Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

Best Albums of 2013

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Black BugReflecting the Light (Hozac)
The only mark against this album is that many of the songs have already been released as singles. That said, you can’t deny the unstoppable force that is Black Bug. Their essential debut LP may go a couple clicks further in aggression, but Reflecting the Light is every bit as nasty, scuzzed out and terrifying as anything they’ve ever done. Any punk purists that still scoff at synthesizers need to have this monster blasted at their face. The tone is hard and overamped to oblivion, and shreds in a cool detached manner that only the French can muster. Think of it as Metal Urbain 2.0 — which roughly translates to “required listening ” in NFZ English.

BloodbirdsPsychic Surgery  (Self Released)
Made up from some folks with a long line of notable punk/indie/hardcore/avant groups that have kept the KC/Lawrence music scene interesting for over a decade, Bloodbirds is guitar rock built on a sturdy foundation of dialed-in songwriting and the good sense to keep the edges frayed a little with some masterfully applied effects, feedback and squall. The first track “Divorce Sea” alone is enough to make this record an essential part of your sonic diet.

Dan MelchiorCCDE Music (Little Big Chief)
With such a prolific amount of recordings out there it’s easy to overlook some of Mr. Melchior’s efforts. That said, it’s good to remember that he’s never been one to rest on his laurels. Even though he’s definitely got his own sound, he’s constantly tweaking and bending it into new directions — just check out the cut up avant blues of 2011′s Assemblage Blues for instance. The most striking thing about CCDE Music is the lack of Dan’s trademark yelp. Only two songs include his distinct vocals, while the others offer up processed tapes and clips, making this a mostly instrumental record. Shifting the focus from lyrics and vocal delivery allows him to flex his musical muscle here with an outstanding collection of guitar and noise interplay over hypnotic krautrock beats. Definitely one of his best yet. If you think you’ve got enough Melchior records in your collection, think again.

FrustrationUncivilized (Born Bad)
This Parisian band’s aesthetic has become more and more defined over the span of its career, and Uncivilized is the most realized version of their darkwave postpunk oeuvre. Channeling a perfectly balanced stream of their influences like early Devo, Joy Division, and Wire, Frustration has perfected their uniquely severe sound with songs structured enough to be coldly stark, but fleshed out with loosely planted synth flourishes and electronics. The LP version comes with a bonus 7″ that’s got a catchy track “I Can’t Forget You” and an intro B-side.

Indian JewelryPeel It (Reverberation Appreciation Society)
Indian Jewelry has an amazing track record for putting out highly listenable records and 2013′s offering is yet another gift from the psych gods. Read more about them here. As with their other releases, Peel It lets the freak flag fly (the first track “Freak Pride” makes that more than clear) with layers and layers of psych drone and fuzz, this time with a slight lean towards Chrome-like effects and tribal drums versus the pounding Pain Teens punch of records like Free Gold. You’ll dig it if you’re searching for something between the headspace of Peaking Lights and the druggy sludge of Wizzard Sleeve.

Nails - Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
In 2013, your band has to be relentless if you want to be relevant in hardcore punk or grindcore metal circles. Bands are constantly upping the ante with insane tempo shifts, stops and blistering speed. Of the dozens (maybe hundreds) of hardcore/grindcore releases put out this year, the 10 tracks from Nails’ second album clip along in only 17 minutes, but it’s enough time to be filled with enough full throttled D-beat riffs, breakdowns and blastbeats to keep any listener on their heels. An unrelenting mix of Coalesce precision and internsity, Pig Destroyer complexity and Napalm Death speed make this a new watermark for extreme music.

Oranssi Pazuzu - Olen Aukaissut Uuden Silmän (20 Buck Spin)
There were a ton of great metal records put out in 2013 and the one that really stood out from the pack was this Finnish black metal psych band’s third album. Its buzzing mix of hypnotic synth over churning guitar crescendos and possessed vocals have a composed, confident way that pulls you into their world, sounding something like Hawkwind channeling Emperor. It’s unique in that it doesn’t try too hard. It makes a statement through its deliberate and inventive use of the black metal sonic palette.

PharmakonAbandon – (Sacred Bones)
It’s been a while since something interesting has come from the noise scene, and knowing the quality of output from the Sacred Bones label, I knew it’d be worth checking out. The power electronics and possessed vocals Margaret Chardiet serves up are both harsh and captivating, and best of all masterfully composed to deliver maximum impact. Be sure to track down the 5-track special edition with the 27 minute bonus track “Sour Sap” — a terrifyingly brute example of the Pharmakon sound, which shifts from Merzbow wails to waves of Whitehouse throb and hissing black metal shrieks.

Spray Paint - Rodeo Songs (S.S. Records)
After a pair of killer 7 inches in 2012, Spray Paint released a pair of killer LPs in 2013. While their debut LP was closer in form and sound to their 7 inches, Rodeo Songs adds some depth and space to their short, sharp angular guitar attack. Overall, it’s not as loud. Heavy echo and reverb separating the dual guitars and cleaner production helping balance and distinguish the vocals and drum sounds. Rodeo Songs better captures the sonic textures and punch of the band’s live show. You won’t often hear me praising cleaner production, but in this case it really enhances the Spray Paint experience. Just turn it up!

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin (Castleface)
You’d think with their prolific amount of output over the last few years, there’d be a lesser album from Dwyer and crew at some point, but here comes yet another set of 10 killer tunes that made 2013 that much better. And like the last couple LPs they continue to push their sound into new spaces and tempos, like the fuzzy slo-mo glaze of “Toe Cutter” and “Night Crawler” or the sweet pull of the spacious closing track “Minotaur,” enhanced with a string section Breeders-esque background vocals. These mixed with a handful of classic Oh Sees rave ups make this essential listening for 2013 and beyond.

Best Reissues of 2012

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Aphex Twin
Selected Ambient Works Volume II 3xLP – (1972)
This high water mark of ’90s electronica gets a triple vinyl edition worthy of the genre-bursting expanse of sonic trancendence it birthed in 1994.

Catatonic Youth
- Piss Scene 7″ (Perrenial)
This primo slab of wax initially released in 2008 by the almighty Hozac label quickly disappeared but lived on in the form of illegitimate MP3s, spreading its essential frayed lo-fi noise pop to the deranged masses. Now you can own it on vinyl with a righteous bonus cut “Control My Gun.”

Hate Them 2xCD (Peaceville)
Darkthrone has existed on a fascinating plane that placed them at the genesis of the infamous Norwegian black metal scene through more than two decades and 16 albums that’ve covered territory that includes thrash, death metal, and of course black metal. This 2003 album gets the reissue treatment complete with a making-of commentary disc that reveals the lighter side to an otherwise heavy album.

– Liquid Swords 2xCD - (Get On Down)
Hands-down one of the best hip-hop records ever. This debut solo record from Wu-Tang Clan member GZA heavily samples from the twisted ’80s electrosynth film soundtrack  from Shogun Assassin, which is enough to at least warrant a sample spin. After that, its brilliantly paced, masterfully composed beats beneath GZA’s forceful flow will keep you coming back to this must-have hip-hop classic.

The Marvel World of Icarus LP – (Acme)
Sure it’s a novelty and sure, it’s beyond cheesy, but it’s hard to resist this 1971 prog rock odyssey. Earnestly belted out tunes, each dedicated to a particular Marvel Comics super hero over a fuzz-drenched ’70s hard rock haze — it’s simply too marvelous to resist.

Moss Icon
Discography 3xLP (Temporary Residence)
Moss Icon’s racket from the late ’80s to early ’90s wasn’t completely ignored, but the full weight of its impact has only been proven over the course of time, and that weight can literally be felt in this comprehensive 3 LP collection from Temporary Residence. Tangled webs both abstract and direct, raging and subdued, a lot of ground is covered here as an in-depth immersion into one of the most interesting bands of the time.

The Prefab Messiahs
Peace, Love and Alienation LP (Fixed Identity)
Unearthed and overlooked Massachusetts postpunk recordings circa 1982-1983 get pressed to wax 30 years later, sounding as inventive and relevant as ever. Read more here.

Rat at Rat R
Ameri$ide CD – (Ektro)
Not sure why it’s taken almost 30 years for this crucial NYC no wave to get the reissue treatment, or why it’s on the Finnish Ektro label (home of the amazing Circle), but finally, these long out of print tracks are getting some respect. Fitting somewhere between the sonic space of Sonic Youth skronk and Swans’ severity, Rat At Rat R’s music was more deliberate and composed than it’s contemporaries, but no less threatening. If you have any interest in this era you need this document of one of it’s essential groups.

Ty Segall
Singles 2007-2010 2xlp (Goner)
As prolific as Ty Segall has been in the last 5 years, and as many 45s of his I’d tracked down in those 5 years, I’d figured I’d heard most of his fuzzy garage gems, but this blazing comp proves that I’d only scratched the surface. Many thanks to the Goner label for gathering this essential material into one amazing LP.

Live at Surf City 7″ (Rerun Records)
The 1978 KBD punk classic from pre-Angry Samoans trashmeisters VOM (short for Vomit) gets a legit reissue remastered from the original tapes. Reminisce with such classics as “I’m in Love with Your Mom” and “Electrocute Your Cock.”

Best Singles/EPs of 2012

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

AnomalysRetox 7″ (Slovenly)
You might be accurate calling this Dutch treat a psychobilly band, but to me that speaks more to style and doesn’t really emphasize the ‘psycho’ factor this trio delivers. Their melding of rockabilly tools and Motorhead ferocity is as revved up and essential as you’ll ever need. A classic in the making.

Cindy SistersShe’s Burning Inside 7″ (Hozac)
A blissful fuzz trance that starts in a realm  founded by Spacemen 3 or Loop and pushes into the gnarled swagger of contemporary geniuses Sex Church, the droning pair of tracks on this debut release fully satisfy the urge to detach and drop out.

Coffin PricksGroup Home Haircut 7″ (Stationary Heart)
It’s amazing how Chris Thomson pops up every few years in a new band with a loosely similar sound built around his distinctive, snotty snarl. Fans of Circus Lupus, Monorchid, Skull Kontrol, and Red Eyed Legends take note.

Crimson Scarlet
Sanctuary 7″ (Cool Summer Records)
You may not think of Santa Barbara as a death rock mecca, but here’s a proof of a killer group based there that’s in league with some of the best goth-tinged punk ever committed to vinyl. Read more here and snatch up this gem on deep maroon wax if your record collection includes Siouxsie & The Banshees, 45 Grave, The Phantom Limbs or The Vanishing.

Double Negative
Hits 7″ (Sorry State)
This North Carolina HC machine has a great track record of slashing hardcore records in sharp packaging. This 3-punch 7″ positively continues this trend.

GG KingJoyless Masturbation 7″ (Total Punk)
One of the catchiest tunes of 2012, guaranteed to rattle around in your head seconds after dropping the needle on the record, is the stomper “Joyless Masturbation” by ex-Carbonas’ GG King. A speedy B-side rounds out the best punk 45 of 2012. Cheap, nasty, and totally essential.

Sex ChurchSonambulist 12″ EP (Instant Pleasure/Psychic Handshake)
Last year’s debut LP from this Vancouver riff-churn team, Growing Over, was barely nudged out of NFZ’s top 10 LPs list in 2011, but this release firmly plants them at the top of the pile along side their epic Dead End 7″ from 2009. Dense, warped and weirdly narcotic, this 3-song 12″ reestablishes Sex Church as one of the best bands going.

Spray PaintSpray Paint 7″ – (S.S. Records)
The first of a pair of 7-inches released in 2012, Spray Paint’s vinyl debut is a jagged 3-song stab of postpunk that takes the best elements of A Frames severity and focus, and pumps a sick dose of noisy ruckus ala no-wave greats Lake of Dracula. “Psychic Doug” is my jam.

TV Ghost
Phantasm 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Further demonstrating the superior taste of the Vancouver Sweet Rot label, the latest 7″ from Indiana’s TV Ghost ranks right up there along side the band’s best material from their In The Red LPs. Two tracks of on-edge, sinister echo-laden darkwave punk with enough texture and mystery to warrant many spins on the turntable.

Up the Academy
Gimme Gimme 7″ (Replay Records)
Their track on the Cheap Beer compilation from 2011 set the high expectations that their debut  7″ delivers with a 2-song punch of earnest punk and righteously thick riffs. Check out the hilarious “Gimme Gimme” video for proof.

Best Albums of 2012

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The ChewersChuckle Change and Also (Art Pushers)
There’s weird and then there’s weird. Some bands try so hard to subvert normalcy by throwing a barrage of randomness and/or silliness at the listener in hopes to defy easy classification but in the end they sound like the cheap gimmicks they are. The Chewers couldn’t be normal if they tried, and the 22 tracks on Chuckle Change deliver on the promise of their great debut album from 2011, with a twisted version of swampy art-damaged blues.

ConvergeAll We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
You may tire of the Converge aesthetic — it is exhausting and deliberately obnoxious — but you gotta give this band credit for doing what they do at the level they do for  20+ years. Another classic in the making.

Evening MeetingsEvening Meetings (Sweet Rot)
I try not to get caught up in pedigree and press before deeming a record good, but the all the criteria needed to confirm the greatness of this album from is affirmed from the first listen. With members from some of the Pacific Northwest’s most interesting bands (A Frames, Factums, AFCGT, Love Tan, etc) and best labels, this 10-song pounder hits with AmRep gnarl shaped with the sophistication of Television.

Fag CopWhimpers from the Pantheon (Rank Toy)
Here’s another record with a lot going for it on paper: a slew of blown-out killer trash singles leading up to this one-sided, 13-track jizzwave fuzzbomb that completely slays. No weak shit here,  no B-side necessary.

Guinea WormsSmiles (Columbus Discount)
The only problem with Smiles is that it’s only an LP. After the massive (and essential) Sorcerers of Madness (4rd Year in A Row) double LP, which continues to befuddle, entertain and amuse since it’s release in 2010, only getting 8 songs leaves you wanting more.

KellarBeloved Dean of Magic (Foolproof Projects)
This Brighton UK improv trio dropped three releases in 2012 and any of them could’ve made this list, but this one was the first and has had the most time to embed its propulsive web of noise tangle into my skull. It reveals new surprises and becomes more interesting with each listen.

LampsUnder the Water Under the Ground (In The Red)
This long-running LA trio has had a number of noteworthy releases in its history, but none of them have been as compelling document of their genius as this one. If you’ve ever experienced the visceral punch their knuckle-dragging primate punk in a live setting, you’ll know that their recordings have never quite captured the intensity of their sound. This is the closest so far to doing so. And while their other albums have been too one-dimensional to hold up over many listens, Under the Water continues to thrill.

Mrs. MagicianStrange Heaven- (Swami)
Looking at this list and and the overall universe where Noise for Zeros dwells, there’s really no explanation how something as poppy and sunny and Mrs. Magician’s debut LP finds a place here. There’s more than enough jangly college/alt pop in the world, but few match the clever bite (check out song titles like “I’m Gonna Hangout with the Lesbians Next Door & Drop Acid” and the lyrics to “Actual Pain”) and magical way these songs lodge themselves in your ear and sound sweeter with every listen.

Pop. 1280The Horror (Sacred Bones)
As much as their previous releases set the trajectory for The Horror, it was impossible to expect the severity of the snarling noir stomp that Pop. 1280 was to unleash in 2012. This record’s relentless venom and synthetically-enhanced sonic density thrusts the urban grit of CopShootCop into the 21st century.

SoupcansGood Feelings (Telephone Explosion)
It’s a rare treat to hear a band breathe life into punk. Like hearing Flipper or the Butthole Surfers for the first time. The wild frontier where crazy dudes spazz out and let the freak flag fly high. If you had the pleasure of hearing the awesome Erotic Nightmares EP from these crazed Canadians, know that every track on this LP is even more amped up with better production and focus.

Dark Ambient Delights

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

It’s that haunting time of year and as mentioned in the Horror Punk 101 posting a while back, Halloween’s the perfect time to dig up some frightening tracks to set the mood. And while horror punk is all murder, all guts, all fun, according to Samhain, if you’re looking for music that’s truly creepy and unflinchingly dialed directly into the human psyche, you can’t go wrong with these free-flowing, sinister sounds. Completely detached from conventional music constraints, dark ambient artists (typically the pure vision of isolated souls) are able to craft sound art that’s as clear a view into the human psyche as your ever likely to hear. With the tracks on this list, you’ll be blanketed by the darkest, most unsettling sounds ever created — play it for the neighborhood trick or treaters if you want to scare the piss out of them and keep your candy.


Dark Ambient Delights (95.7mb Zip file)

1. Anenzephalia – “Nohaem 3″ (2003)
Any track from this psyche-warping monster would be a fitting start to this list, but track number three from Noehaem is a stunning example of the endlessly expansive possibilities of dark ambient music. With a monotonous beat so slow that the space inbetween beats fills in with waves of sound, emulating the sensation of sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss.

2. Coil – “His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite” (1990)
This group with roots in industrial, noise and experimental scenes encompasses and transcends all those genres, often leading into territory that could later be defined as dark ambient. For example, check out this unnerving track from their Unnatural History collection that’s built from growling sound collage that somehow manages to continually build for 3+ minutes. Also check out their Unreleased Themes for Hellraiser disc which is every bit as chilling, but excluded from this list as it’s too conventionally composed to be considered ambient.

3. Schloss Tegal – “Anthropophagy” (1993)
In case you didn’t have a dictionary, the title of this track is a clinical term for cannibalism — par the course for one of America’s (now based in Berlin) darkest dark ambient groups. This track from their Grand Guignol CD is one of the most ominous tracks on this list, with deep bass textures that build and transform into an ever-evolving mix of menace and calm.

4. Temple of Not – “The Sunken Houses of Sleep” (2005)
This track from a split Rex Ex Ordine Throni LP with black metal band Nightbringer makes the perfect slow motion compliment to the blistering cacophony on the flipside. This side project from two Nightbringer members manages to overshadow the excellent, but somewhat standardized black metal of their main band. You’ll find a much more immersive sonic experience in the waves of cool, Bladerunner-esque tones in this track.

5. Lull – “Moment 1″ (1998)
The initial track from this brilliantly conceived CD (99 ambient tracks that can be played at random for a unique experience every time you listen) is a gently-formed sound cloud for the ultimate chill. Mick Harris (aka Lull) knows extremes, going from drumming blastbeats in Napalm Death to freeform ambient in his Lull project.

6. Rapoon – “Groundswell” (1998)
Zoviet France co-founder Robin Storey made a name for himself in the industrial and noise circles of the 1980s, and continues to be an active soundscape artist with more than two dozen solo releases under then Rapoon moniker. This enveloping track from the The Fires of the Borderlands CD drifts from shifting drones and eerie siren songs into minimal drone. Positively haunting.

7. Crepuscule – “Created” (1997)
From the Music for Decay CD, this ghostly creeper  is ambient sound design at its organic best. En Lewellyn (aka Crepuscule) is a mortician by day and dark ambient sound artist by night, existing in a space some between light and dark, life and death, a fitting title for a project called Crepuscule, a word meaning twilight or the period of darkness before or at the end of the day.

8. Lustmord – “Heresy Part III” (1990)
Often credited with starting the dark ambient genre with his Heresy LP, Brian Williams (aka Lustmord) made notable field recordings in slaughterhouses, crypts and caves that capture an unearthly cocoon of sound that are as sinister and frightening as anything you’ll ever hear. His contributions as sound designer for commercials, video games and film cement his reputation as the godfather of the genre, along with recordings throughout the ’80s that pushed industrial/experimental music into darker, abstract worlds.

9. Vidna Obmana – “Flesh Reaper” (2001)
Another long time ambient artist with releases dating back to 1990, Dirk Serries (aka Vidna Obmana) knows his way around isolationist tones and rich, atmospheric soundscapes. “Flesh Reaper” from the Tremor CD is lush with shifting echoed ambience and distant acoustic drums.

10. K-Group/Omit – “Slow Movement Toward the Abyss” (1998)
One of the most haunting and masterful examples of dark ambient drone comes from the B-side of this 7″ collaboration between New Zealand’s Clinton Williams (aka Omit) and Paul Toohey (aka K-Group) released on the US label Colorful Clouds for Acoustics. Also be sure to check out their Storage LP.

11. Omit – “Uniselector” (2002)
Utilizing oscillators and other analog sources, Clinton Williams masterfully crafts hypnotic, polyrhythmic tracks so stark and spacious that you can’t help but be sucked in by their mysterious gravity. There’s almost a warmth to the cool, minimalist tones. From the stellar Rejector CD.

12. Greater Than One – “Trust (Excerpt)”  (1990)
Don’t bother looking up the rest of Greater Than One’s tepid discography. Nothing else they did matches the depth and atmosphere of this extended 12″ single which was released as a one-off diversion from their otherwise forgettable goofy industrial funk. What possessed or inspired them to craft this release is anyone’s guess, but what is known is that it’s every bit as moving and brilliant as any other release on this list.

13. Aphex Twin - “Tassels” (1994)
One of the best known artists on this list also put out one of the best dark ambient releases ever. While this techno/acid house king may not lay claim to the genre, there’s no denying the staggering depth and genius of Richard D. James’ (aka Aphex Twin) landmark Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 double LP, which continues to gather new followers with yet another rerelease this year.

Best Reissues/Comps. of 2012

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Buzzov*enRevelation: Sick Again – (HydraHead)
When they were around, these North Carolina freaks were the band at the far end of sludgy, heavy, underground metal. New Orleans’ Eyehategod were more visible and hyped as the South’s heaviest, but for me, Buzzov*en was the real deal. Grim, fucked up and plagued by an existence as extreme as the low-end punch of their music, this band existed (tenuously) in a league of its own. Here’s an official reissue of their swansong LP in all its glory, complete with tons of movie sample lead ins and unrelenting, time-perfected heavosity.

Chalk Circle
Reflection – (Mississippi/Post Present Medium)
Deep from the depths of the early ’80s DC punk scene comes this postpunk shock that’s forceful, amazing and way ahead of its time. Kudos to Mississippi and PPM for compiling these tracks and bringing Chalk Circle to light. The recording quality and playing varies a lot, but the spirit of their scrappy, earnest sound can’t be dampened.

Cheap Beer
Various Artists – (Replay Records)
It’s easy to bag on local scene compilations since they generally end up being about 80% crap. And I can name a handful of Lawrence/KC comps that fit that exact description. With that said, you can really appreciate the exceptional quality of this LP put out from the punkrock tastemakers at the Replay Lounge. If you question the state of Kansas punk in the year 2011, just check out some of the killer tracks captured here from bands like The Mouthbreathers, Spook Lights, Fag Cop, Nature Boys, Dark Ages, Up The Academy, Muscle Worship, Jabberjosh, This Is My Condition and more.

Give Them Rope – (Relapse)
When this monster was originally released in 1997, I’d pretty much chalked up Coalesce as some sort of nu metal band. A colossally stupid assessment, for sure, almost as colossal as the mighty riffs found on this, their much-touted debut LP. And while I still prefer some of their later releases, it’s great to get the definitive package that includes the controversial remixed version (read more about that here) along with the original version that redefined heavy.

Short, Fast & Loud #24
10″ compilation (Six Weeks)
Although a good percentage of this comp is unmemorable and indistinguishable from leagues of like-minded bands across the globe, the sheer spirit and continued inertia of the SF&L scene is always worth a listen. With a mix of long-running outfits like Brutal Truth and Lack of Interest to some of the more recent heros of speedcore like Extortion and Wasteoid, this blazing 10″ lives up to its namesake, while the zine documents of how this scene has practically become its own genre.

Carved Into Roses/Infinityland/Singles 3xCD- (VHF)
A massive 3-CD Skullflower reissue collecting the squalling range of mid-1990s releases that transition from freeform noise to chugging hypno-drone. The history of Skullflower is well documented with dozens of CD and LP releases that range from essential to mildly interesting. This collection captures one of the band’s more interesting periods in a completist’s snapshot with some harder-to-find singles on one disc, and 2 of their LPs from this period on the other discs.

Spits – (Slovenly)
With their fifth eponymous LP out in 2011, it was about time their 2000 debut got reissued. Looking back, it’s amazing how fully developed The Spits sound was straight out of the gate. They were born weird and have remained weird. Classic stuff from a band that’s anything but classic.

Terror Visions
- World of Shit – (FDH)
Although this Jay Reatard project was ultimately treated as a footnote along with his other Screamers/synthpunk influenced groups (Nervous Patterns, Angry Angles, etc), Terror Visions did carry some clout as evidenced by this reissue, inserting the overamped, way out of control energy of The Reatards into the synthpunk realm. I never saw Lost Sounds as a new wave band, despite the tag always being thrown at them, but compared to Terror Visions they were.

Best Singles/EPs of 2011

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Black Bug
Police Helicopter 7″ (Hozac)
After cranking out one of the best LPs in 2010 (now reissued on CD on the tUMULt label) Black Bug serves up another slab of overdriven electroshock punk. With killer male/female tradeoff vocals and a frantic energy that’s akin to chomping on live wires, the 3 tracks on Police Helicopter are yet a another demonstration of this Swedish group’s best-in-class chops.

Double Negative
Hardcore Confusion Vol. 1 – (Sorry State)
This longtime NCHC group’s first two in a series of four 7″ releases came out in 2011. Of course both volumes are shredders, but this first installment has some of their tightest songs yet, especially “Writhe” which takes the roar of their debut LP and channels it into the crafted, churning song structures of their second LP. Can’t wait for the next volumes.

The Dreams
Body of Michael 7″ – (To Roccoco Rot)
This 3-song tour 7″ continues The Dreams’ track record of delivering quality jams. Like their digital singles and the excellent Morbido album, this single features their peculiar brand of psycho dub weirdo jams including the chillicious “Afrikaner Dub.”

2 – (Sorry State)
A year wouldn’t be complete without at least one totally ripping hardcore 7″ and thanks to Sorry State records we’ve got one of the most raging ones right here. Like their first 7″, this one goes for the throat with a relentless barrage of escalating riffs and maniacal vocals.

Anxiety – (In The Red)
Killer garage punk with a huge guitar sound, turned up to eleven and crackling raw electricity. Players include dudez from Rooftop Vigilantes and Blood on the Wall. Loud, brash, catchy, and perfect for drunken singalongs, it’s hard to keep this one off the turntable.

The Nature Boys
- Rabies 7″ – (San Huevos)
The debut release from these Kansas punks flows with the rollicking ease of The Minutemen and the raw intensity of The Alley Cats’ male/female vocals. The Nature Boys take early SoCal punk as a starting point and ramp it up into a frenzy that’s too much fun to ignore or forget.

Pop. 1280
Thirteen Steps - (Blind Prophet Records)
Each Pop. 1280 release gets nastier and more primitive, but not in the way you may expect. Instead of amped up volume and distortion, Pop. 1280′s songs recoil into monotonous, riffless dirges that taunt more than roar. Even with the texture and artsy elements stripped from the sound of their killer Grid EP, Pop. 1280 ups the ante with this solid 2-song single.

Soft Moon
Total Decay 12″ EP – (Captured Tracks)
If you love Luis Vasquez’s ultra-atmospheric darkwave, you’ll be pleased to know that 2011′s Soft Moon offering measures up to the tidal wave of amazing records he put out in 2010. As a reader of this blog, you’ll also be pleased to know that he veers into noisier territory on Total Decay — a fitting title that hints at the restrained squall that adds interesting texture to his enveloping and seductive sound.

Ty Segall
- Spiders 7″ – (Drag City)
Not only is Ty Segall prolific, but his output is always top notch. And even better, he’s never afraid to venture into new territories, like the heavy slow-mo sonic burn of this awesome 45. The sludgy buzzsaw guitar is so slow in fact that I had to be sure that my turntable was at the right speed. Chalk up another golden single to the staggeringly awesome Ty Segall discography.

Best Albums of 2011

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Cheveu1000 – (Kill Shamen)
Technically this was released in 2010, but it was late late December 2010 at least and I don’t even recall seeing it until a few months into 2011, so fuggit we’re gonna call this a 2011 release. In any case, it would have secured a place on the 2010 list because it’s as brilliant as their previous LPs and twice as catchy. Many reviews of this brain melter claim that it’s their most accessible and conventional release yet, but I don’t hear that. There’s less cut-up lo-fi audio scrap, sure, yet it’s anything but conventional. It’s got enough crackling energy and unexpected turns along inserted into some killer riffs and Cheveu’s unique brand of garage punk hijinx. There’s even a Vanilla Ice cover that’s gotta be heard to be believed. I usually can’t bring myself to rank top 10 lists, but for 2011 this was definitely album #1.

The Chewers
Every Drop Disorganized – (self-released)
It took almost a year to determine whether or not this album was weirdly brilliant or just plain weird. Beginning with the odd name and goofy cover art, this band’s deliberately off-kilter fuzzy bluespunk goes from weird to weirdly brilliant, somehow existing within a universe where TFUL 282 covers Killdozer‘s most lumbering numbers while floating in a Xanax haze. An acapella ode to pancakes? Two-minutes of primitive grunting? If that doesn’t make sense to you, than The Chewers probably won’t either. But if you seek a 42-minute diversion from normalcy, chew on this for a while.

Crystal Stilts
In Love With Oblivian – (Slumberland)
Although it hasn’t been as hyped quite as much as their early EPs and debut album, the Stilts’ sophomore effort pushes their alluring sound into even more interesting territory. Adding some echoes of classic psych (“Sycamore Tree” rings like a lost Silver Apples track) and the detached cool of The Velvet UndergroundIn Love With Oblivian cements Crystal Stilts status as mandatory listening.

The Get Up Kids
- There Are Rules (Quality Hill)
For the longest time I’ve wanted to like this band. They’re local heros and many trusted tastemakers insisted that they were worth my time, but ugh, I just couldn’t get past their formulaic and predictable mix of nauseating, saccharine-sweet pop-punk. With this record I’m finally on board. The songwriting maturity and aged grit on There Are Rules is all aces, with layers of artfully textured sound and unexpected turns that never gets dull or predictable. If your eyes roll at the mention of this band, you owe it to yourself to give the Kids one more chance.

GG King
- Esoteric Lore – (Rob’s House)
While GG King’s singles took this ex-Carbonas rocker’s sound into slightly gnarlier territory, Esoteric Lore turns the gnarly knob (please note: there needs to be a band called the Gnarly Knobs) up even further with 17 tracks of raging punk. Like hearing How Could Hell Be Any Worse-era Bad Religion, The Germs, and the Circle Jerks for the first time, Esoteric Lore instantly feels like a classic. It sounds kickass right from the start and continues to deliver after many spins.

New Brigade – (What’s Your Rupture)
If you took the punchiness and catchiness of The Futureheads with sped-up Gang of Four angularity and injected some hardcore intensity, you’d have something close to what this Danish quartet has created with their debut record. Unlike anything else within the genres it straddles — punk, hardcore, post-punk, indie rock, alternative what have you — Iceage takes the best qualities of all of them and pushes them together in ways that demonstrate some masterful songwriting skills. New Brigade delivers a fresh sound well deserving of the hype.

The Pheromoans
It Still Rankles – (Convulsive)
After a handful of promising singles, this UK band serves up a proper album of rambling, baffling, so clever it’s stupid scrap punk that aligns with the trajectory of The Fall to The Country Teasers to The Guinea Worms. Initial spins seem clumsy and inept, but their spontaneous and witty methods soon reveal themselves as an entertaining if ramshackle listen that becomes more fun with each listen.

Thee Oh Sees
Carrion Crawler / The Dream - (In The Red)
I’m guilty of being wowed by the ‘new’ and will sometimes lose interest in a band I love just being distracted by whatever’s got my attention at the time. Many times I’ve found myself at the record store with a new, unknown band’s record in one hand and a longtime favorite band’s newest release in the other, struggling to decide which to go with. Take a chance with a new band, or go with the known? It’s hard to go with Thee Oh Sees since they’ve had a staggering amount of output, but holy shit they continue to rule and this LP sits right up there along with The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending the Night In, Help, and Warm Slime.

Total Control
Henge Beat – (Iron Lung)
Sharing members with Aussie garage punk heros U.V. Race and Eddy Current Suppression Ring, this side project has gelled into something on par or greater than the sum of its parts. Cool and detached with heavy electronics and a plenty of perfectly refined guitarwork, Henge Beat has roots in ’80s synthpunk greats in the vein of Gary Numan, Killing Joke, and Joy Division but stretches that sound into a contemporary space. Like the GG King album mentioned above, this record has a timeless quality that promises to make Henge Beat a new classic.

Watch It Sparkle
Rocket Surgery – (Like A Shooting Star Records)
After seeing this Seattle band’s killer set at the Replay last spring I found a new favorite band. Luckily they were touring to support their newly released album, which promptly made its way to my turntable and heart with a savvy mix of guitar-driven mod punk and nervy vocals. Read more gushing here.


Best Reissues/Comps. of 2010

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

A Frames
333 3xLP- (S.S. Records)
Super-deluxe reissue treatment of this Seattle band’s recordings from their first single through their second LP. Being one of the most interesting bands in the last decade, it’s an impressive body of work that somehow reduced angular postpunk to it’s most mechanical and rigid form without becoming dull or tedious. There’s a lot of heart in the A Frames discography and 3 LPs worth of it have been beautifully archived here.

Attitude AdjustmentThe Collection CD (Taang!)
Like the no-frills collections of early Poison Idea and Battalion of Saints, Taang! offers up another essential disc full of great ’80s hardcore/thrash, this time from Bay Area legends Attitude Adjustment. Starting with their punky and hard-to-find Pusmort debut LP American Paranoia, to their even more-rare and heavier No More Mr. Nice Guy LP and the crossover metal of the Out of Hand LP, it’s great to see that these killer tracks are finally getting their due. I’ve often considered the rough and tumble No More Mr. Nice Guy album as one of the best crossover punk/metal records ever alongside Poison Idea’s War All The Time and Corrosion of Conformity’s Animosity LP.

Christie Front DriveChristie Front Drive LP+DVD (Magic Bullet)
It’s hard to remember what emo meant before the term was perverted to describe the bizarre melodramatic genre of Hot Topic mallpunks in eyeliner, but there really were some great ideas found in the earnest beginnings of “emo” as found in bands like Boys Life, Braid, The Promise Ring, and of course Rites of Spring. Denver’s Christie Front Drive fit into this equation with one of the more interesting takes on the genre, with a masterfully-controlled, majestic sound that completely sweeps you away. While many emo bands used a transparent formula of quiet/loud dynamics, Christie Front Drive were able to seamlessly shape this technique into a slowly building arc that absolutely pulls you in and floors you. Originally released on Nebraska’s Caulfield Records in 1999, this record was CFD’s swan song and one of the best examples of what emo could be, before the term became a 2-dimensional joke. Watch for another reissue from Magic Bullet of the rest of their discography this year.

Grind Madness at the BBC: The Earache Peel Sessions – Various Artists 3xCD (Earache)
A roaring collection of extreme metal that sounds as radical today as it did when it was recorded in the mid-to-late ’80s, including Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Godflesh, Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror, Heresy, Intense Degree, and Unseen Terror. This package captures the birth of the grind genre with liner notes from some of the UK scene’s luminaries and 118 bursts of throat-shredding, blast beats, and breakneck riffage. I’ve always been a fan of Peel sessions. They often capture recordings that have an atmosphere that’s a bit more raw and closer to a live sound than a band’s studio material, and these tracks in particular capture these young bands giving it their all. Mick Harris’ (Napalm Death) account of stressing out the BBC’s studio engineer in the liner notes is not only funny, it really sets the scene for just how radical and noteworthy these recordings were and still are today.

The New Hope
Various Artists LP (Smog Veil)
Most regional compilations tend to be weighed down by a few bands/songs that aren’t as full-on as the rest, but this reissue of an early ’80s Cleveland release has an unbelievably great mix of 1-2-1-2 hardcore and wastoid art damage that elevates this city’s already legendary punk status even further. This extended collection of primo tracks from classic punk bands like Starvation Army and Zero Defex (Drop the A-Bomb on Meeeeeeee!) to lesser-known weirdos like Spike In Vain, P.P.G, and The Guns begs one to scream “This is Cleveland, Fuck LA! And Boston! And DC! And NYC! And Texas! And…”

The Fall
This Nation’s Saving Grace LP (Beggars Banquet)
With an absurd amount of LPs spanning over 4 decades, it’s a challenge to definitively call out a favorite Fall record. There are so many incarnations of Mark E. Smith’s postpunk juggernaut that range from the scrappy and brash late-1970s sound to the electronics-drenched LPs of the mid-1990s to the last couple of punchy LPs of the 2000s, that there’s too many versions of the trademark Fall sound to find a single release to hold onto the most. And while most Fall faithful would point to one of the early LPs as being the most essesntial, I’d probably go with this 1985 masterwork, which tethered their sound to bombastic beats and bleary-eyed off-the-cuff cool that captures the best elements of The Fall sound song after song. For a concrete example, just check out “I Am Kamo Suzuki” about the singer of the German krautrock band Can (how cool is that?) where Smith’s meta rambling cleverly diffuses the shock of huge drums bursting into an otherwise tranced-out, drifting song. Total genius and endlessly listenable.

Man Or Astroman?
- Is It… Man or Astroman? (Estrus)
I kinda took for granted how great this band was, and didn’t even realize that their debut LP had gone out of print. Throughout the 1990s you could count on seeing beautiful new Man Or Astroman releases with regularity, and most used shops of any value will have at least some of their catalog ready for you to explore. Here is where it all began and after listening to it again (I haven’t heard the repress yet) it’s clear that despite their relative popularity with the indie rock scene, this Auburn, Alabama quartet was the absolute best of the surf rock explosion of the 1990s. Glad to see it’s not been forgotten.

Steel Pole Bath Tub
Unlistenable LP (Permanent Records)
The tuned-in noisemongers at Chicago’s Permanent Records not only have one of the finest shops in the country, they also run one of the more discerning labels going in the post-MP3 age. The excellent decision to reissue this little-heard beast on vinyl is all the proof you need. Read more about this sludgy monster here.

John Wayne
Texas Funeral LP (Third Man Records)
I still have the dubbed cassette a record store friend of mine gave me when this oddity was first released in 1985. At the time it was a total WTF moment to hear this countrified freakout. It remained a novelty for years; an oddball pleasure that slowly worked itself from random listens into steady rotation. This spoof of a down-and-out country legend complete with studio banter and drunken rambling is not to be missed.

Best Singles/EPs of 2010

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The DreamsNegativ Streets Digital Single (Beko Box Volume 2)
Although A.H. Kraken and The Anals are great bands for gnarly, ugly grunt rock ala Brainbombs and Drunks With Guns, both tend to be hard to listen to on account of their noisy, repetitive, tension-filled aural endurance sessions. I know that’s antithetical to this blog, which happily embraces noise, but The Dreams are the best band yet from the French duo who are the common thread among these groups. The Dreams remove some of the clashing guitar tones and replace it with chilly keyboards and minimalistic songs that give their sound enough air to really keep things interesting.

Ex-Fag Cop
Gimme Fag Agenda 7″ EP (Batshit Records)
After an appearance on The World’s Lousy With Ideas Vol. 4 comp and a couple raging shit-fi 7″ hate bombs, this Lawrence outfit changes their name to from Fag Cop to Ex-Fag Cop, seemingly just to fuck with everyone. While not quite as blown out as their other recordings, Gimme Fag Agenda does add some sinister tones to the mix, bringing to mind the warble of The Necessary Evils. Another notable difference is female vocals on ‘Remembered Future of A Dark Psychic History’, adding even more dimension to the mega-fucked Fag Cop/Ex-Fag Cop sound.

- The Role Of The Dogcatcher In African-American Urban Folklore 7″ (Fan Death Records)
Finally had a chance to see this band live and my understanding of their blunt-force caveman stomp upped my fandom a couple notches. This song in particular is one of the best in their catalog with a killer loud-to-quiet maneuver that contrasts their trademark abrasive squall with clean and snappy verses supported by a burly, bouncing bass line. It’s good enough to completely make up for the weak B-side.

Moon Duo
Escape 12″ EP (Woodsist)
This might be a cheat since it’s considered an LP-length release by some, but 4 songs, even if they sprawl to the 6-8 minute mark, equal an EP in my book. Regardless, this release definitely earns “best of” status as it’s the ultimate culmination of everything Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo have done thus far, that being blissfully tranced out krautrock with atmosphere so thick and enveloping that you simply can’t turn it off. From the the second ‘Motorcycle, I Love You’ starts until the last title track, this extended EP has established itself as a high water mark of the genre.

Rot Shit
You’re Welcome 7″ (Columbus Discount)
Ugly, plodding heavy punk rock that skewers the state of punk rock with bursts of saxophone skronk and giant Stooges riffs. Songs like ‘Hipster Grandma’ aim to offend and distance this band from growing a fanbase, which I reckon they’d be fine with anyway. Pure vitriolic fun! Maybe punk isn’t dead after all…

Sex Church
6 Songs by Sex Church 12″ EP (Compulsive)
Snotty but subdued Velvet Underground-style psych with the repetition and volume of Spacemen 3 and just enough punk edge to distinguish it from bands travelling similar avenues like The Black Angels or Royal Baths, or even Echo and the Bunnymen. There may be a lot of bands doing this sort of thing, but this band’s guitar tone and layers of echoey haze make them one of the most interesting of the bunch.

The Soft Moon
Parallels 7″ (Captured Tracks)
This is what I’d always imagined Blank Dogs should sound like. Atmospheric, cool, synth-driven darkwave that completely envelops you without getting into cheesy goth gimmicks. The title track is one of the coolest downbeat tracks ever, with pitchshifting bass rumbling underneath a hypnotic, motorik beat — the epitome of cool. There are a number of artists mining 1980s darkwave for inspiration, but The Soft Moon have actually brought something new into the mix.

The U.V. Race
I Hate You 7″ EP (Fashionable Idiots)
There’s a quality to this band’s sound that’s simultaneously tense and loose, resulting in a warped catchiness that’s reminiscent of feral postpunk from the early ’80s or maybe Flipper pushing out some pop tunes. The four songs on this record get out-of-tune and ugly, but ultimately they’re fun in a demented way. The final track ‘Garbage in My Heart’ is a grade-A warbling dirge in the vein of The Butthole Surfers in a heavy quaaludes fog.

Charles Albright - I’m Happy, I’m a Genius 7″ EP (Permanent Records)
Like fellow Californian Ty Segall, Charles Albright has a knack for overamped, blown out garage punk. And where Ty Segall’s sound veers into ’60 psych territory, Albright’s focuses more on the ass-stomping guitar crunch. The guitar sound on this 7-song buzz saw is so ridiculously loud that only a true songsmith could craft catchy hooks within the din of this in-the-red recording space.

Vermillion Sands
20 Hours / The Last Day 7″ (Trouble In Mind)
Their Mary 7″ made the list in 2008 and since then I’d kinda written them off after some of their more countryfied releases. But this single could not be any better — both tracks are absolute gold A-sides with a slight country twang played with the songsmithing on par with the greatest of The Minutemen catalog. Totally fun Italian party punk with thickly-accented vocals.