Thursday, April 21, 2016

Party Lights: Aiding Ailing Hearts In The Big City

I first became familiar with New York City's Party Lights a few years ago when they simultaneously released records on the No Front Teeth label with their sister group The Recordettes. I loved both records and instantly wanted to interview both bands but I noticed both bands shared some members so I randomly just picked to interview The Recordettes.  Well, fast forward to 2015 and The Recordettes have now gone into hibernation and Party Lights are still going strong.  Their songs employ so many elements I love about rock n' roll.  This band manages to bottle up the bounce of 60's girl groups,  the energy of 70's punk, and the melodies of late 70's and early 80's power pop and new wave. That's why  I picked their debut LP I See The Light as one of my top records of 2015 and if you haven't heard it yet, you're doing your drab life a disservice.  

Interview by J Castro

Who is currently in the band and what does everyone do in it?
ANNA:  The band is Joan Chew on bass & vocals (and keys on our recordings), Dave Smilow on drums, and me (Anna Blumenthal) on guitar and vocals. Our other guitarist Elliott Klein absconded to LA earlier this year to become much more famous than us. He currently sends us weekly emails reminding us that New York is a city full of pizza-eating rats and that he wouldn’t move back to New York if Johnny Ramone himself rose from the grave and sent him an engraved invitation. 

How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
ANNA: It was part of a plea bargain.

What band or musician first inspired you to want to pick up an instrument and learn to play and/or write music?
ANNA: Cheap Trick, The Knack, The New York Dolls, Big Star and The Runaways. But The Ramones were the band that made me realize that after learning just three chords I had all I needed to start writing songs (our bass player Joan knows like 945 chords and is going to punch me when she reads this).

How would you describe you band to your grandparents?
ANNA: By yelling really loudly.

What sorts of things do you typically enjoy writing songs about? 
ANNA: When life is peachy keen, no songs get written. I’m not saying I like drama, but a nasty divorce is good for about 46 albums worth of songs.

I See The Lights LP released September 29th 2015

I’ve heard people say that playing and writing music is therapeutic to them.  Have you ever found this to be true?
ANNA: 100% yes. Writing songs about weird things in your life is so therapeutic. It’s awesome to turn crappy situations into good songs. And then getting to crank your amp and sing and play them with your bandmates (who in my case are incredible musicians and equally awesome people) is the best thing ever.

Does it annoy you or distract you at all to see some of your audience members fondling their phones while you’re up on stage performing?
ANNA: I assume they are all texting their friends “HOLY CHRIST I’M WATCHING THE BEST BAND ON EARTH!!!!” so it’s all cool. That, or they’re sexting, which we also approve of.
After one of your shows, what sort of feeling or sentiment do you hope your audience walks away with? 
ANNA: Our goal is for everyone to be in a slightly better mood than they were before our show.

What is your favorite album to listen to from start to finish?
ANNA: Way too many to list. I can tell you the last one I listened to all the way through though: Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Amazing album.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you that you still follow to this day?
ANNA: I’m left handed and I was told to learn to play guitar righty. Thank god.

What is the best way people can hear and get a hold of your music?
ANNA: for our album – we’ll also have our brand new 7” (coming out in a few weeks on Hidden Volume Records) available at shows. And it’ll be available at too.

What lies ahead for the band in 2016?
ANNA: More shows (next one is at The Gutter in Brooklyn), a new album later this year and our own brand of potato chips. Currently crowdsourcing for flavor ideas.

Follow Part Lights on all of their adventures on social media!  

Monday, April 18, 2016


Aerosol Burns – Afraid Of The Phone 7” (Pogo Time)
Chris Parker from Chain Letters has written another two songs under a new band name called Aerosol Burns. While Chain Letters had Sophia from Young People With Faces on vocals, this time Matt Mayhem from No Tomorrow Boys and Young People With Faces takes over the vocal duties. As you can see Parker likes to keep his connections close and much like Chain Letters, Aerosol Burns members are spread out all over the globe. Both songs on Afraid Of the Phone are power-pop nuggets like rougher, edgier Buzzcocks/Undertones with the pop simplicity of Protex. Aerosol Burns is rough around the edges in all the right places so the melody doesn’t get buried. For fans of ’77 punk-power-pop this is a must.  – Ed Stuart

Andy California – My Dying Bed 7” (Slovenly/Black Gladiator)
Andy California is writing the songs like he has moonshine in his veins instead of blood. My Dying Bed is backwater blues and generated from the kind of backwoods even the locals might be scared to venture into. Think the area of the crimes in True Detective season 1. Andy California is bringing back the hillbilly blues and sounds like he recorded it much the same way as they did back so many years ago. The songs are so primal that they may well as have been played by a caveman. – Ed Stuart

Avenue Z – Azimut LP (Slovenly)
The origin story of the name is this; Avenue Z is the last street before you hit Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Coney Island is the famed home of the Cyclone roller coaster, Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest and the beach The Warriors need to get back to. The band, Avenue Z, does not offer any ode to ‘70’s era Brooklyn. Instead Avenue Z plays a mix of fuzzed out synth riffs much like Lost Sounds would, but also adding instrumentals that having slowly building melodies. Avenue Z is a mix of Catholic Spray and Magnetix and Azimut is sung entirely in French. Azimut is more set for the aural landscape experience that needs to be given time to develop and set the mood.  – Ed Stuart

Birds of Paradise – Fremont St Experience Cassette (Shake!)
Birds of Paradise are Hannah Lewis and Roy Vucino. Vucino is involved with Red Mass and PyPy just to name a few. About two songs into this release, Birds of Paradise switch musical gears. “A-Bomb Baby” sounds like a straightforward 60’s stomper mixed with a touch of The Normal, but the following song is nothing like it. Fremont St. Experience is a more ‘60’s influenced pop once you get past the early psych songs. – Ed Stuart

Bloodtypes – Pull The Plug LP (P. Trash/Bomb Pop)
We have been receiving a lot of good second and follow-up LP’s, here at the Audio Ammunition flying fortress and Pull The Plug keeps this streak going. Bloodtypes origin story is nestled in the Portland wetlands former Epoxies members met a German expatriate and The Bloodtypes were born. They subsisted on a steady diet of Rezillos, Blondie, Epoxies, Sci-fi, space travel, new wave and ‘80’s synth-pop and that diet has morphed into their second LP, Pull The Plug. The Bloodtypes are serious and campy like a blood soaked surgeon at a restaurant asking, “Can I have more ketchup for my burger?” In their case, its fighting nuclear catastrophes and cyber invasions with sexy spies all to a cool pogo inducing beat. – Ed Stuart

Bullnettle – S/T LP (Dirt Cult)
Annie from This Is My Fist! and Manipulation has a new band called Bullnettle.  Bullnettle, a trio based in Chicago, plays a mix of ‘90’s lo-fi rock n’roll grungy punk-pop. The vocals are raspy and the music at times reminds me of what early Tenement, early Mudhoney and early Superchunk were doing. Bullnettle plays tight, concise, dirty, melodic punk-pop. It’s the kind of songs that were abundant in the late ‘80’s – early ‘90’s before the majors swooped in and over-produced this type of music. This S/T could have fit in right on a Sub Pop or Merge roster of that era, but now Dirt Cult continues it’s run of form and Bullnetle is worth listening too.   – Ed Stuart

Colour Me Wednesday – Anyone & Everyone EP (KROD)
The new four songs from Colour Me Wednesday are made up of dreamy pop-punk from by the Doveton sisters. The band is a four-piece on record, but three-piece (only the girls) in the photos. Colour Me Wednesday floats somewhere between pop-punk and indie with very positive lyrics, most notably on “Two Fifty For You Girls.” “In Your Shoes” is a track that seems more indie than punk and flirts with Pulp/Spector territory, but the other three tracks are more of the Colour Me Wednesday shown on previous releases. – Ed Stuart

Copout – Spray Paint EP (Toanol)
Spray Paint, the debut EP by Copout, is heavily influenced mostly by, you guessed it, Black Flag and they even cover the song as well. Copout, who are made up of members of Fourfuznies, are not solely worshipping at the altar of Black Flag (pre and post Rollins eras), but are adding touches of Lifetime style melody and Kid Dynamite quick bursts of energy and bits of Dag Nasty. – Ed Stuart

The Country Dark – Hypnic Jerk LP (Humu)
Hypnic Jerk is the third LP from these Finnish dirty garage boys. The Country Dark reminds me of The Cramps, B-movies, outlaw road races, biker bars and danger. One of the things I find really impressive that The Country Dark plays American Roots rock n’ roll so well you would swear they were American. That’s a testament to them and the global influence and access of musical culture.   – Ed Stuart

Disasterbaters – S/T Cassette (Shake!)
‘60’s garage stompers that could go well with a Back From The Grave or Trash Rock comp. Disasterbaters channel their inner Yardbirds-esque on their S/T release. Disasterbaters play a tried and true ‘60’s influence with songs may not only stomp, but rock too.  – Ed Stuart

Divers – Achin’ On 7” (Dirt Cult)
“Achin’ On” is like Elvis Costello, Mick Jones, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Westerberg decided to write a song together, but didn’t rely solely on their writing styles and talents only. Divers, from Portland, sound is current and from the past at the same time. They have the sound of older bands (like the songwriters I mentioned) with the sound of newer bands (imagine a slower Modern Pets or earlier Gaslight Anthem). Divers are hot off the heels of their debut LP, Hello, Hello and this single won’t slow them down. The B-side, “Can’t Do That,” is a Dead Moon cover. Bouncy ’77 style punks with bits of new wave, post-punk and blue collar. – Ed Stuart

Earl Grey – Passing Time LP (KROD)
Pop Metalcore? I wasn’t really sure at first how to describe this for a band I’m guessing is named after British Tea. At times, the band has Lifetime style breaks and plays melodic hardcore, but the singer does more talk/scream than singing. In their bio, Germany’s Earl Grey is compared to Man Overboard and As It Is, but I think of bands like 88 Fingers Louie or even Lagwagon. It’s a blend of pop-punk/metal/hardcore that I would think the kids would be all over. – Ed Stuart

Earth Girls – Someone I’d Like To Know 7” (Dirt Cult)
Liz from Libyans and Broken Prayer fronts this punk-garage-pop power trio. Yes, you read that right especially if you remember Broken Prayer. On Someone I’d Like To Know, Earth Girls play catchy summer pop. Someone is full of cheer and happiness. Earth Girls really rely on Liz’s vocals provide the bulk of the melody on all four songs while the band carries on at more of a straight ahead punk pace. It’s a system that worked well for the early Thermals and works for Earth Girls on this 7-inch. – Ed Stuart

Endless Mike & Beagle Club – Saint Paul LP (A-F)
Pittsburgh native Mike Miller, better known as Endless Mike heads this musical project. Endless Mike & Beagle Club is an expansive band/project built on parade of musicians, instruments and emotive lyrics. The lyrical idea is not retelling the life of Saint Paul, but Mike connecting a personal journey to Paul’s journey. Paul, the apostle who originally called for the persecution of Jesus’s followers until he was stuck blind and his sight later restored, who became one of Jesus’s biggest supporters. On Saint Paul, Mike, while not comparing himself to Paul, is spending numerous songs about life experiences and the choices the affect that life. Musically, this is a mix of punk, folk, singer/songwriter and indie with a troubadour that is reaching for a connection with the listener.  – Ed Stuart

Evacuate – Blood Money LP (Evacuate)
San Diego much like other parts of Southern California falls under the LA/OC shadow unfairly and doesn’t get recognized as a scene of it’s own. While sometimes seems being categorized as the mellow one of the So. Cal cities, Evacuate didn’t get the memo. Since 2007, Mike (Cheap Sex, Virus) and Karlos (Lab Rats) have been leading Evacuate into battle. Blood Money, the band’s third LP, is socially and politically conscious punk/hardcore that does it right. These guys are pros and know when to shift gears from sing along choruses to straight up hardcore assault to technical breakdowns. I think what some people miss about punk/hardcore is that it’s not about playing fast all the time, it’s about balancing anthemic, technical and melodic parts without losing the song’s energy and musical flow which Blood Money does. – Ed Stuart

The Falcon – Gather Up The Chaps LP (Red Scare)
Well, apparently what we have here is a release by an honest to goodness punk rock super group.  It’s got members of the Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio, and The Loved Ones in its roster. I own one or two older records by each of these bands but I don’t know much about any of them, none were really my thing.  I remember liking The Loved Ones best though. From what I’ve heard this band released an LP about 10 years ago and it was a big hit with the kids. This album is full of impeccably produced punk songs with meany pants vocals, thick muscular sleeveless guitars, and angrily pounded drums that will justify you walking around wearing that sour look on your puss.   - J Castro

Fire At Will – Life Goes On LP (KROD)
Life Goes Out is the third LP by French melodic hardcore Fire At Will. After listening to a lot of newer melodic hardcore bands it makes me think Rise Against is more influential than I would have ever thought. Fire At Will plays an aggressive brand of Rise Against/Strung Out/Good Riddance with tough breakdowns, high energy and melody.   – Ed Stuart

The Forty Nineteens – Rebooted LP (Self-Release)
This is the 2nd LP by this Temecula, CA band (I believe) and they also have quite a few EP’s under their studded belt as well.  They play loud, solid, black slacks black biker jacketed, bar brawling rock n’ roll. They even have a piano player!  To me it’s similar sounding to maybe San Diego’s Dragons (I miss them so) and newer Social Distortion stuff. They list Dramarama, The Plimsouls and Tom Petty as influences as well, which I certainly hear infused in their music as well. They’ve got songs about Zombies, Selfies, and Dodge Chargers, there’s something even for the kids on this record! I would love to see a New Trocaderos/Forty Nineteens tour someday. If any of the band members of either band is reading this, look each other up and make it happen!  - J Castro

Foster Care – Sterilization LP (Total Punk)
Short, sharp and ferocious, kind of like a really agitated badger. Imagine said agitated badger in a bag. Now if you would be so kind as to imagine having someone place that bag over your head and this will place you in a similar mental state as listening to this new Foster Care LP by our comrades over at Total Punk. In my opinion, the best straight up punk rock label in America right now. They don’t tinker around with frilly junk or artsy experimental BS. They scrape down deep into the gutters for their bands. And when these bands come out, they’re really pissed off and that’s when Total Punk captures them and distributes this bottled aggression to the good people of the planet. This record is an example of that, rest assured it will leave severe bruising.   – J Castro

The Guests – Red Scare ‘15 EP (Sabotage)
The Guests really have the ‘80’s down so much that this EP could be passed around as a lost recording from that era. Red Scare sounds like The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and The Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs along with other UK new wave influences. What makes The Guests (who are also members of Sheer Mag), so interesting is that they focus on the early songs of these bands before the keys became a bigger influence. On Red Scare, The Guests have nailed the sound and songwriting without being a clone band or nostalgic for nostalgia’s sake. If you were a fan of these aforementioned bands, you really need to give this a listen.  – Ed Stuart

Healing Waters – Water Cassette (Shake!)
Healing Waters is David from Girlfriend. Healing Waters is lo-fi bedroom pop and it’s heavy on both. Water does seem to remind me of early-mid 80’s Bauhaus, Echo and The Bunnymen with its effect-laden melodies and bits of musical interlude.  – Ed Stuart

Heavy Times – Black Sunglasses 7” (Hozac)
Chicago’s Heavy Times are one of those bands that are great to listen to, but when it comes time to write about them; not so much. No matter what I say to try to describe them to you, I’m going to be doing them a disservice. They’re one of those bands that in my opinion defy rock sub-genres or transcend them so much that the lines begin to blur. They’ve got a lot of energy and presence and there’s a rawness to their music but the vocals remain at a constant defiant drone.  Some of what I can hear is Husker Du, Devo, and maybe some early Pere Ubu and Psychedelic Furs thrown in there for melodic purposes. This Chicago band has been around a while and judging by the weight and density of this EP, I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.   – J Castro

Kill Her First – Born To Be Strong EP (KROD)
German Screamo rockers Kill Her First are back with their new release, Born To Be Strong. The band plays a newer hardcore more influenced by Rise Against than Minor Threat. Kill Her First is a mix of metal/hardcore/punk with two different singers, one who screams and one who sings. It’s clear from the start that Kill Her First have an axe to grind and that leaves them not wanting for topics or anger.  – Ed Stuart

Jukebox Zeros – Count To Ten CD (Rankoutsider)
Some how we missed the Jukebox Zeros party, we lost our invite, but we stumbled into the much later after party. Jukebox Zeros is meat and potatoes, dive bar punk rock n’ roll with nods to Heartbreakers/Dolls mixed with The Humpers’s loose and booze attitude. Jukebox Zeros features Peter from Thirteen and while the band is from Philly Count To Ten shows the band flexing their ‘70’s Bowery-era muscles and playing for the fun of it. Another helping of meat and potatoes please because Count To Ten brings me comfort.  – Ed Stuart

Juvie – You Ain’t Gonna Rock and Roll No More LP (Surfin Ki)
Travis Ramin (Tina and The Total Babes, Nikki Corvette) has led Juvie into ‘50’s territory on their debut LP, You Ain’t Gonna Rock and Roll No More. The opening track, “Hot Lisa,” sounds like a Dave Edmunds number or cover he would have done while “Little Diane” has more of a doo-wop feel. You Ain’t Gonna Rock and Roll No More leans more to the rock n’ roll than previous releases without losing their glam touches, listen to “Love Crunch.” It’s like the NY Dolls with touches of Buddy Holly/Little Richard and power-pop.  – Ed Stuart

Killer Kane Band - S/T 7” (Hozac Archival)
This record was made when that buffoon rip off artist Malcom McLaren squeezed the life out of the New York Dolls and Killer Kane went out, grabbed some buddies and formed a new band.  Among those he enlisted for this band was Blackie Lawless, future front man of hair metal maniacs W.A.S.P.. This record doesn’t contain the manic energy the Dolls did though. The first song “Mr. Cool” is a mean, lurking Alice Cooper slow burner. The second, “Long Haired Woman” is a power packed Stooges number and the third song seems to tip the hat to the MC5 with a song called “Don’t Need You” that’s built around a fantastic heavy guitar riff. All of these songs were remastered by the band’s original guitar player Andy Jay and they sound terrific. A must have for any rock n roll fan!   - J Castro

Kitchen’s Floor - Battle of Brisbane LP (Hozac)
A new LP from this long running peppy as a prancing puppy Australian bunch. In all seriousness though, this is one for the gloom and doom hall of fame. This record should come packaged with a black cloak! Just like Mad Max, Kitchen’s Floor world is “fire and blood,” but add coldness and despair to that list. The music isn’t dismal though, these tunes move pretty steadily past you like a tank rolling over rocky terrain. It’s the vocals that are the element that keeps steering the mood into anxiety and darkness. The first thing that comes to mind of course is Joy Division but these guys aren’t Interpol type copyists. The music is heavier and more chaotic like if Ian Curtis had fronted Mission of Burma or something. Another solid release from the maniacs at Hozac!   - J Castro

The Lashouts – State Of Excess LP (Self-Release)
State of Excess, the bands follow up to 2011’s Elation and Shame, is produced by Stephen Egerton of Descendents/All fame. The Lashouts have a heavy helping of All and Descendents influence and the songs Egerton would have written. Remember the ones with bits of jazz and rock riffs thrown in. State of Excess, which is mostly billed as pop-punk does have quite a bit of rock and polish to go with the punk. – Ed Stuart

Leftover Crack – Constructs of The State LP (Fat Wreck)
Has it really been over 10 years since Fuck Word Trade was released? Yes, it has been that long. Leftover Crack features members from Choking Victim, F-Minus, Star Fucking Hipsters, Intro5pect, and so many more. Constructs of The State continues the band’s musical mix of ska, crust, metal, hardcore, anarcho punk with politically and socially aware lyrics. Leftover Crack effortlessly blends all the aforementioned styles into a seamless hybrid it makes you wonder how some other bands can’t pull off just one style. Constructs of The State picks up as if the band wasn’t on a ten year plus hiatus, which is a testament to the songwriting and musicianship. The timing of this latest release is ingenious considering the heated ongoing presidential race.  – Ed Stuart

The Lippies – S/T LP (Red Scare)
The Lippies are from Grand Rapids, Michigan and are a self-proclaimed feminist pop punk band.  The Lippies have also made one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year. And that pop punk part of the label they slapped themselves with …puh-leeze!  They’re way better than that.  Yeah, the tunes are really catchy but they’re scrappy and heavier than you’re run of the mill cheese ball “pop punk” band wearing ball caps and baggy shorts.  I hear ghosts of The Avengers, Sick Things (UK) and even Tilt’s Cinder Block in vocalist Tonia Broucek. The rest of the band is right there to match her in power and style. Rolling Stone Magazine can keep their Tacocats and Colleen Greens, The Lippies just kicked out a real bona fide contemporary punk record.  - J Castro

Low Levels – S/T Cassette (Shake)
Low Levels is a high-energy post-punk/punk/art band from Vancouver. The band features members of WPP, Hanson Brothers, and Devil’s Eyes. On Low Levels, the band utilizes the guy-girl sing trade off weapon effectively. Low Levels has found a good balance between punk energy and post-punk technique, which reminds of what early Fugazi was doing when combining both influences.   – Ed Stuart

Made in Japan – Instant Hit EP (Hozac Archival)
The story of L.A.’s Made in Japan is an unfortunate one, but sadly one that’s heard all too often.  This is another “slipped through the cracks” tale of a brilliant band that somehow fame and/or recognition eluded. They were featured in the 1980 horror film New Year’s Evil where they caught the ear of the Hozac folks. They were never signed and released only one other promotional 7” back in the day, but only to promote the film. Their music is of course MAGNIFICENT. It’s like The Nerves mixed with the Jam and stirred up with an Alex Chilton stick. It’s a slice of late 70’s/early 80’s New Wave/Power Pop in its most glorious light. How this band never got any bigger is definitely a mystery of the ages.   - J Castro

Marriage + Cancer – Killjoy 7” (Dirt Cult)
After reading some articles about Marriage + Cancer the band was described, sometimes by the band themselves, as either melodic punk or pissed pop. Killjoy is dark, haunting and more akin to a nightmare sequence in a horror movie or psychological thriller. Yes, there are punk parts, briefly in “Nothing’s Wrong When Nothing’s Real,” but it doesn’t drive the songs as much as the sparse melodies. “Killjoy” reminds me more of ‘90’s alternative with dark grungy riffs and angular melodies. Marriage + Cancer arose from the ashes of Nucular Animals and are trying to supplant themselves into your dark wave visions. – Ed Stuart

Mike Bell and the Movies – Room LP (Lame-O Records)
All too often self-proclaimed power pop bands sway a bit too much to the “pop” side and their music turns out too sugary and gooey for me. Or it’s a too “power” and just ends up being mediocre punk with some sugar sprinkled on top, which quite frankly just sounds ridiculous.  Both the “power” and the “pop” must be equally represented in the mix darn it! Well, Philadelphia’s Mike Bell and The Movies hit the mark ever so true. Fast tempos, catchy as a cat’s claw guitar riffs and vocals that can sound both heart felt and snotty all at once.  The band describes themselves as “Power Pop through the lens of Pop Punk.” I couldn’t have said that any better myself. This is one of my favorite records I’ve heard all year!   - J Castro

Mind Spiders – Prothesis LP (Dirtnap)
Mind Spiders, a Denton, Texas supergroup of all-stars featuring members of Marked Men, Radioactivity and Bad Sports, are back with their fourth LP, Prothesis. Mind Spiders have a Devo (Freedom of Choice/New Traditionalists era) crush, but add darker brooding synth-pop influences to help drive the songs. In some ways, Prothesis acts as one collective experience and not separate songs much like a movie soundtrack worried less about hits and catchy choruses and more on soundscape. – Ed Stuart

Mo Troper – Beloved LP (Good Cheer)
Morgan Troper better known as Mo Troper (Your Rival, Sancho) is writing the songs that I remember hearing in the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s alternative radio heyday. An era where Weezer’s Blue LP was a radio staple and MTV played music videos (I know its hard to believe now) for “Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” in regular rotation. Beloved captured this era along with bands like early Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr. where the songs weren’t fast enough to be called punk and the pop melodies were hidden in the lo-fi recordings of distorted guitars and earnest vocals.  – Ed Stuart

Pat Todd & Rankoutsiders – Blood and Treasure LP (Hound Gawd)
Pat Todd was the frontman/songwriter of The Lazy Cowgirls, which was an LA institution for over twenty years. Now, Pat Todd and his band of Rankoutsiders have been playing tried and true rock n’ roll by a man who lives, breathes and bleeds the genre. Blood and Treasure is the fourth LP for Pat Todd & Rankoutsiders, which blends rock n’ roll, country and blues. It’s music without flash and gimmick, typically undervalued in LA, and is delivered with honesty and heart.  – Ed Stuart

Pears – Green Star LP (Fat Wreck)
Pears, after the release of Go To Prison, in some ways have become the hardcore darlings of the block. Last year saw the release of Letters To Memaw on Fat, which might have worried some fans of Pears initially, but that worry should go away after listening to Green Star. First of all “Snowflake” and “Anhedonia” were re-recorded for Green Star and production wise it’s a lot better. Pears took more time on their song craft for this follow-up and it shows. Go To Prison is shotgun blasts of high energy, which is a good recipe for hardcore, but Green Star keep the fury and adds pop, melodic catchy choruses, and technical breakdowns without losing the fury. – Ed Stuart

Prix – Historix LP (Hozac Archival)
Long lost tapes from power pop royalty Chris Bell, Alex Chilton and a host of others finally see the light of day here in America. Apparently this record was released in 2002 on CD in Japan only. Why they were the lucky sole recipients of this album back then I will never know. But the good folks at Hozac have rectified that situation. This record is pretty much what you’d expect from these Big Star alums; tender, hyper melodic, earthy rock n’ roll songs about finding love, losing love and wishing for love. When it boils down, that’s what most good rock n’ roll is about right? As you’d expect this record ain’t no slouch, it’s pretty fantastic especially if you’re a fan of early power pop like Big Star, Raspberries, and Dwight Twilley.   - J Castro

Quitters – Move On To Honest Things EP (KROD)
Quitters mixes punk, indie and melodic hardcore. “I Think About this Things When I’m Drinking” opening riff is something from early Get Up Kids/early Menzingers and continues on ‘90’s-’00’s pop-punk path. “Runaway” is more of the same, but with some gruff/tougher vocals in there. Move On To Honest Things does have a lot in common musically and stylistically with the major label bands of this genre.  – Ed Stuart

The Raydios – Craps 7” (Secret Mission)
With Fink as the singer of your band, that band will never really suck, that much is a given. This is a guy that helped define the modern garage punk sound. He’s the real deal, a real honest to goodness living rock n’ roll titan. Heavily influenced by bands like The Real Kids, DMZ, and all things fast and trashy form the mid to late 1970’s. This is what he brings to the table, and it’s more than enough to satisfy everyone in the band and anyone listening to the records he’s made that have any sense of what real rock n’ roll is supposed to be about. This record is no different.  Two songs of lo-fi rock n’ roll with a power pop backbone. Buckle up tight boys and girls because this one’s another neck breaker.  – J Castro

Red Mass – EP Rouge N.2 EP (Slovenly)
Much like Avenue Z, Red Mass is another band on Slovenly’s Mondo Mongo imprint label. Mondo Mongo being geared more for bands that sing in their native language instead of English. Red Mass is the brainchild of Roy Vucino (Birds of Paradise, Py Py, CPC Gangbangs) and is a revolving music project. Red Mass has featured over 100 different musicians in its history. EP Rouge N.2 is sung entirely in French and is “recorded as a tribute to the French-German Satanic horror drama “Possession” (directed by Andrzej Zulawski)[.]” Red Mass mixes early metal with drum machines, punk with goth and industrial influence for this dark EP.   – Ed Stuart

Sandratz – Social Swarm Cassette (Shake!)
According to an interview I read with Sandratz, Ft. Lauderdale is a party city and far more gritty of an area than Miami. While they know South Florida better than I do, I can say that Sandratz’s Social Swarm is a garage punk fuzz blast that mixes touches of Sonny Vincent NYC rock n’ roll with bits of garage freakout. Sandratz is self-proclaimed trash rock band, but what they leave out is that they lean heavily on the punk while keeping the rhythm shakin’. – Ed Stuart

The Sangomas – Giddyup & Destroy Cassette (Shake!)
Wow! Giddyup & Destroy sounds like it would be more at home on Hound Gawd, but Shake released The Sangomas debut LP instead and it is a scorcher. The Sangomas are guitar-fueled mayhem that has one foot in the punk pond and the other in the rock one. Sangomas would fit right in with Hellacopters, Gluecifer and Backyard Babies style of rawk n’ roll that isn’t afraid to show it’s guitar chops and solos. – Ed Stuart

The Sick Things – S/T Cassette (Shake)
I believe these songs were originally released as demos by the band before Shake! decided to put them out on this S/T release. The Sick Things are a mix of ‘70’s glam/punk/rock/American Power Pop. It’s like “American Girl” Tom Petty had the Heartbreakers made up of Badfinger, KISS, ‘70’s era Stones and Thin Lizzy instead of his Heartbreakers. Sick Things, made up of Sangomas, Barn Burner and Windpisser, are not afraid to solo and use cowbell most notably on “Dog Days,” nor are they afraid to add some glam and American Power-pop touches like they do on “Empty Castles.” This is the soundtrack of kids hanging out, listening to records, kissing in bedrooms that choose to live dazed and confused. – Ed Stuart

Spectres – Utopia LP (Sabotage)
First of all, this is Spectres from Canada not Spectres from England. Utopia, the band’s third LP, is a post-punk/mid ‘80’s musical playground featuring the likes of Sisters Of Mercy, Cure, Joy Division, and Psychedelic Furs. There are a lot of bands in this musical space, but Spectres are good at what they do. It seems to be a key ingredient with post-punk bands that add musical texture and atmosphere is to have the songs work together as a unit and Utopia does just that. – Ed Stuart

Spring Breaks – Wimp Cassette (Shake!)
Spring Breaks features members from Riff Randells, Hotel Lobbyists and What’s Hot. Wimp is a quick tempo, female fronted, high-energy bratty punk with an ’82 speed, but a lo-fi lack of polish. Spring Breaks don’t take their foot off the gas most notably on “Wimp,” and “Montreal.” “Phil and Ronnie” is the exception, which almost sounds like a cover in comparison to the other four songs on Wimp. – Ed Stuart

Tenement – Bruised Music Vol. 2 LP (Grave Mistake/Toxic Pop)
First of all, Bruised Music Vol. 2, is not the follow-up to last years opus Predatory Headlights. Bruised Music Vol. 2 is the companion to Vol. 1 of the same title that came out a couple of years ago. This release covers the Tenement period from 2011 to about 2015. It’s a collection of singles from LP’s Napalm Dream and Blind Wink, but also shows them experimenting and incorporating with string instruments and moving slightly away from their melodic pop-punk sound. “Books On Hell and Sermons” goes into Spoon territory while “Jet Plug” is a toy piano ditty that reminds me of Sebadoh’s indie-bedroom pop. I like the songs like “You’re Life or Mine” and “The Way It Seems” but that’s me. Tenement is a modern day Husker Du and Jawbreaker with a prolific songwriting output that is the envy of any band. – Ed Stuart

This Life – Stories of The Year EP (KROD)
Intense metal/hardcore band with vocals that are screamed more than they are sung. This Life is another French hardcore band that focus on the political and social topics. Stories of The Year, is the band’s new release after a couple of EP’s.   – Ed Stuart

Ton Ton Macoutes – Dinero 7” (Slovenly/Black Gladiator/Shit In The Milk)
In Haitian/Creoele folklore, the Ton Ton Macoute would kidnap and punish unruly children by capturing them in his gunnysack. This band is made of members from Wau and Arraghs, Necromancers and The Haunted. Dinero is a blues/garage/swamp/punk mash up much like The Gun Club, Cramps and The Scientists from this Spanish foursome. Primal, lo-fi, and sharp around the edges on the first two tracks, but displays a more tender side, albeit minor, on “Oh No.”   – Ed Stuart

Topsy Turvy’s – I Expect Nothing and I’m Still Let Down EP (KROD)
One plus of globalization is that if you are a fan of particular genre of music you could, in theory, go to another country and find a scene of that genre. For example, Topsy Turvy’s are from France, but if you weren’t told this, you might believe they are from the USA. I Expect Nothing and I’m Still Down goes between faster pop-punk like Face To Face and more traditional ‘90’s-‘00’s pop-punk like Menzingers/Direct Hit. Topsy Turvy’s proves there is a global scene to keeping pop-punk alive that the big labels wrote off in the ‘90’s.  – Ed Stuart

Traumahelikopter – Look The Other Way 7” (Bachelor)
Upon first listen of  “Look The Other Way,” I was thinking this sounds like a Pixies riff as played Jesus and Mary Chain. “Look The Other Way” would, and should, be a radio hit, but it probably won’t because it’s not Autotuned to soulless perfection. The sparseness of the opening riff on “Look The Other Way” has throwbacks to early post-punk, new wave and even bits of early college rock and so does the chorus. “No Hope” is more entrenched in the Jesus and Mary Chain meets a light touch of My Bloody Valentine with some comparisons to The View. Traumahelikopter definitely pulls from all the right ‘80’s and early ‘90’s references of the era before alternative became a dirty word.  – Ed Stuart

Useless Eaters – Temporary Mutilation EP (Slovenly)
Useless Eaters take a musical turn on their new EP, Temporary Mutilation. Early Useless Eaters releases like Desperate Living were more of a mix of equal punk and art damage. Temporary Multilation is more focused on the post-punk/art damage with a The Fall, early Christian Death influence especially on “Scene + Sequence.” The musical progression is akin to when Wire followed up Pink Flag with Chairs Missing and you realized you needed both. – Ed Stuart

Van Dammes – Better Than Sex EP (Vild)
First of all on Better Than Sex, the Van Dammes have really streamlined their sound. On their debut VD EP, Van Dammes were more fuzzed out, a little slower and content to show their influences more directly. On Better Than Sex, the songs are more confident, choruses are catchier and production is a little better. Van Dammes sounds more like a Hives meets quicker Ramones with garage style recording. The bass is fuzzy and distorted, but the band plays more punk instead of using that sound for doom. The EP will go by quicker than you think with all four songs finishing in under six minutes.  – Ed Stuart