Red City Radio – Titles
Oklahoma City is the city of red that these men hail from. Take the always reliable dueling gravelly/melodic vocal attack and throw it out of the van, because everybody participates on Titles. One giant, hollering voice, in one unified battle cry after another. ‘Joy Comes with the Morning’ is the epitome of grizzled pop with its superbly crafted hooks delivered with intensity instead of irony. Weathered shanty’s like ‘Two Notes of an Octave’ and ‘The Silence Between’ just make you feel alive. Titles is empowerment music as well as a fulfilling foray into the underlying truths of org-life. What more would you expect from a band that closes out a jam with ‘I am a fucking juggernaut.’
Pity Sex – Feast of Love
Lo-fi (don’t call it a comeback) emo. Even the purest, priciest and highest grade heroin isn’t this warm and fuzzy. See ‘Hollow Body,’ and allow it to wash over you and do weird things to your veins. Mazzy Star-esque lulling over shoe eyed crescendos fit for a post-rock outfit. Tracks like ‘Honeypot,’ ‘Smokescreen’ and ‘Sedated’ ensure hazy hallucinations. But as dreamy as they may seem, the songwriting here is well paced and focused. The band name truly mirrors the actual act of pity sex – resounding as sweet, youthful and massive, yet altogether content. At their best with ‘Fold,’ a blurry longing about being tortured by nostalgia.
Fidlar – Fidlar
‘Cheap Beer’ sets the tone for a record of debauchery and racing towards Mexican borders to allude police capture. Hear it and watch them burn down a subculture of beach bum wannabes. The full length debut of FIDLAR (Fuck it Dog Lifes a Risk) barely bothers to wipe the rabid froth from its Miller Lite breathed mouth. Surfabilly and 60s garage rock muddled with the temperament of red eyed youth, make for sloppy, jaw punching songs executed with impressive technical ability. ‘Wake Bake Skate’ is like the escape to a sunnier place ruled by 40 oz. aluminum cans, seen behind plastic wayfarer frames smudged with white dust. Wallowing in a gritty life beyond over abundant reverb and Instagram filtered images of surfer girls. ‘Cocaine’ evokes Cuban drug dealers building makeshift empires, while ‘No Waves’ achieves some strange beauty, as it surrenders to binging, and yearns for a perfect left on a sunset shore. This is a place far beyond the beach.
Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond your Wildest Dreams
An orchestra of a million guitars perfecting classic punk music. Party rock with uber attention to detail that is rife with slacker energy. You can always hear someone doing something interesting on their instrument, even in the most composed of moments, which makes this an unlikely headphone record. If you listen closely, you can hear trophies and lawnmowers falling off the walls of a garage. All while winning over the hearts of neighborhood girls who will eventually move past their band guy phase. But on ‘Separations,’ Diarrhea Planet sound like they’re gonna keep keepin’ on, because they love what they’re doing. ‘Kids’ is a lethargic jam that encapsulates the slow motion nature of life’s most poignant moments. When the drums fade, and he says I’m a singerrrrr, and the double tapping swings in, everyone just looses it. If at that moment I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams doesn’t win you over, then you don’t deserve to wear that bandana on your head, you traitor. More than enough shredding to be considered a metal band, but they’re having too much fun to be that.
California X – California X
Amherst, Massachusetts has churned out the sleeper hit of the year. This self-titled full length is nothing but fuzzy sludge comprised of gooey molasses. ‘Sucker’ is the anthem of a summer shore superhero. Triumphantly torching his cape in sandy bonfires, as a balmy lead relentlessly serenades a perfectly sanguine and propulsive trance. ‘Mummy’ feels like relying on your car’s momentum to cool yourself off with wind while plowing through humid climates. ‘Lemmy’s World’ is reminiscent of a certain Foo Fighter’s song about forever, but with louder drums and a stoner grin. California X’s debut will drive cavities into your sweet tooth. I’m looking forward to whatever they come up with in 2014.
Coliseum – Sister Faith
Coliseum simply demonstrating that they are, and have always been a force of nature. Primitive punk, with some of the most infectious leads I’ve heard from a hard rock band in a while. Surfy guitar and scarce pedal work make extra room for throbbing bass. Partnered with always striking lyrics, Coliseum have attained a sound all their own. The second half is really where Sister Faith picks up and and drives its Bayou city knife into your stomach. Brought into fruition with ‘Black Magic Punks.’ A mother fucker of a tune that celebrates the authenticity of the underground, over superstition and Santeria. The way Ryan Patterson says Blaaaack Jeans is unforgettable. Coliseum treads over new territory, with shadowy serenade ‘Late Night Trains’ and the left field pop-sludge of ‘Fuzzbang.’
Russian Circles – Memorial
Hands down the best instrumental release of ’13. Manages to sound so much bigger than yourself, even though its just being generated by three dudes from Chicago and a slew of pedals. I’ve always admired how they can stretch out a minor chord and make it sound so enriching. Seamlessly transitions from monumental heaviness (Deficit) to breathtaking grandeur (Ethel). Heaps of paranoid guitars that sing and bellow. And the drums – those gah’ dang drums. They hold your hand and never let go through the splendor of ‘1777’. The pick slide in ‘Burial.’ I want to discuss all the little nuanced moments on here like hungover bank robbers reminiscing about the night prior, over diner food. ‘Memorial’ revives the composition of ‘Memoriam,’ with Chelsea Wolf adding an ethereal presence. Her voice is the ideal human instrument for Russian Circles’ sonic pallete. A pallete that is becoming deeper and richer with age. Bury yourself in this like a collapsing snow fort.
The Flatliners – Dead Language
What most passive indie rock and metal groups don’t have – a kid with golden pipes. Songs about shunning urban rivalry are brought to life by Chris Cresswell’s throaty voice, wrapping itself around each and every single syllable. The layering in of acoustic strings brings The Flatliner’s usual hyper form to a more organic state. Accenting the heart that their material has always had. Dead Language is clean and energetic, with the urgent stride of an ex-ska band. Their lack of gimmicks is a shock to the system. The astounding ‘Tail Feathers’ relays like montage music to stealing what is yours, to begin with. ‘Sew My Mouth Shut’ and ‘Quitters’ are invigorating and bright. No filler to be found – everything is a victorious progression from the superb Cavalcade. On ‘Brilliant Resilience,’ those golden pipes touch on a more personal, story telling approach. The Flatliners’ move to the fringe of folk punk is highly successful.
Doomriders – Grand Blood
Nate Newton screaming ‘fuck’ at the tippity top of his lion lungs in ‘Bad Vibes’, is one moment that contributes to the royal status of the Doom. He still has the most gut wrenching howl in metal. Half pipe ripping thrash leads have been replaced with iron beds blanketed by eleven ton quilts. Still present, but buried under RIFFS. Lyrics inspired by the world’s cruel hand, and not mythology. ‘Gone to Hell’ sounds like a hitman’s life regrets, while ‘Dead Friends’ is everything that the future of metal should be. Both veer pleasantly close to good old fashion rock & roll. Even in murkier territory, they have a celebratory vibe that somehow always rings brutally honest and poignant. ‘Back Taxes’ is the soundtrack to a party where ancient artifacts are being thrown into a pool by dudes in denim vests, except the pool is filled with fire and the fire is filled with Camaro frames. ‘Death in Heat’ is a noisy, sludge burner, with marching ring outs. Doomrider’s blue period and the darkest hour of a complete triumph.
Iron Chic – The Constant One
The Constant One can be considered gruff punk, but Iron Chic make it weird and they make it art. You can detect this immediately as ‘The End’ fades into the boldness of ‘Bogus Journey.’ This is meaty indie rock that merits all of your attention, because it’s just that damn juicy and full of flavorful gusto. On ‘Spooky Action at a Distance,’ there is the sliest undertone of humor chased by the inevitability of death. You can never quite tell if Iron Chic is wallowing in defeat or rejoicing in the strangeness of it all. However, when human anguish is relayed in a giant singalong, you can’t help but to not give a fuck right alongside them. Feedback and noisy interludes makes the medicine go down with a lovely harshness, especially with ‘A Serious House on Serious Earth.’ ‘(Castle) Numbskull’ is a much more passive and sonically unique change of direction from prior material. But Iron Chic has always had an unmistakable sound that is overpowering in the best way. You’ll even find a reference to the Gin Blossoms on ‘Truly Miserable Experience’, or perhaps it’s a nod to how 90s alt. rock is impacting the punk scene, fifteen years later. Authentic sincerity foretold in a bizarre, surrealist landscape. Akin to eating a steak that has been syringe injected with dopamine.
The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk
While you sleep, The Front Bottoms have been building a devoted following with their ecstatically delivered acoustic punk jams about leaving youth behind for more youth. Great storytelling with visceral narratives that grab you and paint specific places and people. The Front Bottoms are linguists armed with huge hooks, brutal honesty and a knack for mixing metaphor with confrontational truths. Sobering up as you grow older is punctuated by sex, getting stoned and all of the weird places that you end up at night. Brilliant references and themes cross so often, its like songs within songs within songs. ‘Funny You Should Ask’ hops from knife fights to posing in photographs to longing for the girl next door. But the Bottoms are most compelling when they’re earnest, on tracks like ‘Santa Monica’, with I wanna confess it in a whisper that’s just loud enough to make out/I want you to listen from the kitchen to me confessing on the couch/I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom. ‘Twin Size Mattress’ is a contender for best single of the year, with a sentiment that just weighs almost more than one can bear. The gang vocal delivery of No fucking way! is enough to solidify Talon of the Hawk as a present day classic.
Captain We’re Sinking – The Future is Cancelled
More perfectly crafted melodic punk from the land of Pennsylvania. Bound to the Philly scene by the water they drink but related to The Menzingers by blood. Lyrics that range from contemporary hyms to quirky storytelling. Loneliness, drinking oneself to death, family, and leaving home all comprise the once bright future. Song structures that are more complex than the straightforward race from intro to outro. Perpetually churning feelings of apprehension into drunk bravery. Where sometimes the chorus is regret, or its trusting that all these missteps will amount to something, and sometimes its not there at all. ‘You Have Flaws’ blurs the lines between religion and self medication. The surmounting tension of ‘Montreal’ will remain with you long after the feedback fades. ‘More Tequila, Less Joe’ is a sprawling powerhouse about ‘seeing yourself in strangers eyes and knowing how you will die.’ ‘A Bitter Divorce’ continues on a theme of not just growing out of places, but people. Female vocals make for a somber duet that just wrenches in your chest. The urgent chords of ‘Here’s to Forever’ are thrilling, parted with constantly shifting percussion that make it a standout. The Future is Cancelled does not just dwell on the hardships of youth, which is the smoother route taken by many artists. Captain We’re Sinking spin a series of yarns about shunning remorse and what happens in the second act. It seems odd to state, but there’s an eerie magic about these songs. The sort of album that is waiting for you to make it your own personal gem.
Restorations – LP2
‘D’ begins LP2 with swirling tones and ringing that erupts into an uplifting something or other. Its hard to tell – Restorations just combine it all. Boisterous, groove-laden rock with the ethos of instrumentally grounded metal? 90’s alternative with twangy sludge-punk? Shoegaze and baroque salsa? LP2 never really settles, as it changes from warmly atmospheric to rugged, without fair warning. Has more stomp than the lower key LP1, with every facet of the bands attacked refined. The people sung about in the tales of LP2 are you and me, grounded in the monotony of daily life. The choruses are seemingly mundane things we say to each other on a regular basis; I was listening to Bob Seger/while she was listening to Pete/with a wry smile she says to me/well which side are you on?
Modern phrases of philosophy are strewn about with glimmering strings and faint organ. ‘Lets Blow Up the Sun’ is magnetizing, unfolding like a mantra, with dark forests of delay to get lost in. ‘New Old’ is as much of a ball of fire as it is the voice of an avoider generation; You in the corner shaking just staring at your phone/singing “I gotta get outta here. I gotta go home.” Absolutely go see them if they happen to mosey through your town. To hear how these gentlemen create such an intangible, yet riveting noise is a gift. LP2, as well as their New/Old 7,” have cemented Restorations as the most essential band of 2013. New/Old includes a single absent from the full length called ‘0.014.’ A ballad that tells the true story of a tortoise that escaped from the zoo. It is very important that you listen to it.