JIM TESTA'S ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
1.) Poster Children – Grand Bargain!
Comeback of the year! Read my review here...
2.) Amy Rigby – The Old Guys
The Old Guys finds singer/songwriter Amy Rigby in
top form - witty, insightful, and wistful lyrically, inventive
musically. Read my review here...
3.) Superchunk – What A Time To Be Alive
Fed up, pissed off, and ready as always to rock, Superchunk
made one of their most exhilarating albums in 2018, an escape
valve for the daily pressure the Trump presidency has put
on all our psyches.
4.) John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness
One of America's foremost singer/songwriters can do no wrong.
Read my review here...
5.) Peter Holsapple – Game Day
The dB's frontman and longtime sideman to the stars returns
with his first new album in decades. Read Joe Merklee's review
6.)Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound
Written as an ex-pat in Greece after the 2016 election, Rebound
finds Eleanor Friedberger trying to make sense of it all while
adding a spooky dancefloor vibe to her mellifluous indie-folk
7./8.) TIE: Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance
/ Shame – Songs of Praise
Idles and Shame - two UK bands which I discovered at different
shows at 2018's SXSW - both owe huge debts to Wire and the
Sex Pistols. They're two premier examples of how British
punk is evolving into the future, and fantastic listens.
9 .) Jeffrey Lewis & The Deposit Returners -
Works By Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010)
East Village anti-folk icon Jeffrey Lewis pays tribute to
his friend Tuli Kupferberg along with a coterie of fellow
freak folkers (including, most prominently, Peter Stampfel)
on this collection of cracked originals and inspired song
parodies. Read my review here...
10.) Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
At a time when so much indie rock takes itself much too
seriously, Parquet Courts made an album that's gloriously
dumb and fun, a record that allows even the most politically-correct
militant-vegan millennials to let loose and jump around
the room like idiots. If you need any further explication,
just give a listen to "Freebird
How many “Top Records” lists have
you already seen in the past three months? It seems so many
media outlets try to get their lists out earlier and earlier
every year, to beat others to the punch, maybe to claim
they recognized this record or that as one of the best before
anyone else. The problem with this is that bands don’t
stop putting out music in October, and so some great releases
get missed. That’s why we at Jersey Beat wait until
the end of the year, for real, to put out our lists. In
my list, watch for the releases marked with an asterisk
(*); these came out in the last two months of the year,
too late for those other sites.
The following list is not in any particular order,
other than roughly being in the order I heard them, but
these are the records I liked the best out of the many I’ve
listened to this year. You probably have your own list.
But I’ll bet my list has some records you haven’t
even heard of, and you should definitely check them out.
RIFLE – Peaceful Death (deadbrokerecords.com)
Peaceful Death is Canadian Rifle’s strongest, most
coherent effort to date. Fast, loud, powerful songs cajole
you with playful melodies, then punch you in the gut at
the same time. That energy, that power – it’s
non-stop. Every time you think the band has reached its
peak, you get belted again.
HORROR SQUAD – Death Posi (thehorrorsquad.bandcamp.com)
Horror Squad play some incredible SoCal pop punk mixed with
strong garage influence, and some of the songs have a heavy
doo-wop dose, as well. Plus, Horror Squad was the “house
band” of the late lamented VLHS, one of the best DIY
venues ever to grace this country.
K7S – Take 1 (Rum
This record takes all the best parts of 90s pop punk, mixes
in a heavy dose of 80s power pop hooks and Ramones sensibilities
and the result rocks like crazy.
SARAH MCQUAID – If We Dig Any Deeper It Could
Get Dangerous (sarahmcquaid.bandcamp.com)
The diversity in McQuaid’s life experience is reflected
in the quiet, contemplative music on this album. The music
is deeply rooted in the folk tradition, but there are mixtures
of influence and style. And I’ve fallen madly in love
with this album.
THE SHELL CORPORATION – Fucked (theshellcorporation.bandcamp.com)
This is one hell of a record! It is unrelenting in its power
and energy, expanding beyond the band’s well-known
and well-trod territory of melodic punk. Four years after
their last release, The Shell Corporation is back, stronger
than ever, and pissed off as hell.
LOVE SONGS – Schmaltz (spanishlovesongs.bandcamp.com)
Schmaltz is calmer, more polished, and more nuanced than
Spanish Love Songs’ debut LP. But it’s no less
emotionally driven. Lead vocalist Dylan Slocum has gained
more dynamic range in his singing, and this amps up the
passion in his voice. And as strong as the previous album
was, the songwriting on this one is up at a whole different
level. There’s a maturity to the sound. And lyrically,
the songs are devastating.
LA ARMADA – Anti-Colonial Vol. 1
This album is an example of the kind of music that I don’t
normally go out of my way to acquire and listen to –
but La Armada do a great job here, musically and lyrically.
This is metallic hardcore with highly political lyrics that
are very timely. For me to put something like this in my
best records of the year list is pretty unusual, but it’s
HOT SNAKES – Jericho Sirens (hotsnakes.bandcamp.com)
Back with their first new LP in over a decade, this San
Diego band is an intense as ever! This record is harder,
tighter, more intense, and more powerful than just about
anything that came out this year.
PENSKE FILE – Salvation (thepenskefileband.bandcamp.com)
The album begins with one of my favorite songs of the year,
“Kamikaze Kids,” a song that’s an anthem
to living in the moment, especially when you’ve maybe
forgotten how to do that for awhile and come back to the
realization that yesterday is gone, tomorrow isn’t
here yet, and now is all we have. The songs on this LP have
an expansive sound and lyrics full of big ideas.
THE BROKEDOWNS – Sick of Space (thebrokedowns.bandcamp.com)
Chicago’s Brokedowns have got a solid Midwestern punk
sound, very workman-like without being too light or poppy,
yet not too hardcore and stern. The tracks are edgy and
angular while still maintaining a strong sense of fun. Vocals
are pounding and powerful. Every track is a satisfying listen.
ISS – ISS (www.drunkensailorrecords.co.uk)
This is one of the most original records to come out in
a long time. ISS use samples and synths to create music
that’s more punk than you can ever hope to be, even
though it sounds nothing like what most people think of
ROUND EYE – Monstervision (roundeyeband.bandcamp.com)
The gang of Western ex-pats living in Shanghai, China roped
late night TV movie host Joe Bob Briggs into collaborating
with them on this album that covers the horrors of our modern
world in the unique way that only Round Eye can. Fucked
up, insane, punk-drenched rock’n’roll.
PARTY – Are You Happy Yet (wiretaprecords.limitedrun.com)
Pity Party play sweet melodic music with super loud and
buzzy guitars. The songs are high energy and loaded with
ODD ROBOT – Amnesiatic (wiretaprecords.limitedrun.com)
The songs on this sophomore LP are all hook-laden, bouncy
yet edgy, and they’ll instantly make you want to get
up and dance. Blending the sounds of The Alkaline Trio and
The Smoking Popes, yet making it their own, Odd Robot are
one of the most exciting new bands of the last several years.
IN BLACKOUTS – The Princess Foretold By Her Henchmen,
A lot of acoustic efforts fall flat, but this one is fantastic.
Liz Eldridge’s vocals are sparkling and electrifying,
the musicianship is amazing, and the song writing is engaging.
Eldridge’s vocals, in particular, blend East Bay pop
punk with the power of a Broadway star, creating a wholly
unique feel. This is a “greatest hits” collection
from the Chicago band founded by Screeching Weasel’s
John “Jughead” Pierson.
TV COMA – Body Negativity (tvcomamusic.bandcamp.com)
This EP is loaded with sarcasm, depression, hilarity, and
irony. The music is fun, the lyrics dark, and the result
gets full marks from me.
EXHALANTS – Exhalants (Self
This is unrelenting! It’s a throwback to the nineties
in the best possible way. Remember the noise bands from
back then? Remember the bands playing angular, powerfully
intense music? This debut from Austin, Texas’ exhalants
is just that. And it’s not just a poor imitation of
the greats of the past – this is fucking great stuff
on its own!
DIRTY NIL – Master Volume (dinealonerecords.com)
The Dirty Nil give us a powerful, over-the-top LP loaded
with punishing rock’n’roll music. And, as much
as I love their early singles and EPs, the songs on this
record are bigger, stronger, and more powerful. Their earlier
efforts might be said to be like an out of control freight
train, flying down the track faster and faster, bits flying
off. This record, though, is like a massive diesel locomotive,
powering down the track and smashing everything in its path.
This is unabashed rock’n’roll, the way it used
to be, and the way it was meant to be.
NIGHT BIRDS – Roll Credits (www.fatwreck.com)
Night Birds are, perhaps, one of America’s finest
current hardcore bands. The eight songs have a good amount
of diversity changing things up to keep listeners guessing.
And if there’s one thing Night Birds have aplenty,
it’s energy. They never let us down.
ST. LENOX – Ten Fables of Young Ambition
and Passionate Love (stlenox.bandcamp.com)
Continuing on themes from St. Lenox’s first two LPs,
these songs are stories from the life of Andrew Choi, the
man behind St. Lenox. What is merely astoundingly good music
transforms into a deeply intimate look into the life of
another human being. This LP focuses on Choi’s love
life and his ambitions (his day job is as a New York City
attorney and by night he’s an amazing singer-song-writer).
Musically, the album is his most diverse yet, with songs
featuring acoustic and electric guitars, saxophone, trumpet,
and violin, in addition to piano, synth, and drums. This
gives the songs a thicker sound. Choi wonders in the songs
on this album whether he’s ever going to “make
it” as an artist. I supposed that depends on your
definition of making it. To my definition, he already has.
POPES – Into The Agony (asianmanrecords.com)
The magic is back! The Popes’ previous LP, 2011’s
“This Is Only A Test,” was fine, but something
was missing. Now, with original drummer Mike Felumlee back
in the fold, we see what had been missing. The songs on
this record are classic Popes material that sound familiar
yet fresh. And The Smoking Popes even get political on this
record, with lyrics that address climate change.
* DRUG CHURCH – Cheer (www.purenoise.net)
This album relentlessly pounds out the post-hardcore, but
this is way more melodic and poppy than post-hardcore is
supposed to be. Drug Church also use a guitar tone that
seems to me to be right on the cusp between late 80s rock
and 90s emo. It’s a distorted fuzzy jangle with a
focus on higher harmonics, and it contrasts really nicely
from the crunch of the post-hardcore and gives it a distinct
sound unlike anything else out there. The bass lines are
strong too, giving these tracks a groove unknown in most
* JOHNNY MAFIA – Princes De L’Amour
Blending surf guitar, psychedelic sounds, power pop, and
a strong garage punk streak, Johnny Mafia is a revelation.
The music is raucous and it’s bright and sunny. You
can’t help but get up and jump around when these songs
are playing. The instrumentation is somewhat thin –
just the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals – but Johnny
Mafia fills the empty space with an infectious energy and
* PORCUPINE – What You’ve Heard Isn’t
Featuring Hüsker Dü’s Greg Norton on bass
(he joined the long-standing band after their relocation
from Wisconsin to Minnesota’s Twin Cities), Porcupine
play some great indie-rock mixed with bits of dreaminess.
* NEUROTIC FICTION – Pulp Music
This band from the UK’s West Country plays music that’s
light and airy, jangly, intense, garage-like, psychedelic,
jazzy, and surfy. I love the lead guitars, the way they
play meandering lines, and especially the glorious surf
tone. The songs are far from straightforward, with complex
structures and beautifully harmonized vocals. It’s
almost if there’s some math-rock influence here, as
2018 was certainly a dismal year as the country continues
to fracture, but at least the following releases provided
10. Sick Of It All - Waking the Sleeping Dragon
Wreck): It’s always a great year when
New York’s heaviest hardcore legends return to lambast
a society in peril.
9. Blood Pressure - Surrounded (Beach
Impediment Records): Why is this band not huge?
One of my favorite releases and all I want in 2019 is to
see these guys live.
8. Spit-Take (Bandcamp)-
This was loud, weird, and fun, just like the year
that was. Except far more fun.
7. Cursive - Vitriola (Bandcamp):
At least Tim Kasher returned this year and Cursive
sounded as if they had never been away.
6. Daughters - You Won’t Get What You Want
This Rhode Island outfit remains one of the most
effective genre-smashing bands in the world. They will not
give people what they want, but you will get what you deserve.
5. Yawn Mower - Could Eat, Would Sleep (Bandcamp)
I was instantly hooked by the name; turns out,
they are even cooler musically.
4. No Question (Bandcamp)
One cannot have that bad of the year when hardcore acts
like this still exist.
3. Pig Destroyer - Head Cage (Bandcamp)
Raw, vicious, and continuously evolving, I need as much
Pig Destroyer as possible in my life.
2. Human Adult Band - Sonic Enlightenment (Bandcamp):
This is HAB’s best work thus far and personally, I
cannot wait to hear what they do next.
1. Sharp Violet - “These are the Rules, Boys”
- This should be played for Harvey Weinstein everywhere
he goes for all eternity. This Long Island outfit proves
that Riot Grrl is stronger than ever and it has never been
JAMES DAMION'S FAVORITES OF 2018
Red Hare – Little Acts of Destruction
The Hasbros – Cart Before the Horse
Beach House – 7
Wimps – Garbage People
Thunder Pussy – Self-Titled
Faz Waltz – Double Decker
Criminal Kids – Self-Titled
Night Birds – Roll Credits
Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
Screaming Females – All At Once
Superchunk –What A Time To Be Alive
Bikini Kill – The Singles
Joe Strummer – 001
The MC5 – Total Assault
Rise Against – Career Retrospective
Liz Phair – Girlie Sound to Exit in Guyville
Despair Monkeys and Other Trifles – A memoir
by Francoise Hardy
My Riot – Agnostic Front, Guts and Glory by
Roger Miret and Jon Wiederham
Beastie Boys – Book by Mike Diamond and Adam
THE SLITS: Here to be Heard – The story of the
Slits (William E. Badgley)
to be Heard
The Godfathers of Hardcore – (Ian McFarland)
Finding Joseph I: The HR From Bad Brains Documentary
10. Agar Agar - The Dog And The Future
Old school pop muzak mixed with modern indietronic, and a
touch of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score and songs.
Remarkable formula done really, really, well.
09. Exmaid - Fair Sex
Deep, dark grunge-punk riffs that hit you in the gut before
the ears. It’s all a beautiful dream, but with an
Amphetamine Reptile soundtrack.
08. Django Django - Marble Skies
Oh, another album of electro-pop gems, seamlessly meshing
manufactured and organic sounds into an easily digestible
package? I can only hope this is the future.
07. The Lovely Eggs - This Is Eggland
Swirls of noisy guitars surround weird-rock confection.
It’s dazzling and dirty and redefines guilty pleasure.
06. Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive
Indie punk done right. The songwriting is strong, the message
is clear. This band has been around long enough to branch
out every now and then. More people should be wandering
under the new shade, here.
05. Peach Kelli Pop - Gentle Leader
Sugar-rushed jangle pop, complete with keyboards and sharp
twee vocals. The songs are so immediately catchy and compact;
this is punk music, but instead of smashing frosting on
your head a la Damned Damned Damned you’re just straight
up eating that delicious stuff.
04. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
Coming in at 18 tracks, this album squeezes in the tunes
like no other on this list. Luckily everything here is short,
breezy, and brilliant indie pop. Cue this up for your next
three-towns-over introspective road trip.
03. Cut Worms - Hollow Ground
Yes, this is traditional 60s pop. It’s not reinventing
the Everly Brothers wheel. It’s not even reinventing
the Dave Edmunds wheel. But it is ace songwriting backed
up by excellent execution and the comfort level is cranked
02. The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
Endearing, bittersweet, and melodic as heck indie rock from
New Zealand. This band set out to take a hard look at itself
and then write a slew of golden hits. They pulled punches
on no one. Instant classic.
01. Alice Bag - Blueprint
We start with a core of straight-ahead punk rock. It doesn’t
lean too far into 90s riot grrl or stray too much into alterna-woman
territory, but it does pull on some (of my) nostalgia strings.
Just solid, no-nonsense punk. But then, there’s a
injection of 60s soul. Backing horns, a cool swagger, and
this deliberate nod to Stax/Volt. And then, there’s
a little Spanish flavor in there as well. I’m hard
pressed to think of a recent rock record with such a unique
and refreshing style. There are clever lyrics and some neat
turns of phrase throughout, but there’s also a lot
of protest sign-worthy choruses. Blueprint identifies our
flaws, supports our strengths, and empowers us to be better.
A new beginning.
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