I can’t think of a band that made such leaps and bounds creatively than this band and still remained thoroughly rocking with their second LP. It’s a highwater mark and I can’t wait to see what comes next. They throw a lot of different styles into their mix and the result is a sound that is completely their own. Are they post-hardcore? Stoner rock? Folksy jam-rock? A bit of all that and making every song sound like an anthem? Yeah, I guess? It’s just Restorations and that’s all that matters. Not only my favorite record this year, but closing track “Adventure Tortoise” is probably my favorite song of the year too. (Sideonedummy)
2.) RED HARE, “Nites Of Midnite”
Swiz strikes again with a new name. In the mid-90’s they reconvened as Sweetbelly Freakdown. Now it’s Red Hare. But I guess it is a new band since wild-armed drummer Joe Gorelick (Garden Variety) is manning the traps instead. Either way, the combination of guitarist Jason Farrells incredible sense of angst and melody colliding together, and Dave Brown’s one-of-a-kind gruff delivery will ALWAYS make for kick ass music. I think we all want to be able to be in our 40s and making music this vital and skate-worthy. (Dischord/Hellfire)
3.) IRON LUNG, “White Glove Test”
The dynamic duo in Iron Lung have once again gone above and beyond. They really sealed it for me with how sharp and menacing a recording they got with “Sexless/No Sex”. Now they’ve gone and made a double album- one with music, one with noise soundscapes, intended to be played together so they sync up to make harsh powerviolence industrial wastelands. It’s quite brilliant if I do say so myself, but I’m too busy smashing my face into a brick wall to the explosive nihilism going on here to get all highbrow about this. (Iron Lung Records)
4.) TILE, “You Had a Friend In Pennsylvania”
Never heard of them? I’m sure you haven’t. This fucker would have placed higher if this band weren’t a bunch of flakey weirdoes. Just think sludgy noise rock of the highest order. Simple face-mashing riffs and caustic venom-spitting vocals… the perfect combo of Pissed Jeans reckless swagger and Floor’s low-tuned onslaught. I’m upset that this band just doesn’t commit to full-on being in your face all the time, but I’m raging to every last song on this monster LP. (Limited Apparel)
5.) DRUG CHURCH, “Paul Walker” + “Party At Dead Mans…” 7”
Fuck it, they released the LP and 7” basically at the same time. It counts and they’re both vital. The 90’s dude in me is all over this like a cheap suit. Why? Because it replicates everything awesome about bands like Seaweed, Quicksand, Farside, and hell, even Fireside and gets vocalist Pat Kindlon’s snarky shit-eating cynicism to cancel out any hint of vocal melody in favor of gravel and glass-swallowing roughness. It makes for a collection of badass songs that I have been jamming over and over again. (No Sleep/Secret Voice)
6.) THE NIGHT MARCHERS, “Allez, Allez”
You think Speedo is gonna front a band, release a record, and I’m NOT going to love it? The guy played in Rocket From the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu for tits sake. He is a golden music warrior. The Night Marchers follow up with their second record after a lengthy hiatus with a much more direct and raucous effort (their first LP, a double LP at that, was a bit lackluster) that has a rougher, meaner recording and a bigger garage rock feel. But at the same time they belt out doozies like the opening 1, 2 punch of “Tropical Depression” and “Loud, Dumb, and Mean” that may as well be an invitation to starting a fight with the downstairs neighbors that always leave their garbage on the lawn. (Swami)
7.) TAXA, “Resurrection Year” 7”
Some people think it’s snide to put forth a record you released on your own label into the top 10. I think those people can cram their modesty right up their all-too-tight asses. Why wouldn’t I put this on here? Obviously I liked it enough to release it, it better be good enough to place on a top 10! And anyway, the band had already recorded the songs, had nowhere to go with them, and I offered. So there ya have it. And I can’t think of a better band carrying the Unwound torch than these Canucks. Bass heavy, brooding, chaotic, beautiful, and a bit haunting. (Hex)
8.) FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “Downtown Is Dead” 7”
Next to Iron Lung this is the most pissed off band I’ve heard all year. On their second seven inch they deliver 8 more short bursts of quick and violent hardcore fury and then play them even faster. It’s like Left For Dead incarnate mixed with Japanese hardcore. (Atomic Action)
9.) PSYCHIC TEENS, “Come”
I normally wouldn’t like this as much as I do, but something here just really kicked me in the nuts and I can’t explain why. They got the whole goth-y post-punk Ian Curtis vocals and repetitive thick bass thing going here. But the guitars are some real overdrive wall-of-noise and effects thing somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. It’s a really awesome combo from a freaky band. (SRA)
10.) GREAT FALLS, “Accidents Grotesque”
A sort of late entry into the group, but I know this band has been honing their sound a for a few years now and I think they finally nailed it on their sophomore LP. I mean, the combo of Demian Johnson and Shane Mehling (both of Playing Enemy) will produce somewhat predictable results (ya know, brutally heavy math-y noisecore). Still, 1.) I’m a sucker for that stuff and 2.) they brought it down a notch in complexity into shorter spurts of brain-frying, gaping chest-hole punching heaviness. The LP is closed out on each side with long, Neurosis-like slabs of misery. (Hell Comes Home)
CLUTCH, “Earth Rocker”- I’m not sure if this constitutes ‘guilty pleasure’ listening at this juncture. Clutch draw from a wide swath of cultural subgenres that compose their fan base- skateboarders, mellow beard dudes who like beer, douchey frat bros, old hardcore guys (I guess that’s me), Dads, craft beer enthusiasts, deadhead ‘follow the band’ types, and just plain ‘ol hard rock fans. I really don’t care. I just know they made their hardest hitting record in years and it smokes.
LEMURIA, “The Distance Is So Big”- Impossible not to get these catchy songs stuck in my head. Alex and Sheena put more emphasis on the vocal melodies this time around, get a bit more minimal with the music, and make a heck of a record.
COLISEUM, “Sister Faith”- I was a bit hesitant on this new one. It didn’t have the same punch that ‘House With a Curse” did. But, as predicted, it has grown on me and I definitely appreciate what they’ve done. Digging way more into their post-punk treasure chests to produce some gems.
ALL PIGS MUST DIE, “Nothing Violates This Nature”- Nothing Earth-shattering, just pure raging, hateful heavy metal. They don’t have to re-invent the wheel or anything, they just melt faces better than most.
QUICKSAND @ Cobra Lounge, Chicago 9.15.13- Just Quicksand in a place that held about 150 people. I should probably stop there. At this point I’ve seen Quicksand 8 times between 1994-2013 and this was easily the best time I’d ever seen them.
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT @ Double Door, Chicago 9.14.13- I hadn’t seen RFTC in over 10 years. They played a fairly small venue, lit the place up for a good hour plus, and had just as much energy as they did in their earlier years. Comedy gold from Speedo, endless riffs all night.
QUICKSAND @ Union Transfer, Philly 1.28.13- I hadn’t seen the band since 1999. The moment they took the stage and opened up with “Omission” I lost my shit and was the energizer bunny until the moment they stopped. My favorite band ever making everything awesome again.
* Oh yeah, and I went to Hawaii this year and that alone beats most of this junk by a mile.