Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Yep, so I'm finally chiming in with my Best of 2011 list for my own blog. Besides the DRI
reference, the blog title is also an ode to my laziness. Even as an old fuddy duddy, I'm still
surprised to find so many new bands and albums that I like each year. 2012 is already off to a
great start with Classics Of Love, Nada Surf, Jealous Sound, Criaturas, etc. Plus I'm still
discovering bands/releases from 2011 that I missed. And as much as I'd like to add new finds like
Male Bonding and Street Chant to my 2011 list, I'm going to stick with the releases that I
actually listened to most last year.
* Albums *
BANNER PILOT - HEART BEATS PACIFIC
Too bad this was released in the fall, because it's the perfect summer driving soundtrack. Catchy, melodic and slicker than Trent Dibb's jheri curl. And I'm always a sucker for that thick bass rumble. People have said that this sounds a little too polished (even some old Blink 182 comparisons), but to me they still retain that Dillinger 4 bite with an improved sense of songwriting.
DIRECT HIT! - DOMESPLITTER
With rapidfire lyrics, frequent gang vocals and the unofficial motto of "Fuck you, get pumped!", urgent is the word for Direct Hit! Catchy and anthemic punk, but chaotic at the same time. Their first album reworks songs from their previous eps and while I miss the earlier rawness and feel that the vocals and bass could be louder, judged on its own, this is a thoroughly enerjetic and awesome album. I got to see them in a Milwaukee bar once, but I think a beer soaked basement or warehouse show would be a much more suitable setting for them.
THE LONELY ISLAND - TURTLENECK & CHAIN
Musical comedy is a tricky genre. But these guys have the perfect mix of intelligence, stupidity and incredibly catchy songs. Plus they have better beats than the majority of hip hop these days. While some of these songs rely on the videos to fully appreciate the joke, luckily those videos are included. The thought of Michael Bolton popping into screen and singing, "Now back to the good part" will probably never cease to bring a smile to my face.
MIDNIGHT - SATANIC ROYALTY
There's only so much metal that jumps out at me these days, but sometimes it just takes something classic and simple like this to do the trick. Straight forward metal with a foundation in Venom's black metal and Motorhead's speed rock. Plus enough solos, leather and evil imagery to make your parents think you're worshipping the devil and smoking drugs.
NIGHT BIRDS - THE OTHER SIDE OF DARKNESS
A lot of bands these days seem to be going the darker, post punk route. But Night Birds brighten things up a surfy, classic SoCal punk sound. Less Greg Sage, more East Bay Ray or Mike Palm. There's even an Agent Orange style instrumental in the middle of the album. Great cover art too!
OBITS - MOODY, STANDARD AND POOR
Even though the Hot Snakes are one of my favorite bands in recent years, I think I'm one of the few people who feel like they ran their course. With the Obits, Rick Froberg and company still lock into those melodic grooves, but they slow it down, turn up the reverb and replace the Wipers influence with a more R&B sound (in the British sense).
RIVAL SCHOOLS - PEDALS
Like Rick Froberg, Walter Schreiffels is a hardcore veteran who also has a knack for great songwriting, no matter what the genre. On their second album, Rival Schools continues their mix of melodic post hardcore with a 90's alternative sound. This time there's further experimentation and some mellow moments that Walt has explored more recently with his acoustic projects.
SAMIAM - TRIPS
While their albums on New Red Archives are classics, Samiam is a band that has really only improved with age. Astray has gradually become my favorite album of theirs, but this one might beat it out with the number of listens it's been getting. Jason and Sergie are the only original members left, but the formula hasn't changed: powerful and emotional melodic punk that remains one of the best and only vestiges of the Bay Area's pop punk legacy.
STOLEN YOUTH - DARK CENTURY
Although people dismiss the 90's EpiFat Skate Punk sound, it had its place and provided one of the few respits from generic moshcore and boring emo that permeated punk at that time. And just like back then, there are still bands that manage to bring something new to that sound. Stolen Youth take a similar route to newer Propagandhi or Strung out, mixing fast, melodic punk with a powerful, metallic thrash element. There are some moments of straight up crossover as well, similar to Municipal Waste or Bones Brigade. This one definitely speaks to me.
TENEMENT - NAPALM DREAM
This awesome Wisconsin band finally releases an album after years of teasing us with scrappy, fuzzy punk pop songs committed to multitudes of 7"s and cassettes. Napalm Dream further realizes their mix of poppy punk rock, lo fi exploration and hardcore sensibility. Like a mix of the Descendents and the Replacements, with the former's rhythm section and the latter's alt tendencies. Like an album from the 80's or 90's, this might not be immediate to a new listener, but it's that much more rewarding.
VERONICA FALLS - VERONICA FALLS
This probably falls outside my usual "comfort zone" of music, but damned if I'm not taken in by these catchy, reverb-filled tunes. Imagine the Mamas & the Papas mixed with indie pop. There's definitely been a recent resurgence of 90's indie fuzz and 60's coastal pop and Veronica Falls takes both and creates lively songs built around somber lyrics.
YUCK - YUCK
Instantly familiar and enjoyable, Yuck manages to channel 90's indie rock while making it still sound fresh and vital. Jangly indie pop with male/female vocals and the occasional guitar wail straight from the school of J. Mascis. The cover art even resembles some old Dinosaur Jr./Neil Blender artwork. Count me in.
* Eps *
CAREERS IN SCIENCE - WHATEVERWOLF
The first song on this ep hooked me with a kind of Devo-esque hectic new wave sound, but the rest of this 7 song ep is more straight ahead punk with a touch of post punk thrown in. A hard band to categorize, but an easy one to like.
KICKING SPIT - PSYCHROCKBULLSHIT
Like a more hardcore version of Dinosaur Jr., with muddy vocals and plenty of cool guitar wailing. I'm looking forward to more from this band.
RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS - SMASH/GRAB
More great straight ahead punk rock, with an emphasis on rock. Hopefully a teaser for an upcoming album.
SEAWEED - SERVICE DECK
If you know Seaweed, you know what to expect on this 2 song ep, their first recorded material since 1999's Actions And Indications. I don't know if they'll ever top Spanaway, but these songs fit nicely in their timeline and I hope there's more to come.
THE STUPIDS - JAPANESE VACATION
The Stupids are still cranking out blazing fast hardcore with a sense of humor. This short ep combines their recent comeback 7" along with 3 outtakes from their new album. I can't believe I missed seeing them (with Agent Orange) by a few hours the last time I went to London!
* Reissues *
EXIT CONDITION - DAYS OF WILD SKIES
So after Bosstuneage Records introduced me to the awesome Exit Condition through a best of-type CD a few years back, I went out (via the internet) and tracked down almost all of their vinyl releases. Now Bosstuneage has the nerve to release their full discography on 2 CDs full of awesome British melodic punk. Their early demos and Pusmort 7" show the bands' promise with a speedier, hardcore approach, but their lone album, Days Of Wild Skies is a melodic punk classic, up there with Leatherface's Mush.
SHARKS - THE JOYS OF LIVING (2008-2010)
While the Gaslight Anthem seemed to be the new kings of the heart on a sleeve, working class punk, I think this compilation of early Sharks EPs is better than the last 2 Gaslight albums. Sharks replaces the Springsteen with a more Billy Bragg feel, tempered with soulful vocals and catchy, mid-paced punk songs. I'm looking forward to their new album this year.
VOID - SESSIONS 1981-1983
While nothing will top their side of the classic Faith split, any Void is good Void. Especially cleaned up versions of their earliest demos which had only circulated around the internet in very poor quality previously. Completely raw and unhinged hardcore that has never been duplicated.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
1. YUCK - S/T
This album has been my “go-to” record of the year. From start to finish an amazing album. I even re-purchased it just to get the B-Sides that are just as strong as the rest of the original album. It’s all been said before, but this IS the best “90’s band” of the last 20 years. Dinosaur Jr. guitar shredding, Pavement fuzziness, & Smashing Pumpkins beauty. This band seems to have come out of a time machine taking all the good parts of these bands and becoming a Voltron of Alternative Rock and restoring the faith of Rock N Roll in this curmudgeon’s heart.
2. ANTHRAX - WORSHIP MUSIC
Welcome back Joey. This is their finest work since Persistence Of Time and it seems like the logical step forward since that album. By far my favorite Metal album of the year. If you gave up on these fellas since the John Bush era, do yourself a favor and check this one out!
3. SCREECHING WEASEL - FIRST WORLD MANIFESTO
My God if Ben Weasel can’t write a ditty as pretty as a titty! I know it’s not cool to like Ben, but you can’t deny his songwriting capability. Melodic, heart-felt, and by golly you can bug out to it. I’m gonna go stick my dick in the mash potatoes. Pop-punk heaven. If Ben puts it out - I’m buying.
4. BEASTIE BOYS - HOT SAUCE COMMITTEE PT. 2
I just used a couple Beastie references in my last pick’s comments and I’ll one up that by picking this for my number 4 of the year. The raps are more “Check Your Head” era with lines like “Ad-Rock’s in the bathroom with chocolate fondue” and “I’m runnin’ wild like rats in the Taco Bell”. They thrive in the diversity of sounds on this album. Bouncing from old-skool hip hop to reggae to their punk-tinged beginnings this was a welcome back to the sound that made them relevant in the first place.
5. FOO FIGHTERS - WASTING LIGHT
I’m not the hugest fan of the Foo, but this album is their best by far on the whole. “Arlandria” recalls the good feelings of “Everlong”, Bob Mould MAKES the song “Dear Rosemary” and after seeing the video for “White Limo” I can’t get the ferociousness of Lemmy out of my head. These songs and more would have been staples on the radio back when that meant something.
6. SOCIAL DISTORTION - HARD TIMES AND NURSERY RHYMES
My first favorite album of 2011. Mike Ness takes his time between records and it always pays off. A lot of people aren’t happy with the country-tinged leanings of the last couple of albums, but I feel that they have evolved comfortably since the Another State Of Mind days. The difference between them and a lot of the bands from this era is that they do it well. Mike Ness may be the coolest motherfucker in all of punk rock.
7. SAMIAM - TRIPS
Just like Social D, Samiam consistently deliver great albums taking their time in stride. I’ve been a fan of this band for a while, as well as all their side projects, but I can’t help but feel their best material has been in the last 15 years beginning with “You Are Freaking Me Out” in ‘97. These guys should be selling out arenas.
8. NOISE BY NUMBERS - OVER LEAVITT
Danny Vapid’s best project since Sludgeworth. This is their sophomore release and they don’t miss a step from their fantastic debut “Yeah, Whatever”. Punk flavored 80’s power pop paying homage to their fellow Chicago brethren Naked Raygun, this is a must have for 2011 bound to have you singing along.
9. DIRECT HIT! - DOMESPLITTER
After releasing a bunch of digital Eps, this Milwaukee pop-punk band released their first proper full length this year. I probably would have put this in the top 3, but 99% of this had already been released. I actually enjoy the original recordings better than what’s on this album - they sound a bit more energetic and urgent. Still, this is an amazing release and highly recommended. They knock it out of the park like Prince Fielder.
10. RIHANNA - TALK THAT TALK
“What?!” You say?…”Rihanna?!” - well fellas, I have a soft spot for pure pop done right and this one had tracks imprinted in my brain to the point I had to stop listening to it because it was driving me crazy, making it hard to fall asleep at night. Yeah, there are some clunkers (the ballads mostly near the end) but I’ll be damned if you can’t respect songs like these. It’s melodic, sexy and more accessible than M.I.A, but with the same attitude.