If you’re a garage head these would have been the two most anticipated releases of the year. Since bursting out of a Melbourne suburb in 2009 with their Lovin’ You EP, they’ve practically spawned a whole scene of garage and punk groups inspired by them and Straight Arrows. The Frowning Clouds have now found a home on Anti Fade, run by the people behind Living Eyes (one of those very bands). Still represented by Saturno in Europe, who have helped them sway a new continent with only two brief visits. And a fantastic tour tape to boot, that I wrote about earlier and which features in my recent list of 2013’s best singles and eps. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Whereabouts ended up on my list of the best 15 albums, which I will be posting soon too. Because although the Gospel Sound From the Church of Scientology cassette didn’t show much progression from their ’65 revival sound of Listen Closelier, (except some ventures into ’66 sounds, like The Mods’ “Days Mind the Time”), this album is a completely different beast. While recent single “Propellers” is included here, neither that nor the preceding “All Night Long” hinted at the direction they would be taking here. This 13-track album is an ode to the psychedlic era Kinks and the folk-rock sounds of 1968. Without churning out catchy pop songs, they achieve the same success Woods did on their latest album, via quirky song structures, groovy bass lines and far-out 12-string sounds (check out the ending of first track “All Angles” for example). “Into the Ground” and “Dreamtiming” are among the most beautiful electric folk songs of the year. And on “3 O’Clock Habit”, “Beetle Bird” and “Product of the Peanut Butter Company” they could have been channeling Peanut Butter…. Conspiracy. But they’re at their absolute best when they are just Frowning Clouds: “Mayan Calender Girl”, “Much Too Much Too Soon” and “Heaps Deep” are unique and memorable songs in their own right. And still they’re not afraid to break out a simple braindead riff like that of “Human Being, Human Doing, Human Going”. Hear it on spotify
It’s true, The Higher State are here with their best album so far, aptly titled just The Higher State. Unassumingly packaged and presented, this masterpiece sounds like it could have been recorded in a casual 10-day session just like Younger Than Yesterday. Marty’s cut his hair, Paul Messis has come in on bass, no paisley shirts on the cover. As a band they’ve reached an age at which style and artifice is less important than just being yourselves. “Look here comes another trend, now you look just like your friends” to quote the album’s closing track “Try Slowing Down”. Even though the more psychedelic precursor Freakout At the Gallery was great, it’s this equally balanced mix of 12-string folk-rock and seething fuzz leads that they do best. With two razorsharp singles already released this year, only “Potentially (Everyone Is Your Enemy)” is included here, leaving you with 11 new songs that together make up the strongest material Marty and Mole have released since The Mystreated’s classic LP Looking Right Through (that, believe it or not, turns 20 years old next year). Perhaps it’s Messis who has re-ignited that spark, or maybe it’s the comfortable setting of their own Folkstone studio that just makes these songs come together naturally. Each of them so strong it’s impossible to pick a favourite. Hear it here, or get it from 13 O’Clock, along with their newest 45 “I Just Pretend”.