You’ve all been waiting, anxiously. Waiting for our arbitrary list of the opinion of four folks who run this site, and what we think were the best albums of 2016. It’s really really important. We’re going to make our site great again with this list. We’re going to win, bigly. But really, it’s just a list of the stuff we loved the most that we covered throughout this year on our site. The comment section is open, so feel free to tell us where we’ve gone wrong or what we’ve got right or anything else fitting. Read more
How are you feeling about yourself today? Concerned with the impending doom of the USA election? Well, Laz and Bubblegum Lemonade want to make you feel better, they want to make your world better…and in order to do that they’re dropping this delightful new indiepop gem. You’ll get a steady little bounce, Laz’s warm vocals and infectious melody that keeps you spinning the song again and again. I’m worried about the future, but for three short minutes (and the 27 minutes where I played it on repeat) I was able to forget, lost in song. You’ll hear this tune on The Great Leap Backward, the newest release from the band…out this month via Matinee Recordings.
Bubblegum Lemonade are no stranger to these pages, those its been a while since we’ve heard from the group. There’s something that the group have perfected, be it the casual ring of the guitars or the balanced approach between every note; it’s sincere pop music that’s absolutely inescapable. Press play and you’ll hear a song that transfers you back to the days of the purity of pop music…no little tactics, not little twists, just the best songwriting you’ll hear this week (in my opinion). They’ll be releasing their Beard on a Bike EP on July 1st via the highly esteemed Matinee Recordings.
Well, it sure looks like Bubblegum Lemonade is back, and I couldn’t be happier. Some like it pop came out far too long ago for my tastes, and I’ve been clamoring for Laz to get back in the studio with his friends and make me some new hits! It looks like he’s done just that, with news on Friday leaking a brand new demo that sounds pretty near perfect…if you exclude the final mastering. Like all his work, it borders the line between great power pop and indiepop, filled with catchy melodies and infectious tunes. No word on a release, but let’s hope its sooner rather than later.
Making our year-end list of Top Albums is never something we take lightly. We realize that it’s rather arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but we realize that our role is to at least toss out our opinion, however meaningless it may be. In the long run, we had to take the tastes of several people, and whittle it into a list of 50 great albums that we think are vital to your listening experience. We know it’s a matter of personal tastes, but the records below are reflective of our tastes and our site, so don’t get mad, they’re just opinions. But, feel free to tell us where we went wrong, or what we might have missed. If you click on the album titles, you can also read our full reviews of each album, save the ones that we didn’t get to in time. Sorry we don’t like Kanye.
50 – Wampire – Curiosity
49 – Dot Dash – Half Remembered Dream
48 – Mantles – Long Enough to Leave
47 – The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
46 – Bad Sports – Bras
45 – Part Time – PDA
44 – Dick Diver – Calendar Days
43 – Math and Physics Club – Our Hearts Beat Loud
42 – Veronica Falls – Waiting for Something to Happen
41 – Eat Skull – III
40 – The Lonely Wild – The Sun as It Comes
39 – The Love Language – Ruby Red
38 – Gun Outfit – Hard Coming Down
37 – Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
36 – Daughn Gibson – Me Moan
35 – Andre Obin – The Arsonist
34 – Arp – More
33 – Gap Dream – Shine Your Light
32 – The Black Watch – The End of When
31 – Ty Segall – Sleeper
30 – The Stevens – A History of Hygeine
29 – Of Montreal – Lousy with Sylvianbriar
28 – Mirror Travel – Mexico
27 – Local Natives – Hummingbird
26 – Girls Names – The New Life
25 – GRMLN – Empire
24 – Small Black – Limits of Desire
23 – Audacity – Butter Knife
22 – Mikal Cronin – MCII
21 – Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty
20 – Foals – Holy Fire
19 – Radical Face – Family Tree: The Branches
18 – Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
17 – Terry Malts – Nobody Realizes This is Nowhere
16 – Shout Out Louds – Optica
15 – Kurt Vile – Waking on a Pretty Daze
14 – Braids – Flourish//Perish
13 – Crystal Antlers – Nothing is Real
12 – Typhoon – White Lighter
11 – Ski Lodge – Big Heart
Admittedly, this album makes nods to folk troubadours of Christmas’ past, but what grabbed me from the moment I heard this record was the sincerity in what’s being created. In leaving us with a stripped down listen of folk tunes and incredible poetry, we’re asked to look into the history of American songwriting tradition; it’s been awhile since it was executed so well.
9 – The Growlers – Hung at Heart
I’d put this album on any list for one song alone, “Someday.” But, it just so happens that the rest of the album maintains the sensation that’s established on the opening track. I’ve heard it referenced as a surf-psych opus, but what’s been assured in my mine is what an incredible listen we’re all be treating to when we put Hung at Heart on our record players.
Hether Fortune seems to scare people. Her work is in your face, never making an excuse for who she is or what she believes. That attitude carries on into her music, allowing listeners to experience a musical world void of any pretense. The songs on this album are angular, dark and abrasive; the vocals have Hether dominating the scene of modern lady rock warriors. If you don’t dig it, she doesn’t care, but I do because this record rules.
While many of the songs on this effort leaked out before under various EPs, the whole masterpiece exists in the way it was tied together as a complete work. It’s operatic and grand at every corner, but it’s also undeniably a pop record. The emphasis might revolve around the more artful spectrum of pop music, but this is an album you can play for everyone in your family, and they’ll all find themselves swept up in the wonderment of Privilege.
What else really needs to be said about The National. They consistently make great albums that are lauded then often overlooked, but we didn’t want to do that to one of our favorite acts. I mean, if they played 8 shows in 8 days, we’d be at every one, and the DJ set after party. Their accolades and recognition are warranted, and it’s especially clear on this, their latest release.
When listening to Pass the Ringo, I thought of one thing: this is the sort of record that makes a small label, like Loglady Records, a household name. It’s spun around garage rock and psych rock structures, whilst still maintaining an accessibility that few people working in that genre achieve. Some albums can play in the background of your house, and might be happy to do so, but Legs created something that made me stop and listen at every turn; I’m thankful for that.
Someone For You came our way in January. On my record player, it hasn’t left since. This is one of the most rewarding power-pop records I’ve gotten my hands on, and trust me, I’ve gotten my hands on a lot of great records. Each song is filled with innate hooks and garage rock grit, encouraging you to tap your toes for the entirety of the record. You’d think after a full year our interest would have waned, but with time we’ve only grown to appreciate the record even more.
At the moment, there’s not too many people releasing music that’s the quality of Mathew Cothran and Coma Cinema. There are elements of the bizarre, similar to the work of early Elf Power, yet there’s this intimacy that artists like Eliott Smith were able to create with their listeners. You wrap that up and put it in a package of pop sensibility, and you have an album that can’t be ignored.
In today’s musical climate, we buy into the fact that artists have to be doing something strange, or something that’s vastly different from their peers. But, in the grand scheme of things, we often forget what it’s like to take enjoyment out of the music. This album was one of the many reminders that music, when it’s good, can be quite special. Every song here is a single, and worth your time; it’s the best thing Laz has done, and I feel like he’s just really getting started.
This album is about Devon Welsh. From the first instant I heard his voice, it took hold of me. Throughout the year, Impersonator, consistently played on my radio. His voice was mesmerizing, captivating audiences on several occasions in Austin, convincing us to be as quiet as a mouse, so as to hear every note. The unique quality of the album will reward listeners for years to follow. It made us believe in great music again.
Some records come into your life without fanfare or expectations; they exist simply as a statement by an artist. Whether or not the band, Bubblegum Lemonade in this case, has received acclaim or accolades isn’t important, but what matters is the strength of said statement. In the case of Some Like It Pop, I don’t care what anyone has to say, this album is brilliant from start to finish.
“This is the New Normal” winds its way carefully into the opening moments, with a bit of strings and a tinkering bit of bells. Before you know it, you’re swept away in this gorgeous sensation of warm pop. The melody stands out instantly, but the mood of the song is greatly affecting; Laz adds a nice “ba ba ba baaa” to the mix to really emphasize a musician at the top of his game. And hits just keep coming. “It’s Got to Be Summer” again opens with a bit of playful tinkering, but at the 18th second of the track, you won’t find a musical sensation more compelling. What’s striking to me about Some Like It Pop is the attention to detail at every turn. Where the group went for straight indiepop on their last outing, this one is filled with touches and brushstrokes of genius songwriting that ultimately reward the listener, like when this tune trails off in its closing moments.
And things don’t always go as one would expect from Bubblegum Lemonade. On “Don’t Hurry Baby,” there’s a lush arrangement, leaving you with this dreamy balladry that will leave a lasting impression. There’s even a chugging guitar riff beneath the mix that adds a bit of rock n’ roll propulsion to the affair. And it moves into the album’s standout, “Dead Poets Make Me Smile.” The title of the song alone wins, but dammit if the song doesn’t win on every single level, rolling along with the back beat of the drums and the jangling guitar. Other songs like “First Rule of Book Club” have this wry sense of humor, but they also seem to be timeless pieces of music; it’s not draped in nostalgia or boasting some new direction, it’s simply perfect.
The closing statement from Some Like It Pop, “Mr Dreaming’s Bland House,” is the album’s longest tune, and also a final statement that serves as the perfect summation for the record. Melodies swirl throughout. Drums are spot on with their emphatic punch, though never over-intrusive. And the vocals have this perfect wash of fuzzy coating, including a nice dose of backing vocals. It all fits together so well, that you almost immediately start the record over. It’s understated in the perfect way, making the entirety so much more endearing. You’re not going to find a better pop album out there; they just don’t exist, so follow my lead to the blissful land left to us all by Bubblegum Lemonade.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/01-Have-You-Seen-Faith.mp3]
Download: Bubblegum Lemonade – Have You Seen Faith [MP3]
Christmas has come early! And so has the new Bubblegum Lemonade record! The band has been hard at work on their next LP, and while we expected it at some point this year or earlier next, news came today that their new LP was already in from the plants, so why not share the great tune with you all? Laz has been working effortlessly, and each new release sees his music grow; it’s great to see a musician progress so wonderfully. If you’re not digging the guitar work here, then you’re probably not an indiepop fan. And that’s okay, but you should really spend just a short bit of time with this tune. Like all tunes from the act, you’ll find it hard to ignore the splendor of a songwriter at the top of his craft. Some Like it Pop will be available next week from Matinee Recordings.
If you read the pages of this site from time to time, you’ve surely come across my adoration for Matinee Recordings and all the work the small label has been able to release. From the Lucksmiths to Bubblegum Lemonade…and so many more, they’ve continued to provide indiepop fans with a growing catalog of hit after hit after hit. The label celebrates their 15th Year this month by releasing A Sunday Matinee CD, which includes rare songs, unreleased tracks and covers (including Lucksmiths covering Jonathan Richman). It’s a great accomplishment to run a label successfully for so long, so join me in celebrating the label (and ordering the CD). You can stream the entire thing below.
It’s been sort of a sad few months for indie pop fans, with a few of the smaller labels calling it quits. But, on the bright side of things, the next few weeks promise a few announcements from the always excellent Matinee Recordings. The first release on their list is the brand new Have You Seen Faith 7″ from Bubblegum Lemonade. Laz has fleshed out his line-up, creating three beautiful songs that illustrate the purity of indie pop. His voice, as always, has this beautiful warmth, and the guitar work rings perfectly in the background. You can order the new 7″ now from the Matinee Store.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/01-Have-You-Seen-Faith.mp3]