Maximum Rhythm and Blues

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Best Psychedelic Rock of 2014

The pounding, the droning, the soothing, the chaotic, trance-inducing, dreamy, hazy, sweet, melodic, maddness - and the best of the best!  First list was written from hip-ness of Chicago, IL, the Second from the holy streets of Chennai India, and now I write you from the moss-coated seaside world of Seattle, Washington, with another epic collection.
There was so many great acts again this year that I had to create some sort of limits to what could be included.  As a result, I had to leave out the psych side of the sludge/doom scene, but I would like to place a shout out to the Cosmic Dead - who had a great release.  I also (as usual) had to avoid the serious prog rock - which is a shame because there hasn’t been so many good prog acts in years.  For prog from this year I would like point you towards the work of Acid Mothers Temple (who I currently think is the greatest psychedelic band of our generation and whose live show is the best I’ve ever seen); the Terry Riley influenced, Bitchin Bajas; and White Manna (who I have placed on this list historically).  Also on the psych rock fringes, loved the psychedelic hip hop song “MFN” by Cibo Matto, and I don’t know what hell genre is is, but The Dead Brothers (who are consistently incredible) have a new album “The Black Moose” which is excellent psychedelia.  Finally, I am making a distinction for this list between psych folk rock (still included), and psychedelic folk music (which I love but this list would be too damn big).  In that vein, I’d like to draw attention to Anna Ahnlund’s “Glömmer A Aldrig” and Mona & Maria with “My Sun”.

This year’s runner’s up list check out Goat’s “Hide from the Sun”,  Elephant Stone “Child of Nature”, Capitão Fausto “Litoral”, Mystic Braves “Desert Island”, My Drunken Haze “Carol Wait”, and most significantly, Fat White Family with “Touch the Leather” - if I had a “pick to click” for bands to check out - I think they’ll be huge soon, and I’ll probably regret them not being on the list for this year (like the Boogarins last year).  Well…. lets get this rolling!!!!

20.  Rose Windows - “Wartime Lovers”
Lets kick this off with a little dreamy psych-pop from the great city of Seattle, Washington (my current home).  With vocals that sound like a mellowed out Beth Gibbons (Portishead), a creepy keyboard, and is that chimes in the background?  There’s both an epic quality to this song and this very simple pop sensibility.  A solid contribution to the legendary Sub Pop record label and Seattle’s burgeoning psychedelic tradition (see hypnotikon - Seattle’s psych festival).

19.  Coves - “Cast a Shadow”
Moving this show on to Leamington Spa (hometown of Aleister Crowley) in the great Island Nation of England. The Coves offer a haunting baroque pop that as trippy as it is oddly danceable.  If you like echoes, reverb, & sleepy female vocals, you’re bound to dig it.  Hell, it’s on the list - you’re gonna love it!

18.  The Vicker’s “Senseless Life”
Second time on the list for this great psych pop band out of Florence Italy.  The first single “She’s Lost” from their new album, “Ghosts”, was released last year, and I loved it.  Now that the album is out proper, I’m even more fond of this tune.  I’m big on psychedelic Sunday morning tracks, and here’s another one for that list.  Warm, hypnotic, lazy psychedelia - this is wake n’ bake sunrise tunes at their finest.

17.  Forever Pavot “Miguel El Salam”
On to the downright weird.  Out of all the new music I heard this year, this is the band I’m perhaps most excited about.  I’ve never heard anybody like these guys.  This Parisian crew’s album Rhapsode is full of mysterious quirk and madness, but this track, “Miguel El Salam”, in particular you really have to hear.  The breakdown In the middle of the song is full of horsewhips and chanting - yet, it’s done so seamlessly it actually fits in perfectly...  First time I heard this I had to play it like 4 times in a row just to figure out what the hell just happened.

16. Murlocs “Loopholes”
Psychedelic rock is a big world and encompasses so many different themes and sub genres it’s often hard to keep track of (even for psych-heads like me).  Bands like the Murlocs help keep things in line.  A fusion of heavy, abstract, mysterious, droning, brilliance.  I’m really into these gritty raw vocals by Ambrose Kenny Smith, and that screeching guitar accompaniment.  Ah, sooo cool!!  I’ve got the feeling there’s a lot more heady greatness yet to come from this Melbourne, Australia group.

15.  The Budos Band “Burnt Offering”
Comes on heavy, horns blaring, drums pounding, buzzing noise, frenetic energy…  A burnt out gem of an offering to some horrid 1,000-tongue bloodied demoness.  Perhaps this is what Davie Allen and the Arrows or Laika and the Cosmonauts might sound like if they moved away from surf rock and got down to business.  Out of Staten Island, New York - the mighty Budos band.

14. Kikagaku Moyo “Kodama”
Tokyo is hands-down the trippiest place I’ve ever been - musically, architecturally, the fashion, the paintings - it’s a whole ‘nother world out there.  Unfortunately, as great as all the music I heard out there was, I didn’t bring anything home, and now, delving into japanese forums, I keep coming up with horrid j-pop.  Luckily, I was able to find a few Japanese groups bringing some of that great psychedelia into the international sonic world - beyond Acid Mother’s Temple (the greatest live band I have ever seen), this group has a really cool sound.  The combination of a sitar with japanese vocals, a vocal style reminiscent to early Clinic, and a nod to progressive folk - that’s what’s up.

13. Fai Baba “Salt Turns into Sugar”
From Zurich Switzerland - Fabian Sigmund (Fai Baba) brings the avant garde in such a radio friendly fashion!  Breezy, catchy, and a good tune for all sorts of occasions.  This, his fourth album, takes a great psychedelic twist that I just can’t resist.  What on earth is he talking about though?

12. Temples “Mezmerize”
A best of psych repeat, The Temples have another tune that I can’t stop playing.  From Ketting, England they’ve got this really polished sound playing heavily on their psychedelic forefathers but bringing in modern recording equipment and making a sound that still comes off as fresh and unique.  Far from the gritty psych of the southern US, this UK group offers particularly radio friendly sunshine tunes.

11. Holy Wave “Wet and Wild”
We start with harmonic “la-la-la”s and and a keyboard - and it pretty much stays like that throughout the song - which is exactly why this tune is so great.  From the legendary psychedelic rock capital of the US, Austin, Texas, Holy Wave has a sound like a uniquely American raga.  I’ve put this song on pretty much every playlist I’ve made this past year.  Just good simple pop psych.

10.  The Brian Jonestown Massacre - “Vad Hande Med Dem”
San Francisco’s The Brian Jonestown Massacre, are psych rock legends.  This is their 17th album!  And, while true fans will go on about the merits of Methadrone, Their Satanic Majesties Second Request, and Take it from the Man, this track, “Vad Hande Med Dem” off the latest album, Revelations, is one of my all time favorites.  The horns here, the racing drum, and Swedish vocals by Les Big Byrd’s Joakim Ahlund, is like nothing you’ve ever heard from this group.  By the way, check out Les Big Byd’s “tinnitus Ætérnum” - another super cool tune from this year.

9. Klaus Johann Grobe “KOthek”
I was super stoked when I first heard this song.  Not only is it an incredible track, but every year I go hunting for music from all over Europe, and I feel like Germany never has any good tunes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the krautrock and NDW tunes, but the recent stuff has been pretty rotters….  So, I saw this band as a saving grace…  Then I learned this band is actually from Switzerland… Well, sorry Germany.  But my excitement is still warranted!  What a great synth rock classic - a perfect tune to dance around the house trying (and perhaps failing) to sing along in German.

8. Los Tones “Psychotropic”
Taking it back to Australia, this time to Sydney, for a no-nonsense psych rock kick-in-the-brains jam.  Like the aforementioned Murlocs of Melbourne, these guys condense all confusion in the question of “what is psych rock”.  This, this is pure psych rock for headbanging, freaking, and getting lost in.  Feed your brain!  Free audio-bacon! (sorry they're too cool for video).

7. Warpaint “Disco//Very”
Warpaint, from Los Angeles, California.  When I first heard this I was just leaving a building, and I had to duck back in and play it again to hear better.   Mind blown.  I made sure to get the album that same day.  Admittedly, the album is actually not that great, but this song is one of the greatest psychedelic rock tunes of the year (well into the top ten according to this prestigious list).  It’s downright terrifying and yet seductive (which I think is the theme of these pretty incomprehensible lyrics).  The song is orchestrated so well, so much going on and all mashing seamlessly one part building on another.  Take some Time and and really listen to this with a good pair of headphones to take it all in (maybe with some plant helpers) - then just blast it from your car - a great song.

6. Al Lover “7 Senses of Cosmic Understanding”
San Francisco’s legendary psychedelic DJ branching out into his own unique territory.  Al Lover’s 2014 album “Sacred Drugs” is full of classic psych.  So much so that I didn’t know what to put on this list.  The whole thing is foreboding, and beckoning, and all kinds of mind-melting strangeness.  If you take a moment, sit still, letting this track permeate your thoughts - I think you’ll see why this is one of the tracks that stood out.

5. Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger “Animals”
Sean Lennon!!!!  So good to see that pretty face - and in the top five!  Coming to us from New York City, Sean’s knocking on the History Channel, conspiracy theorists, and the general bizarreness that comes from being a millennial.  Inspired by groups like July, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, and Os Mutantes - he’s channeling some cosmic weird with this one.  May you dig it as much as I have, may you find the emu on fifth avenue, may you also get a Jesus grilled cheese.

4. Quilt “Arctic Shark”
On over to Boston.  Quilt is taking psychedelic folk rock on the next level  Their whole album is pretty damn incredible.  No really - you need to hear it now.  Cool lyrics, well utilized sitar, and these soothing vocals - they’re real great.  Well, “Arctic Shark” is the big hit on this venerable album.  It’s this soothing blissed out psychedelia that makes you forget this world is going to hell.  Actually, if you’re looking for hope the world is not in fact “going to hell”, look no further.  Jungian obfuscation with Indian instrumentation….awesome.

3. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard "Hot Wax"
On Space Ghost  Coast to Coast (a huge inspiration of mine) guest, weird Al Yakovic, called fellow guest, Schooly D, a “party animal” - “he's, he's, he's a nut, he's completely out of control, he's, he's a party in a can, he's a wacky, zany, nutty funster”.  I couldn’t give a better description of The Gizzard and Wizard if I were a ghost from outer space (or a wonder hampster).  From Victoria, Australia, initiates beware, you’re in for a scare… :)

2. Cambodian Space Project "Whiskey Cambodia"
Onto a serious note.  Cambodian psychedelic rock is consistently amongst the best in the world (see Pan Ron, Ros Sereysothea, Sinn Sisamouth, etc.)  The tradition has been continued by visionaries such as Dengue Fever and The Cambodian Space Project.  To be level with you - I am totally hooked on this stuff.  It’s sooo good though!  Honestly, listen to Ros Sereysothea sing I’m 16 and tell me that’s not love at first listen!
Into, the now, Cambodian Space Project, which is made up of Tasmanian and Cambodia psych rockers, takes this tradition and makes it their own.  The somber power of “Whiskey Cambodia” is uniquely their own, and suggests a deep range of Cambodian psych not yet covered.  I’m hugely excited about this release and about what’s to come!!!

1. Morgan Delt “Barbarian Kings”
Well, you made it!  Hell, the privilege is yours!  You lucky bastard, you’ve stumbled upon a super dope playlist.  Now you want number one.  Usually, I try to make the top song weird and unexpected, but, Morgan Delt (not much surprise) quite literally changed my year.  I came from the great Arunachala back to this country, and was grasping anything I could to keep that mystery alive.  In only four minutes, Morgan Delt provides that portal.  All ye Chaos magicians pay heed - this is audio-alchemy is for the homosuperior of gen hex!

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