Here's a batch of some recent mostly unknown pickups that made the grade to my ears and will be sticking around the Vinyl Cave, rather than being sent back into the wilds.
Thee Oh Sees: Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP
The remarkably prolific San Francisco garage combo returns with seemingly their 10th or 11th release this year; does John Dwyer have a bet with Robert Pollard or something? All snark aside, Carrion Crawler is their most rockin' set of songs since 2009's instant classic Help!. As compared to that album, many of the songs here are quite a bit longer, holding a danceable groove while keeping the energy level high. This one's caught my ear much faster than the pair of double disc sets from earlier in 2011. (In the Red, 2011; includes digital download)
HoZac Hookup Club: Round One
A compilation of the first year's worth of instant collectibles from the fanzine turned trendsetting record label, Round One features at least one song from each of the ten 7-inch releases and a couple tracks new to this collection. My favorite songs here -- by Idle Times, Woven Bones, Box Elders and White Mystery -- come from the garage end of HoZac's mostly lo-fi spectrum. Also on the album are two of the three tracks from an early release by indie pop sensations Dum Dum Girls. Along with being a much easier way to get some of this music than trying to find the singles at this point, it's also a convenient microcosm for the uninitiated of the label's aesthetic. Hopefully there will be companion volumes for subsequent singles club seasons. (HoZac Records, 2010)
Head on Electric: Sleep Slaughter Sheep
During November's annual Chopperfest inferno at Mickey's Tavern, it was special surprise when participating band Head on Electric announced that they had copies of their new album for sale. One came home and has been on the turntable quite a few times since. It's impossible not to note that the Milwaukee trio occasionally raises the ghost of Nirvana (a band which they performed as for Halloween this year), but that's largely due to the sound of Erik Oley's more larynx-shredding moments. Beyond that haunting, Head on Electric's eclecticism reminds me much more of a band Nirvana often acknowledged as an influence -- the Meat Puppets (well, and occasionally the already-missed Goodnight Loving, a member of which participated in some of these recordings). There's the off-kilter garage pop of "Through the Cobwebs," the twisted country stomp of "Poison Toad" and many other fine moments of rock 'n roll. It's one of the best Wisconsin albums I've heard this year, and with some nifty artwork to boot. (Dusty Medical, 2011; includes digital download)