Jeff’s Hot Hits of “2011”

Originally there was 13 records in this selection – a baker’s dozen, which seemed appropriate for Jeff  this year. If the post about Yamama pies didn’t tip you off, it’s fair to say that Jeff has indulged in occasional treat, gourmet or otherwise, resulting in his physique moving closer to that of Jeff Albertson, his nerdly cohort from the Simpsons, pictured here, somewhat appropriately, on someone’s butt:

He’s assures us that, like the lead lining in speakers, the extra weight enables a more steady platform for the ears to their job and that his hearing is now much richer yet more transparent, or some crap.

Alas, he’d forgotten a couple of records that need to be mentioned (apparently), so the list is now 16 records long and I don’t get to make the food jokes. (whoops!). Anyway, he’s selected a snobby, rich-blooded bunch of records most of which have little to do with 2011 at all. His explanation is thus: “If I bought it in 2011, or heard it for the first time, or heard it properly for the first time in 2011, then it qualifies”. Who am I to argue?

So, without further ado, here’s a random number of records that have no real connection with 2011, in no particular order:

Chris & Craig – Isha 7″

Released in 1966, this slice of Eastern-influenced hippy pop sits perfectly between the deep, trippy cerebellum and frontal head-nodding lobe of the brain. Craig is Craig Smith, who wrote a tune for the Monkees “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd” lp and drifted off to South America with his royalty money only to return a few years later with a spider tattooed on his forehead, and began living on the streets of LA. He also recorded a couple of loner psych albums under the name Maitreya Kali, which are among the best (and most sought-after) psych artifacts – they fetch multi-thousand dollar prices whenever they are offered. Thankfully this 7″ is way, WAY cheaper though it still took him about 5 years to find a copy.

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Bob Dorough – Multiplication Rock LP

Well, you knew there’d be at least on Children’s record in the list. And what a record! Grady Tate, Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie and probably others, sing songs about the “times tables” as we called them in the 70s. You’re all probably familiar with “Three Is The Magic Number” which De La Soul famously sampled and which was recently used by a phone company to advertise their services on Aussie tv but there’s a bunch of cool tunes on here. And even the lesser tracks are a heap of fun due to the subject matter: Maths! Jeff loved it so much that he bought the record and the dvd this year. Here’s my favourite tune from it:

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Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats LP

One of those records that Jeff has long hoped would turn up one day for the right price… Thankfully it was reissued this year (along with all the TG albums) and now he finally has a copy. Falling somewhere between the electronic library records of the Italian and French Masters (Nilovic, Nardini, Warner, Umiliani, Alessandroni et al) and the modern electronica spawned by rave and nightclub goers in the 80s and 90s. Well, I suppose you could add Krautrock, New Beat or Musique Concrete in there as possible soundalikes, too… I don’t know. Let’s just say it’s a fucking brilliant album of electronic pulses and rhythms and leave it at that.

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PJ Harvey – Let England Shake LP

Apparently not everyone thinks this is a good PJ Harvey record. Well, “bad luck” says Jeff, he thinks it’s her best yet. Moody, emotional songs about war, with awesome production – this lady is growing up and showing that not every album needs a couple of hook-y songs or a hit to be a fantastic record.

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Il Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza – Niente LP

Il Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza  Niente

Okay, a bit of self-promotion here from Jeff. But he assures me that this record would be here on its own merits even if the label he helps put together, Roundtable Records, had nothing to do with it. Here’s the promo blurb:

Founded in Rome in 1964, ‘Il Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza’ was a collective of noted and noteworthy composers who challenged the very structure and performance of music itself. Today the most renowned of its members would be film-scoring genius Ennio Morricone (indeed “Il Gruppo…” performed on many celebrated Morricone scores of the 1960s and 1970s) but each contributor has an intriguing history in Italian music. The collective improvised live (according to strict exercises) and in the studio (recording for RCA, Deutsche Grammaphon, General Music and others). Come 1970 “Il Gruppo…’ (as ‘The Group’) recorded “The Feed-back” (for RCA Italy), an insane amalgam of avant-improvisation and motorik krautrock beats that, understandably, has become one of the most collectable LPs ever issued. In 1971 ‘Il Gruppo’ returned to the studio to record a sequel. This is that record. For reasons unknown “Niente” was never originally issued but one listen will convince that not only is it the sequel to one of the most sought after LPs of all time, but it is also by far its superior. Brain melting jams collide with unhinged intensity in a hothouse of Italian avant-improv. You have been warned.

Released in a week or two! Be sure to check it out, along with Peter Thomas’ “Orion 2000” and Egisto Macchi’s “I Futuribili” which will be available at the same time.

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Janko Nilovic – Pop’ Impressions LP

He already owns “Psyc Impressions” and “Supra Pop Impressions” and has previously opted to not buy this one due to it “not cutting the mustard at the time” but now Jeff is a proud owner of this fine French library record; I guess sometimes you have to grow into a record. Janko doesn’t go for the instant grab with psych-funk tunes on this one preferring more heady, baroque orchestrations that sit well in the confines of a loungeroom. Not to say these tunes wouldn’t work on a dancefloor, ‘cos they would, they’re just a bit more subtle then the aforementioned. I think it might prove to be the best-loved of the trio!

I was going to put a youtube clip up to illustrate the genius of this album but nobody has uploaded my favourite tracks so you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Lost Domain – Blondes Chew More Gum 2LP

Originally released on cassette in the 90s, this lost classic from Brisbane finally got a release on vinyl in 2011 thanks to the good folks of the Negative Guest List label. If you’re a person that enjoys the jangly ramble of the Velvet Underground or the long jams of Krautrock bands like Amon Duul I, or even the noisy diy indulgences of the Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum labels of NZ’s undergound, you’re sure to get a real kick out of this sprawling, free-form rock monster.

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Teisco – Tuscan Castle and Country Seat LP

Ultra-obscure Italian library record from the late 70s. Appropriate that it comes after Janko Nilovic and the Lost Domain in this list as that’s a pretty good starting point for the music within that unremarkable sleeve. It has the post-Velvets guitar jamming of the first Dream Syndicate record in parts. In other bits you hear the diy electronics of some lesser-known Krautrock band. This is highly personal, deeply rewarding and without a doubt the most mind-blowing record Jeff says he’s heard all year!

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R. Stevie Moore – Phonography LP

Definitely pop, this record, originally released in a micro-quantity in 1976 is like a lo-fi Todd Rundgren record. Blending synthesizers, tape loops and a bunch of production tricks into a personal, post-psychedelic, record that sits in alongside pop masterworks like the Joe Byrd albums, the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and the Big Star records.

Thankfully reissued by Sundazed some time recently (?), so you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to acquire this. Now, if only someone would reissue a bunch of his other stuff!! Kinda desperate over here.

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Emmanuelle Parrenin – Maison Rose LP

 Originally released in 1977 this is easily the most beautiful folk album Jeff has heard all year. Featuring production and innovative arrangements from Jean-Claude Vannier (the mastermind behind Serge Gainsbourg’s “Histoire de Melody Nelson” as well as his own classic “L’enfant Assassin des Mouches”) this record uses traditional instruments and electronics to move smoothly between avant-garde moments and s more standard folk setup. The real star, though, is Parrenin with her expressive voice that sounds magical! Reissued by US label Lion, this edition comes with a fantastic thick gatefold sleeve. A real gem! Even Joe likes it (it made his picks of 2011, too!)

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Mekons – Ancient and Modern 1911-2011 LP

 Like an old friend, the Mekons’ new album feels right at home on the turntable. Jeff can’t remember hearing too much of their stuff from the past 15-20 years but if this one is any indication they haven’t lost any of their savvy. Their discontent is still there but age has tempered them and the blade glides in easily rather than  hacking and slashing. That said, they still play with little care for precision, which is a good thing, preferring the mood to be more important than the notes and this album shows that the band still cares about something. While other bands are releasing 30th anniversary editions of their one notable record, these folks are still churning out classics after more than 3 decades.

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Epic Soundtracks & Jowe Head – Rain, Rain, Rain 12″

Two former members of the Swell Maps team up for this amazing release from 1982 of two long jams reminiscent of something from the first Kraftwerk album or the ubiquitous Neu!. It’s motorik, automatic, and doesn’t really go anywhere yet somehow it’s the most interesting record you’ll hear all month.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that say the most. I imagine it being a sort of gateway drug to Krautrock for young English upstarts that followed soon after, like Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine. I really think it’s time that someone started reissuing the Epic Soundtracks material on vinyl. It’s criminal that these things are so hard to obtain.

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Total Control – Henge Beat LP

Killer local release of the year, this one. Mikey from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, DX from Straightjacket Nation, Al from almost every band in Melbourne (Straightjacket Nation, UV Race, Dick Diver, etc etc) and a couple of other cats that I don’t know, team up to make this post punk record that really packs a punch. There’s been a bunch of comparisons to Suicide, Severed Heads, Gary Numan, Joy Division, basically anything from the early 80s that used synths in a kind of punky way. And it’s true that this record does have that sound. But the songs are really strong and you can tell that behind the sound is a real heart, albeit a slightly warped, meth-affected heart beating relentlessly, growing edgier and edgier. Sadly, we sold out of all the copies before any staff members could claim one for their own and they were the last copies in the country. Hopefully there’ll be more copies available again soon…

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Boudewijn De Groot – Picknick LP

Jeff bought a bunch of Dutch records this year from, surprise, Holland with a view to selling them: mostly Boudewijn De Groot and Elly & Rikkert. However, they were mostly too good to part with and so only a couple ending up hitting the shelves. This one here is the pick (pun intended) of them. A magical pop-psych journey that sounds a lot like the cover looks. While the effects and instrumentation float off into magical mushroom-filled landscapes, Boudewijn’s very matter-of-fact, half-spoken voice keeps things somewhat grounded. And while, to a foreigner, this sounds like an underground wet dream, this record is fairly mainstream in the Netherlands and still rates highly in radio polls there as one of the best-loved records released in that country. Jeff tells me that he will soon have a copy of the follow-up record to this which was Boudewijn’s most uncompromising (and most expensive) release, a dark, twisted affair that takes the whimsical delight of this psychedelic experience and turns it into a heavy trip. Maybe that’ll make 2012’s list.

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The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy? LP

 Released in 1970, this is the debut lp from sunshine-pop, folk-rocksters from Canada. They released four albums between 1970 and 1971 before finally splitting in ’73 when the singer, Susan Jacks, divorced the songwriter, Terry Jacks. The music on this debut is a blend of rock, folk and country and, while it’s a pleasant listen, it isn’t anything particularly outstanding. Well, except for one track. The a-side closer, “There’s No Blood In Bone” is a flat-out hard psych classic with upfront drums, fuzz and all sorts of delicious sounds that kept it on high-rotation at Jeff’s house for ages. To save you the effort of tracking down the record just for that one song, here it is on youtube:

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The Left Banke – Too LP

Though he was very familiar with the Left Banke’s wonderful debut, 2011 is the year that Jeff finally secured a copy of “Too” and he has since, proverbially, played it to death. This second release of “baroque pop” shows a more mature band with impeccable studio technique – the arrangements and orchestration are superb and lyrically, the band shows intelligence and, at times, humour such as their ode to a seagull named Holly. This is just about the most gorgeous pop album ever released and if you think modern day heroes like Animal Collective or Fleet Foxes or earlier bands like the Smiths know how to piece a song together then this should impress you just as much as the record buyer looking for another 60s pop masterpiece to play alongside the best releases from the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Another Sundazed reissue, this one has whet Jeff’s appetite for an original copy, so please don’t bid against him.

Well, there you go. Another year done and dusted. As you might expect, there was plenty of records that just missed out on this list but I’m not going to humour them with an encouragement award or anything. Winners are grinners and losers can suit themselves, as they say. I hope you bought a bunch of amazing records this year, just like Jeff did, and I hope that Round and Round can outfit you with your favourite records of 2012!! Have a great new year, folks!

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2 Responses to Jeff’s Hot Hits of “2011”

  1. Kelly says:

    Fantastic list! I really love your store – right at my end of town, catering perfectly to my tastes (a rare occurrence!); Is there any chance you have any of these in stock? There is a few there that sound great!

    Happy New Year!
    Kelly

    • Thanks Kelly! The only ones in stock right this minute are:
      Bob Dorough – Multiplication Rock
      R. Stevie Moore – Phonography
      Lost Domain – Blondes Chew More Gum
      and we’ll have the Mekons, PJ Harvey, Throbbing Gristle, Gruppo D’Improvvisatione Nuovo (and hopefully Emmanuelle Parrenin) records re-stocked in about a fortnight. The other ones are tough to find and a little expensive but I can try to track them down.

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