About Us


There is a good chance you found us accidentally by using the word “taint” in your search (If you found us on purpose, you deserve our accolades). Of course we don’t know what you were looking for, but you stumbled on a damn cool project. Look around; let us help send you on a musical journey. Here you will find a number of album reviews from the strange and extreme to the tame and mainstream. Our reviewers are a bunch of obsessive miscreants. Most of us are avid music collectors and have been involved in the music world for decades. A couple of us have been in or are still in bands.

There are no rules on Tickle Your Taint Blog. Our reviewers might make you laugh, or piss you off; both results are legitimate. One reviewer might write a glowing review of an album another might tear it apart. We may end up adopting a single review system, such as five stars, or each reviewer may use his own or none at all. We may have a new review every week or we could end up with one every six months. This blog exists as a social experiment to build community among a diverse group of music maniacs – our reviewers and hopefully you. Pull down your knickers, lube up and join us in tickling yours and our taints.

If you are in a band, have released a physical (rather than an MP3) CD or record, and would like us to review your efforts, contact us at tickleyourtaint@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Music Obsessions, Favorites, and Gems

Friends and music, it seems that this is all we have at times. Here are our music-related obsessions and high points for 2016.

Anita Papsmear:

My rating system:
5 Smears = the best, most perfect offering a band/artist can do—it’s downright malignant
4 Smears = almost perfect, pretty sure it’s malignant
3 Smears = middle of the road—not bad, not awesome—it’s a biopsy moment
2 Smears = you best change your diet and exercise right quick
1 Smear = benign - no good

Top 2016 CDs:

The first five CDs all received 5 Smears. The rest of the CDs received a 4 Smear rating. Enjoy!
2016 was a fucking brutal 365 days of loss. Some really big names died—devastating. The silver lining? There was a buttload of amazing music released. Here is a drop in the proverbial musical bucket of what I found pleasing.

1. Glass Animals, How to Be a Human Being (Harvest).
I love, love, love this band. They provide the listener with a unique kaleidoscope of beats, wonky, yet deep, lyrics and refreshing rhythms. It’s like my favorite toys grew up and formed a band. Favorite tracks: “Pork Soda,” “Poplar Street,” and “Youth.”

2. Crocodiles, Dreamless (Zoo).
I fucking love the Crocodiles (a statement they should put on their next tour t-shirt). Their last 3 CDs have wound up on my top CD list for the specific year in which they were released. I have patiently waited for them to tour in my nether region and finally, in February 2017, they will come. Purr…. Favorite tracks: “Not Even in Your Dreams,” “Jailbird,” and “Maximum Penetration.”

3. The Last Shadow Puppets, Everything You’ve Come to Expect (Domino).
I was smitten as a kitten when I first heard 2008’s My Mistakes Were Made for You. TLSPs 2016 release blew me away. Every song is as good as the last. This record is a perfect storm of musicianship, great songwriting, and good production. Bellissimo! Favorite tracks: “Aviation,” “She Does the Woods,” and “Bad Habits.”

4. David Bowie, BlackStar (Columbia).
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck—Sigh Sigh Cry Sigh Cry…. BlackStar is a stunning piece of art. There are no words. RIP StarMan. Favorite tracks: “Lazarus,” “BlackStar,” and “Girl Loves Me.”

5. Band of Skulls, By Default (Import).
I have absolutely loved every CD this band has put out. Yet this is another band that I want to see live. That said, this CD was not an immediate climatic moment for me. Much like the journey of the egg down the fallopian tube, this took some diddling. Although it isn’t my favorite CD from them, I did come to like it very much. Note to the band: I hope this doesn’t keep you out of my nether region. Favorite tracks: “Bodies,” “In Love By Default,” and “Embers.”

6. Night Beats, Who Stole My Generation (Pias American).
Perfect soundtrack to a raucous night. You know, people may have said that about my underwear. Favorite tracks: “Power Child,” “Right Wrong,” and “Burn to Breathe.”

7. Daniel Ash, Stripped (Go Studio).
Anyone who knows me, Anita P., knows that I am a huge Love & Rockets fan. They are literally my favorite band. Stripped is a delightful re-working of Love & Rockets, Tones On Tail, Bauhaus, and solo tunes. The real art here is taking well established songs and making them sound fresh again, a goal that Daniel surpassed. This CD has easily become a favorite and is among my go to’s for any occasion—even a pap smear. Favorite tracks: “Too Much Choice,” “Christian Says,” and “No Big Deal.”

8. Haley Bonar, Impossible Dream (GNDWIRE).
Like a good dream, the luscious tunes on this disc will float into any available orifice and make itself right at home. It’s lovely. Great songs, beautifully written and sung. Haley is one to keep an eye on—especially around unguarded orifices. Favorite tracks: “Stupid Face,” “Hometown,” and “Your Mom Is Right.”

9. The Pack AD, Positive Thinking (Import).
I love these guys. Positive Thinking is another great release from them. Got to catch their live show too. Favorite tracks: “Teenage Crime,” “Los Angeles,” and “Yes, I Know.”

10. White Lies, Friends (BMG).
There are some good earworms on this CD. It seemed like it took forever to get a new piece of plastic from these guys. Happy it’s finally here. Favorite tracks: “Hold Back Your Love,” “Don’t Want to Feel It All,” and “Is My Love Enough.”

11. Bob Mould, Patch The Sky (Merge).
Fucking Bobby, man. He is a prolific motherfucker and is putting out some of the best work of his life. He is an inspiration—fucking amazeballs.

12. Dandy Warhols, Distortland (Dine Alone).
This CD gave me total wood. Catchy tunes! Thanks Dandys.

13. Richard Ashcroft, These People (Harvest).
Richard Ashcroft is among my favorite artists. Of course, The Verve—stunning. Richard has such a gift for the craft of songwriting, albeit now and again, there is the trite lyric. On These People, he has some real gems. Did I mention that I have always had a deep from the groin kind of love for him? I mean, he is a physical wet dream of a human. I have a thing for puffy lips and big eyes though. He can spend an afternoon in my nether region anytime. Try: “Everybody Needs Somebody to Hurt” and “Ain’t the Future So Bright.”

14. Black Mountain, IV (Jagjaguwar).
I have had this CD on constant play since it came out. I cannot hear this it enough. It bugs me that it came in at #14 because it seems like it should be higher on the list. But when you’re as busy as this gal, shit gotta go where shit gotta go. Not that this CD is shit—it’s fucking great. “Cemetery Breeding” is the new goth anthem—amazing song. Do yourself a favor, get this CD and gazz.

15. Ghost Wave, Radio Norfolk (Import).
I pronounce the title Radio Nor Fuck.

16. School of Seven Bells, SVIIB (Vagrant).
Awesome.

17. Primal Scream, Chaosmosis (Ignition).
Fucking great.

18. Warpaint, Heads Up” (Rough Trade).
Super good.

19. Cool Ghouls, Animal Races (Import).
Ghouls Good.

20. Jim James, Eternally Even” (Capital).
I like this guy’s solo stuff. Ethereal. Pretty. Real Sunday morning shit.

Favorite Song of the Year:

Fitz & The Tantrums, “HandClap,” from Fitz & The Tantrums (New Elektra).
I cannot stop singing this song. Jesus Fuck. And here’s the thing, I don’t want to!!!

Honorable Mention CDs:

Elephant Stone, Ship Of Fools (Burger).
M83, Junk (Mute).

Ergot Project, Beat-Less (Extravaganza).
I guarantee you will love many of these Beatles’ redos. To me, AP, if one is going to cover a song, one better make it their own. EP has done a stellar job here. When I play this, someone always positively comments on it. I wonder who they will cover next?

Mexrrissey, No Manchester (Nacional).
Okay covers of Morrissey/Smiths tunes sung in Spanish. It’s a must have for any serious music fan.             

Bryan Ferry, Avonmore - The Remix Album (BMG).
Now that’s baby making music.

2016 EPs of Note:

Lush, No Control.
Great release. I hope that there will be a full CD in the near future but for now, we must settle for this 4 song EP.

NIN, Not The Actual Events (The Null Corporation).

Massive Attack, Ritual Spirit + a 2-song CDs.
Hope Sandoval is on one of the songs—how shit the bed great is that?
   
Best Various Artist Compilation CDs:

Set: 24 (Iboga).
This is real shake your ass off EDM. I think.

Still In A Dream: A Story Of Shoegaze 1988-1995, 5 cd set (Import)
Best CD I Missed From 2015:

Elle King, Love Stuff (RCA).
I totally missed this woman in 2015, so, give me a big finger wag. I am oh-so glad I found her in 2016. She is everything I want to be.


Beert:

For many, 2016, could be considered a year of death. Many great artists took their last breath. I’m not going to list them all. Some were a loss and others were not. Does this sentiment make me an asshole in some regard?

As for me, 2016 brought on a personal revelation. I have come to the realization that I just may be a nihilist (exhausting, right?). With the complete shit show of the “election process” and watching people go for each other’s throats over delegate A or delegate B (both of the same alphabet, my friends...get what I’m saying?), I soon noticed that my brain didn’t care which of any of the nominees for President got elected as not much changes, and even less changes for the better—not to mention the fervor that embroiled so many people. It was like a social media civil war with brother against brother and sister against sister. So much hatred spewing forth you could almost ride the wave. And humanity as a whole made me sick.

With that, 2016 was a year where I didn’t get the opportunity to see much in the way of live music, and I didn’t pick up much recorded music. My beautiful fiancé and I did continue our radio show, Left of the Dial, and celebrated our second radio anniversary in November (see https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/leftofthedialkteq ). And with that it’s always a good time to see what she picks and what I pick and how they meld together for, usually, a nice mix and variety for three hours each week.

In some other 2016 music-related news in my life, I quit the two bands I was in. As I get older, I find my time spread too thin and I needed more time to spend with my other half, and just do nothing. So, after years of playing music, I took some time off. It was a very hard decision to come to, and I think I knew I needed to do it earlier than I actually did. It started to turn from something fun into work. And music should never be work and lead to something that we despise. It also became hard for me to write songs about depression and to use those songs as a catharsis when my depression and anger had seemed to fade to almost non-existence. Love will do that. And believe me, I would rather be happy and not playing music, than filled with self-loathing and writing songs trying to get that shit out. So my hiatus came, and continues. Although, there are two more bands in the planning stages, and we’ll see if they come to light in 2017.

And no reviews this year! How terrible of me. I may have tried to open up more free time by pulling out of playing music, and yet I could never seem to find the time to just sit and listen to something, without being distracted. I still have things I want to review (and I was asked to review the latest release by Skull Drug), and I will set aside some time in 2017. But time was not with me in 2016.

As far as live music, I didn’t get out much. But, there were 2 highlights:

1. 2016 Rapid City Punk Rock Reunion
     
While there was a lot of death in the music world this year, there was a resurrection and rebirth in Rapid City, South Dakota. The huge, almost week-long Reunion was amazing. Many faces of Rapid City past made their way home, where their punk rock roots were laid. And, for me as a transplant into this town, I had the ability to see many of the bands I had only heard of—Skinshed, Dissent, PX, MotherMayI, etc.—and getting to see State of the Union perform again was a huge highlight for me. And, as is the way of music for many of us...it was like a huge family. Music tends to do that, as we know. And the Rapid City punk scene increases that feeling for me. It is always welcoming and like an extended family. It was truly a sight to behold, and the planning stages are in place for 2018. I’ll need to be sure to try and get some days off work next time.

2. Tommy Stinson & Chip Roberts as Cowboys in the Campfire at the Cave in Rapid City

Tommy Stinson of The Replacements and Bash & Pop fame was in little ol’ Rapid City. This was a very, very intimate setting—just a stage outside a former tourist cave and far fewer people than there should have been. No barricades, no security force, no outrageously priced concessions—it was BYOB. The show was just Tommy and Chip and the audience. This was an enormous highlight for my beloved as The Replacements are her all-time favorite band. Getting to see The Replacements in 2013 was probably one her favorite shows, but the intimacy and feeling of music around the campfire at this show has to be in her top 5. Musically, it was a lot of fun, song choices were off the cuff, and it seemed spontaneous. It felt almost like a backyard party. 



I didn’t gather much in the way of music made in 2016, although I did download the 2016 Relapse Records sampler for $1. $1 is totally worth the slew of bands that Relapse puts on this compilation. And I did support the Anxious and Angry online store and ordered a nice selection of records through them. And, through the Anxious and Angry podcast and store I came across some records by: 

1. The Bomb. How did I miss out on The Bomb’s run through the late, late 90’s to the present (although there hasn’t been a new release in a number of years)? Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun fame leads this band, and they are phenomenal. Very reminiscent of Naked Raygun, but a little more updated. Anxious andAngry.com still has some records by The Bomb if you find yourself in need. And if you do not possess any of this band’s stuff, you are definitely in need.

2. For years I have been obsessed with a band from Muscle Shoals, AL—The Pyles. I really can’t get enough of them. For a time, they were all over youtube. They had a Facebook page and on that page a record was in the works in 2014. And then...they disappeared. There is hardly anything on youtube (gone is their fantastic ukulele cover of Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar”), and no word on any shows or on the record they were in the midst of. There is still the ability to listen to three of their songs on their Reverbnation page ( https://www.reverbnation.com/thepyles ), but that’s about it. I’m hoping they make a resurgence as they had this haunting beauty to their songs. And they are/were a very talented group of musicians. I could listen to them for hours on end.

I turn my eyes to 2017, and like many others, I have high hopes that music of dissent will grab society by the throat again. Let’s make music dangerous again!


Class Warrior:

This list will be shorter than in previous years, unfortunately. This is because either music sucked in 2016, I sucked in 2016, or I just didn’t find good music to listen to this year. Despite the fact that this year I obtained a quality stereo system for the first time in my life, I think I listened to less music than any point in the last thirty years. For the first time since, well, ever, there will be no new punk albums on this list. It’s pretty clear at this point what the answer is to the problem above. In my defense, there are plenty of albums released this year that are either waiting for me to listen to or that I haven’t listened to enough to form an opinion about their merits. But enough of the preliminaries—on to the music! I'm going to keep this list to recent stuff only. In the past I would list everything that I listened to a lot during the year.

Diamond Head, Diamond Head (2016).
A new Diamond Head album in 2016? This has got to suck crap, am I right? The probability of this album being anywhere near listenable is pretty low. Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make any assumptions. While they don’t have the same singer (Sean Harris) who made their first album from all the way back in 1980, such a metal classic, the current vocalist, a guy by the name of Rasmus Bom Andersen, is a more than adequate replacement! Brian Tatler, the guitarist who created all those wonderful songs like “Helpless” and “Am I Evil,” is still there, which is key for this album. These songs have heaps of catchy riffs. Catchy as the hooks on your mom’s leather lingerie, which Brian Tatler undoubtedly ripped open last night. Holy shit, this band found the fountain of youth! What a comeback! They blew away all the youngsters this year. Listen to these songs and be reminded that not every band stays together to try to cash in on their glory years.

Stars that Move, No Riders (2016).
A mostly enjoyable romp through basic Sabbath-style doom/stoner metal. The songs are solid. The singer is not the most accomplished at her duties, but she gets the job done. They’re not going to make you go out and set stuff on fire (unless you are going to light a doobie), but you won’t spend your thirty minutes regretting your decision to press play. To me, the entire reason to listen to this album is their strange choice of a song to cover—“TV Dinners” off ZZ Top’s Eliminator. The original is not the most exciting tune ZZ Top had ever cranked out—especially when compared to numbers off the same album like “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.” The cover, though, gives the song new life and energy. They speed it up a little, crank up the guitars, and off they go. Plus, I think the singer changes the “oh yeah” at the end of the verse to “fuck yeah.” I can’t tell for sure. My ears aren’t what they used to be.

Eternal Champion, The Armor of Ire (2016).
Now we’re talking. This is some old style U.S. power metal in the vein of Manilla Road. The vocals are reminiscent of Mark Shelton’s, but they don’t annoy me like his did. Even the album cover is in the style of the past gods. A barbarian-type fellow is holding his sword aloft while a buxom lass in a leather bikini clutches at his leg and hip (and the presumed satisfying combination of safety and lust-satiation they provide). Also, note that the barbarian appears to be left-handed. They stand (or kneel, if we’re talking about the lass) on a precipice with a ruined castle and a craggy mountain range in the background. The sword has blood on it. This is the real shit, in other words. The band has the attitude, they have the look, and they have the sound. The songs are memorable if you give them repeated listens. The singer sings rather than grunts. What more do you want?

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper, Walking in the Shadows (2016).
File this one next to Diamond Head above. The fact that we are talking about a new Grim Reaper effort in 2016 is marvelous and strange. I love this band! Steve is not willing to rest on his laurels (do you receive laurels for being in an 80s metal band?) and is cranking out new music. So what if it’s not terribly memorable? It’s more than good enough to rock out. It could have been far, far worse. He and his band still tour (including the states), so go see them if you get a chance.

Kroh, Altars (2016).
I was awaiting this eagerly because I was familiar with their single from last year. I enjoyed the hell out of those two songs. Plus (and I still don’t know if this is a positive or a negative) the cover art for the single from last year featured two naked demonic young women with a goat man behind them. It seemed that an unholy ritual/orgy was in the works. (You can buy the art on a t-shirt! Wear it to work! Put it on [and take it off] for “sexy times!” Gift it to your local clergy member!)  Let’s move on to the present album. Kroh is from Birmingham, England, and they play down-tuned, distorted doom metal with well-done melodic vocals. I think this gives you enough of a base from which to start. Oliwia, the singer, is good at her job. She has an admirable range, but tends to stay in the lower registers—this is a doom band, after all. It’s pretty clear the band knows what they have in her, so her vocals are featured as much as they can be. I really like this album! One of the best of the year, for sure. Check out their bandcamp page!

Kreator, Gods of Violence (2017).
I know this hasn’t come out yet, but I heard the song “Satan Is Real” last week and am excited for the release of this. Check it out! I'm sure I’ll be writing about it next year!



Dave:

(Is rocking the fuck out.)


Five-Inch Taint:

2016 may have been a shit tsunami but at least the music was great. As we enter the shitnado to Oz at least I have had a great soundtrack for the end.

Before I get in to a list of albums, concerts, and documentaries I have to make special mention of my favorite song of 2016. Now, as we all know, we emotionally connect with music in a very deep manner. This past year I married Dr. Five-Inch-Taint in a beautiful ceremony performed by SoDak. Our first song was “Rose of My Heart,” by Johnny Cash. It’s such a simple, yet beautiful song.

Beside wedded bliss, this has been a great year for new music and discovering previously released music that I had never heard before.

In the television/documentary department there are a few programs that stand out. First, BangerTV, from the man who brought you the Metal Evolution series. If you haven’t seen this show it’s available on youtube and is a treasure trove of conversations about metal. I’ve grown particularly fond of the show “Lock Horns,” in which the host, and guest host, discuss the ins-and-outs of particular genres within metal. This show has been responsible for the growth (both in breadth and depth) of my metal appreciation. Second, the Lemmy documentary. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see Motörhead or Lemmy perform live. Seeing footage of him performing and getting a glimpse into the person of Lemmy, I became a bigger fan of his music. So much so that, when somebody traded in their music collection at the local record store, I had to purchase all the Motörhead in their collection. I am now the proud owner of 20 Motörhead albums. Finally, the documentary, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream. Tom Petty has always been in the background of music for me and I have always enjoyed his work. However, after having watched this documentary I began to realize his brilliance as a songwriter. Even though this documentary was around 4 hours long, I wanted more. I hope they do an updated version of this soon.

This was a great year for concerts. However, I did not go to as many as I would have liked. There are a few that really stood out for me, though. First, this was the year that I discovered, through the recommendation of SoDak, John Moreland. His show was very low key, just a man, a guitar, a microphone, and a very sturdy stool. John Moreland’s songs are simple, sad-bastard music (just the way I like it). Although soft spoken the man has a tremendous presence on stage that stayed with me for quite a while after the show ended. My second favorite show was definitely not about the musical performance. Instead, I am including this show because it provided me with a brand new experience. In April, the band Beach Slang performed and (temporarily) broke up on stage at one of the local venues. Watching those scenes unfold I was not sure if this was part of the show, something premeditated, or a complete meltdown from the band. Throughout the night, snide, passive-aggressive comments were made from the band, culminating in the main guitarist slamming his instrument down on the ground in the middle of a song and walking off stage. The crowd stood there, stunned, unsure how to act, as the performers let us into their backstage. Erving Goffman could not have asked for a better breaching experiment. I was not sure how to feel, and still don’t know how I feel about the experience. But, due to the fact that I felt something completely new, I am including it on my best of. Third, seeing Black Sabbath twice in the same year. Although they played identical shows it was amazing to see these guys still rock the fuck out. Fourth, I had the privilege of seeing Voivod. Holy shitballs, they were incredible. They had everything: energy, musicianship, and a good dose of humor to go along with a set that spanned multiple decades worth of great songs. 

The best concert experience, though, was Psycho Vegas. The previous iteration of this festival, Psycho California, was unbelievable; however, Psycho Vegas blew it out of the water. Over the course of four days I probably saw around forty bands. I was able to see bands that I had always wanted to see (like Blue Öyster Cult, High on Fire, the Budos Band, Subrosa, Mac Sabbath, Mudhoney, etc.); see bands a second time that continue to blow me away (Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats); and was introduced to new bands that blew me away (Chrch, Golden Void, Dead Meadow, and many others). The lineups were so packed that there really wasn’t any time to go out in search of food, so SoDak and I engaged in bang-bangs before the shows started. Now, if you are not familiar with a bang-bang, it has nothing to do with sexy-time. It refers to eating one meal and then immediately going to eat another meal. Some of these bang-bangs were ill-advised (such as the cinnamon roll-ice cream bang-bang, followed by Indian buffet). All-in-all, this was a tremendous experience and I am disappointed that I will have to miss out on Psycho Vegas 2017.

Now, on to my favorite albums of 2016. There were a lot and what I am listing below is in no particular order and is excluding a lot of great music. I am including a wider variety of genres on this list. If I were to just list my favorite albums, it would mainly be doom metal and thrash.

10.) Steve Gunn, Eyes on the Lines
9.) Itasca, Open to Chance
8.) Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
7.) Domkraft, The End of Electricity
6.) Cough, Still They Pray
5.) Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
4.) Drive-By Truckers, American Band (especially the song “What It Means”)
3.) Mandolin Orange; Blindfaller
2.) Nails, You Will Never Be One of Us (this band scares me, but I like it)
1.) Vektor, Terminal Redux

Some honorable mentions: Testament, Brotherhood of the Snake; Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies; Dinosaur Jr., Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not; Neurosis, Fires Within Fires; Betty Harris, The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul.

For me, this is the soundtrack to end times. While the world may be getting worse every year, at least we have good music to ride out this shitstorm.


Gusty Bellows:


Records:

Nocturnal Habits, New Skin for Old Children (Glacial Pace)

Ex-Cult, Negative Growth (In The Red)

The Coral, Distance Inbetween (Ignition Records)

Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Arc (Relapse Records)

Church of Misery, And Then There Were None (Rise Above Records)

Robert Pollard, Of Course You Are (Fire Records)

Mike and the Melvins, Three Men and a Baby (Ipecac Records)

Tortoise, Catastrophist (Thrill Jockey)

The Scientists, A Place Called Bad (Numero Group)

Unwound, What Was Wound (Numero Group)

Conan, Revengeance (Napalm Records)

Guided by Voices, Please Be Honest (Guided by Voices Inc)

Black Mountain, IV

The Last Shadow Puppets, Everything You’ve Come to Expect

Awesome Re-Issues:

The Afghan Whigs, Black Love

Caustic Resin, The Medicine Is All Gone

Concerts:

Live shows that I enjoyed this year include: X, Guided by Voices, Rocket from the Crypt, and Dead Key (Fort Collins).


Jimmy “Explosive Diarrhea” B:


With each passing year my musical tastes become more and more eclectic. Country music shows up in my lists as often as metal and hard rock. This year was more of a return to form for me. My list contains four metal albums, which is kind of odd since I didn’t buy many more than that in 2016. Also for perhaps the first time, I am able to rank the first three albums in my list. The rest are randomly placed. I won’t say much about the albums, since I trust the interested taint ticklers will check them out online. Enough blabbing, here is my 2016 list of obsessions:

1. PJ Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project
I have been a PJ Harvey fan for a long time, and with one or two exceptions every album she has released has been better than the ones that came before. She struck gold with The Hope Six. Although I must admit some of her political messaging is confusing.

2. Rotting Christ, Rituals
I buy every Rotting Christ album that hits the store shelves. I feel like they always put out good albums, but have complacently followed a formula for recent releases. Rituals has that Rotting Christ edginess, and creepiness that I have always loved. I believe they have finally found the natural progression from the intense RC stuff from the late 90s and early 2000s.
 
3. The Skull, For Those Which Are Asleep
In case you were asleep and missed it, the band Trouble has reformed, well sort of (with two original members), as The Skull. Wagner and the boys understand their fans’ needs, and they deliver what I can only describe as late 80s Trouble with better production.

John Zorn. 
My first introduction to John Zorn came from Dave many years ago. I stopped by his apartment, and he was listening to a jazz album called Painkiller. I thought it was really weird and discordant, yet, for some reason, I bought it. After a few listens I decided Painkiller was unlistenable. Then I heard a series of metal albums he made with a trio of musicians. I was surprised by their excellence. I started exploring John’s catalog and found the Book of Angels series. This series of albums is mostly eastern folk mixed with jazz, and it is great. In 2016 I bought at least ten of the Book of Angels records. Amazing stuff.

Joe Ely, Twistin’ in the Wind
Prior to 2016, I only knew Joe Ely as a member of the Flatlanders. I really like the Flatlanders so I took a chance and bought Twistin’. It is the best country (country is a very loose description) album I purchased this year.

Metallica, Hardwired to Self-Destruct
This was an iffy choice for inclusion on this year-end list of great albums. Hardwired to Self-Destruct is not a great album, but it is a very good album. It is weaker than Death Magnetic, but there are some great songs on Hardwired that stick in my head. 

Oresound Space Collective. 
Anyone who hates either space rock or improv music should probably skip ahead to the next item on the list. I have a tendency to read other blogs (I am cheating on the Taint Tickling group), and I came across OSC. I didn’t realize at first it was all improv. I took a chance and bought an album. The sound is somewhere in between Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles. There is a prog element, but the records are very accessible. By the end of year, I had four OSC albums in my collection, and more will be added in 2017.

Russian Circles, Guidance
I could easily add Russican Circles to this list twice, since they put on one of the best shows I saw in 2016. I am hard pressed to say why Guidance is better than RC’s previous albums, but it is. The songs and musicianship grabbed me. Check it out, and go see them live.

Consider the Source, World War Trio Part One
This was another band I found through the blogisphere. They are influenced by eastern music, rock, and jazz. This was my most intense prog obsession of 2016.

Rounding out my top ten is The Budos Band. 
I had never heard of these brassy fuckers (see what I did there? They have a brass section.). SoDak told me how great they were to see live, so I figured I would give them a shot. I bought their entire catalog over the past couple months. I love their take on rock and roll.

Frost and Fire II. 
I didn’t see a lot of shows in 2016, but I did attend the Frost and Fire II festival in Ventura, CA. A friend bought me a ticket; he wanted someone to share the Cirith Ungol show with. Most of the bands were of the 80s throwback variety, and not really my thing, but there definitely some good moments. Cirith Ungol was fantastic. Their albums from 30 years ago do not demonstrate just how great these men can play, fantastic musicians. Also the fans in attendance were cool (except for me. I sent a kid flying for stepping on my toes. Dude, if you are reading this I apologize for being a dick!) The audience was much better than the Portland, OR crowds I am accustomed to. I also want to thank the African-American woman tending bar for her generous whiskey pours.


Kloghole:

1. I think I only caught two shows this year. I probably saw more, but I am fucking old and can’t remember shit anymore. I saw the Subhumans where I picked up a couple of their discs and a t-shirt. I enjoyed another pairing of Slayer and Testament. I always love seeing Testament for some reason.

2. Gram Parsons’s GP and Grievous Angel was my favorite of my most recent record store runs. Like many great artists I have not had the time or money to get into, Gram Parsons was a great listen. I had the crazy notion that he was more of a hippie Grateful Dead type. I have a really bad memory for some things, so I probably knew better, but I was lulled into a pleasant groove when the old school country vibes warmed my speakers and my mood. I recalled the connection between Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons while perusing the liner notes. I have to say, the buzz I heard about Gram Parsons is well deserved if you are a fan of the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.

3. Speaking of Guy Clark, I picked up another of his more recent albums, My Favorite Picture of You. Also this year, I picked up Somedays the Song Writes You. Like all of his work, I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I was actually moved more by another recent acquisition.

4. John Prine’s Fair and Square was playing while I was doing some work on the computer. I was only partially listening, but there were some grooves happening. I should probably give it a closer listen to see if I was really hearing something there.

5. I did not get much in the way of recent music this past year. Early in 2016, I picked up the 2015, Complicated Game, by James McMurtry. I was not blown away, as I had been with some of his past albums, but it had some pretty heavy rotation in my CD player.

6. One of the four new purchases I made this year is the new Drive By Truckers’s album, American Band. It underwhelmed me because I was looking for songs like “Sinkhole” and “Lookout Mountain.” The album was musically sound, and the lyrical content is timely, but I was not as excited about it as I wanted to be.

7. Another album from 2016 was Testament’s Brotherhood of the Snake. It is another solid offering. I found myself banging my head along with the beat while occupied with tackling my ever growing to-do list.

8. I also have the new Santana album, Santana IV. I dig Santana’s grooves. If I remember correctly, this gathers together the folks from the original lineup, including, believe it or not, Neal Schon. Don’t worry; there are no Journey influences here.

9. The last 2016 offering is the timely Call It What It Is by Ben Harper. I saw him play on Jimmy Kimmel, opening with “Pink Balloon,” and moving into “Call It What It Is” as the credits rolled. I looked it up online, and found the song infectious, largely because of what my friends and students were experiencing at the time. The song “Pink Balloon” left a bad taste, but I was looking forward to the album based on “Call It What It Is.” Once I was able to get my hands on the album (I missed his tour, much to my chagrin), I played it excessively. I had been dealing with some shit, and the album helped me move through it. The song “Pink Balloon” began to grow on me as I contemplated the implications of someone who carries around a pink balloon and does not give a shit what people think. Some may feel that Call It What It Is reeks of being too heavy-handed and obvious, but some shit just needs to be said out loud. I think we must try to have conversations with people, but I also believe we should not have to put a ribbon on a turd just to make white folks comfortable. There is a real difference between trying to keep someone subjugated by the language you use, and speaking truth to power that makes white folks question practices that perpetuate that subjugation. As we move into what half the country fears, we really need to call a stinky pile of fecal matter exactly what it is…a steaming heap of shit.
Sweet Dreams Motherfuckers!



Null:

Musical Obsessions of 2016 (in no particular order)

Bands/Albums

Son Volt, Trace (remastered 2-disc edition) (Rhino, 2015).
Originally released in 1995, this has always been one of my favorite records. The new remastered /reissue sounds great and the added demos and live concert do not disappoint. The demos sound exactly like one would expect and the live show from 1996 includes beloved Uncle Tupelo songs too. Jay is the down-trodden working-class Buddha poet of Amerikka. This shit runs deep. It’s a perfect record; it’s just beautiful.



Adele, 25 (XL, 2016).
I was the last person on earth to hear an Adele song. As her first two releases gained global popularity, I was in the dark. I tend to shy away from major pop stars, especially those that are promoted and distributed through a giant media machine. There was even a stand in our local grocery store selling copies of Adele’s latest album, 25. The grocery store doesn’t normally sell CDs. But then, one night, I saw Adele perform “When We Were Young” on SNL. That was it. Her voice, her mannerisms, her words…. It took me back to old Etta James songs. I picked up 25 and discovered a wonderfully written and executed album. A good album is a good album, whether two people like it or two hundred million people like it. She’s a good songwriter and an extraordinary singer. She’s a motherfucker of a singer, as Miles Davis would put it. And more importantly, she doesn’t “over-sing”; she knows restraint. I can be a very sentimental guy. I listened to this album a million times this year. I was also lured in by the fact that Adele is quite funny and foul-mouthed—always a plus. Being a punk rocker and loving Adele just makes me feel more like a rebel. “I’m so mad I’m getting old, it makes me reckless.”



Dio, A Decade of Dio Box Set (Reprise, 2016).
My obsession with Dio has been going on for a while now, so I was excited to pick up this remastered box set containing all the Dio albums from 1983 through 1993 in little facsimiles of the original vinyl LPs. I’m obsessed with little things, which may explain part of my love for this little, strange man. I mean, come on, it’s a fucking Dio box set! I hope the next box set, of the remaining decade, comes out soon.




The Jam, Direction Reaction Creation Box Set (Hip-O, 1997).
I have been a fanatic of The Jam for a very long time. Even though I already had all the songs contained in this box set, which contains everything they ever released plus outtakes and demos—minus the Extras album, sold separately—I was still excited to get my hands on this out-of-print box set. Now I am complete.




Journey, Infinity (Columbia, 1978).
I remember the day my older step-brother brought this record home and threw it on the turntable. He lay on the couch and sang along with the lyric sheet. My grandpa recorded it on an old VHS tape somewhere. I may be biased, because I can’t really separate this album from memories of being a little kid. I grew up listening to a lot of Journey on the radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This album brings me back to the warmer analog recordings of the time and the band is just brilliant on this one, which was the first album with new lead singer Steve Perry. It is also nice to hear the deeper cuts on this album, all of which rock. It is filled with great ballads and super rockin’ tracks. I think it might be their masterpiece; however, that subject is open for debate.




Agnes Obel, Citizen of Glass (Play It Again Sam, 2016).
SoDak was enthralled by this record when he heard it playing in one of his local record stores. When I came to visit him, he threw it on. I was instantly captivated. I’m not sure how one would describe this record. It has classical/staccato elements, breathy reprieves into memory, and a melancholy other-world-ness that both saddens and comforts at the same time. It also seems like it could be a branch from the Dead Can Dance tree. Agnes is a multi-instrumentalist with an angelic and haunting voice. She is Danish and currently makes her music in Berlin. The whole record plays like a long dream one would have in a far off distant land in one’s own subconscious. It’s filled with shadows harboring the sublime, a truly amazing record.




Dead Ending, DE 12” Vinyl EP (Alternative Tentacles, 2012).
SoDak had an extra copy of this fabulous EP sitting around his house. It contains Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith, among countless other bands), Jeff Dean (the Bomb), Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio), and Joe Principe (Rise Against). It is fitting that this was released on Alternative Tentacles Records, because this is everything punk rock can aspire to be: heartfelt, intelligent, balls-to-the-wall hardcore punk. They have newer releases that are on my “To Do” list for the coming year.



Air Supply, Greatest Hits (Arista, 1990).
As far as I can tell, the last pressing of this record was in 1990. I believe it is out of print. It is great, because it is not too long and not too short. When I first picked this up, I thought, “Ya know, I should have some Air Supply jams that I grew up with as a kid. This should be fun.” Yet, when I brought it home I could barely make it through the first couple of tracks. The nostalgia wasn’t strong enough to pull me through. I guess I wasn’t in the mood. Several months later I pulled it out again and I couldn’t stop playing it. These guys are so good, so cheesy, and so brilliant at what they do. I was swooning for several days. In addition, I believe that when Air Supply sings, “…and I can make all of the stadiums rock!” on “Making Love Out of Nothing At All,” I always chuckle to myself and think, “This is one of the greatest moments in rock.” The thought is not free of irony, but it also isn’t free of sincerity. I was a sad kid.



Various Artists, Beautiful Music For Beautiful People 10” compilation on marbled vinyl (Amity, 1989).
I picked this up from Todd Smith (of Dissent) at The Rapid City Punk Rock Family Reunion. This compilation is everything a punk rock comp should be. It has a great booklet inside with lyrics and info. It is pressed on a beautiful, thick, marbled piece of wax. It has 10 kickin’ tunes from bands all over the states and Europe. It is a reflection of the global community of underground punkers who were striving for a better world. If you can find one, get your hands on it. Here is a list of the bands: Dissent, Instigators, Scoundrels, 16 Blasare Utan Hjarna, Crib Death, Libido Boyz, Tit Wrench, Flitox, S.S.D.C., President Fetch.                




Superchunk, Hit Self-Destruct CD Single/EP (Hippy Knight Records, 1992).
I’m not even sure I should have this on my list because I have listened to the three songs on this EP (“Cadmium," "Throwing Things" (Acoustic), "Lying in State") for about 20 years, as they all appear on the album of all albums, Superchunk’s Incidental Music 1991-95. However, when I saw this single in the record store, I got all weak in the knees. It was just so cool to have the actual EP in my hands. If I could sum up what I love about Superchunk in three songs, it would be this EP. I am a complete music geek.




Dead Kennedy, Their Complete Discography.
I listened to a lot of the Dead Kennedys this year. These songs could have been written yesterday, just change the names of a few of the guilty and 1984 easily fits into 2016. It would be almost impossible to fully explain the influence that the Dead Kennedys have had on my life, both musically and intellectually. I have been listening to them since I was about 15 or 16 years old. Even now, at 44 years of age, when I put on one of their albums I get the same thrill and I am held in the same awe as the first time, except now I know all the lyrics and every note, of every instrument, of every song. I know that, for years, whether consciously or unconsciously, I have measured every other punk band up against this monolith of a band. I think DK showed that punk rock songs could be as intricate, subtle, and as nuanced as any other genre of music. They also lacked the polish of most new punk bands, which makes the production perfectly punk. They can play the quickest and tightest hardcore and fill slower songs with sweeping landscapes of urgency and emotion, each member contributed something unique to create a sound like no other. I think each member of this group deserves the same praise as the members of Led Zepplin or any other talented band in the rock cannon—the DKs just played faster. Let us not forget Winston Smith, the artist who provided the strikingly direct visuals that were a perfect complement to DK’s content. He was the silent member that visually represented DK to the world. This band also gave the world Alternative Tentacles Records, which continues to showcase the real diversity and creativity in underground music. I once had a friend who described Jello Biafra as a man obsessed with justice and said that Jello rears his venomous tongue to attack inhumanity wherever he finds it. He is not wrong. The complexity and range of emotion in Jello’s lyrics still astonish me. They are filled with sardonic humor and crushing realism. He was never dogmatic. Take the time to sit down with Plastic Surgery Disasters or Bedtime for Democracy and a lyric sheet and your understanding of the world and your place in it will be transformed. Read the lyrics to “Stars and Stripes of Corruption” from Frankenchrist. It is not all pretty. It is quite dark, but ultimately it is empowering. In the end, this band exerts three uncompromising pillars: Revolutionary Critique, Compassion, and Empathy. I’m glad Jello is still out there fighting the good fight. I heard an interview with him on the radio last year where he said he was a Marxist. Fuckin’ a—no surprise to me. Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, Klaus Fluoride, and P.H. Peligro—there will never be another. “If we don’t try, if we just lie, if we don’t find a way to do better than this, who will?”



Bob Mould, Bob Mould/Last Dog and Pony Show (Rykodisc, 1996, 1998).
Not a year goes by where I don’t jam all my Bob Mould records, Husker Du and Sugar included. His last 3 albums (Silver Age, Beauty & Ruin, and Patch The Sky) have been some of the best records he has made in a decade. However, for some reason, I obsessed on his two solo records following the break-up of Sugar this year. These albums are often panned by critics and some fans as not being up to snuff (let’s not bring up his dabbling in electronic music that followed these releases—I don’t have the time or energy). Yet, these two records are fucking great. His self-titled album, also known as “the hubcap record” is unusual because he plays all the instruments but uses a drum machine. For this reason alone, it makes “hubcap’ a unique record. It is a rather dark record, which is what I love about Mould, and the isolation can be heard throughout. It still rocks. The Last Dog and Pony Show was similar, in that, he played all the instruments but got a real drummer to play the drums this time. Other than the weird “Megamanic” that disrupts the continuity of the album, it’s fucking great. Maybe I obsessed on these records this year because I had previously listened to them the least, which is still quite a bit. When he is good, he is heartbreaking, real, and somehow uplifting. I read one critic who said Bob Mould is too dark. Fuck you, buddy. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Sweet melancholia with loud guitars—I’ll take some of that. Bob has sung large portions of my life to me.



26 (aka Doc Corbin Dart), The Messiah (Crustacean, 2006).
Doc Corbin Dart (former front man of The Crucifucks) is a complex man. His great masterpiece will always be Patricia (Alternative Tentacles, 1990), a heart-wrenching, confessional album filled with loneliness, beauty, vulnerability, and a not-so-subtle decline into mental collapse. Sixteen years later, Doc changes his name to 26 and puts out this disorienting beast of an album. As usual, he writes tons of lyrics criticizing and attacking a violent, uncompassionate, and vile society. He plays all the guitar tracks here and, unlike Patricia’s catchy semi-acoustic hooks, he layers muti-tracks of acoustic and electric guitars. The mix is a strange assortment of folk, prog, and psychedelic rock. The lyrics are all over the place, whether attacking animal cruelty or human reproduction, Doc says the things that are often hard to say, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true. At his heart, Doc is a moralist—one who was born into an immoral world that is slowly eating him alive. He won’t go down without a fight. On pure speculation, I would assume that Doc has continued to isolate himself and fallen somewhat deeper into his mental illness. This album does not go down easy, but once swallowed, it is hard to not be in awe of his unwavering and uncompromising perseverance to set things right. I kept coming back to this album this year; I still try to wrap my head around it. I feel sad that this release wasn’t given more attention. Also, if there are any film makers out there—we need a Doc Corbin Dart documentary.




Documentaries
Bad Brains: A Band in DC (directed by Logan and Stein – 2012).
I don’t know when this will come out on DVD. However, I was able to watch it on-line, something I don’t like to do, but I was excited to see this documentary about one of my favorite bands. As a fan, there were many things that were missing and I hope that if/when it comes out on DVD it will have special features that get more in-depth with some of the history and recording process. Still, I can’t complain too much because I was pretty excited to see this documentary and it does provide some insights into the band. HR obviously suffers from some sort of mental illness and, as much as he is irreplaceable, I kind of think they should just get Israel back in the band and blow the top off. They made one of the greatest hardcore punk albums of all time (their first RIOR cassette) and infused the unlikely combo of reggae and punk, which suits me just fine.



Between Dog and World: The New Model Army Story (directed by Matt Reid).
This was my favorite documentary of the year. What an amazing band—so down to earth and real. Punk rock really isn’t about sound—it is about content. This band is deep and complex, both politically and philosophically. Sometimes, the most revolutionary act is to be who you are and scoff at conventions. This isn’t just a documentary about a band. It is a documentary about life.



Live Shows
The Rapid City Punk Family Reunion, Summer 2016.
Many of my friends and my girlfriend of 21 years were born of this punk scene. I was able to see some of the bands play that I had only heard stories about. Before seeing them play live at this event, they had become parts of my life as individuals. I even made new friends. The Rapid City Punk Rock Family Reunion was so much fun for so many reasons. There were lots of hugs, smiles, and even some tears. All of these people are so lucky to be a part of this family and I was lucky enough to wander into it 20 years ago via the unassuming and quiet punk rock queen, Kelly Shields. About 450 people showed up. I think it is safe to say that punk rock saved most of our lives and influenced how we think about humanity. This stuff is important.

The Cure, Denver, Colorado June 5, 2016.
I love The Cure. I had seen them twice over the years, once in 1989 and once in 2014. They are one of the best live bands I have ever witnessed. At this show, they played for almost 3 hours. We had really good seats and were pretty close to the stage. It was moving and they kicked ass. It is always funny to be next to a “radio fan” of The Cure at a show. Whenever they played a big hit, the people next to us would jump and shout. When they played the downer, deep cuts, my heart swelled and the people next to us looked bored. The heart of The Cure is in the deep cuts. It was an amazing show.

Bob Mould Band, Boulder Theater, Boulder, Colorado, May 7, 2016.
As mentioned earlier, Bob’s last 3 records have been some of his best in a decade. We must give credit to Jon Wurster on drums (Superchunk, Mountain Goats) and Jason Narducy on bass (Verbow, Split Single, Superchunk touring bassist), both of whom played on the last three albums and are officially members of the “Bob Mould Band.”  Bob and his band have been kicking ass on this tour. Which is funny considering that Bob was giving up “the loud guitar stuff” forever back in 1998. This trio just burns the fucking place down while playing songs both old and new. A fire has been lit and I hope Bob keeps these guys around and keeps pumping out great albums.


Scott:


Motorhead, Bad Magic.
Lemmy died at the very end of 2015, of course, a few months after this album was released, making it their last, and a bittersweet listen through the months of 2016. I initially thought the closing song, a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil,” was kind of cheesy; now it seems just right.

Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies.
For me, Crowbar belongs in a similar category as Motorhead: bands that seemed to have sprung fully-formed into the world, with a unique, identifiable sound that doesn’t change much over the years but never quite gets stale, either. This is a solid piece of work that is exactly what you’d expect from Crowbar without sounding like a paint-by-numbers exercise: quite a feat.

Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields.
When it comes to jazz, I don’t usually prefer large groups or heavily orchestrated stuff. But I heard a song or two from this album on the radio, and an interview with Maria Schneider, and I was hooked immediately. The album evokes the sense of wonder you often feel wandering through natural spaces; it also celebrates physical media (it comes as a lavishly packaged CD and booklet funded through the fan-sourcing site ArtistShare). And for all its pastoral, languid moments, there are some truly nasty solos.

Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Undercurrent.
Evans and Hall recorded this album as a duo in 1962, and there’s nothing here but Evans’s piano and Hall’s guitar. It is mesmerizing. Less than a year earlier, Scott LaFaro, the acclaimed bassist in Evans’s trio, died suddenly in a car accident, and it’s hard not to hear some of that grief coming through in the music—it’s a darkly shimmering and engrossing album that I turned to often in 2016.

Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts.
These Swedes have been releasing solid album after solid album for years; The Fall of Hearts is better than their last, which, to me, felt a few degrees less inspired than their other recent work. This one blends moodiness and propulsive energy in just the right proportions.

Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence.
I love this guy and will listen to anything he releases. But Townsend has a tendency to oversaturate his fans with an abundance of material, most of it good, some of it great, and some of it clearly underbaked. Transcendence finds him more focused than usual and recalls his best albums; it’s no accident that it begins with a re-recorded version of his song, “Truth.” (I should include an honorable mention here for his excellent side project Casualties of Cool, which sounds like music for ghost cowboys on the moon or something.)

Clutch, Psychic Warfare.
For me, Clutch can pretty much do no wrong. Their latest has the dose of weirdness and sonic variety that their previous album, Earth Rocker, lacked, and they sound tighter than ever. With every new album, you can hear the accumulation of hours these guys have spent playing together, year after year.

Cough, Still They Pray.
A heavy, heavy, heavy entry in the Electric Wizard school, but somewhat bleaker and more despairing (in a good way).

Metallica, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.
How could I leave this one off? On the spectrum of attitudes toward Metallica, I fall on the sympathetic end, and, still, I was truly surprised by how much I like this album. “Spit Out the Bone” is probably one of the best songs they’ve written.

Concerts: Bruce Springsteen, The River Tour; Black Sabbath, The End Tour—I didn’t see a whole lot of concerts this year, but they tended to be good ones, and in the context of my personal music-listening lifetime, these two were world-historic. Seeing Bruce play all of The River, in New Jersey, about two weeks before I turned 30—because this is an album hugely concerned with aging and death, after all, recorded by Bruce when he was around the same age—was something I’ll never forget. As for Sabbath, what can I say? It was my first time seeing them, and I was expecting it to be a kind of pilgrimage—but they sounded fucking great.


SoDak:

Records:

John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat (2015).
When I put this record on at home, I immediately stopped working on other tasks and just sat there and listened to the songs. This is deeply reflective and emotional Americana music, woven with songs about John Moreland’s home, longing, and loss. For the most part, the record is comprised of mellow acoustic songs, but additional instrumentation is used from time to time, which kicks up the tempo a bit. Stand out tracks are “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars,” “Heart’s Too Heavy,” “Cherokee,” and “You Don’t Care for Me Enough to Cry.”



Mandolin Orange, Blindfaller (2016).
I liked the previous records by Mandolin Orange, but the most recent one is by far my favorite yet. From the first notes of “Hey Stranger,” was captivated. From the moment, Emily Frantz started singing, I was putty in her hands. I am disappointed that I never saw this group play when I lived in North Carolina. Not sure how I missed them. They are making some of my favorite mellow Americana music. Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz trade off lead vocals. When they harmonize, they hit me in the heart. There is a beauty here, similar to the best moments of Gillian Welch and David Rawling. This record is touching and beautiful.



My Name Is Joe, Stories of Our Cities (2016).
Was thrilled to see that Tommy Strange (of Forethought, Strawman, and Songs for Emma fame) had a new group. We need more music by Tommy Strange. He always writes energetic punk rock songs that are driving, while mostly using a clean guitar sound. He writes politically charged lyrics, levelling a devastating critique of the exploitation and alienation produced by the capitalist system. We desperately need more music along these lines. Tommy is awesome. Order the new record by My Name Is Joe at https://mynameisjoe.bandcamp.com/album/stories-of-our-cities.

Pelander, Time (2016).
I was intrigued by what a solo record by the lead vocalist of Witchcraft would be like. It made perfect sense once listening to it. Hard rock records in the 1970s often had an acoustic song or ballad surrounded by rocking songs. This record consists of seven acoustic songs with a 70s sound without the rock songs. Very enjoyable.

Agnes Obel, Citizen of Glass (2016).
I love record stores. I walked into Graywhale Records. I was struck by the beauty of the song that was playing. I walked up to the counter and asked to buy the CD playing. I had no idea who the artist was. No one in the store knew anything about the artist. Anges Obel, a Danish songwriter, has made a captivating, moving record. It is filled with haunting, yet comforting, songs. When I was in my office working, I simply put the song “Familiar” on repeat for an hour, feeling the sounds of the cello, keys, and voices. I love it.

Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else (2014).
Lydia Loveless released a solid record this year, but I listened to her 2014 record, Somewhere Else, much more. On this record, there is still some twang, which helps, but she is moving toward a more rock-oriented sound, similar to the drift of Neko Case over the years. I think on this record, she has found the sweet spot.

John Prine, For Better, or Worse (2016).
After all of these years, John Prine still puts out great fuckin’ records. This time it is another duet record with great women singers accompanying him. Wish my wife liked this music, as I would like to two-step with her across the dining room floor.  

Drive-By Truckers, American Band (2016).
Drive-By Truckers have been getting rave reviews. I do not think it is their best record, but I do think it is outstanding. Folks fear what is coming in regard to U.S. politics, but it is important to keep in mind that these trends and dynamics have been happening for a long time and have served as the soil from which this current shit emerged. Many of the songs on this record address these ongoing disintegration and isolation within our world. American Band is worth picking up just to listen to “What It Means.” Heard Patterson Hood play this song last year, and the song still floors me.



Jack Grelle, Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down (2016).
I guess most of the music that I really liked this year tended to be on the country and folk end of things. This is kind of funny given that most of the shows that I attended where metal or punk. Anyhow, Jack Grelle’s new record (which has a great name) is wonderful. The songs vacillate between up-beat country songs and mellow ballads. Would love to see him play. In fact, I would love to see Jack Grelle on the same bill as James Low from Portland. Check out “Changes Never Made.”



Robb Johnson, The Reasonable History of Impossible Demands (2016).
Robb Johnson is a British, political folk singer. This boxset includes five discs filled with songs from throughout his career. PM Press put out this gem, which has a cheap price. Pick up this collection and keep working for the revolution.  



Tom Russell, The Western Years (2014).
I fuckin’ love Tom Russell’s music. This is a two CD collection of various songs from his career. Most of the songs are focused on stories from the American west. No, this does not mean some mythical cowboy past. Instead, Tom Russell’s songs are filled with stories of all the people who live in the west, struggling to get by, creating beauty, and crossing borders. Tom is an exceptional singer-songwriter. Every record by him is gift.



Collin Herring, Ocho (2009).
I have been enjoying Collin Herring’s records for a long time. This year, I was obsessed with his record Ocho. He sings “nothing’s wrong, nothing’s wrong” on the opening track. In many ways, this is how I felt about most working days, earning a pay check, while dreaming of the moments when I can do something significant with loved ones. Will Johnson from Centro-Matic plays on this record, and the record has a similar vibe to his own solo work. This is a good record for winter nights, while sitting by the fire. I think this is what I will do tonight.



Austin Plaine, Austin Plaine (2016).
Solid singer-songwriter record. I do not know anything about him, but I have been enjoying the hell out of this record.

Western Centuries, Weight of the World (2016).
I picked this record up on a whim. It has a nice classic country sound, but with modern twists thrown into the mix. This band would fit in well at the Red Ants Pants festival in Montana, or at the festival hosted by the Reckless Kelly guys.

B.J. Barham, Rockingham (2016).
B.J. Barham is the lead singer and guitar player for American Aquarium. Loved seeing them play when I lived in Raleigh. This solo record is simply an extension of the band, comprised of eight great story songs. I like to put this CD in the player when I am driving across Wyoming.

Gary Stewart, first seven records.
Between 1973 and 1980, Gary Steward put out seven great outlaw country records. He fell between the cracks, as some saw him as too country while others argued he was too rock. He sang great songs about drinking, being dumping, loving someone, and working. His version of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” was always one of my favorites. In 2003, Gary shot himself. His records are great and unfortunately under appreciated.



Richmond Fontaine, You Can’t Go Back If There's Nothing To Go Back To (2016).
This is the final record by this alternative-country band from Portland. Willy Vlautin writes gritty songs about broken dreams and lost lives. Love this band. Glad that I got to see them play many times when I lived in Oregon. Will miss them.

Mark McKay, Mark McKay (2016).
Mark McKay, a great Americana musician, was a member of Sixty Acres. He was released a series of good records. This record has some re-recordings of his older songs. I am still processing this record, as it is quite new. Order his CDs from his bandcamp site.   

Frog Holler, Souvenir (2016).
Frog Holler is one of my favorite alternative-country bands. Was thrilled that they released a new record. I listen to them over and over when I walk to my job. Very solid release.

The Youngers, Picture of You (2016).
The Youngers are dear friends of Frog Holler. Love both of these bands. The Youngers recently released their third record. Their first and third record are must haves.

Peter Garrett, A Version of Now (2016).
I am still digesting this record, as I recently got it. Until a couple weeks ago, I did not know that the singer of Midnight Oil recorded a solo record. I am just thrilled to see that he has returned to writing songs. His voice still sounds great. I hear that Midnight Oil is going to being playing shows in 2017. I hope that they record new music. We need this band to be active.

Alejandro Escovedo, Burn Something Beautiful (2016).
I always welcome a new Alejandro Escovedo record. This record follows in many ways the last several releases, as Alejandro is focused on making straight-forward rock songs. Peter Buck of R.E.M. plays on this record. It is a good record, but I do miss the dynamism of some of the earlier records.

Culture Shock, Attention Span (2016).
Between Subhumans and Citizen Fish there was Culture Shock. In the late 1980s, I bought all the Culture Shock records. I love everything Dick Lucas has done. The unique combination of punk, ska, and reggae with awesome political lyrics is perfect. This year, Culture Shock put out a new record. It is solid. As far as I am concerned the more records by Subhumans, Culture Shock, and Citizen Fish all the better.

Political Asylum, Someday, Winter, Window on the World, and How the West Was Won.
In the 1980s and 1990s, I fell in love with Political Asylum. They were a political punk rock band that played very catchy songs. I became a pen pal with Ramsey Kanaan the singer. We traded tapes. He sent me several live shows. I treasured these tapes. In 2012, Boss Tuneage Retro put all four records, along with the live records, out on CD. I finally was able to pick up these CDs and have fallen in love all over again. My wife and I have been singing along with these songs, as we take road trips. Political Asylum still kicks ass and still matters.




Ryley Walker, Primrose Green (2015).
This record was recommended by the folks at Graywhale Records. It is the second record by Ryley Walker. The whole record reminds me of the British singer-songwriter John Martyn, especially his 1970s releases. Even the cover makes me think of this era. Like John Martyn, this is much more than an acoustic guitar and voice. Ryley Walker is playing with many other musicians, creating a swirling sound that takes the listener on a beautiful trip.

Sarah Gayle Meech, Tennessee Love Song (2015).
Sarah Gayle Meech has an awesome voice and this is a great record. On the slow, laid songs, she has a warm voice that reminds me of Neko Case. On the upbeat songs, her voice still carries the songs, making me want to get up and dance around the room. Check out “Stormy Weather” and “Love of Mine.”



New Model Army, Winter (2016).
I am enthusiastic about every New Model Army record. With the new record, I was not immediately taken by it, but it is slowly growing on me. I am intrigued by the various songs, finding myself exploring the layers within the songs. Overall, the record is fairly dark. It also requires active listening, which seems to be something that few folks, including myself, take the time to do anymore. The cover is beautiful. Listen to “Winter” and “Born Feral.”




Dead Ending, DE (2012), DE II (2013), DE III (2014).
Vic Bondi and his band mates have been releasing a series of EPs that kick fuckin’ ass. It has all the fury of Articles of Faith, but dare I say may be better. Each of these records is intense and filled with political rage. They have finished recording a new record. I cannot wait.

Favorite Concerts:

Black Sabbath
Saw them play in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City this year. Shared the first trip with Five-Inch Taint, which was a lot of fun.

Iron Maiden
My wife and I went to Las Vegas too many times this year. But we did see some good shows. This year we were about 30 feet from the stage for Iron Maiden. It was fuckin’ awesome.

John Moreland
Five-Inch Taint and I went to this show. John Moreland played a solo acoustic set.

Napalm Death, Melvins, and Melt Banana
This show had a great line up. It was intense and brilliant.

Voivod
Finally got to see Voivod. They were wonderful. Good to cross this one off the list of bands I have been wanting to see.

Punk Rock Bowling, Las Vegas
My wife and I finally went to this festival. The key for us was to go hiking in the morning, then eat a good meal, and then head to the fetival for the long afternoon/evening. Stand out performances included: Subhumans, Flag, Buzzcocks, Dag Nasty, Descendents, and Flogging Molly.

Rapid City Punk Rock Family Reunion
This was an emotional and beautiful week. I barely slept, as there was so many activities. It was great to see Dissent, Social Joke, PX, Born to Suffer, State of the Union, and Straight from the Heart.

Psycho Las Vegas
Five-Inch Taint and I made the journey to Vegas for this festival. While we were there, we finally did a couple bang-bangs. See Five-Inch Taint for a description. I am still full. At times the sound was problematic and a couple of the stages were behind schedule. Nevertheless, it was a great time. My favorites were: Golden Void, Mudhoney, Chrch, Blood of the Sun, Ashbury, Elder, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Subrosa, Budos Band, Uncle Acid, Blue Oyster Cult, Mondo Drag, INVDRS, Valkyrie, and ASG.

Dinosaur Jr. and Steve Gunn
Great set.

Bad Religion and Against Me
My wife, Five-Inch Taint, and Spooner D took in this show. Both bands were wonderful. I think Bad Religion put on an exceptional show.

Documentaries:

Between Dog and Wolf: The New Model Army Story (2015).
New Model Army is easily one of my favorite bands. I started listening to them in the early 1980s. Ordered this documentary from them when it was released. I watched it several times this past year. The film mostly focuses on the 1980s and early 1990s. So I was wishing there was a second volume, as I am just as interested in the history following this period. Nevertheless, it is a great film, capturing the vision of the band and the individuals who have been in the band.

We Are Twisted Fuckin’ Sister (2014).
I was surprising pleased with this film, which mostly covers the history of the band before they had a record contract. They were definitely a hard-working band.

Such Hawks, Such Hounds (2008).
Had to watch this film on youtube. It is a good documentary focused on the stoner and desert hard rock bands.

Rush: Time Stand Still (2016).
I was not expecting much from this documentary about the final Rush tour, but it is quite good. My wife and I were also fairly emotional watching it, as the band members talked about their experiences playing the last show. The parts about the fan club are a bit long, but it is understandable why it is woven throughout the documentary.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2015).
I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting this film is. The parts about the community and culture within the record store is fascinating.

Bad Brains: A Band in DC (2012).
I have been eager to see this film. I finally tracked it down in youtube. While I wish that there was much more discussion of various records and the later years, I am glad that this film was made. It would also be nice to learn more about what the hell is going on with HR, but I suppose that will be the focus of the documentary about him, which is currently playing in some theaters. I love seeing the early footage of them rocking the fuck out.

The Winding Stream (2014).
This is a very good documentary about the Carter family and their contribution to country and folk music. Check it out.

Book:
Tony Iommi, Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath (2012).
Jimmy “Explosive Diarrehea” B passes along some of the autobiographies that he reads. This year I read two of the books he gave me. (The other one was the autobiography of Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart, which was horrible.) In many ways, Tony is a person of few words. He shares stories, but does not provide too many details. Nevertheless, this book is very enjoyable and provides a nice account of the history of Black Sabbath. The love the various members have for each other is obvious. The various ways that accountants and others ripped off the band are stunning.

Musical:
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Loved the film when it was released. Was very curious how it would be to experience this story on stage. It was masterfully done.

Most Listened Record this Year:
Whatever the fuck CD is always playing at the House of Tibet restaurant. Five-Inch Taint and I are regulars. Cannot tell you how many times I have heard the same music. Eventually, the CD gets stuck in the same spot for 10 seconds or so and then continues.


Travis:

(Is still playing Rock Band.)