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Best New Music

The Penske File - Burn Into The Earth (Cover)
The Penske File: Burn Into The Earth
Union Label Group
Burlington's The Penske File have a knack for churning out upbeat, melodic pop-punk but as the harmonica-led anthems indicate on Burn Into The Earth, they do so with a fresh twist. One that isn't too folky but one that delivers a certain charm which would be easily recognizable for fans who watched the band strengthen their sound over the past couple years. Grave Escapes was one of 2012's hidden gems, which yielded an even better follow-up just over a year later in A Restless Symphony but in terms of their most complete musical novel to date, this record accomplishes just that and much more. [more]
Rocky Votolato / Chuck Ragan - Kindred Spirit [10-inch] (Cover)
Rocky Votolato / Chuck Ragan: Kindred Spirit [10-inch]
Side One Dummy
Kindred Spirit is a very fitting title for the EP at hand, given the draw of singers/songwriters Rocky Votolato and Chuck Ragan. Both are heart-on-sleeve solo acts that make music for the fading twilight. In terms of vulnerable slow-burners, both guys continue to show why you can't go wrong with their musical brand which constructs windows for you to escape the confines of the world. On the heels of the another well-crafted album in Hospital Handshakes, Votolato sets the stage here and acts as the tension builder on his three tracks -- all soft, acoustic jams. [more]
Annabel - Having It All (Cover)
Annabel: Having It All
Tiny Engines
Every now and then, a record comes and sweeps you off your feet. Leaves you breathless and wanting more. We could all do with more days like these, right? Jump to Ohio's Annabel and a record I've waited on for years, anticipating the day when they'd show up and announce something that's more than just promise. Having It All ends up being both of these things -- a band stepping out into the light with a megaphone and producing an album that'll surely set the emo genre on fire. [more]
Ma Jolie - Jetpack Mailman [EP] (Cover)
Ma Jolie: Jetpack Mailman [EP]
A-F Records
Ma Jolie have grown from strength to strength with each release. 2012's ...Compared to Giants was a full-fledged assault of gritty pop-punk that never let up. It was fierce, breathless and clearly a band looking to make a statement right out the batting cages. Polars, which came just over a year later, geared down a bit, taking them for a more indie/melodic spin and showed a work in progress. It was all about fine tuning and refining a band that showed great technical skill but still seemed flustered and too frantic for their own good. [more]
Worthwhile - Old World Harm (Cover)
Worthwhile: Old World Harm
Hopeless Records
Worthwhile first caught my eye with "Unlovable (Lost Son)". What made them more interesting is how they shifted from a fast-paced melodic-punk sound into a more melodic hardcore style. Their older vibe was a bit catchier/poppier but it's how great they pulled off both versions that really hooked me. I've heard lots of fans describe their schtick as 'easycore' or 'softcore' but to me, it's akin (in a much more melodic and accessible vein) to what post-hardcore/screamo bands like Touché Amoré, Defeater and Departures put on the table. [more]
The Dwarves - Radio Free Dwarves [12-inch] (Cover)
The Dwarves: Radio Free Dwarves [12-inch]
Riot Style
There is no denying that The Dwarves are an unpredictable band both in the studio and on stage. So leave it to them to record a live album in a radio station in Estonia of all places. This live recording would become what we know now as Radio Free Dwarves. However this release has been three years in the making because it was recorded in 2012, which was right in between the time the fantastic albums The Dwarves Are Born Again and The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll were released. The way Radio Free Dwarves is described is that it is a “12-song mini album” and that’s accurate. [more]
Milk Teeth - Sad Sack [EP] (Cover)
Milk Teeth: Sad Sack [EP]
Hopeless Records
At first glance, Milk Teeth's music reminded me of fellow UK outfit Basement. I heard the first track off this EP, "Vitamins," and figured why not. They seemed to have that grunge revivalist vibe to them. And that they do, but it felt like it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. However, as I explored Sad Sack I found that this is just one dimension to their game. In fact, as each track passes, you hear a band that's a student of rock, tapping into several genres such as emo, punk and post-hardcore as well. [more]
Rixe - Coups & Blessures [7-inch] (Cover)
Rixe: Coups & Blessures [7-inch]
La Vida Es Un Mus
Sometimes you're not aware that something's missing in your life until you experience it and realize what your existence has been lacking. In this case, that missing thing is French Oi. See, you didn't know you were missing it, did you? You'll realize it once you spin Coups & Blessures, the debut 7-inch from Rixe. 

While it's cliche to suggest that current act brings to mind the glory years of a genre, there are times when it's appropriate, and this is one of those times. The four tracks on Coups & Blessures would fit right in on any of those dusty old Oi comps that you bought in the '90s to further your punk education. [more]

Romp - Sorry, Not Sorry (Cover)
Romp: Sorry, Not Sorry
Bad Timing Records
Romp are one of those bands that tell great stories to the soundtrack of indie/pop/alternative rock. Most of Madison Klarer's lyrics hint at personal experiences and are seemingly tailored for those kept within close circles. But what strikes the most is that they paint the story of a city - New Jersey - as one that's confined but so full of life. It's similar to what Geoff Rickly did for Thursday and what so many bands are now doing for Philly. There's a nice air of mystery to her also - inviting, dynamic in delivery and emotionally articulate. [more]
It Looks Sad - Kaiju [Single] (Cover)
It Looks Sad: Kaiju [Single]
Tiny Engines
It Looks Sad really impressed me on their self-titled EP last year. "Ocean" was a dramatic, brooding piece of indie music made for loners in the dark, draped in introspection. That's how most of their jams play out. Not to mention, there's a strong comparison to WU LYF's style lingering and one they wear so well. Kaiju reels me back in just when I decided I'm against two-track reviews but only because It Looks Sad continue to show why they may just be the best indie/emo/DIY band you haven't heard yet. "Creature" picks up right where 2014 left off -- picky, melodic and intricate guitars that fulfil a sense of overcoming. [more]
Penelope Spheeris - The Decline of Western Civilization Collection [DVD] (Cover)
Penelope Spheeris: The Decline of Western Civilization Collection [DVD]
Shout! Factory
It took some time, but the Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, filmmaker Penelope Spheeris’ seminal series on Los Angeles rock music over the years, has finally been issued in a 4-disc box set via Shout! Factory. Fans of punk, metal and rock ‘n’ roll in general will find something of interest in each of the films, which range in scope from the comedic (Part II: The Metal Years) to the tragic (Part III). The original remains the roughest of the three, and reasonably so. Spheeris shot the film on a minimal budget, aided by a minimal crew, and ultimately made a minimal amount of edits. [more]
High On Fire - Luminiferous (Cover)
High On Fire: Luminiferous
E1 Music
Now more than ever, the heavy metal scene is a diverse, open-minded community thriving with bands willing to pull influence from all over the proverbial map; Post-rock, shoegaze, electronica have all been deftly incorporated into the genre’s lexicon in recent years. While those types of records can cross musical boundaries and break new ground, often culminating in exciting, challenging listening experiences, sometimes it’s nice to just hear something actually METAL. [more]
Vattnet Viskar - Settler (Cover)
Vattnet Viskar: Settler
Century Media Records
Two albums in, post-black metal outfit Vattnet Viskar seems to be hitting its stride with Settler. If that sounds like a backhanded compliment to the band’s output thus far, it’s unintentional, but Settler’s merits are such that it considerably eclipses the band’s first full-length, Sky Swallower. Within a metal perspective, at least, the records are like total opposites. Sky Swallower was defined by space"droning passages of acoustic, plaintive Earth-esque tones in between spastic grinding bursts. It is very much an autumnal record. Settler goes the opposite route, packing in grinding aural assaults bing bang boom. [more]
Craig Ibarra - A Wailing Of A Town [Book] (Cover)
Craig Ibarra: A Wailing Of A Town [Book]
END FWY
It would be understandable if the reason a large majority of the people buying this book were doing so due to the fact that San Pedro was the home of the Minutemen, a trio that created a sound which defied normal confines even within the expansive early days of punk rock. However, despite at least one quarter of the 344 pages focussing heavily on the trio of D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley, there is so much more to be found throughout this oral history. In spite of the variety contained between the covers, the front features a picture of Dennes (D.) Boon, Minutemen guitarist, vocalist and a man whose life was cruelly lost in a car accident in December 1985. [more]
Sweet John Bloom - Weird Prayer (Cover)
Sweet John Bloom: Weird Prayer
Tiny Engines
By the time the amp buzz quits at the end of Weird Prayer, you'll be pretty much convinced that Sweet John Bloom are the real deal. If you're a fan of Superchunk and Japandroids, then these short, wild, frantic bursts of energy that form their debut full-length are just for you. They way they blend indie rock, basement power-pop and punk in just over 30 minutes suspends your beliefs and, ultimately, ends up proving to be a near-perfect gateway to a world of summer anthems. [more]
Lady Bones - Dying (Cover)
Lady Bones: Dying
Midnight Werewolf
Lady Bones are something I only recently caught wind of and very quickly, I found myself hooked on their discography. They offer a lighthearted take on indie-rock but as poppy as they get at times, there are a lot of post-rock and grunge undertones, swirling around -- very subtly so on Dying. In fact, they've gone to the more serious ends of the indie spectrum as years elapsed, making music for grown-ups with a sharper and more realistic edge. Even if you never heard them before, this is a great point to get acquainted because it's their best work to date. Great lyrics, a powerful musical drive and a catchy sensibility that'll surely have more people taking notes. [more]
Envy - Atheist’s Cornea (Cover)
Envy: Atheist’s Cornea
Temporary Residence
There are some bands that create worlds, remarkable and immersive, for you to spend years in. Enjoying their art, enjoying their culture, enjoying their overall outlook on life. However, few create worlds as unique as Envy. Atheist’s Cornea returns the band to their more aggressive roots and finds them deep-seated in a noisy atmosphere that is as cerebral as it is head-banging. It's a record that goes deep, slow and pensive at times, but then quickly gears up into its natural beast, staying in this state and allowing you to bask in its chaos. [more]
Pocket - Full Bloom (Cover)
Pocket: Full Bloom
Broken World Media
Full Bloom, the debut LP from Philadelphia post-hardcore three-piece Pocket, continues to show the magic that Philly has, which to an outsider like me, is something that I really want to experience first hand. The craftsmanship on the record is something that definitely feels tailored for fans of bands like The Hotelier, and more recently, the likes of Sorority Noise and Annabel. The latter two, plus another Philly gem in Hop Along, had me thinking I'd topped out my quota of emo-praise for the year, only for Pocket to come along with a swift and sturdy introduction. [more]
Geza X - You Goddam Kids! [Reissue] (Cover)
Geza X: You Goddam Kids! [Reissue]
Burger Records
The term “long lost classic” gets thrown around so much in punk rock that by now, it basically means any record that is slightly better than mediocre. The result is that when records truly are classics, they get washed away in the clutter of punk’s obsession with cataloging everything. (Though, to be fair, punk’s history of archiving everything certainly has its benefits.) Geza X’s sole LP, You Goddam Kids is one of the victims of this. At this point, most people don’t even know about despite the fact that it’s one of the weirdest and most interesting punk records from early west coast punk. [more]
The Front Bottoms - Cough it Out [Digital Single] (Cover)
The Front Bottoms: Cough it Out [Digital Single]
Fueled by Ramen
I'm always a bit wary when The Front Bottoms release something new. Their self-titled is essentially perfect, and showcases the band at their best. Luckily, the follow-up, Talon of the Hawk, was pretty wonderful, too. Since then, though, the band's popularity has been growing at an astronomical rate. They've gone from being that small quirky band who supported The Menzingers at the Hare and Hounds that one time to one of the biggest bands in the entire alt scene. The thing about The Front Bottoms is that typical "Front Bottoms charm" they have. I'm not sure how to define it. I think it's Brian Sella's unique vocals or maybe it's the frantic drumming. [more]

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