Friday, January 1, 2016

Best of 2015!

Greetings, my fellow connoisseurs of good taste! Your faithful girl Dee Dee here. While it's seemed to be a longer one than most, here we are at the end of another year at Ramona Confidential. It was one that had me down a lot to see so much loss in our little universe but in spite of dark days, lots of great things happened too so here I am to give a rundown of what I favored most. I've decided to change up a few things up this time! First, besides a "one-two-three-faw!!" before a song starts or eighth notes behind the drum kit, I really see no use for numbers in the way I want to do this list. I dig everything I chose and want you to see it as you wish. Next! You're going to see a few selections show up that I didn't get the chance to properly review. Things were chaotic at best during these last few months but music is always going in my life no matter what, so I'm bringing them in now. We're punks around here and can call the rules as we go! Before we get everything going, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to each person that hangs out with me here. From nearly every continent I see you all showing up to read what I write and that's something very beautiful to me. Seeing so many hearts like mine gives me hope, because that's exactly what's needed to keep good music alive! So stay passionate, know that you are very important to this, and live your days to the fullest because Lemmy wants you to. Any corresponding reviews or ordering info will be linked in the album titles. Now let's talk about what saves us all. Rock 'n' Roll!  

My favorite LPs...

The Manges- Florida EP
My life is never complete until these guys release new material and they arrived just in time to make sure a much needed example for what a good punk rock song sounds like was delivered before the year was up! The songs on this EP are better than good, they are immaculate and it never ceases to amaze me at how The Manges can come to the table with something that is evolved and everything that music needs in the moment, each time they walk out of the studio. The memory of seeing a couple of these songs get played live is my most favorite moments of the year and I cannot wait to give that gorgeous blue LP a spin once it arrives in my anxious little hands. As long as The Manges are around, my passion to write will be too.

The Mugwumps- Can't Be The One
With the many years we had to wait for The Mugwumps return between the last two records, I was elated to see them keep their momentum in 2015 with "Can't Be The One". This record was very special because while "Mutation In The Family" was a great reintroduction, CBTO was a snapshot of them right in the moment from a perspective of songwriting. It showed that they are just as relevant in 2015 as they were in 2007 and now have grown into being masters of their sound with something substantial to contribute that any newer pop punk/punk rock band can benefit from by observation. These three guys from Austria have it down to a science at this point and are hopefully going to be coming back soon with something else for me to fall in love with.

The Piniellas- Struck Out Looking
As far as contemporary American pop punk goes, lots of the newer bands tend to go for what I find to be the all too common yawn inducing third wave/indie/beardo sound, but not The Piniellas! Led by Scott Matthews of The Wanna-Bes, this band is one of the best that my country has to offer and really revived the classic sound of this genre's great lineage without being a carbon copy. "Struck Out Looking" has became a staple in my collection for having songs that possess a catchiness I've not heard much since the last Riverdales record. This band has already covered a lot of ground making a name for themselves, so it's sad to see that things are slowing down for them at the moment with their drummer relocating. I think that they could only step up to the next level with what they're doing but I'll hang in there with the hopes that at least one more record comes out of their camp.

Radioactivity- Silent Kill
In the first listen through it, "Silent Kill" was one of the most mesmerizing collection of songs I've heard in the last decade. It's almost like another dimension with how well arranged it is. "Silent Kill" is a testament to the FACT that Jeff Burke is still a genius songwriter who seemingly has no limit to the amount of quality he can manifest in his mind where punk rock, garage, and whatever he sees fit melt together into a sound only Radioactivity can play. Simply put, I'm one happy little lady to keep supporting their cause. This band has fully stepped into their own as a powerful entity and I'll be waiting for their next move with total anticipation.     

The Ponches- HUM
These boys from Ferriera completely swept me off my feet this year in both seeing them play finally, and releasing this gem of a record. "HUM" is one of those records that gets under your skin in a good way before you even know what's happening, and then you're just hooked!! They punk rock they play by their own rules holds such a beauty in it's individuality and makes The Ponches stand out so much for me. I think they should be much more recognized than they are. Consider me fully devoted to their cause and hoping that they'll make it back over to tour America sometime. Music can only gain from their presence.

One Chord Wonder- 30 Second Wonders
I'm very skeptical of compilations because they usually end up pretty unbalanced or with not enough for me to get excited about but if anyone was going to create an exception, it made all the sense in the world for One Chord Wonder to do just that. The equation is simple enough. Thirty tracks at thirty seconds each and my face was beaming with a smile as soon as the beautifully screen printed LP started to spin on my turntable, hearing Rev, Norb's intro. Everyone from Italy I'm in love with from Senzabenza, to Mega, to the Proton Packs, to The Nuts, to The Veterans just to name a few are on there but that's not all!! Europe is well represented by The Mugwumps and DeeCRACKS, America makes an appearance with Horror Section, and even Canada too with the mighty Jimmy Vapid!! There's lots more to get into so check it out if you've not yet. Comps can be done well! This one is proof.

Rufus Recordings- Ramone Army Split 
My heart was invested in this release from the start and with the untimely passing of my dear friend Paco Rufus, it has become a treasure that I'm so proud to have had a part in. He carefully chose each band for a reason, and that was to show the way of life he believed in with all his soul was still out there. Woodcocks, The Mugwumps, Riccobellis, Tough, The Nerdy Jugheads, and Rivelles brought the very best from their respective corners of the globe to make a statement come to life in a split that will spend much time being played at my place. The Ramone Army is strong, and it will forever carry on because people like Paco aren't afraid to stand up for it and make sure people listen.

The Dumbheads- Heartbroken Idiots
I love to find something special in places I don't often look to and Belgorod, Russia gave me a great discovery on the day I first heard The Dumbheads. While maintaining a sense of humor, the songs on "Heartbroken Idiots" are powerful in both categories of music and vocals. Such a great range of subjects are covered in them from the supernatural to romance and their version of The Kids "Do You Wanna Know" is one of the most well done covers I've heard all year. Go give them a listen if you've not done so yet! They deserve your attention.

Noise By NumbersHigh On Drama
There's something that makes me happy every single time I see a record from one of Dan Vapid's bands get released. It's the unspoken certainty that I know I'll love it because he's proven to be a constant as a key songwriter who's built much of the foundation for what I hold dear. Noise By Numbers has always held a special place in my heart since the first moment I heard them and "High On Drama" was a nice little bonus to get after they became inactive. The mixture of pop punk and alternative rock that can even venture into somewhat of a new wave sound at times was played so vibrantly by them in these songs. For that, they resonate with me and I'm happy to have another little piece of their history.

The Connection- Labor Of Love
It's always cool to see a band draw from what influenced punk rock in the first place. Any pop punk fan is well acquainted with Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer by means of The Rydells and The Guts, so it makes perfect sense for them to join their well developed forces as a songwriting duo in The Connection. They work well together and with Andy Shernoff taking the helm as producer, "Labor Of Love" is a fantastic mixture of sounds influenced by the Rolling Stones, classic power pop, and 50's to 60's Rock 'n' Roll just to name a few places they drew from in making this record. All that paired with Brad's universal reach as a vocalist and their punk rock spirit made for great record that I enjoyed very much as a change in pace to diversify my time spent as a music lover this year.  

My favorite 7"s

The Veterans- Qu4rtet
With just two songs, The Veterans gave me such a big reason to smile. Andrea Manges is so important to me as a songwriter ans this band is one I have a lot of affection for because it shows another side of his skill. As I said in the review, "Rocket Summer" is one of the best songs he's ever written and the Go-Go's cover is superb as well so make sure you own it.

CJ Ramone/The Manges- Split 7"
Two hugely important worlds in my life as a punk rocker coming together to make a split 7" is something that was both totally rare and had me over the moon to witness. I adore the cover art designed by John Holmstrom and the spirit of that just gets even brighter in the music. The guys kept it fun with a song from the Beach Boys, then one from the Trashmen and it made for a perfect collaboration. It's such a special piece to have in any Ramones and Manges fan's collection but also makes me personally breathe a sigh of happiness because the spirit of what saved my life lives on!

The Vapids- Punitive Damage/Thin Skin
I am crazy for The Vapids. They're one of those bands that strike such a natural response of adoration from me for playing punk rock that hits hard and is honest as the day is long. Jimmy is one of my absolute favorites for putting up zero fronts as a songwriter and I am SO GLAD Carlo from Surfin' Ki finally gave them enough shit to make a new record. The three songs show this band is still a force of nature, growing in magnitude and the last track for Robo is one of the most moving tributes I've ever heard. You never know what's going to happen with these guys, they've got some kickass side projects but I'll always be a happy girl if they wanna come back with more.

Neon Bone- Sick Of Me
Lars is still on fire!! I guess I somewhat expect this of him after supporting him for the last few years but it's still amazing to watch him be so prolific with what he does. I was so happy to see Neon Bone get added to the Monster Zero roster this year, develop a very good full band to go touring with, and spread the gospel of pop punk done right to so many. "Sick Of Me" was a step up and stay tuned because a new full length record is in the works as I type this!! I've gotten the honor of hearing it's demos and cannot wait to see it all come together.

Ratbones- Ratwars
I still have "Lost In East Berlin" stuck in my head. I shit you not because that's one of the best songs I heard all year and "Ratwars" was such a great representation as a whole for what Italy has to offer in the moment. This introduction to the new lineup for Ratbones was well done, the songs pay tribute to a lineage that needs to be remembered in such a lovely way. Let's see your next move, guys. Surely it'll be something I'm into.

Moms Basement- Wedding Split
Joining in on the collective of pop punk/punk rock labels this year, Moms Basement has made a good first impression with it's first release. Choosing Horror Section, Eaten Back To Life, the Young Rochelles, and The Putz was a smart move to group some fine American talent together and the finished product looks fantastic!! As a heavy collector with a global view for music, John is destined to do very cool things and as an insider to what he does, all I'm gonna say is get excited for what he's working on for the new year. You're going to be into it.

Labels I pledge my love to- An independent label with lots of passion and support from the scene has infinite power to change the landscape of music for the better. As time has changed the way we access music, people have unfortunately lost sight of why we need them. The digital age may grant easier access but there is an absolute unwavering beauty that exists in a format one can hold in their hands. Through the grooves in vinyl, artwork admired, and liner notes studied, a physical format not only grants the listener a full connection to what they love but also gives it a means to continue. As we step away in observation of our little universe, it's easy to see these people pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into this craft with little reward are doing no medial task. They are the hope for it to survive and these are the labels you should be watching.
Other Rock 'n' Roll Writers I Support- Massoneria Ramonica, SNAFU, I Buy Records, Just Some Punk Songs, and For The Love Of Punk. 

MVP(Most Valuable Punk Rocker)- Paco Rufus
In the 36 rotations around the sun I've experienced so far, I encounter a lot of people that inspire me from all over the world but every once in awhile I find a person who is very rare. If I think about the feeling behind punk rock, I can say that Paco truly exemplified what it was to live those words completely. We only got a little more than a year to know each other but I can tell you in that short amount of time that I chose him as a brother because of who he was. He was never shy to show his true self and if he saw that someone shared his dreams, you were no longer going to move forward in your journey without his support. Paco was one of the very few spirits on this earth who could match my rabid love for the Ramones and while that was what first united us, he was also caring enough to know who I am. He was so generous in every aspect with never any expectation. He sent me records, listened abut my life, told me about his, and gave me the precious gift of becoming friends with his lovely wife Marta. He also supported me more as a writer than most anyone else ever has, always encouraging me to keep going, sharing my work, and then he permanently added my words to one of his last releases. Ever since the 16th of December, it's pretty hard for me to look at his facebook page without crying and to feel some sort of anger at why he's no longer with us but there's something so much bigger to take from the tragedy of his loss.

Paco lived. 

He lived every single day passionately loving his wife, running Rufus Recordings and his record store Naranja y Negro with all his heart, and he didn't waste one moment to let any of his dreams go by without pursuit. He was a beautiful person, chosen family, a kickass punk rocker, and will forever be an absolute inspiration to me. Thank you Paco for touching my life and the lives of so many others. Everyday when I wake up and have the chance to give it my all, I'll give a little bit more in your honor.

Special thanks sent out to the following people for carrying me though the worst with their kindness when I needed someone to be there for me this year. Words can not express how grateful I am for each of you.- B-Face, Andrea Manges, Massimo ZannoniDanny SullivanValentina De RosaAndrea Imbalzano, Ale, Paco Rufus, Marta RufusPhil Nieswender, Faith Cardelli, KJ JansenJohn Proffitt Jr, Richie Boyd, Ame Bumpkin, and Franz

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