It’s that time of year again. The end of the of year, that is. That time of year when we reflect on everything that went down during the last 12 months. The good, the bad, the meh. I personally like to sit back with a scotch, a cheap cigar, and my favorite slippers, sit out on the freezing front porch and reflect on the year in my favorite smoking jacket. The fact that it’s 51 degrees and I’m wearing shorts and a beat up hoodie sweatshirt doesn’t deter me one bit.
2014 brought some really great local music to our ears. I am always impressed with what the local guys and gals have to offer each year, and 2014 was no different. Here’s a few of the truly great ones, in no particular order.
Bonfire John : College
Bonfire John is this guy named Owen Yonce. There are others in the band, but when the songs are made it’s basically just Yonce drinking some beers, playing some instruments, and singing some songs. The songs on College are breezy, stoned, and precise. They sound like some otherworldly collision of John Prine, Pavement, and The Old 97s. Yonce’s voice sounds aged beyond his barely 21 years. Like it was left outside in the rain, sun-dried, and whipped coarse by the Midwestern wind. There’s plucky acoustic jags and jangly indie buzzing, and some help by a few of Yonce’s friends.
This is Bonfire John’s second album, after 2011s Bonfire John and the Majestic Springs Band. College makes good on the promise that record made, and then some. Carmel, Indiana’s finest has made one of this area’s finest records of 2014.
Heaven’s Gateway Drugs : Apropos
Apropos is both an end and a beginning for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. The album was written and created by the original members and completed last December. The record sat for months and saw three of the original members move on to other things, leaving Dererk Mauger and Ben Carr to rebuild and reboot. Now, revitalized and reborn Heaven’s Gateway Drugs are stronger and freakier than ever.
But what about Apropos? Well, it’s a soaring, freaky, and rocking ode to HGD 1.0. It builds on their debut, and even revisits some of the grimier, grittier moments of their cassette release back in 2012. “Gone To Ground” sounds like a death march through the hazy desert, while “Apropos” is pure pop bliss in classic Kinks fashion. This record is nine tracks of psychedelic jams and pop confections, served up in a cocktail of fruit and acid.
Streetlamps for Spotlights : Sound and Color
Sound and Color is a sonic slap in the face. It’s a post-punk snarl and a jangle rock shriek from the dark. Jason Davis, Jay Hackbush, and Ryan Holquist make music that lurches forward and just as quickly stops inches from bulldozing you to the ground. “Ready Already” comes charging out of the speakers like a drunk bull, all red-eyed and fuming. Then just as you think you’re about to get the snot kicked out of you “Right Back” takes over with a gritty pop feel and a daydreamer’s wide eyes. It’s this push and pull that makes this record such a fun and inviting listen.
Davis and company have made a rich and dense rock and roll record.
The Dead Records : The Dead Records
In case you missed it, The Dead Records put out a new album this year. It’s pretty damn great. It’s straight up kick ass rock and roll. It’s fists in the air, screaming at the top of your lungs, lose yourself in a crowd of sweaty strangers kind of music. It’s also a beautiful memorial to their friend and guitarist Chad Briner who left this earth way too early.
“Hooks” is beautiful and intense, while “Don’t Wait Up” is drowning your sorrows in a piss-warm beer. TDR write anthems for the lonely and soundtrack personal awakenings. This album both reminisces about and mourns that thing we call youth. The Dead Records is a hell of an album.
Grey Gordon : Forget I Brought It Up
Grey Gordon’s Forget I Brought It Up is a pop record disguised as a salute to Bob Mould’s many musical disguises. There’s the harsher Husker Du moments in “Barstools and Haircuts”, the Sugar pop melancholy of “Learned Helplessness”, and the self-reflection of “Apologies”. But really, it just sounds like Grey Gordon being Grey Gordon. It’s a grudge match between guitar fuzz and Gordon’s anti-hero storytelling. Dig in.
Fucking Panthers : Two Ways of Life
Here’s a band that really doesn’t care what you think of them. I mean, with a name like Fucking Panthers that pretty much sets the tone, right? So when you listen to their sophomore album Two Ways of Life you’re beaten and bruised with a mix of hardcore and metal. Something like Suicidal Tendencies morphed with South of Heaven-era Slayer. “Rise” sounds like Henry Rollins fronting Tad; or Helmet. There’s more than enough angst and guitar riffage for everyone. Just crank up “Frozen In Carbonite” and let your ears bleed in ecstasy.
Thematic : The Endless Light
If you like your metal on the conceptual side, look no further than Thematic. The progressive metal band that hails from the Fort and Chicago dropped their debut record The Endless Light this year and it’s a progressive metal lover’s dream. A mix of serious metal riffs and syncopated Dream Theater-like time signatures, The Endless Light is a serious shred fest that harkens back to classic concept records from King Crimson, Rush, and Dream Theater.
The Snarks : Night At Crystal Beach
You want some old school punk attitude to go with that rock and roll? Look no further than The Snarks. Kendra Johnson leads the Snarks on a search and destroy mission throughout their just-released Night At Crystal Beach. It’s four songs of punk bravado and sweaty rock bliss. It’s great to hear Johnson back spitting attitude into a mic, like she did with her old band TIMBER!!! This time the post-punk angularity is set off to the side for more garage and punk muscle. “Suntanning Bitches” seems like it could be the summer hit you didn’t know you were looking for, while “Human Sacrifice” sounds like The Germs on overdrive.
The Lurking Corpses : Workin For The Devil
If you like your metal as campy as you like it heavy, look no further than Workin For The Devil. The Lurking Corpses have outdone themselves on there newest record, filling every nook and cranny with sound clips and Hammer Films darkness. Heavy metal riffs and speed metal drumming mix with the occult and Misfits-like B-movie flair. If you like Iron Maiden, early Metallica, Danzig, and anything that would’ve been aired on Nightmare Theater then look no further than The Lurking Corpses’ Workin For The Devil.
Pink Balloon Band : Eating Crow
Warsaw, Indiana’s Pink Balloon Band put out the short-but-sweet EP Eating Crow. It’s only two songs, but suggests a newer, bigger sound for Ian Skeans’ musical project. Over the years he’s put out several releases of mostly acoustic-only recordings. Very intimate versions of his songs. This worked to his advantage as it allowed him to take his tunes anywhere and play for a sweaty crowd in a basement or garage, or the darkly lit confines of coffeehouses from here to Fort Wayne with nothing more than his acoustic guitar and amazing head of hair. But PBB can also get pretty loud and raucous when it wants to. Mainly when Skeans brings along John White and Ian Ruisard to the gigs. Now we have recorded proof of this rocking three-piece with Eating Crow. “Zap Rowsdower” sounds like Helmet ate Weezer and coughed up this amazing song, while “Mobin’s Child” is more melancholy and angry where it counts. Let’s hope this means a full length is somewhere on 2015s horizon for PBB.
It’s been another great year for Fort Wayne music, and the above list proves it. Get out there and pick up some local albums from some local music guys and gals. They make great stocking stuffers And if you can, get out and see these bands do their thing on a local stage.
Happy Holidays, folks. See you next year.