Everytime I listen to desert rock, stoner rock, and fuzz, I can’t help but get some beer to wash away the sand in my mouth. It’s the kind of music that reimagined the blues into something even more cerebral and hypnotic. The heavy braiding of guitar riffs, hushed vocals, narcotic lyricism and bawling basslines appeal strongly to an anesthetic point that it’s dream inducing.
I first got into this music in college, more so when I started writing for an arts and culture magazine that paired me up with a photographer who had the most radical taste in psychedelic music. There were countless working sessions and conversations filled with this kind of music, as well as watching documentaries such as “Dig!” and looking at these bands’ trippy artwork and posters on our down time. And the list of bands that I was exposed within these group of sub-grenres grew longer and longer as time progressed.
Just go along with this: the sensation that I get listening to these bands makes me feel that I just had a massive toke, as I try to figure out the mechanics of magic. Here, I list 10 of the bands that have become my absolute favorites.
Big on harmony and melodics, Sleepy Sun from Santa Cruz, California has a garage rock roots that transformed into a heady psychedelic sound with occasional drum sections. Their songs would start slow, welcoming a rise of riffs, harmonica, and distortion that will get you intoxicated and wanting more.
The Black Angels
Psychedelic rock group, The Black Angels, took their name from The Velvet Underground’s song, “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” Just by listening to their track, “Young Men Dead,” it’s evident that the band is heavily influenced by 70’s rock. The dark tones and deep lyricism of their 2006 debut EP, “Passover” gave the band a much-needed exposure into a more mainstream career while still gaining respect from the underground community.
Formed in 1998 in Washington, Dead Meadow mixes 60’s psychedelic rock and 70’s heavy metal to create their signature riff-heavy cumbersome sound. The band has released 9 studio albums, and all of them convey a bass-heavy, spacious, distorted approach to psychedelia. What makes Dead Meadow distinguished among their counterparts is their undying tributes to band like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath all throughout their records without losing touch of the fuzz and stoner sensibilities.
The Blue Angel Lounge
Formed in 2006, the band was named after the New York club where The Velvet Underground and Nico would perform. Rolling around with dark, psychedelic tones and a lot of fuzz, the band incorporated post-punk sensibilities into their usual melodic style with the release of their celebrated 2010 EP, Narcotica. Brian Jonestown Massacre vocalist, Anton Newcombe, helped record and produce the EP, being a massive fan of the band himself.
The Black Ryder
Sydney’s Black Ryder is vocalist/ songwriter Aimee Nash, and Scott Von Ryper, and together they make lulling, hazy tracks that seem like they’re sheer sonic blankets ready to trap you in a deep slumber. The duo plays most of the instruments, and welcome guest contributors from time to time. Members of psych rock veterans, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Swerverdriver have played alongside Aimee and Scott for some of their tracks.
Singapore Sling’s songs are filled with deep, echoing vocals, dark undertones, heavy strums, and slow thumps. The group was formed in 2000 in Reykjavik, Iceland and has already released 9 studio albums throughout a changing line-up. While it might seem obvious, the band was not named after the famous orange gin-based cocktail, but after an art film of the same name by Nikos Nikolaidis.
Another space rock band from Reykjavik, Dead Skeletons was formed when vocalist Jón Auòarson needed music to accompany his art installation in Reykjavik Art Museum in 2008. Auòarson recorded the song “Dead Mantra” with Henrik Björnsson (also a member of Singapore Sling) and Van Kriedt, and the song became an underground hit that it landed them a record deal with A Records. The band’s sound is dark and gritty, and abrasive, all pointing towards Auòarson’s psychology on dealing with being HIV positive.
The Entrance Band
Entrance, or The Entrance Band, was formed by Guy Blakeslee in 2006 with drummer Derek James, and bassist Paz Lenchantin (who notably toured and played with A Perfect Circle, Pixies, and Zwan). Their upbeat, psychedelic style is like a hit of sativa: it will give you a head high without feeling sluggish or beat. Heavy on all elements and as crazy as they are, the instruments give way to each other to compromise with each other’s sonic persistence.
The duo from New York has a soft tone that’s calm on all levels. Bordering on psychedelic folk, Psychic Ills has released 5 albums since 2003. Their song, “I Don’t Mind,” features Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, and her signature cushy and delicate voice just made their sound even more appealing and unreal.
Drone rock band, Wooden Shjips, dives into a more experimental, minimalist fuzzy sound with a space-y vibe. Director Jim Jarmusch is a big fan, and has requested the San Francisco band to play in All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in Monticillo, New York in 2010.