This year was an especially difficult Gremmy Awards with so many great surf releases to sift through. I start to feel guilty, I'm subject to my own tastes and biases as much as anybody else, but most of those anybodies don't have a series of awards. So the Guest Gremmys help mitigate that guilt by bringing in other prominent surf ears to either agree with me or mention all the things that I felt guilty about not mentioning. Guilt aside, it's eye opening to see how albums land on other listeners. Despite all this social media, I still don't have a feel for whether my peers have similar feelings about these releases as I do, and The Guest Gremmys are a great way to lay it all on the table.
I told everybody that they had free reign as to how they wanted to do these, though I cleaned up the formatting to fit this site a little. Also, do you want to do this next year? Have you done a guest gremmy in the past and you're wondering why I forgot to invite you? Get in touch with me next year during Gremmy season, I'd love to hear from you. So let's go!
2022 was the year the world opened up again…. and its looks like the Dam burst as there were hundreds of fantastic releases. Not easy for new bands to cut through the noise. It also forced some of the established bands to raise their own bar and produce some of the best music in a long time.
Best Traditional Surf LP
Fuzziyama Surfers - Wild Echizen
This is one of those LPs where my favourite songs keeps changing. First I played the track "Wild Echizen" to death, now I’m obsessing on "Nantoka Beach". Great variety in melody, instrumentation and rhythms. Twelve songs of surfy goodness that’l get you dancing in your swimsuit, even in the middle of winter! Serious runners up would be The Volcanics - Concrete Carver and The Wave Chargers - Caravelle.
Best Modern Surf LP
Los Daytonas - Troublemaker
Best "Rad" Surf Record
Flaming Home by Amphibian Man
All the way from Kyiv, Ukraine, this LP is sadly titled Flaming Home, a reality many Ukrainians are living today. There is a darkness to these tracks that is captivating. Sometimes melodic, sometimes hypnotic, always very cinematic!! Close your eyes, listen, experience !!
Best Horror Instrumental
Night Chill - Demo of Darkness
The Jagaloons - Walk, Don't Run, For The Border
Well well well, an instrumental tribute to Taco Bell. Perhaps a food chain that sells 2 billion tacos a year should have had a double LP however…these impressive 4 songs contain contain surprising variety of instrumentation and rhythms. Baja Blast is the standout song for me. Chalupacabra is a tasty number played on a baritone. The runner up would be The New Hypnotic Wave Of Retrofoguetes by Retrofoguetes
Best Cover Surf song
Pocket Calculator · The Routes
Okay, this one is personal for me. I saw Kraftwerk perform in the summer of '81 and they blew my mind so much I eventually put the guitar down for decades. This Routes tribute entitled The Twang Machine is a FAB concept that is executed to perfection. Each song reimagined with surfy rhtyms that make you wanna shake your laptop. Other cover songs worth a mention are Surfer's Slide by the Surfrajettes and Burning Love by the Surf Zombies.
Best Christmas Surf song
Jim And The Sea Dragons - Kringle All The Way
For a guy that doesn’t even celebrate Christmas much, I sure do get myself swamped with holiday music every year with my Surfin’ kitty X-mas fund raiser for the cat sanctuary in Grand Bahamas. This song by Jim Colby, a founding member of Agent Octopus, is simply beautiful. A strong melody and extremely mature arrangement layered with bells, organ, synth.
Unearthed - The Ghastly Ones AND The Mach IV - Eleki!
Best Album Cover Art
Surf You Next Tuesday 2! The Revenge
Best Surf Music Video
The Green Reflectors - Cruisin' For A Bruisin'
Chad & Cherry
Chad Shivers's surf resume as a musician is long, but notably in 2022 this husband and wife duo organized their last of many Southern Surf Stompfests (don't worry, it's merely changed hands) and have started a great surf review series on youtube. So naturally we all agreed that that should be the format of their Guest Gremmy.
The releases of 2022 prove that surf music is not dead. I enjoyed a lot of great releases last year. And that made creating a Top 10 almost impossible. But I somehow succeeded:
- THE WAVE CHARGERS (France) – Caravelle
- THE FUZZIYAMA SURFERS (Japan) – Wild Echizen
- THE BRADIPOS IV (Italy) – The Bradipos IV
- LOS GRAINDERS (Mexico) – Raw & Alive! EP
- SANT ANNA BAY COCONUTS (Belgium) – Wheels And Waves
- THE VOLCANICS (USA) – Concrete Carver
- SYS MALAKIAN (Mexico) – Unknown Creatures
- URBAN ZOTEL & THE THUNDERTONES (Slovenia) – Go Surfin’
- KAWABONGA (Argentina) – El Reparo
- THE KRONTJONG DEVILS (The Netherlands) – Music From The Stars Vol. 1
Sean runs Double Crown Records. I never bothered to ask him if he'd like to do a Guest Gremmy because I figured he could do it in his excellent print zine The Continental if he wished. But this year I asked anyway and I'm glad I did!
Top 7 Releases Of 2022 by Sean Berry (Double Crown Records / The Continental Magazine)
2022 was an absolute banger of a year for top-notch surf and instrumental rock n’ roll. I’m stoked that Hunter has given me the opportunity to pick some of my favorite platters of the year, although I have to admit it’s not an easy task. You won’t find any releases from our label on this list - while they all should be in this list, that wouldn’t be quite fair. And if you are in a band that put out an album last year and don’t see it on my list, don’t worry, your release is #8 and I’m only listing my top 7 here. So here goes, whew, my list of the top 7 surf and instro rock releases of 2022!
Satan's Pilgrims - Go Action!! LP / CD (Hi-Tide)
Satan’s Pilgrims - Bayonet Constitution / Typhoon 7” (Get Hip)
I’m lumping these two together because they COULD have been released together - maybe they wouldn’t have all fit on the vinyl version of Go Action!!, but they could have all fit on the CD...anyway.... It’s the season of Satan’s Pilgrims - not only do they have a new album out, Go Action!, and the recent Record Store Day release of Live At Jackpot Records, they also have a two song 7” featuring two tunes recorded back in 2020 that aren’t featured anywhere else! We covered the album in detail with our interview with the band in the last issue, but suffice to say - if you are a fan of surf music you absolutely must have this album in your collection. It truly has some of the best songs the band has ever recorded, and to top it all it comes with absolutely gorgeous and cool cover art from Scott Sugiuchi. With this album it’s absolutely impossible to pick favorite songs - they’re all absolutely amazing, and that’s not just my fanboy perspective. Some of their earlier albums had one or two songs that didn’t do much for me, but this is stellar from start to finish. With the 7”, the a-side, “Bayonet Constitution” is an absolutely manic tune that of course features some outstanding guitar work from Dave, Bobby and Scott - however, the real star of the show on this track is Ted on the drums, who displays some “Wipeout” style beats. The flip, “Typhoon”, has a great driving beat and memorable melodies from the lead guitar. It was named after John Pilgrim’s 1964 Rambler Typhoon 6. It’s a great bonus to the Go Action! album. (www.hitiderecordings.com / www.gethip.com)
Les Robots - 12 Favorites From Planet Earth LP / CD (Bickerton)
Les Robots deliver rock n’ roll from outer space, with a sound that blends instrumental rock n’ roll and the experimental electronic music of the 60’s. The spirit of Joe Meek hangs heavy here, with the instruments used and the production. For this release they’ve chosen 12 of their favorite songs from the 60’s and given them their own unique spin. However, while many of the bands covered here are very well-known, they’ve chosen some of their more obscure songs. So with the Beatles, they chose “Don’t Bother Me”, and with the Kinks they cover “I Need You”, and so on. Guitars and vintage synths and stylophones trade what were previously the vocal melodies with the original recordings. With so much going on, so many great, wonderful sounds, and the fact that the songs aren’t all well-known, you get an album that really sounds unique. It’s really hard to compare them to anyone else - they’re simply “Les Robots”! (www.bickertonrecords.com)
The Razerbills - Omniscient Omnipotent Omnipresent LP (Topsy Turvy)
The Razerbills are a crazed, energetic instro surf n' garage combo based in West Yorkshire, UK. Inspired by early to mid 60's instrumental rock n' roll, they fuse this sound with the theatrics of horror. Definitely inspired by the likes of Screamin' Lord Sutch and Johnny & The Hurricanes, perhaps a dash of Joe Meek, as well as the sounds of some of Estrus' finest instro bands from back in the 90's. Be prepared for some high-class instrumental surf sounds with just the right amount of horror and spooky organ to make you shake your bones all night long. The songs really project a cool atmosphere, definitely one of my favorite releases of the last couple of years! (www.soundflatrecords.de)
Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited - Flawless Ms. Drake LP (Hi-Tide)
This Swiss instrumental duo made a huge impression on me when I first heard them back in the 90’s. While I would subsequently discover similar sounds through vintage recordings of the 60’s and 70’s, they were the first ones I heard that blended, surf, spy, go-go, “Space Age Bachelor Pad” and electronic music. Their output has slowed over the years, from an album every two years to now an album every six years or so, but they have used their time well on this new release. It’s quite possibly their best yet - the songs are incredibly strong, and I would even go so far as to say they are MAGICAL. There are just so many great rhythms and sounds going on here - I haven’t been so entranced by this style of music since the heyday of Combustible Edison. If you love twangy guitars, you’ll hear ‘em here. If you like exotic melodies and rhythms, this disc is packed with them. Equaling the music is the cover art - by SHAG! Definitely one of the best releases of 2022! (www.hitiderecordings.com)
The Volcanics - Concrete Carver LP / CD (Hi-Tide)
Southern California’s favorite trad-surf trio are back in their matching cardigans, guitar, bass, drums and reverb tank, delivering a dozen brand new, original, soon-to-be classics. At times I hear some people say they adhere too much to the sound of the early 60’s, or that they are just a fun, good-time surf rock band. They definitely are guilty of putting on a great, entertaining and energetic live show, but if you give their records a serious listen you’ll hear a band that are not only fans of traditional style surf rock, they work on their songs ceaselessly. This effort shows in this recording - while you’ll hear the reverb-drenched, vintage surf sound, you’ll also hear songs that find originality as well. The title track, which kicks off the LP, is probably my favorite - just a classic tune to start with. Moving beyond that personal highlights include “The Ripper” and “Lost Souls”, and I have to say the unexpected, fuzz-laden “Knockout” won me over as well. As a fan of organ in surf music, I also really dug “Nowhere Special” that features some great melodic interplay between the organ and guitar. The comic book style cover art is fun and eye-catching as well, befitting of the 12” vinyl format. (www.hitiderecordings.com)
Man Or Astro-Man? - Distant Pulsar 2 x 7" (Chunklet)
What a cool release by Man Or Astro-Man? - four new recordings that take sci-fi, instrumental rock n' roll in new directions, yet still sounding like the band you've known and loved all of these years. It's an amazing double 7" package, with one platter pressed on red vinyl, with the other pressed on blue vinyl, and packaged in a deluxe gatefold sleeve! It does seem that there are some color variations with the vinyl though - the red/blue combo is what we received here at Double Crown HQ, but I’ve seen photos of clear vinyl online. In any case, it’s likely that it’s the brand new music that you’re most excited about at the four songs here deliver. “Distant Pulsar” is a vocal tune with a driving, crunchy beat and fits right in with the other MOA? Vocals in recent years. “Microverses” is a little more laid back, a little more mid-tempo, but still a great song. My favorite song though is “Signal Intrusions”, which is just a great, melodic and dare I say anthemic tune. One of my favorite latter-era MOA? tunes for sure. The final track, “Bent Sinister”, is an electronic, experimental tune that have kind of been a standard with the band since they moved from Estrus to Touch & Go Records. Wonderful stuff from the visitors from outer-space that are Star Crunch, Coco The Electronic Monkey Wizard - Avona Nova and Birdstuff! (www.chunklet.com)
Magnatech - De Favorieten Expres! CD (Sharawaji)
Holy cow, I love this album - probably one of my top 5 albums released in 2022! It has an incredible, Astronauts inspired guitar sound with drippy, DRIPPY reverb throughout. And when I say “Astronauts inspired”, I mean the Colorado band AND the German band of the same name. It also harks to their choice of songs to cover - it’s actually a tribute to the guitarist’s father, who passed away early in 2022. As such, he’s chosen some of his dad’s favorite songs to cover here - and what a guy he must have been. Some of the covers include “Rocket Man”, “Amapola”, “Jezebel” and “El Condor Pasa”. There are a couple of Christmas songs in the middle, but without jingle bells or other holiday gimmicks added to them, they can be listened to year round like the rest of the album. The cover art is fun and eye-catching as well. It seems Magnatech has only been around since 2020, yet their Bandcamp page is packed with three full-length releases plus a bunch of digital singles and EPs. (www.sharawaji.com)
This one is a reissue that was released in 2022 - I loved it when it first came out and I love it even more now with bonus tracks.
The Mach IV - Eleki! Reissue + Bonus Tracks CD (Surf Cookie)
Wow! I forgot how incredible this album was, and am ashamed to admit, it’s actually been a few years since I’ve played it. Now that Green Cookie has reissued the album, adding a live version of “Honda Beach Party” from a KFJC gig, and a whopping 7 brand new, newly recorded tunes that haven’t been released until now. If you aren’t familiar with the band, they are/were a supergroup featuring Mel Waldorf (Los Mel-Tones and Meshugga Beach Party), Ferenc Dobronyi (Pollo Del Mar and Frankie & The Pool Boys), Johnny Hamiltone (The Berzerkers) and Shig ”33“ Komiyama (Shig & Buzz). The songs are a traditional surf lovers dream - great performances and tone from everyone involved, with original songs that span the gamut of their influences. I could definitely hear some Lively Ones, The Astronauts, The Atlantics, The Ventures and even some great tunes influenced by the shores and swaying breezes of the Hawaiian islands. It’s very cool to hear the Dobronyi original “Teke, Teke, Teke” with it’s Astronauts reverb drip - it’s so great the song has been a standard with just about every band he’s played in, including Frankie & The Pool Boys and The Tomorrowmen. Moving on to the new tunes, well they’re all just as incredible as the original album cuts - absolutely no filler here! “Twistin’ With Tina” and “Betty & Veronica” are loaded with drippy reverb - you could tell they had a blast pushing max reverb on these tunes. The closer, “Bigfoot”, exchanges the drip for some primal, gut-rippin’ fuzz and crunchy bass guitar. Such an amazing disc - if you have the original disc you’ll want this for the bonus cuts and new liner notes, and if you don’t have it yet, JUST GET IT! Trust me on this one - if you love surf rock this is absolutely as good as it gets! (surfcookierecords.bandcamp.com)
Double Crown Records just released the latest album by The Doltones, “Sound Recycle Machine”, and in February will come out with The Continental Magazine Issue #34 featuring The Atlantics and Tikiyaki Orchestra. Check out their website at: www.doublecrownrecords.com
Dorthy is also known as DJ Dotty on GTF Instrumental's Paradise Cove and is about as plugged in as anybody to surf music goings-ons.
2022 went by in a flash and boy, did we have some tip top releases! Frankly, there is way too many to list every release I considered exemplary, so for this years’ list, I picked JUST a few of the surf/instro albums listened to intently on repeat at home. This is not a complete list by any means. You all killed my pocketbook trying to keep up with all the great music. I am both thankful for SO many great albums and cross at the fact that I have to consider taking a second job to fund my musical needs! But great surf and instrumental music is a personal need and I am eternally grateful to all the bands in our small scene for giving us so many terrific tunes.
The Fuzziyama Surfers – Wild Echizen
Waited so patiently for this release and boy, was the wait worth it. A TRUE TRAD GEM! This album is an absolute requirement to own and listen to on repeat.
The Routes – Twang Machine
I’ve been hoping for YEARS that someone would put out a full-length album with instrumental covers of one of my all-time favourite bands, Kraftwerk. The Routes answered the call, masterfully reinterpreting some kick-butt classics whilst making them all their own by infusing the covers with their signature Routes rollicking garage sound. Juicy, well- rounded , and dipped in auditory gold. This album is a delight and gives me the greatest innermost joy.
The Strings Aflame – Pyre
What an album! A culmination of the modern with a nod to masters. The album title itself, (named after the Classic album by Esquivel) gives you a precursor of what this album is all about. Musical innovation with a nod to the past. An impassioned and sensual delight from start to finish.
Les Robots – Exploring The Boundaries Of The Multiverse
One day, robots will conquer the world. Until then, Les Robots are here to give us a taste of the futuristic robotic music which our robot overlords will provide us lowly humans. Superb orchestration. These robots really know how to party, humanity needs to catch up.
The Delstroyers – 10,000 Ways to Die
10,000 ways to love this album, daily. Expanding on their signature horror sounds, they take us deeper into the realm of their sinister Seattle horror surf rhythm’s. Mischievously marvelous!
The Wave Chargers – Caravelle
Paris has no beaches, but this band charged their internal waves, found the reverb within their souls, and luckily unleased their trad fury to the world. Another exemplar album by this magnificent quartet! So much passion and vigor.
Thanks so much to this year's contributors. And thanks to all of you that clicked on the Gremmy Awards this year. Now to focus on the new!