Albums of 2016

bentcousin2016
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Field Music – Commontime (Memphis Industries)
The Brewis brothers released their best record yet, heck even Prince liked it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

honeyradar
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

A Weekend of Driving Langorously

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It was a three day holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that means one more day of doing whatever it is you prefer occupying your time with on a regular weekend. In my case you might be surprised to hear that it wasn’t listening to records, because frankly who has the time to sit and listen to vinyl during the waning days of summer? I was listening to music though. Being an American raised in the rural hinterlands of the Midwest my preferred method of listening to music is in the car with the windows down and the sun shining if possible.  So here is my past weekend of highlights in the car. Admittedly this post would have been much better if I would have thought to snap photos at random points from the driver’s side, but that kind of thing is illegal and a might bit dangerous. So better off safe and boring from the photo perspective. It’s all I can do to remember a turn signal sometimes when a good song is turned up loud on the car stereo.

I had listened to the new Tyde record (nice Scott Walker reference on the cover!) a few times sitting at a desk doing work and it didn’t really connect except for the single The Curse In Reverse in which Tyde main guy Darren Rademaker is aided by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to startling good results. But as I crossed the Ballard Bridge with the sun hitting me through the windshield Nice To Know You blasted out of my windows and I immediately got it. This record is not supposed be listened to in an office or a basement. It needs sunshine, wind and at least 35 miles per hour. I was doing an errand, but I passed my turn on purpose to keep listening. Luckily the record only has seven songs on it so I didn’t waste too much petrol.

Later that night I had to run to grocery store to gather some food for the grill. It takes about two songs to get to the store which is just about perfect for a 7-inch single. Often when I’m heading to the store I’ll pick something that I’ve just put onto my phone. In this instance it was the new Hozac single from Soft Candy. The Chicago band sound like LA Paisley Underground and must be fans of  the Rain Parade. The rolling psychedelia of Bixarre Luv Pyramids had me in such a daze that I almost rolled through a red light. I screeched to a halt (I was only going about 10 mph) in time to allow an elderly couple to cross Market Street. I Waited for the light to turn green and as it did the wonderful Kinks like piano of Song for Ellie Mae percolated from the speakers and carried me into the parking lot of the store. Damn I forgot my shopping list!

Late morning on our way to a trail head for a hike in the Cascades we are driving east on the I-90. It’s turning into a good day as the sun begins to burn off the clouds. Of course I’m starting to feel guilty about all of this driving. If I lived on a ranch, I’d take a horse and a Bluetooth speaker, but Seattle doesn’t have any ranches so here I am behind the wheel again listening to Portland’s Verner Pantons who continue the Paisley Underground theme of the prior evening’s trip to the grocery store only they subscribe more to the Long Ryders’ slant of psychedelia. It’s sort of dusty sounding and it makes me wonder if cowboys carry Bluetooth speakers with them on their horses these days, because I can’t think of a better way to listen to this record than on a horse somewhere around Winchester, Washington. As it is, songs like Little Boat, Melancholy Girl and Sarah Saturday get us to the hike much faster than NPR’s Weekend Edition could ever hope to.

A long weekend always has a comedown and needs a soundtrack and by this time I had been in the car way too much but it’s the last hurrah of summer and who wants to be inside? Not me. Earlier in the spring I had trimmed the apple tree in my back yard and there was a pile of wood waiting for just the right night. As I said earlier I don’t own a horse, but I do own a Bluetooth speaker and it was in my back yard as the cool nigh air was kept at bay by the snap and crack of the fire pit. What better soundtrack to fire, stars and general serenity than the new Mild High Club LP  Skiptracing? This group of Los Angeles followers of Steely Dan and High Llamas know how to relax, or at least put their listeners into a state of relaxation. How good? So good I could barely bring myself to put another log on the fire as the soothing sounds of Chapel Perilous floated through the air. Luckily I have a kid or two to do the heavy labor and the repeat button close at hand.