Friday, December 12, 2014


It is indeed that time again.  This is extensive.  No room for other people to share their 'opinions'.  I will say this- musically, I happened upon way more new bands than usual and that's a great thing.  Lots of people making awesome music out there.  And I re-discovered some old stuff too, which is always nice.  While so many are quick to proclaim the death of physical music (records, CDs, etc) I found myself buying more records than ever.  And I'm happy to because it keeps the band moving, a good label operating, and good art to continue circulating.  Keep that in mind and put your money into things that matter.  Here's what kept me going this year:

1.) MOUTHEATER, “Passing Key”
By a long shot the most played, most riffy, most air-guitared and headbanged to record this year.  Dudes spent a good year or so perfecting every twisted howl of feedback, every nuanced affectation of honest and real desperation and depression, every godamned face-smashing slab of molten sludge grunge to make a near-perfect document of harsh sound.

2.) GREYS, “If Anything”
Second most played, riffy, air-guitared record this year.  The perfect mix of Fugazi, Jehu, and a little
Quicksand tossed in a blender and shot out with wild and energetic punk songs from these Toronto fellas.

3.) YOUNG WIDOWS, “Easy Pain”
“Old Wounds” is the standard-bearer for this group.  “In and Out Of Youth and Lightness” was a bit harder to digest, a heavy body of work that required thought and patience.  It’s as if the band channeled a perfect mix of “Old Wounds” blunt ferocity, “In and Out”s minimalist approach, and more of the band’s insane exploration of crazy guitar pedals on “Easy Pain”.  Screw me if “Doomed Moon” ain’t the best song I heard all year.

4.) BLOOD SUN CIRCLE, “Bloodiest/Sunniest”
The Syracuse brothers mind-meld and create an incredible album that swirls with love for things Nick Cave, Young Widows, and whatever is louder than what you think is loud.

I was never huge on this band until they decided to kick everyone’s asses and get back in action with this long-awaited reunion record.  It’s like all the feedback-strewn sludge noise of the past with a great recording and riff after riff of molten lava heaviness and glass shrapnel vocals over it.

6.) PRAWN, “Kingfisher”
This band has been perfecting their craft for several years already and I just got into them with this, which is a beautiful and carefully calculated collection of uplifting melodic music.  Heavy on the Braid influence, but presented in a way that makes you feel like you’re out to sea; all the beauty, open space, and occasional tumult that accompanies it.

7.) HELMS ALEE, “Sleepwalking Sailors”
I had to warm up to this one a bit.  The production feels a little softer, but the songs hit just as hard as ever.  Ben’s fierce growl.  The ethereal vocals of Dana and Hoiji.  The sinew-y, knotty riffs, and avalanche-as-math drumming.  Oh, and the unbelievably heavy tones they get.  A great addition to their already stellar catalog.

8.) CAYETANA, “Nervous Like Me”
It’s awesome when you see old pals just go for something new/foreign and just nail it.  The ladies of Philly’s Cayetana just went for it and put forth an awesome record of honest emotion, plaintive beauty, and incredibly catchy indie/punk jams.  Very satisfying.

9.) FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better”
Another record where I had to warm up to the recording, as it felt a bit fuzzy and didn’t quite capture the harshness this band is all too capable of delivering.  After repeated listens though it sunk in, which you will need because it takes all of about 15 minutes to get through this whole thing.  One speeding trainwreck of blast beats, primal barbarian breaks, and spewing venom left and right.

10.) PUP, s/t
So it came out last year.  Big whoop.  99% of you didn’t hear it until this year, myself included.  Not only did these Canadians make some of the coolest videos ever, they also happened to make some of the rockinest sing-along punk jams this side of Niagara Falls.  They deftly mix up pop-punk, math rock, insanely talented guitar work, and some post-hardcore vibes into one chunk of wildly energetic music.  Well done.


A psychedelic cornucopia in the form of a dozen songs that trip you up, confuse and bewilder you, sing you to sleep, and then rock you the fuck out.  Incredible male and female vocals, followed by layers upon layers of shoegaze dream rock, and chunks of sludge rock in one trippy stew.

One singer with a feedback box, one drummer that beats his kit into oblivion, and one guitarist with a store’s worth of gear behind him.  It makes for one album so chock full of heaviness a new word needs to be invented to describe it.  Bits of Coalesce and Turmoil fuse together to make one hell of an awesome record.

Helms Alee deliver one mathy track, one weird/soothing track, and one song with hands-down the heaviest riff of the year on their side.  Young Widows took the throwaways from “Easy Pain” and planted them on the B-side.  Their throwaways are better than most band’s best stuff.

EVERY TIME I DIE, ”From Parts Unknown”
It’s hard to follow up how awesome “Ex-Lives” was, and that kept me from enjoying this record as much as I should have.  It caught up to me though.  This is seriously an awesome collection of songs.  Great lyrics as always, furious riffing, humor, insane energy; many imitate, none can duplicate.  The record opens with Keith screaming “Blow your fucking brains out”.  Chew on that.

7” category:

Definitely a favorite new(-ish) band making the rounds.  I like how they try something new with each release.  This tackles cramming a dozen songs on a 7” and still keeping it interesting.  Minutemen’s musical ethics, Fugazi’s creative energy, Jesus Lizard’s aggressiveness, and just a dash of metal. 

EX-HEX, “Hot and Cold”
All these songs made it to their full length, but I like the recording on these songs better.  Mary Timony and company keep it sassy, tearing through their riffs like it was 70’s arena rock, but still sticky sweet.  The video for “Hot and Cold” with Ian Svenious is ridiculously funny on it’s own. 

The band can do no wrong.  One somewhat heavy song, another sad and depressing song.  Both make full use of the groups feel for goth-y vocals, ear-piercing volume, and shoegaze guitar squall.  Joy Division meets My Bloody Valentine in arena combat.

By Demos Be Damned:

WRONG, “Stop Giving”
Total Helmet worship done better than the actual Helmet.  If there were an unreleased demo between “Strap It On” and “Meantime” this would be it.

Whatever multiple forms these songs took over the last year it’s still a demo to me and Syracuse does good by these cats that carry the torch of Disembodied to a frightfully heavy new level.  Nothing but next-level destruction from here on out.

TYPEWRITER, “No One Clears Out a Room Like…”
This was sort of an official release by the now-defunct Upstate locals, but presented in a sort of demo form.  Whatever the case, they knew how to throw down multiple styles of catchy indie rock and made it all work.  I got a heavy Elvis Costello vibe at times, Chisel at others, (older) The Men on one song, Superchunk popping up often. 

Favorite  re-issues:

ROLLINS BAND, “Lifetime”
As if this record couldn’t have gotten better, it sounds so loud and present after a commendable re-mastering job.  This is the band just getting their feet wet, back in ’87-88.  No expectations, all crazed energy and revenge.  “Burned Beyond Recognition”?  “Lonely”?  “Wreck-Age”?  “Turned Out”?  Fuckin’ right, this is about as angry and bad-ass as it gets.  “Walking alone down Sunset Boulevard.  Feeling lonely, feeling mean, feeling hard”.  When Rollins sings it it just sounds real.  Anyone else would come off as a cornball.

JIMMY EAT WORLD, “Static Prevails”
This is the only LP by this band that I have ever enjoyed and I have always adored it.  There is an awesome raw energy to it that I feel severely lacks in everything else they did, which I chalk up to over-production.  The band wears their influences heavy on their sleeves here, but who cares.  It’s awesome emo music for nerds, but try listening to “Anderson Mesa” and not getting super emotional about it when that huge climax happens near the end.  You gotta give in.  I got this record and cranked the shit out of it and it felt damn good.

UNWOUND, “No Energy”
These box sets have been getting released all year, each covering about 3 albums worth of Unwound stuff. This is the third one.  Their early material doesn’t quite do it for me.  But once they get to “Repetition” I’m floored.  This has that, “New Plastic Ideas”, some B-sides and a huge book thing in a case.  The packaging is beyond awesome.  The band was nothing short of incredible.

Shows I knows:

ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT/ EX-HEX Boston & NYC 4.1.14, 4.2.14
Not only did I see RFTC two nights in a row at fairly intimate venues, but I was also introduced to the awesome Ex-Hex, a new band featuring Mary Timony (Helium, Autoclave) that was a great surprise.  I got put on the spot at the NYC show when she called me out on my Swiz shirt and I got all embarrassed.  Oh yeah, did I mention I saw RFTC twice?  They’re pretty much the greatest rock n’ roll band ever, always, forever.

LEFT FOR DEAD/ DROP DEAD/ FUCKING INVINCIBLE, Machines With Magnets, Providence, 5.23.14
Three insanely wild bands at a place that holds about 200 people and the whole thing was on the floor.  Best F/I set I’ve ever seen (as a 5-piece, as intended), Drop Dead did what they do so well, and LFD sounded just as pissed and raw as ever.  Old dudes killing it.  Plus, I got to hang in Providence with solid homies and eat good food.

BLOOD SUN CIRCLE/ DIALYSIS/ NIGHT OWLS/ SECRET CUTTER/ AFRO NIPS, Westcott Community Center, Syracuse, 5.30.14
Night Owls re-united.  Blood Sun dropped an awesome record.  My own band played one of our most fun sets ever (“Wheel Of Torture” audience participation ruled).  It was a good day.  Hex Records 15 year anniversary to boot.

MENZINGERS/ LEMURIA/ PUP/ CAYETANA, El Corazon, Seattle, 6.17.14
Friends doing bands that are awesome, and getting to see them last minute while we all happened to be on the opposite coast.  I was going to skip this since my plane left that night, but after running into Lemuria at Mighty-O Donuts it was kismet and we were destined to go.  Pup also ruled face.

LAST BADLANDS SHOW, Badlands, Syracuse, 6.28.14
People talk about violence at shows being a bad thing.  This is an instance where violence and danger were integral to the ‘punk experience’.  Smoke bombs, beach balls, garbage cans thrown around, ceiling lights smashed, blood, bongs, and a bunch of bands (my own sharing the honor of playing) tearing the roof off our stupid little punk venue before closing for good.

CEREMONY/ IRON LUNG/ NOTHING, First Unitarian Church, Philly, 7.19.14
My band played a show in PA and instead of playing a show the next day we just went to Philly instead and watched Iron Lung rip tits.  An Iron Lung show on the East Coast is a rare and beautiful thing, and always incredible.  Nothing and Ceremony were pretty awesome too.  What a bill.  And I got to chill with my dogs in Philly for the day.

BLACK S.S./ DAMNATION ad/ PSYCHIC TEENS/ FUCKING INVINCIBLE/ DAMAGED III, Westcott Community Center, Syracuse, 10.26.14
Here’s some bucket list type shit here.  I booked Damnation A.D. at my favorite venue, no stage.  I’ve been into this band for nearly 20 years and they were so fucking cool and positive (despite their bleak music).  Plus, a couple of my newer favorite bands got to play to a bigger audience, and BSS did a rare show, which is always wild.  I got to play a Black Flag cover set dressed as Rollins and the Halloween tradition was back in effect.

FEST, Gainesville/Tampa, FL, 10.29-11.2.14
Fest is always awesome.  I get to fuck off from Syracuse for several days and forget that it’s probably snowing at home while I’m in Florida.  I walk around all day watching bands and having fun.  I’m the only non-drunk person out of like 5,000 people and there is rarely ever incident of ‘shitty drunk dude’ behavior.  Good food, great record store, I always run into a ton of people I rarely see, and usually make a few new friends while there.

Bomb Comics:

Whenever this guy gets off he can stop time.  This other girl has the same power.  They both think they're alone.  Then they hook up.  Then they decide to use their power to rob a bank.  Then they get in trouble with the Sex Police.  Hilarious and well-written adventure/comedy from Matt Fraction (Hawkeye)

Ed Piskors ongoing serial about the history of hip-hop, going from the mid-70's up to the early 80's.  In-depth, humorous, adventurous, and full of some of the wildest characters in music history.  Drawn like it was a 70's comic book.

Liz Suburbia put up over a dozen chapters online of her book to be released by Fantagraphics next year, and supplemented it (sort of) with her zine Cyanide Milkshake and regular contributions to As You Were.  Crazy awesome flowing style, punk, humor, and a story about a town where there are no parents and kids get into stuff that kids do.  In punk speak, "can't wait for the full length".

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Before the annual 'end-of-year favorites' list is put forth (regular readers will probably be able to figure out a few of mine) I shall dispatch one last pile of reviews for you all to pour through.  Filled with many things Philly and 7" format it just sort of ended up that way.  But what better way to introduce oneself to a new band than through that tried-and-true format of the 45?  It's very little investment for something that could prove to be a doorway to something wonderful.  Heck, you all ought to go out and buy a few 7" records right now.  I know a guy who has a label that sells some.

CLOAKROOM, “Lossed Over” 7”
From my understanding this group is sort of a side project of some other, more active, Midwest bands.  They released an EP last year and I remember hearing the first couple songs off of it and was very impressed.  And then not as impressed with the other couple songs on it.  Still, it was enough to keep me curious as to what was next.  And this is it.  I guess this is a teaser of sorts for their full length, as one of these songs is supposed to be on it.  First off, I think this band has a really cool name.  Secondly, I’m very much into their overall style of slow-core/sludgy shoegaze.  Sure, they meander a bit into some slacker melodies, but it’s sort of a soft crushing of the atmosphere and your cranium when the thick riffs are applied correctly, and I can get behind that.  The B-side has a song that engineer and Hum frontman Matt Talbott sings…  and yeah, it sort of sounds like Hum on downers with a big epic chorus.  (Run For Cover)

First things first, bands that go all out with some sweet letterpress cover that folds up all interesting-like get a free pass.  That shit looks awesome.  Secondly, they got a song called “Freak Beach” that is under a minute and it slays.  The other three songs on this circular fucker aren’t too shabby either.  As if it weren’t evident I dig on noise rock bands and this group chops and hacks away at their instruments in a sludgy, noisy, grungy sort of way.  They take fierce stabs whether it’s throwing in some trippy Breather Resist-style guitar bending, or just hammering away at your face like KARP on an adrenaline rush.  Whatever the case, consider me pleased.  (Reptilian)

Behind all the emo chill and pretty melodies comes a fierce wave that seems to punctuate each of the five songs on this Nashville (and part Rochester) band’s second release.  I’m not bowled over by what they do, and I hope it doesn’t sound like any sort of insult, but to me this sounds like Touche Amore if they were slow and had longer songs.  I just don’t listen to many bands like this, so I’m sort of in a bad spot with comparisons.  Sunny Day Real Estate if they played a bit more evil?  Fuck if I know better.  It’s cool, just not kick my ass all over town cool.  (Animal Style Records)

FAKING, “Vices” 7”
Philly is an incestuous scene that breeds one awesome band after another.  You’d think with all the cross-pollination and member sharing some of these bands would have extra toes or an extra chromosome or something.  So, with Faking these dudes share a musical family tree amongst former and/or current members of Fight Amp, Ladder Devils, Gunna Vahm, and Creepoid (and probably more).  They clearly have the noise rock thing on lockdown, furthered by a loud, sharp bass sound all over this short-player.  They don’t quite have song transitions down to a science, as breaks between parts sound like almost totally different songs at times, but hey, they make a heck of a racket with what they’re doing and I’m cool with it. These blue-bloods are onto something.  (Reptilian)

Finally, my dudes lay it down on a proper full length that does justice to what I always knew they were capable of doing!  I think they had sort of a slow start, what with changing drummers, and evolving their style over two EPs that collectively made up their last LP, a rather disjointed effort that was the band at two different spots and not quite sure of themselves.  But all these guys have been playing in other bands together for ages (heck, two of them are related) so their natural chemistry is finally showing on “Clean Hands”, their first LP as a band with a now solid lineup and a collection of songs all written together.  Sure, so two of these songs were on the split with Helms Alee, but they re-recorded for this and they sound better.  Those in the know will need no description, but their chunky noise rock culls from the vat that brewed up like-minded noiseniks in Fight Amp, Helms Alee, and Young Widows.  And while all those bands have their own very dialed-in and distinct sound Ladder Devils have done the same with some seriously bad ass tones and riffs.  A solid effort all in all. (Brutal Panda)

PRAWN, “Settled” 7”
Prawn released one of the best LPs of the year and these two songs were left off of it.  I can see why, as they don’t quite fit into the almost seamless transitioning of the tracks on the LP.  It’s not to say they’re clearly throwaways or anything, far from it.  They just don’t fit the overall vibe of the album and so you get them here on this 7” instead.  “Settled” has an almost older Death Cab feel to it for the first half, and then goes for Prawn’s big, spacious build up and bringing in that trumpet that enters their songs every once in awhile to accentuate the awesomeness of the ending.  “Built Of” goes for a faster, slightly more aggressive feel before they roll in with some female backing vocals and violin.  It’s definitely the band throwing some minor curveballs in terms of presentation, but still clearly the band fans will already know and love.  Once again, killer artwork in the packaging of this fella.  A nice companion to “Kingfisher”.  (Topshelf)

Swiz worship.  They know it.  I know it.  If you like Swiz you’ll know it too.  And that’s perfectly OK.  Oh, you don’t know Swiz?  First, stop reading this and get “No Punches Pulled”, their whole discography.  Got that out of the way?  Good.  I’m glad you stopped reading this for a few days to absorb all that.  So yeah, Sweet Jesus- part time Providence band filled with dudes from lots of other good bands going for a late-80’s Dischord sound.  Rock n’ roll hardcore with loose guitar, a heavy swing, and swirling around all the ripping action are doses of awesome melody.  The first couple songs are super punchy and short and that would make a perfect blueprint for everything else they do.  And while the second pair of songs are only slightly longer they drag a bit and feel a little less chaotic, they don’t have quite the stabby goodness of the first two.  Still, a solid introduction after a demo that circulated a couple years ago.  (Triple B Records)

WRONG, “Stop Giving” demo
It’s a late addition, but this is easily the best demo of 2014.  There have been plenty of bands that have tried to nail the sound that Helmet perfected over 20 years ago.  Most have failed, or not quite got it exactly.  This sounds exactly like Helmet.  Someone could have told me that this was an unreleased demo between “Strap It On” and “Meantime” and I would have believed them.  Everything down to the recording, the booming drum sound, the clever play on timing, the enormous wall of noise guitar and the rhythmic thud that permeates these 4 songs has me hungry to hear more.  Even the tape cover looks like it came from the early 90’s.  Get on this.  It’s downright incredible.  (Wrong)