Friday, December 31, 2021

The Absolute Best Records of 2021


Wasn't 2021 supposed to be better than 2020?  I mean, it might have been a little bit, but in general it was another year of chaos and uncertainty.  There were good moments to be sure and I'm very lucky to share my home with my wonderful wife and pets, but outside of the four walls of our house it just felt like another year of madness.

For records, it was also a really weak year.  That is not to take away from any of the bands on this list.  If their record wasn't good or great, they wouldn't be on here.  But, the amount of new records that I bought this year was a paltry number compared to years past.  It just felt like so little was actually being released.  Be it supply chain stuff, record pressing delays, bands not being able to practice or tour - it just felt like another year where very little was happening.

Luckily there were some bright spots.  Though it was released under sad circumstances, the posthumous Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise is a truly wonderful album from Dan Sartain.  I would have adored it any year.  Same can be said of the excellent Mark Murphy & The Meds, Cloud Nothings, Herzog and Friends of Cesar Romero albums.

I was also listening to a ton of hip hop this year and to have two albums come out this year that made my top ten (Czarface & MF Doom was a legit new record for 2021, though Soul Party was technically recorded in 1995, even though it was never released until now) was pretty incredible.

I'm grateful for the small sparks of joy that I was able to hang on to in 2021.  Family, records, toys, t shirts or whatever made things a bit easier to get through the day.  When I wrote up my 2020 list, I was hopeful that the new year would be better.  I hope the same thing this year. Will 2022 be the year we shake loose the pandemic and it's assorted insanity?  Based on how stupid people seem to be, I have my doubts.  But once again, I do hope for the best.

01 - Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise - One Little Independent (Listen)
02 - Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink - Brassneck / Bloated Kat / All In / Horn & Hoof / Kezy P (Listen)
03 - Czarface & MF Doom - Super What? - Silver Age (Listen)
04 - Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember  - Car Park (Listen)
05 - Herzog - Fiction Writer - Exit Stencil (Listen)
06 - Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything - Beach Impediment (Listen)
07 - Soul Party - Da Bacyard - De Rap Winkel / Fat Flava (Listen)
08 - Friends Of Cesar Romero - War Party Favors - Snappy Little Numbers (Listen)
09 - Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins - Dirt Cult (Listen)
10 - The Hamiltones - Dracula Invitational 1791 - Big Neck / Swimming Faith (Listen)

11 - Night Marchers - Live at Bar Pink - Swami 
12 - Billy No Mates - S.F. Sourdough - 10 Past 12 / Unless You Try
13 - State Drugs - Live. Laugh. Love. - Snappy Little Numbers
14 - The Obits - Die At The Zoo - Outer Battery 
15 - Rocket Bureau - Middle Angst - Overdue Miracle
16 - Come Closer - Pretty Garbage - Pirates Press 
17 - Eleventwelfth - Everything After - Waterslide
18 - RexxxPure Pleasure II LP - Big Neck
19 - Red Devil Ryders - Pour Me Another One - Just Because
20 - Mononegatives - Apparatus Division - Big Neck / No Front Teeth


Monday, December 27, 2021

New Year's Break

 I'm going to take a few days and relax.  I'll have my Absolute Best of 2021 up on New Year's Eve, but aside from that, I'll be watching wrestling and playing Nintendo until the second week of January.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tha Anthom 'N Mike B - Neva Sellin' Out LP


Chopped Herring (2020)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

It seems inconceivable to me that this record came out in 2020 and wasn't an unearthing of a lost gem from the 90s.  My descent into the madness of digging for old hip hop records I missed out on in the 90s lead me to the Chopped Herring record label.  They've been doing a bunch of really interesting reissues.  Most tend to be 12" EPs, but there are full lengths kicking around as well.  While perusing their website one day, the artwork for Neva Sellin' Out caught my eye and I clicked on the link to check out some samples.  I dug what I heard and ordered the record.

This record is probably the best hip hop release I've heard in forever.  While I do really like the Czarface records I've discovered recently, there is something uniquely special about Tha Anthom 'N Mike B.  They have a wonderful, jazzy take on hip hip the feels like something that could have come out the same week as Low End Theory.  Stunning bass lines mix with expertly picked samples in the hook.  Combine that with a picture perfect lyrical flow and you've got something truly special in your hands.

Not only is this a wonderful throwback that feels so fresh right now, I would take the Pepsi challenge and put this up against anything from the 89-94 era.  Are there records from that time that are better? Sure, there are unadulterated classics that came out back then, but Neva Sellin' Out would not be out of place put up next to any of them.  It's that good.  This is one of the records I have listened to more than anything else this year.  I only wish I had heard about it last year so I could have included it on my best of list for 2020.  I also wish I had been paying attention so that I could have snagged the colored vinyl pressing of this, but alas...  If you're in the market for some stellar new hip hop, look no further.

Tha Anthom 'N Mike B - Neva Sellin' Out:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise LP - White Vinyl


One Little Independent (2021)

It's very difficult to write about this Dan Sartain record without delving into the extremely unfortunate fact that he's no longer with us.  In fact, a very brief back and forth about the title of this record is the very last time I interacted with Dan.  I can't remember where it happened and I can't seem to find it now.  When he was recording or had just finished recording the album, he posed a question about what the title should be and gave a few options, one of them was Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.

In case you are unaware, it's a G.I. Joe reference.  There's a G.I. Joe miniseries called Arise, Serpentor, Arise. I of course voted for this title, but mentioned that when Serpentor came into G.I Joe is when I pretty much checked out of watching the cartoon.  Dan responded with something to the effect of "Serpentor Sucks."  He's not wrong.  Serpentor may suck, but Dan Sartain records are pretty amazing.  For the rest of this write up, I will try to only talk about the record itself.  It's too sad to go too much further into everything else, but one thing I can say if this has to be the last record, it's nice that it is as great as it is.

You could say this is a return to form in some respects to Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.  It's definitely a return to the song styles and structures that were most evident from his self released albums through Dan Sartain Lives.  There's not much in the way of synth like his last release, Century Plaza, though there are some electronics and the use of drum machine is there for sure.  Mostly these are just great rock and roll songs with Dan's traditional swagger and passion.

It's dark in places, like on "You Can't Go Home No More" and "Kisses In The Morning."  It's optimistic in others like "Daddy's Coming Home." And it also just gets a little surreal (which is common on a lot of Dan's records) when he starts singing about "Personal Injury Law" or the infectiously fun "Foreman Grill."  That Dan could write such an amazingly catchy song extolling the virtues of cooking on a George Foreman Grill is a testament to the genius of his songwriting.  Is it silly? Of course, but that never stops it from being an engaging listen.

It's such a great record.  If you've liked Dan's other works, there's no way you won't like this one, at least when it comes to the music.  It's emotionally tough to listen to at times and there's some lyrical content that makes you wonder if there's a deeper, more connected meaning when you take real life into account.  But ultimately, looking at this record in a vacuum and listening to it just as a collection of songs, you're not going to find many any finer than Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise.

Dan Sartain - Arise, Dan Sartain, Arise:

Friday, December 17, 2021

12/17/11 - 12/17/21 - Ten Years of I Buy Way Too Many Records Dot Com

Please forgive the carpet wrinkle, having cats that like to claw is a challenge

It seems somewhat inconceivable to me that I put this website up ten years ago.  It's even weirder to me that I was taking pictures of my record purchases on Flickr for about a year before I moved everything here.  I know that I didn't think about what this would look like ten years later as I just didn't have any sort of long term idea.  In the heat of the moment in 2011, I just wanted to find a better place to put my year end list that year.

When I look back over these past ten years, it is kind of amusing to me.  Ultimately, this site is exactly what it was in 2011.  I've done one minor design update in that time and have just continually pumped out pictures and write ups.  More people read now than they did back then, but my circle of influence is still pretty minuscule and I'm usually preaching to a choir of likeminded individuals that are already interested in this sort of music.

Sharing music has always been important to me.  In high school I wrote reviews for my school newspaper.  I did the same in college and then transitioned to having a radio show and ultimately being the music director of my college station.  My first job was doing radio promotion in the music industry and when I left that job in 2007, I just still wanted to be involved.

I imagine there's probably a handful of people out there that remember when I started doing an internet radio show which morphed into a podcast called Ludicrous Speed.  On the old Pop Punk Message Board, some dude was starting up an internet radio station called Punk and Beans radio.  Perhaps one of the most poorly named endeavors in the history of the internet, but it was 2009 and I missed doing my radio show when I was in college ten years earlier.

I downloaded a few programs and put together episodes.  The internet station fizzled out extremely fast and I shifted it towards being a podcast.  It was fun, but honestly it was a giant pain in the ass putting those episodes together.  I also have no real interest in hearing myself speak or try to be any sort of on air personality, I just wanted to play songs so others could hear them.  It was probably pretty boring, but there were slightly fewer podcasts then than there are now.

Eventually I just wanted to document my collection so a few friends could follow along.  Even when I put this website up, I never really meant for it to become a review site.  It was just supposed to be pictures of records and a sentence or two.  But as I picked up records that I love, I ended up having more and more to say about them.  It very quickly morphed into whatever the hell it is now.

I've met a lot of cool people through this site.  About four record labels send me records on a regular basis to write about and I am exceedingly grateful for that.  But what's always been the coolest for me is when someone tells me that they had never heard of a band I wrote about and ended up buying their record.  That's just the best.

I've contemplated not doing this site anymore many times.  There are days where I just have no interest in writing.  Sometimes I go for months at a time without getting a cool new release that I'm excited about and in 2020 and 2021 that was a real problem.  Even though I don't think hardly anyone cares about them, the Wednesday old school hip hop reviews are probably one of the main things that made me keep this site going consistently since the pandemic started.

I don't know exactly how much longer I'll do this.  I'm not stopping today or tomorrow or anything like that.  I still have a pretty big pile of records that I haven't written about yet, although most are older albums or reissues of older albums.  There will undoubtedly be a time where I just say enough is enough, but I guess I'm not there quite yet.

In a couple of weeks I'll be putting up my annual Absolute Best Record Of list.  This year was really difficult.  Luckily a late flurry of albums came out and gave me enough records to actually put a list together.  I'm really hopeful that 2022 lets us return to the days of more new releases, pop punk bands playing shows and a general return to normalcy.  I don't necessarily think that's going to happen, but it is what I hope for.

Ultimately what I really want to do more than anything else is say thank you to anyone and everyone that has ever read this site, messaged me about a record or sent me something to check out.  I can't fathom doing this for ten more years, but I also couldn't have imagined doing so in 2011 either.  I've probably got a bit more in me though, so buckle up and get ready for three reviews of average quality writing a week.  At least until the last week of December.  I always take a break then and this year will be no different.

Thanks to all. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head 2xLP

Capitol / Grand Royal (2009, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years. 

In 1992 my interest in Yo! MTV Raps and hip hop in general was at a fever pitch. Around this time the video for the Beastie Boys song "Pass The Mic" started being played. Prior to seeing this video, the only real experience I had with the Beasties was a bunch of people in my grammar school really liking License To Ill and me being pretty uninterested in what felt like a bunch of meathead crap, even back then when I was a little kid. Paul's Boutique flew completely under my radar and I didn't even know it existed back then. 

 To be confronted by a band that I had pretty much written off as mainstream nonsense putting out a song that was really infectious wasn't something I was expecting. I didn't totally trust it, so I bought the cassette single of "Pass The Mic" rather than committing to the whole album. It wasn't until the second single, "So What'cha Want" came out that I decided to pick up the full album. How could I not? To This day "So What'cha Want" is my favorite Beasties song and it hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I saw the video for it. I finally picked up Check Your Head and gave it a listen. To say I was kind of confused would be an understatement. 

I had no idea that the Beastie Boys had ever done anything but wrap. To have an album in front of me where they were rapping, playing instrumentals, delving into funk and even some punk rock was completely unexpected. I didn't know what to make of it and if I'm being honest, at times I still don't. I love all of the hip hop songs on this record. All of them, they're essentially flawless. A lot of the other stuff is hit and miss for me and because of that, the album feels a little too long and bloated at times. I get that the eclectic nature of this record is what drew in a lot of people and while I completely respect their musicianship and vision, it doesn't all connect with me. It never really did. 

 But the highs on this record are so ridiculously high that you just can't call this record anything but a success. I've been listening to it for nearly thirty years and it always still manages to surprise me. You could list off hit after hit sliding down the track list on this bad boy and everything has aged really well. Not having this on vinyl was a pretty big hole in my collection and for whatever reason this record seems to go in and out of print with surprising regularity. It popped up as being in stock one day and into the collection it went.

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head:

Monday, December 13, 2021

Bashford - Greener Grasses - Sea Blue Vinyl (/250)


Big Neck (2021)

Just got a pile of records in the mail from Big Neck.  Two LPs and EIGHT cassettes.  It'll definitely take me a bit to get through all of these.  I decided to start off with one of the LPs and dug into the band Bashford for the first time.

I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it.  It felt like it could be a hardcore record, but the artwork also had a strong 90s indie rock vibe to it.  It actually lands in pretty much the perfect middle ground place.  This very much feels like a relic from the early 90s Pacific Northwest scene.  I hear some Karp, some godheadSilo and maybe just a tiny touch of Unwound.

There's a subtle catchiness to the songs on this album.  Don't get me wrong, the prominent vibe is heavy guitars and howling vocals, but there's something about the riffs and song structures that wrap themselves around hooks that aren't super obvious.  This album is probably an acquired taste and might not appeal to everyone, but if you bounced around genres thirty years ago, you would have definitely come across a band similar to Bashford.  And because of that, I can appreciate a record like this coming out in 2021.

Bashford - Greener Grasses:


Friday, December 10, 2021

Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything LP - Jade Vinyl (/200)


Beach Impediment (2021)

Here comes another late contender for best records of the year lists.  Gentleman Jesse hasn't had a new album since 20212's classic, Leaving Atlanta.  In the nearly ten years since that record came out, I've been hoping against hope that there would be a follow up and it's finally here. 

Lose Everything is a very good record.  Though it's sonically a different animal from his prior two albums.  While it is still rooted in power pop, there's more than a touch of melancholy to these proceedings.  Flat out, several of the songs are something of a bummer, even though said bummer is presented with excellent melodies and nice, jangly guitar.  But there's a few songs where the production and the mood bring things down a bit, like the one-two punch of "Million Sorrows" and "God Is Blind."

That's not to say Jesse isn't still capable of cranking out some upbeat earworms. The second half of this album is particularly strong with "Hunger," "Come Along" and the title track, "Lose Everything" being as good or better than anything Jesse has previously concocted.  

It's not like it isn't easy to understand why folks are down these days.  From pandemic anxiety to little things like watching democracy erode, there's a lot going on that sucks pretty hard right now.  Lose Everything is kind of perfect in that regard.  It's a reflection of 2021 through a Gentleman Jesse album.  While I personally like his first album's upbeat vibe a bit better, it's not like I don't understand the value of an album like this.  It's definitely a grower as I find more to like about it each time I listen.

Gentleman Jesse - Lose Everything:

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Soul Party - Da Bacyard LP

Soul Party - Da Bacyard LP

De Rap Winkel / Fat Flava (2021)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I took an informal poll about what truly qualifies as a 2021 release.  That was prompted by this Soul Party album.  Da Bacyard was originally recorded in 1992, but it was never released.  I don't really know the story behind why it didn't come out, but it didn't see the light of day until 2021 with a CD and now a vinyl reissue.  The unanimous consensus from those that responded to me is that if this record never came out in any way before, it's absolutely a 2021 release and eligible for top album of the year lists. 

That's a great thing because this is definitely one of the better albums I've heard this year.  Yes, it is one hundred percent rooted in 1992 and the golden era of hip hop and I'm sure that's why it appeals to me so much.  But that doesn't change the fact that I've been listening to it constantly since I got my hands on it.  The production is strong East Coast style hip hop.  Boom bap influenced with cracking snare drum and jazz and funk fueled bass lines.

Lyrically, both MCs (Boogie and Double A) can hold their own with most anything that came out in 1992.  Are they elite level? No, they're not, but they fit into the production perfectly and keep the songs flowing.  When you're talking about the sort of quality that was coming out in 92, being middle of the pack is nothing to be ashamed of as the bar was so damn high back then.  Pretty much every song hits.  The only one that stands out to me as being slightly less than is "You Big Raggamiffin."  It dips its toe a little too deep into reggae-land for me, but it's not what I would call bad,  It just stands out from the other tracks and not really in a super positive way.

This is kind of a pricey import.  For whatever reason, the only labels reissue old hip hop seem to be based overseas.  That said, Da Bacyard is absolutely worth hunting down if you're looking for some old school hip hop.  Even though this is definitely a 2021 release.

Soul Party - Da Bacyard:

Monday, December 6, 2021

Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink LP - White w/ Splatter Vinyl


Bloated Kat / Brassneck / All In / Horn & Hoof / Kezy P (2021)

OK, it looks like everyone waited until the end of the year to start putting out the great records.  I'm sure the labels will say "blah blah blah, vinyl turnaround times," but we all know what really is happening.  This is without a doubt a coordinated effort to make my December more complicated when I'm trying to get my end of the year list together.  Making me scramble to get these albums written up before it's time to post my list.  I'm on to you all...

Mark Murphy and the Meds is fronted by Mark "Guitar" Murphy (I'm going to keep hammering this nickname until someone else starts picking up on it) of Crocodile God/No Marks fame.  It's no secret that he's long been one of my favorite songwriters and most everything he touches turns to gold for my ears.  On The Brink is no exception.

Like with his other bands, he and the Meds have crafted a joyous slice of UK pop punk perfection.  The hooks are all over every song on the album, with buzzsaw guitar melodies galore.  To me, it really doesn't sound too dissimilar from Crocodile God, but that's not a slight.  If anything, I consider that a tremendous selling point.

Now, I do have to say one critical thing and it's just that I don't really dig the artwork too much with the wacky monsters and what not.  But questionable artwork would never stop me from loving a band.  Don't you know how many Snuff albums I have?  This record is just flat out great.  A late contender for one of the very best of the year.

Mark Murphy and the Meds - On The Brink:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out LP

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out LP

Def Jam (2014, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

There are a handful of records in every person's life that just completely upend what they thought they knew and the sort of sounds they are interested in.  It's not always the coolest or most glamorous albums that do this.  And there are times where the album that launched the change doesn't even end up holding up over time.  That's the very definition of Mama Said Knock You Out for me.  

This record came out in September of my eighth grade year in 1990.  I was certainly aware of hip hop prior to then, but I wasn't emotionally invested in anything until I saw the video for "Mama Said Knock You Out."  It was such a transformative moment that it's likely the reason I even started watching Yo! MTV Raps in an attempt to see the video more often.  It's such an incredibly great song and I really still love it just as much now as I did when I was thirteen.

That song led me to buying the entire album.  It's an uneven experience at the best of times and I thought that in 1990 as well.  In addition to the flawless title track, there's a few other memorable moments like "Eat Em Up L Chill," "Murdergram" and "To Da Break Of Dawn."  There's also a bunch of terrible songs like "Mr. Goodbar," "Around The Way Girl" and the laughably bad "Milky Cereal." Basically any time LL tries to be the romance emporium, he falls flat on his face.

But this is a pretty important record to me, historically speaking.   It seemed silly not to have it on vinyl if for no other reason than to listen to that insane title track over and over again while thinking about the musical direction it pushed me in when I was thirteen.

LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out: