Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

French punks Traverse have released their self-titled LP, a collaboration of some eleven record labels, too many to list here. There are moments on this record that thrill. “Firestarter” opens the album with an expansive pop punk edged indie sound. And I love the jazzy feel to opening of “Situations.” “Future Ghosts” is a pretty ballad, with a lovely meandering guitar line. And I also enjoy “Catch a Glimpse,” an epic sounding track in 12/8 time. At the bridge it suddenly gets quiet, and all we hear is a deep, grumbling bass and harmonized vocals, before the song explodes again toward the finish. But these are just moments. For the most part there’s little unique in the album; it sounds like any one of hundreds of other bands. It’s pretty much alternative rock mixed with pop punk and a touch of skate punk. It’s got the pop sensibilities of pop punk, and the emotional sound of commercial “punk” of the 2000s. Some songs are sung in English, others in French. Don’t get me wrong – the musicianship is great; the band does a fine job performing these songs, and the recording sounds just right. It just doesn’t move me.

PS

Check it out here: https://traverseparis.bandcamp.com/

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KTOTT: Best of 2017

Posted: December 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

So, it’s the end of another year, and you know what that means, MORE LISTS! Here’s what myself and Rene enjoyed in 2017….

Oh, and the 20 best songs of the year, as chosen by myself and Rene, here:

Peace, and love x

Dave’s List

  1. Katie Ellen- Cowgirl Blues (Lauren)

It’s been a strong year and I had a little trouble deciding how to order the rest of the top ten, but Cowgirl Blues was always going to be my number one. It’s just incredible, really. Raw, introspective and frank, Katie Ellen’s first post-Chumped full-length is a gut-punch.  Cowgirl Blues is stripped back pop-punk; it’s crunchy indie rock; it’s confessional folk. It’s all of these things. Every word, every note on this thing is meaningful and necessary; there would be no fat I could possibly cut off from Cowgirl Blues. I was a big fan of Chumped, too, but it appears that that only hinted as to singer Anika Pyle’s potential. Her songwriting prowess went up a few thousand notches on this one. Cowgirl Blues is poetic, confessional and, most of all, true, perfectly melding the ‘social’ and the ‘personal’. If you enjoyed Waxahatchee’s first couple of records, it is likely you’ll be into this.

Listen here: https://katiebandellen.bandcamp.com/

  1. The Dopamines- Tales of Interest (Rad Girlfriend/ Plasterer)

A great comeback record from probably my favourite modern punk band. Tales of Interest highlighted the Dopamines propensity to change things up on each subsequent LP; the evolution in their sound since their debut record ten years ago is quite something. They still play ‘pop-punk’ more broadly speaking, I guess, but it’s now a form of pop-punk that is closer to Dillinger Four than the Ramones. The Dopas are on fire here, blitzing their way through 14 fast-paced, intense-as-fuck melodic punk jams. They have upped the intensity and grittiness of their punk sound, for sure, but that it matched by an up-turn in melody and hooks, too, with a cover of the High Hats “Heartbroken by the Police” the pick of the bunch. Lead vocalist Jon Lewis recently said that “Tales of Interest” was the album he had always wanted to make with The Dopamines, and you can totally see why: it’s a complete, cohesive yet varied, one body of work that takes the best elements of their previous records and enhances them to full effect. The Dopamines have always been somewhat nihilistic, but Tales of Interest feels like a pop-punk soundtrack to the apocalypse.

Listen here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

  1. ONSIND- We Wilt, We Bloom (Specialist Subject)

ONSIND, Durham’s folk-punk sons, returned with a new full-length, following 2013’s Anaesthesiology, and somehow managed to top it. The headline here is that the duo has gone ‘full-band’ and ‘plugged-in’ on the majority of tracks on We Wilt, We Bloom. I was unsure how I felt about that initially, but it really, really works. ONSIND have manged to create a record that is dynamic and sonically expansive, yet while also retaining the core values and ideals that made them so compelling in the first place. Veering between raw folk-punk, melodic (Martha-esque) indie-rock and even hard rock, We Wilt, We Bloom is grounded by ONSIND’s bread-and-butter: their astute political and social commentary that I don’t think has even more on-point. There’s no wilting here, only blooming.

Listen here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/we-wilt-we-bloom

  1. Waxahatchee- Out in the Storm (Merge)

This is probably my least favourite Waxahatchee LP, but, even at her worst, Waxahatchee is better than most. Out in the Storm picked up where Ivy Tripp left off, cementing Waxahatchee further in the indie-rock camp, away from her folk-y roots. It’s a dynamic, melodic and varied record that again captures Waxahatchee’s songwriting prowess. As ever, the lyrics are confessional, soul-bearing and enlightening. The one-two of “Recite Remorse” and “Sparks Fly” is incredible, with the latter letting off some melodic steam after Katie held back on the introspective former. This is a record about going “out in the storm”; about meeting head-on your worst fears.

Listen here: https://waxahatchee.bandcamp.com/album/out-in-the-storm

  1. Worriers- Survival Pop (Side One Dummy)

Dunno why, but I never properly got into Worriers until this LP. I mean, having listened a lot more recently, Imaginary Life is clearly a fantastic album. I do think though that, both musically and lyrically, Survival Pop has taken the band to a new level. The band hit that sweet spot between indie rock and pop-punk, with the melodies absolutely soaring on this LP, particularly on album highlights “Future Me” and “What We’re Up Against”. Singer Lauren Denitzio’s lyrics feel poetic, yet grounded and urgent, getting to grips with the shitstorm that was 2017. In the same way as ONSIND, Worriers effectively make the social and political feel personal. Lauren’s clearly one of the best songwriters around today and it is that which elevates Worriers above their peers.

Listen here: https://worriers.bandcamp.com/album/survival-pop

  1. Great Cynics- POSI (Specialist Subject)

On POSI, Great Cynics cemented their status as one of the shining lights in the UK’s indie/pop-punk scene, demonstrating an inventiveness in songwriting and a superior sense of melody. While previous LP I Feel Weird was great and possibly includes some better individual songs, POSI acts as a better body of work, with musical and thematic glue linking each song together. It’s a record about trying to stay optimistic and hopeful while living in London and dealing with all the shit that that entails; what makes Great Cynics stand out is their grounded accounts of the everyday, probably done best on “Summer at Home” or “Butterfly Net”. Perhaps the highlight of the record, though, is the overtly political punk on “Don’t Buy the Sun”, to be listened to as part of a ‘one-two’ with Zatopeks “Daily Mail”.

Listen here: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/posi

  1. Kamikaze Girls- Seafoam (Big Scary Monsters/Wiretap)

One of my favourite new bands/discoveries of 2017. Kamikaze Girls are a little difficult to categorise, but they broadly play a kind-of heart-on-sleeve, fuzzy-but-poppy, grunge-y, brooding, punk rock. There is a space-y dreaminess to much of Kamikaze Girls’ stuff that would make me describe them as a ‘Depeche Mode meets riot grrrl’. Seafoam is a dynamic, substantive debut LP that is intensely personal and empathetic, pertinent in a world that increasingly feels without a pulse. It is simultaneously melodic and crunchy; simultaneously intimate, but also broad in focus. One of my favourite songs of the year “I Don’t Want to be Sad Forever” probably best hits all these spots, as good of a call-to-arms that I’ve heard in ages. Ace stuff.

Listen here: https://kamikazegirls.bandcamp.com/

  1. Sløtface Try Not to Freak Out (Propeller)

Norway’s Sløtface are another one of those great discoveries of the year. Energetic, yet poppy; hook-filled tunes, but with something to say, Sløtface put out a properly great debut record. It’s broadly indie-rock, I guess, but with definite pop-punk elements on there. I love the dynamism and sheer variety on Try Not to Freak Out, ranging from the dreamy pop of “Galaxies” to the ‘90s-esque alt. rock of “Nancy Drew” to the feminist pop-punk of “Magazine”. More than this, however, there is a heart-and-soul on the record that feels organic and suggests even better things to come: listen to album highlight “Slumber” and you’ll know what I mean.

Listen here: https://slotface.bandcamp.com/album/try-not-to-freak-out

  1. Aerial Salad- Roach (Plasterer)

Manchester’s Aerial Salad follow the path set by Dead Boys, in making punk that is ‘young’, ‘loud’ and ‘snotty’. On their first full-length, the band combine the aggressiveness and nihilism of ’77 punk with the hooks and everyday anxieties of Lookout! era pop-punk. There is an energy on Roach that is insatiable and difficult not to get on board with. The intensity, fast-pace and dark lyrics on the album call to mind The Murderburgers. There is a level of despair on Roach, backed up by growly, urgent and desperate vocals, notably on “Alone Forever”. While evidently not re-inventing the three-chord punk wheel, Aerial Salad do give it a good ol’ shake up and down; Roach has a youthful vigour and determination that reminds me why I fell in love with punk in the first place.

Listen here: https://aerialsalad.bandcamp.com/album/roach

  1. Heavy Heart- Distance (Brassneck)

Heavy Heart are a new-ish punk band from Nantes, France; they play a kind of gritty, yet melodic punk that calls to mind Iron Chic or The Manix. Their debut album Distance would fit right in at Fest, with its fist-pumping big choruses, self-deprecating lyrics and crunchy guitars. It’s got a heart-and-soul, as well as smart, inventive lyrics that I feel many bands playing this kind of melodic punk often lack in. As soon as the ear-worm-y lead guitars come in on opener “Unravel”, I was pretty much hooked. I mean, Heavy Heart are not re-writing the book, but when the songwriting is this good and the hooks are this big, who gives a shit?

Almost, but not quite:

Robot Bachelor- The Third House Boat Album (Don Giovanni)

The Lillingtons- Stella Sapiente (Fat Wreck)

The Menzingers- After the Party (Epitaph)

Caves- Always Why (Specialist Subject)

Diet Cig- Swear I’m Good at This (Frenchkiss)

Non-album stuff I liked:

Yr Poetry- One Night Alive EP (Self-released)

AJJ- Back in the Jazz Coffin EP (Self-released)

Austeros- I’ve Got This EP (Specialist Subject)

Taco Hell- Retainer EP (Circle House)

FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!)- It’s Still Pronounced SHIT! EP (Self-released)

 

Rene’s List

  1. The Lillingtons- Stella Sepiente (Fat Wreck)

After years of not releasing music, the Lillingtons put out two releases this year. When all these years Kody had put out somewhat boring Teenage Bottlerocket albums and the last Lillingtons album The Too Late Show also sounded like a boring Teenage Bottlerocket album, it was interesting to see what direction the Lillingtons would go in. The two releases were quite different, one EP that sounded just like the Lillingtons are expected to, and one LP that was pretty unexpected. Stella Sepiente sounds like an 80s record, but it still manages to sound like the Lillingtons. I think it has really divided the fans. I think the album is strong overall and probably their best album after Death by Television.

Listen here: https://thelillingtons.bandcamp.com/

2. Hjerteslag- Vannman 86 (Eget Selskapp)

Image result for Hjerteslag- Vannmann86 (Eget Selskap)

I always put lots of Norwegian records on my lists, maybe it’s a ridiculous semi-patriotic thing or maybe there is a lot of good stuff coming out of Norway these days. Vannmann86 (aquarius86) is a really good record! And I think it’s very close to Stella Sepiente, maybe it’s my fear of being too patriotic that put it second.  Hjerteslag was one of the first bands I saw in Bergen in 2013 and I remember having a bad day, but the band was great. Their last album Møhlenpris Motell disappointed me a bit, but they really redeemed themselves on this one! The album’s tagline could be translated to “too pretty for punk, too ugly for pop” and it makes sense. The overall sound of the album is light synth-pop with dark undertones and honesty. My favorite song on the album is “Kong Oscars Gate”, maybe because it’s the street down from  where I live and I can relate to the song,  “En fiende krysser mine spor” (an enemy crosses my tracks)  is up there too. There are only 8 tracks on the album, but they are unusually long for this type of record, but it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging to me and you sort of get lost in the music somehow. “Hellig krig” (Holy War) is a somewhat controversial song about the lesser Jihad and waging a war for God.

3. Katie Ellen- Cowgirl Blues (Lauren)

A discovery I made from the great KTOTT conversations this fall was Katie Ellen’s album Cowgirl Blues. It’s an extremely sad and honest album and the song “Sad Girls Club” is quite a bummer and kind of a “fuck off” track at the same time (“sad girls don’t make good wives” is probably lyric of the year). “Proposal” is equally sad and bitter. The album is in a quite popular genre nowadays, but to me the album sounds very unique. I haven’t gotten to listen to it too much, but I still put it at nr. 3 and I hope I will get to listen to it more in the New Year. I actually haven’t listened to much new music at all this year, so making this list was tough.

Listen here: https://katiebandellen.bandcamp.com/

4. Bad Cop/Bad Cop- Warriors (Fat Wreck)

I think Warriors is a stronger album overall than Not Sorry, even if it had more stand-alone hits. I feel like Bad Cop Bad Cop is one of the bands that are around nowadays that keep up the good ol’ punk spirit, but don’t sound too dated or boring. Best song on the album is “Broken”!

Listen here: https://badcopbadcop.bandcamp.com/

5. Sløtface- Try Not to Freak out (Propeller)

I think I have had a Sløtface release, either a  single or an EP, on my list the last few years; now that they’ve released a full-length this year is no exception. In many ways, I still prefer “Empire Records”, but that doesn’t make Try Not to Freak Out a bad album.  It shows Sløtface from many sides and “Slumber” sounds very different from “Pitted” or “Magazine”. The album, like their earlier releases, does a great job at combining popular culture with feminist issues (see “Magazine”). I think “Pitted” is the best song on the album though.

Listen here: https://slotface.bandcamp.com/album/try-not-to-freak-out

6. Beachheads- S/T (Fysisk Format)

I usually have problems finding the 10th spot on my list and when I finally find it I always think “shit! That record should be far higher on the list” and this year this happened when I came to think of the self-titled album from the Beachheads. They were formed by two members of Kvelertak, but they sound nothing like Kvelertak. Where Kvelertak’s music fills your ears with anger and aggression, Beachheads play power pop that fills your heart with joy, and we need to let out both these emotions every once in a while. I ended up buying the CD after I finished making the list.

Listen here: https://beachheads.bandcamp.com/

7. Hvitmalt Gjerde- Våken (TIK)

The third Norwegian release in a row, from Hvitmalt Gjerde. I put their last album Ville Venner on my list in 2014. I think this is a step down from Ville Venner. I don’t think Våken (awake) has the same pop sensibilities. I still think it’s better than their self-titled debut album from 2013 and I like that album a lot. I think there’s a lot more of their original garage-y surf rock on Våken, even if I think they are at their best on the poppier “Lys” (light).

8. Worriers- Survival Pop (Side One Dummy)

For me, Survival Pop wins the prize for title of the year. The album is really good too. “Future Me” was also discussed in the KTOTT discussion and it’s a great track. I don’t think the album is as good as Imaginary Life, but still great!

Listen here: https://worriers.bandcamp.com/album/survival-pop

9. The Lillingtons- Project 313 EP (Red Scare)

Seems like both Lillingtons releases this year made it to my list. “Project 313” is not as interesting or good as Stella Sepiente, but after a few listens I think it’s a pretty good EP and I like that both releases highlight a duality of the band and their very different sounds, but the creepy conspiracy songs that holds the band together and shows “we are the Lilllingtons”. I think “Until the Sun Shines” is better than most TBR songs in recent years.

Listen here: https://thelillingtons.bandcamp.com/album/project-313

10. Screeching Weasel- “Christmas Eve”/ “New Year’s Eve” (Single)

Image result for screeching weasel christmas eve

Like I said, finding the 10th is always hard. There have been some more releases from interesting artists this year. Billy Bragg put out a pretty good EP and Less Than Jake released new music as well. I think Susanne Sundfør’s Music for People in Trouble is pretty good and so is Blood Command’s Cult Drugs. The Dopamines released a good album, too. So it might come as an insult to all these bands what I decided to put on nr. 10. Screeching Weasel put out a holiday single out of nowhere. It’s cheesy and a bit tacky too. Still I enjoy it more than a lot of shit that’s come out this year, so I said, fuck it, it will be on my fucking list this year. Weasel fanboy right there. PS “New Year’s Eve” is a better song than “Christmas Eve”.

image2image3

Image result for Dan goatham lost your way bandcamp

Dan Goatham is lead singer and guitarist in UK punk band Spoilers, who released the fantastic ‘Stay Afloat’ EP a couple of years ago. On the ‘Lost Your Way’ EP, Dan blasts his way through stripped back, acoustic versions of three Spoilers songs. It’s just Dan and a guitar basically. I often see acoustic versions of songs as the acid test for a band. By stripping everything back to pure singing and acoustic strumming, the songwriting can be put under the spotlight and be truly tested. It is a test which Dan easily passes. These are three fantastic raw, punk songs sang Billy Bragg style (right down to the Southern English accent). “Lost Your Way” and “Stay Afloat” are reasonably mellow, heart-on-sleeve, tender acoustic musings, but it is the fun-as-hell “Punks Don’t Die” which stands out here. It celebrates staying in the punk scene for the long-term (until dying, basically). The track is driven, energetic and a sure sing-a-king, especially with its background gang vocals, shouting out “punks don’t die!). I am interested to see where Dan will go from here: if he will continue to release acoustic versions of Spoilers songs, or if he will start to write songs specifically for the purposes of his solo acoustic work. Either way: I’m in!

Check it out:

DB

Yeah, so that was 2016. A total and utter shitfest. BUT there was a ton of excellent punk rock music to cheer yourself up with, the best of which is detailed below. I’ve given my top ten (and more) below, followed by Read Hard’s list. Between us both we have also compiled a playlist of our favourite songs of 2016. You can listen here:

Peace and love, y’all. See you on the other side.

Dave’s Top Ten of 2016

  1. The Murderburgers- The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People (Asian Man/Round Dog)

There have been a ton of great albums this year, but this was always going to be my number one. The 12 Habits…is a blistering, intense pop-punk album dripping with emotion and passion, yet also catchy as shit. As soon as I heard “The Waves”, I knew something special was going to be released, but to sustain such a high level over 12 songs is a fantastic effort. It is just hit after Goddamn hit. The intense, personal nature of songs like “I Used to Hate That Life” and “Opium Bombs All Around” will stay with you; this is a pop-punk album for the ages. I guess that I can best compare it to Dream Homes, with Dear Landlord the former masters of doing this kind of bleak, ‘low-lives’ pop-punk (and yes, Zach Landlord is present on the album). However, alongside that grimness, The Murderburger tap into hope and a yearning to improving oneself that Banner Pilot have often done themselves over the last few years: a chink of light in the grey, resolutions without solutions.

Listen here: https://themurderburgers.bandcamp.com/album/the-12-habits-of-highly-defective-people

  1. Martha- Blisters in the Pit of my Heart (Dirtnap)

Power-pop/pop-punk bliss on Martha’s second full-length. Right from that first EP, I always knew Martha was a band with an ear for a melody, but, blimey, the song-writing and musicianship has stepped up so much from them. Blisters in the Pit of My Heart is a record with a pop core, where the hooks are the number one priority. Listen to the lush, ear-worm-y hits, “Chekhov’s Hangnail”, “Ice Cream and Sunscreen” and “Goldman’s Detective Agency” if you don’t believe me. Really, I could pick any track. Blisters is essentially a record about being an anxious twenty-something from a small town in Northern England, dealing with equal parts hope and despair. There are so many good lyrics on here, with some of the best coming on the super-upbeat and catchy “Precarious (The Supermarket Song)”, which kind of sums up the overall tone of Blisters: “I’m a person, you’re a person, nothing else is really certain”.

Listen here: https://marthadiy.bandcamp.com/album/blisters-in-the-pit-of-my-heart

  1. Joyce Manor- Cody (Epitaph)

Talking about a band who went to the next level of what I thought they were capable of, holy shit, Joyce Manor! I mean Never Hungover Again was a very good record indeed, but Cody is a Goddamn masterpiece. I had this album basically on repeat for about 3 months and it is still not getting old. It is not a ‘traditional’ one, but Cody is still basically at its core, a pop-punk record. There are also doses of ‘90s, Weezer-esque indie rock elements in there (See: “Last You Heard of Me”), and, I know that Joyce Manor has been lumped in with the whole ‘emo revival’ scene- I would say they are more just passionate and emotionally aware, rather than ‘emo’ per se- but if we are calling them ‘emo’, Cody could be considered Saves the Day-esque at times. This album is one big hit factory, and pretty varied, too: “Fake Id”, the lost early ‘00s teen anthem from an alternative timeline, the super-perky “Angel in the Snow” that you just can’t help finger-tapping to (trust me, I’ve tried) or the melancholic heartbreak of “Over Before It Began”. This is all basically pop-punk: concise; no-frills; catchy hooks; anxiety about growing up and nostalgia for your youth. Of course, although Joyce Manor are known for their succinctness, the standout song on here is their longest (the 4 minute plus, experimental “Stairs”, featuring this year’s creepiest lyrics), offering great potential of what Joyce Manor might do next.

Listen here: https://joycemanor.bandcamp.com/album/cody

  1. Mikey Erg!- Tentative Decisions (Don Giovanni)

In the years since The Ergs! broke up, Mikey has released a few bits here and there, but this is the album we have been waiting for: and Tentative Decisions did not disappoint one bit. In many ways, this is a continuation of Upstairs/Downstairs, with Mikey bringing back to life the heart-felt, succinct and fast-paced pop-punk ditties that defined the band (see: “Faulty Metaphor”, “Comme Si About Me”, alongside the stranger, more experimental, folk-ier tracks (“Waiting Out The Winter”, “Scenic Turnout”). But The Ergs! was always a collective and this is the first time that we hear Mikey carve out an album purely as he wants.  So, no, this is not an exercise in nostalgia: Mikey is re-inventing, not merely reviving. The 2016 version of Mikey is now more cynical and self-aware, while still searching for that new ‘Amanda’: on “Comme Si About Me”, he spits out an epilogue to all of his love-lorn past ditties: “I wish you loved me and blah blah blah/ and I wasn’t lonely and blah blah blah”. Welcome back, Mikey, pop-punk has missed you.

Listen here: https://mikeyerg.bandcamp.com/album/tentative-decisions

  1. Apologies, I Have None- Pharmacie (Holy Roar/ Animal Style)

Apologies, I Have None are one of the most creative and consistently fascinating punk rock bands around and their second LP Pharmacie pushes the boundaries of what you thought the band were once again. I say ‘punk rock band’ in a loose sense and in the sense of their core, underlying ethos, but musically, while there are certainly punk elements to their sound and Apologies straddle multiple genres, this feels largely like an angst-y, emo record. Pharmacie is the next natural step in Apologies’ evolution from London through to the ‘Black Everything’: they have essentially built upon the anger and frustration evident in “The 26” to now totally embrace the darkness within. With notable exceptions (like the more standard Apologies’ hit “Love and Medication”), the songs on Pharmacie are slow-burning and revelatory, bursting in with occasional faster, heavier, gut-punch moments, as can be best seen on album highlight “Everybody Wants to Talk About Mental Health”. This is not an easy listen at times, but it is definitely a worthwhile one; a proper album, where everything is inter-connected; a Pharmacie to live by.

Listen here: https://apologiesihavenone.bandcamp.com/album/pharmacie

  1. The Hotelier- Goodness (Tiny Engines)

Define Goodness how you want: emo, indie, post-rock, pop-punk. It doesn’t really matter: it’s just good. The Hotelier have built immeasurably on the more straight-forward emo evident on their last record, Home, Like No Place is There. The new one is essentially their experimental art-y record, where they laid a marker down and really carved an identity of their own. The vocals remain nasal, but otherwise, musically and lyrically, Goodness moved things up several notches. The sound of the modern Hotelier is slow-paced and more restrained, but still passionate, with lyrics that are much more down to earth and feel real. The album is fascinating and only unravels with time; it is about seeing life, “in exploding colour”, in all its complexity, in all its heart-breaking, fucking tragedy. And then there’s that album cover…

Listen here: https://thehotelier.bandcamp.com/album/goodness

  1. Big Eyes- Stake My Claim (Don Giovanni)

Stake My Claim is a proper hook-fest. Here, Big Eyes embrace the melodies and ditch some of the ‘rawk’ aspects of their sound that defined their previous records. Stake My Claim flits between multiple genres (pop-punk, power-pop, rock ‘n’ roll, indie); pleasingly, it is hard to pin down Big Eyes. There are proper guitar solos present, but there also pop-punk-y melodies in abundance. The album kind of moves between the snotty, melodic punk brilliance of “Leave This Town” and “Giving It Up For Good”, and the sunny, laidback power-pop of “Behind Your Eyes” and “Just Not Right”, at times Best Coast-ish. There is always too much Runaways-esque spikiness and spunk for the sound to be that kind of power-pop though. However, the harmonies are every bit as fucking good: listen to “Leave This Town” and tell me any different; “TV and cell phones are a modern curse”, now that is an earworm. So, sound-wise, I would say, imagine if Lipstick Homicide were way into power-pop and had thousand times better production, and that is probably close to what is on Stake My Claim.

Listen here: https://bigeyes.bandcamp.com/album/stake-my-claim

  1. Muncie Girls- From Caplan to Belsize (Specialist Subject)

After a string of 7”s and 12”s (including their split with Great Cynics), debut LP From Caplan to Belsize was where Muncie Girls really made their mark. While I found their previous stuff hit and miss, this is very, very good indeed from first to last minute. With the intelligence and sincerity of the lyrics, alongside the soaring melodies and catchy, female-led vocals, The Muncie Girls kind of remind me of New Jersey’s The Measure (SA), a band whom I have always felt were dearly underrated. The band cleverly and personally engages with a number of socio-political issues in a positive, but not condescending manner: criticising the educational system and talk of “the lucky fucking few” on “Learn in School” sets the tone for the rest of From Caplan to Belsize. Album highlights include the Joy Division-esque “Social Side” and the spiky, pop-punk-y middle finger to misogyny “Respect”.

Listen here: https://munciegirls.bandcamp.com/album/from-caplan-to-belsize

 

 

 

      9. Against Me!- Shape Shift With Me (Total Treble Music/ Xtra Mile)

Shape Shift With Me is a more restrained, comparatively calmer affair after the angry cathartic bursts of energy on Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It loses some of the raw power behind its predecessor as a result, but, here, Against Me! focus on just churning out punk hits. It may result in less of a cohesive, album feel to it, but to an extent, I don’t care much if the hits are as good as “Boyfriend” (with one of my favourite choruses ever: “Treated me like a boyfriend/ like just some fucking boyfriend) or “333” or “Rebecca”. Sonically, Against Me! tread the line between the raw intimacy of TDB and the stadium punk rock of White Crosses. It is not the perfect degree by any measure, but Shape Shift With Me captivates at times and will reel you in for repeated listens with its punk rock sing-a-longs

      10. Tacocat- Lost Time (Hardly Art)

I guess Tacocat can be best explained in elevator pitch style by saying: think Bikini Kill if they were brought up on Beach Boys instead of Sex Pistols. This is super-simplistic, but it hits the major points: that the band evoke some of the better elements of the riot grrl movement, while prioritising melodies and hooks above all else, as any power-pop band might. At the same time, while Tacocat do engage in feminist and political discussion, on songs such as “Men Explain Things to Me” and “Horse Grrls”, they are also not averse to bringing to light the everyday (“I Hate The Weekend”, a song that all service workers can relate to on some level) and fun (“Dana Katherine Scully”, an X-files themed song!). Although not quite hitting the high levels set by predecessor NVM, Lost Time has some of the best hooks of 2016, mostly at the latter half of the record, with “Leisure Bees” and “Nightswimming”.

Listen here: https://tacocat.bandcamp.com/album/lost-time-3

Almost, but not quite

AJJ- The Bible 2

Jeff Rosenstock- Worry

Wonk Unit- Mr. Splashy

MTX- King Dork Approximately

7”s, EPs and other stuff I enjoyed this year

Shit Present- ‘Misery and Disaster’ EP

Bangers- Last Songs 7”

Radio Hearts- ‘Tell You’ EP

Delinquents- Next Generation (Single)

The Menzingers- Lookers (Single)

Katie Ellen- Demo

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Read Hard’s Top Ten of 2016

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  1. The Mr. T Experience-King Dork Approximately

I got the pleasure of reviewing this album this year- and it’s by far the best album that was released this year. If you can say that it was released this year. The official release date isn’t until 2017. I think I’ve already said all there is to say about this wonderful record. What I love about songs that actually originally belong to certain story (here: the King Dork books), and how they can have entirely different meanings as separate songs, “Thinking of Suicide?” for example. Sure, about half of these songs are old as shit, but they sure don’t sound like shit! This shit is pure gold!

  1. Blink-182-California (BMG)

In 2001, the album Enema of the State was on the top of my Christmas list (and that album is on my list 15 years later actually). I was a twelve-year-old little jerk then, 27, now a bigger jerk. Now, in 2016, Blink-182 is back with a new album, Matt Skiba has replaced Tom Delonge and Goldfinger’s John Feldman has produced and co-written the album. California is trying to show the Golden State from all sides, from the raw to the phony plastic wrapping of Hollywood. Musically, I’m sad to say that the plastic wrapping is also very present on this album. This album sounds more plastic than Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and my family’s Christmas tree put together. Maybe that’s taking it a bit too far. But this is certainly a slap in the face of those who thought Enema was a bit overproduced. On California, some of the songs are gold. “Teenage Satellites” is a great song that looks back on youth fondly and “San Diego” that highlights people’s ambivalence toward their hometown (San Diego is Blink’s hometown, even if none of their current members are from there.) Home is also a theme in “Home Is Such a Lonely Place”, one of the album’s ballads. I have loved this band since I was 12 and there have been times when doing so has been frowned upon, but putting this album on the second place on my list is embarrassing the hell out of me. Not because I think it’s embarrassing to like Blink, but that the album’s production is cringeworthy and most of the songs are as well, and it’s by far their worst effort. And I still enjoy it more than most other albums this year. That just shows that either this has been a slow year for music this year or that nostalgia really is the opium of the age.

  1. Death by Unga Bunga- Pineapple Pizza (Jansen Plateproduksjon)

Blink isn’t the only thing that is frowned upon to like. Putting pineapple on a pizza is something a lot of people think is a crime against humanity. But to me, it’s a perfect match. Sweet pineapple bits together with tomato sauce and melted cheese. My lips are moist just imagining it. How can anyone be against that? I’m at least happy that this Norwegian garage/power pop band is giving their support to this delicious culinary experience. The album is pretty awesome as well. I’ve always loved this band and they’ve always put on a good show. I’ve actually found out lately that their earlier albums are even better than Pineapple Pizza, but PP is a sweet album. “Make Up Your Mind” and “Lady Fondue” are some of the greatest songs of the year and the sound of the album sounds way better than the Blink album and if I weren’t so tremendously shattered by nostalgia, this album would probably be nr. 2 on this list. It’s like if you took the Byrds and stuff like the Exploding Hearts and the Manikins and they are from the Yum Yum’s hometown, Moss.

  1. NOFX-First Ditch Effort (Fat Wreck)

NOFX is another band I was sickingly fixated with at some point. They’ve also started recording worse and worse albums, and this album shows they are still on a pretty big downer, both when it comes to quality of their music and their depressing lyrics. Like the MTX album, First Ditch Effort is also based on literature. NOFX wrote a book with former Dead Kennedys singer Jeff Penalty (brilliant name) called the Hepatitis Bathtub and the album reflects the songs on the album. The book is a lot better, however, and the songs don’t get out the same emotions as the book did. The best songs on the album are to me “Bye Bye Biopsy Girl” and “California Drought”. Fat Mike’s honest song about cross-dressing, “I’m a Transvest-lite” tells how Dr. Frankenfurter fom The Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired him to don’t dream it, be it and wear “women’s clothing”.

Listen here: https://nofx.bandcamp.com/album/first-ditch-effort

  1. Tacocat-Lost Time (Hardly Art)

A big letdown of this year was Tacocat’s Lost Time. Mostly because NVM was such a great album and I really wanted them to follow it up with something equally good, but that didn’t happen. It’s still actually a pretty good album. The album, like its predecessor, takes up feminist themes in a humoristic way. They take up mansplaining and the internet. There’s also a tribute song to Scully from X-Files!

Listen here: https://tacocat.bandcamp.com/album/lost-time-3

  1. Descendents-Hypercaffium Spazzinate (Epitaph)

Another letdown was Descendents first album in 12 year. At 14, Cool to Be You was my favorite album and is basically still an album full of hits. I feel like the newest album tried to be more like 1996’s Everything Sucks, that I honestly never was that into. I found this album to be quite a disappointment and after not putting out something for 12 years, I’d expect a better output. The album still gets the sixth spot on the list, because the songs “Without Love”, “Smile” and “On Paper” are still some of the songs of the year and if it were just an EP it’d be a damn good EP.

  1. Sløtface-Empire Records (EP, Propeller)

Speaking of damn good EP’s, I always try to fill a quote of Norwegian bands and I always add some EP’s as well. I usually see Sløtface a couple of times a year and “Empire Records” has always been my favorite song to hear live because I love the movie with the same name. To hear it on record was kind of weird, but it’s a great song still. The entire EP is pretty great and if it were an album that were this good in its entirety, it would probably be way higher on the list. The band used to be known as Slutface, but changed their name around the 1st of April this year. I was sure it was an April fool’s joke, but turns out I was wrong!

Listen herehttps://soundcloud.com/slotfaceofficial-1

  1. Nerf Herder-Rockingham (Golfshirt)

These Nerdcore guys decided to crowdfund their newest album like Screeching Weasel did with Baby Fat. I almost forgot about the album until the end of the year. It’s as good as or even better than their fourth album IV. “Ghostbusters 3” is the saddest broken hearted love song of the year.

  1. Against Me!-Shape Shift with Me (Total Treble Music/ Xtra Mile)

I didn’t listen to this album until the very end of the year, since I’m not really a big Against Me! fan, but I really enjoy this album and I think it’s their best album. It’s a really diverse album and the sound is great. I think the Blink album should’ve sounded like this.

  1. Mikey Erg!-Tentative Decisions (Don Giovanni)

There were lots of albums this year I could’ve put on the list. The Norwegian band Sweden put out a pretty good album, and actual swedes Västerbron did as well. Green day had like one good song on their album Revolution Radio called “Still Breathing”, and that’s it, I guess. I was really excited when I heard Mikey Erg’s new album, especially after his split with Warren Franklin. I don’t think the album is as good as that split, but there are some really good songs on here, like “1001 Smashed Motel Rooms” and “Song for New Britain”. The Ergs! are also reunited, so some good things came out of 2016.

Listen here: https://mikeyerg.bandcamp.com/album/tentative-decisions

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Increasing The Minimum Rage cover art

I know ska, I know punk, and I know ska punk. I know Oi. But never before have I heard ska oi until today. Faintest Idea, hailing from the port town of Kings Lynn in Norfolk, are a pretty fucking unique band in this world, and that should be treasured. Too many bands set out to sound like other bands that they think are popular, and we end up with a boring sea of sameness. Faintest Idea turn this trend on its head with tight, energetic ska music blended with tough working class oi, and the result is nothing short of astounding. And, while most ska bands, and even ska punk bands, are generally about fun times, Faintest Idea inject a heavy dose of economic, social, and political justice into their lyrics and in the “found-sound” recordings between some of the songs.

The album begins with ominous music from trombone and saxophone and a sound clip from the film, “A King in New York,” in which Charlie Chaplin has a dialog with a boy about the book he’s reading, something by Karl Marx. “Surely you’re not a communist,” chuckles Chaplin. “Do I have to be a communist to read Karl Marx?” comes the reply. “That’s a valid answer. Well, if you’re not a communist, what are you?” retorts Chaplin. “Nothing,” replies the boy. “I dislike all forms of government.” Thus the stage is set, and a dark ska number, “Circling the Drain,” begins, with heavy dose of Oi coming from the tough, gruff vocals and hard edged feel. The lyrics speak to the endless cycle of those in power dismantling programs that benefit the masses (the creeping privitisation of the NHS in Britain was the inspiration), discontent brewing, and a “straw man” being set up to shoulder the blame of the ills of society, usually immigrants or minorities.

“Down Pressure starts out with a clip from Felonious Monk’s rage about the debt ceiling in the US. “How the fuck do you owe China, B? How can I tell my daughter, with a straight face, that Capitalism is a better system than Communism when we’re borrowing all our fucking money from the biggest communist country on the fucking planet?” A funky bass line segues into perfect ska, with lyrics about the seeming hopelessness of, well, everything going on in the world.

“Stick ‘Em Up (Lords of War)” is a commentary on gun control and gun violence, taking clips from the film “Lord of War.” “There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: how do we arm the other eleven?” The song is about, not only the pointlessness of war, but of the disgusting fact that much war is driven by the desire for war profits from arms manufacturers. Musically, this is one of the hardest tracks on the album, with explosive guitars and vocals matching the explosiveness of the topic.

Other songs deal with the destruction of the environment, homelessness and drug abuse, the insanity of corporate personhood and greed, and other similar topics. It’s fucking refreshing to hear something this political again. And, while, ultimately, protest songs never convert anyone, they do raise awareness and can fuel movements that can create change. So more power to Faintest Idea! This is a brilliant album, lyrically and musically.

PS

Check it out here: https://faintestidea.bandcamp.com/album/increasing-the-minimum-rage

 

Review: Loop Line- Wakes (EP)

Posted: March 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

Wakes cover art

For some reason when I see this EP cover I think I’m about to listen to The Killers or Bloc Party, but I’m not, this is Loop Line. I know nothing about them, except that they are an alternative rock duo based in Minneapolis, where Paul (one of the duo’s members lives, Luke lives in Phoenix, and they’ve recorded the EP over mail, and that’s all I need to know).  I didn’t really know what to expect from this Ep, but I always like listening to new shit! The first song is probably the best song, it’s called “Nothing About You” and it’s a Power Pop song and it almost sounds like Weezer. The singing reminds me of Intruder Blue of Masked Intruder. I really like the song, the melody is great! The harmonies are nice and the instrumentation is sweet. The second song “Grin” at first sounds like Blink-182 on piano, but goes away from that path pretty quick. “Grin” is a chill song, with a smooth bass line. The harmonies and sound is reminiscent of the Beach Boys as well as later era Zombies, I even hear some Pixies influences.

“Parts Unknown” also has those ol’ Beach Boys harmonies and I would describe it as psychedelic indie rock. There’s a title trop in the song: “We’ll find ourselves in parts unknown”, which sounds somewhat poetic. The vocals in “Parts Unknown” are a bit like Rivers from Weezer, but the singer also reminds me a bit of Christian from the Tattle Tales. The last song, “Dusty Keys” is a great closer, and it’s also a psychedelic indie song, but it sounds way different from “Parts Unknown”, it’s chill like “Grin” and it’s more of a ballad, it sort of reminds me of the Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience. “Wakes” is a pretty good EP and it’s very diverse. Even as a promoter of diversity, I would maybe say it’s too diverse to the point that it seems inconsistent. Despite that, I will probably listen to it a lot in the future, so I definitely enjoy it!

RH

Check it out here: http://looplinemusic.bandcamp.com/

Eddy’s comics #3

Posted: February 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Water Lane cover art

Hailing from West Yorkshire in the UK, Above Them play a style of music that’s part grunge, part indie rock, and part melodic punk. Blending these, you get something that’s guitar-driven, not quite as heavy as grunge, full of melodic sensibility and emotional urgency. The songs are generally mid-tempo, which is fine, but I wish there was a little more variety here, and a little more energetic power. But I hear plenty of current SoCal pop punk influence from this UK band. Some of the songs do stand out, though, like “We’re All Going Down,” which reminds me of one of my current favorite bands, Western Settings, though with less gruff vocals. It’s got a powerful emo-ish melodic punk sound, which I really love. “Old Roots” moves seamlessly through pretty pop-punk sounding music, through Americana-tinged sounds (from a UK band?) and through old-school emo, for a track that’s pretty cool. “Broken Bones” has elements that remind me of LA’s Gentlemen Prefer Blood, another good band. And the short, quiet opener, “Theories of Planned Behavior,” is quite pretty, with vocals laid bare over a single simple guitar. The bulk of the songs, though, while good, don’t quite grab me so much. I think part of the issue is that the songs try to stay “in the middle,” that is, not too hard, not too poppy, not too emo, so they don’t get labeled a certain way. The result, for some of these songs, is that they end up sounding just a bit “middle-of-the-road.”

Paul Silver

Check it out here: http://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/water-lane