Monday, January 01, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Elizabeth" by Long Neck (from Elizabeth)
2.  "If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven" by Brian Fallon (from If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven)
3.  "Disorder" by Joy Division (from Unknown Pleasures)
4.  "Star Roving" by Slowdive (from Slowdive)
5.  "All Be Gone" by Buffalo tom (from All Be Gone)
6.  "300 Cigarettes" by Harker (from 300 Cigarettes)
7.  "The Opener" by Camp Cope (from The Opener)
8.  "What a Time to Be Alive" by Superchunk (from What a Time to Be Alive)
9.  "Fri-end?" by Kate Nash (from Girl Talk)
10.  "Pop Heiress Dies" by Chainsaw Kittens (from Pop Heiress)
11.  "Spider Song" by RVIVR (from The Beauty Between)
12.  "Christine Perfect" by Lemuria (from Recreational Hate)
13.  "Rebound" by Sebadoh (from Bakesale)
14.  "No Culture Icons" by The Thermals (from More Parts Per Million)
15.  "We Hate It When We're Well Respected" by Teenage Frames (from More Songs, Less Music)
16.  "My Umbrella" by Tripping Daisy (from Bill)
17.  "The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligiblity Blues" by Martha (from The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligiblity Blues)
18.  "Scene Of The Crime" by The Amazing Crowns (from The Amazing Crowns)
19.  "Wait It Out" by Happy Accidents (from Wait It Out / A Better Plan)
20.  "Ghosts in the Graveyard" by Sincere Engineer (from Rhombithian)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Top 40 Records of 2017: 10-1

2017 was kind of a weird year for me in a lot of ways.  Musically I found myself living in a lot of nostalgia.  Some of this is from the fact that I'm getting old.  I think some of it though had to do with the fact that until late October there wasn't one record that really jumped out and screamed "this is the best thing you'll hear all year."  There were a lot of great records that had been released throughout the year (a LOT of great records) but I hadn't found that one that would define 2017.  Sometimes you hear a record and know, wow this is awesome, and sometimes you hear a record and you have a spiritual experience.  I had a few of those spiritual experiences this year but it took a while to really find that one record.  I don't want it to sound like I'm burying the other records on this list, because I'm not.  Every single record on this list needs to be heard.  In fact, the top six records are especially important expressions of heart and heartache, soul and wonder, hope and desperation, and are shining beacons for those who hear them and those who need them.  In a lot of ways, until I heard that one, I couldn't single out any specific record as my record of the year because those other five hit me so hard.  All of these bands and artists should be playing to sold out rooms around the world and it is a freaking crime that most of them aren't.  I say it every year but great new music is out there, if you just know where to look.

One thing that struck me while compiling this list was the number of female artists that kept popping up.  The New York Times did an excellent piece on the fact that women are making the best music in rock today and they weren't wrong.  Women played a huge part in 2017, whether it was the gigantic success of Wonder Woman or the Silence Breakers that have rocked the entertainment industry to its knees, women have been at the forefront and music, especially the indie/punk scene was no different.

When I look back on 2017 I'm honestly not sure what I'm going to remember.  This year was hard for me on a lot of personal levels and thus has clouded a lot of my memories from the last 12 months.  What I will remember with absolute clarity is the music on this list.  These records helped me get through a lot of shit and I cannot thank these artists enough.  Your words and sounds, your heart, passions, and souls are what keep people like me going.  Please don't ever stop.  We need you.  I need you.

40-31, 30-21, 20-11, Honorable Mentions

10.  Dear Avalanche by Lights & Motion
Deep Elm Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
What word do you use when "epic" simply isn't enough?  To call Lights & Motion's fourth album Dear Avalanche epic would be an understatement.  The follow-up to the act's brilliant 2015 record Chronicle, takes everything that was great about that album rips it up, rebuilds it better than it was before, and adds new layers and elements making for a powerful, expansive, haunting, driving, and stunningly epic listening experience.  Composer and multi-instrumentalist Christoffer Franzen has truly outdone himself with Dear Avalanche by once again creating a masterpiece of gigantic sound, all performed by one man (minus the background vocals, which add a remarkable extra layer to the already fortified music).  The truly raw and dynamic emotions that Franzen is able to invoke without uttering a single word is astonishing.  This is cinematic post-rock at its finest and is a colossal tour de force of instrumental music magic that pushes the boundaries of what it means to be cinematic, instrumental, and fantastic rock 'n' roll.
Cinematic post rock is a genre that I never thought I would get into but thanks to Lights & Motion I have.  This is a record that I have played in yoga class, when cooking, or relaxing.  Songs from this record found their way onto episodes of The Vampire Diaries and hearing this great music on one of my all time favorite shows was a joy and a trip.  Hopefully more producers and shakers in Hollywood will look to Lights & Motion to compose for their next project because this music begs to be heard on the big screen.

9.  Near To The Wild Heart Of Life by Japandroids
BandCamp, Anti- Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
If there was any one album that spent more time in the CD player of my car than any other it was Japandroids' Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  If you think I'm exaggerating, just ask my kids (they can begrudgingly sing along to the title track).  Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is eight songs of classic rock infused with punk and indie rock anthems that ring loud and true.  This record may not have been the critical darling that Celebration Rock was but it is superbly enjoyable and is designed to be played on repeat.

8.  Dream Gig by Dead Bars
BandCamp, No Idea Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Dead Bars' full-length debut Dream Gig is about as spectacular a debut album as you'll ever find.  There's something special about this band that's almost indescribable.  The songs are catchy, hook filled, gruff vocaled anthems that dare you to not sing along but there's something else to it that is there that you can't nail down.  This band and this record just has, as Chris Jericho would put it, IT.  Just do yourself a favor, buy Dream Gig, listen to it on repeat for a few days, and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Hell the title track alone is worth the price of admission.

7.  Leonard by Deforesters
BandCamp, Black Numbers RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
...Deforesters play a sickeningly catchy brand of gruff and melodic punk rock that is equal parts Nothington and Screeching Weasel.  Mixing the best of the melodic, the pop, and the punk, Leonard plows forward with tight hooks, big choruses, and lyrics that are as intelligent as they are thoughtful and witty.  This is the kind of band and the kind of record that sounds and feels like it is a product of the scene in Gainesville, and while that is absolutely a compliment, this band is so much more.  Behind the gruff vocals and punk hooks, is a tremendous pop sensibility that goes far beyond one genre or one era of rock 'n' roll.  Bottom line, this is a killer record that is a must for fans of Red City Radio, Against Me!, Timeshares, Hot Water Music, The Fest, or any of the aforementioned bands. 
Not only does this band shred, they are also super cool.  You can hear my interview with lead singer / bassist Pod on episode # 7 of the Oklahoma Lefty Podcast.

6.  Your New Norman Rockwell by Micah Schnabel
BandCamp, Last Chance Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
Micah Schnabel's latest album Your New Norman Rockwell is a powerhouse release of poignant poetry, biting social commentary, and personal heartache, all held together by brilliant hooks and heart wrenching melodies.  There is a power and a purpose behind each and every one of these songs and though the subjects are often dark, the world is a far better place because of their existence.  There is a wisdom in these words, born from a point of view that puts others before self refusing to dwell in the gutter of self-service and delusions of grandeur.  Schnabel gives a voice to those who feel alone and worthless and powerless, to those who have been marginalized, belittled, and demonized, and he does it in the best way possible.  It's very easy for those who feel low and stepped on to become angry and bitter and filled with hate.  And that's what makes Your New Norman Rockwell so utterly and completely special.  This record does none of that.  Yes there is anger and frustration but there is no wallowing in self pity or cries for vengeance.  This record is all about making the world a better place by taking care of each other.  It's a musical plea, appealing to the better angels of our nature, begging people to take the higher road of love and compassion and serving others.  And if all of that wasn't enough, these songs are brilliantly crafted mixing the best elements of folk, punk, indie rock, classic rock, and country.  [...]  From start to finish the album is a roller coaster of emotions and styles held together by Micah Schnabel's voice and words.  This is an exceptionally important record, one that should be felt as great poetry as much as enjoyed as fantastic music.
Better than anyone right now, Schnabel captures the frustration and alienation of those on the edges of society.  This record is so incredibly important.

5.  You Can't Stay Here by Iron Chic
BandCamp, SideOneDummy Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
I'm not really sure how to do this record justice with a review.  Iron Chic has always been a great band, but this time around they have reached a whole new stratosphere of power and emotional depth.  The loss of founding member and former guitarist Rob McAllister is all throughout the songs on You Can't Stay Here.  This band has always written poignant and emotional songs but this time around the they are utterly heart wrenching and soul affirming.  There is despair and loss but there is also hope.  Iron Chic has taken a tragedy and turned it into 11 of the most powerful and precious songs that are guaranteed to touch your heart and your soul.

4.  In the End by Nothington
BandCamp, Red Scare Industries, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Spotify
From my review --
Nothington's fourth full-length album In The End is the kind of nearly perfect record that somehow gets better with each and every listen.  This record is the perfect mixture of aggression and melody, gruff edges and pop sensibilities, punk and rock.  The album is classic Nothington with 11 songs of big choruses, tight melodies, gruff dueling lead vocals, excellent harmonies, and hooks that refuse to let you go.  It's that killer melding of melodic pop punk with country twinges and classic rock anthems that hits some many different sweet spots.  Then there's the lyrics.  This record deals with desperation, love, and growing older without ever diving into complete despair, offering glimmers of hope for a better tomorrow.  In fact it's those lyrics that really drive this record home taking it from great to unfuckingbelievable.  This is the kind of record that hits you first with its incredible sounds and then knocks you out with its words.  
From top to bottom this record kills.  I've been listening to it constantly for a couple of months now and each time I put it on, I find something new to love.  Bottom line, In The End is a completely and utterly satisfying record musically, lyrically, and emotionally. 
Eight months after writing this review, In the End continues to get better and better.

3.  Bury Me in Philly by Dave Hause
Official, Rise Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
Dave Hause's third solo full-length is an absolute, unequivocal, incontrovertible joy.  From start to finish Bury Me in Philly is pure rock 'n' roll gold that harkens back to the pop rock glory days of the 1980s.  Now on the surface that might sound like a bad thing but trust me, it isn't.  Taking cues from artists like Bryan Adams and The Hooters, Hause has crafted a record that is dipping with hooks, melodies, and earnest pop sensibilities.  Produced by Hooters' frontman Eric Bazilian, Bury Me in Philly truly is the modern descendant of Bryan Adams' 1984 classic Reckless.  The songs are catchy, full of heart, and powered by pure soul.  I understand that comparing a punk-turned-troubadour singer/songwriter to one of the 1980s pop rock megastars may seem odd if not sacrilegious but it works.  I was in elementary school in 1984 when Reckless came out and I remember with great fondness the power and heart of songs like "Heaven," "Summer of '69," and the brilliant duet with Tina Turner "It's Only Love."  There was a simplicity and an innocence to those songs that filled you with joy and that is the same kind of feeling I get each time I listen to Bury Me in Philly.  What Hause has over Adams and The Hooters is depth and a sincerity born from coming up through the punk rock underground.  Had this album come out at a time when rock 'n' roll records still churned out hits, I have no doubt that songs like "With You," "The Flinch," and the title track would have ruled the charts and airwaves.   
I have been listening to this record for months, picking apart the lyrics and practically meditating on the melodies, and each time I put it on I find something new to love.  Each and every song on this album kills in its own unique way making for a satisfying and spiritual journey.  Trying to put into words how much I love this record has been a challenge.  From the moment I got it, I knew that I was hearing something truly special and that feeling has only grown stronger and deeper with each passing day and rotation.  Bury Me in Philly is the kind of record that speaks not only straight from the heart but straight into your soul.  Dave Hause is a tremendous songwriter and this record is the perfect showcase for his ever expanding talents and skills.  Bury Me in Philly fills my heart with hope, brings joy to my soul, and gives me chills all at the same time.  This is truly a rock 'n' roll masterpiece, a timeless piece of musical perfection that is destined to save souls through its power and purpose.  Thank you Mr. Hause, thank you. 
I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Dave Hause and his band The Mermaid recently in Dallas, TX opening up for Beach Slang.  To say that their set was amazing would be a gross understatement.  Hause is the consummate rock 'n' roll frontman with an undeniable stage presence and an innate ability to connect with a crowd.  On top of that, he is a super nice guy.

2.  The Tide/Shaggy by RVIVR
BandCamp, Dead Broke Rekerds, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Okay, so RVIVR originally released The Tide/Shaggy digitally in late 2016 (on December 31st to be exact) but in 2017 it received a physical release on Dead Broke Rekerds.  And yes this is a two song release (the second on this list actually) but I don't care.  More than any other single song, "The Tide" was my favorite song of the year (hell it was the song I listened to more than any other on Spotify).  I can't tell you how many times I lost myself listening to this record, pumping my hand and a half in the air, dancing like a fool in my room or in the kitchen, or screaming along in the car.  I fucking LOVE this song!  And if that wasn't enough, "Shaggy" also shreds.  This record is literally and objectively perfect.  If there could be any complaints it would focus around the small number of songs but for me it is the absurdly high quality of the two songs herein that make this one of the absolute best things to come out this year.

1.  Rhombithian by Sincere Engineer
BandCamp, Red Scare Industries, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Spotify
From my review --
Sincere Engineer's full-length debut Rhombithian  is simply outstanding.   The brainchild of Chicago, IL's Deanna Belos, Sincere Engineer is a band that mixes all of the best elements of catchy, poppy punk, '90s indie rock, and folk punk resulting in a record that feels timeless and modern with its brilliant use of hooks and melody while at the same time keeping the listener on his/her toes with is quirky and off-kilter nature.  And that's just the music.  What truly drives Rhombithian home are the lyrics and Belos' honest intensity.  These songs touch on themes of relationships, self-doubt, growing up, facing reality, and those harsh and often disturbing realizations that things you once cherished are no longer as important to you as they once were.  There is a power in the desperation in these songs.  Hearing that someone else is feeling alone and disconnected is incredibly empowering and that, beyond the greatness of the music, is what makes this record cut so deep into the heart.  Each and every time I listen to Rhombithian I find something new to love.  This is the kind of record that gives me great solace and hope for a better tomorrow because I know that I'm not alone.
This is it.  This is the record that smacked me across the face and screamed "hey I know you love all those other records but listen to this" and boy did I.  I'm honestly not sure I can express how much this record means to me.  These songs sound and feel like they were written for me and all of the shit I've gone through and that, that is something special.  Crafting a piece of art from one's own experience in such a way that it draws other in so completely that they feel like said art was made just for them...that is something truly special.  Plus the chorus of "Overbite" is my mantra for this year and life in my 40s -- "I don't care about anything as much as I used to."  Thank you Deanna Belos for this incredible album and please know that it means more to me than you could ever imagine.

Top 40 Records of 2017: Honorable Mentions

2017 was yet another year that saw the release of a ton of great music, a lot of which I just couldn't keep up with.  The records listed below are the best of the rest so to speak.  These are either records that I heard and enjoyed but never really got into, were two song EPs that I couldn't justify (goddamn that sounds pretentious) including on the main list (despite the fact that there are a couple of two song releases on the main list but whatever it's my list), or records that just barely didn't make it (this was nearly a top 50 list).  The last four entries are one-song only releases, hence their exclusion from the main list.  All of these releases deserve at the very least a listen.  And for a little taste, I've included a playlist on Spotify for your listening pleasure.  Plus it would be a crime if everyone out there didn't hear Superchunk's "Up Against the Wall" at least once before this year ends.

40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1

In no particular order --
  • Currents by Early Riser
  • Adam Forever / The Great Leap by U137
  • Polyglamorous by Girls Club
  • Invisible Falls State Park by The Addisons
  • Resentiments by Static Radio
  • Two Ts EP by Garrett Dale
  • Ann Beretta by Ann Beretta
  • "I Got Cut" b/w "Up Against the Wall" by Superchunk
  • Dead Wells by Dead Wells
  • Jelly by Charmpit
  • First Things First by Hodera
  • A Book About Bad Luck by Save Ends
  • Swish by The Plurals
  • Murk Matinal by Oh My Snare!
  • Stormy Blue by Choke Up
  • Witch's Hand by JR. JUGGERNAUT
  • Wind Instrument by Kali Masi
  • Vicious Folly by Line & Circle
  • Partied Out by latewaves
  • Tuning Out by Wicked Bears
  • Inviting Light by The Flatliners
  • Deep Dream by Daddy Issues
  • Good Fortune by The Forty Nineteens
  • Chew by Muskets
  • Grind by Hang Tight
  • Swear I'm Good At This by Diet Cig
  • Double Exposure by The Winter Passing
  • I'll Never Be Okay, I'll Never Be the Same by Goddamnit
  • Visions by Able Baker Fox
  • More Scared of You Than You Are of Me by The Smith Street Band
  • New Kind of Normal by Cayetana
  • Band Aid on a Bullett Wound by Kevin Seconds
  • Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam For The Whole Family by Ben Lee
  • Find the Way / Half Step by Adam Darowski
  • Presents: Normal by The Homeless Gospel Choir
  • Not Here to Make Friends by Talk Show Host
  • Laughing at the Shape I'm In by Michael Kane & Morning Afters
  • Wishbone by Boys Home
  • Memorial Day by Bombers
  • Soft Spots by Adult Mom
  • Tiny Refuge by Cold Wrecks
  • Little Love Letter by Sad Blood
  • Forecast by Drawstring
  • If You Want Blood (Be My Guest) by Red City Radio
  • Who We Are by Descendents

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Top 40 Records of 2017: 20-11

40-31, 30-21, Honorable Mentions, 10-1

20.  Salt by Lauren Strange
BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Lauren Salt is a Memphis born, Nashville based singer/songwriter with a penchant for crafting incredibly infectious and intelligent pop rock songs.  Strange, a Grand-Prize Winner of the John Lennon International Songwriting Contest cites influences ranging from Liz Phair to PJ Harvey to the Pixies and it is that mix of '90s indie rock sensibility and pop mastery that makes Salt work so perfectly.  The three song EP is catchy, with hooks for miles and beautiful melodies.  This is pop rock 'n' roll at its finest.

19.  Don't Panic by Habits
BandCampiTunes, Spotify
Habits' EP Don't Panic is three songs of modern punk rock perfection.  After announcing last year that the band was calling it a day, the release of this record was an extremely pleasant surprise.  For those new to the band, Habits play that brand of punk rock that mixes gruff vocals with ridiculous hooks and sing-a-long choruses.  Sure the band isn't breaking any new ground but who care because it's fucking awesome!  This record/band is a must for fans of Red City Radio, Nothington, Iron Chic, and Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves.

18.  Our Undivided Attention by Benchmarks
SofaBurn Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
Nashville, TN's Benchmarks full-length debut Our Undivided Attention is a compelling, enriching, and fulfilling album that touches on a multitude of sub-genres, styles, and moods all while holding strong as a cohesive unit and a singular experience.  Mixing elements of indie rock, alt country, emo, anthematic punk rock, power pop, alt rock, and classic rock, Benchmarks have created a sound that is bold, expansive, and pure rock 'n' roll passion.  [...]  Sonically Benchmarks hit that perfect sweet spot playing catchy melodic rock anthems with deep emotions and a slight twang.  This is the kind of record that should appeal to fans of everything from Placeholder to Against Me! to Jimmy Eat World to Foo Fighters to Two Cow Garage to The Promise Ring and everything in between. 
In a lot of ways, Benchmarks and Fire In The Radio are kindred spirits, not in the way they sound per se but in their vibes and that perfect blending of styles to create something new.

17.  Punishers by The Slow Death
Big CartelBandCamp, Rad Girlfriend Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
The Slow Death's third album Punishers is a perfect blast of uber catchy, gruff vocal, sing-a-long punk rock.  This band perfectly mixes all the best elements of the genre and will have you bouncing along to each and every heart wrenchingly honest song.  Not unlike the previously mentioned Habits, The Slow Death highlights everything good about punk rock in the 21st century.  And if releasing a stellar album this year wasn't enough, the band also dropped an equally as good seven inch in October.

16.  Attic Salt by Attic Salt
BandCamp, Dodgeball Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Attic Salt's self-titled debut is one of those records that just keeps getting better every time you listen to it.  Hailing from Springfield, IL Attic Salt play a high energy mix of power pop, '90s indie rock, and pop punk resulting in a 10 song album that is so infectious and fun that it should be illegal.  What really drives the point home is the incredible dueling/alternating female/male vocals of guitarists Alyssa Currie and Andy Harmon (especially Currie's).  Seriously, this record is just stupid good.

15.  POSI by Great Cynics
Specialist Subject Records, Lame-O Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
My love of Great Cynics is well documented on this site.  Nearly everything they have released has appeared on my year-end lists since I discovered the band and I knew instantly that POSI was going to be no different.  For those unfamiliar with the band, Great Cynics play a jangley and unbelievably catchy brand of indie punk rock that swims in deep '90s influences (singer/guitarist Giles Bidder stated that the Lemonheads were the band's biggest interview when I interviewed him in 2012).  Prior to recording POSI the band went through some lineup changes, and while I was bummed that bassist Iona Cairns left to concentrate on her outstanding band Shit Present, Bidder and company didn't miss a step and produced a pop powerhouse of an album.

14.  After The Party by The Menzingers
BandCamp, Epitaph Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
The Mnezingers' fifth album After The Party may very well be the band's magnum opus.  Sure it's probably too early to say this is the best thing this band will ever do, but up to this point this is the best thing this band has done.  One review referred to this record and band as "post 30 punk" and that is actually pretty spot on.  Since signing with Epitaph Records and the release of On the Impossible Past (their second best record) the band's music has shown signs of a deepening maturity, evolving their sound from standard pop punk to include elements of classic rock, indie rock, and emo.  On After The Party, The Menzingers take a long hard look at growing older, especially the daunting hurtle that is the big 3-0, looking back at college, leaving home, finding love, and trying to make your way in the world with a staggering honest and blunt precision that instantly feels like reminiscing with a comrade in arms.

13.  Light It Up by Hot Water Music
MerchNOW, Rise Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
At this point what is there to say about Hot Water Music that hasn't been said?  These guys are punk rock legends and this is another excellent record in their already staggeringly brilliant catalog.  Enough said.

12.  Higley by Higley
BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
From my review --
Higley is the brainchild of former G-WHIZ guitarist Kevin Carl and is nothing short of brilliant.  Boasting members of ALL/Descendents, Pollen, and River City High, Higley plays absolutely perfect melodic pop punk.  [...]  The album opens with the instant classic anthem "That's Not Me" a song that poignantly deals with the confusion of growing up and losing oneself in adulthood and middle-age.  This is a theme that is found throughout the record's 12 songs and while there is a frustration that is palpable, there's also hope and a desire to make tomorrow better than today.  It's that uplifting undertone, a need for the simple things in life, that really brings Higley together and makes it something truly special.  And that's not even getting in to how insanely good this record is musically.  The hooks in these songs have their own hooks, the choruses are powerful, the melodies are tight, and the vocals drip with passion.  Oh and the band completely shreds.
Yeah...this record is fucking brilliant!

11.  We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags [Quiet Slang] by Beach Slang
BandCamp, Limited Run, Polyvinyl Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Here's the thing...Beach Slang is my favorite band in the world.  I have seen them live three times since last November (two of those times required road trips to Tulsa and Dallas...totally worth it by the way) and with each interaction and each new release I love them more.  This side project was born out of the fairly frequent James Alex solo-acoustic shows he called Quiet Slang.  When Alex played on of these said solo shows in Oklahoma City, we got a taste of what to expect out of this new project when the power died and he proceeded to dazzle us with nothing but his acoustic guitar with only the emergency exit light to see.  Not only were the songs played without the roar of amplifiers, but the arrangements took on a new form, giving new life to already amazing tunes.  The one song that really stoof out to me that night was the first one released for this EP, "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas."  It was also at that show that Alex told me how different this new project was going to be and man was he right.  Quiet Slang is driven by stark piano, cello, and Alex's impassioned voice.  While I'm not sure We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags qualifies as a proper release, there was no way I couldn't include it on this list.  My god I love this band!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Top 40 Records of 2017: 30-21

40-31, 20-11, Honorable Mentions, 10-1

30.  Bring Me the Finest World Map Shower Curtain in All the Land by The Rentiers
BandCamp, Red Executive, Jigsaw Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Generally speaking I only cover proper EP and album releases on my year end lists, but I had to make an exception for The Rentiers' collection Bring Me the Finest World Map Shower Curtain in All the Land.  From my review --
In just two short years, The Rentiers appeared, knocked out a series of stellar EPs and singles, broke down genre stereotypes and walls, and called it a day.  The brainchild of Plow United and Ex Friend's Joel Tannenbaum, The Rentiers was a "band" that always defied definition by simply being great.  Hosting a revolving set of members (often a slightly different lineup for each release) the band mixed elements of power pop, indie rock, synth pop, and indie pop, with pure punk ethos resulting in a sound that was invigorating, melodic, and unbelievably catchy.  And that's just the music.  Lyrically Tannenbaum is an utter genius.  These songs are clever, poetic stories that are at times literal and at times metaphoric with their sophistication, heart, and nuance.
If this really is the end of The Rentiers, then it is a fitting, complementary, and satisfying way to go out.  I have been a fan of this group since the beginning and have eagerly awaited and anticipated each release.  It makes me sad to know that this is the end.  Joel Tannenbaum is a tremendously talented musician and an extremely nice guy whose career I will follow wherever it takes me,  For those who have never heard The Rentiers, Bring Me the Finest World Map Shower Curtain in All the Land is the perfect introduction and conclusion presenting everything that this amazing act had to offer.  This is a band that I am truly going to miss.
And miss them I do.

29.  Cowgirl Blues by Katie Ellen
BandCamp, Lauren Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Born out of the ashes of the excellent, albeit short-lived, Brooklyn pop punk band Chumped, Katie Ellen plays a timeless blend of power pop and indie rock with some hints of '60s pop (a la The Beach Boys).  Cowgirl Blues is filled with hooks, fuzz tinged guitar, harmonies, and great pop sensibilities.  Singer/guitarist Anika Pyle is on fire with wit, intelligence, and passion driving this record home.

28.  New Air by Fire In The Radio
BandCamp, Wednesday RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
Fire In The Radio is a band that checks off all of the right boxes.  They have songs that are catchy with choruses that are big and boisterous, mix elements from all the right genres including '90s punk and indie rock, '80s college rock, and early emo while sounding completely modern and fresh.  New Noise hit the nail on the head in their review of New Air stating --
"The sophomore album from these Philly natives highlights the best melodic punk from the ’90s, adds a smattering of New Wave, shoegaze and even grunge to the driving guitars, soaring harmonies and arsenal of hooks resulting in a quality of song craft akin to Banner Pilot or The Menzingers. For the older crowd, imagine late period Hüsker Dü growing up on early Merge albums and a copy of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy..."
This is great stuff.

27.  Tonight! by The Warning Shots
BandCamp, State Line Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
The Warning Shots full-length debut Tonight! is a blast of pure punk rock 'n' roll greatness.  This band's mix of high energy punk (with an emphasis on the '77 style variety), power pop hooks, and classic rock anthems results in a sound and a record that are fun, satisfying, and powerful.  This is a must for fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Hudson Falcons, The Clash, and The Ducky Boys.

26.  Lucky Seven by The Scandals
BandCamp, Panic State Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
The Scandals play gritty and gruff, Bruce Springsteen influenced, catchy and hooky punk rock.  Hailing from New Jersey, the band often gets compared to fellow Garden State heroes The Gaslight Anthem (heck Brian Fallon produced this EP) and while the comparison is fair, The Scandals fall more on the punk side of things.  Lucky Seven is a five song EP of that showcases what this band is all about and what they are capable of.  I can't wait to hear what they do next.

25.  Camp Cope by Camp Cope
BandCamp, Run For Cover Records, AmazonSpotify
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Camp Cope was born out of a solo project by singer/guitarist Georgia McDonald and has since grown into a full band.  Their eight song full-length debut mixes impassioned vocals with searing lyrics that range from deeply personal to poignantly political and catchy mid-tempo indie rock.  There is fire and heart and angst throughout Camp Cope making for a powerful record.  Originally released in 2016 by the band, Camp Cope was given a stateside physical release this year by Run For Cover Records.

24.  Fresh by Fresh
BandCamp, Specialist Subject Records, Spotify
Fresh's self-titled full-length debut is nothing but indie poppy punky goodness.  The songs are short and to the point, dripping with urgency and teenage angst (many were literally written when the band members were in high school), and filled with hooks galore.  Fresh fits as perfectly next to Specialist Subject label-mates Shit Present and Muncie Girls as would with classic indie and punk bands like Blake Babies and Bratmobile.  I can't wait to hear what this band does next.

23.  I Don't Live Here Anymore by Dizzy Bats
BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
NYC's Dizzy Bats find new depth and darkness on their latest EP I Don't Live Here Anymore.  Written during the insanity of the 2016 presidential election, the three song release deals with mental illness, anguish, fear of falling into complete darkness.  What keeps the EP from being a total downer are the hooks and big choruses on "I'm Listening" and "Scared."  The record also finds singer/guitarist Connor Frost channeling Billie Joe Armstrong giving the vocals a smooth texture that brings out the melodies and harmonies.

22.  Floating Now by Hard Girls
Asian Man Records, Specialist Subject Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Hard Girls bring their special brand of post punk indie rock to a new level on their third full-length Floating Now.  The band's sound is like a mix of Sebadoh and Naked Raygun or maybe Superchunk and Fugazi, but then takes things to the next level.  This is a tight band that has unleashed another in a series of excellent records.

21.  High on 95 by Tim Barry
BandCamp, Big CartelChunksaah RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
Tim Barry is probably the best punk turned pure folk troubadour out there.  Sure lots of punks have traded in their electric guitars and leather jackets for acoustic guitars and flannels but few, if any, have done it with the purity of Tim Barry.  His seventh solo album High on 95 is another prime example of perfect songwriting through heart and honest simplicity.  This record is outstanding.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Top 40 Records of 2017: 40-31

2017 is nearly in the books and it's been an...interesting ride to say the least.  Trying to think of how to sum up the last 12 months is proving to be harder than in years past.  Honestly 2017 has been kind of a blur.  On a personal level I started and subsequently stopped a couple of new podcasts, continued a couple of others, finally started making real progress in losing weight, and continued to be an utter failure as an adult.  Thankfully I had music to get me through.

Now I'm not going to lie, keep up with new music this year was a challenge.  So much stuff was released that there was no way I could keep up with it all and after a while I stopped trying to.  Even with that being said, this year's list of top records is the longest I've put together possibly ever.  And it might have been longer, but after much deliberation and thought, I narrowed things down to my Top 40 Records of 2017.

My music listening habits changed a bit in 2017.  Part of this was cause by issues with the CD player in my car (yes I still buy CDs), my decision to bite the bullet and invest in the family plan of Spotify Premium ($15 of the best dollars I spend ever month), then there was the FM transmitter that stopped working preventing me from listening to streaming music in the car (I listen to a lot of music in the car) and the nicer FM transmitter that I bought to replace it, and then there was my unconscious desire to listen to more older music (as highlighted by my Spotify listening habits this year).  Some of this last part I'm sure has a lot to do with my age (getting older sucks) and some has to do with the fact that this was a pretty rough year for me personally and turning to things you know provides comfort.  That's not to say that there weren't records that immediately hit me like a ton of bricks, because pretty much the entire top 11 helped keep me going just as much as those old records that I cherish.  So when I first started mentally putting this list together a couple of months ago I was actually surprised how many different releases kept coming to mind.  And as time went on, the list kept growing because there was a shitload of great records released in 2017.  Sure this is a sentiment that I bring up every year but it's true.  There is great music being made each and every year, you just have to go and find it.  And thanks to the internet, finding music now is 1000 times easier than it was when I was in high school.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about some of the losses we faced in 2017.  Music legends from the early days of rock 'n' roll like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, '70s teen heartthrobs like David Cassidy, soul legends like Al Jarreau, Joni Sledge, and Charles Bradley, punk and alt rock pioneers like Grant Hart, Chuck Mosley, and Chris Cornell, a founding member of AC/DC in Malcolm Young, and Tom Petty.  And that's just a few.  Each one of these artists that we lost touch people through their words and their music and all will be missed.

This list consists of the 40 best records, albums, and EPs that 2017 had to offer.  Herein you will find punk indie, rock, alt country, folk, and a few things that are all of this and more.  Each and every single one of these artists put their hearts and souls into this work and every record on this list is not only worth your time but deserves your attention and support.  As with previous years lists, I have broken this into posts with 10 records each and a list of honorable mentions. 

30-21, 20-11, Honorable Mentions, 10-1

40.  Horse of the Other World by See Through Dresses
BandCamp, Tine Engines, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
See Through Dresses sophomore full-length is a fuzz drenched piece of shoegaxery post-punk goodness.  Horse of the Other World is a brilliant mix of Joy Division's pulsating basslines and Lush's lush soundscapes while still feeling new and modern.  The dueling vocals of  Sara Bertuldo on guitar ans synths and Mathew Carroll on guitar create deep layers that bring something new to the table with each listen.  Plus they are super nice folks.

39.  Corner by football, etc.
BandCamp, Community Records, Amazon, iTunes, Google PlaySpotify
Football, etc.'s third full-length Corner effortlessly fuses elements of melodic indie rock with poppy emo.  The result is a collection of 10 earnest and emotional mid-tempo melodic numbers that feel timeless, new, and familiar all at the same time.

38.  Clocking In / Clocking Out by TV Crime
BandCamp, Drunken Sailor Records
TV Crime's sophomore EP is just plain fun.  And honestly fun doesn't do this record justice.  Mixing elements of '70s punk, '50s rock 'n' roll, glam rock, and pub rock, TV Crime have stumbled onto something special.  My only complaint is that this record is so short.  Two songs of this quality are just not enough!  Please make more records!!!

37.  Never a Dull Movement by Kid You Not
BandCamp, Deep Elm Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Kid You Not's full-length debut is a blast of high energy, melodic punk rock in the vein of Latterman, Red City Radio, Iron Chic, and Dillinger Four.  The songs have intensity, heart, and honest introspection and observations.  In other words, this freaking rules!

36.  Hush by Kindling
BandCamp, 6131 Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
In just three years, Kindling have churned out five EPs, one split, and two full-lengths, Hush being the second.  In that time the five-piece from Massachusetts have nearly perfected the shoegaze sub-genre.  This record is drive by distortion and fuzz, while still bringing the melody and pop sensibilities.  The vocals are a breathy and soothing blend of harmonies brought to life by Gretchen Williams and Stephen Pierce and very reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.  Mike LeSuer really summed up this album's aura perfectly in his review for Post-Trash --
As the musical zeitgeist debates the merits of rebranding and the limits of artistic integrity, Easthampton’s Kindling slumps into the lecture hall inexcusably late, earphones in, hair unkempt, and tosses their backpack into an empty seat in the nosebleeds, likely partaking from a grungy relation of shoegaze that wrought Beach House. Despite a slight improvement in recording technology since their 2014 debut, the five-piece has been busy cranking out new iterations of the same basic formula over the span of four EPs and a full length, presently following up January’s No Generation EP with more spitfire noise pop in the form of LP number two, Hush.
This is a must for fans of Slowdive, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine.

35.  New Magnetic by Holy Hands
BandCamp, Atomic Action Records
Holy Hands is a new post hardcore band from the northeast.  The band's full-length debut New Magnetic is a high energy blast of melody, ferocity, and heart that include anthems, ballads, and everything in-between.  This is how post hardcore should be done.

34.  Desolation Monday by SteveO & The Crippling Addictions
BandCamp, Say-10 RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
SteveO & The Crippling Addictions' debut Desolation Monday is a fun romp of punk-via-classic-rock anthems that will have you dancing and singing along.  This record is a must for fans of SteveO's former band The Holy Mess, The Hold Steady, Nothington, and for the more adventurous Tom Petty fans.

33.  Survival Pop by Worriers
BandCamp, SideOneDummy Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Worriers' Survival Pop perfectly blends elements of punk, power pop, indie rock, emo, and folk with piercing and powerful lyrics resulting in a powerhouse of a record.  The brainchild of Lauren Denitzio, this is a record of cathartic optimism after a fall, expressing the rage of the moment with the hope for the future.

32.  Big Bad Luv by John Moreland
Port Merchandise, 4AD, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
John Moreland's fourth full-length album (and seventh when counting his records with the Black Gold Band and the Dust Bowl Souls) Big Bad Luv is his fullest and most robust pure country record to date.  Driving the record are Moreland's unmistakable lyrics and heart-wrenching vocals but this time around they are back by a full band.  In many ways this record is closer to the country and blues of his solo debut Earthbound Blues than the sparse folk of In The Throes and High On Tulsa Heat.

31.  Anything Could Happen by Bash & Pop
BandCamp, Fat Possum RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
One The Replacements' reunion tours ran their course, bassist Tommy Stinson resumed his solo career releasing a single and an EP in 2015 before starting on his next full-length.  During that process a full band came together with a sound very reminiscent of Stinson's first post-Replacements project Bash & Pop.  Anything Could Happen, the first Bash & Pop record in 25 years, is a blast of power pop rock and pretty much exactly what one would expect from a former member of The Replacements.  These songs are catchy, dripping with hooks, and infectious as all get out.