Bike Mordy’s Favorite Albums of 2017

Welcome!  Here are my favorite albums of the year.  I separated them into top 20 non-punk albums and top 20 punk albums, because I’m a weirdo.  When I was young back in Iowa, I found albums by word of mouth, zines, random purchases from mail-orders, going to every show I could and tape trading.  Now that I’m almost 40 with zero social life, I basically scan blog sites all year and then pour over every best of list at the end of the year I can.  I don’t plan on having kids so I should theoretically be able to do this until I’m 80.  Just stop me from wearing a fedora.

20 Favorite (Non-Punk) Albums of 2017

20) Big Thief – “Capacity” 

I liked this album, but it didn’t knock me out like it did other people.  UNTIL, I saw a video of them playing live.  Obviously, the singer/guitarist/frontperson is amazing.  But the guitar player looks and acts like someone from Johnny Cash’s 1950’s if they were wired up with electrical shocks while being pleasantly tickled on the balls.  I love people that jump into their music with complete abandon.  As a YouTube commenter mentioned “He puts his whole nervous system into it.”

19) Cosmic Analog Ensemble – “Les Sourdes Oreilles”

The main guy here is from Kenya by way of Lebanon, but he sounds straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.  I keep having to double-check to make sure this was really made in 2017.  This is the soundtrack to getting your car washed in Nairobi in 1973, if the car was also filled with cash and cocaine and several Donny Brasco jackets.

18) Itchy-O – “From The Overflowing”

This is what Ministry would sound like if they were a marching band during the Day of the Dead.  No joke.  Watch the video.

17) War On Drugs – “A Deeper Understanding” 

My first impression of this album was that it sounded like Tom Petty’s band if they didn’t like him, but then I got to the Crazy Horse-esque guitar solos and I was sold.  He also gets points for being the only person in the history of music that tried to mimic Bob Dylan’s mid-to-late-70s voice.

16) Danish String Quarter – “Last Leaf”

I must be getting older, because I’ve started to get some of my choices from NPR.  FUCK OFF.  This is really good.  It’s perfect for reading or for fans of musicians who all look like they could play Sabertooth’s brother in a new X-Men movie.

15) Daddy Issues – “Deep Dream”

I’m a sucker for all-girl or girl-lead 90s throwback grunge alt.  Seriously, if it’s female and sounds like it got drunk to Veruca Salt I will listen to it.

14) Songhoy Blues – “Résistance”

You think you’re a badass?  Trying being a desert blues band that still plays music in Mali in the face of a civil war and Sharia Law.  And they have a song with Iggy Pop.  This is like if Hendrix jammed with Fela Kuti.  Your beard punk band ain’t shit.

13) Tyler Childers – “Purgatory”

To say I approach modern country with extreme caution is an understatement.  99% of it is basically the soundtrack to brain cells committing suicide.  However, every once in a while, a magnificent ginger like Tyler Childers comes around and reminds me that this is the music of Hank and Johnny.

12) Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet

What can I say?  I like xylophones.

11) La Santa Cecilia – “Amar Y Vivir” 

If you haven’t noticed, I really like “world music”.  That term is not very apt, since it can mean so many different places AND because these guys are from Los Angeles.  But basically it’s really great Mexican music with a singer who can freakin’ BELT.

10) Thee Oh Sees – “Orc”

I’m not gonna lie, I bought this album because it is called “Orc” and has an Orc on the cover.  My dork is showing.  This ain’t no wussy Rush bullshit, though.  This is straight psych-stoner rock with a kick.

9) The Courtneys – “II”

I love this album and this band but it almost didn’t make the list because they have a song called “Lost Boys” that’s about vampires and they go “You look just like you did in 1986” but “Lost Boys” came out in 1987 and it DRIVES ME CRAZY!  I just have to keep telling myself that “1987” had too many syllables.  Sigh.

8) Valerie June – “The Order Of Time”

How do people this talented exist?  This one is for all those “They don’t make good music anymore” geezers.  Her voice sounds like a (beautifully) nasally country singer but she spans the genres of rock, blues, R&B, soul and of course country.  I want to be her friend.  Do you think she’s interested in the Minneapolis comedy scene?

7) Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita – “Transparent Water”

I used to sleep to death metal every night but I got tired of subliminally thinking of eating rotting corpses all night.  Since I switched to sleeping to this album, it’s all floating clouds and harps and the occasional corpse (it’s gonna take some time to filter out.)  This album is incredible and so peaceful.

6) Mount Eerie – “A Crow Looked At Me”

Without question the saddest album I’ve ever heard in my life.  The music speaks for itself.  Beautiful and frankly hard to listen to.

4) Tica Douglas – “Our Lady Star of the Sea, Help And Protect Us”

I heard this album completely randomly.  I don’t even remember where I found it.  But it sounds like a less buzz-kill, female Elliott Smith or a non-obnoxious Sufjan Stevens if someone mercifully stole all his beep-boop-bop machines.  Jam packed full of great tunes, this one!

4) Ifriqiyya Electrique – “Rûwâhîne”

These guys are Sufis from Tunisia.  You know, “Whirling Dervishes”.  You can tell.  But there is such a dark, foreboding tone to the music that it actually sounds almost as scary as metal or industrial.  At one point in this video, people are falling down from exhaustion and spinning around with some kind of plant in their mouth that is on fire, which makes late 90s raves look like “Duck Tales”.  Step it up, JNCO people!

3) Cigarettes After Sex – “Cigarettes After Sex”

I gotta be honest.  I usually hate anything that can be even remotely classified as “dream pop” or “shoegaze” or whatever they’re calling completely soulless music trying to be My Bloody Valentine these days.  But this…this is amazing.  It’s slow and spacey, sure.  But it’s got MELODY and charm and a little bit of danger to it.  And there is a little touch of almost surf guitar floating around in the back that I am just a sucker for.  When’s the last time you heard a “dream pop” band with a line that goes “I know full well that you are the patron saint of sucking cock?”

2) Charly Bliss – “Guppy”

Female-lead 90s grunge alt!!!  Do I even have to say anymore?  This is so freaking catchy.  It’s like Weezer if they were raised on Animaniacs.

1) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Flying Microtonal Banana”, “The Murder Of The Universe”, “Sketches Of East Brunswick”, “Polygondwanaland” and “Gumboot Soup”

Yes, these fuckers from Australia put out FIVE albums in 2017.  And yes, I love them all…in this order: Flying Microtonal Banana (trippy krautrock), Sketches Of East Brunswick (trippy jazz/exotica), Polygondwanaland (trippy prog), Gumboot Soup (trippy B-sides) and The Murder Of The Universe (trippy stoner doom with unfortunate narration, but still good).  I am sober so this is the closest I get to dancing around with the Cat In The Hat on mushrooms anymore.

 

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20 Favorite Punk/Punk Adjacent Albums of 2017

What does “punk adjacent” mean?  Back in the 90s most of us that were into punk just listened to anything as long as it sounded like it would be on a line-up with a punk band.  Straight punk rock, ska, hardcore, noise-rock, you get the point.  Basically my high school soundtrack to friendlessness.

20) Citric Dummies – “Tearing Out My Nails”

Reppin’ Minneapolis!

19) Converge – “The Dusk In Us”

I have a theory that I’ll never feel old until there are no NBA players older than me.  As of right now, the only thing that stands between me and that is Vince Carter.  So I’m gonna change that right now to “I won’t feel old until Converge starts putting out bad albums.”

18) Cheap Whine – “Cheap Whine”

Featuring members of Crusades and the Steve Adamyk Band.  Not as good as Cheap Trick but way better than The Dirt Cheap Band.

17) Family Pet – “Family Pet”

Female-lead 90s grunge alt punk!!!

16) Institute – “Subordinate” 

This one’s not for the mall punks.  Equal parts catchy and gross, just like syphilis.

15) Chillers – “Chillers”

I don’t know what’s going on in Australia but they are killing it over there.  I gotta start drinking koala juice.  This shit rocks.  It sounds like The Hives if you didn’t have to be embarrassed to listen to them in 2018.

14) Priests – “Nothing Feels Natural”

My main complaint with most post-punk is that it’s so drab and lifeless.  Not Priests.  They sound like Sleater-Kinney if they were punk and still angry and didn’t live in a Portlandia mansion.

13) Bloodclot – “Up In Arms”

It makes no sense, but I guess all it takes for a 95-year-old John Joseph (from Cro-Mags) to put out something good again was to get a band featuring ex-members of Danzig and Queens Of The Stone Age.  Huh?  This shit is hardcore as fuck.

12) Marvelous Mark – “Buzzin'”

Marvelous Mark (of Marvelous Darlings fame) is back with a solo outing and it’s power-pop punk Weezer music to die for!

11) Incendiary – “Thousand Mile Stare”

Once an Iowa boy raised on meat-head hardcore, always an Iowa boy who loves meat-head hardcore.  Sounds like Zach De La Rocha from Rage if he were backed by a bunch of angry white boys.

10) Hex – “La Voisin” 

I usually don’t think that British people are very good at doing American style hardcore, but this sounds like the scariest tea and crumpets ever.

9) Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – “Rot” 

HANDS DOWN WORST BAND NAME EVER.  At least they’ll never be able to sell out.

8) Sciatic Nerve – “Sciatic Nerve” 

Members of Swingin’ Utters, Western Addiction, Nothington and Cobra Skulls all decided to form a band that didn’t suck!  Also, if you’ve been waiting for a 45 second video of an out of shape guy running around in a bird mascot head, this is for you!

7) The Eradicator – “The Eradicator”

Apparently this is a reference to an old 90s “Kids In The Hall” sketch.  Very timely, fellas!  (Fun band, though.)

6) Baywitch – “Hellaspawn”

Yes, it’s occurred to me that I might love surf music and surf punk so much because it reminds me of SpongeBob SquarePants.

5) His Electro Blue Voice – “Mental Hoops”

This is the second time I’ve mentioned Ministry in this list, but these guys sound like Ministry if they were playing amped up shoegaze without samples.  Prove me wrong, jerkies!

4) Xetas – “The Tower”

Oh my god!  A modern punk band that rocks and doesn’t sound like they’re trying to sound like John Cougar Mellecamp.  (I’m looking at you, Menzingers.  Barf.)

3) Hiccup – “Imaginary Enemies”

All the commenters on this video keep talking about how refreshing it is that everybody in this band appears older and plays pop punk.  I don’t know their age, but I think the more accurate answer is they are old enough to remember when pop-punk meant the Descendents and the Queers and the Donnas.  Get off my lawn!!!

2) Limp Wrist – “Facades”

Punk is dead?  Not if you’re Limp Wrist.  Being an aggressively in your face queercore in this day and age is still dangerous and man are they good.  I’ll just pretend like those last three techno songs on the album don’t exist.

1) Sleaford Mods – “English Tapas”

Okay, I had an argument about whether I was going to put this in the punk or non-punk list.  I finally decided that if it went in non-punk, that meant it was hip-hop and it would be pretty shitty hip-hop at that.  But if it’s in the punk list then it’s post-punk and it’s fucking awesome.  Honestly, call this whatever you want.  The “singer” sounds like a really angry reject from a Guy Ritchie movie and the other guy literally just hits a button on a computer and steps back and drinks a beer. Literally!  Everything in my head tells me this is bad, but I can’t stop listening to this album.  It is just an ear worm that I can’t get away from and I love it.

 

 

Mike Brody’s Favorite Albums of 2016

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Happy New Year!  Here’s my favorite albums of 2016.  I’m kind of a freak for punk rock, so to avoid a list made up mostly of that I decided to make three lists: Top 20 (non-punk) albums of 2016, top 20 punk rock/punk adjacent albums of 2016 and Top 5 local Twin Cities albums of 2016.

20 Favorite (Non-Punk) Albums of 2016

20) Katy Goodman & Greta Morgan – “Take It, It’s Yours”

Image result for katy goodman and greta morgan take it

This is a side-project of Katy Goodman of La Sera and Greta Morgan of The Hush Sound.  It’s all cover songs from bands like Bad Brains to The Replacements to Billy Idol.  The arrangements are so sparse and nice that for many songs it’s the first time I actually understand the lyrics.  It’s punk rock you can sleep to.  (It’s not punk rock.)

19) Frankie Cosmos – “Next Thing”

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Jangly indie rock with a song about a dog.  Can’t go wrong with that.

18) The Men – “Devil Music”

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The Men can’t make up their mind what they sound like.  They’ve put out six albums in six years and at first they sounded like an SST band, then kind of like the good Foo Fighters, then Neil Young and now they sorta sound like the Stooges.  It’s like having a friend with split personalities, but they’re all good dudes.

17) Saul Williams – “MartyrLoserKing”

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This dude is kind of hard to peg into a genre.  It’s kind of funk, rap, R&B, but mostly just weird and direct and poignant.  Check out the video below if you want to hear Curtis Mayfield mixed with Pan’s Labyrinth.

16) A Tribe Called Quest – “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”

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The dorky, bald, late-30s white guy hip-hop choice for album of the year!  It’s not their fault I like them.

15) Nothing – “Tired Of Tomorrow”

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I generally hate shoegaze because 95% of it sounds like Robert Smith falling asleep on the toilet.  But these guys have enough spunk in their step to keep me awake on the john.

14) David Bowie – “Blackstar” 

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Most people have this one higher up in their list.  I really, really appreciate the art and genius of how he released a death album days before he died and the symbolism and all that but a few of the songs sound a little too Weather Channel for me.  “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” are two amazing album openers though.  RIP David Bowie.

13) Dinosaur Jr. – “Get A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”

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There are two things that Dinosaur Jr. and J. Mascis do well year in and year out: Putting out solid-ass albums and looking more and more like a member of the Malfoy family.

12) Death Grips – “Bottomless Pit”

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Is this hip-hop?  Hell, I don’t know.  All I know is it sounds like the kind of music they play in a movie where the main character walks into a bar full of scary people doing scary things and that’s the best kind of music.

11) Drive-By Truckers – “American Band”

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I would take a large wager that these guys are the only southern rock band from Alabama to ever write a pro-Trayvon Martin song.

10) Youth Code – “Commitment To Complications”

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There are two bands that I’ve never minded if people rip-off, because it always sounds so good: The Ramones and Black Sabbath.  I guess you can add Ministry to that list because holy shit this guy and girl sound like Ministry and it’s awesome.

9) James Hunter Six – “Hold On!”

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No middle-aged white guy from England has any business playing 60s/70s style soul and sounding this good.  Damn!

8) Lucinda Williams – “Ghosts Of Highway 20”

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Lucinda Williams kind of sounds more and more like she has a gobstopper in her mouth as the years go by but man is she a beast.  As legit as it comes.

7) Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love”

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I’ll be honest, there’s some filler on this album.  But the songs that are good are SO GOOD that it makes it so worth it.  “Redbone” in particular is good enough to raise Prince from the dead out of anger that Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) put out a better song than the he had in 15 years.

6) Michael Kiwanuka – “Love & Hate”

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Just a beautiful, beautiful album.  The album opener “Cold Little Heart” sounds like Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” meets Bill Withers with a modern twist.  And he can really play guitar too.  This dude should be huge.

5) Weezer – “Weezer (The White Album)”

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Listen, I’m just as surprised as you that Weezer put out an awesome album in 2016 after a decade and a half of total garbage.  A cooler person would listen to it privately and refuse to admit it in public, but I’ve never been cool.  Just ask all the girlfriends I didn’t have in high school.

4) Car Seat Headrest – “Teens Of Denial”

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Matador’s Great Hope!  Will Toledo is supposed to be the next big thing in 90s-style indie rock and so far it sounds like he is accomplishing it.  Sounds like Archers Of Loaf fronted by Beck singing.  I’m pretty sure Toledo was conceived at a Superchunk concert in 1993.

3) Charles Bradley – “Changes”

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Charles Bradley has a cooler backstory than you.  He made a living for decades as a James Brown impersonator named “Black Velvet” before he got discovered randomly and given his own band.  He plays almost all originals now, except this amazing cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes”.  Black Sabbath are legends, but he makes Ozzy Osbourne sound like Urkel in comparison on this song.

2) Leonard Cohen “You Want It Darker”

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I’ve been hot or cold on Leonard Cohen for most of his catalogue. I love his 60s and 70s stuff.  Then in the 80s/90s/00s he sounded like he was talking over a demo setting on a casio, but then he’d write “Hallelujah” in that period and it confused me.  There is no confusion on this album.  This is an album about him dying.  It’s dark (duh), melodic and humbling.

1) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree”

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2016 was the year of the death album. Nick Cave wrote parts of this album before his 15 year old son fell off a cliff and passed away, but his presence is all over it.  There are coincidental, uncanny parallels in the lyrics “You fell from the sky and crash landed near the river Adur” and parts that he recorded after the death where he sounds like he barely has the ability to speak, much less sing.  It’s a heart-wrenching album that I can only listen to alone and in the dark.

 

20 Favorite Punk Rock/Punk Adjacent Albums Of 2016

(When I first got into punk back in 1994, I caught the tail end of punk just being punk.  Sure there were categories but it was all under the same umbrella.  If you were a fan of one kind of punk you probably liked the other kinds of punk.  Now everything is all fragmented into scenes that don’t mix.  Screw that.  I still consider punk a broad genre and thus the “punk adjacent” label.  You’ll see emo, ska, hardcore, PUNK punk and more on this list.  It’s all punk to me.)

20) Tacocat “Lost Time”

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It’s the same word spelled both ways!  This is like jangly indie rock if it were played at double speed.

19) Culture Shock “Attention Span”

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Dick Lucas of Subhumans fame’s latest band.  This is his second ska band and strangely I hated the first one, Citizen Fish, but love this one.  Oh and this isn’t ska like those band geek bands.  This is gutter punk skanking that you can smell a mile away.

18) Nancy – “With Child”

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This duo sounds like Johnny Thunders meets Devo meets The Marked Men meets some kind of brain damage.

17) Hard Evidence – “Self-Titled”

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Quality Oi! from St. Louis sounds about as likely as caviar from Burger King but here we are!

16) Frightnrs “Nothing More To Say”

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The Frightnrs’ singer recently died of ALS, making theirs probably the darkest story in ska history.  Luckily, he was able to put out this great record before he went.  It’s classic style, 60s Jamaica era ska and Desmond Dekker would be proud.

15) Low Culture “Places To Hide”

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I keep thinking I’m going to get sick of bands that sound like The Marked Men but just like cold Spaghetti O’s I can’t help myself!

14) Radkey – “Dark Black Makeup”

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There’s a strong legacy of all-black punk bands blazed by Bad Brains, Fishbone and Death (even though if you say you heard of the latter when they were around you either lived on their street or were in the band or a liar) and Radkey is the current standard-bearer.  The singer sounds like Danzig, which is bizarre and fabulous.

13) Personal & The Pizzas – “Self-Titled”

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Straight up, Personal & The Pizzas flat-out take turns blatantly ripping off the Ramones and the Stooges.  But it’s done without shame and most of the songs are about pizza so I like it.

12) Mean Jeans – “Tight New Dimensions”

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This band is notable for having many catchy-ass albums and having one of only a handful of songs that my punk-loving wife hates so much that she officially banned when she’s in my presence (“Michael Jackson Was Tight”).

11) Sonic Avenues “Disconnector”

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Shit, another band that sounds like The Marked Men.  But they’re even better than Low Culture!

10) Right Shitty – “Bachelor Of Arts”

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Right Shitty is kind of a hybrid grunge/punk mix from Canada.  The grocery store album cover doesn’t have any Tim Horton’s or poutine in it so it must have been taken in the States.

9) Dog Party – “‘Til You’re Mine”

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Two sisters who apparently are the current opener for Green Day and sound like the Ramones mixed with the Runaways.  So they sound like the Donnas, but they don’t suck.

8) Descendents – “Hypercaffium Spazzinate”

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If you’re reading a list of punk rock and you don’t know who the Descendents are then turn around right now and go back to your Good Charlotte album.

7) Coathangers – “Nosebleed Weekend”

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The three members of The Coathangers all swap instruments and duties constantly, but my favorite singer is the one featured in the video before.  Her voice sounds like she drinks a pack of Malboro’s every night and I love it.

6) Vanishing Life – “Surveillance”

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Supergroups only seem to be worth a damn when most of the general public has no idea who they are.  Case in point: Vanishing Life.  It’s Walter from Quicksand/Gorilla Biscuits/Rival Schools, two guys from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and Zach Blair from Rise Against.  You can keep Chickenfoot, I’ll take Vanishing Life.

5) The Steve Adamyk Band – “Graceland” 

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The FINAL band on the list that sounds like The Marked Men.  Unless The Marked Men put out a reunion album I didn’t know about?  This band, The Steve Adamyk Band to be specific, are actually good enough to give the good ol’ MM a run for their money.

4) Burn – “…From The Ashes” 7″

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I gotta be honest, I didn’t expect a good release from a middle-aged hardcore band that hadn’t put out anything since 2001 and nothing good since 1990.  But this 7″ is not only tremendous, but a step forward for them.  They added a groove with the guitars that they never had before.  Old guys unite!

Burn “…From The Ashes” Soundcloud

3) Whores. – “Gold.”

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Yes, I consider 90s-style AmRep noise rock to be punk rock.  Go fuck yourself.  If Pennywise gets to be called punk than this fucking furious beast gets to too.

2) The Tuts – “Update Your Brain”

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While the previous band sounds like Androgel leaks out of their armpits, this next one is a total 180.  They are an all-girl band but EQUALLY as bad ass.  They are like the modern version of The Go-Go’s but punkier and way more political.  They have very unapologetically feminist lyrics and they don’t give a shit about your boy band.  The video below is one of my favorites, but I couldn’t find any videos of them for the real political songs so go search out their album.  You won’t be sorry…unless you’re a Meninist.

1) The Hotelier – “Goodness”

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I was fortunate enough to be around for 90s emo.  It was the best.  Then the 2000s happened and ruined everything.  I literally can’t talk about it, it makes me so mad.  Then in the 2010s there was an emo revival where the bands used actually real, decent emo bands as source material, like Cap’n Jazz, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, etc.  I appreciated the attempted authenticity, but it was kind of like hearing a really good Hank Williams Sr. copycat.  Why not just go listen to Hank?  That was, until the latest album by The Hotelier.  This is the first emo album I’ve heard since the late 90s that actually got me excited.  It’s retro and modern at the same time.  They’ve done their homework but are also trying to push things ahead.  It brings back memories of Texas Is The Reason, except I’m now 38 instead of 18.  I can still get emotional without hair!  Also, it’s hilarious that YouTube blurred out the naked people on the album cover.

 

Top 5 Favorite Twin Cities Albums Of 2016

I didn’t want to put any local bands in the top 20s, not out of spite, but because I’m afraid of homerism.  That said, I truly believe these Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) bands are wonderful and either are (or should be) getting national attention.

 

5) Hyperslob – “Infectious Yarn”

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Okay, so this came out in 2015, but I didn’t find out about it until a couple months ago.   This album is so genius and weird and crazy…I can’t believe it was mad in Minneapolis.  This is shit that gets made on Mars or in a bomb-shelter you got trapped in for 10 years.

4) (The Minneapolis) Uranium Club – “All Of Them Naturals”

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Back to 2016.  Another weird one.  Who do I describe this one?  It’s like Devo if they played their guitars like Television and sang like they were in 1950s propaganda films?  Really original stuff.

3) Color TV – “Self-Titled” 7″

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Oh shit, I said I did my last Marked Men sounding band.  Well, this one is from Minneapolis!  They were one of the opening bands for the First Ave Descendents show recently and I’m still kicking myself for missing them.  I can’t wait for a full-length from them.

2)  Naive Sense – “Body Trauma”

The only reason this isn’t #1 is because it’s eight minutes long and I felt like the top spot should go to something longer than the popcorn setting on the microwave.  That said, it’s an EP so that’s okay.  Naive Sense is a trans-fronted hardcore band with shoegaze leanings and they are not for the faint of heart.  Their first album was an instant classic but this one really goes after the issues Natalie faces as a trans-woman.  The lyrics of “Kerosene” in particular scorch the fucking earth:

I am scorn
I am disease
I am the weight
I am kerosene
Can you feel the fire
Crawling over your skin
This is retribution
We are the sum of all your fears
Your antithesis
The flames of cis nightmares
We set society ablaze

Naive Sense – “Body Trauma” Bandcamp

1) Cactus Blossoms – “You’re Dreaming”

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Holy Everly Brothers!  Maybe I’m getting loopy from making such a long damn list or maybe I don’t think anybody has gotten this far so I don’t care but I often sing this song to myself and switch the chorus to “Dachshund Kisses” and kiss my dogs.  Wanna fight about it?

Top 15 Albums of 2015

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I have a bad habit of liking albums a lot when I first hear them and then hating them two weeks later.  I’m an excitable dude.  I once thought I liked Lamb Of God for about 13 days before I came to my senses.  It’s made some of my past top albums of the year posts have some cringe-worthy entries.  So this year, I decided to only include albums that I’ve listened to and liked for at least a month.

1)  Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell” – On first glance, this would seem like one of those impulsive picks that I’d be embarrassed about later.  I’ve hated the last few beep-bop-boop-boop “Kid A on hipster ecstasy” albums he’s made but this one really struck a chord with me.  It’s a very quiet, mostly acoustic album about the death of his estranged mother.  My best friend died this year and this album helped me through.  This will probably be an album I listen to when I’m 80.

2) Violent Reaction “Marching On” – And now for something completely different.  This is the best traditional hardcore album of the last fifteen years.  It’s like Minor Threat meets Gorilla Biscuits meets Negative Approach meets Guy Ritchie punching you in the dick.  It’s on fire with energy and somehow manages to sound fresh and new.  If I was able to touch my toes I’d totally pick up change to this album.

3) Royal Headache “High” – Ever wondered what Rod Stewart would sound like fronting a garage band?  Me neither, but now I know and it’s fucking glorious.  The singer is bald as shit (note the hat in the video), so he doesn’t have Rod’s huge coif but he’s got the pipes.  This album is so good that I think even my mom would like it.  That’s not an insult (although my mom does like Manheim Steamroller).  It’s a testament to how catchy and perfectly written this album is.  A flawless and an instant classic.

4) Näive Sense “Art Failures” – It’s pretty awesome that a new local Minneapolis band has an album that I sincerely think should break nationally in the punk scene.  They’re a trans-fronted hardcore/punk band and the singer puked on the floor when I saw them play at a coffee-shop.  Not sure why I think that’s the coolest, but it is.  They kind of sound like Refused mixed with Youth of Today mixed with sporadic shoegaze guitar while the singer screams like someone getting eaten by a bear.  It’s pure energy, anger and passion and I can’t recommend it enough. Go check out their album on Bandcamp.

5)  Skints “FM” – 2015 was the year I got back into ska.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about 90’s style ska-verse/punk-chorus/ska-verse type stuff.  There are a lot of new ska bands that are either playing more traditional Jamaican style ska or even pushing it forward and creating new, original sounds.  Skints are one of these.  They’re a mashup of ska, reggae, dancehall, with punk influences.  They even do a reggae cover of Black Flag’s “My War”.  Want some ska without embarrassing hats, band geeks and songs about food?  This is your band.

6) The Bluebeaters “Everybody Knows” – The second ska band of the list.  These guys are from Italy and only play cover songs, but they make them their own.  They pull from artists all across the board, like Neil Young, Britney Spears (see video below), The Undertones, Delroy Wilson, The Smiths and a killer cut of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”.  These guys blast the notion that ska bands can’t play right out of the water.  And like the Skints, NO SONGS ABOUT FOOD.  Good job, ska!

7) Coneheads “14 Year Old High School PC​-​Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $​$​$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L​.​P.” – They are Devo on meth with no money.

8) Built To Spill “Untethered Moon” – People with dad bods can still rock. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Built To Spill.  Yeah, they’ve kind of meandered and put out some boring albums, but half the band quit a couple years ago and it revitalized them.  This is hands down their best album since the powerhouse days of the 90s.  Catchy and to the point.  These guys always get compared to Modest Mouse but unlike them there are no awful disco rock songs on this album.  Seriously, Modest Mouse…who are you, KISS?

9) The Duppies “Broken Ogran” – Straight up Jamaican ska/Two Tone worship from Florida.  Lots of songs about dancing and fighting.  For fans of The Slackers.  All this ska is making me feel like I’m in high school again, which sucks because I never got laid.  This is the happiest soundtrack to virginity ever!

10) Night Birds “Mutiny At Muscle Beach” – These guys sound like a more surf Dead Kennedys.  Do I need to say more?

11) High On Fire “Luminiferous” – I am listening to significantly less metal than last year.  I like to sleep with music on my headphones at night and honestly all that stuff was making me have dreams about corpses eating my toes at night.  NOT COOL.  This is one of the few metal albums I really got into this year.  Apparently, a lot of the songs are about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati but I can’t understand most of what he’s saying anyway so I just imagine it’s about beating up people who run puppy mills.

12) Radioactivity “Silent Kill” – Every band these guys are in (Radioactivity, Marked Men, High Tension Wires, Potential Johns, etc) all kind of sound the same.  But it’s a wonderful kind of all sounds the same.  Sometimes you just want a sausage pizza with no surprises and you get a wad of Tofurkey instead.  These guys are tasty pizza in the form of glossy garage rock with Screeching Weasel level pop hooks.

13) Bully “Feels Like” – Not to sound old, but Millenials almost always get the 90s wrong.  They seem to focus so much on irony and reverb that they forget that people actually cared about energy back then.  Bully is one of the handful of bands (along with Cloud Nothings and Japandroids) that gets 90s worship right.  I actually feel like this could have been big in 1995.  Granted, Ace Of Base was big in 1995 so maybe that’s not such a badge of honor.

14) The Rocket Beats “Human Tornado” – I started to really get into psychobilly in December but because of my time rule, a lot of it couldn’t make the list.  These guys did and they’re amazing. They’re from Russia and sound like The Cramps if they were fronted by Yakov Smirnoff.  “In Russia, stand-up bass plays YOU!”

15) Beaten To Death “Unplugged” – Full disclosure: This is definitely not “unplugged”.  This is super loud grindcore from Norway.  It is, however, strangely melodic.  Like Ted Bundy whistling a tune to you while he strangles you.

Honorable Mention:

PEARS “Go To Prison” – Technically a reissue from 2014 so it couldn’t make the list.  Ryan from Off With Their Heads described them as “Angry Lagwagon”.

Arre! Arre! “A.T.T.A.C.K.” – Riot grrl/surfpunk from Sweden.

Razika “Ut Til De Andre” – All-girl indie/ska band from Norway.

Expanders “Hustling Culture” – Reggae from LA.

Leftover Crack “Constructs Of the State” – Punk ska from NY.

 

We’re An American Band

Photo from cdn.funcheap.com/

Photo from cdn.funcheap.com/

Let’s face it, America is known for individualism.  Most of our musical juggernauts are solo artists like Elvis Presley, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, etc.  Meanwhile, the Mt. Rushmore of great rock groups are filled with British monsters like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin and The Who.  We’re selfish Americans.  Sharing groupies is for those Commie Brits!  In the spirit of American unity this Fourth of July, here’s a list of the top ten American groups that made a mainstream splash on the Billboard charts.  Don’t get cocky though, England.  Other than Elton John and David Bowie, your next best solo artist is Aveda Hair Salon trainee Rod Stewart.

The Beach Boys were an early influence on "Where's Waldo?" Photo from rickcyge.com/

The Beach Boys were an early influence on “Where’s Waldo?” Photo from rickcyge.com

  1. The Beach BoysWith 80 charting singles worldwide and 36 #1 singles in America alone, the Beach Boys are the only American powerhouse that can rank up there with the British bands.  And they absolutely deserve to be in the conversation with the Beatles and Stones.  Even then, they are possibly the dorkiest rock stars in the history of the world.  They look like the most successful wedding party band ever.  Although they did just as many drugs as Keith Richards, hung out with Charles Manson and had all kinds of crazy mental rock & roll freakouts, they still wore those damn pin-striped shirts, tried to rap with the Fat Boys and unleashed Kokomo on the world.  Even in their 20s, the Beach Boys looked like somebody’s narc dad. “The kids dress like candy canes, right?” Nothing but love and respect for the Boys, but let’s face it: Our #1 band are freaking dweebs.

"Uh Tom, your one-hitter is getting a bit conspicuous." Photo from inthestudio.net

“Uh Tom, your one-hitter is getting a bit conspicuous.” Photo from inthestudio.net

  1. Creedence Clearwater RevivalCreedence was so damn good.  They kicked out classics faster than a White Castle Slider propelling itself out of your body, including three stellar albums in ONE YEAR.  But still, is Creedence in the conversation for greatest band of all time?  Unfortunately, no.  If the Beatles and Stones are Jaguars and Rolls Royces, then Creedence is a really strong, reliable Ford F150.  It’ll get you where you need to go, and for a long time, but you don’t take it on dates and it might have deer urine in it.  Also, Creedence Clearwater REVISITED is really embarrassing.  That’s like if Radiohead broke-up and reformed without Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and called themselves Radionoggin.

That tragic time Cheap Trick got stuck on a fly-strip. Photo from assets.rollingstone.com/

That tragic time Cheap Trick got stuck on a fly-strip. Photo from assets.rollingstone.com/

  1. Cheap Trick Cheap Trick were the American Beatles.  They wrote pop gems with an edge that stick in your head for weeks.  But whereas the Beatles had four clearly defined personalities, Cheap Trick only had three out of four. They had a dork/punk, a dork/accountant and two pretty boys.  Maybe if Tom Petersson had dressed like a genie or gotten a face tattoo he would have stood out more.  Instead, he came off just like Rock & Roll Guy #2.  Regardless of this small complaint, they had some huge hits and even had a big comeback in the late 80s with “The Flame”, but anybody claiming that Cheap Trick deserves to be on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time great rock bands probably also thinks that “Bleach” is Nirvana’s best album.

"Hey, if you three can just step back a LITTLE bit more into the dark, that'd be great." Photo from nikoraffaele.altervista.org/

“Hey, if you three can just step back a LITTLE bit more into the dark, that’d be great.” Photo from nikoraffaele.altervista.org

  1. The Doors The Doors were and remain extremely popular, as well as wildly divisive.  It seems that almost no one has a neutral opinion on them. They’re either the greatest band the world has ever seen or a complete joke lead by an underwear model and three guys you’d find working at the post office.  The truth is that they’re somewhere in between.  Songs like “Break On Through”, “The End” and “Light My Fire” are undeniable.  But man, their bad songs are atrocious.  Towards the end they sounded like a very white blues band lead by a fat open mic poet reading Mad Libs.  You can make a really killer 12 song compilation of Doors hits, but a band can’t be considered one of the very best if their filler is comparable to being stuck at an Old Country Buffett with an 8th grade poetry teacher.  

Lars is wondering where he left his forehead hair.  Photo from postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com

Lars is wondering where he left his forehead hair. Photo from postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com

  1. Metallica Here’s where the list really starts to take a dive.  Metallica were great.  They changed the face of metal.  But if you list the greatest British bands, you could go about 15 deep before you start having to make apologies.  Metallica has aged like the Picture of Dorian Grey, if the picture was displayed on Itunes and not hidden away in an attic.  Metallica put out three undisputed metal classics, one half-classic, one insanely popular & controversial breakthrough and then a parade of embarrassments that would make Weezer blush.  They put out an album that sounds like Lars Ulrich is playing a popcorn tin and then collaborated with Lou Reed on a project so bad that people talk about it in hushed tones.  Kids are picking the Youtube “Light yourself on fire” challenge before having to listen to “Lulu”.  Yeah, the Stones petered out too.  But at least they picked a formula to suck with.  Metallica seems to be throwing a dart against wall of ideas.  “Okay, now let’s do a Bob Seeger cover, now let’s pretend to be a band with only $30 to record, now let’s make guitars out of circus carousel horses and record in Atlantis.”

Steven Tyler going for that lucrative Cruella de Vill/Pirates Of The Caribbean/slap bracelet crossover market. Photo from i.telegraph.co.uk/

Steven Tyler going for that lucrative Cruella de Vill/Pirates Of The Caribbean/slap bracelet crossover market. Photo from i.telegraph.co.uk

  1. Aerosmith If you have to put scarves on your mic-stand to appear more interesting, you’re not a very great band.  55 year old women will take great exception to this, but Aerosmith should have stopped about 35 years ago.  They are the American Led Zeppelin, if Led Zeppelin dressed like an Avon Lady and refused to leave your door.  Their only #1 hit was from a Ben Affleck movie and wasn’t even written by them.  Still, if you’re listing American bands, you have to mention them. Like how in American history you have to mention Japanese internment camps.  

FILE - In this Sunday, April 1, 2012 file photo, from left, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley, of the musical group KISS, arrive at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. KISS will perform at the NHL game at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014. The NHL said Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 that the rock band will play during the pregame festivities and first intermission of the Stadium Series game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

“Wait…ACM means ‘American Country Music’ awards? I thought it meant ‘Awesome Cat Man’! Damnit, Gene!” Photo from thenypost.files.wordpress.com

  1. KISSSee what I’m getting at?  Freaking KISS made the list!  England’s killing us here.  KISS accidentally wrote a couple good songs, but mostly they just paved the way for the Insane Clown Posse.  Their collected STD count outnumbers their classic song contribution.   “Beth” is the song that plays on the elevator to Hell.  They’re the only people in the world who have taken off their Cirque du Soleil make-up and everybody collectively went “Oh Jesus!  Put it back on!”

Rare photo of Nirvana with their short-lived second guitarist, Charles Barkley. Photo by madmuseum.org/

Rare photo of Nirvana with their short-lived second guitarist, Charles Barkley. Photo by madmuseum.org

  1. Nirvana Nirvana deserves to be on this list.  Not since the British Invasion had a band changed the face of music so completely overnight.  It’s not hard to imagine copycat bands like Candlebox about to go into the studio covered from head to toe in spandex and Maybelline freaking out once they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  “Oh crap!  It’s over!  Quick, gimme that flannel!  Does anybody know how to shave a soul-patch!?  Put those boas in the garbage before Pearl Jam sees them!  Let’s get moody!”

Lynyrd Skynyrd's current line-up. Photo from s80.photobucket.com/user/Tolep8nt

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s current line-up. Photo from s80.photobucket.com/user/Tolep8nt

  1. Lynyrd Skynard Skynard is your drunk, racist uncle at the family reunion.  You can’t really kick him out but you really try to avoid him if at all possible.  Some people would put Skynard at #1 for American bands.  Those people also think Barack Obama is the Ayatollah of Iran and make moonshine in their pig trough.

Axl narrowly missed out on the role of Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. Photo from xahlee.org/

Axl narrowly missed out on the role of Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. Photo from xahlee.org

  1. Guns ‘N Roses“Appetite For Destruction” may be the greatest debut album of all-time.  It gets a little sketchy after that.  “Use Your Illusion I & II” is hard rock’s “White Album”, but it’s never a good sign when listening to “Revolution #9” is preferable over Axl doing a rap-rock industrial song about whatever it is that damn song is about. They were truly rock stars, though.  They caused riots and wore lots of biker shorts.  Unfortunately, fans keep waiting for an original line-up return that isn’t going to happen, like a Harold Camping rapture party that keeps getting moved back.

Honorable mention – Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Allman Brothers, Byrds, ZZ Top, The Partridge Family, The Village People, Warrant.

Mike Brody’s Top 15 Albums of 2014

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Somehow as I get older my musical tastes are getting more and more aggressive.  I blame male-pattern baldness.  A lot of this list is metal and hardcore, but there’s some weird Japanese psychedelic pop, “indie” and other things too.  U2 did not make the list.

15) Body Count “Manslaughter” – This is the dumbest album ever made, but I can’t stop listing to it.  Ice T seems like someone’s angry, scary dad on this one.  One minute he’s yelling that he’s going to shoot you and the next he’s telling you to get a job and go to rehab.  The cover/re-working of Suicidal Tendencies’ 1983 classic hardcore/thrash crossover classic is legitimately funny, even if Ice’s equivalent to being forced into a loony bin by his parents is forgetting his email password.

14) Kikagaku Moyo “Forest Of Lost Children” – I don’t know anything about these guys other than that they’re from Japan and they sound like the Beach Boys meets Simon & Garfunkel meets Sabbath.  And it’s fucking great.  Turn on your black light, duuude.

13) Bitch Witch “Too Old Too Punk” – Sometimes you just know you’re going to like a band based on their obvious influences.  They got the name “Bitch Witch” from an old Venom song, they use the Black Flag bars on their first EP and have a song subtitled “Darkthrone’s Punks”.  It’s like crusty hardcore from Spain with female black metal vocals who think they’re in the Manson Family.  Weird shit.

12) Enabler “La Fin Absolue Du Monde” – Enabler was going to be #11, because I thought they were from Minneapolis.  They’re actually from Milwaukee, so #12 for them!  (It’s great thrash/hardcore.)

11) Lord Mantis “Death Mask” – DO watch this video if you love weird, scary, stoner black/metal doom made by people who are not fooling around.  DO NOT watch this video if you afraid of seeing uncircumcised zombie penis.

10) Protestant “In Thy Name” – Absolutely crushing, brutal album from a hardcore band (from MILWAUKEE!) that suddenly decided to be black metal.  Maybe I’m dumb, but I never saw this coming, even though they’re connected in ways.  It’d be like your grandma dropping Christmas and suddenly celebrating pagan Yuletide.

9) Panopticon “Roads To The North” – Okay, this sounds like a totally stupid gimmick, but these guys mix bluegrass and black metal.  It sounds horrible on paper, but it actually found a way to make American black metal authentic.  Nobody from Kentucky should dress up like Immortal and/or pretend they’re Odin, but they can grab a banjo and scream a bunch.  Some of the songs are just straight up bluegrass too.  Look out Trampled By Turtles, Euronymous wants to hoedown!

8) Alcest “Shelter” –  They used to be black metal and now they’re pretty much just shoegaze. I hate shoegaze, but this album is just so damn catchy I can’t not love it.  I don’t know what this album is about, but his last one was about a little magical elf world that he believes he went to in France when he was a kid.  So I believe this one’s possibly about hippogriffs.  Here’s their video of two people doing a color run in Iceland for some reason:

7) Trap Them “Blissfucker” – Super dark hardcore.  If you don’t like the breakdown after 2:25 on this video then I guess we can’t be friends.

6) Sólstafir “Ótta” – Another former black metal band that got all spacey and sensitive.  They’re from Iceland and they sound like Sigur Ros if they were a bit angrier and didn’t make noises like whales having sex.  This is a really great album.

5) Sick Of It All “Last Act Of Defiance” – I’m gonna say it: Sick Of It All is the greatest hardcore band of all time. Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags…these guys might all have better albums, but nobody has done it more consistently (and without stopping) as Sick Of It All.  They’re like that old mechanic that’s been running a shop since 1953 and still fixes your shit for $20.

4) Budos Band  “Burnt Offering” – They’re an afro-beat band, which means they’re probably ex-ska dorks that listen to Fela Kuti and James Brown.  On this album, they’re playing (sorta) doom metal, which means they’ve been listening to Sabbath and Saint Vitus.  I don’t know if it’s really doom or really afro-beat. It’s somehow both.  But screw it, they’re not from Milwaukee and it sounds really great and original.

3) J Mascis “Tied To Star” – I LOVE DINOSAUR JR!!!!  J Mascis could record himself pooping and I’d buy it.  However, his two solo albums have been legitimately great.  And why wouldn’t they be?  He writes 98% of Dinosaur’s music anyway.  J is older than Moses, but he is still putting out music as good as he did in the 80s.  He does look like Dumbledore now, though.

2) Ringworm “Hammer Of The Witch” – Ringworm is tied with Integrity for my favorite hardcore band that metal guys like.  They’re so angry and unrelenting.  I recently saw them play for the first time and was shocked and amazed to find out that their singer, “The Human Furnace”, is approximately two feet tall.  Prince would be freaked out.  Oh well, I still wouldn’t fuck with him.  Keep putting out songs like this one, Papa Smurf:

1) Cloud Nothings “Here And Nowhere Else” This is the third Cloud Nothings album (in four years!) that has instantly become my hands-down favorite.  They have that 90s feeling of Archers of Loaf, Pixies and Superchunk with the energy of punk rock and the awkwardness of the Violent Femmes.  And no perceivable irony!  They just rock and that’s that.  If you aren’t familiar with the Cloud Nothings, do yourself a favor and check them out.  If you haven’t hear of the Archers of Loaf, Pixies, Superchunk or Violent Femmes then get a fucking time-machine and start your life over.