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2013: The Year in Pictures

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

As you know well enough by now, I’ve already summed up what I thought were the best albums of 2013. Because, you know, some people still like albums. But 2013 wasn’t just a great year for music listening, it was a great year for music watching. Thanks to a great hobby and an even greater ‘better half,’ I was able to take in more shows this year than in any year since college. In the process, I started to try my hand at live concert photography. An amateur in every since of the word, I couldn’t tell you what an f-stop is with a gun to my temple. That said, I think I stumbled into what would be considered an “okay job” at times. I have learned a lot, and continue to do so. I combed through the several thousand pictures I took and posted some of my favorite moments in a gallery below. Check it out – clicking on one picture will open up the gallery in full-screen mode.

Hopefully 2014 will feature many more cool opportunities. Stay tuned!

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2012: The Year In Music

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

2011 produced a lot of releases that are still in heavy rotation at the Stone household (and, more appropriately, in the Stone automobiles). 2012 was more top-heavy, producing a small handful of albums that I find truly amazing and a bunch of others that are good-not-great. I’ve tried to include as much audio (or at least links to where you can find as much audio) as possible to give you a taste of 2012.

Not much rambling this year; let’s get to it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

As a general rule, I don’t include EPs, live albums or 7-inches (45s, as the older generations might call them still) in my final countdown. That’s mostly in the interest of self-reservation, as doing so would mean I’d have to absorb a whole lot more material than I’m accustomed to, and my brain could well explode. That being said, here are a couple of the more noteworthy releases of the year.

-The Shell Corporation – Time & Pressure EP

I missed the boat on The Shell Corporation’s full-length, Force Majeure, last year. Time & Pressure continues the band’s political punk middle finger to the establishment in ways that would make Dead Kennedy’s proud. Stream their EP here.

-Dave Hause – 7-inch collection

Dave Hause is one of my favorite vocalists, and has been for some time. I really, really liked his solo album, Resolutions, for a long time. That is, until he reworked a lot of the songs for a unique collection of five 7-inch vinyl releases put out on five different record labels this year. Each release also features Hause covering two song’s from the respective record label’s back catalog. Cool idea. Here’s the review I wrote for Dying Scene. Also, here’s “Melanin,” which is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Big Awesome – Birdfeeder EP

Great indie band from South Carolina. These dudes were supposed to record with Trever from Face To Face. Not sure why they didn’t. Anyway, they put out a pretty rad EP this year. Stream it here, or download it for free (or you can pay if you’re so inclined).

THE LIST

21. Riverboat Gamblers – The Wolf You Feed

Punk-infused indie rock’n’roll from the Austin, TX area. Check out “Comedians” below.

20. No Trigger – Tycoon

Melodic hardcore (I guess is what we’re calling it) band from Worcester, MA. They’ve been around for quite a while, though I only learned of them somewhat recently. Here’s album-opener “Maple Boy.”

19. Dogjaw – Pilot

Melody-driven punk from West Virginia. There is such a thing! Stream their album here.

18. Run, Forever – Settling

Three-piece punk band from Pittsburgh. Review will follow for Dying Scene – I only came across the album late in the year. Stream it here.

17. The Bogarts – Nothing To Call Our Own

How these boys aren’t signed to a label that is willing to press their stuff on vinyl or put it out in physical format is beyond me. Good dudes from Thousand Oaks, CA. Stream the album here, or download it for free (again, you can opt to pay as much as you want).

16. Jenny Owen Youngs – An Unwavering Band Of Light

It isn’t coincidence that Jenny Owen Youngs’ initials are “JOY.” That’s exactly what she brings people. That was lame of me, but whatever. Here’s “Already Gone.”

15. Murder By Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death continues to get a little darker and stranger with each release, and I love it. Adam Turla is really finding his ever-evolving voice. Here’s “Hard World.”

14. Pentimento – Pentimento

Something happened, and Pentimento got dropped by their label prior to putting this album out, so they put it out on their own for free. Their label was nuts. Stream it here.

13. Pennywise – All Or Nothing

Much has been made of the fact that Pennywise’s old lead singer, Jim Lindberg, left the band, and that they decided to record with a new singer, Zoli Teglas. Lindberg has since rejoined the band, but in the interim, the short-lived new lineup put out an album and added some life to their sound. Check out the whole album below. Vintage street punk.

12. Let Me Run – MAD/SAD

This album is pretty awesome from start to finish (except for the track “Doctors”). Reminds me of No Motiv or Samiam fed through a Ten Foot Pole filter (if that makes sense to you, pat yourself on the back). Here’s the opening track “If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It.”

11. Jesca Hoop – The House That Jack Built

Like Bjork, but more “real,” and without the fake swan dress. Here’s “Born To Lose.”

10. Make Do And Mend – Everything You Ever Loved

I totally missed this album most of the year. Awesome band from West Hartford, Connecticut…who knew there was such a thing?!? Sort of Hot Water Music-inspired post-punk. Here’s their video for “Lucky.”

9. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Quite honestly, Jack White can do no wrong in my book. He could lay down a dirty-blues-inspired riff over himself reading a Chinese restaurant menu and I’d think it was effing brilliant. Here’s “I’m Shakin’.” Tell me it doesn’t make you start dancing in your kitchen.

8. Bob Mould – Silver Age

Former Husker Du/Sugar frontman ditches the sort of techno vibe he’s been on for a while and made a kick-ass Foo Fighter-ish rock record. Here’s the video for “The Descent.”

7. Chris Wollard + The Ship Thieves – Canyons

The non-werewolf half of the Hot Water Music put out his second solo album this year. It’s much better than the first; sounds vary from traditional HWM-fare to acoustic, highwayman blues stompers like “Lonely Days,” which you can see below.

6. Brendan Kelly & The Wandering Birds – I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever

The Lawrence Arms frontman has got a new side gig. It’s a very dark, disturbing blues inspired folk-punk album, and it’s pretty damn awesome. Just don’t listen with the kids in the room. Here’s “Suffer The Children, Come Unto Me.”

5. Silversun Pickups – Neck Of The Woods

Silversun Pickups have a way of making albums that sound very similar, and yet new and progressive at the same time. Here’s the bass-driven “Mean Spirits.”

4. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

The Gaslight Anthem made a better Pearl Jam record than Pearl Jam has been able to do in about a decade. Here’s “45,” which sounds like Pearl Jam’s “The Fixer,” only with better lyrics and less obnoxious Brendan O’Brien keyboard.

3. Rocco Deluca – Drugs ‘N’ Hymns

Rocco Deluca dropped the Burden, grew a beard and ponytails and apparently lives the life of a hermit now. All of that lead to an amazingly beautiful, sparse-yet-powerful album. My only complaint is that it’s too short. Here’s the video for “Lucky.”

2. RNDM – Acts

Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament has never been one to rest on his laurels when the band is on a bit of a break. He and frequent collaborator Richard Stuverud teamed up with singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur for a stellar, groove-heavy rhythm-and-blues-inspired rock album. It’s also a bit of a concept album. Check out “Modern Times.”

1. Hot Water Music – Exister

I’m not a HWM fan from way back. However, from the beginning notes of album opener “Mainline,” I was overwhelmed with a sense that this was going to be my favorite album of the year. Here’s a live version of “Mainline,” followed by “Drag My Body” and “State of Grace.” The latter two songs are among my favorite songs by anybody ever.

Favorite Music of 2010

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again, faithful readers (both of you). January brings with it my annual recap of the music that moved me the most for the past twelve months. I used to do a Top Ten list, then a Top Ten-ish list, but I tend to find that my tastes vary so much week-to-week that there would be fourteen or fifteen albums that could fit into a “Top Ten” based on my given mood. So I’ve decided this year to just rank the albums that I really find to be solid albums (some great, some good). Everything below the top five changed spots at least once or twice, but I really think this list accurately represents where I am right now. But enough for the intro…

…okay, maybe not. A couple other notes:

Hookiest song of the year: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. This was one of the first albums that I picked up this year, and the title track (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYkhNWIdra0) blew my doors off from first listen. I’m pretty sure that it has been stuck in my head since March. BRMC at their best.

Most disappointing albums of the year:
Neil Young – Le Noise. Just Neil and a guitar and Daniel Lanois. My disdain for Lanois producing “skills” grows year-by-year.
Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown. Great first single. Mediocre My Morning Jacket the rest of the way.
Finger Eleven – Life Turns Electric. F11, whom I used to love dearly, releases their second turd in a row, though at least it has 4/5 songs that are marginally listenable and the lyrics aren’t quite lame enough to sound like cast-offs from Amy Lee of Evanescence’s 10th grade songbook (like their last album)
Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns. I get them trying new things, they just don’t do all of them very well. Another album with 4/5 listenable songs.

Now, on to the good stuff.

1. Viva Death – Curse The Darkness. I’ve tried not to be abnormally biased, given that this album is 100% the brainchild of Scott Shiflett with a big assist from Chad Blinman, but I genuinely do think that this is the best album of the year from start to finish. My longer review can be found here (http://screamandwail.blogspot.com/2010/07/viva-death-curse-darkness.html). Curse The Darkness covers the most sonic ground on the album, and nails each style it goes for, whether that be “zombie surf rock,” “post-punk,” trippy space rock or tribal, drum heavy sounds.

2. Bad Religion – Dissent of Man. My favorite punk album of the year, though admittedly that list isn’t nearly as long as it used to be. Most music that gets passed off as punk nowadays has been passed through such a watered-down Blink-182/Good Charlotte filter that it is not recognizable as being from the same genre that the old staples used to reside in. Thankfully Bad Religion is still raising the flag for the old school, now thirty years deep into their career. The Dissent of Man is their fourth very solid album in a row, making the Brooks Wackerman era a perfect 4 for 4. While not quite a home run, it is certainly a stand-up triple. Where the album errs is in its length…15 songs isn’t exactly an epic from a punk standpoint, but if the Gregs had decided to pare a couple songs off the tracklist (namely “I Won’t Say Anything”), it may have been #1A at the very least.

3. Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away. It is probably safe to say that Ritter has shaken off the “next Springsteen-meets-Dylan” tag and arrived as his own artist. While I don’t think it is quite as solid as “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter,” SRTWA highlights Ritter’s continuing evolution as an artist. While the music isn’t as much of a departure from his last couple albums, the lyrics show Ritter testing boundaries by taking listeners on a voyage that includes stops in the Southern Pacific, the Mississippi delta at the turn of last century (the John Hurt-inspired “Folk Bloodbath”), a North Pole expedition (the Poe-inspired “Another New World”) and the Egyptian exhibit at a natural history museum (“The Curse”). Perhaps a bit too ambitious, but with his first full-length novel due out in 2011, it makes sense that Ritter would be pushing his limits to the brink. Great stuff.

4. Tony Sly – 12 Song Program. Previously reviewed when it first came out (http://screamandwail.blogspot.com/2010/03/best-of-2010volume-two.html), but it has held up over the year. No frills, just a great punk songwriter and an acoustic guitar (and the occasional drum loop).

5. Gaslight Anthem – American Slang – I loved this album when it first came out, but after four or five listens, it wasn’t quite grabbing me the same way. I put it down for a while, and just listened to each of the songs in the normal “shuffle” rotation of my MP3 player (not an iPod!!) and it gradually started to grow back into favor. I’ve got the utmost respect for Brian Fallon as a singer/songwriter, even if he is a Yankees/Jets fan. He really has the market cornered on early Springsteen, suburban American youth storytelling, but mixes it with the urgency of a three-chord punker.

The Other Stuff, that remains quite good.

6. The Black Keys – Brothers. Another album that could have been considerably higher on the list if it weren’t so damn long. Clocks in at 15 tracks, much like BR’s “Dissent of Man,” but this is no punk rock album. Solid delta blues straight out of a post-punk Detroit garage, when this album excels, it REALLY excels (listen to: Next Girl, Tighten Up, The Go Getter, etc). But the last three songs slowly meander to nowhere, making the listener wish they were left on the cutting room floor or, at best, were B-sides (do they still make singles anymore)

7. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever. Probably the “rockiest” THS album, in that it features no piano/keyboards for the first time (prompted by the departure of the mustachioed Franz Nicolay). The result is an album that still contains THS’s trademark hooky guitars, sing-a-long chorus’ and epicly wordy lyrics from Craig Finn, but in some ways, the comparatively stripped down sound almost sounds bigger and fuller than their previous efforts.

8. Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants – self-titled. I’m gonna say that this album is the most “outside my comfort zone” of any album on the list. I really took a flier on it because A)it is the brainchild of Chris Shiflett and B) well, there really is no B. For those that are outside the loop, Shiflett is the lead guitar player for the Foo Fighters and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and previously held the same role in No Use For A Name. As brother to Scott Shiflett, he also played baritone guitar on the first two Viva Death albums, and has fronted a couple other punk-inspired side project albums under the names Jackson and Jackson United. Dead Peasants is certainly no Jackson United (whose most recent album remains in heavy rotation in my playlist). Instead, the self-titled album is nine songs of countrified rock music, complete with all the pedal steels and twangy guitar riffs that you might expect on a Merle Haggard LP. I’ll admit that this was an acquired taste, but Shiflett’s songwriting makes it much more palatable, and in fact has made this one of my favorite albums of the year. Thanks to the Shifletts for broadening my horizons yet again!

9. Alkaline Trio – This Addiction. Alkaline Trio put out an album this year that sounds very much like…Alkaline Trio. They have a Springsteen-like formula for writing depressingly morbid (morbidly depressing??) 2:30 punk songs with just enough pop sensibility to make for a good, fun listen.

10. The Greenhornes – FourStars. Only learned of this album late in the year so I’ve only been able to listen to it a handful of times, but it is really a great listen. The first album in eight years for the Cincinnati-based trio finds them firing on all cylinders. Sounds are straight out of Liverpool via North London (yes, those are Beatles and Kinks references) in 1965. Timeless pop-rock music. Great listen.

11. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards. I’m a little late to the Dead Weather party, but I’ve had a growing man-crush on Jack White for some time now, so late this year I figured it was time to become more familiar with his non-White Stripes catalog. The Dead Weather sounds like a combination of The White Stripes (natch) and the Black Keys – Delta blues run through the a gritty, dirty, Detroit-garagey filter. Not for the faint-of-heart.

12. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor. Gritty indie rock from New Jersey with lyrics that invoke Springsteen (moreso than Gaslight Anthem, which is tough to do!) and Ritter (many, many references to old literature and Civil War history), with a perhaps the most raw, passionate, earnest vocals of the year (shades of Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes). Definitely deserves to be on the myriad year-end “Top Ten” lists that it shows up on.

13. Joey Cape – Doesn’t Play Well With Others. What can I say…when you are a sucker for a genre (that being the punk rock frontman playing solo acoustic material), you are a sucker for it. Been a fan of Joey’s work for years now. His album is a little different than others in the same category, as it has a very indie/DIY feel to it, and features an appearance by his (seven-year-old?) daughter, Violet. Also, all of the artwork was done by his daughter. And, the album was released over the course of the year…one song per month, culminating in the twelfth and final song (I Always Knew This Was Going To End Badly) being released in early December.

14. Legion of Doom vs. Triune. From my prior blog review: To quote Legion of Doom’s own website, “strange, dark and densely layered, this is not a typical hip-hop record.” That couldn’t be more accurate. There is a lot going on musically (it ain’t a Lil Wayne album, let’s put it that way). Triune (who I was only partially aware of) hits a lyrical home run (more Common/NOE than Weezy or Jeezy). Sadly, it is only available via digital download (I’m still an old school, “like to open the album and flip through the liner notes and absorb the artwork” kinda guy and I hope that never changes).

15. Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea. Complex, beautiful, at times haunting instrumental album from the master. Classic ambient Eno for the new crowd. Love this album.

16. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo. I want this album to be much higher, I really do. I’m a big fan of the Been/Hayes duo, and I like the depth that new drummer Leah Shapiro brings to the mix. This album is dynamite at the start; the title track which serves as the album opener is hands-down the hookiest song of the year. The first four songs are all solid and find BRMC at their classic gritty-garage blues best. But then the album seems to stall for a long time. An early review that I recall reading (perhaps from the WFNX site) commented that it “plods along without really going anywhere,” and that is entirely accurate. There area about 8 or 10 songs in a row (aside from the stellar “Aya”) that fit virtually the same formula, and the over-fuzzed guitars (and especially vocals) tend to become a little grating after a while.

17. Pete Yorn – Pete Yorn. Solid release from Pete Yorn. If you like slightly-above-mid-tempo alternative-inspired rock, Pete Yorn is for you. He’s a great songwriter, and his voice has progressed over the years, but aside from that, this is a basic Pete Yorn album. I guess if it ain’t broke…

Honorable Mention:
Flogging Molly – Live. I don’t include live albums in my top albums lists, but this one was almost an exception. Such a great band, and this album really captures the passion and the urgency of their live shows.
Jamie Cullum – The Pursuit
Murder By Death – Good Morning, Magpie
Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void
Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 – Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival
Eels – End Times
Eels – Tomorrow Morning