Sunday, December 29, 2013


Greetings and welcome to Squid Pro Quo's sixth annual BEST OF list. 2013 saw a lot of great releases. We've chosen the 10 best full-lengths, 10 best 7''s/EPs/compilations and 10 best splits of the year. Love it, love to hate it or check it out if you don't know it.

The Top 10 Albums of 2013
By Jason Duarte

10. Swearin' - Surfing Strange (Salinas)

Swearin' impressed me last year with their self-titled debut release. This year, they released a second record, also on Salinas Records. I like their first album a lot, but this one has some jams and is a little less "punk" and a little more their of own sound. This album is so riddled with catchy melodies and pieces, it's hard to stop coming back to it. It's good to rock to. It's good to chill to. It's just a great taste of an eclectic group of musicians. Seeing them live was incredible. The new album had barely been released, and everyone knew the words. Keep your eyes on Swearin' if you haven't been.

9. Laura Stevenson - Wheel (Don Giovanni)

Laura Stevenson has a unique way of getting your mind and heart's attention. Her lyrics and inflection are unrivaled. Laura can sing about taking out the garbage, and somehow make it into a beautifully heartfelt experience. She doesn't sing about taking out garbage. She sings about life, death and the trials and tribulations therein. She hits you with her wild and raw emotions in a way that stuns at first, but then it's welcomed. I am proud to say I own everything she's released as Laura Stevenson & the Cans, and more recently, just as Laura Stevenson. She's growing further from her punk roots and more into the pop folk/Americana genre, and it's incredible. She sings and you really listen.

8. Night Birds - Born To Die In Suburbia (Grave Mistake)

Night Birds are my favorite current hardcore band. Like, hands down. It doesn't get better than them. This is their first release since founding guitarist Mike Hunchback left, so being I've been following this band since buying their demo and seeing one of their first shows and every one I could since, I was super excited to hear change in sound. Mike Hunchback is an intense, powerful dude. His licks are just insane. The way he plays, crawling on his knees, almost abusing himself and his guitar while hitting every note is still unmatched, but PJ is amazing in a different way. This album's not as dark as The Other Side of Darkness or the Fresh Kill Vol. 1 collection, but it's so so good.

7. RVIVR - The Beauty Between (Rumbletowne)

The Beauty Between is RVIVR's strongest release to date. So catchy. So powerful. So much angst and momentum drives this record - it's impossible to stop once you start it. This band has never let me down, and just gets better. I like the album art, too. A lot of people collect records just for sound but right up there with it for me is the large art, and getting to examine it, turn it over in my hands...I look at my record jackets as limited prints from the artist who created them, not just houses for records. I'm just saying the art rules.

6. Lemuria - The Distance Is So Big (Bridge 9)

Lemuria is a band I've been a fan of since I first saw them open for The Queers back in 2008 at Reggie's in Chicago. Their signing to Bridge 9 earlier this year was a surprise, but it fits. They released a single for "Brilliant Dancer" before the full length came out and it was good. This album is so solid and their live performance is one of the tightest-sounding I've ever witnessed/heard.

5. Sundowner - Neon Fiction (Fat Wreck)

Chris McCaughan and Neil Hennessy of the Lawrence Arms cannot disappoint. Chris's voice has gotten a lot smoother and on key. Sundowner keeps getting better. The songs are not just him and an acoustic guitar, as they were in the past. The album is phenomenal. I'm from Chicago as well and hearing Chris sing songs about the city as his own and his connections to it strike a personal note, as I've got my own history and love/hate relationship with it. The album art is amazing too. Earlier this year, I was on tour and we were in San Francisco coincidentally on the day they opened the Fat Wreck store and there was Chris, singing a solo set. It was great to see him, hang out a bit and pick up a couple of records. I wish him the best in Portland and can't wait to see him in Chicago again. His melodies and lyrics have a lingering effect. I highly recommend it.

4. Lipstick Homicide - Out Utero (Bloated Kat)

The pop punk gods convened and willed three mortals from Iowa into making one of the best pop punk albums of the year. The title, an obvious play on Nirvana's In Utero, is an attention-grabber. The album is awesome from start to finish, and features a song called "Vampire Club Pt. 2," a sequel to "Vampire Club," off LipHo's Brainhole EP. This album is so strong. I was lucky enough to play three shows with these dudes this autumn between California and Iowa, and their live performances are nothing short of amazing, either. Rachel Feldmann sings and plays bass like an unstoppable force. Kate Kane plays guitar and sings like a wild woman and Luke Ferguson plays drums with precision and finesse. I can't wait to see these dudes again.

3. Iron Chic - The Constant One  (Bridge 9)

When Not Like This came out in 2010, it was my #1 of that year. It was a lot of peoples' #1. They took the pop punk world by storm, and signed to a hardcore label just before releasing The Constant One. The band has done a lot of touring and released a few EPs/splits/singles between these two full-lengths and everything I've read or heard has been positive feedback. This album had massive shoes to fill, and it did it. It features a song off one of their EPs, "Spooky Action From a Distance," and the rest is new. Like labelmates, Lemuria, they have an instrumental intro track. My favorite track is "(Castle) Numbskull." This release solidified this band, and now I believe that they can do no wrong. Thanks for keeping things in perspective and shining a light on the dark or scary things every once in a while.

2. Great Apes - Thread (Asian Man)

 Great Apes is hands-down my favorite Brian Moss band to date. I like The Ghost, Hanalei and Olehole was great. But Great Apes is perfect mix of his intellectually insightful lyrics paired with punk rock. This is actually pretty pop punk, despite the gruff air that surrounds it. "San Quentin" sounds like it was an Olehole song. Not a bad thing. Songs about feelings and life are sung loud and clear on this. Thread, for me, was the much-needed follow-up to the split 7''s and singles Great Apes had released in the year prior. This album struck a chord with me, and is amazing from start to finish. Check out a review I did for Jaded In Chicago of their self-titled 7'' here.

1. Plow United - Marching Band (Jump Start)

Plow United is a punk band that started in 1992 and broke up in 1997 at the pinnacle of its popularity. I'd never heard of them because they disbanded before I started going to shows and they were still too obscure to have ever come across my radar. Then in 2012, they recorded new material, releasing two songs on a 7'' via Kiss of Death Records and THIS MASTERPIECE on Jump Start Records this year. Being on the constant lookout for new music, that 7'' busted my Plow United cherry and then this album came out and made me realize that you can walk away from music for 15 years and then come back and kick more ass than ever before. Then I saw them at Pouzza Fest in May and rarely do I watch a band and just zone out on their drummer. Sean Rule is an animal, and his chemistry with Joel and Brian is just perfect. I can't wait to hear/see more by Plow United.

The Top 10 7''s/EPs/collections of 2013

10. Your Pest Band - Smash Hits! (2008-2011) (Dead Broke)

This 26-track collection of songs from singles is some of the best, fastest and intense punk out there today. This four-piece from Japan rips. I was lucky enough to catch them in Brooklyn last February. There are NOFX and Carpenters covers on this thing. They aren't rewriting the punk genre, but they're really fun.

9. The Replacements - Songs For Slim 12'' (New West)

Hearing that The Replacements were to release a commercially-affordable version of their Songs For Slim EP thrilled me and I bought it the second I saw it. Then hearing that they were going to reunite and play my city in September made me jump with glee. I got to see them. It was incredible. This EP is also incredible. Slim Dunlap was The Replacements' replacement guitar player for Bob Stinson in 1987. He also released two solo albums in the '90s. In February 2012, he suffered from a stroke. The proceeds from all these album sales go toward his hospital bills. Side A features two songs written by Slim Dunlap. Side B features three covers: "I'm Not Saying" by Gordon Lightfoot, "Lost Highway" by Leon Payne and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" by Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne.

8. Skinny Genes - Meh 7'' (Bloated Kat)

Skinny Genes aka Azeem Sajid aka ACE OF BASS from The Steinways/House Boat Mikey Erg-ed on us this year. And it rules, just like Mikey's solo stuff. His throat is coated in golden PBR. The themes are the same. Pretty bleak, rough stuff here. I'm waiting to hear an Ace song that's like, "hey, my life's good now." But then it'd also probably suck cause that's obviously not the catalyst to his creativity. I love this man. I got to play the last two Steinways shows with them in September out in California and that made my life. I always want to give Ace a hug. His music will make you want to give him a hug. Just listen to it and then look at that face of his. It's like he wants to be adopted and hugged all day. Buy this 7'' and adopt your own Azeem Frehley.

7. Night Birds - Maimed For the Masses 7'' (Fat Wreck)

I think this is the first release with PJ on guitar, post-Mike Hunchback. Hearing that Fat Wreck was going to release a Night Birds single got me giddy. It also made me like Fat Wreck more. The title track (and album art) is about former wrestler Mick Foley. The injuries list on that man will send shivers down your spine. There are four tracks total on this one. Only the title track appears on Born To Die In Suburbia. The other three are exclusive to this EP. A limited 70-gram version was released by Fat on black vinyl with the regular EP.

6. The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute 12'' (Fat Wreck)

Tony Sly's death last year was a shock to us all. Such a profoundly talented singer and songwriter. I remember my first time seeing No Use For A Name was in 2002 when I was a sophomore in high school and absolutely loving every second of it. Life is not always fair, but all the artists on this tribute album did him and his songs beautiful homage. He'll live forever as long as there are his recordings and a medium to play them. RIP, Tony. You're missed and loved, and this album is nice proof.

5. Our Lips Are Sealed: A Tribute To the Go-Gos 12'' (Solidarity)

I was never a huge Go-Gos fan, but they're one of those bands where I still somehow knew their songs. After buying this, then going back to really listen to the Go-Gos, it made me a fan. A lot of my favorite current bands are on here. My favorite covers are by Dan Vapid & the Cheats, Masked Intruder, Great Apes and Vacation Bible School.

4. All Dogs - All Dogs 7'' (Salinas)

This is the freshest band to my ears on this entire list. All Dogs comes from Ohio and writes some amazing tunes. They remind me of The Muffs crossed with Lemuria crossed with Brick Mower. The set of pipes on the singer are amazing. I love this 7'' and you should check out this band.

3. Technicolor Teeth - Blood Pool b/w Drips 7'' (Accidental Guest)

Technicolor Teeth is a band from Wisconsin that features Amos from the aforementioned Tenement among its lineup. This band grew on me this year, and for a long time, was the only thing I listened to. They take shoegaze, make it darker and experiment with sound. This band would be written off as "weird" but your typical punk rocker, but I urge anyone reading this to really listen to them. Listen to the music. It'll pull you in too.

2. Tenement - Sick Club Vol. 3 7'' (Cowabunga)

These guys are one of my favorite bands. I consider myself lucky that I not only get to hear the musical stylings of Amos Pitsch, Jesse Ponkamo and Eric Meyer, but get to see this band live. Amos is a musical genius and if you don't believe me, you're wrong. I don't know how to properly explain it, because my name's not Pitchfork, but Tenement's songs are infectiously good and well-put-together. Jesse wrote "Freak Cast In Iron" on this one. Grab this single if you can.

1. Supercrush - Lifted b/w Melt Into You (Drift Away) 7'' (Bedside)

Supercrush is a new band out of Vancouver. This 7'' has been on repeat since I discovered it. It's insanely well put-together and takes the very best elements of grunge, shoegaze, rock and a little punk and creates something perfect. Check out a review I did of the single here.

The Top 10 Splits of 2013

10. Mean Jeans / Underground Railroad To Candyland 7'' (It's Alive)

Two of my favorite bands that I would not have expected to collaborate totally did on this. The Mean Jeans songs are party punk staples. They're really good, raw, fast, full of energy and fueled by booze. The URTC songs are good low-fi, garage-y ones. This record is a party on the Mean Jeans side and chillin' the morning after on the URTC side.

9. Mikey Erg / Barrakuda McMurder 3.5'' floppy (Bloated Kat)

This shit is so rare, it's just plain dumb. 13 floppy discs were made with the songs on them as MP3s. How the hell someone even has a floppy drive anymore is beyond me, but hey, points for creativity and obscurity. Oh, and they were only sold in Japan. So I don't have one, but I do have the MP3s, and they're really good. Mikey Erg's was made with his phone and Grath's was probably made with GarageBand or something. The songs are great. I'm hoping Mikey does a solo full-length or something of the like. Grath's song is like an acoustic Steinways song with an electric guitar dubbed over it in a part. It's funny, but it makes you feel bad. Buy it on Bandcamp and support these guys.

8. Vacation Bible School / The Brokedowns 7'' (It's Alive)

Two of my favorite local-turned-global-ish bands FINALLY have a split together. So appropriate. I think it rules that a label in California put out a split by two bands from Elgin, IL, a place I called home for a couple of years. VBS offers up some fast, heavy, gritty pop punk. Catchy and aggressive. The Brokedowns have done a lot of splits, and their creepy, heavy sound is big on this one. They have pop punk choruses with deep, gruff vocals and sometimes border hardcore. This is a heavy-hitter. Lots of low end on the bass. Lots of emotion. I don't really understand the cover art, but I like it. It's a little deceiving but it works.

7. The Capitalist Kids / Tight Bros 7'' (Toxic Pop)

The Capitalist Kids are from Austin and released an album last year titled "Lessons On Love, Sharing and Hygeine" that reinstilled my faith in good pop punk. This split is pretty straight-up pop punk, with short songs all around. The Capitalist Kids cover "Claustrophobia" by the Bee Gees and it's AWESOME. Seriously. Didn't anticipate that coming. Tight Bros from Ohio offer up three originals. They have a little Mean Jeans likeness to them, and a little Be My Doppelganger in there. They're good pop punk. I was lucky enough to play with both these bands this past autumn in Austin and in L.A. They rip live. Especially the Cap Kids. I want to see them again so bad.

6. Lipstick Homicide / The Turkletons - We're Gonna Need a Bigger Coat 7'' (It's Alive)

Pop punk gold. Lipstick Homicide and The Turkletons compliment each other so well on this. Their songs are shorts and packed full of fun, catchy hooks. I love the title's play on Jaws. I love this split.

5. Brick Mower / Black Wine 7'' (Viking On Campus)

Two of my favorite New Jersey bands ever collaborate on this very appropriate split 7''. They were tour buddies on more than one occasion (one of the best tours I've ever seen), and they fit so well together musically. Each band on this offers an original and a cover. Brick Mower covers "Jim Motherfucker" by Gaunt. Black Wine covers "Freedom of Choice" by Devo, which was a staple in their live sets for a little while. They do an awesome version. The originals are the highlights. I love these bands, and all of the people in them. They fit so well with each other, I want to hear more new stuff.

4. Masked Intruder / Dan Vapid & the Cheats The Wedding 7'' (Solidarity)

Two of the best pop punk bands out there today. Veterans Dan Vapid & the Cheats, and newer-ish band, Masked Intruder. They collaborated on this 7'' commemorating Solidarity Records owner Randy and his wife, Valerie's marriage. The Masked Intruder song is beautifully done. The intro sounds like an intro to an '80s ballad. Their tune is called "Valerie Is Getting Married." It's pretty funny, since it's about him being sad that Valerie is marrying someone that isn't him. Poor blue. The Cheats' song is called "Randy Is Getting Married." It's so catchy and happy. This split is loaded with positive vibes, and I love it.

3. All Dogs / Slouch tape (Discount Horse)

All Dogs and Slouch are two bands from Ohio. Slouch is a cool, dreamy Dinosaur Jr.-esque band minus all the crazy J. Mascis leads. All Dogs is awesome garage pop punk. They cover The Muffs tune, "Every Single Thing." All Dogs so does it for me. I want them to make a full-length record really bad. Their four-track self-titled EP that came out on Salinas Records this year made it to #4 on my Top 10 7''s/EPs/collections list. Check these bands out.

2. Tenement / Screaming Females 7'' (Recess)

Tenement and the Screaming Females recently went on tour together as part of the Don Giovanni Records tour. I consider this split Tenement's big, deserved break. Screaming Females has a crazy loyal and huge fan base, and their track is amazing. There isn't an insane amount of screaming or shredding on it, but it's a solid jam. Tenement's song, to me, steals the show. I'm biased. Deal with it. They have such an unconventional, unique way of making pop. It's completely their own. This split is some of the best of what two amazing bands have to offer. Not just some mashed-up B-sides single of each band's. Do yourself a favor and get this.

1. The Old Wives / The Blendours 12'' (Eccentric Pop)

The Old Wives from Edmonton are one of my favorite pop punk bands. I was lucky to see them in May at Pouzza Fest in Montreal, and see some of the new songs played live. This split is the third release on a great new-ish label called Eccentric Pop Records, based out of South Carolina. I can't get over how catchy this split is. The Old Wives kill it on their side and The Blendours from Iowa on the other side are also amazing. I love how funny but good they are. They remind me of The Steinways. This split is all around fun. Just get it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Industrial Park' 7'' by Industrial Park

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 4/10/2013
7'': Toxic Pop Records
Rating: 3/5

The first thing that came to mind when I opened this single up was, 'Joy Division.' The minimalist monochrome photograph doesn't beg for attention, but leaves a bit to be wondered. Not coincidentally, so does the music.

"Echoes" on side A has a steady, but dark, shoegaze progression from start to finish. There's a nice reverb effect on the vocals, which seem to intentionally not have much range, but without being uninteresting. Like the art, there's something that's left to wonder. Industrial Park could be a child between The Smiths, a less-bass-driven Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division and Sick Sick Birds.

Side B offers up a track titled, "May." It's an introspective minimalist and somewhat sorrowful jam. The lyrics are spaced out throughout the song, "
I can see you deep inside/I can hear you deep inside/And I'm broken deep inside/In pieces deep inside."

Both tracks on this 7'' defy time and typical song progressions. The songs go by very quickly, yet they're upwards of 3 minutes a piece. I'm interested in hearing the band's full-length. This is the type of music I can saunter pleasantly in, and these 6 minutes leave a good taste in my ears.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pale Angels - 'Primal Play'

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 8/13/2013
12'' / digital download: Kiss of Death Records
Rating: 5/5

Imagine if you will, drummer Mike Yannich (The Ergs!, etc.) and guitarist/vocalist Mike Santostefano (Static Radio NJ) standing on their home turf of New Jersey, on the shore, facing northeast behind their instruments. Across the pond, bassist Jamie Morrison (The Arteries) stands on his home turf of Wales, facing southwest. They start playing at exactly the same time. You're floating out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when suddenly, two separate channels of sound waves smack into either side of your head at 340.29 meters per second. You forget about the sun burning your skin as a smile creeps across your face.

That's the recipe. No stuffiness. No filler. Just three guys make this transatlantic trio a bare-bones wall of sound with a pop foundation. Thus, the album is catchier than stereotypical grunge. The songs are also shorter, which shines a light on the punk influence that the band members embody.

Musicians in every respective generation find a way to pay homage to the music that's shaped them, but may have also been just out of reach. For example, I was eight years old in 1994 when Kurt Cobain killed himself, have no memory of the event, yet I grew up listening to Nirvana and their music molded my taste and playing style quite a bit. Thanks to alternative radio in the '90s carrying the torch of grunge, the seed was planted in me, well before I knew it would blossom into a love for the genre. I can't help but think the same torch of escaped nostalgia burns in others.

Yannich embraces a Dave Grohl-esque style of playing, which drives the Nirvana likeness home. But Pale Angels is not a Nirvana clone or a simple homage-to-grunge band, despite how much they channel their influential predecessors. The distorted, fast, fuzzy grunge/punk flows though Primal Play at a steady pace, only slowing down on the appropriately-titled track, "Slow Jangle." The album builds up, peaks and fades out on the last of nine songs, "Bed Bugs," which lasts an enjoyable 14 minutes before its feedback-riddled finish.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with all the music you have and/or frequently look for a breath of something fresh, I recommend this. If you're a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, I recommend this. If you have ears, I recommend this.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Supercrush - 'Lifted/Melt Into You (Drift Away)' 7''

By Jason Duarte
Release date: 10/24/2013
7''/digital download: Bedside Records
Rating: 4.5/5

Earlier this year, I stumbled across a new band out of Vancouver called Supercrush, featuring Mark Palm of Modern Charms on vocals and guitars. I listened to their debut song, "Lifted," and was immediately lost in shoegaze fuzz pop by way of the early- to mid-'90s. The heavy distortion on the guitars open the tune, which is kicked in by two powerful snare and bass drum hits. The entire song is built on a foundation of the catchy opening verse, keeping it moving, yet cyclical; like actually being in a fuzzy dream sequence. Lead guitar and guest female vocals are woven into the dreamscape to give the song beautiful depth before it's over.

"Melt Into You (Drift Away)" is the B side. This one is driving from the start and it's laden with consistent pop leads that swell throughout most of the track. Dual guitar leads lay it on thick after 1:00 and then the song peaks. At the breakdown 2/3 of the way through, the song rides a wave of overlapping guitar and vocals until the song fades to close. This release holds appeal to a broad audience and is a candidate for the top single of 2013. Keep an eye on these guys and stream the single below.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Releases of 2012

It's time for the fifth-annual Squid Pro Quo "Top Releases" list! It goes without saying that there were a lot of incredible releases this year. The world WOULD'VE ended on a strong note. First up is the top albums, then the top EPs/7''s/collections/demos and finally, the top splits. There'll be a brief write-up with a review (if I wrote one), the album art and then the streaming album. I shot a handful of videos this year too, now that I'm finally a smartphone user, so there's that too. Enjoy!

Top 20 Full-Lengths of 2012
By Jason Duarte

1. Masked Intruder - Masked Intruder (Red Scare)

Masked Intruder sneaked into all our windows and beds and took us by surprise this year. They literally came out of nowhere (as they do), released some 7''s, a full-length and were signed to Fat Wreck in no time. Besides being extremely talented, Masked Intruder embodies a creative, schtick-y mysticism that works wonders to their advantage and got tons of people talking about them. Will creeping and stalk rock finally be cool? It'll probably still land you with a restraining order. But with this year's presidential election, the fiscal cliff, domestic tragedies, this NRA controversy, the "end of the world" and all the other madness that 2012 bought, everyone has been lacking good fun, and Masked Intruder is just that.

TOP TRACKS: "25 To Life," "Crazy" and "Heart-Shaped Guitar"

[Below is a rare look at PINK INTRUDER, being pretty]:

2. Swearin' - Swearin' (Salinas)

A friend/old bandmate introduced me to Swearin' earlier this year. The band features members of P.S. Eliot, Big Soda, Bad Blood and Radiator Hospital. While I never listened to the aforementioned bands, Swearin' really impressed me and proved how good '90s-influenced indie/punk can be. They also received notable recognition this year by landing an opening spot on a large stretch on Japandroids' fall tour after the release of its debut self-titled album.

TOP TRACKS: "Kenosha," "Empty Head" and "Here To Hear"

3. Sundials - When I Couldn't Breathe (Asian Man)

Earlier this year, Jaded In Chicago asked me to review the new Sundials album. I was torn because I had already bought it from Mike Park over at Asian Man, and was afraid I'd write too-biased of a review, but I did it anyway, as honestly as I could. It's really good, and heavily recommended if you like Swearin', Braid, Harvey Danger and Chisel. Check out a more detailed review of this album here

TOP TRACKS: "When I Couldn't Breathe," "New York Crunch," and "Strange"

4. Black Wine - Hollow Earth (Don Giovanni)

Black Wine explores more haunting and eerie land in its third full-length release, Hollow Earth. All three members share lead vocal duties, making this album quite unique in its arrangement. The band showcases its talent beautifully on this record and best of all, the songs make you take a second look at things. Check out our glowing review from earlier this year here.

TOP TRACKS: "Burlap," "Hollow Earth 1" and "Naysayer"

[Below is a video from Black Wine's summer tour. It's from July 1, when they played "Burlap" at Township in Chicago]:

5. Teenage Bottlerocket - Freak Out! (Fat Wreck)

Teenage Bottlerocket released Freak Out!, its fifth studio album this year. The band keeps its fast, signature pogo-punk style and continues to dabble in skate/thrash territory. They maintain their sense of humor in songs like "Maverick," "Necrocomicon" and "Headbanger" (which was actually a Sack song first), making for a really, really fun album. This one also features two songs previously released on the Mutilate Me 7''. Read our write-up anticipating the release of this record here and check out an interview I did with Miguel Chen (bass) earlier this year here.

TOP TRACKS: "Done With Love," "Cruising For Chicks" and "In the Pit"

6. Treasure Fleet - Cocamotion (Recess)

Treasure Fleet is a Chicago supergroup, and one of the best new bands in the city. The band features Neil Hennessy (Lawrence Arms), Eli Caterer (Smoking Popes), Isaac Thotz (Arrivals), Dave Merriman (Arrivals) and Mike Oberlin (Sass Dragons) (and sometimes others). I can't call it stoner music. I can't call it psych. I can't call it punk. It's Treasure Fleet. And it rules. I haven't gotten Future Ways in the mail yet...otherwise I suspect that'd make the list too. But that'd be unfair since I haven't heard it.

TOP TRACKS: "Vice," "High On a Bicycle" and "We All Go To the Old Ghost Town"

7. Dan Vapid and the Cheats - Dan Vapid and the Cheats (Torture Chamber)

One of my favorite songwriters formed a band and released an album of new material after quitting his bands, Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales. If you don't know him from the aforementioned groups, you know him from Sludgeworth, The Mopes, The Queers, Noise By Numbers and The Methadones. This album is like a sampler platter of Dan Vapid songwriting. Some are Riverdales-esque, and some even take on '50s doo-wop influence. Check out our review and set list from the Cheats' first show last year here

TOP TRACKS: "Devo On Speed," "Work of Art" and "Torture Chamber"

8. Brick Mower - My Hateable Face (Don Giovanni)

After the release of its debut album, Under the Sink and non-stop touring, Brick Mower was signed to Don Giovanni Records earlier this year and released My Hateable Face. It relishes in pop punk, '90s-influenced grunge and rock and a heavy dose of a thing called originality. These guys are on tour all the time, and I highly recommend catching one of their live sets the next time they roll through your city. Check out a review of one of their Chicago shows earlier this year here.

TOP TRACKS: "Back To Haunt Me," "Trip the Stairs" and "Cheap Gasoline"

[Below is a rare glimpse of Eric caught in his natural habitat, feasting on a bhut jolokia - or more widely known as...A GHOST PEPPER (that my brother grew in Carol Stream, IL actually)]:

[Prior to the release of My Hateable Face, Brick Mower played a slew of new tunes on their tours. This was one of 'em]:

 Wide Angles - Smile More (Dead Broke/Dirt Cult)

Wide Angles is, hands down, Chicago's best new band of 2012. Their 7''s have been very good but their debut album, Smile More, is one of the most solidly flowing, consistently rocking albums I've heard in quite some time. Reminiscent of Dead Mechanical, Hot Water Music and Samiam. This album is gold.

TOP TRACKS: "Blue Tiling," "I'll Get Back To You" and "Much Less Than Nothing"

[Below is Wide Angles playing "I'll Get Back To You" at Kildare Studios in Chicago on October 21]:

10. Mean Jeans - On Mars (Dirtnap)

Portland's Mean Jeans released its second full-length this year, following up Are You Serious? One of the best Ramones-core bands around, these guys are hilarious, but they seriously rule. Heavily '90s-themed and alcohol-fueled, they are all about partying on Earth, Mars and beyond. Their music videos are also SICK.

TOP TRACKS: "Life On Mars," "Nite of the Creeps" and "Anybody Out There?"

[Check out a video from Mean Jeans' Chicago show at the Crown Tap Room on June 12]:


11. Screaming Females - Ugly (Don Giovanni)

I've been a big Screamales fan for some time now, and got STOKED when I heard they were recording their new album with Steve Albini in Chicago. I think everyone's expectations were high, as Screamales seemed to blow up and get lots of press - and Ugly lived up to, and surpassed those expectations. Plus every time they come to Chicago, I get to see my buddy Frump, so that rules. I saw them a bunch in 2012,they always slay and I really look forward to what they do next. Stream Ugly here.

TOP TRACKS: "It All Means Nothing," "Leave It All Up To Me" and "It's Nice"

12. Hot Water Music - Exister (Rise)

One of my all-time favorites, Hot Water Music, returns with its first new album in eight years. There was a while I feared the band was done, with Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard going solo, the formation and dissolution of The Draft, George Rebelo drumming for Against Me! and Jason Black playing bass for Senses Fail, but my fears were put to rest when I heard about this gem's release. It was recorded at the Blasting Room earlier this year. Stream Exister here.

TOP TRACKS: "Drown In It," "State of Grace" and "Take No Prisoners"

13. Cheap Girls - Giant Orange (Rise)

Cheap Girls, like Hot Water Music, was also signed to Rise Records and released a new album (also its first on Rise) this year. Cheap Girls is catchy, heartfelt, sincere and damn good indie/punk. This record, their third, might be their best to date. Stream Giant Orange here.

TOP TRACKS: "Gone All Summer," "Cored To Empty" and "If You Can't Swim"

14. The Hextalls - Rock You To Sleep (Self-Released)

The Hextalls are from Vancouver and have been a band since 1998. This is their third full-length since 2008, however. Pop punk gold. Highly addictive, and funny as hell. Songs about Kenny Rogers Jackass ala Mad T.V. with serious notes about becoming a dad. I can't stop listening to it.

TOP TRACKS: "Holy Fuck, I'm a Dad!," "My Name Is Kenny Rogers" and "I Just Want To Sleep In the Treehouse"

15. The Dopamines - Vices (It's Alive)

The Dopamines are known for being short and bittersweet - rocking hard in the least amount of time, and leaving an impression, probably on your forehead. They pack the party-punk in tight on their third album, Vices. If you have any doubts, ask anyone who was at the Subterranean show earlier this year in Chicago and they'll tell you how The Dopamines tear it up. The lyrically dark, introspective and sometimes disturbing themes sung by Jon Lewis have lingering effects, but the honesty and melody rules so inexplicably hard. I hope you can see this.

TOP TRACKS: "10 Stories," "Heads Up, Dusters!" and "Useless"

16. Toys That Kill - Fambly 42 (Recess)

Toys That Kill released its first new album in six years, making this one the band's fourth studio album since 2001. Clocking in at just over 31 minutes, Fambly 42 has a lot of great songs, albeit I admittedly don't know what a lot of them are about, or even mean. Toys That Kill are another one of those bands I love because they make me think and throw in a large dose of originality in the mix. Stream the album here.

TOP TRACKS: "The Nervous Rocks," "I Don't Wanna Be Around" and "Mobbed By the 3s"

17. Cory Branan - Mutt (Bloodshot)

Cory Branan stole my heart this year, seven years after I saw him play for the first time. He's a natural at guitar, telling a story and making you feel. At times, it's haunting, it's funny, it's true and it's sad. It's very much a Human Experience sort of folky-bluegrass/country/alt-indie album and I recommend it to everyone. More than anything, this album contains a good dose of reality. Check out Mutt here.

TOP TRACKS: "The Corner," "Survivor Blues" and "Yesterday (Circa Summer 80 Somethin')"

18. Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves - Canyons (No Idea)

Chris Wollard is one of my all-time favorite songwriters, and I love hearing both his and Chuck Ragan's solo material, outside of Hot Water Music. I fell in love with his first album, and I fell hard for this one too. Wollard shines, and so does the rest of his band. Stream "Dream In My Head" here.

TOP TRACKS: "Dream In My Head," "Never Have Time" and "Heavy Rolling Thunder"

19. Sick Sick Birds - Gates of Home (Toxic Pop)

Sick Sick Birds is from Baltimore and they put out such a great album this year. Reminiscent of early Cure and Smiths, but with modern indie/punk. This album rules.

TOP TRACKS: "Pick and Choose," "Spinning Jenny" and "Caution Wires"

20. Like Bats - Midwest Nothing (John Wilkes Booth)

Not since early Lawrence Arms has punk been so desperate, gritty, raw, seething and real in Chicagoland area. I don't know what else to say about this album. It's so good. And you can download it for free.

TOP TRACKS: "This Haunted Life," "Sad Stories About Sad People With Pathetic Dreams" and "Double or Nothing"

Top 15 7''s/Collections/EPs/Demos of 2012

1. V/A The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore (Adeline)

This was one of the best things I've heard this year. A lot of my favorite bands graced it, and I was introduced to some new ones too. Props, Larry Livermore and Adeline Records and Billie Joe Armstrong for doing this. It's so good. Stream here.

TOP TRACKS: "Business Papers" by The Dopamines, " "Anthem For a New Morning After" by The Max Levine Ensemble and "Right Where To Find Me" by Mixtapes.

2. Parasites - Non-Stop Power Pop Volume 1 (Kid Tested)

The Parasites covered a whole bunch of great '60s rock/pop tunes and Parasitized them in the way only Dave can do. This is album is so good and introduced me to so much good stuff from around the world that I hadn't heard before. All the covers are from countries that aren't the U.S. Quite rad. Thanks for this, Dave!

TOP TRACKS: "You Make Me Feel Good" originally by The Zombies, "Things Will Never Be the Same" originally by Just Four Men and "I'm a Fool" originally by The Sandy Coast

3. Masked Intruder First Offense 7'' (Hang Up)

These guys again. Three songs that were re-recorded and made it to the full length and two that are exclusive to this awesome 7''. "ADT Security" and "Gimme Parole" are two of the most fun songs to sing along to at a live show I think ever, and I can't wait till this gets re-pressed.

TOP TRACKS: "Gimme Parole" and "ADT Security"

4. Lemuria - Varoom Allure 7'' (Bridge 9)

I was camping in Macomb, IL on Record Store Day this year, and was really bummed I couldn't get my dirty hands on this and the Joey Ramone 7''. But thanks to certain websites defeating the entire purpose of Record Store Day, I got them both! These two songs are some of the best Lemuria songs ever recorded, and knowing they are in the process of making a new record kinda gives me a chubby just thinking about how good this shit is going to be. This 7'' Rules. Listen to "Varoom Allure" and "Cannonballs To Hurt."

TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

5. Big Eyes - Back From the Moon 7'' (Grave Mistake)

I saw these guys in Minneapolis this year open for Dillinger Four and Nato Coles and His Blue Diamond Band. Wow. Needless to say, I bought up everything they've released to date. This EP is what started it all for me though, and it's highly-addicting pop punk with garage/grunge influence. Female fronted, but with an edge. Bittersweet. Fun. Relatable.

TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

6. Young Leaves - Alive and Well/The Long Song EP (Self-released)

I was introduced to this band via a friend's Facebook post, then again through a new friend from NH. I'm in love with these two songs, and really like their older stuff too. I'm excited to hear what this band does next and I hope it's along the same vein as this post-grungy/punk stuff. This is how it's done. Right. Here. And it's free. This EP is addicting.

TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

7. House Boat - 21st Century Breakroom 12'' (Bloated Kat)

House Boat really impressed me this year with this album. I was bummed they didn't play it live at the Don Giovanni Showcase pre-show earlier this year in February at their Brooklyn show, but holy shit - a 10-minute pop punk A-side, and a 30-second B-side. Genius. Hilarious. The cover art is a parody. This album is awesome. Check out our review here. Check out a review of House Boat's latest full length here. Some video and a review of that Bklyn show here! That's it.

TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

8. Great Apes - Great Apes 7'' (Say 10)

Great Apes is Brian Moss's (Olehole/Hanalei/Jahbreaker) new band. I am a huge fan of his voice, his lyrics and his music, and Great Apes seems to take a more pop punk direction to his post-hardcore style, and I'm all over it. Check out a review I did for Jaded In Chicago here.

TOP TRACK: "Sam's Song"

9. Science Police - Science Police EP (Self-released)

Fuck yeah! More post-Steinways Grath songs! Whenever I want to feel better about myself, I listen to Grath sing. Kidding of course, but this is so good. It's not too self-depreciating. Features Marissa Bergquist of Ergquist/The Chandeliers/The Besties on keys/vocals and Grivet and Chris Pierce and other pop punk (message board) celebrities. This EP kicks ass and I hope this band gets signed if they haven't already.

TOP TRACKS: "The Boat Dreams From the Front Desk," "She Blinded Me With Immunobiology" and "No Fun Intended"

10. Young Skin: The Sticky Pages EP 7'' (Paper and Plastick)

This new band came out of the blue, and then I realized it's a couple of my friends' new band! Features Miranda and Jeff of Black Wine, Brian Gorsenger of Night Birds and a guy whom I can't remember (sorry, guy). Very stripped down garage punk mixed with riot grrl mixed with indie. It's a lot of fun. Stream here!

11. Jabber - Too Many Babes (Bloated Kat)

NEW DANNY BAILEY BAND! This is best new all-female band, period (see what I did there?) Seriously, holy shit. Please tour. Please release more music. Pop punk. Spelling Babes with a V on your fridge. Fun hooks. Catchy melodies. You're gonna want to get on this if you haven't yet.

TOP TRACKS: "Maybe Next Year," "Talk To You" and "Girlfriend"

12. Mikey Erg - Fucifier flexi 7'' (Bloated Kat/John Wilkes Booth)

Merg wears many hats. Indiscernible vocals with no lyrics sheet pisses me off, and the music makes me pissed too. MAKES ME WANNA LIFT WEIGHTS. AND THEN THROW THEM THROUGH DOUBLE-PLATED GLASS. Merg is a sweetheart, but even sweethearts fill with rage and pent-up anger. This pain-in-the-dick flexi disc is the captured pressure from his release of anger. Dude's all, "I didn't go tot he studio with lyrics, but I knew who I was pissed at." Pretty hardcore.  I am still trying to figure out if "Chicago Pussy" is about a city full of windy meat curtains or...? P.S. This EP rules. I even bought the matching shirt. The longest song is 0:53. Deal with it.

TOP TRACKS: "Chicago Pussy," "The Art of Stupidity" and "Onezerothree"

13. Brick Mower: Why Are We Doing This? 7'' (Rok Lok)

Only 200 of these were pressed, so if you have one, you're smart. And lucky. These songs were recorded in 2010, according to Eric (I think). This 7'' has demos of "Cheap Gasoline," which was re-recorded and put on My Hateable Face and "Instant Rectification," which was re-recorded and put on Under the Sink. The other two songs weren't released anywhere else, far'z I know and they're a bit different than everything else Brick Mower's done. I love this 7'' and these people. Fun fact: Kristen's (bass) mom is in this photo. Can you guess which one she is?

TOP TRACKS: "Cheap Gasoline," "Instant Rectification" and "National Washboard"

14. The Vindicitives: Mono Flexi 7'' (Sexy Baby)

They're baaaaack. Holy shit. I really hope they play shows. Either way. Stream here.

TOP TRACKS: "Nightmare, Man" and "Joining the Circus"

15. Dan Andriano: Of Peace, Quiet and Monsters 7'' (Asian Man)

Dan Andriano kept busy while bandmate Matt Skiba was busy with theHELL and Matt Skiba and the Sekrets this year. This is better than both those albums combined. Listen here.

TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

Top 10 Split 7''s of 2012

1. Tenement/Cheeky (No Breaks/Let's Pretend)

Hands down the best split of the year. Released early in 2012, this one has two tracks by each band, and was released post-Cheeky breakup. It's awesome from start to finish - can't stop listening.

TOP TRACKS: "Perverse Universe" and "So Bored"

2. Dead North/Strong City (Bloated Kat)

Servo Jefferson put this one out - and I pre-ordered it before even hearing it, and I'm so glad I did because this split is incredible. I am new to both these bands and both contributed two great songs each. So catchy. Great Midwestern pop punk.

TOP TRACKS: "Letter Carrier" and "This Will Be the Death Of Us All"

3. Masked Intruder/The Turkletons (Hang Up)

Pop punk as fuck! This 7'' rules. I heard the full-length album by Masked Intruder before hearing this one, and noticed the difference in recording, but Masked Intruder still rules on this one, even though it seems a little lighter. The Turkletons are great. I have a demo of theirs from a few years ago, and recognized some of the songs, and I'm glad they re-recorded them and put them out on this amazing split.

TOP TRACKS: "I Can't Get You Outta My Head" and "The Kissing Disease"

4. Mikey Erg/Alex Kerns (Asian Man)

Two of my favorite dudes from one million of my favorite bands. Alex Kerns of Lemuria contributes two originals, and Mikey Erg does a Down By Law cover of "Flower Tattoo" and an electric full-band version of "Song Against Ian Raymond" (inspired from the movie High Fidelity). I would have loved some never-before-heard-from-the-depths Mikey Erg stuff, but this is great. The "Flower Tattoo" cover is one of the best covers I've ever heard. Listen here.

TOP TRACKS: "Criminal To Be Alone" and "Song Against Ian Raymond"

5. Wide Angles/The Brokedowns (Cassette Deck)

Some of my hometown favorites - The Brokedowns and Wide Angles. These guys have been putting out such solid material, it's only perfect that they release a split with each other. Flawless victory. 

TOP TRACKS: "Crime Still Pays" and "Painted In"

6. Noise By Numbers/The Magnificent (Solidarity/Drunken Sailor)

I hadn't heard of The Magnificent before, but I am a huge NBN fan, and these are two of their best tunes. I am also now a Magnificent fan. Good job, Dan, Jeff, Rick and Jimmy. Stream here.

TOP TRACKS: "Lost Luggage" and "Don't Send Me Flowers"

7. The Homewreckers/City Mouse (Mooster)

Thanks to Mooster for hooking us up with a copy of this 7''. I am so sorry I'm so behind on reviews, but this split is amazing. I am especially fond of City Mouse's side. The Homewreckers kill it - they remind me a lot of X. This split is a must-listen.

TOP TRACKS: "Gemini" and "Nervous Wrecks"

8. Dan Vapid and the Cheats/The Jetty Boys (Merman)

Dan Schafer makes multiple appearances on this list, as he's been a busy dude releasing killer stuff, and this split is no exception. The Cheats offer up an original and cover "Part of the Noise" by Pointed Sticks, while the Jetty Boys throw on an original and cover "Jimmy" by The Roman Line. This split is saturated with fun pop punk. Stream here.

TOP TRACKS: "One More Chance" and "Not Even Close"

9. Dan Andriano/Brendan Kelly (Red Scare)

This release features two of my all-time favorite musicians, put out by a great dude in my hometown. Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio and Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms each offer an original tune on this split. I used to always wish for an Alkaline Trio/Larry Arms split, but this is pretty damn close. I am all over it. Check out Dan's track.
TOP TRACKS: Well, this is awkward.

10. Sundials/Tatlin's Tower

I don't know what the status of this split is, or who's "officially" releasing it, but I've been stalking it on the band's Bandcamp pages and it's great. Check it out.

TOP TRACKS: "Assailant" and "Socialism In America"

Past SQUID PRO QUO best-of lists:

Best of 2008

Best of 2009
Best of 2010
Best of 2011