This year, I watched Teen Wolf rap into a microphone gun, fed a musician a habanero pepper so he could read out of the Terminator 2 novelization, and had a very awkward interview with The Dead Milkmen. It was a very good year.
BEST MUSICAL INVESTMENTS: I’ve never donated more to musicians via Kickstarter and Indiegogo than I did this year. If I was this successful in the stock market, I’d drive a nicer Buick. Indie rockers of my heart The Impossibles received enough funding to release a brand new 7-inch featuring “Come Back” and “The Position.” The blue vinyl shines and so does the band. Both Reggie and the Full Effect and Future of the Left released full-length albums because of fan funding and both were worth every online penny.
And then there’s The Kickback. With an army of fans across the nation and perks that were pure Yost (what, you hate postcards, proofreading and pizza parties?), the band that’s half South Dakota natives and all talent blew their $15,000 goal out of the murky Chicago water. Now, all I have to do is finally hear the record. More on that in a bit…
As for the sweetest Bandcamp plea, musician Danny Ugly composed some industrial madness with the specific goal of raising money to cover his cat’s medical expenses. I would be lying if I said I didn’t throw some money his way. In the words of Sarah Connor, “Good hustle, kid.”
BEST ALBUMS: Some of the finest things in the world come from tragedy, and The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute from the folks at Fat Wreck Chords is no exception. The renditions vary from loyal to heart-wrenching, and all honor the former No Use For A Name frontman that died far too soon last year at age 41. The latest from Queens of the Stone Age cemented their position as the most pleasantly menacing thing in rock and roll today. The kings of alt-country Brent Amaker and the Rodeo stayed consistent with this year’s Year of the Dragon, a dark whiskey masterpiece that put them one step closer to world domination via cowboy hats. The broken-brain beach music of Tera Melos came in a double shot this year with the excellent X’ed Out and subsequent remix album. Tomahawk’s Oddfellows gets an honorable mention for staying twisted and fresh as a can of mystery instrument soda. When my beloved Pixies announced that Kim Deal had left the band, I got mighty indignant. Then, I heard the new EP and subsequently savored every auditory dip in the ocean.
BEST LOCAL ALBUMS: It’s almost unnecessary to announce to say that Soulcrate Music did it again, but they did. Again. Welcome Back From Wherever You’ve Been shows that the hip-hop trio’s muscles are getting stronger with every beat. I will be shocked when that changes. Death and the Lover, the first full-length album from Roman Ships, is a haunting masterpiece that is one of the best sounding things to fall under my turntable’s needle. Lucas With A K raised a fist for thirty-something punk rockers with Dear Me, F— You. #1 Bad Boy Jordan Carr proved we have an ally in Minnesota with Reinventing the Dumbass, the best result of heartbreak, jail time, substance abuse and a refusal to ever acknowledge closing time. He also ate the aforementioned habanero pepper for the sole purpose of entertaining a lively music reviewer. What a champion.
Photo by Jim McFarlane
NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT BEING BUSY: Take this in: Iowa City’s Samuel Locke Ward had a baby, opened for The Dead Milkmen, and still found time to write, record and release an excellent album every single month. All complaints about any part of the music scene or your own inability to make music are now invalid.
BEST REISSUES: The repressing of The Bouncing Souls’ The Good, the Bad, and the Argyle sounds just as amazing as when they played it live at closing show at JJ’s Rose Arcade in Rapid City in 1994. The Postal Service honored their unexpected groundbreaking album Give Up with a deluxe 10th anniversary that included demos, covers and a reminder at how many bands in the past decade have tried to rip off this sound and failed. Most people don’t know about the vinyl reissue of quirky pop-rockers Too Much Joy’s 1991 gem Cereal Killers, but I guarantee that my record collection is better because of it. When The Bottle Rockets reissued both their self-titled album and The Brooklyn Side, I was reminded of how under-appreciated these Americana root-pullers are. No one should die without hearing “1000 Dollar Car,” especially if you’ve ever had to own one.
BEST COMEDY ALBUMS: Pete Holmes is not for everyone, but there isn’t one 2013 comedy album that I forced on people more than Nice Try, the Devil. You can now see him on his own show on TBS. Louis C.K., Maria Bamford and Eugene Mirman proved how I can always count on them for sideaches and happy tears. Few things catch my reviewer mind off guard anymore, but finding the first release from Bill Cosby in 30 years surprised the eyebrows off of me. What wasn’t surprising was that …far from finished shows that the legend still has it. It was a wonderful reminder of how important Cosby is to the world of storytelling and, also, how I never returned Matt Thompson’s The Best of Bill Cosby tape. What the hell? It’s only been 20 years.
Casey Crawford/Photo by Collabo Comedy
BEST LIVE SHOWS: In Omaha, Mike Lawrence (who also provided one of the year’s best comedy albums with his debut Sadamantium) was just as funny and overflowing with nerd rage as I had hoped. However, it was local opener (and South Dakota native) Casey Crawford that stole the show with a bunny suit and one-liners that punched me in the gut with content that combined a machete-sharp wit with the “bathroom humor” my mother tried so hard to warn me about. A decades-long goal was fulfilled with a performance by They Might Be Giants, so my buddy and I sang all the way home with high school grins on our time-ravaged faces. My wonderful lady friend sacrificed her birthday weekend so I could see The Dead Milkmen in Minneapolis, and the interview I talked my way into was so rife with awkward fan boy laughs that all quotes will be saved for the thesis. The only music came either in the form of entrance music or thunderous sheet metal rapping, but my first live Ring of Honor event reinforced my love for the misunderstood art of professional wrestling. Aged snarl-rocker Wreckless Eric had a great set with Amy Rigby in Chicago, and it was a nice reminder that polite legends will not smile for the camera, but they will throw a marker at the head of any sound guy not paying attention. Locally, Sioux Falls gave me my first chance to see Face To Face and Teenage Bottlerocket and another opportunity to enjoy the power of Cursive (as part of the excellent 605 Summer Classic lineup…no, I wasn’t paid to write that) and the smile-snatching that is Peelander-Z. Not much catches my interest in Vermillion, but the promise of seeing “I Wish” composer Skee-Lo performed to a very late night where a man named Izzy Dunfore did an entire hip-hop set gripping a plastic-weaponized microphone and wearing full Teen Wolf make-up. It was just as magical as it sounds.
BEST SHOWS I MISSED BECAUSE LIFE IS UNFAIR AND RESPONSIBILITY IS BULLSH*T: I’m still coming to terms with missing the WHY? show in Sioux Falls in October, especially because anyone I know that attended is still telling me how amazing it was. And the Queens of the Stone Age tribute featuring members of The Amidon Affair, Burlap Wolf King, and Amos Slade? Sigh. We need to increase funding for cloning technology.
BEST 7-INCH ART: I bought Break Anchor’s punk rock split with Holiday Bodybag for the Jawbreaker covers, but became fascinated by the board-style drinking game that was held within. It’s not for the faint of liver but, damn, it was silly fun. (NOTE: I added prizes to my version. Would the people that won the Alien Vs. Predator DVDs please get them the hell out of my house? They are disturbing the real films.)
SIX SONGS I COULD NOT STOP LISTENING TO THIS YEAR:
1) “Somewhere Over Antarctica” by The Dead Milkmen
2) “Hey Tomorrow F— You And Your Friend Yesterday” by Mindless Self Indulgence
3) “The Male Gaze” by Future of the Left
4) “37” by Reggie and the Full Effect
5) “Snake Lake (feat. Milo) – Busdriver Remix” by Tera Melos
6) “I’m A Little Bit Country” by Swingin’ Utters
ALBUMS I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR IN 2014: The Kickback’s Sorry All Over the Place is unreleased, but it’s coming. I know it’s in the can even though I haven’t heard it. (For a history and updates, check out their podcast DISAS-TOUR). I know Spoon drummer Jim Eno helped the boys craft something magical, even though I haven’t heard it. Have I mentioned that I haven’t heard it? I am not good with patience. The Putrid Flowers – the best band you’ve never heard of – released a teaser single from their upcoming album Midnight in the Summer of Caffeine, and the aforementioned lack of patience leads me to message the band regarding a release date more than I’d care to admit. Consistent provider of grinning wonderment mc chris has been hard at work at foreverrr, a double album scheduled to have at least five songs about Ghostbusters and Venkman-knows-what else. Locally, The Amidon Affair, Lucas With A K, and The Union Grove Pickers have all promised releases in 2014. If history is any measurement of prediction, my earholes will be happy to receive all of them.
That’s my year in entertainment. Happy holidays to you and your earholes. Channel that holiday warmth and spread some musical love. Donate to an upcoming musical project. Go to a show without knowing anything about the line up. Buy a band shirt that you don’t need. Support your local record stores. Send your buddy a mix disc…or tape, if you’re feeling particularly egg-nog-saucy. Put your favorite band’s sticker on your uncle’s forehead when he passes out after opening presents.The scene is as powerful as its weakest link. Don’t let that be you.