This is the last monthly Five Favorites for the year! Come December, we will have compiled all of our favorites from this last year to make our big “TOP 5s” for the year. All of us at Stinkweeds will contribute to this list, as well as some of our favorite customers. Most likely, a lot of those favorites from previous blog posts will end up on that end of year list. So that sort of puts a little pressure on these final five. My brain is already in Top 5 mode, so I’m seeking out only the best in music. So as you consider your favorites for the year, maybe consider some last minute selections. I know there’s not enough time to really absorb a whole album, but that’s all part of the experience, too. There’s a lot to be said for albums that have the potential to be your favorites.
Stephen Steinbrink – Utopia TEASED [Western Vinyl]
Stephen is a bit of a Phoenix legend. He cut his teeth on the local DIY scene, playing shows at Trunk Space, Modified and countless house shows. The buzz back then was that if anyone were to break out of any “local” scene, it was going to be Stephen. His songwriter was painfully sincere; his voice was delicate and vulnerable; his musicianship was better than most local musicians trying to play in the big leagues. But, under all of this ability and talent was a reserved nature that only let the important stuff shine through. When he left town, we had high hopes. Those hopes were satiated with word that he was working at K Records in the beautiful pacific Northwest. It all seemed so perfect for him. But always the traveler, he kept moving around, eventually ending up in Oakland, California. This is where we find him today, upon the release of Utopia TEASED. So much of what we remember of Stephen is still very much there. But, he has found new voices and comfort in his abilities. Utopia TEASED is a beautifully crafted album with dark moments offset by lush, beachy psychedelic arrangements as well as some of that crafty guitar playing.
I’m not one for nostalgia. I’m typically not interested in talking about the past with friends. So, listening to Utopia TEASED I feel that sense of relief you find when you run into an old friend and they just want to talk about what they’re doing now. And, you can be happy for who they are and less concerned with who they were.
Parcels – S/T [Kitsune]
You can all relax! We’ve found the new Daft Punk! Berlin based Parcels plays that lighter than air, hip shaking, groove music that’s perfect for parties that won’t piss off the downstairs neighbors. This is dance music for people wearing sock with no shoes. It has those catchy hooks and breathy vocals made popular by bands like Air or the aforementioned Daft Punk. This comparison may be welcomed by the band, considering that this album was the result of Daft Punk inviting them to L.A. to record. So, I will just resort to the most effective form of music marketing. RIYL Daft Punk, bands that Daft Punk likes, bands that Daft Punk worked on albums with.
Laura Gibson – Goners [Barsuk]
Laura Gibson has been at it since 2006 and has yet to make a bad album. Her songs are those rare kinds that are simple and palatable, yet have such an attention to detail that makes them seem like they are too smart to be enjoyed so much. Even her voice, with its biting clarity and precise intonation, sounds like it came right out of the hall so Julliard, but they would never allow so much grit. Especially on this, her 6th album. Gibson seems to be reaching for a more emotionally dynamic place than previous albums. This isn’t to say that emotion was absent from her previous efforts. It just wasn’t so much at that forefront. This is welcomed adjustment.
JR. Thomas & the Volcanos – Rockstone [Colemine]
Colemine records does it again! Like their comparable cousins, Daptone or Dunham Records, Colemine plays all those little tricks that make you think you’re listening to some great, lost album from decades ago. Jr. Thomas & the Volcanos is another, in what I hope is a resurgence of 60s Jamaican rocksteady/ska music. Daptone’s thrilled us with the Frightnrs’ 2016 album, Nothing More to Say, only to lose their lead singer Dan Klein to A.L.S. Jr. Thomas & the Volcanos gives us hope that others will carry the torch for this music, often overshadowed by its later incarnations of 70s reggae. The Volcanos nail that classic sound, with those muted, melodic base lines, rolling, tightly tuned drum fills, simple, repeating keyboard licks, and of course that repeating guitar rhythm that gave “Ska” it’s name. Perhaps it’s cliche to suggest, but could we be on the edge of a fourth wave?! The second and third waves of Ska took a lot of liberties with the genre. Perhaps we are due to pay tribute to the original. If so, groups like Jr. Thomas & the Volcano can lead way.
Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace [Joyful Noise]
You would think with a name like Tropical Fuck Storm, I wouldn’t get it wrong as often as I do. “Total Fucking Shitstorm,” “Fucking Tropical Storm,” “Fuckical Trop Storm.” But perhaps this is exactly what is intended with the chaos of such a name. Tropical Fuck Storm isn’t something you say after thinking long and hard about what you’re about to say. You say this when words fail to capture the emotion of what you are experiencing. You have to create a new language to get your point across. And, boy isn’t this relatable in the here and now?! TFS fits in with other contemporaries like Parquet Courts, Protomartyr, Idles and all the other angsty bands that have replaced loudness with dissonance. The rhythms are slower, the lyrics are clearer and the music is weird as shit. The new rebellion is more thoughtful than it is verbose. This is the thinking man’s punk rock. It’s not enough to just say the words “Tropical Fuck Storm.” You have to give those words meaning.