If I said it once, I’ve said it six times: No matter how many albums I manage to hear and review, hundreds more slip through the cracks. Luckily, the holidays give me time to go back and nab some gems before they’re too far gone. There were plenty this year: It didn’t take me long to find more than 100 worthy titles that I missed in 2019. I’ve been sharing them here over the past few days. Here’s another 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?
MY TWO CENTS: We live in a cultural mosaic. So it only seems right for Indigenous Edmonton trio Nehiyawak to take a similarly multi-faceted approach to their debut full-length Nipiy, fearlessly and deftly mixing, matching and melding indie-rock with avant-garde experimentalism, post-rock and even New Age. Even better: They don’t forget to write powerful, catchy songs along the way.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Nêhiyawak hails from Amiskwaciy (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. On the band’s debut album, Nipiy, the trio of Indigenous artists transcend a new intersection of traditional storytelling and contemporary sound. Nipiy translates to water, reflecting the flow and pace of the album, which begins and ends with pieces dedicated to Kisiskâciwanisîpiy (North Saskatchewan River). “There are many important ideas and teachings that we were raised with in our lives, but few more important that water. It’s a modern conversation with complex meanings and understandings. Our record is dedicated to the life-giving force of water.” Nêhiyawak’s sound combines terse post-rock soundscapes and surreal pop, with sheer electronic ambience, chiming guitars, and propulsive rhythm. At times grand and emotional, at times cool and reticent, their music is a tapestry of sonic and cultural exploration.”
New Rising Sons
Set It Right
MY TWO CENTS: Good music is timeless. Exhibit A: This shelved 1999 album from Manhattan indie pop-rock never-weres New Rising Sons. Finally being released for its 20th anniversary, it sounds every bit as hooky and commercial today as it would have back then. Their loss, your gain.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “A little over 20 years ago, The New Rising Sons formed in the bowels of the lower east side of Manhattan. Within a few months, the band would independently release an EP, creating a buzz through the town and the industry. This buzz led to a multi-album contract with Virgin Records. As time went on, plagued both by troubles at the label and turmoil internally, the band would ultimately reach its demise in late 2000. The could’ves, would’ves, and should’ves have been a topic of conversation since the band was dropped and the record shelved. Thankfully, the record is being released in full for the first time, as a limited edition 20th anniversary vinyl.”
MY TWO CENTS: Based on the number of Bristol artists that have made it onto these lists — including singer-songwriter Ngaio and her exceptionally endearing EP of hip-hop, trip-hop and retro-soul tracks — it seems I need to book an overseas trip sometime in the near future.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Ngaio is a force to be reckoned with. More than just a singer. Ngaio draws influence from all walks of life which can be heard through her music, words and song selections. Whether as a singer, lyricist or DJ, every outing is grounded in journey, discovery and community.”
MY TWO CENTS: I have never watched a single episode of American Idol, The Voice or any other TV singing contest. But hey, every now and then even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Like St. Paul singer and former Voice alum Nicholas David, whose northern upbringing is at odds with his warmly throaty croon and southern-soul songcraft. Just for the record, he didn’t win — which helps explain why I never watch.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Nicholas David doesn’t just have a voice. He has A VOICE. That voice. The one that sounds like you’ve known it your whole life, even the first time you hear it. Yesterday’s Gone (produced by Samantha Fish) is music from the heart, for the heart. His newest achievement Yesterday’s Gone is certainly true to that mantra.”
MY TWO CENTS: When you name your band after a Melvins song, you better know what you’re doing. Thankfully, these female-fronted Ohio noise-merchants most assuredly do. And the debut full-length hammers home the point in no uncertain terms, unleashing a formidable slate of vintage midwestern indie intensity that can go toe-to-toe with any mofo who has the balls to try them. You’d best sit down and shut up if you know what’s good for you.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Everyone has a band that they can put on to blow the cobwebs out. Night Goat are set to be that next band. Dealing in scuzzy, fuzzy noise-rock, the quartet have made a name for themselves in their native Ohio. Caged within this beast are 10 tracks that draw from the highlights of early nineties Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go Records – echoes of Unsane, The Jesus Lizard and Helmet all make appearances. The overall sensation is overwhelming, a cacophony of noisy riffs and distorted screams – just the way noise-rock should be. This is one goat that is not to be messed with.”
MY TWO CENTS: You like Television (the band, not the medium)? You like Wire? You like Gang of Four? Then you’ll love the tightly wound riffs, soaring fretboard filigrees, expansive arrangements and deadpan vocals of Atlanta trio, who make their Sub Pop debut with their outstanding third album Networker. Works for me.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Their sound is still defined by sparse drums, locked-in bass, blistering guitar, and nonchalant, yet assured vocals, but from the first notes you’ll immediately notice that Networker sounds much cleaner and more hI-fI than their prior two albums, Deluxe (2016) and Multi-task (2017). The departure in fidelity suits the new record and allows the listener to enjoy the nuances of their meticulous arrangements. Don’t worry, the riffs are still present, but the production is more lush and the harmony is even more expansive. Despite nods to the sounds of the ’70s and ’80s what comes through is a record fully rooted in the here and now. Thematically, this is apparent on the title track Networker taking a candid snapshot of the “digital you” aspect of life in the age of the internet.”
The Orange Kyte
MY TWO CENTS: Psychedelic-swirled indie-rock bands are a dime a dozen. But psychedelic-swirled indie-rock bands from Vancouver that include a sax player — and present their songs with perfectly balanced doses of trippy haze and clear-eyed melodic accessibility — are worth their weight in hydroponic homegrown.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “A loose cacophony of visceral sonic tomfoolery, fixed together with pop-informed melody, three safety pins, and some scotch tape. “If Liam Gallagher inseminated White Fence, Darker My Love and Dandy Warhols while licking LSD flavored wallpaper, this Orange Kyte full length is the record that their children would make.”
Peabody & Sherman
MY TWO CENTS: Nope, not the Rocky and Bullwinkle characters. This Peabody and Sherman are bassist Curtis Ruptash and percussionist Phillip Hertz, who enlist an eclectic roster of players to help propel their low-rolling grooves through a varied instrumental landscape of jazz, dub, funk and much more. If you’re new to the party, you’re already too late: Hertz died in 2018, making this their final album.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Over the duo’s 17 year recording history, they largely employed a creative process led by bass and drum foundations layered with other instrumentation. On this project, each track started off with Brazilian percussion grooves alone. Along with P&S lead provocatuers, Phillip Hertz and Curtis Ruptash, notable instrumentalists like LeRoy Bach, Ben Lamar Gay, Joe Adamik, Danny van Duerm, Marcos Mosquera, Dan Bitney, Nate Lepine and others then added their inspirations. The result is a compelling collection of fresh and infectious grooves joined with jazz, dub, rock, experimental and ambient overlays.”
The Long Goodbye
MY TWO CENTS: Speaking of final albums and last words: Legendary rock weirdoes Pere Ubu are reportedly ready for the big sleep after this 17th studio album. Fittingly, enigmatic yelper David Thomas and co. go out on their own terms with a synth-driven document that takes their eccentric style to new places. Even Raymond Chandler could appreciate a final-act twist like that.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Pere Ubu unveil their new album, The Long Goodbye, nearly two years after their previous record for Cherry Red, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo. The Long Goodbye is the end of a road. Front man David Thomas has long talked of their journey to Satisfied City: This wraps up every song and story that Pere Ubu has been telling in different ways for the past 40-plus years. This Pere Ubu album sounds like no other. It boasts a large expanse of synths due to Thomas writing and arranging the songs alone with his collection of drum machines, synthesizers and a melodeon before sending to the other musicians to complete this unique fusion of techno meets trad rock meets… the avant garage.”
Spread the Feeling
MY TWO CENTS: It’s been nearly a decade since The Pernice Brothers released their last album, 2010’s Goodbye, Killer. Thankfully, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and ringleader Joe and his guitarist sibling Bob (along with their bandmates and VIPs like Neko Case and Pete Yorn) more than make up for lost time with this snappy batch of spry pop-rock gems. Spread the word. And cross your fingers that we hear from them again before 2030.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Spread the Feeling is the sixth or seventh studio LP by the Pernice Brothers and my 17th or so in general. I’m honestly not sure. I don’t keep track. All I know is that if I play one song off each album at a gig, it’s a long show. I recorded a full length Pernice Brothers record a few years back, but ditched it after it was mixed. Scrapping it had everything to do with me not liking the songs. The playing, the recording and mixing were fantastic to my ears. After letting the mixes sit for a while I revisited them for giggles. Still no dice, but there were a couple songs that were really good and deserved to be saved, unlike my soul. I holed up with engineer/musician extraordinaire Liam Jaeger in Toronto, and we reworked/mixed the songs worth the time. Then we kept recording new songs until Spread the Feeling was done. (I am toying with releasing all my rejected recording on a double CD called Shitty Songs. For every copy you take, I give you $0.87. It’s the future winning model in the streaming age.) Eric Menck came up with the title. I think it was a peanut butter ad campaign slogan. If it wasn’t, it should be.”
Becoming Peter Ivers
MY TWO CENTS: L.A. singer-songwriter Peter Ivers‘ life was stranger than fiction. He scored David Lynch’s Eraserhead and wrote the song In Heaven. He signed a major record deal and made two albums that flopped. He hosted New Wave Theatre on TV. He penned songs for The Pointer Sisters and Diana Ross. Then was brutally slain by an unknown assailant. This compilation collects a slew of previously unreleased recordings and demos that showcase his eternally youthful vocals and charmingly understated, Lennonesque pop songcraft. Strange but true.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Becoming Peter Ivers tells the story of the late Peter Ivers, a virtuosic songwriter and musician whose antics bridged not just 60s counterculture and New Wave music but also film, theater, and music television. Written and recorded in Los Angeles in the mid-to-late-1970s, Becoming Peter Ivers raises the curtain on this mischievous master of ceremonies, who, harmonica in hand, rarely missed a chance to light up an audience. Since his untimely death in 1983, Ivers’ short but storied life has been the subject of much research and remembrance. Becoming Peter Ivers is the most expansive effort yet to collect his archival recordings. Becoming Peter Ivers was assembled from a trove of demo cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes that Ivers recorded variously at his home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, and Hollywood studios for a pair of major label albums in 1974 and 1976. While the two commercially released albums feature the resources of session musicians and state-of-the-art studio detail, Becoming Peter Ivers highlights the private moments of Ivers’ musical energy, frequently pared down to piano, drum machine, harmonica, and Peter’s ageless voice.”
The Philistines Jr.
MY TWO CENTS: These days, Peter Katis may be better know for producing the likes of Interpol and The National. But once upon a time, he and his brother Tarquin led the quirky Philistines Jr. And now, 10 years after their last release, they’re back (accompanied by assorted pals and even their own kids) with another collection of gorgeous, high-flying indie-pop that sound a bit like a scrappier Flaming Lips. Help yourself.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The Philistines Jr. – always a tricky band to describe — have released their first album in nine years Help! Championed by the likes of the BBC’s John Peel while dismissed by many as goofballs, their home recorded brand of indie-rock has at times been defined by its odd combinations of production and songwriting styles: Hi-fi and lo-fi, acoustic and electronic, jokey but ever melancholy. Started in the late 1980s by brothers Peter and Tarquin Katis, the group remained active up until the early 2000s when Peter’s producing pursuits resulted in an unplanned hiatus. In 2010, the band resurfaced with the unexpected If a band plays in the woods…? LP with an updated take on their songs and sounds. Now in 2019, The Philistines Jr. have made a new album with the usual meandering instrumentals, occasional sing-alongs, inscrutable lyrics and production as ambitious as ever. The record is the band’s abstract take on trying to understand and participate in today’s confusing world of music, art, politics and plain old day to day life.”
MY TWO CENTS: While we’re on the subject of Flaming Lips, here’s a conglomeration of Zappaesque psych-rock groovitude, disarmingly pretty prog-pop, unbridled sonic tomfoolery recorded a decade ago by former Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock and Kansas City keyboardist John Huff. Fire up the strobe light and pass the bong.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Recorded in early 2010 during winter break from the Flaming Lips’ Embryonic tour, Pink Purple features then-drummer Kliph Scurlock and John Huff. Borrowing mics from the band, Kliph and John set up an army of analog synths and other vintage equipment to create Pink Purple’s Red. This unreleased album highlights the band’s encyclopedic knowledge of classic British rock/prog/psych throughout the tracks.”