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


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