Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

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Screaming Females - All At Once
The Screaming Females' greatest strength has also been the group's primary weakness; the New Brunswick trio has always been sui generis, a thing unto itself, with Marissa Paternoster's mind-bending guitar excursions and trademark vibrato vocals stamping the band's identity on everything they did. On the expansive 15-track All At Once, the Screamales consistently strive to expand their palette, embracing everything from pop-punk melodies to classic rock anthems, a ska breakdown here or a prog-rock solo there. All At Once provides proof positive that the Screaming Females' nearly 15-year journey continues apace; they've never lost the grit of those New Brunswick basements, but here they're clearly aiming for the stars.

Sunshine & The Rain – Beneath The Stars
Ashley & Justin Morey's giddy new-wavy synth-pop proved to be one of the most infectious releases of the year. It's a little unnerving at first to hear a diehard guitar rocker like Justin (who literally grew up in front of New Jersey crowds playing in the heavy-as-fuck Rye Coalition and psyche-rockers Black Hollies) having so much fun with synthesizers and drum machines, along with Ashley's yummy reverb'd vocals and keyboards.

Long Neck – Will This Do?
Lily Mastrodimos, formerly of Jawbreaker Reunion, fronts this combo that combines folk, pop, and grunge into an eclectic and electric mix of styles and sounds. Lily's dad is my old friend Jim Mastro (Bongos, Health & Happiness Show, Guitar Bar All-Stars) which may be where she gets that powerful voice, assured sense of presence, and unfailing grasp of songwriting basics. But Long Neck's overwhelming sense of melancholy and regret belongs to her alone, and makes this release such a riveting emotional experience.

Elk City – Everyone’s Insecure
Ray Ketchem and Renée LoBue have been quietly and consistently been making excellent albums together since the '90's but the band garnered well-deserved attention and a new audience with this breakthrough collection that skirts the boundaries of jazz, indie pop, and show music.

Dentist – Nightswimming
Drummer Matt Hockenjos and siblings Emily and Justin Bornemann move beyond the twee surf-pop of their earlier work to create a full-realized collection of indie pop songs here, tracks that transcend genres combine all the band's strengths, from Emily's enchanting vocals to Justin's frantic guitar to Matt's reggae-punk rhythms.

Hit Like A Girl – What Makes Love Last
Singer Nicolle Maroulis' standing in NJ's transgender community (and her work with the LGBTQ support group only serves as a footnote to her Montclair-based group's stunning sophomore album. These warm folk-pop tunes come infused with a bittersweet wisdom about love and longing that will hit all listeners in their hearts, and the gorgeous guitar tones and simple but propulsive percussion deliver Maroulis' vocals beautifully.

The Happy Fits – Concentrate

I couldn't find Clinton, NJ on a map but I'm so glad this talented college-aged trio came to my attention through word of mouth and some of my fellow music journalists. While Vampire Weekend seems an obvious influence, the Happy Fits' irresistible, euphoric pop tunes reminded me of the House Martins, a British band that these kids have probably never heard. Never mind, just check them out, because these guys might be the next Front Bottoms.

Val Emmich – “Auto Bio Part II”
Musician/author Val Emmich, a Jersey Beat favorite since the late Nineties, follows up his 2014 album Auto Bio Part I with this ostensible 5-song EP. (The $5 digital download nets you an album-length 11 songs, with six bonus demos.) These intensely personal songs feature Emmich's signature folk-rock style, with lyrics that explore the regrets, sorrows, memories and joys of a life well lived. "Going To Waste In The Garden State" rises to one of my favorite Val songs ever, a rollicking reminiscence that recalls vintage Ben Kweller.

The Porchistas – Porch Drive
The Porchistas released this album on a flash drive, the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that's always characterized this fun, veteran Montclair combo. They're alternately goofy and political, romantic and nonsensical, drawing from country-western, folk, punk, and on this album, polka. A great album if you feel like dancing around your apartment on a rainy day.

Night Birds – Roll Credits
It's hard to believe these garage-punks just celebrated their 10th anniversary, but they've never sounded better than on Roll Credits, a frantic collection of ageless, timeless loud/fast music. Founding guitarist Mike Hunchback is back in the fold, providing roiling melodies behind Brian Gorsegner's snotty vocals. Part Angry Samoans, part Dead Kennedy's, Night Birds realize that hardcore works best when you don't eschew melody for speed, that surf-rock is just as punk as metal, and that the personal can be as political as screaming about the government.

Rockstar Racecar – The Real Housewives Of Pyongyang
As a wise man once said, punk rock is like Christmas; it's always more fun when there are kids around. When that kid is Bloomfield's Troy Donohue, you get something special, songwriting that's as madly in love with Dio as the Ramones, and lyrics that communicate the travails and joys of being 16 like... well, only a 16 year old can.



The Front Bottoms – “Ann” EP
On "Ann," the second of the Front Bottoms' "Grandma EP's," the band revisits another collection of tunes mostly written and performed early in their career. But here, the songs - which predictably focus on the travails of post-adolescence, always Brian Sella's trademark - have been recorded with the band's current lineup, with often sophisticated and complex arrangements, adding horns and strings and layered synths. It's both a nostalgic trip back for the band's longtime fans and a look forward to what the Front Bottoms may sound like in the future.

Turnpike Gates – “Almost There” EP
Primarily the songwriting project of Ryan Smith, Jersey City's Turnpike Gates bring a Celtic accent to what Greil Marcus memorably called the music of "the old, weird America," with rough-hewn vocals and bare-knuckled riffage that brings the music of the heartland home to the post-industrial dystopia of the Meadowlands. Recommended for fans of Ezra Furman and Ike Reilly.

Yawn Mower – “Could Eat, Would Sleep”

NJ's always had its share of inspired duos like Cinema Cinema and Brick+Mortar; add to that list Asbury Park's Yawn Mower (guitarist Mike Chick and drummer Biff Swenson.) "Could Eat, Would Sleep's" combination of impressive musicianship with goofy elan recalls a lot of what Jersey does best, mixing quirky humor with power-fuzz guitars and and defiant insouciance.

Character Actor – S/T EP
A Jersey punk-rock supergroup of sorts, with the Ergs/Black Wine's Jeff Schroeck, Night Birds' Brian Gorsegner, and Full Of Fancy's Evan Kiel, the Character Actor EP came together when Jeff and Brian's entry into fatherhood required them to take temporary hiatuses from their other bands. The result? About eight minutes of aggro pop-punk that's as much as to listen to as these guys undoubtedly had making it.

Elevator Pitch – “First Floor” EP

Hoboken's first homegrown band to make a mark since Sweet Lizard Illtet in the Nineties, most of this teenaged quintet may still have driving licenses and SAT's ahead of them, but their debut single displays remarkably sophisticated musicianship and songwriting chops. Fiercely experimental, the EP includes keyboardist Ed Horan's frenetic ode to Trump son "Eric" and a jazzy-infused instrumental, both of which promise great things to come.

21 Kings – “Things I Couldn’t Say”

Rich Quinlan raved,"The four tracks on 'Things I Couldn’t Say' are exactly what is missing in contemporary rock n’ roll: Big riffs, catchy hooks, and enough tempo shifts to make each song distinctive." With an obvious nod to the Nineties, these childhood friends come of age on their second EP, with first-person narratives that explore the intricacies of modern life.

back to l back to top 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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