Despite the tilt of most of the music reviewed on this blog there was a three year span where I had fallen out of love with heavy music and listened to mostly indie rock. Velvet Blue Music is a label run by Jeff Cloud, formerly of both Joy Electric and Starflyer 59. Velvet Blue Music has quietly and consistently put out the best independent music I’ve heard. These are my top ten favorite records from the label.
Honorable Mention: Richard Swift – The Novelist
The Novelist gets to be an honorable mention because it was released and rerelease so many times that it’s not really a VBM release, but at one point VBM did put out the Novelist. The Novelist is 19 minutes of 1930’s throwback music. It’s one of the most original pieces of music one will ever hear.
10. Suffering and the Hideous Thieves – Real Panic Formed
Jeff Suffering was already a punk rock legend when Suffering and the Hideous Thieves hit the scene. He had fronted Ninety Pound Wuss and the controversial Raft Of Dead Monkeys. Real Panic Formed had all the punk rock attitude but was tuned down. Taking a not from the like’s of Nick Cave, Suffering and the Hideous Thieves unveiled their slow, brooding orchestral punk rock on the masses. The opening track, All My Friends Are on Prozac, set the album off on the right foot. The Other Side of the Moon and Sex is Dead are other stand out tracks.
9. Denison Marrs – World Renown for Romance
The first record I ever got from Velvet Blue Music was the Stavesacre/Denison Marrs split ep. Which of course moved me to get World Renown for Romance. Like I said in the Top 10 Emo records post, this is just a beautiful record. Great songs.
8. LN – Dirt Floor Hotel 1
Gary Murray already had a reputation for being a great songwriter and LN’s Dirt Floor Hotel took his song writing to a new level. While the two ep’s before Dirt Floor Hotel had shown a shift in LN musically, it wasn’t until Dirt Floor Hotel’s release that the more acoustic, singer songwriter side on LN would full emerge. The opening track, Nerves Left Exposed, is just one in a long list of absolutely beautiful songs that Murray has written. It gives me chills. The album top to bottom is full of indie folk gems.
7. Ghoti Hook – Self-titled
Ghoti Hook had one last batch of songs in them after they left Tooth and Nail. Their final outing was an ep that was the next progression from Two Years To Never. The ep is full on Arena Rock. If Drop Dead doesn’t get you on your feet with your fist pounding the sky, then nothing will. Six great songs and a great way to end your musical career.
6. The John Wilkes Kissing Booth – A Threat in the Broadcast
Before Derrick Brown was a poet I loved, he fronted The John Wilkes Kissing Booth. A Threat in the Broadcast has something likeable about it. It’s just a good rock record. It’s never to complex but never boring. Derrick Brown’s poetic side shines through on the lyrics and music has almost a DC feel to it. Gogirlkillswitch, The Voyeur and The Black Sea, My Most Hated Love Song, and Dons Turf Motel carry the middle of the album and are the meat of the record.
5. Lassie Foundation – California
Lassie Foundation was born out of the break-up of the Prayer Chain and although it seems wrong to say, The Prayer Chain breaking up was a great thing for music. The Lassie Foundation debut ep, California is a shoegaze dream. It’s just fuzz rock at it’s best. I Can Be Her Man is still my favorite Lassie Foundation song. California has the best version of I’m Stealing To Be Your One in A Million (I don’t know why they ever rerecorded the song). Only 5 songs on California but it’s just a tremendous shoegaze record.
4. Pony Express – Becoming What You Hate
Besides running Velvet Blue Music, being in Joy Electric and Starflyer 59, Jeff Cloud also had his own musical project, Pony Express. Pony Express was a quirky little indie pop outfit. Their first couple of eps normally featured fuzzed out guitars to Jeff Cloud’s less then pitch perfect vocals. Becoming What You Hate was less fuzzed out, more polished musically. It featured the talents of Frank Lenz, Jason Martin, and Richard Swift, with songs written by all four. Becoming What You Hate is full of great pop songs. There’s something slightly offbeat about Becoming What You Hate but that’s what makes it such a charming album.
3. Map – Secrets By the Highway
If you’re an indie band the key to success is working with Richard Swift and Frank Lenz. Josh Dooley did and turned out the beautiful Secrets by the Highway. Great songs of lost loves and friends. Secrets By the High is Map’s best record and it’s was the most commercially sounding record VBM had released at the time. Great, great pop songs. I know Dooley went instrumental with Map’s last full-length but I hope he can get back to putting out fantastic pop music.
2. Frank Lenz – Conquest Slaughter
Although Lenz has admitted to not being completely thrilled with Conquest Slaughter, fans agreed that it was a hit. Frank Lenz put together a fantastic batch of songs. Conquest Slaughter is full of catchy hooks and standard 4/4 rock songs but also has a splash on weird arrangements and instrumentation to keep one guessing. It’s a lo-fi masterpiece.
1. LN – Novel
Slo-core, dream pop, or shoegaze,. Whatever you want to call LN’s Novel genre wise, you won’t argue that it’s a true beauty. Whether it’s songs like Cars Must Burn where Murray sings in a whisper over lush guitar tracks or And the Angels where he belts out over an acoustic guitar, Novel is hauntingly beautiful. It was Cloud’s favorite record when he put it out and I think it still might be. For years he would offer Novel for free with another purchase. The cover of Softly and Tenderly at the end of the record sends chills up my spine. A great album.