So, the penultimate entry before Mrs Mackerel finishes off this year’s set of Top Ten postings tomorrow is my very own.
Without further ado…
10. Milk Music – Beyond Living
Although it was released early in the year, I only discovered it recently. A full on, no holds barred, nihilistic 70s punk attitude and the very best of the heavyweight riffs of the grunge era is a mighty powerful combination. One that makes me wish my car stereo went all the way up to eleven.
Download Milk Music – Beyond Living mp3 (from Beyond Living EP)
9. Yuck – Holing Out
Similarly, Yuck’s Holing Out effortlessly recalled the 90s with a crunchy distorted riff, reverb and a fuzz slathered hook. That it also had one of the best videos of the year was just another bonus.
Download Yuck – Holing Out mp3 (from Yuck)
8. Wooden Wand – No Hayride
If there is one mystery to me in the world of music, then it is how James Jackson Toth aka Wooden Wand can be so damn prolific across so many genres and yet suffer no discernible dip in quality – not that I’m complaining. Another great year and too many tracks to choose from, but in the end it was this, seemingly an afterthought on his forthcoming boxset that makes up Volume 3 of his archives – a simple folk ballad that still managed to be head and shoulders above most things released this year.
Download Wooden Wand – No Hayride mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)
7. Kurt Vile – Peeping Tomboy
Top ten from the opening moments of this song; the hazy, shimmering guitar and the lazy drawled vocals intoning
“I don’t want to change, but I don’t want to stay the same
I don’t want to go but I’m running
I don’t want to work, but I don’t want to sit around all day frowning
I don’t want to give up, but I kinda want to lie down
But not sleep just rest
Give me a break how much does it really take?
Get my head outta here”
6. Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear
It made a lot of other MM guest top tens so no need to add anything new. Anthemic, swaggering blues boogie at its fiery best.
Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)
5. The Royal Sea – This Summer
I’ve mentioned this two or three times recently and posted it earlier today so not much more needs to be said about this either. Simply that it is pure, sugar-coated garage pop with just the right amount of surf inspired twang that in a parallel world would have been the woozy, feel-good hit of the summer.
Download The Royal Sea – This Summer mp3 (from The Royal Sea)
4. Deer Tick – Chevy Express
Deer Tick’s Divine Providence was, mostly, a rowdy, rambunctious good time rock’n’roll record that was meant for late nights of whiskey drinking and bar-room brawls. But tucked away in the middle of all the heady intoxication was this track: sombre, reflective, and undeniably sobering. It was the soundtrack to a heavy heart and lonely regret washed by the first light of an early morning dawn and may well be the best thing they’ve ever done.
3. Felice Brothers – Fire At The Pageant
Voodoo, zombies, sinister nursery rhyme chants, classic Felice Brothers lyrics and a woozy, old-timey, back porch rhythm means this song should have been an utter mess. That it was the complete opposite stands tribute to this bunch of ramshackle mavericks of increasingly experimental Americana.
Download The Felice Brothers – Fire At The Pageant mp3 (from Celebration, Florida)
2. Tom Williams & The Boat – Get Older
The most bitterly caustic song I heard all year meant it was a shoe-in for my top ten. I originally said “it drips venom over a heavy, single drumbeat, a vicious guitar strum, and spits lyrics like physical bullets”, and this still sounds a pretty fair summation to me.
1. Middle Brother – Daydreaming
From the simple picked guitar line and weary, melancholy opening lyric, the scene is set for a raw, unflinching excursion courtesy of McCauley’s craggy vocals and beer-soaked romanticism. Loneliness never sounded so…well, lonely.
Almost Made It
The Wooden Shjips pulverising Lazy Bones, Tom Williams & The Boat’s observationally wry and off kilter Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet, the blistering euphoria of Wye Oak’s Civilian, and LONG’s criminally ignored and under-rated Shoot Your Dog. If there was a better example of dark, claustrophobic psych-rock this year than the Ganglian’s Jungle then I didn’t hear it, while A.A. Bondy’s dark-hearted The Twist and Twilight Hotel’s epic road trip Mahogany Veneer were both superb examples of modern Americana. Back home, Metronomy’s ultra catchy The Look, and Male Bonding’s fuzzed up, yet still sugary What’s That Scene? flew the flag for the UK – on another day, in another year, all could so easily have been in the final shake up.
Download Wooden Shjips – Lazy Bones mp3 (from West)
Download The Ganglians – Jungle mp3 (from Still Living)
Download Metronomy – The Look mp3 (from The English Riviera)
Hurray for the Riff Raff’s mesmerising My Sweet Lord and Phosphorescent’s reverent take on Neil Young’s Are You Ready For The Country? were both outstanding, but just pipped by Siskiyou’s own Young cover, the skeletally menacing Revolution Blues. Titus Andronicus payed due homage to Nirvana’s classic Breed, but best of all was Middle Brother’s version of the Replacement’s Portland.
Download Phosphorescent – Are You Ready For The Country? mp3
Best Tunes First Heard This Year But Not 2011
How on earth had Okkervil River escaped me for so long, particularly John Allyn Smith Sails and the superb For Real. Likewise with Wilco’s Misunderstood – I’d heard it, but this year I actually listened to it. Shellac’s Prayer To God is the most vicious song I’ve ever heard and one of the best, and so too Fugazi’s Waiting Room. Richard Buckner’s heartbreaking Emma was a revelation and James McMurty’s rollicking live version of Choctaw Bingo was eight minutes of pure, adrenalin fuelled Americana.
Download Shellac – Prayer To God mp3 (from 1000 Hurts)
Download Richard Buckner – Emma (Devotion & Doubt Outtake) mp3
Happy Christmas and Happy New Year. Here’s to 2012 when it all starts again!