Mike Brody’s Top Albums (And The Worst One) Of 2013

Someone told me that year-end best-of lists are self-congratulatory and pretentious.  Screw that.  I love best-of lists! Every year I scour hundreds of them online, looking for golden nuggets that flew under my radar.  I’m an anti-social and mildly agoraphobic hermit and god only knows what my collection would be like if I only went by the Muzak at CVS.  So no apologies!  And here’s MY end of 2013 list:

(Click on a link for a video from each respective artist)

Worst album of 2013:  Black Flag “What the…” – Calling this band Black Flag is like digging up the corpse of Dave Thomas, waving his unattached skeleton arm around and calling it “Wendy’s.”  Horrendous.

TOP TEN:

10 – Bad ReligionTrue North” – I never would have guessed that I’d be putting a Bad Religion album on my best of list past 1994, but here we are.  The booky-wook brainhead punks put down their thesaurus and bifocals long enough to write a catchy, energetic, mildly old-school punk album where only 25% of the songs sound the same. This is the best thing they’ve done since the very underrated “Stranger Than Fiction.”

9 – IncendiaryCost Of Living” – Too many hardcore bands either sound like Youth Of Today Champion hoodie-worship or Hatebreed uber-metal moshpit muscleheads.  Incendiary seem to take their inspiration from that nougat-y middle period between those two, where Inside Out and Chain of Strength lived.  This porridge is not too metal, not too crew.  Perfect.

8 – WindhandSoma” – DOOM!  God bless Black Sabbath for inspiring so many bands to sound like this.  Thick and heavy as molasses!  They have a lady singer and I couldn’t even tell at first.  I can’t imagine why these guys aren’t bigger but it’s surely only a matter of time.  My only complaint is that the last track is a 30 minute song, which trails off into ten minutes of rain sounds.  Come on guys, you’re screwing up my shuffle!

7 – Lipstick HomicideOut Utero” –  It’s nice to have a band from Iowa break out nationally that isn’t heavy like Modern Life Is War or Slipknot.  It proves that Iowa can be fun.  I’m a proud Hawkeye and Iowan living out of state, and nobody believes me that Iowa City is the shit.  It is, and so is Lipstick Homicide.  Think Descendents and Screeching Weasel fronted by lesbians at a party.  Best melodic punk album of the year.

6 – His Electro Blue VoiceRuthless Sperm” – How hungover were these guys when they decided to call this album “Ruthless Sperm”?  It makes me think of the movie “Critters” but with rolling balls of semen.  Run!  Splat.  How’s that for a sell?  Let me put it this way: In a year full of wussy-ass post-punk shoe-gaze turtle-shit, it’s nice to hear a band that can take a cue from the 80s and still be creative and aggressive about it.  They sound like Al Jourgensen singing over a very pissed off Joy Division.  Thanks for proving that the 80s can still punch you in the face instead of tickling your butt.

5 – SuperchunkI Hate Music” – If you know Superchunk already then there’s no need to tell you about them and if you don’t know Superchunk you probably aren’t reading this.  It’s Superchunk.  They don’t put out bad albums.  Frankly, I’m starting to take it for granted.  Double-bonus props/nerd-points for the Jackie Mittoo/Skatalities reference.

4 – Rival MobMob Justice” –  Remember when I said it was no good if a hardcore band sounded like an 80s youth crew?  I lied.  Not only are the Rival Mob the most kick-ass old-school styled Boston hardcore band of the last 20 years, but the singer also looks just like Rob Delaney.  What’s not to love?

Photo from altpress.com

Rob Delaney? Photo from altpress.com

3 – NailsAbandon All Life” – Remember when I said it was no good if a hardcore band sounded too metal?  I lied.  Holy shit, this is the sound of fucking death coming for you.  Not slowly in your sleep, not with time.  Right now.  It’s busting down your bedroom door.  Brutal beyond description.

2 – DeafheavenSunbather” – Oh boy do black metal purists hate this band.  I just imagine a bunch of Norwegian, corpse-painted dudes in Road Warriors outfits wringing their hands and throwing their battle-axes at this record while cursing San Francisco and PBR to Jötunheim.  How bad-ass is it for a band to take such a macho, even (allegedly) homophobic genre and add melody, emotion and a PINK ALBUM COVER into the mix.  It transcends musical style and flies into the face and up the nose of convention.  Black metal is great, but it’s one of the most codified genres of music there is.  These guys done just smashed it all up.

Deafheaven - "Sunbather"

Deafheaven – “Sunbather”

1 – Grant HartThe Argument” – For someone who was 1/2 of the Hüsker Dü writing team, Grant Hart sure is criminally underrated.  Yeah, he only puts out about one album per decade and I honestly don’t think there’s a picture of him post-1990 that doesn’t look like he’s a slowly shriveling window-apple.  But then he turns around and drops a concept album about Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”  And it’s amazing.  Yeah, I know that sounds boring as hell on paper.  An album about an old book?  Is this even music or NPR?  Why not a speech about Abraham Lincoln?  It’s music!  Every song is a different style/genre and it rivals some of the poppier stuff he did in Hüsker Dü.  Best album of the year.  Just don’t look at his teeth.

HONORABLE MENTION (In no particular order): War Generation – “Self-titled,” Altar Of Plagues – “Teeth Glory And Injury,” Cloud Rat – “Moksha,” Modern Life Is War – “Fever Hunting,” Gorguts – “Colored Sands,” Mikal Cronin – “MCII,” The Ocean –  “Pelagial,” Oblivians – “Desperation,” Darkthrone – “The Underground Resistance,” Gogol Bordello – “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” NERV – “EP,” Sickoids – “No Home,” Lumbar – “The First And Last Days Of Unwelcome,” Major Arcana – “Speedy Ortiz,” Skeletonwitch – “Serpents Unleashed,” Terror – “Live By The Code,” Ty Segall – “Sleeper,” Waxahatchee – “Cerulean Salt,” Tomahawk – “Oddfellows,” Night Birds – “Born To Die In Suburbia,” Coffins – “The Fleshland,” Dillinger Escape Plan – “One Of Us Is The Killer.”

The 15 Greatest Iowa Bands Of All-Time

Yesterday, I posted my “15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands Of All Time” list.  Today, I’d like to go back to my roots: Iowa.

I grew up in the Hawkeye State.  And although I love it like a little brother, I also reserve the right to make fun of it like a little brother.  BUT ONLY I CAN!!!  Not even other Iowans get to make fun of Iowa, just me!  Don’t tell me it’s boring to drive through.  Iowa didn’t ask you to visit.  What did you expect on the highway?  Ferris wheels?  The Lollipop Guild?  Here’s the trick to driving through Iowa: Expect nothing, and you’ll never be disappointed.

Anyway, regardless of what people think, there is a long and rich history of music coming from Iowa.  You probably just didn’t know.  Sit back, and prepare to be wowed:

15) House Of Large Sizes – House of Large Sizes is Iowa’s Yo La Tengo.  They’re an indie rock band that’s been around for decades, everybody respects them and nobody listens to them on purpose.

14) Modern Life Is War – MLIW is undoubtedly, without question, 100% the coolest thing to ever come out of Marshalltown, IA.  The second place award goes to a homeless person that fell out of one of their 500,000 trains.

13) Slipknot – Slipknot increased our list of famous people by 75% just by existing.  There’s nine of them!  Iowans are required by law to like Slipknot, even if they hate their music.  This rule also applies to the Field of Dreams movie, Radar O’Reilly from MASH and meth.

12) Ummm….hmmmmm.  Okay, what’s the next one?  Oof…this is kind of embarrassing.  Bands from Iowa…bands from Iowa.  Buddy Holly died here!  So did Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.  But that was all together.  Did I mention that Captain Kirk’s character is supposed to be from Iowa?

11) Oh shit!  Greg Brown!  I forgot about Greg Brown.  I don’t know any of his music but he seems cool.

And there you have it!  The greatest Iowa bands of ALL TIME!!!

Council Bluffs Rock City!  Photo from iowamusicreview.com

Council Bluffs Rock City! Photo from iowamusicreview.com

The 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time

"Why don't you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?"

“Why don’t you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?” Photo from exploreminnesota.com

First thing’s first: I can’t include Bob Dylan in this list.  Yes, he was born in Duluth, MN, and grew up in Hibbing.  Yes, he spent a year or two putzing around Dinkytown (the “bohemian”/college campus part of Minneapolis), but everybody knows he really cut his teeth and became the fuzzy-headed, Mad-lib lyrics legend that he is in New York City.  So here’s the deal:  I won’t include Bob Dylan in my “The 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time” list, but that means I get to pretend like Semisonic never existed.  Deal?  Okay.

Now, there’s a lot of great/interesting/important bands that didn’t make my list, like Halo Of Flies, Har Mar Superstar, Off With Their Heads, Harvest, The Castaways, The Suburbs, The Litter and much more.  That just goes to show how storied the Minneapolis/St. Paul history is.  Feel free to leave a comment if you think a band should have been included.  And, like Dylan, there’s bands like Low, Trampled By Turtles and the Gear Daddies that are commonly referred to as Twin Cities bands but are actually from Duluth and Austin, respectively.  No list for them!

Oh and guess who else isn’t on this list?  Howler.  Those guys suck in any town.

So, without further ado, my list (with YouTube videos in the links) of the 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time:

15) Mark Mallman – I honestly never liked Mark’s music until I saw him live at 7th Street Entry.  He bopped around with his boppity hair at a keyboard and directed every band member like an orchestra conductor.  He wore ridiculously hideous studded denim jackets.  He was hilarious.  A fan was born.  What a weirdo.

14) The Soviettes – I love the Soviettes!  Girl punk at it’s best.  And the drummer kind of sounds like the dude from the B-52s, somehow.  Ironically, I cannot stand their side-project band Awesome Snakes.  Rock lobster!

13) Quincy Punx – This band did not give a FUCK.  I mean that in the best way possible.

12) Cows – Cows were the best example of that weird, noisey, AmRep sound that ran parallel to grunge in the 90s, but didn’t get 5% of the attention.  If these guys aren’t in an insane asylum today, I don’t know where they’d be.

11) The Trashmen – These guys really only had one hit song back in 1963, “Surfin’ Bird.”  Yeah, it’s basically two Rivington’s songs mashed together.  But they made it SO much better.  And it’s also arguably the first punk rock song ever.  I never fully appreciated this song until I heard it blasted at ear-bleeding volume at a bar in Madison.  It shook my guts like a paint-mixer.  And I’ve never seen the episode, but apparently Family Guy used this song in one of it’s shows and a bunch of morons think it’s from that.  Sit down, son.  This is the best fake surf band that Minnesota ever produced.

10) Morris Day & The Time – It’s impossible to mention The Time without Prince.  They were his cronies and underlies.  They were the Scottie Pippen to Prince’s Michael Jordan.  Gilligan to Prince’s Skipper.  St. Paul to Prince’s Minneapolis.  But damn, they sure sounded good.  I also feel like MC Scat Kat is more real than these cartoon characters.

9) The Suicide Commandos – Formed in 1975, the Commandos were the Twin Cities’ first punk rock band.  They also appeared to be about 3 feet tall and could have played Richard Dreyfuss’ part in Jaws.

8) Atmosphere – I’m a little tired of Minneapolis rap.  Brother Ali, P.O.S., Doomtree.  It’s all a bit slam-poety for me.  But Atmosphere has enough melody to their music and they change it up pretty frequently, so I’m a fan.  “Now I’m too fucked up to dance, so I’ma sit with my hand on the front of my pants.”

7) Lifter Puller – The pre-Hold Steady.  I would have put Lifter Puller higher, but I’m friends with the guitar player, Steve Barone, on Facebook and I don’t want to look like I’m kissing his ass.  Craig Finn takes Twin Cities name-dropping to exquisitely new heights.

6) Babes In Toyland – Just click on the link.  If you don’t think this kicks ass, then you should just stop reading my blog.  By the way, Courtney Love stole the dress from HER.

5) Dillinger Four –  Paddy tends bar in several places across town.  I’ve never gotten the nerve to ask him when the next D4 album is coming out.  Seriously guys, Social Distortion kicks out albums faster than you guys. One of the best live bands you’ll ever see.  If they’re not too drunk to hit the strings on their guitars.

4) Soul Asylum – It’s easier to convince people Big Foot is real than to convince people that Soul Asylum used to be good.  From their early punk records to the pre-Runaway Train alternative rock stuff, give it a chance.

3) Husker Du – The Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo of the Twin Cities.  They broke up four years before grunge went big.  But they influenced the Pixies, who influenced Nirvana and blah blah blah.  You know the story.  Let’s be honest, they were too tubby and dorky to make it big, but they kick the shit out of those other bands any day.

3) Jay-Z – Just kidding.

2) The Replacements – Legendary.  They either put on the most transcendentally amazing live shows or they’d get wasted and play “Hello Dolly” eight times in a row.  They once supposedly played a showcase show full of half punk fans and half country fans.  They played country until all the punks left, played punk until all the country dudes left and then yelled “Are we signed yet?!”  When their record company pushed them to put out a music video for MTV, they returned with a video of a speaker blaring for four minutes, followed by five seconds of someone kicking the shit out of it.  The Replacements are GODS.

1) Prince – Duh.