Thursday, August 31, 2017

Chalk Hands – Burrows & Other Hideouts

Chalk Hands EP Sleeve R2 OL
note: before I get going with this I just want to say that I have not been paid in any way to give a favorable review of this release   

    One very cool , but infrequent, thing that has occurred in this blog's history would be submissions for review by outside artists. The idea that anyone would think I would enjoy their band is pretty awesome. And I really like the idea of being introduced to new music anyway . I've also lucked out that I've enjoyed what has been shown to me. (Umm hello? Damages much?)

    Chalk Hands are no exception. "Burrows & Other Hideouts" is the debut EP by this Brighton, UK screamo band. And once again, if you've followed this blog long enough, you will know that when I say screamo, I'm not talking about something you will see on a T-shirt at a Hot Topic. Chalk Hands play a style of the genre that is also known as skramz. A lot of people also refer to this as “real” screamo. Chalk Hands encompasses a lot of the genre staples. But not in a way that ever feels derivative. The semi-titular first track of the EP, "Burrows", opens with a guitar line that straight up feels like it could be a b-side off one of Envy’s more recent outings. Eventually, the song blasts ahead full force in a tune that, overall, feels more so like a pre-“Keep You” Pianos Become The Teeth. With some sweet Suis La Lune-esque guitar leads and "Enter" era Russian Circles tapping. Hell, parts of it even remind me of pre-“Smother” Frameworks songs. Tonally, the second song, "Arms", is a much darker sounding song musically. But at the same time, it has moments that are extremely triumphant and, honestly, beautiful. Its the stuff that hits home and resonates and makes you feel something inside yourself. The song's exploding "breakdown" leads right into a somber and quiet interlude. Only to jump back in with intense guitars & high energy drumming that bring to mind "Parting The Seas…" era Touché Amoré. You know, the good stuff. The vocals on the EP remind me somewhat of how Jordan Dreyer of La Dispute has and can sing at that band's most aggressive moments.

    Without being too over-the-top, I can definitely say that this is a awesome first release. I know that this review has a lot of band name checking . But that's honestly just for reference so you as the reader can grasp some idea of what these 2 tracks encompass musically. Do I think Chalk Hands sound exactly like all of the bands I mentioned in this review? No. But they have a lot of different elements from a lot of those very good and important bands. And they blend those elements together in a seamless way that makes the music their own. Like I said early on, they never feel like they're imitating. They feel musically like they are a peer to a lot of the bands that they remind me of and, potentially, draw influence from. And for a band that is newer and not a long-established act, I think that is quite a feat. I know that for me personally, I am sold. And I will continue to follow them & the music they release in the future.
Skramz for life yo.

Download & Listen To The Album Here

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Best of 2016

Hey hey hey! So it’s time for my annual get productive post. haha. 2016 was a really good year in my life. A great year for music. No time to spare. As per usual, these are in no particular order. And if you like it any of them, go buy them from a local record store or from the bands directly <3


Russian Circles – Guidance


Obviously, when i write these best of posts annually, the albums featured are releases that really made a impact on me. And its safe to say that as the year draws to a close, i have a idea of everything that will be featured. And some years, I’m lucky enough to have a standout release of the year. And that's pretty rad. Well, this year is odd. Because there were 2 albums that are pretty evenly matched in my head for AOTY. And they couldn't be more opposite. And I think that ultimately makes it really rad that these are the 2 its come down to. Russian Circles, for those not in the know, play extremely heavy, loud, beautiful instrumental music. Genre wise its somewhere between post rock and metal. Post metal? That could be a thing i suppose. haha. My main draw to the band was that it initially had 2 members of the defunct instrumental Math Rock band Dakota/Dakota. And I have followed them since their inception. Eventually, there was a change up in members and the ex-Bassist of Botch/These Arms Are Snakes joined the band. Personally? Some of my favorite stuff they have put out has been since this change. Because I think they kept all the beauty their earlier albums had, but got even heavier. Which I love. If I had any complaint with this album its that i love it so much that i wish there were more songs on it! haha. Though the last song on the album “Lisboa” has one of my favorite passages the band has ever written. It is unbelievably beautiful.

Download The Album Here


Porches – Pool


So that brings us to the 2nd contender for AOTY. And fuck. This album is so fucking good.  I don't really know how to explain it. Heavy, heavy 80’s vibes. Dancy AF. I wont lie that I hadn't heard of this band prior to this year. And truly, I am unfamiliar with their releases prior to this album. I saw YouTube videos of just the singer singing and playing guitar. Which led me to believe that perhaps this was (is?) his solo project? I don't fully know. Truly? I heard of the band because their drummer was (is?) Cameron who used to play in Zona Mexicana. haha. I laugh because this band has ZERO in common with Zona, but I am still stoked I looked into them because I love the album! Once again, if i had to complain about anything, its that its over before you know it. I am not really aware of other synthy pop bands. I know there have to be some but please note i have no point of reference. I don't listen to that kind of music regularly. I just know I like this band. “Underwater” is a amazing opening track. “Mood” makes me feel like I should be on a yacht in Miami in the 80’s. Or maybe just playing GTA Vice City? haha. I cant recommend the record enough. Its upbeat. mellow. fun. poppy. Idk. Its not a very “me” record. And I’ve had alot of fun destroying people preconceptions of what I like musically by sharing it with them. I’ve listened to this record at work more times than i can tell you. And if I can give it one point over Russian Circles, its that it has the ability for more mass appeal. Hell, skramz emo dude me fucking fell in love with it!

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Tortoise – The Catastrophist


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Nothing – Tired Of Tomorrow


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Mouse On the Keys – Live At Red Bull Studios Tokyo


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Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool


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Totorro – Come To Mexico


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Deftones – Gore


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The Mercury Program – New Myths


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Knola – To The Rhythm


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David Bowie – Blackstar

david bowie

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Enemies – Valuables


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Touché Amoré – Stage Four


I have a love/hate relationship with this album. Its placement on this list is no surprise. I think every album they have released since I saw them open for Envy all those years ago have been on these best of lists. I need to be fucking upfront as hell. This album is fucking good. The music on it is right in line with what they put out on “Is Survived By” IMO. But note that for the first time (that I know of anyway) there are vocals that aren't screaming. Idk how i feel about them tbh. But you gotta understand, I was in this from “…To The Beat Of A Dead Horse” on. And I've seen the band get less heavy with each release. So from that standpoint, its a progression that seems expected. But not necessarily where I would like to personally see them go. Anyway, all of that aside? I don't really dislike any of it. My first listen through I thought, “this is good. A bit of a bummer though.” This is before I knew anything about what the album is actually about. And once I found out, and listened again, I cried. Holy shit did i cry. The album touched me in such a personal way that i lost it. Idk if i should really get into what this album is actually about. But lets say I had a personal connection to the themes that are touched on with the lyrics. I identify with the feelings and thoughts. And I am lucky enough to be on the other side of the situation. And having my situation turn out differently. So my love for this album, its because of that connection. Because it was able to move me to tears. In a year of some sad releases (David Bowie’s final album and Radiohead/Thom Yorke’s break up album) this one has taken the cake. So as much as I love it. I love it for making me feel how i did. Being able to touch me how it has. I hate it because it has made me feel more vulnerable than any album I can remember in recent years. And I am scared at what it does to me. I think the ability from simple music and lyrics affecting someone in such a way is very very powerful. And hats off to Touché Amore for that. Now, lets get back to skramz-ier sounding tunes dudes. ;-)

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Contact – Zero Moment


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Dikembe – Hail Something


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John Carpenter – Lost Themes II

john carpenter

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TTNG – Disappointment Island


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Hesitation Wounds – Awake For Everything


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S U R V I V E – RR7349


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Frameworks – Smother


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Lite – Cubic



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Daughter – Not To Disappear


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Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness


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American Football – LP2

american football

I’m going to do my write up about this album in a way that's potentially weird. I am going to first, talk about everything I DISLIKE about the album. Okay. First and foremost, Mike’s voice! I know, I know. A lot of people are very defensive of this. “It’s been such and such however many years since the self titled. You can’t expect him to sing the same.” Really? I point you to the Colossal and Owen (oddly enough, Mike Kinsella’s solo project) Split from this same year. And more so direct you to Colossal specifically. Their last full length came out 12 years ago. Their last recorded content released on comps 10 years ago. And yet, their song? Sounds exactly like them. No difference in voice OR music. It sounds like a Colossal song. Which brings me to my next thing I don't like about this album. It is clear that it WAS NOT written like previous American Football songs. American Football was a trio. 2 guitarist and a drummer. I think those 3 wrote in a very specific way. Not only is this heard on all the pre break up material, but you can hear it on the newly released demos that came out on the reissue of the first LP. NOW, I am not putting down Nate Kinsella. The last Birthmark record is fucking stellar. A+. No hate on him. BUT personally? I think including him, and his instrument, in the writing process of THIS record definitely changed its tone. And made it LESS American Football-y. If that makes sense. My personal opinion, and what I would've liked to have seen, is that they should've wrote the album as a trio, and brought in Nate to add his basslines once the songs were written. Now, I get it. They toured. Played all those reunion shows. And he was there. He helped them play live and helped the songs sound fuller live. So maybe it was that they thought they owed it to him. Or that he was actually a member at that point. But they didn't take into account how that would ultimately change the writing process and the music produced. Okay, so get this. THATS IT. that's all the issues I have with this record. Any problem i have can be traced back to those 2 things. It took quite alot of listens before this album grew on me and i was able to get through all the bs I had with it. Its good. It has alot of the qualities that are associated with their material from back when. I think there is some definite show of age though on the songs. Not just Kinsella’s obvious different singing style. But the songs all seem ALOT more straight forward. Very little of AF’s “signature” polyrhythmic drumming is present. There are some minor attempts here and there. But nothing to really write home about. And nothing that really grabbed me. That's fine and I honestly think that was probably a conscious decision by the band to maybe be more appealing to the general masses. But that's obviously speculative. Listen, if you've heard the AF’s EP and LP and like them, you kind of owe it to yourself to listen to this. You may like it, you may not. Most of what I’ve seen is people raving about it. It took me a lot longer to warm up to it. But I can now say I enjoy this record and have some great memories connected to it.

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Mogwai – Atomic


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scntfc – Oxenfree OST


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Monument Valley – OST


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The Blasting Company – Over The Garden Wall OST


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You’re Next – OST

youre next

I have not been able to find this album digitally. I’m sorry.


Stranger Things – Volumes 1 & 2


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Splits & EP’s

Colossal/Owen – Split


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Lifted Bells – Over Reactor


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Suis La Lune/Shirokuma – Split


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Red Hare – Lexicon Mist


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Youth Novel/Coma Regalia – The Gentle Harm Of Tradition


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Lite/Mouse On The Keys – Split

lite mouse

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Reissues & Compilations

Converge – You Fail Me Redux


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Jeff Buckley – You And I


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Oswego – Self Titled


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Snowing – That Time I Sat In A Pile Of Chocolate


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Saetia – Collected


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Local/Friend’s Bands

Secret Pizza – Nothing Needs to Happen

secret pizza

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Slingshot Dakota – Break


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Cattle Drums – Sorta Is The Best We’re Doin


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Birthday Boy – Hi Anxiety


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Living Room/Typesetter – Glimpse


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Difficult – To Heal


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Ohne-ká And The Burning River – Tree Lines And Birth Rights


Years ago there was a local Syracuse metal band called Cicada. Cut to the chase, they SLAYED. Beloved doesn't really begin to describe their local support. The issue with Cicada? The time it took for them to release their album took FOREVER. Seriously. I remember talking with friends at shows about the anticipation and when they would actually release it. It did eventually come out. And people rejoiced. But I always joked that that was the local album that took the longest to come out. Well, that was until the release of THIS album. haha. I feel like for YEARS this album has been done, or being mixed or something along those lines but there was always no release date or projected release. Friends of the band talking about how they have a early demo version of the album. Etc. Etc. Well, would you believe that half of Ohne-ka and the burning river were in the band Cicada? Haha! Anyway, i will say that this is a great fucking record. And while i didn't give up on it getting released, i kept my anticipation for the release low, so it wouldn't drain any sort of excitement i had toward the record. For those not in the know, Ohne-ka and the burning river play instrumental metal music that is heavily post rock influenced. Is post metal a thing? haha. Idk. Start to finish, this is a very good record. And it flows really well. How they structured the tracks is a really good fit. If you have heard their previous record (and you should've as it was featured on this site's best of for the year of its release!) this record continues in the same vein. In a lot of ways, from song structures or sonic experiments, they have grown. And I personally feel like the album has a concept album vibe to it. One cohesive goal or vibe with all songs attempting to work together to get you there. To be fair though, I do have a few minor gripes with the release. I honestly just don't like the singing on the vocal heavy track "Shadows On The Wall." . The music is good. But i do not love the vocals/vocal style. If anyone knows me, they know that when a instrumental band stops being instrumental and starts having singing, that's usually when i check out. (Tera Melos is a great example of this happening) This didn't happen with Ohne-ka though. The final track on the album "Into The Dark Without" ends its almost 20 minute run with singing that i really enjoy. So don't pigeonholed me as a vox hater! haha. My only other complaints are so minor and nerdy that its not worth getting into. haha.  And I know the album was recorded, mixed and released by the band themselves. So realistically, releasing a album of this quality is a outstanding feat! For many years, Ohne-ka And The Burning River have been a local band that has consistently challenged themselves and blended all sorts of elements to be one of the most unique and beloved Syracuse bands in recent history. This album continues their impressive musical legacy. Let’s hope they keep it up. (And maybe at a quicker pace? :’D )

Download The Album Here

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Best of 2015

another year. more music. this year had some of the best and worst moments of my life. so maybe more often than in the past I relied very heavily on music to try to help. These are my favorite releases of the year. In no order as per the usual. I hope you like the list!
p.s. as always, if you like any of these albums, please purchase them in one form or another
p.p.s. sorry for the mostly monochromatic album covers this year. haha.
Deafheaven – New Bermuda
This album could, potentially, be my album of the year. My only issue with that is that I just heard Deafheaven for the first time this past year. But the first album I heard was "Sunbather". There was one day where i just thought, "you know what? I am going to check out a bunch of these albums that i have seen in passing, but haven't given them time." Along with stuff like The Hotelier, Joyce Manor, and ALOT of others, the plain pink cover of "Sunbather" had been sort of burned into my mind. ALOT of the albums I went through had the usual listen to the first 5 songs. Acceptance. Understanding. the "ahh, i see what they are doing." Sunbather was different. Mostly because musically, it wasn't some emo-y thing. or punky thing. To me, I said "whoa, someone likes Envy alot." But after more listens, then it became "its like Envy with blast beats" More and more listens lead to the final "This feels like if Envy started listening to black metal and got Matt from Majority Rule to sing" So okay, enough of my mini "Sunbather" review. Because, this album is not that album. I think musically, its similar. But the production on "New Bermuda" makes it less spacey and ambient sounding. less of that post rocky feel that exists on their previous effort. Also, the vocals are VERY upfront in comparison. Which apparently, was something alot of people didn't like about "Sunbather" but I must be in the minority. Because I quite liked the quieter vocals in the mix. Added more to that ethereal, spacey, post rock-y vibe i mentioned previously. The "black metal" nature of the vocals are much more obvious now. Overall, Deafheaven plays a form of Metal that while influenced heavily by Post Rock AND Black Metal evenly, isn't really either genre specifically. This album consists of five 8+ minute epics containing everything from blast beats, breakdown, and parts that sounds like outtakes from The Cure's "Disintegration". If any of this sounds of interest to you, look into it. This album destroys.
Download The Album Here

Mouse On The Keys – The Flowers Of Romance
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Torche – Restarter
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Raein – Perpetuum
You know, there are going to be ALOT of albums on this years list that wont surprise you. But while last year could potentially viewed as the year of the Emo comeback, this year has to go to all the skramz/screamo bands that came out with new releases. As some of you may know, Skramz was made up to describe a specific style of Screamo. Not what the genre is. But what it was in the 90's. Passionate, heavy, often times chaotic. And obviously screamy. Suis La Lune, Sed Non Satiata, even Envy all put out new music this year. Raein is also part of that group. Though not as long running as Envy, (at 20+ years who is?) Raein has been around for quite a long time. They’ve put out numerous splits and EP’s over the years, along with a few full lengths. And they’ve generally been playing similar music from their inception.  This is their first release since 2011 (a split with Loma Prieta came out in 2013). Honestly this album kind of came out of nowhere. Had no clue it was coming and then BOOM it was here. I was disappointed in myself because i try to stay in the know. This album offers up more of their fast paced, intense rock-y screamo. The vocals are just as intense as ever. The guitars go from chaotic to beautiful and immersive. My only complaint is that this album is over far too soon for my taste. But it was not the bands only offering for 2015.
Download The Album Here

John Carpenter – Lost Themes
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Foxing – Dealer
Download The Album Here

Envy – Atheist’s Cornea
Okay so onto the second of the big "Skramz" release of the year. Though Envy sort of exists outside of that genre. The last album they put out that I think you could argue is closest to that would be 2003's "A Dead Sinking Story". After that album, they took on more post rock type elements. A band that can simultaneously be considered skramz. But others might just simply call hardcore or post hardcore. Either way, the music this band churns out is consistently strong. With numerous variants to the sonic qualities they explore. An example would be that a song on this album ends with a music movement that i could easily see played at a wedding. Another song on this album is honestly one of my favorite songs the band has ever written. And as heavy and intense as it is, it has ZERO of the intense vocal style the band is known for. Cant say enough good things about Envy's brand of hardcore and of this album specifically. On a personal note, how fucked is it that Envy opened for Deafheaven on some dates of their fall tour? Just personal opinion. I love both bands. But there is a certain level of respect I feel Envy deserves. 20+ years playing this kind of music and consistently putting out good and important music.
Download The Album There

Le Matos – Chronicles Of The Wasteland / Turbo Kid OST

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Caspian – Dust And Disquiet
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Maserati – Rehumanizer
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Loma Prieta – Self Portrait
This album was HIGHLY anticipated for myself and I know a lot of other people. This album is my other album of the year contender. I don’t think going into 2015 I ever could have guessed that outcome. Initially, Loma Prieta played music that I would say was highly influenced by Orchid. Their early stuff had that brutal, chaotic, fast paced, noisey style. Power violence? Emo violence? Screamo? Idk man. I know that their songs were and are usually on the shorter side of things. Fast and brutal. My issue with their releases up to this point was the production. I honestly couldn’t really determine what was going on. haha. This can be said of a lot of bands that play that style or similar styles. Ampere is another band that comes to mind. But any way, this album has it! I can hear what is going on. I can determine everything. The vocals are not as intense as their past albums. Or maybe that’s just the the production making them more clear and less distorted? One thing that is odd is some of these songs, they have hooks!? That was fully unexpected. But this album gives it all. A lot of people were disappointed with the album. Mostly because these changes. To each their own. I think this album is fucking great. And I honestly welcome the minor changes to the writing and to the production. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Victor Villarreal – Sleep Talk
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Zombi – Shape Shift
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Chon – Grow
I have made it clear that I have sort of phased myself out of the math rock world in the past few years. Kind of used to be everything to me. Even looking far back in this blog, you can see that A LOT of what I talked about was in that vein. But I just don’t know much of anything anymore. Which brings us to Chon. Idk how I first heard of them. Welllll, that’s sort of a lie. Their Audiotree live performance captivated me and A LOT of my friends. The majority of us had never heard of the band before that. And that’s just unreal. Realistically Chon falls somewhere between Math Rock, Virtuoso-ish Metal (think Vai, Satriani, style/technique hounds) and even chord structures and movements that seem Jazz influenced. The elements that are on “Grow” are nothing new for the band. Just more progression in the vein of their previous EP’s. There is some experimentation with vocals. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. I just prefer them as a instrumental entity. It’s really where they shine. Basically, if you like off the hook melodic metal with dual guitar you will like this band. Fans of musicianship, etc.. this is the type of band you like to see. The only thing that could make this band better was if their live performances were more energetic. The bassist seems to be the only one to openly show he’s digging the music. And with music this fun, you really want to see members of the band looking like they are enjoying themselves. But shit, that’s potentially asking a lot. I have never and will never play music of this caliber so I have no clue what it takes perform it.
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Suis La Lune – Distance/Closure
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Battles – La Di Da Di
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Monobody – Self Titled
The first place I heard about Monobody was through Math Rock groups that I follow online. Truly, and I know I've mentioned this before, I’ve distanced myself from that “world” if you will. I didn’t pay them much mind. Until I saw the label that was putting out their debut. Naked Alley Records was (RIP :-[ ) a label that was started by then ex- guitarist of Loose Lips Sink Ships. Which was obviously a band I was familiar with prior to peacing on the math rock scene. He has since gained a lot of popularity/attention with playing in Their/They’re/Their. Anyway, this isn't about him. haha. Finding that his label was releasing their album, I then perked out. And what I found was very different then what I thought I might find. I, personally, don’t find this to be math rock. This album has far more in common with Return to Forever or other Fusion bands of that same era for me to to really liken it to that genre. I get that the guitar (and maybe bass?) sometimes has tapping. But like, Stanley Jordan the JAZZ guitarist tapped all the fucking time, and that didn’t make him a Math Rock guitarist. Ya get my drift? That said, there is some influence there. Though not enough that I would change my opinion that this is a fusion album. Revivalist in a way. And its really good. Anyone interested in fusion should check it out. And while I am not sure that every person interested in math rock should listen, I think its worth a shot. There is some cross over there that makes this album pretty unique.
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Steve Moore – Cub OST
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Pretend – Tapestry’d Life
If there was a darkhorse album of this year, this is it. I have a hard time as to why I had no prior knowledge of this band. But I have a feelings its along the lines of why I didn’t know about Chon. Just musical circles I had sort of phased myself out of. But lucky for me, Topshelf put this one out. And as lame as it may seem, in the past I’ve been a bit of a Topshelf whore as it were? haha. Whatevs man. They put out good music. So when the stream of this album went up, I checked it out. At first listen, I wasn’t fully sure about this. The first track started and honestly reminded me of Death Cab For Cutie. The vocals mostly. But almost as quickly it got turned on its head. The band plays music that’s influenced by bands of the Kinsella fam. Twinklely fans take notice. Really pretty guitar work. Honestly though, I think the drumming is one of my favorite things about this record. Technical, yet bombastic. Very interesting all together. The vocals are always very mellow and usually in the higher register. Even at the heaviest points of this record, they don’t deviate. The songs do tend to be longer and usually change quite a bit within that time. I just really enjoy this record start to end and I’m extremely glad I checked it out.
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Disasterpeace – It Follows OST
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Baroness – Purple
Without talking this up too much, this album was essentially a Christmas present to myself. I wont lie anymore. I did not love Yellow and Green. And I put it on my best of list from the year of its release. But truth be told, I maybe listened to that album 3 times. And I was over it. I was over the band. And that’s sad. but I was so turned off by where it appeared that Baroness was heading with Y&G. I didn’t listen to anything they put out post. And things were fine. Well, time passed. I knew this album was coming out. And I didn’t care. I was done. But then randomly, I said, fuck it. I will check it out. I assumed it would be a death nail. But I was wrong. I was dead fucking wrong. And I couldn’t be happier I was wrong. Right from the opening track, I was sold. First listen was Christmas Eve Day. And by the time I reached my house from my job (a 10 to 12 minute drive) I was so happy. Not just because so many of the songs on this record are just tops. But just like, a old friend came back around. I can really only compare it to how a lot of people felt when they saw the new Star Wars movie. Almost like, an old friend who you haven't seen in a while shows back up into your life. They apologize for what happened between you and show you they’ve changed. Praise aside, I don’t love every song on this album. There are obviously musical directions I prefer over others. But the fact that I could listen to this album start to finish? Huge deal. I genuinely enjoy this album and feel like the band I fell in love with years ago is back. To be told, I already had this best of post written prior to even hearing this record. And I thought “well, I can include them in the honorable mention category.” But the more and more I listened, I had to admit that this deserves higher placement.
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Team Sleep – Woodstock Sessions Vol. 4
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Bedhead – Live 1998
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Lite – Approaches IV
lite approaches-4
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Del Paxton/Gulfer Split
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Moving Mountains/Prawn – Split
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Giraffes? Giraffes! – Spazz Master
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Duck. Little Brother, Duck!/Malegoat Split
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Braid – Kids Get Grids
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Raein/Ampere Split
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Recreational Drugs – EP
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Caravels/Octaves Split
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Dikembe – Ledge
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Sed Non Satiata/Carrion Spring Split
sed non satiata
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Local/Friend’s Bands
Mouse House – MHEP
Mouse House
This album was HIGHLY anticipated locally. Honestly, not since the release of Cicada’s album years ago could I really think of a album that had such a similar anticipation (though ex-Cicada dudes Ohne-ká and the Burning River's sophmore record is getting to that point). Mouse House was a interesting entity. Essentially, their claim to fame was being ex-Oak and Bone/Black Throat Wind.  Not that I am some scene know it all, but as far as I knew, the other guys in the band didn’t have any  connections to anything known, popular, or honestly important. Except that their original drummer was in The Sweet Hereafter. But that was more of a personal connection for me tbh. And anyway, it wasn’t till his departure that their sound got to where it did. Mouse House played post rock music, but all the instruments were acoustic. That was kind of their thing. Their claim to fame. The thing people would talk about. “So I saw this band. They all played acoustic guitars. But holy shit were they LOUD!” That kind of became the thing. Maybe I am just some sonic plebian, but I personally never understood that concept other than on the level of having a gimmick. But gimmick arguments aside, the songs were always good. And they were LOUD and played well live. As seems to be the custom nowadays, this album was not released while the band was together and playing regularly. It came out shortly before they played their last show. Recorded in haste and released quickly. Overall, I think its a lot better then a lot of other albums I've heard recorded under similar circumstances.  And like I said, these guys write good songs. I listened to the album numerous times out on tour this summer, and it was always good. If you like big sounding post rock, you should definitely give these guys a listen. RIP.
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Shipley Hollow – Normal Soup
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Speirs – Speirs EP
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Hidden Hospitals – Surface Tension
I think for a lot of us, there was hope that Hidden Hospitals would end up being like Damiera version 2.0. I know a lot of people who listened to their first and second EP’s hoped for that. And it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. And truly, its for the best. Damiera was, and will always be, their self titled EP and M(us)ic (though The Disillusionist is the shit). And the majority of ex-Damiera members in this band didn’t write that material. Back to this album. If you like the their EP’s, you will enjoy this album. There aren't huge deviations to the band’s already established sound. Except, I think this album has a more polished sound then their previous EP’s. And it flows together nicely. There is a bit of like, 80’s sounding keyboard on the album? Like, I wasn’t and I am still not sure how I feel about that. But bands gotta experiment and try new stuff. Another example of that would be that there are some dynamic shifts on this album, that at first listen were a bit jarring. Like going from pretty, poppy and light to extremely heavy. Like, I laughed the first time I heard it because it caught me off guard so much. But all of that said, I think the album is good. The songs are well written and well executed live. I would even go as far to say that seeing them live is JUST like listening to the album. There’s obviously something positive to be said about a band that goes to the lengths these guys do to be able to play live and have it sound EXACTLY like the recording. But I cant lie that I miss the real energy and passion that I used to see when I would watch Dave play in League and the first 2 versions of Damiera. I think its hard to keep that when you all have earpieces, are playing to sequencers and have all sorts of samples running simultaneously. That also limits the venues and crowds you can play to as a band. Gone are the gyms and community centers of the past. Hidden Hospitals have taken the concept of “DIY” to a very different level. Different than any other “DIY” band I know tbh. Obviously you could discuss the moral, ethical and ideological implications behind this or that. But save that for another day. Sometimes you have to put aside your personal opinions regarding a band’s actions and choices and say “the music on this album is good.” And I can say that about this release. Just don’t go touring and following these guys like they are Phish or something. You will be sorely disappointed. :-P
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Birthday Boy - Slamming Doors

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Honorable Mentions

Kinoko Teikoku – Neko To Allergy
I wanted to love this album. I did. I listened to it numerous times hoping, basically praying, I would enjoy it. I am sad to say, I just cant give this one a pass. And its not saying it’s a bad album at all. Quite the contrary. But here is the deal, since the release of (and maybe even marked on the release) their “Long Goodbye” EP, the majority of the songs that Kinoko Teikoku have put out have veered toward more straight forward pop sensibilities. Their last full length prior to this album, “Fake World Wonderland”, was honestly a disappointment. And much like Baroness, I gave them a pass in the year of its release. And it made its way on to that year’s best of list. And I think a lot of that was just out of respect. Even though the band had changed significantly, there were still very positive elements to the music.  And that’s not to say that there aren't positive elements to this release either. But its just not the same band. All the same members. But this isn't that band. And I genuinely think this may be a point of no return for me. Sure I will probably listen to their next release. But honestly, I am not a fan of pop rock. I have a hard time even calling this stuff alternative. I think that anyone who fell in love with “Uzu ni Naruwould listen to this and feel the same. Listen, I am all for independent bands getting signed to major labels. But when you sacrifice what your band is doing sonically to be able to get signed? well, that’s a negative thing IMO. But then again, I’ve always been more of a fan of important sounding shoegaze influenced alt rock over indie pop rock.   
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Toe – Hear You
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Refused – Freedom
To be clear, I know that I, and quite a lot of others, wanted this album to be fucking stellar. I mean “The Shape Of Punk To Come” was their previous release. And I think for a lot of people, it marked a really interesting point in the band’s career. Not going to say the pinnacle, because I know a lot of people who disliked the experimentation on that record. That same dividing line was pretty much why so many liked the album. Often regarded as a classic in certain circles. Coming from that, and having nearly 20 years between the releases (3 years shy)  there was excitement to have new material. And the first track that was released, the opening track of the album, “Elektra” honestly sounded like a leftover song from “TSOPTC”. The bottom line is, arguments of experimentation with sound and style aside, this album is not the successor to “TSOPTC” that we had all hoped. I found it to be a bit disjointed track to track. One thing that made its predecessor so great was while experimental, it sounded cohesive track to track. Interviews with the band in regard to the album yielded the issue. The album was written over several sessions YEARS apart. Some songs having been written closer to the band’s break up, others years later.Though I have no personal knowledge of what was written when, I think you can determine fairly easy for yourself if you’ve heard their previous efforts. Ultimately, I walked away from this album with me liking MAYBE half of it. Which is, obviously, why I couldn’t put it in my faves. (Interestingly enough, that’s pretty much the same reason Toe is listed here as well)
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The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness
the world
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Nai Harvest – Hairball
nai harvest
Ever since the release of “Whatever” I have been following Nai Harvest. Actually, at that time I had to pay the import fees etc to get my own copy from Dog Knights Productions. And it was worth it. My introduction to this band came from emo discussion. And they were mentioned as having a very Kinsella-y sound. Not necessarily musically, but vocally. Well, I like Tim and Mike’s vocals (not so familiar with any of the rest of the clan) so I checked out the band. I liked a lot. And I followed along. Eventually they got signed and I was stoked. It was to Topshelf. And as most know, they are sort of the front runners of the emo resurgence thing that was/is happening in the US. So this was big. A few years ago I traveled to see them in Buffalo. They opened and I basically left shortly after them. I met them and they were rad dudes. But I wont lie that the newer material they played that evening didn’t strike me in the same way. But I stayed hopeful. While different, I enjoyed the “Hold Open My Head” EP. So why not? “Hairball” is a decent album. But its basically just a genre switch from their last full length. High energy, fast paced lo-fi emo has now become fuzz laden high production alt rock. The songs aren't bad. But its just, different. Still, worth checking out.
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