A strange brew of multi generational Punk Rock, Americana, and Minimalist rock…
Japanther , Rock ‘n’ Roll Ice Cream – The perfect pop faux- punk rock appetizer for a night out, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ice Cream is chalked full of upbeat pop hooks and freshness that only punk rock riffs can deliver. In its meager ten track package it delivers a powerful pick me up for any occasion without feeling sold out or without substance. Japanther is historically known for mixing a base of mostly minimalist punk rock with hip-hop, looping, and electronic noise highlights. A great introduction to Brooklyn boys Japanther, their seventh full length album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ice Cream takes mixing these elements to it most extreme and polished end. If you like this album, I recommend following up with the grittier, more organic Skuffed Up My Huffy .
Drink Up Buttercup , Born and Thrown on a Hook – I did a double take the first time I heard this Philly based band’s new album Born and Thrown a Hook. On first listen its incomprehensible, there’s wild sounds and lyrics swirling about and all you know is that you’re pretty sure you like it! Then as you keep listening, it all starts to make perfect sense and you recall psychedelically influenced pop from the late 60’s like The Beatles, Yellow Submarine , but there’s much more to Drink Up Buttercup than nostalgia however. The diverse mix of old, new, and original provides for an absolutely stimulating listening experience where you’re constantly being surprised as the songs play on.
The Lights , Failed Graves – I was initially intrigued by the driving yet minimalistic nature of tunes like “ Puerto Escondido ” by The Lights , but then I got double hooked after learning that they were signed by Missoula, Montana punk label Wantage . Yes, a punk label out of Montana. Certainly, they get points for waving their freak flag way up in the inner North West US, but I also like the fact that the label is very DIY and that they support undiscovered but deservingly good bands. I actually bought both Failed Graves and The Lights debut release Diamonds and Dirt . Diamonds and Dirt has a consistent slightly slower tempo while Failed Graves is more dichotomous in nature. The first half of the album roughly is much like Diamonds and Dirt and then “ New New ” comes along seemingly converting the rest of the album to more up-tempo jams. After a few listens it’s hard not to skip straight to track 5, “ New New ” and start from there. Overall, a good album and what I consider being “a breath of fresh air” sometimes, even if I don’t like the arrangement particularly.
Ryan Bingham , Mescalito – Hopefully you’ve heard of Ryan Bingham before, because if not you’re never going to fathom how you lived without this cowboys gritty (think Bob Dylan almost) voice, vivid lyrics, and pure americana sounds in your life. Even if you don’t know him by name there’s a good chance you heard one of his songs. He wrote and sang a few for that movie Crazy Heart back in 2009 and has been on a super star fast track ever since. No, Mescalito is not Ryan Bingham’s newest album, but it’s my favorite of his three albums to date. Junky Star is actually the latest album and downright soulfully perfected Texas Americana don’t get me wrong, but you can tell Ryan is in the big leagues now. I like Mescalito for the same reasons I like a lot of things, it feels a little more natural, still undiscovered, and full of not-overly-polished character.
The Sadies , Darker Circles – You know Canada has been showing us Americans how Americana is done for some time now (since Neil Young) and The Sadies are no exception. These Toronto boys have a sound that is hard to pin point. It’s definitely Americana in origin, but melancholy with more of a classic rock feel accented by really good bits of strings like violins, mandolins, etc. If I have any complaint about this album, it would be that it is too short. Darker Circles is The Sadies ninth (!) album to date, so there is plenty to dig into here if you like.
The Demon Beat , 1956 – I am still thoroughly impressed with this local Shepherdstown, WV band. I saw them at “The Church” this past December and was immediately hooked on their high-energy blues-rock jams. I listened to Shit, We’re 23 pretty consistently over the past few month and was excited when I heard a new album, 1956 was going to be released New Years Eve. 1956 is a departure from their to date typical Shit, We’re 23 style, but not in a bad way. Any fan of the Demon Beat should welcome 1956 as a sign of the bands real depth as talented musicians in the genre. 1956 is full of long guitar riffs driven by a single drum kit and minimal vocals; it’s an album that’s full of well thought out substance. Look for more good things from this Big Bullet Records artist.
X , More Fun In The New World – This selection is a kick back to the late 80’s/ early 90’s and my beloved Gourds , who covered X ’s “The New World” recently and sparked my interest. The interesting thing about the X is that they started out as an influential Los Angeles punk rock band circa 1980 and by the end of the decade; they evolved into more of a rock and roll/ punk rock sound, even incorporating some americana elements. Listen to Los Angeles vs. More Fun in the New World to hear the difference. Amongst original fans, you might hear some squabbling about which style was better. In my opinion, I can respect both styles and appreciate any band who experiments with mixing other great genres into their sound.
Richard Hell and the Voidoids , Blank Generation – I have no real explanation for this pick, other than why not! I’m obviously on a mini punk rock trip at the moment, but I picked Richard Hell and the Voidoids over the rest because of the rare artsy avant-garde quality of their punk rock. You know me; I always like an odd ball.