Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Lord Rutledge Awards 2015

I know: I'm early this year. The Lord Rutledge Awards are traditionally posted on New Year's Eve. But I'll be off work until January, and my laptop at home is on its last legs. So this will be my final post of 2015. Once again, it's been a year full of great music. Below are some bands and individuals who helped make 2015 awesome:

Album of the Year:
The New Trocaderos - Thrills & Chills 
Read my full list here!  

Song of the Year:
Kurt Baker - "Back For Good" 
In a year full of first-rate punk smashers and genuine power pop hits, I went with a ballad for my song of the year? But truthfully, "Back For Good" is the one song from 2015 that I just can't stop playing. There is a certain irony that the best song on the most rockin' Kurt Baker album to date sounds like something that ought to pop up on Barry Manilow's Pandora channel. But let me tell you: "Back For Good" is sheer pop perfection! That chorus is nothing short of divine, and how can you not love that the bridge is a nod to Huey Lewis?! If they still played good music on the radio, Kurt Baker and Wyatt Funderburk would be living in mansions. 

Single of the Year:
L.A. Drugz- "All Burned Down" b/w ""Runnin"
So many bands (The Raydios, Born Loose, Maniac, The Dahlmanns, The Sensibles) turned out formidable singles in 2015. It was hard to pick just one winner! But I have to go with L.A. Drugz - who managed to marry '60s pop melodies with modern guitar work and a quintessential Los Angeles vibe on the stunning "All Burned Down". B-side "Runnin" is something new for this band: straight-up fast and furious punk rock. 

EP of the Year:
Lovesores/Born Loose split
The two greatest punk rock n' roll bands on the planet on the same record! 

Album of the Year (Masters Class):
Angelic Upstarts- Bullingdon Bastards 
This award goes to the best album released by a band that's 25 years or more into its existence. Bullingdon Bastards is the first Angelic Upstarts album in 13 years - and it's easily the band's best LP since the early '80s. It's that classic Upstarts sound all the way - with lyrics that have much to say about political issues of current relevance. A truly inspired return. 

Best New Band:
This was a particularly strong year for new bands. I get the feeling that I'm going to be writing about the likes of Pale Lips and Devious Ones for a very long time to come. But the award goes to Fashionism - a new Vancouver band featuring Jeff McCloy of the Tranzmitors on lead vocals along with members of The Jolts and New Town Animals. This is the ultimate F & L band - offering up a glammy take on '77 punk/powerpop. For fans of The Boys, Teenage Head, and Exploding Hearts. The band has released two superb singles so far, and I've got my fingers crossed for an LP in 2016! 

Producer of the Year:
Chris Pierce
Sometimes producers get overlooked in punk music. A lot of bands would prefer to have 100 percent control of the recording process. And producers are more often blamed for "ruining" punk records than they are credited for contributing to them. But truthfully, a skilled and sympathetic producer can play a vital role in making a punk rock record everything it ought to be. Good production is not about fancy equipment or studio trickery. It's about really knowing a band and helping them realize the sound they're going for. Night Birds were already the best punk band out there and would have made an incredible third album no matter who was producing. But working with Chris Pierce, they found the proverbial "next level". Mutiny At Muscle Beach captures Night Birds at their hottest and most ferocious. It's urgent, crackling, and fully representative of the band's must-see live rep. If I were in a punk band, I'd want this dude producing my records!

Songwriter of the Year:
Michael Chaney
If you like incredible melodies, awesome lyrics, and a variety of song styles that's rare for today's rock n' roll/garage world, The New Trocaderos' Thrills & Chills is the album for you. Michael Chaney's songwriting brings to mind those classic late '60s albums by The Kinks, Rolling Stones, and Beatles - but in a fully original and relevant way. Remember when producer/songwriters were respected as artists in their own right? Michael Chaney might be bringing those days back!

Compilation of the Year:
Various Artists - We're Loud: 90s Cassette Punk Unknowns
A joint project between Slovenly Recordings and Black Gladiator, the double LP We're Loud is like a Killed By Death for the '90s - compiling 33 tracks by 19 unknown bands covering the years 1993-99. All tracks originally appeared on limited release or unreleased cassettes and come from the personal archives of Jaime Paul Lamb. Considering that this era is my wheelhouse for underground punk music, I was pretty amazed that I'd never heard of any of these bands! An absolutely essential collection of obscure '90s punk running the gamut from classic KBD fare (Mega & The Nyrdz, Fucking Pigs) to '60s garage (Van Buren Wheels) to lo-fi power pop (Les Fleurs du Mal) to top-shelf budget rock (Winners).

Reissue of the Year:
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band - Promises To Deliver  
One of my favorite albums of the 2010s receives the deluxe reissue treatment on Rum Bar Records! Includes all the songs from the original LP plus six bonus tracks.  This is the album Bruce Springsteen would have made in his heyday if he'd been obsessed with The Replacements and Husker Du.

Label of the Year:
No Front Teeth Records
No Front Teeth has been one of my favorite labels for years. And when I look back at all the amazing releases on NFT this year (Radiohearts, Maniac, The Ills, Disco Lepers, Pale Lips, Gaggers, Sick Thoughts, the Scraps/Needle Exchange split, etc.), how could I possibly give the award to anyone else?!

Most Welcome Digital Reboot:
The Automatics' Bandcamp page
Rescued from the dustbin of history: the complete recordings of one of my favorite bands of all-time!  

Album I Most Regret Not Reviewing:
Royal Headache - High
Seriously! How in the hell did I miss this one?!

The Patrick Bateman Prize for Excellence in Music Criticism:
Dom Daley
I first came to follow Dom Daley because he was writing about many of the same releases that I was writing about. He's the go-to guy at Uber Rock for glam/punk, punk rock n' roll, power pop, and '77 type stuff. But beyond his impeccable taste, he's a brilliant writer as well. He has a really cool way of describing music with enthusiasm and humor, and I always look forward to his reviews. Read his piece on the new Born Loose album, and you're going to want to buy the record immediately!

Comeback of the Year:
Moral Crux
After 12 years of no music from Moral Crux, we finally got a new EP. And the band picked right up where it left off!

The F & L Championship Belt:
The Connection 
The championship belt is awarded annually to my current favorite band. Reigning champions The Cry! will be releasing new music soon and will have ample opportunity to regain the title in 2016. The same goes for previous title holders Something Fierce. But The Connection, on the strength of its best album to date, finally takes the crown. Having been reviewed an amazing seven times on F & L, The Connection is more than worthy of the title belt.

And on that note, I sign off for the year. I imagine I'll be "downsizing" F & L in a big way as I enter my second semester at college. I will have to be much less prolific when it comes to churning out reviews. But with much more great music awaiting us in 2016, I remain excited about spreading the gospel! Happy holidays, everyone!


Archive of Lord Rutledge Awards:

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