It’s crazy that 2017 is coming to an end already. I feel like I always seem to say that around this time of the year, but it’s true.
It feels like it was just yesterday that I turned into a 40 year old. Let me tell you, that was kind of a big change for me and I might have sulked about it for 7-8 months.
More importantly, my wife and I welcomed our amazing, chill little daughter to the world in July. She is the coolest, but don’t tell my son I said that.
Clearly dadage life takes up most of my time these days and this blog is not what it used to be, but I still try to crank out reviews and whatnot when I can because I love it.
I may be busy with life, but I am always listening to music and have checked out tons of albums by amazing bands and artists. Where I wish I could review everything that I have come across, I simply have to pick and choose when I can.
It’s been a tradition of sorts for me to do a Best Of post, and there is nothing I would rather do that share with you some of my favorite releases of 2017. So, without further delay…[well maybe some as I am trying to narrow this down to just 20, but who am I kidding??? Edit: I might have added to this best of list a few times now…]
I ‘m super proud to say that four of my favorite releases in 2017 are all Cleveland bands so they obviously need to be mentioned first:
Heart & Lung – You Wanna Know the Truth?
This is the album that caught me by complete surprise. My pal told me to check them out and I did and I loved this entire pop punk jam of an album to the point that I still listen to it almost daily. If I was able to sign them and put out a record, I would have already. This band has so much potential to be huge.
Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family
Words can really not express how great this album is. It’s punk, it’s grunge, it’s good, and it’s comprised of great folk. Do not sleep on this one.
Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out
I was lucky enough to hear this album over the summer and was beyond blown away by how amazing it was. It is seriously the best thing the band has done so far and I adore it from start to finish. This is one of Cleveland’s best bands if you ask me.
Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are of Me
These Aussies have put out one of my favorite albums of the year. I loved how catchy, fun, and overly personal it was. I still have intentions on getting one of the lyrics off this album tattooed on me. I also need to buy the damn record already for my collection.
Propagandhi – Victory Lap
It should say a lot how politically charged this album was from a Canadian band about the US mess we are in. I really adore this album from start to finish. It’s damn perfect.
Scorpios – Scorpios Vol. 2
When Joey Cape told me in an interview that Scorpios might just return and someone with the initials C.C. would take over where Sly left off, I was beyond stoked and instantly knew it was Chris Cresswell. This is one of the albums this year that everyone needs to just give a chance.
Demons – Embrace Wolf
I just found out about these guys from a good friend recently and I have listened to their debut release almost daily since. This band packs a severe punch with their post-hardcore greatness.
Sweet Apple – Sing the Night in Sorrow
I was not sold on my first listen, but after a few more I realized I should have paid more attention the first time. Remarkable release by some amazing musicians.
Anti-Flag – American Fall I do not really care with anyone thinks here, Anti-Flag released a political, poignant album that everyone who has a clue needs to check out. They have perfected their sound so much on this album.
The Flatliners – Inviting Light
Upon first listen I was not totally sold on the band tapping their brakes compared to previous releases, but the more and more listened to it, the more and more I appreciated what they had to offer. This really is a hell of an album.
Fred Thomas – Changer This man can do no wrong. I love his style and uniqueness and the fact he gets excited about my Instagram posts every once in a while. His latest release just hit me as it encompassed change.
Body Count – Bloodlust
Back in ’93, I was a huge Body Count fan. I am sure I can still recite most of the lyrics off their debut. After that first album, I just never got into them the same. Then Bloodlust came out and once again they have grabbed my attention. Ice T, Ernie C, and crew really delivered a heavy ass album with plenty of special guests.
Menzingers – After the Party
I feel like every album they release I am putting it on my best of list, but hey, it rules and deserves to be noted.
Ride – Weather Diaries
This album is incredible from start to finish. I honestly was not expecting this seeing how the band hadn’t released material in over 20 years. Clearly I am dumb for thinking that.
A Giant Dog – Toy
This band is straight up insane and I love the hell out of them for that.
Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)
I was strangely fascinated with this kid and his emo rap to the point that I was listening to this album almost daily. I could not stand some of the topics he was singing about and just felt like I was too old to even admit I was listening, but I loved the music and his overall singing style. Sadly he OD’d last month so the world will never know how big he could have gotten. I really felt this kid had so much talent.
Tim Barry – High On 95
Once again this man has taken his honest music and beat up all the emotions inside of me. Working class hero musician with storytelling abilities like none other.
Quicksand – Interiors
I honestly was not anticipating this release to be as good as it is. I hate to be that guy, but I was not impressed with the couple of tracks the band released prior to the album. Little did I know they were just puzzle pieces to a killer album.
Needles // Pins – Good Night, Tomorrow
I am thinking that a lot of people might not have hear of these guys here in the states, but you can change that. This punk rock group released a great album. Note to self: Buy the LP already!
The Electric Grandmother – Cancelled.
There is no way I was going to overlook this concept album by two very close friends of mine. Even if they are too good to play a Cleveland show, I love them dearly and am amazed with Cancelled. It’s the best thing they have done to date in my opinion.
Choke Up – Stormy Blue
Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Warriors
Shedders – Dangerous Jumps
Rancid – Trouble Maker
Gorillaz – Humanz
The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits
Ethan Danial Davidson – Crows
No Use For A Name – Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers
Stutter Steps – Floored
Western Addiction – Tremulous
Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
Japandroids – Near To the Wild Heart of Life
Swingin’ Utters – Drowning in the Sea, Rising with the Sun: Best of Swingin’ Utters
TSOL – The Trigger Complex
Greg Graffin – Millport
Powerflo – Powerflo
Quicksand – Interiors
Beck – Colors
As always, this was fun to take some time and think about all the great releases that came out over the past year. I probably could have put even more up here, but the ones listed (along with the honorable mentions) are the ones that impacted me the most.
I’m glad I did not sunset this site as I actually thought about over the summer. I’m going on 10 years now and after careful thought have no intentions of closing shop anytime soon.
A big you to all the bands and the great PRs who have even thought of asking me to check something new out. I am sorry I can not always get the review out, but I promise you, I listen to just about everything that is sent my way.
Thank you to you if you are reading this for checking out my site. Whether you are new or visit often, I appreciate you for checking me out. Without you, this site would be meaningless.
Happy Holidays to you and yours and all that jazz.
Cleveland’s Two Hand Fools are back and have dropped their most important album to date in my opinion.
I’m sure you’ve heard this statement about various bands over and over by people, but honestly, I am dead serious stating this.
The rust-belt punkers are on top of their game in Falling In / Falling Out, putting out a release that has quickly jumped to the top of my best of 2017 list.
Comprised of quality dudes including Ryan Johns (guitar / vocals), Adam Paduch (drums), Tyler Sickels (guitar) , and Nick Schmitt (bass), it’s been 4 years since the band has dropped something and this specific release has actually been 2 years in the making.
With Paduch and Sickels focusing on Heart Attack Man most of the year, Falling In / Falling Out was put on hold until everyone could come together to support it together once it dropped. Smart move if you ask me. Hopefully the album releases soon as the band was not able to tell me an exact release date just yet.
I absolutely should mention that the cover art for this release was created by Cleveland artist John G.This is the band’s second full release.
At less than 30 minutes, this album sucked me in and had me wanting so much more by the end. “Falling Out” complete with some sexy saxophone really got me excited (not in that way you perv) for the rest of the album and then suddenly “Spinning” started and I was sold. I knew i would adore the rest of this album just after that song.
“Young Again” I think was written about a 40 year old blogger from Cleveland. I kid about that, but this track had me reminiscing while listening to the harmonic track full of emotion and realistic thoughts.
I loved the compelling “Geraniums”, a track about self-realization and moving on. It’s not a very long song, but carries a sweet set of riffs, spot-on drumming, and is just fun to jam along with.
Following was “(Transitions)”, an instrumental tune that easily could have been pulled from the 90s. This is the track that had me thinking to myself how mature this band has become.
The saxophone made a return in “Falling In”, an interlude of sorts and it was equally as sexy-sounding as the beginning. This track moved into “Raindrops”, another short and sweet track that left a bite mark.
“Cut You Up” once again had the band doing what they do best – play together. This was so genuine sounding and probably my favorite on the album that was far from being over-produced. Perhaps a little deranged lyrically, I share that sentiment so naturally I dug this.
“No Tip” wasn’t too technical and because of it, it was an entertaining listen even if the somber track reflected a miserable serving. Add in the ever important group vocals, and you have a damn fine song. This was one of those emotional tracks that was just infectious to hear out.
“RGB” had some, you guessed it, sexy saxophone playing. I clearly am joking about the sexiness and should say effectiveness because this song was 400 times better because of that woodwind playing throughout. This was a hell of a track to end the album with.
I need to admit, the first time I heard Two Hand Fools years back, I was not sold. In fact, I remember telling myself that they need to rearrange. Who the hell am I to judge a hard-working group though? I kept those comments to myself and kept on checking them out when I could.
I am glad I never dismissed them completely because since then they have become one of my favorite Cleveland bands. I have watched them grow up and embrace who they are as musicians and to me, that is pretty goddamn amazing.
Falling In / Falling Out should serve as a solid testament of accomplishment to some pals who have been in it for 10 years now. They really impressed me with this one.
When a great pal tells me to check out a band that one of his bandmates happens to be in, I stop what I am doing and look for my headphones.
Heart & Lung is the band I speak of and thanks to Jeremy (most call him Rozco), I can not stop listening to these guys.
This four-piece pop-punk act hails from tropical Cleveland and has been doing their thing for a couple of years now. Featuring current members of Throw Shade and former members of The Fucking Cops, Let em’ Run, and The Public, it is safe to say that this band has plenty of rustbelt punk rock talent.
You Wanna Know the Truth is the band’s debut release and I must say, it is pretty damn impressive. Released independently, you’d think someone from an independent label would have scooped them up already (hint, hint to you label owners out there).
As far as the sound goes, think the energy of Direct Hit! mixed with the singing style of Say Anything, the memorable lyrics of Iron Chic, and glorious group harmonies of Masked Intruder.
As an avid Cleveland Indians fan, I certainly appreciated the opening sample with Hammy doing this thing on “Telecaster”. This opening track just has the band jumping right in and giving it their all.
“Hey Man” was kind of like a fun blend of Max Bemis and Masked Intruder, hence my previous comparison. This happy-go-lucky track is best played with friends. Nice job incorporating the band name into the lyrics by the way…
I am not sure what “1954” is all about, but I do know that is the year the Cleveland Indians went to the World Series. I also know that is the year the infamous Sam Sheppard supposedly murdered his wife. I appreciated the Cleveland pride and references throughout this jam.
“You Wanna Know the Truth?” was easily my favorite track off the album. The steady yet furious drumming, the piano playing, and just the honest chorus “you wanna know the truth? I’m fucking in love with all of you” pretty much did it in for me. Hearing the band profess enjoyment while on tour as well as their admiration for the great state they all hail from was all too intoxicating. The ending though…man, that was so perfect (you can check out the song below).
“Recession” was 50 seconds of the ups and downs of corporate America and the broke asses who live there. “Don’t Need You” was as you guessed it, a song about tacos from someone who is trying to diet furiously. I love tacos.
“The Sound” ended things in almost Weezer fashion sans the heavy repeating bass line. Hearing this song build up, explode, and just exhale with piano playing at the end put this album to rest in a good way (no pun intended of course). With lyrics about ending it all, carrying fear in doing so, and finally seeing someone looking back eliminating said fear, this wasn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky track.
My only complaint about this album? It clocked in at a whopping 27 minutes. 11 great songs, but I would have gone for a few more.
This Cleveland pop punk act has what it takes to turn heads and snag the attention of many. Don’t believe me? Check out what the bassist John’s sixth-grade students had to say about it…
I feel like I should have just started out the review with their quotes.
This band has been playing like crazy lately here in Cleveland as of late, most recently with Off With Their Heads, and I am excited to see what happens with them next. If you are looking for something new and fun, check these dudes out.
If I am not mistaken, the last time the Gimmes even played Cleveland was back in 2003 at the Warped Tour, so this was a pretty big deal to all of the Gimmes fans out there. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked myself to see they were coming back to my hometown with special guests Pears and Masked Intruder.
The Gimmes roster consists of Spike Slawson (Uke Hunt / Swingin Utters), Joey Cape (Lagwagon), Fat Mike (NOFX), Chris Shiflett (No Use For A Name / Foo Fighters), and Dave Raun (Lagwagon). They have been covering various tunes for over 20 years now and do not take themselves very seriously at all. The result is an overdose of fun covers of songs with a punk edge that in incredibly addicting They have 8 covers albums out now featuring all sorts of genres of music and were bold enough to just release a “Greatestest Hits” album.
The one ever so slight downfall with this leg of the tour was that Fat Mike was not playing due to scheduling conflicts, but Jay Bentley from Bad Religion was filling in on bass duties, so there were no complaints from me. Chris Shiflett also was not playing this stretch of shows, but his brother and Face To Face guitarist, Scott Shiflett was filling in. If you notice the photo of the flier above, you’ll see that they even took the liberty of photoshopping Jay and Scott in appropriately.
The House of Blues slowly filled up before the show started with big thanks to the Cavs and Indians games both going on at the same time making for parking to be a pricey nightmare. People of all ages even including some kids with their punk rock folks were hanging about. I really liked seeing such a variety of fans.
New Orleans hardcore punkers Pears started the night off with a pretty insane set. Sadly, I think less than 10 people were really into them and the rest were just trying to get their place in the pit for the other bands on the bill. Those Pears fans did sing along to every single song and had a hell of a time. Vocalist Zach Quinn noticed this and at one time jumped out into the crowd to hang out with his fans.
I am not sure the crowd really was digging what Pears were playing as many seemed to just observe and take in their set, but when the band played a cover of “Judy is a Punk”, the place erupted. Playing a few songs off last year’s Green Star as well as some from their debut Go To Prison, I really dug what I heard and was reminded that I really need to listen to them more.
Masked Intruder took stage with Officer Bradford, but there was a noticeable inconsistency. Red was missing. Apparently Red was serving time for picking pockets, but Big Luke Ferguson from Lipstick Homicide was filling in on drumming duties. Jarret Nathen from Pears actually filled in for one song too.
Blowing through songs like “I Fought the Law”, “I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight”, and “Saturday Night Alone”, the crowd was robbed of all of their attention by the masked musicians and were perfectly ok with it.
Blue at one point instructed the crowd put their hands up in the air and then the band proceeded to played “Stick Em Up”. There is nothing quite like a sing along with plenty of profanity.
Officer Bradford did his thing throughout the set and at the end pulled a Har Mar Superstar and shed his uniform to reveal a singlet that showed off all of his manly curves. His stage charisma is like Ben Carr from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in a sense, but far crazier.
Between the dance party going on in the pit with fans and Green, Officer Bradford dancing with the kids who were lucky enough to stand on the backside of the crowd barriers, and even a “literal” gracious mention by Blue to some “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches” place, the band kept the Cleveland crowd wanting much, much more once they finished off their final song of the night, “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye to You Tonight”.
As this was my first time seeing Masked Intruder after missing countless opportunities before, I was impressed. The Daft Punk of pop punk were hilarious throughout and sounded pretty great live.
The Gimmes took the stage just around 10pm to a packed house and started playing “Summertime” with Spike running onto the stage dressed to impress. From there, it was an all out party with the band dipping into their huge catalog of covers.
I was so stoked to hear “Jolene” and “Rocket Man” as well as “End of the Road” all in one night. The band looked comfortable playing on stage and were just having as much fun as possible.
The Gimmies rocked out their version of the Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” with the crowd singing along loudly. They also gave Barry Manilow props for announcing to the world the truth before playing “Mandy”.
Cape and Shiflett basically manned the sides of the stage throughout the show. Cape at times would just vanish leaving Spike to ask if anyone had seen him while Shiflett was just rocking out and having a good ol’ time with Bentley.
At one point during the set, Spike started rambling off a story about another venue in Cleveland he played at with another one of his bands where a awfully friendly man offered to pleasure him out front. He was quick to admit it was Now That’s Class.
Bentley had me cracking up tons during the set. When it was not his turn to play, he would pretend to start playing, hesitate, make faces, and then jump into action. You could tell he really was enjoying the night. At one point when Spike was shamelessly putting in a plug for Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits album that just came out, a fan in the front row held up the LP and Bentley took it from him. The fan thought he was just going to hold it up for all to see, which he did, but then put it on the drum stage and left it there until after the set. He eventually gave it back, but not before Bentley told the fan he would have to buy another copy.
As a special treat, Spike performed a couple of times with a plugged-in ukulele including a song from his other band Uke-Hunt as well as an amazing, intimate cover of Madonna’s “Crazy For You” and also “I Believe I can Fly” with Shiflett playing a Hawaiian riff with eventually the rest of the band kicking in.
With plenty of comedic banter between the bunch, they interacted with the crowd frequently, cracked jokes, and bashed current events just making for just a fun set. It was like NOFX, but far less wasted.
After leaving the stage only to come back for a four song encore, the band called it a night, but not before thanking the crowd and handing off picks, drumsticks, and setlists to a few lucky fans.
I have to admit, I was kind of worried before the show after hearing that their Pittsburgh show had a shorter set the night before, but the Gimmes played for almost 2 hours. The full setlist is listed below.
It was a solid night for punk rock tunes with friends and fans alike thanks to a trio of Fat Wreck Chords bands. It was my first time seeing all three bands, and I was thoroughly entertained.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Set List:
“Who Put the Bomp”
“Sloop John B”
“Crazy For You”
“I Believe I Can Fly”
“Isn’t She Lovely”
“Over the Rainbow”
Spike playing the Uke
“All My Lovin'”
“I Will Survive”
“End of the Road”