In case you care what I have been listening too lately (and I know you secretly lose sleep wondering)…here you go…since you insist….
Local Maplewood, NJ hometown indie rock A-Leaguers, Tri-State, continue their collective, at ease, upward momentum with their latest 5 track release , we did what we could do(2016) on the ultra-cool and equally Jersey label, Mint 400 Records . The killer riff on the opening track (and one of my personal favorites), “Summer Nun” kicks in the thruster a bit since their beautifully gliding, yet slightly subdued 2 song EP, New Minuits (2015). Again you find guitarists Julian Brash and Jeff Zelevansky trade off engrossing and seamless electric six-string conversations when not splitting vocal duties, while the complimenting percussionist union of Mason Rather (bass) and Brady McNamara (drums) keeps everything delightfully moving and grooving along. wdwwcd is simply a fun record from start to finish. It’s a perfect album on replay, tapping your foot on a sunny, sandy Miami beach while lounging lazily under palm trees, slightly concerned about falling coconuts, weird, unrecognizable birds and equally weird, unrecognizable insects (proven this past holiday weekend). Other stand out tracks include “Petty” (“boy, you got a lot to say….”), Siamese twin track “Suture”and “Automatic Man.”
My “Buffalo Bro” Daryl who I can “geek talk” music for days, weeks, even months on end (and have the never-ending text to prove it), have been digitally nudging (read: nagging) me to listen to the latest Touché Amore’ record, Stage 4 (2016) for months, but not as long as he has been nagging me to listen to Elliot Smith’sXO. I finally broke down, found time and listened…and listened…. WOW. I like it…. a lot! Based out of Los Angeles, this four-piece hardcore band found the perfect balance of familiarity and unique, of the definable and almost indefinable. They apply a unique spin on an otherwise played out genre, somehow making melodic shoe-gazey, indie rock riffs hardcore with minimum doses of extra crunchy distortion and beautifully bridging the hardcore and post-hardcore/emo sound, similar to Title Fight. Atypical singing patterns/rhythms and very deep, extremely personal thought provoking lyrics only add to their refreshing approach. The album title holds a double meaning, being the bands 4th record and also the very worse stage of cancer, a subject that rears its ugly head throughout the recording, apparently due to leader singer Jeremy Bolm losing his mom to the dreaded disease recently in 2014. The subject matter certainly sends my brain hurtling back 30 years ago when I lost my own mother in the same fashion, leaving me slightly envious that Bolm could scream about it for months on end touring and finding relief while I just buried those feelings deep down inside somewhere long ago where they mostly remain to this day. Ironically, after all this time, I can find some relief in Bolm’s circumstances and the bands music, knowing I am not the only one that ever went through such a soul-shredding event. Opening track, “Flowers and You,” “Displacement,” “Benediction,” and “Water Damage” are just some of the many great songs on this record. Check it.
The Menzingers is a Philly band I heard of a number of times but only started listening to their music because I saw they played a recent show at Garwood, NJ’s infamous Crossroads, this time nudged by the club’s Facebook page. Another 4 piece, the band plays an all too familiar sound, but they do it in a way that keeps my interest. Punk -n- Roll at its finest. The first song of theirs I got hooked on, “Remission,” off of 2014’s dour-ish Rented World, is nothing special when it comes to many other songs I subsequently discovered in their impressive catalog, but it only takes that little something to keep the tune and video on replay in my life (in this case, it’s that little “uh” leader singer Greg Barnett blurts (Accidently? Deliberately? Both?) after the first verse, or even the killer sing along chorus “Everyone needs a crutch…I need a wheel chair…I need a reason to reason with you…”). Their new record, After the Party (2017), was released just a few weeks ago and remains in heavy rotation in my life. A much cheerier release, they managed (and I slightly plagiarize from another review because I agree), to keep their street cred intact while making radio friendly songs. Check out song like “Lookers,” Mid-Western States,” “Your Wild Years,” “Black Mass” …oh, just listen to whole record, it’s great from start to finish!
Dinosaur Jr.’s latest, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016), is also filed under easy listening in my life. For die-hard fans, this is a typical, predictable record for the original band lineup, and that is just perfectly dandy for us. Interestingly, a little bird (i.e. drummer Murph) mentioned in an interview that GAGOWYN came to life because J. Mascis “freaked out” about not having any new songs and quickly threw some together. Many in the know would agree that the thought of J. losing his shit is hard to imagine, considering he never seems to have a pulse and really quiet during interviews. And when he does say something it is quite clear why he constantly accused of being a stoner (which he isn’t, at least according to him). Yes, the final results sound rushed when knowing this little back story, but the results are still rockingly impressive. Standouts include the opener “Going Down, “I Told Everyone” and “Tiny” but my favorites are “Lost All Day” right into “Knocked Around.”
The Cloud Nothings is another band I was slow on the draw about until I stumbled upon their latest release, Life Without Sound(2017). An incredibly solid listen from start to finish. It took me multiple listens on many runs final figure out what I love about this band/record: I can’t pigeonhole this band because they don’t sound like any other band that I heard of. I can’t honestly think of any other band that the Cloud Nothings sound like. Offering a completely refreshing, catchy indie sound. they mix the perfect blend of melody with umph…what’s not to like? Such tracks as the piano-tinged opener “Up to the Surface” and “Internal World” are pretty rocking tunes.
Hey all, just wanted to share some great info your life desperately needs for both your listening pleasure and mental health.
First, many NJ friends of mine have great internet radio shows you should check out.
My bro Jerry Lardieri of the excellent NJ band The Brixton Riot, spins an equally excellent indie rock show called Audible Effects every Friday morning @ 9AM at Stevenson University. You can find recordings of this show on Mixcloud.
Then my other bro, Paul Alirangues and team spins their own fantastic show every Sunday called, well, Sunday Ramble, playing and touching every music genre you can think of . Guest appearances and sets also add to listening pleasure. Recordings of the show can also be found on Mixcloud.
Then you have my other bro, Chris Morpeth and company have another kick ass radio show every Tuesday evening at The Mike & The Morph Show.
Finally, Psychologist and bro Michael Friedman writes a fabulously fascinating weekly article for Psychology Today, interviewing musicians of all shapes and sizes (some legendary) about a host of psychological issues. Check out his latest article with legendary Bad Brains front man H.R. discussing the awesome power of P.M.A. (Positive Mental Attitude)!
Read the articles. Listen to the shows. Like/follow them on social media. Because I said so, yo. xo
Just some of the stuff, old and new, I have been listening to a lot in 2016…. hey, 8 months late is better than never….
Not sure what the deal is what my bros of Snapcase and the now mostly defunct San Diego post-hardcore outfit, Drive Like Jehu, but both ex-guitarist Scott Dressler and singer Daryl Taberski continually ramble on about how god-like their 1994 release Yank Crime is. I actually had to go back and listen to the album to remind myself that I know it very well and indeed godlike! Hence, it is now on heavy rotation in my life. Glad to see they are touring again.
Rivers Cuomo and the boys from Weezer finally stopped taking their silliness way too seriously with their most recent release, (delightfully entitled, due to the album cover, “The White Album.”), taking yet step towards returning to true “blue” form. While I lean towards 2002’s Maladroit, one can make a strong case that when a color-themed Weezer record shows up it is bound to be decent. “California Kids,” “LA Girlz” and “King of the World” are just some of the few Beach Boys-metal-tinged a la fuzz pop that makes you yearn for the palm trees and lovely strangeness of Venice Beach.
Ann Arbor, MIs Pity Sex has recently caught my attention. Their name alone kicks ass and then they got all silly and made some kick ass music to go along with it. Lo-fi, surfy, shoe gaze done wonderfully.
The latest Violent Femmes album, We Can Do Anything, is a predictable and sometimes silly, but still fun release. It doesn’t even dare touch their 1983 S/T release or even 1991’s Why Do Birds Sing? but it still brings a familiar smile to your face. The Femmes are like the movie, American Beauty….both made sense when we were younger, but all fell into perfect place when we listened/watched when we hit mid-aged….
Not sure why I didn’t listen to another bro, Adriaan Klaassen, about this band back in the day when we worked together at ING. But I am happily ashamed to admit that 14 years later, I finally discovered the genius of NYC’s Longwave’s (RIP) 2003 release, “The Strangest Things.” Interpol meets Sink Tapes (were the latter even born back then?…ha! Sorry…couldn’t resist) is always a good combo! My favorite track that I listened to on repeat while on a two hour shopping spree at Jersey Gardens, “I know It’s coming Soon,” can be found below.
NYC’s Dead Star’s 2016 release, Bright Colors, starts right where 2014’s Slumber stopped. Fuzzed out indie pop where a heavy does of 90’s Dinosaur Jr. and early Weezer collide.
Finally, ex-Husker Du/Sugar God and front man Bob Mould has a brand spanking new album out called Patch the Sky. I agree with the hailing critics that it is a great experience but disagree that Bob is tapping back into his Du days. I would argue that like 2012’s Silver Age and 2014 Beauty & Ruin, Bob is flirting back to 1989’s Workbook or even 1990’s Black Sheets of Rain. Or better yet, his other project Sugar. So there, mofos!
Well now….talk about setting goals and keeping them…NOT.
The last time I wrote anything for Review Stalker.com was way back in December 2014 with my best of the year list here. After many months of false starts and broken self-promises (i.e. declaring to write a daily post everyday while 2 weeks at the beach in the summer of 2015 and doing squat)…alas, finally something…
Just to be clear…this is not a predictable best of 2015 list….instead, it is more like this is the what Paul was listening to a lot in 2015, whether it was released in 2015 or not list…
And to further clarify, some music is a constant in my life via tons of bands too many to list (Buffalo Tom, The Smiths, The Clash, etc.) And life changing/guiding genres like [New York] Hardcore/Punk in its various forms will never leave my side, especially while in the gym hitting the iron.
Soooo….what music has caught my fancy in 2015, either newly released, freshly rediscovered gems of the past (because I know you are just dying to know)?
Samantha – Brooklyn via Chicago “thrash poppers” are looking to take on the world and kick its ass and doing a mighty fine job of doing so, thus far. They seem to be around every NYC corner playing a show when they aren’t on tour or recording. Couldn’t get enough of their 2011’s Threat Level Pink, then they had to release the beautiful HourGlass Noise (2015). Check out the video for the first single (“Fight”) below….
Ride-You probably know this incredible band by their timeless piece of musical perfection “Vapour Trail” off of the heavenly album Nowhere (1990) which probably ended up on many mixed tapes of male-on- female crushes back in the 1990’s. The momentum continued with 1992’s sophomore effort Going Blank Again (1992)that continued via Carnival of Light (1994) and Tarantula (1996). I love it all. Disbanded for quite sometime, they have recently reunited (what band hasn’t these days?) and been touring and that concept is simply wonderful.
Voice of Doom (VOD) – As described on their home label (Pyrrhic Victory Recordings), VOD is perfectly defined as “…fun, it’s frightening, and glows in the dark….” For me, the band play an all too familiar sound that is surprisingly refreshing. This Jersey outfit that dates back the 1980’s, released III in 2014, packing 9 songs of lovely Ozzy meets Lemmy metal/hardcore hybrid mayhem that I noticeably have on repeat within the confines of the gym. Another EP, Scared to Death, is due out in early 2016…can’t wait.
Tri-State – New Minuits (2015) -2 songs of NJ indie rock perfection that continues with their trademark “hooks, harmonies, stabbing guitars, tangential… arrangements, and stories from post- youth” from their 2013 self-titled EP release that is on constant rotation in my little world. On this latest release, the math is simple…. 1 Julian Brash led song (title track) + 1 Jeff Zevelansky led song (“Titanic Brothers”)=indie rock heaven.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday (2015). Not as strong as his 2011 self-titled debut, but I said it before and will say it again…it’s fucking Noel, duh. Some decent songs to be found, but what saves it for me is the tune “Lock All Doors” an Oasis-size throwback kick in the nuts.
Cheap Girls – Never paid attention to the “Great Lakes” State until 2014 when I began to slowly realize half of it’s population seems to now live in my adopted Jersey town. As an “unofficial roadie” for a bunch of Buffalo bands, I been to Detroit a couple of times back in college where on one trip I learned an expletive screaming local legend, Bob Seger, was once bit on the ass by a blood drawing pooch, while jogging in his affluent suburban hood. More than one proud local “Michigander” informed me that one of my bands, Dollar Store Riot, sounds like a “Michigan garage band,”whatever that means. But, I’ll take it if we even closely resemble bands like Cheap Girls. Accidentally stumbling onto a bud’s (Jerry Lardieri of The Brixton Riot) playlist, I became immediately hooked on this Lansing 3 piece. Start with Cheap Graves (2014) and work your way backwards through their 4 album discography like I did and you will be hooked. If the opening track “Slow Nod” and killer lines like “I’m always spacing out and taking the wrong shit in..” doesn’t grab you by the crotch then that’s it. I am done. I am leaving and taking one of the kids with me….
Garrett Klahn-This Buffalo native and legend epitomizes the notion of being “almost famous” many times over, but he is famous in his own right and thank Kafka for that. Whether it was fronting the post-hardcore “emo” (before the term took on a negative tone in later years) godfathers in Texas Is The Reason (hereinafter TITR), on deck to be “the next Sunny Day Real Estate” until imploding on the eve of signing to one of many hungry major labels, to his other awesome efforts in the Wilco-ish twang of The New Rising Sons (Virgin allegedly spent $100k recording their incredible record only to mysteriously shelf it), Solea and Atlantic-Pacific. Kiddies seeking TITR nostalgia with his worthy 2016 self-titled release won’t find it here. It s a more rock, more mature, self-reflecting Garrett doing what he does best. Let’s just say if he continues on this road, I have a feeling I will be one day be saying “it’s fucking Garrett, duh…”
This Town Needs Guns – I was trying to pinpoint why I like these Oxford Math Rockers, with one of the best fucking names I ever heard for a band. So playing their fantastic opener track, appropriately entitled “Cat Fantastic” off of 18.104.22.168.0 (2013), I asked my wife who knows me better than me sometimes, especially musicially. Of course, being the wiser of the two, she kicked the playground bully square in the nads: “you always liked the multi-layered guitar with the melodic lyrics thingy…”. Sure that, and the singer sounds very Morrissey-ish! (Hat tip to bro Scott Dressler for turning me on to these guys).
The Goo Goo Dolls-I’ve mentioned in past writings my connections to the Goo’s when I attended SUNY Buffalo the same time the Bill’s went to (and lost all 4) Super Bowls. My wife’s boyfriend bartended along side Johnny Goo and I lived with Robbie’s first cousin (and still friends to this day) my senior year. My best friend and roommate, loveable but multi-majored, Mike somehow assisted in the Super Star Car Wash album cover photo (I still remember him bitching about need to wake up early on a Saturday morning to do it). Legend has it, the self-admitting “Goo-Placements” was at a point of break up when some mid-west radio station starting playing their song “Name” and their whole world exploded. So naturally, they declared that the Buffalo music scene being non-existent on MTV’s 120 Minutes, started wearing leather pants and ran away to LA. In 2011 while attending a Snapcase reunion show in Buffalo, I learned from a bartender the Goos since returned to their humbled roots and are heavily involved in many local music programs for the kids. Hence, while my wife refuses, I have forgiven the Goos! Not sure about their new offerings, but alot of great songs on SSCW and A Boy Name Goo (Naked, Flattop, etc).
Def Leppard-Well at least their song “Photograph” which I suddenly craved while going to pick up my son from soccer practice and haven’t stopped listening to since. Sucks not much of band discography isn’t on Spotify but there is a killer live version of song.
Death Vacation – Brooklyn’s Death Vacation plays hardcore like it should be….loud, fast, heavy and feeling like a consistent punch to the gut while prompting the listener to crave a stage dive or two, like lemmings off a cliff. Always being a male-dominated world, it’s refreshing to have a female around (NOT as a wallflowers at shows), especially fronting the vocals (unheard of). Michelle “Judge Girl” Mancusco’s vocals slaps you silly with a “I have something to say and you are going to listen, punk” veracity. They are another band on I have on replay in the gym. Their offerings can be found on band camp. Check it and live, bitches!
The Jesus and Mary Chain– (Psychocandy – Barrowlands Live). You cant deny the impact of JMCs debut album, Psychocandy, but I always leaned toward their later recordings such as Darklands and even Automatic (drum machine included). I always heard what the genius of PC, but there was a language barrier in some ways for me. This live recording of the band playing PC in its entirety (plus some other hits) speaks to me and finally makes me understand what the band is trying to say.
Frank Turner-the 2015 release of Positive Songs for Negative People continues where Tape Deck Heart (2013) ceased, with another dose of upbeat, uplifting, clumsy sing along anthems. Not bad for a guy that once fronted a post-hardcore punk band called Million Dead. Standout tracks include “Get Better,” “Next Storm” and “Demons” to name few.
Dot Dash– It takes a lot to impress me but musically-related facts always do. For instance, members of this DC area power punk pop quartet are two degrees of separation away from ninety-six(yes, 96) of the most quintessential punk/post punk bands our nation’s capital has ever produced. In other words, think of practically any band on the (in)famous Dischord Records (you could even narrow your search further to the Flex Your Head comp (1982)) and you will most likely find a Dot Dash member link. Fucking wow I say! DD delightfully continue with their unique blend of “sunny, [punky] jangly guitar-driven tunes” on 2015’s Earthquakes and Tidal Waves. This stellar release contains many addicting jingles I found myself humming along to while grocery shopping more than once. Check out one such tunes, “Flowers” below….
Flammable Animals– My band, Dollar Store Riot, had the opportunity to play with these Asbury Park cats at New Brunswick’s infamous Court Tavern in 2015 and I and many others were impressed by their set. Their intro song “Initium” right into “Frozen Grapes”, whether live or recorded (off of What Lies Beneath The Parkway North), packs a walloping blow that immediately sucks you in quicker then any Star Wars-related tractor beam can.
The Sink Tapes– prolific is an understatement for this New Brunswick, NJ outfit who seem hell-bent on competing with Guided By Voices by releasing an album a minute. In 2015 they released 2 full length LPs (Creases and Window Unit Blues) along with a collection of B-sides and demos (In the Rug) and a shitload of singles. While the sheer quantity of GBV releases tends to ultimately make the band pretentiously off putting, uninteresting and daunting (blasphemous, I know), The Sink Tapes have you yearning for more. I still can’t get enough of the song “Vegas Hotel Yoga Spa” off of last year’s Touchdown Buffalo.
DeadStars – Ok, so fucking sue me. I mistakenly omitted their very pretty 2014 release, Slumber from last years “Best of List” and now seeking some form of redemption. Fans of fuzzed out guitar rock a la Dinosaur Jr. or Pavement, take note of this NYC based band. They have been releasing shitloads of singles since then on band camp. Ok, am I redeemed yet?
Muler-Rochester, NY’s power pop kings are back in 2015 with another full length LP, Unlikely Soldiers. Still heavily chewing on to their 2011 release, Hope You Found A Home, more Muler to listen too means a more meaningful life…can’t believe its been 20 something years these guys played my Buffalo, NY college house basement…
Into Another-their 2015 EP Omens, picks up where 1995’s Seemless left off (You can’t even count 1996’s unreleased album (??) Soul Control…diehard fans will understand). These post NYHC kings continue to perfect their undefined melodic, thumping metallic craft. Judging by the opener ”Crossed’, they could almost be criticized for being too good and just showing off but anyone wise would know better to say/think such silly things.
The Needy Sons– take Mike Gent from the Figgs and Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom/Crown Victoria and you have “just another band from Eastern Massachusetts” that happen to kick ass. They have been releasing numerous singles in 2015 with promises of a full length LP in 2016. Yay!
Paper Streets– This Brooklyn via Jersey quartet released their addicting four song EP, Souvenirs, right smack in the beginning of 2015. Their sound is best defined on their Facebook page as somewhere between Emo and Big Star. I can’t stop listening to the opening song, “Murmur.”
Swirlies –Blonder Tongue Audio Baton (1993)-Shoe gaze, alt-tuning, art noise done right that makes you second guess Sonic Youth at times….expect for Kim….
Velocity Girl-Their 1993 Sub Pop debut, Copacetic still stands and survives the test of time. I was am also pleasantly reminded of my eternal indie boy crush on lead singer Sarah Shannon that never seems to dissipate.
ScottJanovitz– only a complete Buffalo Tom groupie like me would know that front man Bill Janovitz comes from a long line of musically obsessed siblings. His brother, Paul, fronted the incredible Cold Water Flat (RIP) back in the 90s. Then you have another brother, Tom with Sodafrog. You finally have yet another brother and musical sensation otherwise known as Scott who I first learned about though his first band, Dragstrip Courage. Then came the Great Bandini. Then he went on to create the oh so lovely melodic, blissful pop sounds of The Russians. His 2015 three song Fall In EP continues the latter’s infectious Elton Costello-ish 1960-70 rocks meets 1980 new wave. Check It.
Walter Schreifels – just when you thought he couldn’t pull any more bands together, Mr. Schreifels (of NYHC legends Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today to post NYHC hardcore legends Quicksand, Rival Schools, Walking Concert etc. etc. etc.) actually created two new bands in 2015. Except for the killer teaser track from the hardcore supergroup, Vanishing Life, (“People Running”), he seems more focused on his other project, Dead Heavens as of late, pumping out singles drenched in 70’s classic rock psychedelia. Me dig it….singles sprouting up like a ear hair but far more enjoyable. Album out soon.
Johnny Marr– Check out the 2015 live record release, Adrenalin Baby, that finely collects tracks off Marr’s two solo releases plus some killer Smith renditions that should have the Moz nervously shitting his briefs….Johnny fucking Marr baby!!
Travis – one of the most underrated Brit-pop band ever. Yes Josh “Soandso” Thomas, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Frightened Rabbit and the Twilight Sad are all worthy contemporary Glasgow/Scottish bands, but Coldplay wouldn’t suck like they do now and Oasis wouldn’t have anyone to sue if it wasn’t for this band that I recently re-discovered. I still remember singing “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” incessantly in subway tunnels to my now lovely wife, Alyssa, back when I use to visit her/NYC. The Man Who (1999), The Invisible Band (2001), 12 Memories (2003) and The Boy With No Name (2007) are all jam packed with great songs. Testament to front man Fran Healy’s beautiful singing voice can be best found on the track “When We Were Young off of Ode to J. Smith (2008). Keane who?
Matthew Ryan– hat tip to my buddy Rob Galgano at All Over the Place Internet Radio for turning me on to this alt-country PA native and ex- Strays Don’t Sleep. Had the recent pleasure of catching a Ryan acoustic set opening up, for the Gaslight Anthem/Horrible Crowes front man, Brian Fallon (also fan). Give 2014 Boxers a spin and if you don’t like it, then it simply sucks to be you. Good stuff in constant rotation in my life.
Brian Fallon– While NJ darlings, The Gaslight Anthem, has proven to be a great band, many would agree that they were sputtering, especially after 2014 highly ambitious and worthy Get Hurt, and wisely took a long hiatus so members can focus on other projects . Fallon’s largely anticipated solo record, Painkillers, is due out in March 2016 and if the single teasers is a litmus test for what we can expect, we should be some really happy campers.
Bigg Butt– this New Brunswick trio produces and audacious dose of garage, grungy “moron boogie punk” (not sure what that is but sure sounds like some shit to be reckon with). They released a 4 song demo in April 2015 that is one part Nirvana bleachy and one part Mudhoney sludgy and deserves your attention. Find their self-titled demo on Bandcamp…..
Galanos – Vacation Cannons (2015) – who knew an upstate NY town like Kingston could give birth to “silver tongued devils?” Yup, neither did I. Fueled in his basement studio, Gregory Jaw, and the rest of the gang (including Joe Pugsley of The 65’s on the bass) simultaneously go for the jugular and balls, producing nine songs of intriguing dark, fuzzed out surf rock. For those fans of the Cramps, Lords of the New Church and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds take note, this is your cup of tea.
Overlake –Travelogue/Winter Why EP (2015) – another dose of toe-tapping, knee-bouncing, head-bopping piece of shoe gaze drenched perfection from these Jersey City gods, not missing a beat from their 2014 full LP release, Sighs. Check it!
C.R. Gennone– Going Vertical (2015) A primary founder of such Jersey bands as Tribal Days and Winnebago, C.R. Gennone released this 4 song EP back in December 2015 that has caught my attention in a major way. An eclectic collection of jangly indie pop that’s steering wheel tapping delicious and gas pedal throbbing. Check out one of my favorite tracks off the release also found on Bandcamp where you will find a plethora of EP releases in 2015.
Snapcase – the co-kings (Zero Tolerance is the other…RIP!) of the Buffalo hardcore scene broke up in 2005, but have periodically played anniversary shows in past and festival shows as of late, their 25th later this month on their home turf. A band that always sought to raise the bar on the genre, they never seem to disappoint.
The 65’s–New Fun Hell (2015) – This new 3 song EP from this Rutherford, NJ band picks up right where 2013’s “I Got You” EP left off and that is why it is in heavy rotation in my life. “Punk -n- Roll” at its finest, the 65’s have the guts and grit to continually make some kick butt music.
The High – Somewhere Soon (1990) – first heard this record back in the 1990s when my friends and I were eating, sleeping and wearing the “Madchester” scene to the hilt. They definitely had the scene sound down, It also doesn’t hurt to have a cool ass name and a guitarist that was an original member of the legendary Stone Roses. The tape went lost for years, then I stumbled upon a used copy in a 5th Ave, Brooklyn record shop a few years ago. Check out the opening track, “Box Set Go” below. 100% Britpop perfection.
Scott Weiland (RIP) – I’ve been semi-closeted Stone Temple Pilots fan for years (their killer third album, Tiny Gifts…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop….”perfectly blends punk and glam” says the Pumpkin’s Corgan and I agree) and been exploring other Weiland fronted acts long before his [un]timely demise. Despite some unevenness, his Walkabouts boasts some decent tunes and I finally slowed down to actually listened to Velvet Revolver (been debating Axl vs. Scott ever since doing so). All good shit.
R.E.M.– It seemed like over the years, many R.E.M. fans just woke up one day simply “over” the band, including me. My own interest started waning around the release of New Adventures In Hi-Fi (1996). MTV favs, they just got too big and too commercial too fast. Kind of bizarre when they were once kings of the alt-music mountain that could do no wrong. I remember declaring to my high school peers who saw my cassette copies of Under A Blood Red Sky and Murmur mysteriously “stacked and glued” to my top locker shelf (most likely due to a Coke spill), that both U2 and R.E.M. will be the most famous bands in the universe one day (and voila). Personally, I think the combination of Stipe’s smug onstage political rants and the “Shiny Happy People” video (sans the cute B-52’s brunette dancing chick) commenced their downward slide. Fast forward to 2015, and I found myself rediscovering the band and realizing they are probably one of the best American bands ever. Sure they released a lot of easily overlooked material since Hi-Fi, but buried deep are a number of gems. Just check out 2008’s Accelerate. Next to”Begin the Begin” off one of my favorite releases, Life’s Rich Pageant (1986), the song “Living Well is the Best Revenge” is arguably one of the best songs they ever wrote and “Horse to Water” just knocks it out of the park for me like “Talk About the Passion”, “Seven Chinese Brothers” or even “Disturbance at the Heron House.” I gravitate towards 2009’s Live at the Olympia that compiles great songs old and new. I forgive you Michael ,just bite your tongue…xo
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….
So when was the last time you jumped out of your workstation chair and shouted “holy fucking shit” at the (un)shocking dismay of your co-workers after discovering the kick ass sound of that next big band? Yeah, I don’t remember either since it rarely to never happens, but I did just that when I stumbled upon Eastern Anchors.
Researching them after learning my comrades in Tri-State were sharing the stage with the Red Bank trio at Parkside Lounge, NYC somewhere back in 2013. I stumbled across their 2012 full release, Drunken Arts and Pure Science which boasts a consistent shit-load of hits (“James the Viking”, “Crown Vic”, “Far From OK” “Herzog, Help Me” and on and on and on…). The heavy but melodic, sonic, ball-crushing of their sound is just that and beautifully so.
Then they released their 2014 single release “Above Your Station”. I wish I could honestly say I jumped out of my work chair and shouted “holy fucking shit” at the (un)shocking dismay of my co-workers again but I recently upgraded to an office. Again, the onslaught of a perfect blend of melodically sonic “ummph” continues like a speeding train of alternate tuning, chugging bass and earth-shaking drums, charging full steam ahead and not stopping for shit. If this track is just an appetizer, I can’t wait the main dish. Check out the cute video for the tune below….
Flip the 7 ” over and you will find the delightful sounds of Zero For Conduct and their catchy single “Average Marks Makes Shitty Sparks.” I don’t know much about this New Brunswick two piece except that I like this first release, though I can’t help thinking post-hardcore DC bands of the late 80s/early 90s, especially early Jawbox between the pounding forward, off the rails music and the singers J. Robbins-ish vox. Nevertheless, I dig it and looking forward to more from them.
Overall a solid release from the Nefarious Industries label…..let’s hear some more….!
ALBUM REVIEW: Brian Fallon, frontman for the Gaslight Anthem (GLA), always spoke in interviews of what to musically expect with each new upcoming GLA album. Ironically, every time he declared the band was taking their sound in a bold, new direction, they delivered yet another kick ass collection of familiar “punk-n-roll soul” with gritty, Ness meets Petty vocals.
This time around discussing Get Hurt, their fifth full length release, Fallon spoke about the wonder of some bands that drastically changed their sound and live to talk about it, a very risky move that often doesn’t end pretty for rock bands. Get Hurt is by no means Achtung Baby or Kid A but for GLA it is. Unlike their peers in the National and the Hold Steady, both recently releasing great but “safe” albums, in efforts to reach the next level of rockdom, it seems GLA courageously said “fuck that” and decided to shake things up a bit. The Garden State darlings finally kept their word, grew a pair and took the plunge, interestingly at a time when they too are eyeing that same rockdom and should play it safe. Audacious? Ballsy? Yup…I agree.
Quite simply, Get Hurt is far more rock and far less punk, more Petty and less Ness, full of ambitious, stadium size anthems with the band trying to live up to their very name. Sure you have the traditional punkish ferocity of “Rollin’ And Tumblin” that still packs a similar punch like “1930” does on their 2007 debut album Sink or Swim or “Orphans” on 2012’s American Slang, but is also the closest “typical” GLA song on the entire album and smack right in the middle of the playlist, reminding their fans that they didn’t forget where they come from and still punk as fuck. The intriguing title track sounds like a scrubbed up, leftover Horrible Crowes (Fallon’s side project, check out their excellent debut record, Elsie) number that is just begging for radio play. Other standout tracks include “1,000 Years,” “Helter Skeleton,” “Selected Poems” “Stay Vicious” and “Dark Places” (my favorite track thus far).
But yet again, perhaps both GLA and their fans should have seen it coming since it isn’t like the band didn’t flirt with different ground before . Mixing punk driven rock with 50’s sha la la’s and 60’s R&B groove has been constant in their music since 2008’s The 59 Sound (their second full length release). Or check out the Cure-ish “Old White Lincoln “on the same album. Then try listening to “Get Hurt” and “Here Comes My Man” from 2012’s Handwritten back to back. Pretty complimentary if you ask me. One could even argue that the band has already been mildly indulging in experimentation with 2008’s Senor and the Queen EP since the recording has a much different, almost disjointed feel to it despite decent songs (especially “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts.”).
Overall Get Hurt is a solid effort and, I will say it again, a ballsy move by a band whose engines have been noticeably sputtering a tad bit on their last 2 releases. If you are looking for the blue collar punk of the past you may be let down but I am kind of relieved GLA sound has pleasantly aged and matured from the first time I saw them at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony on their 59 Sound tour and from the New Brunswick basement scene where they hatched. Will GLA fans get hurt with this new release? If you grow a pair, dive in like the band did maybe you will suffer some scrapes or a bruise at most…and pleasantly so.
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.
My band, Dollar Store Riot, humbly shared the stage with Overlake back in January 2014 @ NYC’s Parkside Lounge. When the show promoter told me we will be playing with a “shoe-gaze band from Jersey City” I was immediately intrigued. A shoe-gaze band in 2014? And from Jersey no less? Fate took the wheel as I was one of many completely blown away by their set and eagerly looking forward to their soon to be released record to validate that what I heard live beautifully transposed to any type of recording.
And boy, were things quickly validated.
Sighs, Overlake’s first full length release on NJ’s own Killing Horse Records, was released yesterday (4/15) , but I have been devouring the pre-release sale free mp3 download of the album for weeks now. Sure band members Tom and Lysa were sweet to buy me a birthday shot at the above said post-show, but that doesn’t influence nor change the fact that Sighs is hands down a consistently solid fucking effort and one of the best releases of 2014. For certain you can hear pinches of I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, dashes of Loveless and touches of You In Reverse. Based on the recent press, a lot of the equally impressed critics do too, claims the band won’t deny, yet somehow pull off their own smorgasbord of familiar sounds with unique freshness.
Sighs is simply a beautiful, whispy, swirly reverby experience (just what you expect from a shoe gaze band in 2014…from Jersey no less) from start to finish with too many good songs to mention (read: ALL of them, my favs being ‘Disappearing” and “Our Sky”). It is a perfect soundtrack for a stroll through lonely, rainy NYC streets or Sunday drive through the sunny, Jersey burbs. If you need further proof, Sighs is probably one of the very, very few records I overheard my 9 year old son whistling along too in the back seat. Get. It. Now.
Fri 4/18 Court Tavern, New Brunswick NJ – Overlake w/ Wreaths, Cicada Radio, TV Sound – 4 Year Anniversary Show for Killing Horse Records
Mon 5/19 Baby’s All Right, Brooklyns – Overlake w/ The Everymen, The Brooklyn What