I swear to whatever you worship, time is just flying as of late and I just realized I probably should be posting this best of list already.
I feel like I repeat myself annually by saying “there were some really good releases during the current year” as I build said list, but honestly, it is true. Bands new and old just keep me entertained and that is why I guess I keep doing this little blog here.
In the interest of time, I am keeping this year’s best of list extremely short and sweet. No links or photos this time. Just a quick list of the albums/EPs/whatever that impressed me to no end and were spun often. If you are wondering who a particular someone is, Google the hell out of them and listen.
Big Nothing – Chris
MakeWar – Get it Together
Cave In – Final Transmission
Strange Magic – Unfortunately
Orville Peck – Pony
Aggrolites – Dirty Reggae
Ramona – Deals, Deals, Deals!
Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
Pup – Morbid Stuff
Heart Attack Man – Fake Blood
Subhumans – Crisis Point
More Kicks – More Kicks
Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers
Lagwagon – Railer
Harvey Pekar – Paris Green
Moderator – The Mosaics
Off With Their Heads – Be Good
Warp Lines – Human Fresh
Teenage Bottlerocket – Stay Rad!
Tool – Fear Inoculum
BEST EPS / 7″s
Signals Midwest – Pin
Charger – Charger
Twin Temple – Satan’s A Woman
Red Scare Industries – 15 Years of Tears and Beers
As always, thanks for checking out my site. I do this for my love of music and anyone who has the slightest interest in what I have to say.
I hate that I was not able to review every release I listed. I had every intention to, but life gets in the way more and more so I did what I could. If one person checked out a band because of what I was able to talk about, then my job is done.
Bands and labels, thanks for always considering me.
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.
Street punk shows it has a nicer side thanks to Left Alone, a Wilmington, CA act on their latest self-titled album Left Alone released through Hellcat Records. On the band’s third release they continue to play street punk material but incorporate elements of pop punk, reggae, and ska making for a real fun listen.
Opening track “Spiked With Pain” was a full punk rock track with sing along abilities and guitar and bass riffs suggestive of Rancid. There is a reason why this band was signed to Hellcat and perhaps Tim Armstrong enjoyed the similarities of Left Alone and the band he fronts.
“Branded” follows with the same energy as the first track with front man Elvis Cortez’s raspy voice just appealing to my ears. As if that was not good enough, the bass lines were sick throughout and overall the song is just screaming to be released as a single.
Almost sounding like the Madness meets Operation Ivy was the brisk “Sad Story” with a more ska approach that is easily likable and surly makes you want to skank away. The song was easily one of my favorites on the entire CD. See below for the music video of the song. Good stuff.
The catchy “3 Bottles Of Wine” and “Porcelain” both seem more pop punk tracks. They seem to escape the street punk image held by the band but still are enjoyable for what they are worth.
“Bombs Away” sounding a lot like The Clash’s “Police And Thieves” carries on just fine as the song is not a direct rip off but more so a compliment to the UK grandfathers of punk. “Brindle” starts off with a strong bass line that strays right into a fast paced track sure to be a hit at one of their live shows as it makes you want to swing your arms and dance around carelessly.
I loved “Self Made” with the more so 90s punk feel and an organ playing in the background. “Wishing Well” continued that feeling with a simple yet catchy punk track with some group vocals. These are the kinds of songs that turned me into a punk rock fan in the first place.
It’s nice to see a band like Left Alone not label themselves as one specific genre of music and experiment with their talent. This album is full of tracks with sing along qualities that span back to their previous releases but add a more fine tuned effort making for a good listen if you find yourself a fan of punk rock.
Left Alone is far from a commercial pop punk act and thanks to their recent release they should be grabbing some attention. Perhaps it is a good thing they stay away from the mainstream though as they have too much talent to be considered just another pop-punk act out there. Having already been fans of their previous releases Lonely Starts and Broken Hearts and Dead American Radio I can honestly say this CD is just as good of a listen if not better.
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: