We are in the midst of an extremely bizarre period in popular and indie music. With the growing importance of the internet on the discovery and distribution of music, the rate at which trends form and fade is greater than it has ever been. Genres are born and die within months, making it much more difficult for a group to stay relevant over a significant amount of time. An exception to this lies, however, in the scope of the psychedelic and garage rock genres, which seldom take center stage but have been omnipresent in the music world since the first psychedelic boom of the ‘60s. Last year was no different: it was filled with fantastic, head spinning, groove induced and (mostly) guitar oriented records that although may not have uncovered any new grounds or topped many charts, have proven to be memorable and important to many. This list recounts the year from a garage rock perspective, highlighting those albums that have impressed us, made us dance, made us cry, and inspired us.
Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt
The binding of catchy pop sensibilities and far out Sgt. Peppers/Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles psychedelic weirdness; Delt has set out to prove to us that even the most incomprehensibly acid-drenched rock music can possess pop sensibility. Tracks like the dreary “Barbarian Kings”, and the winding “Mr. Carbon Copy” are standouts, but the definitive earworm of the bunch has to be the gorgeously crafted pop nugget “Obstacle Eyes”, whose groovy bass driven rhythm, fuzzy guitars, memorable hook and sonic swells come together and make for one of the years’ most abstractedly catchy songs.
White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
Known for his home recorded lo-fi psych pop gems, For the Recently Found Innocent marks Tim Presley’s (Aka. White Fence) first album recorded in an actual studio (in Ty Segall’s garage to be precise). Fortunately for us, this was the only major sonic change, as he kept his imaginative but brief approach to weirdo psychedelic pop intact. The ameliorated production quality was a great benefit to the music itself, making the lyrics much more audible and seemingly unclouding the dense sonic layers which were often muddied and blurred together in White Fence’s previous projects, but like his previous efforts, For the Recently Found Innocent showcases a wide palette of ever shifting hook filled psych-pop such as The Who-esque “Like That”, the piece of country -rock pastiche “Hard Water”, and the Ty Segall (who produced this album) tainted “Paranoid Bait”. Only this time the sound is cleaner.
Hookworms – The Hum
Coming off of an equally unexpected and exceptional debut album, enigmatic Leeds based psych/noise band Hookworms have done little to change their rough public personas, but their music has developed massively upon the foundations of their previous record. Through the use of the dark, ethereal textures reminiscent of early Loop fused with the droney organ tone often associated to groups such as Spacemen 3 or even Wooden Shjips and frontman MJ’s absolutely manic vocals, this sophomore effort widens the scope of their debut effortlessly. The aforementioned sonic properties are tested to their limit, including a Galaxie 500 esque slowcore on the 8 minute epic “Off Screen”, and the rather direct pop music on the manic “Radio Tokyo”. This record shows a wonderful step forward and a reassuring look at things to come for this young and unarguably promising group.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz / Oddments
2014 marked an important year for this Australian septet; not only have they finally ridded themselves of the “joke band” stigma they’ve been plagued with through their career, but thanks to 2 stellar releases, it has also marked a long awaited breakthrough for the band. Sticking mainly to frenzied, driving psychedelic rock, the group’s pulsing rhythms, head spinning fuzztones, and relentless energy were laid bare on I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, a non-stop wrecking ball of an album filled with krautrock inspired beats paired with wailing psychedelic guitars, and all the oddball instrumentation you can ask for. This tour de force was then paired with their wide palette of styles and influences shown on Oddments, a collection of tracks ranging from the fuzzy garage popper “Vegemite”, to the instrumental psychedelic rager “Alluda Majaka” to the smooth Tame Impala-esque “Work This Time”, which shows that this group undoubtedly has much more in their locker than we thought. With the Australian music scene seemingly in the midst of a garage rock boom, it’s to no surprise that psychopathic oddballs like King Gizzard will prove to be much more common.
Ty Segall – Manipulator
No year end recap can ever be complete without the mention of long standing garage rock boy wonder Ty Segall. Having released at least an album a year, not including his various guest appearances or production gigs (he’s featured on 2 other albums in this list), Segall’s constant influx of quality material has helped cement his position as being one of the most prolific musicians of our generation. But his budding virtuosity doesn’t stop there. Not only is his musical discharge seemingly bottomless, but every record he releases seems to bring something new to the table, unleashing a different side of himself year after year while staying true to his San Franciscan garage rock roots.
Upon the release of his latest LP, an ambitious double album opus, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say Segall has reached a new creative peak. It seems as if Segall has looked back on his discography and mixed all of his previous stylings and influences together, all the while delving deeper than he ever has before into the glam rock stylings of early ‘70’s Bowie or T. Rex. While the string infused ballad “The Singer” features an emotionally tinged melody which could easily be heard on his 2011 effort Goodbye Bread, the extravagantly fuzzy “It’s Over” sounds like it could have a place on Twins thanks to its bouncing drums and bubblegummy yet heavy tone. Tracks like “The Clock” and “Green Belly” demonstrate his prowess at writing songs around acoustic guitar textures rather than his usual beloved distorted electric guitar. Manipulator is, without a doubt, a landmark album for Segall, an album seemingly rounding together everything he has ever accomplished as a musician while adding in new sonic aspects, allowing him to further progress in his musical journey. If this record doesn’t cement Segall’s place in the world of rock and roll, nothing ever will.