RSTB Most Overlooked

RSTB-10yrOverlooked

So, here it is. Raven has turned 10, which means that I’ve been doing this for a friggin’ decade at this point and I have to say, it hasn’t been a bad ride. With the site’s turn into the double digits it seemed time for a new coat of paint, which you may notice in the form of our new design and move to the proper .com address.

I spent quite a bit of time pouring over the site’s past in the last few months leading up to this relaunch and while I will work to get some larger features going this year, I’m not going to make lists a regular part of the site, outside of the mid-year and year-end wrap ups. I’ve never been a fan of running down rut-worn lists of records based on a loosely tied theme. But…nostalgia begged a bit and I came across several posts on records I thought just never got a fair shake. Its not a list of my best of the last ten years, those you can probably put together yourself from year end lists, rather these are some great records that just never seemed to garner enough yelling about them.

However, rest assured that despite a new look, the ethos of RSTB will remain largely the same. I’ll still focus on reviews that don’t get too gabby, some videos and now a short bit on tracks that are exciting from releases to come. There will still be a focus on the physical formats and prods to buy them, because paying artists for music you can hold in your hands will always be a good idea. So, without further adieu… the list.


Skygreen Leopards – Disciples of California

There are a couple of bands that are so wholly representative of Raven that its hard to imagine their absence from the site’s bones. Skygreen Leopards is one of those bands. Glenn’s Jewelled Antler releases gave plenty of inspiration to us for the direction of coverage from the start and I think that almost every band he and Donovan have been a part of has appeared on the site. That said, this record, poised at the time to be one of their jumps to a bigger audience with the addition of a full backing band, didn’t exactly bowl over the general populace. Always more of a critic’s secret, there were a fair share of good reviews spread around, but this should have topped year end lists far and wide. There’s hardly another record that so encapsulates the sunny optimism and heat warbled delivery of the early aughts’ psych-folk love affair than Disciples of California.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.


 


Flying Canyon – Flying Canyon

Probably even more shamefully overlooked than that Skygreen classic itself is the record that the Leopards’ Glenn and Shayde did the same year with Cayce Lindner under the name Flying Canyon. Aptly described by the label as sounding something like The Eagles on Robitussin, the record is a stunning study in outsider depression, punctuated only more devastatingly by Cayce’s suicide shortly after the album’s release. What he left behind is a bare soul recorded to tape, pocked, hiss and all, with the kind of songs that come out of the raw nerve of life. The record is beautiful in its simple construction, recorded to reel-to-reel in Glenn’s apartment with he and Sartin as the backing band. Its the kind of record should inspire collector’s for years to come.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.


 


Giantess – Giantess

Giantess is the work of Stephen Wood, who formerly operated the band under the name The Battles, before another band came along and swept that moniker right out from under him. This Battles is far less chaotically mathematic. Instead, Wood finds a way to wrap the power pop principle into a tight psychedelic glam glow that always feels just a little bit off, as if the whole album was viewed through warped plastic. Its another notch in Soft Abuse’s stellar aughts catalog and one of those albums I constantly rediscover in my collection. An absolute dream to get this one on LP, its hard enough to spy a CD copy these days but in a perfect world it would be an indie pop classic embarking on a 10 year anniversary of its own next year.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.


 


Little Claw – Spit and Squalor Swallow The Snow

Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace brought all manner of noise-pop nuggets to a world unready to deal with the fallout, but one of the best gems ever uncovered in their catalog was the sophomore LP from Detroit’s Little Claw. The record rolls from dirge dark tar pits to explosive punk shrapnel, all recorded in the living room of Outrageous Cherry’s Matt Smith. The record garnered a handful of positive press but like most of the Peacniks outside of Magik Markers, they faded soon from public consciousness, even with a solid follow-up on Not Not Fun. For those who appreciate acolytes of the Youth, this is one of those must-have pieces of the puzzle.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.


 


Pop Levi – The Return to Form Black Magick Party

This one kicked up a bit of critical dust from NME and Pitchfork at the time but you’d probably be hard pressed to find a few friends with this solo debut from the former Ladytron bassist kicking it in their collections. The record is filled to bursting with a love for glammed Bolan moves, but it wields that style with the kind of confidence and cunning that most others tend to fumble handily. I remember being particularly excited for this debut after the release of a couple of preceding 10″s, including the stomping “Blue Honey.” Levi has slipped from most memories by now, an act that his lackluster couple of follow-ups helped assure, but at the time and in retrospect this is still a mile high of fun squeezed into a package that can barely hope to contain it.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Thomas Function – Celebration

Celebration and Giantess could practically be cousins. Both are cut from the same cloth of power pop blown through with a psychedelic punk flavor and both are dug through with earworms that never let you rest. This is one of those records that turned a modest blog bubble into a Fat Possum deal that didn’t pan out on the follow-up. Its a record full of ragged glory and nonstop energy derived from Buzzcocks hangovers and Violent Femmes binges. For the most part the reviews on Celebration are still scant, though invariably positive where you find them. This one came stomping out of the Alive! catalog and its a good stepchild to their garage lineage. Still stands tall today and “Snake in the Grass” is probably one of the hardest charging songs of the past ten years. Still a stunner.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Dylan Shearer – Planted/Plans

Shearer was never really made for these times. His first album, Planted/Plans laid the template for his follow-ups, loping folk songs that smear a veneer of sadness on the windows and draw the blinds on what seem to be permanently rainy days. Built off of a mixture of Syd Barrett, Roy Harper and Van Dyke Parks, the album is perfectly executed exercise in home recording as comfort food. This one’s so sadly under-loved by the general populace that even though only two runs of 100 each were ever made, it appears you can still pick up a new copy. You should pick up a copy.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Shogun Kunitoki – Vinonaamakasio

Same old story, because Finnish psychedelic organ records just never get enough love do they? Well this one didn’t anyway. The sophomore LP from this Fonal band expanded on the swirling kaleidoscope they set spinning on their first and its a barrage of sound from start to finish. Red-lined organs run through a fuzz gauntlet are the band’s paintbrush and they know how to wield it well. What’s even better than the auditory assault that the band provides is that the vinyl version of this LP is a picture disc featuring a 16 frame animation loop that moves to the music and can be seen with a strobe light provided and built by the band themselves. This was a full package when it came out and it remains an exciting record and visual experience to this day.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Nice Face – Immer Etwas

The lo-fi barrage was in full swing at the time that Immer Etwas came out but few utilized the trend to push punk to such a snarling, corroded, evil and paranoid vision as Nice Face does on his Sacred Bones debut. The album is chewed glass and torn sinew, dragged through a dystopian filter and shot out of a duct taped boombox on the hunt. Aside from perhaps Pop. 1280 I can’t think of another band that will be more fitting to soundtrack the slide out of the apocalypse than Nice Face. Generally derided by the few that wrote this off as an heir to Blank Dogs and Jay Reatard, this one stands on its own as a fuzz gargling gem in the later part of the aughts. Maybe with a little distance from the suffocating crush of lo-fi, this can stand on its own legs as a harbinger of doom that still draws blood.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Mickey – Rock ‘N Roll Dreamer

This is another gem that probably got written off for being derivative (which, sure it is) but its also one of the most fun glam punk records of the last few years. I actually had a hard time choosing between this and Giuda’s Racey Roller, but that one’s a little too devoted to the straight glam formula, though still a fun ride all the same. I always thought that the cover of this record was its ultimate downfall. Their 7″ and 12″s leading up to the release of Rock ‘n Roll Dreamer had these great pictures of roses that were a better fit for the classic sound than the schlocky comic art here, but inside the sleeve the band knows that sometimes you need big dumb riffs and a truckload of swagger, even if you’re not cool. And trust me, they aren’t cool. This one got chewed up by too many lo-fi punk records flanking its release but now’s a clear headed time to pick up a copy and just dance away to some silly punk songs. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Christmas – Christmas

Infuriating search-ability aside, this Olympia, WA crew never got the admiration they were due for their sole album co-released on CMRTYZ Records and Highfives And Handshakes. The preceding 7″s got a low level buzz going but it proved to be pretty difficult to actually grab a copy of the LP once the time came. I think I actually lucked onto it in a used bin a year or two after its release. Despite those issues, the band put together a pretty good bit of yelp-ridden post-punk shake ‘n shimmy and in the age of Bandcamp it proves to be much easier to find them. Seems like they might fit in better five years on anyhow, when raw post-punk is rearing its head again and the kids are primed to dance to the angular gyrations of Christmas.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



The Cairo Gang – The Corner Man

Emmet Kelly often gets more accolades for collaborating with others (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Angel Olson, Ty Segall) than for his own records. While he’s enjoying a bit more open praise in the wake of his last album and as part of Ty’s Muggers, when this gem snuck out six years after its predecessor it was to hardly enough cheers. The album captures the kind of closed room confessional quality that his collaborator Oldham knows how to capture and its easy to see why the two get on so well. The Corner Man is all empty spaces, using silence as a weapon, and it feels like a sin to talk while its playing. It just kind of brings with it an aura of reverence. Still, it seems like the following EP got more people talking and often throwing sideways glances at the LP in reviews that hardly let this fly off shelves. In hindsight they should be adding this to their collection.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Milk Teddy – Zingers

Milk Teddy have a bit of following on their own turf, but Stateside, this one was completely lost and worse, hard to find. Its a damn shame though because the band come off as a mash of The Clean and The Go-Betweens with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at the mic. Chiming guitars poke their heads in and out of the massive amount of haze that the band kicks up around their woeful takes on suburban plight and youthful malaise. The album’s just right for bittersweet feelings and lazy afternoons but it came and went on release over here with very few peeps of praise. Maybe do yourself a favor and look into this one. Its still a pricey import, but digital works too.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



XYX – Teatro Negro

XYX never had a chance with this album, mostly because by the time it was released they were no longer a band. Monofonus Press got in contact with the band on the strength of their singles, which had captivated RSTB as well at the time, and found out they had an album’s worth of material left behind. The album is Spanish sung punk that feels as if it might explode at any point. The energy on display in Teatro Negro will probably make your stereo sweat and the Monterrey band probably wouldn’t have it any other way. This is another case where it saddens me to see that an album, released in a 300 run is still available almost four years later. I guess that’s all the better for you, because now you can pick it up and crank it wide.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Fielded – Ninety Thirty Thirty

This record stymied me with its inability to catch hold. I’d been a fan of Lindsay Powell’s previous record and this one strayed much further into palatable pop, but with a weird core that seemed like it might snag a Grimes fan or two. The pop pounders are heavy here and Powell’s voice keeps things grounded even when the rest of the record takes a tumble or two through the retro-futurist forest. Maybe Captcha just didn’t have the reach, maybe there were too many other records hitting the desks, but whatever it was that kept this record down its a damn shame. Still, listening through it now its a fun ride that not enough people paid admission to.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.



Terror of the Deep – Permanent Weekend

Terror of the Deep will forever remain my personal mystery in the fact that they just never seem to win an audience. Sure their releases are relegated to tapes and digital corners and sure their New Zealand home keeps them from ever really hitting these shores, but the records are always so good. Out of all the albums, this one stands out as their top and its a dark-cornered jangle-pop record that has atmosphere to spare and subtle hooks that keep you coming back for more. Still it remains that the band are criminally underrated and will probably remain so. Tape’s still in print and that disheartens me, but again, that means you can still own this.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE (tape) or HERE (Digital).



Wireheads – The Late Great Wireheads

Another release that’s hampered by distance and distribution but at least the late great Easter Bilby kept it available here for a while. Its a toss up over which of Wireheads releases is a greater slept on release. This one has a more palpable anger running underneath it and that might be what edges it out. The follow-up has Calvin Johnston at the helm and how the hell did that not hook a few people in? As far as acerbic noise punk goes The Late Great Wireheads is one of the most visceral to come out in the last few years and there are even a few hooks lodged in there under the swirl of feedback and flute. They’re pretty barbed, but hooks nonetheless.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.


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