Sunday, October 21, 2018

This Is HALLOWEEN! A 2018 Playlist


"It's almost time, kids!"

Yes, it's that magical time of year where every one celebrates all things spooky, scary, and weird. It's Halloween! And although most of my friends and I tend to celebrate horror all year round, it's nice to see every one else getting in the spirit.

Regarding local haunts and mazes, I've already hit up: Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights, Knott's Scary Farm, Haunted Hayride, Rotten Apple 907, and The Backwoods Maze.



Movie-wise: whereas last year, I challenged myself to watch 31 horror anthologies, one per day; this year, I've done a deep dive into Hammer Horror, one of my many blind spots for all these years! I strongly recommend this set as your starting point. BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and PARANOIAC have been stand outs. (Now onto the Christopher Lee DRACULA movies!)

But it wouldn't be a proper Halloween if I didn't make a mix to share, right?

For reference, I think you should go back to some of my previous Halloween mixes.

- Recommended Listening: Halloween Hits - A 2015 Rob G Mix
- Deep Cuts & Spooky Songs: A 2017 Halloween Mix
- 6 Non-Soundtrack Recommendations You Have To Hear!
- A Normaltown Halloween 2014 Mix

For this one, I did something a little different.

Previous playlists have been catered to a specific theme, or keeping with a certain tone or flow, this one I consider more of a snapshot. Some of it is very Halloween-specific, some of it is not. It just happens to be what I'm listening to right now in October of 2018. And so, this one's a bit more personal in that regard. Old stuff, new stuff, remixes, soundtrack cues, covers, pop rock songs and beyond. This is what my Halloween for 2018 sounds like...



Track listing:

This Is HALLOWEEN! A 2018 Playlist!

1. Vortex (Uniform Remix) by John Carpenter from LOST THEMES REMIXED
2. The Shape Returns by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies from HALLOWEEN 2018
3. That Moment You Gave To Me by Ludrium (aka Cody Carpenter) from REFLECTIONS
4. One 60 Clone by Daniel Davies from EVENTS SCORE
5. Superuser by Netrvnner from EPISODE 1 (and the EXTREMITY Soundtrack)
6. Thought Contagion by Muse from SIMULATION THEORY
7. A Nightmare Reimagined - Overture by Joe LoDuca from THE EVIL DEAD - A NIGHTMARE REIMAGINED
8. The Shape Hunts Allyson by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies from HALLOWEEN 2018
9. John Carpenter's Halloween by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
10. Nightmare Isn't Over (HALLOWEEN II Rework) by Le Matos
11. Chariots Of Pumpkins by Umberto from Death Waltz Recording Company
12. Pam Grier's Head by John Carpenter from GHOSTS OF MARS
13. Rats by Ghost from PREQUELLE
14. Cry Little Sister by Marilyn Manson
15. Theme From Killer Klowns From Outer Space by The Dickies from KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE REIMAGINED
16. The Rules by Jeremy Zuckerman from SCREAM: THE TV SERIES
17. Main Title Theme by Daniel Hart from THE EXORCIST TV SERIES
18. Constantine Main Theme by Bear McCreary from CONSTANTINE: THE TV SERIES
19. Metallica T-Shirt by Wolfie's Just Fine from PERFECTION, NEVADA EP
20. Revenge by Rob from REVENGE
21. Halloween Triumphant by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies from HALLOWEEN 2018

John Carpenter's music has become somewhat synonymous with the season at this point. I'm a huge, huge fan of his "Lost Themes" albums, and knew I had to kick it off with a remix of his track "Vortex." This track could get any party going.



I wanted to keep it in the family, literally! And so the next few selections reflect that, starting with "The Shape Returns" from the new 2018 HALLOWEEN movie, composed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies. From there, why not hear one of Cody's solo tracks? "That Moment You Gave To Me" is pure pop bliss ala ERASURE from Cody's alternate moniker LUDRIUM. And from there, let's hear a cut from Daniel Davies new solo album "Events Score," the track "One 60 Clone!"

After that, I went with the closing credits song to EXTREMITY, the latest film by director Anthony DiBlasi (LAST SHIFT, Clive Barker's DREAD) that I just put out through the Dread Central Presents label via Epic Pictures. (Multiple ways to check out EXTREMITY right here!) This track has been one of my go-to pieces of music all month.



The new MUSE album doesn't come out until November, but for those that pre-ordered it, we've been treated to a few advance tracks, including this one "Thought Contagion."



From there, I wanted to delve into some fun score tracks, starting with Joe LoDuca's newly reimagined theme for EVIL DEAD. LoDuca has been a part of the entire EVIL DEAD franchise, minus the remake, but including the recently wrapped ASH VS EVIL DEAD series. Last Halloween, he performed a new live re-score at a special screening of THE EVIL DEAD, and now, that music is available both digitally and on vinyl! The "Overture," which is reminiscent of the Showtime MASTERS OF HORROR theme, is beautiful and haunting!



Hey, it's HALLOWEEN, right? Let's hear a bunch of variations on the HALLOWEEN theme. First up, "The Shape Hunts Allyson," my favorite new cue from the HALLOWEEN 2018 score. Followed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' reinterpretation of John Carpenter's original theme. Going in chronological order, that brings us to LE MATOS curious track "Nightmare Isn't Over," a tribute to HALLOWEEN II's theme that changes the infamous 5/4 timing of the theme to traditional 4/4!



The main HALLOWEEN III cover comes from Umberto! Sadly, I couldn't find this version on You Tube, so there's an alternate cover by Andrioux embedded below, but you can hear the version I intended streaming right here.

A new vinyl release of John Carpenter's GHOSTS OF MARS soundtrack arrived earlier this year, and it's a pretty rockin' collaboration with the guys from ANTHRAX. So next up is (spoiler-alert) "Pam Grier's Head."

GHOST is a band I have tried countless times to get into. I rather liked my starting point, which was the EP "Popestar." But... I just find their music kinda silly. That said, their new single "Rats" is pretty cool, so I included it here. And who better to follow that than Marilyn Manson with his cover of "Cry Little Sister," made famous by THE LOST BOYS! John Massari and The Dickies re-recorded the theme song and score for KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE for this special 2018 version. That's up next.



Then, a handful of horror TV themes! Jeremy Zuckerman's music for MTV's SCREAM series was always a highlight for me, melding Bernard Herrmann's strings with a touch of Marco Beltrami's modernized 90's style score for the movies. "The Rules," you'll recognize as the opening title music. Then we hear Daniel Hart's excellent opening theme for THE EXORCIST TV series. Hoping one day we'll get the rest of his excellent score from season one. And capping it out is possibly one of my favorite TV themes in ages, Bear McCreary's CONSTANTINE main theme!

A few years back, remember Jon Lajoie's acoustic act WOLFIE'S JUST FINE? They made that incredible tribute to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING. He's back with a new EP called "Perfection, Nevada," and the stand out here is "Metallica T-Shirt."

As we wind down, I wanted one intense modern score, and when it comes to that, look no further than the mysterious ROB with his theme to REVENGE. And lastly, if we're starting with Carpenter, we should end with Carpenter. From the new 2018 HALLOWEEN movie yet again, "Halloween Triumphant."



There you have it!

Below you'll find a You Tube version of this playlist, but I encourage you to make your own Spotify, Apple Music, or whatever else version! Hope this gets you in the mood for Halloween.

After all, we're all entitled to one good scare, huh?




Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Feel Alright: This Is 42



Look - I'm ridiculously fortunate. I try to never lose sight of that.

Like most people, I've had my challenges in all aspects of life. I've had my ebbs and flows, my ups and downs. But what a ride it's been!

Several months back, I was in my office, stressing out about whatever the day's metaphoric fire was. I was scanning Facebook and seeing some of the posts of the people I grew up and went to high school with, most of whom I never actually communicated with back then, or more accurately who never chose to communicate with me. (Hell, this previous blog explains a lot of that.) I got up, looked outside my office window and realized, wow. I have an office. On Sunset Blvd. In Hollywood, California. Working as a "studio exec" for an independent movie company. No matter what each day brings, I've freakin' made it. And it's all led me to the person I am today.

All that said, the impossible or improbable is always possible. All ya gotta do is try.

My birthday is August 15th. It's officially here and I'm one notch further in my 40's. As always, I try to think up of some sort of fun group activity I can share with my closest friends that would be intimate, unique, and special. Last year, the mighty Christian James Hand was kind enough to do one of his infamous "The Session On Air" song breakdowns. (We ended up doing one by Soundgarden and Nirvana, which you can read about right here.) Before that, it'd been screenings of some of my favorite movies. Rodney Dangerfield's BACK TO SCHOOL for my 40th was one for the books. But ...how the hell do you top all that?

Well, I had interviewed Jonah Matranga for my "mix tape" documentary last year, and we've been in touch on and off for the last 20 some odd years. And both him and his music have been such a huge part of my life, a lot of it explained here. Needless to say, with all that life experience between the two of us, I'm comfortable saying he's more than just one of my all time favorite musicians and influences. He's a friend.

So, would it be odd if I asked my favorite musician to do a private acoustic performance of his tunes for my birthday? Well, you never know until you ask. And much to my surprise. He agreed!

We had Christian on an episode of Shock Waves a few months back where he walked us through the musical masterpiece that is Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," more popularly known as the theme to THE EXORCIST, and at the tail end of the episode, he said he would gladly do something for my birthday again this year. You'd better believe I held him to his word!

And so on Saturday, August 4th, I had a very small group of people over to my apartment in the Valley, a venue I was quite nervous to host a party at, because for one, it feels small once you get more than 10 people in here, and also it gets ridiculously hot. But somehow, magically, it all worked out perfectly. We just moved a table out of my main living room and made that the central spot for the evening's entertainment.

First up, I surprised the gang by debuting 30 minutes of my documentary project. After 3 years of meticulously putting this thing together, it was a great thrill to finally test out some of this material for a general audience, and the response was beyond my expectations. It set the positive tone for the whole evening.

Then, Jonah pulled up a stool and kicked off the night with a beautiful rendition of his song "Tides," which at one point slowly morphed into "Release" by Pearl Jam and then back to "Tides." At this point, I'll be candid... I was pretty tipsy and still in disbelief that this was really happening.


I can't remember exactly what the full set for the night was but it included solo songs like "Every Mistake," Gratitude tunes "Feel Alright" and "This Is The Part." And plenty of FAR songs, such as "Really Here," "Job's Eyes," "Wear It So Well," and "Bury White." He closed it off with New End Original's "Lukewarm."

I personally didn't take any photos or video, because I wanted to live in the moment and really appreciate it, and hope everyone in the room was feeling what I was feeling, which I confirmed after the party that they were. But thankfully, Spooky Dan Walker (bless him) got the following snippets.









For me, there is at least one key lyric in each of Jonah's songs that resonates and feels totally relevant to me right now, at this point in time, at this age.

In "Lukewarm," its screaming out, "I never want to say my best days are behind me." Or the bridge in "Feel Alright," a song about just wanting all your friends to be OK, where he sings, "we are all so brave. We are all so scared. We are all afraid. We're all not falling. All not dead."

I can go on and on, but instead, I'd rather share with you my playlist that prepped me for this evening. These are some of my favorite Jonah songs from all his bands, spanning his entire musical career. And yes, I've tested this mix and think it's pretty rockin'!

Jonah Matranga mix:

1. Lukewarm by New End Original from "Thriller"
2. Bury White by Far from "Water & Solutions"
3. Feel Alright by Gratitude from "Gratitude"
4. This Is The Part by Gratitude from "Gratitude"
5. I Like It by Far from "Water & Solutions"
6. Mother Mary by Far from "Water & Solutions"
7. Hostage by New End Original from "Thriller"
8. Tides by Jonah Matranga from "The Three Sketchys"
9. Every Mistake by Jonah Matranga from "And"
10. Give Me A Reason by Far from "At Night We Live"
11. I Really Love Yr Company by Jonah's onelinedrawing from "Me And You Are Two"
12. In The Aisle, Yelling by Far from "Tin Cans With Strings To You"
13. Water & Solutions by Far from "Water & Solutions"
14. The System by Far from "Water & Solutions"
15. Bittersweet by I Is Another from "I Is Another"
16. Roosevelt Champion III by Camorra from "Mourning, Resistance, Celebration"
17. Shake by I Is Another from "I Is Another"
18. Parting Friends by Camorra from "Mourning, Resistance, Celebration"
19. Really Here by Far from "Water & Solutions"
20. Be Quiet & Drive by Jonah Matranga from "Voices & Dedications"

And for those that want a You Tube playlist, here it is in that form.



After that, we took a few minutes to eat some ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins, my personal favorite. (Awkward high fives and hugs and all...)





And then, Christian did his thing. I chose "Under Pressure" by Queen, because I had seen Christian do this one before a few years back, and it blew me away back then. And more than anything, I knew this music oriented evening had to culminate in hearing Freddie Mercury and David Bowie's isolated vocal tracks.







And now, here we are, a few hours away from my actual birthday, and I'm just reflecting back on how lucky I am to have celebrated in this way. With love and music.

Regarding both of those incredible artists who were so kind with their time and talents, please support and check out Jonah's music on his BandCamp page. He's the only musician I know that keeps it personal, and one on one, which in this day and age truly means a lot.

And while we're at it, you can hear a bunch of Christian's breakdown's via this Soundcloud account. In particular, his "Under Pressure" one here.

And by the way, this is my favorite photo of the evening of the two of them in conversation.



I know I'm known as the horror guy, but music is where my heart is.

And music is the best way for me to share my heart.

Love you all

Here's to 42...!



Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Healing Power Of Music: 2018 Music Discoveries So Far

So, it's been one hell of a year so far, huh?

For most of us!

Hence why I haven't had the chance to really chime in here in quite a while. Music is such a big part of my life, so the initial point of this blog was two-fold. One, at a time where my "job" required me to crank out 5 horror related news pieces a day, with the occasional inspired essay, I wanted an outlet to write about music for fun. And two, it's my own document for the 3 year journey (and counting) that has been my new documentary project ANALOG LOVE. (Which I swear is alllllllmost done.)

But why so long between blogs? This is literally my second of 2018.

I have close friends say to me all the time, "I don't know how you do it all."

Well, to be candid, I can't do it all. I had a mini-meltdown; an anxiety and stress induced breakdown a few months back, which was scary for a few weeks there. But I'm totally fine for now. Sometimes, you really do have to put a halt on everything and figure out how to help yourself. And a big part of what's gotten me through has been new music. But let's go through the bullet points of what's happened this year and how I've managed to maneuver around it all.

NEW JOB!


Last September, I was hired by Epic Pictures as the "Director of Distribution" for their all-horror label Dread Central Presents. Short version - they're known for their cult titles such as BIG ASS SPIDER, TURBO KID and TALES OF HALLOWEEN, but they also make family films, dramas, animated features and shows. When Dread Central, the website, was in danger of closing shop, Epic got involved, and as a owner on the entity, they figured it'd be smart to brand any of their future horror and cult titles as "Dread Central Presents" titles. And that's where I come in. I even got a Deadline article about me!

Last week, we released TO HELL AND BACK: THE KANE HODDER STORY which, I believe, marks my 10th (!) movie I've helped release in 2018. 10 movies by July!



Here's the slate so far.

Currently on VOD: TO HELL AND BACK: THE KANE HODDER STORY, TERRIFIER, THE LODGERS, DIRECTOR'S CUT, VIDAR THE VAMPIRE.

Now streaming on Amazon Prime: IMITATION GIRL, ZOMBIOLOGY: ENJOY YOURSELF TONIGHT, #SCREAMERS, VILLMARK ASYLUM, ZONE OF THE DEAD.

Coming later this year: EXTREMITY, LASSO, SLAY BELLES.

Whew! On top of this whole movie biz thing, myself, Andrew Kasch and Jim Kunz have gotten involved in activism for some local causes we care about deeply. The first was the most personal to me. My best friend Jennifer Tung is one of the many victims of the Porter Ranch Gas Leak, which unbeknownst to the residents, was leaking and poisoning them between October of 2015 through December of that year. (It still leaks to this day.) Teachers from the area had died. Pets have died. And the people there have gotten very, very sick. I've never seen a more severe case then Jen's. And after nearly 3 years of frustration, delays in the civil lawsuit, next to no support from the press, Erin Brockovich doing her one public appearance & then swiftly abandoning these people, and a clear attempt to "cover" this all up, we got together and made the following video.



While drastic changes can never happen over night, I feel like helping to get Jen's story out there has finally shined a spotlight on this problem, and got some people talking about it. It's still not getting the press it deserves, but you can't deny the power of what we put together, and I hope it inspires more people to speak out and share their stories. You can keep following this story on the Facebook page we created.

After finishing this video, Andrew had heard rumblings that the rents in our beloved Magnolia Blvd. strip were starting to get doubled and tripled in some cases. This particular spot in the Valley is affectionately referred to as "monster row." It's where little independent stores thrive. And it's a destination for family and friends anytime they're in town. I live 5 minutes away from this strip, and I pop over there at least once a week. It's got that suburban quality you saw in all those indelible 80's movies we grew up with. And so far, we've lost Creature Features and Pin Up Girl, with Geeky Teas closing at the end of July. We didn't know exactly how we could help, but maybe another video could at least inform people of what was going on. And so, with Andrew taking the lead, here's what we made.



Much to our surprise, this became a viral sensation with close to 400K views on Facebook. (Almost 7K on the You Tube link!) And while it might not make a difference in the long term, the shops and community are aware and actively looking for ways to help. The Facebook page has also taken on a life of its own. What more could we ask for?

So to back up, I was doing this high stress level new gig and enjoying it immensely, coordinating and putting together these activist videos, co-hosting not one, not two, but three podcasts! Shock Waves, Two Dudes Talking and The 90's Corner. Trying to squeeze time in between all that to work on my documentary that's now going on three years in-the-making, and have fun somewhere in between all that? Something had to give, and it finally did. I woke up one day and couldn't eat. That night, I collapsed while going to the bathroom. I went to the doctor, got medication to spur my appetite back because you have to eat. And scaled back on all strenuous activities. As much as it broke my heart, there was no real legitimate reason for me to be co-hosting 3 podcasts, not to mention the numerous guest appearances I make on other shows like Just The Discs. Maybe a year ago, I felt the desire to "brand" myself more, but the current version of me doesn't share that desire anymore. I narrowed it down to Shock Waves, since it's the primary show most people know me from and has been active for 5 years now. (First as Killer POV, the last 3 years as Shock Waves.)

The one advantage is I get to enjoy The Damn Fine Network and all its shows as a fan now! I subscribe to the Patreon for $5 bucks a month and you should too, because if you take music seriously and you don't subscribe, you're missing out on some great content. Like... a stellar episode devoted to the film scores of Christopher Young, or an all HALLOWEEN (the franchise music) episode. Exclusive interviews, early episode access, and now the flagship show The Damn Fine Cast is a Patreon exclusive. Get to it!

Other podcasts I'm enjoying? My friends Chantal Claret and Jimmy Urine (who both appear in ANALOG LOVE) launched their own show chronicling their move to New Zealand! On top of being completely irresistible when they're together, it's been fun to hear about what it's like to live in a completely different country. Listen to PODCAST AT THE END OF THE WORLD right here.

Lastly, I'm a huge fan and admirer of Mark Ramsey and what he's been able to do with his "Inside Series," first focusing on one of my personal favorites with INSIDE PSYCHO, and then tackling the superior INSIDE THE EXORCIST. Right now, we're more than half way through INSIDE JAWS, and I'm loving it. You can find that show right here, and while you're at it, go back to the episode of Shock Waves where we had on Mark Ramsey and got to hear all about his creative process right here.

Through all of the above stress, the overwhelming workload, the concern over Jen's health and beyond, I've been cranking the following tunes very, very loudly.

L7 - I Came Back To Bitch

L7 is currently recording a new full length album. Last year, they dropped the one off single "Dispatch From Mar-a-lago." Earlier this year, they dropped "I Came Back To Bitch," which has got that catchy "Pretend We're Dead" vibe to it. More than anything, it's just good to have them back, especially in a time when there is plenty to bitch about!



A Perfect Circle - Disillusioned

I rather like the new album "Eat The Elephant" from A Perfect Circle. They started by releasing three songs several months apart before revealing there was a full album forthcoming. And "Disillusioned" was the second single. The album, and this song in particular, are fairly different than what we're used to from this band, but I also don't want artists to do the same ol' thing over and over again. This album is a reflection of who they are in 2018, and it'll forever now be one of my soundtracks to this era in my life. Structurally, "Disillusioned" feels like the verse is the rockin' chorus, and the chorus drops down to a fragile, melodic verse. It's experimentation like this that excites me, and although it might not stick with you on first listen, trust me, keep listening to this song, and album, on repeat and you will develop a deep, deep appreciation for it.



Pearl Jam - Can't Deny Me

If you go way back to the beginnings of this music blog, you'll find my Nirvana Versus Pearl Jam debate. I will forever be a Nirvana guy, but I also love and appreciate that Pearl Jam is still around and making music. Not sure when the full album is coming, but this is their first single in 5 years. And it's a pretty straight forward rock tune. Looking forward to hearing more in the context of a full album, but for now, I'm happy to groove to "Can't Deny Me!"



Stone Temple Pilots - Meadow

Scott Weiland may be gone, but the guys from Stone Temple Pilots have decided to carry on. And much like Alice In Chains before them, I'm glad we continue to get new music from these artists. New singer Jeff Gutt sounds very much like Weiland, but if you strip away the tragedy behind the band and their former singer, you just have a straight forward, totally rockin' album with their 2018 self titled album. Here's the first single "Meadow," one of the many stand outs.



Belle & Sebastian - Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

So, this is an old song, but a new discovery for me. We shot a whole bunch of new footage for ANALOG LOVE last month, and the main new segment featured me trying to help a 15 year old gal make a legitimate mix tape for her dad, as a surprise to him. (And it was!) We combed through his music library to figure out the appropriate songs to put on his mix, and she pulled this song out. I knew Belle & Sebastian, and I even had this album in my collection! But it wasn't until I heard it in the context of this mix tape that I fell absolutely head over heels in love with this song. The sentimental dork in me loves the line, "I always cry at endings." Because I do!!!

PS: Can't wait for you guys to see this scene in the doc!



Nine Inch Nails - God Break Down The Door

Finally, Nine Inch Nails have completed their ambitious 3 EP series with "Bad Witch," which dropped earlier this summer. Overall, I like all the EP's but think they play better as one consecutive album. So, do what I did - make a playlist in your iTunes, and put all three in order: Not The Actual Events, Add Violence and Bad Witch. The result sounds like what you'd expect as a proper follow up to their album "Hesitation Marks." (Which is much better than you remember!)



The Polyphonic Spree - Lithium

Once in a blue moon, I'll stumble down the rabbit hole looking to discover cover versions of my favorite songs. I'm not even sure how I found this one, but basically, I was looking for alternate versions of Nirvana's "Lithium," and low and behold, I got this Polyphonic Spree reinterpretation, which apparently appeared on the soundtrack to SUICIDE SQUAD!? It's actually a rather beautiful version of this classic tune, although I'd recommend not watching the live video floating around You Tube. The music on its own is so, so much better.



2 Cellos - Eye Of The Tiger

I love 2 Cellos! These guys are talented lunatics and more metal than most metal bands! I discovered them when I saw their video for their killer cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," and now they tackle the theme to ROCKY III! (As performed by 2 cellos!)



The Pauses - Go North

If you read my last entry, you'd know a bit about the band that backed Jonah Matranga on his recent tour celebrating 20 years of FAR's "Water & Solutions." The day after the show, I randomly picked up an album by The Pauses titled "A Cautionary Tale," and fell in love with this song, the album opener. You can find even more from them on their official Bandcamp page.



Marilyn Manson - Cry Little Sister

I like Marilyn Manson, but I wouldn't call myself a big fan. I check out each album as they come out and dig them, but that's about it. However, I will say, the man is damn good at cover songs! His biggest breakout was probably "Sweet Dreams," but now he tackles the obvious theme to THE LOST BOYS "Cry Little Sister," and rocks it! He really should do a collection of all cover songs one of these days.



I don't know what I would've done without these songs and podcasts over the course of this extremely difficult year. And hey, there are a lot of terrible things happening right now, both in this country and the world. So, I consider myself very fortunate. I only hope that the power of music can help you the way it helps me.

And again, I'll try to be a more frequent contributor over here on this blog. If anything, to make some recommendations. Until next time, take care of yourself.

Oh, and if you get a chance, please go see the documentary WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? It is absolutely the type of positive influence we all need right about now. You won't be disappointed. And hopefully, you'll walk away inspired...



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Going Back To The Late 90's!


Wow. I just realized I have yet to contribute a single blog post here since 2018 began, and we're already in June!

A lot has been going on. Personally. Professionally. Creatively.

And I'll delve into all that on my next blog post, which I swear won't be 6 months from now. But these past two weekends, I got to experience two performances by two of my all time favorite musicians, and I was reminded just how magical the show going experience can be. And how music, no matter where you are in your life, can always resurface to comfort you like an old childhood friend.

First up was Jonah Matranga who performed with The Pauses last Sunday night at the Hi Hat over in Highland Park, Los Angeles. Jonah has been a part of my life for well over 20 years. First through his band FAR, one of the late 90's quintessential post-hardcore bands that came up on multiple tours with the Deftones, System Of A Down and Incubus. If FAR had stuck together for just a little longer after their second album "Water & Solutions" had made the rounds, I have no doubt they would've been just as big as those other bands I just mentioned.



However, despite not reaching massive commercial success, they were one of the most influential bands of that period, and heroes to all of the "emo" bands that came in their wake.

Back in early 1998 when FAR's "Water & Solutions" came out, I was working as a store artist at Tower Records in Carle Place, NY. I was already a huge fan having discovered their first major label release "Tin Cans With Strings To You." And so when an advance EP single called "SOON" arrived in my promo box, I was anxious to hear what the boys had cooked up next! "Mother Mary" was the song that popped out at me instantly. And I created a massive 6 foot long foam core display using the "Mother Mary" single image. You see, back in those days, all the Tower Record locations had store artists re-create the album covers out of foam core and paint. For me, it was always more exciting to do something a little different, whether it be a logo, or an image from the liner notes; just something that would excite a fellow fan if they happened to be walking the aisle of our store and see it. So, I went with the "Mother Mary" image.


The band has seen it through our local Sony rep, and I was invited (along with my best friend Steve) to go see them open for Incubus and System Of A Down at Coney Island High in Manhattan, NY. We were able to meet the band in a neighboring restaurant beforehand and they couldn't have been more humble or nice, especially Jonah. I can still vaguely remember little bits of our conversations. I was surprised to learn that Shaun (the guitarist) was the Sunny Day Real Estate fan of the bunch, a band I was convinced was a primary influence on them all. Instead, Jonah was telling me it was The Beatles that influenced him most! I remember arguing that as great as The Beatles were (and trust me, I do love them!), they weren't flawless. I noted that "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill" on The White Album was "annoying." And he countered (or corrected me, more accurately) by saying, "yeah, but you remember the chorus, right? You can sing it right now and know all the words?" Of course, he was right.

My buddy Steve was a die-hard FAR fan, and the main reason either of us discovered the band in the first place. I'm pretty sure he had heard "Love, American Style" on some local college radio station and it inspired him to get that first album. He told Jonah that he was going to jump up on stage and sing with him, and he encouraged him by saying, "Bring it. We'll have fun."

Cut to a packed Coney Island High. Now, this was our first time seeing FAR live. We didn't know exactly what to expect, but we knew the albums and songs pretty well. Much to my surprise, they were far heavier and more rockin' and energetic than I possibly could've anticipated! They opened with "Boring Life" and launched into this synchronized head banging back and forth sway on stage when the main riff kicked in. By the time the final chorus came up, Steve launched over my head and tackled Jonah to the ground, the both of them screaming the last verse into the mic. It was truly one of the most energetic and rockin' shows I'd ever been to. Probably top 5 of my life!

(This isn't that Coney Island show, but it's got the same spirit & energy!)



Several months later, FAR were coming around on tour again, and I had convinced the local Sony rep to book a show with them on a Sunday, their day off, so they could play specifically for the Long Island scene. This was a few short years before bands like Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and Bayside broke big, but a post-hardcore scene that leaned a bit more towards emo-esque bands, rather than straight forward NYC hardcore was already a brewin', and I knew it'd be a great opportunity. Plus, I really, really, really wanted my band Pretty Polly to open the show. And that was part of the deal!



However, once the other Long Island bands of the time got wind of this, the same ones that had never invited us onto their bills, everyone wanted in on that show. By the time the gig came, there were now 5 opening acts, then FAR. And guess who got to be first? Yep. My band. At 2PM. When the venue first opened and there would, no doubt, be no one there.


Before the show, I'd chit-chatted with Jonah out back and was just catching up about how I just put my notice in at Tower Records and was trying to give this whole "band thing" a shot. He said, "hey you're still making art, right?" I noted that I was bummed to be first on the bill and that no one was going to see us, and to my surprise, just as we were about to begin, Jonah walked in, stood right in front of me, and rocked out during our entire set. I've since told him that that meant the world to me, and if I never played again in my music career, that'd be OK because one of my musical heroes 100 percent came and supported me.

I also remember that this was one of two shows with James Barbella on guitar for Pretty Polly! We flirted with having a second guitarist for a bit, and we only managed to have James on board for this gig, and a backyard birthday party show. (Whole other story.) He was in a very well regarded popular hardcore band called Soulsick. And so, it was the only show I remember other bands even being remotely nice to us. I think one of the main hardcore bookers (Christian McKnight?) helped him with my amp on stage! (But never once booked us before or after.) And the band INSIDE had finagled their way on the bill just before FAR. The singer (who I can't remember anymore, rightfully so) tried to shoo me away at the end of the night when I was tried to say goodbye to Jonah and the rest of FAR. (Naturally, no one saw it but me, but whatever dude. I'm still around. Where are you?!)

Man, being in a Long Island band in that era totally sucked and felt like high school all over again. Anyways, I digress!!!



Over the years, Jonah has continued making his own music. Sometimes in bands like New End Original, Gratitude, and most recently Camorra; other times as a solo artist or under the moniker of onelinedrawing. I recently read his autobiography Alone Rewinding: 23 Years Of Fatherhood & Music, and it was incredibly emotional for me to hear about the history behind all that music I'd listened to for the last two decades. I actually listened to his audiobook version on a long drive to see my family in Arizona, and would stop periodically to listen to the album he had just talked about. If I didn't have it, I'd buy it from his Bandcamp page and listen. It made the whole thing incredibly interactive and intimate.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of FAR's seminal album "Water & Solutions." And while the band itself couldn't find a way to get back together, which happens when people are in just different points in their personal lives, Jonah decided to celebrate anyways with a tour touted as "Jonah and Friends play Water & Solutions."

Let me cut to the chase, this show was exceptional. It wasn't totally packed but there was a healthy amount of people there. They played the whole album, but in a different order than it appears on the album, and Jonah told stories, sometimes reading straight from his book, before certain songs. I've heard these tunes a bunch with the band FAR. Having The Pauses play as his backup band & reinterpret them gave these songs a slightly different, unique and exciting energy. I mean, it was pretty rockin' to see a female bassist rocking' the F out to FAR songs. Slowly but surely, the group standing at the front of the stage started dancing around and screaming aloud. I captured a few video snippets. These days, I try my best to concentrate on the show itself rather than experiencing it through the screen of a cell phone, but I limit myself to two snippets a show during my favorite songs.

He told a funny story early on about when FAR opened for the band Monster Magnet, and how their audience hated them with a white hot ferocity. But... there were always a small group of weirdos dancing below the stage that "got it." And now, all these years later, these are all those weirdos gathered together. Strength in numbers, and a celebration of being weird. That was our audience.





About 10 years after their initial breakup, I had the opportunity to interview Jonah for my then-offshoot of Icons Of Fright.com, Icons Of Punk. (Sadly, it no longer exists, but you can read that epic chat right here on this very blog!) He totally remembered me from that Long Island show, and we later crossed paths again when I interviewed him for my upcoming documentary project ANALOG LOVE. We've kept in touch sporadically over those 20 years. After Sunday's set, I went to say hello at his merch table and he gave me a great, big gracious sweaty hug and told me how great it was to see my face in the audience. It's moments like this where no matter where you are in life, you believe in that magic of music bringing us together.

I held onto the glow from that show for a few days into the work week. Something that rarely ever happens to me these days.

Then this weekend, I got to do it all over again, in a different context. Jeremy Enigk, the singer/songwriter for the band Sunny Day Real Estate was embarking on a tour to celebrate his first solo album "Return of The Frog Queen," technically 22 years old now. It just got a fancy new re-issue, but he planned on performing this album in its entirety, with a full band, including some orchestrated instruments. And I couldn't be more thrilled!


I ended up going with my buddy, and talented director, Nick Simon. He just finished shooting a new movie, and the last time we'd gotten together to catch up and shoot the shit was at the last Jeremy Enigk solo show a year back! So it seemed only fitting.

I won't go into details of my sudden stomach problems prior to the show, or the LA Pride Parade that prevented us from finding dinner for a solid hour, or the poor choices I made in beer through out the evening. Ask me again if I see ya in person. You'll laugh at the punchline to the end of the night. Thankfully, Nick brought Tums! But the show itself...

I'd seen Jeremy perform with a full orchestra way back in 1996 when he first released this album, and it was, by far, one of the most intense periods in a performers career. I've since seen him several times over the years for other albums, and while always great, he's mellowed out a bit, and didn't freak out the F out during key points in songs, which I always found thrilling and awesome. For example, this show from Knitting Factory in NYC from 1996. Watch at the 3:27 mark!



I actually have a video that my friends and I shot from a much better angle of this very show on VHS. I'll have to dig that one out one of these days and digitize.

Anyways, this set came close to capturing that same spirit, and was truly special.

Here's a few snippets I got on my phone last night. (Again, I only allow myself 2 short clips per show.)





While not the same as actually being there and feeling the music and strings pulsing through your body, you can watch this video of his current live band performing the majority of their set below.



What is it about music from this time period of the 90's that still gets me right in the center of my heart?

Is it nostalgia? Is it just that this music was, in fact, more genuine than anything any current artist is capable of putting out into the world? Is it a reminder of a much simpler time in my life? (Which at the time, sure as hell felt complicated.)

While I understand the need to document every aspect of our lives, the one thing I do miss is the days when you didn't have a phone at a show. Granted, I'm guilty of this too. Checking my phone repeatedly before the set begins, trying to find a way to help the time pass. But last night, and at Jonah's show last week, there were several times where I just stood in place, closed my eyes, and let the music take me over as I sang along. Then when I'd open my eyes, I'd see several people around me filming the entire thing on their phones. Again, I get maybe capturing a few seconds of the night to relive later on, but the whole thing? What's the point of being there then? Watch it on You Tube later!


So, I don't know. Maybe my few snippets will inspire you to go and spend a little time with your favorite musicians. Live in the moment. Remember that this connection between artist and listener is a two way street and the energy you give them only fuels the energy they give back.

Jonah came out and played several songs as an encore, even after his bassist put her bass down on two occasions! Just felt right to do a few more. Jeremy played the entire "Frog Queen" album, and then came out and did an additional 5 songs for an encore! Much more than I'm used to, but this crowd was far more enthusiastic and vocal than the last time he came to town and played only acoustic tunes from his yet-to-be-release album Ghosts that none of us really knew.

Do yourself a favor. If you're not familiar, start with FAR's "Water and Solutions," and then explore all the incredible music Jonah has done since via his Bandcamp page. (I recommend AND.)

And for Jeremy, you can't go wrong with "Return Of The Frog Queen" (embedded below) and then find whatever you can via his Bandcamp page. You can also check out my extensive 2008 interview with him right here.



Take that journey back to the late 90's. We could use it more than ever in the present.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Get Out! My 10 Favorite Horror Movies Of 2017


I've already listed my 10 favorite non-genre films in one of my previous posts. And also, my 2017 music discoveries. I've even done the best vinyl soundtrack releases of the year! But what about the horror? Oh, the horror!

If you're a listener of the Shock Waves podcast, then you already know my top 10 horror movies of the year! But regardless, people love to see a list. And so, I'll provide that here below, but I still strongly recommend you check out Shock Waves Episode 77 embedded below first.



The obligatory preface, these are just my personal highlights of the year, mostly based on one time viewings and my experiences of seeing them. I missed out on a few titles: RAW, THE TRANSFIGURATION, IT COMES AT NIGHT, CREEP 2, JIGSAW. I'll list a few notable mentions at the end of this piece, but for now, here's my top 10!

10 - A DARK SONG


An extremely ambitious and impressive debut from writer/director Liam Gavin, A DARK SONG is a contained story with two people in one house; a determined woman and a damaged occultist attempting to perform a dangerous ritual in order for her to communicate with her dead child. But is there more going on than meets the eye? Of course there is!

9 - HAPPY DEATH DAY


It's been so long since we've had a traditional "slasher" movie play in theaters! And while this one takes a queue from GROUNDHOG DAY and puts it in a horror setting, it's an absolute blast. This is definitely catered to a much younger audience, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it, mainly because I loved the characters, in particular leads Isreal Broussard (as the innocently charming Carter Davis) and Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman, who begins the movie as the traditional bitchy girl and morphs into "the final girl." Plus, the killer is pretty darned cool looking. This one's just pure fun.

8 - LIFE


This one surprised me! I didn't watch it until after nabbing it during a Black Friday sale, and what struck me about it was how unpredictable and scary it was! An all star cast fronted by Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson, this was pretty much a modernized "ALIEN" with maybe a bit of THE THING. Go in blindly, let go of all expectations, and just let yourself be swept away by this tense, paranoid thriller. (Germophobes, beware!)

7 - 1922


This was the year of Stephen King! And we got not only one, but two Netflix original movies based on his work. I knew next to nothing about 1922. I wasn't familiar with the source material, but I'm a huge Thomas Jane fan, and here, he gives an incredible performance as farmer Wilfred James, who conspires with his son to murder his wife. It's a dark drama of the Coen Brothers variety. And it's compelling and fascinating to watch how this story unfolds, especially in the aftermath of said murder! Highly recommended.

6 - ANNABELLE: CREATION


David Sandberg is two for two in terms of taking simple straight-forward scripts and elevating the material in a way that most filmmakers would be unable to do. The first ANNABELLE has its moments, but is a bit of a misstep for this shared "CONJURING universe." But ANNABELLE: CREATION is a prequel that brings it all together and ties up all loose threads. It actually retcon's the story in a way that makes the first ANNABELLE a better movie! And it's scary! A fun rollarcoaster ride that doesn't simply focus on one possessed doll, but evil demons, entities, and even a fun mention of "The Nun!" In terms of pure popcorn horror, this prequel delivers!

5 - THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER


Here's a film that myself and Elric from Shock Waves have been praising for years. I caught it at Beyond Fest under the title of FEBRUARY, and I was completely engulfed by Oz Perkins' classy, atmospheric and stunning debut. I wonder if this loses it's power on the small screen, but regardless, I'm just glad it's finally out in the world. Admirers of Ti West's work, take note. It's as if David Lynch made THE SHINING, and added a Satanic element to it. Also, Elvis Perkins' score is terrific and unsettling. You can find this one on Amazon Prime right now.

4 - IT


Probably the cultural horror event of the year, IT surpassed all expectations and was much bigger than I think any of us could've anticipated. Much like ANNABELLE: CREATION, this version is a nearly perfect studio horror film. It hits all the beats you'd expect, delivers scares like clockwork every 10 minutes, and at least in spirit, stays true to the original King novel, even if it isn't exactly all that faithful of an adaptation. I still have a soft spot for the 90's TV mini-series, but this was a great theatrical horror movie, and now I patiently wait to see how it'll all resolve itself when IT: CHAPTER 2 arrives in theaters in 2019. This is one of those rare cases where the sequel will either strengthen or weaken the impact of this first movie on repeat viewings. I have faith in director Andy Muschietti.

3 - GERALD'S GAME


Mike Flanagan proves yet again that he's our modern "Master of Horror." This time, he adapts Stephen King's novel GERALD'S GAME, often thought of as an un-adaptable King story, and does it with finesse as a Netflix original movie. The majority of the book finds Jesse handcuffed to a bed after her husband Gerald suffers a heart attack. How does one film everything that follows? Flanagan found the most logical way, and delivers easily the most cringe-inducing and horrific horror scene of any movie this year, let alone of the decade! It's not traditional King, but for those that like their horror a bit different, you should definitely watch this on Netflix ASAP. (They'll also be putting out Flanagan's long-delayed and excellent BEFORE I WAKE on January 5th, which features yet another stellar Thomas Jane performance.)

2 - THE DEVIL'S CANDY


This is a film I was fortunate enough to catch on the big screen very early in the year, and although I've only seen it once, it stuck with me and remains one of my favorite modern horror flicks. I'm talking about filmmaker Sean Bryne's sophomore feature THE DEVIL'S CANDY. Having been a fan of his first flick THE LOVED ONES, I was curious how this story revolving around an artist/metalhead, played by Ethan Embry, would play out. It's the relationship between Embry's Jesse Hellman and his wife and daughter that really make you care about these characters. They've moved into a home where the previous tenant went crazy over supposed Satanic forces. He'd block it out by playing a distorted electric guitar really, really loud. (Hence, heavy metal is the cure, in this case!) Are those same forces speaking to Jesse? Loved the hell out of this movie, and I think you will too.

1 - GET OUT


What can I say? Jordan Peele's first foray into the horror genre couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Once in a blue moon, a horror film will tap into the public subconscious and really hit a nerve, and this was that movie. Playing like an expanded TWILIGHT ZONE episode, or more accurately BLACK MIRROR, Chris (the great Daniel Kaluuya) is brought home by his new girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family. But, things aren't as they seem, both with Rose's folks and the entire town. You've probably read plenty about this movie, so for those of you that have seen and loved it, I'll present to you a fun video of Jordan Peele answering fan theories regarding GET OUT.



Notable Mentions:

A lot of people hated THE DARK TOWER, but I've seen it twice now and on its own, I think it's a fine modern Western fairy tale with a great third act showdown between good and evil. Now, I'm not well versed in the source material; I've never read any of the books, so I can understand that people that have been invested in those for years and years would be disappointed by this adaptation, but as I mentioned earlier, I don't think IT is faithful to the novel at all. And yet, it works for most people. Hey, I like THE DARK TOWER and that's that. Take it or leave it.

SPLIT was a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan. It's always great to see how Don Mancini continues the CHILD'S PLAY franchise while still maintaining continuity! So, CULT OF CHUCKY was a wild ride. And there was a little indie flick called AARON'S BLOOD that I thought had a unique spin and told a great, modern vampire story. I recommend that one too.

I loved Guillermo del Toro's latest THE SHAPE OF WATER, but I struggled to call it a "horror" movie, and hence it's on my best of (non-genre) list instead.

If you want to see all of the Shock Waves crew's picks, one of our savvy listeners created this Letterboxd list for your convenience.

Be sure to listen, rate, and subscribe to Shock Waves on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or direct: http://shockwaves.libsyn.com/ (We're also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)

Here's to another horror filled year in 2018! (Hopefully just on the big screen! We've had enough real life horror to last us a while!)


UPDATE: Go in blindly, and check out BETTER WATCH OUT as well! A modern Christmas horror classic in the making. 'Nuff said!




Friday, December 22, 2017

Where's The Revolution? 2017 Music Discoveries!


As we close out yet another year, one of my favorite things to do is look back, in particular on what was going on musically. You get a good idea of the year's soundtrack (and in essence your own personal soundtrack) based on what came out that year, and which of your favorite artists have pushed new boundaries with their music. For me, hearing new, exciting things inspires, and forces me to push my own creative boundaries.

So, some of these are new discoveries. Most are new music from musicians and bands I've known and loved for years. I missed out on a few key releases here. It seems like post-September, we got bombarded with a ton of great new stuff, so it got hard to keep up! I missed the new albums from U2, The Killers, Bjork, The XX, Lorde, Quicksand, and so on. But I did enjoy the following.

ST VINCENT: Masseduction


This is probably my favorite album of the year. I honestly didn't discover St. Vincent until she was 4 albums deep (5 if you include her collaboration with David Bryne), but once I saw her perform Lithium with the remaining members of Nirvana for the Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame, I did a deep dive into her discography and fell instantly in love. I've been anticipating new music, just like the rest of the world, since then. "Masseduction" didn't disappoint. It's a natural progression for her as an artist, and the perfect amalgamation of everything she's done before, except there's a new underlining confident sexiness to the songs. I compare it to what both Prince or David Bowie were able to exude in all of their music, and St Vincent is the heir apparent. Just listen to when her voice goes up for the chorus of the title track when she sings, "I can't turn off what turns me on."



The whole album is solid, but another standout is the first single "Los Ageless." If you haven't gotten into St. Vincent yet, you should! And you can easily start with this album and work your way backwards.



A PERFECT CIRCLE: The Doomed (Single)


It seems every few months, every music related publication posts some sort of "TOOL album coming soon" obligatory post. And that's fine, and I'd be excited to hear more TOOL music, but what about Maynard's other band A Perfect Circle? I know they did a recent tour, but I assumed they weren't officially a "band" anymore. So, when they abruptly dropped the new single "The Doomed," it was a complete pleasant surprise! The downside? It's only one track with no signs of it coming from a more elaborate full length. Will there be an album? Or was this just a one off? The upside? Because it's only one song, I listened to it on repeat several times in a row and really fell in love with it by the third or forth listen, primarily because the song structure is vastly different from your tradition "pop" or "rock" song, and it clicked with me on subsequent listens. Here's hoping 2018 gives us more from A Perfect Circle!



Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross: HALLOWEEN


When I heard news of this on the week of Friday, October 13th, I was convinced it was a practical joke. But alas, it was not! The mighty Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails reinterpreted John Carpenter's infamous theme for HALLOWEEN. The result is the below 7 plus minute mood piece that weaves in and out of what you know while sprinkling in that NIN touch. Can you imagine? Nine Inch Nails covering John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN theme? That happened in 2017. Michael Myers would be proud!



L7: Dispatch From Mar-A-Lago


Another one off single that I hope leads to more, L7 returned to the stage in these last few years picking up where they left off in the late 90's. On top of that, we also got the excellent documentary L7: PRETEND WE'RE DEAD. And surprisingly, in honor of Trump, they dropped this new song "Dispatch From Mar-A-Lago." It's like they didn't miss a beat, and it's just as rockin' and fun as any of their earlier albums. Fingers crossed we'll hear more from the gals in L7 in 2018. They deserve all the accolades in the world for rocking harder than almost every other band out there.



JEREMY ENIGK: Ghosts


Sunny Day Real Estate has been, and remains, one of my all time favorite bands. And so, I'm always curious and excited when frontman Jeremy Enigk promises new music. This actually started as a Pledge Music campaign a few years back and took all that time to push it to the finish line. The result is this lush, mellow, and beautiful batch of new songs as only Jeremy could sing and play. This came out simultaneously with a "Rarities" compilation, and if I may be candid, that collection is the album I gravitated towards more, for personal reasons. It was great to finally hear a proper demo of the track "Asleep Under Last Weeks News," which Jeremy used to play way back on his first solo tour. Early demos of "Carnival" and "Abigail Anne" are also a treat. I almost look at Ghosts and Rarities as a double album representing past and present. Both are worth picking up!



FOO FIGHTERS: Concrete & Gold


Sonic Highways, both the show and the album were released back in 2014, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that there was a new Foo Fighters record this year, but it was surprising! I didn't learn about it until a friend texted me a week or two after it was released, and so it was fun to jump on iTunes and instantly download an album I had no idea existed. At this point, the Foo Fighters tend to get a lot of shit from music "purists" (snobs), but I'll always have respect for Dave Grohl, just for the sheer body of work he consistently puts out into the world. With the Foos, you kind of know what you're going to get, and this album is a pretty solid rock record. If anything, their love of Led Zepplin (and Queen) is at its peak here, and they're channeling the rock gods across all 11 tracks. Not one of their best, but there's some great trademark Foo Fighter riffs and melodies all over this thing.



QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: Villains


OK, so the Foo's channeled some Led Zepplin for their latest, and then the Queens Of The Stone Age came along and doubled down on that with their new album Villains, which rocks even harder! My fave track is the opener "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," but be patient, the song doesn't kick in until the 1:48 mark and when it does, the album doesn't let up! In terms of pure rock, this is one of the best of the year and just grooves and rumbles from start to finish. It's only 9 tracks and clocks in at about 48 minutes, but it packs a punch.



NINE INCH NAILS: Add Violence


Last year, Nine Inch Nails promised new music before 2016 was over, and they delivered right at the tail end of December with an EP titled "Not The Actual Events." It was intended to be the first of three EP's. And while I do like it, I'll admit to being a bit underwhelmed by those 5 tracks, and thought maybe they rushed them out to fulfill that "new music" promise. But then the second EP "Add Violence" dropped mid-summer, and the grander picture started to emerge. "Add Violence" was a bit more straight forward, traditional NIN, kicking off with the single/opening track "Less Than." But I decided to create a playlist that combined both EP's chronologically, and went back to their previous album "Hesitation Marks." (Which is better than you remember.) When you listen to the first 2 EP's together as an album, it feels and sounds like the logical next progression to "Hesitation Marks." Now I can't wait for the third EP, so we can hear the whole thing come together!



ROYAL BLOOD: How Did We Get So Dark?


Royal Blood's debut was one of my favorite discoveries of 2015. I doubt a rock song of the last decade is going to top the sheer furiosity and power of "Out Of The Black." And the rest of their self titled debut kicked just as much ass. So, with their follow up "How Did We Get So Dark?" they maintain their stature as the most epic sounding two-piece band of ever, without stepping too far outside the sound they established. I don't think this album is as strong as the first one, it's probably equally as good and delivers the same type of rock. It's just 10 solid tracks and a respectable sophomore, but I'm looking forward to what their 3rd record will sound like and if they'll deviate from the rock sound they've already perfected. Regardless, it's still great and how many bands deliver an equally great second album?



LIFE OF AGONY: A Place Where There’s No Pain


Another pleasant surprise I discovered while skimming through records at a local shop, I knew that Life Of Agony had reunited for a handful of shows across the country, now fronted by Mina Caputo (formally Keith), but I didn't realize they'd also recorded and released an album with 10 brand new tracks! Their 1993 debut "River Runs Red" is the quintessential East Coast hardcore album. And while I've loved all their albums in between, those records sound like an amalgamation of all the individual band mates influences and tastes as opposed to tapping into what made that first album so special. "A Place Where There's No Pain" sounds like the spiritual, appropriate follow up to "River Runs Red." With Mina embracing her life as a transgender person, there's even more passion behind the lyrics and vocals than ever before. And riff-wise, the album just rocks so hard.



JIMMY URINE: The Secret Cinematic Sounds Of Jimmy Urine


This is a fun and totally wacky album. Jimmy Urine, the frontman of Mindless Self Indulgence and The Left Rights, released this "solo" album "The Secret Cinematic Sounds of Jimmy Urine" which is exactly as the title implies. The opening track "Fighting With A Melody" is a trademark Jimmy Urine song with vocals, while the rest of the album is comprised of instrumental tracks to a non-existent movie. Lots of fun themes that make me long for a corresponding movie to go along with them! Worth a listen if you're looking for something a bit off-kilter and unique. Check out my personal fave track "I Want To Be Human" below!



BODY COUNT: Bloodlust


Yes. Just fuck yes. In these turbulent times, there's no one better to rage against the machine than the band that original shouted "Cop Killer" back in 1992. Ice T and crew are back with one of the fiercest metal albums of the year, "Bloodlust." "No Lives Matter" and "Black Hoodie" are the stand outs, but there's plenty to love across the 11 tracks here, including a guest appearance by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine on the opening track "Civil War" and a killer cover of Slayer's "Raining Blood." This is the epitome of the type of music we need in this post-Trump era America. "No Lives Matter" should be our freakin' anthem right now.





THE FLASH (Grant Gustin): Running Home To You


Shut up! I'm not crying! You're crying! Ah yes. I love the DC TV shows on the CW, the stand out for me being THE FLASH, and this year, they did an all musical episode showcasing Barry Allen/The Flash actor Grant Gustin's post-GLEE vocal abilities with a guest appearance by fellow GLEE alumna Melissa Benoist, SUPERGIRL herself! An EP was released on iTunes to coincide with the episode, which I bought immediately after watching it. Sure, there's something fun about The Flash and Supergirl singing a duet on an album together, but the track that pulled at my heart strings was "Running Home To You," a ballad that Barry sings to his fiance Iris West (Candice Patton) in the closing moments of that episode. Gets me every time! Damn this kid for being so ridiculous talents and for having that voice too!



DEPECHE MODE: Spirit


We got a new Depeche Mode album this year! And yet again, it came a mere few months after Trump's inauguration, and although the album was probably in the works for a while, it's hard not to see the correlation between modern politics and their first single "Where's The Revolution?" Perhaps the song was a direct result of the election and written at the tail end of recording? "Poorman" is another track that seems awfully timely. Regardless of its inspiration, the entire album has a sense of urgency and energy that comes only with the best of Depeche Mode's discs, and "Spirit" is one of their best efforts in years.



THE FUTURE IS POINTLESS: EP


Last but not least is this obscure EP from a mysterious band called THE FUTURE IS POINTLESS. My friend Will Rot directed a video clip for the band, otherwise I might have completely missed out on this rockin', blistering debut.



The above is only the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the EP is just as fierce and reminiscent of the early 2000's "nu metal," done with much more finesse, and much better than any band of that misogynist era. It's strange, mysterious, and just really, really great.



So there you have it! A lot of tunes rocked my world in 2017. Here's hoping I turned a few of you onto something new!

I'm sure there's plenty I missed or haven't gotten to yet, so tell me in the comments - what were YOUR favorite music releases of the year?