Top 10 International Albums of 2014 (So Far…)

Welcome to the latest episode of ‘My Opinion Is More Valid Than Yours’. For those that don’t know, this is an ongoing series of how my opinion matters more than yours. Pleb. Anyway, in this episode, we will be examining the best albums of yonder that have emerged in the first part of 2014.

10. The Lawrence Arms-Metropole

For a long time, The Lawrence Arms always existed outside of my consciousness. I never paid heaps of attention to them, and the songs I had heard only mildly piqued my interest. But a copy of their new record ‘Metropole’ changed that, and it actually made me believe that pop-punk hadn’t been completely soiled by shitty bands that confused slitting wrists with amazing melodies. On ‘Metropole’, The Lawrence Arms pump out track after track of infectious blue-collar punk tunes, intensely wrapped in headbanger blues. ‘You Are Here’, ‘The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic’ and ‘Paradise Shitty’ are probably some of the best pop-punk tunes to have existed since the last apocalypse false warning.

9. The Men-Tomorrow’s Hits

It always seemed like The Men were one step ahead of the game. They were releasing visceral, ravaging post-punk and noise music before No Age were even foetus’  (sic). But they always managed to evolve and re-evaluate their position on the musical compass. So for their fifth outing, they went alt-country. Now usually, I’m of the ‘Fuck Alt-Country’ persuasion, but The Men managed to turn the genre into a romper of a good time. Songs like ‘Different Days’ and ‘Pearly Gates’ unfolded with majesty, more blue-collar punk, but this time pushed through a birth canal of harmonica and twinkling guitar.

8. Damaged Bug-Hubba Bubba

John Dwyer is more famous for his Thee Oh Sees project, who released a pretty fantastic album this year as well. But it was Damaged Bug, his new solo electronic-tinged outing that got my underwear soaked. It’s a morbid fantasy, morose guitars drowning under thick, black synth work. It’s like Dwyer’s voice is being held under a lake of caviar, like in that scene from James Bond. And just like James Bond, Damaged Bug emerges on top of his game with a world class entertainment product, full of explosions, exotic locales and evil incarnate defeated…for now!

7. The Black Lips-Underneath the Rainbow

Finally, The Black Lips, one of my all time favourite groups, released a new record. It’s a lot more cleaned up to say the least, but it’s got just the same amount of unruly ruckus that has stained the legacy of true rock n roll. The Black Lips throw down some Southern Comfort, slaughter a few teenagers and strap down their guitars for a full-blown massacre of garage rock on this album. They blow through 12 songs with the dashing handsomeness of Prince Charming on backyard meth. And the result is an insanely enjoyable record.

6. Future Islands-Singles

It seems like with ‘Singles’, Future Islands are finally going to break the mainstream. I mean, they always hung out on the precipice of global adoration, but this new album is so completely orgasmic, it’s hard to imagine them getting ignored again. Obviously there’s the new ‘Let’s Stay Together’ in ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’, a song so readymade to be the new token making love track it’s a surprise it’s not on the soundtrack of every sappy romantic comedy being released this year. But the rest of the album continues on the breathless synth route that worms its way into the heart of everyone with even a semblance of romanticism.

5. Mogwai-Rave Tapes

Mogwai have released another epic album, complete with huge, lengthy songs that manage to be more dangerous than having sex with a pufferfish. The notes are razor sharp, trawling through the mire of Death Star-esxplosion level synth work, and Hiroshima-level devastation. Mogwai have never sounded as huge or as carnivorous as they do on this record.

4. Liars-Mess

Likewise to Mogwai, Liars did a 180 on their previous post-rock/noise sound, and evolved to some kind of tortured disco. Songs like ‘Mess On A Mission’ and ‘Pro Anti-Anti’ sound like the Grim Reaper had too much sugar, and found himself a set of decks. ‘Mess’ makes you want to dance yourself into the apocalypse, both terrifying and completely alluring.

3. Sharon Van Etten-Are We There

Unfortunately never got around to reviewing this one, but it is simply too stunning of a record to ignore. In this album, Sharon Van Etten hits her ultimate stride of marrying beautiful, love-torn lyrics with hypnotising music. She’s done it splendidly before, but whereas before it was all about recognising and sympathising with the listener, this time around she actually causes the heart to crack and break under the brunt of her brutal honesty and sadness. When ‘Break Me’ and ‘Our Love’ ring in, you’ll be swimming in a pool of your tears, whilst the anaconda of ‘Are We There’ slowly strangles you, whilst Jon Voight looks on in sick fascination. Sick 1997 film reference, bro!

2. Eagulls-Eagulls

Whilst the overwhelming majority of buzz bands manage to fail, or at least disappoint, on their debut albums, Eagulls simply raised expectations to ear-shattering levels. They shook off their Killing Joke-rip off comparisons, and made the original look like a copy. That’s some Inception-like shit right there. But ‘Eagulls’ greatest strength is putting together enormous, tidal riffs and clashing them with pop hooks that would make Michael Jackson weep. The result is a explosive and spine-snapping record that has contributed to way too many mosh-pit related hospital visits.

1. Cloud Nothings-Here And Nowhere Else

Easily the best record of 2014 so far, Cloud Nothings shun their indie rock/lo-fi past, and scrape the barrel of intensity for a truly visceral and honestly breathtaking record. It’s eight tracks of pounding fury, each song building a giant demolition machine that’s knocks down jaws and floors expectations. ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ is an album that examines loss, fragility, the unknown, disappointment, and separation, and lays these themes down next to some of the most white-knuckle riffery and jarring music heard. Every song on this album is worthy of your attention, a real no-filler, all killer record. Sorry Sum 41, Cloud Nothings actually came through on that promise.

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Video: Black Lips-Boys In the Wood

The Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees are similar in a whole bunch of ways-two of my favourite garage bands, always pushing forth a unique brand of rock n roll, amazing live shows. But they also tie together in that they barely ever make music videos, but when they do, they produce some of the best shit known to man

I’m not kidding, the clip for new track ‘Boys In the Wood’ is amongst the best music videos I’ve ever seen, in my entire life. I’m actually hoping they turn this into a full length movie of some sorts, soundtracked only by The Black Lips, The Cramps, Diarrhea Planet and other dirty rock n roll bands from the wastelands of America.

Why is this video so essential? It’s like a mix of the pre-vampire action of From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ in the Titty Twister and the gypsy scenes from Snatch. However, its all played in a horror-filled, terrifying gangster vision filtered through a murderous red plaster. A bunch of Riff-Raff imitators take turns taking hits of a homemade crack pipe, there’s some nonchalant narcolepsy, and a shitty drug dealer gets his head completely smouldered by a baseball bat. All done with unflattering graphic detail. If you think Quentin Tarantino is for pussies, you need to watch this video immediately.

Top 10 Artists of All Time-1 Year Celebration Fuck Yeah

I am finally getting around to finishing off this final mammoth of an article in celebration of my 1 year Anniversary with Soundly Sounds. Although it started off in my mind as a good idea to do 3 articles about my favourite albums, songs and artists, it has risen to a point in which I would rather let a scorpion pillage me for sexual pleasure than write another behemoth of these. But regardless, I’m fucking doing this shit anyway. Because otherwise Clancy ‘I-thought-you-were-a-journalist’ McDouchebag would rear his ugly head from the proverbial woodwork, like that alien that tries to eat the Millennium Falcon on that crater, in Star Wars Episode IV: Revenge of the Sith. Fuck that’s such a great movie. You know what else is great? All these bands. Fuckin all these bands are worthy of the highest acclaim acknowledgeable from myself. I have selected these particular artists very carefully, not just because they’re amazing, or had a particularly excellent album. No, these artists have consistently pumped out tunes for your earholes that you can molest at your won pleasure. These are bands that give you a boner whenever you hear they are releasing something new, already frothing over how good it will inevitably be. These bands are no rookies to the music scene, these guys are the fucking music scene.

Honourable Mentions go to Nirvana, Primal Scream, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, The Ramones, Helmet, Guided By Voices, Arctic Monkeys, Fugazi, Weezer, Violent Femmes, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Joy Division/New Order, Beat Happening, The Stooges, The Drones, Nick Cave (in all incarnations), Girls, Melvins, Jay Reatard, Queens of the Stone Age, Animal Collective, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Husker Du,  The Hives,  The Clash, Eddy Current Suppression Ring,  The White Stripes, The Strokes, The UV Race, The Gun Club, Holy Fuck, Modest Mouse, Times New Viking, The Gun Club, The Black Keys, Interpol, Beach House, The Black Angels, Black Sabbath, Cloud Nothings, The Replacements, Blur, Kurt Vile, Radio Birdman,The Bronx Black Flag, Beck, Crystal Castles, The Killers, The Scientists, A Place to Bury Strangers, Bad Religion, Smashing Pumpkins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

10. Beastie Boys-What is not to love about the Beastie Boys? Their work revolutionised hip-hop, giving it an edge that would remain solely unto them until the likes of gangsta rap. They were funny, they were self-depracting and they loved attention. On top of this, they added an almost unheard development to the musical element of hip-hop and immersed themselves in samples. Beastie Boys were always forward thinking and progressive, from the start of 1986’s legendary ‘License to Ill’ to 2011’s ‘Hot Sauce Committee Part Two’. R.I.P MCA

9. Thee Oh Sees-Thee Oh Sees can lay claim to being the most diverse and consistently interesting pysch group of the modern age. While other bands, such as the usually excellent Tame Impala and POND might nod off towards the middle of their albums, Thee Oh Sees will always, and I mean always, push through the fog and produce something mind-blowing. A look at any of their albums will explode all pretences of ‘boring’ psychedelic music. There is nothing pretty about Thee Oh Sees: they’re a dirty, drug-ridden, shit-stained band through and through, and yet their presentation is amicable. Thee Oh Sees records will be forever renowned in my collection as being the shit I’ll pull out when someone wants to hear ‘something cool’.

8. Regurgitator- The might fuckin’ ‘Gurge! Legendary Australian bands have come and gone throughout my constant perusing of music. Midnight Oil, The Saints, and Spiderbait have all had their spot in the Ryan sunshine. However, Regurgitator have always stayed there, and I lay that claim to their intense ambition of always coming up with something different. The first three albums, ‘Tu-Plang’, ‘Unit’ and ‘Art…’ are pure genius, and remain engaging artifacts of 90’s alt-rock, something Stone Temple Pilots and Bush can’t lay claim to. Although they might have dipped out in the mid-2000’s, their push back to ambitious and awesome music with 2011’s ‘SuperHappyFuntimesFriends’ cements their place as one of my favourite bands of all time. Seeing and meeting the band at the recent Groovin’ the Moo festival was a dream come true.

7. The Cramps- The awkward mushing together of swampy rock, gore-tinged horror, gothic appearance and 60’s rockabilly should never have made it past the planning stage. But that’s where The Cramps come in. With Lex Interior, their fearless leader, The Cramps led an army of crazy, wide-eyed and abused albums for over 30 years. Each effort The Cramps have put out remains a creepy, black hole of mucus and awesome, every second track becoming your favourite Cramps track. Heroin-riddled and rattling with self-oblivion, The Cramps are a band that should never have existed, but thank fuck they did. Imagine a world with no ‘Human Fly’, ‘Bikini Girls With Machine Guns’, ‘Goo Goo Muck‘ or “Can’t Find My Mind’? What would anyone do?

6. Gorillaz- Everyone likes Gorillaz, but they haven’t listened to them in a long time. Fucking chuck on any of the first three albums (I like to think the 4th one doesn’t really count) and prepare to engage in a long, warped drive through Damon Albarn’s menal pysche. So many influences are drawn upon, into what is essentially a hip-hop project, that what comes through is an amazing pool of musical prowess, like some ‘Tree of Life’ shit. Put on the self-titled, ‘Demon Days’ or ‘Plastic Beach’ albums and remind yourself what it’s like to listen to really, really solid music with no faults.

5. The Black Lips- Flower punks, rock n roll musketeers, troublemakin’ no-gooders with guitars; call The Black Lips what you like, the only conclusion that you’re likely to draw upon is amazing. Although they don’t really provide a virtuosity to their music like the rest of the artists on this list, The Black Lips provide a generic service with unique results. They bang out more or less the same album each time, and yet, you can only feel like it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever listened to. Couple that with the fact that The Black Lips are amongst the best live bands in the world (seriously, these dudes are fucking loose). ‘Bad Kids’, ‘O Katrina!’, ‘Boomerang’, and ‘Elijah’ are just a few of the countless simple delicacies The Black Lips offer that make the world a better place.

4. Ty Segall- Ty Segall is The Who of our generation, the man does not stop making music. In 2012, he came out with three (3!) seperate albums from various projects, all of which were some of the best stuff to come out last year. This year, he’s coming out with another solo album, an album with his band Fuzz, and I believe he’s involved with Sic Alps again, but I’m not 100% sure. Regardless, the man makes fucking loose as music to get loose as to. It’s rock n roll the way it was meant to be played, obnoxiously loud, dreadfully immature, and insanely captivating. Ty Segall is the artist all garage rockers should aspire to be, not in sound, or looks, but just general being. He’s the greatest musician right now, hands down, bar none.

3. Pixies-The Pixies took the world by storm every time they released an album, and with good reason. The Pixies have more good songs than Pitbull has shitty lyrics and the STD’s of any random celebrity train wreck of the moment (think Paris Hilton, Nicki Minaj, Lindsay Lohan etc.) . They never released a bad album, and always maintained a furiously unique energy to every song they laid down. The four albums that the Pixies released will forever be remembered as some of my favourite albums. Any song in their catalogue, from ‘Debaser’, ‘Nimrod’s Son’, and ‘U-Mass’ to ‘Dig For Fire’, ‘Where is My Mind?’ and the unforgettable ‘Hey’ is always an instant hit for me. There is nothing better in the world than a Pixies song.

2. Radiohead- Although, I, like everyone else, was introduced to Radiohead through ‘Creep’, it was the latter albums like ‘The Bends’, ‘OK Computer’, ‘In Rainbows’ and ‘Kid A’ that resonated with me. Not to sound too obvious, but these are flawless, perfect albums, capable of bringing a grown man to tears (guilty), inciting massive sing alongs that envy ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis, and in rare cases, impregnating random women that happen to hear ‘Paranoid Android’, ‘Everything in its Right Place’ or ‘Fake Plastic Trees’. There are too many Radiohead songs to mention about how amazing they are as a band. But yeah, they are my 2nd favourite band of all time.

1. The Flaming Lips-My favourite band of all time, through sheer musical prowess and venture goes to The Flaming Lips. Although not everything they’ve put out has been excellent (i.e collaborations with Ke$ha), the astounding amount of amazing material, and bravery that accompanies their sonic shifts in musical trajection puts them above any other artist in my opinion. From hard-rockers, to psychedelic, to full blown orchestral orgies of sound, The Flaming Lips have done it all, and done it better than anyone else. And blowing minds isn’t the only thing Wayne Coyne and Co. kill at; when they slow it down, the results are scandalous. Think “Race for the Prize’, ‘Waitin’ For Superman’, ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1’ and of course, the inescapable ‘Do You Realize??‘. But the main forte with which The Flaming Lips kick sonic arse is when they wield the ultimate sword of psychedelica (literally the nerdiest thing I’ve ever written). When you’ve got the lush mind-melting audio-acid trip landmark albums like ‘Transmissions from the Satellite Heart’, ‘Telepathic Surgery’, ‘Clouds Taste Metallic’ or ‘Hit to the Death in the Future Head’, no one can doubt your position as the greatest band of all time. I fucking love this band.

Album Review: Parquet Courts-Light Up Gold

ImageThere is only one way to describe Brooklyn-via-Texas garage punkers: total drawl. Everything they do, from their laidback infectious riffs, to Andrew Savage’s stoner voice, even to the most staccato of drum beats are delivered in only the most relaxed of manners. You could not find a  slacker punk band in today’s music scene if you tried.

‘Light Up Gold’ is Parquet Courts’ second, and more accessible record since they formed in 2010. Three years and already underground superstars. It’s overall vibes of takin’ life as it comes to you, and living in the present are common themes amongst even the most prodigious of garage bands, but it is all in the execution of Parquet Courts that raises them above the bar from your averagely cool garage band to being amongst the lofty heights of The Black Lips, Harlem and King Tuff.

The first thing that will slowly permeate your brain is Andrew Savage’s voice and it’s incredible potency. Like, it’s more dreamy than Justin Bieber making out with the Janoskians. On second thought, that sounds absolutely disgusting. Anyway, you get the idea. It’s slow, stoned and absolutely intriguing. It’s slow, annunciating drippiness makes it infectious to a T, and as seen on tracks like ‘Light Up Gold II’ and ‘Caster of Worthless Spells’. It’s actually quite beautiful in a dark way.

The next thing that will probably slurp your gonads is the washing-machine instrumentation. It rolls in a ragamuffin, unrestricted style that exaggerates the already slacker-than-a-plus-sized-g-string style of the band. It can switch from deceptively fast to a twangy chilled vibe between songs without any of the style lost. It provides for a shallow bed of awesome in which the coolest of fish are found, like Nemo and Dory. The prickly jams of of ‘Yr No Stoner’, ‘Careers in Combat’, ‘N Dakota’ are addictive in the best sense of the word.

This leads to the greatest part of the band and record: Parquet Courts’ lyrics. They are the best. Hands down, without a doubt, some of the best shit you will hear all year on a song. No, it’s not going to provide some deep introspective that speaks to you about the inner workings of life a la James Blake, but it will make you lol, perhaps even roflmao. It’s a basic tale, the troubles of a stoner in contemporary New York. Take ‘Disney P.T’: ‘My girl is a bowl of hash/a familiar looking rash/my girl’s my secret stash/my shampooed pile of trash’. If that’s not fucking hilarious and a little bit true, then you’re lying to yourself. On ‘Donuts Only’, just before a tidal riff launches the song into a frenzy, you can hear Savage cry ‘Like a red state baptist’s fervor/Like a small town’s unsolved murder’, a couplet of hilariously dramatic proportions.

The album is a work of garage punk art, however there is one glaring fault. The band never really launch themselves fully into any song, bar two, and those are the greatest songs on the album. Maybe it’s to do with their slacker style, maybe it’s because a minute was all they could sustain, like the poor sap of a business man that’s speed dial is made up of boner-dysfunction call centres. However, when they do commit, it’s a beautiful result. You’ve got ‘Borrowed Time’ a basic chord structure with all the heart of a minotaur on ecstasy. Then there’s ‘Stoned and Starving’ (free download), a five minute treasure if I’ve ever heard one. The opening bass riff is one that gives me tingles similar to that of Hunter S. Thompson spotting a mushroom that doesn’t immediately strike itself as poisonous.  It’s a wafting bong load that features drooling melodies, a amphetamine fuelled hook, and that trade-mark drawl. It’s truly the standout track on the album, and is still stuck in my head a full four months after I first heard it.

To put in candidly, Parquet Courts are not a band that one can brush off easily. They have perfected the short, sharp song, a guerilla track if you will. It gets in, blows a dusting of shroom-coated garage onto your brain, and then fucks off before you have time to think ‘woah, I feel like some Cheetohs’. It’s no surprise these guys are hotly tipped to ruin indie music for the better. I mean, there’s TWO guys in the band with the last name Savage. How could they not rule?