Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Like many critics, I use the Lester Bangs Method when compiling these year-end lists: What albums did I listen to the most, which did I most look forward to hearing again, which of these will I still be listening to years from now. With that said, here are my favorite releases of 2015. Feel free to agree or disagree, but maybe check out a few you haven't heard yet.


1. Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk
2. Savages – Silence Yourself
3. The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band –
Hey Hey It’s….
4. Superchunk – I Hate Music
5. Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band – Bubblegum
6. Ezra Furman – Day Of The Dog
7. Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley
8. Thomas Wesley Stern – s/t
9. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
10. Wyldlife – The Time Has Come To Rock N Roll
11. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
12. The All-About – Suburban Heart
13. The Great American Novel - ? (The Frown Album)
14. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

15. Arctic Monkeys - AM

Top NJ Releases of 2013

1. The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk
2. Wyldlife – The Time Has Come To Rock And Roll
3. Night Birds – Born To Die In Suburbia
4. Thomas Wesley Stern – Thomas Wesley Stern
5. The Black Hollies – Somewhere Between Here & Nowhere
6. Yo La Tengo - Fade
7. Lightning Jar – Summerworld
8. The Bongos – Phantom Train
9. Tri-State – Tri-State EP
10. Golden Furs – Strand
11. Rick Barry – This Post-Diluvian World
12. Yo La Tengo - Fade
13. The Defending Champions – Breakfast Of…
14. The Porchistas – Live
15. Bog Iron Bloom – Welcome To Bears
16. Speed The Plough – The Plough & The Stars
17. Perennial Reel – Silver Plane Crucifix
18. The Paper Jets – We Are All Strange
19. Wreaths – Home Spun
20. Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why – It’s Only Change
21. Screaming Females – Chalk Tape
22. Waking Lights – Week Nights
23. Karyn Kuhl – Living With The Dead
24. Khaled - Luci
25. Sink Tapes – How You Mean?
26. Modern Hut – Generic Treasure
27. All Sensory Void – Psychedelic Sid & The Recklessly Abandoned
28. X-Men – Kid Blast EP
29. Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom Five – Full Fathom Five
30. Modern Chemistry – “Never Scared”

Didn’t I just do one of these lists, like, a few weeks ago? Time keeps marching on, yet it seems to be marching in double time and triple time. Another year has come to an end, so it’s time for us “professional” (ha!) music critics to publish those top 10 lists again. Our fearless editor started an interesting discussion on the interwebz not long ago about these things. In the olden days, many critics’ lists focused on the more mainstream records that received wide distribution. Because that was mostly the only stuff a wide audience ever got a chance to hear. With the advent of the Internet, streaming music, bandcamp, and so on, more bands are able to get their music out to more people. And so a lot of lists tend to include bands that many haven’t ever heard of. Well, hopefully, with their appearance on some of these lists, that will change, and you’ll seek these out and become as enamored with them as I am.

RVIVR (Photo by Paul Silver)

This year saw an increase of good music over past years, in my opinion. There were some truly great records that came out – too many to list here. I’ve struggled to keep the size of this list under control, so I’ve had to leave off some good stuff. So, dear reader, that means that what’s contained below is extra special, and really worthy of your time and your hard-earned dollars.

As usual, my list is based off the music I’ve reviewed over the course of the past twelve months. And, as always, the order has nothing to do with ranking and everything to do with the order in which I reviewed the records.

LISA GERMANO – “No Elephants” LP – Germano’s simple, intimate soundscapes, this time coupled with background sounds, samples, and ambient noises to punctuate the music. Astoundingly gorgeous, lush music. Wait, wasn’t this on my list last year? Well, yeah. I reviewed it at the very end of last year, but it actually was released early in 2013, so it makes my list twice.

LOW CULTURE – “Screens” LP - The music in this album is the epitome of all that’s good in the pop-punk world, with plenty of rapid-fire jangle, sing-a-long choruses, and hooks galore. Not only does it make my “top ten” list, it’s one of my absolute favorites of the whole year.

BIG DICK – Self-titled LP – Who knew a two-piece of bass and drums could make such cool, melodic, yet noisy music? Loads of crunch yet full of hooks, too.

SCREAMING FEMALES – “Chalk Tape” EP – Seven tracks of the most diverse music yet from this New Jersey post-punk-grunge band, some of the songs are even lighter and poppier than you might expect.

THE MANX – “Blood Chronicles” EP – Some of the best gypsy-folk-punk you’ll ever hear anywhere, from an incredibly energetic band.

RVIVR – “The Beauty Between” LP – Melodic, edgy, soaring pop punk with a positive message from some of the nicest people.

PATCHES AND GRETCHEN – “Even Breaks” LP – Some of the most original, unique stuff you’re liable to hear, this blends stream of consciousness spoken word, performance art, indie rock, folk/country and western, and bluesy rock to create something completely mind bendingly different and good.

RUMSPRINGER – “Stay Afloat” LP – I usually don’t come out and say this in these lists, but this is, hands down, my favorite release of the year. Up-tempo wall-of guitar sounds are punctuated with off-kilter rhythms and plenty of powerful pop sensibility. It even contains a couple of the best songs of the year, “Air Raid Curfew” and “Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight is $200 an Hour.”

LIPSTICK HOMICIDE – “Out Utero” LP – Lipstick Homicide are simply one of the finest pop punk bands playing today. They’re fast, tight, super melodic, and they’re downright nice people, too. There is not a single bad track on this album, and there’s not even one that’s just OK – they’re all winners, all pop punk gold.

WINGDALE COMMUNITY SINGERS – “Night, Sleep, Death” LP - Beautiful, quiet (mostly) acoustic music with harmonized vocals fills this album, yet the genre is hard to pin down. It’s got elements of folk, country, and even gospel, but it isn’t any of those things. What it is, though, is delicate, gorgeous, serious, and humorous, all rolled together. What it is is an excellent listen.

THE DISTRESSERS – “A Demonstration of Intent” EP – The Distressers have an intense, tight garage punk sound, and were one of my revelations of this year’s Awesomefest in San Diego over Labor Day weekend. This four-song CD was available during their summer tour, and is a taste of what’s to come in their debut full-length (coming soon, I hope).

FRENCH EXIT – “Guts and Black Stuff” LP - French Exit is not your typical pop punk band, blending in big Chicago-style sounds, courtesy of Chicago transplant and front man Tim Stasica. The songs take on an almost epic sound, yet remain eminently melodic.

OCTAGRAPE – “Red UFO” LP – This is this San Diego band’s debut LP. The sound this band puts out is heavy and pounding, lo fi and distorted, yet lithe and nimble. It snarls at you and bites at you, but isn’t plodding. It’s not particularly fast, but it’s feline in its ability to dart around you. And they put on one of the best live shows you’ll see anywhere.

So there you have it, my “top ten” for 2013. If you’ve read my lists in years past, you’ll realize that there’s never exactly ten. This year I’m at a lucky thirteen recordings (up from twelve last year). You can go check out my regular column to read the more in-depth reviews, but rest assured, the above get my very highest recommendation. Now that you’ve bought all the holiday gifts for your friends and family, go out and buy a few more gifts off the above list – this time, for yourself.

Why the “Meh” EP by Skinny Genes is the Best Pop Punk Release of the Year (in list form, as is the fashion of the day).

1. My Prediction Came True. Back a few years ago, I noted that whenever Azeem (aka Ace Hole, aka the guy who was in the Steinways and also in House Boat) wrote a song, it was a gem. Sure, it was only two or three contributions over the course of as many albums, but hey, if you’re batting a thousand, you’re batting a thousand. I proposed he release an album of entirely his own work, because the only thing better than 2 hits is 10 hits. I suppose we met in the middle at 5.

2. It successfully carries the “pure” pop punk banner. What constitutes “pure” pop punk (sometimes called “real” pop punk) and what deserves to be shoveled along as mall punk, skate rock, beardcore, etc. is a war that I have with no one in particular. However, pure pop punk is one of my favorite genres of music, so I’m fairly protective of it, and when I hear it done right it brings joy to my heart. Do you know how many times I drove to work this summer listening to “Meh”? The answer is a gazillion minus the day I called in sick. Each track has the traditional mix of catchy, poppy melodies swirled together with the energy and brevity of punk. Whether this perfect blend Is due to Azeem recording all the parts himself, or just a mark of a well-written, carefully-crafted project (or both) isn’t really pertinent information. It’s the songs that bounce around my head, zoom into my heart and guts, and spill out of my mouth while I’m driving down the road that matter most. Nothing watered down or all slicked up. Nothing too cheesy pop or abrasively beardo. It’s PURE pop punk!

3. It’s not Grath Madden. You’d think after right-hand manning Grath’s bands for years, the brief and intangible vogue that was the Steinways tribute album, and a release on the same label, we’d get something Grath-esque from Skinny Genes, but that’s not really the case here. In terms of sound they both have good measures of laser-guided guitars and drums that piston along with a rudimentary charm. However, Azeem’s vocals are still rooted in a youthful bray (another sign of pure pop punk), even though his teenage years are long behind him. In terms of structure, the Steinways songs were always full of detours and dead ends. Glorious though they were, by the time you crossed the bridge you were nowhere close to the beginning again. Skinny Genes takes a different route. Songs loop back to a chorus once in a while, but even still you march directly from Point A to Point B. As if each song had a purposeful destination, rather than a “let’s just drive around and see where we end up” feeling, which makes up the bulk of Madden’s catalog. (Note to self: I listen to too much music while in the car). Each song seems to end in a pointed, abrupt stop, as opposed to the Steinways, who always seemed to end their songs in some kind of shave-and-a-haircut fashion.

4. What else ya got? The Turkletons/Lipstick Homocide split is really, really good. Possibly the best work from both bands. The Murderburgers album is great. The Zatopeks album came out, like, 30 seconds ago. There’s probably a dozen more to nominate, but they all wind up on a lower level of the podium. “Meh” wins by any measure.

5. The review! “Old Man Yells At Cloud” pops off with a snotty diatribe about the boring events of life we are forced to endure through social media (excellent Simpsons ref as well). “Comfortably Dumb” is classic pop punk/nerd rock. Bouncy and bright, inviting all to sing along… about being a hopeless loser. “No Service” brings it all together: The ranting, the self-deprecation, the layered vocals, the punk rock chant that embodies my generation and the scene that I’m a part of, “I suck at being a grown-up!” Thankfully, after shooting down his own self-esteem, Azeem has at least one bullet leftover in the form of “Worst.” Even when the track gets yelly it still works because the screams are used as punctuation, rather than attempting to use them as straight-up vocals. Finally, we get “Mansion Apartment Shack House.” Skinny Genes had a heart at one point, but now it’s in the coffin, and this song put the final nail in it. The hearse is rolling into the cemetery as the last chord fades out. Can’t wait to listen to this again!

Download the Skinny Genes' Meh at

Paring down a list of any year’s best releases to a mere ten is a difficult and entirely subjective task. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, and opinions are like assholes. Inevitably, it draws forth criticism as well as bitching and moaning as to what album or what band was or was not included on any given list. Maybe that’s exactly the point; to encourage debate and expose people to albums and artists to which they may have never been introduced. Maybe it’s just us music journalists trying prove how “cool” or “in tune” we are. Either way, it’s almost become a rite of passage expected from any music writer. So, with all that in mind, here’s my stab at it. Send all criticism to Jim. He loves that stuff.

In no particular order:

Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed – Skeletonwitch keep up their string of exceptional blackened thrash masterpieces.

Ulcerate – Vermis – A truly twisted and unique take on death metal that reveals new insights on each successive listen.

Anciients – Heart of Oak – This Canadian band’s debut is truly astounding. It’s like Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Mastodon all rolled into one amazing package. Epic, progressive, yet classic all at once. And this is just their debut. It’s either all downhill from here or these guys will take over the world.

Carcass – Surgical Steel – Carcass makes a triumphant return with possibly their best album ever, which is saying a lot considering that their classic Heartwork redefined the entire genre when it first came out.

Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the God
s – Amon Amarth is the AC/DC of Viking metal, every album is almost exactly the same and every album kicks fucking ass. Every year we have a new Amon Amarth record is a good year.

Black Sabbath – 13
– I had my doubts about this one before it came out, but by God, it’s actually really fucking good, once you get past Brad Wilk’s stiff drumming.
Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here – Another truly great record from AIC, and they had a lot to live up to after the triumphant Black Gives Way to Blue and they rose to the challenge.

Vista Chino – Peace – This is the best Kyuss album since Sky Valley.

Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt – I know it’s not metal, but damnit, Pearl Jam just keeps putting out one great record after another and Lightning Bolt is no exception.

Gorguts – Colored Sands
– This year may go down as the Year of Triumphant Returns and Canadian avant garde death metal pioneers Gorguts join the parade. Coming off of a 12 year hiatus with a new lineup featuring some of the brightest minds in prog (members of Dysrythmia and Krallice), Luc Lemay and Co. deliver a wonderfully surreal and mind blowing record.

Honorable mentions – Kvelertak – Mier, HIM – Tears on Tape, The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack, Voivod – Target Earth, Killswitch Engage – Disarm the Descent, The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is Killer, The Ocean - Pelegial

Top 10 Songs of 2013:

10. Caitlin Rose – “I Was Cruel” from The Stand-In

The Stand-In is great pop-country songwriting through-and-through, and single “I Was Cruel,” though one of the few songs on the record not written by Rose herself, encompasses all of The Stand-In’s best qualities. Bittersweet vocals, strong melodies and classic Americana instrumentation make this an easy pick for one of the strongest singles of the year.

9. Frightened Rabbit – “The Woodpile” from Pedestrian Verse

Pedestrian Verse is by far the most muscular, confident album in Frightened Rabbit’s cannon thus far. With its screeching octave guitars and killer groove, this song is just the right amounts of sinister and hooky.

8. Born Ruffians – “Permanent Hesitation” from Birthmarks

With a sparkling, cheeky chorus and an infectious dance groove, this is my favorite of many standout songs on the surprisingly rewarding Birthmarks.

7. Tegan and Sara – “Closer” from Heartthrob

Though this one is completely ubiquitous now, I still can’t get enough of it. Everything about this song – the hooks, the synths, the drums – is totally huge.

6. Laura Stevenson – “Runner” from Wheel

It’s no secret how much I love Laura Stevenson’s dense, coming-of-age masterpiece Wheel, and the simple, stinging chorus of “Runner” hasn’t fully left my brain since the first time I heard it.

5. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife” from Reflektor

Though I will admit that Reflektor is a bit lofty and bloated, this song is, to my ears, the most successful realization of the dance-anthem this band has been shooting for since day one.

4. Son Lux – “Lost it to Trying” from Lanterns

Insane, distorted baritone sax and gigantic wailing synths make what would already be a beautiful song an entirely different experience. “Lost it to Trying” has a relentless, mechanized feel to it that makes it perhaps the most unique song I’ve encountered this year.

3. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula” from Muchacho

“Song for Zula” is the standout track on Muchacho because it deviates from Phosphorescent’s folkier stylings and opts for a simple chord progression and an even simpler violin loop. Instead, our attention is draw to Matthew Houck’s truly incredible lyrics: “Some say love is a burning thing / That it makes a fiery ring / I know love as a caging thing / Just a killer come to call from some awful dream.”
This song just destroys me every time.

2. Jason Isbell – “Cover Me Up” from Southeastern

The best opening track is an opening track that functions as a sort of mission statement for the album that will follow. “Cover Me Up,” a beautiful love song written from the newly-sober Isbell to his wife, is an outstanding beginning to one of the most honest and clever folk albums I’ve ever heard.

1. Frontier Ruckus – “Black Holes” from Eternity of Dimming

The sprawling double album Eternity of Dimming is riddled with images of the point in life when adulthood begins to invade childhood, when sex begins to distract and when death becomes something real. The album creates a world of late childhood and early adolescence, dripping with twilight images of a Midwestern suburb in the ‘90s. This incredible vibe is best captured on “Black Holes,” in which singer and wordsmith Matthew Milia uses the caverns of JC Pennys and Kohls to explore his teenage memories just as they grow out of reach.

2013: The Year Of Blurred Lines, Getting Lucky and Sweet Nothings

I started this year by releasing my band’s second full length record, and will be ringing in 2014 by saying goodbye to probably the most important musician to me, Lou Reed. In between, many great records were released, some by returning champions but mostly by great younger acts, from the hard working DIY artists emerging to mainstream audiences to the folks I hang at shows with and share drunk nights with.

1. Waxahatchee- Cerulean Salt

I must disclose that I went through a brutal, significant breakup this year, and the only things I wanted to listen to for months were Chet Baker, The Lemonheads, Big Star’s Third Album, Joni Mitchell’s Blue and American Weekend, the sweet but devastating lo-fi debut recording from Katie Crutchfield aka Waxahatchee from Don Giovanni Records, truly the people’s indie label. That being said, the minute I got my hands on Cerulean Salts, which is kind of like the alt-rock lovechild of 90’s J. Mascis and “Exile In Guyville”-era Liz Phair, plus some of the sweet guitar crunch that made The Breeders “Last Splash” crossover onto the radio, it was destined to be my record of the year.

Crutchfield traded the bedroom, lo-fi sound, for a spare, dry but heavy indie rock sound that put some punch to her soul bearing poetry. This record sees her grow as a songwriter, getting a little less cute, a little more grown up and lyrically severe. Unfortunately, there’s no Alternative Rock radio format for Katie and the like, but there is definitely a great response to this type of honesty and close to the chest songwriting, and it gives the great feeling that the age of irony is coming to a close.

2- Swearin’- Surfing Strange

This was almost a tie for number one with the two sisters of my dearest affection, Swearin’ is co-fronted by the aforementioned Katie Crutchfield’s twin sister, Allison, with whom they played in P.S. Elliott for many years, a lo-fi punk act not too unlike this now Philly-based quartet. This record came late in the year and didn’t get quite as many spins, though I will say this record is so short and sweet, I listen to it twice every time, like it’s it’s own side B. Allison sings and plays guitar as does her co-songwriter Kyle Gilbride, the two trade hard but soft, sweet but angsty punky tunes that hearken to the good ol’ days of indie rock. These guys have been tagged pop-punk, which seems odd but I bet there are a few Jawbreaker albums in the band’s collection.

While their self titled was refreshingly simple, three chord punk with twee melodies delivered with teenage kicks, their sophomore effort shows an advance in their songwriting thread, tossing in some piano, acoustic guitar and psychedelic swirls. One of the things I love about this band, exemplified in the Brooklyn-set love story “Dust In The Gold Sack”, is that these guys aren’t afraid to be fun and sweet. Unlike a lot of the more “mature”, more serious indie rock bands, I see no reason why high school kids would not go crazy for this band. They provide a fine soundtrack for being young and in love, like many of the best records ever made.

3. Kurt Vile- Walking On A Pretty Daze

The long haired stoner prince of Philadelphia, Mr. Kurt Vile has already been responsible for many, strong releases, from the fuzziest of lo-fi “bedroom” record to this year’s Daze, his most sonically realized and lengthy endeavor to date. In the era of Johnny-cum-latelys, Kurt’s consistent output since 2008, has made him one of the absolute record geek favorites of his generation. Coming off of the breakthrough Smoke Ring For My Halo, he decided to get more ambitious, hiding less behind the minimalist impulse to make one of these records, the whole record sounds like going on a long walk, things getting a little weirder as they go on. While it rarely gets heavier than it starts, it has focus shifting qualities that resemble at times Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, two classic long form indie journey-within type works that one might modestly describe as epic. Loopy, similar themes in the songs kind of hypnotize you and you lose your place in the record, not unlike the second half of Daydream. His Neil Young-ish drawl and sometimes Byrds-y jangle, not to mention his flowing locks, paint him as more hippie-ish as his contemporaries, and this record explores those qualities thoroughly… he is the modern introvert, neither angry nor joyous, he is simply writing about his walks.

4. My Bloody Valentine- m b v

If Kevin Shields is indie’s Brian Wilson, here is his Smile. The long awaited follow up to 1991’s Loveless, which seems to have left one of the biggest footprints in terms of influence on other acts of any albums from the decade. Like Smile or the other long awaited cacophony Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy (which sucked way less than critics said, just sayin’) this record was compiled of recordings dating back to 1996, where Shields’ apparently suffered from writer’s block and the band recorded an alleged two albums worth of material, that the songwriter felt did not cut it.

The end product is a wholly creative and excellent album, continuing the thread of Loveless, using loops, minimalisms and Eno-isms, to make the year’s best intellectual swirly sound collage. I actually considered making this record a few slots down because it’s really annoying to listen to. Unless you have bought the expensive vinyl set, you have to listen to the tracks as individual Youtube videos. Thanks, Kevin!! KEVIN!!

5. Lee Ranaldo and The Dust- Last Night On Earth

At this point, it’s pretty easy to understand who won the Sonic Youth divorce. Thurston Moore still owns the cool, and Kim Gordon is the best celebrity, but Lee and his new band, The Dust, including SY drummer Steve Shelley, are making the most wholly excellent records. Like last year’s Between The Tides and Times, this is a collection of jangly power-pop and pretty, evocative guitar-driven psychedelia, shedding some of SY’s more transgressive aspects for their more sublime, moody moments. This should not be a surprise, Lee being SY’s own George Harrison, their quiet Beatles, who seems to have spent his brief vacation between bands to spend some time with his old 70s Neil Young and Big Star records. Lee is likely the best guitarist of the best 25 years, but never got to step into his own as a songwriter and his recent efforts are endearing and ethereal, kind of like if Dave Grohl had gotten into transcendental meditation instead of becoming a big doofus. Lee has alway been my favorite, he’s a nice guy and I’m looking forward to a late in the game turn as a songwriter and bandleader. As I chanted at many SY show: LEE! LEE! LEE!

6- The Men- New Moon

Ok so, upon the release of this record, two moments happened. Firstly, a local band that came up playing Don Pedro’s and Tommy’s Tavern stepped onstage as headliner at the Bowery Ballroom, officially passing through from local aspirant to serious business (a Village Voice cover story followed) and secondly, the once art-core band that would play unbearably loud, debuts their re-touched bar band lineup, with co-frontman Mark Perro switching to electric piano, a slide guitarist, harmonica and an occasional horn section playing songs from a new record that evokes Neil Young (again, clearly this is the year of the Horse), The Band, Big Star, The Byrds and Exile-era Stones as well as the tight punky pop songs that anchored their previous effort, Open Your Heart.

This record was recorded at a cabin in Big Indian, New York in the Catskills mountains, and that relaxed, nature surrounded vibe seeped it’s way onto the wax of this one. The breezy, thoughtful nature of these tunes exhibit songwriting chops that melt their way perfectly into a great, neo-psych jam or two. Aside from being extremely nice guys, these guys have spent the last few records tweaking their own aesthetics and growing as a group in a way that one cannot deny them at this point.

7- The Arcade Fire- Reflektor

Aside from Kanye West’s ham-handed attempt at art-pop Yeezus (which this writer can’t make it more than a few tracks into before retreating to Laura Nyro’s back catalogue), this seemed to be the most polarizing record of the year. The offensive thing here, seemed not to be the record itself, which, with the addition of producer James Murphy (the honch behind LCD Soundsystem and DFA record) challenging them to take their epic rock to the dance floor, with a result that would be impossible not to make Murphy the Eno to Win Butler’s Bowie. Sitting aside records like The Clash’s Combat Rock, Paul Simon’s Graceland, U2’s Achtung Baby and Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, this record added Murphy’s new york nightlife low end and percussive elements from Haiti (frontwoman Regine Chassagne’s howtown) to their already cryptic sound.

They received slack for their unusual digital marketing campaign, late night TV special directed by Roman Coppola (which I loved and would totally do, if I had the platform), doing small, impossible to penetrate shows during CMJ week and requiring a dress code for several concerts. Basically they were trying to do two things with this record, be big (have an event that includes the mainstream and all those concerned) and be weird (do things that the status quo would not expect.) The music community’s reaction was about as crotchety as Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets. In the end, The Fire made a brave, good record, and are trying hard to use their influence to become bigger and weirder. They are the only mainstream rock act (especially if you don’t count those twenty years old, i.e. Radiohead) trying to do anything like that, in fact they might be the only rock act in the mainstream that isn’t completely insufferable, am I wrong??

8- The Great American Novel- :(

(Here is the part where though I am, 27, I sound really old) In the words of Pete Townsend, the only person who can explain rock n’ roll, according to fictional Stillwater frontman Jeff Bebe: The kids are alright. The songwriter/frontman of The Novel, the 21 year old Layne Montgomery, is a self-deprecating music geek who writes tunes so endearing and uncool that I cannot help feel like an older brother listening to songs about experiences about the recent growings up of a young rocker.

Here’s the thing, this record is REALLY fucking good. The band swings like The Strokes meets Elvis Costello and The Attractions, and the tunes, with all their references to Facebook and texting (even the emoticon album title), show serious substance over style with great power-pop melodies, ringing piano, sweet guitar solos and funny but moving lyrics. The ghost of Weezer’s Pinkerton, which is like Kind Of Blue for awkward guys with glasses trying to get laid (and you’re talking to the Professor Cornell West on this subject) looms large here, (here’s a lyric for y “I’m just tryin’ to find someone to get drunk and watch Twin Peaks with”) but there’s a fresh attitude here, augmented by the Beatles-ian production of Oliver Ignatius at Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, which has been mentioned a few times on this site. It’s cool, it’s cool, it’s cool…

9- Porches- Slow Dancing In The Cosmos

This is probably many people’s introduction to the songwriting of Aaron Maine, a hard drinking young man around my age from upstate New York but I think it was almost six years ago when my ex-girlfriend played me some tracks of this guy from her ex-boyfriends town and it actually hit me like a ton of brick. I’ve played with a few of his outfits, he’s released music under his own name as well as with the more folk-grunge trio Space Ghost Cowboys. The project Porches was initially Maine and a bunch of synths and drum machines, then augmented to a live band.

The usual indie buzz people have now caught on, and all I have to say is, this guy is a hell of a songwriter, and this record is the type of melancholic, melodramatic pop that it’s hard to deny having a gut reaction to, much like his other records. “Franklin The Flirt” is a slow bummer that almost feels like The Beatles’ White Album. This record is one of the better combinations of classic pop craft and electronic laptop type productions of the decade, owing much to the content of it’s creator. I suggest this, and then the rest of the dude’s records.

10- Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

SUPRISE! I fucking love this record. I didn’t even much care for the last DP effort, but being a person who loves disco, I have to like this, which is basically a pastiche to disco, a paean to the present gods Giorgio Moroder (who’s present here, explaining his career over a Euro-beat in my favorite track) and Nile Rogers (whose comeback is welcome in my book.) I liked “Blurred Lines” more than “Get Lucky” this summer, but this record has so much to offer. Julian Casablancas hasn’t been better in years than “Instant Crush”, their synth-pop collaboration, and I feel the spirit of Freddy Mercury looming over “Touch” and a few other tracks. Pharrell just rules in general, I am a sucker for him. This album is fun and I spun it so much, I couldn’t in my right mind leave it off my list…

Here are some less populist albums I HIGHLY recommend:

ELEANOR - Garbology - One of the most inventive bands in New York, the duo from Queens called Eleanor, have made their wackiest LP yet, in which they strip down to a lo-fi sound and get really out there for this 18 track free punk, gritty psychedelic album, where they channel The Velvet Underground, Buddy Holly and Husker Du.

NEW ATLANTIC YOUTH - New Atlantic Youth LP - My best friend and drummer of The Brooklyn What, Jesse Katz, plays in this group, a post-hardcore emo power-trio with chops that often makes me compare them to Cream. This record contained hard, soft and weird all at once, with great tunes all jammed out to the extreme, for fans of Fugazi, At-The Drive In, Refused and Hum.

VIDEO BEAST - Beyond The Milky Lust - Again, I have to admit my biases as BKW currently share a bass player with this outfit a well as producer/engineers. This NY trio creates psychedelic soundscapes augmented with hard rock and alternative that will bring you back to 90’s alternative radio… think Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish produced by Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers.

BUTCHER’S BLIND - Destination Blues - I already wrote a pretty serious review on this site, but I remain strong in my love for these boys from Bellerose, New York’s working class anthems that channel Uncle Tupelo and The Replacements.

CRAZY PILLS - Restless - This Queens, NY power-pop garage trio’s frontwoman Amanda, a lady of modest stature is one of the meanest lead guitarists in the area. Backed by a groovy rhythm section, this record with contemporary melodies and rockabilly licks, is like this decade’s answer to the debut record by The Pretenders.

VAN DALE - Van Dale - We met this band on tour in Columbus, OH, their hometown. They ended a perfect 20 minute set with the singer/guitarist jumping straight into the drumset in the middle of the tune. A few month later, their great debut came out. Think Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted with the dryness of early Modest Mouse and Built To Spill. O-hi-I-O!

Merry Christmas, happy new year, xoxo,

Gossip Girl

By Stephen Gritzan
I generally don't like compiling these end of the year lists, mostly because I am often behind on the proper release dates of records and I generally don't think this way anyhow (did I tell you how much I loved the Grimes LP?). That being said, 2013 was a damn good year for music, regardless of what "music enthusiasts" over the age of 40 might say. I get so tired to hearing that there's very little good stuff released after 1972/1982/1992 (pick your year of maturation), when there is plenty to pick from in this oh-so-democratic technological age. 2013 featured a number of great new artists and the return of some favorites. Here's some releases that caught my attention this year, not in any order.

Great 2013 Records!

Kevin Devine "Bulldozer"
David Bowie "The Next Day"
The Bynars "X Vs. X"
Primal Scream "More Light"
Speedy Ortiz "Major Arcana"
Daft Punk "Random Access Memories"
My Bloody Valentine "m b v"
Savages "Silence Yourself"
Bill Callahan "Dream River"

Top New Vinyl Sales At Iris Records (not just 2013 releases)

Nas "Illmatic"
Joy Division "Unknown Pleasures"
Big Star (all records)
Atoms For Peace "AMOK"
Daft Punk "Random Access Memories"
Amy Winehouse "Back To Black"
Grimes "Visions"
Neutral Milk Hotel "In An Airplane Over The Sea"
Queens Of The Stone Age "...Like Clockwork"
Black Flag "My War"


R.I.P. 2013...
There's no need to add to the tributes for Lou Reed. Any conscious rock fan owes plenty to the Velvet Underground and you've read plenty about this. But with all the endless hoopla about Reed, other notable music deaths might be have been missed during 2013. Phil Chevron, who kept the Pogues going and became their main guitarist and official Shane McGowan internet updater left us, as did reggae singer Junior Murvin, country legend George Jones, and the completely underrated British folk-rocker Kevin Ayers. But what's most shocking are the sheer number of important jazz musicians who died in 2013. Think of about it: Donald Byrd, Yuseef Lateef, Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Don Blackman, George Duke, Cedar Walton amongst others...all gone in one year! It makes me want to run and see Sonny Rollins play again as soon as possible (he still practices three times a day). Funny, because I'm quite happy that I saw the Dead and Miles Davis in their later years, without knowing that they would soon pass and be no more. Reading the above list makes me think about Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Jimmy Heath to name a few jazz greats who are still playing live. It might be a good idea to check some of their shows. The old guard of jazz might soon be gone. Remember that there's probably plenty of time to see your favorite indie rock band, but not these guys and what they represent/who they played with. is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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