Tags: Beaches, Blouse, Cate Le Bon, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Day Ravies, Dick Diver, Dirtbombs, Dream Boys, Eat Lights Become Lights, Frowning Clouds, Girls Names, Heavey Times, Hookworms, Jacco Gardner, Joanna Gruesome, Ketamines, King Krule, La Femme, Lady, Minks, Ooga Boogas, Outfit, Prophet Hens, Robyn Hitchcock, Sleaford Mods, The Courtneys, The Limiñanas, The Mantles, The Sleaze, The Stevens, Vision Fortune, Warm Soda, Wax Idols
Usually I save the albums list for last, but in an attempt to actually publish my year end list of albums before the end of the year I’ve opted to kick off the Finest Kiss list season with my favorite records of the year. At first glance, my year end list looks like it might be a Slumberland vs. Chapter Music slug fest as both of those labels put out some of my favorite records of the year. Certainly they would tie for the best label ballot.
Hopefully there are a few records in here that you agree with, one or two that you might not have heard and I’m sure there are some you will disagree with. That’s the fun of list making, putting it out there so others can scoff at your taste in music. In the next week or two I hope to publish my list of the best Seattle records of the year and my annual top 40 7-inch countdown.
30. Minks – Tides End (Captured Tracks)
The Minks second album is part Depeche Mode and part New Order which surprisingly seemed to miss getting much attention this year. Guitars and synths are employed with a strict adherence to writing super catchy songs that are lighthearted fun. Cynics will cry that it’s derivative, but they’re a bunch of bores that want all their music to sound important. Sometimes it’s just supposed to be fun.
stream: Minks – Doomed and Cool
29. The Limiñanas – Costa Blanca (Trouble In Mind)
The Limiñanas are not quite classic french pop. More like classic french pop through a haze of hashish wafting from a dark room filled with strange characters smoking from hookahs. Their third record sees them expanding their Velvet Underground sound onto other shores of their Mediterranean local further honing their unique blistered white out sound.
stream: The Limiñanas – My Black Sabath
28. The Stevens – A History of Hygiene (Chapter Music)
What would happen if the Clean met Guided by Voices in a dark garage or a deserted beach? They would leave as the Stevens of course. After self-releasing an EP last year that had many folks excited the Melbourne band return with their debut opus of 24 songs that barely last minute each. Each one is miniature pop masterpiece that will have you shaking your head at how easy they make it look.
stream: The Stevens – Hindsight
27. Girls Names – The New Life (Slumberland)
Northern Ireland’s Girls Names have taken dark era Cure and added some early Railway Children and Echo and the Bunnymen and come up with a potent hypnotic concoction for their second album. This has been my go-to record when the need comes to escape the realities of life and zone out into the horizon. I think some might call it a lifesaving record for that reason.
stream: Girls Names – Hypnotic Regression
26. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum (Wichita / Turnstile)
For her third album Cate Le Bon picked up and moved to Southern California, but I don’t think that the change in geography has altered her bohemian prog psychedlia. She still sounds like she could have been the kid sister of Kevin Ayres, but where Ayres often lost the plot Le Bon has a very good idea of where she’s going and Mug Museum is a trip worth taking.
stream: Cate Le Bon – I Can’t Help You
25. Warm Soda – Someone For You (Castle Face)
We knew that Mathew Melton was capable of pop goodness from his previous band Bare Wires, but Warm Soda sees him honing his powers to killer effect. Some For You is like the Raspberries mixed with Teenage Fanclub and King Tuff. The hits keep coming and coming on this record.
stream: Warm Soda – Jeannie Loves Pop
24. Beaches – She Beats (Chapter Music)
Invariably a band that likes to lock into hypnotic psych rock grooves is full of older dudes with beards, but Beaches is the exception to this unwritten rule. This groop of five women deftly lay down the grooves that will make lesser bands wanting to shave their beards and take up religion. Many of the songs on this record don’t hit you immediately but I found myself pulled back into repeatedly listenings by an almost supernatural hypnotic pull.
stream: Beaches – Dune
23. The Sleaze – The Sleaze (Total Punk)
I have no idea if the Sleaze are broken up or not. Some reports said this was a posthumous release and then they turned up at SXSW and played a bunch of shows. Punks are so irreverent and like to keep you guessing by not playing the game. This record is white hot and it wouldn’t surprise me if the band flamed out making it. Somehow keeping a flame this bright burning for any length of time is near impossible, but thankfully they new when to bottle it.
stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls
22. The Courtneys – The Courtneys (Hockey Dad)
The Courtneys brand of DIY pop takes a little from bubblegum, punk and powerpop to make a completely likeable debut record. Not taking themselves too seriously they write odes to Keanu Reeves, 90210 and being poor. A record with a knack for hitting you in the funny bone and the pop jugular at the same time.
stream: The Courtneys – K.C. Reeves
21. Wax Idols – Discipline and Desire (Slumberland)
The UK music hype machine ain’t what it used to be, but it still can rally to pull the whites over our eyes from time to time. This year all the talk about post punk strong woman rock centered around the underwhelming Savages while San Francisco’s Wax Idols quietly put out the better record. Discipline and Desire evokes the roar of the Sound, Comsat Angels and the Chameleons while at the same time not really sounding like any of them. A powerful amazing album that in years to come will probably take on the same reverent status as From the Lion’s Mouth, Waiting for a Miracle, and Strange Times.
stream: Wax Idols – AD RE: IAN
20.5 Frowning Clouds – Whereabouts (Anti Fade)
The Frowning Clouds could be the Mantles cousins from down under. They add a little more Kinks intensity to their sound and come up with a winner. Whereabouts is their second album and they’ve got a batch of great harmonies and riffs that continue on the upward trajectory set by their first album. Keep your eyes on this Melbourne band.
stream: Frowning Clouds – Shoe Suede Blues
20.0 The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)
The Mantles sound harks back to a to the 60′s and the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. I had a feeling that their second album was going to be something special when I heard the Kelley Stoltz would be producing it. His production makes the lines cleaner and bends the light just right on this batch of dusty canyon pop.
stream: The Mantles – Marbled Birds
19.5 Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living (Great Pop Supplement/Rocket Girl)
Every now and then I like to put on a record that makes me feel like I am floating in space. Ladies and gentlemen, this record creates zero gravity with its motorik grooves that you will put it on repeat to avoid re-entry.
stream: Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living
19.0 Cavern of Anti-Matter – Blood-Drums (Grautag)
Tim Gane, who was one of the masterminds behind Stereolab, has kept a fairly low profile since Stereolab called it quits. Cavern of Anti-Matter is his new band and they not surprisingly lean in a motorik direction and seem to be heavily influenced by Neu. Some would say that it borders on a tribute record but these instrumentals pulse so easily into your conscious you can tell the Gane has found a new lease on life making this record.
stream: Cavern of Anit-Matter – Irridated Dream Mouth
18.5 Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind)
This is the second best psych pop record to come out this year. Gardner is young and loves Syd Barret but he plays it pretty straight. Cabinet of Curiosities sounds great, but I often got the feeling that Gardner wasn’t weird enough. He sounds like he likes weird, but it felt like he was playing a part. Hopefully time will pass and his eccentricites will grow to enhance his already sharp psych pop senses.
stream: Jacco Gardner – The One Eyed King
18. Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (YepRoc)
Love from London is the best psych pop record to come out this year. The only problem is that rock is not an older fellow’s game, so Hitchcock mostly got fair to middling reviews for this album because he’s not new, but let me restate, this was the best psych pop record to come out this year, or last year for that matter.
stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Strawberries Dress
17. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon (True Panther Sounds)
Leave it to a 19 year old kid from the UK to make a record that sounded like nothing else this year. Krule or Archy as his mother calls him, works from a rough pallet of jazz, punk, funk, dub and trip hop to come up with a batch of pop songs that he sung over with his thick south London accent.
stream: King Krule – Border Line
16. Sleaford Mods – Austerity Lads (Harbinger Sound)
Sleaford Mods have inherited the brilliance of John Cooper Clark, Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder. This record is not for the faint of heart with expletives strewn about like cigarette butts in the airport smoking lounge. There are so many killer beats and and lines on this record I feel like I need to listen to it about 50 more times to really get it. Watch your back though, these hoodlums from the gutter will steal the shirt off your back if they think it looks good.
stream: Sleaford Mods – The Wage Don’t Fit
15. Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)
Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but Heavy Times are not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills or the Bats too and let it fly.
stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse
14. Blouse – Imperium (Captured Tracks)
Portland’s blouse thankfully decided a change was in order for their second album Imperium. They changed from an average synthpop band to a brilliant guitar pop band. Imperium employs narcotic guitars and ethereal vocals with devastatingly effective results. Who knew that inheritors of the Cocteau Twins, Julie Cruise, Broadcast and Wendy and Bonnie trophies would turn up in stumptown?
stream: Blouse – Eyesight
13. Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters (Southpaw)
Canada’s Ketamines come from a garage rock background, but on You Can’t Serve Two Masters they shed many of the garage rock pretenses and go the quirky power pop route. The sound is cleaner and lyrics are pointed and since the sound is cleaner the vocal melodies shine brighter. It’s deft move and shows you what a brilliant band the Ketamines are.
stream: Ketamines – Don’t Stop
12. Dick Diver – Calendar Days (Chapter Music)
On Calendar Days, Dick Diver combine the melancholy melody of the Go-Betweens and the comfortable familiarity of the Lucksmiths and the dustiness of the Triffids. It’s a classic Australian born album that evokes its sense of place, while speaking in the universal pop tongue so you can enjoy it no matter what continent you reside on.
stream: Dick Diver – Lime Green Shirt
11. Outfit – Performance (Double Denim)
Liverpool’s Outfit offer up the best record in synthpop since Hot Chip’s The Warning or Metronomy’s The English Riviera. The blips and electronic crackle from the grooves of this record with a cold disaffection reminiscent of the Notwist, but Outfit warm up the electronic pathways with a strong sense of melody. That combination of warm and cold gives this record its staying power.
stream: Outfit – Thank God I Was Dreaming
10. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister (Slumberland)
Joanna Gruesome are sugar coated spazzy noisepop with a soft side and a goofy name. Part Veronica Falls, part Los Campesinos and likely some Boyracer hidden there as well. This record undoubtedly had a guaranteed niche audience, but what was surprising was that seemed to have broken through the niche barrier when they came over to play at CMJ in New York. The recognition was justifiable, and if they decided to actually do a tour beyond a few US cities I could see their brand of skewed pop connecting even more. Bonus points for coming up with the best lyric of the year: “Bah, Bah, Bah, my head explodes.”
stream: Joanna Gruesome – Sugarcrush
9. Dirtbombs – Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey! (In the Red)
How do you follow up your tribute album to Detroit techno? If you’re the Dirtbombs you deliver your long threatened bubble gum rock tribute record. Since it’s the Dirtbombs, it’s a unique take on that genre that employs two drummers and leader Mick Collins’ gravely delivery. Collins is well known for incorporating a myriad of influences into the Dirtbombs sound. We knew he had some unadulterated pop leanings and this record confirms it in wonderful technicolor.
stream: Dirtbombs – Hot Sour Salty Sweet
8. Dream Boys – Dream Boys (Art Fag)
Sometimes bands with exquisite taste end up making albums that are hollow imitations of their heroes. This is not the case with Los Angeles band Dream Boys. In fact they’ve made a record that equals and maybe even surpasses some of the wonderful records made by the jangly masters of old like Bif Bang Pow, Aztec Camera, the Bluebells, and Close Lobsters.
stream: Dream Boys – Holding Pattern
7. Lady – Lady (Truth and Soul)
When someone tells you that they don’t make them like they used to, hand them this record. Lady who are actually two ladies Terri Walker and Nicole Wray have delivered, with the help of an ace backing band, a 60’s soul-inspired record that might just restore your faith in the entire manufacturing process…of everything.
stream: Lady – Money
6. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas (AARGHT!)
The first Ooga Boogas album did noting to prepare you for the greatness of this their second album. Mikey Young of Eddie Current Suppression Ring is a band member and may have had some influence them becoming a cleaner more patient group, but it’s singer Leon Stackpole’s lyrics and delivery that put this record in the realm of greatness. Part Mark E Smith and part James Murphy, he rants and raves and even sings a little too. Some of the songs are sung from the point of view of some not so savory characters making it sometimes uncomfortable, but the band holds you in check whipping up a thick sheet of groove behind him.
stream: Ooga Boogas – Studio of My Mind
5. Day Ravies – Tussle (Pop Frenzy)
Some people think that it is amazing that shoegaze is still a thing. Those people are nuts. How could you not expect bands like Slowdive, Chapterhouse and the Pale Saints not to have inspired generations to come with the great records they made back in the original wave of shoegaze. Day Ravies take that inspiration and employ their deft pop sensibilities to it and come up with something to be reckoned with whether you’re familiar with the history of shoegaze or not.
stream: Day Ravies – Pinky
4. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discx)
This album has eight tracks on it, but you could argue that it’s one long song. Vision Fortune don’t make it easy for you. If you saw this record in the store you could easily pass it by thinking that it’s Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido. Imagine if you bought it thinking that and then got home put in on your stereo only to find squalls of feedback and pulsing bass roar from your speakers. You would either take it back or turn it up. You already know the correct choice.
stream: Vision Fortune – XVII
3. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin (Born Bad)
The record sounds like it could have come out on Bungalow back in the 90’s. You may remember the space age surf, synth and dance records that the German label put with some regularity back then. La Femme know their surf records and also probably like a bit of Depeche Mode as well as some Intelligence records but that doesn’t go the distance in describing the fun and fascination of listening to this album. Pity the people that thought that the Daft Punk record was the best French album of the year and give them this record.
stream: La Femme – Antitaxi
2. Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)
New Zealand’s Prophet Hens sort of came out of nowhere and swept me off of my feet with their Chills meets Belle and Sebastian pop alchemy. Both of those bands are highly regarded and the Prophet Hens may be better than both. Granted they haven’t written a Pink Frost yet, but many of the songs here are nearly as memorable and lead me to believe that they just might have something of the Pink Frost caliber in them.
stream: Prophet Hens – Pretty
1. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo/Weird World)
I wrote in my mid-year round up that the Hookworms were sitting on top of the best album of the year. Since then nobody was able to topple them from that teetering pile. Pearl Mystic is like a pendulum that swings from unhinged and crazy to mellow and droning. I don’t think I’ve ever hung out this much with a schizophrenic and liked it.
stream: Hookworms – Form & Function
Tags: Ex-Cops, Faux Discs, Fishrider, Hardly Art, Heavy Times, HoZac, Lady, Other Music, Slumberland, The Prophet Hens, Truth and Soul, Vision Fortune, Wax Idols, We Are Loud Whispers
It’s Thursday and part four of the midway round-up. Feeling overwhelmed yet? I am. I don’t know if I can make it to Friday. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found at least one thing that tickled your toes enough to buy a record or at least like them on facebook. A like on facebook or a follow on twitter is like money in the bank for bands, right? Getting money for your records is so old school. These days it’s all about social networking your record so that share prices for the internet fat cats increases. So go do your part.
Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune (Faux Discs)
There are many reasons to love this record. First the cover is a total red herring. If you buy this expecting Spanish troubadours or Mexican narcocorrido then you’ve got a surprise in store for you. The song titles are all roman numerals and there is a side F and side V. Nothing is as it seems as the first buzz of guitars kicks off the album sounding like the beginning of Anthrax by Gang of Four. It only gets better from there as it envelops you and you don’t know if you’re listening to XX, XIII or XIX and you don’t care. This is an album meant to be listened to in its entirety of full effect with each song leading into the next, but I’ll put one below to stream anyway. You can stream the entire thing here.
steam: Vision Fortune – XXII
The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do Popular People (Fishrider)
The Chills are back after more than a ten year hiatus, but the big news out of New Zealand this year is the Prophet Hens first album. Taking the Chills torch and running away with it.
stream: Prophet Hens – Easy As The Sun
Heavy Times – Fix It Alone (Hozac)
Fix it alone sees this Chicago band reigning in their intensity just a little, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. They’re all the better for it. This is a highly melodic and highly intense album that brings back golden age memories of Husker Du and the noisier Flying Nun band like Gordons but not afraid to snag a riff from the Chills and let it fly.
stream: Heavy Times – Tradition Of Abuse
Lady – Lady (Truth & Soul)
Lady is actually two ladies, Terri Walker and Nicole Wray who have silky smooth voices and a penchant for 60’s soul. Classic soul albums are still being made and not just by guys who were there in the classic times like Lee Fields and Charles Bradly, but youngsters like Lady.
stream: Lady – Sweet Lady
Wax Idols – Discipline & Desire (Slumberland)
Surprisingly it turns out that Wax Idols music DNA, contains strands of the Sound, Chameleons, Comsat Angels, Christian Death, and Love and Rockets. After a debut album that leaned to the cut and dried garage punk, Discipline and Desire leans decidely to the dark side of pop and is infinitely more interesting and engaging. It’s what all sophomore albums should be, a major improvement and fearlessly forging out in new directions.
stream: Wax Idols – Sound of a Void
We Are Loud Whispers – Suchness (Hardly Art)
It was kind of a bummer when I came to the realization that there would never be another Arthur and Yu album, and we all know that people are still not giving up hope for another Postal Service album. We Are Loud Whispers is not quite either one of those but since Sonya Westcott of Arthur & Yu is one half of We Are Loud Whispers it’s not a stretch in that direction. Combine the spare electronic backdrops provided by Ayumu Haitani and you have a stretched reference to the Postal Service. In any event this record is full of understated beauty that deserves some of your valuable attention.
stream: We Are Loud Whispers – This Time
Ex Cops – Ture Hallucinations (Other Music)
“New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like.” Their debut album True Hallucinations is an exquisit dreampop/shoegaze record.
stream: Ex Cops – You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb
Tags: Brothers In Law, Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs, Cheap Time, Fountains, Marble Vanity, Mil Mascaras, Savages, Small Reactions, Wax Idols, Wild Nothing
We all know that the pop 45 is meant to be experienced as a fleeting moment, an adrenaline rush or an emotional gush. If you love it you buy it. If you really love it you buy the album. A ton of 45’s came out this year, but it seemed like many of them were insanely limited. Downloads and streams have overtaken the popularity and utility of the 45 single for most, but some stubborn folk remain, still out there in the physical world tracking down the physical objects. I hope you had as good a year as I did. These are the top 40 singles that I dug up either in stores or from mail order over the the last 12 months.
31. Savages – Flying to Berlin (Pop Noire)
Post punk is de rigueur these days and Savages may be the best at conjuring a Siouxsie that never really existed except for in people’s cobwebby disconnected synapses. I certainly don’t remember the Banshees ever sounding this good. Well, maybe I do but that was so long ago. Savages are Flying to Berlin right now. Don’t miss that flight.
32. Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs – I Watch You (Heavenly)
So I guess this means Electricity In Our Homes is no more. No worries Charlie Boyer will keep the lights on with his new single. I Watch You is similar to the more straightforward EIOH songs, but emphasizing more Television and Richard Hell tendencies, which are good tendencies to have.
33. Mil Mascaras – Fuzz (Hozac)
I don’t know how Hozac continues to unearth killer bands, but they continue to do it at an alarming rate. Mil Mascaras are from Strasbourg, France and sound like they took their Autoclave and Liliput records, sailed up the Rhine and out to sea, jumped overboard and came up drenched in industrial waste, lobster, anemone and sea stars.
34. The Marble Vanity – You Can’t Step On a Rainbow (Slow Fizz)
The Marble Vanity are kinda Monkeys and kinda Left Banke. Twenty years ago they would have been lumped in the the Elepahnt 6 collective. You Can’t Step On a Rainbow is all harmless fun with horns and harpsicord and an important message for the kids. No, you can’t step on a rainbow, but there are pots of gold to be had if you put this on your turntable.
35. Wax Idols – Schafenfreude (Suicide Squeeze)
With this single, Wax Idols fully embrace their inner goths. Heather Fortune sounds either disconnected and numb or intimidating and imposing. I can’t tell and that’s what makes this so good. That and the fact that both of these song surpass anything on last year’s really good album.
36. Small Reactions – Nerve Pop (Magic Marker)
This may be the rarest piece of vinyl on this year’s countdown. Through some bad luck it was supposed to come out on Portland’s Magic Marker and then never did. If you know the right alley in Atlanta you may be able to get a copy of this wonderful slice of pop. If a record comes out and nobody knows it, trees still fall if you turn it up loud enough.
37. Brothers In Law – Holy Weekend (CF)
Psych rock inspired by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators synthesized in the Italian countryside to come out sounding more than a little like the Might Lemon Drops. Holy Weekend is nothing but big jangly goodness that has whetted my appetite for a follow up to this debut.
38. Cheap Time – Other Stories (Sweet Rot)
Listening to Other Stories, it’s easy to tell that Jeffrey Novak hung out with Jay Retard. It’s raw and rockin’ but where Retard was all adrenaline, Novak prefers to dose his garage with a little psychedelia and is all the better for it.
39. Fountains – Easily Lead (Beautiful Strange)
Fountains debut single was a huge sounding moody thing with big guitars crashing all over the place. Part Kitchens of Distinction, Echo and the Bunnymen and Wild Swans. So happy to see they still make ’em like this.
40. Wild Nothing – Nowhere (Captured Tracks)
This is undoubtedly Jack Tatum’s ode to the Go-Betweens and it’s a beauty. Nowhere easily surpasses the entirety of Wild Nothing’s second album which this song did not appear. Probably because it would have made the rest of it seem like nothing. More like this please Mr. Tatum.
Tags: A Classic Education, Big Troubles, Cat's Eyes, Cave, Charles Bradley, Comet Gain, Crystal Stilts, Destroyer, Eleanor Friedberger, German Measles, Indian Wars, Mind Spiders, People's Temple, Ringo Deathstarr, Sea Pinks, Sweet Bulbs, The Dirtbombs, Top Sound, Total Control, Twerps, Useless Eaters, Veronica Falls, Walls, Wax Idols, Wild Swans
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Allah-Las, Dizzy Eyes, Grass Widow, Hausu, Ketamines, Terry Malts, The British Public, The Silver Factory, Wax Idols, Whirr
The 7-inch single has been around since 1949. That’s 62 years and counting! In my humble opinion the 7-inch single is still the essence, pinnacle and acme of pop perfection. Optimally, it’s one song, one side (Some try to squeeze on more). That’s no room for screwing up. You always hear that releasing a 7-inch is a money losing proposition, but that thankfully, doesn’t keep pop geeks from doing it. In honor of true blue pop geek vinyl junkies out there, here is the third installment of the annual Finest Kiss top 40 7-inch singles countdown.
11. Wax Idols – All Too Human (Hozac)
All Too Human exudes attitude, which doesn’t mean shit if you don’t have a song to back it up. No problem in that category either. Wax Idol’s debut single with it’s knifing guitars and big hooks immediately made me a fan. Yes I can get sucked in that easily.
mp3: Wax Idols – All Too Human
12. The Silver Factory – The Sun Shines Over You (Elefant)
Part classic Scottish pop like early Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and the Pastels, part Stone Roses and all Byrds (and a little Monkees too), the Silver Factory’s debut single was four songs of near pop perfection.
mp3: The Silver Factory – The Sun Shines Over You
13. Terry Malts – I’m Neurotic (Slumberland)
Terry Malts are punks. They’re also pop geeks. This single came out of nowhere and cut to the quick. No filler. I’m Neurotic, Distracted and Where Is the Weekend? all kick sand in your face. I don’t remember sand in the face feeling this good.
mp3: Terry Malts – I’m Neurotic
14. Hausu – She’s a Babe (LebenStrasse)
I kind of think of Portland’s Hausu as contemporaries of Seattle bands like Craft Spells, Sea Pony and Stephanie. Kids inspired by obscure bands (Orange Juice is an obvious reference here) that happened long before they were born. Who says kids don’t know any history these days?
mp3: Hausu – She’s a Babe
15. Grass Widow – Milo Minute (HLR)
Grass Widow demonstrate their uncanny ability to simultaneously sound laid back and tightly wound. Milo Minute is their own, but it fits perfectly with their covers of two punk classics the well known (Wire’s Mannequin) and the not so well known but equally good Neo Boys’ Time Keeps Up.
mp3: Grass Widow – Milo Minute
17. Dizzy Eyes – Let’s Break Up the Band (Hardly Art)
I love a good mystery. Vancouver, BC’s Dizzy Eyes released a single single and then there were rumors of the singer being deported. Could it all have been an elaborate scheme? Release a single live it out and then disappear, it’s been known to happen.
mp3: Dizzy Eyes – Let’s Break Up the Band
18. The British Public – Bears (Tip Top)
There were a ton of bands that were aping the 90’s in some form or other this year. At first it was like candy and then it was like too much candy. Not the case with the British Public. I still can’t get enough of Ba Ba Ba Ba Bears!
mp3: The British Public – Bears
19. Allah-Las – Catamaran (Pres)
On first listen you might file this one away as garage rock, but it’s just too damn hi-fi to be garage. Recorded by Nick Waterhouse (who we’ll be hearing from again on this list I suspect), no record sounded better than Catamaran blasting from my stereo this year.
mp3: Allah-Las – Catamaran
20. Ketamines – Line By Line (Hozac)
This song is like a drug, oh wait, I think it’s about drugs. Line By Line sounds like a twee version of the Intelligence (on drugs). I can’t really think of a better compliment than that.
mp3: Ketamines – Line By Line
Tags: HoZac, Slumberland, Terry Malts, Wax Idols, Wimps
Funhouse, Seattle, 10 November 2011:
One of the best punk albums to come out this year is Wax Idols‘ No Future. The Oakland, California band’s debut is influenced by late 70’s early 80’s classic punk period bands like the Buzzcocks, and the Avengers. What makes it so great is that it isn’t just punk by numbers. The record is enhanced with a gothic influence that makes it not only rock, but haunt as well. It’s got punk style anthems with call response choruses, but it also has lighter side that is plain old classic pop. Wax Idols is band in name but really the moniker for the songs of the intense, passionate and always entertaining Heather Fortune.
Live Wax Idols are a four piece band with an all girl front line of guitars and bass and a guy on drums. Fortune demonstrated disaffected confidence as she and her band delivered punk their punk anthems fast and hard with barely a breath or word between songs. Even with a second guitarist, Fortune still played all the lead parts. Only putting down her guitar for their final song when the band was joined by Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham for a cover of Christian Death‘s Romeo’s Distress. This allowed her to become more animated, grabbing a bar across the top of the stage and lean out toward the audience. If there were more people packed close to the stage I bet she would have dove into them. Fortune obviously know her history. She has even taken a punk moniker in changing her last name from the given Fedewa to Fortune the way so many of the legendary punks of the past. Wax Idols are a product of the rich west coast punk history that remains largely unexplored by today’s current scene and they give good cause to keep those history books up to date.
Wax Idols are on tour with fellow Oaklanders the Terry Malts. Prior to becoming a punk trio they were the Magic Bullets. After some kind of catharsis they saw the punk light and haven’t looked back. They crashed through their highly melodic catchy Ramones like set. It was fun, but would have been more fun if there had been a pit of sweaty punks slamming. That goes for the Wax Idols set too. Hopefully if both bands keep at it they’ll start to draw enthusiastic crazy tatood punks the way the Spits and Thee Oh Sees do.
The first band of the night was Seattle’s Wimps. Wimps are pretty new (so new they don’t even have a web site), but the band is made up of veterans. Singer and guitarist Rachel Ratner also fronts the duo Butts and is a member of Partman Parthorse. Bassist Matt Nyce is in Consignment who have just released their first album on GGNZLA. I don’t know if drummer Dave Ramm has another current band but he was a former drummer for the Intelligence, which is kind of like saying he was a former guitarist in the Fall. Wimps kind of sound like Ratner’s other band Butts mainly because she sings and plays guitar in both, but Wimps aren’t as jokey. Super catchy short punk songs with crisp guitar that sounds like it is influenced by early 80’s Dischord records. Good stuff.
I didn’t stick around for all of the final band Dude York. They’re from Seattle too. Their first song was called Fuck City and it occurred to me while they were playing it that Fuck City is a much better name for a band than Dude York. They kind of reminded me of Too Much Joy with their jokey banter and revved up power pop.
Tags: HoZac, Wax Idols
That old saying you should never judge a book by its cover is totally wrong in the case of record sleeves. The latest batch of Hozac singles arrived at my doorstep last week and the one that jumped out at me was the Wax Idols single. Its clean lines and grainy photo made it seem like it was 30 years younger than it’s 2011 copyright. In actuality this record was born in the present day San Francisco garage scene. Heather Fedewa who has spent time in Bare Wires and Hunx and His Punks is the main idol employing the help of members of Sic Alps and
Dreamdate the Splinters. The A-side, All Too Human reminds me a little of the Runaways with it’s confident swagger and chorus of Fedewa pining about being someone’s lover that drips with both lust and regret. Its crashing drums, ringing guitars and vociferous chorus make for an intense and satisfying three minutes. See for yourself.