Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Hail Voyagers! Patience is rewarded. After nearly calling this "Brain Bursting Best Of..." I'm happy to report the lists have been nailed down sufficiently to go to print, or at least be published. As in prior years I've asked some of my go-to friends for assistance in sorting the wheat from the chaff. Proof yet again there's quite a bit of a difference in how we all hear and view certain artist's output. In the end two things are certain: every album mentioned is worthy of your time and effort, and this assemblage could not nor did not hear it all. (Note: in asking for their participation I left it wide open as to how they wanted to enumerate. The lists could be a Top 10, 20, etc. LPs and/or EPs. Single tracks. made no difference to me. Nor should it to you.)

Hey, we've all thought at one time or another, "if I could go back and change ___", but we can't; I could revise prior year-end lists but that's the joy of discovery. I'm just thankful I got to hear all this joyous racket. Great music has no sell-by date or expiration.

So, let's launch into this, shall we:

Collin A., of Chatham Rise
(Like last year, we're honored to have this guy's input; his ears are everywhere.)

20 songs to check out from 2011

1. vacant lots - kingdom come
2. lead stones - lord i feel it
3. new mystikal troubadours - morning highs
4. brian jonestown massacre - illuminomi
5. asteroid #4 - the unknown6. the laurels - turn on your mind
7. dead skeletons - ljósberinn
8. lower heaven - fallen angel
9. thee piatcions - time (extended)
10. troubadour dali - the prickly fingers of sante muerte
11. kid's garden - prayer mast
12. koolaid electric company - going blind
13. moonbell - figurine
14. grimble grumble - slow rider
15. black market karma - all that i've made
16. is/is - vowel movements
17. the great society mind destroyers - higher bodies
18. psychic ills - mexican wedding
19. the red plastic buddha - waves
20. joel gion - control

5 songs to check out in 2012

1. bad liquor pond - echos in amber
2. the spyrals - long road out
3. brian jonestown massacre - les nuages mentent
4. rancho relaxo - gandhi is my gun
5. secret colours - faust

Mr. Atavist
(Great friend. Outstanding radio show, Sunrise Ocean Bender, on WRIR, in Richmond, VA. Plus a blogger, too!)

The Lumerians :: Transmilinnia

An outstanding psych rock record from start to finish from Oakland's Lumerians. From pulsing to droning to throbbing to rocking and, at times, psych funky…a psych-rock record that moves across all kinds of territory without ever devolving into a trite genre-excercise. From the album art to the outfits to the wholesome and nutritious psych goodness inside the grooves, Transmilinnia is going to top a lot lists at the end of 2011′s run. Bet on it. They handle everything so sublimely that by the time the phantasmagoria comes to a close you'll forget just how much you took in; Atlanta Brook's quiet interlude, the epic Longwave, the bouncing Black Tusk, etc, etc … this one really does have it all.

A man far wiser than me described it as such: ‘Take a big helping of early Floyd, a dash of Tadpoles, a half-pound of primo bud and shake vigorously ….’

The Red Plastic Buddha :: All Out Revolution

All Out Revolution is a whip-smart slab of psych rock and pop that would roll off your speakers’ tongue if they had one. Maybe they do; anything is possible. But if you’re not ready for a little tongue just yet, then at least get a big, warm kiss from the Buddha…a wonderful gem of a record that has been likened to the Zombies, Love, our beloved Syd Barrett, and the heyday of garage and psych pop. Moving through harder edged rockers (Soldier Boy) and melodic psych washed power pop (Daisy Love), All Out Revolution is packed start to finish with a crisp production that plays to all their strengths, consistency and songwriting savvy.

The Luck of Eden Hall :: The Butterfly Revolutions, Vol. 1 & 2

I got to lump these two together…This is what ‘pop’ music should be: honeyed, thick, creamy and packing stones. Everyone who should know, knows pop disintegrated into empty calorie pabulum a long, long time ago and I for one need nourishment from my food. Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1 and 2 prove that you can not only have your cake (with lots of frosting) and eat it too, but that you can get more than a cheap sugar rush out of it to keep going. I’m a firm believer that cream doesn’t rise to the top; shit floats. I’m happy to say that LOEH prove me wrong. Twice. Vol. 2 is as top shelf as Vol. , with a tinge more melancholy. Concept record? I'll ask them, but it doesn't matter. A whopping helping of dual-layer psych pop/rock cake with just the right amount of sonic frosting.

Hills :: Master Sleeps

Hills follow-up their debut Hills with the outstanding Master Sleeps picking up right where they left off and going exactly where you wanted them to. It’s a stellar follow-up that in no way diminishes the excitement of their first. Hills simply deliver again on the manifesto of foundation, showing what that foundation is made of and not getting showy or bloated. If anything, Hills knows how to use moderation like an instrument. Like a hill, or mountain, at their core, they simply are. And that’s more than enough…The earthy and intergalactic Master Sleeps is the sophomore platter minus all the slump. A slump is downward bound and this one is anything but. It heads out into multiple spaces with long ropy roots that obviously show no signs of snapping. Master Sleeps is a hefty being that knows that its presence alone is a big enough calling card.

Cranium Pie :: Mechanisms (part 1)

A veritable all-you-can-eat cornucopia of psychedelia saturated in a long tradition of pioneer freaks like Hawkwind, Floyd, Arthur Brown,…but sits with modern fractured like-minded outfits like equally, though differently, deranged Human Eye. There’s some mutated crustacean post-apocalyptic mechanized concept running through it, but the less said the better. Figure it out on your own. Or don’t. Maybe we can’t know it that intimately. Might not want to. All valid ways to enjoy their modern nostalgia tinged insanity. And there are many more ways and trips to take on this wigged out masterpiece as we wait for part 2 to materialize, probably out of a writhing mass of who knows what. It’s a constant stream churning over and over; oscillating, trippy instrumentation, baked distorted vocals and spoken breaks, levitating keys, and just about everything else you could want for your freak out…They really do make them like they used to.

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor :: Spectra Spirit

Packing the swagger and menace introduced on their debut s/t, Spectra Spirit ups the ante and delivers. SOYSV put down some serious foundation work on their first and Spectra Spirit not only picks up where that one left off, but builds on it, their sound pumped up tight like a balloon (with sunshine and vapor among other things). Admittedly shooting for a more continuous flow than individual songs with hard borders, Spectra Spirit wafts in and out of itself. That continuity is reflected in the sequencing, a spacious production that showcases their loose frayed playing, and of course the songwriting. Woven straight through the whole affair is their trademark slow boil uneasiness…like emotions running, and getting, high under the skin; it’s about desire, of many kinds, more than a knee-jerk cock-rock lust (here is where I suppose I should make a comment about the great use of their organ on Spirit). Twitching under the skin is a vibe that it all might just fall apart; a vibe that doesn’t come to fruition.

Electric Moon :: The Doomsday Machine

There’s been a slow boiling darkness in Electric Moon, brought even closer to the surface on this year’s Flaming Lake, that sees the full light of day on TDM. And quickly eclipses it. More of a culmination than a soundtrack to the Apocalypse, TDM is a gloriously monolithic, and intergalactic, march that does more than lay waste. It cleans the slate… In a nutshell, TDM is another top-shelf addition to a breath-taking catalog. EM’s frequency of output is as impressive as the unshakable quality of every release…They say a lot of people convert at the end. Well, here’s to the afterlife…Get behind The Doomsday Machine, because you don’t want to be in front of it.

My Brother the Wind :: I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity

Buoyed by a stellar production, thick and meaty without getting bogged down, I Wash My Soul in The Stream of Infinity moves through scorching intergalactic jams as easily as it does the quieter, but never slight, moments like the exotic Pagan Moonbeam. Citing influences such as Crimson, Floyd, Sun Ra, Amon Düül and Hawkwind, My Brother the Wind takes it all and not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. You can hear all that, and more, collapsing and redigesting itself throughout the whole outing. Filled with soaring Mellotron, a bubbling thick bottom end, guitars that catch fire just as often as they create texture, I Wash My Soul in The Stream of Infinity plays out with as much control and focus as it does exploration…

three dimensional tanx :: three dimensional tanx

Smelting space and psych rock with sneering and snotty post punk and garage fueled sensibilities, 3d tanx hammer out a platter that could find a home in whatever era their self-made worm hole spits them out into. There’s a thin line between smart-ass and whip-smart, and 3d tanx definitley err on the side of the latter, making tdt not only an intergalactic frayed nut-buster, but one with the stones to back up the unhinged mix of ingredients. What follows is a ferocious high-voltage warped experimentation (and interpretation) blur of The Stooges, Spiritualized/Spacemen 3, Hawkwind, The Velvets, and whatever else suits their fancy…and yours. Obviously not ones to color within the lines, 3d tanx don’t genre-hop or make fleeting references for the sake of doing so. If they did, tdt would be engaging, but impenetrable as a wall. There’s plenty of dynamics from the scorching opener to the hazy languid Way Up to the Sun; the buoyant 60s tinged Baby Universe to the brash, punkish and punishing Six Dead. Real 3D in every way with that ‘x’ rating deserved and hard earned.

Eat Lights, Become Lights :: Autopia

Obvious ‘neo-krautrock’ pigeon-holing is bound to happen, but there is far more going on in Autopia to render it another revivalist eunuch. As far as that krautrock goes, Eat Lights Become Lights aren’t honing in on one specific period, or a handful of definitive trademarks. Where others might focus on a specific point to define themselves, or get so wrapped up in recreating a particular time, Eat Lights Become Lights puts Autopia out as part of an ongoing tradition, a continuing update and layering that takes that tradition and keeps it vital and alive. They not only take it all to heart, they may have digested the heart itself…Much of the origins they look to promoted an ‘idyllic’ {interpretation is yours…}, and often skewed and satirical, vision of a possible future to be. Autopia hones in on the same thing, but avoids looking backwards to an out of date anticipation of what may come and reheating it for some empty nostalgia trip that leads nowhere. Shimmering, propulsive and driving.

Ryan Revolt
(Mr. Revolt of the Apes. Blogger/wordsmith extraordinaire. Likes books. Uses them, too. Oh, and also, any truth to the rumor -the rumor I'm trying to start here...)

Swahili – “Swahili” (self-released)

All I really need to do is think about the first time I heard the ghostly, longing vocals of “Soma” and I deliver myself the chills. Uplifting, strange and radical. We don’t really have to still listen to people who say electronic music is void of a soul, do we?

Weird Owl – “Build Your Beast a Fire” (TeePee Records)

From the opening intergalactic-busking of “No Time Nor No Space” to the repeating, retreating, revolving refrain that gives the album its title, this is an incredibly welcoming album, especially if you find songs about saucer-shaped shadows that leap pyramids in a single sound welcoming. And we do. Why this hasn’t sold a million copies, I have no idea.

Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler (Box of Cedar)

In which Ms. Nadler again wears her “reliquary eyes” and “diadem frown,” now coupled with “phantom limbs” and “eerie hyms.”

White Hills – “HP-1” (Thrill Jockey)

The space race is on! Who will be crowned “Greatest Space Rock Band of All-Time” – Hawkwind or White Hills? And the winner is … White Hills by a nose! Unlike Hawkwind, they choose to race without a saxophone, giving them just enough thrust for the victory! Bow down and kneel to the ones who call you slave.

Canary Oh Canary – “Last Night In Sunway Knolls” (self-released)

Does this count as an album? Is it an EP? Does anyone care? When you stand up and spit your first song into the world and that song is the ten-minute-plus soul-cleansing of Canary Oh Canary’s “Embrace,” you make my top-ten albums list (what an honor!). Someone play this at my funeral, please.

Ga’an – “Black Equus” (Captcha Records)

The experience of listening to Ga’an is something like if a bunch of wackos from the Midwest slowed down their Bauhaus records to 17.5 RPMs before welding them to a shrine built out of Tangerine Dream bootlegs, and eventually blasting light-speed through a Voivod-timewarp before recording the first note. I’m talking a mystic, technology killing, “Piper at the Gates of Dawnrazor” trip.

Amen Dunes – “Through Donkey Jaw” (Sacred Bones)

Angry, hypnotic , strange, honest and beautiful. What else do you want an album to be? Amen Dunes can only give you everything.

Gnod – “InGnodWeTrust” (Rocket Recordings)

You could easily take this monstrous, mental hydrogen bomb of a record and replace it on this list with their OTHER equally stunning album released this year (“Chaudelande Volume 1”) and I couldn’t blink an eye. By turns, the music of Gnod is punishing, dramatic, ecstatic, frenzied and – wait for it – danceable.

Master Musicians of Bukkake – “Totem Three” (Important Records)

For longer than I am comfortable admitting, I avoided this band, assuming they are something of a joke, given their – ahem – descriptive choice of a name. But they are no joke. By the cleansing twilight of Kali Yuga, they are no joke. Still not sure I can bring myself to wear the t-shirt, though.

Spindrift – “Classic Soundtracks, Vol. 1” (Xemu Records)

It’s just shy of impossible to think of Spindrift without thinking of the past. There’s a strange, sweaty, sideways energy in their utter musical and cinematic commitment to reanimating and reverb-ing the ghosts of the conflicts of the West. But the latest confirmation of this commitment – the instant classic, “Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1” – doesn’t sound anything but timeless to me.

Thee Sonic Assassin(Sydney, Australia's, man with the pulse on the pulsars. And quasars. And other space objects -including musicians, as the host of Sideways Through Sound radio show on 2ser.)

21. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
20. Arbouretum - The Gathering
19. Brad Barr - The Fall Apartment: Instrumental Guitar
18. Into The Woods - Demo
17. Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor - Spectra Spirit
16. Oh Ruin - Static Caravan 7"
15. Hills - Master Sleeps
14. Jeff Lang - Carried In Mind
13. Nick Jonah Davis - Of Time & Tides
12. My Brother The Wind - I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity
11. The Sand Pebbles - Dark Magic

10. Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

9. Tyler Ramsey - The Valley Wind

8. Wooden Shjips - West

7. Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler

6. True Widow - As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Centre To The Circumference Of The Earth

5. Vetiver - The Errant Charm

4. Martha Tilston - Lucy & The Wolves

3. Six Organs Of Admittance - Asleep On The Floodplain

2. Laurels - Mesozoic EP

1. Black Angels - Phosphene Dream

And so concludes our Guest lists. I was too late, in my own mind, to ask for input from some likely suspects. Their lists, as well as the rest below, are all worth a look. Highest recommend.

* DJ Astro, of the Psychotropic Zone

* Kenny "Cantankerous" Bloggins, of The Decibel Tolls (He's gonna' be missed!)

* Mike Newman, of Beyond Beyond is Beyond

* Aural Innovations

* Latino America Shoegaze

* The Blog That Celebrates Itself

* Frontier Psychiatrist

That should keep you all busy for a day or three, digesting and note-taking. Scouring and scurrying. Take time to enjoy the information and what it's leading you to.

OK. On with it. What a GREAT year 2011 was for the music I love. We love. WE! Wow. With over 45 Pick of the Week artist's releases plus five more clamoring for that week's spot it was a richly rewarding year's listening.
I've gone through my list so much I see it in billboards in my sleep. EPs, 7" records, LPs....foreign and domestic and flat out otherworldly. To the artists who've created the sounds: THANK YOU.

TOP TEN EPs (alphabetically)

* The Altered Hours - Downstream (Self-rel.)
* Chatham Rise - No One (Apollo Audio)
* The Dandelion Seeds - Good Times With (Self-rel.)
* DC Fontana - Meshkalina (DCTone Records)
* The Lost Rivers - My Beatific Vision (Northern Star)
* The Ovals - Into The Eyes Of Those Who Sleep (Self-rel.)
* The Spyrals - Clouds (Self-rel.)
* Sundress - Sundress (Self-rel.)
* The Telewire - The Telewire (Self-rel.)
* Woodsman - Mystic Places (Fire Talk)

TOP ALBUMS, Nos. 11 - 25 (alphabetically)

* Deleted Waveform Gatherings - Pretty Escape (Rainbow Quartz)
* The Donkeys - Born With Stripes (Dead Oceans)
* Lead Stones - Set+Setting (Self-rel.)
* Love Explosion - The Perverse Caress of Satan (Self-rel.)
* Lumerians - Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)
* The Orange Revival - Black Smoke Rising (Self-rel.)
* The Paperhead - The Paperhead (Trouble In Mind Records)
* Piatcions - Senseless>Sense (I Blame The Parents)
* The Red Plastic Buddha - All Out Revolution (Space Cat Records)
* Rói Höttur - Imaginarium (Self-rel.)
* Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor - Spectra Spirit (New Fortune)
* The Strange Flowers - The Grace Of Losers (Self-rel.)
* The Tweeds - Goliath (Self-rel.)
* Voyageurs - Freak Cave (Self-rel.)
* Wooden Shjips - West (Thrill Jockey)

THAT was hard! I could've expanded that list to 50-100. Easily. But, those 15 leaped out of the crowded field and are certainly in MY trunk on that proverbial Desert Island in the Sea of Hypothetically....but now we ride the waves over to the Top 10:

TOP TEN LPs, 2011 (alpha' & according to -valis)

#1 - Asteroid #4 - Hail To The Clear Figurines (The Comm. To Keep Music Evil)

#2 - Cranium Pie - Mechanisms Pt.1 (Regal Crabomophone)

#3 - Dead Skeletons - Dead Magick (A Records)

#4 - Eastern Magnetics - Eastern Magnetics (Self-rel.)

#5 - The Great Society Mind Destroyers - Spirit Smoke (Sloow Tapes)

#6 - Henryspencer - To The Timeless Valley (Bookmaker Records)

#7 - Koolaid Electric Company - Random Noises & Organised Sounds (Self-rel.)

#8 - Mmoss - i (Burger Records)

#9 - The Night Beats - The Night Beats (Trouble In Mind)

#10 - The Oscillation - Veils (All Time Low)

There you go...


sr-71 said...

awesome lists, esp. yr top 10. this will be a hard year to beat, so many far out tunes my brain has been reduced to a hashy resin.

Kevin said...

Thanks for the invite again…what a bountiful year…

Cliff. said...

Especially likin' your own Top 10 mon ami. Can't say there's anything missing that I'd like to have seen amongst everyone's stellar picks.