Friday, December 27, 2013

The Absolute Best Records Of 2013

I cannot even remember the last time there was a year in music as good as 2013. You'd probably have to go back to the 90's to find a year that had so many truly fantastic records come out. From the second January started right up until the waning days of December, I feel that all I did this year was listen to great music.

The top 5 records this year were so strong, it really could have been a coin toss to select who got number 1. In the end I gave it to the Night Marchers. As I've been listening to John Reis bands for over 20 years now, it just feels the most like home if that makes any sense.

However, I want to make a special case for some records on this list that really deserve a little extra attention as the bands aren't quite as well known as some of their peers. The Dead Mechanical record could have been a number 1 record in almost any other year. It's just flawless and I really encourage people to check it out if they haven't heard it. Chestnut Road brought me back to my favorite scene of the 90's and they felt like the second coming of Broccoli, Hooton 3 Car or Leatherface, If you like fast guitar pop like The Marked Men, you're a fool if you don't give the Tight Bros record a listen. And finally, that Hooper record I reviewed a few days ago is just incredible. It may have ended up higher on this list had it come out a bit earlier so I could have spent even more time with it.

All of the records on this list are amazing in my humble opinion. I couldn't have asked for a better year in music. Sure, I spent an awful lot of money on records this year (I tracked all of my purchases in 2013, my advice is don't do that, it's depressing), but it was worth it. It's crazy that there's even more records from this year I wasn't able to pick up.  I'd like to grab the new Young Leaves record and I'm pretty sure I would like that Sweatshop Boys LP, but as you may have noticed, as it is I buy way to many records. Maybe next year.

Thanks again to everyone who reads this website and an extra special thanks to the folks that have emailed, tweeted to me or sent me records to review. Here's to more good rocking in 2014.

01 - The Night Marchers - Allez Allez - Swami
02 - Dead Mechanical - OK Night - Toxic Pop
03 - Radioactivity - Radioactivity - Dirtnap
04 - The Steve Adamyk Band - Third - Dirtnap
05 - Chestnut Road - Chestnut Road - Brassneck / Speedowax
06 - Warm Soda - Someone For You - Castle Face
07 - Tight Bros - Tight Bros - Rad Girlfriend
08 - The Blind Shake - Key To A False Door - Castle Face
09 - Obits - Bed & Bugs - Sub Pop
10 - Audacity - Butter Knife - Suicide Squeeze

11 - Mrs. Magician - B Sides - Thrill Me
12 - Hooper - How To Become A Ghost - Snappy Little Numbers
13 - Rumspringer - Stay Afloat - Dirtcult
14 - Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey - In The Red
15 - Superchunk - I Hate Music - Merge
16 - Boat - Pretend To Be Brave - Magic Marker
17 - Low Culture - Screens - Dirtnap
18 - Plow United - Marching Band - Jump Start
19 - Sundowners - The Larger Half Of Wisdom - Dirtcult
20 - Crusaders - Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment... - No Idea

21 - Iron Chic - The Constant One - Bridge Nine
22 - Humanoids - Humanoids - Throwing Things
23 - Murmurs - Fly With The Unkindness - Dead Broke / Drunken Sailor
24 - The Resonars - Crummy Desert Sound - Burger
25 - Deltron 3030 - Event II - Bulk
26 - The Thermals - Desperate Ground - Saddle Creek
27 - RVIVR - The Beauty Between - Rumbletowne
28 - Shy Mirrors - Negative Collector - Big School
29 - Off With Their Heads - Home - Epitaph
30 - Wrong Words - Everything Is Free - Trouble In Mind

Other records I bought & enjoyed this year:
A Giant Dog - Bone - Tic Tac Totally
Autistic Youth - Nonage - Dirtnap
Bad Sports - Bra - Dirtnap
The Dagger Eyes - The Dagger Eyes - Ptrash
Dumpster Babies - Dumpster Babies - Tall Pat
Heavy Times - Fix It Alone - HoZac
Leatherface - More Mush - Bootleg
The Men - New Moon - Sacred Bones
Mind Spiders - Inhumanistic - Dirtnap
Paper Dragons - Die To Please - Toxic Pop
Southport - Southern Soul - Yo Yo
Space Wolves - IV - UT
Terry Malts - Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere - Slumberland
The Visitors - Yeti - It's Alive
Wavves - Afraid Of Heights - Mom + Pop
Your Pest Band - In My Doom - Snuffy Smiles
Yuck - Glow & Behold - Fat Possum
Zebrassieres - I Am Human - Ptrash


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Los Straitjackets - 'Tis The Season For... - Red Vinyl

Yep Roc (2002)

Every year I try to add at least 1 new Christmas album to the collection. I just love Christmas music, but I really tend to listen to the old classics for the most part. Modern day Christmas music just bums me out. Now, this record came out 11 years ago, so I'm not sure that it totally qualifies as modern day, but it's a heck of a lot newer than the Gene Autry Christmas albums I listen to anyway.

Los Straitjackets are picking up right where The Ventures left off with their Christmas album. Up tempo surfy Christmas instrumentals. The Venture Christmas Album is far and away my very favorite, so another release in the same vein is a welcome addition to my collection. There's a few repeats from the Ventures' classic, but there;s also fresh songs like "It's A Marshmallow World," "Feliz Navidad," and "Here Comes Santa Claus." It's great and I've been playing it pretty non stop for the last few weeks.

This is going to be my last album review for 2013. In a couple of days, probably Thursday or Friday, I'll be posting my annual, big year end best of list. 2013 was the best year for new music since the mid 90's if you ask me, so it's been a real task trying to rank all of this incredible music. I'm still working on it, but I have just about locked everything down. Happy happy to everyone this holiday season.

Los Straitjackets - Frosty The Snowman:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Masked Intruder - Under The Mistletoe 7" - White Vinyl

Fat Wreck (2013)

I'm a real stickler when it comes to Christmas music. I just absolutely love listening to it this time of the year, but I am a bit of a traditionalist and don't really like many modern takes on the genre. I especially don't usually like punk rock Christmas songs. They just always seem so goofy.

Masked Intruder's foray into this field is pretty much what I expected. Now, they obviously are just having a laugh and not trying to create any modern day Christmas classics. I can appreciate this 7" on that level. The songs are kind of funny and Masked Intruder has a knack for this kind of thing, but I can't imagine ever putting this on in December as legit Christmas music. it's fun, but it's no Bing Crosby.

Masked Intruder - Under The Mistletoe:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Murmurs - Fly With The Unkindness LP - White Vinyl (/100)

Dead Broke / Drunken Sailor (2013)

I find it hard to imagine that anyone is more excited than I am that so many new bands are creating records that are taking so much influence from bands of the 90's. For a while it seemed like music was turning its back on my favorite decade, but over the last few years there's been a complete renaissance. I'm just thrilled.

Murmurs are playing right into my wheelhouse as they're culling the sounds of some of the 90's pop punk kings. I'm not talking about the really poppy bands like Zoinks or Sicko, but rather the grittier, early Jawbreaker-ish bands. There's at least 2 main vocalists (the liner notes list every band member as contributing vocals, and never having seen them live I couldn't tell you who sings what for sure). 1 of the singers has a smoother, slower voice and tends to front songs that have a Dear You or late Knapsack feel to them. The other guy is grittier like Unfun era Jawbreaker and his songs tend to be closer to earlier 90's, faster punk rock.

It's a great combination and just keeps me engaged throughout the record. This is another band that is brand new to me, and I'm just thrilled to have gotten the chance to hear them, but truthfully, I will always give a chance to anything that comes out on Dead broke or Drunken Sailor. Those folks know how to put out records.

Murmurs - Fly With The Unkindness:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hooper - How To Become A Ghost LP

Snappy Little Numbers (2013)

My favorite thing about doing this website is the thought that somewhere there is someone buying a record by a band they hadn't heard of previously because I said it was good. I just love listening to new music and sharing it with people. I don't always think that I write well enough to really articulate how good a record is to someone that hasn't already heard it, but I do my best to convey the feelings I have about the record. Allow me to convey; this Hooper record is flat out great.

I had picked up a 7" by them on a lark a while back. Padding out a distro order to qualify for free shipping. It was a good 7" and I have been waiting to hear more from them. They delivered and then some with their debut full length. How To Become A Ghost is steeped in the 90's, rolling together influences of some of my favorite sounds of that era.

Musically you get the guitar work and song structure of a Tugboat Annie, but with a much crunchier sound reminding me of maybe a less polished Fig Dish. Vocally, I'm very much reminded of poppier punk bands like Zoinks!, but with a ton more emphasis on backing vocals and harmonies. This doesn't sound like a throwback to the 90's, it sounds like it could be one of the better records that was actually released in that decade. Don't take that as if I'm saying this record sounds dated, as I still think that there are 20 year old records that sound as fresh and exciting as the first time I listened to them.

I'm just extremely impressed by Hooper, a band that probably doesn't have the noteriety of a lot of the bands I tend to write about, but a band that really deserves to have a few more people check them out. I do wish the whole album was streaming somewhere as I don't feel the one song the band has up on their site really conveys just how great the record is as a whole. But it's still a snappy little number. Go check it out.

***Update - The whole album is available to stream, go listen!***

Hooper - How To Become A Ghost:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crusades - Perhaps You Deliver this Judgment... LP - Red Vinyl (/300) &Pink Vinyl (/130)

No Idea (2013)

I've been waiting for this 2nd Crusades LP for what seems like forever. Their first album was one of my favorites of that year. I loved the way it took a darker spin on the poppier side of punk rock. It had some of the same calling cards as many of the other great bands from Canada, but took everything in a more serious & somber direction. So it was with eager anticipation that I put Perhaps You Deliver this Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It on the turntable for the first time.

The band has definitely grown since the last album. If anything, the songs are even darker and taken on more of an influence from hardcore and metal than they had previously. The band certainly hasn't given up on writing a good hook, but the record feels a lot heavier than previous outings. It fits the band and it's a logical progression progression for the band, though for me personally, I think I like things a bit lighter and a bit more obviously pop.

I originally just pre-ordered the limited to 300 copies mailorder opaque red vinyl version. However, there were a few limited Fest only pressings that were being sold down in Florida in October. When the chance to grab one off the No Idea website came up, I just couldn't resist adding a pink vinyl copy to the collection as well.

Crusades - Perhaps You Deliver this Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It LP:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sick Sick Birds - All The Fins In The Sea 7" - Black Vinyl & White/BlueA/B Vinyl (/150)

Ghostbot (2013)

I'll just talk a bit about how amazing the packaging is on this record as I have written about the music previously ( To sum up the music portion of this review. It's great and one of the best things the band has done so far.

Now the packaging on this 7" is amazing. The shark fin design on the front cover is die cut. Behind it is a single square image of the see, with record information & lyrics on the other side of the square. The White/Blue A/B colored vinyl looks fantastic, particularly the side that's mostly white. It adds even more to the nautical theme of the packaging. I just can't say enough good things about how great this record looks. it's absolutely helpful that the music is stellar as well, but good artwork like this doesn't crop up all that often.

Sick Sick Birds - All The Fins In The Sea 7":

Friday, December 13, 2013

Audacity - Butter Knife LP - Yellow Vinyl

Suicide Squeeze (2013)

Audacity's newest album snuck up on me. I had no idea the band had moved over to a new label at Suicide Squeeze. I didn't know they were working on anything new, I was just sort of basking in the afterglow of their last LP, Mellow Cruisers. Suddenly I was going through a new releases list on some website and there it was. Hopped over to the Suicide Squeeze website and got in my pre-order, though at that point I think I only waited a week or so for it to actually come out. I was glad they still had the limited colored vinyl left, but when said limited vinyl is out of 1000 copies, my guess is they're not going to go flying out the door for anyone buy the absolute biggest of bands.

But let me tell you that after spending some time with Butter Knife, I firmly believe that Audacity should be one of these biggest bands. This record is flat out amazing. It's such a leap forward from their already pretty great last LP and I'm honestly pretty floored. The band throws around hooks with such effortlessness, piling vocal melodies over bouncy, yet scruffy guitar. There's a good mix of garage influenced faster pop songs as well as some songs that mellow things out a little bit, adding in some flourishes like piano to the party.

This is one of the most perfectly crafted summertime pop records I've heard in an awful long time. Sure it's the winter and the outdoors pretty much suck right now, but all I need to do is pop this record on the turntable and it's summer vacation all over again. Highly recommended.

Audacity - Butter Knife:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Iron Chic - The Constant One LP - White w/ Splatter Vinyl (/300)

Bridge Nine (2013)

Being a professional wrestling fans really pays dividends when you least expect it. My love of wrestling is what made me check out Iron Chic way back when they put out their first self released demo tape in 2008. I was very impressed by them right off the bat and continued to keep tabs on them whenever a new record came out. As much as I liked them from the get go, I don't know that I would have ever imagined a record as great as The Constant One from them.

It's just track after track of fist balling, finger pointing, sing along anthems. Not in the cheesy hardcore way either. Iron Chic posses such strong songwriting chops and they are able to effortlessly weave together passion & energy into melodic, but powerful songs. This is a band that is able to show some real emotion, but manages to not come off seeming lame or contrived. It's a rare talent. Plus they have a song called "(Castle) Numskull," so really, who needs more reason than that to buy this record?

I'm a broken record this year, but again, this is yet another truly great album for 2013. Iron Chic is really helping to close out the year just as strongly as it started up.

Iron Chic - The Constant One:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bad Sports - Bra LP - Yellow Vinyl (/300)

Dirtnap (2013)

I'm feverishly trying to get through all of the full lengths I have left to write about from 2013 in the next 2 weeks. it's about that time of the year to get my top albums list together, but I don't want to put anything on my list that I haven't written about yet. I'm only a few albums back, so I should we should be in good shape. One record I had to get to was the new one from Bad Sports.

Bra is just a blast from start to finish. High octane rock and roll that may lean a bit more to the garage/glam side of things than their more pop-centric 2nd LP. Don't think that means that Bad Sports doesn't still know how to write a toe tapper, they absolutely do, but there's a bit more attitude on their latest.

Honestly, you really can't go wrong with just about anything that Dirtnap releases, they just don't put out bad records. Bad Sports is no exception. While maybe not quite as poppy as their last LP, Bra definitely picks up points for energy and good old fashioned oomph.

Bad Sports - Bra LP:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Knew - What's Hip (Long Walk) 7" - Red Vinyl (/300)

Snappy Little Numbers (2013)

I was on the Snappy Little Numbers website to order the new Hooper LP (review of that one coming soon as well) and decided to pick up some of their new 7"s while I was there. The first one is a band called The Knew, and boy have they just floored me.

The combine the infectious energy of a party band like W.H. Walker, with some slick vocals and a horn section that understands how to keep it subtle, yet sounding massive. Think the foghorn saxophone of Circa Now era RFTC. The band has a couple of full lengths out as well, and you can be sure I'll be checking them out very soon.

The Knew - What's Hip (Long Walk) 7"

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Wrong Words - Everything Is Free LP - Green Vinyl (/500)

Trouble In Mind (2013)

Everything Is Free is the 2nd full length from San Francisco's The Wrong Words. In the past I've heard them called the West Coast Gentlemen Jesse, and while I don't think that comparison is 100% accurate, it is a pretty decent jumping off point if you're looking for a reference.

As with their debut, the new record is full of upbeat, clean guitar with pop hooks and a little bit of vocal fuzz. Their are times where the vocals can borderline on being a bit weird when the singer is aiming for some of the really high notes, but it's not often and the band keeps the songs straightforward and catchy.

Everything Is Free is just as strong as the Wrong Words' debut, so it should please prior fans of the band. It may even prove to be a better starting point for those that are new to the party. This album may be destined to be slightly overshadowed by the never ending stream of amazing records that have come out in 2013, but it's absolutely worth making some time for.

The Wrong Words - And It's Not So Pretty:

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Flatliners - Caskets Full 7" - Black & White Split Vinyl

Fat Wreck Chords (2013)

I had never listened to The Flatliners. When they were announced as the opening band for the Rocket From The Crypt show I saw at the Double Door in Chicago in September, I thought it was an odd pairing. I just blamed Riot Fest for it and moved on with my life, who cares about the opening band, really? Then I got to the show and was right up front for the Flatliners. I was pretty darn impressed. Not at all what I was expecting and they kept my interest despite standing between me and RFTC. I was even more impressed that the singer from The Flatliners was out there when Rocket played, singing along to every word.

So, I figured I'd pick up one of their records, and it's always best to start with a 7" I think. This one has 3 songs. One from the band's most recent full length, one exclusive B side and a Tony Sly cover. Again, I'm pretty impressed. All 3 songs are good in a current, gritty punk rock meets a slight Social Distortion greaser vibe sort of way. I liked it enough that I think I'm going to pick up the last full length as well.

The Flatliners - Wynford Bridge:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Visitors - Yeti LP - Blue Vinyl (/200)

It's Alive (2013)

Yeti is the 2nd full length from Ottawa based band The Visitors. They are very much part of the incredible punk rock scene of that wonderful city and you can immediately hear the influence of city peers like The Steve Adamyk Band as soon as the album starts spinning. However, The Visitors are tied a bit more to the traditional pop punk sound as pioneered by The Ramones. Vocally I'm often reminded of the Italian band Love Boat as well. Aside from a few out of place, wacky guitar solos, Yeti is a record that just flies by with it's catchy choruses.

The first pressing had a limited variant on blue vinyl that was limited to 200 copies. As of right this second, the It's Alive webstore still has copies of the blue vinyl in stock, if colored vinyl is your thing. Obviously, it's my thing.

The Visitors - Yeti LP:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cleveland Bound Death Sentence - S/T LP - White Vinyl (/200)

No Idea (2013)

First ever vinyl pressing of the Cleveland Bound Death Sentence CD that came out on Lookout records back in 1999. Sure, most of the songs were out on vinyl from the 7"s that the CD was a compilation of, but this is the first time everything is all in one place. The white vinyl was limited to 200 copies, and the entire pressing was only 500. No Idea is pretty good about keeping their records in print, but if it's important to you to grab the first press, you may want to act quickly.

The record itself is as fun as ever. With Paddy from Dillinger Four and Aaron Cometbus in the band, it does sort of feel like D4 meets Pinhead Gunpowder. The songs are fast, loud, catchy and over before you even realize they started. That's not a critique, the album moves at such a fast and exciting clip that it amplifies the energy of the band and kind of makes them sound like they're about to implode at any second.

While I've never liked Cleveland Bound Death Sentence as much as the other bands everyone has been in, this is quite simply a great punk rock record.

Cleveland Bound Death Sentence - Rumble Seats & Running Boards:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Blind Shake - Key To A False Door - Yellow Vinyl

Castle Face (2013)

While I am very picky about the bands I like, the vast majority of them have a common thread. I like catchy songs with big hooks & choruses and I like some good vocal harmonies. The Blind Shake do not fit in this mold at all. Every once in a while an album comes along that is so good, even if they are outside of my usual musical taste, I can't help but love it. Key To A False Door is one of those albums.

Sure, they do pack in a lot of my other favorite attributes into their songs. In general everything is fast paced, with lots of downstroke heavy riffs, so it's not a total shock I like this as much as I do. But overall this is way noisier than I typically go for. The songs are soaked in fuzz and scratchy production. The vocals are a barely understandable roar, but there is so much energy and enthusiasm crammed into this album it's just addictive.

Key To A False Door is absolutely one of the best records to come out this year and is making a beeline into my top 10.

The Blind Shake - Key To A False Door:

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Resonars - The Greatest Songs Of... - Brown Vinyl (/500)

Trouble In Mind (2013)

The Resonars were one of those bands that so many people seemed to love, but every time I gave them a chance, I was let down. I'm not exactly sure why, but they just never grabbed me the way they did others. That was until they released a really great 7" on Trouble In Mind followed up by their last LP Crummy Desert Sound. That album blew me away and opened my eyes up to this band again.

So I signed up when Trouble In Mind put out this greatest hits album, which culls songs from their pretty significant back catalog. At the end of the day, I can definitely say that The Resonars are much better than I gave them credit for initially, but I do thing that the greatest songs they are releasing are their newest ones.

You'd be hard pressed to find a band that can replicate the harmonies and catchiness of 60's British invasion rock better than The Resonars. Throughout this album's 14 tracks it's really impressive to listen to the way the vocals are layered and the songs are crafted. I would personally still start off with Crummy Desert Sound as the first Resonars record to buy, but if you have that and are ready to hear more, this might be the next best option rather than trying to figure out which of the band's many other releases should be picked up next.

The Resonars - The Greatest Songs Of...: