Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 20 of 2015!

It’s my favorite time of year! A time to reflect on all the fantastic records that floated down to the Audio Ammunition Underwater Volcano Stronghold. This year so much greatness came our way I couldn’t just limit it to just 10 records, so this time around it’s a top 20! So without further delay, here are my favorite 20 records that were released in 2015 that I managed to get my grimy claws on. 

by Jay Castro

20. Cellulite – Dust Wave LP (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)
Think of Skinny Puppy’s 1990 LP Too Dark Park only far more chaotic and violent mixed with prurient style vocals. Imagine if someone got a flamethrower to somehow make similar sounds as a human vocal cord. Cellulite consists of Sick Thought’s Drew Owen and New York electro synth pop composer Don Seun: a match made in the deepest darkest caverns of hell.  An absolutely, mind blowing record!  – J Castro

19. Everyday Things – S/T 7” (No Front Teeth) 
Everyday Things play really terrific jangly mod power pop, in a similar spirit to bands like Secret Affair, Squire and Circles. Comparisons aside, this is some unbelievably well done, feel good rock n’ roll with mile high hooks and soaring melodies that are perfect for your sunny Sunday ride through the serene cityscape on your 1966 Piaggio Vespa.

18. The Fox Sisters – Under the Stars LP (Self Released)
Rochester, New York’s Fox Sisters play some party starting, soul shakin’, house rockin’ ‘60’s inspired R & B. Right out of the bag this record comes out twisting and gyrating like James Brown did live on the T.A.M.I. show back in ’64. Under the Stars is irresistibly boisterous, undeniably charming and ridiculously magnetic. 

17. Midnite Snaxxx – Don’t Wake Me Up 7” (Total Punk)
This is straight forward, snarling punk rock n’ roll that reminds me of the salad days of bands with this similar sound like The Dirty Sweets, No Talents, and Loli and The Chones. It’s a sound that has the manic energy of ‘60’s garage Back from the Grave type bands mixed with the power and ferocity of punk like The Sick Things or the Avengers.

16. Party Lights – I See the Lights LP (Self Released)
On Party Lights’ Facebook page, their description reads as “The bastard children of Cheap Trick and The Go-Go's” and “worshiping at the altar of The Knack and The Real Kids.” I know that sounds really great, and it’s also pretty spot on. I’d throw in a little Blondie or Nikki and The Corvettes in there too. Their music is catchy, propulsive, and hard driving in a Ramones sort of way. Standout track: none, they’re all equally great!

15. The Stops – Nameless Faces LP (Dirt Cult/Sabotage)
This Portland, Oregon band plays shadowy, angst filled, quick paced punk rock music. Some of the things that set this band apart from the rabid pack are that their songs are executed with such power and earnestness that despite being so dark are just so captivating. The Stops seem to draw power and momentum out of the perilous state of the world.  

14. Phylums – Phylum Phyloid LP (Dirtnap)
This record reminds me of a couple of albums Lookout Records put out right before the great implosion, two of my favorites in fact, The Smugglers’ Selling the Sizzle and The Hi-Five’s Welcome to My Mind. Phylums play really fun, catchy, melodic rock n’ roll with a 1960’s style garage vibe without all the lo-fi spazz but with twice the hooks.  

13. Baby Shakes – She’s a Star 7” (Surfin’ Ki)
Imagine Suzi Quatro if she had fronted 1910 Fruitgum Company. Over the years the band has tweaked their sound a tad from record to record, some leaning towards a more Motown/‘60's girl group influence, to a leaner and meaner Ramones sound. This record I believe triumphantly captures all sides and it makes for one highly enjoyable listen from start to finish.

12. The Disconnects – Wake Up Dead LP (Baldy Longhair)
The Disconnects debut album is full of junkie desperation, the stress of not having rent again, those fleeting moments when everything’s alright with you and your lady friend, and the time you lost when you thought you had a sure hand and bet it all. Wake up Dead is rock n’ roll from the city, in all its L.A.M.F. back alley grime and glory. The Disconnects songs reek of urban decay, power pop charm, and punk rock unruliness.

11. Car Crash – Bright Future? 7” (Secret Mission/Mangrove)
Car Crash is a band from Japan, they’re two guys and a girl that cause enough rock n’ roll chaos to levitate the island nation off the planet’s surface! Loud, hard driving, lo-fi garage punk the way I expect to hear it when people reference it. The obvious Teengenerate and Registrators comparisons do firmly apply; sweat, swagger, the whole deal. The only thing that sucks about this record is that it’s very limited here in the states; happy hunting!

10. Jeremy and The Harlequins – American Dreamer (Self Released)
Jeremy and the Harlequins embrace the deeper, cooler and more melodic side of ‘50’s rock n’ roll. These cats don’t just go for the throat, this album is all over the human emotional spectrum. They dive in deep, which makes the songs far more interesting, timeless and memorable you’ll want to keep this record in your car all the time and wish said car was a ’55 Bel Air!

9. Modern Needs – Activation 7” (Goodbye Boozy)
Mr. Vinnie Vacuum creates rousing lo-fi punk rave-ups all by himself in his secret laboratory. To get an idea of the glorious noise this record emits: put on your favorite Crime record. Play it at twice its speed, backwards. Now douse the whole thing in gasoline and light it on fire. The sounds you hear sputtering and crackling in and out of your speakers right before you have to run out of the room is Modern Needs.

8. Dany Laj & the Looks – Word on the Street LP (Squirtgun)
Singer and songwriter Danny Lajeunesse comes from a small mining town outside of Toronto, and it shows, in a good Springsteen sort of way! The collection of songs on this LP are a perfect blend of country, folk, power pop, sweat and volume. The songs are smart, but not arrogant, raggedy without being sleazy, catchy but holds away the sap, loud yet not obnoxious, and just plain likeable.

7. Line Traps – S/T LP (Self Released)
Also known around the Audio Ammunition halls as “the interview that launched 1000 hits,” Victoria’s Line Traps are brilliantly ferocious and unapologetic. Their minimalistic approach to their music brings the obvious Rip-Off Records comparisons only Line Traps knocks that bar right off its brackets. They take animosity and brutality within the confines of punk music to uncharted and uncomfortable levels.

6. Real Sickies – S/T Cassette (Self Released)
Real Sickies compare themselves to bands like The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Forgotten Rebels, and Teenage Head and please allow me to stand as your witness that all of those comparisons are spot on! Sure Real Sickies take a little from here and borrow a little from there but it’s interpreted and delivered through those twisted Canadian brains of theirs, and that’s why it still sounds so fresh and so great!

5. The Nervous - S/T Demo Cassette (Self Released)
Denver, Colorado’s The Nervous plays socially conscious punk rock that’s equally riotous, subversive and strikes you like a baseball bat to the face. This demo cassette they put out earlier this year sounds like it could fit right into the Dangerhouse Records catalog as one of the greatest bands you’ve never heard of from that label, right ‘twixt some of the best of them like The Bags and The Avengers.

4. Fashionism - Smash the State (With Your Face) 7” (Hosehead)
The songs on this record very much remind me of bands like The Jam or Minneapolis, MN’s The Strike. They’re punk songs played with a smooth, stylish buttoned downed approach by current/former member of The Jolts, The Tranzmitors, the Newtown Animals and Strange Things. Their songs are marvelously magnetic and snap so loudly with elements of mod, glam, power pop, and new wave that are effortlessly woven throughout.

3. Patsy’s Rats – S/T Cassette (Burger)
Patsy’s Rats play the kind of rock n' roll music that gets wedged in the folds of your damaged brain the very first time you hear it. Their songs pop and burst all around you with well-paced tempos, strong yet melodic guitar hooks reminiscent of Peter Case and delightful vocals that is a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry. Patsy's Rats simply make magnetic music that instantly charms the human soul.

2. toyGuitar – In This Mess LP (Fat Wreck Chords)
Despite having a write up in Rolling Stone magazine and featuring top-notch Bay Area talent, toyGuitar’s debut EP went relatively unnoticed by a lot of the “punk” press. It’s not until they signed with Fat that they’re getting the attention they deserve. They play music that’s tightly strung together with smart lyrics, sunny guitar licks and a biting rhythm section. The unique way this band puts all of that together makes for a dynamic, unparalleled sound.

1. Stalin Video – Animalistik LP (Wanda)
The international multimedia terror group known in certain circles as Stalin Video has launched a polyvinyl chloride offensive in hopes to bring the civilized world to its knees. Tighter and harder on their debut LP, this assemblage of members from South Carolina’s Now in 3-D and Great Britain’s late great Gaggers create a frenzied, wild eyed synth-punk attack. Once you listen to this record keep it close by at all times. Trust me, you’ll want more! 

Inside Audio Ammunition’s floating fortress, we decided to up the ante this year by having a top twenty list that includes 7-inches and EP’s. My list went down to the wire with bands being added, subtracted, re-listened to and so on. After much inner debate, here are my top twenty records of 2015. It was tough enough to pick these twenty so they are listed in alphabetical order.

by Ed Stuart

Barreracudas – Can Do Easy LP (Oops Baby)
Can Do Easy is the LP follow up to the Promises, Promises single of last year, which features the single’s title track. Barreracudas have written one of the best power-pop/punk records of the last year that pulls heavy from New York City greats, Dictators and Ramones, with lyrics that firmly have tongue planted in cheek. The contender has now got their shot at the title.

Born Loose – Blowout! LP (Hound Gawd)
If you have anything have heard Born Loose at all, there should be no surprise for what you will be in for on Blowout!. Born Loose is punk rock n’ roll mayhem fueled by mean guitar, whiskey, PBR and ex-members of the Candy Snatchers. These guys are dive-bar heroes that could musically could go toe to toe with the technical player of the world, but add a feeling that they don’t muster. PS, you might need a back-up turntable. 

Cal & The Calories – Bastard in a Yellow Suit 7” (Total Punk)
Total Punk doesn’t lie, you definitely know what to expect. Cal & The Calories is one of the many offerings Total Punk has offered to the world year. Bastard in a Yellow Suit is a sonic blast of KBD style punk that mixes, blown-out, in-the-red, raw as hell, scuzz layered punk with early Australian punk influences like X from the Midwest.

Dirty Fences – Full Tramp LP (Slovenly)
Dirty Fences may look like another party band, but don’t write them off as that because they are so much more. Full Tramp is Dictators, Ramones, and early KISS with all kind of glam rock n’ roll excess that hides its pop record collection. Dirty Fences may drink all the beer at your party, but they will write some catchy pop-infused rock n’ roll songs about how much fun they had drinking it.

Dusk – S/T 7” (Forward)
This might be the find of the year! In some ways Dusk’s S/T, is an anachronism, a record that sounds right at home in the days of early ‘70’s singer/songwriter days than in 2015. Dusk is Amos from Tenement’s and a host of others. The A-side is a Velvet Underground/Lou Reed NYC style song with slide guitar gravy on top. The B-side is country-twang rock n’ roll sung with a Carly Simon/Linda Ronstadt voice that would rule the charts.

Everyday Things - S/T EP (No Front Teeth)
It’s one thing to be heavily influenced by The Jam, which is always a great choice, but Everyday Things have taken a step further and gone for the mod-pop goldmine. This S/T EP is a ’79 mod revival of bands like Circles, Purple Hearts and The Lambrettas. It’s not just the influences that are so right, but it’s the songwriting and sound too. Whether you’re going to out in your nice parka or defending your own Brighton Beach, this is the soundtrack.

Fashionism – Smash the State (With Your Face) 7” (Hosehead)
Fashionism is made up of a bunch of Canadian all stars from bands like New Town Animals, The Jolts and Tranzmitors and they play like it. This is one of the better-reviewed bands of the year and it’s really no surprise. Smash The State is a mix of mod-pop and UK power-pop; think the Circles meets The Jam with some early Squeeze and Rezillos thrown in just for fun.

Hakan – S/T LP (One Chord Wonder/Rufus)
Hakan features Andrea from The Snookys. The band name is a tough one. It’s origin is Turkish and is a combination of two titles for rulers. In pop-culture, Hakan is a fighter on the Street Fighter game. So, what about the band? This S/T records reminds of a cross of early Descendents, Ramones and Queers. I have a feeling that Hakan flew too low under the radar and didn’t get its deserved rewards because this is a really good punk-pop LP.

Los Pepes – And I Know EP (Wanda)
This has really been a good year for power-pop and Los Pepes is one of the reasons why. This band has just been putting good records year after year and And I Know is no different. And I Know collects a mix of ’77-’79 UK and Northern Island influences to make this 4 songer a standout.

Mama – Speed Trap EP (Hozac)
A common thought for movies is too give them fifteen minutes to hook the viewer; I was never really sure what the musical equivalent is. At first, Mama might seem like a guitar exercise, but they reveal themselves to be a melodic rock band that plays it like a punk band would. Speed Trap is Cheap Trick/Thin Lizzy/Stooges all rolled into one powerhouse of ’74 – ‘77.

The Mandates – In The Back Of Your Heart LP (Hosehead)
The Mandates have taken the New York Dolls, The Dictators, The Saints and Generation X’s penchant for guitar hooks and melody to make In The Back Of Your Heart stuck on repeat. The Mandates have been doing their ’77 rock n’ roll for a quite a few years, but the band’s years together have only made them a tighter more powerful unit. In The Back Of Your Heart has something for everyone, tough riffs that lure listeners in before the pop hooks deliver a musical KO.

Maniac – Chola Queen 7” (No Front Teeth)
This band is not starving for accolades. Maniac, L.A.’s Gentleman Punks, are an all-star combination of Clorox Girls, Cute Lepers, LA Drugz and Images. “Chola Queen” is a brilliant remake of Harpo’s “Teenage Queen” that sounds as if Maniac wrote the song originally. So if that’s not good enough “Calamine” is what Maniac does best which is effortlessly blend early LA punk (Dickies/Weirdos) with UK punk (Rezillos).

Nervous Talk – S/T LP (Hosehead)
Nervous Talk takes all the best parts of Undertones, Teenage Head, Nick Lowe and Pointed Sticks and creates an undiscovered late ‘70’s punk/power-pop/rock n’ roll gem mixed with some garage-punk. Nervous Talk is another power-pop missile from our neighbors to the north, Canada from members of B-Lines, Ballantynes, and Timecopz.

Night Birds – Mutiny on Muscle Beach LP (Fat Wreck)
Who says older bands have to mature? In some ways they should be angrier because they pay bills, pay taxes, and work time sucking jobs while the kids are glued to their phone and complaining about first world problems. Night Birds are really on fire and scorching earth with Mutiny on Muscle Beach. This So-Cal punk/hardcore (DI, Adolescents, Posh Boy) NJ/NYC powerhouse plays with the reckless abandon of a band putting out their debut release. Night Birds maturity memo got lost in the mail and we are all thankful.

Patsy’s Rats – S/T Cassette (Burger Records)
“Rock & Roll Friend,” the leadoff track on S/T, is a classic that the Nerves would have written and that’s just the opener! Patsy’s Rats is like Debbie Harry and Peter Case joining The Cars. It’s power-pop meets new wave from members of Mean Jeans and Scavenger Cunt that nestles it’s way into your ears and never needs to be removed.

Phylums – Phylum Phyloid LP (Dirtnap)
Milwaukee may be more know for the Brewers and its’ hometown beer, but it should start becoming known for the Phylums too. Phylums are a fun ‘60’s garage influenced pop band that feature members of The Goodnight Loving and Jaill. Phylum Phyloid is like Trashmen meets ‘60’s California beach pop with some clean tone surf riffs thrown in on top. Phylums may live by a large lake, but you would think they hang out at the beach all day.

Pronto – S/T LP (Slovenly)
Much like Two-Face in Batman, Pronto has a spilt personality. One side is Protex and The Undertones while the other side is Saints meets KBD punk. Pronto hails from Australia and plays a ’77 punk that has a hard outside, but a softer inside much like a good candy. While Gotham City may lose depending on Two-Face’s flip of the coin decision-making, Pronto’s musical influences do no harm on their S/T LP.

Radioactivity – Silent Kill LP (Dirtnap)
Silent Kill was one of the more anticipated punk records of the 2015. Radioactivity set the world on fire with their debut LP. If you were expecting a repeat of the S/T LP you would be both right and wrong. Silent Kill has their Marked Men, Ramones and Buzzcocks trademark sound, but incorporates more of the darker pop elements that the debut only hinted at. Silent Kill relies more on melody than velocity and isn’t afraid to let the moody pop do the talking this time.

The Role Models – The Go-To Guy LP (Glunk)
When I started compiling this year’s top twenty list, Role Models was my first choice. Go-To Guy is for all the fans of Beat Angels, Replacements, D Generation, Cheap Trick, Johnny Thunders solo stuff and American Power-pop. If you want punk, it’s there. If you want power-pop, it’s there. If you want rock n’ roll, it’s there. Role Models write and play the songs from a band that not only understands this music, but bleeds it as well.

Sweatshop Boys – Always Polite Never Happy 7” (Twintoe/Crapoulet/SP)
I can’t recall many Isreali bands that come to mind, but if they are in the same ballpark as Sweatshop Boys we have a new player in the game. Always Polite Never Happy is a mix of ’77 UK power-pop-punk mixed with ‘80’s melodic punk while songs like “Special Mood” that all comes together so nicely.

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