I’m usually not a fan of split singles or split releases due to the strong possibility of having to pay twice as much for half of what I want, but if ever there was a split release that shoots a that theory to shit it is this Ginnels & Tangible Excitement! split 12″. Tangible Excitement! is Scott Stevens of Summer Cats, Stew Anderson of Boyracer and Mark Monnone of the Lucksmiths along with some help by the likes of Gary Olsen (Ladybug Transistor), James Hoare (Ultimate Painting/Veronica Falls) and Jeremy Underwood (Gold-Bears). It’s an all-star lineup with a performance to back up their stats. Opener Northland Food Court has a Love Forever Changes vibe to it courtesy of its Mexican tinged acoustic guitar riff and Olsen’s trumpet. It’s a stunner and worth the price of admission, but there’s more. Baby’s Seen This Scene Before has the sound of an indiepop classic and Effectively Wild is the almost Boyracer-like with it’s buzzy guitars knocking another one out of the park.
There’s no time to catch your breath unless your’re slow to the turntable to flip the record because the Ginnels side ain’t no minor league fare. Mark Chester is a prolific fellow who has a number of releases on cassette and recently a few on vinyl via Tenorio Cotobade. Here we get three great new Ginnels songs. Easier When I’m Gone has a chorus that is part Teenage Fanclub and part Superchunk and easily get’s stuck in your head. Whew! Reason To Be Helpful might just be my favorite Ginnels song yet with its thumping soulful bass, cool lazy guitar riff and super furry vibes. This is one split release you need to buy two of so you can file one under Ginnels and the other under Tangible Excitement!
Remember when Ride lost the plot after Going Blank Again and tried to morph their sound into some neo-psychedlic 60s blend of the Byrds, Velvet Underground and Buffalo Springfield but ended up sounding like the Black Crowes? Tuesday night at Chop Suey the UK’s Ultimate Painting demonstrated the tangent that Ride should have taken. Their set brimmed with paisley tinged psychedelia that trod the fine line of subtle melodic turns, buzzy droning and all out jams.
The group’s self-titled album came out last year on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. The record has a subdued sound to that features major nods to the Velvet Underground’s prettier side, but live they crank up the danger levels into White Light / White Heat territory. Talking Central Park Blues was a great example of this, with Jack Cooper taking the lead on this New York narrative that is their sister Ray making it sound a lot more energized than the recorded version. Cooper also plays in Mazes. In Ultimate Painting he shares guitar and vocal duties with James Hoar from Veronica Falls and Proper Ornaments. It seems like a true collaboration, with both contributing to the songs. Cooper may take a lead vocal, while Hoar takes the lead guitar part, and both contributing harmonies to the other’s vocals.
They also included a couple new songs from an album that they said would be coming out in August. One of them showcased the influence of the Grateful Dead (Casey Jones) that I hadn’t noticed before, but is fairly obvious given the group’s twitter icon. The set closed with with Ten Street which they turned into an extended jam. The rhythm section provided a great stage for Cooper and Hoar to get a little crazy playing off of one another, going into a few rabbit holes of guitar goodness. It lasted for about 10 minutes but it could have gone on for 20 and no one would have complained. Live Ultimate Painting seem to have an innate sense of when to head off on a tangent extending their solid album into something better and much more interesting.
Seattle’s Universe People opened the show playing songs from their two albums as well as new one. They were solid as usual. They’re jerky angular songs keep you on your toes. The Modern Girl, Chemistry, Druids and Vampire Prison were all present in their set and demonstrated how great this band is.
The Proper Ornaments have finally released a proper debut album. After last summer’s download only download only release on Lo which compiled their previous EP on No Pain in Pop,their debut single on Make a Mess, and some odds and ends the duo of James Hoare and Max Claps have employed Slumberland Records to issue their album Wooden Head. James Hoare who’s main band is Veronica Falls and also moonlights in the Ultimate Painting is a busy guy these days. For the Proper Ornaments he’s teamed up with Argentinian and one-time Andrew Loog Oldham protege Max Claps.
The duo met in a shop that Hoare was working at while Claps’s girlfriend attempted to steal a pair of boots. It’s amazing what a shared love of the Velvet Underground can overcome. Named after a Free Deign Song, they get a lot of comparisons to the Beach Boys, the Left Banke and Love. But if you ask my I think they sound like the Chills.
Wooden Head is nearly as good as their No Pain In Pop EP, but I don’t know if I think that because the EP had five astonishingly good good with no filler. It was easy to take in while Wooden Head is bigger and requires more time to consume. The record is astonishingly good, it just requires more time to your head around. Hoare and Claps sing in unison on nearly every song. Their melancholy, sparse psychedelic songs have a sing-song quality that makes them both comfortable and haunting at once. Each unassuming song buzzes into your ears to create endorphin rushes, but music being like a drug it takes more to recreate that initial high each time.
After a slight delay (I like to pretend I was creating anticipation) here are my top 25 singles of 2013. Seattle is in the mix with 20% of the spots in the top 25. Maybe I’ve been here so long that I’ve been taken over by NW provincialism. I doubt it. These records would be here not matter where I might reside. My provincial list should follow sometime next week. 25. Swiftumz – Willy (Sugar Mountain/Divis and Mason)
Swiftumz released two singles simultaneously one day this past fall. One was a re-recording of the excellent Luv Ya 4 eva from his debut album. The second one came in a sleeve of globular sugary goo that was an excellent indicator of what’s inside. Candy sweet Buzzcocks inspired riffs and saccharine vocals drip from this and every time I play it I have to clean the sweaty syrup from my turntable.
Leif Anders’ old band Orca Team kind of disappeared one day and from its carcass appeared Week of Wonders. It was as if Anders had been reborn on a tropical island with a brand new band. Wonders never cease here as the bright steel drum sounding guitars surround you and pull you into a conga line through an abandoned factory.
Reading this list you might get the idea that all I listen to is shoegaze, indiepop, garage and psych pop. Well I like a bit of dub and trip hop now and again too. It loosens your joints and keeps you spry. This Australian duo are utterly supple on their debut single. Extra points for spicing up this year’s countdown.
Proto Idiot is Manchester resident Andrew Anderson. This isn’t his debut, but it was the first I had heard of him and his Clean meets Soft Boys meets Television Personalities wonderfully warped take on pop, and a wonderful introduction it is.
I don’t think I’ve heard a Veronica Falls song I didn’t like. Nobody There is no exception, but it’s even better than most of their songs, mostly due to the wonderful harmonies at the end of the song that puts them in the realm of the Stone Rose debut.
Maps are swell and Raw Prawn obviously love Swell Maps. The jaggedy dissonant guitars puncture your safe place and invade the living room. This was released way back in January and I haven’t heard much from them since, but hopefully they’re preparing their next salvo of cacophony real soon.
Peoples’s Temple are no strangers to my year end lists, but usually they’re on the albums list. This year sees them only releasing a single. It is of such high quality, that it kept me satiated. This Lansing Band sounds like a combination of Them and psychedelic Rolling Stones, and will undoubtedly end up on a children of children of Nuggets box set at some point in the future.
Man if there was a band like this that lived in my town I would count myself one of the luckiest fools on the face of this pale blue dot. Take a little Clean, some Shins and a bit of Go-Betweens and you’ve got the perfect combination (yes, I am a lucky fool). Beaches of LA shows the cool slow burn side of Zebra Hunt, but to the same deadly effect.
I was in the car the other day with my kids and this song came up on the shuffle play (a family that listens to Tullycraft together stays together). When the chorus “ray-gun ray-gun” came in, both kids immediately began singing along to it like it was second nature. After it was over they both said that they didn’t like the song. Sometimes the genius of a pop song is its ability to get you to sing it even when you don’t admit to liking it. Nice cover of Yaz’s Bad Connection on the flip side too.
Have you ever wondered what a David Bowie and Edwynn Collins collaboration would sound like? Casual Sex have got your number. This is like Station to Station era Bowie hanging out with the leather clad Collins from the tail end of the Orange Juice.
15. Felines – A Man Stuck In Your Mind (Soundflat)
Another killer single this year from Denmark’s all girl garage supremos. They seem to have an innate ability to make simplicity sound vital. Nothing fancy, just songs that swagger with confidence and flat out rock.
This Chicago duo have got a sweet tooth for the Beach Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ramones and Teenage Fanclub. Two songs here and nothing wasted. It’s economical and efficient. Just like candy. Candy is the ballad on the A-side, while the more energetic Pocket showcases their ability to rock out. A near perfect record.
Big fuzzy drums that sound like they were recorded in an elevator shaft and vocals that echo like fallen angels, this London band’s debut was an instant love affair for fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain,the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. Few bands can generate beauty from white noise, but Flowers are a welcome addition to this elite club.
12. Talbot Adams – Red Diamonds (Spacecase)
Red Diamonds has many similarities to I’ve Been Everywhere and This Land Is Your Land. Some might call that an overstatement, but Talbot Adams’ trip across the Great White North is a classic in waiting.
This collaboration between Paul Messis and the Sufis is a psych dream team. The sinuous guitar lead of Afternoon Tide sticks to your bones long after it’s over. Not surprising that this record sounds like it was recorded 45 years ago given Messis’ and the Sufis’ penchant for classic garage psychedelic sounds.
Italy’s Be Forest wonder in a wood of dreampop. Guitars swoop in from tall trees while the forest floor is soft and pillowy. The forest is slowly transformed as snow begins to descend. Finding shelter beneath a majestic evergreen you listen as the snow falls. When you dig out you discover an wood nymph singing a Japandroids song.
Albums, singles, solo records, and demos trickle out from head engineer Sam Lundsford at a fairly constant rate. He seems to have a endless source of paisley coloured songs that he feeds into the pipeline of the internet. Engineer Man is apparently an old song he re-recorded for this single. A good thing too, because it’s way too good to leave on some dusty bandcamp page.
It has been some time since we’ve heard from Sweden’s Afraid of Stairs, seven years in fact. I had this single originally slated in at around number 40 when I started gathering my list, but it kept getting better and better every time I listened to it. They sort of shed their shoegaze influences for big sounding straight ahead pop. At first I thought they might have lost the plot, but really they seem to be juggling about eight story lines at once.
On only their second single Zebra Hunt already seem to have pop genius figured out. Only Way Out is a near perfect song stretching like a rubber band to unimaginable length and then it snaps. It’s not the song itself that inflicts pain, it’s the brevity of this pop nugget that does it. Luckily there’s a repeat button.
Usually a cover as the A-side means a band is lacking ideas, but Sauna Youth’s C-86 take on Pissed Jeans hardcore False Jessie is like the flip side of Fucked Up’s C-86 fetish. I hope Pissed Jeans aren’t getting any royalties from this because these damp youths own False Jessie.
The Razorcuts and the Buzzcocks have got nothing on Seattle’s Blooper. This record is so intensely good, you can play it 100 times in a day and it won’t loose any of its maniacally measured propulsion. Keep the singles going steady Blooper.
While everyone was awestruck about My Bloody Valentine dusting off a bunch of b-sides and calling it an album this year, Baltimore’s Wildhoney put out the best slice of MBV inspired shoegaze since Isn’t Anything hit the shelves in record stores. Jaw dropping, ear bursting stuff. No big deal.
3. Vic Godard – Caught in Midstream / You Bring Out the Demon In Me (AED)
Oh my, this record is delight, and for you trainspotters the other record in the countdown to feature saxophone. The postman always delivers, and Vic Godard when he’s not delivering mail he’s delivering amazing stuff like this soulful blast of age-defying goodness. Who says you can’t have two careers?
Some astronaut sings Major Tom from space and people think it’s so poignant. Never mind the guy can’t sing. Vex Ruffin can sing, no doubt and Jame Pants can lay down a fat beat so the next time your in space sing this astronaut dude.
The Hookworms album was pretty good, no? Well this single put it in the dust and in the style of groups that know they can clean the floor it wasn’t even on the album. The swirling organ, the nutso guitar and the psychotic refrain of “It freaks me out” are like being in the eye of the storm. Things are swirling around your cocoon until a flying livestock punctures it and then your in the mayhem, the wondrously insane bovine induced mayhem.
In Seattle, waiting for the summer can be excruciating. Some locals say it starts the day after independence day. Others say it doesn’t get here until Bastille Day. Some years you look forward to it for so long and then it arrives for three or four weeks and then is gone. Fleeting, as they say.
I have been patiently waiting for next Proper Ornaments record since their supremely satisfying EP that came out on No Fear In Pop back in 2011. Unlike summer the day of its release is firmly set as 21 June, the summer solstice. The proper start of summer.
Proper Ornaments are the duo James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Max Claps. The single is called appropriately enough Waiting for Summer and it is a sparse and shimmering little number that may remind you of the Clientele, the Chills or Hopkirk & Lee. It will very likely you coat you in a thin layer of warmth as the northern hemisphere slowly tilts towards the sun.
Look out for a full length Proper Ornaments album sometime later this summer.
Veronica Falls, Golden Grrrls and Brilliant Colors at the Tractor, Seattle | 21 March 2013
The Spring-time Slumberland traveling show stopped in Seattle last Thursday night. Veroncia Falls from London were the headliners and for good reason, their second album is no sophomore slump and adds some diversity by varying the tempos and adding a little more nuance in the form of some good old fashioned psychedelia to their jangling flying nun influenced pop. All of the leaves were reading that this would be great fun to see them play again. Too bad that it was kind of a disappointment. If the band would have just played it would have been a great show. They sounded great. The guitar and vocal interplay between Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare appeared to be in top form and everyone at the Tractor was grooving to it. The only thing was, the band weren’t happy with it and quipped to the sound guy between nearly every song that something was wrong. First it was more vocals, then it was less vocals then it was move, then less, then something else. By that time it had became a joke to everyone in the audience and a huge distraction to an otherwise good show. Too bad. I have said this before here, and it applies to not only bands playing but anytime you are speaking, acting, or doing anything in front of an audience: don’t dwell on the bad. Oftentimes you are the only one that notices. When you incessantly bring attention to it then you become the distraction/problem. People are paying to hear you play, you are professionals. If the sound is sub-par in your monitor deal with it and carry on.
Glasgow’s Golden Grrrls on the other hand were a bundle of wide-eyed fun. They obviously have drank at the K fountain. Beat Happening, Lois and Tiger Trap all are obvious influences, and being Scottish I’m sure they’ve imbibed their fair share of Pastels and Vaselines records. So it was fun seeing them play in the fertile ground of where their indiepop roots were first mixed together (they played Olympia the night prior). The three piece band of two guitars and drums were ramshackle and sweet in their delivery. The sound of Golden Grrrls lo-fi indipop aesthetic is quite prevalent these days, but few do it this well and with this kind of enthusiasm.
In the middle of the two British Isles bands was the Bay Area’s Brilliant Colors. I remember the last time I saw them I was kind of impressed by how much they rocked out live. I continue to be impressed. Singer and guitarist Jess Scott has nack for writing noising melodic songs that seem to get new legs when the are played live.
All three bands had excellent merchandise for sale. Veroncia falls had CD versions of their second covers EP that coincided with the release of their album. Golden Grrrls had tour only 7-inch for sale and Brilliant Colors had an exclusive flexi for sale.
How many songs have been written about Caroline? Who knows? Kelley Stoltz adds one more to the list, but instead of being about Caroline it’s about all the songs that have been written about Caroline. It’s kind of like looking into a mirror reflecting a mirror with a great pop song for the soundtrack. Put it on repeat for optimum effect.
Veronica Falls’ autumnal jangle is perfect for any season. My Heart Beats does not let up from the full throttle that the band was operating at on their debut album from last year, in fact it ups the ante. This record has got the oddsmakers putting the chance of sophomore slump for their album due early next year at about a 1000 to 1.
If spaghetti westerns were still being made, I imagine that Italy’s Vermillion Sands would be littering the soundtracks with their flipped out slightly countrified brand of garage rock. Summer Melody with it’s warbly guitar and bouncy rhythm kicks up some great Italian dust.
Florida’s Guy Harvey are named after the artist that is more synonymous with Jimmy Buffet than indie rock. Their single from early in the year doesn’t really evoke images of sword fish and marlins, but it is bolstered with beautiful sad melody and piano crescendos that left me wanting more from this seemingly reclusive band. Will they make another record or will they choose to pursue careers in snorkeling?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Sugar Stems immediately bring to mind the Bangles, but where the Bangles were initially part of paisley underground, the Sugar Stems deal in the skinny tie and straight leg pants of powerpop. Greatest Pretender packs a wallop that you want to keep hitting yourself with.
You know that eye on top of the pyramid on the back of a one dollar bill? That is the all seeing eye. It knows where you are, what you buy and what you think. You cannot escape it. You need it. It dominates your life. Kind of like this single from the Lamps.
Brand new Glasgow band Aggi Doom nearly made the perfect single. The hyper Bring Me the Head brought to mind Gang of Four and Lilliputand with its tribal drums and chanted lyrics. The flip was moody and atmospheric sounding like it was culled from some long lost 4AD single. Aggi Doom, bring me more singles!
The Melbourne scene kind of exploded this year. So many bands releasing so many great records. Well the Twerps were leading the pack. True, their album came out last year, but this quality single easily kept them fresh in our minds.
19. Joanna Gruesome – Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love with Me (HHBTM)
Joanna Gruesome are the zombie sisterhood of their namesake. If you dig distorted pop that jangles and scrapes instead of plucked harp made by elves then you are one of the walking pop dead. Going from record store to record store mumbling to yourself, muuussst fiiiinnnddd mmmorrrre kiiiiiillllleeeerrr popppppp reeeecoorrrrdzzzz. Click!
Keel Her appeared on the Family Portrait record that came out on Art Is Hard this year. It also featured Gum, Joanna Gruesom, and Playlounge, the cornerstones of a rising blown out pop scene in the UK. Keel Her is the nom de guerre of Rose Keeler-Schaffeler who has released numerous cassettes and singles over the past two years. Riot Grrrl is her roaring x-rated best yet.