Sunday, January 11, 2009

2008 Year End List: Psych/Garage/Whatever-Punk Pt.2

Eat Skull "Sick To Death" LP (Siltbreeze)
Siltbreeze's second year back in action was a doozy, and though most of what they released is worth a mention in this here list (Hank IV and The Fabulous Diamonds quickly come to mind) my favorite release came from Portland's Eat Skull. The four-piece do an amazing job at taking their punk leanings and sprinkling them with pop tones, but, of course, heaping on a thick layer of static and fuzz, which helps 'em fit right into the Siltbreeze ethos. Eat Skull are a great addition to a label that has already brought us amazing LP's by like-minded bands like Times New Viking and Sic Alps. If yr currently digging the vibes of them bands, then I suggest you snatch up a piece of these buggers before they get scooped up by Matador and you come home to find yr mom humming along to I Licked The Spider.

Get "Sick To Death" here.

I Licked The Spider

Sic Alps "US EZ" LP (Siltbreeze)
Wrote about these guys in Color already (twice), so I'm gonna cut'n'paste my original review...

Earlier this year Sic Alps seemingly popped out of nowhere and poked a stick into the eye of the mainstream. The Bay Area band, however, have been toiling around for several years, releasing a smattering of tapes, 7”’s, 12”’s and three full length records for the faithful few. Now that the rest of the world is coming around to their catchy, lo-fi sounds, thanks in part to the growing popularity of aesthetically similar groups like No Age and Times New Viking, Sic Alps are breaking through to a wider audience. U.S. EZ is a fantastic primer for the uninitiated, and showcases their penchant for reverb drenched vocals, sloppy guitars, and occasional excursions into noisy jams. The short, tight songs on U.S. EZ display all of the above but manage to bring a pop edge to them that'll have you rippin' this one over and over. Sic Alps aren't exactly re-inventing the rock and roll wheel here but they sure are throwing a playing card into the spokes to make it fun again.


Love Tan "Miscellaneous Night Feelings" LP (Kill Shaman!)
This a huge sound for a two piece; constant skittering and rapid fire drums, unintelligible and muffled vocals combined with a lurching and super-clean guitar that always seems on the verge of completely cutting out. One half of the two-piece has done stints in The Intelligence and is also a member of the Factums. The sound flirts with the pop of the Intelligence and the gnarly post-punk sproing of the more "listenable" Factums records, though the band constantly sound as if they're about to stumble outta the studio. This is an amazing follow-up to their 7" on Sweet Rot, which you can peep below. Contact me to get a hold of a hard copy of the 7"...I got copies!

Snatch the OOP 7" on Sweet Rot here. (via This Guitar...)

This Land Is No Good taken from their s/t 7" on Sweet Rot, which was re-recorded for the LP.

Ty Segall "s/t" 12" (Castleface)
Man, does this one ever jump outta the speakers and bury itself deep into the cranium. 11 tracks of unrestrained, blown-out, and amped up garage rock and, boy, is it ever catchy as all fucking hell. Did I mention he plays it live all on his lonesome (check the video below for proof)? Ty Segall, who also plays live with Thee Oh Sees, dropped this 12" on John Dwyer's Castleface records after releasing several low profile cassettes on Wizard Mountain and a 7" on Chocolate Covered Records. After the hullabaloo of the Thee Oh Sees latest full length (more on that below), Ty Segall became quite the commodity. The cassettes on Wizard Mountain, which had sat on the website for months and months were suddenly scooped up. Try Aquarius Records for a copy of this. Very very recommended.

Grab the impossible-to-find 12" here. (via OngakuBaka) Try Aquarius records for a hard copy.

Go Home from "s/t" 12"

Magic Lantern "s/t" LP (Woodsist) and "High Beams" LP (Not Not Fun)
Though released on the band's own label, Stunned, as a super limited CDR (50 copies) in 2007, the fellers in Magic Lantern kicked up enough of a psych-dust storm to have the keen eye of Woodsist's Jeremy Earl re-issue 500 copies on vinyl. Coupled with the release of the High Beams LP on Not Not Fun, Long Beach's Magic Lantern (not to mention Sun Araw...more on that below) proved to be a breakthrough year for the 5 piece. Channeling the space-rock force of early Hawkwind and dragging it through the mirrored waters of the heavier end of kraut rock (think early Amon Duul), Magic Lantern unleashed two of the most thrilling psych-stompers I e'er laid ears on. Though, on occasion, they mellow out and drift along in sun splashed jungles, they excel when they're shooting for the moon.

Grab High Beams here. (via Sunflower Chakra Milk) Locally interested parties should contact me for a hard copy of either LP. I got 'em.

Sun Araw "The Phynx" CDR (Not Not Fun), "Beach Head" LP (Not Not Fun), and "Boat Trip" (Woodsist) 12"
While Magic Lantern only dabble in the tropical soft-psych, using brief passages to bring the listener down from the lofty heights they tend to climb, Sun Araw's (aka Cameron Stallones, axe-wizard of Magic Lantern) vinyl efforts have extended and expanded those stays in the sun-speckled, acid-drenched jungle. Touches of dub, shimmering chimes, pleasantly haunted vocals, twittering birds, and his distinct watery-wah guitar all make for some of the most visual music laid to wax in 2008.

**Individual tracks for preview for both the Sun Araw and Magic Lantern have proven to be too long for my Muzicon players to upload.

Download Beach Head here. (via Weedtemple)
Scoop up Boat Trip here. (via Sunflower Chakra)

Druid Perfume "s/t" LP (Pigs)
Had to include this one in the list, though it arrived just at the buzzer of '08. Really haven't had too much time to tear into this, but let me tell you this is a bear of a record. Discordant sax skronk, zany theremin, gruff vocals, and a tight-as-all-hell, chugging/pummeling rhythm section coagulate to form this multi-headed monster of a band, who hail from Detroit, natch. 500 copies pressed on brown wax. Snatch it up here.

Yr gonna have to grab a hard copy of this one cuz it ain't out there, though after reading my rave that was yr intention, amiright? Get over to S-S asap!

The Go "Tracking the Trail of the Haunted Beat" 2xLP/CD (Italy)
Speaking of Detroit, last year's top tenners return with a 2 LP set of demos from their beloved, though overlooked, instant classic, Howl On The Haunted Beat You Ride. The first LP contains almost completely different versions of tracks from the original, with Yer Stoned Italian Cowboy and Down A Spiral being almost unrecognizable from the original. Down A Spiral is especially striking because the original recording here has been stretched out to 13 minutes and includes the extended coda of Jigsaw Man, morphing the track into a mini dark-psych journey. The first side of the second LP contains acoustic versions of the originals, put to tape by The Go's lead singer, songwriter and head honcho, Bobby Harlow, casting the originals in a starker light. Head over to the Bellyache Candy Shoppe for this one. Housed in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and accompanied with a CD version of the album.

LP 1 here.

LP 2 here. (both via me)

Gimme Back My Love

If someone had played me some Blank Dogs and said they were an obscure group from the post-punk era, I probably wouldn't doubt 'em. Everything that Mike Sniper has released under the Blank Dogs moniker sounds as if it were taken from the Mutant Sounds blog. Heck, even those oddball album covers fail to evoke a sense of the here and now. Perhaps that's whats struck me and many others so hard; the fact that you could never tell that this was made in the last year or so. In a world of over-produced and auto-tuned pop music, it's very satisfying to hear the stripped down sounds of a bedroom-pop genius. And, yes, this is fucking pop music. Though eschewing contemporary recording techniques in favor of an authentic sound is hardly a new concept, it sure is refreshing to hear this in Zulu after having to listen to mall-ready "indie" music for most of the year. Thanks Mike Sniper. I owe you one.

Grab The Fields 12" here. (via Make Mine Marvel)

Get On Two Sides here. (via Tacos)

Snatch up a buncha other singles here. (via me)

Passing the Light taken from The Fields 12"/CS

Thee Oh Sees "The Master's Bedroom Is Worth Spending A Night In" CD and LP (Tomlab and Castleface), "Peanut Butter Oven EP" 12" (Awesome Vistas), Thee Oh Sees/Intelligence split 12" (Mt. St. Mtn.), and "Thee Hounds Of Foggy Notion" CD/DVD (Tomlab)
I caught Thee Oh Sees early in 2008 just weeks before Master's Bedroom dropped. I was expecting a night of the gentle lo-fi folk-pop of the earlier OCS albums, of which I was already big fan of. I did not expect the vivid rock and roll that the band produced that night. I was absolutely blown away by what they played, which consisted of tracks from their forthcoming full length. The CD was soon offered to the shop, I ordered a ton for my staff picks section, and I played the living shit outta that album, much to the eventual chagrin of a few fellow employees. Fuck 'em. This was my album of the year and I was gonna sell it to anyone who'd listen, even if I had to play it every damn day. And listen they did. Eventually Aquarius records got a few copies of the LP, which was released by John Dwyer's own Castleface imprint, and that purple wax still gets plenty of play in this household.

This is a very simple rock and roll record. Encompassing early rock and roll, rockabilly, 60s garage, and a smidge of early punk rock. Master's Bedroom and it's ensuing 12"s create no new notches in rock but, instead, climb the rock ladder to the top and proclaim that yes indeed this is the last great rock record. Ok, I'm totally going overboard here, but that's just how fucking good this record is. I just can't see anyone ever topping it, at least, in the near future. Isn't that what makes a record an all-time favorite/classic? The sheer inability to see beyond it, as if it could be the last record to ever come out and it wouldn't bother you because you already know it's the last record you'll ever need to hear. Can you tell I love this album?

My personal favorite track on the album is the opener, Block Of Ice, though it was a toss up between that, Ghost In The Trees and The Coconut. Anyways, after dozens and dozens of listens, I feel like I've unlocked all of it's secrets. First off, it's an amped up cover of an Intelligence song from last years "Deuteronomy", they borrowed lyrics from The Rolling Stones ("my connection is your connection") and Can ("the things that I love dear are taking to shape"), they lifted the bass line from The Red Krayola's Hurricane Fighter Plane, and they better the original. It's a classic through and through. Below you'll find the original by The Intelligence, both Oh Sees versions and the Red Krayola track for comparison.

Needless to say, "The Master's Bedroom" is my number 1 album of 2008 and has quickly become one of my all-time favorites.

Download it here. (via OngakuBaka)

Grab the impossibly OOP Peanut Butter Oven 12" here. (via OngakuBaka)

Thee Oh Sees "Block Of Ice" taken from Master's Bedroom

Thee Oh Sees "Block Of Ice" taken from Thee Foggy Hounds Of Notion

The Intelligence's original version of Block Of Ice from Deuteronomy

Red Krayola's Hurricane Fighter Plane taken from The Parable Of Arable Land (note the bassline lifted from the song and turned into a guitar riff. I could be wrong on the direct influence but that bassline is so similar... you be the judge.)

Inquiry Perpitrated taken from Peanut Butter Oven 12"

The Hospitals "Hairdryer Peace" LP (self-released)
Culled from over 5 hours of recordings, Hairdryer Peace is a demented psychedelic-noise pastiche of epic proportions, which takes several sittings to fully digest. After their first two records of harsh garage rock, The Hospitals have upped the stakes so high that it'll be nothing short of a miracle if this record is topped in sheer derangedness in the next few years.

This record is not for everyone, but it is a record for those who love a good confounding "rock" record. Anyone who was ever a fan of Royal Trux's "Twin Infinitives" will know exactly what I mean. The record has that same glued together feel as "Twin Infinitives", though it is a bit, errr, groovier. Mounds of static, feedback and tape hiss swirl around monstrous riffs, distorted and washed out vocals, and worn-down keyboards, creating an enthralling, subterranean and extraterrestrial shitstorm the likes of which don't come knockin' too often. Despite the harshness of the record, there are many glimpses of melody that manage to break through the murk'n'mire, though they're swallowed up before they ever have a chance to stick in yr brain. Sometimes those sweet melodies begin all cuddly 'n' innocent before being amplified 1000 fold and jammed directly into yr cochlea (see the Animals Act Natural track posted below). The lyrics "I feel dizzy. I feel stoked," taken from BPPV, are pretty much the exact feelings I get when listening to this album.

Annoyingly out of print. Get it here. Buy it if it ever gets re-issued, which it oughta be, considering how much love the album got from fans and critics.

Animals Act Natural

Other notables...

Dead Luke released an amazing cassette on Sky Fi records that's just brimming with Blank Dogs-esque bedroom wizardry, though he tends to towards the noisier side. He's also dropped a great 7" on Sweet Rot and two 7"s on Sacred Bones.

Speaking of Sacred Bones, damn near everything they've dropped in '08, which is now most of their catalog, has been worth picking up. LP's by The Rebel, Children's Hospital and Pink Noise, and 7"s by Dead Luke, Zola Jesus and Nice Face have all taken the many disparate elements of the last 30-plus years of punk and concocted fresh sounds. Gotta love the overall aesthetic of this label. Wish I had more time and patience to go on about these individually. Lots of great upcoming releases in '09. I'll be keeping you updated on those as they land, as I'm sure a few others will, too.

The A.H. Kraken LP on In The Red was probably the best thing the label dropped in '08. Make sure you check out that 7" that just came out on Sweet Rot. Limited quantities, of course.

The Meth Teeth cassette I raved about earlier this still gets plenty of play 'round here. Full length due out on Sweet Rot next year. Should also be a few 7"s out soon too.

Ok, rounding up the rest of the list in the next few days. It's time to put 2008 to bed. I'm sure most of you already have.


Bjorn said...

I've enjoyed Eat Skull but I've never been able to get over the general childish amateurishness of it. Some find that endearing, but it wears on me, even over the slight course of an EP.

I've liked some Sic Alps I've heard but US EZ didn't really do it for me. Too unfocused.

Speaking of unfocuseD, I have to say that Love Tan's Miscellaneous Night Feelings was a stunning disappointment, especially coming off that great EP. A lot of messing around and nothing to hold on to.

I think everything Blank Dogs have released could be condensed into a really great LP, but there's too much filler and not enough self-critique in this guy's massive output. I'm not enamored with the recent turn towards Gary Numan-esque monotony.

The new OhSees is a very good album and leagues better than the mediocre releases that preceded it. I'm glad you love it so much. I, on the other hand, wish the entire thing was as good as "Block of Ice".

A.H. Kraken kills.

I haven't heard the Meth Teeth cassette but the "Bus Rides" 7" is terrific.

Everything else I have to investigate.

Mark E. Rich said...

Thought you woulda been all over Eat Skull, though I can see how their boneheadedness could turn you off. I still hate that album cover.

US EZ is probably the most cohesive and singular work they've dropped since, well, ever. Descriptions of the Harbours is a little tighter, but it's also half the length.

I really like the kitchen sink element on Love Tan's LP. I don't think there's a lack of anything to hold on to, quite the opposite--too much to hold on to. It took several listens for this one to sink its teeth in. Love that 7" on Sweet Rot though.

One of the things I like about Blank Dogs is his sheer inability to censor himself. The idea that most of these songs had been played once maybe twice before being put to tape is a nice though in this overwrought indie landscape. The fact that each track has a hook is amazing too.

Its too bad you don't care for the Oh Sees as much as I do. I really thought this woulda been an album that you and I would've connected on. I still stand by it's perfection. Maybe one day you'll come around.

Funny enough...the AH Kraken is probably my least favorite album on either of those lists. Their live show really sealed the deal.

I have an mp3 version of that Meth Teeth tape. Holler at me if you need it. Failures Selected by God, which is the tape opener, is on their last fm page. Peep it.

You'll probably like the Ty Segall and maybe even The Go album, but everything is gonna be a little too much for you, me thinks.

You may also like the Druid Perfume, though its gonna be hard to track down for a bit.

Bjorn said...

I'll take that Meth Teeth tape.

Listening to Ty Segall right now.

The thing with Blank Dogs is that I see flashes of genius so it's a downer when he runs out of ideas.

I like Master's Bedroom a lot, don't get me wrong. It's a good placeholder for me - something always has to be last on the list.

No mention of Cheveu?

Mark E. Rich said...

I still have to listen to that Cheveau album. Haven't been able to track down a hard copy yet.

I'll send that Meth Teeth tape to you when I get home from work.

Masters Bedroom a placeholder?? Yeeks. I guess that's a compliment, well, at least coming from you.

Love Ty yet?

Bjorn said...

Yeah, Ty is good people.