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Essential Tapes: 2016

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introduction by tom johnson

Still seen as a guilty pleasure by some, and as something to openly scorn by others, the cassette tape continues to hold its own against the vinyl resurgence and endless free download opportunities. Best used as an affordable physical alternative for smaller DIY labels, we’ve covered a number of inspired tape releases across GFP’s pages this year, and will continue to champion the format as long as it continues to act, as it does, as a vessel for the best DIY/bedroom-recorded music that we otherwise might not get the chance to invest in.

As 2016 rolls to an end, and preceding our full-and-proper ‘Selected Albums’ list next week, here are a whole load of tape releases that we’ve deemed to be essential listening. Shout-out to the bands/artists/labels that continue to flourish within the ever-expanding scene, and check-out our selections below.

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Hoops – EP

Fat PossumBUY

“Fronted by Drew Auscherman, who you may know from one of his many other recording projects if you can work through the labyrnth of varying nom de plume’s that he uses, the new tape is a collaboration with friend Kevin Krauter and is mostly centred around loose, buried vocals and wonky guitar lines, the kind of bedroom pop with the potential to reach far greater heights if it wasn’t designed with the intention of never leaving the walls within which it was produced.” [Read more]

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Gig Bag – Sitcom

DZ TapesBUY

“Those who keep a keen eye on the U.S bedroom-pop scene will probably be aware of Jake Lazovick’s talent; one of those precocious, prolific acts that the country seems to have an abundance of, now and forever… there’s certainly a buried strain of implacable magic to his work, the kind of half-buried feeling you’re unsure of where it came from, or where it belongs, but which constantly tugs at you from the very heart of his weirdly wonderful songs. The new record does this from the outset.” [Read more]

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Lance Bangs – Lance Mountain

Citrus City RecordsBUY

The songs here are short and unkempt, happy to slam the door shut just as you’re starting to get comfortable, but it’s all done with such a playful sense of abandon that such actions never feel at all intimidating. In fact there’s genuine warmth buried in their somewhere, not, perhaps the type that comes with playful affection, more the simple thrill of being alive in the moment, even if that moment is fading away before it’s even had a chance to start. [Read more]

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Ratbath – Dead Skin Cells

Fox Food RecordsBUY

“Karlie Efinger, aka ‘Ratbath’, makes music that speaks to your soul. Quite how she does this is part of the enigma. Asking ‘how?’ is a bit like watching David Blaine’s hands intently during a card trick – it misses the point. Each song is a vignette, or a snapshot of a dark moment in time that is so personal, honest and ultimately captivating. I’m listening now while writing this and I’m having to stop to look away from the screen. Not paying attention to that vulnerability and sadness seems rude, or insensitive somehow.” [Read more]

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Sunshine Faces – Qurom

Temporary EnjoymentBUY

“Trying to Organize Craziness wouldn’t be a bad subtitle for Quorum. Noah dabbles in a multitude of soundscapes yet manages to create a cohesive final product that meets at the perfect intersection of experimental and pop. The melodies aren’t predictable, but they are distantly familiar and wholly indelible.” [Read more]

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Parts – Parts

WinspearBUY

“Dense, shimmering pop music of the most nightly persuasion, PARTS is the debut EP from the Grand Rapids duo of the same name, and the three tracks housed within make for a gleaming introduction to their work. Somewhat shaded, before the whole thing unravels in spectacular fashion on closing track “Flowers”, PARTS are indeed far more than the sum of theirs, using their two components, the voice and the music, to create something that feels altogether more wholesome. The electronic backdrop is crisp and robotic, adding delicate synths and more robust percussion to the swoon of those hazy vocals.” [Read more]

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Horse Jumper Of Love – HJOL

Disposable AmericaBUY

“There are nods to a number of different styles and eras across the new record, from mid-nineties noise bands to the rawer side of their respective labels’ outputs, but it’s perhaps Alex G that most springs to mind, on ‘Spaceman’ at least; the slow-build of it all, the quiet nature of the sentiments expressed, the way it captures a mood that feels both indefinable but strikingly important all in the same long, slow, breath. Instantly immersive and exceedingly pretty…” [Read more]

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Sports – Sunchokes

Father/Daughter RecordsBUY

Though Sports’ “Sunchokes” album was initially released in the summer of 2014, this gem of lofi pop record has been given a new lease of life on tape thanks to the ever-wonderful Father/Daughter Records. Led by Carmen Perry’s continually compelling lead voice, the eight-track collection mixes racuous punk-pop moments of thrashy guitar and brilliantly quotable lyrics, with the more refined solidity of the closing title-track, to make for something powerfully endearing. The best record that the Crutchfields never made. Or something.

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The Pooches – The Pooches

Fuzzkill RecordsBUY

Released on vinyl via Lame-O Records, and on tape via Fuzzkill, the Glasgow band’s self-titled collection is a beautifully-realised pop record, one that ebbs and flows sublimely through its ten brilliant tracks, armed with “the same glowing charm that weaved its way through the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Belle & Sebastian.” Bold comparisons, but also ones that make perfect sense within the confines of this wonderfully endearing album.

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Halfsour – Charm School

Disposable AmericaBUY

“Recuperating from the shingles is a perfect time to channel a case of the doldrums into a quick hit of pop-punk antidote. “Vinyl Siding” is the Boston trio’s second single and appropriately its “three lines,” born out of having nothing to say and nothing to do, are about having nothing to say and nothing to do. But Vinyl Siding is a song about nothing in the same way that Seinfeld is a show about nothing—a misunderstood Zen philosophy oversimplified into a catchy slogan.” [Read more]

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eerie summer – the way i don’t understand anything anymore

Topshelf RecordsBUY

One of our favourite records of last year is another a worthy addition to the whole reissue series thing, this time via Topshelf Records brilliant ongoing cassettes series. “The vocals drip with sensibility, the tone and turn of phrase meticulously delivered to latch on to you, the listener, to reach out from the speakers as a hand to hold, as a companion to days, good and bad, as a cheerleader that proves music as the magical and mystical beast it is.” [Read more]

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Jeff Haley – Home Alone

Furious HoovesBUY

“Best known until this point as Wild Nothing’s bass player, Haley has seemingly crafted something markedly impervious, the kind of distinct act of solemnity that exudes all kinds of varying energies without ever taking anything back. Hanging like some slow-burning evening air in the pit of a summer that simply won’t settle, it’s a brief but captivating introduction to a record that might well prove to be one the buried gems of the year.” [Read more]

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Faith Elliott – Insects

Song, By ToadBUY

Embracing the Nebraskan landscape that helped to shape this beautiful set of alt. country songs, Faith Elliott embeds her music with a beautiful sense of both time and place; the latter real and tangible, the former something far more ambiguous. Tender folk songs, all led by Elliott’s articulate, exquisite, way with words, there’s something about these songs that feel ready-made for tape spools; somewhat antiquated relics of a bygone age given fresh life under the darkened skies of this funny old year.

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Wild Pink – 4 Songs

Tiny EnginesBUY

“This sense of distant dimness is leant extra credence by the fact these tracks are, in some regard, supposed to be exactly that; a supplement, a postscript, to what next year’s record might hold. And in that respect ‘4th of July’ is beautifully intriguing, an antiquated voice, all grain and must, cracked by the weather and the passing of time but presented with the quiet voice you couldn’t help but ignore – as long as you don’t look directly at it.” [Read more]

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Space Mountain – Big Sky

Super Fan 99BUY

“This album contains a collection of songs about maintaining positivity in a world that is much bigger than anything you could comprehend. You’re insignificant and small in the grand order of things – but is that so bad? Dusty folk-rock and beautiful finger-picking glide along as Cole Kinsler’s rich and smoky voice waxes poetic over the course of Big Sky’s running time. [Read more]

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Cross Country – Trials

Infinity CatBUY

While, on paper, that monotone delivery might not make for the most radiant experience, there’s actually a real carefree sense of abandon to Grass Stain, the new track from Cross Country’s debut on Infinity Cat, that makes for the kind of glorious departure from the day that feels almost intrinsically linked to the summer and all it has to offer.

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Slumbers – Come Over

Sports Day RecordsBUY

Come Over” and it makes for a genuinely captivating atmosphere that plays in to the idea of small town friendships fighting under the weight of the watchful eye of parental establishment. Such sentiments are often the source for films and books but rarely does this nuanced world view play itself in to pop music, however, as Slumbers wonderful EP rolls to a close you’ll find yourself buried within such constraints; of anxieties fought over while the rest of the world falls asleep, of lasting friendships forged in the eerie stillness of the night. [Read more]

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Azure – Candy

Z TapesBUY

Close harmonies and 60’s garage styling underpins the whole aesthetic, with some ahh’s thrown into the chorus for good measure: “one day I’ll get a job / I might even buy a car. No more eating home brand / we could even go organic…” Throughout, Newton’s playful, witty edge occasionally strays into sarcasm, but he shrugs off any attempt by others to criticise back, by getting in there first. [Read more]

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