Lists And Mixes

Valentine’s Day Special: 21 Great Singles You May Have Missed

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I’ve been contemplating doing something for Valentine’s Day for years, and I finally settled on something good — a massive post packed with great singles from the past. Seems fitting, being the romantic holiday can be a bit alienating for the single person. Or that the seemingly comfy nature of the 7-inch single, with two (well, typically, with an occasional three or four) great songs placed back to back and stuffed in a typically well-designed sleeve, is a bit romantic in and of itself.

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been burying myself in my collection of singles, digging through to find a few rare (or at least little known) ones to share and others more familiar, some from long ago and others from fairly recently. Today I present them to you, my avid reader. One for almost every letter of the alphabet (with exception to a few of the more obscure letters). There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of several of these bands before, and others you may know well and love — all are, in my opinion, worth checking out.

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alaska-kings-of-the-class

Alaska’s Kings Of The Class

I discovered Alaska’s Kings Of The Class thanks to Jigsaw Records. The band originated in Hamburg, Germany, and Chris over at Jigsaw recommends them to anyone who digs Belle & Sebastian and Felt. I’d agree, although I’d slap an “early” in front of Belle & Sebastian. And possibly add in an early Acid House Kings name drop as well.

Listen: “Kings Of The Class” by Alaska

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busytoby-unlonely-songwriter

Busytoby’s The Unlonely Songwriter & A Piano Ablumbler b/w The Sun Is A Very Magic Fellow

Bouncy twee pop (with hints of lo-fi psychedelic pop) in the vein of a stripped down Beulah or super early Of Montreal, Busytoby consists of Jennifer Mangun and Joseph Ziemba, both members of the band Wolfie. I do not recall how this single came into my possession, but it is one of those hidden favorites you don’t expect. Every so often this Japanese import 7″ pops up and stuns, only to fade back into the collection to be rediscovered months or more down the road. All songs are worthy, but my favorite is the B-side, “The Sun Is A Very Magic Fellow”.

Listen: “The Sun Is A Very Magic Fellow” by Busytoby

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cave-weddings-bring-your-love

The Cave Weddings’ Bring Your Love b/w Let’s Drive

The Cave Weddings find an excellent middle ground between raucous garage and gritty rockabilly. Both “Bring Your Love” and “Let’s Drive” are wild and fun. These are songs you’d expect to hear sitting around a campfire, as long as it was dry and there was a way to plug in. Yes, these songs get loud.

Listen: “Bring Your Love” by The Cave Weddings

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diee-socs-ready-steady-socs

Diee Soc’s’ Ready Steady Soc’s

When I lived in Seattle, I would visit the record store weekly and drop an average of about $60 with each visit. This was a bad habit, but it’s how I built a big part of my vinyl collection. There were plenty of times where I’d peruse the used section and pull out a bunch of random singles. This was snagged during one of those binges. No, it wasn’t the near naked woman on the cover did it — this had a “GERMAN INDIE POP/ROCK” label and it was pressed on clear green vinyl. I couldn’t resist. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of in love with “The Numbers Of Love”.

Download: “Numbers Of Love” by Diee Soc’s

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ego-question-mark

Ego’s The Question Mark EP

This delightful three-song EP from 1998 was the debut release from this French jangle pop band. All three songs surround the topic of love; all are posed as questions. It’s enough to make you feel like a teenager all over again (that is, unless you are a teenager, in which then I’d assume it feels homely). “Will You Love Me ‘Till 1998” is the A-side at 45 RPM and the track hints of Morrissey and Field Mice with piano and violin and, of course, highly lovable jangly guitars. The two B-sides require a drop to 33 RPM, but I don’t mind.

Download: “Do You Want To Be My Love ‘Till 1998?” by Ego

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fireflies-cherry-blossom-girl

Fireflies’ Cherry Blossom Girl

I’ve been into Fireflies’ whisper-y bedroom-style pop since, I believe, Lisle Mitnik’s earliest releases under the moniker. I snagged this 7″ from Disque Paillons Noirs like I did the rest of the Fireflies release — as quickly as I could — not even realizing the title track was actually something I’d heard many times before. “Cherry Blossom Girl” is originally a song by Air and Lisle remakes it as a bedroom pop song, then backs it with a pleasant near-lullaby, music-box-like instrumental.

Listen: “Cherry Blossom Girl” by Fireflies

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gamma-rays-lovely-forbidden

Gamma Rays’ Lovely b/w Forbidden on Teen Beat

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this used 99-cent Teen Beat single from the early 90s (in fact, further digging revealed it was the first single the label dropped!), but it turned out to be a pretty solid twee-pop girl group with lovable light pop hooks in the vein of, oh, say The Organ and Amelia Fletcher’s Tender Trap. Although primarily Fletcher’s work. Not a bad list of bands to join in a list, if you ask me!

Listen: “Lovely” by Gamma Rays

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heartworms-thanks-for-the-headache

Heartworms’ Thanks For The Headache b/w Little Hands Of Concrete

This little single on bright white vinyl was the third release by the now famed Darla Records, released way back in ’95. My favorite is the A-side; it reminds me of those mopey jangle-pop songs by artists that would follow, like The Lucksmiths and The Lodger. Not only do you get two great (and very different) songs on white vinyl, the sleeve is a cool text-weight paper stock.

Listen: “Thanks For The Headache” by Heartworms

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javelins-we-paid-a-lot-for-our-style

Javelins’ We Paid A Lot For Our Style

You may recognize this band’s sound, and if you do you get mad props. Swedish band Javelins bailed on their name years ago — possibly something to do with another band from the states with the same name, or not — and donned the moniker The Faintest Ideas. They released a record on Magic Marker Records, which was pretty damn good. This was a split release between Yellow Mica Recordings and Zenith Recordings — with their signature rapid percussion and European-style punk, this 7″ was well worth it!

Listen: “All Stars” by Javelins

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karate-operation-sand-empty-there

Karate’s Operation: Sand/Empty There

I have a friend that swears by this band, and though I’ve collected a few of their records over the years (including this single) I haven’t really given them a good listen. Count me self-scolded. With a solid 90’s indie rock sound, thick with distorted guitar riffs and heavy drums, all of it precise and measured, they fit the era’s post-rock sensibilities perfectly. You can hear this sound on both tracks here, but my favorite has to be “Operation: Sand”.

Listen: “Operation: Sand” by Karate

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legends-call-it-ours

The Legends’ Call It Ours on Little Teddy Recordings

If you know my music tastes, you’ll know that Up Against The Legends, the debut LP by Sweden’s The Legends, is one of my desert island top 5s. “Call It Ours” comes from that album and appears here as the lead single. Backed by three exclusive tracks, this single is to die for. “The Ballad Of The Band” is full-on fuzz more in line with the band’s 4th LP, Over And Over, while closing track “Change” may very well be my favorite non-LP song from the band thus far.

Download: “Call It Ours” by The Legends

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make-up-u-r-my-intended

The Make-Up’s U R My Intended b/w The Choice

If you’ve never listened to The Make-Up, you’re missing out. Don’t be dissuaded by their inclusion in the post-punk genre, or the fact that their vocals are more “spoken groans” than actually “sung.” These are the elements (along with lewdity, which is not really present in The Make-Up) that drew me to Seattle’s Partman Parthorse. This single appears to be an OOP one from K. Snag it if you find it! (That seems to be the trend in this post, eh?)

Listen: “U R My Intended” by The Make-Up

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No Kids’ Cherry Trees b/w An Afternoon With The Pendleton’s

I’ve been into No Kids for quite some time. Krgovich, the main man behind the band, and his K cohort Rose Melberg join voices for both these songs, which match the rest of No Kids’ impressive library of unique pop music. This picture disc is on Aagoo Records and there are still copies available!

Listen: “Cherry Tree” by No Kids

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The Organ’s Let The Bells Ring

“Let The Bells Ring” was given away as a freebie when the band released its posthumous EP of singles and rarities, Thieves. The song is pretty solid, and should have made it onto their solo LP, Grab That Gun. It was, however, released after that album dropped. The B-Side is a remix by Dustin Hawthorne of the Grab That Gun track “Memorize The City” and while I’m not the biggest fan of remixes, this one complements the track beautifully.

Download: “Let The Bells Ring” by The Organ

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pop-race-clear

Poprace’s Clear

Poprace is from Sweden and features members of Acid House Kings (one of my all-time favorites), Club 8, the Legends (who we heard earlier) and Starlet. Four songs on clean white vinyl, I snagged this single a few years back and still get giddy about putting it on the record player. Poprace creates indie pop music in the vein of early AHK, but a little more lo-fi and twee. According to the Elefant Records shop, it’s still in print!

Listen: “All I Wanted” by Poprace

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red-letter-day-hibernation

Red Letter Day’s Hibernation

Sarah Records and Go-Betweens-inspired indie-pop from Germany, Red Letter Day creates indie-pop using thumpy bass-lines, a violin, a jangly guitar and softly-sung vocals. The words “German Indie Pop” caught my eye when I snagged this single a few years back, and I was even more delighted to see it was released on Marsh-Marigold Records all the way back in 1989. An obvious nod to the twee movement!

Download: “Hibernation” by Red Letter Day

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sweater-girls-pretty-when-you-smile

Sweater Girls’ Pretty When You Smile

I really enjoyed the first single by Sweater Girls, but I’m absolutely in love with this one. The guitars seem heavier without dropping any of the pop sensibilities; the drums have an increased playfulness. And the vocals and lyrics are just as light and twee. It’s like that first one times three. Grab a copy of Pretty When You Smile from HHBTM, and while you’re at it, pick up Sweater Girls’ other one!

Download: “Pretty When You Smile” by Sweater Girls

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tender-trap-face-of-73

Tender Trap’s Face Of ’73

Amelia Fletcher’s deep, dark vocals have haunted the twee-pop world for decades and Face of ’73 is one of my favorites from her work under the Tender Trap guise. The A-side is an electro-infused twee-pop song that’s catchy as all hell, and it’s backed by “Fin (Downfall Mix)” which ends up being the dreamy, soft song. This particular single is on K, but you can find my favorite LP of hers on Matinee Recordings (6 Billion People).

Listen: “Face of ’73” by Tender Trap

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unnatural-helpers-sunshine-pretty-girls

Unnatural Helpers’ Sunshine / Pretty Girls

One of the best songs out of Seattle last year was “Sunshine / Pretty Girls” by Unnatural Helpers. Here is the single, with three additional exclusive tracks including “Did the Lawn Get Mowed?”, “Shakes” and “Waiting Such A Long Time”. Hand numbered and limited to 500 copies, you can’t pick this one up in physical form anymore, but it’s still available digitally.

Download: “Sunshine / Pretty Girls” by Unnatural Helpers

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versus-bright-light

Versus’s Bright Light b/w Forest Fire

Ringing with those enormous mid-90s distorted guitar riffs and fronted by dual male/female vocals, this Versus single was the band’s second release and dates back to ’92. It is gritty with occasional harmony and dissonance, sweet with epic chord progressions, and upbeat as you’d expect from a much lighter indie pop band. The combination is that only Versus could master. This is a truly great single — a simply must-have — for the lover of 90s indie rock and indie pop.

Listen: “Bright Light” by Versus

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wolfie-mockhouse

Wolfie’s Mockhouse

Look back to 1998 and you’ll find this little single by Champaign, Illinois band Wolfie. Their second single and third release overall, Wolfie included Joe and Amanda Ziemba who we heard from before under the name Busytoby (although Amanda apparently was not involved in that single). The duo also went on to record under the name The Like Young. This single on Mud Records is a wonderful little gem with three super poppy sings that blend that late 90s indie rock sound with the playfulness the duo has become known for creating.

Download: “Mockhouse” by Wolfie

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4 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day Special: 21 Great Singles You May Have Missed

  1. Great to see Wolfie and Busytoby showing up in blogs years later. Those are two of my favorite 7″s I own. Have you heard Joe’s new project Beaujolais yet? Highly, highly recommended.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation Nate; I haven’t listened to Beaujolais yet but will do soon!

    My favorite, of course, is The Legends. But I’m also really digging Alaska these days.

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