Record Review: Bummer - Steal the Nights 7"

Bummer - Steal the Nights 7" (Self-Released)
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Tight To The Nail

Steal the Nights is the most recent EP from Bummer and one that brings to mind that old trope of youth begrudgingly giving way to impending adulthood. Those final high-spirited summers full of raging parties, late-night bike rides down empty streets, and haphazard romances; drinking on the roof, sleeping in the car, and rouge fireworks shows; sweaty punk gigs, afterhours trips to the beach, and going to work high. Yeah, there was a time when the heart was full of hope and passion, and things like health insurance, child care, and retirement funds weren't even a blip on the radar.  ...Read full-length review after the leap.


NO'B's Only The Finest in YouTube Curating, episode 1: Sonic Youth - Mildred Pierce

New Feature: NO'B's Only The Finest in YouTube Curating. In which Nathan picks a video off of ye olden YouTubeses and talks about it. Well, not necessarily about it, per se, but something perhaps related to it. Eh, if I know Nathan, we'll just have see how this works out. Anyway, the first one is the video for Sonic Youth's song "Mildred Pierce." 

The song "Mildred Pierce" comes off of Sonic Youth's 1990 album Goo, but for whatever reason the video is copyrighted as 2004. Despite being a big Sonic Youth stan, I don't know why that is, or, actually, much of anything about this other than it rules ass and was directed by Dave Markey. He's the dude behind such films as Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (which was loosely based around The Runaways,) the Black Flag doc Reality 86'd, and of course 1991: The Year Punk Broke. I have an old VHS copy of that that I haven't watched in years. (Note to self: watch it again.) I also have a couple recent DVDs that he did - Dinosaur Jr.: Bug Live at the 9:31 Club and Circle Jerks: My Career is a Jerk. (I reviewed the Dino Jr. one, and was supposed to do the Circle Jerks one but never got around to it because, well, shit, I wasn't super pumped about watching Kieth Morris talk about punk for the millionth time. Now that it's two years old, I think my editor has finally given up on bothering me about it.) And what's particularly weird about discovering this Sonic Youth video when I did, is that just last night I was reading an interview in Maximum RockNRoll with Markey about a fanzine he did in the early '80s called We Got Power or something.

I've been on Hollywood Boulevard a few times. The first time ever was with my buddy Dan, who lived out in California for over a decade, but has since moved back here because he hates nice weather and tan girls. We only had one star we wanted to see - Vince McMahon, naturally. We proudly walked up to the counter outside of Mann's Chinese Theatre and asked to be pointed in direction of "Thee McMahon." Acting as it was common knowledge to everyone in Hollywood, when the counter lady asked us to wait while she looked it up, we were like, "Whaaaat, how do you not know where it is? Are you new here?" Later we ate slices of pizza at two different places, drank a pitcher of Miller Lite at one of them, and then got tee shirts at one of those rock 'n' roll shops. I bought my third ever Sex Pistols tee and he got one of  Johnny Cash flipping the bird. If I had to guess, I would say he's never worn it to this day. Of the three Sex Pistols shirts I've owned, the only one that I still have is the first one I ever got, which was back in 8th grade. It's the "Filth and the Fury"one, which for some strange reason, still fits, despite thousands of years of treating my body like an inedible grease trap behind an Asian buffet. I had a Sid Vicious one that went the way of the buffalo about a year after I got it in 9th grade, although I'm not sure where to. (Probably the same place as my "Die Yuppie Scum" one.) The one I bought on Hollywood Blvd ending up being way too big for me, which seems weird considering I've eaten at a Culver's more than twice in my life. So I cut the image out of it, thinking I would someday sew it onto the back of a sweatshirt or jean vest. But then I remembered I'm not a teenager anymore. Anyway, another time that I was on Hollywood Blvd I was with my then girlfriend/now wife, who I ate Mexican food with before she took a picture of me tongue kissing Winona Ryder's star.

The one thing I don't like about this video is it reminds how much of a bummer it is that Sonic Youth is not a thing that exists anymore. Over the last few years I have been revisiting their back catalog, starting with the first record and working my way forward. I usually listen to the album for four or five months before moving on. I'm currently on Washing Machine, which is the last record of theirs I ever got, and is much more outstanding than I ever gave it credit for in the '90s. (A Facebook friend of mine and fellow writer/punk rocker/humorist named Drew would probably laugh in my face for making realizations like this, as he called Gen Xers "clueless twits" in a recent piece he wrote for Village Voice media.) Unfortunately I didn't listen to Kim Gordan's BODY/HEAD album from last year until just earlier this week. It's natural to compare it to Thruston Moore's Chelsea Light Moving record, which I thought was one of the best of 2013. Had I been more on top of things, I would have placed her's alongside his because it's as equally great. In what amounts to no surprise whatsoever, both are very Sonic Youth-y. I don't know what's more amazing, that they have been able to make variations of what is essentially the same song for 32 years without it being the least bit boring, or that Thurston has never considered changing his hair style.

Well I think I've rambled on longer than it takes to watch this video, so that's all for now. If you made it this far, I assume you now hate me just as much as I've always hated myself. Thanks a lot, you fuckers.
-Nathan G. O'Brien


Record Review: Much Worse - Macrocosm is a Wash

Much Worse - Macrocosm is a Wash (Forward)
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

They mash the vocalist’s violent vibes with tough riffs, brief but squealing axe solos, and strident drumming. It’s a style that comes through particularly well on “Fathoming Hell.” It begins with breakdown riffing before the authoritative vocals come in, which eventually let up for some erratic Greg Ginn-like guitar soloing. It all ends with a pretty sweet mid-tempo mosh part. Similarly, the album-closer “Already Dead” builds a nice head of steam before ending in a fiery car crash of shatted pants and burnt flesh.  ...Read full-length review after the jump.


Record Review: The Instigation - No Way Out 7"

The Instigation - No Way Out 7" (Self-Released)
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

I feel like there are a million punk records named No Way Out, but I don’t really care because it’s one of those commonalities that makes punk music, well, punk. And staying within the vein of reiteration, there’s only so many ways to say that a band isn't trying to reinvent the wheel; so I’ll just stick with that old adage here as well. Call me lazy if you will (boring if you must) but the truth is The Instigation are in fact not trying to reinvent the wheel whatsoever; metaphorically, punk rocking-ly, or otherwise. They understand that when a formula works this well, there’s no reason to fuck with it; that formula being the oft-traveled intersection of hardcore and garage punk. Think millennial bands like Social Circkle, Formaldehyde Junkies, or Regulations, and you’re on the right track. This worldly four-piece (having members based in London, Shanghai, and Tokyo) is pure USHC worship; right down to the cover of Reagan Youth’s“Degenerated” that closes out the B side. While that’s as close a surefire way as any to win me over, the other three songs on this 7” are pretty goddamn great too. “No Rules”—which, again, not by any means an original punk song title—is my favorite because of the tremendously simple chorus that goes, “My Life! My Rules! No More Bullshit!”  ...Simultaneously posted here.


Record Review: Krang - Broken Waves 7"

Krang - Broken Waves 7" (Profane Existence)
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

I love the way this EP was recorded. Unfortunately the rhythm section gets buried a bit in the mix, but for the most part everything works really well. The guitar work is first-rate. Weighty thrash riffs are peppered with erratic fills and soaring leads for a searing assault on the senses. The vocals are a bleach-gargled exasperation of anger and misery, and redolent of the crustier side of black metal. Everything is amplified just enough to give it a really crunchy, unrestrained air of noise that perfectly encapsulates the hellish intersection of thrash metal and crust punk.  ...Read full-length review after the leap.


HDD Radio #20

UPDATE: Link is fixed. If you downloaded through iTunes, you'll want to delete the episode, refresh the subscription, and re-download. Let us know if there are still problems. Thanks!

Hey look, we get it, it's our 20th episode. Supposed to be a big deal right? Well we think that's very nice of you for saying so, but Nathan isn't feeling much like celebrating. I think his old age is getting the best of him. I mean, just last night he fell asleep on the couch watching old clips of Woodstock '94 and 120 Minutes on YouTube. When he woke up he had to wipe dried tears off of his face. And the day before that he saw a 24 year-old girl's head explode when he told her he was alive during the dark ages before the Quad Grande Non Fat Extra Hot Caramel 1/2 Macchiato Upside Down 1/2 Mocha Latte With Cinnamon Sprinkles at 115 Degrees existed. And the day before that his own head exploded when teenager asked him what a CD was. And the day before that a toddler beat him in a foot race. Well anyway, here he sits down, as is his wont, cracks a brew, as is also his wont, and plays some of his favorite songs; which is perhaps his biggest wont of them all. So don't just stand there you punks, get to listening. It's our 20th episode after all.

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (live)
Champagne Jerry – Yo Kev! (feat Ad-Rock)
Run-DMC – Slow and Low (demo version)
Public Enemy – Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
Company Flow -89.9 Detrimental
Nonphixion – Hot 97.1 Freestyle
Big L – ’98 Freestyle
High & Mighty – The Last Hit (feat Eminem)
Stoic Violence – Fight Them All
Coke Bust – Neutralized
Life Trap – Suburban Nightmare
The Real Enemy – Did I Pay For That?
Crisis of Conformity – Fistfight in the Parking Lot
The Instigation – No Rules
Joint D ≠ - Pollutant
Rough Kids – Insightful
The History of Punk – Ian Rubbish & the Bizarros
Ice & The Iced – We’ve Had Enough
Eric B & Rakim – Microphone Fiend
Dead Boys – Sonic Reducer

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The Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2013

The Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2013
An Excerpt From 2013: A Year In Review
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

Well, here we have yet another installment of our year-end best-of coverage. Our music-loving, wordsmith workhorse Nathan has compiled a list of the 30 best full-length hip-hop albums from the past twelve months. Take a look and let us know what you think!

1. El-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels (Fool’s Gold)
Well, they went and did it again.  Following a year that saw El-P and Killer Mike releasing two of the best albums in any genre, let alone rap music, both of which were produced by El-P, the two returned as the duo Run The Jewels.  And as it was expected to be by anyone who loves rap music and has a Twitter account, Run The Jewels is actually the best rap album to drop in 2013.  El-Ps beats were deep, scientific, tense, and so far beyond bass-heavy, that they needed to be heard with headphones (and possibly a senses-heightening substance) to be fully appreciated.  Cadence-wise, the duo attacked each track with sweltering intensity and unrestrained emotion.  Their verses effortlessly traversed between humorous witticism and cutthroat battering.

2. Tie: Gensu Dean & Planet Asia – Abrasions (Mello Music Group) and Durag Dynasty – 360 Waves (Nature Sounds)
Fresno, CA’s veteran underground emcee, Planet Asia had two of the year’s best rap albums—Abrasions with beatsmith Gensu Dean and 360 Waves with the Durag Dynasty posse.  MMG has a knack for pairing the right producers and emcees up with favorable results—as evidenced by last year’s Apollo Brown & OC - Trophies and Guilty Simpson & Apollo Brown—and  the Dean/Asia combo was one of the latest.  Gensu Dean, who’d gone largely unknown up to this point, crafted simplistic yet alluring loops rooted in boom-bap nostalgia.  As usual, Planet Asia masterfully rocked the mic with his commanding presence and sharp rhymes.  Durag Dynasty found him teaming up with emcees Tristate and Killer Ben, and prolific beat master Alchemist.  Although there was a minimal air of comedy involved, mostly due to imagery and the fact that they’re called, you know, Durag Dynasty, 360 Waves was an exercise in grimy cypher rap – a prominent example of mic skill and hard beats.   These two albums appealed to heads who want more out of their rap music than a clever hook and a generic trap beat.  

3. Guilty Simpson & Small Professor – Highway Robbery (Goliath / Coalmine)
Detroit emcee Guilty Simpson has worked alongside some of the hottest producers in the game. With full-length collabos flanking Madlib, Black Milk, and Apollo Brown already under his belt, he stepped out in 2013 with burgeoning beatsmith Small Professor. Highway Robbery was a concept that was set in post-apocalyptic Detroit, where Simpson’s signature rhyme scheme told the story of survival in the concrete jungle, while Small Professor’s menacing, percussion heavy, scratched-up boom-bap pounded its way forward in neck-snapping fashion.

4. Ill Bill –The Grimy Awards (Fat Beats)
Over a decade has passed since The Future Is Now, the debut album by the now-defunct group Non Phixion, which featured a grip of hip-hop’s most sought-after producers and some menacing and poignant lyricism, and the vehicle that placed Ill Bill immediately into the annals of underground hip-hop greatness. For the latest in a fertile catalog of work that includes numerous collabos, supergroups, mixtapes and solo records, Ill Bill returned to that early formula of using high profile beatsmiths and spitting venomous rhymes. The album featured backing from the likes of Large Professor, Pete Rock, the Beatnuts, DJ Muggs, El-P, and DJ Premier, which of course droves the sonic direction into hard-hitting boom-bap. But Ill Bill’s lyricism and delivery was totally on point too.  Not only did he do the requisite murder and paranoid conspiracy raps, but he got deeply personal about his life, loved ones, and how much hip-hop (and even heavy metal) shaped him.  The Grimy Awards was as near a “classic” rap record as we’ve heard in a while.

5. Roc Marciano – Marci Beaucoup (Man Bites Dog)
Roc Marciano makes noir-style rap music that’s perfect for a headphone session. Whether riding a train through the city or laid back on the couch with a splif, Roc’s gravely accent and distressing  wordplay swirls its way into your ears, demanding your astute attention.  Marci Beaucoup was ripe with his enthralling production; managing to sound experimental while still exhibiting evident nuances of classic New York hip-hop. While he handled all the beats and appeared on every song, he also brought aboard a bevy of guest emcees including Evidence, Quelle Chris, Ka, Boldy James, Action Bronson and Guilty Simpson.

6. Pusha T – My Name is My Name (Def Jam / GOOD music)
After turning in a somewhat disappointing trap-orientated mixtape in the Wrath of Caine early in the year, Pusha T came back hard with a capital H on his debut album My Name is My Name. Against a backdrop of alluring, and often times mean-sounding beats handled mostly by Kanye West, Pusha was the most urgent and focused he had been since his Clipse days. Whether he came with braggadocios rhyme style or was sharing personal insights—often times switching up his cadence and using different vocal tones—he kept you glued to your headphones throughout the duration of the album. In many ways, My Name is My Name is the good kid/m.A.A.d. City of 2013.

7. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge –Twelve Reasons to Die (Sonic Temple)
Twelve Reasons to Die was the latest in a recent catalog of hits ‘n’ misses for the Wu Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah.  More in line with the hits Fishscale and Apollo Kids than the misses The Big Doe Rehab or Ghostdini, the album was produced entirely by beat-maker Adrian Younge, and narrated by Wu head honcho RZA. Twelve Reasons was a concept album of sorts.  Ghost starred as Tony Starks, a former enforcer for a crime family, who was murdered by the mob after falling in love with the boss's daughter. His remains were melted in vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs that, when played, revivified him as the Ghostface Killah.  He then exacted his revenge on his killers. It’s often been said that rap music is cinema for the ears, and it couldn’t be truer with Twelve Reasons. Not since a Prince Paul album, do I recall story time rap being taken to this level. The synergy between Young and Ghost is so air-tight it’s hard to believe this was the first project they’ve done together.

8. Tie: A$AP Ferg – Trap Lord and A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP (A$AP Worldwide / Polo Grounds Music / RCA)
A$AP Mob’s biggest stars released albums this year; beginning with A$AP Rocky’s long-awaited LongLiveA$AP in January, and ending with A$AP Ferg’s highly-anticipated Trap Lord in August. The two records complement each other well, as Rocky fits in well with the oddball party rap styling of Danny Brown or 2 Chains, while Ferg holds down the thuggy gangsta end of things. As well, both records are shining of examples of what popular hip-hop sounds like in the year 2013. That is to say, despite geographic location (in this case NYC) the South’s impact (trap in particular) on rap music cannot be ignored.  

9. R.A. the Rugged Man – Legends Never Die (Nature Sounds)
In a career that dates back to the early ‘90s, Legends Never Die was actually only the second album from boxing fan/cult film aficionado/hip-hop historian/magazine writer/rapper R.A. the Rugged Man. Although the album featured guest spots from the likes of Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne, Masta Ace, and Brother Ali, it was R.A. who shone the brightest. The album showed he had grown as an emcee in the nine years since his last release. He flexed a breathless, multi-syllable style of rhyme-slinging, against a backdrop of boom-bap provided by Buckwild, Apathy, C-Lance, Marco Polo and others.

10. Quelle Chris – Ghost at the Finish Line (Mello Music Group)
Following an excellent mixtape titled Niggas is Men early in the year, Detroit emcee/producer Quelle Chris dropped his latest album, Ghost at the Finish Line. It was an insightful look at “art and life, and the realities and illusions that blur the two.” The album featured guest spots from a number of notables, including Alchemist, Guilty Simpson, House Shoes, Black Milk and more. Beats were handled by Denmark Vessey, Knxwledge, Oh No, Chris Keys, and Quelle Chris himself. Ghost at the Finish Line was Chris’ best effort to date.

11. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Tan Cressida / Columbia)
After an involuntary stay in boarding school, Odd Future’s cult-like figure Earl Sweatshirt returned to the limelight that had been awaiting him for three-plus years. Doris was the genius piece of art fans and critics alike had been waiting for since 2010. While Earl’s lyricism and rhyme play was as impressive as expected, and largely free of the murder ‘n’ misogyny that ruled his previous material, much of the albums brilliance came at the hand of his producer alter ego “randomblackdude.” Doris was full of brooding, cloudy beats that helped convey an overall feeling of a dark reality.    

12. Freddie Gibbs – ESGN (ESGN, Empire Distribution)
Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs is one of hip-hop’s emerging talents and somewhat of an enigma in the rap game; seemingly as comfortable collabing with well-known producers like Madlib as he is rapping over disposable trap beats. After a string of successful mixtapes dating back to 2004, Gangsta Gibbs finally unleashed his debut album ESGN unto the eager masses. While there were a few slight drawbacks—the majority of the production was done by relatively unknown trap producers, and the whole thing clocked in at 75-plus minutes—there were more than enough high points to make it stand apart, where other albums were easily lost in the shuffle. As far as delivery goes, Gibbs was near-perfect throughout the entire album, proving that he can hold his own alongside some gangster raps most historically revered artists.

13. Ka –The Night's Gambit (Iron Works)
Brooklyn’s little-known emcee/producer Ka is a working class professional by day who makes rap music on the side. His D.I.Y. or die approach to hip-hop is straight punk rock. He’s the type of hushed innovator that goes largely unnoticed by the masses but is held in esteemed regard among underground heads. While it’s often stated that he resides in the boom-bap nostalgia of the ‘90s, his beats on The Night’s Gambit were too ominous and ambient for that comparison for that to be wholly accurate. In fact, often times he used no drums at all. Instead he relied on simple orchestral loops, which worked well with his vocal tone. Much like his compadre Roc Marciano, his usual gravelly voice effectively transmitted the dark subject matter of his song writing.

14. Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric – Czarface (Brick)
Revisiting a collaboration that first appeared on the title track of Speaking Real Words, the debut EP by 7L & Esoteric, the Beantown duo teamed up with Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck again. Some 14 years later the three veterans came together with a full-length superhero project titled Czarface. Taking into account the back catalog of the parties involved, it came as no surprise that the modus operandi was gritty, hard-line boom-bap. The album was a clear indication that both Esoteric, at over a decade in the game, and Deck, at nearly twice as long, are still exceptional rhyme-slingers. The two effortlessly intertwine braggadocios liberetti with a myriad of cleverly placed pop culture references, and did so at well-paced clips. During a period of rap music that sees increasingly less emphasis placed actual mic skills in favor of marketable personality, Deck and Esoteric remind listeners that emceeing is still a true art form.

15. Termanology – G.O.Y.A. (Guns or Yay Available) (Brick)
G.O.Y.A. found Lawrence, MA’s Termanology picking up where last year’s Fizzyology, his collabo project with Lil Fame of M.O.P. left off. It was another unapologetic dose of potent East Coast street rap, from an emcee that’s lived that life. In the past Term had worked with well-known producers like DJ Premier and Statik Selektah, but in keeping with the unforgiving griminess of this project, his entire beat selection came at the hands of a relative unknown in Shortfyuz.

16. Tie: Boldy James & Alchemist – My 1st Chemistry Set (Decon / Mass Appeal) and Prodigy & Alchemist – Albert Einstein (Infamous)
Beatmaker extraordinaire Alchemist had yet another productive year.  Aside from Durag Dynasty, he also provided the soundscapes for longtime collaborator Prodigy of Mobb Deep on Albert Einstein and up ‘n’ comer Boldy James on My 1st Chemistry Set. Alchemist’s genius has never been about pushing his emcees into new territory, but rather his ability to compliment their strong points with apropos beats. The production on Albert Einstein hit a little harder and was more on the boom-bap tip, which matched Prodigy’s gritty, braggadocios rhymes well. My 1st Chemistry Set found him providing ominous, orchestral beats that rolled in sync with Boldy’s laidback, oft-monotonous rapping.

17. Danny Brown – Old (Fool’s Gold)
While Old was a bit of a departure from Danny Browns previous material, it’s not at all surprising that the guy that has a fucked-up emo-style haircut, sponges much of his fashion sense from punk rockers, gets oral sex on stage from fans (allegedly,) and calls himself the Black Brad Pitt, would go and put out a rap album with left-field techno beats on it, and a confusing narrative. For half of the album he was exercising the demons of his former life. The other half he was celebrating his current life, which, if you’re not paying close enough attention to the details, sounded a lot like his old life.  But that was part of the brilliancy of Old – it was blatantly honest. Brown packed his verses with an interpersonal commitment to the details as he set up the scenes, told the stories, and expressed how he felt about all of it.

18. Denmark Vessey & Scud One – Cult Classic (Dirty Science)
Produced in full by Chicagoan Scud One, the sonic direction of Cult Classic relied heavily on simplistic soul, R&B, and psychedelic rock sample flips. Detroit emcee Denmark Vessey spun a tale of an ambitious rapper who somehow ended up becoming a cult religious leader when hip-hop didn’t provide him the fame and riches he had hoped it would.  As far as rap concept albums go, and one about religion no less, Cult Classic worked really well thanks to tight deejay / emcee synchronicity. Much like frequent collaborator Quelle Chris (who appeared on one track) Vessey’s lyricism and off-kilter flow kept listeners engaged throughout the entire album, while Scud One's beats helped things move along nicely.

19. Cage – Kill the Architect (Eastern Conference)
Much like 2009's Depart From Me, Cage’s 2013 album Kill The Architect may not have jumped out and grabbed the listener immediately the way Hell’s Winter or Movies for the Blind did. But after spending some time with it, it became clear that that was never the intention. This record was more about the journey than it was the impact. No, he didn’t recapture the glory of his first two albums, but unlike Eminem, who he is oftentimes unfairly compared to, he wasn’t at all trying to. Cage has indeed killed the architect, just as he departed from himself last time around. (Perhaps it’s time to start taking his album titles literally.) This album showed us a Chris Palko that has long grown bored of backpacker boom-bap and shock value rap. He slowed his cadence and employed the trip-hop production of DJ Mighty Mi, the Eastern Conference label head whom he’d recently reconciled with. It’s unfair to compare this record to his previous ones, as many a critic have. It’s not that it wasn’t good; it was just a different kind of good.

20. Swollen Members – Beautiful Death Machine (Suburban Noize)
Beautiful Death Machine was the eighth studio album by the Vancouver, British Columbia rap group, Swollen Members. It was the type of record that requires complete attention and repeated plays to fully sink in. Emcees Madchild and Prevail spit crazy-provocative lyricism that pierced the cerebrum; while Rob The Viking twisted-up mesmerizing, neck-snapping beats. The whole thing was dark and perverse. Both lyrically and in delivery, the two emcees were completely on point throughout the entire record. Beautiful Death Machine was clearly a focused attempt to snatch rap supremacy by the throat and strangle it into submission.

21. Deltron 3030 –Event 2 (Deltron Partners / Bulk)
In what has been rumored to happen for several years now, emcee Del the Funky Homosapien, producer Dan the Automator, and deejay Kid Koala came together again to reform the futuristic alt hip-hop group Deltron 3030. For the first time since 2000 Event 2 found Del reprising his role as Deltron Zero, a hero here to take on the giant corporations and big governments that attempt to rule the world. Only this time around his outlook was a little bleaker. His rhymes were as on point as ever, but he’d dialed back the humor a bit, in favor of a more focused lyricism.  For better or worse, listening to Event 2 reminded you of everything that’s gone wrong in the World in the last 13 years.

22. Kool G Rap & Necro (Godfathers) – Once Upon a Crime (Psycho + Logical)
Once Upon a Crime was the result of two storied NYC impresarios teaming up for some murderous, street-heavy, horrorcore rap theatrics. Godfathers is legendary, influential rap master Kool G Rap and emcee/producer Necro . Most of the record’s production was similar to that of Necro’s previous work—ripe with gloomy, repetitive loops and simple yet hard-hitting drums. The two emcees painted narratives of violent criminals who spit one evil-tongued, gruesome and violent threat after another throughout the duration of the album.  As far as delivery is concerned, it came as no surprise that Kool G Rap, who is often credited as the inventor of gangsta rap, clearly outshone that of his makeshift understudy Necro.  However both had such tightly-wound raps that they complemented each other well.  There was absolutely no positivity or consciousness within’ the confines of Once Upon a Crime. Rather it existed in the vein that rap music often does: escapism for escapism’s sake.

23. Edo. G – Intelligence & Ignorance (Envision Entertainment)
Intelligence & Ignorance was the latest in a long string of releases dating back to 1991 for Boston veteran emcee Edo. G. Over the course of 10 tracks Edo explored the dual existence of that which the album was named. There were songs that advocated intellect, empowerment, and positivity as well as tracks that dipped into in the mindless pursuit of material wealth and the discord of ignorance. The majority of the production was handled by Microphono, who provided soulful boom-bap beats.

24. Tie: Marco Polo – Newport Authority 2 (Spaghetti Blender) and Marco Polo – PA2: The Director's Cut (Soulspazm)
NYC’s Marco Polo put out two the year’s best producer albums. Newport Authority 2 dropped first; featuring a bunch of songs that “politics and industry bullshit” prevented from appearing on his soon to be released PA2: The Director’s Cut. He added intros and interludes, had deejays Shylow and DJ Revolution drop record scratches on it, and then got it mastered as an official album. It featured veteran emcees like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Tragedy Khadafi and Das EFX, as well as contemporaries like Torae, Big Gutta, and Jaysaun. Later in the year PA2 came out. It was chock full of his signature boom-bap production, narration by Michael Rapaport, and more cuts from DJ Revolution. The emcee feature list was a virtual who’s who of the genre’s most revered and highly skilled rhyme slingers. Organized Konfusion, Ill Bill, Rah Digga, Large Professor, Inspektah Deck, O.C., MC Eiht, King Tee, Lil Fame, Styles P, and Masta Ace, and several others dropped verses. Both records were prime examples of tailor-made boom-bap that appealed to Golden Era aficionados and underground heads alike.

25. Kid Tsunami –The Chase (Head Bop / Fat Beats)
The Chase was the debut album from Perth, Australia’s producer extraordinaire Kid Tsunami.  As someone who appreciates all forms of hip-hop (at least for their mere existence, if anything) I don’t really like throwing around terms like “real hip-hop” because I think it cheapens the evolution of the art form and more-or-less excludes anything that’s not boom-bap. But I’m going to give myself a pass here and just say it:  This was some real-ass hip-hop!  Dude is a student of the game, as he has obviously immersed himself in classic hip-hop.  And by that, yes, I do mean BOOM-BAP.  The Chase was 16 tracks, constructed from soul, jazz and funk sample flips, with a ton of storied emcees rhyming on them. Kool Keith, Sean Price, OC, Masta Ace, Sadat X, J-Live, Craig G, AG, Kool G Rap, KRS-One, Pharaoh Monch, Jeru the Damaja, and others all took turns in the booth.  DJ Bless also left his mark on the project, as he flexed his impeccable turntablism skills, mixing the whole thing together and dropping some serious cut-laden hooks.

26. DJ Skizz - B.Q.E. (Brooklyn-Queens Experience) (Soulspazm, Inc.)
B.Q.E. was the debut album from DJ Skizz, a producer and turntablist known for his work behind the boards of heavyweights like Lil Fame, Havoc, Sean Price and countless others.  Skizz culminated his 10-plus years in game with an album full of hard-knocking boom-bap beats, record scratching, and grimy versus courtesy of A.G., Cormega, Craig G., Ill Bill, Infamous Mob, Masta Ace, O.C., Tragedy Khadafi, Roc Marciano and a whole bunch of other rugged-tongued East Coast emcees. When I say “hip”, you say “hop!”

27. Tony Touch – The Piece Maker 3: Return of the 50 MCs (Touch Entertainment / Red River Entertainment)
Deejay/producer/rapper/radio show host Tony Touch entered the rap game during the renaissance era of the early 1980s. Influenced by pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Red Alert, and Jam Master Jay, he focused his interest on the turntables. For his sixth album, that he wanted to do something special to pay tribute to era in which he came up. So over the course of two years, he took his time compiling beats and securing verses from some of his favorite contemporary rappers. The end result was The Piece Maker 3: Return Of the 50 MCs, a compilation of beats, rhymes, and turntable cuts that celebrated an era of rap music when boom-bap was king and strong mic skills were crucial to an emcee’s survival. If you could only had one album to rock a party with this year, Return of the 50 MCs was it.

28. Oh No – Disrupted Ads (Kash Roc Entertainment)
Early in the year beatsmith and sometimes emcee Oh No, released Disrupted Ads, his production-based album structured loosely around an infomercial-styled cigarette ad from the days before cancer.  It was a well-formed and creative compilation of musical snippets, retro audio samples, and brief emcee appearances from the likes of Rapsody, Psalm One, Tristate, and Souls of Mischief. Its moody, psychedelic, and dystopian soundtrack played like neck-snapping cinema for the ears.

29. Statik Selektah –Extended Play (Showoff / Duck Down)
After spinning his wheels in 2012—teaming up for uninspired full-length projects with Termanology and Reks—deejay/producer/ perennial workhorse Statik Selektah returned in 2013 with a solid solo outing titled Extended Play. Front to back, the album was jam-packed with hard-hitting beats, faultless vinyl cuts, and cipher-style emceeing that followed the boom-bap blueprint of forefathers like DJ Premiere and Pete Rock. At 18 tracks and a monstrous 38 guest emcees, some of whom make more than one appearance, Extended Play was a nonstop hour of real-ass hip-hop party music.

30. P-Money – Gratitude (Dawn Raid / Duck Down / Dirty)
NYC by way of New Zealand producer P-Money returned with his sixth album Gratitude. After the dance-orientated styling of his last album, he reverted back to his hip-hop roots with a grip of head-nodding East Coast-style boom-bap beats and a bit of R&B. Clocking in at a favorable 40 minutes; Gratitude featured emcees Talib Kweli, Pac Div, Skyzoo, M.O.P., Freddie Gibbs, Havoc, Buckshot and Roc Marciano.

Take a look at the rest of Scene Point Blank's 2013: A Year In Review feature here.

Interact with Nathan on Twitter at @OMG_NOB. Email us here. And by all means, please leave some comments below...


The Best Punk & Hardcore Records of 2013

The Best Punk & Hardcore Records of 2013
An Excerpt From 2013: A Year In Review
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

Keeping on with our year-end best-of coverage, Nathan continues to give the people what they want. (You do want this, right?) Here's his list of  the best 30 punk and hardcore pieces of wax from the past 12 months.  Again, this is all alphabetical by artist's name, so don't get all bent! As always, we'd love to hear any feedback, so please get in touch.  Enjoy!

Autistic Youth – Nonage (Dirtnap)
These Portland suburbanites play a clean, insistent style of pop punk that’s been injected with a bit of garage rock,‘80s hardcore, and a healthy dose of classic power pop ala The Buzzcocks. With its driving melodies, gang vocals and upbeat tempo, it’s the kind of punk rock party music that makes partially-jaded old-school dudes like me drag our butts of the couch and start dancing around.

Broken Prayer - Self-Titled (Sorry State)
Here’s some condescending, pissed-off, experimental hardcore from Chicago. Like some crusty D-beat guys let one their younger brother’s play his synths with them but only if he got fucked-up on cold medicine and cocaine first. The vocals, which are on the Pissed Jeans / Raw Nerve / mysterious guy tip are awesome, and the driving force behind the record.

Coke Bust – Confined (Grave Mistake / Refuse)
After a lengthy discography of splits and EPs, this Washington DC DIY straight-edge crew returns with just their second full-length LP.  Angry, fast, poignant hardcore is the name of the game here.  Tough vocals, the occasional breakdown, and mean guitars that squeal from one song to the next.

Cokskar - Repetitive Stress 7" (Self-Released)
Female-fronted grindcore out of Minneapolis, MN. More on the punk side of things than the metal. Speaking in fragmented sentences trying to describe this is apropos, so I’ll continue to do so. Spastic, unfettered aggression, driven foremost by the hyper-fast, chipmunks-on-speed vocals. Clever and biting lyrics when decipherable. 10 songs that are over before they even started. The first one is called “Powerviolence.” So there’s your frame of reference. Awesome.

Condominium - Carl 7" (Sub Pop)
This St. Paul three-piece started out playing fairly straight-forward ‘80s-influenced hardcore punk, with Greg Ginn-style guitars and all the trimmings, but over the course of six pieces of wax, they have evolved into a uniquely original entity. Their latest EP finds them furthering the noise and arty experimentation that left a mark on 2011’s Warm Home LP, but also digging their claws even deeper into the feverish anger from which they were born. Each component of their sound is functioning at a high level of intensity. The vocals sound meaner than ever before, the bass playing is downright nasty, the guitars are urgent and assaulting to the senses, while the drums fill every available nook and cranny with skillful pummeling. This is a powerful piece of art, and a strong indicator that these guys are capable of taking hardcore to places rarely explored.

Cülo - My Life Sucks and I Could Care Less (Deranged)
Crazy fast hardcore from Chicago, in the same vein of some of the greats. Think Tear It Up, DS-13, Los Crudos, or 9 Shocks Terror but with fingerless black gloves and a red beret. This is their first LP aside from Life is Vile and So Are We, which was a collection of all their previous highly-touted 7”s. Lyrics that are both scathing and humorous paired with some lightning-quick rock ‘n’ roll-infused thrash. Pretty much timeless, and certainly not to be slept on. One of the better bands on the scene in the last few years.

Daylight Robbery - Distant Shores 7" (Dirt Cult / Poison City)
This Chicago trio play upbeat punk, with dual male/female vocals, and pulse-pounding, rhythmic trappings that draw heavily from some of punk rock’s most historically revered artists. Wire, X, Blondie; lazy comparisons, but not at all inaccurate. This EP has three moody, captivating tunes that embrace various musical shadings from within’ the genre. There are bits of post-punk, garage rock and melodic trad-punk at play here that makes for a really enjoyable listening experience.

Deadly Reign - Slave 7" (Profane Existence)
This three-piece unit out of Austin, TX plays a Portland-by-way-of-Scandinavia strain of D-beat. The three songs here are tonally deep, entrenched in modern-day crust, and very well-produced. This isn’t on the chaotic noise end of the D-beat spectrum; rather it’s very clean and polished, in the epic style typical of acts like Wolfbrigade or Passiv Dödshjälp

Despise - Desolate b/w Inebriated 7" (Profane Existence)
Despise’s songs are deliberate, forceful blasts of punk obliteration, just as much as they are a subtle cultivation of gloomy, blackened nervousness. By incorporating aspects from the crustier side of black metal, they successfully convey dark tones without compromising any thrashing vehemence. Throat-ripping female vocals are consistently growled, rather than given the “blown-out” effect vindictive the recent raw noise trend. The instrumentation remains equally unswerving; the mix never allows for one player to outshine another. Whereas side A leans more in the metal direction, the flipside shows a band that is no-doubt indebted to the artless D-beaten torrent of classic Minneapolis crust punk.

Destruction Unit – Void (Jolly Dream)
Out of the deserts of Arizona come this art-damaged, freakout post-punk. It’s rhythmic, brooding, and partially psychedelic. Sort of like sludgecore that’s been given the darkwave treatment –swirling, atmospheric yet lumbering soundscapes matched with detached vocals. Think Ian Curtis singing for Kylesa or something.

Gas Rag - Human Rights 7" (Beach Impediment)
A rock ‘n’ roll brand of D-beat from Chicago that’s taken the punkers by storm. This EP follows up the much-adored demo tape from earlier in the year. In fact it was recorded during the same session. Sex-starved, pizza roll pimple-core that makes you feel a just little bit creepy. Get into it.

Gateway District - Old Wild Hearts (It’s Alive)
This Twin Cities-base band has a working-for-the-weekend vibe to them, celebrating the good times and letting your Saturday nights roll. On their third LP, the transition continues from earlier works. For a band that started as a one-off 7”, they’ve now hit stride and found their voice. The sound is a strong pop influence that clashes with mid-tempo, guitar-heavy punk. The pop seeps into memorable choruses, and also in the backing vocals. It has a bounce to its step, well accentuated by the vocal trade-offs that keep the energy flowing. -Words by Loren Green.

Hoax - Self-Titled (Self-Released)
This is just brutal and nasty fucking hardcore. These degenerates are getting a lot of attention as of late and not for lack of good reason. Dark, gut-wrenching, self-absorbed vocals meet head-on with an unprocessed, strident, airy style of punk that falls somewhere between D-beat and black crust. If these guys don’t break up first, they will undoubtedly get huge(er) and no one will be surprised but everyone will complain about it; which will be kind of a shame because this shit is exceptional.

Iceage - You're Nothing (Matador)
Rather than reiterating what others (read: the Internet) have said about how this record is more aggressive than their critically acclaimed debut (which it is,) how Elias Rønnenfelt’s vocals are more present and urgent than before (which they are,) how the apathetic, gothic tendencies are gone in favor of enthusiastic, thrashing punk (which is fairly accurate but not entirely true,) and how it is not only one of the best punk albums of the year (which it undoubtedly is) but one the best albums in all of music (which is probably true but still debatable)—even though in saying so, I just did exactly that—I would instead like to say this: Regardless of how you feel about a bands intentions, or your affinity for DIY-produced punk, or disdain for mainstream coverage, sometimes you just have to admit that band made a really fucking good record. This is one of those times.

Joint D≠ - Satan is Real Again, Again, or: Feeling Good About Feeling Good About Bad Thoughts (Sorry State)
Hailing from North Carolina this quartet delivered their second full-length in as many years.  Catchy, tension-filled fringe punk, shot with a load of ‘80s west coast hardcore. It’s oddly unique and rocks with a driving intensity that demands attention. While the title is clever, and certainly a mouthful, it should be noted that it’s also a play on a similarly-titled 1996 album from Scottish art punkers Country Teasers.

Kontrasekt- End of Destruction (Vex / MCR)
Massive, subterranean-sounding crust punk from the bullet belted landscape of Minneapolis. The bass guitar is so fucking nasty on this that when you spin it, dust falls from the ceiling. The drums will give you a Dis-beaten panic attack, while the guitars grind into your temples, leaving you with permanent sense of displacement. Deep, reverb’d-the-fuck-out all black everything.

Krang - Broken Waves 7" (Profane Existence)
With their latest EP, these Chicagoans treat us to some fine face-melting stench. The guitar work is first-rate. Weighty thrash riffs are peppered with erratic fills and soaring leads for a searing assault on the senses. The vocals are a bleach-gargled exasperation of anger and misery, and redolent of the crustier side of black metal. Everything is amplified just enough to give it a really crunchy, unrestrained air of noise that perfectly encapsulates the hellish intersection of thrash metal and crust punk.

Krmosom - Live Forever (Southern Lord)
Noisy and downright nasty crust punk out of Australia. This is a discography of all of their previous vinyl-only material on CD for the first time. It’s total blown-out madness from former members of Pisschrist and Schifosi and current members of Nuclear Death Terror, Leprosy and Bloody Hammer. Totally raw. Go nuts to it.

Much Worse - Macrocosm is a Wash (Forward)
Following up a couple of excellent 7”s, this is the first full-length LP for this Minneapolis crew. Spun from the same Mecca-like breeding ground as Brain Tumors, Wild Child, Total Trash, Condominium, and countless others, this band plays a brand of ‘80s-style hardcore that sounds like Boston and Japan going to war in a cage match. It’s agro, it’s bloody, and nobody that enters is will come out unscathed.

Nö Pöwer - No Peace (Sorry State)
The debut LP from this North Carolina unit. There are subtle elements of garage and psych at play but it’s primarily raging hardcore punk, with a noticeable emphasis on the noise. It's a primitive and blown-out style of D-beat that’s been injected with a distinctive dose of artiness and then drenched in feedback. Although he’s not stretching the margins of hardcore vocals too far, the singer is still able to effectively convey a variety of emotion. The rhythm section steps outside the Dis zone for brief periods of erratic improvisation, trying as best as they can to keep up with the lightning fast guitars, which squeal and swirl all over the place; driving the band’s sonic direction into eardrum-bursting realms.

Pissed Jeans – Honeys (Sub Pop)
Over the course of the past decade this quartet out of Black Flag/Flipper-worshiping Pennsylvanians has held somewhat of a polarizing position in the punk lexicon.  With little regard for hallowed punk ethos and politics, they singed with Sub Pop and wrote songs about ice cream and scrapbooking. And they did it all while kicking mucho ass in the rock ‘n’ roll department and shooting a knowing wink at their detractors. Their latest record finds them exploring further “un-punk” subject matter, with songs concerning the dullness of working an office job, checking emails, cafeteria food, choosing health plans, and trying to spice up stagnant relationships. This is what happens when teenage punk angst gets drawn into the doldrums of adulthood.

Raw Meat - Demo on a 7" (Vinyl Rites)
This now-defunct group of New Yorkers, which featured members of Rival Mob and Nomos, played crazy-aggressive hardcore that’s not easily dismissive. Pissed-off, throat-burning vocals grind against a massive wall of fuzzed-out, loud, fast and crunchy riffage. These are songs from their demo cassette that have been remixed and re-mastered, and then pressed to vinyl, with the addition of the Combat 84 cover, “Rapist.” It’s nearly impossible for the listener to walk away from Raw Meat unscathed, as it’s a bruising incident on the uglier side of hardcore.

Rifle Diet - Abuse Begets Abuse b/w The Affected 7” (Profane Existence)
Up until 2011 these Minneapolitans were known as Thrash Compactor. Along with the name change is a noticeable shift in sound – the band moved into a darker direction; ditching much of their fastcore roots in favor of a heavier, neo-crust approach. The two songs here are molasses-thick coagulations of galloping sludge, plodding D-beat, and punishing hardcore, sprinkled with heavy metal guitar posturing and female vocals that are both snotty and throaty at the same time.

Rough Kids - The State I'm In (Sorry State)
This is super catchy ‘70s style punk rock out of Los Angeles. There are some regulus rock ‘n’ roll parts, and a bit of new wave, but the emphasis on traditional guitar-driven Brit punk is the most apparent. A nice reminder that before punk got all muddled up in subgenres it thrived in simplicity. Sloppy in all the right places, concise, totally rockin’, and absolutely not to be missed.

The Shame - The World is Ours 7" (Profane Existence)
This Tulsa trio plays straightforward, catchy punk ‘n’ roll in the vein of early ‘80s UK Oi!, and they do it exceptionally well. The Oppressed and Blitz influences are easily detectable. Lead singer Chad Malone’s lyricism, which focuses primarily on anti-fascism, beer, buddies, and futbol anthems, is dispatched appropriately via his gruff-voiced delivery. The production is thick and stuffy, with a peculiar familiarity to it that’s hard to pinpoint exactly. It's like an old Sham 69 record playing on your parent’s turntable – it exudes a general feeling of something historical.

Shaved Christ - Bad Mind 7" (Bakery Outlet)
Aggressive, despondent hardcore from Athens, GA. A throwback to the ‘80s era of  hardcore that sprouted up across America, giving life to bands like Middle Class, Articles of Faith, Scream, and countless others. The soundtrack to your teenage years has come back to kick you in your middle-management, cubicle-dwelling ass. Go out the parking lot, spray paint “Fuck This Life” on the hood of your boss's car, and then dance on the roof of it while drinking a forty.

Stoic Violence - Self-Titled (Video Disease / Katorga Works)
Charging out of Southern California, these hostile fuckers unleash a pissy, self-loathing USHC brand of vitriol of onto the boot-strapped, Canadian-tuxedoed masses. Beating on your undeserving eardrums with grating guitars and squealing, snotified vocals, this LP clocks in at fewer than 10 minutes. And that’s about how much time it will take to recover from the headache they just gave you. You're welcome.

Useless Eaters - Hypertension (Jeffery Drag)
Weirdo garage punk with some surf and new wave-y parts from Nashville, TN.  In a mixing bowl, combine a small amount of The Stranglers and Gang of Four. Then blend in generous helpings of Jay Reatard, Ty Segall, and Digital Leather. Bake at 420 and serve cold with a side of Adderall.

Varix - I Can't Get Out 7" (Fashionable Idiots)
Awesome band comprised of women from NYC and Minneapolis. Super fast, bass-driven hardcore punk with a stitch of D-beat tossed in. The raw lyricism shows a bleak societal outlook; topics range from perceived gender role frustration to insomnia to the pain of seeing punks lose their life to addiction.  The recording is under-produced; giving it a demo-like quality that is really fucking rad. It has certain air of distortion and feedback that’s not completely blown-out but bordering just near it. Don’t miss this one.

Wild Child - Self-Titled 7" (Deranged)
Out of Minneapolis comes seven inches of manic hard punk, played with sloppy aggression. The guitars are hollow-ish, clanky and fast while the drums and bass race along, seemingly on their own accord with little regard for things like holding the beat. The snotty, Darby Crash-like vocal styling of the singer lends a bit of early-LA punk to the overall feeling. The recording perfectly encapsulates the raw intensity and reckless abandon with which these guys attack their art.

You can check out Scene Point Blank's entire 2013: A Year In Review feature here.

Connect with Nathan on Twitter at @OMB_NOB. Email us here. And please feel free to leave comments below...