Best New Music

The Sidekicks - Runners in the Nerved World (Cover)
The Sidekicks: Runners in the Nerved World
Change appears to be the only constant in the world of the Sidekicks. The Ohio group have never shied away from taking risks and as such their artistic evolution has been absolute joy to follow. The uber-melodic Sam EP was a massive step up from their more traditionally punk rock debut full-length So Long Soggy Dog. Weight of Air was a significant evolution from there, simultaneously establishing them as one of the most exciting acts in punk scene as well as shedding the limitations of that scene and truly carving out their own sound. Awkward Breeds just pushed things further, demonstrating a masterful approach to melody and a stylistic flexibility unseen on their previous works. [more]
Atlas Losing Grip - Currents (Cover)
Atlas Losing Grip: Currents
Creator-Destructor / Revelatio
Rodrigo Alfaro was the main reason I got into Atlas Losing Grip. His vocal strength's the driving force behind the band and fits the amazing musicians this Swedish group boasts. I hope the transition is smooth for new vocalist Niklas Olsson, and from the little I've heard so far, well, it's very optimistic. But if it's one thing Currents does is re-emphasize that this closing ceremony, this curtain call for Alfaro is more than a farewell. It's their mission statement done in the most majestic manner and no doubt a huge contender for the best record they've ever done. [more]
Crazy and the Brains - Good Lord [EP] (Cover)
Crazy and the Brains: Good Lord [EP]
Baldy Longhair
The thing that makes Crazy and the Brains so compelling is that they are nigh impossible to define. Existing within the amorphous plane known as punk, the band has garage rock tendencies- what with their rowdy, jagged, messy riffs- but they’re not a “garage rock” band. The AV Club once compared the band to Rancid and while the pair share a frenetic, almost zany energy (the Brains perhaps more than Rancid) the group is far from Armstrong’s street-punk-meets-ska. Heck, there’s a xylophone in the band, but it’s applied with such force and enthusiasm, the band isn’t “Avant-garde punk.” They just rock. The previous LP, Let Me Go, established the band’s persona. [more]
Legendary Wings - Do You See (Cover)
Legendary Wings: Do You See
I like Legendary Wings because they are populist. Do You See carries on the ideas that are at the core of the first wave of punk bands- that you do not need expertise to make meaningful music, that anyone with even the most basic tools can create something, that this could be, and should be, you. If there is any mystery in the album, it is in how Legendary Wings continue to find magic in straightforward chords and melodies. Writing a pop song is hard. Writing a pop song that sounds new while using tones, progressions and rhythms that are well-worn seems like it wouldn't make the process any easier. [more]
Alvvays - Alvvays (Cover)
Alvvays: Alvvays
Of any new band of 2014, Alvvays won me over the quickest (though I definitely did not write this review the quickest since this came out last July…) and their self-titled debut made the #6 spot on my unofficial personal Top 20 of 2014. I love me some '80s twee/indie pop, and this Toronto band is, knowingly, deeply indebted to that scene of K Records and UK’s Sarah Records. They clearly have studied NME magazine’s '80s cassettes like the legendary C86 comp that introduced much of North America to the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pastels, The Wedding Present, Primal Scream and more. But falling in love with a band or album immediately can lead to burning out just as fast. [more]
Antemasque - Antemasque (Cover)
Antemasque: Antemasque
It feels good to have Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez heal their wounds. Putting their differences aside is something that I honestly wouldn't ever bet on to last but at first glance, the reward seemed huge. Why? Well, because Antemasque sounded (or at least, teased a sound) like the lovechild of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Well, that's just on the surface and on the first sip. Without getting too much into the checkered history of both bands, let's just say that both these guys do pretty well to cut ties from the old days by laying out something unconventional by their standards, and mapping out a record heavily draped in '70s and '80s influences. [more]
We Were Promised Jetpacks - E Rey Live In Philadelphia (Cover)
We Were Promised Jetpacks: E Rey Live In Philadelphia
FatCat Records
We Were Promised Jetpacks have been monstrous in the past. These Four Walls and In the Pit of the Stomach are two records I felt deserved much more attention than they garnered. But the Scotsmen have more than done their brand justice, popping up in films like "Hall Pass" and also, on soundtracks to the CW11 shows -- and if that's not making it, then really, what is? This live album doesn't set a fire though. What it does, is add a truckload of fuel, to a sound that's been burning silently and emotively for quite some time, and this beckons well for when their next record drops. And it better fucking be soon. [more]
Kicker / Submachine - Split [7-inch] (Cover)
Kicker / Submachine: Split [7-inch]
As a bit of a teaser for their upcoming second full-length, Kicker has teamed up with Submachine. Kicker gives us a taste of what's to come while Submachine, who release materially rarely these days, serve to remind us what they do best. Kicker's side opens with the brand new track, "Shit at Kicker." Both a mission statement and re-introduction, the song demonstrates the band's hallmarks. Of course, right off the bat frontman Pete the Roadie spits out a diatribe about how he's bad at foosball in his gloriously thick English accent. As always, he's at once pissed off and hilarious. [more]
Push Ups - Grow Up or Try Dying (Cover)
Push Ups: Grow Up or Try Dying
You probably won't hear much people talking about Push Ups. So let me just say this is the point where you start spreading the word. In the arena of hardcore punk, this under-the-radar bunch has one of the most demanding, loud and in-your-face sounds today. Their 2013 EP, This Isn't Discourse was a perfect glimpse into the future and it's safe to say, all bets made were bets safely placed. Grow Up or Try Dying is a hard-hitter and that's saying the least. Tracks like "College Ruined My Life" help continue what they started a year or so ago. Frantic riffs and basement noise meant to mosh and break shit to. [more]
Lemuria / Mitch Clem - Turnstile Comix #3 [7-inch] (Cover)
Lemuria / Mitch Clem: Turnstile Comix #3 [7-inch]
Silver Sprocket
Lemuria has taken some novel approaches to releasing their music this year. First there was the surprise 7-inch bundle, a grab bag of rarities fans could pre-order. Then came the tour 7-inch, a record that could only be obtained by purchasing tickets for the band’s fall tour. Now comes the latest twist: Turnstile Comix #3, a comic book/7-inch split with artists Mitch Clem and Nation of Amanda. Previous installments for the Slow Death and World/Inferno Friendship Society were tops, and Lemuria’s issue is just as strong. Clem has gotten more comfortable with long-form storytelling. [more]
Stay Clean Jolene - Stay Clean Jolene (Cover)
Stay Clean Jolene: Stay Clean Jolene
Dead Broke / Drunken Sailor
For fans of Leatherface and Hüsker Dü, this is made for you. Fellow reviewer Rich got me into Stay Clean Jolene's 7-inch in 2012, and it's the last line in his review that stuck with me -- "My interest is certainly aroused from these three songs and I eagerly await a full-length from this band." Well, all expectations are met. It's a grueling punk-tastic album that kicks around themes such as romance, friendship and all good things Americana. The album's a frenetic, energetic kick in the teeth filled with big hooks and rasping solos. Rife with huge licks and heavy, dense, jaw-slapping bass lines, it's got a brilliant melody to it. [more]
Prawn - Settled [7-inch] (Cover)
Prawn: Settled [7-inch]
Topshelf Records
I've actually just covered a Prawn live show in which I said that a friend had described the band as a mixture of Brand New and Explosions in the Sky which I think is absolutely perfect. These two songs which form the Settled 7-inch are both in the same vein as the stunning full-length Kingfisher which was released earlier in the year and is sure to make a ton of album of the year lists across the community. On the title track, the band build at a steady pace throughout in typical Prawn fashion, before the horns kick in at the end and blow you away. [more]
The Brokedowns - Life Is A Breeze (Cover)
The Brokedowns: Life Is A Breeze
Red Scare Industries
To describe The Brokedowns as just another Midwestern pop-punk band would be to sell the Elgin, Illinois four-piece extremely short. Yes, they’re from the Midwest, and yes, there are more than enough hooks and sing-along choruses to check all of the pop-punk boxes, but there’s so much more too, from impassioned shouts to clever, pointed lyrics, and it’s all deftly assembled on Life Is A Breeze. The record shows a band that, after a period of evolution, has figured out a sound all its own, and is now making the most of it. [more]
Front Porch Step - Whole Again [EP] (Cover)
Front Porch Step: Whole Again [EP]
Pure Noise Records
In the game of folky acoustic acts, Whole Again proves to be one of the shortest yet one of the most profound pieces of music in recent years. Front Porch Step is the acoustic solo project of Columbus, OH's Jake Mcelfresh, and not only does it expose how broken yet talented he is as a singer/songwriter, but it shows that his past album, Aware, wasn't just a poetic one-shot of depression. He touches on the poignant notes of being human and once more, he drives these messages home with beautiful nails. "A Lovely Mess" is one of the most jarring, tearjerkers I've ever stumbled across. [more]
Chumped - Teenage Retirement (Cover)
Chumped: Teenage Retirement
Anchorless Records
Chumped was a band I tagged as a near-perfect blend of indie meets pop-punk, especially after their 12-inch. As time elapsed, I wondered if they could maintain this momentum. However, things changed a bit. It's hard for me to stick to this aforementioned tag now and this in itself is something that really doesn't bug me. Why? Well, because they've gone rougher, faster and entrenched themselves in making music with more attitude and a whole lot more spunk. Teenage Retirement breaks walls down and in doing so, it paints itself as a stroke of genius that'll no doubt end up paying big dividends. Anika Pyle's nasal vocals really set the album on fire, as expected. [more]
At The Gates - At War with Reality (Cover)
At The Gates: At War with Reality
Century Media
Whether either band likes it or not, the careers of At the Gates and their British colleagues in Carcass will always be connected. Both bands began their careers playing music much more brutal and less accessible than the melodic death metal they pioneered and ultimately became best known for. Both bands influenced an entire generation of heavy music, for better (Darkest Hour, The Black Dahlia Murder) and for worse (almost every modern metalcore band). Both bands spun off into more well known, but less essential groups (The Haunted and Arch Enemy, respectively.) Finally, and most importantly, both bands disappeared for nearly two decades, only to return with fantastic comeback albums. [more]
The American Scene - Haze (Cover)
The American Scene: Haze
Pure Noise
The American Scene made a confident and bold statement for the scene they often found themselves in with their "debut" LP (depends on who you ask, given the nine-track makeup of 2011's By Way of Introduction). 2012's Safe for Now was an excellent refresher in early 2000s emo rock, culling shades of the Jealous Sound and Hot Rod Circuit and using common but well-expressed themes of romantic entanglement to create a well-formed, formidable and often emotionally powerful record. [more]
The World/Inferno Friendship Society - This Packed Funeral (Cover)
The World/Inferno Friendship Society: This Packed Funeral
Alternative Tentacles
This Packed Funeral is World/Inferno Friendship Society’s comeback album. For those of you following the saga, the band’s last full-length, The Anarchy and the Ecstasy, was, by design, the band’s most melancholy release. Where they used to laugh with devilish glee as they ran from police and dallied with older women, they were spitting at old band mates and sitting at the side of the Raritan River, alone. There wasn’t any indication that the band was going to end per se, but as they withered down to a “paltry” five members, one did wonder if the sense of fun and mischief heard in their earlier releases have left the band in lieu of “growing up. [more]
Swingin' Utters - Fistful of Hollow (Cover)
Swingin' Utters: Fistful of Hollow
Fat Wreck Chords
Reviewing a Swingin' Utters record is not an easy task. The long-running band is constantly evolving, and in their 25-plus years they've moved from a heavily street punk-influenced sound to one that showcases more Irish folk influences to one that lends much to Americana and good ol' rock n' roll. On Fistful Of Hollow, the band continues to experiment, but maintains a foothold in the more rock-oriented sound that came to the fore on 2013's Poorly Formed. In doing so, the Swingin' Utters solidify the next evolution of their sound and show that growth is still possible for a band barreling toward the 30-year mark. [more]
Mischief Brew - O' Pennsyltucky [Cassette] (Cover)
Mischief Brew: O' Pennsyltucky [Cassette]
The Stone Operation, Mischief Brew’s last LP, bore a minor controversy. The album was a hard charging, kicking, electric anarcho-punk album (and their best release to date). It displayed both of the band’s core strengths. First, as always, song composition came first, and each of the songs were dynamic, shifting, and twisting as the band raced toward the end, and in several instances, even blowing up at the end like the earliest Greg Ginn tunes. Second, despite that the band kept the amps at 10, they maintained the knotty, shambolic nature of their identity. They blasted it out like the Subhumans, but there was a little bit of “O Danny Boy” in the edges. [more]

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