Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Tens 2012!

Just a few days remain in the year 2012, so without further ado I now present our year-end top tens! Special thanks to Joe Keller for suggesting I revive this tradition from the Now Wave days!

First, here's my top ten album list:
10. Masked Intruder- self titled
9. OFF!- self titled
8. Youthbitch- Don't Fuck This Up
7. Ana Lucia- self titled
6. Mean Jeans- On Mars
5. Randy America- F*ck Vision
4. The Ills- Tuning Out 
3. White Wires- WWIII
2. Gentleman Jesse- Leaving Atlanta
1. Kurt Baker- Brand New Beat

Next, a top ten from Matt Mayhem:  
10. White Wires- WWIII LP
9. Mean Jeans- On Mars LP
8. Half Rats- self titled tape
7. The Cry!- self titled LP
6. Guantanamo Baywatch- "Oh Rats"/"A Boy To Love" 7"
5. Sugar Stems- "Like I Do"/"Never Been In Love" 7"
4. Youthbitch- Don't Fuck This Up LP
3. Suicide Notes-"Hey Baby"/"Wolf Couple"/"Last Chance" 7"
2. Chain Of Love- "In Between"/"Breaking My Heart" 7"
1. Primitive Hearts- self titled EP 
All the way from Spain, here's a top ten from Javier Iglesias:
1. The Nomads - Solna
2. Kevin K - Tramp Stamp  
3. Mojomatics - You're The Reason For My Troubles 
4. The Crazy Squeeze -self titled
5. Imperial State Electric - Pop War 
6. Gentleman Jesse - Leaving Atlanta 
7. Joey Ramone - ....Ya Know
8. Redd Kross - Researching The Blues 
9. Sonic Beat Explosion - Sister Psychosis 
10. The White Wires - WWIII

If it is possible to include EPs, I will put in the number 1 of the list: 
Biters - Last of a Dying Breed

Now here's Peter Santa Maria's Top 10 (or so) for 2012:
2012 could easily be labeled "The Year of The Comeback" and people gettin' back to their "roots". More musicians seemed to be reforming their once legendary bands (latest being Rocket From The Crypt!) and/or releasing records that harkened back to their "glory days". Some might call it a nostalgia crisis, but I just call it good music. And hey, there were a few "new" bands that I found out about this year and also really dug. So, never mind the bollocks, here's my top 10 (or so) for 2012!

The Hives - Lex Hives
I was ready to write off The Hives after the incredibly disappointing The Black and White Album, but luckily these stylish Swedes took the time to regroup and wrote one helluva set of songs. It's almost like a best-of compilation, as it takes the best song characteristics from each one of their albums and comes up with one solid representation of everything that The Hives do great musically: fast, short songs, mid-tempo garage stompers, swaggerin' soul, and each one of their songs is full of hooks, smart and catchy lyrics (Howlin' Pete knows how to play with words and really turn a phrase) and pretty much just flat out ROCK. Lex Hives was self-produced by the band, and it definitely was a smart move after the over-produced, too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen mess of  The Black and White Album. Lex Hives has a live 'n' loose vibe and sound, almost like Exile On Main Street. GREAT drum sound here, just sounds like someone bashin' the drums in a BIG room, distrorto bass, clean cut like glass guitars that break-up JUST enough to give them some bite and Howlin' Pete's circus ringleader revival vocals over top of the whole thing. R'N'F'N'R!

Redd Kross - Researching The Blues
The brothers McDonald are back, and thank fuckin' gawd because they were sorely missed by this music listener! This is one of the most solid rock 'n' roll records to come out this year, or in the past 10 years for that matter, and one of Redd Kross' best to date. So many great riffs, hooks, choruses... just GREAT songwriting. Guitar tones go from jangly chords to distorted leads, backed by bashing drums and bouncy bass. "Stay Away From Downtown" is pretty much the perfect rock song and should be blastin' out of car stereos, iPods and transmitting from radio stations every hour on the hour. Mining Beatles to Big Star, 60's garage to 70's glam to 80's punk, Redd Kross is a rock 'n' roll juggernaut and Researching The Blues is their newest testament to everything that ROCKS!

Bob Mould - Silver Age
Another contender for best comeback album is right here. Bob Mould went off and experimented with electronic music, became a DJ, wrote a book... and that's all well and good. Dude can do whatever he wants with his life. But when I want to listen to or pay attention to Bob Mould, I wanna hear that VOICE and LYRICS and just that big, gloriously noisey guitar racket that only Bob Mould can produce. Pure pop power punk! I always equated Mould with being like a punk rock Pete Townshend (and Townshend's attitude was pretty punk already!), a true rock 'n' roll storyteller. Silver Age is definitely one of the best albums Bob Mould has ever released, totally on par with his Husker Du output and rivaling anything that he did with Sugar. Silver Age is full of middle-aged punk rock piss and vinegar, evident from the line "Never too old to contain my rage" in the title track. But the album isn't just all bottled up anger, there's lot's of positive hope too, illustrated best in one of the last songs on the album, "Keep Believing". I can only hope Bob Mould keeps making great albums like Silver Age.

Bouncing Souls - Comet
Always been a fan of this band! Saw them coming up "in the scene" on the east coast in early '90s, was in a band or two that shared stages with them, was always proud of their success and longevity, these guys definitely paid their dues and have earned everything they have gotten. I know they were "experimenting" (there's that word again) with their songwriting and instrumentation on last couple records, which produced mixed results, in my opinion. But with Comet, 'Souls are firing on all cylinders with 10 really strong anthemic punk rock and sing-a-long pop punk tunage. Great lyrics. Great production by Bill Stevenson (Descendents, ALL). Comet is easily one of their best albums.

Nude Beach - II
Jangly power pop and roots rock 'n' roll with heart on your sleeve lyrics and just honest songwriting. No pretense or preening here, and these dudes worship at the altars of past songwriters with names like Westerberg, Petty, Springsteen, Case, and Felice. At times, when I am walkin' around the city listening to this album, these guys come across like a reincarnated Real Kids for the new millenium, and that just makes me smile. Saw them open up for Reigning Sound this summer in Philly, and these guys bring the goods live too.

Heap - Defriended
NYC's HEAP come back with their first release in four years here, a mighty rolickin' collection of power pop rock 'n' roll songs! Songs about hard times, harder drinks, time lost, changin' times and the only thing you can count on in this world is... NYC sound guy extraordinaire Noel Ford. Cheap Trick guitar crunch with Bash and Pop's soul = good rockin'!

The Mess Around - Boner Time
High-energy trashy garage punk rock 'n' roll from NYC! Who knew THAT still existed in NYC?! A boozey cocktail of early-Replacements and Miracle Workers served in a dirty hi-ball glass down under with Radio Birdman, Lime Spiders and Celibate Rifles on the bar jukebox. The Mess Around also win the "Best Album Title of the Year" award (note to editor: awards will not be honored). Another fine release from the quickly burgeoining Drug Front Records rock 'n' roll dynasty!

Born Loose - self tited
Speakin' of Drug Front Records, here is the debut full-length from Larry May's (of Candy Snatchers infamy) new-ish band. Born Loose is a GREAT live band, and that comes across loud 'n' proud on this album. I can smell the sweat and see the on-stage mayhem within a few short minutes of the needle dropping on the vinyl. Sonically, this has more orchestration than any Candy Snatchers album (horn section on opening track, very reminiscent of The Saints), organ/piano ("House of Creeps" and "Bad Baby Faye"), and some more mid-tempo numbers that really lay down a rockin' groove as opposed to just blastin' out a stabbin' slab of punk rock (although there are a couple of those too!) . "China Bus Express" is the best song not written by New York Dolls I have heard in ages.

The Figgs - 1,000 People Grinning
The Figgs have been together... 25 years!
Damn! How many bands can say that? Not many!
This 25 song anthology spans their entire career, and honestly, this should be TWICE as long to really do this band any justice. The Figgs are one of those bands that just write amazing songs that run the whole gamut of the rock 'n' roll genre: fast rockers, mid-tempo stompers, soulful slow burns, powerful pop, punked up anthems, funky love songs, acoustic gems and... the LYRICS! Both Pete Donnelly and Mike Gent seem to be able to say in song things I can never articulate. The Figgs have been there, done that (as far as the major label game goes) and came out on the other side, yet they seem like perennial underdogs (I guess we could call it Replacements-itis or maybe Graham Parker syndrome). It kills me that a band like this is not HUGE. Oh well, pick this up and join the secret society of people with really good taste in music (i.e. FIGGS FANS!)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Meat and Bone
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's first album of new material in 8 years, Meat and Bone, is much like The Hives' Lex Hives: it comes across like the perfect compilation album of past and present. You get JSBX scuzz noize blooze beginnings and their soulful Stones swagger later period, with a sprinkle of funky fuzz on top of it all. Also this time around, much less schtick, and way more rawk. The songs here feel like real songs and not just "Blues Explosion" spiels. Standout tracks like "Black Mold" sound like a castaway Iggy ripoff, "Danger" sounds like a lost Stooges outtake, "Black Thoughts" and "Bear Trap" are pure slide guitar Stones blues 'n' roll. JSBX turn in a stripped-down, recorded-live-in-a-room rock 'n' roll album with yelps and yells in all the right places, and one of their very best albums to boot!

OFF! -self titled
Keith Morris. Steven McDonald. Mario Rubalcaba. Dmitri Coats.
16 songs clockin' in under 16 minutes.
Artwork by Raymond Pettibon.

Spider Fever - self titled
This band features Mario Rubalcaba (RFTC, OFF!) gettin' out from behind the drums, slingin' a guitar and gettin' in front of the mic to belt out some fuzzed-out Killed By Death riff punk rawk. All killer, no filler on the 9 tracks here. Turn this up, smash and thrash around the room and blow yer eardrums out!

Next, here is Joe Keller's Best of 2012: 
10. Municipal Waste - The Fatal Feast 
There's an ongoing debate in comment sections across the internet - is Municipal Waste heavy metal or thrash or thrash metal or are they crossover? I know very little about heavy metal outside of its now-ancient progenitors (AC/DC, Black Sabbath [including the Dio years], Motorhead, Deep Purple), so applying the correct label on what they do is outside of my abilities - but I can tell you that I can't stop listening to it. Many say MW frontman Tony Foresta has the "DRI voice" which is ok by me - I think that just means his vocals aren't on either end of the ridiculous spectrum (eunuch-level operatic high or cookie monster unintelligible low) which is probably why I am able to like this band (plus, "Dealing With It" rules). This 5th long player from the ‘Waste is perfect for long lift sessions at the gym or blasting out of a car while you and your friend knock down mailboxes with baseball bats while drinking a rack of Yuengling. The overall theme is centered on zombies in space - which sounds like it would be played out at this point because of The Walking Dead on AMC but trust me, the ‘Waste make it work and this record delivers the goods.

9. The Figgs - The Day Gravity Stopped
I am a near-fanatical Figgs fan. It is hard for them to do wrong by me. This double LP (the SECOND double LP in the Figgs cannon) is bigger and sweeter than a 44 oz. fountain coke from Wawa. Side A has some real gems - I read once in an interview with guitarist Mike Gent that the Figgs were huge fans of Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks (I've heard them cover at least two songs from that record) and The Day Gravity Stopped may be the result of their collective Kinks-mania. While there is no general concept that holds the record together as best as I can tell, it is rich with character sketches ("Lovely Miss Jean", "Inspector RT") and timeless quality pop.

8. Sonic Avenues - Television Youth
I was super late on this band - Ken from Dirtnap Records hepped me to them a few months before he released Television Youth, the sophomore effort from Montreal’s Sonic Avenues. Sonic Avenues have their own great sound - fantastic melodies, strong pop songwriting, production with the right amount of grit, and a cool signature guitar sound. Any time I try to concoct a comparison to other existing bands, it always falls apart (best I can muster is The Marked Men with the late Jay Reatard doing early Cure outtakes [see, that was awful - who would want to listen to that?]) which just demonstrates how original this band is (or, just how poor of a writer I am). I highly recommend tracking down their debut self titled LP as well.

7. Sick Sick Birds - Gates of Home
Sick Sick Birds last LP, Heavy Manners, was a great refined punk/post-punk rock album. It was one hell of a debut. Gates of Home is slightly more lo-fi, but the same great band is playing the songs. I think certain bands are the perfect representation of a place. For instance, The Arrivals ARE Chicago to me. The Modern Machines ARE Milwaukee. Sick Sick Birds are Baltimore as far as I'm concerned. I can picture the Baltimore skyline as seen from an I-95 passenger as I listen to "Gates of Home". Few bands can pull of this trick.

6. Black Wine - Hollow Earth
By now, a structural pattern for Black Wine LPs is starting to emerge - a nice symmetry, three singers, three songwriters, three songs apiece, a little double sided Divine Comedy from the Jersey Shore. Black Wine are the sort of band that could have saved SST when they were putting out all of those Zoogz Rift records (which I admittedly have a soft spot for, too). While the blueprint for how they arrange their albums is somewhat static, the songs themselves are not. It's the type of daring underground rock music unencumbered by a stiff musical formula or predefined image that made digging countless record racks and sending away via mailorder all worth it in previous decades. Hollow Earth features some of the best Black Wine, in particular, the haunting "Flatland", which as far as I can tell takes lyrical cues from a Richard Feynman analogy on how explaining the fourth dimension (time) in space-time to humans is like explaining the 3rd dimension to flat bugs that live in a 2D world.

5. Bob Mould - Silver Age
Bob Mould puts his snooze-worthy techno on hold and dishes up some Sugar-esque rockers on this long player. On the skins is none other than everyone's favorite Best Show call-in guest, Jon Wurster (oh yeah, he also plays drums for a little band called Superchunk, as well). This is my favorite Mould since Last Dog and Pony Show, which I have always thought is a bit underrated. Hopefully, Silver Age will not suffer the same fate.

4. Toys That Kill - Fambly 42
Toys That Kill are a weird little band - this summer someone told me that once you cross the bridge into San Pedro, you're on another planet - you're not in LA anymore . Toys That Kill are on another planet. It's herky jerky rhythmic punk music that sounds like squawking cat and or dog humans are singing over it. I mean this in the best possible way.

3. Sickoids - self titled
A killer 20 min long 12" disc from what I might consider the best band from Philly of all time, Hooters be damned! (sorry Roy.) Chorus effect laced guitar cranked out over bass-static and punishing drums. Some tracks even remind me of the more hardcore stuff on Zen Arcade, which is never a bad thing! Had the opportunity to watch this band multiple times this year in multiple sweaty stinky punk houses - they were no joke. They've already sort of broken up, but I'm hoping they recorded some more stuff before they hung up their boots.

2. Cheap Girls - Giant Orange
Cheap Girls dish up their 3rd and best LP to date. It goes down easy like an ice cold beer after a long day of working at a shitty job and makes you forget about the worries in your life like a big fat bar of Xanax. Seemingly from a time when great melodies melded with catchy guitar hooks and straight-forward production (I think they called it "alternative" when it hit about 20 years ago), Cheap Girls are descendents of such Midwest titans as The Replacements, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Soul Asylum - rock bands from the Midwest who grew up and out of the punk scene. However, I would say Cheap Girls has far surpassed The Goo Goo Dolls and Soul Asylum. There are plenty of hits on this one - "Ruby" in particular is a real banger.

1. Screaming Females - Ugly
The New Brunswick power trio have pretty much kicked ass since inception, lighting basement shows ablaze with their guitar pyrotechnics incendiary vocals. Marisa Paternoster's trademark howl and shriek is no doubt an acquired taste, but you know what, so is Frank Black's bellowing and squealing, and Doolittle is one of the best records ever. Ugly is heavy on the riffs and packed with deadly guitar shredding. Everything you've ever read on a blog about Marisa's guitar skills is not hype - none other than J Mascis himself has given her the thumbs up in print. However, often times the Scremales rhythm section is over-looked. Ugly should correct this - with Steve Albini at the recording console the band has never sounded better - I swear it sounds like Dave Grohl playing drums on "expire" and King Mike's fuzzy Rickenbacher has never sounded better than on the epic "Doom 84". This band will be on SNL in less than 5 years, and it will be a joyous occasion.

10. Altered Boys - self titled 7"
Pissed-off East-Coast hardcore - all of those words go together so well. Altered Boys sound a bit more Boston than Jersey Shore, but honestly who cares. They are without a doubt the best hardcore band in NJ right now. If you can catch them live, don't miss 'em.

9. Omegas - NY Terminator
Montreal’s Joy Boys are at it again, delivering brutal hardcore. If you enjoyed their 2011 LP Blasts of Lunacy (perhaps the best album title in the last decade), you will surely revel in slam-skanking to NY Terminator, their newest batch of jams.

8. Lemuria - Varoom Allure
This record was a Record Store Day special - more straight ahead and pop-oriented than their sophomore LP. Great drumming and vocals as always.

7. Sugar Stems - Greatest Pretender
Sugar Stems do female fronted power pop like no other in this present day and age. Aided by veteran axe-man Drew from the Jetty Boys/Leg Hounds, Betsy has penned some of the best jangly, distortion-free power pop this side of Pandoras. This single was a teaser for their 2nd LP that came out a few weeks before the end of 2012 - I regret not being able to purchase it before I made this list!

6. Tenement/Culo split
Tenement continues to amaze. Another band that does not have a preset mold for what they do - any Pitchfork-reading snob who gives you shit over listening to pop punk needs to sit their ass down and listen to this band. Culo is fast hardcore delivered with wild abandon - had a chance to share a bill with them last year in Chicago, and they were great. Did not get a chance to pick up their full length yet, but it's on my to-do list.

5. Young Skin - The Sticky Pages
A super-group comprised of my friends - so take my recommendation with a grain of salt. However, I think I can safely say, personal relationships be damned, there are some great straight ahead grungy, garagey punk tunes on here, particularly "Uneasy", which Miranda Taylor delivers with the perfect amount of melody and snarl.

4. Mikey Erg/Alex Kerns split
...Speaking of biased opinions! Mike's ability to write a song that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to pump your fist in unison to the beat has not waned an iota since the passing of our old band The Ergs, as evinced by "Song Against Ian Raymond". The Down By Law cover satisfies the 15 year old in me, but it is no way a match for "Song Against..." and in a way that's good - Mike must have known he had hot shit on his hands so the 2nd song he put on this thing had damn well better be a throwaway or else it would have been a waste of a good song. I am jealous The Ergs never got to perform this one! I predict Mike will make the best pop record anyone's heard in a long time next year. Alex Kern's laconic vocal delivery is one of my faves - the often lyricist and drummer of Lemuria delivers two quirky gems.

3. Big Eyes - Back from the Moon
Big Eyes are named after a top notch Cheap Trick song - should give you an idea where this band is coming from - excellent power-pop-ish rock n roll songs with big crunchy guitars. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Kate Eldridge has been cranking out great stuff for years despite her youth - most notably in Used Kids and her own group Cheeky. This 7" is Big Eyes at their most polished so far and that's not a bad thing at all. The A side is a killer hit complete with "oooh" laden bridge and a chorus I defy you to forget after hearing it just once.

 2. Neighborhood Brats - Ocean Beach Party
This band is the best new find of 2012 for me - and this 7" smokes! The A-side is a great uptempo rocker deriding California beach culture. It zips by in less than 1.5 minutes and totally rules. However, it's the B-side that makes this 7" - the menacing mid-tempo "Shark Beach". It's all wrapped up with a really cool looking black and white front cover - this is the band to watch next year. Their full length is going to be at the top of everyone's 2013 top ten list.

1. Red Dons - Auslander
Red Dons hit the world with the best song, A-side, and 7" of the year with "Auslander, a big, soaring, epic punk song complete with memorable guitar lead and passionate chorus about being an outcast everywhere you go in life ("Auslander" is pejorative term for "foreigner" in German). At this point, I think Red Dons have stepped out of the shadow of The Observers and really carved out their own name.

Also great this year:
Mean Jeans - On Mars
School Jerks - self titled
Guantanamo Baywatch - Chest Crawl
Creem - self titled 12"
Boston Strangler - Primitive LP
Plastic Cross - Grayscale Rainbows
Nude Beach - II

Good Demos/tapes worth checking out:
1. Altered Boys
2. Real Cops
3. Snowdonia
4. Voight-Kampff tape

Next up, we have a top ten from Danny Dysentery:
1. Midnite Snaxxx - self titled LP
A supergroup! Great poppy garagey all around awesomey punk.

2. The Gaggers - "Psychosomatic" 7"
My favorite band going.

3. Mean Jeans - On Mars LP
The best pop punk album of the year.

4. The Anomalys- "Retox" 7"
 The best live band I saw this year and a killer single to boot!

5. The No Tomorrow Boys - "Animal Eyes" 7"
Punked up Buddy Holly, Fuck yeah!

6. The Paper Bags "II" 7"
Classic punk rock and it came in a paper bag itself, best packaging of the year.

7. Neighborhood Brats "Ocean Beach Party" 7"
 My other favorite band going right now.

8. Big Box- Die Now LP
Evil pervey hardcore.

9. Raveonettes - Observator LP
More gloomy pop songs.

10. Teenage Bubblegums - Learn from Yesterday, Live for Today, Pray for Tomorrow
Italian pop punk that's all sugar highs. I love it.
And lastly, a top ten from Travis Ramin:
10. The return of the Subsonics
One of the most unique garage bands of the '90s is back and sounding just as good!

9. Newly discovered Esquerita material from Norton
The "Hittin' on Nothing" 45 is especially killer (support Norton Records!).

8. Lee Hazelwood LHI Years double album
Great material AND naked '60s ladies all over the cover wearing Lee Hazelwood mustaches!!

7. Dueling 50 year anniversary concerts and subsequent new material from The Beach Boys and Rolling Stones (and the Monkees!)
Even Wyman put down his metal detector and picked up the bass for "Jumpin' Jack Flash".

6. Charlie My Darling
Rolling Stones movie filmed in 1965 and never released. Made to get the Stones used to be around cameras, but they also captured riotous concert footage and hotel room songwriting. VERY COOL!

5. The Midnite Snaxx (all of their releases!)
One of Tina Lucchesi's best bands. As the kidz say.."It's aaaall gooood" (do the kidz still say that?). "80 in the 40" rules!

4. La Sera - Sees the Light LP
An honest to goodness modern yet '60s girl group sound without the phony "doo wop" posturing. The videos are great too. Perfect for the lonely teenage boy type!

3. The New Surfsiders - "Kokomo" b/w "Good Vibrations"
Not to be confused with Lou Reed's The Surfsiders, this is the New Surfsiders. Equally retarded, equally GREAT!

2. Redd Kross - Researching the Blues LP
"Stay Away from Downtown" is the best song of the year and the best song of their career. Everything they have done has led to this song. I haven't played a song over and over again like this in a long time. If released in the late '70s, it would be duking it out on the charts with "Surrender" and the like. Great video too!!! 

1. Wired Up book and companion Hector 45
An AMAZING collection of rare Euro glam rock and bubblegum singles cover art from the early '70s. It's something I've waited for someone to do for so long. It's also a great way to find out about some cool records you might not know about. Even cooler is that it was compiled by Jeremy from the Busy Signals and Mary from the Baby Shakes. It comes out perfect when it's in the hands of rockers and collectors as opposed to some dipshit wannabe Rolling Stone magazine flunky. SLADE, HECTOR, JOOK AND BEYOND!!!!!! YOU WON'T STOP LOOKING THROUGH THIS BOOK  

One More....
Getting to introduce Ronnie Spector and doing WOO HOO with the 5678's, and playing with the Little Girls at the Girls Got Rhythm festival. The Muffs set was absolutely killer too!

Thanks everyone! Happy holidays!




A pleasure to read. Truly.

Javier Iglesias said...

Thank you for all the excellents Top Tens !!!. For me is a honour to participate in this awesome Blog. Happy New Year to all Faster & Louder readers and specially to Lord Rutledge.