Top 25 of 2010
25. Last Stand For Lucy - Bastards of Gramercy
Last Stand For Lucy released Bastards of Gramercy in April. It's a four song EP of melodic alternative hard-rock, reminiscent of Chevelle and Tool. It's an EP structured within a heavy sounding framework of dark guitar riffs and deep emotions. The song, Burn Everything, is a great opener featuring gang-vocals and a powerful chorus. Tracks, My Creeping Revenge and Suffer, are just as melodic, featuring more interesting guitar riffs and leads. The closing song, Scarlet Red, is the slowest of the four songs, but Michael O'Neil's aggressive vocals are enough to move the song forward until the end.
24. Wake the Giant - The Escape Artist EP
Wake the Giant are a three-piece rock band from Tacoma, Washington. Their newest release, The Escape Artist EP, is four songs of really catchy pop-rock tunes. Recorded at Signal Vs. Noise Studios and produced by Stephen and Andrew Brittell of Brightwood, the EP is filled with layers of ambiance and a modern pop sensibility. My favorite thing about the EP are the guitars on it. They're capture perfectly and give the entire EP an atmospheric mood. And Broken Fall is a really, really sweet track (get the EP here).
23. Korova - Demonstration #7089
When I started listening to local bands, all I could find were cassette tapes of live sets and really rough studio recordings. It was great. I didn't have to press next, only play. So I was stoked to hear that Birmingham, Alabama's, Korova, were releasing a new demo titled, Demonstration #7089, on tape. Side A contains four new songs, recorded in the band's practice space, with Side B featuring 10 minutes of a live set. It's not so much the quality of a recording that matters, but more so, the quality of the music itself. And this new tape is some fine underground hardcore.
22. Abandon the Raft - House of Gold EP
Abandon the Raft, from San Diego, California, recently recorded four new songs. These new tracks make up the House of Gold EP. In addition to their progressive rock sound, Abandon the Raft includes some electronic undertones with their all ready spacey vocals and interstellar background of guitars and bass. The title track rides along a wave of pop and keeps a steady electro beat. The songs, Garden and Making Rope, are a more familiar sound to Concept Paradox, the band's first release, with its heavy guitars and dark bass lines. But its the mystic sounds of the track, Dirt, that showcases Abandon the Raft's new direction. It's a perfect blend of electronics and rock, and Michael Bucher's vocals is a perfect match to this kind of quality music.
21. Nightlights - Long Way Home
The EP, Long Way Home, is the Nightlights newest release since their 2009 demo. Long Way Home revisits the tracks from the original 2009 demo (Ghost Town, Are You the Keymaster?, Buzz, Your Girlfriend, Woof!) plus the addition of three new rock songs. Based in Florida, Nightlights carry a certain degree of catchy pop within their rock based tunes, which probably helped with their recent signing to Eulogy Recordings. This EP is certainly a good representation of that.
20. Die Laughing - 9-10 Demonstration
I moved to Las Vegas in the beginning of the year and the first show I went to, Die Laughing played last. When they were ready to play, I remember the drummer said something like, "Thanks for sticking around, for the worst band here tonight." They were amazing. I was fortunate enough to pick up their record, 9-10 Demonstration, at another show. It's very aggressive and quick, with 11 tracks in just under 15 minutes. It's a fine representation of 702 style thrash and hardcore.
19. The Action Design - Desperation
The Action Design released their first 7" simply titled, Desperation, in July . Along with the title track is the b-side, Still Standing. This is a fine release of pop gems and a nice follow-up to their debut album, Never Say. As usual, some pristine vocal melodies by Em cloud this record as does the catchy rhythm section of Matt, Jaycen and Jake. The band released only 500 copies of this two-song record (I have #334 :D). Can't wait for more new music.
18. Mike Got Spiked - Live & Acoustic
Mike Got Spiked released an acoustic album titled, Live & Acoustic, in April. It's a great compilation of familiar tunes and new songs, done exactly as the title suggests...live and acoustic. Recorded in October of last year in Hollywood, California, the album showcases Mike Got Spiked as a band capable of playing heavy hard-rock tunes unplugged. The band's opener, Speechless, achieves pitch-perfect status of its original counterpart. Half way through the set, Mike Got Spiked go into their signature tune, Whiskey For Me Tae, which surrounds itself into the sounds of their native roots of Dublin, Ireland. The following track, Stop Thinking (feat. Lorraine Maher), is an amazing power ballad consisting of dual vocals going back and forth. The best track on this album though is the last song, No is Not an Answer, in which vocalist Gavin McGuire sings, Superman wouldn't take no for an answer/Spider-Man wouldn't take shit from some chancer/Batman, he would motherfucking kick that ass like cancer... Explicit to the max, but catchy nonetheless.
17. The Pinstripes - Sweet Lovin' (Single)
The Pinstripes, from Cincinnati, Ohio, released the single, Sweet Lovin', in September. The song is a lively blend of old school reggae and two-tone type styles. The organ (a vintage Hammond M-3 to be exact) used on the single stands out really nice. The instrumentals are really tight as are the vocal harmonies. Arranged by Mike Sarason (vocals, saxophone), and later taught to the rest of the band, they recorded the track the following day (download it on their website). Not bad for an impromptu recording session.
16. Dicks of Doom - Destruction of All Mankind
I was happy to hear that some members of The Miltons had a new project going on. That new project is of course the Dicks of Doom, a two-piece hardcore band from Honolulu, Hawaii. And you know what? They released a record this year titled, Destruction of All Mankind. And you know what? I LOVE it. Enough said.
15. Innertwyne - Escaping Disaster
Innertwyne is a band from Vancouver, British Columbia. On Escaping Disaster, Innertwyne composed 10 songs of progressive metal mixed with another handful of other influences. Escaping Disaster also includes the wonderful sounds of Latin guitars, reggae rhythms fused with modern punk and hardcore, and at times, sung alongside bi-lingual vocals. Innertwyne's songs comprise mostly of well arranged instrumentals, some spanning minutes at a time of guitar leads and solos. Alejandro Marin's voice is also well diverse in clean and aggressive vocals, often switching between the two when appropriate. Get to know this band before everyone else does.
14. Streetlight Manifesto - 99 Songs of Revolution: Vol. 1
Streetlight Manifesto's, 99 Songs of Revolution: Vol. 1, is the first in a series set to be released by the band and possibly other 'Streetlight Manifesto' related projects. This is an album featuring music written by other bands, neatly arranged and interpreted by Streetlight Manifesto (and some friends). The album features a list of diverse bands ranging from The Dead Milkmen, NoFX, Squirrel Nut Zippers, to Radiohead and The Postal Service. It even features a track by Tomas Kanolky's (vocals, guitarist) previous project, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. Streetlight Manifesto plays a fantastic version of Squirrel Nut Zippers', Hell (the horn section is amazing), and Bad Religion's, Skyscraper (It's a sweet ska jam), but my favorite songs on the record has to be Linoleum and Such Great Heights. For the NoFX classic, Streetlight Manifesto took Linoleum and slowed it down considerably to an acoustic jam and even added a guitar solo. Also, instead of a horn section, Kanolky's brother, Achilles, makes an appearance on violin at the right moment during the line, That's me on the street with a violin under my chin/Playing with a grin/Singing gibberish. The intro on Such Great Heights is arranged perfectly for the horn section, especially when the baritone sax joins in, completing a four part harmony. Streetlight's arrangements of these songs are a tribute to their influences and it's all played out very well. I anticipate the next releases to be just as amazing.
13. Invasives - Desk Job At Castle Dracula
The record with the best title on this list, Desk Job at Castle Dracula, is the Invasives fourth full-length album. Coming from Canada, Desk Job at Castle Dracula is eight songs of wacky experimental rock with an aggressive punk attitude. The Invaisves are made up of two brothers, Byron (vocals, guitar) and Adam Slack (bass, vocals) and Hans Anus (drums). Some strong points in their songs lay in their ability to approach some complex tunes without sounding too over the top. A lot of their songs are delivered with syncopated rhythms and a voice not afraid to be explicit (he actually sounds agitated most of the time) . Highlight of the record, Slacks does some spoken word at the end of the track, After Midnight. Well, it's more like a skit (with some fine instrumentals), and it's pretty damn cool.
12. Sic Waiting - Anchors Astray
The opening line to Anchors Astray is a dude saying, Hi this is Tuna/Sic Waiting sucks/They woke me up for this shit. I guess Tuna is a friend of the band, considering his name appears on the Thank You list. If that's supposed to be humorous, the rest of the album takes on a more serious tone. The album features some fine dual-guitar melodies (Consumers to the Grave, Living Disaster) and an abundance of guitar solos (We Can't All Be Right, Selfish Song, Okay, I Lied, The Price of a Good Night's Sleep) between Jared Stinson (vocals, guitar) and Dylan Blanton (guitar, vocals). A lot of the tracks combine punk and hardcore structures as well as some metal influences. This is a real solid effort by Sic Waiting, who released Anchors Astray independently in May. With almost 10 years in existence, Sic Waiting has made some fine contributions to the punk scene, and now with Anchors Astray, it seems they'll be sticking around for a little while longer.
11. Darkroom - Stay Here With Me (For Better or For Worse)
I first heard Darkroom's track, My Window, on a free digital compilation released a whiles back. Another version of it appears on the band's second release, Stay Here With Me (For Better of For Worse) released in February. Along with that track, the album is saturated with indie-pop goodness. Layered with clean guitars, groovy bass work and numerous effects, from track to track, this album sounds like the soundtrack to a sweet experimental sci-fi flick. Coupled with positive messages and a backdrop of ambiance, Darkroom's new album is a wonderful listen from start to finish.
10. Helmet - Seeing Eye Dog
Fused with a steady pulse of drums and dissonant guitar leads, and at times some really odd time signatures, Seeing Eye Dog captures the traditional form and structure that is only known by Helmet. This is the seventh studio album released by the band, and the first on the independent label, Work Song. The album features nine new original tunes, including a tenth track originally done by the Beatles, And Your Bird Can Sing. It's a fine cover of the original rock tune, but no where near as good as their cover of Bjork's, Army of Me. It's like that song should have been done by Helmet first. The album also comes with a bonus disc of a live set at the Warped Tour San Francisco. It's a nice showcase of Helmet's live set, but the new tunes are just as equally great. Page Hamilton's (vocals, guitars) song writing is very much at the top of this genre. My favorites on the album are Welcome to Algiers and Miserable.
09. You By Me: Vol. 1
Released through the Pentimento Music Company, You By Me: Vol.1, is a split record featuring both Toh Kay (Tomas Kanolky of Streetlight Manifesto) and Dan P. (Dan Potthast of The Stitch Up and MU330) covering each others songs, hence the the title, You By Me. The songs are acoustic renditions of both Toh Kay and Dan P's respective ska and rock backgrounds, and in many ways, superior to its originals. The opener, Dan P.'s, I've Set Sail, covered by Toh Kay, is a fantastic track. Maybe its the guitar riff in the intro or the use of a soft voice over Kay's usual rough vocals. It could also be the sweet vocal melodies with support from Jessica Fichot. The track definitely sets the tempo for the rest of Toh Kay's half of the record. Dan P's half of the record is just as upbeat and catchy. His cover of Watch It Crash could pass for a Stitch Up song with its thick bass lines and smooth vocals. Its mid-tempo vibe works as an awesome ballad. Dan P also does a great job of keeping the original melodies intact. Listening to his version of Somewhere in the Between is something else though. Its like he took this sort of slow, sad song and put some life into it.
08. Social Concern - Cut and Dry
Coming from California, more specifically the Chico, Redding and Sacramento areas, Social Concern are made up of Sarah Shintaku (guitar, vocals), Ami Rose (bass) and Noelia Ramirez (drums). Their third release, Cut and Dry, released independently in May, is thirteen tracks of some of the band's most mature work to date. Shintaku mixes it up a bit with her vocals, often at times switching to a smoother voice counter to her usual aggressiveness, best heard on the track, Lullaby. Her sweetest moment is on the album's closing track, Dandelion Dreamers, as she sings in the chorus, To fend off the Dandelion Dreamers/They speak whispers/Whispers and wishes and promises/That smell like summer time/And then recede back into the cracks they sprang out of overnight. The bass work done by Rose is some of her best so far. Her introduction on the album's opener, The Leaves, is a tight bass line, one with lots of technical movements and leaps. Another sweet bass driven track can be heard on Thesis. Ramirez provides steady rhythms with her beats and a solid drive that compliments each song very well. Social Concern has stuck around consistently for the last seven years with some fine DIY punk releases. Hopefully their songwriting doesn't stop here.
07. Science Fiction Theater - Broken Is Art (Single)
Science Fiction Theater released the single, Broken Is Art, in September. It's the band's newest material since their 2009 self-titled album. The single is layered with ambient sounds of new-wave and indie rock. The musicianship is top-notch and the vocals done by Mike Jiminez sounds as confident as ever. Science Fiction Theater also released a second single the following month, A Wedding Song, a folk-driven tune recorded live.
06. Smoke or Fire - The Speakeasy
One of the top punk albums to come out this year is Smoke or Fire's, The Speakeasy. The album is a mesh of political views and ideas, both spread out through thirteen tracks of fast punk (Integrity, Honey I Was Right About The War), rock songs (Neon Light, Shotgun) and an acoustic track (Porch Wine). A lot of the tracks are immediate favorites, mine being, Neon Light. It's a gentle song with a sad theme (the acoustic guitar is a nice touch) well arranged by Smoke or Fire. John McMahon's voice is at its best here, backed up nicely by Jeremy Cochran's guitars. Also joining Smoke or Fire are Ryan Parrish of Darkest Hour on drums and Justin Burdick of Avail on bass. Another good track is the revamped, The Speakeasy, originally on the bands 7", Prehistoric Knife Fight, also released earlier this year.
05. Crime In Stereo - I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone
This album is definitely the best material Crime in Stereo has ever released. Crime in Stereo's, I Was Trying to Describe you to Someone, is easily another top punk album to come out this year, even though it's not so much punk as it is hardcore, but if anything, somewhere in the between. It's also an album that went beyond its normal boundaries and effectively incorporated sounds never heard before on previous efforts. The track, Drugwolf, arguably the best song on the album, is a very unique track. Scotty Griffin's drums run rapid and Kristian Hallbert's vocals range from high to low. Alex Dunne, Gary Cioni and Eric Kuster's guitar work on this album are also a step outside their normal riffs. Crime in Stereo even took a previously written tune, Dark Island City (originally on The Troubled Stateside), and did a complete makeover on it. Let's just say the new version was meant for this record only. Granted, much change did take place since Is Dead, but in a good way. It not only enhanced Crime in Stereo's writing, but also their place in hardcore music. It's unfortunate though that the band split after the release of this record. But Crime in Stereo did end its legacy on a high note with this album.
04. Craig's Brother - The Mistake of Caring (Single)
This is the third single (first one this year) to be released by Craig's Brother. The track is set to be released on the band's upcoming 12 song album. Since 2004's, E.P.Idemic, no new material was released until last year with the singles, The Problem of Evil and Thousand Yard Stare. The new single, The Mistake of Caring, is an excellent track (get it here) and a great sign of things to come. The solo is pretty wicked too.
03. Pepper - Stitches
This is definitely some of Pepper's finest material yet. Released through Law Records, Stitches, is the newest EP from Kona locals, Pepper. The EP produces some fine reggae jams in Wake Up, Mirrors, and Lonely. The second track on the EP, Drunk Girl, is a fine track and poppy in a lot of ways, especially towards the end when that second guitar kicks in. My favorite track though is the closer, an acoustic version of Mirrors. Pepper's acoustic driven tracks are usually immediate hits, for me anyway. With the acoustic version of Mirrors, they took an all ready great jam and made it even better.
02. Rufio - Anybody Out There
Rufio's The Loneliest EP, didn't really prepare me for what I was going to hear on Anybody Out There. It turned out to exceed my all ready great expectations. The opening track, Little World, is by far the band's best introductory song. Previous songs include (in this order, starting with the second best), Above Me, Countdown, Don't Hate Me, and Out of Control. The guitar lead on Little World is a real attention-grabber that compensates for its standard four-chord pop structure. And speaking of pop tunes, Under 18 and All That Lasts, provide the signature sound that is Rufio with its combination of fast-paced-speed-punk technicality and melodic choruses. Although, it is Under 18 that has the catchiest chorus of the two as Scott Sellers (vocals, guitar) sings, Can't you hear my song/Don't you feel my beat/Anytime you're alone/Play and think of me/Been there all along/Living with that ease/Though we've grown apart/We're real enough to see what friends means. An alternate version of All That Lasts exists on this record, as Rufio aren't prone to releasing the same exact track from a previous release (that's a really good thing). Aside from the fast material, Rufio has come out with some rockin' anthems in Run (as it should be, that bass line in the pre-chorus sequence is very similar to the bass line in a couple phrases in blink-182's Anthem, Part 2) and This I Swear. The guitar work (along with Sellers is fellow guitarist, Clark Domae) is brilliant, often coinciding with the vocals on an infectious level. The sort of dance-track, Deep End, is a delicious treat too. Terry Stirling Jr's drum intro is solid and throughout the rest of the album as well. Another plus to this album are its lyrics. One of my favorite lines in the album is in Drunk In Love, which Sellers sings, Sweet honesty you're breaking all of me/Sweet misery you're my favorite company. Rufio's, Anybody Out There, is a fantastic release. Sterling and Taylor Albaugh (bass, vocals) are excellent additions to the lineup. It was five years ago that Rufio released their last album, The Comfort of Home, which preceded a breakup. That's a pretty significant gap in-between records. Hopefully the wait won't be as long for the next one.
01. Journal - Unlorja
Sacramento, California's, Journal, has released a masterpiece of an album, in Unlorja. It's an album of epic proportions, covering more than an hour's worth of music with 12 tracks of original composition. The music is heavily influenced in metal backgrounds as well as Nintendo sounds and tunes. It's an amazing album full of great guitar work (Joe Van Houten, Tony Juvinall), fluid bass lines (Danny Paul) and a tremendous amount of technical drumming (Justin Tvetan). The songs on this record are so intricate and diverse that a separate album was also released along with Unlorja, simply titled, Unlorja - The Instrumental. So much work went into this album that at one point, Journal found themselves without a vocalist. One of the many cool creative approaches to this album is that this album found a voice in not one, but three different singers. These guests spots go to, Jesse Alford (Embrace the End), Drew Winter (Fate, Shadow of the Colossus), and Akoni Berman (The Human Equation). The diversity and uniqueness each of these three singers brought to the album were a perfect match for the story in Unlorja. This story, written by Houten, Tvetan, and Juvinall, is an original one of fantasy and adventure. In the world of Viela, two races coexist to maintain a balance: the Humans and the Aeons. But Viela is more than just a world, it is a life force which only survives as the human race does. It is also a protector of human life. The Aeons purpose in life is to serve and protect Viela from those who intend to inflict harm. Usually it is the Humans who are the cause of this. Humans though, are afraid of Aeons because they are superior in every way. And on Viela lived four orphaned Aeon siblings: Cecil, William, Abaddon, and Cyrah. Cecil is a natural leader type whom people look up to for his combat abilities. William is a passionate person who gladly accepted his role to protect Viela. He was also very close with his sister, Cyrah. Abaddon is a troubled sibling who grew apart from the rest of the group as they became older. One tragic night, Cyrah was murdered. Cecil takes vengeance on her murderers. Her death affects William the most, but Abaddon tells him a tale of a Velvet Ribbon that may bring her back to life. In order to achieve this item, William must enter a Labyrinth, one in which no one has returned. He obtains the ribbon, only to die right after. Abaddon takes the ribbon from his fallen brother and uses it in order to create disaster. Cecil learns about Abaddon's actions and must do something in order to save Viela. Cecil's journey and the story's conclusion is told through the songs on the album. The opening track, Labyrinth of Betrayal, begins on Williams journey to obtain the ribbon and later tells of his demise. The track, A Remarkable Abomination, concludes Cecil's journey. The entire story is told by Debbie Dare (on top of a fantasy score and clips of songs) on the closing track, Affinity. When the album begins, no real breaks or pauses occur. The music is continuous until the final line of the story. Unlorja is certainly a great full-length debut and a nice stepping stone into the future of Journal.