Garage rock has always been a staple in popular and alternative music, whether it be the initial boom in the 60’s, the revival of the late 80’s, or even the recent resurgence in which critically acclaimed bands such as The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Hives and many more have managed to bring garage-inspired rock and roll back into the mainstream. It’s hard to have a conversation about music and not have someone mention the importance of the genre, or the influence of bands like The 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, or even The Stooges. 2013 was an exceptionally good year for music, and was equally great for the world of psychedelic-tinged garage-rock. We saw young bands breaking out of their shell as well as seasoned veterans exploring new sounds, all of which are propelling this immortal genre forward. So here you are, in no particular order, a list of some of the greatest, grooviest, and loudest garage-rock records to come out this year.
Cosmonauts – If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die (Burger Records)
One of the most exciting and interesting bands to come out of the Burger records-sphere, the Cosmonauts have managed to take the garage-rock world by storm thanks to their explosive breed of self-coined “drug punk”. With their use of heavy, loud, droning guitars and deep fuzz tones, this record is a grab bag of great songs, ranging from crazed fuzz filled opener “Motorcycle One”, to the new-wave channeling “California Dreaming”, to the Nuggets-inspired closer “Emerald Green”. All the tracks on here are explosive and sure to get you hooked.
Dead Ghosts – Can’t Get No (Burger Records)
With an album title that is clearly a nod to the Rolling Stones, right off the bat it’s easy to spot that local Vancouver band Dead Ghosts are fascinated by the 60’s. This obsession continues on throughout the record which features 12 stoned, sun-soaked, reverb-filled jams inspired not only by such bands that were featured on the *Nuggets compilation, but that also feature a prominent country vibe. The songs on here are rather straight-forward and immediate, with infectious melodies and hooks that are sure to stay clogged in your head for days. The mixture of springy and chunky guitars, loud vocals, and youthful energy are only some of the elements that make this record such a joy to listen too from beginning to end.
Night Beats – Sonic Bloom (The Reverb Appreciation Society)
After releasing a stellar album in 2011 via the Austin Psych Fests label, Seattle based Night Beats have done nothing but mprove the sound they nearly perfected on that album. The debut self titled album was a pretty straight forward psychedelic affair, heavily inspired by Nuggets-era bands such as The Seeds, and The 13th Floor Elevators and opting for a catchier straight forward sound rather than one dominated by acid-induced freakouts. Sonic Bloom, the band’s second release, is simply a product of the Night Beats building on that sound. Featuring a much wider palette of tracks that veer into spacier and dronier territory, the melodies still strike you with as much immediacy as on the debut. Sonic Bloom is the sound of a young band maturing and exploring new grounds. It’s exciting to wonder where they’ll venture too next.
Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin (Castle Face)
Thee Oh Sees are a rare case in the music industry these days. They’re a band capable of releasing consistently good albums year in and year out. In fact, having had their current lineup since 2008, they’ve managed to release a stellar album every year, and this isn’t counting the numerous singles, EP’s, and live albums they’ve mustered out throughout the years. 2013 was no exception, with them releasing not only an excellent LP, but a singles collection and an EP as well. The LP they released this year, Floating Coffin, is unlike anything they’d released previously. Of course it features everything you would expect from a Thee Oh Sees record; yelpy vocals, heavy guitars, and jarring drums. But something about this record feels so much slicker and simpler than anything in their discography. Almost normal in comparison to the weirdness of all of their previous work, it’s the slight sonic changes like this that have helped keep this band so interesting through the years.
The word productive is an understatement when referring to Ty Segall. After an extremely busy 2012, releasing three albums with 3 different projects and touring constantly, he follows up in 2013 with a year almost as busy. However, this year he changes it up a bit, releasing 2 records that move farther and farther away from the bubblegum flavoured garage-punk sound he so dearly embraced in his previous endeavours.
Ty Segall – Sleeper (Drag City)
The first of these is Sleeper, a record he recorded following the tragic loss of his father after a lengthy battle with cancer, and arguments with his mother that left them on not-speaking terms. It’s clear listening to Sleeper that Segall was in a rough place emotionally- his lyrics throughout this record are undoubtedly some of his most emotionally charged and intimate to date, and the melodies have an equally heavy emotional burden. However, the thing that sets this album apart from the rest of his discography is not the emotion behind the record, but Sleeper’s complete change of style. In fact, for Sleeper Segall completely ditches the fuzz, reverb and feedback laced guitars of his previous releases, he instead grabs an acoustic guitar, and records his smoothest, most down to earth, and cleanest album to date. It almost makes Goodbye Bread, his mellowest most mature record sound like the incredibly loud and enervated Twins. Recorded (almost) completely on acoustic guitar – distorted guitars come into play only once on the fourth track (“The Man Man”) – minimal use of percussion, and some slight studio effects, this album sounds as if you were to take the smoothness of Marc Bolan era T.Rex and blend it with the psychedelia of early early Pink Floyd, then strip it down to it’s bare bones.
Fuzz – Fuzz (In The Red)
If Sleeper wasn’t enough Segall for you to digest this year, luckily for you he also released Fuzz, the debut album from his new proto-metal power trio of the same name. After releasing an excellent 7” anonymously through Chicago-based label Trouble in Mind in early 2013, fans almost immediately caught on to the fact that Ty Segall was the mastermind behind Fuzz. Segall’s distinctive voice and the Sabbath-esque riffs sounded a lot like something off of his 2012 release with the Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse. The 2 songs on this 7” – “This Time I got a Reason” and “Fuzz’s Fourth Dream” – were everything you’d expect from a project like this; the songs were noisy, abrasive, straight to the point, but most of all, were extremely heavy. When the full lenght finally dropped in early october, it did not disappoint. Filled with just over 36 minutes of loud, abrasive riffs, courtesy of guitarist Charlie Moothart, Ty Segall pounding the drums like a lazy John Bonham in a sloppy-but measured manner, and driving bass lines that channel Geezer Butler, this record manages to find the perfect middle ground between heavy riff-based doom metal and head-spinning psych rock.
*Compiled by journalist, record producer and guitarist from The Patti Smith Group Lenny Kaye, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era is a groundbreaking compilation comprised of a wide collection of early american garage rock singles from the mid to late 60’s. This compilation influenced entire generations of kids to pick up instruments and start their own rock and roll bands.