1. Bentcousin – Bentcousin (Team Love)
I was genuinely surprised this record did not get more recognition, but maybe the world no longer pines for wonderful pop records? The Orange Juice meets St. Etienne album had it all, including a dynamite Dino Jr cover.
2. Chook Race – Around the House (Tenth Court/Trouble In Mind)
A lot of people still worship at the alter of Flying Nun. If you are one of those folk then I’m sure you were bowing down to this record all year. Best jangle pop album since the Bats’ Fear of God.
3. Whyte Horses – Pop Or Not (CRC)
Another record that seems to have flown under the mass media radar. Shame, because it is classic sounding stuff that shares a love of Stone Roses, Broadcast and Free Design.
4. The City Yelps – Half Hour (Odd Box / Emotional Response)
A noisy little thing full of piss and vinegar that had the lo-fi sensibilities of a Boyracer album and great story telling of Animials that Swim.
5. Field Music – Commontime (Memphis Industries)
The Brewis brothers released their best record yet, heck even Prince liked it.
6. Terry Malts – Lost at the Party (Slumberland)
The Bay area’s Terry Malts struck pop-punk gold on album number three where they combine old school punk like 7 Seconds with post punk wonder of the Chameleons. Every song is a killer sing-along anthem.
7. Woods – City Sun Eater In the River of Light (Woodsist)
Sometimes you lose track of a band after they release LP after LP of similar sounding music. On Sun City Eater the band incorporate African influences to brighten their sound and make a stand out record.
8. The Goon Sax – Up To Anything (Chapter)
Brisbane teen band who count Louis Forster the son of the Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster as a member got a lot of attention for that mere fact. Due to the album contained top quality indie pop akin to Beat Happening and the Pastels the attention kept coming all year.
9. Cold Pumas – The Hanging Valley (Faux Discx)
Moody post-punk that was a perfect soundtrack to this year of the winter of our lives.
10. Monomyth – Happy Pop Family (Mint)
Velvet Underground, the Byrds and fellow countrymen Sloan all figure into the recipe for this sublime and understated album.
11. Kikagaku Moyo – House in the Tall Grass (Guruguru Brain)
These Japanese renaissance men paint from a pallet of folk, psych and prog that meanders into dark fantastic places and then blasts out them into dry canyons on the California coast.
12. Lithics – Borrowed Floors (Water Wing)
This Portland band’s tightly wound, minimalist songs on Borrowed Floors always find their groove and then shatter floor.
13. Witching Waves – Crystal Cafe (Soft Power/HHBTM)
The sophomore album is chock full of swirling, jagged songs with ambient interludes. A perfect combination of rough and smooch.
14. The Pooches – The Pooches (Lame-O)
I love bands that write songs about obsessing about records and the Pooches Heart Attack is perfect in that regard. Combine that with a lazy southern jangle that reminded me of REM and you have a great album.
15. The Finks – Middling (Milk)
If you combine the easy going erudite nature of the Lucksmiths with the down home comfort of label mate Courtney Barnett you have this wonderful record from Melbourne’s Minks.
16. Real Numbers – Wordless Wonder (Slumberland)
Minneapolis’ Real Numbers finally release a full length album and their Television Personalities meets Buddy Holly inspired DIY pop is more then enough to fill two sides.
17. Terry – Terry HQ (Upset the Rhythm)
Terry and the Shifters (they shared a split cassette release a few years ago) carry the Fall torch down under. Terry are the hippy-Pavement side of the coin and dial up just the right amount of dissonant yawp on their debut LP.
18. Lion’s Den – Lion’s Den (Lazy Octopus)
Lion’s Den take their innate Swedish pop sensibilities and dirty them up with their brand of idiosyncratic garage rock, sounding sort of like the Intelligence meets Neil Armstrong.
19. As Ondas – Mares (Jigsaw)
Shopping spin off band mine some early New Order veins and insert some Young Marble Giants to create a beautifully understated record.
20. Snails – Safe in Silence (Self-Released)
I’m not going out on a limb by drawing a family tree that shows Snails at the tip of the Beatles, Kinks, Kevin Ayers, Kate Le Bon family tree.
21. Radio Dept. – Running Out of Love (Labrador)
These guys work at a slow pace so every record feels like an event. With barely a guitar in the mix this event was their mellowest outing to date, but no less arousing or compelling.
22. Proto Idiot – For Dummies (Bad Paintings)
I’m a sucker for any Television Personalities influenced band and these guys had me plunking down some cash for their smart UK garage punk.
23. Omni – Delux (Trouble In Mind)
Delux caught me off guard with its tightly wound and spiraling guitars that reminded me of Joseph K and Magazine, yet there is a slick 80’s quality to their sound that also evokes mainstream bands like Flock of Seagulls and Thomas Dolby.
24. His Clancyness – Isolation Culture (Maple Death)
A Classic Education’s Jonathan Clancy other band is a tour into a darker side of things. Book-ended by two excellent motorik tracks and stuffed with exquisite downtrodden pop reminiscent of East River Pipe and the Shins.
25. Tyvek – Origin of What (In the Red)
Origin of What is not quite the tour de force that 2012’s On Tripple Beams was, but Kevin Boyer and crew still deliver. The scope is broader and their social consious punk rock addresses wider topics beyond their native Detroit. Extra points for including Tyvek Chant because every band should have their own chant.
26. Rebel Kind – Just For Fools (Urinal Cake)
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti group excels at jangly harmony filled wonder on their second album, combining influences like the Softies and Look Blue Go Purple.
27. Verner Pantons – First Album (Curly)
The Paisely Underground is long gone, but its influence is lasting as evidenced in Portland’s Verner Pantons. Dusty psychedlia with a slight country tinge will remind many of the Syd Griffin and the Long Ryders.
28. Kate Jackson – British Road Movie (Hoo Ha)
Former singer of the Long Blonds, Kate Jackson made this album years ago with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and there it sat until this year. Lucky for us that Kate decided to finish it. Jackson has a great voice and Butler’s guitar is a perfect compliment.
29. Savak – Best of Luck In Future Endeavors (Comedy Minus One)
Once a punk always a punk and these punk veterans made one of the best politically aware records of the year. A soundtrack for taking to the streets!
30. Lawrence Arabia – Absolute Truth (Flying Nun)
James Milne infuses his Harry Nilsson highly stylized pop with some dance beats and makes his best album yet.
31. Ural Thomas & the Pain – Ural Thomas & the Pain (Mississippi)
Ural Thomas has been a fixture in the underground PNW soul scene going back to the 1950’s. This record hasn’t received the attention that Charles Bradley’s Changes has but it’s just as good if not better.
32. Martha – Blisters In the Pit of Your Heart (Dirtnap)
UK sucre popsters deal in high fructose pop like Joanna Gruesome and Los Campesinos! It sounds better the louder you make it with power chords slapping you to attention and choruses that will make your head explode.
33. Honey Radar – Blank Cartoon (What’s Your Rupture)
If you prefer your pristine pop savaged by distortion and difficulty then Blank Cartoon will put the cobwebs into your clarity.
34. Puberty – Puberty (Born Bad)
Intelligence side project that sat in moth balls for a couple years. More tongue and cheek than the Intelligence with a decided nod to Tones on Tail, it may never have been said before, but this Puberty is fun.
35. Hooton Tennis Club – Big Box of Chocolates (Heavenly)
Produced by Edwyn Collins, the sophomore LP from Hooton Tennis Club takes the good parts of Britpop and adds their laid back style for a winning volley that sustains itself into extra sets.
36. Quilt – Plaza (Mexican Summer)
Quilt continue to hone their psych-pop on their third album and come up with their most consistent and satisfying record yet.
37. Flyying Colours – Mindfullness (AC30)
Australian shoegazerrs who like extra letters also like extra tremelo. A classic sounding record that sits comfortably next to MBV, Chapterhouse and Slowdive.
38. The Jangle Band – Edge of a Dream (Pretty Olivia)
Appropriately named Australians descending from the Rainyard and the Palisades, Edge of a Dream is a record you immediately feel comfortable with. Like an old friend you haven’t seen in years, but the conversation picks up like you saw each other yesterday.
39. The Prophet Hens – the Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys (Fishrider)
Wonderful Shapes was not as immediate as the Prophet Hens’ debut, but it has a lasting power to it. More complex and varied, it continued to delight and surprise me throughout the year.
40. Lake Ruth – Actual Entity (The Great Pop Supplement)
New York City’s Lake Ruth have an elegant baroque sound that feels a little bit like Broadcast meets Left Banke. Actual Entity was their debut album, yet it sounds like they’ve been at since the 60’s. A timeless sounding record with memorable songs.
Protomartyr, Grave Babies, Unnatural Helpers at Black Lodge, Seattle | 20 May 2014
Detroit post punks Protomartyr played the Black Lodge in Seattle Tuesday night. This was their third time in Seattle, but only the first time I had the pleasure of seeing them. After sold out singles and the band’s debut album No Passion All Technique selling out of multiple pressings on Urinal Cake records, the band have followed it up with Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art. Where Techniques was a lo-fi punk record, the new record keeps the punk attitude and intelligence while adding in better songs and better sound.
Label mates and localites Unnatural Helpers and Grave Babies began the evening’s intensities with two quality if workman-like sets. When the time came for Protomartyr, there was no big entrance or formality for the band, they merely stopped setting up and started rocking. No pomp, no circumstance, just the goods. In Protomartyr’s case the goods are frontman Joe Casey barking over his very good band. The solid rhythm section (besides being really good, drummer Alex Leonard was wearing a Spray Paint shirt) laid down the law which left Casey and guitarist Greg Ahee to fill in the picture with their riffs and rants.
Protomartyr write gutter anthems. They write about the underbelly of society and coming from Detroit they have first hand knowledge of the downtrodden. Detroit and Detroit rock is in their veins. They employ the abrasive qualities of the Stooges, MC5 and Tyvek (Kevin Boyer was the original Protomartyr bassist) while incorporating the likes of the Fall, Girls Against Boys and Nick Cave into their brew. Their first record was recorded on the cheap while their new one has a noticeably better budget. Live they veer toward the budget sound of the first record but that rawness keeps it vital. I like how Casey dresses in a double breasted blazer and a button up shirt but sings like he’s dressed in rags. The juxtaposition catches your attention and you wonder why this mad man is dressed up. Besides looking quite good, Casey is the kind of songwriter that will have you looking stuff up in your encyclopedia. He’s smart, he dresses up and he rocks. I also loved Ahee’s endlessly inventive guitar. Casey gets a lot of attention for his lyrichs, but Ahee’s guitar really took these songs to the next level beyond just another garage band.
Before the show I had heard from numerous people about how Protomartyr were a jaw-droppingly good live band. They did nothing to make me think otherwise. My only complaint would be that Casey’s vocals weren’t as clear as the recorded songs, but that’s what the album is for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Detroit’s Tyvek are not your typical punks. Back in 2007 on their What’s Your Rupture double single they indirectly posed the question: Why did Tyvek Go to the Whole Foods? It was kind of like asking why did the chicken cross the road? Were they hungry? Did they have spray paint in their bags? Jobs? We’re they planning to do some damage? There was no point in even pondering. It was what it was.
Tyvek’s discombobulated trajectory continues after albums on Siltbreeze and In the Red a new single has emerged on the French label Les Disques Steak. It’s three songs that continue to keep you guessing. Inter City Walks is my favorite with it’s manic riffs and Kevin Boyer’s vocals to match. You know that inter city walks are not strolls through the park. It’s more of a running from cover to cover as you try to get from point a to point b as the guitars fall apart. Now that I really think about it, I doubt that there’s a Whole Foods within 20 miles of Tyvek’s house. There may be a 7-11. The more important question is should you cross the street to get this new single? Most definitely, mail order if necessary!
I got my flu shot today, so I’m feeling pretty invincible. The only thing that could infect me would be the following five songs which have been on repeat in this order throughout my day. Not sure how this short play list came to fruition. I just live in the moment and don’t question higher powers.
Seattle’s Brent Amaker and the Rodeo have make a good case for doing an entire album of Kraftwerk covers with their version of Pocket Calculator. This song is not on their new album Please Stand By that comes out next week,but they might play it at the Crocodile next Thursday for their record release party. The only thing better than listening to this cover on my computer with headphones would be listening to this cover at the Crocodile while scantily clad girls wearing pasties dancing around on stage with Mr. Amaker and the Rodeo, which I’m sure is bound to happen.
Hailing from somewhere up in the great white northern Canadian province of Alberta, Myelin Sheaths finally answer Mudhoney‘s Touch Me I’m Sick with a blast of rock that is part Cave Weddings and part White Wires. What is their answer? “I’m not afraid of getting sick!” The boy-girl vocals are totally contagious. I think I’m sick.
I won’t go into how Weekend are from San Francisco and have named their album Sports, but I will say that End Times which first appeared on a split single with like-minded Frisconians Young Prisms on the Transparent label is a blissed out wall of sound that reminds me of Slumberland veterans Lorelei. Well, what do ya know, Weekend’s debut album is due on Slumberland next month!
When I saw Tyvek a few weeks back here in Seattle I remarked to myself how much they reminded me of Wire. The teaser song from their In The Red debut does absolutely nothing to dispute that assertion. What we have here is ex-lion tamers hoisting the pink flag and succeeding.
Many have attempted to ape the My Bloody Valentine sound, but few can get it right and write a pop song at the same time. Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr may have done just that. The first song from their debut record which isn’t due until early next year sounds like it was directly influenced by Isn’t Anything. While you wait for next year, you can listen to Imagine Hearts and you can track down Sparkler the Japanese only CD that compiles most of there EP’s and singles to date. You won’t be disappointed doing one or both.
As I said previously in my list of top Seattle albums of the year, my favorite three records came out of Seattle this year. Because of that, this list begins at number four. Judging from the number of contenders I cut from this list, it was a pretty good year for the album. They may not be selling like they use to, but more people are making them than ever before. Here’s to a year in which it was truly a task to keep up.
Album number two from Australia’s Crayon Fields tripped the light fantastic not tripped since the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle. Watery guitars and feathery strings mixed with precious vocals to make a record that I handled with care so as not to damage its frail pop songs. That’s an exaggeration of course, but these songs will have you floating like a feather in the breeze. Everything on this record is in it’s right place. The Crayon Fields have attempted and intricate balancing act and gracefully succeeded.
The cup definitely spilled over with C-86 inspired girl groups this year, but the Brilliant Colors were my favorite of the lot. Instead of going for the twee-er side of things, they leaned more towards the punks with their Raincoats, Slits who were precursors to the whole C-86 movement. Every song on Introducing adheres to strict punk rock rules of two minutes, super catchy, and blistering.
Not since the Trembling Blue Stars’ Her Handwriting has their been a breakup album this raw, this heart-wrenching, this desolate, or this beautiful. If you are Montgolfier Brothers fan, then Robert Quigly’s warm, melancholic voice will not be new to you. If you are unfamiliar, then you will be enveloped by this record. It has elements of Babybird, early Spiritualized, Simon Raymond’s unheralded solo album Blame Someone Else and some Blue Nile. Before You Left is a slow burner, that will burn brightest on those lonely nights when you are all alone. Sometimes sad albums are the best things to listen to when you are sad.
One part Hot Snakes, one part Edsel, one part killer rhythm section. This album rocked like elder statesmen giving the kids a lesson in how to actually rock. It’s primal enough to get your blood pumping, but complex enough to keep your interest (all year long as is the case since this came out way back in March). In a year where tons of bands were at the beach making laid back sun in your face tunes, the Obits were kicking sand in everyone’s faces mixing Gang of Four funk with Dick Dale guitars. Yow!
It’s kind of funny, the amount of attention that this record’s cover has gotten. It must be a real threat to a would-be punk’s sense of punk mentality to like a record who’s cover looks like it was designed by Nick Park. To my mind post-punk was always a ton more interesting than anything punk ever wrought, and Tyvek are decidedly post-punk, pulling influences from disparate places to make a tour de force. From the Joy Division like instrumental interludes to the Gang of Four-like guitars, or the way Kevin Boyer shouts out the address in the song Hey Una reminding me of Grant Hart’s 2541, or the two part Building Burning bringing back memories of early Fall. Tyvek are the best parts of geek, intellectual, punk, and they have a sense of humor.
If anyone has captured the essence and spirit of the Chills (besides Martin Phillips himself of course) it’s Thomas Sanders. Sanders’ other band Pete & the Pirates were a top pick last year and I’m looking forward to their new album in the coming year, but Tap Tap nearly made me forget about his other band. Tap Tap doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Pete & Pirates, except that it’s a little more moody and introverted with quiet vocals and slithering guitars. On My Way will literally sneak right up on you and wrap itself around you. Compared to this, the first Tap Tap record sounded like half finished demos. Thomas Sanders really hitting his stride as songwriter.
Cerys Matthews, the former Catatonia singer has been quietly putting out solo albums since her band called it a day back in 2001. Don’t Look Down is her fourth album and it’s really the first one I’ve taken note of since her Catatonia days. She recorded two versions of the record with slightly different running orders and a few different songs on each one. One versionis sung in her native Welsh and and another in the more familiar English. No matter the language you choose to hear Don’t Look Down in, it’s a delight as Matthews goes from lush orchestral songs, to ones that sound like some long lost show tune, to more straightforward pop numbers. The album sometimes walks a fine line between sugary sweet pop and the vapid kind that seems to dominate the charts in the UK. To my ears, it’s the former, and I can’t seem to get some of these songs out of my head.
On the surface, Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys appear to be just another garage tinged rock band, but upon further examination you start to realize that it’s a little bit more complex than that. For starters this album was recorded at the Living Room, not a garage. No Seasons has a distinct Feelies vibe. Like the Feelies, Jacuzzi Boys like to whip their songs up into a maelstrom and they also seem to dig the Velvet Underground, Television and the Byrds. Just listen to Komi Caricoles and tell me I’m wrong. But they also have a love of the 13th Floor Elevators that gives the record a more wild and unpredictable feel to it.
Technically this is a compilation or reissue, but really it’s the first many of us ever heard of Brian Kelly’s one man band So Cow. Tic Tac Totally cherry picked the best tracks from Kelly’s self-released CDr’s and put them down on a slab of vinyl. So Cow songs are short blasts of DIY pop, parts Television Personalities, Beat Happening and Pastels These 18 songs may grab, jar or caress you and sometimes all three at once.
It’s the little things that makes some things so special. Little things like the guitars in the song Rue de la Paix sounding like Felt, the packaging with Japanese obi strip, or the crisp, yet simple production of this record. Attention to detail is the bookish Pants Yell! forte. They’ve simplified their sound a little, (gone are the horns of last year’s Allison Statton) stripping down to guitar, bass, drums and Andrew Churchman’s smooth croon. A near perfect little record. I don’t even mind it when Churchman sings “I never trusted Toby, or his long hair”.
You would think that with the number of times I’ve seen some new band get compared to the Clean that their latest album would have gotten more accolades, especially when Mister Pop is arguably the best album the band has made (remember that Compilation is just that, a compilation). Mister Pop is the Clean at their most sanguine with all three members contributing top notch songs. Asleep in the Tunnel could be one of my favorite Robert Scott songs ever, David Kilgour gives us the beautiful In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul and Are You Really on Drugs, while his brother Hamish contributes one his best in years Back In the Day. Every song leads into the next, there are no non-sequiter instrumentals (Moon Jumper is perfect and integral) or throw-away half songs. It’s a concise well thought out album that floats along putting you into a dream-like warm euphoric state. At least it does me.
This has to be one of the best surprises of the year. Victoria Bergsman had left the Concretes a few years back to go solo with her Taken By Trees project. Album number one had many thinking (myself included) that although she had a great voice, she missed the songwriting of her former band. No such doubts on album number two. A complete rethink with Bergsman traveling to Pakistan to record East of Eden, and taking on an entirely different feel to anything she’s done previously. Her child-like, angelic voice is still here, but this album of songs has a earthy eastern feel to it that doesn’t feel forced at all. Her songs easily meld in with the eastern influences and at times are completely immersed, coming out all the better for it.
16. The Horrors – Primary Colors (XL)
I nearly didn’t pay this record any mind, because their debut was a non-melodic record with a bad a Birthday Party fixation. Primary Colors is like the Radiohead’s the Bends, a sophomore album that leaves the debut in the dust. The Horrors have moved on to more melodic territory, mining the rich vein of Chameleons, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sound and the Comsat Angels, straddling the line of stadium rock, goth, and pop. Not only do they get the feel right, they do it with great songs.
This New Jersey band’s debut came off sounding like a long lost David Kilgour album (Sugarmouth or A Feather In the Engine anyone?). I don’t know where exactly in New Jersey Real Estate is from, but my guess would be somewhere along the shore where you can kick back around a bonfire on the beach after the sun has just set with the fire crackling and the constant rhythm of waves crashing to the sand.
18. The Spires – A Way of Seeing (Bee House)
If you’ve hung out at this blog for any amount of time you’ve probably figured out that the Chills are one of my favorite bands. With this album, the Spires pretty much made up for the MIA Chills. It’s uncanny how much singer Jason Bays sounds like Martin Phillips and how the music takes on this jangly sing-song thing that Chills did so well. A Way of Seeing is such an accomplished record that it’s hard to believe it was self-released. Thank god for DIY!
19. Girls – Album (True Panther/Fantasy Trashcan)
This record has a distinct 50’s vibe mostly due to Christopher Owens’ emotive voice. He reminds me of Danny Zuko, this big masculine, leather jacket wearing guy with a voice that betrays his sensitive side. Musically, it hops around a little more from Beach Boys to My Bloody Valentine and places in between. The style doesn’t really matter though, because every song is packed with memorable hooks, the best of which is the epic centerpiece Hellhole Ratrace. A real beauty.
20. Mannequin Men – Lose Your Illusion, Too (Flameshovel)
About ten years ago a band like the Mannequin Men would have been hailed as potential saviors of rock n’ roll. Since rock doesn’t need saving these days, they flew under the radar. The Mannequin Men like the Strokes before them and the Replacements before them can’t decide if they want to be snotty or sensitive. The album cover and songs like Rathole and WTF LOL argue for the former, but Exquisite Corpse and Judy go for the latter. That’s what makes the Mannequin Men so essential, they can do both.
With each new Clientele record, the vocal reverb gets turned down further and the smooth pop thrills get turned up. I remember back in the day, you would have to strain to understand Alasdair MacLean’s lyrics because of the echo on his voice was so great. The Clientele are the perfect example of a band that have developed into accomplished and confident musicians along the road of their career. This is the fourth proper album, and I don’t know if I could say it is the best one, but it’s as good as any that came before which is saying something. It has an autumnal sound and feel to it, but turning it up as loud as you can will enhance your ability to soak in the sounds and pleasures that Bonfires on the Heath serves out listen after listen.
One of my biggest musical regrets of this year was that I missed Summer Cats when they played in Seattle this summer. It was a house party, and I can only imagine how they shook the joint with their energetic, anthemic indiepop. This was the year that we finally got a full album from these feline Australians after many singles and eps. Songs for Tuesdays plucked the best songs from their previous releases and injected some new songs as well as styles into the mix. The ace Stereolab-ish singles Let’s Go and Lonely Planet are included, but there were new favorites to be found like the lovely duet In June, the Triffids-like Maybe Pile and St. Tropez. A record that is perfect any day of the week or year for that matter.
These guys seem to get pegged as Fall fans, mostly because of Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’s off kilter, slightly tone-deaf vocals, but Let’s Wrestle are a whole lot goofier than the Fall ever were. In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s is a strangely titled record, but it gives you an idea of this bands slanted and enchanted take on life. Decidedly lo-fi, lo-budget, but spot on. Gonzalez has tons of bon mots, but the line No matter How many records I buy, I can’t fill this void could be the best lyric to describe record collector geek types ever.
Are Tyvek punks, geeks, or moonlighting construction workers? They’re most certainly the first two. Frontman Kevin Boyer is a dead ringer for Bill Haverchuck but he can rock it like Nick Andopolis, and they could very well be the third for all I know. Maybe that’s why Boyer was the only Tyvek guy I recognized from the group that recorded the excellent self-titled album released on Siltbreeze earlier this year. The rest of the band could be back in Detroit unable to get away from their jobs for this west coast tour. Tyvek last night at the Funhouse were a band that at times acted like this was the first time they’d ever actually played a gig together. That’s probably because it was close to the case. Not sure what’s up with the original line-up, or if this is the west coast version of Tyvek. At one point the second guitarist’s chord to his amp came unplugged from his guitar, but he didn’t seem to notice and kept playing, luckily Chris from the opening band Sandy City noticed and plugged it back in for him. A few songs later it took the drummer a few minutes to figure out the beat to a song Boyer wanted to play next.
Lucky for Tyvek that first and foremost, they’re punks because even with a band that seemed brand new they were able to get their point across. While his band seemed a bit robotic (one of them was dressed in vintage Devo yellow jumper, industrial glasses and cone top), Boyer was a bundle of awkward energy. Like his guitar playing, he would unleash his body in spasms jumping around and pogoing around the stage. He’s got a voice that reminds me of a stoner version of Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat/Egg Hunt/Embrace/Pailhead/Fugazi). He keeps it cool though, never really going into the manic screaming that Mackay tends towards. It seemed that Boyer only really required minimal backing and I think he probably could have pulled it off as a solo gig because it was his singing and playing that were front and center of the show.
The Tyvek record is cool in the way it interlaces these Joy Division sounding interludes in between melodic old school punk rock songs like Building Burning, Hey Una and Summer Things. The songs last night didn’t really jump out at you like they do on the record. It was almost as if they were playing with one arm tied behind their back. They were good, but I left with the feeling that I didn’t really see the real Tyvek. I guess I have to go to Detroit for that.
Nov 1 – Funhouse (again) w /Blues Control – Seattle, WA
Nov 2 – THE EAST END w/LITTLE CLAW, WHINES, ASSS Portland, OR
Nov 3 – THE HUB – Sacramento, CA
Nov 4 – HEMLOCK TAVERN – San Francisco, CA
Nov 5 – BOMB SHELTER HOUSE w/TRAWLER BYCATCH – Davis, CA
Nov 6 – VACATION RECORDS – Los Angeles, CA
Nov 7 – ACROBATICS EVERYDAY – Irvine, CA
Nov 8 – TBA in Tucson – Tucson, AZ