Staff top twenty of 2018: Tony Maher – LPs (#20 – #11)

The other day I posted up a list of my top ten 7in records and EPs of 2018. Have a look, and see if you can discover something new and exciting.

I also made a point of specially thanking Graeme Philliskirk at Little Rocket Records, Alex Johnson at Plasterer Records, and Jason Tesinger at Belladonna Records, all of whom have already sorted me out some swag this year. You can add the mighty Chain Whip (who picked up the allegedly coveted top spot in the 7in and EP list the other day) to that list of generous friends. But yeah, I’m unemployed, and I super love it when people send me rad shit like records and shirts and that. Makes a guy feel a touch less of a worthless individual. Much love.

Seemingly, it’s about time I let you in on the list of LPs that made the most recent calendar year of my sojourn on this shithole planet that little bit more tolerable. I was supposed to be doing ten, but I couldn’t bear to let people potentially miss out on some awesome shiz. Without further ado, I give you entries #20 – #11:

20 (joint). Attan – End Of. (Fysisk Format)

I’d liken listening to this to being on the receiving end of an extended and very thorough beating, before being scraped off the floor by your assailants and being chucked into the teeth of a threshing machine. As much as that would normally be classed as a particularly shite set of circumstances, I oddly found myself thoroughly enjoying repeated listens of this opus, and strangely in the mood to carry out ritual murders under the dying light of a waning winter sun.

20 (joint). Young Mountain – Lost Tree (Through Love Records / Zegema Beach Records / Miss The Stars Records / Hardcore For The Losers / Dasein Records / Pundonor Records)

There seems to be a whole bunch of elements to this, which when drawn together produce a huge melodic yet dissonant sound. I’m not talking from the biggest knowledge base here, but to me, this really vibes like that screamy post-hardcore band from Japan, Envy, who hit the height of their popularity in the UK during the mid-2000s. Beyond this, there’s also elements of the huge post-rock soundscapes produced by bands like Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and the like, peppered with post-metal sections that remind me of Neurosis and Red Sparowes. There are occasional breaks of what I’d (no doubt incorrectly) describe as black metal style thunderous and relentless drumming overlaid with screeched vocals. Yet in stark contrast to all this there are huge sprawling breaks of delay-laden twinkly emo that build into punishing crescendos – think Benton Falls meets Spy vs. Spy.

19. (joint). Retirement Party – Somewhat Literate (Counter Intuitive Records)

The vocal sits very comfortably in the embrace of some hooky, bi-polar feeling indie rock that puts me in mind of The Weakerthans (R.I.P) at their most rockingly direct. There are parts that put me in mind of your thinking person’s “proper emo” stuff like Algernon Cadwallader and Braid – something that I thought stood out in particular on Truck Stop Casino. There’s something about the core of this record that really puts me in mind of some other fantastic bands from the last few years, such as Heavy Pockets, Bat Boy and Big Nothing – and that earns seats for Retirement Party at a very grand table indeed, in my opinion.

19. (joint). Red Hare – Little Acts of Destruction (Dischord / Hellfire Records)

There’s something visceral about this. Something tightly wound, that never quite explodes into full on unrestrained violence, but instead seethes with inner turmoil. Yet at the same time, this record feels cathartic: like the expulsion of daemons from the body of the possessed; like sweating out pain. Whatever you take from this, whatever mental images this conjures in your mind, however it makes you feel, there’s no denying that you will find yourself swept along. Whether this is in a state of kicking and screaming discomfited panic or buoyed upon a wave of feeling will be entirely down to you, and how you are feeling in that moment.

If you dig on those classic emo bands like Rites of Spring, Embrace, Policy of Three and so on, or if you were big into later bands like Braid and Burning Airlines, or even stuff from the UK Scene (classic or more current) such as Bob Tilton, Spy vs Spy and Crash of Rhinos and so on then you will get a whole lot from this.

18. Mom Jeans – Puppy Love (Counter Intuitive Records / Big Scary Monsters)

I’d describe this as emotive indie rock, or something. When I say that, I’m specifically thinking of Promise Ring’s Very Emergency and Nothing Feels Good albums, plus that most underrated post-Promise Ring band, Maritime. Beyond this, I kind of feel like this record is maybe something of a love letter to the first two Weezer LPs (Blue and Pinkerton). With these analogies I’m speaking both musically and vocally here. Regardless of whether or not Mom Jeans think these references actually hold any water, this was my immediate (and lasting) impression. I also feel like there is more than a hint of Piebald to this (circa We Are The Only Friends We Have), along with that oddly twinkly and mathy style of guitar playing and percussion favoured by Algernon Cadwallader and Tiny Moving Parts.

17. Dollar Signs – This Will Haunt Me (A-F Records)

This record is incredible. INCREDIBLE I tell you. Anyway, Dollar Signs are from Charlotte, North Carolina. They self-describe as “student loan-core” and they play drunken punk rock drinking anthems, mate. These jams kinda remind me of Reinventing Axl Rose era Against Me! at times, and at others I’m put in mind of Long Island’s Latterman. At yet others there’s also a strong vibe of Mable era Spraynard. There’s also a flavour of grufty punk favourites like Billy Reese Peters and The Tim Version.

The tone of the lyrics here is most certainly self-deprecating, but delivered in a way that makes me by turns want to emit wry chuckles or burst into tears because they hit the nail on the head with stuff so bloody accurately. The themes here are familiar: drinking, spiralling debt, self-chastisement, low self-esteem, mental health issues, bereavement, working shitty jobs, and feeling trapped. But as more and more time passes, you come to realise this is real life, mate. No matter how much you kid yourself, there’s ultimately no escape from this blue collar hell we inhabit.

16. Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish – Stall (Dead Broke Rekerds / My Fingers My Brain! Records / Maps & Continents)

Embroidered with the bipolar feeling lyricism of the likes of John K. Samson (The Weakerthans), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) and of course Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker / Jets To Brazil) – you start to get a feel for this rich audio tapestry. There’s just something so very CONVINCING about this that makes me feel certain that this record could hold it’s own alongside many of the classic records from the artists listed above, not to mention more recent genre favourites such as the soon to be defunct Nothington.

To be perfectly honest, I sometimes sit here feeling somewhat foolish writing these reviews. Y’know, wondering why I bother, and so on. I can happily tell you without spinning a line of bullshit that it’s because of records such as this one. Discovering something new to me that seems to speak the truth. And wanting to tell the world about it (or at least anyone that will listen). I’m pretty sure that a chunk of people reading this will happily dismiss it as overly purple prose or some shit like that. To which I have but one answer only: give this a try, as I feel like you will not regret it, friend.

15. Dog Party – Hit & Run (Brat)

It’s full of powerpop hooks, this, and carries riot grrrl and traditional pop punk influences. The key difference in style (from the last record Til You’re Mine) I’m picking up on here is an overt 60’s pop influence, rather than a slightly ‘surf’ feel. There’s a whole Beach Boys, Everly Brothers, Manfred Mann kinda vibe underscoring this that puts me in mind of The Queers’ more saccharine feeling, poppier moments. As a counterpoint to this, there is a distinct, meaty guitar tone running through the record brings to mind L7’s seminal Bricks Are Heavy record. Taken alongside sporadic lead licks that cheekily recall those 80s cock rock groups everyone is too cool to talk about these days, this record feels like a ton of fun.

Vocally, there’s an aching sweetness that in places reminds me all too clearly of my dream (emphasis on the dream) mid nineties date, Julianna Hatfield circa Only Everything. Generally speaking though, the vocal more reminds me of the parallel dual vocal harmonies of Karina Deniké and Elyse Rogers of Hawaii’s Dance Hall Crashers (whatever happened to them?). It’s the combination of the vocal and the bittersweet tales told in the lyrics that (much like Til You’re Mine) really make this record something special, though, as they explore heartbreak, failed relationships and the like.

14. Hakan – III LP (Brassneck Records / One Chord Wonder)

I guess I’m at risk of swinging between trying to be a streetwise profane piece of shit and proselytizing by saying this, but you need to stop what you are doing and listen to this immediately. It’s insanely good, this, especially when you hit the fifth track (I Saw God) onwards. That’s the point when things really hit a shift in gears. Is it weird of me to think the first four songs are the least great on the record? I mean they are still pretty good. But, damn, man. Track 5 onwards and these lads have really hit a new stride. Top cuts for me include: I Saw God; Pointless Discussion; Mentally Insane; Pita for Breakfast; and Hangover Girl. Realistically though, what’s not to like?

13. Personality Cult – s/t LP (Drunken Sailor Records)

Back in the day, The Ramones talked about beating on the brat with a baseball bat. A similar agenda could be applied to Personality Cult, only they are coating their baseball bats with some kind of epoxy resin, before dipping them in a big bucket of shark’s teeth before furiously beating said brat about the head and neck. This shit has barbs, mate.

12. Pennywise – Never Gonna Die (Epitaph)

The thing with the classic Pennywise sound (in my opinion) is that you can tell instantly that you are listening to Pennywise. The songs kinda sound the same, but in a really enjoyable way. These guys are in a sense the archetypal 1990s skate punk band. To my mind, those first four Pennywise records perfectly encapsulate that style and sound. And this record is a total throwback to that time and place. This is hard hitting, anthemic skate punk as you want it to be. My choice cuts here (in no particular order) are: Never Gonna Die; Listen; Something New (which reminds me in a funny way of Fight Til You Die); Live While You Can; We Set Fire; She Said (which I feel is this record’s Bro Hymn); and A Little Hope. Realistically, though there are no particularly duff tracks on this album – something that pleases and surprises me in equal measure.

11. Turnstile – Time & Space (Roadrunner)

Blah blah blah sounds like a Snapcase rip-off blah blah blah. This record seems to exude positive energy, and as I typically prefer things a bit darker, this has been like tipping a bucket of ice water over my head. Invigorating, mate. I repeatedly find myself compulsively nodding along to this. It fucking rules. Some moments on here remind me of nothing so much as a positive version of Blood for Blood (if you can imagine such a thing) colliding with Meantime era Helmet (them riffs mate). Let the good times roll, I tell thee, for this record has all the bounce and crunch you could want or hope for. My top cuts are probably (Lost Another) Piece Of My World, Real Thing, Come Back For More and Can’t Get Away.

Tony of Nurgle is a true child of the North, currently living in exile in Croydon, South East London. He used to co-run a specialist record store in Manchester (Roadkill Records), and also spent a couple of years as a promoter, and put on shows for the likes of Leatherface, the Loved Ones, Lucero, Minus The Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, Spy vs Spy, Latterman etc. He also spent several years DJing at shady rock clubs in Manchester, and started the infamous Thursday night "punk room" at Jilly's Rockworld. Also responsible for Middle Finger Response, and collaborated with a couple of friends on a monthly night called Refuse to Lose, which will still occasionally reunite the original DJ line-up - hopefully in the not too distant future. Apart from that, it's all bitterness and a jaundiced view of human nature, rarely skateboarding, often reading books with maps in the front.

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