New Jersey is somewhat a musical paradox. Outsiders predictably only know about “The Boss” or Bon Jovi being from the Garden State, unless you grew up on Hardcore, then it the same two plus Turning Point, Vision, Bouncing Souls and Lifetime. Then the Gaslight Anthem eventually exploded onto the scene that even made this transplant proud of his new home state, where insiders never seem to talk about Real Estate, another NJ band that are both hugely popular and play everywhere else.
But after sniffing over the years, I have pleasantly discovered that New Jersey is chuck full of great bands with many indie labels supporting them. Pyrrhic Victory Recordings is one of those labels and the wonderful 65’s, GALANOS and Miss Ohio are some of those bands.
The 65’sI’ve Got You EP (2013) picks up right up where 2011’s kick ass Strike Hard! left off. A solid 4 song onslaught that starts with the punk ‘n’ roll steam roller “Have you Been Saved?”, continues with the darkly beautiful album title track and ending with is pretty acoustic twang of “Safety Net,” each song heavily complimented by the unique, husky Lucero-ish growl of front man/guitarist Joseph O. Pugsley. I Got You is never too far from my weekly listening pleasure, with the 3rd track,”Holes Dug Deep” being one of my personal favorites (“breathe in…breathe out…keep breathing she said“).
THE 65’s “I’ve Got You”
Next up is GALANOS‘ 2 song offering, La Loca, a dark and dreamy, surfy and heavy, beautifully droning offering of slowed down and fuzzed up songs of Velvet Underground-ish proportions. I could see either song (the title track or “Go Home Rose”) being on the soundtrack to the next Quentin Tarantino flick with a return of Uma Thurman dancing to either. Indeed a welcoming sight in my humble opinion! If this is just a the hors d’ourves of what GALANOS is offering, I am looking forward to a full meal and hopefully soon.
Miss Ohio’s latest EP, Whippoorwill Road, was officially released last week, delivering a perfect blend of power pop melody and guitar rock grit, with 5 songs that will no doubt make my personal best of 2014 release list. Oddly, the opening killer track of the same name always brings “Boys of Summer” (either Henley or the Atari’s cover will do) to mind, but in a good way. Tracks “Bobby Fischer” and “Lights” keep the momentum going (with the latter boasting interesting sounds from a vintage phaser pedal) while I find myself mentally humming the coquettish“Day Job” at least once a day while reconciling my own rock ambitions while working for the man. Finally I was one happy camper that they (re)recorded “KGB” one of my favorite tracks off of 2005’s underrated Another Wasted Summer. Homerun, boys.
I always look forward to annual “best of” music list that begin popping up every year when the cold weather arrives. It is fascinating who thinks what is the hottest fucking music out there each year. Two thousand fourteen is no different.
And since I am kneeling in the musical confessional booth, I must fess up I am constantly stuck somewhere between 1982-1999 when it comes to my musical listening, but somehow, in some miraculous way I do manage to stumble across “new bands” worth listening to, though few and far between.
Some 2014 results make sense (the new Hold Steady and Tom Petty) while others don’t (am I the only one who doesn’t understand the big deal behind The War Against Drugs or Sun Kil Moon?). And some are just plain fucking bullshit (the new U2 #1 Rolling Stone? How much is the band paying you to make such a claim??). And don’t even get me started on the Foo Fighter’s, Sonic Highways…except that is basically a bunch of medicore, over-produced shit….see what you made me did now??
Anyways, fuck it…here it goes…my best of 2014 (in no particular order)….ta da!!
1. The Temples – Sun Structures : some of the best psych-pop out of the UK in years per Johnny Marr, Noel Gallagher and now me. If the opening tracks “Shelter Song” or “Sun Structures” doesn’t make your booty move then you are just lame. They are also, importantly, one of the coolest look bands on the planet.
2. Interpol – El Pintor: after 2010’s disastrously forgettable self-titled album, the NYC post-punk darlings are back in full form. While Kessler’s guitar playing gets a little tedious at times, El Pintor is still a great bunch of tunes that blend in well with earlier material. They too are one of the coolest looking (and best dressed bands) on the planet. Yes, I like cool looking bands.
3. Overlake – Sighs: said it all right heremonths back. Still in super heavy rotation in my life. The track “Our Sky” is one of the best songs ever written with a breakdown bridge starting at the 2:05 mark that will knock you on your ass.
4. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt: Read this. Probably their weakest album, but that is what is what makes it so endearingly intriguing. The song “Dark Places” shatters my heart every time, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.
5. Life Eaters – Self Titled: Confession? I only heard this debut record from this Jersey City group for the first time mere days ago, but it has been kicking me in the nuts ever since. An extremely strong effort from start to finish. The track “Man Pain”, is just absolutely killer. If you don’t like it then guess what…yup, you lame.
6. The Hold Steady – Dream Teeth: A “typical” and “safe” Hold Steady album, but if you dip beneath the surface you will find a solid effort with all the stories, drugs, hardcore matinees and Jesus Christ references still intact. At first listen, I was disappointed but the tracks grew on me tremendously to the point of becoming one of the year’s best. I must admit I find the overall recording very weak (lacking ball crushing “umph” of 2008’s Stay Positive…so much guitar punch)but just listen beyond that….songs “Spinners” and “Big Cig” are two of many standout tracks.
I always enjoyed this short trailer for Dream Teeth , it captures the full essence of the album….
7. Miss Ohio – Whippoorwill Road:“delivering a perfect blend of power pop melody and guitar rock grit, with 5 songs that will no doubt make my personal best of 2014 release list” as I previously stated here and here and here! and guess what, it did! Besides they re-recorded my favorite song from them (“KGB”) so that is all that fucking matters…well unless they re-record “Picture Show…” (hint hint)….here is a funny video for another great gem off the record, “Bobby Fischer…”
8. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye: Tom and his heartbreaking team started a bar brawl, kicking everyone’s ass with this garage punk instant classic.
9. Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static: This Brooklyn-based band plays punk/noise rock that torpedoes Fucked Up right out of the tub. I hear me some Fugazi…Descendants? Maybe even some Slint….may I dare mention later Black Flag or even Flipper? Their sounds is something so familiar that I still can’t define it and that is why they fucking rock and can’t stop listening to this album. If you don’t like the 2 opening tracks (“Body Parts” and “Goes Black”) then you are….guess?
10. Johnny Marr – Playland : Because it’s Johnny FUCKING Marr, yo……duh.
11. Real Estate – Atlas: A hearty blend of hypnotic, mellow, reverby poppy rock from Brooklyn, Atlas picks up where 2011’s Days paused. A perfect background soundtrack for those long drives, house cleanings or annual best of writings.
12. Thurston Moore – The Best Day: Back to his true form from 2013’s quasi-metal project, Chelsea Light Moving, The Best Day is his 4th solo effort and 1st since his highly visible divorce from Kim Gordon. This album is very East Village, very “safe” (read: Sonic Youth) and very wonderful. Moore continues to rock out in his own alternately tuned, droning , cool cat, hipster, subdued Neil Young kind of way. “Forevermore” and album title track are just 2 of many treats found here. Besides, its Thurston fucking Moore…duh.
13. We Were Promised Jetpacks- Unravelling: These Scots quickly remind us why 2009’s These Four Walls and 2011’s In The Pit of the Stomach are constantly listened to over and over as they continue to carry the post punk meets indie pop torch with this latest release. Saw these cats live at NYC’s Webster Hall a few weeks back and they blew everyone away. Tracks “Safety in Numbers” and “Peaks and Troughs” are just two of many great songs.
14. Eastern Anchors-Dragging Your Axe Behind: I know I said a random list, but I also did save the best news for last. Set to be released later this month, if 2012’s Drunken Arts And Pure Science have you begging for more and if you thought the first single “Above Your Station” off their latest EP kicked ass, wait until you hear the other 6 songs. Oh boy……strap on in and wear a cup kiddies….
INTERVIEW: He might not mention Johnny Marr or Ed from Ohio as his guitar heroes but Mr. Doug Gillard is one of those guys who you should just know as such. For Christ’s sake just one glance at his wiki page none the less re-affirms that the guitar has infinite possibilities in the right hands. A few years ago he put his 2nd solo album called Call from Restricted and is now working on a follow-up in-between touring and playing with Nada Surf and producing like the Eternal Summers and playing with a bunch of different bands. His pedigree is as rich as it gets. You know that killer epic 90’s song “I Am a Tree” on Mag Earwhig(Matador). He wrote that tune with some bro named Gem then recorded it with Pollard where he did a stint in GBV between 1996-97 with his band mates Cobra Verde. In addition to Death of Samantha; plus a shit load of other appearances. He has a single out too which you should just own. He took the time out of crazy schedule to put pen to paper to a few caffeine inspired questions. So here you go.
RS: Who and where are you recording your new album>
DG: I’m recording it here in NYC with Travis Harrison at Serious Business, and in Austin with Louie Lino at his Resonate studio, with George Duron on drums there.
I’m also in the process of producing the newest LP by Eternal Summers. Louie Lino & I recorded them in Austin, and I played a little on the songs, helped them co-write a section here & there.
RS: A we never heard of the Eternal Summers until we saw a photo posted of them with you; too many bands not enough time really. Very cool you’re working and producing with them. We did notice the big pro-tools monitor display on your FB page. Do you miss recording to analog or has digital made life easier?
DG: I miss analog a bunch, but it is easier to record digitally, and I’ve come to expect the visual of the files as well – helps you see sections of the song to punch in at, etc…
Analog vs. digital isn’t the debate anymore for most. Rather, its “How does this get distributed and heard?” RS: Lots of words of wisdom. We wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes we think the concept of demoing tunes for a album has gone out the window for new bands. Do you think it’s too easy for up and coming bands to record their music?
DG: Yes. Though I do demo most of my songs, and get too lazy to want to play them again in the studio, so I fly them in from my garageband demos a lot. Its not just laziness- its also knowing I wouldn’t capture the same spark if I replayed it. RS: Do you think they skip right to album and lack a song writer process? Of starting with an idea and then proofing on 4track?
DG: Not sure what you mean by this question, but everyone has a different process. I do think that not enough people try to avoid typical chord progressions, melodies or add interesting basslines to their songs. They should live with the song idea for a bit, and then see if it needs something else. Most times it does.
RS: Right who the hell knows what a 4track is. We personally make music when we’re all alone. What is your song writing process been like?
DG: I always have riffs or parts that I record or voice memo. Sometimes I will marry some of those together, or sometimes a complete song will come to me wholly. It varies, and I’m glad it does. The best are ones that happen by imagining or singing, & I haven’t arrived at it by having a guitar on. I like figuring the chords out later, knowing what they should be beforehand, as opposed to knowing what the moves on the fretboard are as I make it up. Those times are rare, though.
RS: What was your first guitar? Mine was a taped up tennis racket that I played air guitar along to van halen II.
DG: I had some small toy guitars when i was really little, then at 5, I got an almost full size plastic guitar with steel strings from Sears that had the brand name “Emenee”. We had a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the family for trading audio letters with my sister who was living in Germany, so I would use it to record and write songs, until i was about 9.
RS: Does you new record have a title and planned release date?
DG: No title yet, and no release date, as of yet. I’d like to see if a label would like to put my LP out as well.
RS: Any special guests planned?
DG: Aside from Travis Harrison and George Duron both on drums & maybe Sally Crewe on a couple backing vocals, none that I know of just yet. My pal Kendall Meade may be tapped for some bv’s. If my last single “Breaking In Two” makes the record, there’s a very special guest in NJ native Erik Paparozzi on that song.
RS: Do you plan on playing some new tunes in may?
DG: Yes- hoping to have at least 2 ready.
RS: Cool we are very psyched for the show! Any covers you would like to play?
DG: Sometimes i do a slow, glammy “Boney Maronie”. Used to do “Some Might Say” by Oasis and “Stop Me” by the Smiths, and in 2009 we did Buzzcocks’ “Autonomy”. Probably one or none at the Asbury show, though.
RS: Nice my band rarely gets our act together to do cover songs. We’d love to do a nada surf song but they are so perfect. We figure so why mess it up. But what has it been like recently touring and recording with Matthew Caws & the guys?
DG: I love playing in Nada Surf. They’re the best guys to hang around & be on tour with, every one of ’em. And they choose crew people that are really nice & good folks, always. And that’s important. I love the songs, and Matthew & I are around the same age, and have a lot of musical tastes in common, Oh, and we’re both WASPS. Wait, we never even talk about that! The tours went great, and that band has sown the seeds of great friends & fans all over, so its always a positive atmosphere wherever we go. Looking forward to recording our next LP within the next couple years. Ira Elliot is an amazing drummer, and also my bandmate in Bambi Kino, the Hamburg-era Beatles band we have. (We play only the covers they played in clubs from ’60-’62).
RS: Seems as a working musician and the number of groups you have been in over the years it surpasses what any one person would strive for in their musical career. What keeps you inspired?
DG: I always have more music to get out. Always more songs I’ve written that need to be heard. That’s the main driving force with me , always has been, but I also love co-writing with people (Mascott/Kendall Meade, Sally Crewe, and Eternal Summers recently) and seeing what I can add to someone’s song idea. I’m a pretty good bridge writer when someone needs one. The other part of course is that I always enjoy adding guitar textures or solos to others’ work.
RS: We should have been more careful to ask you this but here it goes. Who are your guitar heroes
DG: Oh man, too too many. James Honeyman-Scott(The Pretenders) has always been up there at the top for me. Mick Ronson (David Bowie -The Spiders from Mars), Robert Quine (Richard Hell & The Voidoids), John McGeoch (Siouxsie and the Banshees, PIL), Billy Bremner/Dave Edmunds, Pete Townshend, Glenn Tilbrook, Marshall Crenshaw, Geordie, Phil Manzanera, Chet Atkins, Robin Guthrie, Tom Jobim & Joao Gilberto, Bill Nelson, Jerry Reed, Marco Pirroni, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Adrian Belew, Les Paul, Pat Place, John Lennon, Andy Gill, Chris Spedding, Will Sargent, Verlaine/Lloyd, Rew/Hitchcock. I’m sure there’re a ton more. Dave Gregory (XTC)
RS: Damn this is a list. I’ll admit though I know half of these guys but once I looked them up I was all smart and stuff. Last nerdy question. Do you think social media has made things easier to be a full time musician/ artist?
DG: No. Its made it easier to tell people about a show & “invite” them, advertise product, but that goes hand in hand with there now being 10 million artists all doing that, all fragmented into whichever genre someone’s individual tastes zoom in on. So it seems tougher to reach people, especially beyond the several that pay attention to your particular page or feed.
RS: It’s a bender for sure. I was talking to friend of mine who is a used to play in bands for forever and who has been Highschool teacher even longer than . He said something interesting that kids these days don’t consume music in so many ways we did by genera or label. They actually don’t distinguish between genres and on one play list might be listening to Snoop one minute and then Eternal Summers the next.
RS: Last Question, what’s your goal for 2013 into 2014?
To record as much of my own music as I can, while I can, and, to paraphrase a King, to live a little, love a little.
As the year and this decade winds down it’s a new habit in my life to see who’s passed on to the other side. Morbid I know but at the same time it gives me inspiration to enjoy interacting with my own family when I can and everyday extraordinary people. Someone once said to treat every moment and thing as it happens as a minor miracle. The musicians music people listed here either touched some aspect of music and if you take a moment to appreciate their achievements through to their demise. Their existence will have touched you too. Even if it is for thirty seconds. Some from this listing I don’t even have music for. For the brevity I apologize. You have the internets at your disposal.
Jay Reatard (Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr.) – Died January 12th 2010 in Memphis, TN, from cocaine toxicity with alcohol as a contributing factor. He really was a established self recorded 29 year old garage rock artist who was prolific with his synth band Lost Sounds, his solo singles that were put out by Matador, to his lo-fi label Shattered Records. He contributed to a number of side projects to a great genre of music. His last record was little more mature in varied instrumentation but still keeping with the spirit of self-recorded music. Short songs for short attention spans. Here’s one. Download:It Ain’t Gonna Save Me From Watch Me Fall (Matador)
Dannie Flesher was the Co-founder of Wax Trax! Records passed in Hope, Arkansas, U.S. of Pneumonia of January og 2010. He was 58 years old. His label partner Jim Nash originated the store in 1970’s in Ohio before moving to 2445 North Lincoln Ave in Chicago which released recordings by Brian Eno, Ministry, Coil, Controlled Bleeding, Strike Under, Sister Machine Gun, Front 242, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Divine and The KLF. Nash died in 1995 and the label folded soon after but both left behind a legacy of industrial music that started many a career in the dark genre to it’s commercial success. Here are just a few of the groups and music this label inspired. MP3 DOWNLOADS: Megalomaniac (Bomb) MP3 K. M.F.D.M. Mix By Excessive Force U-Men by Front 242 from the CD Geography (Wax Trax! 1988) The Missing by Ministry from Land Of Rape and Honey
Iain Burgess (December, -11-2010) passed away in Florida, of Pulmonary embolism was a super well know Producer and a workhorse behind many 90’s bands. To name a few he worked with Big Black, Cows, Poster Children, Naked Raygun, Effigies, Bhopal Stiffs, Solient Green And Shellac, Ministry, Bloodsport, The Defoliants, Pegboy and whole shit load more so check out a pretty good list on Brooklyn Vegan ». MP3 Downloads: Jordan, Minnesota by Big Black from Atomizer 39 Lashes(Jesus Christ Superstar Cover) MP3 by the Cows from Sexy Pee Story Heave Ho MP3 By Cows from Cunning Stunts She Walks by the Poster Children from Flower Power (1991 Frontier reissue originally released on Vinyl in 89. The first four songs from this record were tracked by Albini the rest of the tracks by Burgess.
Mark Linkous – Died March 6th 2010 in Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S. of apparent Suicide. This Alternative rocker was Born 1962 and was a Singer, guitarist and producer and the creative force behind Sparklehorse. His music was dark, sad and wonderful at the same time. It’s A Wonderful Life MP3 title track by Sparklehorse Angel’s Harp (featuring) Black Francis MP3 from collaboration record with Dangermouse Dark Night of the Soul.
Alex Chilton – Died March17th 2010 in New Orleans, LA, from a heart problem. William Alexander Chilton) was born Decemebr 28th 1950, in Memphis, TN, and most notably known as the Guitarist and singer from Big Star. Although not popular at first he influenced more pop rock artists than one could ever count including Jon Auer and Paul Westerberg. Andy Hummel also passed July 19th in 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas, U.S. of Cancer. He was 59 years old rocker Born in Valley Forge, Penn. Was Bassist and was a member of Rock City, Icewater and Big Star!
Thirteen MP3 by Big Star from #1 Record/Radio City(1972). Chris Bell has a composer credit on this even though Chilton had written the song some 6 years earlier after seeing The Beatles play. “Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay”. Alex Chilton by The Replacements
Jim Marshall Photogrpaher, Died March 23rd 2010 in New York, NY.He was Born 1936 in Chicago, Ill., U.S. His photos include some of biggest rock icons from the 60’s and 70’s including: The Who, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix (burning his guitar), The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash (throwing the finger- photo is the one above), Cream, Velvet Revolver, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz and a ton more. His black and white work is great. I almost bought a print 15 years ago from a gallery in San Francisco but did not have a place to honor it enough back then.
Ronnie James Dio (Ronald James Padavona) – Died 5-16-2010 in Houston, TX, U.S. – Stomach cancer. He played all sorts of genres from Rockabilly, to Rock to Metal. Born 7/10/1942 in Portsmouth, NH, U.S. – Sang and played bass and trumpet and was a member of The Vegas Kings who became Ronnie And The Rumblers who became Ronnie And The Red Caps who had a couple hits “Lover” and “Conquest”. He also had Ronnie Dio And The Prophets, The Electric Elves who were renamed Elf who had a couple hits called “I’m Coming Back for You” and “Ain’t It All Amusing”. He played in Rainbow with songs like “Stargazer” and “Love Live Rock n’ Roll” and then what most people know him as the Black Sabbath singer after Ozzy he sang on “Neon Knights” and “The Mob Rules”.
Phil Petillo (Dr. Phillip J. Petillo) – Passed away this past August 13th 2010 at his work shop in Ocean New Jersey. He was 64 years old. He was Born in Jersey City, NJ and was Luthier and inventor and Proprietor of Petillo Masterpiece Guitars which he opened in 1966. His customers included Bruce Springsteen, Meatloaf, Nils Lofgren, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Ricky Nelson, Herb Ellis, James Taylor, Gene Simmons, Sting, Jim Croce and Tal Farlow to name a few. Official Facebook page and memoriam run by his son David Petillo » who runs the business these days. Tremendous loss to the world. I had a bunch of conversations with him and his son David this past summer of 2010 in preparation to interview him for mini documentary series I’ve been working on called Create or Else. On top of being known as guitar tinkerer he’s also quite the engineer and has number of patents under his belt. I can’t get into some of them but lets just say it had to do with solving our energy crisis. That is where the story got interesting for me and my team I would to catch-up with his legacy very soon.
Captain Beefheart (Don Glen Vliet) (aka Bloodshot Rollin’ Red) – Died December, 17th 2010 in California, of Complications from multiple sclerosis. To say he was an Experimental Rock, Blues Avant-garde musician would be understatement. Once the disease took over he turned to painting as a form of expressing himself until he could not do it any more. That’s how I want to go.(i think) Check out Hollywood Reporter Obituary » they do a finer job of getting into the details of his life. The music he made was extraordinary here’s just one sample. Enjoy. Electricity from Safe as Milk (1967)
For more death tracking check out the Dead Rock Star Club where some of our info was borrowed from.