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.
This song Speed of Sound by Beat Mark has taken over my waking thoughts for the past day. It is one half of the upcoming split single with the Two Bit Dezperados (The Two Bit Dezperados song Blind on the flip is recommended to anyone that digs Thee Oh Sees). Beat Mark hail from the Isle de France, sing in English and jangle like Scots. This split single follows their debut album Howls of Joy that came out on Final Taxi last year. Speed of Sound may be their best song yet. It’s certainly less garage-y and polished up slightly more than their previous output. In fact, it is so classic sounding it I keep wondering if it’s a cover. It has a slight Free Design touch to it, a little bit of a Small Factory sunny disposition and some Veronica Fall urgency. When a song catches the light like this, you are left to helplessly play it again and again.
stream: Beat Mark – Speed of Sound
Order the split single from Shit Music for Shit People. While you’re there be sure and check out the Strange Hands record that SMFSP has as well. It’s a doozy.
Here’s a song from Beat Mark’s album Howls of Joy. You can listen to the entire album at their Soundcloud, and if you are in the US you can order it from Insound.
The glacially exciting winter touring season started to thaw out and this week and provided an early spring rush of shows that got me out of my winter show-going hibernation. On Sunday, the Fresh & Onlys were up from San Francisco along with Chicagoians Disappears. Disappears are about to release their third and best record Pre Language. It’s their first with new drummer Steve Shelley who use to be in some other band called Sonic Youth. Shelley is game for touring with his other band on indefinite hiatus and the Disappears are all the better for it. They played an amazing set of intense, anxiety fueled post punk. Up until this night I was uncommitted to Disappears, their first two albums didn’t really fully materialize in my mind, but with Shelley on Drums and this new record they’re firing on all cylinders evoking the Fall, Girls Against Boys and even a little Sonic Youth.
After Disappears I thought that the Fresh & Onlys might have made a mistake in having them as openers. Not many bands could follow the Disappears’ powerful set and not come off sounding pale in comparison. I shouldn’t have been concerned, because the Fresh & Onlys are a formidable live band themselves. You’d never know it by looking at them, Singer Tim Cohen looks like a mountain man that hasn’t bothered to shave or change out of his PJ’s. They had a new drummer, Kyle Gibson is on the temporary injured reserve, who more than ably filled in. I should also mention that I think that the F&O’s musical prowess is closely linked to the height of guitarist Wymond Miles’ hair. Every time I see them his hair is taller and every time they’re better than than the last. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s some kind of biblical Samson thing he’s got going on (or he has a secret love for the Alarm). There wasn’t anything new in their set, which as kind of a surprise since we know these guys are prolific. They must have decided to keep the songs from their upcoming album due on Mexican Summer under wraps. They plucked the highlights from their slew of past records, it was especially cool to hear Peacock and Wing which is essentially their theme song with its “You should really be my fresh & only” refrain. It just reinforced my belief that any band worth its salt should have a “theme song” with its name in the chorus.
stream: Fresh & Onlys – Peacock and Wing (from their first self-titled album on Castle Face)
Skip forward to Tuesday night and the Tractor in Ballard where Veronica Falls and Bleached played along with Seapony. Seapony seem to be in between drummers and were using a drum machine again, but sounded ok nonetheless. Bleached, who have a handful of very good singles to date, but no album as of yet consist of two dudes and sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, formerly of LA punkers Mika Miko. Bleached may consist of former punks from LA, but they sound like they now subscribe to more paisley shade of it with a little cow-poke thrown in for good measure.I have a feeling that they have a few Gun Club records in their collection. Their set was full of confident swagger, good songs and even a cover of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.
Headliners, Veronica Falls were in town a little more than three months ago opening for Drums. I’m glad they returned, giving us another chance to hear the great songs from last year’s excellent self-titled album. While their opening slot at the Crocodile last year was good, seeing them at the more intimate Tractor was a whole lot better. Drummer Patrick Doyle seems to be designated guy to talk to the audience between songs. I kept expecting him to pull a Ric Menck and come out from behind his kit to grab the front mic to talk the way the Velvet Crush drummer use to do, but he seemed happy to lob his one-liners from the back of the stage. The rest of the band said little, but let their harmonies and playing do the talking. The sound was great, and the band played like a well oiled machine, making every song sound better than the record if that’s possible. They slipped in a few new ones including My Heart Beats which I assume is going to be an upcoming single. It was great fun, I wish I walked every show I go to feeling this good.
The following night Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon played at the Crocodile with her band in support of her second album Cyrk. I wasn’t enamored with her first album, but she has made a huge leap with record number two. It evokes many of her compatriots like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Fury Animals, but isn’t easily pigeonholed as a Welsh record. It’s also easy to compare her voice to that of Nico, though she is less deadpan and on stage she displays an easy sense of humor. She referred to the audience as Seattle-ogians and when her drummer corrected her with Seattleites, she insisted that we should be called Seattle-ogians.
She wore a silvery, cosmic looking cape and switched between playing guitar and keyboard. Besides her voice and fashion standing out, her guitar playing was formidable as well. She demonstrated this during both Fold the Cloth and Cyrk which brought cheers from the audience. She had three guys in her band who switched around on instruments (with the exception of the drummer who stayed put). Her keyboard player did harmony vocals and did an amazing job with an ability to hit some really high notes. The set ended with Ploughing Out Parts I & II after which she returned alone for one final song and then left the stage leaving everyone more than satisfied.
Charles Leo Gebhardt opened the night with a full band. I’ve seen him before with guitar and drummer but never with a bassist. Tonight he had Ratchel Ratner of the Wimps and Butts playing bass, TV Cohran on a full drum kit and Brian Standeford of Idle Times on second guitar. He played songs from his two releases on GGNZLA and the full band treatment added another dimension to already quality stuff. Mid-set he broke a string and proceeded to try to tell a story, when that didn’t work out so well, the band played Idle Times’ Prison Mind and Gebhardt sang it as he fixed his string. A consummate entertainer! Hopefully he gained a few new fans with his lively set, because his Ray Davies-esque pop deserves a larger audience. stream: Charles Leo Gebhardt – Chapel of Roses
A year end albums list is kind of a strange thing, especially when it’s one person compiling it. Since this blog is a committe of one, it can become quite capricious. In all likelyhood I wrote about some records this past year that I was overtly enthusiastic about at the time. Now the end of the year rolls around and some of those records are not on the list. “What gives?” you might ask. It’s hard to remember which label flew me to Tahiti and which one comp’d my CMJ this year, so I may have forgotten to include a few records that I thought at the time were great. These are the records that left an impression on me over the course of the last 12 months, paylola or not…
1. Destroyer – Kaputt (Merge)
Was this record flying in the face of fashion or swimming in it? These days I can never tell. Dan Bejar controls the vision of Destroyer and I have been following his erratic course for years, but nothing has ever grabbed hold of me like Kaputt did. Up until this point the minimalist keyboard focused Your Blues had been my favorite Destroyer album. That album from 2004 subtly evoked Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Microdisney, and Felt, but Kaputt goes hook line and sinker for that sound and comes up with the huge treasure of the “big music”. Do not be afraid of the saxophone (the Waterboys weren’t)! This record evokes a time in music when highly stylized, heart on the sleeve pop was de rigor in some parts of the world. Even if you’re old enough to remember it, Destroyer do it in an entirely new and fresh way. mp3: A Savage Night At the Opera
2. Total Control – Henge Beat (Iron Lung)
Total Control march to the beat of a different tune, one that will floor you. At least it did me. Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young and Daniel Stewart of UV Race combine to fabricate Tubeway Army, the Fall and Neu! If you dare listen to this record it will totally control your life. mp3: See More Glass
3. Sweet Bulbs – Sweet Bulbs (Blackburn)
Sweet Bulbs can bend a guitar with the best of them. They sound like they’re torturing their guitars the way the Swirlies, the Lilies and of course My Bloody Valentine. Like all great bands, they broke up after making their first album. This is it, but don’t fret, they are now called Heaven’s Gate. So the magic is still happening, only under a different name. mp3: Kissing Clouds
4. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
Was a time when a record like this would have been on a major label. Pop songs that are so immediate and infectious that labels would have been falling over themselves to sign them. The world turned upside down a few years ago and bands like Veronica Falls sign to indies like Slumberland. If you dig the Bats and Wedding Present jangle of yesteryear, then I guarantee you will not be able to say no to this maelstrom of a record. mp3: Bad Feeling
5. Wild Swans – The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years (Kitten Charmer)
Wild Swans in their initial incarnation released one seminal single and then disbanded. In their second incarnation they released two so-so albums. You might think that after one reformation that the next one might be worth sitting out, but they don’t say the third time is a charm for nothing. The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is full of bitterness and pining for a better idealized past. A quest to return to those days is vividly chronicled here and makes a Wild Swans that far outshines anything from their past. mp3: Chloroform
6. Sea Pinks – Dead Seas (CF)
This jangly record with simple songs that cut to the quick seemed to keep popping up on my turntable and on my headphones. Girls Names drummer Neil Brogan got his band-mates to back him up on Dead Seas, and in my opinion surpass their other band. That of course is a matter of opinion, Girls Names are no band to be sneezed at. Sea Pinks songs subtly evoke the Smiths while sounding nothing like them. A seemingly simple and understated album that peels like an onion. mp3: Heir Apparent
7. Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy (Slumberland)
When I first heard that Mitch Easter was producing Big Troubles second album, the first thing that popped into my head was Moose. Moose started out as a shoegaze band, but hired Easter to produce their first album and their sound changed from My Bloody Valentine to Tim Buckly and Fred Neil. Big Troubles following a similar path went from their first album, a noisy affair to nuance of psychedelic sounds of the paisley underground. I don’t give Easter all the credit for the metamorphosis, but I’m sure he definitely helped. mp3: Misery
8. Useless Eaters – Daily Commute (Tic Tac Totally)
Yeah, Iceage got a lot of press for their album New Brigade, but Useless Eaters’ Daily Commute was my favorite art punk album of the year. Sure it sounds like it was recorded on a boombox in the kitchen, but you can’t keep a great songwriter down. Simply put, this record rips, and if it would have had better production you would be reading about it on sites much more popular than this one. mp3: Daily Commute
9. A Classic Education – Call It Blazing (Lefse)
Bologna, Italy’s A Classic Education debut album is a melancholic charmer. Call It Blazing holds songs like sunken treasure in its depths. Luckily it doesn’t take a submarine to get to its yearning, oceanic pop that recalls the genius of the Chills and the Shins. mp3: Can You Feel The Backwash
10. Twerps – Twerps (UnderwaterPeoples)
I was somewhat intrigued by Twerps’s handful of singles, but not smitten. Smart kids that they are, they used the singles as building blocks, kind of feeling their way about until they got to a place that they were writing songs that they felt were worthy of a long player. This record is wise beyond it’s years. It echoes back so much of the amazing history of Australian pop like the Church, Paul Kelly, and the Go-Betweens. They’ve set quite a high bar for their follow-up. mp3: Dreaming
11. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer (Merge)
Eleanor Friedberger is one half of the brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces. She’s not old enough to remember the late 60’s and 70’s, but she’s made a record that sounds like she is. It has this strange Jackson Browne or Jim Croce feel to it. It’s kind of a folk record, but it has a weird soulfullness to it that pulls it out of the folk genre. Nothing else sounded remotely similar to Last Summer. A unique record from a unique voice. mp3: Roosevelt Island
12. Mind Spiders – Mind Spiders (Dirtnap)
Mind Spiders deftly jumps from Jay Retard, to T Rex to Love and Rockets and then back again. It’s like being lost in the funhouse. You can’t find your way out, but you kind of don’t want to get off either. mp3: Go!
13. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland)
The Crystal Stilts are not a live band, but give them a studio and they will kick your ass. In Love With Oblivion dredges the ghosts of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Bo Diddly, and Felt from unmarked graves and breathes new life into them. mp3: Sycamore Tree
14. Ringo DeathStarr – Colour Trip (Club AC30)
I have to admit. I was hot and cold on this record. First I was hot because it’s infectious shoegaze is pretty hard not to like if you already lean in that direction. Then I saw them live and was convinced that they used Auto-Tune on the album, because they couldn’t carry a tune to save their lives. Then I said fuck it, the songs are great and the record is amazing, who cares if they really can’t sing, they know how to use a studio. It never stopped me from loving the Stone Roses. mp3: So High
15. Indian Wars – Walk Around the Park (Bachelor)
Seems like in a year when Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs got their props, critics would have dug a little deeper to find something that hadn’t been polluted with the whiff of success. Vancouver, BC’s Indian Wars bust through saloon doors and shoot up the bar the way the Long Ryders and Gun Club did in the past. Bands like this worry me. Why? Because they’re so damn good and nobody knows it. Too good to last? Hope not. mp3: Tuscaloosa Bar
16. German Measles – A German Joke is No Laughing Matter (Krazy Punx)
Funny how everyone bumming out over the fact that Art Brut are no longer funny missed this record. The German Measles did the prudent thing for any ‘funny band.’ They broke up after making their first album. It’s not belly laughs and punch lines, it’s just spot on observations about everyday life and raw spartan punk rock that sticks to your bones like oatmeal. mp3: Totally Mild
17. Top Sound – Top Sound (Ça Ira)
Sweden’s Top Sound took their time getting their debut album together but it was well worth the wait. It grabs from the High Llamas, Stereolab, Style Council, and the Aluminum Group to create a bright sounding, highly stylized (erm) top sound. This is toe-tapping and finger-snapping good. Those may not be the sweaty and bloody rock n’ roll terms you’re looking for in a rock album, but it ain’t all chicks and whiskey. mp3: A Matter of Precision
18. Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming (Daptone)
In a time when there seems to be old soul compilations coming out every other week, 62 year old Charles Bradley burst on the scene with his brand new old soul. He was the singer in a James Brown cover band before being discovered by Daptone Records. Bradley has a gritty, working man’s soul voice that makes the songs feel current even though he’s firmly rooted in the past. This, amazingly is his debut album. mp3: Lovin’ You, Baby
19. Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes (Downtown)
Soprano Rachel Zeffira teamed up with the Horrors singer Faris Badwan to make an moody record that stalks will stalk your stereo. The two apparently bonded over a mutual appreciation of 60’s girl groups. That affectation permeates the record, but it’s not like any Ronettes album you’ve heard. It’s dark and eerie and teams with both Zeffira’s high notes matched with Badwan’s low ones. An otherworldly record. mp3: The Best Person I Know
20. People’s Temple- Sons of Stone (Hozac)
Play Sons of Stone for someone who hasn’t heard it and you could pass it off for a lost psych record from the 60’s that was left off of Nuggets. Hell, People’s Temple kept coming up on shuffle and I kept getting fooled myself. This Lansing, Michigan band are named after Jim Jones’ cult that committed mass suicide in the 1970’s. Instead of spending your hard earned cash on another Rolling Stones reissue, drink the juice and joion the People’s Temple. mp3: Where You Gonna Go?
21. Cave – Neverendless (Drag City)
I love this album because it seems to conjure the lost art of the motoric. Mostly instrumental jams that bring Neu! to mind, but by way of Chicago. Perhaps the windy city has given up on the artery clogging deep dish pizza and gone for the heart healthy Kraut! mp3: W U J
22. Comet Gain – The Howl of the Lonely Crowd (What’s Your Rupture?)
One thing about being a music blogger, you can keep putting records by perennially ignored bands on your list. Comet Gain have been around forever putting out difficult and rewarding albums. This one is no different. They are in my imaginary R&R hall of fame along with the likes of the Fall, the Mekons and the Pastels. mp3: An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls
23. Wax Idols – No Future (Hozac)
Former Punx Heather Fortune goes it alone and inserts sex, fear, goth and serial killers into her brand of punk rock. It’s not all sex and death, you get the rough with the smooch, as she’s got a soft side too and a voice that can go from sensitive to tough in an instant. No Future has got depth and Wax Idols have a future. mp3: Hitman
24. Walls – Coracle (Kompact)
Walls’ second album oscillates wildly between kraut, shoegaze and electronica. This could be a gateway album from stepping from one of those genres into another or the perfect music for stepping into that nebula on the cover. mp3: Heat Haze
25. The Dirtbombs – Party Store (In the Red)
You wouldn’t believe how many albums have been shuffled in and out of slot number 25 this year. It was a brutal fight, but the Dirtbombs persevered with their double Detroit muscle. Double because this the Dirtbombs tribute to their hometown. Techno classics from techno ground zero are covered with aplomb in this garage meets techno groove fest that is weird, infectious and above all danceable. mp3: Sharevari