This list isn't quite a “best of” in the traditional sense, rather, it's purpose is to serve as a codicil to the weekly column, featuring a grip of singles that fall somewhere in the grey area between our favorites of the year and “unjustly overlooked.” Thus, you won't find anything on here that has already been featured in a previous installment of the column, as we feel we've already extolled the virtues of all of those particular records. So, rather than re-hash past glories, we dedicate this space to records released over the past year that we've loved, yet for one reason or another, haven't made their way into one of our weekly editions.
The Rantouls “Little Green Hat” b/w “Little Bit of This” on Chocolate Covered Records
It's been a good year for the California bubblegum pop aces, as between this and their self-released The Songs of the Frontier Villagers 7″, they've racked up more hits than Whitney Houston (or would in a sane world, that is). The A-Side is undoubtedly the catchiest song of the year, with its simple pop construction and beyond hummable chorus that gets stuck in your brain like “It's a Small World After All” or “Louie, Louie” and simply won't let go.
The Lasters Idiot Jerk Parade: Four Songs Written and Played by The Lasters EP on the band's own Futilitarian Records
We've been meaning to write about this L.A. band's self-released debut for months now, but somehow it's always been shuffled to the back of the line in favor of something else. They play an off-kilter brand of garage punk that's deceptively simple and deviantly catchy a la The Strokes that revels in a sort of snotty, slack-jawed majesty (with a hint of Television) that leaves them sounding like everybody and nobody at once. As far as we know, In the Red is the exclusive distributor of this slab, and since it's limited to just 200 copies, best get on yr high horse.
Pollution ns.drugs on Desensitized Records
The debut 45 (culled from a tape of the same name released in some minuscule quantity last year) from this Brooklyn unit doesn't quite bite with the venom of their live show, but it comes awfully close, as it sounds like it may have been recorded in a pressure cooker, in the middle of a desert, in August, under extreme duress. Their pedigree is sterling (Unearthly Trance), but they're not ones to rest on their laurels, as they crank out an excruciating brand of hardcore that's indebted to the AmRep school of scathing noise-rock as well as to legions of iron fisted HxC forebears. Limited to just 400 copies, but should still be around at places like Going Underground for you to spend your grandmother-given post-xmas loot on.
Bong/Gnod Split on Box Records
This split between two of the UK's most promising new bands never made it into one of the weeklies, but rest assured, you'll be hearing a lot from the two groups in the coming year.On the A-Side, Gnod give us “Prelude”, which, seems oddly appropriate as its lurching, shuddering grooves and comet-bursting cosmiche-psych are somewhat stifled by this format's relative brevity, but nevertheless offer a glimpse into their brilliance. Their mates on the flipside, Bong, are sprung from the grand tradition of Cathedral or Candlemass, only with a twisted psych ruminescence bubbling just beneath the weight of their riffs. Their contribution, “Reprise”, is a rumbling doom behemoth that perpetually threatens to crack beneath the weight of its own grandiose ambition, but manages to stay upright long enough to destroy the countryside and leave a path of death and destruction in its wake.
Krysmopompas “Gesa” b/w “Volker” on Avant! Records
What you have here is a German cold/synth-wave band on an Italian label plumbing sounds from both the French and UK underground circa 1979.Now, we know it sounds like we just conjugated the U.N., but it's really quite a lascivious little platter, filled with frostbitten electronic beauty and lovely sentiments swept up off the scrapyard floor and then crooned in a soft deadpan for all the junkyard lovers of the world to hear. S-S Records should still have copies of this to send you in trade for American dollars.
Circle Pit “Total Waste” b/w “Everybody Left” on R.I.P. Society Records
A scuzzy power duo in the spirit of Royal Trux, Circle Pit get filthy on this, their debut single, dredging up a pair of glam-cum-garage stompers that graft the dumbed-down sleazeball riffery of countrymen AC/DC onto a snotty, KBD-inspired axis. But they're not happy merely trolling the gutters, as there's clearly dreams of arena rock glory floating in the twosome's heads, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the glam-glorious chorus of the B-Side, which explodes like a glitter-spangled fireball.
Altars/Whip & the Body Split on Satan's Din
Long awaited split between Columbus, OH's YA!-approved black metal/noise scumfucks Altars and Brooklyn's stellar Whip & the Body (who features members of Drunkdriver). It's business as usual for Altars on “Wood and Rope” as they unleash a crackling pisstorm of garbled moans and scathing whitenoise weirdness that makes you wish they'd record more than once in a blue moon (or send you the shit they have recorded when you order it). The W&TB flipside is the true killer here and why most people paid the price of admission, and “Black Dahlia Pig” doesn't disappoint, with a whipsnarl rhythm courtesy of Villalobos that chains the gurgling FX to the post while some A1 creepout vocals from Berdan beats it into submission.Limited to 300 and maybe gone for good, but you crafty types might be able to find a copy here or there.
Kim Phuc “Weird Skies” b/w “Suicide Circle” on Dear Skull Records
Pittsburgh's (least)favorite sons are back to follow up last year's awesome “Wormwood Star” 7″ with this fantastic two-song slab of amphetamine-laced punk rock that hits like a balpeen hammer to the back of the skull.Those of you who saw them in all their glitter-dusted glory at SXSW may have picked up the test pressing version of this ages ago, but those of you unable to attend finally have your chance to hear these tunes in all of their ragged glory.Spiteful, pessimistic and overflowing with legions of barbed-wire hooks, these two songs only serve to further whet the appetite for their (purportedly) forthcoming full-length. Oh, and If you ever should meet them, potential topics of conversations include Wire's back catalogue, Katy Perry and the Steelers.
Dry-Rot Hairless EP on Home Invasion Records
One of the more head-scratching singles released this year, California's elusive Dry-Rot purport to be Christians (though, to be fair, most people believe it's merely an act), yet create some of the most disturbing music of the past decade.While they're occasionally redolent of legendary oddballs Rudimentary Peni, most of the time they sound like an inept hardcore band attempting to play Disney covers, all while their dad rambles in the foreground about some skank he fucked in 'Nam in '68 and how the Tet Offensive was such a fuckin' bloodbath. Sounds totally implausible, doesn't it? Well, take a listen for yourself if you don't believe us.
Melodie du Kronk Moxie Carmichael's Secret on The Great Pop Supplement
The follow up to their excellent debut LP, this deceptive little platter, which features the tune spread across two sides, begins life as a toss-away Stereolab track before abruptly shifting into another nebula and going interstellar on your unsuspecting ass. One second, you are thinking Martin Denney and umbrella drinks and the next, they are beating the fuck out of you with ranked masses of high-gravity guitars and a rhythm they nicked straight from Jaki Liebezeit. Not exactly what we were expecting, and thus, one of the best surprises of the year.
Mugstar “Today is the Wrong Shape” b/w “Technical Knowledge as a Weapon” on Trensmat
Not a lot of people heard this one, mainly because it's a limited lathe-cut job limited to 100 or something silly like that, but seeing as it came with an accompanying CD-R of the tracks (plus ripping ZZ Top and Fairport Convention covers), the sound files should be floating 'round the interweb for your listening enjoyment. It's relative scarcity aside, few bands blast their space-rock further out into the cosmos than this UK quintet, billowing more amp-blazed smoke than Sonic Youth while and mining similar biker-psych territory to prime-era Swervedriver, they set their Hawkwind rays on “kill” as they aim their spaceship directly into the dark heart of the moon.