WTUL New Orleans

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Hi, I'm Hunter. I'm on WTUL Mondays 4-6pm doing my surf radio show Storm Surge of Reverb.

But I listen to plenty of other music, even if I rarely get the chance to share over the airwaves. So I'll share here. I need to publish this quickly before I read everybody's else's lists and want to add more!


Adrienne Edson - Deep Teal

A big part of COVID for me has been helping WTUL stay listenable. At first that meant just avoiding dead air, creating an automation system, and helping DJs cue pre-recorded shows, but then I really wanted to make that automation system enjoyable. I wanted more local music in there, and I started crawling the “New Orleans” tag on Bandcamp and sampling everything. That’s how I found Adrienne Edson. Folk is rarely my thing, but add a thick layer of dreamy gazey sound, and I guess I’ll change my tune because I’ve come back to this one a lot. “Moon Honey Love” in particular may be the standout song of the year for me.

Andrew Wasylyk - Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation

Last year his album The Paralian made this list, and this is a pretty straight-ahead and just-as-good follow-up. Introspective, pretty and cozy songs with slight jazzy and electronic touches but not enough to make it feel like it wants to be any sort of genre record.

Ayyuka - Maslak Halayı

Here's something that was skating the edge of being on the surf list but I'll put it here instead. Ayyuka are a guitar-heavy instrumental group that explicitly reference Dick Dale as an influence, but as a Turkish group they owe a lot to Anatolian rock groups such as Erkin Koray and Silüetler. They can riff plenty, but they play in scales that sound much more fresh to my American ears. There’s a great groove to them that might reach out to Khruangbin fans too. It’s been a great year for Turkish groups—I’ve also really been enjoying Altın Gün and Gaye Su Akyol.

Cut Worms - Nobody Lives Here Anymore

This album is 77 minutes long. The song "Veterans Day" feels like a nice closer at 33 minutes in, but it's only track 8 of 17. Listen all at once and it'll outstay its welcome, but if if you put it on shuffle for a reasonable amount of time you might enjoy yourself. Cut Worms' oddball name don't really suggest the laid-back alt-country sound that you'll get. With a demeanor that keeps you at ease and melodies that resolve expectedly enough to feel comfortable without feeling perfunctory, I get shades of Wilco and Harvest Moon Neil Young.

Evritiki Zygia - Ormenion

I was only a few seconds into this record when I knew that my wife Annie was not going to let it pass by without investigation. Much like her band Blato Zlato, Evritiki Zygia play music that exalt generations-old traditional music while twisting it with modern instrumentation. Plus I can't listen to the davul/tapan in it and not think of Boyanna's playing in Blato Zlato. While the two bands share some regional focus (Blato Zlato loosely Bulgaria, and these guys in Thracia), the addition of fuzzy electronic keyboards also makes me think of what local tradition-twisters Lost Bayou Ramblers have done with Cajun music. The result is a album that deceptively traps you into surprise psychedelic breakdowns injected into a sound that my ears are unfamiliar with.

Fleur - S/T

One of my favorite recent surf groups is Les Robots, who, thanks to some genuine clavioline, are about as close to an approximation to a modern Joe Meek instrumental group as there ever has been. They did release an album this year. It’s great, but I want to talk about Fleur’s self-titled record, which they were the backing band for. It’s a tremendous modern yéyé album— Fleur nails the vocal styling of the era, while Les Robots deftly decide when to support with period-appropriate stylings, and when to get gritty and weird.


Frigoria - 13

This is a Halloween record. Not a record with autumn vibes, this is an album that's all about sounding like a haunted house. It's lovably induglent, a little sloppy in a good way, and sometimes reminds me of the scary levels of Mario 64. Just because it's a novelty record doesn't mean it can't be one of my favorite listening experiences this year.


Graham Mushnik featuring His Group Martini - Peeping Through the Porthole

The first track on this was stuck in my wife's head for a solid two weeks despite never listening to it intentionally. An album full of instrumentals that brings up thoughts of Italian 60's beat soundtrack composers such as Piero Umiliani, genre-hopping around funk, psychedelia, electronic, and world music ("Hos Geldin" is yet another instance of a recurring Turkish theme in my 2020 listening). It's different from track to track, but always feels good!

Groupe RTD - Dancing Devils of Djibouti

Groupe RTD is the national band of Djibouti, providing their services for governmental functions etc. The label had to go through tons of red tape with local government and customs just for the privilege of recording this band, and even then under strict restrictions. Worth it. The sound is highly danceable with jazz and jamaican influences, but also (admitted by the band) vocal influences from bollywood music.

Healing Gems - Fiesta Pack

I've always been surprised how few groups show a clear exotica influence. Sure, there are direct takes on modern exotica, but Healing Gems take clear Lex Baxter/Martin Denny influence with their percussion and strings and slip it comfortably next to some semi-modern (and admittedly at first a little off-putting) vocals. It's a sweet record that's strange and new but also quaint and laid-back. While I know Room Thirteen are on the cusp of a new record, this worked nicely in the meantime.

Helicon - This Can Only Lead to Chaos

I found this release through a facebook psych group, and that ominous looming and token sitar agrees, but sometimes that thick hazy sound puts it more in shoegaze territory (listen to "In the End" for example). Fine either way by me. Slow and weighty, one of those records that has you reaching for the volume knob to get just a little bit more over and over.

Hum - Inlet

Even though it's on this list, I don't have the same enthusiasm that many do for this record. It's definitely good -- swimming in immense crushing guitar riffs, essentially a desert rock album, different while still sounding Hum.  They've certainly got that deep vibration implied in the name Hum, but I wish it had that intimacy and sincerity also implied. It was there in spades in You'd Prefer an Astronaut and Downward is Heavenward, it's only in flashes here.

Jim and the Holograms - Victory Lap

Perhaps the most deceptive record on the list, this really isn't a surf record by any stretch and I can't find any sonic link to the cartoon rock&roll heroines Jem & the Holograms. Instead this is a jazzy record with an informal jam feeling, but also thought-provoking and clear-headed. At times it reminds me of Tortoise, but with a little less scronk, and sometimes math-rock without the virtuosic la-dee-da.

Khruangbin - Mordechai

Khruangbin's debut LP was a rare case of album that I had really hyped myself up for pre-release and the result was indeed one of the best things I'd heard in a long time. And it worked out very well for them, becoming about as household as that name will allow, but I found that their subsequent releases didn't have the creative leap I saw from their EPs to LP. Mordechai did not fix this! And I think its middling reviews reflect similar disappointment. However, I've come out the other end. I've realized I like Khruangbin enough that I'm OK with simply more Khruangbin. As their sound creates a space for similar musicians to get noticed, they still stand out. And though these songs may blur with others, they're still exactly what I want sometimes.

Misha Panfilov & Shawn Lee - Paradise Cove

When I think of albums I want to listen to more often, I think of Misha Paniflov & Shawn Lee’s Paradise Cove, an unambitious record that mixes krautrock low-voltage pulse and psychedelia with a mysterious, exotica prowl. I initially appreciated Misha for his irresistible funk singles, but he’s started to meander into more bedroomy noodlings (perhaps that’s COVID for you) including a nice theremin album earlier this year. This is the perfect mix though; cools down my day after the baby’s gone to sleep but keeps me moving for the evening me-time.

Penza Penza - Beware of Penza Penza

Back-to-back Misha Paniflov projects on this list here. However, I first found him for his funky tracks on bandcamp, and this record he produced is much more in line with that. This is pure, raw dance party. Lo-fi grooves with little more purpose than to slip a disc in your spine. Truly maddening rhythms and ragged semi-psychedelic guitar bouncing around on it. Just listen, you'll either have fun or realize you are dead.

Relay Tapes - Early Morning Abstract

In the Ringo Deathstarr review I talk about how it's fine if a shoegaze record just wants to float through that sound. Here ya go. I listened to plenty of shoegaze records this year but bounced off most of them. This mostly formless, meditative approach isn't anything particularly groundbreaking, but I appreciated it every time I listened to it.

Ringo Deathstarr - Ringo Deathstarr

While I don't have a profound knowledge of their back catalog, Ringo Deathstarr always struck me as a group that stole My Bloody Valentine's songbook and played through it viciously and impatiently as if they had to return it when they were done. When bands do the self-titled thing well into their career it suggests that they found some sort of breakthrough and want to redefine themselves. And again, I really should listen to more of them before I say this, but I totally buy that that's what happened here. MBV is still the obvious touchstone here, but these songs feel like they have deeper aspirations than to merely float through shoegaze sound (not that that approach doesn't work sometimes). There's a lot of simple, memorable lyrical motifs here sandwiched alongside the noisy messes they already had a pretty good handle on. Plus I love that a shoegaze band went for it enough to call a song "gazin'".

Soft Power - Brink of Extinction

Great, accessible jazz with a similar twinkle and lushness as Kamasi Washington, but perhaps not the sweeping grandiosity. There's a consistent momentum and, uh, soft power I guess, that just feels magnetic.

Slift - Ummon

Ummon has been the tremendous monster riff source that I’ve needed. “Thousand Helmets of Gold” is the standout track, with a screaming attention-getting lick right out the gate, spacey washouts, and fuzzy crunches. In what has been probably the least athletic year in my life, it’s nice to be reminded that I have blood in my veins.

Undergrünnen - Ein revnande likegyldighet

Imagine if The Ex made an afrobeat record. Oh wait, they've done that. But maybe if they did it differently and in Norwegian it would sound like this. This band has been around with this this sound for a while now, but their newest feels kind of like their most Major Label attempt, less jammy and more solid song structures while still sounding chaotic and unexpected. Perhaps the needle heads a little more in the psychedelic direction than afrobeat this time, sometimes reminding me of Goat, but it's still plenty enough to stamp around barefoot.

Close Calls

  • I really liked the new Dan Deacon but I keep thinking I'll find it in a local record store and I never do.
  • I liked the new Beths but not as much as the last one.
  • Almost put Gaudi - 100 Years of Theremin on here but I have so little knowledge of dub that I couldn't write about it without feeling like an idiot.
  • Max and the Martians released an album of songs about Quarantine and some I really like and some I really don't, but hearing songs so specific to covid was pretty cool.
  • Sunwatchers released two good albums this year but they didn't strike me in a different way than when I featured them in another one of these lists.
  • I listened to Vyva Melinkolya - Velvet EP today and I bet that would be on this list had I heard it earlier.
  • I meant to listen to that Fiona Apple album all year. Whoops.

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