Teenage Bottlerocket - "Warning Device"
I was so into "Total" from the time I got that album, that the three years (give or take) in between that and "Warning Device," were torture. Talk about wearing down an album. Those guys released it at the perfect time. Colored vinyl would have been cool though. I dig the gatefold LP and I can't wait to hear more by them soon.
Shot Baker - "Take Control"
I like to think of Shot Baker as Chicago's best kept secret. These guys blend old school Chicago punk and hardcore perfectly on their new album, "Take Control." Their music is introspective, raw and genuine and something anybody with any sort of internal struggle can empathize with.
The Ergs! - "Hindsight is 20/20, My Friend"
Yeah, I know it's a collection, but it's a fucking good collection of awesome songs. I just wish they didn't break up. The Ergs! are kinda like Tupac. They break up and yet keep on releasing splits and 12''s. If you're reading this, Ergs!, get back together and come to Chicago. And play a show.
The Copyrights - "Learn the Hard Way"
These guys are a truly great pop-punk machine, operating at full throttle, releasing material left and right. "Learn the Hard Way" is 14 songs in about 25 minutes, to give you an idea of it's pace. It's fast-moving, it's fun and its themes jump from girls to I-57, an interstate I'm actually very familiar with, to shit being straight up FUCKED. I can't wait to hear what The Copyrights come up with this year. Aside from the picture discs of "We Didn't Come Here To Die," which I'm excited to check out.
The Copyrights/The Methadones split
Besides the fact that The Copyrights and The Methadones are two of the best pop-punk bands today, they started their own label just for this split. Transparent Records, as Dan Schafer and Adam Fletcher call it, is their label, which is just that...a label of a jellyfish. I think it's brilliant though. Not naming any names here, but who would want to release an album under a shitty label that will take most of your money and not even promote your awesome band? Fuck that horse shit. The Methadones and The Copyrights completely CUT that middleman motherfucker out, and have released an amazing split embodying only the best of today's power pop, punk rock and pop punk sound. Oh yeah, and straight up pop as well. It's goooood. In fact, I think I'll do more than _____ Records ever did for them and post a MySpace bulletin right now promoting this amazing split.
The Steinways - "Gorilla Marketing"
And now for something NOT from Chicago...The Steinways are a pop-punk band, but unlike the cookie-cutter Ramonescore leather jacket crap (which I love, don't get me wrong), The Steinways kind of come off as a bunch of wussies. I mean, they are great, but they don't puff out their chest and sing about how tough they are. Rather, songs about school, weed, girls, unemployment and uh...did I say girls? Girls girls girls hey hey hey girls girls girls. I talked to Ace a while back and promised him I'd review this album, and having just ripped my LP to MP3 a month ago, I will uphold that promise. It's a truly great release by a truly FUN band. Seriously, you'll be singing along and feeling young and infantile again in no time, it's great.
Alkaline Trio - "Agony and Irony"
This one's an oddball. Epic Records, 10 different releases for the album, etc...etc...But Alkaline Trio is STILL my favorite band of all time. There is so much to empathize with in both Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano's vocals, and as overproduced and uh...I don't know "different" as "Crimson" and "Good Mourning" were, "Agony and Irony" really redeems them as the Trio I used to know. They really strip it all down in this record and despite all the special editions, digital only MP3 tracks and bonus 7'' songs, this album really acted as a bellow to my eternal Alkaline Trio flame (not to be misinterpreted as homoerotic love).
Mike Hale - "Broken With No Hope"
Mike Hale is fucking awesome, let me just say that. OK, now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about how amazing his voice is. It's SO amazing (HOW AMAZING IS IT?!) It's so amazing that when he opens his mouth, his guitar wants to play HIM. He's got a soothing voice, a real different sound than heard in his other bands, Gunmoll and In the Red. They're not bad either. But Hale's solo stuff is great. His guitar-playing is intricate and relaxing, a whole different side of him than he shows in his other bands. For fans of Chuck Ragan, Chris Wollard and uh...it doesn't matter, check this guy out.
Kepi the Band/Kepi and Friends - "American Gothic" and "Hanging Out"
This was a fun one. I got the double gatefold vinyl release of these two albums, on green and purple vinyl. Kepi and Friends released "American Gothic," which is acoustic, very mellow and fun, much like an acoustic version of the Ghoulies. Imagine that! There's songs about girls and the like, and he does a really Western take on these tracks. He even covers "Take a Look" from The Methadones' first album, which is really good. "Hanging Out" is by Kepi the Band, an all-electric band sounding even MORE like the Groovie Ghoulies. Wowie zowie, imagine that! These are mostly new songs. A couple of them, "It's You" and "A Kiss For You" were featured on his Valentine's Day card release with a 2-track CD inside. The rest (I think) are all originals - all very good. I especially like "Red Bat." If only bats could be kept as pets...sigh.
The Riverdales - "Phase 3" re-issue
I know this isn't a new album, but I believe it is worthy of mention because of the three unreleased Riverdales tracks, deeming this release (in my mind), worthy of making it to THE LIST. As if the first album re-issued wasn't good enough, now we have Phase 3 (that's right, numerals, not the word three) to listen to, with songs all rearranged out of order with new ones thrown in between. "Countdown" makes for a cool opener. It's not easy to count down from 10 and keep a rhythm at the same time. I tried it on my own, it was weird. Also on this are "Total Blockhead," "You Know You Do" and "Out For Myself." The latter of that list could totally be a Methadones song. Anyways, I look forward to the new Riverdales album in '09 er-this year and can't wait to hear more by 'em. Side note-anyone know where "I Can't Pretend" is from? I have heard that track and like it, but have never seen it on any sort of track listing. Maybe one of their 7''s?
Off With Their Heads - "From the Bottom"
This one is worthy of mention on many levels. It's a hard, gritty tale of life in the dumps and not being able to get straight. The music follows traditional pop-punk chords, but are much harder, with much more gruff vocals. This album paints a picture of desperation, heartache, frustration and sorrow with a hint of hope. Anyone feeling like shit can listen to this, and feel better or at least not so alone. Off With Their Heads are a great band not only on albums, but live as well. I've seen 'em three times and love it more every time. See 'em if they roll through your town and pick this one up, because it's their best release to date.
Shorebirds - "S/T" 7''
Shorebirds was born following the breakups of Jawbreaker and Latterman. While the 7'' was originally pressed in I think, 2007, it was repressed in 2008, deeming it totally worthy of making the list. Four songs about being outcast and upset with the world really are good. Matt C., the lead singer of Latterman sings on this release and Chris B. from Jawbreaker plays bass. Seriously, if you like either of those bands, you will love Shorebirds. They have a full-length release as well, which I have, but have yet to listen to. I'm sure that is great as well.
Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves - "S/T"
Two hundred LPs were pressed for The Fest 7 this year, and there were a few left over, so I was lucky enough to grab one from No Idea Records. The LP is a rough version of the upcoming full-length by Chris Wollard and The Ship Thieves. I'm not sure who else plays on this, as the record is literally a blank-labeled LP with just a square of cardboard, but it is really good, and I can't wait for the polished-up release. On it are "No Exception" and "Reason In My Rhyme" from the Chris Wollard/Mike Hale split 7''. Eight other songs grace the album, and all of them are acoustic, mellow and just add to my love of everything Hot Water Music.
Chuck Ragan - "Ole Diesel" 7''
Speaking of Hot Water Music, Chuck Ragan released a 7'' in February on Rat Patrol records (UK). Two songs - Ole Diesel, an original Ragan tune about trains illustrates his southern roots with a real folk influence. "The World Turned Upside Down" is a cover Ragan did, originally a Digger's Song from a couple hundred years ago, actually. Billy Bragg did it, and then Ragan covered him. This one's a good release.
Mischief Brew/Joe Jack Talcum - "Photographs From the Shoebox" split
I'm a huge Dead Milkmen fan, so when I saw Joe Jack Talcum (Milkmen's lead singer) release solo stuff, I jumped on that. He re-did "Dean's Dream" with an acoustic and I think steel guitar as well. It sounds really good, and he follows his traditional songwriting techniques of writing songs that are kind of silly and weird, but pull you in till you're in love. The Mischief Brew side was great as well. I always like it when I buy a split for one band and it turns out the other one is great. They are an anarcho-punk band, but not in an Anti-Flag "let's see how many times we can get the crowd to chant 'Fuck Bush'" kind of way. They reminded me of old Against Me! and the World/Inferno Friendship Society. Kinda folk, kinda punk but really great. I swear, I've heard "Gather Ye Acorns" somewhere before, I just can't think of where. Anyway I heard the Dead Milkmen reunited for a show in Texas and plan on touring. I hope this is true and I hope that if it is, they come through Chicago so I can see them. Check out this release if you too have been wondering what Joe Jack Talcum has been up to lately. It's really good. (See: Mischief Brew's "Jobs in Steeltown" 7'' review).
Smoking Popes - "Stay Down"
In June, the Smoking Popes did a show at the Metro for an advanced release of their album, "Stay Down." It was an amazing show, with Neil Hennessy of the Lawrence Arms on drums. Well, the album is great. Not since 1997 have the Popes put out a studio-recorded album of new material (unless you count the Duvall stuff, which I'm not). It sounds like Josh's voice hasn't changed a bit. They picked up right where they left off, Josh found God and yadda yadda. But this album is seriously great. It's lyrics are full of hope, sincerity and meaning and while Neil didn't record with them, his strong presence on drums is seen in their live shows, which are something not to be missed. "Stay Down" is way up there on the Best of 2008 list. (See: "Stay Down" review).
Last but not least I want to mention Mike Felumlee, former drummer of Alkaline Trio and the Smoking Popes. While he has not officially released anything in 2008, he recorded and put up a slew of new tracks via MySpace and PureVolume. He has a split coming out this year, but I want to mention the new songs, because they are great. I'm a big fan of "64 Hours" and his split with Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio. He's got a sincere, mellow voice, and a real knack for writing catchy, poppy guitar parts to accompany his heartfelt lyrics. I am really looking forward to his new material and anything else he does in the future.