Used to be that garage rock was a nameless fusion of surf tunes and rockabilly, a sound typically described by ’60s-era music critics using some combination of the words “fuzzy,” “distorted” and “noise.” Then it became a genre. Then a relic. Recently, with help from acts like The White Stripes and The Black Keys, garage has seen a healthy revival, spurring musicians to crank up the distortion and trade in cushy post-production effects for raw, lo-fi recordings and stripped-down melodies. It’s rock and roll the way it should be. These 10 songs best capture the genre today. Click the button below to hear them on Made Man’s Spotify.
1. “Mr. Driver” by Black Lips
Few bands channel the garage spirit as aggressively as Black Lips. Noted for their sloppy style and frantic, punk-inspired pacing, the group offered a tighter, more refined sound on their 2011 album, Arabia Mountain. “Mr. Driver,” the album’s fifth track, sounds like something Iggy Pop wrote after a few glasses of Jack, then forgot about after a few more. And yes, that’s a good thing.
2. “Ffunny Ffriends” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Oregon-based three-piece Unknown Mortal Orchestra gained some traction on the Interwebs last year after “Ffunny Friends” became a fast favorite among indie music bloggers. Leading off with a minimalist drumbeat that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-nineties hip-hop single, the track quickly changes pace with the introduction of a few deliberate guitar chords and front-man Ruban Nielson’s understated vocals. The distortion is heavy. The awesomeness is heavier.
Ty Segall’s take on “Buick Mackane” is a thick and heavy electric attack that makes you want to lose yourself in a pair of oversized headphones.
3. “Birdies Singing” by Kelley Stoltz
Kelley Stoltz has been favorably compared to The Velvet Underground. Those are some weighty words, but Stoltz lives up to the praise without falling into the easy trap of mimicking his storied forbears. “Birdies Singing” showcases Stoltz’s affinity for the kind of loose, jangling rock and roundabout melodies that would make a heroine-addled Lou Reed grin and groove out.
4. “Buick Mackane” by Ty Segall
It may be a T-Rex song, but Ty Segall’s take on “Buick Mackane” does away with Marc Bolan’s glam-rock overtures and plants the track firmly in the garage category. The result is a thick and heavy electric attack that makes you want to lose yourself in a pair of oversized headphones.
5. “Unknown Brother” by The Black Keys
Not to give them too much credit, but The Black Keys deserve an ovation for kicking rock in the ass and bringing it back to basics. The duo has been tearing it up for over a decade, offering a no-frills approach to songwriting that fuses classic Delta blues with aggressive, proto-punk sensibilities. “Unknown Brother” is one of the Keys’ slower tracks, perfect for a hot summer afternoon spent working on that old Mustang in your garage.