While I'm busy cooking up these other awards, I find a few more things I want to recognize. So here are a bunch of smaller awards. No honorable mentions, only one runner-up if that.
Best Record Label
Double Crown Records
After what I thought was a weak 2014, Double Crown came roaring back. They started out by releasing a CD version of one my favorites from 2014: The Del-Vipers' Terror of the Del-Vipers. Then we got Trad Gremmy Honorable Mention Burt Rocket's Fiberglass Frenzy. Then was an overwhelming show of force: in the span of one month, we got highly anticipated releases from Boss Fink, The Madeira, The Tomorrowmen and Double Crown head honcho's band The Other Timelines. Was that sudden overwhelming salvo of surf a sound strategy? I have no idea if that stunt turned into more sales (all of them deserved it) but it was pretty awesome to me. Once again, Double Crown demonstrates why they're THE label for instro.
Runner-Up: Productions Impossible
Productions Impossible only cranks out one or two instro records per year, but every time they do you can expect it to be the wildest stuff around. This year they released the Gremmy winner for the the "rad" category in Demon Vendetta's Vigilante Surf and THEN (in conjunction with Calico Records) brought us Arno De Cea and the Clockwork Wizards' Bug Terminal. So what were probably the two most savage records this year came from the same label. Not bad, y'all.
Weirdest Album Art
I don't even know what to say. A stormtrooper, a plane, graffitti, some cool biker dude? I feel like there's a story here but I am far from figuring it out. The record itself is pretty goofy too.
I love this one and it's more funny than it is weird, but I do want to point out that the bands featured on this (all of which are still the Terrorsaurs) appear to have 6 distinct outlines around the text of their name. That has to be a record.
Best Sound Production
This was a tough one, so I'm going to name a few. I wasn't able to find embeddable versions of all of these, so I apologize that it looks wonky.
- Swami John Reis and the Blind Shake - Modern Surf Classics
This is probably the most major-league production out of all of them but damn does it show. As I was saying in the Modern Surf Gremmy post about it, when it sounds like Hot Snakes it actually sounds BETTER than Hot Snakes did.
You can listen to "Sea-Saw" here.
- The Sub-Vectors - Music On the Bones
This is one where the sound egineering is unique and so essential to the record. I know Steve Albini did do some instro records, but this sounds more like what I would expect a Steve Albini instro record to sound like.
- Los Plantronics - Surfing Times
These guys always bring it in this department. This record sounds gigantic and frenzied with all sorts of brass and extra instrumentation. Every Los Plantronics record is worth listening to for the sound alone.
- Diabolico Coupe - Little Carmine
Every instrument has a lot of space and sounds distinctly separated. Which is necessary for a record where every instrument sounds so interesting.
- Hodaddys - Rod 'n Surf
Hodaddys have a very active but strange social media presence that is 90% pictures, almost no words. I never see them talked about despite apparently playing for nearly 20 years. I think people look at them kinda sidways. But when they sent me a copy of their new album I was surprised to find that it's really good! And part of that is that it sounds really good. Everything sounds crisp, punchy, and full-bodied, with a nice deep bass sound. Give them a shot.
- The Tomorrowmen - Futourism
When you're trying to convey as many different sounds and ideas as this album does, it's important that you've got decent enough production to convey them. Mission accomplished.
Best Place for Instro
I'm basing these mostly off the tags on my site, plus a little bit of personal preference.
- USA. Duh. In the USA, the leader is California. Duh. This category is much more interesting for what comes after the US.
- Spain. Not only is there a lot of surf coming out of Spain, but they're really good and very active. Sometimes I think this site would do better if it were in Spanish.
- Brazil The guys behind the Surfin' South radio show showed me a lot that I had missed here. I've been catching up since then and there's a lot of great stuff.
- Canada This one surprised me, I didn't notice how many there were until I took a look at them all. Nice work to our friends in the North.
None, it's sucked
60's surf records are hard to come by (especially here in Louisiana!) so reissues are a big deal. Unfortunately, the best we got this year was a few reissues of common or more big-name 7"s from Sundazed during Record Store Day. I hope that turns around for next year.
Favorte Non-Instro Records
I try to keep up with the rest of the world and while this may not be a reasonable place to put this, it's the only blog I really maintain! I was pretty let down by a lot of my anticipated records this year: The Go! Team, New Pornographers (though the fiancee loves that one), No Joy, and Dungen (might need more listens). These are in no order.
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
Great comeback album. It's very anthemic, very big sound, finishes before it overstays its welcome. In fact, maybe too soon, I usually put it on a second time, but that's a good thing, right?
Ecstatic Vision - Sonic Praise
If you're on this website, you probably love the sound of a guitar. These guys certainly do too. And maybe it's because Lemmy just died, but I almost want to say it sounds like Hawkwind but with more Motorhead.
The Loudness War - Extraterrestrial Hangover + Sellout School
These guys might be getting a little preferential treatment as they come from the city next door, but it's really great sludgy noisy power pop. They deserve the name they've given themselves
The Arcs - Yours Dreamily
It's weird, I seem to enjoy Dan Auerbach a lot more when he's not with the Black Keys. This is a big production with a lot going on and a lot of great ideas. I have gifted it to two dads as Christmas presents.
La Luz - Weirdo Shrine
They've got a few surf sounds, they're definitely surf influenced, but they make more sense in this section. I wasn't that big on their previous record, but I feel like they really let their sound slip into some great, dreamy melodies for this one. I also want to put out there that they get some unfair scrutiny in the surf crowd. Surf fans (mostly male) think "Hey, female surf band... let's see how they play their instruments.... NOT IMPRESSED!". It's dumb criticism from a genre where a lot of our classics were played by 15-year-olds, often crudely, and they tend to ignore the songs themselves. La Luz gets the last laugh though, they've got a lot more name recognition than just about anybody I've featured on this blog.
Dengue Fever - The Deepest Lake
By my measure, the best album from a great band. It has all the strangeness and mystery that attracted me to them in the first place, in greater portions than ever before. I also want to thank them for being the gateway drug that led me to the Cambodian rock compilations that have helped me pick my honeymoon destination!