Rich is the interviews editor at Punknews.org - ed.
Hi, I'm actor Troy McClure. You might remember me from...2010 was one of those years that moved at breakneck speed and was packed with small but exciting steps. On the music side of things, I was honored to be added to the Punknews Editorial Staff. Not only because it opened up a wealth of resources but because it gets me a free small fry with every $30 purchase at Arby's. The aforementioned "wealth of resources" may or may not have assisted in the booking of two amazing hotel shows at The Fest and even a live album with the fine folks of Red Collar and Death to False Hope Records. Additionally, I got to take part in the back-breaking and exciting inauguration of the Punknews Podcast. Something that feels more like a dorky honor for my 16-year-old self than a duty (HAHA, duty).
On the non-work end of things I had the privilege of attending three major music festivals in three separate states this year. While seeing tons of bands in crazy settings is always a blast, the real joy has been meeting (though maybe not remembering meeting) many of you. It's always humbling to hear someone say they started listening to a band because of something on Punknews or that something we said in the podcast really resonated with them. Everything I've been allowed to do in the name of "music journalism" is a gift and it's one I'll try not to squander in the future.
In my personal life, I recently purchased a Dyson vacuum (refurbished, Punknews doesn't pay that well). After vacuuming my living room I'll find myself staring at the collection tank in shear amazement of the volume of debris that once occupied my carpet and wonder if some powers are too great to be wielded by man. We may never know...
Things that held my attention for more than five songs.
Victor Shade: Victor Shade
Ra Scion has made a name for himself as the MC half of the duo Common Market. Known for hyper-complex metaphors and even tighter rhymes, he primarily kept to sociopolitical and historical themes. Victor Shade allows Ra Scion to branch out in directions and characters never before imagined and the result is great. Picture Ghostface Killah trapped in a room with nothing but classic superhero comics and 1970s Blaxplotation soundtracks, lose the thug imagery and focus solely on character and story and what's left is the skeletal structure of Victor Shade–rap's next superhero.
This is an album that should almost be a default on any list associated with punk. A group with male and female vocalists who give away their music, sell merchandise on a sliding scale and donate proceeds to charity. Add to it that their music has enough youthful enthusiasm to make the Grinch vomit candy canes and you have a force to be reckoned with.
I love when an album is more than just a collection of songs. Too often it seems bands say, "Well, we got 16 songs we can record, let's make an album." Not imadethismistake. Bow and Quiver is a full album that is written as such. The themes, the music and the lyrics are all designed to fit together like some odd jigsaw puzzle of emotion (much like Kyle Campool's face is a puzzle of beard and glasses). Song by song it may not stand out much, but as a complete album, its finely crafted thought process shines through.
I wrestled with this for a while. As a long-time fan of the band it's hard not to have expectations and be disappointed when an album doesn't meet them on first listen. But, after coming back to the album I found there's still plenty to love–if you keep your mind open.
I'll be the first to admit I wanted to hate this album. I hate watching old musicians who refuse to hang it up, almost as much as I hate tired '80s punk retreads. So I couldn't have been more surprised that this 16-song, sub-20-minute blast is as good as it is. If Keith Morris' time with Black Flag was a club (brutal, heavy and unrefined), then OFF! is a sharpened stick (deadly, refined, but still slightly primitive). Besides, if you don't like it, give it five minutes and it'll be over anyhow.
Aloe Blacc: Good Things
Stones Throw Records
Aloe Blacc stands firmly on the shoulders of the soul greats who came before him but avoids being a cheap knock-off. Dripping with cool and a sense of style, Blacc still manages to switch it up with heartbreaking tracks like "Momma Hold My Hand."
According to the first track, "Composite Character," I met almost none of the qualifications to appreciate the content of this album...and yet I love it. I think that speaks to the strength of the album.
The Riot Before tends to get stuck with the "political band" label (and not unjustifiably), but with Rebellion they decided to ditch any hard and fast political message. What comes out is a more fleshed-out and human record than they've ever produced. Following the well-meaning protagonist through the trials, fumbles and internal conflicts of his daily life holds more weight than a million choruses of "Fuck the government."
I've heard a lot of long-time fans of this band call The Suburbs the weakest of their three full-lengths. However, with its infectious choruses and cohesive theme it's the only thing they've ever produced that has held my attention (and at 16 songs, that's saying something).
Some albums are instantly memorable; others haunt you until you hate yourself for ever hearing them. After listening to There Will Be No Miracles Here, I promptly decided I wasn't that into it and filed it away. Days later melodies and drum beats I couldn't place began invading my thoughts. Soaring guitars and crashing cymbals, accompanied by words I didn't know would work their way into every thought I had. I would try to place words or names to the melodies but none existed in my memory. It became so bad I physically went through and backtracked everything I listened to in the last week until I landed on There Will Be No Miracles Here and listened to the entire album over again. To this day I still get overwhelming urges to go back and listen to this album and hear those songs, but at least now I know exactly where to find them when they call.
I hate everything about this album, in theory. There are few (if any) choruses. I tend to shy away from indie-based punk music. My attention span is usually limited to three minutes at a time. And, history was my all-time worst subject in school. Yet, when you put it all together in a giant mish mash of Civil War and self-deprecation, I can't get enough of it.
Nightmares for a Week: Don't Die
Academy Fight Song
Remember when Gin Blossoms, Lucero and Two Cow Garage got together and made 11 amazing songs? Well, me neither, but if that did ever happen it would probably sound a lot like this. Nightmares for a Week walk the tightrope of punk and alt-country with the lovable loser mentality of great alternative music. It sounds awful (and in the wrong hands, it probably is), but in the precise measurements of this album it's a cocktail of all my favorite weaknesses.
Dead Broke / 86'd
As I get older it becomes harder to explain my level of cynicism and sarcasm to people without sounding like a completely jaded burnout. Now I just put on Not Like This. Punk rock for grown-ups.
The age-old story about a Canadian ska band that gets signed by a large indie label, changes up their sound on their next album, ditches most of the ska, gets some mixed reviews, then comes back with a face-splattering, technically sound rager of an album. Tale as old as time.
This would probably be my surprise album of the year (if I made such a category and I did not). Fake Problems is a band whose musical evolution has always walked the line between innovative and fickle. Real Ghosts sees them abandoning the larger-than-life sounds of It's Great to Be Alive and putting their attention on stripped-down, highly focused pop songs. What's lost in sheer scale is more than made up in tight, effective songs that keep popping into your head for weeks to come.
It's hard not to hear people talk about Make Do and Mend and not hear a mention of Hot Water Music. This album clearly sets the band in the "influenced by" and not the "aping" category, however. Able to stand on their own two feet, Make Do and Mend produce an album that is not only as powerful as their influences but with enough identity to stand on its own two feet.
Around four years ago, Punknews Editor Justin August sent me a demo by a band he swore was the best thing he heard in years. Later that year at The Fest, Justin, myself and about four others caught the Menzingers at 1982 and I knew he had been right about them earlier. It's been amazing following the Menzingers the last couple of years, not just because they've grown in popularity but because they've done so by making some of the best music out there. Chamberlin Waits is the sound of maturation done right.
Dessa: A Badly Broken Code
Dessa can write. She can rap. She can even sing. I'd imagine she could play the pan flute if she really wanted to. A Badly Broken Code sets a new level in hip-hop genre blending, showing not only the ability to incorporate a variety of musical styles but balancing lyrical delivery between literal storytelling and complex (yet easily digestible) metaphors. Dessa flows effortlessly from the smooth a cappella of "Poor Atlas" and the unbridled trash talk of "Bullpen" and does it all while keeping sincerity and honesty in the forefront.
I loved this album when it came out but never thought it would top my favorite albums of this year. However, after listening to it on repeat for an entire weekend driving to and from San Diego, it not only didn't get old, but actually got better. Whether it's the pounding intro to "The Hustle" or the slow burn to the spastic climax of "Cannibals" this album has the uncanny ability to refuse to let you turn away.
It's like an album in 45RPMs or more
Really surprised that I was into this as much as I was. A big step up from their previous H1-N1 and (despite the name) not all about partying. Plus, it's free at the band's website. Can't beat that.
Know Your Saints: Escape Artists
With all the Midwestern punk influences you'd never guess these guys were from Seattle. Absolutely killer debut for anyone who likes hooks and melodies.
Andrew Jackson Jihad / The Gunshy: Split
With a bevy of split 7" records it's awesome to see bands do a collaboration recording. Electric guitars, drums and horns feel completely comfortable providing a larger sound than one might have expected on these songs. I honestly wouldn't be disappointed if either band produced an entire album that sounded like this split.
Red Collar: Punknews Acoustic Show at Holiday Inn (Fest 9)
Death to False Hope
I'd be lying is I said that being in attendance during this recording played no part in why I enjoy it so much. That said, I love Red Collar and seeing them live is like witnessing the true form of the great American rock band. Pure and honest, this collection shines a bright light on how even with no flourishes, great music shines through.
Comadre / Glasses: Split
Amazing songs by amazing bands in an amazing package. It's releases like this that highlight why artistic control is important for music. Two bands, two 7" records, gatefold package and a 12-page booklet of amazing art. It would almost be worth owning for the packaging alone (but having great songs is a nice bonus).
Bomb the Music Industry! highlights the difference between growing up and growing old.
The 7" that shouldn't be surprising but is. Many bands could have recorded a collection of a cappella songs but it took W/IFS to make them this damn good.
Good Luck: Demonstration 2010
Four amazing tracks. Two sung by Matt and two sung by Ginger. And a Prince cover (a really good one). What's not to love? Quirky, fun and oddly touching, Good Luck prove that Into Lake Griffy wasn't a fluke and really just makes me impatient for a followup full-length.
Honestly, it feels wrong to rank Comadre's free mixtape higher than their legitimate release, but after playing both countless times, I can't help it. The Mixtape 4 is out-of-the-park awesome. Comadre collaborates with a slew of different artists and produces everything from hip-hop to country and even a Murder City Devils cover. The kicker is that it's all great. There's not a single weak track and when that's coupled with the variety of music and the fact that it's free, I can't not love this.
What I missed and what I look forward to.I'm sure I left off a lot of fan favorites but there are a few worth addressing. Austin Lucas put out a great two-song EP on Dog Lover Records but the material was well over five years old and with a new full-length in the works, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to spread my love next year. Likewise with Red City Radio's EP; I enjoyed it, but with the mix of it being more album fodder than a straight EP and their full-length slated for next year, I'll just hold off until I can give them proper credit.
With 2010 in the can there's nothing left to do but anticipate 2011. The big hook for next year is the supposed collaboration between P.O.S. and Astronautalis (really hoping to see that come into reality). Beyond that, tons of new releases from Deep Sleep, Joyce Manor, the aforementioned Mr. Lucas and Red City Radio and maybe even the long overdue World/Inferno Friendship Society full-length. And, with Republicans now holding a 47-seat super majority in the United States Senate, the future is indeed looking so bright I'll have to wear shades.