Surprise, surprise – I’m going to end the year with a Top Ten. Instead of best LPs or best life events or delicious meals, I’m going to do songs and most, but not all, correspond to an event (usually just seeing the band live). And not every song was recorded in 2013, so there. Give yourself an xmas gift and treat yourself to something off this list. And I’ll see you in 2014. Thanks for reading and enjoy…
10. “Suspiria” – Goblin
The movie Suspira is the apex of 70s Italian horror. It has it all – violence & gore, beautiful imagery, incoherent plot, bugs and…Goblin supplying the soundtrack. If these psychedelic horror movie grandparents are not on your radar, they should be. They’re touring again with about a legit a line-up as you can get. They’ve also added a dancer, completing Suspira’s ballet school motif (see I told you the movie had it all!). I admit, my pallet for this brand of music is fairly unsophisticated, but you really can’t go wrong here. Impeccable musicianship, innovative composition, horror movie montages playing behind them, a dancer and not an ounce of irony.
9. “Last Laugh” – Vitamin X
What better way to cap off an awesome two-week European trip with the fam this fall than with a fucking HC show! A free Vitamin X show at that! Nothing but respect for this band. They’ve dodged every musical trend in punk thrown their way and still managed to innovate their sound with 70s proto-metal accents. I can’t find anything wrong with these guys. Fast HC that rocks. It’s brutal and fun. Check out the closing track on their latest LP About to Crack. Mosh parts, sing-alongs, and cow bell. Jesus.
8. “What Do We Tell the Family” - Empty Palace
Whenever I listen to this tune and Empty Palace’s debut single, I can’t help but think of early Judas Priest. Something about the mournful and smooth, high-pitched vocals and the heavy, but not too damn heavy chug. Toss in some tasteful keys and you’ve got yourself a hit. Throwback rock n roll at its finest. No posing. These guys did time with plenty of hardcore and punk acts over the years and try as you might, you can’t strain out that influence. If it’s not the powerful drum fills and transitions, it’s the progressions. It’s the best non-punk, non-metal, heavy you can find. Your $5.00 well spent.
7. “Take Me Away” – Judge
May 18, 2013: When they hit the opening notes of this one it seriously could have been someone playing a CD over the PA. The guitar tone was dead on. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect them to sound perfect. Sure they can all probably buy property in Manhattan after the amount of fests they’ve appeared at this year, but at that first show, for one moment, the entire crowd at Webster Hall screamed “I was thinking - of it all!” in time with the elusive Mike Judge’s gravely howl.
6. “Order of the New Age” – Nuclear Santa Claust
Guys, this is really good. After a few years of moderately digging these guys, I’m all in on their first LP. “Order of the New Age” is the ripping opener. A power trio with an emphasis on power. I could and would classify this as hardcore punk, but there is something else going on. While fast as hell, with a rousing chorus and even a requisite “let’s go!”, the simultaneous dual vox, punchy rhythms, and surprisingly nuanced guitar arrangements make this future punk for the future punx.
5. “End of the Beginning” - Black Sabbath
On my son’s six-month birthday, my wife and I abandoned him with a baby sitter while we cruised down to the PNC Arts Center for none other than Black Sabbath. I could give a shit if Bill Ward was or wasn’t playing drums. The fact is Sabbath has had a revolving door of line-ups for decades. Their membership in the aggregate could fill a goddamn city bus. As it turns out, Sabbath in 2013 are killer. Evidenced by the more than eight minutes of mammoth guitars and the nasally wail of Ozzy in their LP’s opener “End of the Beginning.” And the new album doesn’t suck either – it’s fucking great! Think classic Black Sabbath minus the medieval and hippy flourish filtered through a contemporary mix. If you feel like shelling out a few extra bucks you can get yourself a deluxe version with some extra songs that while heavy, sound like Oz, Tony and Geezer just met at the pub for the first time in 2013 and decided to start a band.
4. “I Am Love” - Give
This one came out a year or two back on the single of the same name, but was reissued this year along with the other singles from that series as a full-length LP. For a band that doesn’t come off as hard or tough or whatever, this song is fucking nails. Listen to the first 25 seconds of that song and tell me you aren’t pumped to hear the rest of it. It’s a tribal invitation to mosh. But ironically, the song is about…well, love. “I want to kiss; I want to feel the lips of every woman and man.” I love when HC can pull off something like this. It’s rare, to be sure. Mosh your buddy, jump off the stage. Yell “I am love!”
3. “Ausländer” and “Cold Hearted” - Red Dons
Picture this - a sweaty, summer basement in New Brunswick. Packed to the gills. No one cares. Red Dons trebley jangle fills the space. Douglas Burns’s haunting vocals hit every brain in the room. As they tear away at “Ausländer,” the show’s closer, it doesn’t get better than this and most of the world will never know. Ok, enough with the pretentious rant. Pick up this single on Dirtnap or “Notes On the Underground” on Grave Mistake and you’ll have a vague idea of what I mean. For a part-time band whose members are scattered throughout, they sure sound like a band that beds down in the same room and perfects their tunes full-time. The two best singles of the year.
2. “Escape From New York” & “Golden Opportunity” – Night Birds
Born To Die in Suburbia is the year’s best LP. Hands fucking down. I’m as subjective as they come, but this record is objectively great. If you want to read more gushing by yours truly, go here. When NBs open their set with “Escape from NY,” my blood boils. Doesn’t matter if they go into the new LP’s title track or “Killer Waves” or “Rock n Roll All Night,” that intro sets the stage on fire. It transcends punk – it’s innovative as fuck while still being grounded in what it is - punk. And like the LP, going out with “Golden Opportunity” turns the spastic velocity of Night Birds live set on its ear. The mosh that concludes the song is drawn out and varied, but solid til the last note. You can’t help but move. I might be 37 years old and I should probably stand in the back, but I have no choice when they play it. I mosh my cats off the couch when I listen to the LP at home. “Modern Morons” gets an honorable mention because it employs the line “Sugar, salt, fat, tits, fuck, now.”
1. “Monkey Business” – Skid Row
My wife made a special mix of songs to help her through labor in the hospital. On April 4th, 2013, at 5:21 PM our son was born while this song was playing.