One of the more interesting Chicago shows New Year’s Eve is happening at Reggies in the South Loop. The reformed band Death, an overlooked and long-forgotten punk band from Detroit, is playing a 17 and over show. The band, which played in the early to mid-70s, was originally made up of three brothers (one has since died) and the sound was ahead of its time. Death was unique: An African-American band playing an early version of punk in the Rust Belt. After failing to find any commercial success, the band broke up in 1977. Fortunately, Death was rediscovered a few years ago and Chicago’s Drag City record label released seven of the band’s early songs on the album For the Whole World to See. Last year, the story was told through the release of a documentary, A Band Called Death.
Here’s an album I’m looking forward to hearing: Los Angeles band Cherry Glazerr releases Haxel Princess next month. The release is being called a debut album even though the band put out an eight-song record earlier this year, Papa Cremp.
Check out the title track to the new album below. The release is set for January 14.
When I first heard the self-released album by Parquet Courts a year ago, I knew I was on to something good. After only a few listens, I was sure it needed to be in my top 40 albums of the year. After each listen, the album, Light Up Gold, moved up on the list. Eventually I had to settle for No. 24 as I needed to get my best-albums lists out. Had I spent a little more time with this post-punk gem it would have moved higher on my 2012 list.
So I was happy to see this release get new life on year-end lists for 2013. The album was re-released on the What’s Your Rupture label early this year. Sound Opinions’ Greg Kot named it the No. 1 album, Rolling Stone ranked it 11th best and Pitchfork picked it 40th among 2013’s top albums.
I still highly recommend Light Up Gold and I also suggest you check out the band’s EP from this year, Tally All the Things that You Broke.
Arcade Fire made the best album of the year and Savages released the top debut I heard. Mikal Cronin recorded pure pop joy, while the new Deerhunter album reminded me how lucky we are to have Bradford Cox churning out intriguing music. See the full list for the year’s top 10 albums below.
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. The latest from Arcade Fire is far more diverse and imaginative than the Grammy-winning album The Suburbs. Produced by James Murphy, Reflektor mixes disco, Caribbean, dub and other styles. There is more than a nod to the Clash’s Sandinista!
2. Savages – Silence Yourself. This is an aggressive debut from a U.K. female quartet that pays homage to earlier post-punk bands. Think of Siouxsie and the Banshees only tougher.
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII. Cronin makes great music, but he really over achieved on this hook-laden record. Irresistible pop from Ty Segall’s collaborator.
4. Deerhunter – Monomania. Even by Deerhunter standards, this album is pretty edgy and raw. It’s one of the more overlooked albums this year.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me. The latest from the National doesn’t hit you in the face. But the depth of the songs will pay off after repeated listens.
6. Bill Callahan – Dream River. Callahan more often resembles a poet than a singer, speaking through his songs in his deep, impassive voice.
7. Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Daze. As meditative as this album sounds at points, Vile lays down some serious guitar licks. An original musician with a distinctive sound, he sometimes reminds me of mid-70s Neil Young.
8. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt. This is a personal-sounding album from Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The songs and music are reminiscent of the very best parts of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
9. The Men – New Moon. While New Moon explores a hodgepodge of styles, the new love for country rock stands out. Maybe because the album was recorded in a cabin?
10. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Some day, I expect Thee Oh Sees will make the No. 1 album of the year (at least on my list). Frenetic, infectious rock ‘n’ roll. Sheer enjoyment.
Rounding out the top 20:
11. Superchunk – I Hate Music. Elder indie rock statesmen make a record to keep your head nodding and feet moving. A strong offering from a band who has been going for almost a quarter century.
13. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others. Here is an excellent collection of songs from a great singer-songwriter. If you pare it down to the very best tracks, this would be a top 10 album.
14. Polvo – Siberia. What a great comeback for these ’90s noise warriors. Essentially, they stick to the same formula but it sounds fresh today.
15. Ty Segall / Fuzz – Sleeper / Fuzz. We again see the two sides of the prolific Bay-area rocker. With its slow to mid-tempo acoustic and electric numbers, Sleeper is similar to Segall’s 2011 release Goodbye Bread, while his new band Fuzz pays tribute to stoner rock from four decades ago.
16. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More. If you listen to just the upbeat, soulful music, you’ve got a great dance party. Underneath, Khan wants to make a statement about the wretched world we live in after battling his personal demons.
17. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork. I really didn’t think Josh Homme had another good album in him (at least not as Queens), but Like Clockwork is a rollicking good time.
18. The Love Language – Ruby Red. Listening to the full sound of Ruby Red, you wouldn’t know the Love Language originally started as a guy making bedroom recordings. Stuart McLamb created a powerful pop album that’s also a blast.
19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II. The second album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is quirky, funky and sometimes breezy like its predecessor but I like the songs better on this one.
20. Wavves – Afraid of Heights. The latest album from Nathan Williams doesn’t stray far from King of the Beach (2011). Afraid of Heights is tighter and rocks harder.
Honorable mention. Here are some other albums you should check out: Majical Cloudz, Impersonator; Swearin’, Surfing Strange; Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion; Iceage, You’re Nothing; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; No Age, An Object; Yo La Tengo, Fade; Fidlar, Fidlar; Suuns, Images Du Futur; and Charles Bradley, Victim of Love.
Welcome to the new home for All the Young Punks. In the coming months, I hope to add more reviews, commentary, interviews, additional voices and up to date coverage of new indie music. Also look for more previews of local (Chicago) shows.
Since starting All the Young Punks a few years ago, I’ve called my site fiercely independent and that’s the same mindset that drives me today. I’m a music geek writing for other fans. With some exceptions, I pay my way into most shows. I don’t sit in V.I.P. sections. I experience concerts the same way you would. I’m also not beholden to advertisers.
My primary focus is writing about bands who still record for indie labels though I don’t limit my coverage. Please engage whether you agree with my views or not. An ongoing dialogue will only make this site more vibrant. I hope to bring together a community of music lovers.
To kick things off, I’ve included a selection of posts from this past year to help set up my year-end lists. I’ll be posting the best albums of 2013 shortly.
Ty Segall was again busy this year. Two reissues, a new studio album and his latest project, Fuzz, kept fans happy. There’s even a live Fuzz album. Here’s what I had to say in a post from October:
Time to get those bongs out as Ty Segall and friends take you on a hazy journey back to the days of hard rock jams and the sweet stench of tasty buds. It’s the heavy sound of early ’70s rock, the kind that played on turntables in shag-carpeted rooms to the accompaniment of bubbling bong water.
The eight songs on Fuzz’s just-released self-titled debut album are a contrast to Segall’s latest release from August, Sleeper. That album features a lot of strumming and a slowed-down tempo, at least compared with many of Segall’s other albums and projects. While Sleeper recalls last year’s Twins, it is much more comparable to the 2011 album Goodbye Bread.
Fuzz, on the other hand, is a sometimes bombastic ode to the grandfathers of heavy metal. It’s a fun album, for sure, and recommended. Fuzz is three players and, though he sings, Segall actually puts his guitar aside to be the band’s drummer. Joining Segall on guitar is his longtime buddy and touring band mate Charlie Moothart, who also appeared on the Ty Segall Band’s epic Slaughterhouse. Roland Cosio rounds out the band, playing bass.
No Age has consistently delivered good albums. Here’s what I posted following the release of An Object in August:
As fans, we can be pretty fickle. We want our favorite bands to keep growing and offering us new, interesting sounds. But if the experimentation veers too far from the music that initially drew us to a band, well, that’s just no good.
No Age takes chances on An Object, an album that is (for the most part) a lot more quiet, slower and quite a bit more experimental than even the band’s last release, the 2010 album Everything In Between. Indeed, No Age has come a long way from the hammering sound of Weirdo Rippers, a collection of singles that hailed the return of punk and noise to indie music. Weirdo Rippers is an indie milestone that put teeth back into indie rock.
Now that No Age, the duo of drummer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall, completed their musical community service, why shouldn’t they stretch creatively?
The double album from Dirty Beaches this year was challenging and provocative. Here’s what I posted about the release earlier this year:
Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches, makes dark, desolate and sometimes sinister-sounding music that could be the soundtrack for a party thrown at the underbelly of some mythical urban hellscape. And I mean that in the best possible way. The Taiwanese-born Canadian made a really good “double” album Drifters/Love is the Devil this year. With eight songs on each album, Drifters is the collection of brooding post-punk songs, while Love is the Devil features mostly instrumental and largely ambient sounds. I prefer Drifters but am intrigued how Hungtai sews the approaches together in a single live set.
There were a number of notable reissues in 2013 (more on this later). Here’s what I said earlier this year about the reissue of the Microphones’ catalog:
The coolest reissues this year have to be the vinyl releases of five albums by Phil Elverum’sthe Microphones. And the star of the reissues is The Glow Pt. 2, the best known Microphones album (originally released in 2001).
Like another Elverum moniker, Mount Eerie, the Microphones was a solo act with rotating musicians. While Elverum has made great music performing as Mount Eerie, The Glow Pt. 2 may be his masterpiece. It was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, is another excellent release. Those two albums and three others, Song Islands,Don’t Wake Me Up and Mount Eerie (out August 20) can be ordered as a bundle on Elverum’s website if you want to buy all five.
In July, I did my midterm report on best albums released as of that point. Here are the 10 albums I liked as of the middle of the year (alphabetically from my July 17 post):
Mikal Cronin – MCII: This is great power pop from Ty Segall’s buddy.
Deerhunter – Monomania: Bradford Cox teased this album before its release by calling it a “mystery disc of nocturnal garage.” Cox is one of the most interesting musicians out there today.
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic: First of all, I’m a sucker for bands who can work a clever foxy reference into their band names. These guys bring a light-hearted approach to ’60s and early ’70s music worship.
The Men – New Moon: The rockers go a little more country than their last album. But this is a record full of multiple genres, punk, classic rock, post punk and more. This has to be one of the most under appreciated albums of ’13.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me: I’ll be honest. As much as I love the National, I had to warm up to this one. But patience pays off. This is good stuff and it’s potentially another classic from one of our national treasures.
Savages – Silence Yourself: It begins with a snippet from a John Cassavetes movie and then explodes into an old-school post-punk beast. As I said in a previous review, this is a brutally good album.
Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Do Thee Oh Sees make new albums or do they just record the same one over and over. I would argue that the band branched out a bit on its last two or three releases. Floating Coffin even includes a ballad. And who cares if each album is so freaking awesome?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II: Like Mikal Cronin, the band didn’t spend a lot of time on a creative album name, but this is highly original music from a band you should get to know.
Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Day: Kurt Vile is Mr. Reliable as he always delivers great albums. As mellow as this one seems at points, it ranks among his best.
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt: Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee, reminds me of the best parts of Liz Phair’s debut Exile in Guyville. That’s not to say she’s copying Phair, who flamed out quickly. This is great, honest music.