March 28, 2020

Conan Neutron, Esq.

Rocker, Talker, yeah… we get it.

Top Records of 2019

Helms Alee – Noctiluca

Alternately (and sometimes simultaneously!) heavy as hell and laden with soaring beauty, Helms Alee are the oncoming storm. No band currently working effectively works in such a deft and unique field. That’s because there are none like them. What can I say? This is an essential record and I listen to it regularly. Not many bands can put out their 5th album and having it arguably be their best.
Helms Alee, long may they run.

Hurry Up Shotgun – This Crystal Vessel

Both brooding and soaring, intense but never boring… Oakland’s Hurry Up Shotgun have yet again delivered one of the best records of the year. Not explicitly any one genre, but pairing innovative arrangement and discordance with melody and harmony, HuS continues to took away and make adventuresome and worthy records that most people have never heard. Recommended for fans of the Chavez, The Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Les Savy Fav and the more danger laden QOTSA stuff.

Stunning work!

Djunah – Ex-Voto

I’ve said a lot about Djunah, and I imagine I will in the future. Remarkable band with a unique sound, an iconoclastic presence and a leg for a bass player. Weighty and worthy art worth paying attention to. Dive in and see what they have to offer. RIYL: Brainiac, Marnie Stern, Oxbow, Le Butcherettes, early PJ Harvey… but they really have a voice all their own.

SEMINARS – Iniquity Signals

SEMINARS is a badass band, and everybody oughta know. Still the downstroke kings, but now introducing elements of moodier post-punk and nuanced rhythmic interplay. The songs are great, the sound is top notch, what is not to love? 

B. Hamilton – Nothing and Nowhere

One of the most iconoclastic, yet easy to understand bands I can think of that almost nobody knows. It’s been literal years since B Hamilton’s last record and civilizations have risen and fell since then. 

There’s still a melding of Kevin Shields like guitar atmospherics with Frank Black style noisepop, but the blues is strong with this record. Without ever sounding a bit like Blues Hammer.

B Hamilton can be a hard band to describe, because they are more inventive, interesting and downright enjoyable than most bands that are genre adjacent to them. 

Also, drummer Raj’s work in Once and Future Band and now Black Crowes (!), means that B. Hamilton remains a jewel of a treasure for those that know and a new favorite band for those that don’t.

45 and Straight is a slice of octave laden insistence that ought to be a well known hit, but there isn’t a weak song on the record. 

Sounding both completely of it’s time and timeless at the same time. It’s the: “ok boomer” of rock records, but I mean that as the highest compliment.

Big Business – the Beast You Are

Whoa! Big Business come out ripping with an absolute monster of a record. Heavy use of keyboards and melody paired with assailing rhythms makes this record one of Big Business’s best with a vitality and ear for melody rarely found in “heavy” music.
For a guy that gets REALLY sick of “dudes yelling” over heavy riffs, Big Biz manages to be very tuneful while maintaining both intensity and heavy riffs.

Austerity Program – Bible Songs 1

the Bible, but just the dark and weird stuff. The world of the austerity program has not changed, it’s still bombast, indignance, drum machines and bullet points. In this case Justin and Thad’s focus on “the good book”, allow for some thematic Old Testament style brutality that fits like a dogmatic glove.

J. Robbins – Un-becoming

Utter badassery by J. Robbins of Jawbox, Burning Airlines. etc. mature and vital yet simultaneously wiry and energetic. You get everything you could hope for, erudite and hooky wordplay the jagged and melodic and much more.
Some songs would not be out of place on a new Jawbox record, while others are different thing entirely and would seem at home next to Brian Eno soundscapes and wiry lost post-punk classics.
I really hope this album doesn’t get lost in the mix, because if I didn’t have the slightest idea of who J. Robbins is. i’d love it.

Tropical Fuck Storm – Brain Drops

The inexorable & indefatigable Aussies are back and they mean business. Braindrops is an utterly befuddling and “wrong” sounding record that is oh so “right.”

There isn’t a clear monster single like “tyres” on this one, but the whole thing has a snakey, baked in the sun vibe that works its way into your subconscious.

I’m fully present for TFS brand of non-euclidian geometry rocking.

RIYL: Polvo, Bad Seeds, Dead Rider, Leonard Cohen, the KnifeAt this point: they just sound like themselves.

Drug Apts – Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances

The propulsive and relentless Sacramento rockers come back with their most fully realized and articulated record yet. 

Evoking the creativity and free feelings of the Ex, while sounding very well slotted into the more nuanced side of the noise rock revival. Drug Apts are both immediately familiar, and enjoyably offputting.

Angular guitars, insistent vocals, and a rhythm section that can groove while it grinds. 

Recommended for fans of Unwound, Gang of Four, Wire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Talking Heads and The Ex


Honorable mentions:

Christian Fitness – You Are the Ambulance

The indefatigable and unstoppable Falco strikes again! Staggeringly clever, ceaselessly hooky and required listening for fans of mclusky and future of the left, who are seeking new sounds. Gleefully irreverent music of consequence.

Nervous Curtains – I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It

The Kings of Dallas synth are back at it with a strong offering. There’s more sequencing this time, and the song material veers towards the explicitly political. The record rides an interesting line by being explicitly psych oriented, but lyrically grounded in harsh and brutal reality. Music to canvass to.

CUNTS – CUNTS

A Brutal and confrontational name, but fitting for the name and surprisingly song oriented. Recommended for fans of KARP, and noise rock infused hardcore. The record is deliberate and irreverent, while being deadly serious about what they are doing. Featuring members of Qui, Retox, Dead Cross and hepa.titus. The music of Cunts fills in nicely between noiserock weirdos like the Jesus lizard, the Cows and Butthole Surfers, while not sounding like a worshipful retread of any of those things. This is very smart music in a relatively dumb genre and it’s got a 2×4 on its shoulder, not a chip.

Multicult – Simultaneity Now

Tense. Terse, nervy and insistent. Multicult is a relentless machine of precision and tenacity. There are hooks to glom on to with their proggy sojourns, it never gets indulgent, it just invites you along to the adventure.

Magpies – Terrain

Missoula’s magpies would be indie darlings if they weren’t based in Montana. Strong songs paired with mid-period sonic youth discordance allows for magpies to have free reign in a genre that few others travel in. Moody, and assured. This record has certainly flown under the radars of most. That’s a shame. It’s great.