Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Of 2014!

Gabba gabba hey, punk rockers! I can't believe how quickly a year has already flown by being the first in my little adventure as a Resident Riff Randell, solo rock 'n' roll writer aka Ramona Confidential. Well technically, since I didn't start up until March but hey! Close enough. By the grace of Dee Dee I made it and what an INCREDIBLE one it was for punk rock. I don't think I've witnessed a year this abundant in good releases in a long time and have never gotten the chance to do one of these official list things, so I thought I'd give it a go. Each album's corresponding review is linked on the title just in case you missed it or more importantly, still need to get the record. An enormous thank you from the bottom of my heart sent to everyone who supported this little zine and here it is without any further delay, the best 2014 had to offer according to me!

Top Ten LPs 
1. The Manges- All Is Well
This record was proof that you can strip away all modern popular studio techniques/production from a punk rock record and have an end result that is still very punk. It was a much welcomed surprise to see a collection of songs take shape like "All Is Well", with the pure simplicity of what punk rock is at it's heart and foundation. That lesson The Manges gave is one our little universe desperately needs right now if it is to continue. Remember where it started!! 
2. Giant Eagles- Giant Egos
Have you ever had a record take over your life, like out of nowhere? THIS is it for me. I had already heard a few songs on their facebook page and liked them quite a bit but really had no clue what I was in for on the morning I wrote to Marien inquiring about where to hear it just after "Giant Egos" was released. This "Best 80ties Synth-Ramonescore ever" is truly the most addictive and unique thing I've heard in the last decade and I can't wait to see what's next from these boys.
3. The Mugwumps- Mutation In The Family
The equivalent of love at first sight, that is what this band is to me. "Mutation In The Family" was like reuniting with a long lost love after years of thinking it would never happen and picking up in the moment as if no time were ever missed. Chris, Hank, and Andi collectively possess a dynamic that isn't common, and everything pop punk should be. These songs kicked my ass and were beautiful at the same time. I listen to them just as much as Banana Brain's and that is no surprise.  
4. CJ Ramone- Last Chance To Dance
As I said in my review a couple weeks ago, this year was tough for Ramones fans. We lost Tommy and it tore my heart out. It was hard, but to witness CJ put out a wonderful record and get the bigger label support he very much deserves gave me such a happy feeling. True self expression is the most fundamental element of an artist and I adore the way CJ never backs down from who he is as a punk rocker. That is the Ramones way of life, that is what "Last Chance To Dance" is, and he is my hero for honoring the legacy. Ramones forever. 
5. The Windowsill- Showboating
2014 was one hell of a year for Marien Nicotine as a songwriter! This band already had my attention with their powerful debut and "Showboating" captured me every bit as easily. The Windowsill is proof that you can play pop punk with a heavy injection of pop and not once venture into sounding cheesy. These songs are great and I might as well just buy a sleeping bag for this LP to stay next to my turntable because that is it's most frequent place of residence. 
6. The Apers- Confetti On The Floor
Holy shit I was on cloud ten to see The Apers come back with a new full legnth. This band's passion burns just as bright as it did from day one and what a fun record "Confetti On The Floor" is! Kevin Aper is the master of making sure things stay away from getting so damn emo and I don't think I've smiled that much to hear a record in such a long time. True pop punk is here to stay as long as these pioneers are around and I'm so glad for that. 
7. The Putz- Knock It Off
The American scene can be a tough sell for me within it's current wave due to the loss of tradition but this is a record that shows it still exists in the land where the genre was created. The Putz are the kind of guys that if I knew nothing about them in a first listen, I'd be wondering why I missed out on a killer Lookout band! They are that good and "Knock It Off" is an instant classic that I am happy to have in my collection.
8. DeeCRACKS- Beyond Medication
Austria is home to not one, but two of my favorite bands in the moment and it was fantastic to see DeeCRACKS step forward with a solid release as well! "Beyond Medication" has fifteen songs that hold a perfect balance of in your face roughness, pretty melodies, and newer elements of experimentalism. Plain and simple, it is a staple for any self respecting punk rocker's collection this year for the level of quality you can always count on from them brightly shining through.   
9. Proton Packs- Space Opera
A concept album is one of the riskiest moves a band can make. The story has to be strong, interesting, backed with 100% conviction, and The Proton Packs precisely understood that when they stepped into the studio to record "Space Opera". It's like a 70's sci-fi thriller movie you can hear and I've listened to it over and over. Everything about this record is bold from the music to the cover art and it proves punk rock can not only bring a complex idea to life, but do it well.
10. The Bat Bites- The Bat Bites
I'll be the first to admit that my musical taste is one that's heavily ruled by male artists, but there's nothing more I love to see than a hard working woman stand next to the boys and kick ass. While The Bat Bites have that super cool male/female shared vocal dynamic, I very much admire Merel's skill as a songwriter. "The Bat Bites" was a total evolution in her and the rest of the band's presence. All you gotta do to confirm that is listen.  

Top Five 7"s/EPs
1. Tough- Obey The Ramones
Full passion. That is Tough in two words. I love them always for remaining intently focused on the path that was paved by our founding fathers of punk rock to keep things simple, catchy, and intense. "Obey The Ramones" was the next step in their journey showing that four songs can have all the punch required to make a strong impression and I've listened to them repeatedly for it. The world is all the better with bands who maintain an uncluttered philosophy and Tough is a fine example of that.
2. Travoltas- The Longest Wait
This band's return to a scene that never got over their leaving was the biggest miracle of the year! My level of devotion to the Travoltas surpassed the atmosphere on the morning I heard "The Longest Wait" because not only were they back, but they were also better than ever. The beauty of these songs brought a little more sun back into our lives and I am so glad to see that it looks like the guys will be sticking around. I have nothing but full anticipation to hear what they do next.
3. The Nuts- The Nuts
I had the total honor of being a close observer in watching The Nuts become one of the quickest growing bands this year! Due to their high level of commitment, this relatively new entity led by an amazing woman(another one, hooray!) made big strides gaining experience and produced a fantastic debut 7". These girls and guy have something very special and I can't wait to see where they go from already such a exciting start.
4Doctor Frank &The Bye Bye BlackbirdsEven Hitler Had A Girlfriend
2014 seems to have been the doorway for many great creators to return. Just when I thought it couldn't get any cooler, Dr. Frank showed up and made it so! With a talented backing band, he brought these two well loved classic songs even more to life and that was a perfect start to all the activity he's had this year. A new single and several live performances with a full band transpiring since then seem to suggest the doctor is back in. That can only be a good thing.  
5. The MangesLone Commando(All Is Well)/Steadfast Tin Solider
Singles with two A sides are a rarity that should be celebrated! Out of all new Manges releases that happened, this is the only one I didn't cover but it's still going on my list as a result of that. I loved the idea of a single 7" that included their title track from "All Is Well" but there was a big surprise waiting to be discovered. With some different elements of instrumentation and flawless arrangement, "Steadfast Tin Solider" is a song of the year and definitely an A side too.

Best Label 
Monster Zero- Without a second thought in the matter, they were the strongest force out there this year as far as record labels are concerned for me. Kevin Aper and his team's unwavering commitment to giving underground music the support it needs to be heard is beautiful and I wish them all the success in the world for it. They ruled my list this time and I will definitely be there to support them as we move into 2015. Thank you Monster Zero!

Best Distro
Striped Music- Good things grow. After taking a brief hiatus in the late Summer, Striped Music came back with an even bigger presence of passion and professionalism. Now fully licensed, they are ready to take on a whole lot more with distribution for some big names but that's not all! Striped Records is also up and running once more with a killer release to mark the occasion. Andrea, Linda, and the rest of the Striped family are part of the reason this all keeps going so give them your business!  

Best Studios
Out of everything I heard this year, these were the two that really came through with amazing sound. Consider these studios and their wonderfully talented people for any of your recording/mastering needs!
T.U.P. Studio
Simon Baken Audio Engineering

Best Podcast

Jughead's Basement- After crossing over September, this podcast now has two years under it's belt and is only getting better with the level of meticulous work John pours into each episode. In the newest, we got a rare look into the world of The Vindictives and their masterpiece of a record, "Hypno-Punko". I adore this show for giving importance to so many people who deserve it and will always be a listener for that. He's got a lot more on the way so stay tuned!

MVP(Most Valuable Punk Rocker) Of The Year 
You-  Yes, you. Whether you are in a band, running a label or distro, promoting shows, writing reviews, or simply just present to support it as a fan, you are a vital part of this community. Over the years I've watched things change a lot for underground pop punk/punk rock but if you are there, that means hope is too for it to continue existing. This is such a little passionate niche in music that I still believe in so much, so thank you for making it possible.      

Special thanks to the following people who have kept me going in pursuing this little dream with their support, kindness, and help that I am beyond lucky to have: Andrea Manges, Valentina De Rosa, Chris Polecat, B-Face, John Jughead Pierson, Danny PanicPhil Nieswender, Scott MatthewsJoey VindictiveJohn Proffitt Jr., and Leah Alex Lehmann


  1. great blog. i've added a link on mine

    1. Hey thanks so much, Mick!! :) I think your work on Just Some Punk Songs is fantastic. Great concept from the usual route. Followed you today!

  2. Dee Cracks is pretty amazing! I caught them at FEST a few years back and thought they were awesome!