Still Caves / “Static Lips” (self-released, 2012) — With lethargic slacker-rock acoustics copied straight from the textbook of psychedelic jammers The Black Angels, Portland’s Still Caves storm the garage with some gritty lo-fi recordings. Murky, reverb-drenched “Dutch” opens into the roiling guitar licks and cavernous howls of “No Company,” bathing your auditory appendages in the soupy drone of “Great Recession” and “Static Lips.” Still Caves is a battle cry from the dark recesses of Pacific Northwestern garage rock’s underground.
Listen: “No Company,” “Static Lips” Run time: 24 minutes.
Thee Oh Sees / Carrion Crawler/”The Dream EP” (In the Red Records, 2011) — Pick your head up and let it bob some with the otherworldly fuzz stomp of Thee Oh Sees’ seminal 2011 release in anticipation of their upcoming “Floating Coffin” LP, to be dropped this April 16. Swampy, unedited production goes for the jugular with the chiseled, guitars-a-blazing menace of what is truly a monster of a garage record. Frontman John Dwyer lets no stroke of the axe ring without a resounding yelp, while pummeling percussion and encircling psychedelic drone inflict total devastation on the cerebral cortex. It’s a record for the ages, young explorers. So fill your head space with these hazy haunts and get lifted.
Listen: all songs.
Run time: 40 minutes.
The Strange Boys / “And Girls Club” (In the Red Records, 2009) — The scruffy Texan garage quartet first bared their teeth slurring twilight ballads with this debut LP, and have since overtaken the genre’s unabating procession of fuzz stomp misfits with a drunken garage-rock crunch. The dusty AM radio acoustics and disaffected youth lyricism follow a familiar roadhouse blues rhythm, but it’s really vocalist Ryan Sambol’s scowling, Dylanesque candor that drives the record home with the jangle of promise in its pocket.
Listen: “Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up,” “Poem Party,” “A Man You’ve Never Known”
Run time: 37 minutes.
Yo La Tengo / “I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One” (Matador Records, 1997) — Shoegazey splendor abounds in Yo La Tengo’s breakthrough record from the late ‘90s. Peel back the floorboards of this trio’s spacey attic vibes and discover the pulsating pop croon of Tengo’s indelible psychedelia. Between lush experimental landscapes, drowsy late afternoon daydreams and funky forays into the surreal, Yo La Tengo swells the soul with glossy lo-fi ephemera sure to attenuate any test-taking anxieties.
Listen: “Sugarcube,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Little Honda,” “Green Arrow,” “One PM Again,” “Center of Gravity”
Run time: 68 minutes.
Wilco / “Sky Blue Sky” (Nonesuch Records, 2007) — Floating through the parted window of a ‘68 Plymouth sedan are the sweet nothings of Jeff Tweedy and his Americana cohorts on this breezy road trip through the serene. Sublime and soulful, “Sky Blue Sky” soars and settles, its acoustic strains dripping with the sweet dew of dawn. From Dylan-spired ballads to Nels Cline’s smooth guitar shredding, this record will stall any pressing concerns and steer you into a sedated state of mind.
Listen: “You Are My Face,” “Sky Blue Sky,” “Hate It Here,” “What Light” Run time: 51 minutes.