2013 was a year that started out slow for good music in the first half but rebounded fiercely, contributing some strong contenders with potential to become some of my favorite music of all time. As usual I listened to a ton of music. The total is somewhere around 3700 songs. Out of all that, I was able to pick my favorites and break them down with unprecedented verbosity, and I’m grateful to have the time and effort spent result in anyone taking their own time to read any of it. I mainly write this for the friends I’ve made over the years who share some or all of my music tastes but don’t have the time or the impetus to dig for new stuff. Some of my best memories throughout my life consist of bonding with friends over music, whether that be playing, listening, or going to shows, so I’m always happy to expose people to new stuff they enjoy. I sincerely believe any of you who like any of the same (sub)genres I do should be able to find at least one new thing worth adding to your iPod or phone. Better yet, buy some sweet looking vinyl & throw it on the turntable. I've provided links to streams of everything, and I'm sure most of this can be found on Spotify. However you listen, be sure to give me a shout and let me know what you liked. Enough jibber jabber, let’s get on to what you people came here for, the countdown. Let’s start with EP’s & 7”s.
EP's & 7"s
20. Supastition - The Blackboard
This dude from North Carolina has been in the game for 11+ years, with his fairly mediocre debut album 7 Years of Bad Luck having dropped in 2002. He then followed in 2004 with Chain Letters, to me his best & most consistent output, which contained the banger "Soul Control" from volume 12 of my hip-hop mixes. Along with producer Nicolay, he also contributed the fantastic "The Williams" to the Okayplayer comp back in 2004. The trials & tribulations of the music industry & the struggle to make a living as an artist always seemed to really get to him & cause bitterness that permeated his career decisions, causing him to switch to using his birth name (Kam Moye) in 2009 and then leaving the industry altogether in 2010. Everybody knows a true MC never really retires (only way out is dying) , so in 2012 he announced he was returning as Supastition and then dropped this EP in early 2013. I'm glad I decided to give him another try after not feeling the Kam Moye material because this is a very solid EP with much improved production. I won't ruin the ending of it for you, but "Daydream" tells a cool story with a twist ending that, while not entirely original, is used well & makes some great points about how hip-hop treats those who create it. Hopefully in 2014 he drops an album that rivals Chain Letters.
19. Reservoir - I Heard You As I Walked Away
These four young blokes from Pennsylvania do a great job of paying respect to and faithfully recreating the Midwest 90's emo of such bands as Mineral & Small Brown Bike. I guess there's some bicoastal influence as well, as I also hear some Sunny Day Real Estate & early Thursday in the mix. There's not much here that's particularly catchy or poppy, just a driving, cathartic interwoven tapestry of melancholy that speaks to your bum-out or fatigue. I was much higher on these songs after having my first listen be in a live setting back in early January 2013, so I'm eager to hear what they could do with an outside producer and better recording budget to capture that extra something they have live. Hopefully those things will come to fruition in 2014, as well as getting another chance to see them play. "In Passing" is my favorite song on this EP.
18. Former States - Heritage
This young band from southeast Michigan describes themselves as "Midwestern gloompop". The Swellers' Nick Diener with recording this, their debut EP. To me, they lie in the overlap of mid-tempo pop-punk & crunchy, more aggressive emo. I'd say they lie about halfway between Balance & Composure and The Story So Far while incorporating the more savory elements of 90's "alternative" rock a la Title Fight. The vibe is fairly similar to what fellow Michigan band Citizen went for with their Youth album this year, but I find this infinitely more powerful & engaging. There's definitely room for improvement (the spoken word part comes off a little clunky) but also huge promise laid out over these five tracks. The leadoff track, "Stone Angel" is my standout.
17. Half Hearted Hero - Whatever
This band is a perfect example of how a path toward musical maturity doesn't have to follow the progression toward pop that is all too well-traveled. Their debut LP in 2010, along with a split & an EP in 2011, showed promise but too much reliance on typical pop-punk tenets to warrant much distinction or recognition, but they've returned with this new EP that lends more of an edge to their melding of pop-punk & skate-punk with twists of melodic hardcore. The result is a significantly more memorable release for me. "Vessel" is my favorite cut, with its slower sludgy groove playing foil to the otherwise faster pace. The breakneck beginning of "River" is them at their best as well. This is no-guilt pop-punk with zero cringe-worthy moments.
16. Misser - Distancing
For those not in the know, Misser is the side project of Transit guitarist Tim Landers, and this is their third release, following last year's Every Day I Tell Myself… LP and the Problems... EP. The leadoff track, "Goddamn, Salad Days" blew me away upon first listen and, combined with fellow ripper "Burn Out", comprises the most aggressive material Mr. Landers has written since Keep This To Yourself. The closing track detracts from the overall likability for me, but overall it's still a highly enjoyable listen.
15. Arrows In Her/Gifts - split
Arrows In Her just cannot catch a break. Their debut EP, the fantastic leaving. (#10 on my 2012 list), still has not come out on vinyl over a year after the pre-order was launched because the guy running Glass Nail Records took their fans' hard-earned money and turned out nothing but endless excuses for his incompetence. On top of that, he turned out to be a pederast (allegedly). Seems fitting. What a creep. The task of putting out the leaving. vinyl was graciously taken over by Meadowbrook Records, the same label putting this split out, as a pro-bono deal. The only problem is that neither have come out yet because Meadowbrook decided to shut down while promising to make sure these still got out as their final releases, but they still haven't delivered. At least photos of the test press for leaving. surfaced in December. (Edit: The day after I typed this I got shipping notice for what I believe is this split from MB. Hooray!) It's a real crying shame that such a promising band has had their legs cut out from under them while they're trying to gain footing. They play a particularly gripping and well-executed take on semi-noodly 90's emo with twists of pop-punk & post-hardcore. They definitely take the spotlight on this release, but Gifts are no slouches either. Musically I would approximate them as somewhat of a poor man's Hey Mercedes crossed with the more subdued sounds of The River Bed-era Small Brown Bike. I'll definitely be checking for more from them in the future, and Arrows have already solidified themselves as a small band destined for larger audiences and even greater music (assuming they can get somebody fully competent to put out a god damn record for them). None of the 4 tracks here really stands much above the rest; they're all good.
14. Lions - Roosevelt/Forgettingism
For my money, these chaps from Tennessee are the best band not currently signed to any label in all of the good ol' US & A. While their name is woefully mundane (probably to the degree that it's hurting their notoriety due to the plethora of other bands with "Lion" in their names), vocalist Josiah's voice is unique enough to be memorable. When he really belts it out, you can't help but take notice, and dude can fucking sing. Thankfully the music is intricate, mathy, and memorable enough to demand notice as well, with jangly noodly guitars laid over roller-coaster rhythms loosely rooted in 90's emo with enough progressiveness to not come off as simple worship & tribute. These two EPs are comprised of a total of six songs which build upon and go beyond the foundations they constructed on their debut MTNZ (see below), which came out on UK label Enjoyment Records. I would really love to see them get picked up by a label like Topshelf so these two EP's can get the vinyl treatment they deserve. The leadoff track from Forgettingism, "Defeating Verbs" is my favorite song off of these.
13. The Weeds - Roots/Routes
After the Promise Nothing 7" that Transit put out between KTTY and Listen And Forgive, they and guitarist Joe Lacy parted ways. Mr. Lacy experienced some rough spots with trying to get his Sleepsick project off the ground, but the premature death of that project allowed the birth of this one. Thankfully my favorite Sleepsick demo was salvaged to become the second track here, "Attention", which features the lone double-time beat on the EP, as most of it leans much more toward 90's emo than pop-punk. The vocals are co-ed in nature, with Joe trading off duties with his co-pilot Justine. There are very few female singers that catch my ear, but she is definitely one of them, especially after having had the pleasure of seeing them live (where she claimed she was sick and somehow still sounded great). Opener "Sunset Eyes" is another highlight here. To top it off, the vinyl is one of the coolest looking of the year. This is a solid debut, but one that also leaves room to grow. I look forward to more from them.
12. Gnarwolves - Funemployed
These English blokes' goofy band name and neon cover art made me steer clear of them for over a year, until a random facebook post by a friend (thanks, Joel!) alerted me to the possibility of them not sucking. As it turns out, I did myself a great disservice by not checking them out sooner, as their previous EP CRU is also damn good. They play a dirty, jagged, & brash style of pop-punk (the "pop" part being de-emphasized) with a slightly tongue-in-cheek feel at times. They sound like an old locomotive barreling down the tracks so hard that all nuts and bolts are about to fly off, but somehow it all stays together and reaches the destination platform looking ragged but triumphant. Most of all, it's a fucking fun listen that inspires air guitar and at-home fist-pumping. They come off like a British Latterman at times, while also bringing an old Rancid-esque approach to bass and drums and occasional metal flourishes in the guitar riffs. Please allow them to rip at your eardrums. You'll be better off for it. Sky's the limit for these boys.
11. Pentimento - Inside The Sea
If you're aware of Pentimento & have an opinion about them, this EP will do nothing to change it. It's another refinement of the sound they've been building on since Wrecked, and I for one am glad to have a great dependable band like this that doesn't think they need to reinvent the god damned wheel every time they put out a new record. Their secret weapon is drummer Mike Hansen, who not only provides an impressive rhythmic backbone but also the well-paced guttural screams and shouts that accentuate singer Jeremiah Pauly's singing, which also takes on its own bark at appropriate times. Still, I've always felt their music to be a tiny bit disposable despite the obvious sincerity and passion they obviously pour into it, so I'm not as passionate about them as one might expect based on their similarities to my most loved bands of late. All that said, they're still highly recommended for anyone looking for incredibly well-crafted emo-rock with mid-tempo punk leanings and catchy-as-fuck choruses. I go back and forth between "Any Minute Now" and "Just Friends" being my favorite song off this.
10. Alkaline Trio - Broken Wing
2013 was the year I fully let an old friend whom I felt had wronged me back into my life. It pained me greatly to dismiss this friend after the grossness of Agony & Irony, but it had to be done so I could move on with my life. Then this friend came back around showing hints of the former self I once adored with This Addiction, but I was not fully convinced I should let him back in as the effort seemed somewhat insincere and transparent. However, when this friend knocked at my door again in 2013, he was holding not one but two offerings of friendship, and both were worthy of full attention. That initial trust has long been broken beyond full repair, but based on these new offerings a new, looser friendship has evolved which acknowledges that things can be great again without being the same as they once were. Alkaline Trio, I'm glad to have you back in my life. When you came back around singing "I Wanna Be A Warhol", my ears perked up while maintaining a leering uneasiness, but when "Torture Doctor" came out of your beautiful mouth, I knew I needed you around again. Then you gave me this glorious EP primarily featuring your Dan personality, and offerings like "Balanced On A Shelf" further substantiated the value of your return to prominence in my ears.
9. Iron Chic - Spooky Action 7”
I'll save most of my gloating praise for this band for the LP which also contains the absolutely stupendous title track of this 7", but suffice it to say that the non-album track "Less Rest For The Restless" is also damn good. To top it off, there's a Ramones cover on the US version that’s decent. The style of the new songs is right in line with their previous LP Not Like This, which is to say it’s expertly executed emotive punk rock with killer hooks and memorable lyrics built for sloshing your beer or holding your jay in the air while singing along.
8. Sean Born & Dunc - Organic
Mr. Born is quickly becoming one of my favorite MC's currently making music, and this superb EP only helps to supplement the greatness he put forth on last year's BehindThe Scale LP (which I grossly underrated on my list). Dunc is the beat-making half of duo DTMD, who also made my list last year. Put these two together, and great things were bound to happen. Sean has just the right ratio of swagger to smarts, and Dunc lays down a beautiful sample-based boom-bap bed for Sean to lay his rhymes out on. My only real complaint with this is that it should've been an LP with a few more songs. "Hardship (ft. Hassaan Mackey)" is my favorite cut here.
7. Paper Arms/Nothington – split 7"
Nothington is a band I have been aware of for a while but haven’t ever sought out because the few songs I’ve sampled weren’t doing it for me, despite employing the gruff vocal style I enjoy. Australian post-hardcore lads Paper Arms also employ that vocal style, and while I enjoyed most of their debut LP Days Above Ground in 2010, it didn’t leave a lasting impression. Upon hearing they had new material out, I first heard “Run Away” from this and was floored at how far they’d come. The chorus is damn near perfect. It’s hard not to conjure up names like Hot Water Music (particularly Caution-era), The Draft, Small Brown Bike (The River Bed), Title Fight (Shed), & Polar Bear Club when attempting to compare their sound, so of course I’m going to like it. If that’s not enough for you, consider that Walter Schreifels of Quicksand thought enough of their demo to produce their first album. So suck on that, Sanchez. Their side alone is good enough to warrant the overseas postage to get it from German label Uncle M, but the only actual song (the other is just a voice mail over music) by Nothington, “Save This” is way more enjoyable than anything else I’ve heard by them.
6. Polar Bear Club – Blood Balloon 7”
I’ll save most of my thoughts on PBC in 2013 for the LP list below, but the fact that one half of this is my favorite song from the LP certainly helps its spot here. On top of that, the b-side “Saw Blade” would’ve been my second or third favorite on the album had it been included. And while we’re mentioning songs that were inexplicably left off the album in favor of others that made it, be sure to check for “New Hollywood” from the Off TheBoard Compilation.
5. Pianos Become The Teeth/Touche Amore – split 7”
I’ve been a huge huge fan of Pianos’ brand of crushing, melodic, emotive post-hardcore (some call it “screamo”) since before they signed to Topshelf, but they threw everybody a little bit of a curveball with this one…and I loved it. The first time I heard it was on their tour with Title Fight a few months before this came out, and I was instantly into it enough to rewatch the video multiple times leading up to the release. The song is notably more somber and incorporates much more singing than before, although the trademark yelps/screams are there too. As usual the subject matter is as weighty as the vibe of the music. I love the opening lines, “There’s no good in your eyes anymore/And it makes you want to drive home drunk and alone/Curse the faces in the wheat/Drown yourself in the gold, ‘cause you can’t let it go”. They go on to paint a picture of watching someone you care about destroy his/her life with his/her own anger and a lack of ability to cope with it, and it’s delivered in captivating, agonizing fashion. On the flip side, I’ve never been a Touche fan, but their contribution here, "Gravity, Metaphorically" (which should be subtitled "That's Heavy, Doc") is outside their normal wheelhouse and is a rewarding listen because of that. They get going hard out of the gate as usual but go longer and slower than ever before, and it sounds fucking great. If you’ve heard of them and want a song to start out with, I can’t recommend this one enough.
4. NGOD – Bait Head 7”
I realized something about myself in 2013: I can presumably only enjoy a falsetto voice if it’s accompanied by a British accent. It’s a purely evidence-based assumption, and this record is Exhibit A for the argument. “Probably Not” is a good song, but “Bait Head” really steals the show here. I learned of these guys thanks to the same Enjoyment Records digital comp on which I discovered Lions. It had been years since I discovered a band via a comp, and it was pretty damn cool to get two whoppers off that one. The rhythm section is above average if not great and does an ample job of laying down mathy emo beats upon which the noodly guitars and aforementioned vocals are layered. The breadth of their capabilities is showcased on “Bait Head” where a sparse passage instantly builds to a climax of screamed, anguished vocals and stabbing rhythms. Give it a spin already. There are some other digital releases of theirs included on the linked playlist. It’s pretty much all recommended.
3. Prawn – Short Stay, Long Road
Along with their NJ state-mates Gates, Prawn are one of the best bands around at blending 90’s emo and post-rock, and nowhere is that more apparent than on this 2-song instrumental digital EP. This is essentially a throwaway release that pre-dates Ships, as both songs are basically demos that either died in the garage they were recorded in (“Your One Is My Half Mile”) or got significantly overhauled before vocals were eventually added and it became the album version (“Spring River” from Ships ). The latter is a cool reimagining of an already great song, but "Half Mile" is absolute gold. It’s a shame it never got recorded properly in a real studio, because it has to be my favorite post-rock song ever. When things all come crashing together at the 0:39 mark, the guitars are heavier (in the intensity sense, not the metal sense) than anything else I’ve heard in post-rock, and the drummer beats the living shit out of his set as well. Despite the short shrift these songs were given in terms of proper recording & release, they are welcome additions to Prawn’s already killer catalog.
2. Big Awesome – Birdfeeder 7”
I made an absolutely egregious error in 2012 when I passed over this release on one of the blogs I peruse with not even so much as a cursory listen. Then in January 2013 I was checking out the blog of a friend with similarly great music tastes who included this on his 2012 list. Upon giving it an actual chance to touch my eardrums, I was completely blown away and ordered the 7” almost immediately. The upbeat feel of the music and the rollicking drum beats really drew me in, and I heard traces of what I love about bands like Latterman, Carpenter, & Algernon Cadwallader overtaking me. Even though the lyrics are almost overly simple and direct, they’re still effective at getting the point across and fit the music well. The line “I know it’s your kindness that helps me fly” and the way it's sung resonate with me when I think about all the kind people whose support have helped me through the career/life transition I’ve undertaken these past two years. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite from this because it’s always changing, but for a first listen I guess I’d recommend “Birdfeeder” (and its killer bass line) or “Living With Love”.
1. Somos – Demo 2012
Yes, that’s correct. I must’ve been asleep for part of 2012 because here’s another incredible slice of divine music that I was ignorant of until 2013. Major props to Mr. Joe Lacy for urging me to listen and awakening me from my slumber. I swear to you that if I had the clarity of mind to be able to dissect the sounds of my more aggressive favorite bands of the last 15 years (especially Polar Bear Club & Strike Anywhere) and then piece together the best parts, this is the Frankenstein’s monster that would result. As a matter of fact, when I listen to this demo, I feel like I have bolts in my neck and electricity coursing through my body, and I feel the urge to run about and scare the townsfolk. I really love all 4 songs, but “Embrace The Spare Change” & “Showed Up Late” are particularly badass. The “woah-oh-oh, that’s just my selfish side” line from “Showed Up Late” fills me with such fist-shaking enthusiasm that I want to stage dive off the nearest table or countertop. I had the pleasure of hearing a couple songs off their forthcoming LP (dropping sometime in 2014 on Tiny Engines, the label that brought you CSTVT), and even though they’ve allegedly made the decision to ditch the growly end of the vocal spectrum (bummer), I can assure you they will still be kicking major ass this year. The closing track here, “The Strangest Example” is possibly going to be redone for the LP. My only complaint with this release is that it’s not available on vinyl, and given that it’s a demo (though you’d never know it by the quality) I’m doubtful that will never change. Anybody want to do a sit-in with me at Tiny Engines’ office until they agree to press it on wax?
25. Worship This! – Tomorrow, I’ll Miss You
Hey kids, it's only fitting that we start out the LP countdown with a band that has that raspy, glass-gargling vocal style. This not-so-young group of dudes is from Akron, Ohio, and they rep the Midwest well. Much like the preceding EP The Nard Years, the music is more of the punk-n-roll variety than with most bands I like that employ that vocal style, but there are still significant minor elements of HWM/SBB/Leatherface influence in the music. My only complaint is that they could use a greater sense of urgency to help cut out some of the mediocre, aimlessly meandering parts. Those don’t come terribly often though. My favorite song here is "Whatever Happened To You Melissa", and the video for “Indifferent” is pretty cool too. I also have to shout out the Get Up Kids reference in the title of "Jen, with 2 N's". Nice touch.
24. Have Mercy – The Earth Pushed Back
These fellas are Reservoir’s rivals in terms of faithfully recreating that Midwest 90’s emo, not only sonically but in aesthetic as well. Thankfully it has been a long time since I went through the dissolution of a romantic relationship, but I remember the intense hopelessness & anguish of such an event going up against the minimal coping skills (and 8-month winter-related depression) in my early-twentysomething brain. If you could drag a record needle back and forth against the part of my brain that stores that memory, I’m pretty sure the vibrations that would come out would sound just like “Let’s Talk About YourHair”. “Ancient West” is another highlight which really typifies everything I’ve loved about the emo genre, especially in the guitar work. However, overall the biggest detriment to this album is the seventh-grade poetry feel in much of the lyrics. It just sounds like he goes for the most obvious rhyme every time (“You used to love to hear me sing/And we would talk about everything”), and he barely gets beyond monosyllabic words in too many cases. That’s OK though, because the talent is there and the sky is the limit for these kids. I think the lyric-writing improvement will come with time.
23. Polar Bear Club – Death Chorus
Oh, where to begin. If you know me, you know I’ve had an intense love for this band since 2006, and a large part of that has been because of the range of emotion conveyed by Jimmy Stadt’s vocal delivery as he transitioned between singing and throaty bark. Thanks to years of touring and abusing vocal chords that may not have been built for such things (not everyone can be Chuck Ragan), the growl is now gone and clean singing seems here to stay. Given that other vocalists have faced similar challenges and persevered to scream/growl again (Chino Moreno from Deftones comes to mind), I can hold out hope that Jimmy can also re-learn how to do so without ruining his throat, but I’m not holding my breath. That drastic change is coupled with a noticeably stronger stylistic leaning toward pop-rock. Some of the “whoa-oh-ohs” sound more akin to radio pop than punk this time around, which just doesn’t hit my old, decrepit, hairy ears right. As a result of all the change, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around this album. It’s definitely good, and outside of least favorites “Siouxsie Jeanne” & “Upstate Mosquito” I enjoy the other 8 songs to varying degrees of like to love. But besides the aforementioned “Blood Balloon”, there’s nothing else here that I feel any big passion for. Still, “Twang (Blister To Burn)” is a great song that gets second place here because of the unorthodox riff in the verse which just fits my ear perfectly. It’s one curveball I can hang with. A lot of the rest of the album reminds me of post-Clarity Jimmy Eat World (including “Chicago Spring”), which makes sense in light of my feelings of firm like but not much passion (how anyone can say Bleed American is better than Clarity is beyond me). Much like Chasing Hamburg, I think this record unfairly but unavoidably takes a hit because of how incredibly awesome its predecessor was and the associated inevitable letdown, but in no way is it deserving of a full write-off of the band. I’m hoping the vitriolic backlash against this album by a segment of their fanbase might piss them off enough to write some not-so-nice sounding tunes next time around. And even if they venture further out into territory I’m not comfortable with (not a forgone conclusion), much like Transit I wish them all the success in the world no matter how much I might personally dislike what they put out in the future. They deserve as much for sleeping on hardwood floors for years, putting out some of my most cherished music ever, and coming home to “how much longerwritten on your face”. Go get ‘em, boys, and thanks for all you’ve done so far. And if nothing else, the dislike some have for this album just proves the value and importance of always digging for new bands to fill in the gaps when others leave your listening range.
22. Rapsody – The Idea Of Beautiful
Here’s another 2012 release (reissued in 2013) I slept on for too long. If you want poignant, honest lyricism over boom-bap beats with a soulful touch, look no further. You can tell this young lady puts a ton of thought into her rhymes, and she makes it clear that her goal is to be recognized as one of the best MC’s of all time. She’s a founding member of the group Kooley High (who put out a decent but largely unmemorable album in 2011), and she’s on 9th Wonder’s label. 9th produces a number of songs here, including my favorite jam “The Drums” (naturally). Fellow North Carolinians Khrysis and Amp also lend some solid to great beats to round things out.
21. Paper Arms – The Smoke Will Clear
While I don’t find anything on this album to be quite as sweet as the previously mentioned “Run Away” from the split 7”, this is still a straight run of good to really good songs with occasional great parts and no duds. Check out “Tanks of Dust”, double-time banger “Choke”, or my favorite “These Nights” with the killer gang vocals.
20. Paranom – Five Seasons
Here’s another one that came out of nowhere to blindside me near the end of the year. I became aware of dude when browsing the new releases section of UndergroundHipHop.com and saw that he did an album with one of my two favorite (relatively) new producers, Purpose (who contributed the rhymes for my #7 album of 2012 with beats by my other new favorite, Confidence). I wasn’t able to locate said album at that time, but did stumble upon P-nom’s bandcamp site. I was in love from the first few seconds, as opener “Gifts From Above” is built on the same sample as one of my all-time favorite hip-hop instrumentals. Dude’s got an ill voice and a nice flow too. It’s great that sometimes things work out like that. The real highlights of the album are “Let It Bang” and “Respects” so don’t sleep on those. I have really high hopes for the album with Purpose after this kicked my ass like hitting a deer at 45 mph on a bicycle.
19. Alkaline Trio – My Shame Is True
There's probably not much more that needs to be said about the Trio's full return to relevance for me beyond what I wrote for the Broken Wing EP. The corniness that accompanied the full integration of the goth gimmick is still present in spots (most notably in Skiba's delivery), but the earnestness of Andriano's offerings more than offsets it. For me, "Torture Doctor" & "Young Lovers" stand above the rest here.
18. Lions – MTNZ
I guess this is listed as an EP on the label's site, but considering the vinyl version I own has two bonus tracks, bringing the total to ten, I'm considering it a full-length album, and one of the best debuts on the list (it preceded both EP's previously mentioned). More mathy emo-punk/indie rock with noodly MTB-ish guitars and unique vocals are what you'll find here. Help me spread the word about these guys. It's about time they got some well-deserved recognition. For sampling I'd recommend "Stuck In Our Small Town" & "Arizona The Second". Hurry up.
17. Implants – From Chaos To Order
This was the year I got to suspend myself in the mid to late 90's not only in emo and hip-hop, but punk rock as well thanks to this wonderful offering from a new band of old dudes featuring guitarist Rob Ramos from Strung Out as well as dudes from Pulley & Ten Foot Pole. Naturally the sounds don't stray very far from the well-crafted technical metal-tinged skate-punk of Strung Out, so if you are looking for a sonic trip to the heydays of Fat Wreck Chords , this record is your time machine. In addition to the obvious Strung Out comparison, I hear a lot of my favorite parts of No Use For A Name songs here as well. Be advised that the vocals may leave something to be desired and seem to the the only reason fans of the style can't get into this, but for me they were fine and didn't affect my enjoyment at all. "Parallels", "Through The Window", & "Once Was I" are all good starting points. Side note: Just look at that fucking cover art. It has to be one of the worst covers of all time. I seriously can't imagine someone green-lighting that, like "Yeah! That looks great! That will really catch the eye of the prospective buyer in a positive way."
16. The Story So Far - What You Don't See
Previous output by this young band of whippersnappers had me casting them off as cookie-cutter kiddie punk-pop that was way too angrily focused on crimes of the heart perpetrated by teenage girls on their male counterparts. In fact, moments on their debut full-length Under Soil And Dirt (soil and dirt are the same thing; call the Department of Redundancy Department, kids) brought the slut-shaming to downright awkward levels to the point where all my adult brain could think was, "Dude! No relationship dissolution could be this one-sided. Please just show me one track where you admit your part and show some self-awareness beyond self-pity." Thankfully the subject matter is more varied here, and while the music doesn't avoid the cookie-cutter construction completely, the cuts do not conform to tired and well-worn patterns anywhere near as much. So no, they're still not all that original, but holy fuck is the execution expertly done this time, to the point that literally everything feels improved and fleshed out for maximum foot-tapping and fist-shaking. I enjoy every song, but "The Glass" is especially good. It will be very interesting to see where they take their sound from here. It could get ugly, or it could get even greater if they keep an edge.
15. The Swellers - The Light Under Closed Doors
After the mild letdown of Good For Me, the punk/rock darlings of Flint put out a 7" and EP in 2012 that fully redeemed them for me. Accordingly, I was eagerly awaiting this LP, and for the most part it delivers. There's not much resembling the groove of something like "Running Out of Places To Go" (save maybe the ending of closer "Call It A Night") , but overall it's an even listen traversing from good to great (but nothing I could really call "excellent"). I think it's a good representation of every sound they've pursued on their previous efforts being thrown into a blender and repurposed. Suffice it to say that if you bailed on them with Good For Me, I can reassure you it's now fully safe to get back on the train. Now let's just hope they never let the suited sharks of the music industry handicap them again. Favorite songs here are "Should", "Big Hearts", & "Call It A Night".
14. The Cabs – Regenerative Landscape
Language barriers are a bitch. Given what incredible musicians this group of Japanese dudes are and how utterly enjoyable their music should be to most fans of 90's emo, frantic/jagged punk (in the At The Drive-In vein), and math rock, the fact that they sing exclusively in Japanese is the only logical reason I can surmise for why they seem to be such a well-kept secret in the U.S. & A. The guitar work occasionally matches the mastery of Minus The Bear's Dave Knudson but also sometimes sounds like a 33-1/3 Mineral record played at 45 rpm (a very good thing). And the drumming…holy fuck, the drumming! I don't know dude's name but he makes up my current top 4 with Such Gold's Devan Bentley, This Town Needs Guns’ Chris Collis, and Crash Of Rhinos' Oli Craven. This, their first full-length, follows up two EP's (surely you remember me gushing incessantly about the latter last year), and while it seems to falter a bit compared to the impossibly high watermark of Recur Breath, it's still another fun rollercoaster ride. If you can get past the awkwardness of listening to someone sing in a foreign language, I swear you will be infinitely rewarded with aural bliss. My favorite jam here is "Our Failure".
13. Pro Era – Peep: The Aprocalypse
Somehow I had no idea until a couple months ago that Joey Bada$$ was part of a crew. I was fully aware of his reverence and respect for the same hip-hop icons I grew up on despite being born in 1995, and it shows in his music. Still, I didn’t think there was anything extraordinary on his mixtapes, just mostly solid tracks. That changed when I saw the video for this mixtape’s leadoff track “Like Water” featuring two other members of the Pro Era crew, CJ Fly & the now sadly deceased (suicide at 19…senseless) Capital STEEZ, and production by Mr. Extraordinary Beats himself, Statik Selektah. It’s a masterful creation, and although it can’t quite be topped by the rest of this mixtape, there are a couple other extremely noteworthy joints that come damn close. “Last Cypher” is a posse cut to rival the classics, with an instrumental that could’ve been a lost track from Midnight Marauders, and “Resurrection of Real” features a sublime piano loop and the perfect head-nodding drums to complement it. The rhymes are not exactly all next-level shit, but they’re more than adequate and far better than most of the garbage that passes for popular rap (not to be confused with hip-hop) these days. The best part is it’s a free download, so you have no excuse to not check it out.
12. CM Jones - Perfect Hand Off
Here is a perfect example of the rewards of digging far beyond the mainstream. Some of the brightest flecks of gold might be off along the banks of the river, out of normal sight. The main hip-hop blog I peruse is based somewhere in Europe and accordingly posts a lot of amateurish crap from overseas which I almost always skip past with extreme prejudice if I haven't heard of them before. I guess something about the group name & album art here intrigued me enough to give a song a listen, and man am I glad I did because this is easily one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. The MC is MoShadee from New Jersey, and the producer/beatsmith is Creestal (an unfitting name to say the least) from France. Europe has always had a greater appreciation for the boom-bap than the States, and it appears obvious that Creestal was studying the scrolls of the Golden Era of American hip-hop. I really haven't had enough time with this to properly characterize the rhymes, but I can confidently say they don't detract from the overall greatness of this at all. "On The Way" & "On The Real" (no, seriously) are standouts here.
11. Seven G.E.M.S. (Tragic Allies + Tragedy Khadafi) - Golden Era Music Sciences
Previously mentioned producer Confidence's label Ill Adrenaline Records, who put this out, is the best thing going in hip-hop today. Get past the pseudo-enlightened bullshit on the intro to this record (seriously, it's as bad as Poppa Wu on Wu-Tang Forever), and you will be met with more boom-bap goodness with a street-hardened (but not thug-moron) perspective. The functional catalyst to all this (despite the inclusion of Queensbridge veteran MC Tragedy, who has worked with Nas & Capone-N-Noreaga among many others) is my boy Purpose, who produced this entire thing, proving he's just as adept behind the boards as he is on the mic. The other three hold their weight on the mic as well, and the finished product is something to behold if you love true-school hip-hop like I do. Bangers like "Time ToPonder" & "Wild Militants" (which breathes new life into the killer sample The Roots used for "Thought At Work") prove why this is my third favorite hip-hop LP of the year.
10. Moving Mountains - Moving Mountains
It's so sad to see this band go, but this is a fitting goodbye to endcap their existence. After the more aggressive Waves, singer Greg Dunn has stated in interviews that he wanted to get back to the mental place he was in when creating their emo/post-rock debut masterpiece Pneuma and do something a little more nuanced. Initially I was completely underwhelmed by the restraint shown here (there's not much in the way of the epic moments of something like "Ode…"), but further listens proved more rewarding each time once those nuances could be differentiated. It's definitely their mellowest release, so it doesn't really reach right out & grab the listener, and you may have to give it the benefit of the doubt and 4-5 spins before it starts to sink in. "Burn Pile" is really good, but to me the crowning achievement here is "Eastern Leaves". Once that baby kicks in with the drums, ohhhhh man are my eardrums in a state of bliss. Thanks for all you've given us over the years, Mr. Dunn & company. You will be missed.
9. This Town Needs Guns - 126.96.36.199
Here’s Exhibit B for the evidence supporting my realization about falsetto with a British accent (see the NGOD blurb above). This is the follow-up to the 7” they released in 2011 (my #5). I’ve adored this band since catching a case of drop-jaw while watching them play at Bled Fest 2010. Much like The Cabs, the musicianship is absolutely outstanding. When I saw them in 2010 they were a 4-piece but now play as a 3-piece, and it seems impossible that they achieve a sound so full & intricate with just three guys. I already mentioned my love for the drummer, but his guitarist brother is just as talented, taking the finger-tapping style of Minus The Bear and making other finger-tappers look like Muggsy Bogues compared to Michael Jordan. It’s also worth mentioning that this is their first recording with new vocalist Henry Tremain. I was concerned when I read old vocalist Stu Smith was leaving, since I couldn’t imagine them finding another young chap whose voice could match their music so well. All fears were assuaged upon hearing this record though, because his voice is eerily similar, he has even more range than Stu, and he plays a mean bass on top of it. He sounds fantastic live as well (I saw them again in 2013, and it was most triumphant – they even got a standing ovation from the crowd BEFORE playing), and I don’t understand how he does it while playing complicated math-rock on the bass. Based on what I’ve heard from others, playing 3-chord punk and singing is hard enough. Hopefully this lineup stays intact for many years, because they’re absolutely hitting on all cylinders right now, and I dare say I enjoy this album even more than Animals. Blasphemy, I know. Favorites here are “Cat Fantastic” & “Left Aligned”.
8. Balance And Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
This is the first release from this band that I’ve really loved through and through. I dug their 2011 debut LP, Separation, but in my memory that album exists as “I Tore You Apart In My Head” and then a bunch of other songs that didn’t stick so much. However, on this one the riffs are alternately crunchier and more memorably melodic, and the rhythms are more driving. The palpable emotions main songwriter and vocalist Jon Simmons has so effectively put forth in their previous music finally has a consistently strong foundation and accompaniment to aid in its expression. Make no mistake, this album is moody and angsty as fuck and makes no apologies for it. Furthermore, the anguished screams sparsely peppered throughout are incredibly well-placed to emphasize that aspect. This has 90’s emo influence all over it like their previous works, but I see a lot of fans & reviewers referencing this as a 90’s “alternative” (I really hate that term) rock throwback. I’m not sure if those people were even old enough to remember much of the 90’s, but I don’t remember any alternative bands sounding like this. Now, if we’re talking about Daylight’s Jar album from this year (ugh), then yes I can hear the Nirvana worship (by way of Puddle of Mudd), but nothing sticks out to me like that here. Shit, I wish more bands of the 90’s had sounded like this. If extraordinary songs like “Reflection”, “I’m Swimming”, & “Enemy” were around back then, I wouldn’t have had to pretend like Pearl Jam was actually good.
7. Doppelgangaz – Hark
One of the most unique hip-hop acts of the past five years has returned with another offering of neck-snapping boom-bap, killer flow, and “What the fuck did he just say?” lyrics. The quality of the music that the ghastly duo of EP & Matter Ov Fact make has been superb from jump (please tell me you didn’t sleep on their 2009 debut LP 2012: The NewBeginning, which I finally acquired on vinyl from Deutschland recently), and it’s so impressive that they’ve built a sizeable fanbase (especially in Europe, where they now tour regularly) and garnered significant industry attention without any features from more well-known MC’s (save for one non-album remix with Apathy) or any outside production work. They’ve also done everything DIY style (up the hip-hop punx) including their low-budget videos, with no label backing. That has enabled them to call all their own shots in terms of creative direction, so they can still spit lines like “He bagged a cougar named Mabel at a Peter Luger’s table/Or was it a Bruegger’s Bagel?/He knew he could include her to the stable/Shorty was pierced out from her hooters to her cooter to her navel/She was a looter of her cable/Plus a litterbug, add polluter to her label/He once saw her ram her pooter with a ladle/This old freak should’ve gotten neutered from the cradle/He knew she was slower hack/When he saw those letters tramp stamped on her lower back/It said Roe vs. Wade/The color of the text matched her lipstick and purse’s shade, jade”. Instead of flaunting their swag and jewelry, they endorse the Black Cloak lifestyle, which consists of living in vans, dumpster diving for food, and bagging the grossest chicks out there. Check: “It’s Matt ov Fact, the moocher & the future diabetic/Just finished opening his 27th line of credit/He’s burdened with that skinny fat/He’s out here tryin’ to shed it/He stuffs his face and uses a laxative & diuretic/But ask your auntie Allison the medic/She’ll tell you ladies lining up to help him with his calisthenics/His newest friend’s a thin hag with some skin tags/Who walks around with everything she owns inside a gym bag”. Fucking brilliant. The production here is my least favorite of their three main albums (they also have more mainly instrumental releases), but that’s really not saying much considering how much I love everything they’ve done. Overall I would put this at one tiny crab-infested pubic hair beneath Lone Sharks & 2012. That said, “Barbiturates”, my #1 joint here, might be their crowning achievement beat-wise thus far. “OnThe Rag” and “Sun Shine” are also good starting points for new listeners. Join the Shark Nation and get behind these guys already.
6. Vasudeva – Life In Cycles
I never knew I could be so into instrumental music before catching this band opening for Gates in 2012. The guitar work and rhythms are reminiscent of Highly Refined Pirates-era Minus The Bear to the point of being downright danceable at times, and I know it would shock more than a few of you to hear I like music that can be danced to. If their debut EP Roots Of The Tree from 2012 (my #3) was a Super Mario type effort (and it definitely was), then this is the raccoon suit that propelled them into the stratosphere (where hopefully lots of gold coins await them for their superior efforts). The drummer is a huge strength, as can readily be heard on the intro “Ritual”. He’s the backbone of everything they do, even more so than most drummers. This album begs to be listened to all the way through, but if you only have time for one song, I’d go with “Stop Making Yourself Miserable”. (Note: I realize this has only 8 songs and should probably be considered an EP, but the band and this review refer to it as a full-length so here it stays.
5. A Wilhelm Scream – Partycrasher
Here’s a band I never would’ve expected to be on this list at all, let alone top 5, despite the gravelly bark of the primary vocals. They’ve always been a band that has fittingly toured with other bands I enjoy and their style is not far off from most of the punk/melodic hardcore stuff I like, but I’ve never been able to get into anything of theirs besides a few songs from their 2004 album Mute Print (especially the stupendous “Anchor End”). Obtuse guitar theatrics bordering on hair-metal solos are my least favorite part of Strung Out’s repertoire, but these guys managed to push it to levels I really couldn’t handle on 2005’s Ruiner. After that I wrote them off until, on a whim, I checked out the track “Boat Builders” off the 2012 7” of the same name and found it to be a welcome surprise of enjoyment. That led me to want to check the album out, though I assumed that would be the only song I’d like from it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A re-recorded version of “Boat Builders” leads off what is an absolute fucking RIPPER of a punk rock album that manages to pummel the listener while still maintaining catchy choruses and instantly memorable lyrics perfect for fist shaking & finger pointing. I haven’t had time to sit down with the lyrics yet, but with more listens as I’ve worked on this blog, I’m noticing themes of realizing what a crippling burden it can be to hold on to anger and a shitty attitude, along with the clarity that can result from leaving such things behind. That’s stuff I can relate to, so this record is really starting to hit home for me, and thankfully the guitar theatrics aren’t so obtuse this time, so I can really get into it. If you need an album to get you fired the fuck up, this is it. Besides “Boat Builders”, my favorites are “Devil Don’t Know” & “Sassequin” (the “don’t blame meeeee” part is absolute perfection). Hurry up and rock your face off with this.
4. Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – Twelve Reasons To Die: The Brown Tape
Leave it up to Ghost to continue to keep the Wu-Tang name relevant and respectable almost singlehandedly. Take away his output for the last 15 years, and all you're left with from solo and group albums is a widely distributed smattering of relatively few solid songs, a couple decent albums, and a large pile of dung made of poor efforts, non-existent quality control, ill-advised mainstream crossover attempts, and plenty of good lyrics wasted by lackluster delivery and weak production (coughGZAcough). So it's not like Ghost needed to separate himself further from the pack, but he has indeed done so by adding an expertly executed concept album to his resume. I find this remixed version to be far superior to the original Adrian Younge production, which still stands on its own as a solid album. I think Apollo Brown really killed it with the beats on this, stepping far outside his usually rigid formula for most of these songs. He definitely has a signature sound that, while still being quality boom-bap that doesn't chase today's trends, often tends to be too mathematical and repetitive to be truly memorable for me. I think the difference here is in how he had to approach this one. Without ever hearing the original Younge mixes, he was asked to take Ghost's a capella verses and create music to fit around them, which is totally ass-backwards and was likely an enormous challenge. To go about it that way and have this turn out so well is a major feat that Mr. Brown should be proud of. "Rise Of The Black Suits", "The Center Of Attraction" and especially "Blood On The Cobblestones" (5 stars all the way despite the U-God appearance) are unfuckwittable.
2. Banquets - Banquets
Way too many good bands come out of New Jersey, and here's another one to pile on the heap. I can't even recall what made me give them a listen after being ignorant to them and their previous full-length Top Button, Bottom Shelf and debut EP This Is Our Concern, Dude (be still my heart), but I instantly liked what I heard and grew to absolutely adore it over the following months. I would call this equal parts rock n' roll and (mostly) mid-tempo punk, with a heaping helping of melody and hooks that begets way more accessibility than most stuff I listen to and just begs you to sing along to it. I hear elements of many of my favorite bands of the past, such as Face To Face, Alkaline Trio, and Carpenter (I've also seen The Loved Ones referenced, but to me this blows them out of the water), plus there's something I can't place that reminds me of super-catchy 80's band The Outfield. The band themselves list The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring, and Hot Rod Circuit as influences, so there's pretty much no way that I could not love this. "Little Shallow", "March 19th", "Bums In The Breeze", "The Flicker & The Flame", and especially "Daggers" and "Big Big Waves" really get me going and I hope they do the same for you.
1. Crash Of Rhinos - Knots
After grossly underrating their somewhat uneven but delightfully ambitious debut LP Distal back in 2011 and subsequently growing to love it (should've been top 5 in retrospect), I had very high expectations for this album. The fact that they had signed to my favorite label, Topshelf Records, who I knew would do a bang-up job with the release, only made me more excited. This is grown man's mathy emo with twists of angular punk, managing to convey heavy emotion without the slightest hint of wimpy sentimentality or self-indulgence that I will admit is present in some of the emo stuff I like. This is a record that reminds you that the term "emo" is short for emotional hardcore, and the emotions conveyed here are perfectly fitting for something called Knots. If life has ever gotten you all twisted up like a little wiener package, you should find something relateable here. This album manages to come off both beautiful and hard-hitting, the latter being due in large part to the stellar drumming and thundering dual bass action. All five guys sing, with one of them possessing the raspy glass-gargling voice, which only helps to add different textures to the already engaging & dynamic music. They also make great use of buildups and payoffs. At times it's like watching a team of skilled artisans building a sand sculpture. From your starting vantage point, you may only have a good look at one artist working on his part (a single guitar riff), and then you circle around and start to glimpse another artist whose part is starting to approach the first one (second guitar overlaying the first riff). You start to think, "Huh, I wonder what this is going to look like when it's done", and as you continue circling and a third artist's part comes into a view (drums come in subtly with escalating urgency), you think, "Holy fuck. This is going to be awesome, whatever it is". And then eventually the whole thing comes together and you're blown away by the beauty and intricacy of it all; the whole being far greater than the sum of its parts. It is indeed “fucking awesome”, in the truest sense of those overused words. This is another record where my favorite song has changed a lot, and really it's one that just begs to be listened to all the way through. But if you really want to understand what I'm trying to convey in a nutshell, listen to "Impasses". The part where the sand sculpture reaches fruition is at about 2:15, with just the smallest pause giving way to the crashing chorus crescendo of "Could've been a waste of your time". Ironically enough, my friends, this album is the absolute antithesis of a waste of time. Your time could not be better spent than giving this 3-4 listens to let it sink in and give your brain a chance to make sense of all the moving parts. I know it took that many for me to get a handle on it and start to really love it. As I was writing the first part of this paragraph, I started to feel like I couldn't properly explain my love for this, so I asked someone who loves it as much as I do, my brother, to give me a paragraph or two. He managed to finish it while I was finishing this, so these were totally independent reviews. Picture this like Q-Tip handing the mic off to Phife Dawg. You on point, T?
All the time, R. Crash of Rhinos is apparently part of this (Midwest) emo revival thing going on right now. I think that idea is a limiting label to put on these guys, and I’m reasonably certain it wasn’t their intentions. The kind of beauty about entertainment as art is that none of it is original - it’s all just recycled parts put back together. Sometimes it’s a big shitty kindergarten safety scissors and paste eating giraffe that not even the parents can tell what the fuck it is. Sometimes it’s some sort of a flawless dick hammer with a brain sculpture suspended triumphantly over a wasteland of weathered, broken shit that at one point was good for something or another. Crash of Rhinos has taken everything I’ve loved in post-hardcore-punk-emo-indie-something-or-another over the past 15 years and made one hell of a collection of music that is greater than the sum of all those parts - I can’t stress that part enough - “is greater than the sum of all those parts.” I like music that lyrically addresses introspective human problems ambiguously, and musically brings the aggression, motivation, and tenacity to be hopeful and functional in tackling them. Knots balances those aspects in ways classics like Small Brown Bike’s Dead Reckoning and Hot Water Music’s Forever and Counting accomplished. In the interim, I’d be hard pressed to say CoR has not refined that balance with this record. Musically, they incorporate enough technical playing to keep it interesting and engaging after repeated listens (six months constant for me), once again utilizing that sense of balance, never allowing it to over shadow hooks or more accessible aspects of their music. Oli on the kit alone is enough to keep your ears busy for years. Each song has a balance and each song contributes to the reflection of the record’s balance as a piece. Staccato rhythms somehow morph into lullabies; layered, raspy yells dissolve into introspective singing; and contemplative, repetitive signatures explode into steering-wheel-pounding crescendos. It’s a beautiful thing when the words and music seem to envelope and encircle and complement each other in an intimate way that only those people at that time in that place can create. Knots is a true, honest document of real life with a finesse never attained by most, and it's untainted by a depletion of creativity or frustrating years in the business. These boys are young and hungry and doing it way better than their assigned history would have anyone believe.
Well, there you have it, kids. I know I’ve already given you more than enough to chew on, but there are a few more releases I thought were worthy of an honorable mention and your awareness. The first three are Michigan bands that I have to give some “home state represent” love to.
Bike Tuff – Into Shore
Cheeseless pop-punk with emo & beard-punk overtones. Check “This Canada House Is Not A Home”.
Louder Than Bombs – What Resonates
Harder edged pop-punk and beardy melodic/post-hardcore (go figure).
Lawnmower – Whack Yer Brain
Lighter-hearted indie rock with slight emo/pop-punk influence. "Team Spirit" is a great lead-off track.
Braid + Balance & Composure – split 7”
In the 90’s emo world, this is like Ric Flair teaming up with CM Punk.
Castle – Gasface
This new jack comes correct with the boom-bap courtesy of the second best label in hip-hop today, Mello Music Group (not to be confused with the other MMG that puts out ignorant bullshit music). Don’t miss “Orientation”.
Durag Dynasty – 360 Waves
Planet Asia & crew won’t wow you with the lyrics, but Alchemist did really well with the beats.
Gatherer – Between A Rock & A Sad Place
Wickedly sweet emo/post-rock-ish music with screamed/shouted vocals. Call it “screamo” if you will.
Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons To Die
I love the cinematic feel of Mr. Younge’s production, but too much of it was boring & repetitive to make the countdown.
Heartsounds – Internal Eyes
Male/female-fronted punk rock mixing melodic hardcore with skate-punk & pop-punk. Highly recommended for fans of Strung Out & A Wilhelm Scream.
Ivy League TX – Transparency
Most fans of newer The Story So Far and old Transit should dig this mix of melodic hardcore & pop-punk, put out by the scummiest label in punk rock today. Fuck you, 6131!
Lewis Parker – The Puzzle, Episode Two: The Glass Ceiling
Quality honest boom-bap from the UK.
Pete Rock & Camp Lo – 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Pt. 2
All-new material that’s extremely uneven, but as a result you get some really high points to balance out the clunkers. Features one of the all-time worst verses I’ve ever heard, thanks to Uncle Murda on “Clean Getaway”, which is otherwise a highlight, as is “Ladies & Gentlemen (ft. Talib Kweli)”.
Red City Radio – Titles
Still a good album from a band I will continue to love, but a little underwhelming for me. It seems like they lost the bombast and some of the energy in favor of more traditional punk song structures.
Reks – Revolution Cocktail
Here’s another mild disappointment from one of my favorites of years past, though there are mostly solid tracks here. No Statik production hurts it. “Melancholy” (track 19) stands out.
Slum Village – Evolution
This was a big pleasant surprise. When it comes to Detroit hip-hop, I’ll still take Elzhi any day, but there are 7-8 good songs here, especially “Bout That” (9).
Spectac & Amiri – Soul Beautiful
This dude Spectac has been around the NC hip-hop scene for a while and was affiliated with Little Brother’s crew. Amiri provides some solid simple boom-bap backdrops for him, and it sounds real real nice.
Turnover – Magnolia
These guys moved on from pop-punk really quickly and went with a way more alterna-emo sound. It’s still a solid listen for me even if I think they were better at the old style.
OK, that’s officially all I have for you. See you next year. Thanks again for reading.