RECORDS (in no order):
TITLE FIGHT, “Floral Green”
Never would I imagine that as a 35 year old man I’d fall head over heels for a band that typically attracts an under 20 year old crowd for the most part… especially a band that started off as very generic pop punk. But somehow these young dudes were able to perfectly channel everything rad about 90s punk and alternative rock and play it as if they were there to experience it. I’m hearing a lot of Superchunk and Seaweed, some Nirvana, a touch of Quicksand, and a couple Hum B-sides all competing for space on this near-perfect record. “Secret Society” is not only one of the coolest videos I’d seen in ages, but easily my song of the year.
Without fail Unsane will always deliver the goods. By far the most consistently great band to tread the heavy music waters these dudes just get more grizzled and mean with age, and after over 20 years together they still have a lot of anger management issues that are resolved via some of the loudest and dirtiest music to emerge from the NYC gutters. Some may say all their records sound the same. That may be true… but it’s a helluva a great record! Just listen to the slow, drawn-out tension of “Stuck”, or the wailing thumping of “No Chance”. Even with the great Vinnie Signorelli sidelined for most of their touring this year they still managed to beat heads silly across the US and abroad.
EVERY TIME I DIE, “Ex-Lives”
So if you don’t like this band that’s one thing. But no one can deny how wild and out of control their live shows get. Easily one of the best live bands on the planet. This new record makes you feel that vibe through mostly short, blasting songs. The cover shows riot cops busting in on some heads and that’s what the record feels like, a riot from start to finish (well, except maybe the more cock-rock-ish “Revival Mode”…. which ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record). They even threw on some bonus tracks, which if you didn’t get that version than you’re just plain dumb because, again, some of the best songs they’ve done in years. Wild dudes with brains going crazy. I love it.
BURNING LOVE, ‘Rotten Thing To Say”
Just like Hannibal from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. That’s the feeling I get when listening to Toronto’s Burning Love on their second proper LP. Their first record hinted at great things, but didn’t have all the elements properly in place. Now it feels like they have everything where they want it and they are displaying it in all it’s ass-kicking power on this righteous follow up. From Ashes Rise meets Turbonegro? Non-stop hardcore ass-kicking all over the place here, every song a ripper.
GYPSY, “Giants Despair”
More 90’s love going on with this record, though a little more rooted in post-hardcore styles, and a lot of Seaweed. For a band that rarely plays a show they have a great sense of songwriting, vocal melodies, and togetherness that shines on songs like “Selfish Blues” and “I Know Who You Are”, as well as awesome sing-alongs on “Unconditionally Dependant” and “Count your Blessings”. The perfect complement to the Tile Fight records mentioned above.
I’ll admit, I do have a soft spot for bands that can take influences that I really enjoyed 15 years ago and insert them into the present. And with this band that’s no problem, since most of their membership was alive to be a part of those times. Narrows second LP has been kicking my ass all year and I’m happier for it. Bold, rocking hardcore giving us thick bottom end like The Jesus Lizard (see “Face Paint”), spazzy guitar-effected riffing (see, the entire A-side), mammoth sludgy dirges (the incredible “SST”), and even an awesome KARP shout-out (“It’s the Water”) Narrows happily take most everything I really loved about late’90’s noisy hardcore/math rock and apply a fresh gloss over all of it to make a motherfucker of a record.
DRUG CHURCH 7”
It’s funny how this name keeps coming up on my list, but when hey were around I was never huge on Seaweed. I liked them, I just didn’t listen to them much. They just seem to encompass a highwater mark of great 90’s music that balanced equal parts alternative rock, skate rock, hardcore/punk, and post-hardcore. I’m also thinking the heavier moments from Farside records as well. Drug Church do the same thing on the three songs from their debut 7”. Again, more old dudes who have been around the block, yet continue to make great music. Of course, front man Pat Kindlon (whom is more known for his vocals in Self Defense Family) shreds his wry wit and cynicism in one of my favorite songs this year “Mohawk” with lines like “Heard you got that job/ Heard you got that truck/ Heard you got off drugs/ Heard I should give a fuck”.
BLACK THROAT WIND, “Between White Worlds”
Why wouldn’t I put a record I released on here? If I didn’t like it this much I wouldn’t have released it. People who are too cool to put their own releases on their year end lists can suck it. Be proud of what you helped create, damnit! Nevertheless, I can’t think of a local band doing anything near to what these cats are making here. I can’t even describe it. Probably because I usually don’t listen to stuff like this. Either way, beautiful and psychedelic, heavy and roaring, melodic and clever… all things they bring to the table. I can’t describe it, and I listen to this and wonder what they were thinking when writing this…. aside from ‘let’s smoke some more pot’.
THE EVENS, “The Odds”
A late addition to the list. Ian McKaye can do no wrong. Together with his partner Amy Farina (one of the most inventive drummers I’ve ever heard) The Evens can do no wrong. Both people involved in creating groundbreaking music for over 25 years take a few years off and come back with this album whose songs instantly get lodged in your brain whether it’s from how clever they are, or how catchy… but often both.
BEST SHOWS OF 2012 (in no order):
Harkonen/ Zozobra/ Whores/ The Atlas Moth- Boston, The Middle East, 6.14.12- Basically this was my bachelor party and each band more awesome and louder than the next.
Kill Yourself Fest/ final Oak & Bone and White Guilt show, Syracuse, Badlands, 6.9.12- A space that comfortably holds 50 people packed with 100 people, smoke bombs, fireworks, blood (lots of it), sweat, broken walls, broken heads, and complete chaos. And end to something violent and ugly.
Black God/ Like Wolves/ Oak & Bone, Rochester, Pussy Barrel, 5.24.12- Three of my favorite bands rocking out in an apartment to about 20 people on a weeknight. All of them rocking the shit out of the room. Black God ended up driving back to Louisville the next day.
Rorschach/ Converge/ Indecision, NYC, Le Poisson Rouge, 5.26.12- In all honesty, I didn’t care about who was playing with them, I was just happy to see Rorschach one last time. And man, were they good. While most everyone watched in curiosity, a handful of people (myself included) were raging to their impossibly surreal and thrashing music.
Black Throat Wind record release show, Syracuse, The Lost Horizon, 6.29.12- It’s awesome when everything comes together the way it ought to. The band had been getting more and more people to their shows, most everyone had heard the record at this point, and here a shit ton of people showed up, everyone sang along, and I’d never heard them sound bigger than this.
Sick Of It All, Rev showcase, NYC, Webster Hall, 10.13.12- I wasn’t going to go to this based on the cost. But I hadn’t seen Sick Of It All in nearly 10 years and I was already in NYC. I could do without the Chain Of Strength reunion, I only wanted to see SOIA. And holy shit, do SOIA still deliver. Their whole set was pre- ’92 material (with some classics from “Scratch the Surface” and “Built To Last” thrown in) and I felt like a little kid again going nuts with the rest of the people in the room. Never a let down.
Into Another, St. Vitus Bar, NYC 10.13.12/10.14.12- I put two dates on there because they were supposed to play at 11 PM on the 13th, but didn’t start until 12:30 AM on the 14th. That was the only bad part. But otherwise, the first time seeing one of the more interesting bands from the 90’s in over 17 years was nothing short of amazing for me. The energy of the packed-to-the-gills crowd of 200 people in the small room as they sang along to every word of every song was invigorating. And these guys played as if they never stopped playing, and sounding way better than a lot of bands who never did stop playing for the last 20 years.
Restorations, Ithaca, Greenstar Space, 3.5.12
Restorations put out a hell of a record last year and I’d seen them once while it was out and was really hoping they would come upstate and spread the word to people here. So they did, and everyone was blown away by how powerful and soulful their performance was in this tiny little spot in Ithaca. Big sounds, powerful voices, energetic performance… I was left wishing they’d played two sets in row.
BEST STUFF OF 2012 (in order):
1. Getting married
2. Moving into a killer new house with way less people
3. Going full time at my job and actually having some money for a change
4. Starting up an awesome face-shredding new band and having fun