Monday, December 31, 2018

F & L Best of 2018

I've been teasing my best of 2018 lists all month on Facebook, but I always save my official lists for the very end of the year. Once again, the amount of great music released this year far exceeds my capacity to keep up with all of it. So what follows accounts for only a fraction of the best punk, power pop, and rock n' roll music released in 2018. On to it!

Top 20 Albums of 2018
Honestly, I could have easily done a top 25 or top 30 albums and not run out of worthy contenders. Streaming links have been provided when available.

20. Hakan -  III
Hakan's third album wasn't too different from its second, which wasn't too different from its first. If it ain't broken, why fix it? Garage pop/punk done right!

19. Sore Points - self titled 
Sometimes nothing less than pure blistering punk rock will do. A classic debut from this Vancouver trio recalling the heyday of DOA and The Subhumans.

18. Jagger Holly- The Last of the International Playboys
The best pop-punk album in at least five years.

17. Freak Genes - Qwak Qwak
The dynamic duo of Andrew Anderson and Charlie Murphy return with 17 more songs marrying the experimental/arty side of '70s UK punk to modern-day garage and pop. Now with 100% more synthesizers! Somehow this album manages to be both weirder and catchier than its predecessor.

16. Extra Arms - Headacher  
No longer just a vehicle for solo Ryan Allen, Extra Arms are now a full-fledged rock band playing alt rock/power pop of the crunching later '90s vintage. Recommended if you like Superdrag, Sugar, Foo Fighters, etc.

15. Blockhouses - Greatest Hit Songs Of All-Time 
Long-awaited debut from NYC power trio featuring Guy Lyons (ex Figgs) on guitar and vocals. If you like power pop that doesn't stray far from the blueprint of good old rock n' roll, this is the album for you.

14. The Peawees - Moving Target
After more than two decades as a band, The Peawees somehow manage to keep getting better. Moving Target remains faithful to the band's punk rock n' roll roots while also incorporating the influence of soul music, new wave, and Springsteen anthem rock. Their best album yet?

13. The Speedways - Just Another Regular Summer 
This was the surprise power pop delight of 2018: a one-off project from Matt Julian (The Breakdowns). 12 brilliant tracks that would not sound out of a place on a compilation of the best of '70s power pop.

12. Nick Piunti -  Temporary High
The creative run that Nick Piunti has been on in recent years really needs to be appreciated. Temporary High is his fourth album in six years, and it's another clinic on how to write perfect pop songs with clever lyrics.

11. Tommy and the Commies - Here Come...
Debut album from Sudbury, Ontario powerpop/punk trio will have you pushing the repeat button all day. Like the Dickies? Like the Buzzcocks? You'll like this!

10. Shanda and the Howlers - Hurt For Me 
This band's debut Trouble was one of my favorite albums of 2017, and the follow-up did not disappoint! Hurt For Me compared to Trouble has a rawer sound and digs deeper into old blues and roots R & B. If you're on Spotify, check out "Baby, You're The One" for an example of perfection in soul music. I can't understand why Shanda Cisneros is not yet recognized as an international singing superstar!

9. The Cavemen - Nuke Earth 
The title pretty much says it all. Blood and guts rock n' roll extraordinaire from the world's most dangerous band.

8. Rich Ragany - ...Like We'll Never Make It
Following three Role Models albums in three years, Rich Rags releases his solo debut...and it's brilliant! No longer confined to the arenas of glam-punk and power pop, Ragany emerges as a singer/songwriter of tremendous talent and broad appeal. A truly stunning effort.

7. The Kurt Baker Combo - Let's Go Wild! 
Kurt Baker is such a prolific talent that it can be easy to take his output for granted. That would be a mistake! His second studio album with the Combo is a great example of how to take the live energy of the best garage rock n' roll and actually capture it on record.

6. The Connection - Wish You Success 
You know 'em, you love 'em, and they've come through again! 11 brand-new Palmer/Marino originals that were well worth the three-year wait. America's best rock n' roll band.

5. Neighborhood Brats - Claw Marks 
This album is proof that great punk albums are still being made in 2018. The style is still classic SoCal punk, but with this album the Brats show a greater melodic sensibility and a fondness for the pummeling sounds of the Stooges and Saints. With meaningful lyrics of both a political and personal nature, this is your soundtrack album for the real life dystopia we are currently experiencing.

4. Lovesores - Gods of Ancient Grease 
Hot take: this is as good as any Humpers album.

3. Terry and Louie - ...A Thousand Guitars 
The super-duo of Terry Six and Louie Bankston finally release their long-awaited debut album, and it's every bit the face-melting masterpiece Louie told me it would be. American release coming in late January!

2. Devious Ones - Plainview Nights 
A+ powerpop/punk that reads like a love letter to Detroit and the entire American Midwest. The title track is an instant classic.

1. Phone Jerks -  self titled 
Did I step through a portal to 2003?! Alien Snatch Records has released my favorite album of the year, and it sounds like a combination of every classic Rip Off Records LP ever issued. This is garage punk as garage punk ought to be: trashy, primitively recorded, and so transparently derivative that you can make a drinking game out of identifying the stolen Teengenerate and Supercharger riffs. This is exactly the album I've been waiting for someone to make the last few years. And it couldn't have been made better! Make sure your liquor cabinet is stocked.

Honorable Mentions:
Dark Thoughts - At Work
Lucy and the Rats - self titled
Real Sickies - Get Well Soon
The Mandates - Dead In The Face 
Maniac - Dead Dance Club 

Looking at the above list, I must say it was a fine year for LPs. I ended up leaving out quite a few albums I really liked, and of course there were a number of albums that I intended to listen to but never got around to hearing. Perhaps I will rectify some of that over the next week or two. Anyone who claims that there's no good music out there these days needs to dig a little deeper!

Top Five Singles of 2018
5. Fashionism - "Come On My Baby"
Sounding more pop than ever, and you know I'm not complaining!

4. Midnite Snaxxx - "Let Me Do What I Want"  
Last year's F & L album of the year winners came back strong again in 2018. This was their second of two excellent singles.

3. Amyl and the Sniffers - "Some Mutts (Can't Be Muzzled)" 
I'm rarely in agreement with the "cooler" precincts of the punk press. But in this case of this band, all of the hype is justified. I love "Cup of Destiny" so much! 

2. Control Freaks - Double Dose of Hate
Best single yet from Lowery and company. Two songs, and they're both about hate. Gotta love it!

1. The Cheap Cassettes - "Kiss the Ass of My Heart"
Technically an EP, but half of the songs are from a previous single. So I count it as a single. Either way, this one should have sold millions and made tabloid celebrities out of these power pop heartthrobs. In a just world, people would be shouting this chorus in the streets! 

Top Six EPs of 2018
5. Justine and the Unclean - Heartaches and Hot Problems 
Justine Covault is emerging fast as one of my favorite songwriters.  

5. Indonesian Junk - Darkness Calling 
Yes, I'm aware I have two number number fives. I just could not leave either of them out! Pound for pound, this might be the strongest IndoJunk release to date. If Joey Ramone, Stiv Bators, and Iggy pop somehow all fathered the same baby...
4. Gino and the Goons - "She Was Crushed"
They also released an album this year, which I only recently discovered was available to hear online. I like this EP even better. "Wrong Side of a Cigarette" is the Ramones rip all Ramones rip-offs wish they could write.  

3. The SUCK - self titled
Street rock has taken over, and there is just no turning back. Debut album coming sooner than you realize.

2. The Dahlmanns - American Heartbeat
Songs written by Bjôrne Frôberg/Chips Kiesby and performed by The Dahlmanns. If you think that sounds epic, you would be very right! 

1. Night Birds - Roll Credits 
You could argue that this was actually an album, but the band was going for its own version of some of the classic hardcore 12" EPs that came out in the '80s. So I will respectfully follow the band's format definition. Although, you know, it is longer than Circle Jerks' Group Sex...

Top Debut of 2018:
Character Actor - self titled
New Jersey dad rock supergroup featuring Jeff Schroeck (Black Wine, Ergs!), Brian Gorsegner (Night Birds), and Evan Kiel (Forward To Death) plays loud, fuzzy pop that wouldn't sound out of a place on a mixed tape between Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. I could sit around all day reading lyrics by Jeff Schroeck! 

Top Album of 2018 (Masters Class):
Swingin' Utters - Peace and Love
I have traditionally awarded this honor to the best album released by a band that's 25 years or more into its career. Don't let the title fool you into thinking the Swingin' Utters have gone soft. They've never sounded more impassioned or overtly political, and Peace and Love is absolutely a "vintage" Swingin' Utters release. These guys are practically writing the manual on how to achieve longevity as a punk band. 

Top 2017 Cassette Released as an LP in 2018:
The Whiffs - self titled 
Originally titled Take A Whiff, this debut album from Kansas City's The Whiffs sounds like a lost classic of American power pop circa 1978. Second LP due out in 2019!

Top Singles Collection of 2018:
Geoff Palmer - All The Hits and Some Other Shit 
If I had not conveniently classified this as compilation, it would have been one of my top ten albums!

Top Vinyl-Only Release of 2018:
Jonesy - self titled 
I wish I had been able to review this one, but it is not available via any digital format. Debut album from Montreal trio follows in the spirit of its infamous debut single. Catchy New York style '77 punk with lyrics that make the Dead Boys sound like choir boys! 

Top Label of 2018:
Bachelor Records
I could easily have given this one to Drunken Sailor Records again, but how about some love for Bachelor Records in the year it put out its 100th release? Not only did Bachelor release my #3 album of the entire year, but it also issued two of my top ten singles in Control Freaks' "I Am Crime" and Midnite Snaxxx's "Let Me Do What I Want". And that rescuing of The Reekys' debut album from the dustbin of history was a wonderful surprise! Let's hear it for Bachelor Records - still going strong after 13 years!  

So there you have it. 2018 was a great year for new music. I know I say that every year. But let me tell you: the year I stop saying that is the year that I stop doing this blog! Bring on 2019!



McBurpenstein said...

Thanks for turning me on to all this great music this year!

Where can I pick up the Jonesy record?

Lord Rutledge said...

Scott said...

Great stuff. Lots of records I already owned, which made me confident that the ones I didn't have needed to be added to my collection.