Nearly Half Past Half Past

This list of mid year notable albums was supposed to done a month ago, but things move slowly when you’re slow. Here are a bunch of records I like from the fist half of this year in no particular order. Not a definitive list but more of a sign post so I can look back and see where I was in the middle of 2019.

daisies
Daisies – Daisies (Perennial Death)
When you think Olympia, Washington you think the Capitol of Washington state, or K records and DIY indie rock. I would wager that St. Etienne and Shortwave Set don’t immediately come to mind. Thanks to the CCFX-CC DUST-TransFX folks this left field beauty that melds psychedelia and dancy synths into something unexpected.

jeanines
Jeanines- Jeanines (Slumberland)
Some folks would call this a quintessential and classic Slumberland record. Some would scratch their heads and wonder what that even means. Translation, autumnal jangle pop that is as economical as Guided By Voices and hauntingly bittersweet as the Mama’s and the Papas.

holidayghosts
Holiday Ghosts – West Bay Playroom (PNK SLM)
Album number two from these Modern Lovers meets Pastels beatniks sees them still flying under the radar. Not sure how accurate internet radar is for this sort of thing these days, but I love rollicking ramshackle rock and roll like this.

joshua
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality (Eremite)
This is considered jazz or experimental tonal jazz or some other mumbo jumbo. This is hypnotic, trance inducing music that you shouldn’t listen to while operating heavy machinery. There should be a warning sticker on the cover about the dangers of listening to it and ending up somewhere and not knowing how you got there. Better than drugs.

patio
Patio – Essentials (Fire Talk)
Every time a song from Essentials pops up on shuffle play I think it’s a 90’s indie rock like Helium or Scrawl. This Brooklyn trio nods to the 90’s with their angular hooks and minimal pop but adds an airy sophistication to the update that sound for the new millennium.

trade desires
Zebra Hunt – Trade Desire (Tenorio Cotobade)
Seattle’s Zebra Hunt keep going as the world swirls around them, releasing a solid LP ever few years. The fact that their label is in Spain and they’ve toured that country more extensively than their own speaks volumes about the discerning tastes of the record buying public on the Iberian peninsula and how too many hometown folks don’t appreciate what’s in their own back yard.

vanishingtwin
Vanishing Twin – The Age of Immunology (Fire)
Fire records, Vanishing Twin’s record label has got a lock on Broadcast inspired bands with this, Death & Vanilla and Jane Weaver. This mines similar territory to my favorite Broadcast album The Noise Made By People. Yes, points off for not being original, but they add enough nuance to it to make it easy to ignore where it came from and just appreciate where it is.

mcfarlin
J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest – Ta Da (Hobbies Galore)
Unbeknownst to me, the Twerps were a band with an amorous couple at its core and that couple decided to call it quits thus dissolving one of my favorite Australian bands of the past five years. Martin Frawley and Julia McFarlane have both released albums this year, but McFarlane’s is the one that wormed its quirky head into my list of favorites. Minimalist and quirky, this not what you would probably expect from one half of the Twerps, but welcome nonetheless.

bvs
The BV’s – Cartography (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
This English-German duo excell at moody, atmospheric pop that may remind more than a few folks of one or two bands on Sarah records or even the Durutti Column. Some might call it dreampop, but these guys are too darn moody for a tag like that. Cartography has couple immediate songs and some that meander and others that will take a few listens to really appreciate. This one grows on you and peels away its layers on repeated listening. Worth it!

intelligence
The Intelligence – Un-Psychedelic In Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting)
I have no idea what the title to the Intelligence’s latest album alludes to. This former Seattle relocated to the fake surfing environs of So-Cal a few years back to continue their warped Ventures inspired glue sniffing weirdness. Hive minded Lars Finberg appears to be on the wagon, but there is no discernible drop off in quality here. Perhaps this is really what he’s like? I hope so.

sacred
Sacred Paws – Run Around the Sun (Merge)
Golden Grrls offshoot/continuation second album is brighter and richer sounding to my ears than their debut. Rachel Aggs’ (also of Shopping & Trash Kit) guitar playing is a perfect mix of indie jangle and afro-pop rhythm. The vocal interplay between her and Eilidh Rodgers is life-affirming. Add in some horn parts and you’ve got this really exiting record.

rodrigo.jpg
Phillipi & Rodrigo – Paciencia (DeeWee)
If you recall and appreciate the excellent Bungalow Record label that was based out of Berlin in late 90’s and early 2000’s and their penchant for quirky electronic based pop like Czerkisky, Le Hammond Inferno and Ladytron, then DeeWee is a label you should follow. Phillipi & Rodrigo are a Brazillian duo that would have fit in perfectly on Bungalow with their soundtrack inspired dance music.

french
French Vanilla – How Am I Not Myself? (Danger Collective)
Funny how 80’s inspired music and movies have not gone out of style. I wonder if it registers with the young ones when movies like Spiderman loosely ape John Hughes’ teen movies like Ferris Bueller and Pretty In Pink in theme and soundtrack? Weird Science was a super hero movie after all, wasn’t it? Instead of Oingo Boing or Romeo Void, movie soundtrack folks might consider Los Angeles’s French Vanilla to fill out the soundtrack for the next teen inspired comedy super hero film. Danny Elfman, if you’re listening…

olden
Olden Yolk – Living Theatre (Trouble In Mind)
Living Theatre is album number two from the former Quilt guy Shane Butler. and continues to mine the rich pastoral inspired folky motorik vein of the their debut. It’s a sweet spot that is often better described as psychedelic folk music. This album is like an herbal soothing of the Free Design and Stereolab blended with the swirling pastoral vibes of a band like the Essex Green. Lovely stuff.

catele
Cate Le Bon – Reward (Mexican Summer)
Cate Le Bon’s DRINKS collaboration with Tim Presley has the minimal with a disregard for pop hooks. She seems to have taken that DRINKS minimal and inserted the missing pop hooks for fifth album. Reward rewards with minimalist pop perfection.

winona
Winona Forever – Feelgood (Kingfisher Bluez)
Feelgood is the second album by these Canadian coastal transfers (Vancouver to Montreal) with a soft spot for ill-considered tatoos and yacht rock. The warbly, jazz-influenced guitars remind me a little of Mac Demarco, Crystal Skulls and Mild High Club, but they have smooth pop intuition that smooths over any quirky edges.

cowgirl
Cowgirl In Sweden – S/T (Courtesan Music)
A Mysterious record that seems like it just wasn’t made for these times. It’s title is a wink and nod to the great Lee Hazlewood. With an eye to the past and the obscure, these misty eyed songs that are steeped in nostalgia right down to the limited pressing of 300 and no digital version to be had.

neutrals
The Neutrals – Kebab Disco (Emotional Response)
2017’s Motorcycle Cop put this San Francisco band on my radar. Their debut keeps them firmly planted in my sights. like Art Brute and This Many Boyfriends, Scotish transplant Allan McNaughton has an infectious fandom for indie rock and music culture and a sense of humor to go along with it.

weyes
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (Sub Pop)
The United States is so far removed from the hyperinflation, gasoline lines and presidential impeachment of the 1970’s that it is surprising that an album like this could be so popular. I think that previous sentence contained a little too much irony, sorry. Titanic Rising is a fantastical record that is parts Elton John, Carpenters and Joni Mitchel. Natalie Mering has conjured up quite a record with her melodramatic vocals that crescendo on nearly ever song. Dramatic stuff that feels like a child of the 70’s looking for her divorced parents.

rozi
Rozi Plain – What a Boost (Memphis Industries)
Spare and spatiatous songs swirl and intertwin themselves into you consious, like a minimalist Juana Molina. Rozi Plain blends folk with electronic sounds that sounds like Sea and Cake deconstruced bossa nova post rock. What a Boost is her second album and the perfect soundtrack for a gray and overcast day.

piroshka
Piroshka – Brickbat (4AD)
Piroshka seemed to garner a lot of attention for being a band that counted as members folks formerly of Lush, Moose, Modern English and Elastica. Sure Berenyi’s voice is hard not to associate with Lush, and you may recognize a Moose guitar flourish here and there but right from the album’s start you realize this group aren’t looking toward the past.

concerns
The Concerns – County Blue (War Hen)
Eternal Summers drummer Daniel Cundiff strikes out on his own for an album with some helpf from the Young Sinclairs’ Sam Lunsford and John Thompson. It’s steeped in 80’s alternative like REM, the Railway Children and a touch of Prefab Sprout. Cundiff doesn’t have a domineering voice, but he can deliver a hushed hook and with the jangly guitars, flourishes of synthesizers, and a few well placed horns makes County Blue an understaded winner.

edwynn
Edwyn Collins – Badbea (AED)
This is his best record since he had the stroke. Opener It’s All About You has the energy and spite of Georgeous George opener the Campaign for Real Rock. Hell, the entire album has that driving northern soul element that most of Collins best records always had. The guy sounds like he’s rejuvinated and ready to keep making more beauties like this.

forster
Robert Forster – Inferno (Tapete)
Robert Forster albums aren’t quite as rare as the return of the Locusts, and I look forward to them more than a swarm of insects. Inferno follows 2015’s Songs to Play which is only fours years and a short spell. Inferno teams him with producer Victor Von Vugt who also produced his first solo album Danger In the Past 29 years ago. The former Go-Between still has a knack for putting a song together. No Fame is pure Go-Betweens brilliance and Life Has Turned a Page ranks up there with Darlinghurst Nights as one of his better nostalgia tinged semi-autobigraphical ramblers.

kiwi
Kiwi Jr – Football Money (Mint)
More great Canadian pop in the mid-year list. Toronto’s Kiwi Jr fit somewhere between Sloan, Pavement, Beuhlah and Parquet Courts and seem cool with being uncool. By uncool, I mean cool in certain circles that are uncool from the outside looking in. They march to their own beat, sing odes to Burt Bacharach and Brian Jones and are more fun than 90% of the records in my house.

durant
Durand Jones and the Indications – American Love Call (Colemine)
No retro soul album could ever be considered groundbreaking, but then when did the last groundbreaking record come out. American Love Call one thing and it does it very well. The retro soul on album number two is a little more toned down and smoother sounding than the debut. It’s Heavy on the strings and romancing and sounds as smooth as silk.

lesuper
Le Superhommard – Meadow Lane Park (Elefant)
This year has seen no shortage of records influenced by Stereolab and Broadcast which is fine by me. Le Superhommard lean more towards the Stereolab side of the teeter-totter with their ping-pong synths and bouncy melodies. Meadow Lane Park is not just one or two good songs and rest filler, it’s packed full of beauties.

marblearch
Marble Arch – Children of the Slump (Géographie)
The second album from this Parisian band is more of a full band affair but keeps some of its predecessor’s bedroom pop ideas, just fleshes them out with a fuller sound. Children of the Slump with its driving bass, flourishes of synthesizers and gangling guitars is dreamy, atmospheric and aching. Old folks will think Low-Life era New Order, younger ones might think Craft Spells or Wild Nothing.

dumbthings
Dumb Things – S/T (Bobo Integral)
This record was digitally released in 2018, but got a vinyl release early this year so slips in on the technicality that I missed it the first time around. Hailing from Brisbane, the hometown of the Go-Betweens and possibly named after a Paul Kelly song gets my attention. Kindred spirits of the Twerps, Feelies and Zebra Hunt their self-titled debut is a worthy and good company of all of the above.

specials
The Specials – Encore (Island)
The name the Specials carries a lot of weight in certain circles and it’s a questionable call naming this a Specials album (They could have gone with Fun Boy Three), but this is probably as close to a real Specials reunion album we’re ever going to get and I’ll take it. With Terry Hall in the fold it would be hard to go wrong, add in some quality Lynval Golding songs and you’ve got pretty good record.

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Here are a few more notables, that didn’t quite make the first cut, but worth checking into.

rose
Rose Elinor Dougall – A New Illusion (Vermilion)

sleaford
Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive (Extreme Eating)

stroppies
The Stroppies – Whoosh (Tough Love)

uranium
Uranium Club – The Cosmo Cleaners(Static Shock/Fashionable Idiots)

homecurrent
The Home Current – Civilian Leather (Castles In Space)

gunn
Steve Gunn – The Unseen In Between (Matador)

hobbies
Possible Humans – Everybody Split (Hobbies Galore)

patience
Patience – Dizzy Spells (Winona)

tacocat
Tacocat – This Mess Is a Place (Sub Pop)

ffc
Flying Fish Cove – At Moonset (Help Yourself)

PipBlom_Boat.jpg
Pip Blom – Boat (Heavenly)

Trouble In This Town: Zebra Hunt’s Trade Desires

trade desires

Living in Seattle at present requires one to be economical, especially if you’re trying to hold it down with the influx of tech usurpers. Folks used to move here for aesthetic reasons, but now that just comes with the package. It’s taken for granted, or just a bonus. You can tell by the shift from quirky and slightly run down shop fronts and houses to sleek, new and mundane shop fronts and townhouses and the tall buildings that keep edging out further and further from downtown. For a few years, it seemed like anyone with an artistic bent was packing up and heading out of town. That left Seattle tipping into a somewhat unenviable circumstance of being like every other fucking city.

Thankfully a few have stayed around and stuck it out. If i were an optimist I might even tell you that things are looking up, at least on the band front. Zebra Hunt have been a light in the darkness these last five or so years and their beacon continues to shine on their third album Trade Desires. At eight songs, it is economical. The band packs its punches and doesn’t waste time on any feints or diversions. Zebra Hunt continue their janglepop mastery and add a handful of new classics like Two States, See Through You and Coral Scenery to their cannon. They also make a Fresh & Only’s song sound like they wrote it and stretch out on the nearly seven minute Don’t Say Anything.

Every time a new Zebra Hunt album comes out, I count myself lucky that I live here. The PNW is known for its snow capped volcanoes, soggy grey days, hoppy beer, and if Zebra Hunt has anything to say about it, jangle pop.

Albums of 2017

The year 2017 will go on record as the first year I bought more downloads of albums than CD’s. I guess I’ve finally succumbed to the idea that a digital download is just as good as the compact disc. All things being equal, I prefer a complimentary copy of the vinyl with my purchase of the download. So, without any further digressions, here are my top 40 albums of 2017 with streaming links if I could find one.

rvg
1. RVG – A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend)
This Australian band’s debut album grew slowly on me. It’s initial pressing sold out before anyone outside their circle even heard about them. Rooted in some of the best Australian bands like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens. Soaring guitars and lyrics filled with the bleakness of real life fueled songs that got better and better with each listen.

fazerdaze
2. Fazerdaze – Morningside (Flying Nun)
I was surprised not to see this album on more year end lists. Blissed out bedroom pop that is in the same realm as the better-known Jay Som. For my money though, Fazerdaze has a better hit ratio.

bedouine
3. Bedouine – S/T (Spacebomb)
This record came out of nowhere and sounded like nothing else this year. Part Carpenters, Jim Sullivan and Leonard Cohen. Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian who goes by Bedouine posses a smooth and soothing voice and made the comfort record of the year.

cableties
4. Cable Ties – S/T (Poison City)
The debut LP from this Australian trio was full of piss and vinegar. The songs were based on great grooves the reminded me of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and the angst-ridden vocals of Jenny McKechnie flashed with hints of Sleater Kinney. A band to be reckoned with!

melenas
5. Malenas – S/T (El Nébula)
Melenas from Pamplona, Spain take their Flying Nun records and translate them into toe tapping Spanish jangle. Who new that Jangle pop was a lingua franca? If world peace ever happens, expect Melenas to be featured on the soundtrack.

baxter-dury
6. Baxter Dury – Prince of Tears (Heavenly)
On his fourth album, Ian Dury’s kid delivers a brilliant set of songs. From the sleaze of the opener Miami to the filth laden vocals of guest Rose Elinor Dougall to the surprisingly clean cameo of Sleaford Mod’s Jason Williamson this record keeps you on your toes.

UVTV
7. UV-TV – Glass (Deranged)
The debut record from this Florida trio had the sugar-coated blitzkrieg pop reminiscent of the Primitives combined with Spacemen 3 druggy drone. The louder you turned it up the better it gets on this brilliant record.

girlray
8. Girl Ray – Earl Grey (Moshi Moshi)
This trio of teens from Wales deliver bouncy, breathless pop that sounds like part bucolic beauty and part wild overgrown garden. Elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Kevin Ayres lend excitement to Earl Grey and make them a band I’m excited to see what comes next for them.

lars
9. Lars Finberg – Moonlight Over Bakersfield (In the Red)
Striking out on his own, or retreating back to his hometown of Bakersfield, California? A little bit of both as the Intelligence front man and founder teams up with Ty Segall to make a solo record that sounds like an Intelligence record. I love the circuitousness of it all and truth be told, Lars could make a record of him blowing into beer bottles and I’d probably love it.

zebra
10. Zebra Hunt – In Phrases (Tenorio Cotobade)
I chose not to make a separate list of Seattle albums this year due to the issue of the seemingly disappearing Seattle scene. Thankfully the city still has these fellows who make Feelies-Flying Nun styled jangly pop that is second to none. Album number two from Zebra Hunt sees the band maintaining the insanely high level of quality of their debut.

groupd
11. Group Doueh & Cheveu – Dakhla Sahara Session (Born Bad)
This seemed to be an odd team-up, but it worked. The two bands, one from the Sahara, the other from France met in the desert to meld their styles and come up with avant desert grooves that shake rattle and roll like rock and roll is supposed to do.

feature
12. Feature – Banishing Ritual (Upset! the Rhythm
Make a record. Break up. Release the record. This trio of women seemed to have it somewhat backwards, but their Wire inspired pop that scratches, rubs and soothes sometimes all at once makes for a winning record.

star
13. Star Tropics – Lost World (Shelflife)
Chicago’s Star Tropics blend of indiepop jangle, Sarah records, For Against and New Order won’t win them any awards for originality, but the quality of their songs and the atmosphere they create is no rip-off either.

owens
14. Kelly Lee Owens – S/T (Smalltown Supersound)
For fans of Kate Bush, Bjork and the Cocteau Twins Kelly Lee Owens is a godsend. You hear elements of all the aforementioned, but nothing obvious due to Owens skipping off down her own path of ethereal pop bliss.

blacksprings
15. Black Springs – When We Were Great (Oven Material)
Instead of calling this an album, Black Springs chose to call When We Were Great a compilation of songs from their past giving you the idea that the band are no longer together. Mystery aside, this record has elements of dreampop, shoegaze and jangle and a confidence that has me pulling for them to make another record.

alvvays
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)
I nearly wrote this Canadian band’s sophomore effort off, until Lollipop came up on shuffle one day. That song reminded me how effortlessly easy this band makes great pop songs. After Lollipop, Plimsoull Punks hit me, and after that Not My Baby and I was a believer again.

destroyer
17. Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
With Ken, Dan Bejar has fully stepped into the Scottish rain soaked landscapes of the Blue Nile. The sound is majestic and the outlook is dreary and sad, but with Bejar you get laughs with your tears. It was unfortunate that he decided to forgo appearing on the latest New Pornographers LP this year, but that means this album is all top shelf stuff.

bboys
18. B Boys – Dada (Captured Tracks)
I loved how Dada seemed to be both punk and post-punk at once. Or maybe it was the goth sound made me think of Christian Death and the Chameleons. Who knows, but it was loud and fun. I also loved how there ain’t a clunker in the bunch.

clap
19. Clap! Clap! – A Thousand Skies (Black Acre)
After teaming up with Paul Simon last year, Cristiano Crisci returns with album number two of dark world inspired rhythms. A Thousand Skies is cut from the same cloth of tribal rhythms and slithering melodies that veer towards drum and bass, but he adds some guest vocalists this time around.

Priests
20. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural (Sister Polygon)
Washington, DC’s Priests ably carry on the politically informed pop/punk that was championed by a litany of bands from the nation’s capital. Nothing Feels Natural Feels urgent and agitated and under attack. Priests kick back and write songs worth rallying around, which is much needed in this day and age of moral drift.


21. Flat Worms – S/T (Castle Face)
Flat Worms which features former members of Dream Boys, Sic Alps and Thee Oh Sees hit the ground running on this pummelingly great record. Lead off song Motorbike sets the scene of this menacing record. They’re sound like a biker gang that digs Suicide, but thinks synths are for poseurs. Big and bad!

shabazz2
shabazz1
22. Shabazz Palaces – Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star &
Quazarz Vs. The Jealous Machines(Sub Pop)

I guess the two Shabazz Palaces LP’s from this year are considered a rap album, but it’s so out there in terms of mainstream rap that I don’t consider it as such. This is sci-fi fantasy that transcends musical boundaries. You like the Peter Thomas Orchestra? How about Can? That Clap! Clap! record? And a thousand other things. You can probably come at these two records from a hundred different directions and still dig them both.

motroper
23. Mo Troper – Exposure & Response (Good Cheer)
Mo Troper’s second album may not change the world, but it’s pristine orchestral pop will restore your faith in it. This is wide-eyed, wide-screen beautiful stuff likely influenced by albums by Jellyfish, Jeremy Egnik and Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground.

holiday
24. Holiday Ghosts – S/T (PNKSLM)
Manchester’s Holiday Ghosts self-titled debut is a bouillabaisse of low-key, unpolished pop. The group have a lot in common with bands like the Pastels, Comet Gain and the Envelopes. The vocals are shared between band members giving the album the feel of a vaudeville variety, but they keep the plot tight and the songs sweet.

sleaford
25. Sleaford Mods – English Tapas (Rough Trade)
You would think that after high rate of release this duo keeps up that they’d run out of ideas, but English Tapas sees no let up and in fact may their best one since Austerity Dogs. Mop Top even sees them introduce a melody and chorus, and gasp, no swearing. Are they aiming for the charts?

world
26. The World – First World Record (Upset! The Rhythm)
Take a tiny bit of Banarama, and add in some Specials and Selector and you get a sort of idea of what the Bay Area’s the World are going after. Steeped in 80’s punk and ska and sporting pop an astute pop sensibility First World Record is a sax laden tour de fun.

novella
27. Novella – Change of State (Sinderlyn)
Change of State sees Novella continuing on the same trajectory of their debut from 2015. Motorik beats, icy, layered vocals and clean sounding guitar riffs. This batch of songs is stronger and they approach the same quality that Broadcast reached on Tender Buttons.

proto
28. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (Domino)
Protomartyr’s fourth album is a towering achievement. It simultaneously comments on the sorry state of society, shares its rage and does so with songs that make you want to raise your fist and shout the chorus. Up the Tower, Don’t Go To Anacita and Male Plague are among the band’s best. My only complaint about this album is that the best stuff is hidden on side two, but that is minor.

slowdive
29. Slowdive – S/T (Dead Oceans)
It’s weird to think that Slowdive were scoffed at by the British press during their first incarnation in the 1990’s. That press is long gone, out of business. Slowdive are still with us and making brilliant music. Their self-titled comeback is packed full of dreampop featuring both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s ethereal vocals. Slowdive can still conjure it.

business
30. Business of Dreams – S/T (Kocliko Records)
Corey Cunningham of the Terry Malts strikes out on his own into the world of 80’s inspired synth-pop. Inspired by the death of his father, Cunningham made a record that is personal in nature but its pop hooks combination of synthesizers and guitar riffs make it more than palatable to general populous.

spinning
31. Spinning Coin – Permo (Domino)
After a handful of singles, Glasgow’s Spinning Coin finally deliver the goods in their debut long player. As you might expect it’s a combination of ramshackle Pastels like pop and good natured Teenage Fanclub guitar pop.
https://spinningcoin.bandcamp.com/

jana
32. Juana Molina – Halo (Crammed Discs)
Juana Molina has been making records for a while now. Halo is her seventh album. Her formula hasn’t changed too much over the years, creating loops and building them up into a bricolage. In the past it could get busy, but Halo sees her cleaning things up a bit and delivering more straightforward earworms.


33. Oh Sees – Orc (Castle Face)
At this point, a jaded listener might think Oh Sees records are delivered off a conveyor belt, one that changes its name after each new model. Dropping the Thee, John Dwyer’s group sees no creative letdown despite fewer letters. In fact, Orc delivers classic sounding rippers interspersed with Eno style ambience.

stevens
34. The Stevens – Good (Chapter Music)
Album number two from the center of the Melbourne indie scene, didn’t seem to get the attention of their debut. Too bad, because this batch of songs is high quality. At 18 tracks, Good has that uncanny quality that Guided by Voices had in that run in the Bee Thousand to Under the Bushes era.

last
35. Last Leaves – Other Towns Than Ours (Lost & Lonesome/Matinee)
Marty Donald, who was the chief songwriter in the Lucksmiths took a long break after that band called it quits. It’s great to hear him again, this time doing the singing as well as playing guitar. He’s got most of his former band along with him as well. Last Leaves of course will remind you of the Lucksmiths, but this band is something different in that they look more to classic rock than indiepop or at least infuse their pop with some sharper edges and more serious topics. They call it older and wiser.

faith
36. Faith Healer – Try ;-) (Mint)
Jessica Jalbert was a member of the Edmonton punks Tee-Tahs .That is in the past and this is her second album as Faith Healer. Try ;-) lives on the same planet of the Brewis brother’s Field Music. Combine Jallbert’s croon and her ability to write a good pop hook you have something special.


37. Kelley Stoltz – Que Aura (Castle Face)
Kelley Stoltz may have peaked commercially on his Sub Pop debut Below the Branches when his song Birdies Singing was being used in commercials. I haven’t heard him in any commercials since, but honestly the guy keeps releasing great albums. Solid through and through and Que Aura is no different from the previous four in that regard.

corridor
38. Corridor – Supermercado (Requiem Pour Un Twister)
Supermercado is Spanish for grocery store. Corridor is French for angular pop. Supermercado is the second album from Montreal’s Corridor and it is a brilliant melange of pop and sharp jabs and lots of hooks.

rays
39. Rays – S/T (Trouble In Mind)
Rays do great Modern Lovers style rock. The songs feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but they end up making it through each one without the doors flying off the speeding dilapidated vehicle.

trementina
40. Trementina – 810 (Burger)
On their second album, Chile’s Trementina forego the obvious shoegaze effects and travel down a far more interesting path of warped dream pop that only the Swirlies have dared to go before.

Zebra Hunt Phasing Into the Sunset

Zebra Hunt, Unlikely Friends & Seacats at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 June 2017

Over the last five years it seems like many of my favorite Seattle bands have either broken up or left town. A few new ones have come up to replace them, but it seems like we’re in a slight lean period compared to the previous bounties we’ve experienced. Friday night at the Sunset in Ballard three Seattle bands provided some much needed rain on the parched fields of the Seattle music scene. Zebra Hunt, keepers of the Seattle pop flame, were celebrating their second album seeing the light of day courtesy of Spanish record label Tenorio Cotobade.

If you haven’t heard, Zebra Hunt are Seattle’s answer to the classic Flying Nun jangle of the 80’s and the current day jangling explosion of bands from Australia. If you’re old and dig the Clean and the Chills or young and love the Twerps and Chook Race, then Zebra Hunt will fit nicely into your wheelhouse. Having employed Jack Endino to record it, their sophomore effort improves on sound quality and sees no let up in song quality.

Focusing mostly on the new record the band played a great set for the home crowd and provided after show cupcakes decorated with their album cover. Since the last record Zebra Hunt have added a fourth member to the band to help flesh out their sound. The additional guitar and keyboard combined with their already stellar rhythm section increases the impact of the Zebra Hunt experience.

Singer and songwriter Robert Mercer writes about ordinary life but supplies an element of mystery to to his songs by being economical with the details. He is of the Raymond Carver school of writing. You get stories of house hunting, evening walks, listening to records in the kitchen and Foxhill Drive in 2005 with clues to what happened but no answers. I Wont’ Blame You house hunting backdrop sounds partly inspired by Courtney Barnett’s Depreston which was inspired by Paul Kelly’s To Her Door, which was inspired by Carver’s short stories. The lineage is impeccable.  With the release of In Phases, the band now have a larger trove of treasures to pull from for their live shows with a virtual guarantee never to disappoint.

Unlikely Friends were coerced out of their sabbatical to provide support. A BOAT and Math and Physics Club team-up, the group features the um, unlikely combination of both band’s singers, except on this night D. Crane had lost his voice . Probably due to the previous weekend’s BOAT reunion show or some rogue virus, the voiceless Crane  replaced his voice with a message he wrote on a series of notebook pages that littered the stage. The band was in triage mode with Charles Bert of MAPC taking over most of the vocals but letting the drummer Chris have some leads as well. They persevered and kept their sense of humor about them. Look for a second album and hopefully more shows from these underdogs when they’re restored to full power sometime in the not too distant future.

Opening the night were Seacats. Formerly of Kelso-Longview, but now apparently based in Seattle. The two singles I have of theirs give the impression that their a silly, happy-go-lucky sort of band, but as I walked in it was in the middle of their heavy stuff. I think it was their nuclear bomb song. Then they switched singers and pulled off a sublime psych-pop number and I was thoroughly confused. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but at least it was interesting!

Rolling Coastal Blacking Out or Something Like That

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One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.

Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.

One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.

One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!

Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:

    • In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
    • Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
    • The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
    • They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
    • They just keep getting better!
    • They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?

Catching Chook Race While They’re Around the USA

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Taking on America with an extensive 25 date tour is ambitious for any band, but when you’re Chook Race, a little known three piece jangle pop band from Melbourne, Australia it’s downright impressive (and maybe a little insane). The band made its way into Seattle Wednesday night to play the Victory Lounge, a bar with no stage in East Lake. This is one band I thought I would never see in Seattle, but after self-releasing their first album, Chicago label Trouble in Mind signed them making their second LP widely available in the United States as well as this tour a reality.

Singer and guitarist Matthew Liveriadis has a slight monotone delivery, but drummer Carolyn Hawkins provides a beautiful juxtaposition with her backing harmonies. The trio played an energized and jangly set inspired by the Bats and Close Lobsters mixing soon to be jangle pop classics from their first LP with ones of a slightly more classic pop sound from their new second album Around the House. In their short existence the band already have a stash of A-list songs and they didn’t leave any of them out including jangly diamonds like Dentist, Time, Sometimes and Hard to Clean and Older. The band’s tight sound and laid back attitude easily won over the likely already won over folks in attendance and made us all appreciate the long trip they had made to get here.

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Like minded Seattlites Zebra Hunt opened for Chook Race with a set that consisted almost entirely of new songs (Half Right was the only old one). Apparently the new album is nearly ready and based on this evidence I would agree. One song really stood out with its Feelies-like crazy rhythm, even slowing down and then rebuilding itself into something quite raucous. Zebra Hunt has still got it!

Some Good Albums from Seattle This Year

The moss has grown another layer over the past year here in the upper left corner of the U.S. and my stack of records from this Pacific Northwest outpost has grown as well. Luckily I have a cool dry place to store them. Here are my favorite records from Seattle for 2015, center justified for your reading comfort.

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Zebra Hunt – City Sighs (Tenorio Cotobade)
Buy | Listen

My favorite album of the year from Seattle or anywhere. If you’ve been reading along this year you probably could have easily guessed that.

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TheeSatisfaction – Earthee (Sub Pop)
Buy | Listen

Unclassifiable soul, hip hop, space age record that is part throwback, part social commentary and part bravely looking into the dark distant future.

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Childbirth – Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)
Buy | Listen

The best feminist punk rock manifesto with a since of humor since forever.

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Unlikely Friends – Solid Gold Cowboys (Jigsaw)
Buy | Listen

With the rise of Unlikely Friends, fans of Boat and Math and Physics Club can’t be too sad that neither of those bands released a record this year. I wasn’t.

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Telekinesis – Ad Infinitum (Merge)
Buy | Listen

Michael Lerner eschewed his guitars and started collecting vintage synths to create a record inspired by OMD, Postal Service and Blue Nile.

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La Luz – Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
Buy | Listen

Enlisting Ty Segall to record their sophomore record La Luz continue to shoot the curl with another great set of surf rock.

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Wimps – Suitcase (Kill Rock Stars)
Buy | Listen

Wimps dial up another batch of killer slacker punk rock anthems (if there is such a thing). Their sophomore LP Suitcase sees them getting higher marks in all categories which, given their M.O. is probably exactly the opposite of what they were going for.

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Grace Love and the True Loves – Grace Love and the True Loves (Self-Released)
Buy | Listen

The great soul revival of 2015 even reached such remote outposts as Seattle and Grace Love and the True Loves debut album was one of the best soul records of the year from any city.

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Detective Agency – Now (Discos de Kirlian)
Buy | Listen

I’m not sure if Detective Agency would appreciate being called indiepop, but I call ’em like I see ’em and this is some very fine indiepop!

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Car Seat Headrest –  Teens of Style (Matador)
Buy | Listen

The career of Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest reminds me of Steven Jones of Babybird. Make a bunch of songs in your bedroom and release them and then find a band to re-record the best ones and voila, instant good record rooted in lo-fi but with some new bright corners.

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Ponytime – Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True (S-S)
Buy | Listen

Apparently Fleetwood Mac has permeated the garage rock scene of Seattle. I doubt there are any complicated love quadrangles in this band since they’re a duo. They’re more focused on just delivering a bunch of killer jams.
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Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home (Hardly Art)
Buy | Listen

Chastity Belt got serious on album  album number two. Their first LP No Regerts was middle school lo-brow humor compared to Time To Go Home’s more mature and measured sound that is a unique combination of drone and some of that heavier rock from the 90’s for which Seattle is well known.