Words by Andrew Ryan Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor was the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which aired on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis (now on hiatus – past episodes are archived online). On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to its modern incarnations. Here are his top ten albums in descending order.
Okay, this was almost my #1, almost. As much as I wanted to resist throwing another 2020-style curveball, this had to be included in some way, because it’s just so damn good. Every song on here is a pop masterpiece. “As It Was” and “Late Night Talking” both have these wonderful hooks that feel comforting and also danceable. Pairing the two is a rare feat but Styles does it well.
I have to give credit to our fearless leader for putting this artist on my radar. Writing about psychedelic music for quite a while it’s a struggle to find things that aren’t just copies of everything else, even if they are GOOD copies. Breanna Barbara fits into the same sweet spot as artists like Seratones (included further down this list) that are able to blend psych and soul together perfectly. The influence of singers like Grace Slick are clear right off the bat, but you can also pick up on the best among 50s and 60s “Girl Groups”, Nothin’ But Time grabs you immediately and doesn’t let go even after the last track (“Weaning”) fades out.
Open Mike Eagle’s previous album Anime, Trauma and Divorce was a gut punch like I’ve never felt; one of the most openly personal and vulnerable albums released in a long fucking time. Eagle’s latest, A Tape Called Component System with the Auto Reverse is named for the technology that allowed for mixtapes to become much more commonplace. It may not roll off the tongue, but the vibe of this record overall is a fitting tribute to the referenced technology. Lyrically, Component System… isn’t quite as personal and open as Anime…, it seems to be more of a “back to basics” hip hop record. But the humor in the presentation of the songs is what sells this for me. With titles like “CD Only Bonus Track”, “The Song With the Secret Name” and “I Retired Then I Changed My Mind”, you figure either Eagle is trolling us or just trying to have fun again. Maybe both?
This one snuck up on us. Ever since Bazan’s solo record Curse Your Branches, his albums have been released with so much hype and fanfare. There had been talk of Phoenix being the start of a series of albums, but not much beyond that. Regardless, Havasu picks up right where Phoenix left off, down to its closing melody starting the album off on “Don’t Wanna Move”. And from there, we get Bazan at probably his most personal. Stories of young romance (“Teenage Sequencer”, “Own Valentine”) and finding where his musical journey really begins (“First Drum Set”) give a glimpse of what it was like to grow up as the man who would then be able to voice so many of our own insecurities about identity and spirituality.
Blac Rabbit – Interstella (self-released)
Twins Raheim and Amiri Taylor have really created something amazing with Blac Rabbit. After the band’s 2017 debut EP, the world definitely needed more. They spent time busking in NYC performing Beatles covers and crowdfunding their debut full length. The end result earns them a spot among the best of modern psych pop acts like Tame Impala, MGMT or Post Animal. “Seize The Day” starts off right and is the highest energy point of Interstella, but the momentum never stops. Even in the more chill moments in “Mirrors” or “I’m Your Last Resort” keep you paying close attention to what these guys are doing. And yet again, we’re left just wanting more.
I’m honestly not sure how they do it, but Spoon manages to make the perfect pop rock album every single time. They Want My Soul was an album I didn’t think they could top. Then Hot Thoughts came out, and now Lucifer On The Sofa. “The Hardest Cut” is all the proof you need. With a cool as hell almost ZZ Top vibe (and with both bands being from Texas, is it that surprising?), it’s really Britt Daniel at his best as a songwriter. Going forward, I won’t even bother asking how they’ll surpass this one, because I’m sure they’ll find a way.
Okay, so… The White Stripes were a band that never really “did it” for me. But after hearing one of Jack White’s two solo albums from this year, Fear Of The Dawn, I’m wondering if I just didn’t get it at the time. Because holy fucking shit this album is good, and what I’ve gone back and revisited I really dig too. I know White has/had a reputation for being a real asshole so maybe that was it. Regardless, I can’t get enough of this record. “Taking Me Back” is such a great rocker and anyone that can get Q-Tip to make a guest appearance is doing something right.
I never realized how much I missed this band until the first notes of “Blacklight Shine” hit. And yet, this is not at all the same Mars Volta we know. My very first impression of this was that they were going for a Yes cover band vibe. And yet, I also didn’t mind at all. As main songwriters for both this band and At The Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López have spent so much time playing aggressive, high energy rock music, it’s nice to see them stretch themselves a bit.
2019’s POWER solidified Seratones as one of my absolute favorite bands. Their particular blend of psychedelic and soul is infectious as hell. And on Love & Algorhythms there’s this amazing other-worldliness to it. Even down to the cover art. And A.J. Haynes’ voice is at its strongest, particularly on the lead off track “Two Of A Kind” as well as the title track. The latter song is guaranteed to stick in your head for days on end.
This should make up for #10 right? In all seriousness, this album fucking rules. Keith Morris is a damn legend in his own right, but Free LSD is truly a game changing punk album. Justin Brown (from Thundercat) is an AMAZING drummer and makes these songs really come to life. And with a movie based on the album on the horizon, OFF! is poised to take over the entire world and we’ll be better off for it.