Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 Albums of 2017

From suburban Wisconsin, Tenement frontman Amos Pitsch released his first solo album this year of winter and solstice-themed songs dusted with holiday spirit. This album features all originals as well as DUSK bandmate Julia Blair on cello, viola and violin. Everything was written and recorded in-house, at the Crutch of Memory studio/residence ran by Pitsch and bandmates. Lake Effect is a montage of feelings, reminiscent of the season, easily resonant with Midwesterners all-too-familiar with the scenes found therein. Pitsch offers new perspectives on the holidays with tracks like the lonely "Empty Box to Hold" and "Shiny Things to Stop Your Tears."

Austin's Capitalist Kids is back with its brand of political-driven, hook-on-hook satire blended with honest, heart-on-its sleeve pop punk in over three years. This time around, the Cap Kids hit us with unexpected time changes, infectious hooks and unabashed left-leaning themes that yell what most of us never muster the guts to verbalize. They're unique in the sense that they capture old school '90s Lookout!-style pop punk fans as well as bring in new, youthful fans, not relying too heavy on nostalgic chord progressions or song structures. The Cap Kids are spot-on with its harmonies, and this summer, they ambitiously toured this record as a three-piece. I was thankful to have opened for them.

Buffalo sweethearts Lemuria surprised us this month by concomitantly launching its own record label with its first album in four years. This one sets itself apart by focusing on self-improving and finding your niche, yet still offers the familiar and sometimes-dissonant trading-off of tremendous vocals between singer Sheena Ozzella and drummer Alex Kerns. On this release, the trio worked with Chris Shaw (Weezer, Bob Dylan, Wilco) and recorded with J. Robbins (Jawbox), and the quality shows. Recreational Hate is equal parts evocative, sweet, sentimental and warm. The only thing more interesting than Max, Kerns and Ozzella's musicianship is the sum of its parts.

The Lillingtons is by far the longest-running band on this list. Much like Lemuria, the band recorded this new album mostly in secret, minimally hinting on social media. This album marked the band's reinvention from sci-fi-themed pogo-punk to occult-themed post punk, sprinkled with heavy metal riffs. The band still doesn't stray too far from its roots, however. On the band's first new album in 11 years, they've solidified themselves into a darker disposition. They've evolved to be more complex songwriters and the average song length has stretched out from albums prior. The Lillingtons continue to cultivate wonder through mystery by way of secret societies and the haunting unknown.

Meat Wave lays it on thick from start to finish on The Incessant. Singer/guitarist Chris Sutter's frenetic energy and unsettled angst is in full bloom. The album builds upon itself, and there is a driving sense of urgency throughout, cultivated by Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies), who recorded and engineered the album, lending to its hilly soundscape. Yet, the album remains ambiguous, contributing largely to its mystery. The Incessant is continuously breaking out of itself, with buildups and breakdowns; polishing its anxiety and dissonance as it goes on. The album is dark and at times abrasive, but its song's vulnerable themes crescendo into catharsis that is an uncomfortably comforting release.

This modern classic was one of the most-anticipated and still-underrated on this list. All three musicians in this power-pop trio hail from Chicago, and all three contribute in songwriting duties. With song structures reminiscent of Alex Chilton, The Obleeks can harmonize like a three-piece Beach Boys and write as well as tried-and-true pop groups like Teenage Fanclub. Recorded by Amos Pitsch at Crutch of Memory, this album also features some of the Crutch crew: Pitsch on percussion, Blair on viola and Colin Wilde (Black Thumb) on backing vocals. Brothers Andy and Lee Ketch (frontman of Mooner) lock in with each other and bassist Nick Harris to deliver flawless melodies and smooth arrangements.

The Old Wives have been working on this album since 2015, signed to Little Rocket Records in 2016 and this year, Three saw its much-anticipated release. Sharing a drummer with Teenage Bottlerocket, Old Wives delivers pop punk akin to Capitalist Kids and The Lillingtons' older material. The first song, just over one minute long, has three key changes in it, starting the album off strong and interesting. Many of the band's previous themes ring true on this one; drinking, heartache and loneliness. Three is also Old Wives' first release as a three-piece; its first since 2013 EP, Here We Go Again.

Chicago's Ratboys delivers its second album on Topshelf Records. It's equal parts witty and rough around the edges. Vocalist/guitarist Julia Steiner aches when she croons over her dead cat in the freezer, Elvis, which has the perfect amount of humor to offset the sadness of the situation. She makes it so easy to empathize and visualize scenarios with her inflections that I feel like I know what it's like to be heartbroken in the middle of an ice rink without having ever been there. The album is inventive, tender and soft but underlying the slacker-y nostalgic feel is a poignant attention to detail and quality. This album doesn't stray too far off the tracks and raises the bar for Ratboys quite high.

Deanna Belos is a close friend whom I've shared the stage with many times, both solo and full-band. Since 2014, I've been regularly attending her shows, watching her grow as a musician, a writer and most recently, a frontwoman to her own quartet. On her debut album via Red Scare, Belos is raw, angsty and honest. On the surface, her nervousness and vulnerability is blinding and it is endearing because underneath, she's tough and holds her own with conviction. There isn't a weak song on the entire record and she literally invented a word for the title, making it even more hers. She is a Rhombithian - someone who frequents three points in the Chicago locale, with the fourth point being Lake Michigan.

Your Pest Band is one of the most wild Japanese garage-punk bands. They have an energy that ebbs and flows on this 17-song double album, co-released by three different labels on three different continents. I watched them play in a Chicago basement on this tour, and they never let up. They bring the urgent energy of the Marked Men and the chainsaw down-stroking of Johnny Ramone to deliver this eclectic album which is at times catchy power pop, classic punk a la Husker Du and rock 'n' roll by way of The Zombies and The Kinks. Your Pest Band continues to be one of the most prolific and eclectic Japanese punk bands out there. Watch a live set by them from a basement in Chicago.

Top Five EPs of 2017

Split between NJ and Philly, Exmaid released its debut EP this summer via State Champion Records. Exmaid is the newest band led by prolific singer/songwriter and drummer/guitarist Miranda Taylor of Black Wine, Hunchback, Full of Fancy and Noun. This tape features five new songs written by Taylor and one traditional folk song, "Once I Had a Sweetheart." Recorded a capella, this cover resonates a sense of loneliness with an eerily-haunting conviction. Taylor's songs have a dream-pop/psych element with moments of surf and stoner rock, but underlying is her signature pop songwriting with a hint of ethereal darkness and mystery.

Seattle's Supercrush released its third in a string of 7''s this year, "I've Been Around"/"Brutal Honesty," officially out in January 2018 on Debt Offensive and Painter Man Records. In keeping consistent with its previous releases, this one echoes the band's signature shoegaze/dream pop sensibilities. The band released a video for this single, reminiscent of early '90s skate videos. As with its prior singles, the band leaves its small-but-loyal fan base starving for a full length. Supercrush blends indie/slacker-rock sounds of '90s bands like The Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub and Smudge, while maintaining a driving awareness to its many catchy pop/rock hooks.

This year, Superchunk stealthily released a 7'' of a brand new song with a cover by the Tom Robinson Band. "I Got Cut," which will be featured on its upcoming full length, 'What a Time To Be Alive,' was released as a benefit for the Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood. The title track is a driving blend of indie and pop-punk that's over and done with in less than three minutes. Superchunk breathes new life into "Up Against the Wall," a song by late-'70s British punks, The Tom Robinson Band. Taking on a political disposition, this cover touches on fascists, rebellion and panic and reminds us of what we're still fighting against.

San Antonio's The Mites released its first 7'' single since 2014 earlier this year. Drenched in lo-fi shoegaze, The Mites released this three-song slab of dreamy power pop alongside labelmates Supercrush on Painter Man Records. "Brianna" is a pop-laden track of melancholic reflection. The songs on this most recent release buzz with fuzzy guitars, swooning vocals and a type of grit that's surprisingly smooth, all-too-easily palatable and reminiscent of bands like The Juliana Hatfield Three and Ride.

This 7'' via Fat Wreck is the band's first release of new material with drummer Darren Chewka (Old Wives). Released in tandem with its latest LP, 'Stealing the Covers,' this two-song pop-punk slab features one new song from each of its lead vocalists, Kody Templeman and Ray Carlisle. The title track is Carlisle's homage to his home state of Wyoming, not leaving out nods to the cold weather and drug addicts. "Walking the Yard" by Templeman is a Ramones-core ripper about a convict missing his lover. This release doesn't take itself too seriously, and does a great job of holding its fans over until a much-anticipated release of full-length material.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Can You Keep Me Out of Hell' by Technicolor Teeth

By Jason Duarte
Tour Cassette: Accidental Guest Recordings
Rating: 5/5

Somewhere inside of my head is the perfect soliloquy describing this album. I'll mutter pieces of it to myself while in the shower on a cold weekend morning with the water running as hot as I can stand it, drawing the oil from my skin and leaving it red and tender. More words will come to me between dreams, when I systematically wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. every morning without reason.
The music is the dark startling truth dancing between the half-confident verbal advances one makes on a first date. It's the sound a supernova makes, but is never heard. It's mostly energy, ebbing and flowing through obstacles in space. 'Can You Keep Me Out of Hell' is catchy in very much its own way. It embodies elements of shoegaze, pop, punk and experimental music, creating something unique to itself and not coincidentally, strangely beautiful. The band features Amos Pitsch of Tenement on drums. This album will be sold exclusively on the Technicolor Teeth's spring tour, via cassette. See the tour dates here and below:

Stream the album below:

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Greetings and welcome to Squid Pro Quo's sixth annual BEST OF list. 2013 saw a lot of great releases. We've chosen the 10 best full-lengths, 10 best 7''s/EPs/compilations and 10 best splits of the year. Love it, love to hate it or check it out if you don't know it.

The Top 10 Albums of 2013
By Jason Duarte

10. Swearin' - Surfing Strange (Salinas)

Swearin' impressed me last year with their self-titled debut release. This year, they released a second record, also on Salinas Records. I like their first album a lot, but this one has some jams and is a little less "punk" and a little more their of own sound. This album is so riddled with catchy melodies and pieces, it's hard to stop coming back to it. It's good to rock to. It's good to chill to. It's just a great taste of an eclectic group of musicians. Seeing them live was incredible. The new album had barely been released, and everyone knew the words. Keep your eyes on Swearin' if you haven't been.

9. Laura Stevenson - Wheel (Don Giovanni)

Laura Stevenson has a unique way of getting your mind and heart's attention. Her lyrics and inflection are unrivaled. Laura can sing about taking out the garbage, and somehow make it into a beautifully heartfelt experience. She doesn't sing about taking out garbage. She sings about life, death and the trials and tribulations therein. She hits you with her wild and raw emotions in a way that stuns at first, but then it's welcomed. I am proud to say I own everything she's released as Laura Stevenson & the Cans, and more recently, just as Laura Stevenson. She's growing further from her punk roots and more into the pop folk/Americana genre, and it's incredible. She sings and you really listen.

8. Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia (Grave Mistake)

Night Birds are my favorite current hardcore band. Like, hands down. It doesn't get better than them. This is their first release since founding guitarist Mike Hunchback left, so being I've been following this band since buying their demo and seeing one of their first shows and every one I could since, I was super excited to hear change in sound. Mike Hunchback is an intense, powerful dude. His licks are just insane. The way he plays, crawling on his knees, almost abusing himself and his guitar while hitting every note is still unmatched, but PJ is amazing in a different way. This album's not as dark as The Other Side of Darkness or the Fresh Kill Vol. 1 collection, but it's so so good.

7. RVIVR - The Beauty Between (Rumbletowne)

The Beauty Between is RVIVR's strongest release to date. So catchy. So powerful. So much angst and momentum drives this record - it's impossible to stop once you start it. This band has never let me down, and just gets better. I like the album art, too. A lot of people collect records just for sound but right up there with it for me is the large art, and getting to examine it, turn it over in my hands...I look at my record jackets as limited prints from the artist who created them, not just houses for records. I'm just saying the art rules.

6. Lemuria - The Distance Is So Big (Bridge 9)

Lemuria is a band I've been a fan of since I first saw them open for The Queers back in 2008 at Reggie's in Chicago. Their signing to Bridge 9 earlier this year was a surprise, but it fits. They released a single for "Brilliant Dancer" before the full length came out and it was good. This album is so solid and their live performance is one of the tightest-sounding I've ever witnessed/heard.

5. Sundowner - Neon Fiction (Fat Wreck)

Chris McCaughan and Neil Hennessy of the Lawrence Arms cannot disappoint. Chris's voice has gotten a lot smoother and on key. Sundowner keeps getting better. The songs are not just him and an acoustic guitar, as they were in the past. The album is phenomenal. I'm from Chicago as well and hearing Chris sing songs about the city as his own and his connections to it strike a personal note, as I've got my own history and love/hate relationship with it. The album art is amazing too. Earlier this year, I was on tour and we were in San Francisco coincidentally on the day they opened the Fat Wreck store and there was Chris, singing a solo set. It was great to see him, hang out a bit and pick up a couple of records. I wish him the best in Portland and can't wait to see him in Chicago again. His melodies and lyrics have a lingering effect. I highly recommend it.

4. Lipstick Homicide - Out Utero (Bloated Kat)

The pop punk gods convened and willed three mortals from Iowa into making one of the best pop punk albums of the year. The title, an obvious play on Nirvana's In Utero, is an attention-grabber. The album is awesome from start to finish, and features a song called "Vampire Club Pt. 2," a sequel to "Vampire Club," off LipHo's Brainhole EP. This album is so strong. I was lucky enough to play three shows with these dudes this autumn between California and Iowa, and their live performances are nothing short of amazing, either. Rachel Feldmann sings and plays bass like an unstoppable force. Kate Kane plays guitar and sings like a wild woman and Luke Ferguson plays drums with precision and finesse. I can't wait to see these dudes again.

3. Iron Chic - The Constant One  (Bridge 9)

When Not Like This came out in 2010, it was my #1 of that year. It was a lot of peoples' #1. They took the pop punk world by storm, and signed to a hardcore label just before releasing The Constant One. The band has done a lot of touring and released a few EPs/splits/singles between these two full-lengths and everything I've read or heard has been positive feedback. This album had massive shoes to fill, and it did it. It features a song off one of their EPs, "Spooky Action From a Distance," and the rest is new. Like labelmates, Lemuria, they have an instrumental intro track. My favorite track is "(Castle) Numbskull." This release solidified this band, and now I believe that they can do no wrong. Thanks for keeping things in perspective and shining a light on the dark or scary things every once in a while.

2. Great Apes - Thread (Asian Man)

 Great Apes is hands-down my favorite Brian Moss band to date. I like The Ghost, Hanalei and Olehole was great. But Great Apes is perfect mix of his intellectually insightful lyrics paired with punk rock. This is actually pretty pop punk, despite the gruff air that surrounds it. "San Quentin" sounds like it was an Olehole song. Not a bad thing. Songs about feelings and life are sung loud and clear on this. Thread, for me, was the much-needed follow-up to the split 7''s and singles Great Apes had released in the year prior. This album struck a chord with me, and is amazing from start to finish. Check out a review I did for Jaded In Chicago of their self-titled 7'' here.

1. Plow United - Marching Band (Jump Start)

Plow United is a punk band that started in 1992 and broke up in 1997 at the pinnacle of its popularity. I'd never heard of them because they disbanded before I started going to shows and they were still too obscure to have ever come across my radar. Then in 2012, they recorded new material, releasing two songs on a 7'' via Kiss of Death Records and THIS MASTERPIECE on Jump Start Records this year. Being on the constant lookout for new music, that 7'' busted my Plow United cherry and then this album came out and made me realize that you can walk away from music for 15 years and then come back and kick more ass than ever before. Then I saw them at Pouzza Fest in May and rarely do I watch a band and just zone out on their drummer. Sean Rule is an animal, and his chemistry with Joel and Brian is just perfect. I can't wait to hear/see more by Plow United.

The Top 10 7''s/EPs/collections of 2013

10. Your Pest Band - Smash Hits! (2008-2011) (Dead Broke)

This 26-track collection of songs from singles is some of the best, fastest and intense punk out there today. This four-piece from Japan rips. I was lucky enough to catch them in Brooklyn last February. There are NOFX and Carpenters covers on this thing. They aren't rewriting the punk genre, but they're really fun.

9. The Replacements - Songs For Slim 12'' (New West)

Hearing that The Replacements were to release a commercially-affordable version of their Songs For Slim EP thrilled me and I bought it the second I saw it. Then hearing that they were going to reunite and play my city in September made me jump with glee. I got to see them. It was incredible. This EP is also incredible. Slim Dunlap was The Replacements' replacement guitar player for Bob Stinson in 1987. He also released two solo albums in the '90s. In February 2012, he suffered from a stroke. The proceeds from all these album sales go toward his hospital bills. Side A features two songs written by Slim Dunlap. Side B features three covers: "I'm Not Saying" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Lost Highway" by Leon Payne and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" by Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne.

8. Skinny Genes - Meh 7'' (Bloated Kat)

Skinny Genes aka Azeem Sajid aka ACE OF BASS from The Steinways/House Boat Mikey Erg-ed on us this year. And it rules, just like Mikey's solo stuff. His throat is coated in golden PBR. The themes are the same. Pretty bleak, rough stuff here. I'm waiting to hear an Ace song that's like, "hey, my life's good now." But then it'd also probably suck cause that's obviously not the catalyst to his creativity. I love this man. I got to play the last two Steinways shows with them in September out in California and that made my life. I always want to give Ace a hug. His music will make you want to give him a hug. Just listen to it and then look at that face of his. It's like he wants to be adopted and hugged all day. Buy this 7'' and adopt your own Azeem Frehley.

7. Night Birds - Maimed For the Masses 7'' (Fat Wreck)

I think this is the first release with PJ on guitar, post-Mike Hunchback. Hearing that Fat Wreck was going to release a Night Birds single got me giddy. It also made me like Fat Wreck more. The title track (and album art) is about former wrestler Mick Foley. The injuries list on that man will send shivers down your spine. There are four tracks total on this one. Only the title track appears on Born To Die In Suburbia. The other three are exclusive to this EP. A limited 70-gram version was released by Fat on black vinyl with the regular EP.

6. The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute 12'' (Fat Wreck)

Tony Sly's death last year was a shock to us all. Such a profoundly talented singer and songwriter. I remember my first time seeing No Use For A Name was in 2002 when I was a sophomore in high school and absolutely loving every second of it. Life is not always fair, but all the artists on this tribute album did him and his songs beautiful homage. He'll live forever as long as there are his recordings and a medium to play them. RIP, Tony. You're missed and loved, and this album is nice proof.

5. Our Lips Are Sealed: A Tribute To the Go-Gos 12'' (Solidarity)

I was never a huge Go-Gos fan, but they're one of those bands where I still somehow knew their songs. After buying this, then going back to really listen to the Go-Gos, it made me a fan. A lot of my favorite current bands are on here. My favorite covers are by Dan Vapid & the Cheats, Masked Intruder, Great Apes and Vacation Bible School.

4. All Dogs - All Dogs 7'' (Salinas)

This is the freshest band to my ears on this entire list. All Dogs comes from Ohio and writes some amazing tunes. They remind me of The Muffs crossed with Lemuria crossed with Brick Mower. The set of pipes on the singer are amazing. I love this 7'' and you should check out this band.

3. Technicolor Teeth - Blood Pool b/w Drips 7'' (Accidental Guest)

Technicolor Teeth is a band from Wisconsin that features Amos from the aforementioned Tenement among its lineup. This band grew on me this year, and for a long time, was the only thing I listened to. They take shoegaze, make it darker and experiment with sound. This band would be written off as "weird" but your typical punk rocker, but I urge anyone reading this to really listen to them. Listen to the music. It'll pull you in too.

2. Tenement - Sick Club Vol. 3 7'' (Cowabunga)

These guys are one of my favorite bands. I consider myself lucky that I not only get to hear the musical stylings of Amos Pitsch, Jesse Ponkamo and Eric Meyer, but get to see this band live. Amos is a musical genius and if you don't believe me, you're wrong. I don't know how to properly explain it, because my name's not Pitchfork, but Tenement's songs are infectiously good and well-put-together. Jesse wrote "Freak Cast In Iron" on this one. Grab this single if you can.

1. Supercrush - Lifted b/w Melt Into You (Drift Away) 7'' (Bedside)

Supercrush is a new band out of Vancouver. This 7'' has been on repeat since I discovered it. It's insanely well put-together and takes the very best elements of grunge, shoegaze, rock and a little punk and creates something perfect. Check out a review I did of the single here.

The Top 10 Splits of 2013

10. Mean Jeans / Underground Railroad To Candyland 7'' (It's Alive)

Two of my favorite bands that I would not have expected to collaborate totally did on this. The Mean Jeans songs are party punk staples. They're really good, raw, fast, full of energy and fueled by booze. The URTC songs are good low-fi, garage-y ones. This record is a party on the Mean Jeans side and chillin' the morning after on the URTC side.

9. Mikey Erg / Barrakuda McMurder 3.5'' floppy (Bloated Kat)

This shit is so rare, it's just plain dumb. 13 floppy discs were made with the songs on them as MP3s. How the hell someone even has a floppy drive anymore is beyond me, but hey, points for creativity and obscurity. Oh, and they were only sold in Japan. So I don't have one, but I do have the MP3s, and they're really good. Mikey Erg's was made with his phone and Grath's was probably made with GarageBand or something. The songs are great. I'm hoping Mikey does a solo full-length or something of the like. Grath's song is like an acoustic Steinways song with an electric guitar dubbed over it in a part. It's funny, but it makes you feel bad. Buy it on Bandcamp and support these guys.

8. Vacation Bible School / The Brokedowns 7'' (It's Alive)

Two of my favorite local-turned-global-ish bands FINALLY have a split together. So appropriate. I think it rules that a label in California put out a split by two bands from Elgin, IL, a place I called home for a couple of years. VBS offers up some fast, heavy, gritty pop punk. Catchy and aggressive. The Brokedowns have done a lot of splits, and their creepy, heavy sound is big on this one. They have pop punk choruses with deep, gruff vocals and sometimes border hardcore. This is a heavy-hitter. Lots of low end on the bass. Lots of emotion. I don't really understand the cover art, but I like it. It's a little deceiving but it works.

7. The Capitalist Kids / Tight Bros 7'' (Toxic Pop)

The Capitalist Kids are from Austin and released an album last year titled "Lessons On Love, Sharing and Hygeine" that reinstilled my faith in good pop punk. This split is pretty straight-up pop punk, with short songs all around. The Capitalist Kids cover "Claustrophobia" by the Bee Gees and it's AWESOME. Seriously. Didn't anticipate that coming. Tight Bros from Ohio offer up three originals. They have a little Mean Jeans likeness to them, and a little Be My Doppelganger in there. They're good pop punk. I was lucky enough to play with both these bands this past autumn in Austin and in L.A. They rip live. Especially the Cap Kids. I want to see them again so bad.

6. Lipstick Homicide / The Turkletons - We're Gonna Need a Bigger Coat 7'' (It's Alive)

Pop punk gold. Lipstick Homicide and The Turkletons compliment each other so well on this. Their songs are shorts and packed full of fun, catchy hooks. I love the title's play on Jaws. I love this split.

5. Brick Mower / Black Wine 7'' (Viking On Campus)

Two of my favorite New Jersey bands ever collaborate on this very appropriate split 7''. They were tour buddies on more than one occasion (one of the best tours I've ever seen), and they fit so well together musically. Each band on this offers an original and a cover. Brick Mower covers "Jim Motherfucker" by Gaunt. Black Wine covers "Freedom of Choice" by Devo, which was a staple in their live sets for a little while. They do an awesome version. The originals are the highlights. I love these bands, and all of the people in them. They fit so well with each other, I want to hear more new stuff.

4. Masked Intruder / Dan Vapid & the Cheats The Wedding 7'' (Solidarity)

Two of the best pop punk bands out there today. Veterans Dan Vapid & the Cheats, and newer-ish band, Masked Intruder. They collaborated on this 7'' commemorating Solidarity Records owner Randy and his wife, Valerie's marriage. The Masked Intruder song is beautifully done. The intro sounds like an intro to an '80s ballad. Their tune is called "Valerie Is Getting Married." It's pretty funny, since it's about him being sad that Valerie is marrying someone that isn't him. Poor blue. The Cheats' song is called "Randy Is Getting Married." It's so catchy and happy. This split is loaded with positive vibes, and I love it.

3. All Dogs / Slouch tape (Discount Horse)

All Dogs and Slouch are two bands from Ohio. Slouch is a cool, dreamy Dinosaur Jr.-esque band minus all the crazy J. Mascis leads. All Dogs is awesome garage pop punk. They cover The Muffs tune, "Every Single Thing." All Dogs so does it for me. I want them to make a full-length record really bad. Their four-track self-titled EP that came out on Salinas Records this year made it to #4 on my Top 10 7''s/EPs/collections list. Check these bands out.

2. Tenement / Screaming Females 7'' (Recess)

Tenement and the Screaming Females recently went on tour together as part of the Don Giovanni Records tour. I consider this split Tenement's big, deserved break. Screaming Females has a crazy loyal and huge fan base, and their track is amazing. There isn't an insane amount of screaming or shredding on it, but it's a solid jam. Tenement's song, to me, steals the show. I'm biased. Deal with it. They have such an unconventional, unique way of making pop. It's completely their own. This split is some of the best of what two amazing bands have to offer. Not just some mashed-up B-sides single of each band's. Do yourself a favor and get this.

1. The Old Wives / The Blendours 12'' (Eccentric Pop)

The Old Wives from Edmonton are one of my favorite pop punk bands. I was lucky to see them in May at Pouzza Fest in Montreal, and see some of the new songs played live. This split is the third release on a great new-ish label called Eccentric Pop Records, based out of South Carolina. I can't get over how catchy this split is. The Old Wives kill it on their side and The Blendours from Iowa on the other side are also amazing. I love how funny but good they are. They remind me of The Steinways. This split is all around fun. Just get it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Industrial Park' 7'' by Industrial Park

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 4/10/2013
7'': Toxic Pop Records
Rating: 3/5

The first thing that came to mind when I opened this single up was, 'Joy Division.' The minimalist monochrome photograph doesn't beg for attention, but leaves a bit to be wondered. Not coincidentally, so does the music.

"Echoes" on side A has a steady, but dark, shoegaze progression from start to finish. There's a nice reverb effect on the vocals, which seem to intentionally not have much range, but without being uninteresting. Like the art, there's something that's left to wonder. Industrial Park could be a child between The Smiths, a less-bass-driven Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division and Sick Sick Birds.

Side B offers up a track titled, "May." It's an introspective minimalist and somewhat sorrowful jam. The lyrics are spaced out throughout the song, "
I can see you deep inside/I can hear you deep inside/And I'm broken deep inside/In pieces deep inside."

Both tracks on this 7'' defy time and typical song progressions. The songs go by very quickly, yet they're upwards of 3 minutes a piece. I'm interested in hearing the band's full-length. This is the type of music I can saunter pleasantly in, and these 6 minutes leave a good taste in my ears.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pale Angels - 'Primal Play'

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 8/13/2013
12'' / digital download: Kiss of Death Records
Rating: 5/5

Imagine if you will, drummer Mike Yannich (The Ergs!, etc.) and guitarist/vocalist Mike Santostefano (Static Radio NJ) standing on their home turf of New Jersey, on the shore, facing northeast behind their instruments. Across the pond, bassist Jamie Morrison (The Arteries) stands on his home turf of Wales, facing southwest. They start playing at exactly the same time. You're floating out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when suddenly, two separate channels of sound waves smack into either side of your head at 340.29 meters per second. You forget about the sun burning your skin as a smile creeps across your face.

That's the recipe. No stuffiness. No filler. Just three guys make this transatlantic trio a bare-bones wall of sound with a pop foundation. Thus, the album is catchier than stereotypical grunge. The songs are also shorter, which shines a light on the punk influence that the band members embody.

Musicians in every respective generation find a way to pay homage to the music that's shaped them, but may have also been just out of reach. For example, I was eight years old in 1994 when Kurt Cobain killed himself, have no memory of the event, yet I grew up listening to Nirvana and their music molded my taste and playing style quite a bit. Thanks to alternative radio in the '90s carrying the torch of grunge, the seed was planted in me, well before I knew it would blossom into a love for the genre. I can't help but think the same torch of escaped nostalgia burns in others.

Yannich embraces a Dave Grohl-esque style of playing, which drives the Nirvana likeness home. But Pale Angels is not a Nirvana clone or a simple homage-to-grunge band, despite how much they channel their influential predecessors. The distorted, fast, fuzzy grunge/punk flows though Primal Play at a steady pace, only slowing down on the appropriately-titled track, "Slow Jangle." The album builds up, peaks and fades out on the last of nine songs, "Bed Bugs," which lasts an enjoyable 14 minutes before its feedback-riddled finish.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with all the music you have and/or frequently look for a breath of something fresh, I recommend this. If you're a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, I recommend this. If you have ears, I recommend this.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Supercrush - 'Lifted/Melt Into You (Drift Away)' 7''

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 10/24/2013
7''/digital download: Bedside Records
Rating: 4.5/5

Earlier this year, I stumbled across a new band out of Vancouver called Supercrush, featuring Mark Palm of Modern Charms on vocals and guitars. I listened to their debut song, "Lifted," and was immediately lost in shoegaze fuzz pop by way of the early- to mid-'90s. The heavy distortion on the guitars open the tune, which is kicked in by two powerful snare and bass drum hits. The entire song is built on a foundation of the catchy opening verse, keeping it moving, yet cyclical; like actually being in a fuzzy dream sequence. Lead guitar and guest female vocals are woven into the dreamscape to give the song beautiful depth before it's over.

"Melt Into You (Drift Away)" is the B side. This one is driving from the start and it's laden with consistent pop leads that swell throughout most of the track. Dual guitar leads lay it on thick after 1:00 and then the song peaks. At the breakdown 2/3 of the way through, the song rides a wave of overlapping guitar and vocals until the song fades to close. This release holds appeal to a broad audience and is a candidate for the top single of 2013. Keep an eye on these guys and stream the single below.