This feels like a good year for garage! The stalwarts mostly didn’t disappoint (Emotional Mugger is just ok), there’s some fresh blood in the mix, and definitely some moves towards the types of sound that I think complement modern garage really well. More than the other lists I feel like this one is just for me, but take a gander, will ya.
10> Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands
The lone band camp find on the list this year is from a Gainesville Florida group who has been around for a few years. They’re bringing the kind of energy that Ty had back around Melted and they’re writing ridiculously catchy songs. The one-two punch of “Daddy Was a Strutter” and “Mickey Mouse” is simply infectious.
9> Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds - La Arana Es La Vida
The only long album on this list is from a garage rock legend whose solo work I’m getting into for the first time. There’s a lot of meandering on this album, which is long for garage standards, but there’s a ton of good stuff. Kid Congo swaggers like the best of them and mutters like Mark E Smith’s little brother.
8> Night Beats - Who Sold My Generation
The Seeds are alive and well and they call themselves Night Beats and they’re 40 years younger somehow and they’re rocking better than ever. Night Beats really cement themselves as a staple of modern garage with this one, which plays really well at parties and once, memorably, even in the Brattle Theatre! Really solid all the way through.
7> Yak - Alas Salvation
There’s not too much on the garage market from the UK, that doesn’t borrow from the 60s entirely, and where an array of different instruments and styles are explored. But this is very much garage, still! There are so many barn burners here that are cleverly fashioned into an album via interludes and the psych drawl of the closer.
This is the best Ty related album of the year. There are a lot of elements working here to make this good though: Chris Shaw (Ex-Cult) is an amazing vocalist, and he and Charlie Mootheart have a rapport that runs pretty deep at this point. Just like all the Ex-cult releases, this will be on my garage rotation for the foreseeable future.
5> Honey - Love is Hard
More than any other album on this list, and possibly this year, Love is Hard sets a focus, sticks to it, and nails it. Seven song half hour albums will always have a place in my heart, especially when they rock this hard. This sludgy psych garage will definitely satisfy you if you’re able to be satisfied by such things.
4> Acapulco Lips - Acapulco Lips
Hey, here’s a good debut! Riding the heels of fellow Pacific Northwesterners La Luz but cranking up the pop and girl group melodies, this album doesn’t end up sounding like any time in particular. The surf and the vocals hit every mark and the songs are hooky as hell. I hope these guys make a splash soon.
3> Exploded View - Exploded View
The echoes of post-punk forebears are heard very specifically here, and, you know, making something echo something else is a very post-punk thing to do. This is a killer record full of angles, attitude, and dark charm. The final third might be the best run of songs on an album this year.
2> Thee Oh sees - A Weird Exits
You can’t deny John Dwyer and his new band of youngsters that are trying desperately to keep up with him. This sounds like their first release written with the new lineup, which threatens to jam and meander all over the place while still writing some of the best songs that Dwyer’s ever performed. Not quite the hit that last year’s Multilator was, but pretty darn close.
1> Cosmonauts - A-OK!
I was worried when reading the press materials about this one that it was going to be too poppy and that they would sell out as they “turned down the noise.” Well, they sorta turned down the noise (not live, though), and replaced it with really strong melodies and songs in general. Their last couple releases have suggested their position as one of the best bands on the West Coast, but this clinches it.