Midway and Buried in Records- Part 1

This week we are featuring some of the best records of the first half of 2013. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, but this year is not typical. It’s on a trajectory to overwhelm any attempt at a year end list so I’m splitting it up. Some of the albums I’ve mentioned on these pages, others I’ve been keeping to myself. Everyday this week I’m going to feature seven records that deserve your or someone else’s attention. Here are the first seven.
hookworms

Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo)
What do you get when you combine the 13th floor elevators with the Spacemen 3. I’m sure many bands have tried this approach, but none have ever succeeded as wildly. At this point Hookworms are sitting on top of the best record of the year.

stream: Hookworms – Since We Have Changed

boat
BOAT – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)

When D Crane sings in the song Problem Solvers “We’re just another average America band” with such earnestness that you wonder if he’s thinking about throwing in the towel. Think about it, what if Boat were average? The masses would like them and they’d be rich. I like to think of them as standing on the top the belle curve fighting off the hordes with their indelible pop and unbridled charisma.

stream: BOAT – Problem Solvers

mantles
The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)

The Mantles hark back to a to the 60’s and the Byrds. They are like the Greene and Greene of current day rock and roll. Architects of a back to basics approach that adorns with earthly tones to create a thing of beauty. When I heard that the  album was to be produced by Kelley Stoltz, I had it pegged as a winner from the start and yet somehow it still exceeded my expectations.

stream: The Mantles – Hello

bleached
Bleached – Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans)

“After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.”

stream: Bleached – Looking For a Fight

lovefromlondon
Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (Yep Roc)

“If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock.”  I was an idiot when I was 20.

Stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Be Still

songs
Songs – Malabar (Popfrenzy)

A band named Songs is questionable, but luckily I didn’t let their poorly chosen name stop me from listening to to this fine psychedelic pop album. Parts of it remind me of Game Theory, but being Australian they probably have been influenced by the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. This is their second album and it drips confidence and probably would have been a hit back in the major label heyday garnering a US deal and tons of play on college radio in a college town near you.

stream: Songs – Boy/Girl

sleaze
The Sleaze – Tecktonik Girlz & Other Hits (Floridas Dying)
You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

Hitchcock Still Vibrating at the Same Speed

Hitchcock2

If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock. Apparently age has made me wiser and more open minded because Robyn Hitchcock‘s latest album Love from London is one of his best, and one of the year’s best. You may have noticed that there are a lot of psychedelic-influenced records that have come out this year and many of them have been very good. So there is a lot of competition out there, but Hitchcock’s bests them all and shows us that old dudes can be weird and spry at the same time.

Hitchcock himself has been quoted as saying “Rock and Roll is an old man’s game now.” From the looks of the crowd at the Neptune Tuesday night, there are still a lot of old men in the game and doing quite well or at least still getting out. There were a few youngsters in the audience, but I’m including myself in the that group, so no one was too wet behind the ears.

Being a huge fan of his new record I was excited to hear the new songs live, but Hitchcock had other ideas. Love from London was recorded in England with his English band which is mainly Hitchcock and Paul Nobel. Playing in his band in Seattle he had the Venus 3 (Actually it was the Venus 4: Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin and Sean Nelson) with him. I assume they did not know any of the new songs because the only new one they played was Be Still. This was kind of a disappointment considering the strength of the new material, especially Stupefied, Devil on a String and Strawberries Dress which all belong in the pantheon of Hitchcock strange great songs. I suppose given the size of his oeuvre, one song from the new album is a lot, since many of his records got none.

He began the evening with an acoustic guitar and Sean Nelson at his side. They did a couple acoustic songs and then the rest of the band joined in an electrified the songs. Hitchcock was dressed in paisley and his baritone trolled the depths and pleasures of psychedelia. You and Oblivion, Airscape, Goodnight Oslo were some more highlights of the set along with his off the wall banter that involved ants moving to Portland people with crustaceans for hands. He did a couple Soft Boys songs. Queen of Eyes sounded amazing with Nelson’s harmonies and Buck’s twelve string and Kingdom of Love featured McCaughey recreating that song’s amazing bass part. They encored with Barret, Beatles and the Velvet Underground. It served as a kind of a history lesson, or just a reminder of where he’s still coming from. A strange familiar place.

Set List: Alright, Yeah | You and Oblivion | No, I Don’t Remember Guildford | Goodnight Oslo | Queen of Eyes (The Soft Boys ) | City of Shame | Up to Our Nex | N.Y. Doll | Madonna of the Wasps | Underground Sun | Be Still | Adventure Rocket Ship | Airscape | Kingdom of Love (The Soft Boys ) | Encore: Long Gone (Syd Barrett) | She Said She Said (The Beatles) | Heroin (VU) | I’m Waiting for the Man  (VU)
lovefromlondon

stream: Robyn Hitchock – Strawberries Dress (from Love From London out on Yep Roc)