I have to say that keeping up with the rest of the internet can be difficult. Blogs like Raven Sings the Blues, who I share very similar tastes with, updates almost everyday with whatever new psych/garage/underground gunk has dropped, and usually the second that it does. Other blogs, like Cassette Tape Superstar, 7 Inches, the now-weekly Bull Tongue, Microphones In The Trees (all of which I highly recommend you add to yr daily reads), or the by-the-minute tumblrverse are covering a lot of bases. Regular readers will probably have noticed a slight dip in updates here on Thee Expressway, and it's not for lack of trying...the re-emerging sun and warm weather here in Vancouver aren't exactly conducive to blogging, and neither is the Canucks entry into the playoffs. Hip-Hop Fridays are a mainstay and the occasional obscure-o 90s rock action uploads are still going strong, but, admittedly, it's been difficult keeping up the writing for new jams that are dropping every day. This post is meant to be a quickie run down of the best of '09, with a few relevant oldies added in for good measure. Sure, you've read about it elsewhere, but right here you've got the proof and the pudding that these albums are all worth checking out.
First up are those last few batches from the unstoppable Mexican Summer label.
Managed to nab some copies of the Golden Triangle before it went out of print. For those a little behind, Golden Triangle are 3 ladies and 1 dude who have kicked all those loners outta the garage and brought the party back. Incredibly infectious garage anthems have one this 4 piece some accolades and a solid fanbase, and this is only after a handful of shows, a couple cassettes and a 7 incher. The 12" on Mexican Summer is the next best document to seeing these ladies and dude live, which I can only imagine is the best way to see them. Images of those long-forgotten, turn of the century, party punkers The Rogers Sisters definitely come to mind. Interested parties should get a hold of Thee Expressway for a copy of this out of print 12" parry shredder.
Still in print, and very worth getting a hold of, is the newest dreamy drone bliss that is the new Valet 12". Side-long opener 'Angels Can't Sleep' is worth the price of admission alone, and stands as one of the finest concoctions of bliss that Honey Owens has dropped in, well, ever. The flip is comprised of two tracks, including a cover of Boris and Michio Kurihara's 'Rainbow' from their 2007 collaboration on Drag City.
'Angels Can't Stop'
One final Mexican Summer release comes from the blowin-up-all-over-the-place Kurt Vile. Another great collection of songs he'd recorded from 2003-2008. The vibe here is pretty much what I raved about HERE, but maybe a touch on the mellower side of things. Vile also just dropped this 12"er on Philadelphia's Richie Records, which I haven't heard yet, but I would assume is also the bee's knees (wholesale copies on the way...). Woodsist also just dropped that aforementioned "Constant Hitmaker" on LP. Looks like my begging and dreaming to get that sucker pressed to wax helped. Thank you Lord, I knew we had the same taste.
'Beach On The Moon (Recycled Lyrics)'
Speaking of all those loners kicked outta the garage, new-to-the-scene Night Control just dropped a winning batch of loser jams on the wallet busting Kill Shamen label. Hints of shoegaze shimmer, Velvets-y swagger, and a lo-fi aesthetic put this guy up with the best of those other pedal pushin' pop addicts that seem to be infesting the underground right now. Night Control is the next in line, and worthy of any hype bestowed upon him, not that there's a lot right now. I'm sure that's about to change.
The very beginning of the year saw the release of the supposed final Hunches jam. I've been a fan for some time now, and when it came time to kiss the band goodbye, admittedly, I shed a tear or two. A gleam or two of pop rises to the surface of 'Exit Dreams', which is a nice respite from their two albums of relentless garage thrash that arrived before this. If the rumours are true, then this will serve as an excellent final document of one of the harsher bands to come out of the In The Red stable.
'Your Sick Blooms'
Not quite out yet, but in heavy rotation, is the new heartbreaker from those two cats that make up the Magik Markers. This time the group make the jump from Ecstatic Peace to major-indie Drag City. Fans of those noisier days will probably be once again disappointed, as the group have advanced on their proper rock debut, Boss. "Balf Quarry" is another lustful push towards the style of avant out-rock that Sonic Youth have helped carve out for countless bands. Not that this is straight up SY homage (you'll never stop hearing comparisons, and I certainly didn't just help matters), but more like the band have taking those distortion and feedback weilding tendencies and concocted their own lustful push to end rock and roll once and for all. Unlikely, but we can dream.
Peaking Lights came through Vancouver late last year and blew the minds of the faithful few that managed to make it out on that dreary night. A few cassettes that night were sold and eventually heard, am infatuation was built up, and, with their LP debut on Night People, this infatuation has become full blown love. This is some top 10 of 2009 material here, and this LP has the eye-crossing packaging to go along with such accolades (beautiful silkscreen job on a wrap around sleeve). Peaking Lights, much like similar-minded groups like Pocahaunted or High Places, have taken their love of seemingly disparate genres like drone, dub, ambient, and space rock and made an irresistible soup that has bloggers and the like scrambling to invent new genres or tags to try and pigeonhole the duo. Peaking Lights are concocting a heady sound for uncertain times. New cassette on Night People is also worth gnawing on. Get hungry, people.
'Silver Tongues, Soft Whispers'
Once again, things are looking pretty grim for hip-hop this year. Sure, new albums by veterans like Doom are excellent and so is this Dalek record, but I haven't heard a peep from any new contenders. Am I wrong on this? Is my head just lost in a cloud that hasn't dissipated since 1994? Either way, Dalek is here to push things forward whether the rest of hip-hop cares to acknowledge it or not. That being said, "Gutter Tactics" isn't exactly re-inventing the Dalek brand of hip-hop, but it has refined it down to their most listenable album yet. Gone are the exploratory soundtracks into post-industrial gloom, and instead we have 11 tracks that have been tightened and worked into a cohesive beast of a record. This is a hip-hop record for those that are angry with the current stagnation of the genre.
Here's an oldie but a goody for those vibing on the Crystal Stilts, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, or the incredibly bland and over-hyped Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. I also hear their sound in the long-forgotten KRS group The Slumber Party, who have been unjustly, errrr, slept on since day one. Anyways, got hip to this thanks to the trusty Grimmertown tumblr and, since then, the CD (no vinyl currently available) hasn't strayed far from the headphones. Brief history: Black Tambourine was a short lived project featuring two of the guys who ended up in Velocity Girl, a chanteuse named Pam Berry, and Slumberland label boss Mike Schulman. They only released three singles, contributed a track or two to compilations, and played less than five shows before breaking up in 1991. Complete Recordings anthologizes all of these tracks plus an unreleased single. The group lay somewhere between a hyped-up version of jangle-pop and the oncoming onslaught of 90s shoegaze bands (these tracks were recorded between 1988 and '91). Slumberland has re-issued all available recordings on one convenient CD and I highly suggest you hit up yr local grocer for a copy. Any decent record store should be carrying this by now.
'For Ex-Lovers Only'
Not a lot to add to the already heavily reviewed/revered new album by Tim Hecker, just had to pass along that, yes, indeed this is an extraordinary work that deserves every accolade that it's brushed with. Excellent reviews of the album here and here. Favorite track posted below. Pick this one up on 2xLP for maximum absorption.
Already gave this one the thumbs up way back when it was an uber-limited CDR, and my hope for a larger pressing has also come to fruition, much thanks to Uzu Audio, who also released the magnificent Magneticring LP at the same time. My love of this record hasn't budged much, and blasting this fucker on wax has only increased said love. This one is limited to 500 copies and distros are starting to run out, not to mention the label. This will be gone very soon...
On to albums that may never go out of print, the new collaborative effort between PJ Harvey and John Parish has exceeded my expectations. I've been listening to PJ Harvey since the mid-90s and have been an ardent follower since. Her "White Chalk" LP from 2007 may even be my favorite album of hers, so when I heard her next album would be another collaboration with John Parish my heart sank a little. Out of all of her albums, I would have to say that "At Louise Point", her first collab with Parish, ranks pretty low for me. Much to my surprise, then, when "A Woman A Man Walked By" turns out to be one of the better rock albums so far this year. The difference, perhaps, this time around is that Parish takes care of all the music while Harvey focuses on her vocals and lyrics. Rather than keep the same style of vocals the entire record (ala White Chalk etc.) Harvey runs through each of these tracks like it's a vocal exercise. Her voice goes from that haunting falsetto she created on White Chalk (see 'Leaving California below), and all the way to snarling commands. I try not to devote much blog time to major label albums, but this one is worth the shout out. LP version dropping any day now...
It appears as if the new Brainbombs album flew under everybody's radar last year, or maybe it was just totally unavailable until recently. But, really, NEW FUCKING BRAINBOMBS ALBUM! Not much has changed in the 10 years since their last full length. You can expect the same jagged rhythm swagger, violent guitar lurching, horrorscape saxophone, and those ultra-violent and offensive lyrics. Though this time around, unlike the recently re-issued 'Obey' album, the lyrics are buried underneath a a layer of distortion and are rather hard to hear, which is very fortunate for those sensitive types who want to get down with the band but can't get behind those vile lyrics. Looks like Aquarius Records still have some copies...
Coupla' great 7"ers have popped up recently, with the new Crystal Stilts being the clear winner. Considering that most of the material on Alight of the Night was already a few years old, it's good to know these guys have a few new tricks up their sleeve. I await the next full length with white knuckles.
'Love Is A Wave'
Since The Brainbombs are still a little fresh in my mind, might as well bring up Vancouver's own version and their new 7". Sex Negatives have grown from a sloppy punk rock riot and into a well-honed attack machine. Their live shows, as infrequent as they are, have recently tended towards tense build ups that burst into frenzied punk squalls. The 7" is a little different. The first side is dissonant sputter of guitar fumes while the flip is a triple (?) tribal drum assault, completed with several sets of howling vocals. Again, expectations confounded and exceeded by this constantly evolving group. The group starts a huge tour at the end of April. If yr reading this from anywhere in the US, I highly suggest you get to yr local noise hole and peep Vancouver's finest in noise rock. Check the myspace for dates.
First 7" by Real Estate has been gettin' steady spins on the deck as of recently. It's not quite as good as others would lead you to believe, but there is a whole whack of potential in this foursome that also features Matt from Ducktails and Predator Vision, both of whom get much pluggage 'round here. Chiming guitars, buried vocals, and an oh-so-simple rhythm section form to create suburban bliss rock. Can't wait to hear some more...
Plenty of other new jams on the way that I haven't exactly had a lot of time to eat up, or just haven't arrived yet, including the newest Wet Hair LP on NNF, the new Pocahaunted joint with Cameron Stallones of Magic Lantern, 5 new LPs on Ecstatic Peace, the next batch in the Hozac Singles Club, the next crop of Sacred Bones 7"s...the list just goes on and on, and my time for listening grows shorter as the sun burns brighter.