Wednesday, December 21, 2011


That's right. It's my own damn list. Feel free to post yours below. It's rather comprehensive, but it was a pretty eventful year, so deal with it. Next year will obviously have a 'doomsday' theme... what will annihilate us in 2012? Aztec mystics? Republicans? Zorp/Reasonablists? Massive corporations? Only time will tell. Place yr bets.

FAVORITE RECORDS (in no order):

CUTMAN, "Universal Laws"- Dude rock, as played by dudes with fully functional brain stems. I do not expect anyone under the age of 27 to really enjoy this since it nitpicks from a variety of early 90's heavy rock such as Helmet, Jesus Lizard, Clutch, and post-hardcore-meets-mainstream type bands. But they do it so damn well! Intelligent songwriting, incredible guitar and bass tones, and one of the coolest record layouts I've seen in a long time. (Underground Communiqué)

RESTORATIONS, s/t- Sometimes when a new band's former band makes a big impression on you it's hard for the new band to do the same. But the Philly dudes in Restorations really hit the nail on the head here. They know exactly what they're doing and the result is a record taking all sorts of things- post-hardcore riffing, folksy introspection, hints of Americana, and big anthems, and rolling them into a cohesive whole. (Tiny Engines)

HELMS ALEE, "Weatherhead"- These are the loudest riffs you'll hear all year. This is the sound of The Melvins, KARP, Unwound, and Sonic Youth butting heads and spewing forth this most excellent collection of massive riffs, off-timed weirdness, subtle melody, and the bear-like howl of guitarist Ben Verellen alongside the soft croon of bassist Dana James. (Hydrahead)

CREEPOID, "Horse Heaven"- Best surprise I had all year. This isn't my typical platter, but something about this record just slays me. There's a spooky vibe, mixed with plaintive melodies, loud-quiet-loud stoner riffs, and beautiful soothing vocals. Hearing them sing, "It's gonna kill you all" in such a way that really makes one not fear death at all is kind of downright awesome. (Ian Records)

LIKE WOLVES, s/t- Kicked it into the next level. I used to be so-so about their music, and way into their live set. Now I'm all about both. They cut the fat out of the songwriting, and distilled it down to raw punk power, recalling the bad ass rock of Hot Snakes and some of the post-hardcore riffing of At the Drive In. (Hex)

OAK & BONE, s/t- "Hello, Oak & Bone? This is Riffs. You won." Psychedelics, sludge metal, weed, and raging crusty hardcore combined to lay down a smoke-filled haze that will turn your face to dust and melt your bones into your feet. Get destroyed. (Hex)

PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS, "New Hymns For An Old War"- I'm not terribly concerned that most people find music like this to be out-of-date (or, when done poorly, or for radio rock intentions, nothing short of nauseating). Jared Paul and crew have made some of the most inspirational music my ears have heard all year. Take the dissident protest rhymes of Rage Against the Machine, stack it up against the punk power of The Clash and Propaghandi, and spit it out at an apathetic world. "Guns Up" might be the protest theme of the year, while "Keep Left" is for those struggles you share with those closest to you. (self-released/ Strange Famous)

THE MEN, "Leave Home"- I used to think they were far too noisy. Their previous records had that recorded in a trash can quality that doesn't exactly appeal to me. But here they broke out, still pressing forth with lots of noise, but refined in a such a way that makes everything stand out. You can hear all the really cool melodies alongside their ferocious roar all their own. (Sacred Bones)

FUCKED UP, "David Comes To Life"- It feels like all the progression this group has made over their last two full lengths has come to fruition on this double LP. I don't care if the whole thing is one big, complicated story. The A-side of this is unfuckwithable. Probably 5 of the best back-to-back songs I've heard all year. The rest of the record ain't bad either. (Matador)

ENGINEER, "Crooked Voices"- Every Engineer record takes a few listens to fully sink in, and that makes a good band. This one took at least 6 or 7 listens before I really got it. So that makes it a great record. If this is the last thing they do it will be a great way to go out. Knowing them, they'll probably hide in the shadows for another 4 years and then drop something even better. (Black Market Activities)

HONORABLE MENTIONS: JESUS LIZARD, "Club" (Since it's a live record of a reunion tour, does it count? Either way, still middle-aged men putting on a better show than most bands in their prime), TRAP THEM, "Darker Handcraft" (a fully realized bludgeoning to the face from beginning to end, non-stop riff fest), NIGHT OWLS, "Rapture" EP (swan song for this Syracuse group, all-around super catchy, but aggressive, punk/rock jams), YOUNG WIDOWS, "In and Out Of Youth and Lightness" (Enthralled by their progression, and all the great sounds they always conjure up, but doesn't supply quite the kick I was hoping for)

BEST SHOWS OF 2011 (in no order):

1.) ANOTHER BREATH final show(s) weekend, 8.26.11-8.28.11 with Achilles, Oak & Bone, Engineer, Soul Control, Victims, Whiskey, Mayflower, Night Owls, and more in Syracuse and Fulton, NY: A really fun way for a really great band to go out. A total weekend rager.

2.) GAINESVILLE FEST 2011, Gainesville, FL, 10.28.11-10.30.11: tons and tons of bands, great weather, fun people, good times, exhausting weekend. The only reason to really miss Halloween at home.

3.) GREAT FALLS & ENGINEER, 8.9.11, Syracuse: So all of about 20 people were there, but to hear Engineers new full length the whole way through live was inspiring. And to see the Seattle dudes in Great Falls just destroy the place (as it is rare to see these dudes at all) was an extra-special treat.

4.) PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS, 5.26.11, Syracuse: Sometimes you like a band so much that other people really don't get, and you wish there was a show where people really 'get it' and all go nuts and have fun? This was that show. Maybe 50 people there, but every last person was having fun, dancing, going off, singing along, and having a blast. Plus, drinking smoothies and watching "Dune" late at night with Jared was pretty fun too.

5.) OAK & BONE/ LIKE WOLVES record release show, 7.24.11, Syracuse: It's nice when you have great faith in a couple bands, feel really confident about their new records, and then over 100 people show up in a small venue to share that as well and go totally bonkers for all the bands playing.

BEST OTHER STUFF (in order):
1.) Getting engaged: it only took 6 years
2.) Seattle vacation in April: most relaxed time in my favorite region of the country with great people
3.) Involvement with the Occupy movement: Finally, a populist movement that draws from the experience and energy of many different sub-sections of the activist community under one umbrella to really work for change in desperate times
4.) Flyerstorm: My first art show, a history of Syracuse flyer art from the last 20 years. The crew involved were the best ever to work with and the whole thing went off really great
5.) Great garden harvest this year: If we planted it, it grew. And we ate well. Up the compost soil.

1.) Getting my wallet stolen in Alexandria Bay, the safest, whitest place in the Northeast on the 4th of July
2.) R.I.P. Chocolate. Our poor, young foster cat got sick and died within a couple of days, right in our arms. He was a good little fella.
3.) Having an ulcer most all of the Winter and giving up coffee because of it (see Translate #6)
4.) My car suddenly died out on me at only 90,000 miles when the timing chain snapped and destroyed my engine.
5.) Delta Airlines canceling my flight to NYC (connecting to Seattle) and upon my return as well as a week later. Bastards.

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