The Singles Club Report

This fall, I broke my bank account by signing up for two different singles clubs from two different labels: the skewing towards mainstream-alt Sub Pop Singles Club and the “limited to 250” Columbus Discount Recordings Singles Club. I’ve recieved five from each club so far, so I figured it would be a good time to assess what has come.

Sub Pop Singles Club 3.0

Received So Far:

ommikamiko

unnatural1blackmountain

bluescontrol

OM
a: Gebel Barkal
b: (Version)

Mika Miko
a: Sex Jazz (Extended)
b: Bastard in Love

Unnatural Helpers
a1: Dirty, Drunk and Comical
a2: Connecting
b1: Break that Horse
b2: Easy Way

Black Mountain
a: Lucy Brown
b: Shelter

Blues Control
a: Snow Day
b: Paul’s Winter Solstice

Of this batch, I like the Unnatural Helpers single the most and OM single the least. Unnatural Helpers play a Mudhoney-eque brand of sludge, but are also at home on a bill with current bands like Hank IV or Eddy Current Suppression Ring – definitely the most “Sub Pop” sounding record of this batch. Mika Miko‘s “Sex Jazz” is awesome, but I really dislike their reworking of the classic Black Flag song “Bastard in Love”.  One the Black Mountain single, “Lucy Brown” is as good of a Black Mountain song that I have heard, though I’ve always been more of a Pink Mountaintops as far as Stephen McBean is concerned. Actually, “Shelter” is pretty good too – decent single overall, but nothing too exciting. The Blues Control single contains post-rock instrumentals with the reverb turned up with songs about Winter (fitting for the December issue date), probably my second favourite of this batch, though that isn’t saying a lot.

I haven’t received any of the singles that convinced me to sign up for the club, and there hasn’t been anything that I have been too excited about thus far, so I give the first five Sub Pop Singles Club 3.0 singles a cumulative grade of B-.

Columbus Discount Recordings Singles Club Year One

Received So Far:

pinkreasoneljesus

harrisburg_termbosandwitch

uh2-cdrscy1

Pink Reason
a: 3:16
b: Sweet Sinister

El Jesus De Magico
a: Unclean Ghost
b: Pirate Utopia

The Harrisburg Players
a1: Tommy Jay “No Place”
a2: The General “I Did It”
b1: Nudge Squidfish “Jess”
b2: T.A. Lafferty “Take it to the Father”

Sandwich
a: Assisted Living
aa: I’ve Had a Few

The Unholy Two
a: Altamont 1969
b: Beirut 1983″

This is more like it – right out of the gate with the Pink Reason single, I knew I was in for something great – amazing liner notes, excellent selections from the Pink Reason‘s archives, bubblegum pink vinyl – yes. “Sweet Sinister” is (for me) up there with my favourite Pink Reason songs. El Jesus De Magico‘s single came next – featuring a hand silk-screened covers (and glow-in-the-dark paint?). This single features one of my favourite songs of 2k8, “Unclean Ghosts”, a slow build with a burbling analogue synth that snakes throughout the song, this single spent a great deal of time on the turntable.

The first surprise came in the form of the third single, “The Harrisburg Players Vol. 1“, a four song compilation of songs recorded “somewhere between 1798 and yesterday”, which makes absolute sense because it is otherwise impossible to hear any certain era (other than “post-1970’s”). I’m no scholar of the Ohio music scene, other than my previous obsession with all thing Robert Pollard/Guided by Voices (and the bands associated in various ways). Seems Mike Rep had his own lo-fi cabal doing something in a similar vein (throwaway songs recorded in a grungy basement on bargain-store recording equipment). Everything here is gold, and is making me want to start tracking down more music from all involved (aka: mission accomplished). What a treat! Sandwich was another pleasant surprise, a Ron House fronted “supergroup”, this single contains two awesome psychadelic rock songs that have warranted repeat listens sincel. I just got the Unholy Two single (featuring Tom Shannon of Cheater Slicks) and Will Foster of Guinea Worms), and haven’t much to say other than it is a sludgy affair that will take some more listening.
Singles Clubs are mysterious things – they cost a lot of money up-front, and often yield weak results (see last years “Bored Fortress” collection, which left me wanting). The first five singles in Columbus Discount Recording’s singles club have been an exception to the rule – a few bands I knew already mixed in with a few pleasant surprises, lots of great songs, innovative packaging, a tight schedule – Columbus Discount Recording’s singles club gets a solid A.

Best On Vinyl 2008

Without further ado… Links take you to purchase sites. No link means that it is not available at the moment.

12″ Category

1. Thee Oh Sees

thee_oh_sees_the_masters_bedroom_is_worth_spending_a_night_in

thee_oh_sees-thee_hounds_of_foggy_notion_2thee_oh_sees_peanutmtn004ep

The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending the Night In /
Hounds of Foggy Notion / Peanut Butter Oven Ep / Split 12″ w. The
Intelligence

Qmass: The EPs sound like they are likely The Master’s bedroom outtakes, and all of it is just as good as anything on The Master’s Bedroom, so I’d  be doing Thee Oh Sees a disservice by choosing only one. No band captured my attention the way that John Dwyer’s OCS/The Ohsees etc did with their string of increasingly limited and difficult to acquire full lengths, 12″ eps, and the one 7″ that came out. So good. Even though I am not as big of a fan as Kallen on the Hounds of Foggy Notion album, it has certainly grown on me.

Kallen: As noted above, I’m actually more of a fan of Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion than anything else they’ve put out in this prolific year of theirs. I mean, I really have no qualms with the turn in direction they made with Master’s Bedroom (“Visit Colonel” is most definitely one of my favorite songs of the year) but Hounds is them at their most top-notch front to back – perhaps, due to the fact that it’s actually a live collection of their older, folkier material. Anyway, I think of this as a greatest hits collection (I guess this reveals which side I’m on in the neverending ‘greatest hits’ debate). They’ve managed to find all my favorite songs of theirs to date and put them in one collection (and don’t worry, you can’t have audience noise without an audience and also, these live versions don’t stray too far off from the originals at all). One last thing: if anything, Hounds gets my #1 pick for versatility alone. It’s great for actual listening but it also works as background music (napping, schooling, maybe even fucking?).

“Inquiry Perpetrated” from the Intelligence Split

2. Nobunny – Love Visions (Bubbledumb / 1 2 3 4 Go!)

nobunny-love-visions-front-cover

Qmass: Originally released this summer by Bubbledumb, but the guy who ran the label had a string of terrible things happen to him, which made this record impossible to find until it was re-issued last month by 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. Since I finally got my copy, it has rarely left the turntable, instant hooks, timeless melodies, a half naked dude in a bunny mask – its all here.

Kallen: I love Mr. Nobunny. Listening to Love Visions the 30 or so times I’ve done so far made me happier than anything else this year, musically or otherwise. May it grant me (and you) as much happiness the next 30 listens. This has ‘instant, modern classic’ written all over it, think Guitar Romantic. If we at Seven Ten Twelve weren’t giving you combined lists, this would get my #1 and I’m well aware of what I wrote above re: Thee Oh Sees.

“Chuck Berry Holiday”

3. Cheveu – S/T (S-S)

chev

Qmass: This record took two months to leave my turntable, and when I pick it up again, I get the same satisfaction. “Herman Choune” is one of my favourite songs of the year, and I even like “Happiness”, which many seem to hate. Primitive futurism.

Kallen: One of my most anticipated records of 2008? Yes. Expectations met? Absolutely. Exceeded? Don’t know. All I know is that this record is all over the map but it still sounds French as fuck. When this record stopped spinning on my turntable for the first time, I knew that this ‘weird punk’ thing had already hit its peak right here in 2008. Yeah, I feel as dirty for writing that as you are for reading it, okay?

“Dog”

4. Blank Dogs – On Two Sides (Troubleman Unlimited)

bdlpsmall

Qmass: Though of late I’ve been thinking that The Fields is an improvement on this, every release seems to be an improvement on the one before. As a debut LP, this has historic qualities, and this album has enough of Blank Dogs weird nostalgia to go around. Blank Dogs singular vision alone makes this a worthwhile endeavor.

Kallen: While I’m not nearly as big of a Blank Dogs super-fan as my cohort Paul is, sure I enjoyed On Two Sides a hell of a lot. I really likes the more guitar, less synths approach he took with this one. Here’s to hoping his In The Red debut is as good as this.

5. Thomas Function – Celebration (Alive)

thomasfunctionlp


Kallen: I’m actually in the video above, very briefly. Guess which member of the audience I am and win the prize of the warm fuzzy feeling I’ll send out to you for knowing that a complete stranger (most likely) took the time out to try to spot me in a 3-minute YouTube video.

Qmass: “A Long Walk” is as unrelenting as “Can’t Say No” is catchy. A shame you would never hear songs this good on the radio – they should sell “Can’t Say No” to Miley Cirus or the Jonas Bros. Like everything in this top 5 so far, this album got a great deal of play from me.

6. Wax Museums – S/T (Douchemaster)
waxreadyfront

Qmass: HEY! I GOT LOCKED IN THE MALL! Wax Museums finally release their debut, and it does not disappoint – so many instant classics. Looking forward to the Fan Club Florida’s Dying is doing next year.

Kallen:  I bought this on a whim and at first, like a few other records on this list, I wasn’t so hot on it but I soon realized the key to enjoying the Wax Museums’ S/T is to really put yourself in the mindset of a 10 year-old. If that is too much of a stretch for you, get drunk and then listen to this. Same effect. Simply put, this is the most juvenile record I’ve heard in 2008. God, I still don’t know if “Cowboys & Indians” is offensive as hell or just plain hilarious.

7. Vivian Girls –  S/T (In the Red/Mauled By Tigers)
vivian

Qmass: There were a few bands working with similar material as the Vivian Girls (such as Crystal Stilts, some of the Sic Alps material on this years Stltbreeze release), though none were as successfull. The songs on this album are short and sweet, well worth any percieved hype (though next time you find yourself ranting about how “big” Vivian Girls are, ask your Mom or your little sister who they are).

Kallen: Man, the backlash sure came quick with these gals, didn’t it? Fuck ’em, their band will never write a song that’s as powerful of a mission statement as “Tell The World”.

8. Cheap Time – S/T (In the Red)

cheap-time

Kallen: And to think, I didn’t like this record so much the first time I heard it (I think it was the vocals or something)! I thank my agnostic god every day that they clicked just in time for me to witness them live at Gonerfest. Anyway, I listen to this record once or twice a week now. Their cover of The End’s “People Talk” is another one of my favorite songs of the year. Has anyone else noticed how bitter the lyrics are? Dude is pissed off.

Qmass: Yes! “People Talk” is so good. So good. Every time I listen to this record, I have a new favourite song, which says something. Like Kallen, this one is a grower, not a show-er.

9. Wavves – S/T (Woodsist)

wavveslpsmall

Kallen: Assuming the rumors are true, congratulations for signing to Sub Pop! May you get even a tenth of the expanded budget that Fleet Foxes undoubtedly has now!

Qmass: A late year addition! For being a debut album for a solo album, this album has a tonne of ideas, hooks, melodies. Lo-fi, but sounds are fairly varried. The song “Wavves” (by Wavves, on the album Wavves) is impossibly good.

10. TV Ghost – S/T (Die Stasi)

tvghost

Kallen: Call it no-wave, noise-rock, post-punk. Whatever. I couldn’t care less. This is unsettling music for unsettling times and shit, it’s fronted by a dead-ringer for Ian Svenonius as well!

7″

1. Hunx and His Punx – You Don’t Like Rock and Roll 7″ (Rob’s House)

hunx

Qmass: The catchiest gay pop songs you will hear this year. I love everything about this record – the sleeve, the songs, the video, Nobunny’s riffs.

Kallen: Gets #1 for the packaging alone (scratch-and-win style covering of his dong) and hey, the music is pretty fantastic as well. As catchy (and gay) as anything you’ve heard this year and Nobunny proves he has the magic touch with his guitar stylings. Did I mention the handclaps, oh the handclaps!!! I still can’t believe this guy is/was a member of Gravy Train. I mean, yeah, I actually can but they were never this good.

2. The Wicked Awesomes – Information Entropy 7″ (Almost Ready)

wicked

Qmass: The video is from the tour my band went on with The Wicked Awesomes in support of this 7″, so needless to say I have some bias here. I can honestly say that The Wicked Awesomes have songs that will stick in your brain for weeks and weeks, and no matter how many times I have seen them, I cannot get sick of them. Friend rock!

Kallen: Undoubtedly for me, the best band going in Alberta right now. They take some left-of-the-beaten-path influences and turn it all into something that’s oddly enough, very singular. “Wizard Ship Star Destroyer” makes me feel like I’m at the best bar mitzvah ever… and with that one, I’ll quit while I’m behind.

3. Catatonic Youth – Piss Scene 7″ (Hozac)

catatonic

Qmass: You must have a sense of how stoked I am on the Hozac label, right? They realeased a heafty stack of 7″s this year, and the only one I don’t like is the Subtle Turnhips one. The Catatonic Youth “Piss Scene” EP from this summer is my favourite Hozac release of the year – the songs are great (its a shame that only 500 copies of this exist – more people need to hear this, though the same could be said with much on this list), and the packaging is top notch.

4. Dead Luke – Box Set (Sacred Bones)

dead-luke-box

Kallen: You listened to “Jumping Jack Flash Drive”, right?

Qmass: Kallen likes Record 2, I like Record 1 (“I Want You” kills).

5. Eric & The Happy Thoughts – Never Gonna Do It (Bubbledumb)

eric-and-the-happy

Kallen: Eric and the Happy Thoughts have this classic sound that I bet parents and children could really bond to while listening. I wouldn’t know for sure though because my father doesn’t listen to music and my mother only listens to classical exclusively. Anyway, this Romance Novels spin-off reminds me of a band I’d have formed in junior/senior high school but the difference between us and EATHT is that while they’re making AM-friendly pop hits effortlessly and perfectly, we’re selling our souls at menial day jobs.

5. The Barbaras – Summertime Road (Goner)

barbaras

Kallen: These days, I enjoy Jay Reatard’s backing band (read: the Barbaras) a lot more than Reatard himself. I’m sure I violated some code saying that but I really can’t get enough of these guys. They’re not the first to combine pop and Memphis soul (e.g. doo-wop) but they combine it with a quick-fire energy that I’ve never heard. Also, I probably had the most fun at Gonerfest watching them. I think I said on Twitter at the time (yeah yeah) that they’re a “pure musical distillation of fun and joy”. I still stand by that 100%.

6. Eat Skull – Dead Families (Skulltones)

deadfamilies

Qmass: I’ve come back to this a great deal over the year – and for this list it came down to this vs. Meth Teeth’s “Bus Rides” 7″, which lives in the same grungy basement, with the same Fisher Price cassette deck/recording studio. The 7″ works better for me than their LP, which is good, but hard to get through. Maybe if the LP had these songs? “Dead Familes” rulz, “No Intelligence” rulz.

7. The Ostrich – Mt Fuji in Red 7″ (Self Released)

ostrich1

Qmass: The Ostrich were in my top 10 last year, and here they are again. If they were from Memphis or Brooklyn, they would be on everyones year end lists (though I guess that isn’t totally fair – Calgary’s Women have been doing great business this year).  When I randomly bought the first 7″ and fell in love, I said that they were a fitting soundtrack to Calgary’s progress-gone-haywire, and I still think it is true for this release, though they capture the claustrophobia and menace a lot better on this one. Sad to see them break up. I have great hopes for Chris Zaijko (Ostrich’s wild man vocalist) and Mike Bressanutti (Ostrich’s drummer) and their new band Sharp Ends, who are working in the same vein as The Ostrich. The Sharp Ends debut show in November was my favourite show of the year. Go Calgary!

Kallen: A more than worthy exit to one of the best bands Calgary has ever shat out.

8. The Dutchess and the Duke – Never Had a Chance 7″ (Hozac)

hozacdd

Qmass: B-Side “Scorpio” is one of my favourite songs this year

9. Blank Dogs – Setting Fire To Your House 7″ (4:2:2)

blankdogssetting

Qmass: Yes! More Blank Dogs awesome-ness. His best 7″ until the next one comes out.

10. Sex/Vid – Nests (Dom America)

sexvidnests

Kallen: If you made me choose between Tania and Nests, I’d kill you. Actually, I’d let Sex/Vid’s music do it for me. This stuff’ll suffocate you. Now that Fucked Up has chosen to be… something else, Sex/Vid is my pick for best hardcore band going right now. I could be wrong though, hardcore is one of the last genres I’d claim to be anything of an expert on.

The Laureates – S/T 7″

The Laureates

a1: I Want to Miss You
a2: Witching Boots
b1: Hello, Hello
b2: The Warm Son

Label: Funambulist Recording Company
Buy: From the Band
Listen: Mp3’s from the single

Weird how I listened to this, and was going to write a review that said (among other things) “Interpol produced by Phil Spector.” Then, doing some background research into the band, I discover that Seven Inches (Everyday) said essentially the exact same thing.

The Laureates remind me when Uncle Bob took GBV down the hi-fi route, having pulled everything he could out of his basement recordings. As you may recall, many GBV loyalists rebelled against the slickness; if you go back to “Do the Collapse” eight years later, the songs hold up (though, what you need from that era is the Hold on Hope ep, which is the best hi-fi thing Bob ever released).

That is to say, this single is about the songs, the hooks and the production. For a band of this genre, this sounds slick as snails, and these guys fall all over themselves to pile hook after hook into every song.

The Electric Bunnies – singles

Eskimo 7″
a1: Eskimo
a2: Eat Worms
b: Counting Sheep
electric Bunnies Eskimo

Chewing Gum 7″
a1: Chewing Gum
a2: Love Radiation
b1: Super Flourexcent Hippo Flashback
b2: The Stranger
Electric Bunnies

Buy: Florida’s Dying
Listen: Myspace

Both of these singles have been entrenched on my stereo more or less all afternoon. I kind of think I am in love with this band, but you know how I worry about saying those things after one date. Yet, whenever “Chewing Gums” comes on, I get that “tingly” feeling. Sometimes you just know, ok?

Anyone reading this blog knows that my weak spot is describing music. I don’t think I am the only one with that problem, so I don’t feel too badly about it. I am good at saying shit like “my new obsession” and “favourite singles I have heard since ____.” All warranted here. Every song on these two singles are fucking essential, and Electric Bunnies are exactly the kind of band I can get behind – experimental, lo-fi with keeping one foot planted firmly into pop music. Makes a strange beast at times (“The Stranger” which you need to hear), but also makes it all come together in really exciting ways. Add the Electric Bunnies to my “buy everything from” list.

The World’s Lousy With Ideas Volume 3 7″

a1: The Suspicions – Baby Talk (Listen)
a2: Wax Museums – Disco Ball (Listen)
b1: Romance Novels – It’s All Lies (Listen)
b2: No Bunny – Hippy Witch (Listen)

Label: Almost Ready Records
Buy: Bistro Distro
World’s Lousy With Ideas Volume 3

This is the third volume in Almost Ready’s “The World’s Lousy With Ideas” series of 7″ comps. To note: volume 3 came out a few months before volume 2 (which was released simultaneously with volume 4: confused yet?), and is already sold out (possibly out of print?). Again, act quickly before they are gone (still listed at the awesome Bistro Distro though, but I couldn’t see it anywhere else).

This series is really fantastic thus far, and is the perfect document of what is happening in the underground music scene right now. I may have said that in my Vol 1 review from Monday, but I am too lazy to check.

The Suspicions  start this off with a song called “Baby Talk,” which on my first few spins didn’t do much for me (specifically the background vocals at the chorus). Yet, the whole thing just ends up being so irresistible that I feel like I’ve settled my problems with it. I like this enough to look into the back-catalog.  Catchy as fuck.

Wax Museums offer “Disco Ball,” and compared to the other Wax Museums stuff I have, this is a relatively weak effort. Mostly the chorus again, which attempts to be catchy but walks the line a little too closely on the “annoying” side of the fence. Love this band, but not this song.

Next is Romance Novels with “It’s All Lies,” who steal the chord progression from “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and try to disguise it in the lo-fi recording quality. Yet, however obvious it is, this song ends up catching fire, and the “It’s all lies” refrain is particularly delightful. My favourite song of the album.

Finally, Nobunny do “Hippy Witch,” which lasts for a minute (and because of the lock groove, will keep going until you turn off the record player “a witch /a witch /a witch /a witch”). This song is rad, especially the seconds long freakout near the end.

TV Ghost – Atomic Rain 7″ (reissue)

a: Atomic Rain
b: Bird Flu
Listen at Myspace
Purchase (soon) from Die Stassi

TV Ghost Atomic Rain 7″

Here is another increasingly popular 7″ that sold out shortly after its release, making it very hard to come by, save for eBay (which I have been unsuccessfully bidding on and losing time and time again – I am tired of these auctions going $30+ for singles that aren’t even a year old). Making things worse, I got a copy of the 12″ that Die Stassi released last month, and now I am even more excited about this band. When this one is reissued next week, don’t sleep on it. Also, make sure you pick up the (limited) LP from Die Stassi while you are at it,as it comes with my highest recommendation.

I am running out of ways to talk about bands like TV Ghost. Music like this this does a really good job of avoiding easy comparison (forcing people to come up with long lists of “Sounds like” and “possibly influenced by”). With TV Ghost, this is an even bigger problem, with the whole thing being rooted in sounding like a million different things at once. I can’t remember where I read it now, but someone mentioned bands like TV Ghost being the first generation of music lovers with unlimited access to music via things like SoulSeek and Torrent sites, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with that. More than that, the songs are great – mostly skewing to the weird and outsider-y type songs. I am really excited to hear more from this group.

Nothing People – Army of Ideal b/w What A Waste 7″

a: Army of Ideal
b: What a Waste
Listen at Myspace
Purchase from BistroDistro
Nothing People - Army of Ideal b/w What A Waste 7″

This came out late last year on the increasingly popular/collectible Hozac Records, and has been on my heavy rotation pile since I got it. Part of the new outsider punk scene that is happening right now (Blank Dogs, Daily Void et al.), Nothing People are at the forefront. Yet, unlike some bands in this genre, Nothing People are unique while retaining a highly listenable sound at the same time. Especially “Army of Ideal,” which is my favorite Nothing People song, driven by a no-wave/post punk  guitar hook.  Check it out. r