Friday, December 15, 2017

Top 40 Records of 2017: 40-31

2017 is nearly in the books and it's been an...interesting ride to say the least.  Trying to think of how to sum up the last 12 months is proving to be harder than in years past.  Honestly 2017 has been kind of a blur.  On a personal level I started and subsequently stopped a couple of new podcasts, continued a couple of others, finally started making real progress in losing weight, and continued to be an utter failure as an adult.  Thankfully I had music to get me through.

Now I'm not going to lie, keep up with new music this year was a challenge.  So much stuff was released that there was no way I could keep up with it all and after a while I stopped trying to.  Even with that being said, this year's list of top records is the longest I've put together possibly ever.  And it might have been longer, but after much deliberation and thought, I narrowed things down to my Top 40 Records of 2017.

My music listening habits changed a bit in 2017.  Part of this was cause by issues with the CD player in my car (yes I still buy CDs), my decision to bite the bullet and invest in the family plan of Spotify Premium ($15 of the best dollars I spend ever month), then there was the FM transmitter that stopped working preventing me from listening to streaming music in the car (I listen to a lot of music in the car) and the nicer FM transmitter that I bought to replace it, and then there was my unconscious desire to listen to more older music (as highlighted by my Spotify listening habits this year).  Some of this last part I'm sure has a lot to do with my age (getting older sucks) and some has to do with the fact that this was a pretty rough year for me personally and turning to things you know provides comfort.  That's not to say that there weren't records that immediately hit me like a ton of bricks, because pretty much the entire top 11 helped keep me going just as much as those old records that I cherish.  So when I first started mentally putting this list together a couple of months ago I was actually surprised how many different releases kept coming to mind.  And as time went on, the list kept growing because there was a shitload of great records released in 2017.  Sure this is a sentiment that I bring up every year but it's true.  There is great music being made each and every year, you just have to go and find it.  And thanks to the internet, finding music now is 1000 times easier than it was when I was in high school.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about some of the losses we faced in 2017.  Music legends from the early days of rock 'n' roll like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, '70s teen heartthrobs like David Cassidy, soul legends like Al Jarreau, Joni Sledge, and Charles Bradley, punk and alt rock pioneers like Grant Hart, Chuck Mosley, and Chris Cornell, a founding member of AC/DC in Malcolm Young, and Tom Petty.  And that's just a few.  Each one of these artists that we lost touch people through their words and their music and all will be missed.

This list consists of the 40 best records, albums, and EPs that 2017 had to offer.  Herein you will find punk indie, rock, alt country, folk, and a few things that are all of this and more.  Each and every single one of these artists put their hearts and souls into this work and every record on this list is not only worth your time but deserves your attention and support.  As with previous years lists, I have broken this into posts with 10 records each and a list of honorable mentions. 

30-21, 20-11, 10-1, Honorable Mentions

40.  Horse of the Other World by See Through Dresses
BandCamp, Tine Engines, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
See Through Dresses sophomore full-length is a fuzz drenched piece of shoegaxery post-punk goodness.  Horse of the Other World is a brilliant mix of Joy Division's pulsating basslines and Lush's lush soundscapes while still feeling new and modern.  The dueling vocals of  Sara Bertuldo on guitar ans synths and Mathew Carroll on guitar create deep layers that bring something new to the table with each listen.  Plus they are super nice folks.

39.  Corner by football, etc.
BandCamp, Community Records, Amazon, iTunes, Google PlaySpotify
Football, etc.'s third full-length Corner effortlessly fuses elements of melodic indie rock with poppy emo.  The result is a collection of 10 earnest and emotional mid-tempo melodic numbers that feel timeless, new, and familiar all at the same time.

38.  Clocking In / Clocking Out by TV Crime
BandCamp, Drunken Sailor Records
TV Crime's sophomore EP is just plain fun.  And honestly fun doesn't do this record justice.  Mixing elements of '70s punk, '50s rock 'n' roll, glam rock, and pub rock, TV Crime have stumbled onto something special.  My only complaint is that this record is so short.  Two songs of this quality are just not enough!  Please make more records!!!

37.  Never a Dull Movement by Kid You Not
BandCamp, Deep Elm Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Kid You Not's full-length debut is a blast of high energy, melodic punk rock in the vein of Latterman, Red City Radio, Iron Chic, and Dillinger Four.  The songs have intensity, heart, and honest introspection and observations.  In other words, this freaking rules!

36.  Hush by Kindling
BandCamp, 6131 Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
In just three years, Kindling have churned out five EPs, one split, and two full-lengths, Hush being the second.  In that time the five-piece from Massachusetts have nearly perfected the shoegaze sub-genre.  This record is drive by distortion and fuzz, while still bringing the melody and pop sensibilities.  The vocals are a breathy and soothing blend of harmonies brought to life by Gretchen Williams and Stephen Pierce and very reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.  Mike LeSuer really summed up this album's aura perfectly in his review for Post-Trash --
As the musical zeitgeist debates the merits of rebranding and the limits of artistic integrity, Easthampton’s Kindling slumps into the lecture hall inexcusably late, earphones in, hair unkempt, and tosses their backpack into an empty seat in the nosebleeds, likely partaking from a grungy relation of shoegaze that wrought Beach House. Despite a slight improvement in recording technology since their 2014 debut, the five-piece has been busy cranking out new iterations of the same basic formula over the span of four EPs and a full length, presently following up January’s No Generation EP with more spitfire noise pop in the form of LP number two, Hush.
This is a must for fans of Slowdive, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine.

35.  New Magnetic by Holy Hands
BandCamp, Atomic Action Records
Holy Hands is a new post hardcore band from the northeast.  The band's full-length debut New Magnetic is a high energy blast of melody, ferocity, and heart that include anthems, ballads, and everything in-between.  This is how post hardcore should be done.

34.  Desolation Monday by SteveO & The Crippling Addictions
BandCamp, Say-10 RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
SteveO & The Crippling Addictions' debut Desolation Monday is a fun romp of punk-via-classic-rock anthems that will have you dancing and singing along.  This record is a must for fans of SteveO's former band The Holy Mess, The Hold Steady, Nothington, and for the more adventurous Tom Petty fans.

33.  Survival Pop by Worriers
BandCamp, SideOneDummy Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
Worriers' Survival Pop perfectly blends elements of punk, power pop, indie rock, emo, and folk with piercing and powerful lyrics resulting in a powerhouse of a record.  The brainchild of Lauren Denitzio, this is a record of cathartic optimism after a fall, expressing the rage of the moment with the hope for the future.

32.  Big Bad Luv by John Moreland
Port Merchandise, 4AD, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify
John Moreland's fourth full-length album (and seventh when counting his records with the Black Gold Band and the Dust Bowl Souls) Big Bad Luv is his fullest and most robust pure country record to date.  Driving the record are Moreland's unmistakable lyrics and heart-wrenching vocals but this time around they are back by a full band.  In many ways this record is closer to the country and blues of his solo debut Earthbound Blues than the sparse folk of In The Throes and High On Tulsa Heat.

31.  Anything Could Happen by Bash & Pop
BandCamp, Fat Possum RecordsAmazon, iTunes, Spotify
One The Replacements' reunion tours ran their course, bassist Tommy Stinson resumed his solo career releasing a single and an EP in 2015 before starting on his next full-length.  During that process a full band came together with a sound very reminiscent of Stinson's first post-Replacements project Bash & Pop.  Anything Could Happen, the first Bash & Pop record in 25 years, is a blast of power pop rock and pretty much exactly what one would expect from a former member of The Replacements.  These songs are catchy, dripping with hooks, and infectious as all get out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Video of the Day: "Top of the Pops" by The Smithereens

RIP Pat DiNizio

Song:  "Top of the Pops"
Album:  Blow Up (Official, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Wikipedia)
Artist:  The Smithereens (Official, Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Wikipedia)

The first song by The Smithereens that I really, consciously remember was "Top of the Pops."  I saw the video on MTV's 120 Minutes and host Dave Kendall mentioned how the song was inspired by the band's bit of crossover success.  On a mainstream level, The Smithereens were essentially a one hit wonder scoring minor hits with the likes of  "Only a Memory," "A Girl Like You," and "Too Much Passion."  While I was never a huge fan of the band, I liked everything that I heard and considered them one of the great unsung heroes of the '80s college rock era. 

Lead singer and songwriter Pat DiNizio died on Tuesday.  He was 62.   

Saturday, December 09, 2017

My Year in Music According to Spotify

As we wind down 2017 and begin to look back on the year that was, Spotify has released their 2017 Wrapped including all sorts of playlists of the top artists and tracks of the year from a multitude of genres.  That's nice and all but what's really fun is the personalized lists that they put together for each user.  Here's the thing with Spotify that I've observed...people don't really fall in love with it until they sign up for Spotify Premium.  A friend who recently signed up for the service stated that it had "opened up a whole new world" for him.  This is by no means a plug or an ad for the service (though if Spotify, you want to send me some money to talk up your service I will gladly accept those checks), I just happen to love it.  More than that though, I find their end of the year statistics fascinating.

According to My 2017 Wrapped my Top Artist was The Replacements followed by Beach Slang, Jawbreaker, Husker Du, and Hot Water Music.  Interestingly enough, The Replacements were my top artist of 2016 as well.  My top song of 2017 was of "The Tide" by RVIVR.  This didn't surprise me at all since it is my favorite song of the year.  What I did find surprising was "See A Little Light" by Bob Mould was my second most played song of the year.  I have been a fan of Bob Mould and his various projects for over 25 years and even highlighted his career on an episode of my short-lived podcast The Voices of a Generation X.  With all of that said, "See A Little Light" was a song that I somehow missed over the years.  That was until I heard it on the final episode of the brilliant Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.  The show did an incredible job using music to create tension and drive emotions home and the use of "See A Little Light" in the final moments of the last episode was absolutely perfect.  And even though I didn't know the song, I immediately knew it was Bob Mould.  With some artists you can just tell and Bob is most certainly one of those artists.

Looking at my list of Top Artists and Top Songs, I'm struck by how much of this music is older.  I knew that I was listening to a lot more music from my youth and whatnot in 2017 but to see it, for a lack of a better term, statistically was something else.  That's not to say there wasn't a TON of great music that came out this year (I'm working on my Top 40 Records of 2017 posts as we speak) but when it came right down to it, I picked the familiar over the new more times then not.  This probably has to do with the fact that I am firmly into my middle age years but other things have changed for me as well.  For instance I actually go to the gym.  Sometimes twice in one day.  (Who am I and what have I done with the real Dave Brown?)  Then there's the dread I often feel when opening my email to the never ending onslaught of messages from PR folks.  I'm sure that sounds like I'm whining, and I am but it can be overwhelming to dig through hundreds of emails about the latest shitty hip artists.  First world problems I know.  This isn't to say that there aren't some people that I look forward to hearing from because there are and those are the press releases that I pay attention to and records that I check out.  But more and more when I'm driving in my car or at the gym or doing dishes, I like to listen to stuff I know and my Your Top Songs 2017 playlist is filled with stuff that I know and love.  And really, how could anyone not find great joy in a playlist that includes Hot Water Music's "Trusty Chords," Jawbreaker's "Boxcar," Beach Slang's "Filthy Luck," and Tom Petty's "American Girl?"

Monday, November 20, 2017

Currently Listening

1.  "If I Could" by Lauren Strange (from Salt)
2.  "Everywhere I Go" by Caitlin Rose (from The Stand-In)
3.  "Swann Song" by 3 (from Dark Days Coming)
4.  "New Old" by Restorations (from LP2)
5.  "It's a Wonderful Lie" by Paul Westerberg (from Suicaine Gratification)
6.  "Hawkmoon 269" by U2 (from Rattle & Hum)
7.  "Wild Heart" by Katie Ellen (from Cowgirl Blues)
8.  "This Cross" by Chad Price (from Smile Sweet Face)
9.  "Seventeener (17th and 37th)" by The Lawrence Arms (from Metropole)
10.  "Keep You Company" by Sincere Engineer (from Rhombithian)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Book Review: ‘Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements’ by Bob Mehr

Title:  Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements (Official, Da Capo Press, Amazon, IndieBound, Goodreads)
Author:  Bob Mehr (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)

 Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements is nothing short of spectacular.  The book follows the life and times of the Minneapolis, MN punk, college, rock ‘n’ roll pioneers The Replacements, a story that has long needed telling but as much as this story needed to be told, it needed Bob Mehr to tell it.  Mehr, a professional music journalist who has worked for the likes of MOJO and Spin, dedicated nearly a decade of his life to writing and researching Trouble Boys and boy does it show.  The book painstakingly details the lives of Paul Westerberg, Bob and Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars (The Replacements’ original lineup), their family history, what brought them into music and the band, and what happened to them afterwards.  But that’s not all.  The book also covers the life of Bob ‘Slim’ Dunlap and Steve Foley (the replacements in The Replacements) along with family members, significant others, managers, producers, and the unofficial fifth Replacement Peter Jesperson.  If these names mean nothing to you, then you’re probably unfamiliar with the band, their music, and their history and that’s okay.  The Replacements never had any mainstream success.  They were either too raw when the people wanted polished or too polished when the people wanted raw.  They were misfits, miscreants, and overall fuck ups to the nth degree, often sabotaging themselves and their potential success.  Besides, some things just aren’t meant for the masses.  They are either too good or too quirky or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Replacements were all of those things and more. 

What makes Trouble Boys so incredibly good is its brutal honesty.  The Replacements were, and still are, a complicated group of individuals and this book does not shy away from that fact.  This band and their story is completely laid bare by Mehr, drunken warts and all, providing stunning clarity into what made them so incredibly special and why their music still touches people to this day.  This is the book by which all other rock biographies should be judged, is a must for fans of the band, and a must for students of the history of rock ‘n’ roll.  

*This review originally appeared on ...and he reads.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Album Review: 'Rhombithian' by Sincere Engineer

Album:  Rhombithian (Red Scare Industries, BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk, Spotify)
Artist:  Sincere Engineer (Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTubeBandCamp, Spotify)

Sincere Engineer's full-length debut Rhombithian  is simply outstanding.   The brainchild of Chicago, IL's Deanna Belos, Sincere Engineer is a band that mixes all of the best elements of catchy, poppy punk, '90s indie rock, and folk punk resulting in a record that feels timeless and modern with its brilliant use of hooks and melody while at the same time keeping the listener on his/her toes with is quirky and off-kilter nature.  And that's just the music.  What truly drives Rhombithian home are the lyrics and Belos' honest intensity.  These songs touch on themes of relationships, self-doubt, growing up, facing reality, and those harsh and often disturbing realizations that things you once cherished are no longer as important to you as they once were.  There is a power in the desperation in these songs.  Hearing that someone else is feeling alone and disconnected is incredibly empowering and that, beyond the greatness of the music, is what makes this record cut so deep into the heart.  Each and every time I listen to Rhombithian I find something new to love.  This is the kind of record that gives me great solace and hope for a better tomorrow because I know that I'm not alone.

Currently Listening

1.  "Kitchen Door" by Buffalo Tom (from Sleepy Eyed)
2.  "Shattering" by Sincere Engineer (from Rhombithian)
3.  "Rebound (Acoustic)" by Sebadoh (from Bakesale: Deluxe Edition)
4.  "Tear Shaped Bruise" by Dead Bars (from Dream Gig)
5.  "Harnessed in Slums" by Archers Of Loaf (from Vee Vee)
6.  "Thirteen" by Beach Slang (from We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags [Quiet Slang])
7.  "Kernel" by Seam (from Kernel)
8.  "I'll Be Right Here" by The Slow Death (from I'll Be Right Here / Factory)
9.  "Katherine The Grateful" by Knapsack (from This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now)
10.  "Blood on Your Tongue" by Direct Hit! (from Human Movement)
11.  "Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba" by The Mr. T Experience (from Love Is Dead)
12.  "Allison" by Soccer Mommy (from Collection)
13.  "Show Me Mary" by Catherine Wheel (from Chrome)
14.  "Easy to Love" by Cayetana (from New Kind of Normal)
15.  "Shine" by Doughboys (from Crush)
16.  "Profane Geometry" by Iron Chic (from You Can't Stay Here)
17.  "Scuffle Town" by Avail (from Over The James)
18.  "Jazz and Cinnamon Toast Crunch" by Micah Schnabel (from Your New Norman Rockwell)
19.  "Here It Comes Again" by Gumball (from Super Tasty)
20.  "Wring It Out" by Rival Schools (from Pedals)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Currently Listening

This playlist was inspired by my Halloween costume, which is essentially me in 1991.

1.  "Anyway" by The Lemonheads (from Lick)
2.  "Freak Scene" by Dinosaur Jr.  (from Bug)
3.  "Good Enough" by Mudhoney (from Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge)
4.  "Teen Age Riot" by Sonic Youth (from Daydream Nation)
5.  "Waiting Room" by Fugazi (from 13 Songs)
6.  "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus & mary Chain (from Psychocandy)
7.  "Brave Captain" by fIREHOSE (from Ragin' Full On)
8.  "Take the Skinheads Bowling" by Camper Van Beethovan (from Telephone Free Landslide Victory)
9.  "Makes No Sense At All" by Husker Du (from Flip Your Wig)
10.  "Save Ourselves" by 7 Seconds (from Ourselves)
11.  "Debaser" by Pixies (from Doolittle)
12.  "Kiss Off" by Violent Femmes (from Violent Femmes)
13.  "Brand New Love" by Sebadoh (from Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock)
14.  "What Difference Does It Make" by The Smiths (from The Smiths)
15.  "Through My Fingers" by Pegboy (from Three Chord Monte)
16.  "Bastards of Young" by The Replacements (from Tim)
17.  "Graveyard Shift" by Uncle Tupelo (from No Depression)
18.  "Territorial Pissings" by Nirvana (from Nevermind)
19.  "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure (from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
20.  "Porch" by Pearl Jam (from Ten)
21.  "Satan" by Teenage Fanclub (from Bandwagonesque)