17 December 2008

Supremascene | Courage, Man, and Steady On

Courage, Man, and Steady On

The year 2007 saw another kickass Supremascene album, a follow-up to the previous year's Iron Coast. This Richardson supergroup quartet, culled together from bands as diverse as Philucifer (lead guitarist and singer Dean Grant), the Accidents (bassist Brian Addison), One Step Beyond (rhythm guitarist Wyatt Wescott), and Royal Blue (drummer August Carlisle), claimed their space with songs like "My God" and "Terrible Trouble", but failed to make any real splash in the charts. Luckily, Courage, Man, and Steady On (obviously named for a line from the pirate film Blood in Their Sails) brought critical success to the Supremascenesters. Hits like "Vault", "Blameless", and "The Top of the Wall" moved asses and heads in time to the best rock has to offer. There is some talk of another album from the boys in 2009, tentatively titled Negative Zero. If each album brings improvement, then that one should be the one that snags ears forever.

See also: Philucifer, How Virtuous; the Accidents, Waiting to Happen; One Step Beyond, U No Hoo.

The Dropsies | It Ain't What You Think

The Dropsies
It Ain't What You Think

Sad to say, no-one gives off-and-on Philucifer drummer Tommy Tagawa his proper due. When he got a chance to create a power pop/punk unit and be its lead singr, every prominent national critic shot his notion down. But if they had stopped and given him a second to demonstrate, they would have heard and learned what Dropsies fans already knew: this guy can fuckin' rock. He even ventures into scarebilly territory with "Pain of it All", leading me to think he's smarter than the average bear, especially when that bear can play guitar.

See also: Philucifer, How Virtuous.

Rushers of Din | Rushers of Din

Rushers of Din
Rushers of Din

The vanguard of hip-hop is now led by this collective of MCs and lyric-writers from Wenshire. It is lyrically brilliant, provides a texture of the past with a bit of the future, and performances worthy of the finest of their predecessors. Although their previous albums were fair to middling, the Rushers deliver a punch to the gut that you neither can recover from nor desire to. If you haven’t got a copy, buy two today.

See also: Eastboys, Time to Ask Questions (2008); Thinking Kind, Breakbeats Are a Part of This Nutritious Breakfast (2008); Rushers of Din, Cut.Flow.Cut (2003).

Arma | Clara Valley

Clara Valley

You aren’t paying attention. I know this because Arma knows this. Arma is the only band I know that wants to rock you so hard, you bruise your soul. At the same time, Arma wants you to listen to the lyrics and realize, these guys aren’t depressed, sad, or complaining. They’re quite happy, and Clara Valley (named for the region they grew up near in Johnstontown) proves it, song after song. Harsh vocals, aggressive guitar work, dominant drums, and a bass guitar that evokes brimstone seem to contradict the optimism the songs actual convey lyrically. It sounds like death, but it feels pretty good when you pay attention.

See also: Arma, Cold Dose (2006) and Rumor Department (2004); Family Butcher, Hang Away (2008).

Language of the Sea | Separation Anxiety

Language of the Sea
Separation Anxiety

Since last year’s LotS album, Fearloaded, went double platinum, critics have been waiting for them to deliver on their commercial promise. LotS singer Marshall Morley got some panning for his not-quite-reay singing voice, even when the critical acclaim for the lyrics was prominent. He has improved a lot (mostly due to constant touring), but Separation Anxiety is the album you wish you made (if you’re a bit of a nu-rocker, of course). Competition in this genre is stiff, but only one can take the top prize.

See also Language of the Sea, Rehabilitation (2006); Art Death, The Same Dream Repeats (2008).

Moving Van | End of Their Song

Moving Van
End of Their Song

Singer Vance Strand and guitarist Clyde Fenton have really come into their own, if they are able to make Philucifer’s masterpiece look pale in comparison. End of Their Song is, ironically, the true beginning for this twenty-year-old group, borne out of Chelford. Twelve albums, including Muscle Memory (2000) and Piece of the Puzzle (1996), all belie their inherent talents, since they have been quietly drifting into public consciousness. This year, the exuberance of history being made internationally has lent itself to a nineteen-song pastiche that Moving Van is calling a “symphonette”. Said symphonette is at once serious, fragile, and, yes, moving. If you aren’t prepared to have your heart broken by a song, then steer clear of the final track, “Hearing Back.” But be warned, this whole album is inclined to hang out in your player for the better part of a year.

See also: Moving Van, Cause for Alarm (1992) and Der Stern (1998); The Difference, Reveal His True Identity (2004); Church of Chrome, The Church of Chrome Presents (2008).

Philucifer | How Virtuous

How Virtuous

The re-formed Philucifer, back when they announced they were getting back together in February of this year, was seen as a bunch of self-deluded rock stars trying to reclaim commercial success after splitting into three other bands (Question of Character, Supremascene, and the Dropsies) that were better apart than together. Singer and chief songwriter Dean Grant may have learned a little something from the experience, because How Virtuous is the best Philucifer album ever produced. Although, we still want him make another Supremascene album, too.

See also: Supremascene, Courage, Man, and Steady On (2007) and Iron Coast (2006); Question of Character, Aces and Eights (2007); The Dropsies, It Ain’t What You Think (2006).

Detective Stories | Inclined to Lie

Detective Stories
Inclined to Lie
[Poison Apple]

If you can have only one band with you on a desert island, please consider Kent’s very silly Detective Stories. They put on a helluva show, and they’re quite unafraid. They experiment with metal, dance, country, and even folk ballads in this, their third album. Too good to ignore.

See also: Detective Stories, An Unnatural September (2006) and Salvation, Brothers! (2004).

Tömi Üfeld | Everyman

Tömi Üfeld
[Poison Apple]

I love, love, love that this band keeps coming back for more. They’re consistent, smart, writing beautiful music, and this is quite possibly among the best they’ve ever produced. If commercial success matched artistic success, these guys would be richer than almost everyone.

See also: Tömi Üfeld, The Harm We Provide (2006); Gravitease, A Mutual Attraction (2008).

100% | List of Survivors

List of Survivors
[Poison Apple]

This debut effort from former members of Friend Addict, Nature’s Clones, and RNW, List tries something different from the typical Richardson “sound” by writing a fully-acoustic rock album that isn’t afraid to slow things down. A debut that makes you forget everything by those aforementioned bands.

See also: Friend Addict, the great hot pop test (2006); Nature’s Clones, Holiday Love Affair (2005).

Sick Echo | Longmere

Sick Echo

Euro-style postpunk with a lyrical sensibility rivaling that of more well-known bands, Sick Echo managed to recover from 2006’s debut Honoria, and with aplomb. Perfect road-trip music.

See also: Sick Echo, Honoria (2006); One Step Beyond, U No Hoo (2009).