YearEnders: Marc Scarano, File Under: Rock

I bought most of these records at Pure Pop. Thanks for being my favorite independent record store! – Marc

Off! – First Four EPs (Vice)
This is hands-down the best thing I have heard all year. Keith Morris was the first (and in my mind, the best) singer for Black Flag and he has recaptured the vibe of the Nervous Breakdown era with his band of fellow L.A. punk luminaries. The raw power and brevity of this record is startling. Got a half hour? You can listen to the whole thing twice. Morris was always kind of funny, but now he’s just pissed off (“Now I’m Pissed”, “F**k People”, “Full of S**t”) and alienated (“I Don’t Belong”, “Black Thoughts”, “Darkness”). It makes me want to steal a skateboard and a can of spray paint and just go to town. I can’t stop listening to it. I don’t want to, either.

Spoon – Transference (Merge)
Spoon is one of those bands that I love to love. I have been following them from the beginning, and with one exception (Girls Can Tell) I have enjoyed each record more than the one before it. Each release manages to be different than the last while still retaining its intrinsic Spoon-ness. Instead of one-upping the production after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, they went the other direction with Transference and stripped it down to its core elements: Britt Daniels’ raspy voice, time signature-guru Jim Eno’s brilliant drumming, and those spare, counterpoint guitar lines.

Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)
I liked their last record and I like this one even more. It has less free-form jamming and more power chord crunching. It reminds me a lot of Zeppelin; the keyboard lick in opening track “The Hair Song” sounds like it was lifted straight from “Kashmir”. There is a lot of interesting duality going on: electric/acoustic guitars, guitar/organ, and male/female vocals. Maybe one too many acoustic songs, but that’s just splitting hairs.

The Sword – Warp Riders (Kemado)
That Texas heat must have finally gotten to The Sword. Everything about the new record is warmer than their first two- the production, the songs, the vocals, even the cover art. The guitars are panned and dripping with reverb, the Orange amps crackle with overdrive, and the cymbals decay across the breaks. The songs are more diverse than previous efforts; the long intros and guitar harmonies are still there, but some of the bludgeoning, repetitious riffs have been replaced with a 70s hard rock vibe, and the tempos are slowed down a bit. Come for the Metallica, stay for the Sabbath.

Monster Magnet – Mastermind (Napalm)
It’s funny how I used to crank up the treble on my stereo when I was a kid. C’mon, you know you did it too. It hurts my ears to listen to music like that now. Besides, there’s so much more going on in the lower frequencies of rock. I was thinking about that while listening to this record. It has a big, fat bass sound that stands out on nearly every track, rivaling the guitars for dominance and giving the album coherence. Maybe they rely a little too much on the familiar (but still awesome) stoner rock chord patterns, but not in a derivative way. It has all the qualities I’ve come to expect from a MM record: comic book sensibilities, the flaming Bull God and sludgy, hard rock riffage played with pride and abandon by the great Ed Mundell.

Brant Bjork – Gods and Goddesses (Low Desert Punk)
The Secret History of Stoner Rock, Chapter 1: Brant Bjork, former drummer for Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and Mondo Generator. Now he’s a master of the Stratocaster and putting out records on his own label. He still knows his way around a hard rock riff but has trimmed the fuzz off the top to expose the melody and groove.

The Vaselines – Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
Picks right up where this Scottish duo left off years ago: short, catchy songs with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about sex, religion, and other topics for uplifting gormandizers. They’re like nursery rhymes for adults, so simple and direct with lots of repeating words (“Duran, Duran, Duran, Duran”, and “mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth”). I also hear flourishes of Americana in the mix, adding some color to their punk palette.

Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
I think this is Superchunk’s best record to date, the crown jewel in a storied career. If they broke up tomorrow they’d be going out on top. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen, because this record proves that they still have something to say.

Retribution Gospel Choir – 2 (Sub Pop)
RGC caught my attention when they opened for The Meat Puppets at Higher Ground and really gave the headliners a run for their money. This record is full of moody, atmospheric songs with washes of guitar fury and upper-register emo vocals. Some of them start softly and build into a psychedelic tempest, and others rage like a full-blown cyclone right out of the gate.

Girl Talk – “All Day” (Illegal Art)
In case of party, break glass. Mash-ups were an interesting novelty at first but got stale pretty quickly. You know something has lost its cultural relevance when it starts showing up in tv commercials. But Girl Talk revived my interest by taking it to the obvious next level: by mashing up the mash-ups. This new set is relentless and exhilarating. I can’t help but smile every time I hear Ludacris going “get out the way bitch, get out the way” in between Ozzy singing “War Pigs”.

YearEnders: Alan Smith former Pure Popper

10. Twin Shadows – Forget Holy Crap this record is catchy. There is one track on here that immediately reminded me of the Knife (steel drums and beats) and I was hooked. The rest of the album doesn’t really sound like that, more like the vocals of Robert Smith meets the music of Studio or something, but DAMN is it ever good. 80’s new wave and synth pop inspired, and produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear fame – it has been on repeat on my ipod for AWHILE.

9. Blank Dogs – Land and Fixed Blank Dogs is Mike Sniper who runs the amazing Captured Tracks record label. This guy has been getting so much attention lately, which is great. He has unleashed a flurry of releases over the past couple of years, so quickly it’s almost hard to keep up. I am usually a quality over quantity type of guy, so I was skeptical that it would all be equally as good. It is. He does lo-fi blown out staticy garage with joy division type vocals better than anyone out there right now.

8. Bonobo – Black Sands This album is just so listenable. I know a lot of people that just aren’t really into the dub side of electronic music, or didn’t think they were into electro at all that fell in love with this album. He incorporates some dreamy soulful female guest vocals and jazzy instrumentals so make a really great record. I spin this record at any dance party no matter what the mood and it always goes over well.

7. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles I love this duo, and I have been waiting for awhile for this one to come out. It ialways sucks when bands rush their second album coming off of a stunning debut, just to keep their name in people’s ears, often at the expense of quality tracks. Good to know that Crystal Castles aren’t willing to make that compromise. This album is just as solid as the first one, and well worth the wait.

6. Xiu Xiu – Dear God I Hate Myself The latest from one of my all time faves, Jamie Stewart really was an awesome one. The opening track is so beat driven and almost dancey that you just have to sing along, but there is always this awkward moment when you realize that the lyrics you are shouting along with are about about physical violence and emotional abuse and eating disorders and other terrible stuff. He gets at the tense juxtaposition of those two elements better than ever before on this one.

5. Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP and the slew of other stuff she has put out lately. I had the pleasure to see her perform in Austin at this past SXSW and it was definitely one of the highlights of the week for me. Having been pretty into her music for a couple years now, I am so pleased that she has hit her stride and putting out really perfect gut wrenching stuff. I was also so shocked to discover that she is only 21 years old! Her voice is incredibly well trained and the lyrical content of her songs is so dark and mature, it is all the more amazing.

4. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal This music is a lot like some of my top faves from 2009, Tim Hecker and Ben Frost and also really arpeggiated like the aforementioned Emeralds release. Drone music with a lot of beepy minimal techno influence and psychadelic stuff going on. This record is a lot more pop oriented than his previous outtings and (like that Twin Shadow release) there is one track on here that I could have sworn was the intro to a Knife song.

3. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? This record is so so pretty. Their music hasn’t ever before been this blissed out, lots of swirling drone in the background with gurgling arpeggios up front. A soundtrack to one of those Planet Earth type things, but underwater, maybe the coral reef edition.

2. Prince Rama – Shadow Temple Straight forward stoney psychadelic rock. Equiped with chanted vocals and looped sounds, this record it the best of its kind to come out, not just this year, but in many! This is what I was hoping Black Mountain would become, but alas they turned more toward indie/psych/ folk rather than emracing their metal roots.

1. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise This record absolutely ruled my headphones this year. It is good in every mood and for every situation. I also had the cd in my car, I played it a LOT on my radio show, I played it on my ipod at work…it is just plain good. His niche is the perfect balance between minimal techno and a more danceable sound, but there is something that can only be described as post-rock-esque going on. It is a tendency toward the epic and sprawling, the songs often lead toward a crescendo or an abrupt change of pace, which is unusual in mininmal house music and really does the trick here.


The first ten I feel VERY strongly about. These are the albums that I listened to a shit ton, but I think are a tier down from the top ten.

11. Best Coast – Crazy for You

12. Marnie Stern – Self Titled

13. Teenage Fantasy – CD-R release, I have no idea what this one is properly called, and I don’t think they have a proper release yet…but be on the lookout.

14. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

15. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

16. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

17. White Hinterland – Kairos – This is the one record down here that I think maybe should be in the top ten. But that would make it a top 11, so that wouldn’t work. This is different than her previous stuff, ethereal and cathcy…check it out.

18. Grinderman – 2

YearEnders: Josh Friedman of Black Beauty

Josh Friedman is a pure pop regular, creator of brittle, blackened sludge noise, family man and educator. His taste in music is some of the most truly underground you’ll find. Her are his “Tops of 10” – Apparently in no particular order

Sun City Girls-Funeral Mariachi
These guys are such an institution, I won’t even attempt to write anything about them. This album is wonderful

Endless Boogie-Full Head House
Top Dollar and the gang are back again and if you know these men from before it’s more of the same. Big chooglin’ riffs, growling vocals, and jam after jam after jam. It’s like the last 40 years never even happened.

Satan’s Satyr-demo cs
Duo from Virginia that brings blackened thrash metal with some psych/Stooges worship. Big downer vibes on this one, but you can’t help but nod your head.

Personal and the Pizzas-Raw Pie
Jersey’s finest, the equation is simple Ramones + Stooges + Weird Al + Pizza= Personal and the Pizzas.

Blood Brothers-First Blood Mix
Two guys mixed together the best songs and dialogue from all those awesome 80s movies that involve some young punk who gets his act together to kick some major ass. If you’re a male of a certain vintage this will warm your heard during these cold winter months. This has been the soundtrack to my family’s life for the past couple of months. It’s only a download:

This did not come out in this century and (unfortunately) has not been reissued, but I finally discovered it. It could have possible the worst album cover of all time, but the jams contained herein are gold. Summery tunes that have a bit of darkness around the edges, you can see why the mighty Mac picked these two.

Frieder Butzmann-I’m a Seven Inch Single 7″
German kook whose been at this for a while, dropped this little slice of heaven earlier this year. It tells about the life of a seven inch single. The backside is what else, a dreary lament about being the backside of a seven inch single and not “Nicole Kidman’s backside.”

White Fence s/t lp
This guy managed to cram a boatload of late sixties psych on this lp. It’s a ton of fun to listen to.

Umberto “Prophecy of the Black Widow” lp
This guy managed to cram a boatload of Goblin/Carpenter love on this lp. It’s spooooooky.

Garbo’s Daughter demo cs
The hottest thing since Cher went solo.

No Balls-everything
From the ashes of the Brainbombs comes No Balls. Tight pummeling riffs that wash over you again and again. If you like drone, but sometimes think things should be heavier, check these Swedes out.

YearEnders: Adam Deverell’s top 10

Pure Pop reader Adam Deverell send us in his list with quite a few outside favorites from across the board.  I was specially psyched to see Thee Oh Sees and Wild Nothing on this list. If you’ve got a list, send it to us and get a chance to win a Pure Pop Gift Certificate. Thanks Adam!


10.) Dunes “Dunes”

Sounds like a phone call from a ghost with a bad connection.  Very mysterious stuff.

9.) Las Robertas “Cry Out Loud”
Energetic distorted riffs which never fail to cheer me up.  The pace and tone of the songs have a strong sense of purpose racing to the finish line.  Great combination of angelic singing surrounded by a mammoth sound.

8.) Spectrals “Extended Play”
A mutated Beach Boys experiment that embraces reverb and echo.  Feels like an endless playground spiral slide.

7.) Wet Dog “Frauhaus!”
Refreshing and fun! Songs filled with surprising turns and tiny explosions of joy. Distilled uninhibited happiness of a foot tapper.

6.) Thee Oh Sees “Warm Slime”
The opening track says it all.  13 minutes of loud garage rock filtered through a hazy summer day of drunken bliss. Their secret weapon is the back and forth boy/girl vocals.

5.) Weed Diamond “Carry On + Sweater Kids” Abstract and non-linear concepts happening on this release. No, I can’t define what that means exactly.  All I do know is that Weed Diamond has underdog charm in spades.

4.) Eternal Summers “Silver” Great example of a 2 member band being absolutely in sync with one other.  They strip away all unnecessary production which amplifies just how strong the songs are.

3.) Frankie Rose & the Outs “Frankie Rose & the Outs”Takes inspiration from Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” aesthetic to create a spooky modern soundtrack. Beautiful vocal harmonies.

2.) Beach Fossils “Beach Fossils” Surf guitars elevated and executed better and above the sometimes silly “surf” genre cliche. I’m powerless to resist the hypnotic guitars that dominate and flow so well on this album.

1.) Wild Nothing “Gemini” Total euphoric listening pleasure.  No matter what mood, energy level I’m experiencing or time of the day this record always is perfectly compatible.  The melodies in the songs come so effortlessly, yet they really demand your attention.

YearEnders: My Top 5 (Tanner)

Here’s my list – I decided to narrow it down to 5 albums. It was hard to do as this year was a very good year for music, the influential rise of Witch House & Dubstep alone could populate a top 10 list with fantastic albums. This year though the more i’ve thought about it, the more i want to highlight the albums that have really resonated with me emotionally. So many arguments can be made the anthropological or technical value of an album like the universally loved Cosmogramma – but what matters for me is how it works as a soundtrack to my daily life, and though i’m sure there are no hard feelings, Flylo ain’t got nothing for me. These albums however do.

5. Salem – King Night

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels like shooting a big bag of heroin after listening to this gargantuan sludge beast of an album. If Kanye’s latest is the emotional 8ball (complete with moments of hysterical crying), King Night is the massive dose of Ketamine and heroin that finally brings me down. Wayyy down. To the point where blood red subbass rolling it’s uglies all over the screaming face of Oh Holy Night or lyrics like

“It’s like people say, we all gonna die
But me is different Im not tryin to be alive
I just try to get high
Baby I just I just I
pull the sheet over my face before I die”

Slurred and menacing over molasses-slow dirty south beats held under water by an industrial freezer synth bass and punctuated by samples of cars crashing. These are just what the good doctor ordered.  It’s a sound that always feels like it’s on the verge of it’s eyes rolling back up into it’s own head and passing out with a Malborough 120 in its hand, but somehow manages to be not only the soul transcendent offering from the whole Witch House scene to date, but one of the best albums of the year.

(See also Balam Acab, OOooOo, White Ring, etc)


4. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II

Zola Jesus’s Nika Roza Danilova is the voice of the over-mother. Cold, powerful, emotionally and physically all encompassing – her drums pound like a determined heart and her synths continually rise and wrap round with thick blankets of cold, stifling love. (What? Me?Mother issues? Nah…)  I’m just saying, Stridulum II is the best sequenced, mixed and mastered version of Zola Jesus to come out yet. When Zola finally uncovered her voice and melodies from behind the wall of noise she showed us she was ready to take it all on, and showed us what was really there – angst, sure, but anger and violence turned out to be love, strong determined love – A woman hell bent to shield her lover from harm, to offer protection, to assure them of the end of suffering.

Stridulum II soars with leaden inevitability, there’s a deep core of strength, and even when she sings “You gotta help me out” on Manifest Destiny, you know she’s gonna make it regardless, and on the way she’ll rescue you, the kids, and anyone else she sets her love to.

(see also Zola Jesus)


3. Twin Shadow – Forget

This album was so close to being my number one, and depending on my mood, how much I’ve had to drink, how sentimental I let myself get – it can quickly run up the charts and stay on the top of my playlist for days.  Tight, melodically dazzling songs about romantic young love, dancing, ghosts, a voice that takes me back to everything that’s great about Morrissey but minus some of the whine and none of the falsetto yelping, shimmering synth lines, lean, choppy guitars, funky bass lines, swinging drum machines – everything in it’s right place. A true gem of an album that on every listen gives you a new favorite track, new favorite lyric ( “As if it wasn’t enough to hear you speak, they had to give you lips like that.”), and new favorite reason to let this one just roll on repeat.

(see also Wild Nothing, The xx)


2. The National – High Violet

The National are my boys – I wanna sit in the back of a bar in a button-up shirt and jacket, tie askew, hair-line receding (faster and faster) – Whiskey in hand and listening to this album on repeat with these guys. They’d pick it and each other apart, laugh at it, downplay it, there would be quiet moments and deep draws, we’d go out and smoke cigarettes even though we shouldn’t – we’re getting older and there are fewer of us around these days…

Some have argued that it’s the same album they’ve been making for the last 3 or so, but that’d be ignoring the subtleties, the small but important changes, new skills learned, melodies refined – much like the common person’s life, when viewed from afar, seems the same, unchanging, monotonous – but we all know that upclose and person, we’re all constantly in flux, growing and straining.

The National are the soundtrack to my everyday, while the rest of the albums on my list are part of my escape from it, High Violet is the sound of the working week, driving to the doctor, the grey skies, late to bed, late to rise weekdays that bleed into weekends, domestic disagreements, quiet insignificant resentments, things we forget to do, things we wish we’d never done.

It’s an album about the cold, uncertain world and its uncertain people making uncertain decisions and its little, wiry special power is that it makes it all feel ok.  In fact, The National’s music lifts up all those moments in our mundane lives and drinks a sad toast to the secret drama and magic we give them.

(see also The Walkmen)


Continue reading YearEnders: My Top 5 (Tanner)

The National turn Black Friday Violet.


According to the The National they’re going to turn Black Friday violet this year with a special edition release of this years critically loved release “High Violet” If you’re as big a fan of The National as we are, this reason to celebrate. You can watch the video above for all the details, but if you’re adverse to the you tubes i’ll give you the long short of it here.

2 New Songs: Wake up the Saints & You were a kindnesss

2 New Bsides: Walk Off & Sin Eaters

3 Live Recordings: Bloodbuzz Ohia, Anyone’s Ghost & England

Alternative Version of Terrible Love

all for a paltry 7.99

High Violet Expanded Edition will be available at Pure Pop exclusively in this area in limited numbers, if you’d like to reserve a copy, you can click here or on the link in the sidebar! For more information on the release go here.

New Releases

Brian Eno w/ Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – Small Craft on a Milk Sea
This concept is not a new one, not even for Eno, whose 1978 album Music for Films and its 1983 sequel were borne from identical insight. If not for the sheer amount of time that’s passed, or his new collaborators– electronic music composer Jon Hopkins and guitarist Leo Abrahams– he might easily have christened this Music for Films 4. And the truth is that, although much has been made of the trio’s working process and how it relied equally on improvization and computer editing, Small Craft on a Milk Sea sits surprisingly comfortably alongside the records from Eno’s ambient and experimental golden era. Others might argue that fit is a little too comfortable. Read full review at Pitchfork

Ceelo Green – The Lady Killer
“The Lady Killer,” the latest solo album from Cee Lo Green, sounds like something Don Draper would put on the hi-fi, if he’d been raised in Detroit on equal parts Motown and head-bobbing hip-hop. For every swanky old-school touch, there’s a glassy modernity that makes the album a sexy sonic adventure of loving and leaving. Read the full review on LA Times

Elvis Costello – National Ransom
Boasting a roster that includes Costello’s recent bluegrass collective the Sugarcanes, members of the Imposters, along with high profile visits from Leon Russell, Jerry Douglas, and Vince Gill, National Ransom is arranged like an Elvis Costello choose-your-own-adventure. Over the first three tracks Costello dabbles in propulsive Americana, folky balladry, and slinky, stormy weather jazz. These are the colors that Costello will intermittently paint with throughout. All that’s missing is a map that guides listeners to the follow up track that best suits the sort of Costello experience they’re looking for. Read the full review on PopMatters