Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

  • Jim Testa
  • Paul Silver
  • Richard Quinlan
  • Mark Hughson
  • James Damion


    Best New Jersey Albums (in alphabetical order)

    Above The Moon – Mine Again
    Blue Vervain – The Garden
    Bouncing Souls – 10 Stories High
    The Cucumbers – Old Shoes
    The Roadside Graves – I Want To Cry Alone
    Screaming Females – Desire Pathways
    Teenage Halloween – Till You Return
    Best Hit TV – It Looks Like We Have A Crisis On Our Hands
    Reese Van Riper - Psychopaths
    Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World

    Best live album:
    The Feelies – Some Kinda Love: Performing The Music of the Velvet Underground

    And the best of the rest of the world… The Abolitionist – A Pernicious Truth
    The Natvral – Summer Of No Light
    Samiam – Stowaway
    Shame – Food For Worms
    Speedy Ortiz – Rabbit Rabbit
    Too Much Joy – All These Fuckin’ Feelings
    Worm Quartet – Carpe Tedium
    Wreckless Eric - Leisureland

    Top Records for 2023

    Inflation has touched every aspect of life over the past year, from the gas pump to the grocery store. Inflation has even reached the virtual pages of Jersey Beat, because my annual top 20 list of my top records of the year has expanded to 21. Blame the supply chain, blame Joe Biden, blame whoever you want – but just don’t blame me that I couldn’t find it in my heart to remove a single one of the following records from my list. And, as usual, this list is presented in the order the records were released, not in any order of preference.

    Top 21 LPs & EPs

    THE BROKEDOWNS – Maximum Khaki (Red Scare Industries) LP – released Jan 20
    The Brokedowns are the genuine heirs to the glorious Chicago punk legacy, with a huge muscular sound with big shoulders to match those of the city. Enormous guitars, pounding bass and drums, and emphatic powerful vocals are featured in a cross between old school hardcore punk and melodic pop punk.

    BABYBABY_EXPLORES – Food Near Me, Weather Tomorrow (No Gold) LP – released Mar 3
    What a marvelous collection of twisted pop tunes! babybaby_explores presents highly experimental songs with angular melodies and arrangements, with vocals to match. It harkens back to the fantastic sort of inventive music being made in the 1980s, championed by the likes of Recommended Records.

    PUBLIC SERPENTS – The Bully Puppet (SBÄM Records) LP – released Mar 24
    Don’t call it ska-punk, call it ska-core. Their music has a basis in ska, for sure, and they’ve got the horns, but they’re much more informed by hardcore and crust than they are by pop punk. The music is crunchy and gritty, sometimes speedy and sometimes slow and grinding.

    FAINTEST IDEA – The Road to Sedition (TNSrecords, Jump Start Records) LP – released Mar 31
    Faintest Idea are simply the best ska band today and one of the best bands making music today, period. Their last LP, 2016’s “Increasing the Minimum Rage,” made my list of the best records released that year and my list of the best of the 2010s. This album is better.

    LIGHTWEIGHT – The Next One’s On You ( EP – released Mar 31
    OK, it’s official. They say “third time’s the charm,” and this third EP in a series over the past year has cemented Lightweight as one of my favorite current pop punk bands. The Sacramento, California quartet’s first two EPs, released last year, both made my “Best of 2022” list. And this new has made my 2023 list.

    BRUTAL YOUTH – Rebuilding Year (Stomp Records) LP – released Apr 21
    This Toronto-based band play fresh original music that blends 80s and 90s hardcore, post hardcore, and melodic hardcore to create something that’s more energetic, more visceral, and more, well, brutal than most music coming out of punk bands today.

    BIG LIFE (Setterwind Records) mini-LP – released Apr 21
    This stuff fits in so well to the mid and late 80s DC sound so well that if these guys found a time machine and travelled back there, Ian and Jeff would be putting their records out. Big Life presents us with an eight-song mini-LP, just over 20 minutes of glorious music that mixes hardcore, melodic punk, and emo in the best tradition of bands like Swiz, The Faith, Soulside, Rites of Spring, Gray Matter and more.

    THE BOLLWEEVILS – Essential (Red Scare Industries) LP – released May 5
    Essential isn’t just a title, it’s a directive; this is an essential album for anyone who claims to be a fan of punk rock. The band’s first studio LP in 28 years does not disappoint one bit.

    WRONG WAR – On Further Reflection (Council Records) EP – released May 5
    Wrong War is a current band from Chicago, but you would be forgiven for thinking they’re a forgotten band from Washington, D.C.’s Revolution Summer era.

    BIG LOSER – Left on Del Mar Drive (Black Numbers) EP – released May 19
    Big Loser gives us four songs of gorgeous, lush indie rock.

    THE DIRTY NIL – Free Rein to Passions (Dine Alone Records) LP – released May 26
    The Nil’s fourth studio LP is a sort of return to basics, with less metal and grunge and more focus on punk and alternative, with loads of melodic hooks, heavy alternative-punk instrumentals, and Luke Bentham’s gorgeously tuneful and strong vocals.

    TOODLES AND THE HECTIC PITY – Hold Onto Happiness with Both Hands (Specialist Subject Records) LP – released June 23
    This trio plays pop-driven punk music that drips with angst and emotion. And the title is quite apt, as the songs recount all the things that happen in life that conspire to sap the happiness out of us.

    MERCY MUSIC – What You Stand to Lose (Double Helix Records / SBAM Records) LP – released June 30
    I still think it’s a travesty that Mercy Music aren’t bigger than they are. They act as a single tight unit, playing energetic pop-filled punk-edged tunes. I’m not going to call it pop punk, because it’s more than that; the songs are more mature and complex than typical pop punk.

    VARIOUS – GODSPEED…A Tribute to Pierre Kezdy (of Naked Raygun) (Put It Here Productions / Big Minnow Records) LP – released July 28
    The influence Naked Raygun has had on our music scene has been insurmountable. Many hearts broke for the Kezdy family when Naked Raygun bassist Pierre Kezdy passed away. Fourteen bands provide the tracks on this compilation, including big names like Hot Water Music, Face to Face, Swingin’ Utters, J Robbins, Pegboy, and more, and all proceeds go to the Kezdy family.

    GOO – Chomp EP ( EP – released Aug 11
    My one word review is “WOW!” To provide more information, I’ll tell you that Goo play impossibly bright, catchy indie pop with a wonderful layer of fuzzed distortion. Imagine a cross between 90s indie pop and 2000s shoegaze and you’ll get a bit of an idea.

    MSSV – Human Reaction (Big Ego Records) LP – released Sept. 1
    MSSV provide an enjoyable eight songs of jazzed up rock music, reminiscent of the more adventurous kind of punk and indie music that was made back in the 1980s.

    PALE ANGELS – Plastic Legacy Pt. I (Rad Girlfriend Records) LP – released Sept. 8
    Like their Ohio compatriots, Vacation, Pale Angels are a noise-pop-punk-garage band that blends disparate musical styles to create something unique and compelling, while varying the mix from song to song and keeping things fresh.

    THE SUBJUNCTIVES – Let’s Try This Again (Top Drawer Records) LP – released Sept. 15
    The all-star Seattle pop punk trio of Ean Hernandez (Sicko), Jeff Mangalin (Four Lights), and Wendell Howell are back with a brand new LP chock full of bouncy, poppy punk tunes! It’s a fantastic pop punk album.

    TEENAGE HALLOWEEN – Till You Return (Don Giovanni Records) LP – released Oct. 20
    This LP is even more urgent sounding and energetic than their excellent debut. These tracks are powerful, exciting, and compelling, never letting up a bit over the album’s 31 minutes.

    TERRITORIES – Colder Now (Pirates Press Records) LP – released Nov 3
    This is their best record yet. The band plays strong poppy punk rock that’s not pop punk, with catchy melodies, great gang vocals, a great tone, and great messages. Some songs have a sound similar to early Naked Raygun, a Chicago band near to my heart. They’ve got soaring melodic lines and wall of guitar sound, like hardcore that’s been poppified, if you will.

    THE YOUNG ROCHELLES – Kicked to the Curb (Sounds Rad) LP – released Nov 10
    They play a brand of pop punk that’s heavy on the pop, with smooth silky vocals that glide like butter and gorgeous multi-part harmonies. The tunes here aren’t particularly aggressive, but they’ve got a nice punk edge in the guitars to contrast with the beautiful singing.


    Apparently 2023 was a year in which I needed extreme music to get me through my days. This makes wonder what I will need to survive 2024. Below are the ten records that acted as the soundtrack to twelve months that felt a bit more normal but still undeniably strange.

    1) Cannibal Corpse Chaos Horrific: The legendary, Buffalo-based death metal giants return with another dazzling array of technical fury. Brimming with rage and intricacy, this is attribute to the band’s continued influence.

    2) Dying Fetus Make Them Beg for Death: The world is a better place because Dying Fetus exists. This is a devastating record from another legendary leader in the genre. 3) 200 Stab Wounds Masters of Morbidity EP: Forming in Cleveland in 2019, I adore everything this band does. This EP is a crushing example of what lies ahead for a highly talented and musically combustible act.

    4) Anti-God Hand Blight Year EP Experimenting with a wide range of metal genres, Will Ballantyne creates a sterling and beautifully devastating record.

    5) The Oxys Generation Irrelevant A great slab of sleazy, classic punk. Catchy and harmonic yet still grimy, this was a great find.

    6) Necrofier Burning Shadows in the Southern Sky This Texas outfit plays smart and intricate black metal accented with Southern-fried swagger.

    7) Tsjunder Helvegr Returning for the first time since 2015, this is traditionally powerful black metal with a pristine recording quality. Violent yet lush, I was intrigued by this from start to finish.

    8) Travels With Brindle Notes from Undergrad Chelsea Spear is my one break from death and destruction, only to be replaced with snarky sarcasm and a ukulele. I will buy everything this woman releases.

    9) End Reign The Way of All Flesh is Decay Blending thrash, hardcore, and all forms of extreme brutality one can conceive, End Reign proves that Relapse Records continues to find gems.

    10) Dabda Yonder EP This Seoul outfit offers aspects of shoegaze, noise, and obtuse force to construct a sterling five-song effort.

    2023: Year In Review

    The Very Best Albums of 2023:
    Worriers - Warm Blanket
    Worriers - Trust Your Gut
    Diners - Domino
    Squirrel Flower - Tomorrow’s Fire
    Maura Weaver - I Was Due For A Heartbreak
    Lone Wolf - Haze Wave
    Lemon Twigs - Everything Harmony
    Screaming Females - Desire Pathway
    Blues Lawyer - All In Good Time
    Morgan And The Organ Donors - S/T

    Nearly The Best Albums of 2023:
    Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives - Attitude
    Bug Club - Rare BIrds: An Hour Of Song
    Gerbera - Another Year Around The Sun
    Charlie Brown Gets A Valentine - Severance
    Cut Worms - S/T
    Brown Spirits - Solitary Transmissions
    Crocodiles - Upside Down In Heaven
    Teenage Fanclub - Nothing Lasts Forever
    Kid Koala - Creatures Of The Late Afternoon

    The Best Extended Plays of 2023:
    Ghost Plant EP
    Grivethead - Introducing
    Chinese Telephones - Outta My Hands
    Smiling Broadly - Smiling Broadly

    Best Archival Release
    The Particles - 1980s Bubblegum

    These artists put out an album this year and I listened to it, sometimes more than once, and thought it was pretty ok, instead of saying “wtf is this shit” and turning it off immediately:
    Blonde Redhead
    Boo Radleys
    New Pornographers
    Son Volt
    U.S. Highball
    Yo La Tengo

    Wtf is this shit?:
    Dropkick Murphys
    The Zombies

    James Damion

    Somewhat surprisingly, 2023 was a great year for music. There were enough amazing recordings to satisfy anyone’s taste. Personally, I found myself listening to a lot of Jazz while finding rewards in every crack and crevice. I still find myself buying physical media and even upgraded my turntable. In December, I finally finished working on my record room. So, don’t be shy. Send me your records, CD’s, tapes and acetates. I’ll be listening.

    Best Of 2023

    The Make Three – You, Me & The Make Three
    Swept up in 90's power pop/indie rock glory.

    Sweeping Promises – Good Living is Coming for You
    Like many of my favorite things in life, it often takes a friend to introduce or make a recommendation before taking the deep dive. When it came to Sweeping Promises and “Good Living Is Coming For You.” All credit goes to Tracy Wilson. Lira and Caufield are a dynamic duo.

    Fiddlehead – Death is Nothing to us
    I’ve been closely watching the growth of this Boston Post-Hardcore outfit since their beginnings, and while I hate the term “super-group,” I can’t help but think “Death Is Nothing To Us” is pretty super.

    Paint it Black – Famine
    What is hardcore without Dan Pelic? Just a bunch of old guys in cargo shorts. So happy to be listening to new Paint it Black songs in 2023.

    Open City – Honey In The Jar
    “Honey In The Jar” is gold in my ears.

    Screaming Females – Desire Pathway
    As most artists fade over time, Screaming Females continue to shine. Screaming Female is the band we should all be talking about.

    Values Here - Take Your Time, I’ll be Waiting
    Uplifting power pop with hardcore elements. Had me on my feet the moment the needle hit the record.

    Don’t Sleep – See Change
    For 40-plus years, Dave Smalley has been a fucking punk Jedi. On “See Change,” he continues to prove the force is with him.

    Charlie Watts
    My former boss at Norman’s Sound & Vision introduced me to Charlie Watts' jazz recordings back in the 90s. For that, and many other things. I am forever grateful. R.I.P. Hearing the Rolling Stones drummer show his other side is incredibly rewarding. Yet doesn’t soften the blow of his loss.

    Superchunk – Misfits & Mistakes: Singles, B-Sides & Strays 2007 – 2023
    Four LP’s featuring 50 songs that bring me closer to a band whose 90’s material is Godhead to me. The covers of “Cruel Summer” and the Circle Jerks “Group Sex,” featuring the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, are life-givers.

    Code Orange - The Above
    I’ll never forget seeing the band live in their early days, being within inches of that genius. It’s been years, but each album they’ve released feels so real.

    Baroness – Stone
    It still feels special having a Baroness record spinning on your turntable. We should all be grateful for that.

    SSD – The Kids will have their say
    Trust Records couldn't have said it better when stating, "What is there to say about SSD's long-out-of-print, 1982 debut?" The holy grail of early American Hardcore recordings.

    Youth Brigade – Sound & Fury
    One of the definitive California Hardcore bands of the early ara. It took forty years to get a vinyl reissue, but well worth the wait.

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