Posts Tagged ‘tony sly’

2013: The Year In Music

December 27, 2013 1 comment

Frequent readers of this blog (he says as though there is such a thing) will remember that 2012’s musical review found a top-heavy list that had a couple great albums and a lot of filler. It was tough, frankly, to put together even a top ten that was worthy of being called a “top ten” of anything. In looking back at last year’s list, there are probably only a half-dozen that I’ve listened to more than a half-dozen times this year.

2013, however, has been a far, far different story. If you read my write-up over at Dying Scene, you’re no doubt aware that I took the easy way out, compiling a top-ten list that was 15 albums long. The top six were almost interchangeable, and have all spent time as my true “favorite” at different points during the year. The next nine or ten are almost interchangeable at times as well. Long story short, 2013 made up for 2012 in a big, big way.


As always, I don’t include EPs, live albums or 7-inches in my countdown. However, there were a few that are noteworthy and thus will get props here.

First up is the new 7-inch from Nashville’s Blacklist Royals. The two tracks, “Righteous Child” and “She’s The One,” are slated to appear on the band’s forthcoming full-length, Die Young With Me. They’re a heck of a taste of what’s to come…just hope DYWM finally sees the light of day in ’14. Here’s the title track from the 7-inch:

Also released this year were a couple EPs from Boston’s Street Dogs. The fellas started 2013 on hiatus, but that was short-lived. By spring, they had resurfaced with a new lineup and a couple releases on new label home Pirates Press Records. The new lineup doesn’t appear in its entirety on the albums, but they are at least the first new material we’ve had from Street Dogs since their self-titled 2010 album. Here’s the new track “Crooked Drunken Sons.”

In related news, 2013 also saw the debut 7-inch from FM359, a project that features the Street Dogs’ Mike McColgan and Johnny Rioux teaming up with Continental’s Rick Barton (also, not coincidentally, a founding member of Dropkick Murphys alongside McColgan). It’s very much a left turn compared to what you might expect coming from two founding Dropkicks (remember when they were a punk band!?). It’s a traditional Americana-style album; gospel without the Gospel. Here’s “A Little Sign”


21. Drag The River – s/t

Drag The River is the long-running on-again/off-again project featuring Jon Snodgrass and ALL’s Chad Price. The Fort Collins-based alt-country team put out their first album in five years this year. It’s good. Here’s “Song For My Roommates.”

20. Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

I think I would have had this album up higher if I hadn’t seen a solo performance by frontman Toh Kay earlier this year. But I did see a solo performance by Toh Kay earlier this year, and it was freaking awesome, so that kinda spoiled the much-maligned final album from Streetlight Manifesto before it actually came out. Anyway, here’s the title track:

19. Amanda Shires – Down Fell The Doves

For the uninitiated, Amanda Shires is the violin-playing better-half of alt-country artist extraordinaire Jason Isbell (whom you’ll read more about later). She put out her own solo album this year, and it’s not what you’d perhaps expect coming from the violin playing better-half of Jason Isbell. Dark, sweeping, bluesy and sorta punky at times. Here’s “Devastate,” but make sure you look up the track “Box Cutters” as well:

18. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

I’m not, nor have I ever been, clinically depressed. I feel like if I were, I wouldn’t be able to make it through a Frightened Rabbit album in one piece. In a list that is chock full of world class songwriters this year, Scott Hutchison is, at times, the best of the bunch. Here’s “The Woodpile,” which may be my favorite song of the year. Seriously. If you listen to no other song on my list, LISTEN TO THIS ONE!

17. The Bronx – IV

I belong to the minority that actually prefer’s The Bronx’s mariachi alter ego side project to the original incarnation. I’m not that hardcore. Still, IV is a really good album, certainly my favorite the four studio album’s they’ve out out to date. A little more mainstream sounding, but that’s why I like it. I know, I know… Anyway, here’s “The Unholy Hand”:

16. Off With Their Heads – Home

Here’s where we start to get into the territory of albums that have been my “favorite album” of the year at times. OWTH are the real deal. Frontman Ryan Young has a no-bullshit way of conveying, well, conveying what a suicide note sounds like. At times, you genuinely worry for him. See for yourself; here’s “Always Alone”:

15. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

I can understand those that say that Nine Inch Nails’ music is an acquired taste. I’ve always had a healthy respect for Trent Reznor as an artist, but it wasn’t until later years that I actually started to connect with his music. His return to the NIN game in 2013 is equal parts “pick up where you left off” and “time to change the game again.” Here’s “Copy of A” (featuring Pino Palladino on bass):

14. Get Dead – Bad News

Fat Wreck’s site bills Get Dead as “elements of Swingin’ Utters, The Pogues and Hot Water Music.” If you’re familiar with all of those bands, you realize that none of them are really even close to each other sonically. And yet, Fat Wreck’s description is right. Here’s “Kerouac’s Teeth”:

13. Arliss Nancy – Wild American Runners

I only got into Arliss Nancy very late in the year, which is a shame, because the Fort Collins-based country punks are really, really good. Folk-punk has been the obvious trend lately, but these guys don’t seem to be riding the genre’s coat tails. Here’s “Benjamin”:

12. Alkaline Trio – My Shame Is True

I’m just gonna come out and say a couple things here. After Skiba’s Sekrets side project, particularly after video of the disastrous show in Chicago surfaced, I was genuinely concerned about the future of the Trio. Then I heard “I Wanna Be A Warhol” the first time through, and was even more concerned. I’ve since become enamored with it, and I think the entire album is some of their best, most mature work to date. Andriano’s tracks shine in particular. It feels weird to have “My Shame Is True” listed so low, given that this would probably be a top 5 album most other years. Speaks to the strength of 2013 more than anything. Anyway, here’s “I, Pessimist”:

11. Broadcaster – A Million Hours

This album has been in my “to be reviewed” folder for way too long (stupid grad school work). I really do owe it to this Long Island three-piece to finish it up. Takes me instantly back to everything that was right about mid-90s power-pop music (somewhere between American Hi-Fi and Weezer, but with better lyrics). Sadly, they’re a little too “indie” to have anything on YouTube. Look ’em up on Spotify, however.

10. Joshua Black Wilkins – Fair Weather

If you were lucky enough to make it out to Face To Face’s US tour this past summer (with Teenage Bottlerocket and Blacklist Royals), and smart enough to show up early, then you were lucky enough to catch Joshua Black Wilkins’ one-man-show. If you weren’t so lucky, you don’t know what you’re missing. It probably stands to reason to point out that yours truly takes a liking to boozy, bluesy, singer-songwriter music, and J Black Dubs is amongst the dirtiest Tennessee bluesmen going. Not bad for a photographer by trade. Here’s “I Tremble”:

9. Bad Religion – True North

It’s probably a fair criticism to say that the last few Bad Religion albums are effectively interchangeable. As much as I love everything from the Brooks Wackerman era, True North is the best of the bunch. And their live show is still as vital, and inspired, as ever. Here’s their ode to Mitt Romney, “Robin Hood In Reverse,” followed by the self-explanatory “Fuck You.”

8. Swingin Utters – Poorly Formed

Many people are partial to the Utter$’ first “comeback” album, 2011′s Here, Under Protest. Most people are wrong. Much like my commentary for Three Chords And A Half Truth above, I really think that Poorly Formed is a great example of a band reuniting, hitting their stride, and shaking off any residual dust. That said, I didn’t give it much of a chance earlier in the year. It has since become effectively stuck in my CD changer. Here’s “Greener Grass.”

7. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Pound for pound, Jason Isbell might be the single best lyricist on the list this year, though that is certainly saying something. Isbell is somewhat recently sober and married to the aforementioned Shires (who also plays violin for his band, the 400 Unit). Tracks like “Super 8,” “Cover Me Up,” “Stockholm” and “Flying Over Water” are damn-near perfect. Here they are, in that order:

6. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

Another example of the strength of the 2013 music scene: Frank Turner’s last album, England Keep My Bones, was my favorite album the year it came out. The more honest, introspective Tape Deck Heart is better, and yet it’s #6. Anyway, here’s “Recovery,” followed by “Tattoos,” which appeared on the deluxe version.

5. Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One – Illuminator

I was sad when Darkbuster met its demise a half-dozen-or-so years ago, and more sad that frontman Lashley had, effectively, a mental breakdown while on tour in Europe toward the end. Illuminator is the sounds of Lashley hitting the lowest of low points in a few areas of his life and coming out the other side. Can’t say enough good things about the album. Here’s “US Mail.”

4. Face To Face – Three Chords and a Half Truth

Here’s what I wrote for Dying Scene: “While 2011′s Laugh Now, Laugh Later marked the band’s triumphant return to the punk rock game, Three Chords And A Half Truth found Face To Face abandoning much of what you’d call their ‘traditional sound’ yet again. Perhaps it was foolish of us to think that they have a ‘traditional sound’ after all. Not as big a left-hand turn as Ignorance Is Bliss was, but certainly not without its “out of left field” moments. Also, best album cover of the year. Nice work, Nat.” Here’s the video for “Right As Rain,” directed by the above-mentioned Joshua Black Wilkins, followed by the leftest-of-left turns, “First Step, Misstep.”

3. Various Artists – The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute

I could spend twelve-hundred words expounding on the touching, virtuous moments of this album. Oh wait…I did. Here’s Tim McIlrath covering “For Fiona,” with backing vocals from Jon Snodgrass.

2. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

If you’re reading this, you’re undoubtedly well aware of my long-time affinity for all things Pearl Jam. They are the first band that was really “my” band. I’ve emoted with and related to Eddie Vedder’s every word for better than twenty years. I understand and accept that The Clash are “the only band that really mattered.” Pearl Jam are my Clash, and always have been. So it pained me to no end that Eddie phoned in the last album, 2009’s Backspacer (with more than a little help from prodoucher Brendan O’Brien). For the first time, I was legitimately nervous about a PJ album, fearing that the “all tings Pearl Jam” chapter of my life’s book would close after almost a quarter-century. I was worried over nothing. Lightning Bolt (or at least the first eight tracks on Lightning Bolt) is a total triumph. A return to the piss-and-vinegar of the mid-1990s, coupled with some of the more heartfelt, relatable ballads the band has ever written. Here’s two examples of the former (“Father’s Son” and “Mind Your Manners”) and one of the latter (“Sirens”).

1. Dave Hause – Devour

In all honesty, this album probably sealed up the #1 spot on my 2013 list a month or so before it had even been recorded. It was upon first hearing “Autism Vaccine Blues” live during Dave’s set opening for Flogging Molly on their Green 17 tour, and had an immediate, jaw-dropping sort of impact. Though the album version is a little less jaw-dropping than just Dave and a guitar, Devour contains enough cathartic moments to put it a full head above anything else on the list. Here’s my full review of the album from earlier this year. Here’s the stripped-down version of “Autism Vaccine Blues,” followed by a quintessential downer (“Before”) and a quintessential upper (“The Shine”).

On The Passing of Tony Sly

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

On The Passing of Tony Sly

This is a post that I initially wrote for Dying Scene. I was sitting at my desk when I originally learned of Tony’s incredibly untimely passing, and was (and remain) incredibly taken back by the whole thing. While trying to process what was going through my head, I turned to what I know best: writing. Save for a couple minor edits, the post that ended up on Dying Scene was essentially written stream of consciousness. I didn’t quite expect it to take off the way it did; certainly the most “viral” original content piece I’ve written to date. I do take some pride in that my words (evidently) summed up what a lot of others were going through.

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 ( 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 ( 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 (, 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