Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist for glam punk rockers New York Dolls has lost his battle with cancer according to his personal Facebook page:
“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years. Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way,”
If there’s anything to say about 2020, it is this: I miss live shows. I miss seeing local bands play small bars and I miss cramming into over-priced corporately owned venues to see sold out shows.
I know I am not the only one who says this to themselves daily. This year has not the the greatest by any means given the current situation.
I’ve tried hard to do things on this blog when I had some free time and want to once again thank everyone who has offered up something for review or checked out any of the posts I tossed together usually afterhours while everyone in my household was fast asleep.
I cannot end this year without pushing out a Best Of List. I know I am cutting it close this time. I feel this was the year I really tried to listen to more artists I never heard of before and honestly, I was impressed with tons of releases. I started with 10 and said screw that as all these bands that dropped impressive releases need to be shared. As usual, I will probably add to it after this goes live.
Thanks for keeping me going y’all. I do appreciate it.
BEST OF 2020
(in no particular order)
The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You
I have loved this band since they started 20 years back. They have a way with mixing samples appropriately. I especially grew fond of this one because it was more of a journey than a collaboration of sound.
Get Dead – Dancing with the Curse
This release is raw, unhinged, and perfect in every way possible. I can only imagine what these dudes sound like on stage… This was probably the most listened to album of the year by yours truly. I cannot get enough of it.
Shuffle and Bang – Island Pop
Island Pop was the surprise drop of 2020 that I needed to distract me from all the bad. This is a soulful delight that I’ve gotten lost in many times and literally found myself in a better mood because of it. If there was one band I would love to see play live currently, Shuffle and Bang are my top choice.
Run The Jewels – RTJ4
This duo does no bad. I am not shocked that this was one of my fav releases this year. They always entertain. I am bummed I missed seeing them play with Rage this past summer and only can hope the rescheduled date stands.
Broadway Calls – Sad in the City
This pop-punk release is going to be something I probably listen to for the rest of my life. No joke, this album started off as strong as it ended and became an instant favorite of mine.
The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast
This album is damn near perfect and I know I am not the only who who thinks this. Why go on about these guys when everyone knows how much they rule.
HUM – Inlet
I have waited over 20 years for Hum to release new material and this did not disappoint one bit. After each listen I find a stronger appreciation for what they have created.
Maxwell Stern – Impossible Sum
An outstanding effort by someone who I’m lucky to call a pal. I have watched him mature over the past 10 years and expect things to get even better as he continues onward. Now hurry up and drop Signals Midwest LP4 already!
Be Well – The Weight and the Cost
Catchy as hell, melodic hardcore fun. With the roster in this lineup, it was not shocking how killer the entire album was and how things built up all the way to the end. This was one that made the blood flow as well as the feelings emerge.
SkyTigers – Eulorgy
A release by some Boston punks who’ve been at it for 10 years now. This debut clearly needed to drop during this shit year. It’s powerful, angry, and just insane. The opening track alone proves that.
Slug Fest – Animal
Cleveland surf punk rock may not be something you knew existed, but I assure you it rules. This album is full of jams and guarantees a good time. This is one band I can not wait to see in-person.
The House of Wills – “true crime’
This lo-fi release by Cleveland’s JV is everything to me. I fell in love with it upon first listen and love how they put their heart and soul into it. This is the one release that deserves all the attention. This falls somewhere between Fred Thomas and Daniel Johnston if I am being totally honest. Was JV going for that? Not sure, but it’s more real than most stuff that dropped this year.
Stolen Wheelchairs – The America
These guys are about as punk as they get. If their band name is shocking to you, wait until you listen to this straight up punk rock disaster. I loved every moment of it.
Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
This may very well be the best thing Mould has done in quite some time. I find comfort through Mould as he doesn’t back down as the years progress. Do not sit on this one.
Brain Cave – Stuck in the Mud
Brain Cave’s debut rules on so many levels. I have spoken highly about this release to many folk since it dropped because it’s that damn good. This was my go to when I just could not decide with to listen to at any given moment.
I Am The Avalanche – Dive
I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, but this album is probably my favorite to date. Punk rock at its finest.
Somerset Thrower – Paint My Memory
This release brought back the best 90s punk rock vibes. I honestly never got into these guys prior, but clearly that changed. Excellent throughout.
Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone
This band can bum me out so much and I love them for it. Easily one of my fav acts out there and this release certainly showcases why.
The Dead Krazukies – Icarus
I do not expect a ton of folk to know who this act is yet, but I have a feeling they will in time. All I could say to myself the first time I heard them was, “holy shit.” This is power punk rock without over-exaggerating it. You can tell the band loves playing and there wasn’t a single lull in the release. I can not recommend them enough.
Don Yoder – Everything is Nothing
This release came out of nowhere from a guy from another Cleveland band who wanted to make a country album. The result is an incredible, non-gimmicky grouping of songs that, unless you knew who wrote them, you’d think a seasoned alt-country musician wrote them.
Rope – Crimson Youth
Tossing the Tiny God Inc. released cassette cover here as they are the reason I even got into these guys. This is the post-grunge, hardcore album I needed this year. Talk about a brutal release…
Red City Radio – Paradise
This band continues to get better with each release. This one in particular was a solid listen that I’m currently obsessed with.
Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
Totally forgot to add this one to the list initially. This political, punk rock stand against the government is as impactful as it is catchy. This band might be getting up there in age, but my god, they have no intention of slowing down or steering away from their cause.
TRVSS – New Distances
Grungy, noisy post-punk rage- rippers are what this release is all about. This Pittsburgh act deserves some serious attention.
Guilty Pleasure of the Year:
Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall
I won’t lie, I played the ever-lasting hell out of this. It is a pop-punk, catchy release and I am probably too old to enjoy it as much as I have. I never was a MGK fan before he collaborated with Travis Barker, but stranger things have happened.
Best Covers Album of the Year:
NOFX & Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex
I can not tell you how stoked I was when I learned of this concept coming to life. Two of my favorite acts covering each other’s tunes in their own style. The finished product was far from some speedy effort. Both parties did an excellent job with their own renditions.
Just check out the video below for proof:
Like I said, I am sure I will be adding a few more here and there. 2020 really was full of good music by great artists. I think I am most impressed with the fact that even though everything had to shut down because of a global pandemic, musicians did everything possible to continue creating.
With that said, artists and bands are still struggling financially because of not being able to tour. I know they are not the only ones, but if you have the means to, support musicians by buying their physical or digital release and skip the popular streaming services. You know damn well they don’t make shit from streaming.
Hell, one up yourself and get some sweet swag while you are at it. If one of the bands I spoke about sounds interesting, check them out, and if you love it, buy it. Anything helps right now.
Thanks for reading and I sincerely hope that I enlightened you to 1 or 2 new bands that you will adore just like I did. Happy New Year y’all!
Cleveland surf punkers Slug Fest have dropped a gritty, goodtime as hell release titled Animal that we all deserve.
Wait, did I just say “Cleveland” and “surf punk” in the same sentence? You bet your grits I did. By now you are probably asking yourself how is surf punk even possible in the rust belt, but I assure you it is, it works, and it’s outstanding.
Hailing from the shallow waters of Lake Erie, Deirdre McCafferty, Michael Luciano, and Michael Stanis share a love for proto punk, garage rock, and psychedelic noise that in turn helped shape their sound. The surf riffs were just an added enhancement that made Animal even better.
Starting off was “Never Be Your Baby”, a banger of a song that was just bad ass to listen to. I loved when things slowed down only to explode again. One song in and I was completely digging it.
When “On The Run” started it just gave me energy and captured my attention in the best way. The change up in the middle had me smiling while nodding my head in approval.
Title track “Animal” was equal parts 80s punk as it was garage rock. The bass riff combined with the non-stop guitar playing just made for a hell of a tune to listen to. Not much singing, but plenty of riffs and jams. I have the feeling this song live would be amazing.
Noise-heavy, “Surf Demon” was an adventurous journey with plenty of fuzz and fun. Loved the breakdown towards the end where you can clearly hear the trio having a blast doing what they love to do.
“Moonlight Power” was to me the track on the album that showed the true dynamic of this band. At times I was reminded of Ween as it was all over the place, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it was one of my favorite songs on the release. The best part of this track was the horror-laced theme throughout.
“Luce Potentia” was surf noise at its finest. I loved the mysteriousness on this track that seemingly could fuel an angry ride around the city. The drums were chaotic, the guitars never held back, and the singing was enchanting.
This threesome seemingly came out swinging with their impressive style and Animal is the proof. Imagine the fun of Japandroids mixed with the fuzz noise of bands like Muhammadali but with surf riffs galore and you’ll have a slight inclination of what this infectious sound is all about.
The band actually said that “Animal was intended to be a collection of big, standalone bangers that capture how we sound and play live. Our shows are usually exceedingly loud and hectic/high energy and we wanted to make recordings that express/capture that.” I can honestly say they achieved that.
My only suggestion to this trio is to press this release on wax so I can spin it daily. I’ve listening to this album a ton over the last month with no intentions of taking a break. Certainly well received by this listener.
The band was supposed to play an exclusive show at the Grog Shop this month, but that stupid virus got in the way and cancelled it. Look for this talented, young threesome to smash some heads in 2021. They will not go unnoticed.
Full disclosure: My review I worked so hard on for this release last week seemingly was lost and never saved.
Usually when this happens, I become annoyed to no end, but in this case, I was not phased at all because that meant I had more reason to listen to Shuffle and Bang over and over again
This isn’t your typical Pirates Press Records release, but the moment my eyes caught the album art, I knew this was going to be something special. The second it hit my ears though, and I was in love. Jamaican jazz fused with two-tone is the best way I can explain these guys.
Shuffle and Bang is a father and son (Pops and Korey Horn) idea that combined their love for dub, reggae, and jazz. Eventually they joined forces with a slew of amazing musicians who have lent their talents to The Aggrolites, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Original Wailers, and some guy named Stevie Wonder. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the pianist plays organ for the San Diego Padres baseball team. Case and point, this band is full to the brim of talent.
In a span of two years over plenty of recording sessions, Pirates Press Records buddied up with band’s own Jetsetter Records to release this unique album titled Island Bop.
Starting off the album was “Don’t Go To Strangers”, a intro of sorts. A cappella and full of soul. It really just built up my anticipation of what was to come.
The ever-appropriate “Song for My Father” had things kicking into full gear. This track was not only an ode to “The Man”, but also just showcased the intense amount of talent brought forth.
“Daahoud Ska” immediately put me in the best mood upon heading it. I loved everything about this upbeat track from the horns, stand up bass, and piano playing. This song’s purpose is to entertain as much as possible.
“Blow Mr. Low” carried tons of swing jazz love. The horns on this song were not only the subject of the lyrics, but the glue that kept it all together.
“When I Take My Sugar to Tea” was a romantic romp as much as a brag to the boys about being in good company. This track was built on feelings and a certain boost in moral when feeling like you’re on top of the world. This track might be new, but sounded like it’s been around for decades.
One of my favorite cuts on this release was “Let The Good Times Roll.” I loved the personalized feeling that was inclusive to everyone and anyone. I couldn’t help but imagine I was in some speakeasy while listening to this. What a fun one this was.
Closing track “Drum Song” was more like a cosmic dub jam session amongst friends. Memorable lyrics taken from the Gorillaz just made it that much more entertaining for me. I enjoyed the slow departure to wind down the release.
With as shitty as this year has been, Island Bop seemingly is a beacon of light that just makes everything better once you begin to listen. A surprise release for me and I’m sure others, it’s certainly at the top of my best of list and will be in regular rotation for years to come.
Like a modern day Mongo Sanataria, Shuffle and Bang are guaranteed to supply the soundtrack for a good time. Fans of Hepcat, Coltrane, ska, two-tone, and just anyone who appreciates honest to god good musicianship are going to enjoy the everlasting hell out of this release. I know I did.
Imagine standing up for what you believe in to the point where you’re ready to risk life and limb to start a revolution. Due to corrupt dictators controlling the way of life in a dystopic future in favor of conformance, a definite change is evident. This path to righteousness isn’t easy as told in F.T.W. Rise of the Anarchy March, a story about group of punks who refuse to let their hellish wasteland continue to ruin lives.
We all know what F.T.W. means, and author Russ Lippitt took this literally in his post-apocalyptical sci-fi read that was like Tank Girl and Suburbia mixed with 1984.
This was one book I was glued to and just could not put down. I loved the punk ethos throughout and applauded the embedded references throughout, be it chapter names or mention of classic punk rock bands.
Let’s not forget some of the unexpected developments that just made things that much more interesting. There really was no time for dull moments in this.
The story itself was original, hinting at an obtainable sad future Mad Max-style where three punks, who refused to conform take on an unforgiving government by any means possible, put themselves on the ultimate mission. Full of memorable characters, side stories, and explicit detail, I must admit, this was one unique piece of work.
Without going into great detail, I can tell you I was not sure what to expect when I dug into this book after starting, but I was soon sucked in quickly and along for the ride. It had me angry at times, reminded me of my past in a sense, and most importantly, had me thinking at the very end. You loved some characters and wished demise for others.
My only complaint? I am not going to ruin things for anyone with a spoiler, but I am sure at some point you will share the same thought I had. Well, there was actually another part that became almost anticlimactic, but not to the point where I lost interest and I needed to remind myself this was just part one of a trilogy. With that said, I was fully captured in this story and cannot wait to see the follow-up to this down the road. I know there is just so much more story to be told.
The one thing that got to me most is what Lippitt wrote on literally could happen one day. Anything is possible when you look at the progression of human nature and Lippitt painted a sad prediction of what could come. Clearly, current events had slight input into this incredible story and when amplified just become plausible.
It would only make sense to see F.T.W. be made into a movie. Lippitt’s writing style surely painted clear images in my mind to the point that I wanted to see this taken to the screen. The story was original and full of action, violence, and even straight up comedy. Honestly, Hollywood might do themselves a favor by picking this up one day. Trust me on that.
Until then, if you are looking for a different type of adventure when reading that will more or less piss you off while still rooting for the good guys, check out F.T.W. I promise you that you have not read a piece like this one if you have a love for punk rock and are looking for one hell of an adventure.
The book drops at the end of this month an you can preorder it by clicking HERE.