It’s that time of the year again folks where I share with you the bands and albums that caught my attention throughout the year.
Sure, my reviewing is infrequent these days, may not make total sense or even be read by many for that matter, but I can tell you that I am listening to as much music as possible daily.
If my memory serves me correct, this will be my 10th Best Of post. Sitting back and just thinking that this blog has been around for 10 years now completely floors me. Thanks to anyone who’s ever stopped by to see what’s good. Here’s to however many more years I decide to keep this going.
With that said, happy holidays and here is my list in no particular order:
Timeshares – Out There EP -Easily one of my most played EPs of the year. I was obsessed with it for weeks and was caught off guard in a good way by it. I can not wait for their next full-length now. Loving their rejuvenated sound.
Strung Out – Blackout the Sky EP
-Not going to lie. I was not stoked at all to hear Strung Out was going to do an acoustic album. I do not know why I even doubted that they would not have done something amazing. This EP was amazing and showed a completely different side to one of the best bands out there.
Spells – Loose Change Vol. 1
-Ok so this is a collection of early out of print tunes by the Colorado punk party rockers, but this was my first taste of the band after somehow missing out of them for all these years. I caught them touring with Off With Their Heads earlier this year and turned into an instant fan.
Curtail – All Your Luck
-This is probably one of the best releases that came out this year that you may have not heard about. I could sit here and talk about it for hours, but I will leave it to you and check it out. Just think 90s alt rock mixed with 00s emo/post-hardcore goodness.
Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers – Brought to Rot
-This was the most punk rock album to come out all year. Laura Jane Grace is sincere as she talks about her current dwelling and overall situation without holding back. I was overly impressed with this one.
Turnstile – Time & Space
-An amazing hardcore release that really is so much more once you get sucked into it. It really is a genius album to listen to especially with some 80s punk and R&B moments tossed in for the hell of it (just listen to “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind”). Certainly happy I stumbled on these guys.
Light Years – Afterlife
-Hands down, this is one of the best pop punk albums to come out this year. I knew it was going to be good, but I did not realize it was going to be that good.
Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)
-This album has turned me into an even bigger Face To Face fan. I feared hearing it because I really did not want to hear a punk band play acoustic renditions of their songs, but man, I was so wrong to doubt them. They reinvented their songs in the best way possible.
The Interrupters – Fight The Good Fight
-Two-toned, punk fueled, and amazing throughout. There’s a reason why Tim Armstrong produced this album.
The Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue
-This album was like listening to The Gaslight Anthem team up with Roy Orbison to score a Wes Anderson flick. I adore these guys and hope to hell I can see them live one day. This was the album that complete caught me by surprise this year and fell in love with.
Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
-This album is like the energy of The Menzingers + the emotion of MakeWar. The band clearly has matured into something incredible and this release proves it. Do not sit on this one.
Red City Radio – SkyTigers EP
-This is the best thing this band has ever done. There was just this certain amount of gallant confidence throughout. The song “SkyTigers” proved that to me over and over.
Johnny La Rock – Gold Codes
-I was drunk in Vegas earlier this year and admitted Gold Codes was an album of the year for me. La Rock is a hidden gem in Cleveland that the world really should get to know some.
Bar Stool Preachers – Grazie Governo
-Working class and bad ass all in one album. These guys rule. It’s like Dropkick Murphys if they were a ska band.
Mad Caddies – Punk Rocksteady
-Taking punk rock songs and putting their own reggae style to it was just a brilliant idea. This covers album was done right and received well by this listener.
Restorations – LP5000
-Yeah, this was one of my favorite releases this year. This band can do no wrong and I appreciated their maturing lyrics more than ever. Seeming them live finally this year was also an added bonus.
Four Fists – 6666
-This collaboration between P.O.S. and Astronautics completely slays. This rap duo really dropped an impressive album complete with plenty of punk references and beats guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days.
Vessel of Light – Woodshed
-This album takes everything great about Danzig, White Zombie, and even old Alice in Chains and puts them all together for a solid listen. Super impressed with this one.
Frank Turner – Be More Kind
-Everyone needs to listen to this album, especially “Be More Kind”. I am fairly sure it will make your day if not a better person. Frank Turner is one talented mo-fo.
Lucero – Among The Ghosts
-I love this album mostly for the band embracing where life has taken them over the years. They have not lost their style one bit and for that I thank them. This has turned into one of my favorite Lucero releases.
Hailing from Mesa, AZ, Authority Zero combines various levels of music and mashes them into their own style. Punk rock, thrash, reggae, and even a hint of skate rock can be heard throughout their years of material. The band really take pride in incorporating those styles to their catalog as well as carries a strong love for bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise. Having been kicking ass and taking names for almost 20 years now, spite many challenges in their career, Authority Zero has not calmed down one bit.
This Tuesday, Authority Zero will be releasing an all new album titled The Tipping Point. These West Coast punkers have dropped an impressive release full of energy and fast-paced fun. With plans of touring Europe in a month to support their new release, Authority Zero really seem to be moving in the right direction. Ask anyone in their infamous Zero Crew and I am sure they will agree. Still, I am just as pleased as I am shocked this is only their fifth studio release.
The very fast-paced “No Other Place” started off the album with plenty of speed and aggression sure to entice a circle pit. It was almost too easy to hear the gracious nod to Pennywise and Bad Religion in this track from Jason DeVore’s singing style. Add some necessary group vocals aside with quick and heavy guitar riffs, you can hear the influential bands that helped build Authority Zero.
“Undivided” continued with more of a 90s punk feel with DeVore having a great flow from start to finish. The chorus was catchy as hell, the drums were just non-stop, and the guitars carried well. My only distraction was the Dicky Barrett sounding scream that ultimately stopped the song for a moment, but then jumped right back in.
“For the Kids” had a Good Riddance feel to it that I really enjoyed. I really caught on to these lyrics because they really hit home to me as DeVore sang “this one’s for you” about more or less – me. Well, at least young me. Great song about yesteryear to any music fan who was surrounded by friends in any scene. Age may be catching up with a lot of us, but those memories will last forever. This track is worth a listen.
I really was beginning to wonder if Authority Zero dropped the reggae from their sound and then “Struggle” started. It’s not terrible by any means, but the current me never really got into this version of Authority Zero. “On The Brink” followed returning to their punk sound.
“Today We Heard The News” was another reggae track on the album, but this one I actually enjoyed. The horns throughout kept the track interesting while I tried to figure out what DeVore was singing about. From what I gathered, it was about a protest about something and not giving up fighting the cause. (EDIT: apparently it is about the passing of Tony Sly. I am kind of kicking myself for not grasping that. Thanks to a reader for that one.)
“Shakedown in Jaurez” also kind of hit home to me, but in a different matter seeing how I currently live 30 minutes away from that city and am more than aware of everything that goes on there. The song itself, mixed punk and reggae for a sound I just could once again not get into.
Ending the album was “21st Century Breakout”, a sped up punk track that got stuck in my head. I could not help but think about Bad Religion once again as DeVore sang just like Mr. Greg Graffin at times. Setting that aside, this track was killer and pretty much was my choice cut on the entire album.
After all the changes Authority Zero has gone through in the last few years, it is almost admirable to see them continue on. With a revolving door of members leaving and joining along with countless other setbacks during the band’s existence, the band seems to have finally found some well-deserved stability. With all those drawbacks though, I am shocked they did not call it quits and start something new already.
Case and point, just 2 weeks ago, the band’s long-time bassist Jeremy Wood announced on his Facebook page he was leaving the band to spend more time with family and other personal reasons. Luckily lead signer, and the last of the original lineup, Jason DeVore quickly announced the band had a touring bass player to join them on the road in support of their upcoming release The Tipping Point. Somehow, I have the feeling this album was properly named by the band for more reasons than one.
There is no doubt in my mind if you are a fan of the punk rock genre that you have heard of this band or seen them live at a Warped Tour or heard them on a video game soundtrack. They have been in the game for nearly 20 years and it can definitely be heard in The Tipping Point. No matter how many changes this band goes through, it would appear that Jason DeVore has no intention giving up something he truly loves.
San Francisco punk rockers Dead To Me recently dropped a new album titled Moscow Penny Ante on Fat Wreck Chords. The band, having been around since 2003, has had their fair share of changes with musicians coming and going, but never really lost their sound. Their ability to mix up a bunch of genres like reggae and ska into their punk rock groove always stood out to me. Having caught them twice this year, you could say I dig them a little.
Having toured the US in 2011, the band will be heading to Europe for a tour in 2012. I seriously do not think these guys, between touring and recording, ever take a break.
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with bassist / vocalist Chicken. He was more than kind in doing an interview with me. Check it out:
BHP: So, how’d 2011 treat you guys?
Chicken: This year has been great for us! We have toured pretty much non stop and we recorded a new album and released it. So needless to say we have been very, very busy. It’s a good thing.
I’ve been lucky enough to see DTM twice this year, once in SXSW. Any comments about that magical evening in March?
That night was crazy. I learned how to play guitar listening to Screeching Weasel, so I was pretty bummed out about what happened. I just wish the whole thing never happened. It was a bummer too because the other bands that played (Dead To Me, Banner Pilot, The Flatliners) all worked really hard to get to Austin for SXSW and we all played great sets. Unfortunately, no one remembers because of the whole Ben Weasel fiasco.
DTM played CMJ in NYC recently. How did it go for you guys?
CMJ in New York was so much fun. Fat Wreck did a great job of putting together an amazing evening of awesome bands. We had a blast! We played two shows in one day in NYC, and that is super hard to do. Just getting around NYC with all our gear is a nightmare, but we pulled it off. We played a free show in SoHo at the Chrome Bag store with kegs of beer and lots of drunk New York hipsters. Good times.
Your band’s style mixes up a plethora of punk rock goodness that spans from almost a street punk to a reggae-vibe. Was this style how DTM always was since its inception or has the band experimented throughout the years?
We have always just wanted to write songs that we want to hear. If it has a little Reggae vibe to it, then so be it. We love bands from all different genres like Hip Hop, Reggae, Hardcore, World Music, etc… so we just want to be able incorporate all of our influences into the songwriting process.
Fat Wreck Chords has been there for you since your debut. How does it feel to be on their roster? You actually worked for them for a few years correct? Being employed by Fat Mike on two different levels…nice.
Yeah, it is awesome being on FAT. I used to work in the mail room there and it was so much fun. It was like a family vibe for sure. We did tons of stuff together, not just work. We would play in bands together, go to shows together, go out to eat all the time and all that. Now being in a band on the label, I consider it an honor. When I call the label and have questions about this or that, I am talking to people that have known me personally for over ten years now, so I trust them completely. It’s a great feeling for sure.
DTM’s new album Moscow Penny Ante dropped a couple months back. It is a great release by the way. What can you tell me about this new release?
We are all really excited about our new record, Moscow Penny Ante. I love the job Matt Allison did producing it and am so excited to be playing new songs live, it rules. We have been touring so much over the last two years that this batch of songs is a very good reflection of the live spirit of DTM. It is much more cohesive than African Elephants and has a little more straight forward delivery I think.
Does the title have any reference to your country of origin?
No, I grew up in California. The title is taken from a term Malcolm X used to define his crew of small time thugs in Harlem, NY. I feel like a small timer in a sea of boys in bands that want to be big time and I could care less. I am happy with everything we have been able to do and I’m riding this thing until the wheels fall off. I never though in a million years that because of songs I wrote in my bedroom, it would take me to places as far away as Moscow.
What was done differently on this album that stands out over previous releases?
I feel like there as an overall confidence in song writing on this new record that wasn’t as apparent on previous releases. We got experimental on African Elephants and I love that record for that, but on Moscow Penny Ante I felt way more confident with what my melodies would end up sounding like and how I wanted the guitars to sound.
Will the band be taking a break anytime soon. Seems like you boys have been touring all over the world this year?
What is a break? I’ve never heard of that before.
Aside from DTM, your drummer Ian does some amazing artwork on used vinyl. I am kicking myself in the ass for not buying one when you played in Cleveland. How long typically does it take him to turn a beat up vinyl into a work of art?
I am sure he will be bringing some with him on our European tour in Jan/Feb 2012 so come to a show and try to grab one before they sell out. His pieces can take anywhere from an hour to twenty minutes to three hours sometimes. It depends on what materials he has laying around and how much time he has available to work on something.
Would you agree that punk is not dead?
It never has been and never will be!!
Did you ever think that you would be where you are now 20 years ago?
I definitely used to dream about playing in a touring punk band all the time 20 years ago. I knew with all my heart that it was what I wanted to do. I feel so insanely fortunate that I am able to do it now. I have literally traveled much of the globe and met amazing people world wide. I feel very lucky to be on FAT and lucky to have been able to play with some of my all time favorite bands over the years. It’s like living in a dream, it rules.
Awesome. Well that’s all I got…anything you care to add?
Thank you for the interview, we appreciate it! To anyone reading this, come hang out when we come t Europe in early 2012, it’s gonna be a blast!
(as taken from Urban Dictionary):
v. To take elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music and combine them to make a new song. n. A song comprised of elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music.
2. I’m in the middle of mashing-up songs by Tom Jones and Michael Jackson. (verb usage)
1. I’ll play my mash-up of Tom Jones and Michael Jackson at the club tomorrow night. (noun usage)
Max Tannone might not a name you now until you find out that he is the man behind the mash-up that is called Jaydioheadamongst other music blending projects. Years ago my pal Kevin shared with me a track called “Wrong Prayer”, a mash-up of Jay-Z and Radiohead. This was around the time that Dangermouse‘s The Grey Album was getting some attention and being a fan of both Jay-Z and even more so Radiohead I was just impressed with what I heard. Years later that track was released on Jaydiohead, a free downloadable mash-up album made available by Max Tannone.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with the music manipulator. He was more than kind to answer a few questions for me about mashing music. Enjoy!
BHP: Your name might be unknown to some but it’s safe to say what you have done is talked about by many. Can you quickly introduce yourself?
MT: Sure, well my name is Max Tannone. I’m from New York City and I make music and remixes. I guess this is called a producer, although my definition of a producer is someone who works with other musicians in a studio setting developing a project…perhaps that makes me more of a beat-maker or a remix artist than a traditional producer.
I use the term “mash up” myself a lot in regards to what you do but I know most people prefer to call this form sound manipulation something else. What do you prefer it to be called?
It doesn’t matter to me. People shun the term “mash up” because of the negative connotations it carries. The term has transformed into a signification of a musical gimmick, mainly due to the availability of inexpensive computer software allowing people to experiment with music. I embrace this though. I love the fact that anyone can create a mashup, a remix, an original track, whatever – with little equipment or prior knowledge. I don’t necessarily enjoy everything that’s created, but the fact that it can be done is vital. So, that being said, you can it a mashup, a remix, whatever is easy for you.
To someone who is not familiar with mashing, how would you explain it to them?
In general sound editing is manipulating or combining different sounds together. I only have experience doing this in the digital realm, and have never physically cut and spliced tape like the originators of remix culture – but the principles remain. Its easier to picture visually. Imagine creating a collage, with the different pictures that contribute to the overall image representing different pieces or loops of sound. Pictures can be layered, altered, etc. Imagine having an image of the Mona Lisa and applying 40 consecutive Photoshop filters to it. You probably wouldn’t even recognize it at the end. This is an extreme example, but you get the idea.
How did you get into “mashing” music? Was it something you recently started or have you been toying with it for a while now?
I learned how to mix instrumentals and acapellas (which is just matching their tempos and starting them on the “1”…very easy) several years ago. From here I got heavily into making my own beats, learning how to sample and adding my own elements. At the time the producer group The Neptunes had been producing every R&B and hip-hop song and I was fascinated. It was the first time I began to think about how the music was actually created, rather than just listening to it. After a few years of just doing beats, I got back into the mash-up thing, but wanted to add my own elements as well. The first track I did was “Wrong Prayer” from Jaydiohead and made it into a full out project, just to see what would happen.
Who did you first “mash” and why?
Way back in the day I would just experiment. I had hundreds of acapellas and instrumentals and would just mix random ones together. I remember being really excited the first time I got something on tempo that sounded good. Soon after you realize that this is what DJs do, live, every night. I wanted to go beyond a basic track A vs. track B type thing. The first mash-ups aren’t anything special… Mash-Up 1 , Mash-Up 2 , if you want to hear them. They are perfect examples of something a decent DJ would do live all night. So I tried to expand from this.
How do you go about finding the right songs to mix up? I can not imagine that is an easy task.
For me it starts with a concept. Than I gather as many songs as I can from each artist or genre, and just start listening. I make notes on what I think would sound good together, and just test it out. When I find something I like, I try to make it a complete song. How I choose depends on the vibe of the tracks, their respective sounds, tempos, instrumentation, etc.
How long does it generally take to disassemble songs and recreate them to your liking?
Anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to do one track.
Have you experienced any legal issues yet?
I got a cease and desist letter from Minty Fresh Records. They said I had to stop using the name “Minty Fresh Beats”, so now I just go by my regular name. Maybe that’s a good thing because I got a lot flack for that name, haha.
Obviously you can not make a profit from this so you allow your work to be downloaded for free on various websites via P2P sharing. Which album has been downloaded the most?
Probably the original Jaydiohead album – but I don’t know for sure. Everything has been re-uploaded by countless people on many different sharing sites. Not to mention single tracks that have been downloaded via blogs and my soundcloud page. Its impossible to know. The Jaydiohead website has over a million hits but you really cant correlate that to downloads. It could be more or less.
Jaydiohead is genius to my ears. I adore the project and can not help but to think about the ever popular DJ/Produce Dangermouse and his project called The Grey Album. Did he provide any influence to you by doing what he did years ago or did you pave your own path?
Thanks I’m glad you like it. The Grey Album is great, and was just a stepping stone for Dangermouse. The work he’s done since then is amazing – definitely one of my favorite producers. That being said, I never really thought about the Grey Album when I was making Jaydiohead. Not to take anything away from it, I was just concentrated on making something sound cohesive and interesting – just like any piece of music.
So how did you come up with the idea of mixing Radiohead with Jay-Z? Seems so far fetched yet so perfect one you hear it.
I heard “I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead and thought it would be a nice hip-hop beat. I made a few minor adjustments and it was ready to go. I am very familiar with Jay-Z’s catalog, so he was a natural choice for me. I wasn’t put off by the number of Jay-Z remix albums that already exist. That was one of the reasons I did it, maybe I could do something that would stand out.
Mos-Dub is your most recent work and I think it is brilliant to do what you have done by combining Mos-Def with reggae music many may have never heard of before. How did you come up with this idea?
[I] recently became heavily into dub reggae music and again, thought I could sample it. Like Jay-Z, Mos is one of my favorite MCs and the idea of working with him (obviously not in person) was exciting. Dub can be very political and socially conscious, and Mos Def’s lyrics often represent this too, so they came together nicely. There are a few other MCs that I’d like to do projects with…
Have you heard from Mos Def yet in regards to this? What about Jay Z or any other major artists?
Haven’t heard from Mos Def. Jay-Z wrote about Jaydiohead on his Twitter account which was pretty cool. The Beastie Boys were supportive of Doublecheck Your Head, and posted 4 of that project’s 7 tracks on their website. One thing I want to say about the Beastie Boys is that they have been supporters of remix culture from very early on. They uploaded a bunch of their acapellas on their website a long time ago, before the mash-up and remix culture got to the fevered pitch its at now…so props to them.
That is awesome to hear that about the Beastie Boys! They are indeed one of the biggest supporters of remix culture. How did you feel when you found out their posted your remixes on their website?
I felt honored. Doublecheck Your Head wouldn’t have happened without Adam H (Adrock.) He liked Jaydiohead and contacted me about doing a similar remix with their Check Your Head album. I jumped at the chance.
Seems as if you prefer to tackle on NYC MC’s. Is this something intentional?
I’m most familiar with their work, and they are some of my favorite artists. I grew up listening to them, so these projects are tributes in a way.
Do you make it to a lot of shows in NYC or are you mainly a club kind of guy?
I’m still developing my DJ sets and “live show” per se. But as far as a concert-goer, I see stuff pretty often. The best DJ set I’ve seen in recent memory was Rusko at Webster Hall.
How about one that someone else created? Do you have any favorite mash up artists?
DJ Swindle has done some cool stuff. He did an album with Nas and Al Green that I enjoyed. I’m into kind of conceptual projects, or at least ones where every song isn’t 20 songs blended together. I appreciate that from a technical point of view, but its often musically uninteresting for me.
You started a DJ and moved to more of a producer, right? Have you produced many bands/artists you would like to mention?
Yes, although I want to get more involved with DJing. I would like to do some of this live. To be honest, my production experience outside of these projects is really limited. I haven’t been able to work with an artist or group from start to finish on an original project. I hope that’s on the horizon.
You are quite personable, more so than most artists out there. How important is it to you to be friendly to your fans on Twitter and Facebook?
It’s weird to think of people as fans. I don’t like to. I see myself like anyone else, just experimenting with music and putting it out there. I’m honored that other people are into it. Interacting with people is a great way to share ideas and get feedback. If people ever have questions or want to get into doing this stuff I try to help them.
Have you ever considered going your own way and putting out original material?
Yeah. I have a bunch of original beats, sampled beats, and more electronic dancey stuff online at my soundcloud page. I’m most comfortable with hip-hop, and would like to work with an MC on an album from start to finish. I keep coming back to this idea of a concept album where each track is part of a story or something, I don’t know why I’m into it. It could be really corny, I don’t know.
What’s next for you? Any new mashes you can hint on?
I’m working on some stuff now, I don’t want to say anything because I’m not sure how it will turn out yet. Still experimenting…I just want to keep going.
Boston’s Westbound Train are back with an all new album following their impressive 2006 debut Transitions. This time the seven man crew completely outdo themselves in every way possible with Come And Get It. The album was once again released on Hellcat Records and proves to be one of my favorite releases to date this year hands down.
Think ska music infused with jazz, reggae, and heavy doses of R&B and you have the perfect blend of what Westbound Train specializes in. Not to be compared with Motown, although close at times, the band remains a ska act throughout this release but keeps a soulful attitude.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the band’s last CD a while back and was impressed with every moment of it. This time I am back to that same level of excitement with Come And Get It. I must say that I am pretty sure that this CD will be my soundtrack for this summer hands down.
As soon as the CD started with “I Don’t Belong Here” lead singer Obi Fernandez’s voice seems to sooth the soul and set the mood. With horns, a groovy rhythm, and even some background harmony the song immediately put me in the most relaxed of states as the song reminisces about the good times. Almost reminding me of a Smokey Robinson song, “Ain’t Gonna Be Easy”, was a full forced R&B track sure to please any listener one way or another.
“Why You Cry” was an amazing ska soul track with ear catching singing thanks to King Django and also amazing tenor saxophone solos. “Come And Get It” featured some sick organ playing throughout the song with even more impressive singing.
“What You Need” was one of the more diverse tracks on the CD thanks to The Sweet Divines adding their classy soulful backup singing. If that was not good enough they return on “So Many Things A Man Can Say”, one of the albums more Motown inspired songs. If there is any track on this CD that proves this band has soul, this is the track.
“Critical Ska” was just that; a fine instrumental ska track from start to finish with an array of guitar, piano, and sax solos perfect for playing in the background of any outdoor party. “Cheers! The World’s Almost Over” ended the CD but not without leaving a good feeling.
Westbound Train is a ska band that has some serious soul playing abilities and Come And Get It proves it. I’m not saying this album is pure Motown but I am saying this comes very close and Westbound Train does it well. Fans of The Slackers, The Pietasters, and just good soulful music will enjoy this CD over and over as did I. Look for the band this summer at the 2009 Van’s Warped Tour.
In the event that you have not heard these guys it is only right for me to post some videos of material from their previous releases: