Maximum Rhythm and Blues

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Best Psychedelic Songs of 2012!

WOOHOO!!! Finally, the top 20 psychedelic tracks of 2012!  Steep competition!  Such a good year that one of my personal favorite modern psychedelic song writers, Kevin Barnes, did not even make the list.  Nor did the Coral’s drummer Ian Skelly’s super trippy tune “Paper Sky”.  Honorable mentions to these two, as well as White Fence with “Real Smiles”, Mmoss with “Hands”, Dan Deacon’s “True Thrush” (thanks Scott), Fidlar’s “Wake, Bake, Skate”, Tiger High’s “Leave it Alone”, Mount Eerie's "Ocean Roar" (thanks Erica), and so many others.  What a year, what a list! 

20. Bed Rugs - “Purple Pill”
Hailing from Antwerp, Belgium, the Bed Rugs debut with the album, 8th Cloud, featuring the breezy indie-psychedelic pop gem, “Purple Pill”.  I like the trippy 60s sci-fi music video that goes with the song, the three-minute simple pop arrangement, and the giant lobster (you’ll see).  This song brings to mind old elephant 6 recordings, sunny afternoons, and days of copious pill popping.

19. Buffalo Killers - “Hey Girl”
This Cincinnati based three-piece psych rock/americana outfit has already gotten a lot of attention from the likes of Chris Robinson and Dan Auerbach.  Their fourth release, “Dig. Sow. Love. Grow.”, sounds a lot like their earlier work, which, in their case, is really not a bad thing.  The hit off this album, “Hey Girl”, is a straightforward folky psych rock tune that I’ve been playing for weeks.  If you’re into psychedelic americana this song is for you.  If you like it, check out the song “Huma Bird” which got me into these guys.

18. Tashaki Miyaki - “Best Friend”
I dig it!  Los Angeles based Tashaki Miyaki, serves up a fantastic dream pop beauty in “Best Friend”.  And just when I thought Sunday mornings couldn’t get any better…

17. Boris & Asobi Seksu - “Neu Years”
Veteran Japanese experimental rock group, Boris, tones down their typical heavy metal sound for this trippy rendition of New York dream pop group Asobi Seksu’s “New Years”.  The initial song, a dreamy J-pop tune, has been chopped up, sped up, and made awesome.  Beautiful Japanese vocals lay over heavy drums and psychedelic sounds effects.  This is a gem.

16. Dead Skeletons - “ÓDAUÐLEG ORÐ
Icelandic psychedelic rock band with the mantra “he who fears death cannot enjoy life”, the Dead Skeletons have become a cult classic.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re only on their second album and they’re already doing collaborations with Brian Jonestown Massacre and Spacemen 3.   This song is part of an art instillation piece created by the singer, Jón Sæmndur.  The heavy psychedelic drones, trance-inducing drumming, and haunting lyrics, make this a great late night headphones track.  These guys have just been added to the Austin Psych Fest lineup, which is making me all the more stoked about that festival.

15. Black Mountain - “Mary Lou”
The fourth album from Canadian Psych Rockers, Black Mountain, is a soundtrack for the post apocalyptic surf film, Year Zero.  The prog, psych, and surf rock mastery on “Mary Lou” sounds like The Warlocks meet East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedy’s. This track is heavy, trippy, and real kick in the brains – a fitting song for a surf apocalypse.

14. Temples - “Shelter Song”
If this song came out in the 60s, the heyday of psychedelic classics, it would almost definitely have made a top ten psychedelic tracks list.  The groovy vibes, soft British vocals, and Zombies-like drumbeats are all incredible.  Unfortunately, this song draws a little too heavily on 60s nostalgia.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this track, it’s incredible – it just sounds exactly like The Zombies mixed with The Beatles.   I look forward to what the future holds for this London-based fab four.


13.  The Wands - “Hello I Know the Blow You Grow is Magic”
Copenhagen psychedelic duo recently picked up by the great Fuzz Club Records.  Raw, gritty, thumping, unabashed psychedelia.  This reverb-heavy spacey tune is proof that psychedelia will never die.

12. Goat - “Let It Bleed”
The most promising Swedish psychedelic rock since Dungen released ta det lugnt.  Goat is a masked group that play a weird African funk sounding psychedelic cacophony.  To be honest, I’ve never really heard anybody that sounds like this.  Their debut album, “World Music”, made The Guardian’s best albums of 2012 list, and the single made its way to number 12 on my psychedelic tracks of 2012 list.

11. Woods - “Cali in a Cup”
I have had this song in my head nonstop ever since I heard it.  It sounds like Wimple Winch does a trippy neo-folk act.  I love this song - I like the lyrics, the album art, the overly poppy vocals, the harmonica – a great track.  Woods are a Brooklyn-based group now on their 7th album.  Pitchfork describes them as “spooky campfire folk”.

10. The Sufis - “Sri Sai Flora”
Whew, mind-blowing Farfisa organ out of Nashville, I’m sold.  I will readily admit that this song is a total throwback.  It meets the same criticism as the Temples track, “Shelter Song”.  That said, this is a classic.  Like, so good that I’m going to go back and add this to old psychedelic Nuggets-like playlists I’ve made.  I’ve never heard of these guys before, and I don’t know anything about them.  They have a tempura and an awesome organ, and they know how to use them – 'nuff said.

9. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "The Clouds are Lies"
Yes, they are still making incredible music.  Since the early 90s, Brain Jonestown Massacre has set the standard for neo-psychedelic excellence.   This song, “The Clouds are Lies” is proof that they’re still kings of the genre.  Heady, heavy, trance-inducing, and full of drone – check.

8. Tara King Th. - “The Hum and the Hiss”
Parisian psychedelic baroque pop that would do Gainsbourg proud.  Farfisa Organ, harpsichord, and delicate French vocals – all the ingredients for a psychedelic classic.  This is really beautiful music to be played any time of day in any type of weather.   Also, I’m madly in love with the vocalist.

7. Grimes - “Oblivion”
While not really a traditional psychedelic track, I find it’s plenty trippy enough to make the cut.  I rarely get completely turned about by a song, but when my little brother induced me the song “oblivion” it was on repeat for days.  I’m not sure what it is – the strange vocals, pulsing beat, or eeire 80s synth.  Whatever the reason, this song is haunting, catchy, and incredibly addicting.  Grimes, a Canadian born “indietronica” artist, is now on her third album and has been making huge leaps with each release.  I haven’t heard anything from her I like nearly as much as “Oblivion”, but I have high hopes that there will be many more great songs to come.

6. Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Windshield Smasher”
I first stumbled across Pittsburg’s Black Moth Super Rainbow in the WBCR Beloit College radio station. I was so stoked I played them on almost every radio show I did in that studio for a year.  Their 2007  album “Dandelion Gum” contains a note reading, “Deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania vocoders hum amongst the flowers and synths bubble under the leaf-strewn ground while flutes whistle in the wind and beats bounce to the soft drizzle of a warm acid rain. As the sun peeks out from between the clouds, the organic aural concoction of Black Moth Super Rainbow starts to glisten above the trees." – that’s about as fitting a description of this song as any I could write.

5. The Orb featuring Lee Scratch Perry - “Golden Clouds”
The founders of the ambient house genre team up with the legendary Upsetter.  My girlfriend in college introduced me to The Orb song, “Little Fluffy Clouds” – that song will always hold a special place in my heart.  That the Orb should redo the song with Lee Scratch Perry – that’s just too cool!  The video is hilarious, the collaboration worked great, and this song is well deserving of it’s top five placement.

4. Moon Duo - "Sleepwalker"
When I first thought of making this list, I was assuming the Wooden Shjips would definitely make the top ten.  This would have been true, but my timing was off, the last Wooden Shjips release was in 2011.  Fortunately, Shjips songwriter Erik “Ripley” Johnson did release music in 2012 with San Francisco singer Sanae Yamada.  This song is much lighter than typical Wooden Shjips material, but certainly retains that cutting neo-psychedelic edge mixed with 60s nostalgia.  Yep, Moon Duo, one more reason to visit San Francisco.

3. Melody’s Echo Chamber – "I Follow You"
The psychedelic songwriter of the year is without a doubt Kevin Parker of Tame Impala.  As if Tame Impala’s album Lonerism wasn’t awesome enough, he collaborated with the French singer Melody Prochet to turn his sound in more delicate directions.  This song is glorious enough to actually completely reverse your mood.  Seriously, every time I get stressed at work I think of this song, take a deep breath, and the world is beautiful again (even in a dreary cement building).  Props also to the video director – the accompaniment is just right.

2. Tame Impala – “It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
After hearing the Tame Impala song “Lucidity” I decided I’m a fan forever.  This song is just as good.  From Perth, Australia, Tame Impala have released some of my favorite psychedelic rock of the last half-century already, and I mean it!  The last album, Innerspeaker, is a classic, and the newest album, Lonerism, makes rock history.  If this song were blasted from every car stereo in the world for a week, the world would change for the better forever.

1. The Bombay Royale - "You Me Bullets Love"
AND NOW FOR NUMBER ONE!!! Drawing from Asha Bhosle’s catalog, Shankar Jaikishan, R.D. Burman’s compositions, and the infectiously catchy famous Indian rock tune “Jaan Pehechan Ho”, Australia’s The Bombay Royale have created a surf-psychedelic-Indian masterpiece.  The horns, otherworldly vocals, and building segments bring this track to a new level.  I have an undying love of Indian music, and so rarely find songs that I can comfortably play with an American audience – this track is a notable exception.  The combination of popular Indian music and the psychedelia of the western world is satisfaction beyond words.  I hope to hear a lot more songs like this in years to come.


  1. Feel free to critique the list and suggest songs that I overlooked. The list was inspired by Dr. Schluss' Best of 2012 list which can be found at - he runs a fantastic blog that is definitely worth checking out.

  2. Great work, Mark. I am really looking forward to listening to all these.

  3. Impeccable post Mark, truly outstanding. I suspect you are trying to show me up, but I'll forgive you anyways. Number 1 was sounding good but thats as far as I've gotten.

  4. amazing list..heard these guys?