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I'm Hunter King and I DJ Storm Surge of Reverb a.k.a. the surf show. I'll be compiling my favorite surf records over the next month, but if that's all I listened to I'd go insane. So here's my favorite records of 2018. I realize there's still a month left but I just want to push this out of my brain. These are in no particular order.

Al Doum & The Faryds - Spirit Rejoin

I gotta say this is not the sort of stuff I expect to hear from Italy. “Weed and Love” beings sounding like some Daptone funk with some Coffey/Quartermann psychedelic guitar, but as it devolves into a freewheeling sax solo with jazzy keys with progressively intensive drumming it becomes clear that this is… something else. The Faryds bring the lushness and power that Kumasi Washington shook jazz up with and and shoot it into space, dock with Sun Ra’s space station, then release a fearsome psychedelic guitar virus on his system and let it crash in the jungle. Absolutely bonkers. Favorite song: Light Up.

 

Les Lullies - Les Lullies

Like a good cheeseburger, great garage punk has been figured out but rarely made to spec. Davilla 666 reminded that good rocknroll should first be fun for everybody in the room, and I hear that same boucnin’ boot-kickin’ attitude in this lo-fi lo-ambition lo-brains scorcher. If it was easy to nail down what they’re doing so right here there’d be a lot more people doing it. Favorite Song: Night Klub.

 

Death Pedals - s/t

It’s always great to be on the ground floor of a great band, especially for punk bands which tend to get worse with each album. Well, that didn’t happen here, this is Death Pedals’ third and final album and my introduction to them. While I haven’t digested their discography enough to say how the songwriting stacks up compared to their other albums, the sound of this record is undeniably visceral and vicious. Some tracks lurk like Shellac and other Albini bands, but the density and ferocity of their guitars remind me of what first took me aback hearing White Lung. Favorite Song: I Am A Loser.

 

Ikebe Shakedown - The Way Home

Daptone Records may be known best for exposing hidden talents like Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, but I think Budos Band, Antibalas and Menahan Street Band have silently created a space for instrumental funk groups (for lack of a better term). Sure, they draw influence from afrobeat artists and maybe groups like Young Holt Unlimited, but I really think those Daptone groups ripped this instrumental music wide open. I heard a bunch of good bands in that vein this year, but if I had to choose a winner it would be Ikebe Shakedown. I feel like they grab a little bit from each of those aforementioned Daptone groups -- think they’re sounding desert funky like Budos and you’ll start hearing afrobeat drumming… but focus on that and you’ll hear some Menahan groove -- and around and around with moments of other groups in there. Ikebe Shakedown don’t necessarily have a distinct sound of their own, but so long as they’re all this catchy that’s fine. By the way, my runner-up for this category is Bixiga 70 which has a bit more of an afrobeat/Brazilian leaning. Favorite Song: Assassin.

 

Mondo Sangue - No Place for a Man

Ennio Morricone defined the Spaghetti Western sound with an array of disparate instruments used in specific ways. It was so effective that it’s almost sewn into that era -- remind yourself that cowboys weren’t soundtracking their own lives with electric guitar, a full orchestra and over-the-top singing. These elements are so distinct that it’s pretty easily mimicked, but I’ve never heard anybody potato-head the parts into something as magnificent as “Ecstasy of Gold”. This is not where you insert an “until this year”, Morricone remains the master, but No Place for a Man is an earnest try that at times manages to elicit that same chilling stir. They’re not Morricone, but I can settle for something on the level of Bruno Nicolai. Favorite Song: A Stranger Arrives.

 

Camarao - The imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie 1964 - 1974

The title here needs to chill -- I’m not exactly sure what that would sound like but there’s nothing remotely Western sounding in here and I think they’re reaching for something grandiose to grab your attention. I barely know anything about Brazilian music, but thankfully the excellent liner notes fill you in on this compilation of the work of Camarao and teach you about this music, called forro. It’s got some very upbeat accordion, a lot of triangle, and the rest can switch out between some pounding percussion, tuba reminiscent of New Orleans brass, and even occasional guitar. Sometimes sounds like a Columbian cumbia group forced to play faster at gunpoint, the percussion sometimes nearly sounding clumsy but only sloppy in a fun way. I’m out of my depth here, but it’s really fun. Favorite Track: Xeêm

 

Our Solar System - Origins

Spacey psychedelic bands like this often don’t find repeated success in my opinion, but Origins is an excellent follow-up to In Time. “Vulkanen” is a mean and oppressive floater that slowly gains speed and force to a great conclusion. “En Bit Av Det Tredje Klotet” is a quick krauty head-nodder, but I especially love the closer “Monte Verita” which finishes with the same celestial vibe as OK Computer. A great record for turning off the lights and turning the speakers way up. Favorite Song: Babalon Rising.

 

Sunwatchers - II

After digging into this album for a while I found out that all the members of this band were formerly in Dark Meat, a wildly swaggering hippie ritual band that caught my attention in 2006 when I was music director at WESU. The connection is clear, it’s got the same freewheeling psychedelic freakout aspect to it, though with a bit more of instrumental focus and a lot more jazz than post-punk in Dark Meat. This is kind of like the aforementioned Al Doum & the Faryds record with a little more armpit stink and dancing around the campfire and a little less relentlessness, though certainly not serene. Favorite Song: Silent Boogie.

 

The Beths - Future Me Hates Me

The Beths are the gold nugget that Burger Records signs bands by the dozen in hopes to unearth. No-frills 90’s styled guitar alt/indie that’s effortlessly catchy and crammed with hooks. The somewhat unenthusiastic vocal performance masks the megatonnage of the guitar attack and you’ll find yourself fist-pumping without even realizing it. There are thousands of bands trying to do this sound and The Beths managed to grab the magic. Favorite Song: Not Running.

 

Oh Sees - Smote Reverser

I don’t end up listening to every Oh Sees album as I tend to feel that I never fully take in the last one I enjoy. There are ways that this is different from their other loud albums, especially with a bit more proggy organ-work finding its way into the mix, but it still comes from the same jiggawatt engine that so many imitators can never replicate -- still feels like another Oh Sees record, and I continue to be OK with that. I think this is one band in particular that will find its way into conversations 20 years from now, and the more we have to talk about the better. Favorite Song: Overthrown.

 

Earthling Society - MO - The Demon

Earthling Society’s 15th LP is their swan song, but what a great way to go out. This is a surprisingly playful album for a space rock band, apparently conceived as a soundtrack to a Shaw Brothers Kung-fu movie and it constantly teeters between silly gimmicks, crashing psychedelia and Neil Young guitar moaning. Favorite Song: Spring Snow.

 

Asteroid No 4 - Collide

This album didn’t knock me over, but Asteroid No 4 have been consistently releasing some of the most casually enjoyable pop psychedelic records for years and I feel like they’re long overdue to find their way into your dad’s CD binder. All that swirling guitar sound surrounds a strict focus on good ol’ songwriting, reminding me of groups like Oasis and The Verve (maybe Spiritualized?) except coming from a much warmer place. It just feels good to hear their music. Favorite Song: Finest of Mimes.

 

Sundays and Cybele - On the Grass

I’m confident enough in my music tastes that I can appreciate Dark Side of the Moon as a phenomenal album despite zillions of high schoolers throughout the ages treating it as the best album ever. While Sundays and Cybele’s previous album Gypsy House had some clear Floyd influence, On the Grass is blatantly Dark Side to the point where I’m surprised they didn’t openly make reference to it. It’s a looser record than Floyd’s but it feels like it’s taking its time to look through that same sonic environment, and that’s nice! Favorite Song: Burning Flag.

 

Bleach Party - NOLA

I don’t have a clue why this Chicago group seemed to name their album after New Orleans, so let’s work past that. This is great cuttin’ loose party punk with vocals that have the energy and swagger of Karen O supported by punchy guitars and a beat that oughta get a crowd bouncing. Favorite Track: Tom Cruise Control.

 

Polygon Dream - Zeldawave // 近藤 浩治 // OOT

Oh god, this sits at the intersection of vaporwave and chiptune, neither of which are normally my thing but I can’t deny the wonderfulness of hearing the Ocarina of Time soundtrack with a little more dreaminess to it. Favorite track: Song of Storms.

 

Dungen + Woods

Whose idea was this? These bands are such a perfect compliment to each other on paper and it plays out exactly like you’d expect (and hope) -- a warm and floating psychedelic moment that, being honest, I’ve enjoyed more than recent material from either group (both of which I hold in high regard). While most of it is light psychedelic meanderings with an improvisational feel, “Turn Around” is a really catchy track leaning more in the Woods direction. Favorite Track: Turn Around.

 

Camera - Emotional Detox

Last year’s album from Camera Phantom of Liberty was a thinner, more synth-focused sound than I had come to expect from them on their (excellent) first two LPs. I didn’t like it. Emotional Detox is a return to that lush, spacey krautrock sound that first drew me in, though it doesn’t have the same variety within that sound as they did on their excellent debut Radiate. Regardless, they can be so pretty at times (I choose “PacificOne” if you need a quick example) that even if I don’t think they’ve improved it’s still a highlight of what I’ve heard this year. Favorite track: PacificOne.

 

Albums that were really good but I liked their old ones better

Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo

Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams

Beach House - 7

The Myrrors - Borderlands

Bombino - Deran

Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens

Lumerians - Call of the Void

Here Lies Man - You Will Know Nothing

The Ex - 18 Passports

 

Favorite Album from 2017 that I didn’t hear until 2018

Maston - Tulips

 

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