Tuesday, January 1, 2013



I was 11 when Van Halen's 1984 ruled my life.  That was the first album (cassette, from the BMG club) I wore out from start to finish.  They became the first band that I became obsessed with and had to have every album in their discography.  The David Lee Roth era of those first six albums remain in God-like status to me.  To say that these albums shaped my life as a music fan/collector/psychopath is an understatement.  I've literally been waiting 28 years for this record.  After all the internal group fiascos, I wasn't holding my breath when word of a new album came down the pipeline.  I wasn't sure they could hold it together, let alone make a quality album worthy as a successor to the long ago DLR albums.  The single, "Tattoo" was released and I wasn't too happy, but I had faith.  The DLR/VH chemistry is like a magic potion and greatness was inevitable.  I was so excited that I couldn't sleep the night before the release date.  My daughter was born on new release day.  I picked up A Different Kind Of Truth the day after.  So actually, my daughter would get my best new release of 2012.  Best album of 2012 goes to Van Halen.  If you weren't impressed with "Tattoo", the confident strut of "She's The Woman" or "Big River" should ease your worries.  Tracks like "As Is", "Bullethead", "Honeybabysweetiedoll", and "Stay Frosty" are all top shelf material.  Even the ones that aren't my faves are always redeemed either by EVH's amazing guitar work or the lyrical sass of DLR.  Check out this link for a more in-depth review of the album that I entirely agree with.  
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***As Is, **China Town, *Honeybabysweetiedoll

 I saw these guys open for Hole a few years ago and to be honest, I wasn't too impressed musically, but they definitely had everyone's attention due to their strange stage presence.  It's this peculiar humor that permeates every highly contagious track on this album.  Lead singer Eric Sean Nally belts out hooks from "That's the biggest black ass I've ever seen and I like it!" to whispering spoken word goofiness like "your eyes are filled with fire, your mouth is filled with cuss and I am tired...when I get home from work and I come through the door I am tired...and I walk into the kitchen and you're wearing that mad face on your head and I shiver in the corner like a frightened thing...wait...fuck you." followed by a loungy sax solo.   I picked this album up on a whim after hearing the single "I Like It" and I'm glad I did, as this ruled my earholes for most of 2012.  This album was produced by Justin Hawkins of the Darkness and you can hear his influence throughout.  Fans of The Darkness, The Hives, Queen, garage rock, funk and power pop will be singing along by second listen.  Not a skippable track on the album...highly recommended.  
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Forever Together, **I Wanna Be Yours , *I Like It

This album won me over listen by listen more than any other this year.  Gaslight's debut Sink Or Swim will always hold a special place in my heart.  A little of that early aggression is evident on tracks like the first single "45" and "Howl", and the Bruce comparisons live on in tracks like "Here Comes My Man", but I'm also hearing Tom Petty ("Keepsake) and Pearl Jam ("45").  Lead singer Brian Fallon's vocals are at times strained to the limits more than any other previous release ("Too Much Blood") and his blue-collar lyrics of faded jeans, party dresses and being on the hood of a car under moonlight are all there...and though they make some people's eyes roll, lines like "...movement in the way your dress would wave from your hips on down like electric through the ground" play this cheesehead's heartstrings like a puppeteer.
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Keepsake, **Howl, *45


I picked this up on a whim and I'm so glad I did, as it became one of my biggest go-to albums of the year.  The Americana of Gaslight Anthem is here, but with the spit, piss & grit of Against Me!  Amazing lyrics connect with the track sequencing, moving the album along like a sonic Steinbeck novel. The vocals go from quiet confessions to coughing up blood, which makes for an extremely enjoyable, exhausting ride of highs and lows to sing along to.  
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Sun Hotel, **Mexican Guitars, *On The Impossible Past/Nice Things


Love to hate him, or hate to love him.  He's like the Rowdy Roddy Piper of alternative rock.  Here's a reminder of just how truly great Billy Corgan can be.  A return to form and one of my favorite Pumpkins albums of their career (even though there's no Iha, Chamberlin, or Wretzky).  Read my full review from an earlier post here.
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Violet Rays, **Inkless, *Wildflower


Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy fame heads this trip down melodic ska/hardcore memory lane.  If you close your eyes you can hear that classic SST or Lookout! sound coming out of your cassette deckSocially aware, blood boiling shout-a longs, injected with these fantastic little bursts of shredding guitar.  I've said it before, but again the importance of albums as compared to singles is never more evident.  This album has a running time of 23 minutes and every time I threw it on, the only way I listened was from start to finish.  It felt like downing a can of HR's Yout' Juice.
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***We Need A Change, **Gun Show, *Bandstand 


"i got high this morning and I'm jamming the new dinosaur jr. album!  I never want it to end..."
I received this text from my good friend Lowell the day I Bet On Sky came out, and it not only is an accurate statement on this particular album, but on Dinosaur Jr. in general.  After reuniting with original members Murph and Lou Barlow in 2007, J Mascis pulls off a hat-trick of continuously great material with I Bet On Sky.  Definitely more mellow than their previous two albums, it recalls more of the Green Mind era on the whole, save for the blistering 2 minute plus jam "Pierce The Morning Rain".  I've been a huge Dino Jr. fan since I first discovered them in the early 90's and it says something that 27 years into their career and they can still make a song like "Watch The Corners" that places in my all-time favorites of their catalog.  There's something magical about Mascis' playing that speaks to me.  He has no problem making the hairs stand up and goosebumps burst out like an orchestrator of emotion.  His fingers seem to scurry in excitement, sloppily hitting every sweet spot and I can't help turning it up and up and up...
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Watch The Corners **Pierce The Morning Rain *Almost Fare 


I loves me some pop-punk.  This is hands down my favorite album of this genre for 2012.  What begins as a pretty decent album achieves A+ status around the halfway point and maintains that swagger to the very end.  Their schtick involves being these anonymous, masked troubadours criminally crooning to their love/obsession.  When he sings "I'm crazy for you" he means it literally.  They're like Baker Act Romeos. The vocals remind me of Chixdiggit, the music reminds me of Screeching Weasel or Teenage Bottlerocket.   The songs have that magical combination of comedy, melody and emotion.  The harmonizing is sooo good and the chord progressions make you want some of these songs to never end (like the tail-end of "Hello Beautiful").  Won't you give a lonely masked man a chance? 
Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Hello Beautiful **Stick Em Up *Crazy


Coincidentally, I recently dusted off 1991's  Badmotorfinger and took it for a nice long ride.  Call it grunge, or what you will, but it's one of the best HEAVY albums of the 90's alterna-rock era.  Unfortunately, I began to lose interest in Soundgarden beginning with Superunknown.  There's only so many times you can hear "Black Hole Sun" before overdosing (back when they actually used to play rock on the radio).   But being away for 16 years and remembering some really magnificent moments, peaked my interest in hearing that special sludge again when talk of a new album surfaced.  King Animal delivers the goods.  Once the slaughtering howls, creeping bass, bi-polar drumming and shredding solos come together they create a unique machine of shiny gloom (check out album closer "Rowing" for a perfect example).  A Sabbath spookiness blankets this album like winter snow and there are some true gems buried within. 
Favorite 3 Tracks -***By Crooked Steps, **Rowing, *Bones Of Birds


Man, it's good to hear from Blair Shehan again.  One of my favorite vocalists of the 90's emo days, he fronted the way under-appreciated Knapsack (In fact, Day Three Of My New Life should be the next album you buy if you don't already have it).  The thing with The Jealous Sound is that it sounds SO close to being Knapsack (maybe a little less aggressive), the main reason would have to be his vocals being so distinctive.  It's been almost 10 years since their last, and only full-length Kill Them With Kindness and the already converted, as well as fans of Jimmy Eat World, The Promise Ring and Texas Is The Reason will enjoy this vibe.  These guys honeyed hullabaloo should be making teenage girls riot in the other direction.  
 Favorite 3 Tracks - ***Here Comes The Ride, **This Is Where It Starts, *Beautiful Morning


Youth energy is the glue that holds this album together.  It makes perfect sense that Celebration Rock begins and ends with the sound of fireworks exploding in the distance.  It's quite an accomplishment that such jubilant thunder can be created from just two people.  I'm expecting great things from this duo diabolik in the future.  The final 3 songs are so amazing, it's impossible for this release not to be included, just on their merit.  When "The House That Heaven Built" comes on, it's impossible for me to keep still and not turn it up, no matter where I am.  Fantastic simple lyrics that are extremely relate-able like "Remember that night you were already in bed, said "fuck it", got up to drink with me instead..."...Yep, I remember.

Favorite 3 Tracks -***The House That Heaven Built, **Continuous Thunder, *Younger Us


I really enjoyed this release (see my review from a previous post here).  I didn't place it higher because I wanted to focus more on music that was actually created entirely in the present.  It was still one of my most listened to of the year.  Joey's brother Mickey Leigh did a great job at keeping his spirit & music alive.  Being such a Ramones fan, it was quite the treat. 
Favorite 3 Tracks  - ***Going Nowhere Fast,**Waiting For That Railroad, *I Couldn't Sleep


My wife is a huge Gwen Stefani fan and after constantly hearing her solo L.A.M.B album and the last No Doubt album Rock Steady,  I couldn’t help not enjoying them myself.  I’ve even seen Gwen’s solo tour with my wife and the last time ND came through town, I had the privilege of being the designated driver for a bunch of drunk nurses!  One even puked out my window!!   That's hardcore!!! The new ND album follows suit, being more pop/dance/reggae type songs of the previously mentioned material.  I think I threw this one on more often than my wife.  I swear when the chorus breaks in the title track "Push And Shove", it sounds like the bass strings are being shoved off the fretboard, it's so funky!! That track is yet another great pop song from Gwen and could possibly be in my top 3 singles of the year.
***Push And Shove, **Looking Hot, *One More Summer

There were so many good albums in 2012, I couldn't just pick 10.  I was going to extend it to 20, but I wanted to have some kind of limit, so I'm going with a nice, hearty 13.  The following were still great albums and had many plays for me throughout the year.  In no particular order...

"Popcorn" is such a jam I don't know what the fuck they're talking about, but I'm singing along.  They are masters of blurring musical genres and never disappoint.  They pretty much cover all of the bases from their career on this one.  Hardcore, dub, metal, funk, etc.  HR's vocals are downright silly at times, but that's part of his charm.  I'm a lifelong fan and if they put it out, I'm picking it up.

PENNYWISE – ALL OR NOTHING                                                   Zoli replaced Jim and I'll be damned if this isn't the best Pennywise album in 15 years.  Jim is already back and the bar is now raised.  I picked this up more out of curiosity, then the actual belief that anything magical was going to happen.  With plenty of whoa-ohs and sing along shouts of anti-establishment, I’ll be damned if this doesn’t sound like a Pennywise album…and a damn good one!  I'm not too familiar with Zoli, but his delivery reminds me of The Satanic Surfers lead singer.  Tracks like "We Have It All" & "Let Us Hear Your Voice" reinvigorate this long-running So-Cal skate punk band that seemed to be running on fumes.

Their debut album Permission To Land is so underrated (at least in the US).  It should be held up with as much regard as Appetite For Destruction in the world of hard rock.  When a band makes an album that great, it's nearly impossible to catch that lightning in the bottle once again.  Hot Cakes failed to live up to those expectations with me.  It's still a fun listen, but unfair or not, I wanted to hear at least one track where they really flexed, like on the debut's "Love On The Rocks (With No Ice)".  There are some great tunes like "Concrete" and their version of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", but there's also a few too many so-so moments.

SNUFF - 5,4,3,2,1...PERHAPS! 
The release date listed on Fat Wreck is January 8th, 2013.  I received my physical copy in early December 2012.  I only had a chance to give it a few listens and I'm not sure which year to include this in, so I'm putting it here for now.  It's been nearly a decade since their last release and fans can rejoice that it sounds like the Snuff of old.  I'm going to savor this one like a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA...


At first I didn't know what to make of this album.  It's way heavier than any of their previous releases.  Sometimes it works (like on the Smashing Pumpkins-ish "Kettling") and sometimes it doesn't (like the annoying noise of "3x3").  That being said, it's definitely their most diverse record which still has that classic Gang Of Four jangle ("Team A"), those dancy, good feeling ditties ala The Cure (V.A.L.I.S.) and those romantic falsetto vocals from Kele ("Real Talk" or "Day Four") which make this a more than worthwhile listen.    .


Another solid release from Teenage Bottlerocket.  It didn't make it higher on my list due to the fact that 3 of these tracks have been previously released (including the best track "Headbanger" which is a cover of their own side-project, Sack).  Always good to hear new stuff from these fellas though.  Lots of great, catchy, melodic ditties like "Necrocomicon", "Done With Love", "Maverick" & "Who Killed Sensei?"  After listening to these again, maybe I should have included this in my top 13...

For those waiting for the next Deltron 3030 album to surface, try giving this hip hop concept record a spin.  2/3 of De La Soul team up with a pair of DJ's from Paris, France to create my favorite hip hop album of the year.The story is about the rise, demise, and eventual redemption of fictional rappers Jacob Barrow & Deen Whitter (care of Dave and Posdnous from De La).  Throughout the album, they bounce from one style to the next on their often times humorous journey trying to make it big in the late 1990's. 

I guess my friend Neal is right...I can be pretty irie.  Some people will hate this record.  It's super produced, lots of effects on the vocals, and way more of a hip hop/dance vibe than anything in his back catalog.  In fact, it's about as far as he can get away from his traditional reggae debut Live At Stubb's.    The positive energy in this can almost induce a stomach ache from the amount of sugar...but watching my daughter laugh as I mimic his shouts of "BUH! BUH!...YOYOYOYOYOYOYOOOOOO!" and attempt to sing in Hebrew as we dance around is just way too much fun.


  1. Here are a few more worth mentioning:

    Hairlips - Hairlips (free download)

    Mean Jeans - On Mars

    The Fizzy Pops - Maniac Motives and the Art of Faking

    The Cry! - The Cry!

    1. Good stuff, Pete. I just grabbed Hairlips and the rest seems up my alley. You're becoming the guru on this stuff.