Gremmy Awards 2023: Best Mad Instro Record

Best Mad Instro Record

Every year there's some things that feel like they're off on their own orbit, but that orbit spends a decent amount of time in our surf galaxy. Awful astronomy aside, some things just don't fit neatly into my stupid Gremmy categories, and though it's hard to judge them as there's little to compare them to, a great record is a great record and should be recognized for it.

I had a surprisingly difficult time finding many things to put in this category this year, and some of these as a result may feel a little less out-there than usual. Here's what stuck out to me

Honorable Mentions

Chauffeur et Parlak - Homemade Pickles

A duo with close ties to Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited don't sound too far off from their Swiss friends, but that's a compliment rather than a complaint. Homemade Pickles (one of the best album names of the year) stacks sounds and influences so densely they're hard to pull apart, but they effectively create drama and mood with their unconventional toolset. With every listen I've appreciated this more.

Pollo Del Mar - Speed of Dark

The grand return of this psychedelic pseudo-surf group comes in hot! Perhaps burning off the pent-up energy of a long hiatus, this is such a loud and (despite the name) bright record that feels like an outdoor festival show. It's swirling with psychedelic adventure but also always laser-focused forwards. A passionate record that wants to exist and be heard.

Talismán - Grandes Misterios

Talisman's sound is crude and perhaps even repetitive, but let your guard down enough and that cursed and hypnotic sound will pull you under. Absolutely suffocating mood, and savage when it really gets going. It may not grab you with a single track, but let it play out.

The Manakooras - Christmas with The Manakooras

Two things you'll rarely see in the Gremmys are a 4-song EP or a Christmas record, but first of all, these aren't Christmas melodies that I've heard before, and MAN are they sweet. Those steel guitar bends will wreck your posture, and the guitar and percussion are just pitch perfect. The Manakooras were locked into an amazing mood here that can be enjoyed year round. You dont' even notice the sleigh bells much. Flawless record.

And the Gremmy goes to...

This may not be the category where you'd expect to find Satan's Pilgrims, and maybe some of you were even alarmed to not find this in previous Gremmy categories. But of course it was going to find its way on here. I don't usually feel like I need to explain myself, but it's hard to peg an album that's 50% flowery piano as "Traditional Surf Music", and it's hard to call it Modern when much of the songs being played pre-date surf. It is a bit of an oddball record, even if it goes down oh so well.

A decades-in-the-making collaboration between Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, this record is a joyful frolic through fairly well-known songs that often meet in the middle between their musical strengths. For instance "Bali Hai" feels like familiar Pilgrims territory through strong exotica/surf ties, but its Rodgers & Hammerstein origins feel like Thomas Lauderdale's world. "Tall Cool One" is Satan's Pilgrims repping their PNW roots, but it has one of the most prominent piano parts in the (essentially) surf canon. "Malagueña" lets Satan's Pilgrims channel The Trashmen while Lauderdale gets to recover the intro omitted in that version. There's a lot of thoughtfulness here, and I imagine that while we might look at it as "Surf with a lotta piano", your non-surf-obsessed friends (you still have those, right?) probably hear a fun Pink Martini offshoot with a more rock & roll edge to it.

And that's what I really love about this. It's novel and accessible for just about anybody, and I feel like I can recommend it to anyone. Which I suppose is what I'm doing right now with this amazing .png file.

Mad Instro Gremmy Award


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