End of a Year or Something Infinitely More Creative

Another year has flown by. It started off with the most frigid of winters in which I attempted to deliver newspapers on frozen icy roads. Which could be a fun experience once, but not for three months. Luckily the rest of the year went well for the most part. Went to a few shows, met up with some old friends, and made some new ones along the way. Of course there were a few bumps in the road, but potholes can be filled, and suspensions can be fixed for about $400.

I listened to a lot of music this year. As I do every year. I also listened to a lot of podcasts. Podcasts are like the radio where you know what you’re getting into. I haven’t had time to rank albums. I used to think it was fun trying to figure out what was best to come out in the year, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s time that I could be spending elsewhere. Which is also part of the reason I don’t update as much on here. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but rather putting these ideas in ink hasn’t come to fruition for one reason or another

Regardless, here are some podcasts that I have been coming back to.

One Shot Podcast – One off role-playing campaigns using a different rule set each time.
Turned Out A Punk – Damien Abraham (Fucked Up) talks to guests on how punk music influenced them in the respective career they chose. Damien is very well spoken and a punk music enthusiast. It’s interesting to hear how a genre that helped me realize the thoughts in my head actually made sense. Even if a lot of people still don’t understand I’ve met tons of people who do, and that sense of belonging is the reason this genre is still doing strong
The Angry Chicken – A podcast about the game Hearthstone. It’s such a simple fun game to pick up, but difficult to be good at. I’ve never had so much fun or be as infuriated with this game.
Campaign – A long form narrative role-playing game in the Star Wars Universe. It’s a story worth listening to if you’re a fan of role-playing, Star Wars, or podcasts in general.
Serial – Another story worth listening to. If you’re into audiobooks, then this will be right up your alley.
Overnight Drive – The rantings of two regular dudes are used to be/are in bands. Their life experiences are hilarious, sad, crude, and occasionally heartwarming. They don’t put up episodes as frequently anymore, but there’s quite a backlog you can catch up on.
Anxious and Angry - Ryan Young (Off With Their Heads) talks with guests about mental health and life experiences. He’s an honest dude who wants to better himself and help others who are having problems. Ryan always comes off as honest and sincere. Plus he makes some pretty rad music, and has a tendency to promote other rad music I may or may not have heard of.
The Virzi Effect and The Monday Morning Podcast – Paul Virzi and Bill Burr are two of my favorite comedians going now. If you listen to one podcast you should listen to the other. They are both down to earth guys who aren’t putting on comedy skits on their podcast. It’s more off the cuff rants about things going on around them. They are both likeable guys who are naturally funny.

There are more I listen to, but those will get you started. Now onto some records I’ve been digging all year. The list is not really in any order. They all get my seal of approval and are a worthy listen. I’m sure there’s some I haven’t listened to or will forget to list, but such is life.

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues : Their most important album, and I think an important album for all people to hear.
Protomartyr – Under the Colour of Official Right : If Joy Division and The Hold Steady made a band. I know that’s what I thought to.
Pup – Pup : I just did a review for this album. This band reminds me that young bands can still rock just as hard as any veteran band.
Restorations – LP3 : This band can’t top their last album, but they can come close. It’s raw. It’s epic. It’s everything an album should be.Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else : Cleveland is just churning out good bands. Last year I found out about Harvey Pekar, and this year this band gives me the punky garage rock I need in my life.
Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces : Just a rock album. Front to back.
Dwarves – Invented Rock and Roll : This band is genius. They make you sing along to the dirtiest fucking songs. They can be aggressive, catchy, or just plain weird. And it’s all still effortless to them 20+ years later.
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown : This band is hit or miss with me. This time their channel their inner Converge, and they are all the better for it.
Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt : Not out of left field like Brian Fallon alluded to, which is just fine with me. Everything Brian Fallon touches is gold. This is no exception.
Botanist – VI Flora : This band is just plain weird, but I can’t help but listen to it. They swap out guitars for hammered dulcimers. Heavily distorted lo-fi black metal that is at times the prettiest thing you’ve ever heard and the most volatile. Any band that pushes the limit to a genre is something I can get behind.
Andrew Jackson Jihad – Christmas Island : They’ve finally embraced having a full band. I think they’ve hit their stride. I don’t know if this is my favorite album by them, but I think sonically it might their best.

That’s some of what I’ve been listening to this year. I think only one band appeared on last years list. I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons. As if I don’t consume enough media as it is. As always, see you next time. It could be tomorrow or a month from now. Well probably not tomorrow since I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, but soon. Happy holidays. Stay warm and stay happy wherever you are. If you’re not happy, find something that makes you happy. There’s a lot we can’t control, but you can choose to seek out positive things or dwell on the negatives. Maybe something of the above can help. I know they have for me this past year.

Lionheart

I always say that every year is a great year for music. For every over hyped disappointment of an album, there’s something that goes under your radar that will surprise you. Pup’s self titled album did the latter for me this year. Noisy punk influenced rock music. Imagine if Rivers Cuomo ever pulled the stick out of his pop music ass and just rocked out. If you know me I still love Weezer, but come on guys, what’ve you been doing the past ten years?

I digress, Pup is a Canadian band that absolutely rips. The intro song, “Guilt Trip” is a garage rock gem that encapsulates what this band can do. Fuzzy guitars, shouted/sung vocals, playful guitar solos, and just enough melody to hold it all together. If you like garage rock like Jay Retard, Ty Segall, and Nobunny. This band is up your alley.

“Reservior” follows up “Guilt Trip” in the same vein. Loud guitars and catchy lyrics. “Mabu” is a little change up in the guitar from straight riffage to more intricate poppy melodies. Don’t worry, the rocking doesn’t cease ever on this album. The second half of the album includes gems like, “Lionheart”, “Dark Days”, and “Factories”. At only 10 songs, I’ve named almost all the tracks. This is a worthy listen for anyone who like no frills rock and roll. This is a young band who is only going to go up from here. Get on the train now.

 

Celestial Lineage

I’m not a huge instrumental music guy. I can appreciate the musicianship, but I grew up on fast, loud, three chord punk music. I’ve evolved over time, but in my heart that’s what I love. I love movie sound tracks because the emotion they can create combined with the picture. However, most instrumental music doesn’t have that same effect. I enjoy Explosions in the Sky as a band, but they are not the end be all for instrumental bands. If “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky is the sound track to love, then “Celestite” by Wolves in the Throne Room is the sound track to the apocalypse.

Wolves in the Throne Room are said to play black metal on their own terms. Stripped down to the purest form. Black metal is all about atmosphere and aesthetic. I do enjoy some bands that do it, but most of the corpse paint, satanic, bible burning bands just don’t do it for me. It’s all about the music, and this is where this band shines. They are no nonsense musicians, opting for vintage equipment creating a very organic sound. There’s no orchestra and choir music. Just guitars, synthesizers, and a couple creative minds.

Their previous albums incorporate vocals, but their latest album is a companion album to “Celestial Lineage”. “Celestite” takes the sounds of the previous albums and expands on it. It literally sounds like the ending of the world followed by the desolation of being alone in that world. It’s beautiful. There are no vocals or drums on this record. It’s an atmospheric record that is worthy to be put to any movie. Not everyone’s cup of tea, even if you like the bands previous albums, but I believe they are a special band that people need to pay attention to. They are a good starter for getting into heavier music as they ease you into their world, and “Celestite” is the album to understand the type of sound they create.

If you’re looking for something to just put on at night to relax to, put “Celestite” on. Trust me, I wouldn’t let you down.

 

Back to the Future

Back in the early 80s, I’ve been told punk rock was dangerous. Keith Morris of Black Flag taught me everything I know about punk rock. It’s supposed to be loud, and if you’re not having fun you should probably stop doing it. There’s been a revitalization of all things old lately. In a way it’s nostalgic to see and hear things that are familiar, but at the same time it’s creating a stagnant environment for creating art for the sake of cashing in on a few dollars pulling on people’s heart strings.

News flash: That feeling of goosebumps on my arms still happens with new music. It just doesn’t happen as much any more.

Career Suicide are a Canadian band. A country who sadly while right next to the United States goes largely unnoticed in terms of anything they create. The CFL is a fun league to watch, it’s a beautiful country, my Ice Truck Hero Alex Debogorski lives there, and some of the best punk rock bands have come from there. For the sake of this blog we will ignore the mainstream acts that Canada has produced *cough* Nickelback *cough*.

Career Suicide while clearly influenced by 80s hardcore are not just another band covering “Nervous Breakdown”. The band like many 80s punk bands recorded and released music as quickly as it was made. The layman would say they are putting out music regardless of quality to make money. The thing about the punk rock genre is that there is unfortunately not a lot of money in it. People play this music because it’s simple to create fun, raw, uncensored music from the heart. It just sometimes happens to offend people not open minded enough to accept something different or not able to take a joke.

Their album, “Attempted Suicide”, is a prime example of taking a foundation and building upon it. Early Black Flag created memorable two minute blasts of music that people still care about today. Career Suicide take the ferocity of early 80s punk bands with the melody tendencies of  90s skate punk to make something unique.

The album starts off with “Play the Part” which has a frantic drum beat that flows into the nasally vocals of Martin Farkas. His delivery is fast, precise, and distinctive. The lyrics aren’t touching on any new subjects that other punk bands haven’t covered, but they are memorable and fun to yell along with. That’s all I really need. You don’t need three guitarists and ten minute songs to create epic music people will remember.

The entire album clocks in under twenty minutes. It’s just song after song never letting up for any length of time. It’s the kind of album that grabs you by the throat and demands your attention. It then abruptly stops and leaves you wondering what happened. Inevitably, I always hit play again. This album goes by so fast once is not enough. If you’re a fan of loud, fast music you’ll be into this band. Some of my favorite tracks on the album are, “Realities”, “Recipe For Disaster”, “Impact Side”, and “Fan the Flame”.

Something old and something new. Now that’s something everyone can enjoy.

A Stream of Unconsciousness

I’ve written about how music has changed my life multiple times. This blog only exists because of music.There’s certain bands or songs that hit me to the core every single time. Music is so powerful, but the difference between the music I listen to and pop radio is minimal in terms of how it effects people. I have no right to say that Nicki Minaj’s music doesn’t have the same impact as say Red City Radio on a person. However, I’d like to share some of the intimate experience “in the pit”.

Punk music and people who grew up with those traditional ideas of doing things your own way, on your terms, for your own reasons. Sometimes they were personal, sometimes political, and sometimes just to break up the monotony of daily life. It was simple that everyone could join and belong. In a place were everyone individually comes together to feel whole for period of time. Music fills the void, at least for me, that drugs or alcohol do for others.

I’ve been to a lot of different concerts. Some with a dozen people, some festivals, and some arenas. I’ve never felt so disconnected than being at rock concerts. I’m used to being near the front or middle during aggressive music, but seeing people trying to murder each other at a Five Finger Death Punch was sad. Seeing Dragonforce’s guitar players play endless solos on top of fans blowing their hair instantly made me feel like I didn’t belong here. A smaller show doesn’t mean better, but it does give the bands and audience to create something special that a band in an arena can’t do.

I’ve been in some pretty reckless mosh pits, but for the most part no one is trying to hurt each other. If someone does, they are called out on it by the collective, and sometimes the band themselves. I’ve broken up many a fight, and helped people I’ve never met because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I was recently at an Off With Their Heads show that was so crowded nobody could move. It was hot, sweaty, and being able to look to a complete stranger to your right and scream along to a song together is something not a lot of people have the chance to. I showed a video to a couple friends of mine trying to demonstrate how the shows I go to are. I’m still not sure they quite understand.

Sometimes, I wish people understood what it feels like for me to be at one of these shows. At Fest this past year, Red City Radio played their first chord and by the end of the first verse, I was covered in beer, my glasses broke, and I was holding people up in the air as they sang and had the time of their life. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time. I’ve had strangers give me hugs, share stories with me, all because we were there for the same reason. It takes a certain mindset to put aside bullshit differences that society tries to force upon us.

I’ll never get too old to go to shows. I might be sitting at the bar in 10 years instead of in the midst of it all, but I’m excited to see a new generation understand that there’s a whole underground to explore. You can be and do whatever you want. The means to do so are more in reach than they ever have been. If you take anything from this rant. Please walk away with that knowledge.

Longer Than It Should Have

Spoiler: This post will be bias. If you’ve read this, you also know I’m pretty honest with my opinions. Not in a “I don’t give a fuck” punk attitude, but rather the lack of need to impress anyone. I mean you love me for the way that I am, right? Good, I’m glad we share the same feelings. Now that we’ve got that our of the way, Chris Stowe quietly released a small masterpiece today in his album “Hollow”.

Many of you may not know who he his, but that’s okay. There’s room on the bandwagon still. I’ve known Chris since I was little. His dad and mine played in bands way back in the 80s when we were both toddlers. We never really super close but we hung out together as kids, then life goes on. Fast forward to fifteen-ish years later, I’m with my wife in a tiny art space in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to watch a childhood friend play some of my favorite songs. (Worship This! and The Homeless Gospel Choir also played. Both of whom I’ve grown to love)

Chris is still one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known, and upon meeting again years later it’s clear nothing has changed. He tells a story in the middle of his set how it’s amazing how life connects people together. We hadn’t spoken in years, but through following similar music scenes we reconnected. It really is quite amazing how music is so much than deeper notes and rhythms.

His first album, “Bleed”, is something I still listen to regularly for it’s simplicity and straightforward honesty. Emotion and passion go a long way when all you’re armed with is a guitar. You can’t fake it. Well, you can try to, but most people will see through it. Chris’ songs are so good because he doesn’t have to fake it. He’s a human, and opens his heart a bit for listeners to hear when he plays. Being a writer, it’s hard to be that honest, and it’s sometimes painful. I thank Chris’ for opening his soul a little bit because it’s helped to heal mine in times of need.

I remember when “Hollow” was announced. I know this because I was delivering a newspaper route in Russell, Pennsylvania (Chris’ hometown ironically). It was about 4am, and my wife just had to call me and tell me the pre-order was up for his album. I pulled the car over, and she told me there were two variants and a shirt with a deer on it. Shortly after that, a deer ran in front of my car. (Not rare as I had seen at least half a dozen on that morning already, but it’s odd how life connects the dots for us). I told her to buy one of each variant (because I’m indecisive, and I mean, why not?). She said, “Already did.” She’s as big of a fan as I am.

“Hollow” is the natural extension of “Bleed”. The same emotion is there, but there’s a bit more variety in instrumentation, backing vocals, and the feeling of completion. At the end of the album is feels like something has been lifted off the singer’s shoulders. It’s hard not to feel that weight linger as the album ends. “Blood Drinkers” is the perfect opener. It opens with just Chris and his guitar and tells the story of the singer falling in and out of love. Everyone sings about love, but goddamn this girl broke this poor man’s heart. Then again, we’ve all felt that stinging pain. Unfortunately, some of us are not musically inclined to let the emotion out as poetically as this.

“Rain” is probably my favorite track right now. It reminds me of when I first heard, “Bleed”. It’s a love song carried by his voice. It’s unique in that it’s raspy, but it’s clear that the man can sing. With every punk guy carrying an acoustic these days, this stands out as his delivery of his music. “Angeline” introduces a harmonica and has an infectious groove to it. My wife’s favorite track right now, “Oh Lonesome” has a haunting atmosphere that sums the entire album. It’s a hollow, bare bones showcase of the human condition. And, it’s beautiful.

The entire album takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s not necessarily the ride you planned on, but sometimes on the great ride bus on life you get let out at the wrong stop. Sometimes you meet an old friend. And sometimes, just sometimes, you make a new best friend.

 

Purchase it at: http://a-frecords.bandcamp.com/album/hollow-af062

 

The Quietest Mutiny

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This stuff is so good. Paired with a cinnamon creamer it was like drinking velvet. I also spent this morning remembering how great the band Hostage Life was. “Walking Papers” is a great punk rock album, and “Centre of the Universe” showed a brief peak into where they could’ve gone if they decided to stay together.