Yeah, yeah. Everyone’s doing the end-of-year top list thing. We don’t really see music as a contest, so the idea of ranking our favorite albums of the year feels a little weird. But we have this blog here that would otherwise be gathering dust while the stats-obsessed masses read everyone else’s year-end lists, so we figured we’d take this opportunity to post some records we’ve been enjoying for the past year. And we mean RECORDS…sorry kids. I know tapes are the in thing, but all of the albums listed here are on 12″ vinyl, like your mama used to make out to.
In no particular order…
Moon Duo – Escape [Woodsist]
Moon Duo’s set was undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year’s Portable Shrines Escalator Fest, so it’s only natural that their full-length for Woodsist would be front and center on our year-end list. Moon Duo’s got their signature line of uber-repetetive drone rock dialed in to perfectly massage your brainmeats with sweet motorik monotony. Is Ripley singing about a motorcycle? Doesn’t matter, man. Just keep the grooves coming.
Jeffertitti’s Nile – Hypnotic River of Sound [Self Released]
Did you see Jeffertitti’s Nile at Escalator this year? Holy Mother of Mothra, those guys are on to something! While there’s virtually no way that ‘Titti’s’s self-released vinyl-only EP could possibly do justice to the intensity and charisma of their live show, it is an excellent record from a band we’re looking forward to hearing much, much more from in the future.
Dahga Bloom [Self Released]
Speaking of bands that killed at Escalator II, Fullerton, CA gypsy psych sextet Dahga Bloom is another one to watch. Their self-released vinyl debut features seven scorching originals plus a great cover of The Seeds’ “Fallin'”. Highly recommended.
Prince Rama – Shadow Temple [Paw Tracks]
When Prince Rama contacted us in the summer of 2009 about setting up their first ever Seattle show, we fell in love at our first sight of their MySpace page. Then we loved their set so much we had them back for the first Escalator Fest. Since then, they have toured the US and Europe extensively and got themselves signed to Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label. Shadow Temple, their debut for Paw Tracks is full of all the radiant positive energy we love them for.
High Wolf – Ascension [Not Not Fun]
Remember when, like, there were a whole bunch of guys with electronic solo projects making mysterious, loop-laden music out of meditative drones and krauty grooves? One wonders how, in such a crowded field, an artist might aspire to get ahead of the pack. The secret, according to High Wolf himself in an interview with Fairtilizer, is to get well-connected. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be really fucking awesome at what you do. Fortunately for us, High Wolf is both.
Brother Raven – Diving Into the Pineapple Portal [Aguirre]
Seattle-based synth duo Brother Raven released not one but two stellar LPs this year. (The other is VSS-30 for Digitalis.) But Diving Into the Pineapple Portal is notable as a reissue of the band’s first ever, long gone 2009 cassette-only release on Gift Tapes, the label run by BroRaven’s Jason E. Anderson. Warm, wood-paneled synth tones recorded directly to tape at the peak of their improvisatory freshness. So good.
Midday Veil – Eyes All Around [Translinguistic Other]
Although it was only released a month ago, Midday Veil‘s death-and-resurrection-ritual-of-a-debut-album topped John Gillanders’s year-end list for Redefine Magazine and got an honorable mention on Seattle Rock Guy’s list. The album has also elicited enthusiasm from such fine publications as The Portland Mercury and The Stranger, who deemed it a “highbrow roller-coaster ride through hell and heaven.” (If you’re curious about what that might sound like, you can pick it up when Midday Veil plays at the Josephine on Jan. 28 with Lesbian and This Blinding Light.)
Janina Angel Bath – Gypsy Woman [Prophase]
Trained as a vocalist in the Indian classical tradition brought to the US by Pandit Pran Nath, Oakland-based chanteuse Janina Angel Bath wraps languid melodies around sitars and sparse synth drones for an effect that is lovely and timeless. Her debut solo full-length features gorgeous gatefold packaging and a hidden 10-inch because it was too epic to fit it all on one record.
Pärson Sound – Pärson Sound [Subliminal Sounds]
Remember the 60s? If you are old enough, but you were taking as much acid as Pärson Sound clearly were, you might not. Anyway, suffice it to say we weren’t the only ones who were totally stoked to see the eponymous box set by these psychedelic Swedes get released on vinyl this year. Aquarius Records called it “sonically sancrosanct,” citing Pärson Sound among the handful of records that most perfectly embodies what the store’s entire mission is all about. That pretty much sums it up.
Omar Khorshid – Guitar El Chark [Sublime Frequencies]
Born in Cairo in 1945 and killed under mysterious circumstances at the age of 36, Omar Khorshid infused traditional musical forms with western-inspired instrumentation, producing some of the most progressive Arabic music of the 20th century. Sublime Frequencies’s deluxe gatefold double LP tribute to the iconic guitarist brings worthy acclaim to an artist tragically silenced before his time.
Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi [Abduction]
Speaking of untimely death, the final studio album of the legendary Sun City Girls was mixed and mastered by Richard and Alan Bishop after they lost bandmate Charles Gocher to cancer in 2007. Funeral Mariachi is a haunting, eclectic, and surprisingly beautiful celebration of the life and death of what will certainly be remembered for many years to come as Seattle’s (if not the world’s) freakiest band.
White Hills – White Hills [Thrill Jockey]
White Hills are one of the best bands I’ve ever had the privilege to see live. Their self-titled “debut” for Thrill Jockey (actually like their tenth album or something) is a worthy collection of fuzztastic space rock with a completely badass iridescent metallic cover. (The CD artwork is different and has different songs on it.)
NYMPH – NYMPH [Social Registry]
When New York-based NYMPH played a set with Tiny Light at 20/20 Cycle last summer, they had their self-released debut record with them. The album has since been released on Social Registry and NYMPH has embarked on seemingly non-stop US touring. NYMPH’s debut features side-length jams influenced by African guitar music (Tinariwen, Ali Farka Toure) and featuring ecstatic forays into truly exciting sonic territory.
Master Musicians of Bukkake – Totem One [Conspiracy]
Seattle’s most scatalogically-monikered psych explorers Master Musicians of Bukkake had a slew of new releases this year, including Totem One, Totem Two, a vinyl reissue of their first album on Important, an improvised EP on Latitudes and a 7-inch exclusive to one of their many European tours. But the standout record is still the first installment of the Totem trilogy, a transcendental amalgam of sacred music and sweaty riff-rock.
Turkish Freakout – Psych-Folk Singles 1969-1980 [Bouzouki Joe]
Gorgeous double-LP collection of singles by legends like Erkin Koray and Baris Manço, alongside tons of great music by lesser known Turkish musicians with western psych and funk influences. More of this, please!
AFCGT – AFCGT [Sub Pop]
AFCGT is the supergroup formed between A-Frames and legendary underground duo Climax Golden Twins. The band crackles and surges with their live intensity on their full-length for Sub Pop (which also includes gorgeous packaging designed by CGT’s Jeffrey Taylor.)
How many albums is that. 16? I guess that’s as good a number as any. Plus I’m tired of typing.
Were there other albums that should have made this list? Most definitely. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, and it focuses on 12″ vinyl releases but we’ve also been spinning the hell out of some 7-inches, like the Night Beats H-Bomb EP and Lumerians’s Burning Mirrors. There are also a slew of promising records that we haven’t heard yet, like Purple Rhinestone Eagle‘s The Great Return (which we will definitely have to pick up when they play the Comet on New Years Eve) and upcoming records from Blood Red Dancers, Eternal Tapestry and The Curious Mystery.
Oh, and if you’ve got some music you think should be on our radar, feel free to send it our way…
Portable Shrines P.O. Box 23326 Seattle WA, 98102.