It never fails: No matter how many albums I listen to every year, hundreds more slip through the cracks. Thankfully, the holidays give me time to go back and catch up before some of them get lost forever. There were plenty in 2019: It didn’t take me long to find more than 100 worthy titles that I missed. I’ll try to share them all over the next few days. Here’s the latest batch (in alphabetical order, more or less). I’ve included Bandcamp links wherever possible so you can buy straight from the source. Better late than never, right?
Eddy Current Suppression Ring
All in Good Time
MY TWO CENTS: When you only make an album every eight years, you’d better make it good. And these Australian indie vets definitely do — All in Good Time lives up to its name (and earns its keep) with a succession of scrappy, noisy garage-rock nuggets grounded by driving motorik beats, decorated with scraping, chugging guitars and topped with androgynous punk-poet lyrics and vocals reminiscent of Patti Smith. Speaking of poetry, they have the coolest press release I’ve read lately. See for yourself:
THE PRESS RELEASE: “It is impossible to deny
no one sounds like Eddy Current
I was hooked from riff one
and I was lucky enough to do a full tour of Australia with them years ago
good fucking boys
simple as beer and chips
and that satisfying live
but that’s not to say there arent odd complexities to their definitive sound
“You can smell mikey youngs guitar approach
like sasquatch rustling the bushes
Every time you think you see the bend ahead
you go into a tunnel or backtrack for a moment
then back to a nice place you can call home
“Rob’s bass is pub fuzz groove
It’s shells on the floor and leaning against the wall with one hand while you have a piss
thinking maybe you can take that guy?
only one way to find out
oh wait, he’s smiling…
“Danny’s drums are a clinic in reservedness
4 on the floor
This guy’s Charlie Watts in the looking glass
every hit a necessity
solid, not flashy
like the lead street tough in a 70’s flick
he don’t say much, but it counts
“and then there is Brendan
be-gloved lead mensch in this quartet
singing with earnest street poet confidence
his message coming in on the weird-wire
hard to describe
best to just listen and see
a pub punk priest
“We are very pleased to have these boys back on the streets
It had been far too long”
MY TWO CENTS: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there’s been a bumper crop of interesting acts coming straight outta Saskatchewan lately. Singer-songwriter Ellen Froese is the latest addition to the list, thanks to her album Fightin’ Words, an endearingly scrappy set of pop-rock and roots that manages to be sweetly nostalgic without sounding dated or hokey. I surrender.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The first full band album from Ellen Froese – 60s and 70s inspired rock ‘n’ roll, pop, folk, and country grooves.”
MY TWO CENTS: Loud, heavy, brutal and unrelenting. If those four adjectives are what you want from a band and an album, you need to pick up this aggressive Philly foursome’s impressively accomplished debut disc. Just be sure to lift with your legs.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Eye Flys brings together the minds of four musicians known for their work in some of the most extreme, blistering bands today. The quartet was initially started by Full of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard and former Backslider drummer Patrick Forrest as an outlet to play aggressive music with equal intensity that would contrast the breakneck speeds of their other projects. After asking Backslider bassist Jake Smith to join on guitar and vocals and Triac’s Kevin Bernsten on bass, Eye Flys’ potential for crafting impossibly heavy songs was solidified. Eye Flys’ debut Context was written and recorded just a few short months from the band’s inception, drawing on each members’ considerable experience and driven by the excitement of playing in uncharted territory. This is an album of commanding, lean noise rock absolutely brimming with vitriol … Context stands as a testament to its members’ abilities to produce music that is as ferocious as it is addictive.”
So Cold Streams
MY TWO CENTS: More than 15 years after their first EP, these Parisian post-punks keep the fires burning and the apprehension churning on their latest batch of darkly driving beats, serrated guitars and desperate vocals. Bonus points for a cameo by Sleaford Mods’ agent provocateur Jason Williamson.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “No one was expecting a record such as So Cold Streams. At this stage, Frustration could have easily played it safe releasing a record basically identical to the previous one, intense, abrasive, honest but with no risk. They could have continued to fill the venues with no complaints. They could have prepared their slow but inevitable exit. But right from the very first seconds of Insane, a humoungous electro-punk monster that wouldn’t have been out of place on an 1988 EBM EP, you realize that things aren’t gonna go as planned. Instead of setting up a comfortable routine, Frustration recorded its fifth album as if it were the first, like a bunch of guys who’ve been playing together for 6 months, who have nothing to lose and a ferocious will to bite. Of course, post-punk shenanigans is still there (martial drums, elastic bass, hit-and-run guitars), but So Cold Streams is full of a brand new energy, raucous lyrics and full-on audacity. “
One Step Behind
MY TWO CENTS: With just two new songs, you might think the New Jersey psychedelic-rockers’ latest release is a single. And in a way, it is — though the A-side title cut is a 32-minute, shape-shifting amalgam of style, songcraft and sonic invention that would make Jerry jealous. Good luck getting that on 7″ vinyl. In any case, there’s no other way to put it: One Step Behind is a giant leap forward.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Welcome to the sound of Garcia Peoples at full speed. Without losing a ray of sunshine or a drop of dew, One Step Behind is the first major statement by the malleable Brooklyn sextet. The 32-minute title cut highlights the twin guitars and songwriting of Tom Malach and Danny Arakaki and, instead of pointing itself towards one possible future for the band, just zaps itself square into the thick of it. Encompassing a range of moods and scenes in one flowing arc (plus a coda), it’s less a piece of music to listen to than it is a zone to occupy, a portal for all open-eared heads.The band’s third album in a year-and-a-half, One Step Behind is unquestionably their boldest yet.”
Gino & The Goons
Off the Rails
MY TWO CENTS: Call it punk. Call it garage. Call it rock. Call it whatever the hell you want. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that these Floridians raise another rambunctious, raucous riot on their latest album (their fourth, I think). You can’t play this loud enough or often enough.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Gino and the Goons come out of the gates with a new 10 song ripper that goes Off The Rails FAST. Mixed and Mastered by the infamous Jim Diamond. Gino and the Goons are a American rock n roll band. They are fast and loose, loose and loud. Not so fast you can’t dance and not too loose where you’ll catch a VD. Gino Bambino started this band in 2007 and he will end it when he sees fit. Goons come and go. Some come and come again. Others don’t. Stationed in Tampa, Florida, and traveling all over the world, they want to come to your town and boogie down. They want to make you sweat, dance and laugh all at once. In the spirit of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they bring you a fart sound of today. I meant, fresh. A fresh sound of today. Rock n roll is forever! Gino and the Goons are forever!”
Gong Gong Gong (工工工)
Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏 (幽霊リズム)
MY TWO CENTS: It would be all too easy to pull out some cliche about east meeting west in the music of this Chinese-Canadian art-punk duo. Trouble is, it barely scratches the surface of their debut album, which ingeniously and seamlessly puts everything from Delta blues to Asian melodies into the melting pot and slowly simmers it until the whole damn thing boils down to a delicious polyglot stew.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Guitar and bass duo Gong Gong Gong (工工工) charge out from Beijing’s underground scene with a distinct vision and uncompromising sense of purpose. The duo taps into a wavelength uniting musical cultures, drawing on inspirations ranging from Bo Diddley to Cantonese opera, West African desert blues, drone, and the structures of electronic music. Gong Gong Gong’s debut LP, Phantom Rhythm, is their mission statement: between the locomotive chug and banjo twang of Tom Ng’s guitar and Joshua Frank’s thumping bass harmonics, an aura of ghostly snare hits and timpani overtones emerges. Over Frank’s enigmatic melodies, Ng sings in Cantonese, piecing together abstract tales of absurdity and doubt, desire and lust.”
MY TWO CENTS: Remember Morphine? You should. They were a great band. This sax-led German-Canadian instrumental trio remind me of them a bit, what with all the punky, low-rolling grooves, prominent basslines, honking melodies and whatnot. Granted, they’re jazzier than Mark Sandman and co., but they still speak my language.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Peter Van Huffel’s journey through the combination of jazz and rock, alien to the fusion tradition of the seventies and the collage of the nineties, proceeds with yet another opus from the Gorilla Mask gang, as always inclusive of the mindblowing rhythm section of Roland Fidezius and Rudi Fischerlehner. Brain Drain is a mishmash of punk, metal, jazz, free improvisation and written avant-garde music, always in the process of construction and deconstruction, going from persistent, headbanging riffs and grooves to abstract and puzzling situations or vice-versa, without excuses nor preconceptions. Black Sabbath is in the house, as are John Coltrane and Albert Ayler, two primary influences of the Berlin-based Canadian saxophonist. The energy is overwhelming, but there are melodies on it, not only hammering rhythms or crazy textures. Highly emotional, but also structurally complex with fractured rhythms and bended tempos, this is the music of our present times: full of rage but also of joy. Deep, restless, invigorating and open to any possibility, all the qualities we expect from the art of sounds.”
MY TWO CENTS: Four bearded, burly dudes cranking out garage-rock riffs, sizzling solos and hard-grooving backbeats. The latest stoner-rock band from California? Nope. The Grand Mal are actually from England. You’d never guess from this bong-fuelled muscle-car of a debut. And you won’t care in the slightest once they start burning rubber.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The Grand Mal are a hard and heavy rock band from Oxfordshire. The Grand Mal are a coming together of 2 of Oxford’s most Monolithic bands, Desert Storm and Mother Corona. The quartet formed in 2015, looking to mash together the sexiest of grooves with the of darkest rock, creating one big ball of swinging cosmic sludge, with hooks and melodies that stain your brain for day’s and riffs that grease up your spine like the dirtiest of snakes, This heavy 4 piece are here to make you shake and blow your mind. Grand by name… Grand by nature.”
11th Street, Sekondi
MY TWO CENTS: Age really is just a number. Just ask Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. At 73, the African highlife legend is making music every bit as dynamic, vibrant and irresistible as artists one-third his age — while remaining current by infusing his grooves with contemporary elements. Plus his froggy voice reminds me a bit of Tony Joe White. What could be better?
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Ghanaian highlife star and renowned saxophonist, singer and guitarist Gyedu-Blay Ambolley returns with 11th Street, Sekondi, his 31th album since his debut in 1973. The charismatic stage personality, no stranger to mixing humour into his music and who has performed alongside Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and highlife bandleader Ebo Taylor, has been a record collector’s staple since his appearance on the seminal Ghana Soundz compilation on Soundway in 2002, which re-introduced the world to his trademark Simigwa style. Ambolley was born on the 11th Street in Sekondi, Ghana 72 years ago. on the cover photo you can see on the right side the house of his birth which was also his parental home. The Ghanian legend’s latest release shows off a pride of heritage, and his honed talent for mixing highlife with other genres like rap, Afro-funk and Disco.”