Eric Davidson

Top 10 Albums

The ubiquitous caveat: of course, I have not heard every record, seen every movie, read every book, etc. released in 2011. I haven’t even heard the new Atomic Suplex album on Crypt or The Men’s LP for Pete’s sake! But for now, here are my year-end rah-rahs, in no particular order.

Black Lips
Arabia Mountain

While longtime fans keep expecting a drop-off in quality, and new converts still yell for on-stage peeing (annoying said longtime fans), the Black Lips continue to traverse the globe for inspiration while always hanging to huge Yankee garage-pop hooks, so much so this time that this is probably the most fully enjoyable Lips album to date after 10-plus years in the game!

Kurt Vile
Smoke Ring for My Halo

After dishing up some of the cooler scruffy garage-art of the last couple years, Vile serves up this beautiful, subtly brazen solo salvo. While retaining enough scruff, snarl and thrift store demeanor to be enjoyed on a 6pm subway ride home, it is his dark, moody In the Wee Small Hours wannabe, so sink into this stuff before the inevitable focus-destroying Kanye photo opp and DJ of the Week remix.

Acid Baby Jesus
Acid Baby Jesus

Acid Baby Jesus’ self-titled debut is a more scarred, psych-pep take on all that fuzzy, echoey, melancholy ’60s melody garage-plop churning through the indie underbelly (I call it “Hardly Artcore”). Layers of frightened bellowing and otherwordly distortion, with really catchy hooks out of nowhere, make it the most intriguing debut of the year.

The One and Only
Tic Tac Totally

Tykes from down Texas-way, with probably too many side projects (all of them good!), slingin’ killer slash ’n’ burn, with structured smarts, way more-than-required sweat, and that elusive, effortless ability to make you think rock & roll has a pulse.

Last Laugh Records

Label head honcho and sole employee Harry Howes really went cuckoo reissuing ultra-obscure first-era punk rock that is truly cracked and a genuine hoot, as opposed to just, you know, ultra-obscure. He spread his Red Bull wings out into early-70s glam, power pop, and even some new shit—like the house party punk of Liquor Store’s debut, Yeah Buddy!—with his Almost Ready and Mighty Mouth imprints too. But Last Laugh has resurrected the whole Killed by Death pinhead impetus for yet another generation of louts.

Just Pallin’ Around with...
Killer Diller

Calling it crazed shockabilly brings to mind leopard print creepers, so this ain’t that exactly. Aside from singer Max Frechette’s pompadour recalling the torn innards of a post-hunt leopard and his hot licks hollow-body guitar having been taped and stapled back together like Michael Yonkers taught him the Eddie Cochran catalog, the band flings empties at the more ubiquitous mid-century nods, making a fast racket that wears you out quick, and the 15-minute chat with a very sauced Rico (bassist) at the end is the perfect respite. Who needs more songs anyway?!

Human Eye
They Came from the Sky
Sacred Bones

Timmy Vulgar, Detroit’s alien heart of now-times punk, continues to produce on the level of Ford in the ’50s, while his sounds evolve into the noise of those dead ol’ axel factories being torn to bits by the drunken adolescents of that new planet. The Human Eye live show might’ve been the most consistently id-invigorating of any band this year.

Flesh Lights

The hopped-up hopes of the year, this Austin trio frisbeed out a few singles, but it’s the surprisingly searing sounds of their debut LP on Twistworthy, Muscle Pop, that can really electrify the ears of someone who thinks the OBN IIIs could save rock & roll.

Guilty Pleasures
Summer Strange
Dusty Medical

LA Times
LA Times ep
Smash It Up

Long never-unleashed recordings from two of the most savage and sorely under-known bands of the whole late-90s lo-fi garage-punk undie explosion. Having crawled from somewhere around Bloomington, Illinois, around 2000, the Guilty Pleasures put out one insanely screechy 7-inch single, a few brain-gutting gigs, and some time in between recorded this album that sat around for some damn reason until now. Same goes for LA Times, a Devil Dogs–worshipping bunch from, ahem, LA, who were too young to be told that 60 beers in one night is in fact a lot to drink for one band. They finally quit waiting for someone to dig up their AOL email address and ask ’em and just released this sick four-song 7-inch slab this year in a batch of just 300 copies, so get hunting!

Davila 666
Tan Bajo
In the Red

From the opening movie sample into the first tune, “Obsesiano” and its ’70s-ish cop flick credits-roll crunch, Davila 666 went cinematic on their long-awaited follow-up to their 2008 debut. Not that they were sitting around watching old Coffin Joe VHS tapes (well, maybe). These Puerto Rican rabble-rousers tour as much as any band on the planet. Hence, the wider-screen production (though still Spaghetti Western grimey) and world-traveled genre flirtations of Tan Bajo. Even hints of what might’ve been an ’80s prom closing scene swooner (“¡Diablo!”) point to a band that has retained it’s effortless ability to fuse and fisticuffs decades of garage pop infatuations. The subtly odd, frequent back-tracking song endings are a nice twist too. In 2011, there were freight trucks full of fuzz-drenched, doo-wopped, lo-fi garage plop accelerating along the indie underground. But Davila 666 did a little bit of this and a little bit of that and more, and still hit the road harder than Wez in Mad Max.