Not only do fans of Team Transylvania’s horror movie-inspired pogo-punk stylings get pretty much every song recorded in this two-disc box set spectacular, there’s enough unreleased material to get this in the top 10.
Songs like “Renfields Go!” “Transylvania Fight Song,” “Ramones Zombie Massacre,” and “Porkchop” will be new favorites. If you’ve lost a copy of The Night THEY Came Home, Bastard Sons of Ed Wood, or the Stalk and Slash Splatterama series, that’s all here.
So, if you’re looking for that special something for that hard-to-buy-for Renfields fan this holiday season, All the Stuff and GORE makes the perfect stocking stuffer. The Renfields may be number ten on this list, but they’re number one in our heart.
9. Sly Roosevelt: Animal Tracks
If you fell asleep eating animal crackers watching Matt Taibbi on Bill Moyers, half reading a book on Teddy Roosevelt, and dreamt of a high energy post punk concept record, Animal Tracks may be that record.
The full-length debut from this Huntington-based indie rock outfit may not be some linear journey concept record, but the songs, (e.g. “Lion,” “Wolf,”) lyrics and CD art (awesomely done by Jarrod Schneider) all tie Animal Tracks into a really good record with a vision.
8. GoodWolf: Shitty Kids
Sleepwalker singer-guitarist Tyler Grady steps out to record more stuff on this largely solo, mostly melancholy, eight-song post-grunge release.
“Last Year” was the feel good, slacker hit of the summer. “Bikini Girl” and the highly charged, intensely personal middle finger to an ex, “Letter,” stand out. Not sure who the kids are, but whatever the motivation it’s promising to see Grady operating as GoodWolf.
Goodwolf – Last Year from Geoff Hoskinson on Vimeo.
7. John Lancaster: Crash Test in Progress
Following up on 2010’s Phantom Moon, Lancaster continues charting new sonic territory, this time with his live band. “Saigon Moment” channels Lancaster’s inner Dave Grohl. His soulful vocals on the bluesy parts of “Like Castles” actually sound like Huntington’s own Bud Carroll, the song standing out among his solo material for taking this kind of direction.
Most of the material, though, like “The Riot Act,” and “Catacomb Satellite” tie back into or at least jump off from what’s heard on the solo debut, making the six songs found on Crash Test In Progress feel like some sort of expansion pack for the CD. Great material, even for a seasoned, polished hard rock work in progress.
6. Bud Carroll: At Least I Can Still Smoke In My Car
While you’d be right to imagine the guitar hero and multi-instrumental talent Carroll could knock out a few crunchy grooves in his Trackside Studios in a few hours, this release finds him standing astride his bluesy Southern Souls days (“I’m No Stranger”) now into AC30, still singing soulful songs about his nowhere towns and lost loves.
Standout songs include “There Someday,” “I Just Wanted You To Know,” and “We’ll Be Together Again.” Carroll released this (not surprisingly) stellar 12-song effort in January, and it’s stood out since.
5. Bishops (self-titled)
Would you believe that if Demon Beat bassist Tucker Riggleman recruited cohort Adam Meisterhans to shred in his nascent garage rock band with Paul Cogle (Nagato/Vox Populi) that the result would be killer?
Riggleman’s own singing and songwriting efforts pre-date his involvement in The Demon Beat and Prison Book Club, and hearing songs like the opener, “My Own Way,” “Happy,” and “Shit Happens” will likely excite fans of both groups.
How many Demon Beat side projects can there be? Never enough! Talented dudes, each, and it’s Riggleman’s chance to stand out here.
4. Spirit Night: One Man Houses
Shepherdstown native Dylan Balliett releases a killer, amped-up sophomore full-length and promptly gets dropped off in NYC by The Demon Beat dudes and sets up residence. Maybe he moved up there, then released it right after. Whatever.
Following up on 2010’s What We Will Be and the Normal EP, Balliett, again joined by drummer Pete Wilmoth (FOX Japan) and Ryan Hizer (Librarians/Good Sport) on bass mostly shed their dreamy lo-fi atmospherics for something approaching high energy 80’s post punk on this nine-song effort.
“Goodbye Jones” and “Summer Clothes” are standout tracks, but it’s Balliett’s version of “Rubberneck” that might take WVRockscene best song of 2012, if there were such an ill-conceived thing. Hopefully there’s more Spirit Night to come out of NYC in 2013.
3. The Tom McGees: This Just In
You’ll be fallin’ out, spinning and kicking, and raising your fists to the high-energy, hilarious, totally NSFW ska stylings of this Charleston-based eight-piece “punk party” band.
You’ll come for the driving punk rock, the alternately blaring and swooning horn section, and machine gun snare rolls. You’ll stay for the endearing, jilted love songs Mike Withrow and Adam Dittebrand are singing. Never has cussing out your ex-girlfriend, or, then, telling her you really love her, seemed so fun. Hear “The Choice” and “Half That Bad” for that. Just a killer nine-song debut from these characters.
2. Juna: Sing
Like the mountains that surround us, John Morgan’s Appalachian folk symphony manifested as Juna seems at once imposing, maybe these days, cold, but unfolds itself to reveal a warm, stunning, sonic beauty.
That he’s able to create and record the richly arranged songs like “Even” and “Banner” all by himself, makes this 10-song effort all the more impressive.
Fans may expect this kind of sound as Morgan follows up on last year’s release, Hunt. It’s so much more, though, as Morgan provides a snapshot into his own life, the forces that pull, and the ties that bind him, and some of us, here in West Virginia.
1. The Demon Beat: Less Is Less
Like the cover itself, with Adam Meisterhans, Tucker Riggleman and Jordan Hudkins blended together to form one super-rocker, everything just seems to come together on this, the fourth full-length studio effort from these Shepherdstown-based dudes. Ironically, maybe, given the title of the record, fans of the band could be said to receive more than they expected, even out of these guys.
The amalgamated rocker on the cover sports a flannel maybe as a nod to the fat, fuzzy, feedback-flecked grunge, almost stoner rock sound found on songs like “Bummer Machine,” “Fingers,” and “Bored Forever.” “Teenage Wasteland” and “Wunderwal” rock hard. “Song 2 Part 2” and “I Melted” are more melodic, some might say pretty, rock songs.
Space jams “Off The Wall” and “The Wall” close out the record impressively and more experimentally, as these guys are wont to do. Like the diamonds they sometimes adorn their album art with or get tattooed on their arms, the material on Less Is Less, instead of some huge departure from their previous material, just shines a little differently, reflecting a slightly different angle.