If you, like me, have fond memories of Boston punkrockband The Explosion, then you are familiar with Matt Hock’s powerful and distinct voice. Imagine my excitement when I found out that Matt has started a new project with his former bandmate David Walsh, and that Wiretap Records will release their debut a couple of months from now. Here is the first song, which is a pleasant surprise. It’s a departure from the high-octane and tight punkrock of The Explosion. It’s guitar-driven and loose, and influenced by postpunk, britrock and new wave. It’s the kind of song that intrigues and gets under your skin upon first listen.
At the start of each year, I create a playlist to keep track of newly released songs I like. Then, at the end of the year, I pick out the best song from this list to create a year-end mixtape, a playlist I like to return to every now and then, and revisit or rediscover songs and memories of a specific period of time. The thing is, I am not a very efficient person. So basically I drag songs to the playlist for 350 days resulting in quite the mess – the playlist currently has 1944 songs, almost 92 hours of music. Then, with the year coming to its close, I frantically go to work trimming down the playlist to its essence. That’s the hard part, because I am way better in adding stuff than throwing things away, or so I am told. I usually end up with a playlist around 300-400 songs, in spite of my good intentions to keep it shorter. This year is no exception. What I did do differently this year however, is split up the songs in two playlists that reflect my two musical taste buds: a playlist with more straightforward punk, powerpop and garage hits from 2020, and one playlist with a little less distortion (i.e., indiepop, jangle, twee, but also postpunk, and more fuzzy and surfy popsounds). As always, one song per artists. Click read more to check them out. Hope you’ll like ’em, and will uncover some new favorite tunes! BTW, in case this is my final post of the year, take care, be well and see you in 2021!
Last week, I published my Top 50 Albums of 2020. The week before, Dennis published his. Time for the final AtW list of 2020: my Top 40 Singles and EP’s of year. There was a lot to choose from, and I am sure I overlooked and forgot several releases that would otherwise be included on this list. I opted out of the painstaking process of ranking these singles and EPs, so the bands are in alphabetical order. If I had to choose though, Romero probably would be my #1 pick, followed by Hard Action, Civic. Click below on read more to go to the list. I’ve included short explanations and my favorite song of each single/EP, either with a bandcamp embed or a video. If you like what you hear, just click on the title and AddToWantlist. There is an almost complete Spotify playlist of the releases at the bottom of this post – six are currently not on that platform.
I am a sucker for year-end lists. They help uncover releases I missed, artists I overlooked, and curators worth following. I equally love the process of creating my own lists. There is an instrinsic value and joy in revisiting and reflecting on the records that come out each year. It offers a reminder that some records take time to appreciate, while others’ immediate appeal ultimately proved to be short-lived. One noticable trend in this streaming age is that artists release a crazy amount of great songs, whereas their albums often fail to live up to that promise. Quite a lot of my favorite songs of the year were on releases I left out my top 50. This top 50 celebrates the art of great collections of songs, records I own, records that are on my wantlist,records I’ve played and enjoyed front to back. What about those great individual songs? I will share my favorites in a playlist before the year is over (Update: I made two). I will also publish a list of my favorite singles (7″, digital) and EP’s of 2020 next week (Update: it’s here). And, of course, don’t forget to check out Dennis’ favorite records of 2020.
Ok, less talk, more rock. Below you’ll find my favorite records of the year. Mostly punk, garage, powerpop, rock-‘n’-roll, indiepop and indierock releases. I’ve added short descriptions of what I love about each record, and sample songs and video’s. If you like what you hear, just click on the album title and AddToWantlist. Oh yeah, and for you streamers out there, there’s a playlist with my favorite song of each record at the bottom of this post. Let’s go!
Now that was an original way to announce a name change: last year this five-piece band from Paris released a split tape with themselves – the A side under the new name Hobby was called After, the B side under their previous moniker Deaf Parade was called Before. And now there is a new EP from Hobby (‘not professionally and not for pay’) with four tracks, just called Hobby, although none of the songs are titled Hobby. The co-release of Hidden Bay Records (vinyl) and RDS REC HH (tape) offers an interesting combination of slacker jangle and alternative rock with a 90’s feel.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
OK, let’s start with the obligatory cliché intro text. The only good thing about 2020 was that by being at home more often you could listen to even more music and for those who want to hear it, enough good music has been made. Since January I have checked out 1,100+ new albums. Sometimes after half a minute I knew it wasn’t for me, sometimes I just couldn’t get enough. No doubt I missed a few things that I should not have missed, but right now this is what it is. And it doesn’t really matter either. Music lists are by definition debatable, because they say something about taste and taste is personal. What follows does not really say anything about quality, but simply reflects what I have played and enjoyed the most. In my list guitars and distinctive voices predominate, it’s mostly rock orientated (alternative, garage, jangle, roots, post-punk, …) plus a little bit of soul, with both debuting bands and old rockers with renewed energy who could have been their grandfather. It turns out that 2020 was not that bad at all!
This week Spotify revealed its listst with the most-streamed music around the world this year (you and I listened to other names, right?!), and users gained insight into their personal listening behavior in a so-called Spotify 2020 Wrapped overview. A lot of confusion with just about everyone I know, because why is “Chamber Psych” among the most listened to genres and what the hell is it? Looking at the bands that belong to this genre, we just keep using the category Indie Rock over here. A nice online application is that you can see which new releases have been released within such a genre, and that’s how I just discovered TJ Roberts. His sophomore album Love, Loss & Other Useless Things arrives next week via Rose Parade Recording Company, preceded by the Wilco-like track Boy Without a Band. I like it, but I wonder if Tom and his band-mates realize they’re making Chamber Psych. (Update: the answer to that question is no.)
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
As far as I know, the Irish alternative-rock band NewDad – none of them can call themselves a dad, not even the girl from the gang – haven’t released a physical release yet, but their previous track Blue already got quite a bit of airplay in the UK. Now they present fifth (digital-only) “single” I Don’t Recognise You, in which dreamy vocals and powerful guitars alternate. The lyrics are quite heavy, but the accompanying video shows what the band stands for: ‘Fun, easy going and desperately trying to sound cooler than we are.’ An EP is said to follow in early 2021, one to look forward to.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp
I am terrible in estimating a band’s popularity. Here is a band, a duo actually, that have a sound for which clearly there is a wide audience. Think Superchunk, think Bob Mould, think Japandroids. They release a well produced filler-free record that sounds mature and self-assured. A record that is instantly satisfying, but also becomes better with every play. A record that has great artwork as well. I am talking about Calming Pink by Eaten by Snakes. That band has 175 monthly listeners on Spotify. Shakin’ my head in disbelief.
Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Shield Recordings
Kiwi jr are from Canada, but they sound like an Australian band fronted by Stephen Malkmus. Their debut Football Money was among my favorite records of 2019. Sub Pop will release their follow-up Cooler Returns on January 22. It’s a small sample size, but based on the first two leaked tracks, Kiwi jr. wants you to have a great start to 2021. Here’s the title track. Oh, the video is fun as well.