2013 Singles of the Year Countdown: 25-1

After a slight delay (I like to pretend I was creating anticipation) here are my top 25 singles of 2013. Seattle is in the mix with 20% of the spots in the top 25. Maybe I’ve been here so long that I’ve been taken over by NW provincialism. I doubt it. These records would be here not matter where I might reside. My provincial list should follow sometime next week.
swiftumz
25. Swiftumz – Willy (Sugar Mountain/Divis and Mason)

Swiftumz released two singles simultaneously one day this past fall. One was a re-recording of the excellent Luv Ya 4 eva from his debut album. The second one came in a sleeve of globular sugary goo that was an excellent indicator of what’s inside. Candy sweet Buzzcocks inspired riffs and saccharine vocals drip from this and every time I play it I have to clean the sweaty syrup from my turntable.

WeekofWonders
24. Week of Wonders – Piggybacks (HHBTM)

Leif Anders’ old band Orca Team kind of disappeared one day and from its carcass appeared Week of Wonders. It was as if Anders had been reborn on a tropical island with a brand new band. Wonders never cease here as the bright steel drum sounding guitars surround you and pull you into a conga line through an abandoned factory.

CircularKeys
23. Circular Keys – Eurogrand (Bedroom Suck)

Reading this list you might get the idea that all I listen to is shoegaze, indiepop, garage and psych pop. Well I like a bit of dub and trip hop now and again too. It loosens your joints and keeps you spry. This Australian duo are utterly supple on their debut single. Extra points for spicing up this year’s countdown.

proto idiot
22. Proto Idiot – You’re Wrong (Trouble In Mind)

Proto Idiot is Manchester resident Andrew Anderson. This isn’t his debut, but it was the first I had heard of him and his Clean meets Soft Boys meets Television Personalities wonderfully warped take on pop, and a wonderful introduction it is.

VeronicaFalls
21. Veronica Falls – Nobody There (Self-released)

I don’t think I’ve heard a Veronica Falls song I didn’t like. Nobody There is no exception, but it’s even better than most of their songs, mostly due to the wonderful harmonies at the end of the song that puts them in the realm of the Stone Rose debut.

RawPrawn
20. Raw Prawn – None Left (RIP Society)

Maps are swell and Raw Prawn obviously love Swell Maps. The jaggedy dissonant guitars puncture your safe place and invade the living room. This was released way back in January and I haven’t heard much from them since, but hopefully they’re preparing their next salvo of cacophony real soon.

peoplestemple
19. People’s Temple – Brand New Thing (Trouble In Mind)

Peoples’s Temple are no strangers to my year end lists, but usually they’re on the albums list. This year sees them only releasing a single. It is of such high quality, that it kept me satiated. This Lansing Band sounds like a combination of Them and psychedelic Rolling Stones, and will undoubtedly end up on a children of children of Nuggets box set at some point in the future.

zebrahunt_beaches
18. Zebra Hunt – Beaches of LA (Manic Pop)

Man if there was a band like this that lived in my town I would count myself one of the luckiest fools on the face of this pale blue dot.  Take a little Clean, some Shins and a bit of Go-Betweens and you’ve got the perfect combination (yes, I am a lucky fool). Beaches of LA shows the cool slow burn side of Zebra Hunt, but to the same deadly effect.

tullycraft
17. Tullycraft – Lost In Light Rotation (Fortuna Pop)

I was in the car the other day with my kids and this song came up on the shuffle play (a family that listens to Tullycraft together stays together). When the chorus “ray-gun ray-gun” came in, both kids immediately began singing along to it like it was second nature. After it was over they both said that they didn’t like the song. Sometimes the genius of a pop song is its ability to get you to sing it even when you don’t admit to liking it. Nice cover of Yaz’s Bad Connection on the flip side too.

casualsex
16. Casual Sex – Stroh 80 (Moshi Moshi)

Have you ever wondered what a David Bowie and Edwynn Collins collaboration would sound like? Casual Sex have got your number. This is like Station to Station era Bowie hanging out with the leather clad Collins from the tail end of the Orange Juice.

felines
15. Felines – A Man Stuck In Your Mind (Soundflat)

Another killer single this year from Denmark’s all girl garage supremos. They seem to have an innate ability to make simplicity sound vital. Nothing fancy, just songs that swagger with confidence and flat out rock.

slushy
14. Slushy – Candy (Randy)

This Chicago duo have got a sweet tooth for the Beach Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ramones and Teenage Fanclub. Two songs here and nothing wasted. It’s economical and efficient. Just like candy. Candy is the ballad on the A-side, while the more energetic Pocket showcases their ability to rock out. A near perfect record.

flowers
13. Flowers – When You Lie (Cloudberry)

Big fuzzy drums that sound like they were recorded in an elevator shaft and vocals that echo like fallen angels, this London band’s debut was an instant love affair for fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain,the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. Few bands can generate beauty from white noise, but Flowers are a welcome addition to this elite club.

talbotadams
12. Talbot Adams – Red Diamonds (Spacecase)
Red Diamonds has many similarities to I’ve Been Everywhere and This Land Is Your Land. Some might call that an overstatement, but Talbot Adams’ trip across the Great White North is a classic in waiting.

marketsquares
11. The Market Squares – Afternoon Tide (Market Square)

This collaboration between Paul Messis and the Sufis is a psych dream team. The sinuous guitar lead of Afternoon Tide sticks to your bones long after it’s over. Not surprising that this record sounds like it was recorded 45 years ago given Messis’ and the Sufis’ penchant for classic garage psychedelic sounds.

BeForest
10. Be Forest – Hanged Man (WWNBB)

Italy’s Be Forest wonder in a wood of dreampop. Guitars swoop in from tall trees while the forest floor is soft and pillowy. The forest is slowly transformed as snow begins to descend. Finding shelter beneath a majestic evergreen you listen as the snow falls. When you dig out you discover an wood nymph singing a Japandroids song.

youngsinclairs
9. Young Sinclairs – Engineer Man (Market Square)

Albums, singles, solo records, and demos trickle out from head engineer Sam Lundsford at a fairly constant rate. He seems to have a endless source of paisley coloured songs that he feeds into the pipeline of the internet. Engineer Man is apparently an old song he re-recorded for this single. A good thing too, because it’s way too good to leave on some dusty bandcamp page.

AfraidofStairs
8. Afraid of Stairs – I Lit Up (Dufflecoat)

It has been some time since we’ve heard from Sweden’s Afraid of Stairs, seven years in fact.  I had this single originally slated in at around number 40 when I started gathering my list, but it kept getting better and better every time I listened to it. They sort of shed their shoegaze influences for big sounding straight ahead pop. At first I thought they might have lost the plot, but really they seem to be juggling about eight story lines at once.

zebraHunt_only
7. Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out (Tenorio Cotobade)

On only their second single Zebra Hunt already seem to have pop genius figured out. Only Way Out is a near perfect song stretching like a rubber band to unimaginable length and then it snaps. It’s not the song itself that inflicts pain, it’s the brevity of this pop nugget that does it. Luckily there’s a repeat button.

saunayouth
6. Sauna Youth – False Jessie (Static Shock)

Usually a cover as the A-side means a band is lacking ideas, but Sauna Youth’s C-86 take on Pissed Jeans hardcore False Jessie is like the flip side of Fucked Up’s C-86 fetish. I hope Pissed Jeans aren’t getting any royalties from this because these damp youths own False Jessie.

Blooper
5. Blooper – You Won’t Miss Me (Manic Pop)

The Razorcuts and the Buzzcocks have got nothing on Seattle’s Blooper. This record is so intensely good, you can play it 100 times in a day and it won’t loose any of its maniacally measured propulsion. Keep the singles going steady Blooper.

Wildhoney
4. Wildhoney – Like Me (Nostalgium Directive)

While everyone was awestruck about My Bloody Valentine dusting off a bunch of b-sides and calling it an album this year, Baltimore’s Wildhoney put out the best slice of MBV inspired shoegaze since Isn’t Anything hit the shelves in record stores. Jaw dropping, ear bursting stuff. No big deal.

VicGodard
3. Vic Godard – Caught in Midstream / You Bring Out the Demon In Me (AED)

Oh my, this record is delight, and for you trainspotters the other record in the countdown to feature saxophone. The postman always delivers, and Vic Godard when he’s not delivering mail he’s delivering amazing stuff like this soulful blast of age-defying goodness. Who says you can’t have two careers?

krista
2. Krista – Space Tom Test (Stones Throw)

Some astronaut sings Major Tom from space and people think it’s so poignant. Never mind the guy can’t sing. Vex Ruffin can sing, no doubt and Jame Pants can lay down a fat beat so the next time your in space sing this astronaut dude.

Hookworms
1. Hookworms – Radio Tokyo (Too Pure)

The Hookworms album was pretty good, no? Well this single put it in the dust and in the style of groups that know they can clean the floor it wasn’t even on the album. The swirling organ, the nutso guitar and the psychotic refrain of “It freaks me out” are like being in the eye of the storm. Things are swirling around your cocoon until a flying livestock punctures it and then your in the mayhem, the wondrously insane bovine induced mayhem.

Zebra Hunt Go To Spain

zebrahunt

Seattle’s kiwi loving popsters Zebra Hunt return from the ashes of the crash and burn of their former label with a brand new record. Luckily the Spanish upstart label Tenorio Cotobade has bellied up to the Zebra Hunt bar for another round of killer pop. So all you have to do is scour the internet for a buy link to put this pretty thing into your hands. And why would you want to pay exorbitant overseas shipping for a piece of plastic you ask? Because when you hear the A-side Only Way Out with its rubbery guitar lead and catchy chorus you will be helplessly reaching for your credit card. B-side Get Along is a rawer bar room romp that sees these big game hunters going for the jugular with a single shot.

Zebra Hunt are two for two in the record game. Could an album to solidify their unsung greatness be in the offing in the not too distant future? I’ll take that, or more singles like this one to feed the hungry pop beast inside me.

stream: Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out (order the 7-inch from Tenorio Cotobade)

Zebra Hunt Go To the Beach

zebrahunt

When you need to get away, what do you do? If you have the means you physically get away. Get in a car and drive, or take plane to somewhere even further. If you don’t, can I recommend a little piece of vinyl that will take you down to the beaches of LA for a virtual spring break?

Zebra Hunt, hailing from Seattle have just released their first 7-inch single via Manic Pop! Records. In its tiny grooves contains the power of escape. The A-side Beaches of LA may have you skeptics thinking oh no not another beach-y surf song, but Zebra Hunt know you’re tired of the regular indie run of the mill and deliver a plaintive sad beauty that muscles in on Shins territory with its shimmering guitars and falsetto chorus. Last year’s killer Half Right makes an appearance on the flip side along with a new Nerves-y rocker Tomorrow. The little is record is packed full of killer pop.

If you don’t even have the means for the 7-inch or just like winning stuff, we’ve teamed up with Zebra Hunt and Manic Pop! Records to give away a copy Zebra Hunt 7-inch. Drop a line in the comments section to put your name in the drawing.  We’ll announce a winner on Saturday, April 13, the same day that Zebra Hunt play their record release party at the Rendezvous here in Seattle along with Posse and Detective Agency.

stream: Zebra Hunt – Beaches EP (Order a copy of the 7-inch from Manic Pop! Records)

Manic Pop Dreams Become Manic Pop Thrills

MANIC-POP-RECORDS-2-web

I have this recurring dream where I walk into a record shop and go over to their 7-inch singles section and discover 20 brand new records that I had never heard of. Each of them is lovingly designed with eye catching sleeves. I gaze at the display and each one is  like glistening piece of candy that the pop kid in me cannot ignore and must have. Resistance is futile. Restraint and logic flies out the door and I grab all of them. I dig in and each one I pick up I cannot put down. Eventually my arms are overflowing with records as I head to the cash register to quickly purchase my new finds and take them home and listen to them.

I feel like that dream came into being when Minnesota label Manic Pop! Records came on line at the end of last year. The inaugural release was the Candy Strypers.  It was jangling Byrds-ian harmonic love at first sight. After that first release the records seemed to come fast and furiously. The Mini Dresses from Austin levitated me with their Sunday’s inspired pop. Blooper’s bone-rattling garage pop single was a constant on the turntable for weeks. The fragile and simply beautiful pop of London’s Choo Choo Trains made me swoon.  The fractured and sparse pop of Manchester’s Gorgeous Bully hit me right where it hurts.  The nocturnal dreampop courtesy of Minneapolis band Gloss put me in state of bliss.  The blippy-synth pop from Greece’s Plastic Flowers had me reaching for my Flowchart and Holland records. In short it has all been pop and it has all been good. I left a few out mostly because I can’t keep up with the pace, and there are more great singles on the way from the likes of Zebra Hunt, Males, Forest, Death of Pop and who knows who else this young exciting new label have planned. Head on over to their store and fill you’re sweaty pop parched hands with a swill of manic pop singles…and sweet dreams.

stream: Males – So High

males

stream: Gloss – Front Porch

gloss

stream: Choo Choo Trains – The Most Beautiful Boy

choochootrains

streamMini Dresses – Post Office Girl

minidresses

stream: Gorgeous Bully – M.A.W

gorgeousbully

stream: Death of Pop – Don’t Hang Around

deathofpop

Pop! Goes Seattle: Best of 2012

Could this have been the year that Seattle went pop? Sure, there have been bands here and there with pop leanings, but this was the year that Seattle finally shed it’s flannel, got out of the garage, and didn’t feel like it had to be wooly, bearded and mechanical all the time. Look out old Seattle, the kids don’t care about your hang-ups!  Here are my favorite 15 records (album, ep’s and singles) from the Emerald City and environs.

erikblood
1. Erik Blood – Touch Screens (Self-relased)

It was pretty cool to see much of Seattle’s music press unanimously agree that Erik Blood’s Touch Screens was a brilliant record. He took his shoegaze leanings, added some electronics, a motorik beat or two and came up with a concept album about pornography. Too bad that recognition seemed to stop at the city limits. Dear rest of the world, you may have missed one of the finest records put out this year.
The Lonesome Death of Henry Paris:
stream: Touch Screens

theesatisfaction
2. Thee Satisfaction – awE naturalE (Sub Pop)

Part soul,  interstellar hip-hop, and trip-hop, the duo Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White combined to create a record that sounded like little else in Seattle and anywhere else for that matter. It didn’t get as much gushing attention as the Shabazz Palaces album did last year. It should have because it’s a better record.
QueenS:

neighbors

3. Neighbors – John In Babeland (Lost Sound)

Neighbors’ deft songwriting seemed to effortlessly take their REM and Pavement influences and create a record that could rattle as well as soothe. John in Babeland came out cassette way back in February, luckily I got a download of it because as much as I’ve played it, the cassette wound up all scrunched in a tape deck by now.
All United Grocery:

Stream: John In Babeland

eveningmeetings
4. Evening Meetings – Evening Meetings (Sweet Rot)

Dark clouds, dark allies, dark dark. Evening Meetings wouldn’t, no couldn’t take place in the light of day nor in any other place. Claustrophobia induced by low pressure and heavy dark clouds and dusk that sets in around 3pm.  This time of year in Seattle it’s dark most of the time and in some weird strange way this record turns on the bright lights every time I listen to it.
Shimmer Street:

zebrahunt

5. Zebra Hunt – Zebra Hunt (self-released)

Half Right is the best song to come out of Seattle this year. If I didn’t know any better I would have guessed they moved here from New Zealand and started a PNW Flying Nun shop right here in our midst. Seattle, rejoice! There is a pop band in our midst that breathes kiwi air.

Half Right:
stream: Zebra Hunt

laluz
6. La Luz – Damp Face (Self-released)

Have you ever been to the beach in Washington? You can actually drive right onto it with your car because nobody’s there. It’s flat, cold and windy no matter when you go, winter, spring, summer or fall. La Luz don’t belong in this surfer’s nightmare. Their surfer’s paradise of an EP had to have been born in warmer climes, but being from Seattle, perhaps long winter day’s indoors, hanging with the ghosts of the Ventures and  dreaming of an endless summer did it.
Sure As Spring:

stream: Damp Face

orcateam

7. Orca Team – Restraint (HHBTM)

The basic sound of Orca Team record hasn’t changed much over their short career. Their bass-driven 50’s surf pop jangle consistently pleases. They’re random output of  singles, cassettes and CDr’s has been scattershot. Finally the band has seemed to focus and that concentration makes Restraint feel like a proper record. Its concise songs make quick long lasting impressions.

Michael:
stream: Restraint

posse
8. Posse – Posse (Self-released)

Posse’s self-titled debut is brazen with amazing pop songs. They have the gritty boy-girl back and forth in their songs and slashing guitar solos that aren’t over the top but just right. You older folk will appreciate their affinity towards Versus. Back in the 90’s during that post Nirvana signing frenzy Posse undoubtedly would have been sitting on piles of cash and big record deal. Oh how times have changed.

Hey Suzzane:
stream: Posse

teacozies
9. Tea Cozies – Bang Up (Self-released)

Tea Cozies re-materialized after three years in the wilderness with this killer five song EP. It has an air of confidence about it and flare that will have fans of both 90’s Britpop and college rock hopefully reaching for their pocketbooks as well as old albums by the Tuscadero, Blake Babies and Sleeper.
Silhouette In A Suitcase:
stream: Bang Up

chastitybelt

10. Chastity Belt – Dude (self-released)

You thought I was kidding about the pop capitol of the world,didn’t you. I wasn’t and Chastity Belt are here to back me up. Their Pony Tail single had the audacity to tell the general NPR listening, latte drinking, Game of Thrones playing male populace of Seattle to cut off their ponytails. What a bunch of punks!

Ponytail:
stream: Dude

blooper

11. Blooper – Go Away (Self-released)

Blooper do saccharin powerpop so well that any cuts inflicted by their killer songs will bleed cherry syrup. Look out for a new 7-inch single from these Ballard popsters early in the new year on Manic Pop! Records.

Secret Song:
stream: Go Away

nightgowns
12. Nightgowns – Bonita (Swoon)

Tacoma’s Nightgowns, similar to Tea Cozies have been slumbering for a few years, but this EP sees them wide awake and in good form. Slightly bombastic and theatrical, but only slightly, Bonita sounds like that bubble the Flaming Lips use, but instead of it being in a sea of confetti, they are bounding across the high desert, down the cascades and into the Sound.

Tomorrow Girl:
stream: Bonita

Purrs

13. Purrs – Rotting On the Vine (Fin)

The Purrs are like the elder statesmen of nothing. They’ve been around for years putting out great records to little recognition. Perennially writing killer songs that are left rotting on the vine so to speak.  If anyone ever asks you, yes they do make them use to. Seattle’s Fin records have given the Purrs a new home and this beauty is a taste of their album due next year.

Rotting On the Vine:
stream: Rotting On the Vine

seapony

14. Seapony – Falling (Hardly Art)

Funny how Seapony’s second album is better than their first and yet last year they were number one in my Seattle albums and now they’re number 14. It might be because Falling was more of the same only better or it might be because I’m capricious.  They may have slightly fallen out of fashion, but this record will be considered a Sarah-esque classic in a few years. Too bad it takes obscurity for some people to really appreciate things.

Prove To Me:

stephanie

15. Stephanie – One Glove (Self-released)

Stephanie sound like they could have been on Factory records back in the early 80’s. They employed Erik Blood to record One Glove, but it sounds like they got Martin Hannett from the grave instead.  Stephanie employ sparse, jaggedy steely guitars that are part Magazine and part Durutti Column and a singer that some might say is an acquired taste but they make it work quite well.

Cell 44:
stream: One Glove

Fell from a Cloud: Eternal Summers, Bleeding Rainbow & Zebra Hunt at the Sunset

Eternal Summers, Bleeding Rainbow & Zebra Hunt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 8 September 2012

Someone yelled out in between songs of Eternal Summers set Saturday at the Sunset, “I just want to move to Roanoke!”  Nicole Yun deadpanned back, “Be careful what you wish for.” Yun and her band Eternal Summers are from Roanoke, Virginia, so it wasn’t exactly encouragement. Even so I can see the potential attraction. These days southern Virgina is dotted with attention deserving bands like White Laces, Super Vacations, Young Sinclairs and Wild Nothing, but Eternal Summers are my favorite. The bounty in the South right now reminds me of late 80’s when there was a highway of great pop from Mitch Easter‘s Drive-in studio in North Carolina all the way down to REM‘s hometown of Athens, Georgia.

Eternal Summers second album Correct Behavior deftly combines the sweet pop of Belly, moodiness of the Cure, attitude of Smashing Pumpkins and the angular bounce of Pylon. Behavior is a huge leap forward from their debut Silver in both songwriting and production. It’s one of the year’s best records and the trio ably put on a show to rival the record.

Now officially a trio, which according to Mr. Robert Forster (I am in accordance with and Eternal Summers prove),  the purest form of rock and roll expression. They ripped through an hour long set that did not have a single let down. Millions, You Kill, I Love You, Prisoner, Wonder and Disappear all delivered the goods. Drummer Daniel Cundiff even snuck in his ace Girls In the City. Yun’s singing easily rivaled the squall created by the band and she is also no slouch on guitar either. Many of her leads sounded like there were two guitarists. My only complaint about the show was how sparsely attended it was especially for a Saturday night. Has word not gotten out about how great this band is, or has everyone moved to Roanoke?

mp3: Eternal Summers – You Kill (from Correct Behavior on Kanine)

Eternal Summers are on tour with Philadelphia’s Bleeding Rainbow (né Reading Rainbow). Previously a duo they’ve expanded to a four piece and kind of reinvented their sound. I like the new direction, it combines the 60’s Topanga Canyon with effects laden guitars similar to territory that the Telescopes were exploring in shoegaze heyday of the early 90’s. Look for a new album from them early next year on Kanine.

stream: Bleeding Rainbow – Pink Ruff

Seattle’s own Zebra Hunt opened the show. Their Dunedin sound by way of Ballard, which I can’t get enough of at the moment, sounded great. They played all three songs from their darling bandcamp EP and threw in a very appropriate cover of the Clean‘s Oddity. Like I needed another reason to like these guys.

Hallelujah All the Way Home

The first time I listened to Half Right by Zebra Hunt I kept thinking that there was no way that the song could not be that good. It started out with guitar jangle reminiscent of the Verlaines, I thought OK this sounds cool, but kept expecting it to go downhill from there (at heart I’m a pessimist). Next the singer starts to sing “I’m only half right with you” sounding like he’s related to both Graeme Downes and David Kilgour. At this point any lingering pessimism has flown out the window and I am now a super fan of Zebra Hunt. The next song The Only Way Out has me seriously considering cashing in my kid’s college fund to start a record label with the sole purpose of putting Zebra Hunt records. Thankfully the glassy pacific feel of the final song of the EP The City Sighs  allows me to momentarily come to my senses enough to realize that maybe starting a record label may not be in my best financial interest.

Seattle continues to produce some of the best (and unsung) bands this year and Zebra Hunt add to this city’s pop arsenal. The Zebra Hunt EP is available for free download from their bandcamp page and you can catch them live opening for Eternal Summers and Bleeding Rainbow September 8, at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard.

stream/download: Zebra Hunt