Best Of 2011 – Glen’s Favorite Albums

1. Black Lips
Arabia Mountain – My excitement for this album grew steadily once the news came out that they were working on one in early 2010. The original release date set for “when school gets back in” was pushed back once Ronson joined as co-producer. As we all know by now, the band had a delightful time working with him. So it’s no coincidence that Arabia is filled with some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while. The sound production is not as muddy and psychedelic as the band’s previous effort 200 Million Thousand; instead, it’s clean and clear. The songs themselves cross the kind of rock and roll terrain that the Lips have always found themselves in, including but not limited to: clangy, jangly, country, punk. This stuff is addicting (for people with an ear for it like me) and tough to remove from the record player. I guess that’s a quality that the best album of the year should possess. 

2. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread – This is another one that I was counting the days until release. Ty’s last record Melted received an ‘honorable mention’ in my Best of 2010, but would have comfortably cracked the Top 5 if I redid my list a few months later. Goodbye Bread was a quintessential summer listen and still holds the test of time as this part of the country is freezing over. The thing that Ty does so well (and has always done so well) is arranging his songs. There’s optimal fuzz, hard-pounding drums, and a lingering bass line in nearly every song at some point and a lot of it is unexpected and fresh. I love the opening of “You Make the Sun Fry,” and the ever so crunchy chorus in “My Head Explodes,” in particular. Goodbye Bread affirms Ty’s status as one of the most talented song writers in modern rock and roll. At the least, it goes to show that noisy relatively straight-forward garage isn’t all the dude is about. 

3. Atlas Sound
Parallax – Last year (as I just said above) I made the folly of overlooking some records. Another one of them was Halcyon Digest. Sure, it was among my Top 10, but I didn’t really appreciate as much in 2010 as I should have. With Parallax, I gave it several listens before reviewing it and over the course of listening the real beauty of it really came out. It’s mainly a light affair with several streaks of brilliance that some could dub ‘experimental’ or ‘odd’, but to me is just as pop as anything typically labeled that. Bradford knows catchy better than most. The by product of this is a mass of songs that are inspirational and healing. 

4. The Beets
 – Let The Poison Out – The Beets are one of those bands that I regret not getting more into earlier on in my KLYAM career. After seeing them open for No Age at Wellesley College back in April 2009, I failed to do significant follow up research. Well, now I’d say I’m fairly well versed on the Beets; all the credit to them for infectious releases and superb live performances. Let The Poison Out works so well because it’s just so hard to not be hooked on the Beets raw rock, pop, n’ roll . It makes me want to start pounding on some drums while blasting it loudly. “Doing As I Do” and “I Think I Might Have Built A Horse” are sing-alongs like none other. 

5. Mikal Cronin
 – Mikal Cronin – You can tell this guy has spent some quality time hanging around Ty Segall. Not to say he hasn’t spent quality time with other musicians. The Moonhearts are nice. Well anyway, this album really captivated me as it fits in perfectly on a scale of Ty and Thee Oh Sees. Like those folks’ records, Mikal Cronin is quite instantaneously hooky (with like two exceptions, but those are still real good). Picking favorites is a challenge. I love “Situation” a great deal, because right from the get-go it is extremely fun. The San Fran rock ‘n roll region had quite a 2011.

Honorable Mentions

Shannon and the Clams – Sleep Talk
The Orwells – Remember When
Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Natural Child 1971
Mark Sultan Whatever I Want
The Hussy Cement Tomb Mind Control
Davila 666 Tan Bajo

CD Review: Castlemania [2011]

 Thee Oh Sees
Release: 5/2011
Label: In The Red

1. “I Need Seed” – A
2. “Corprophagist” – A-
3. “Stinking Cloud” – B
4. “Corrupted Coffin” – A
5. “Pleasure Blimp” – B+
6. “A Wall, A Century” – B+
7. “Spider Cider” – B
8. “Whipping Continues” – B+
9. “Blood on the Deck” – A-
10. “Castlemania” – B-
11. “AA Warm Breeze” – B
12. “Idea for Rubber Dog” – B-
13. “The Horse Was Lost” – B+
14. “I Won’t Hurt You” – B15. “If I Stay Too Long” – A+
16. “What Are We Craving?”- B-

Comments: For Castlemania, Thee Oh Sees seem to have rekindled (an understatement considering the band’s output) their interest in noisy experimentalism, all in the name of the pop hook. John Dwyer and Brigid Dawson deserve a great deal of credit for crafting ‘thee song’, but I feel obligated to mention how crucial the other members, Petey Dammit and Mike Shoun, were to this album. I mean, I don’t know this for a fact, but the reason why a lot of the tunes — the tunes that aren’t obvious pop gems — simply stick is due to sturdy rhythm. I’m talking about a thing like “Corprophagist,” which is all experimental and weird, but still maintains this unprecedented sense of pop realism. The speaking guitar noises as I like to call them because on their own… they blend in so well with the parts that Dwyer sings. Instrumentally speaking, “The Horse Is Lost” has a very dreary, yet optimistic feel to it. The obvious pop gems are tunes like “I Need Seed” (a psychedelic trip in itself, if you have a strong imagination of it), the dream/space rocker “Corrupted Coffin”, and the top of the Pops-esque, Brit invasion “If I Stay Too Long.” Now, the chorus in that song (and the ending) is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s big. Now, now, my experience listening to Thee Oh Sees up to this point never included anything like this. It’s albums like these that might not get the end grade they deserve, but merit many listens after listens. I’ll give this one more chances and more time, but I’ve expressed my admiration for what I really dig above.

Grade: B+ (87)