Records, Pere Ubu, The Fall, The Intelligence, The Lights, Yves/Son/Ace
When we last checked in on Seattle’s Dreamsalon, they were calling themselves Evening Meetings. After Erin Sullivan left, the remaining three Min Yee, Craig Chambers and Matthew Ford rechristened their pop noise machine Dreamsalon.
It’s a different name but Dreamsalon’s new album Thirteen Nights is essentially the band’s second album as it is forged in the same post-punk furnace as the Evening Meetings album. Thirteen Nights is tight and intense. The songs are sparse, built around a solid rhythm of Ford’s drumming and Yee’s bass. Chambers fills out the songs by raining sparks sparks down with both his guitar and roughhewn voice.
It’s fairly obvious listening to Dreamsalon that they were influenced by the Fall and the Fall of course are still around and making records, but they don’t make them like this anymore.
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: Blanche Hudson Weekend, Chips for the Poor, Cuffs, Felines, Scrapes, Spray Paint, Terrible Truths, The Intelligence, The Paperhead, Total Control
No introduction needed really. Here are my top 10 favorite 7-inch records for 2012. Hope you like ’em too.
1. The Intelligence – (They Found Me In The Back Of) The Galaxy (In the Red)
First time I heard this song my jaw dropped. It was at the Crocodile in Seattle and Lars introduced it as an old song. At first I believed him, thinking it must have been on some obscure split 7-inch that came out in Moldova. Why did Finburg decide to relegate one of his best songs ever to a release in Moldova? Of course he didn’t. The guy’s not an idiot. Maybe a little nuts. Galaxy was in fact a new song that he initially recorded with another pop genius Kelley Stoltz. It’s the Intelligence at their best which is off their rocker (Why is he in the back of the Vatican with a manikin, and how do you exactly get to the back of the Galaxy? ). The single version is bit more lo-fi than the album version, but I could hear this song over short wave radio and it would still floor me.
2. Felines – Daddy Walk (Hey Girl!)
I love records that surprise the hell out of me and that is exactly what Daddy Walk did. The Felines somehow were either able to bottle lightening or sold their souls to some evil Norse god for this record. What is the Daddy Walk? Who the hell cares when it’s as crazy and wild as the Felines make it sound.
3. Scraps – Secret Paradise (Disembraining)
What if you got a computer girlfriend or boyfriend back in 1982 and it never got updated? That’s gotta be a movie, well at least it’s a song thanks to Laura Hill who records as the Scraps. Her bedroom synth compositions are part early Magnetic Fields and part Blow. Weird and abstract and dazzling, Scrapes make you feel like your floating in an electric ocean in 1982. Consequently that was the year Tron was released.
4. Spray Paint – Pro Knife (S.S.)
Austin’s Spray Paint fly under the radar but make so much noise that they have been detected. Warped, angular, bizarre, off kilter, and bashing their way into existence. When I first heard this I didn’t believe my ears because I didn’t think there ever would be another band that could mix pop and weirdness to such detrimental effects. Nothing this year has sounded this good and fucked up at once.
5. Blanche Hudson Weekend – Just Like Susan George (Odd Box)
Blanch Hudson Weekend blow the roof off the house with their ode to English actress Susan George. This reaches the heights that the Jesus and Mary Chain scraped back in the 80’s. That good. ‘Nuff said!
6. Terrible Truths- Lift Weights (Mexican Summer)
Kindred souls of Aggi Doom and Fear of Men, Adelaide, Australia’s Terrible Truths made their US debut with this icy cool single. Big fluid bass sounds that make you want to wiggle, while the jabbing guitar keeps you on edge. If ever there was a case for a double A-side this is it. This is post-punk bossa nova. Quick, see if you can change that Ipanema ticket to Adelaide.
7. Chips For the Poor – Fistula (Parlour)
A chincy sounding drum machine, guitar riff that sounds like it came from an Analogue Africa compilation, and a singer that sounds part Shaun Ryder and part Mark E Smith: Chips for the Poor sounded like they may have invented themselves in some strange vacuum. If it means more singles like this I hope they become hermits.
8. Cuffs – Private View (Self-released)
Pant’s Yell called it a day rolled up their pants and called themselves the Cuffs. The new name fits. Pants Yell tended towards the move docile end of rock n’ roll. The Cuffs don’t want to snuggle they want to rock and that they most certainly do on their debut single. Powerpop with just a tinge of tenderness.
9. The Paperhead – Pictures of Her Demise (Trouble In Mind)
There seemed to be a lot of quality 60’s inspired psychedelia seeping into the collective conscious this year. The best of it all was the Paperhead’s Pictures of Here Demise. The Nashville band took Piper era Pink Floyd and Face to Face era Kinks and molded it into a hallucinogenic masterpiece.
10. Total Control – Scene From a Marriage (Sub Pop)
A classic case of putting the B-side on the A-side and the A-side on the B-side. Contract is the Charlie Brown side, getting the football pulled away by Lucy and the A-side Scene From a Marriage. The guys were probably afraid of scaring off their core audience or something, but Contract is so good it could hypnotize even the most ardent tatt’d hard core dude onto the slippery slope of synth rock. Nah, not really this is Kraut influenced to the max so it’s got cred. La Düsseldorf in full effect and ya don’t stop. Pick up the needle and put it on again…and it keeps on ringing…
Tags: Dolly Mixture, The Fall, The Intelligence, Universe People, Wire
You might not know this, but seattle is home to a significant number of extra terrestrials. How did they get here? Who knows? What are they doing here? That is a question I can partly answer. Three of them materialized at the Rendezvous in Belltown a couple months ago in the form of a band Universe People. Apparently earth’s Scientist have been beaming songs from the Fall, Wire, and Dolly Mixture into space in the hope of attracting cool alien types instead of the typical maniacal ones. Finally our tax dollars put to good use. Like all respectable aliens this trio were disguised as humans so as not to alarm us. The drummer took human male form and looked uncannily like Dave Ramm of Wimps, Pulses & the Intelligence (these universe people had obviously done some thorough research). The remaining two took human female form and went by Jo and Kel. Jo played guitar and sang, was also formerly in the Intelligence (beginning to wonder who hasn’t been) and spoke with an Australian accent while Kel played a huge bass that looked like one would need super alien strength to wield it.
That night at the Rendezvous was either love at first sight or their mind control rays got me. Where had Universe People been hiding out? Actually they hadn’t been hiding out, they’ve only been a band for about a year. They’ve got an album’s worth of white hot songs in the can and are currently waiting for just the right time to unleash them and begin their full on alien invasion and world domination.
There are two more songs available from Universe People’s bandcamp.