Oh look, the year is about up already. Guess that means it is time to drop my fav releases of yet another messed up year.
The good news about 2021 is that I went to exactly one show, but it was a great show with amazing humans all around.
Anyways, I am busy as shit with the paying gig and that dad life, so I am going to try and keep things short and sweet this year. With any luck, I will add to this some content on why these hit me the most. To be continued I suppose.
Check out the albums in no particular order that caught my attention throughout the year:
BHP BEST OF 2021 LIST
Turnstyle – Glow On
Heart Attack Man – Thoughtz & Prayerz
Lars Fredericksen – To Victory
One Step Closer – This Place You know
Johnny Dynamite and the Bloodsuckers – Sleeveless
Kali Masi – [Laughs]
Haunt – Beautiful Distraction
Neighborhood Brats – Confines of Life
Shitty Neighbors – People I Know
Heart & Lung – Twistin’ The Knife Away
Joystick – I Can’t Take It Anymore
Descendents – 9th & Walnut
Jeff Rosenstock – SKA DREAM
Lucero – When You Found Me
Jonathan Richman – Want To Visit My Inner House?
Sincere Engineer – Bless My Psyche
Juice Newson – Suburban Soul
Needles//Pins – Self-Titled
Brain Cave – Log World
Section H8 – Welcome to the Nightmare
Fiddlehead – Between The Richness
Bands: Thanks for doing what you do.
Labels & Promoters: Thanks for helping out the bands to their thing and release their music be it physical or digital and for supporting them while trying to tour in these most uncertain times. Also, thanks for the consideration when pimping them out. I am a lucky guy for this opportunity.
Finally: Thanks to YOU (yes, you). If you are even looking at this. I struggle every year if I want to keep blogging, and honestly I figure if someone out there can take some time to log in and look, then I can at least try and do my thing.
It’s been a hot minute since I have been to a show, so when I learned that Brenden Kelly‘s Here Goes Nothing Tour was making a stop in Cleveland, I knew I had to be there.
The fact the “venue” was a mere 1.3 miles away from BHP HQ sealed the deal for me. The quotes, by the way, were purposely put there as he played at a BBQ joint called Hatfield’s Goode Grub in a strip mall in the Cleveland suburb West Park.
I may have questioned the choice, but honestly, it was perfect for an acoustic set as well as a ton of hangs with some great folk.
For a Sunday night show, it was pretty packed and I have zero complaints. I got to see Brenden play a slightly extended set and even hung out with Sir Toby of Red Scare as well as some of the Heart & Lung crew.
Where I could have done a full review of the show and probably taken much better photos, I honestly went as a fan. I slammed some beers, sang along, and didn’t worry about taking notes or building a set list.
Honestly, I really needed that night. I missed live music and the interaction so much. I had fun and I know I was not the only one. That is what mattered most.
Still, when I got home that night, I couldn’t help but tell myself how I should at least do something where I could talk about the show or maybe do more.
I decided maybe an interview was in order.
I caught up with Brenden exactly one day after the tour ended just to mostly talk about the month-long series of shows and whatnot. I guess the timing was right.
Check it out:
BHP: You just finished up your Here Goes Nothing Tour with your homeboy Toby from Red Scare. For those who may have missed out on seeing you play, can you tell me about some of the highlights other than the Four Seasons Total Landscaping show everyone is still talking about?
BK: Well, the big highlights for me mostly involved seeing friends and just getting to be out there with everyone doing what I’ve (for better or for worse) dedicated my life to doing, ya know?
A real highlight was at a brewery in Green Bay where Jack from Arms Aloft and I were just sitting there listening to the sounds of the brewery but we thought we were listening to a super ambient Godspeed! track. After about a minute and a half (an embarrassingly long time) I was like, “Did you put that record on?” to the promoter who was just hanging out and he said “No, couldn’t get it to work.” We had a good chuckle at that shit.
We got a bag full of Krystal, Southern White Castle, but they also serve chili cheese “pups”…fifty bucks worth in Georgia, and Tane called his girlfriend and said, “I just got fifty bucks worth of Krystal!” and she replied, “Tane, I thought you weren’t into hard drugs?” and we had a chuckle at that shit too.
The shows were all fun. Some were sold out and some were barely attended at all and some were private backyard situations. In every instance it was really just great to be back out there again.
I was lucky enough to hit the final show in Cleveland and it was packed and even a couple of alcoholic Browns fans who were looking to keep damaging their liver some more after a pre-season win showed up.
Was the turnout about the same at all the other places you hit up?
If you looked at the routing, you could almost certainly guess within 10 people how many people were there just based on location and whether it was a private party or not.
There was one that was weird because I got the distinct feeling that the guy who booked the show (this was a private party) didn’t like my music. He left while I was on stage. He was perfectly nice and accommodating, but it seemed like a weird move to pay to have me come to your house and not watch. Right? But the shows in places where I tend to do well, big cities in the north (also Tampa) were jammed for sure. It was great.
Your initial special guest did not quite pan out as planned. I saw there were a handful of openers who took that slot including Tane Graves who played about half of the shows. Who were some of your favs?
Well at first we had Seth from Arms Aloft, then Tane, who rode with us and did most of the tour, and at the end we had Steveo from the Crippling Addiction, formerly of The Holy Mess, so there were only 3 guests. I would say those three were probably my faves.
You forgot to mention Heart & Lung playing as Munford & Lungs! Seriously I hope you’re as excited for this Cleveland band’s Red Scare debut as I am. I love those dudes.
Oh yeah. They’re awesome and the ability those three have to not only be a great punk band but also an amazing bluegrass band is pretty astounding. I have heard the record and can confirm it’s radical. What do you kids say these days? It fucks? It slaps? It does all that stuff.
I have to admit, I was curious about how you playing at Hatfield’s Goode Grub was going to pan out, but it worked out well. What did you think?
That dude is a trip and the place is awesome and the food is amazing. I had a great time and I can’t say enough good things about it. Was it a little odd? Sure. All shows right now are a little odd but that place was probably the coolest BBQ bar in a strip mall run by a real live member of a blood feud family that I’ve ever been to.
Your retort to the “fan” who screamed “Free Bird” when you were asking for requests was classic. Were there any other folk throughout the tour that made comments where you just took a moment to educate?
Oh, I dunno. I kind of have stage brain, which is to say that no matter what is going on in my life, if I’m sad or angry or whatever, I can get up there and think with an entirely different part of my mind and do the show the way it’s supposed to be done.
The other side of this is that I don’t tend to remember the shows particularly well. I know what you’re all thinking but NO, mother, it’s not from boozing. Even when I’m stone sober this happens. Also, even when I’m stone sober everyone thinks I’m wasted so whatever. Throw your stones.
The fact you proved to the crowd playing “Shitty Margarita” was not a good idea by playing some of it was probably one of my favorite moments of the night. Did you get any other requests throughout tour that you just had to skip the idea on?
That one came up a lot. So did some of the faster or just generally screamier TLA songs, like “Cut it Up”, for example. Some things just aren’t that good acoustic. People think they don’t care, but then they have to sit through it and it really sucks for everyone, especially me. So I try to take requests but I know what works and what doesn’t and I try to be a good steward in that regard for everyone involved.
Toby told me to ask you about the new Guardians logo and how you loved it. I love the team name, but if I am thinking of the same logo as you are, it is rough. What do you like about it so much? I can tell you the ‘G’ that obstructs the baseball just looks off.
Oh, I was referring to the Guardians fastball (I think that’s what it’s called) and I think it’s just dope looking. It’s totally got being a tattoo first and foremost in its design and I just think they nailed it. The G evokes a super classic rust belt factory industry logo which is very, very cool to me.
That’s what I was talking about! I’m not really sure why it bugs me. Maybe I’ll tattoo it on me and replace the “G” with “Beex” and while I’m at it change the baseball into a garbage pail lid. Cool?
I think this is an excellent idea.
Tour’s over, now what? We were lucky to have you play an extended set of sorts on the last night of tour, thanks for that. I could tell you were not really looking forward to it to end.
Yeah. I don’t know what to do now. My family has passed down this uh…I guess it’s our family motto (even though that sounds weird to say) which is you need 3 things: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Right now I am 1 for 3, so maybe I’ll just get a beer and see how that works out. For real though, I just wrote a page of lyrics I don’t hate. This tour reignited my love for everything from my family to playing to exercising and on and on so I’m optimistic. Also, Toby is talking about doing more runs, and I’d be into that for sure. But for now I’m gonna call the insurance company and then go get my car washed. The dizzying highs of rock and roll, am I right?
Hate to hear about the 33% family motto standing, but I’m stoked to see what those lyrics pan out into. Was most of the writing done when traveling from place to place or just when it hit ya?
No, I just wrote one page this morning when I woke up in my bed for the first time in a month. It’s time to dust off my dick and start working again, as the old maxim goes.
Thanks for giving me some of your time today, enjoy that phoner with the insurance company!
Now check out a video I found on my phone from that night:
Being cooped up because of some asinine virus has not been my favorite thing as of late. I really shouldn’t complain though, as I know many pals of mine are hurting severely because of this pandemic. If I could help everyone, I would. Trust me on that.
I offer a distraction to anyone who needs it right now via music. It’s the least I can do.
My pal Toby from that punk label out there called Red Hair Bimbo Trees or something sent me a message today reminding me that the great Sam Russo has new material that just dropped and encouraged me to stop sitting there and do something.
Who is Sam Russo you ask? He’s a UK punk rocker who honestly could put his back up these days to a young Frank Turner when it comes to musical style and craftsmanship, but that’s being a little lazy for comparison. Said differently, if you love when punk lead singers do their solo thing and get all Revival Tour on your ass, you’ll love this dude. I guarantee it based on his storytelling ability.
Russo has actually been around for a while now and Back to the Party is his third release on Red Scare Records. I was lucky enough to get a good taste of him thanks to 2015’s Greyhound Dreams and have really been waiting for the day he dropped some new tunes.
“I took a lot of risks on this record and I’m so glad I did because it came out sounding really original and totally true to what I was trying to say for so many years.” – Sam Russo
“Purple Snow” started off the album a little personal and a tad incoherent in terms of the story within the song. I adored this track upon first listen. Russo honestly has never sounded better. Perhaps a personal memoir, this track carried enough emotion to have me thinking of some of my past history. I am curious though, was the snow purple from Mad Dog 20/20? One can hope…one can hope.
“Good and Gone” I think was taken from my own personal memory of most of 2009. This song hit the heart hard, as it sung of hurt and triumph. These are the tunes that make me happy exist because the show me where I’ve been, where I can from, and what I’ve become.
“Darkness” followed and continued to tug on forced-in feelings with an apologetic excuse on interpersonal communication, or the lack thereof. Wholesome and pure, this track probably will be relating to a lot of folk.
There’s so much that can be said about “Young Heroes” based on how the listener took it in. Given the current situation, this track speaks volumes to those who are working harder than ever based on some stupid pandemic. Not trying to sound cliché at all, but there’s a lot of heroes in my book right now.
I can not really talk about a certain track on here in great detail, but if you know me, you know it totally kicked my ass by the title alone. The past will always sting back when you least expect it. Maybe I need to appreciate it more than I give myself credit for seeing how it shaped me, but still, that shit hurts. Nice job Russo, you jerk – I might have had a tear or two let loose…
Just when you think there’d be a slight let up of sorrow on the album, “Tears” kicked in. This really was a beautiful track overall, but not to be reckoned with if you’re trying to lift them spirits high. I mean, that chorus alone gave me chills. Add lap-steel guitar playing that sparked a slight country feel made for my favorite track of the record.
“The Basement” ended the album with symbolism at its finest. Russo came to terms with life due to rummaging around and only could sit back and reflect on where things went wrong. Putting a lid to the album with this track just made so much sense.
Russo is a storyteller as much as he is a musician. Personal tales might make you want to hug your drink a little harder when you listen to this album, but let’s be real – sometimes it is nice to remember you’re human.
Back to the Party is a must listen for any music fan. Although some songs were full of ache, there really was a silver lining in terms of hope. I feel like I am trying to be motivational here, but let’s face it, times are weird as hell right now. We can all use a distraction.
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.
I am not going to blow smoke up Brendan Kelly‘s ass, so I’ll just say it: This guy is fascinating in a weird as hell way.
He is more clever than you’ll ever aspire to be and he’s much more of a musician than I think he is credited for.
I feel like the smoke is blowing even though I said I wouldn’t.
I do not know him personally and he sure as hell does not know me, but I can tell you I admire him for his comedic approach to life as well as standing his ground for his beliefs. Then there’s the countless Tweets from @Nihilist_Arbys that he finally fessed up to being behind.
Normally he fronts Chicago’s The Lawrence Arms as well as toys with The Falcon like once every 10 years. He also has a solo project called Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds and let me tell you, it’s different in a good way kind of like putting A-1 sauce on over-easy eggs.
Recently Kelly dropped Keep Walkin’ Pal on the ever awesome Red Scare Records and it’s not really a solo album, but a collective release featuring Kelly and a bunch of his pals including Alkaline Trio’s Derek Grant and Atlas Studio’s Dan Tinkler making for a sporadic listen with no agenda.
Album title track “Keep Walkin’ Pal” had Kelly and his signature raspy voice just spilling brutal truth with lines like “I blacked out 17 of my best years.”
“Shitty Margarita” was this poppy punk jam complete with synthesizer that was all about what extreme amounts of sugar and tequila can do to you good and bad. Not going to lie, I dug this track a lot mostly due to the music. It was fun even though the lyrics might have brought back 1 or 7 bad memories at Chi-Chi’s.
“Huggz” should be a theme song for Kelly. The 80s-ish heavy track was all about simple affections, at least I think it was. Kelly was pretty damn stern about getting them to function and how music he likes them – even from Sergio. (Remember I said he was clever?)
“Black Cat Boy” was one of my favorite tracks on the album. With Kelly’s signature singing over the electronic keyboard and beats, this song was just one that stuck in my head quickly.
Best track on the album by far was “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill”. From singing about putting the lotion on the skin again to having a dog barking, this song was beyond entertaining. Clearly you need to know what Kelly is referencing to fully appreciate. I’m glad he tucked it in here. (I’m clever too you know)
As much as I wished “I’m the Man” was an Anthrax cover, it was not. This closing track was pretty much all the drunk and high thoughts packed into 3 minutes and 22 seconds. It was a bizarre track with shoutouts to Mr. Clean and excellent backup vocals with a digital beat Daft Punk would be jealous of. I’m not quite sure what the hell was going on there, but I like to think I enjoyed it.
Overall, Keep Walkin’ Pal was a solid listen. Kelly and pals once again have managed to entertain and confuse me at the same time. If that was the intent, awesome, but if not, maybe I am getting too old for this shit. Anyways, check out the album, it was pretty great.