The Obelisk Turns 10 Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-10-years

So I went earlier this month and got a tattoo. I’m 37 years old and it’s my first one. It’s a design by Sean ‘Skillit’ McEleny with a purple octopus wrapped around an obelisk that’s been pulled out of the ground from its base, and the octopus is holding up a sign that says ‘Thanks for Reading.’

It was done by Kaitlin Butler at EvolvInk in Morristown, New Jersey — right near the train station on the M&E line — and it’s my way of literally marking the 10 years of my life that have gone into this site. I wanted Skillit to do the design because he so excellently captured the gleeful vibe of the All-Dayer poster in 2016 and that was the feeling I wanted. Something happy. He nailed it, as did Butler in bringing it to life on the inside of my right forearm.

I’ve named the octopus Petunia, by the way, like from Pete and Pete. I make it dance for The Pecan and he loves it.

Over the last couple months, I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say in this post. Probably too long, and definitely too hard. It always comes back to thank you. That is primary. That’s everything. Thank you. If you want, you can stop reading now, because as long as you’ve seen that, I’m satisfied. Thank you. 10 years of this site would not have happened without your support. Thank you.

The first post here went up Jan. 31, 2009. Very clearly I had no idea what I was getting into, but over the last decade, The Obelisk has come to consume so much more of my identity than I ever could’ve known it would. I didn’t do the meme that was the 10-year challenge, but I’ve done a lot of reflecting on it and while there are some things I’d change — the site’s had the same theme for 10 years! 10 years! One theme! Come on! — I stand by everything here. The early snark, the fact that I spent all of 2013 being pissed off at the move to digital promos and all of 2014 being the wordiest bastard on the planet, all of it. It’s all me. The experiments that worked, the experiments that didn’t work. All the stuff that I did that reminded me just how much the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do is write. It’s all here, and I know sometimes on the internet it’s hard to see words on a screen and imagine a person writing them, but to me, these words are mine. I own them. And I feel that way about everything here. For the last 10 years. And just for today, maybe just for this post, I’m going to let myself be proud of that.

the obelisk tattooI don’t expect that to last.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for her seemingly unending support. I don’t think she’s always understood, but she’s certainly done more than her fair share of indulging, and this never would’ve happened without her. Thank you to Slevin for his ongoing technical expertise and get-your-ass-in-gear-ness. Changes are coming to the forum, though there’s something of a debate about what that looks like, but if Slevin didn’t give a crap, nothing would get done. Thanks to the incredible and strong women I’m lucky enough to call my family — Pamela, Suze, Cate, Sam, Sage — as well as to the gentlemen who make me aspire to be a better person — Andy, Walker, Emmett, Tyler, and especially the Pecan.

Thanks to the several good friends I’m fortunate enough to have. Thanks to Walter Hoeijmakers, who 10 years later continues to inspire with his passion and creativity. Thanks to Liz Ciavarella-Brenner for helping bring my own passion for music into focus. Thank you to Steve Murphy for the ongoing reality checks. Thanks to Scott Harrington, Scott Hamilton, Todd Severin, Niels Bartholdy, Stefan Koglek, and all the labels and PR people and companies who have helped bring new music here on a constant stream I couldn’t possibly hope to keep up with. Thanks to Gimme Radio for having me, to Dropout Merch and Made in Brooklyn for handling that end of things, to Maryland Doom Fest for welcoming me and to all the other fests I’ve been to over the years. And again, thanks to you for reading.

For as long as I’ve loved anything, I’ve loved music. I was an awkward fat kid and 30 years later I’m an awkward fat adult, but whatever. I can still put on some record and get out of my own head for half an hour like I could when I was seven years old. I don’t memorize lyrics as easily as I once did, and of course my relationship to listening has changed, but that experience continues to be central to who I am, and this site has become a key part of that. Put your head down, keep working. We also just passed 9,000 likes on Thee Facebooks this morning, and I put up the 11,000th post last week, which was for acting as a presenter for the upcoming 1000mods Australian tour, which is the kind of thing I feel stupid lucky to be involved in.

I could go on and on and on. Really. I’ve gone back and forth for months in my head about how I wanted to approach this. Because this is it. This is my celebration — well, this and the tattoo. But after this, I’m not gonna mention it again. There’s no show, no self-aggrandizing celebratory compilation, nothing like that. I love writing. So there’s writing. I’m gonna finish this post and do another, and tomorrow I’m gonna close out the week like nothing happened. I still need to pick a record for that. Ah jeez.

But the point is that as I’ve approached the actual making of this post, I’ve been filled with ideas for discussion. The notion of self as product in a social media sphere. The idea of becoming your work identity. The pieces of ourselves we show others and what we keep private. This site as the defining work of my life. It’s all come into my head over the last however long — I’d say at least since last October and probably well before that — but now that I’m here, I don’t want to talk about any of it. I just want to say thank you.

So thank you. Thanks for reading.

Like Petunia says.

It’s been 10 years, and I still don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow or the next day, but we’re here, so thank you. I am grateful for and humbled every day by your support.

Sincerely,
JJ Koczan

Tags:

The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

derp

If you’re reading this, congratulations on making it all the way through the existential rollercoaster that was 2018.

I hope you celebrated that year’s end and this year’s beginning in riotous fashion if that’s your thing, and if you’re more the stay-at-home-and-don’t-break-stuff type, I hope that was fun too.

Over the last month, best-of lists have been collected from all around the world and as we move into 2019, it’s time to do the results of the Year-End Poll for 2018.

What a year. As I look back on the lists submitted, of course I can’t help but think how absolutely incredible 2018 was for music. With the world crumbling around, creativity surged, and the quality of output was off the charts. I published my own list last week and was quickly inundated with stuff I forgot or that I missed owing to being robbed earlier this year — I guess I didn’t even realize until the post went up just how much that screwed me — and I’m sure there’s more still out there from what everyone turned in. It’s infinite. It keeps going. Trends change. Sounds change. People change. Creativity flourishes.

But I think if you’re reading this, you know why we’re here. We wound up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 discrete releases submitted. That’s more than five for every day of the year. And they came from 547 people, which is amazing. Accordingly, there should be plenty here to keep you busy for a while.

Not exactly suspenseful as to which was the album of the year, but it’s still interesting to see where stuff landed. Just to remind, there are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Thanks as always to Slevin for the help in setting up the back end functionality and compilation scripts.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (1,087 points)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (721)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (478)
4. Earthless, Black Heaven (413)
5. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (408)
6. Windhand, Eternal Return (387)
7. All Them Witches, ATW (373)
8. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (354)
9. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (323)
10. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (315)
11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (285)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (274)
13. Graveyard, Peace (225)
14. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (222)
15. Weedpecker, III (212)
16. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (197)
17. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (189)
18. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (188)
19. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (167)
20. ASG, Survive Sunrise (164)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (150)
Gozu, Equilibrium (148)
Judas Priest, Firepower (148)
Naxatras, III (148)
Forming the Void, Rift (146)

I’m not saying everyone had to love the Sleep record, but there’s no way it wasn’t the biggest underground heavy release of the year. That top spot was established the first day the poll went up and while YOB caught up as both neared 100 votes, there was no doubt how it would ultimately shake out. It was pretty clear early on what people were passionate about, but there are some interesting differences between the raw vote and the weighted results even high on the list, as you’ll see below.

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (263 votes)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (185)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (141)
4. Windhand, Eternal Return (115)
5. Earthless, Black Heaven (109)
6. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (102)
7. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (101)
8. All Them Witches, ATW (95)
8. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (95)
9. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (93)
10. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (77)
10. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (77)
11. Graveyard, Peace (69)
12. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (67)
13. Weedpecker, III (63)
14. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (57)
14. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (57)
15. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (54)
16. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (50)
17. ASG, Survive Sunrise (48)
18. Gozu, Equilibrium (46)
19. Forming the Void, Rift (45)
20. Judas Priest, Firepower (43)
20. Khemmis, Bloodletting (43)
20. Mos Generator, Shadowlands (43)
20. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back (43)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (41)
Domkraft, Flood (40)
Naxatras, III (40)
Thou, Magus (40)

Everything else got fewer than 40 raw votes. Why cap it at 40? I don’t know. Good a place as any. And when a top 20 has 26 releases on it, I don’t imagine there will be too many complaints about not enough stuff being included. One can hope, anyhow. You can see the difference between Sleep and everyone else here as well, a pretty precipitous drop after both them and YOB, and YOB and High on Fire — the top three being well ahead of everyone else in terms of general agreement.

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

Somewhere around the middle of the month, I noticed a massive surge of votes for a band called Entropía and their debut album, Invisible. A bunch of people with lists of 20 just including Entropía. I’ve included them below, you can see them. I didn’t know what was up, whether it was the band spamming the vote or what, so I sent them a message. Turns out they had sent the link to their email list and asked for votes, and that’s how they all got in. Well, okay.

They wound up with well over 750 raw votes (to remind, Sleep got 263), and it didn’t feel representative to have them be album of the year, but hey, I respect the hustle, so they get the award accordingly. Nicely done, folks. I’ve been doing Year-End Polls since like 2010 and that’s never happened before. Their totals were 2,367 points and 777 votes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Whether this is the only post you’ve seen this year or you click ‘Like’ on everything that comes across your Facebook feed, your support is tremendously appreciated. This is the only post that will go up today, but we’ll be back to business as usual tomorrow, and in the meantime, you’ll find everybody’s list included after the jump.

All the best for 2019.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll is Now Open!

Posted in Features on November 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Working Title/Artist: Landscape with a Double Spruce in the ForegroundDepartment: Drawings & PrintsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1520-22.

This is my favorite post of the year, every year. Welcome to the year-end poll. Cast your votes now for your favorite releases from 2018.

If you don’t have 20 albums to list? Doesn’t matter. Have 40? Awesome. Pick 20 of them. Want to list your own band 20 times? That’s cool too. Glad you dig your own stuff.

You probably know the system by now, but here it is: Raw votes are counted and as always, there’s a weighted tally whereby a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Results from both are posted New Year’s Day, along with all the lists.

Last year’s participation was awesome, and with so many excellent records out in 2018, I’m dying to see what comes out first. There are picks that seem obvious to me, but it’s always fascinating to see what albums different people are super-passionate about, where people connect and where they differ.

To that end, please note one more time that all the lists are posted when the results go up. We’re talking hundreds of entries. If you’ve missed anything throughout the year, it’s great resource, and I know I’ve used it before not only in constructing my own lists, but just in checking out records I may not have had the chance to hear at the time. I continue to go back to past years and find new stuff.

Posterity aside, however, the point here is to have fun, so please do that first and foremost. I know sometimes lists come in with bands spelled wrong and albums all wonky. It’s fine. Yeah, everything is culled together, but the point here is to stand up for music you’re into, so the rest will work out. Enjoyment is the thing, so enjoy it. No stress.

Thanks as always to Slevin, without whose patience, time and technical expertise this site would simply not exist.

Tags: , , ,

Here’s Why I Decided to Do Merch Again

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, I said it would never happen. First of all, this is rock and roll, and anyone who’s ever seen a reunion show — which I think at this point is everybody — should know how long ‘never’ lasts. It doesn’t matter what I said. Doesn’t matter what I say now either, I guess. Okay, post over. Thanks for reading.

I know money’s tight. Money’s tight for me too. I’m as broke as I’ve ever been. I’m not doing merch for money. I’m doing merch because this site is coming up on a special occasion and it’s one of the little ways to celebrate it.

And it is a celebration. Last time I did tshirts and hoodies, it was very much a first-timer experience. I was so dumb about it. Took preorders for a week and sold 110 shirts, then had to have them all made and sent out to the US and Europe and Japan and Australia. It was a HUGE expense on my part and a significant pain in the ass, and in the end I lost money on the endeavor.

Well, along come Dave from Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners — who did the stuff last time, so I know it’s quality work — and Matt Bacon from Dropout Merch, and they’ve got a fulfillment model. Nothing’s made that isn’t sold, and they handle all the shipping and it’s all built into the cost. I get $10 per shirt sold, which is more than I made doing it myself, and none of the extra work that, worst of all, cut into my writing time. I trust them to not screw it up or screw anyone over. That’s what matters.

There are four designs and here they are (click to enlarge):

The top two are by CAVUMscriptorum and Harley and J, and the bottom two are Alexander von Wieding. The CAVUM one (top left) and the von Wieding without the rays (bottom left) are new this time. It makes me sad to think that I’d feel too much like dude-in-his-own-band’s-shirt to wear one, but that space boogie design is fucking rad. I think they’re all cool and I hope you agree.

If you buy a shirt, thanks. You’re directly helping to support my ability to do this site as well as, I don’t know, buy groceries? If you don’t buy a shirt and you think I’m a scumbag trying to make a buck, well, okay, but if that was my aim, I’d probably have folded this fucking endeavor a long time ago and gotten an actual job for which I probably wouldn’t work half as hard or care half as much.

Alright, that’s it. Thanks for reading, and thanks to MIBK Dave and Matt Bacon for coddling my hyper-protective ass through the process of getting this going,

Merch is here if you’re interested. Appreciate the support either way: https://www.dropoutmerch.com/the-obelisk

Tags: ,

What are the Best Releases of 2018 So Far?

Posted in The Debate Rages on July 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

best releases of 2018

In internet parlance, I’m asking for a friend. Except the friend is me, which I think is the whole gag with that anyway. Whatever, you get the point.

Among my several — always charming — compulsions, I keep ongoing notes for this site. I log upcoming reviews, stuff for the Quarterly Review, ideas for things that never manifest — I swear someday I’ll put up that list of the best desert rock songs written nowhere near a desert, so help me — and most importantly, the best releases for the year. Best albums, best EPs, best songs, best cover art. Everything that goes into the year-end lists that come up in December is the product of the whole year’s worth of keeping track.

My notes for 2018 were on my old laptop, Big Red, which was stolen from me while I was in the UK early in May. Some you win, some you lose. I’ve got The Silver Fox these days, but I haven’t been able to replenish my notes to their fullest as of yet.

It’s been tradition around here to do a six-month check-in on the best albums of the year. I could go back through all the reviews and find what I’ve covered and add it to the 20 or so records off the top of my head, but, frankly, that’s no fun. I’d rather see what everyone else thinks.

So instead of telling, I’m taking the opportunity to ask: What are the Best Releases of 2018 So Far?

I don’t care about genre, album, EP, single, demo, live record, whatever. Anything at all you want to name is welcome here. Really. All I’m interested in is knowing what you’re passionate about, and if I get reminded of something I had in my old notes along the way, bonus. I’m still going to go back and dig through the 2018 reviews, but I’m hoping this will be a good time for all.

Again, any picks welcome, and in any number. Top five, top 10, top 50. Please just leave a comment on this post with your favorites and let’s have some fun talking about kickass records.

Oh, and if you want to mention something you’re looking forward to that’s not out yet, that’s welcome too.

Thanks in advance.

Tags: ,

This is the 10,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on March 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk 10000th post

Well, here we are. It took some nine-plus years, but The Obelisk has finally hit its 10,000th post. This, as it happens, is it.

I told The Patient Mrs. the other day it was coming up and she very reasonably asked me what I was doing to celebrate. My answer: I’ll probably put up a post with a big number 10,000 at the top of it, maybe throw in a “thanks for reading” and then go about my business. That’s pretty much what I plan to do. Today’s a pretty busy day.

But before I dig into the rest of it, I just need to take a quick second and of course say thank you to everyone who has made this possible over this succession of years. The Patient Mrs. first and foremost. My family. To Slevin. My friends and the people in bands and readers who’ve become my friends. The label and PR folks. I’m crass and impatient and opinionated to a fault, and accordingly not the easiest person to get along with. To anyone who’s ever reached out to send me a record to review or even just to hear — “Hey man, I don’t even need a review, I just want you to listen if you have time” — thank you.

the obelisk art by maarten dondersAnd it’s kind of become a tagline at this point, but really, thank you for reading. I’m going to try to be merciful and keep this short, but it means so, so, so much to me to think that when I put something like this out there into the vast ether of the internet, it catches eyes. Maybe you don’t read every day. Maybe you think I suck at this and I’m a punk. Maybe you don’t even think about the fact that there’s a person behind this stuff, or you think there’s a staff of writers (nope: no staff), but please know how grateful I am for every comment, every share, every like, every retweet, every screenshot that shows up on Instagram. All of it. It’s everything to me at this point. As outlets go, it’s all I’ve got.

But rest assured, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This past week, The Obelisk page on Thee Facebooks also passed 7,000 likes and my personal account, in addition to the 5,000 friends that’s the max they allow, also passed 2,000 followers. I’m over 3,000 on Instagram and coming up on that on Twitter too. Thank you for all of that as well.

Will there be another 10,000 posts? I don’t know. In nine years, I’ll be 45 years old. Not to say it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, but I’ve said all along that I don’t know what the future will bring, and I still feel that way. This is still an ongoing project, and I guess it will be until it isn’t anymore. Whenever that is, I assume I’ll know.

Oh, and my only regret about the last 9,999 posts before this one? That more of them weren’t about how much Acid King kicks ass. Because, man oh man, Acid King kicks some ass.

Thanks so much for reading. We go onward. Head down, keep working.

All my best,
JJ Koczan

 

Tags: ,

The Obelisk is Nine Years Old Today

Posted in Features on January 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

9

In the immortal words of David Spade in Tommy Boy: ‘Did I catch a niner in there?’ Indeed you did. The Obelisk is nine years old today.

Kind of difficult to believe we’re at the end of January 2018 already — or, you know, at 2018 in general, which still sounds like and definitely is the scary future to my increasingly dated ass — but the calendar hasn’t started lying to me yet that I know of, and the last weekend of the first month is traditionally when I mark the occasion that Slevin registered the domain, installed the WordPress back end and let me loose upon my own self-indulgence to begin this project that, now entering its 10th year, has consumed a major, major portion of my life and identity.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve always been a compulsive person. Always been prone to setting up routines, forming habits, rituals, etc., but I think if you look back on the last nine years of my life and see defining moments in everything from professional shifts to life changes, moving from my beloved Garden State of New Jersey to my significantly-less-beloved-even-though-there-are-a-lot-of-good-people-here Bay State of Massachusetts, the birth of my son just over three months ago and the shift I’m undergoing now in addressing long-seeded issues of mental illness while also working to become the best stay-at-home dad I can be for The Pecan — it’s been The Patient Mrs. and The Obelisk (very much in that order) as the two constants in my life. Whatever else I have going on in a given day, I’d have a hard time not feeling lucky in considering that.

It’s not always easy. It’s a lot of work, and I get overwhelmed, especially just being one person behind the site on the writing end, but I am lucky to spend every minute of the day that I can writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and I know plenty of people who dream of doing one thing and lose all their days doing something else. I fail to see it far too often, but I am deeply, deeply fortunate.

It is worth acknowledging this every chance I get.

I owe my life, my time and my heart to The Patient Mrs. She is the cornerstone and the foundation of everything I am, and while she may or may not ultimately want to include that line among the many accomplishments of her CV, it’s true just the same. Deep and heartfelt thanks as well to Patrick Slevin, whom I miss desperately and don’t see nearly enough (I’ll be in Jersey in March; lunch? dinner?) and remains instrumental in keeping this place up and running. And to Behrang Alavi, who since taking over hosting duties has absolutely killed it in that regard and this weekend even oversaw the awaited implementation of a mobile-optimized version of the site. That’s right. If you’re reading this on your phone, you might notice it doesn’t look like crap.

There are so many others. My family, whose support is endless. Walter and Becky from Roadburn. Everyone who reads and shares links. The bands who get in touch. The labels and PR firms who support this project. The promoters and groups who bring me on board to present shows and tours.

I say I didn’t know what The Obelisk would turn into nine years ago, and that’s very much true, but I also had no idea what The Obelisk would be now a year ago, and likewise, I have no idea now what it will be in another year. That’s what makes this exciting.

Believe it or not, I’ll be hitting 10,000 posts on this site pretty soon, so I’ll save more thanks and whatnot for that, but really, I can’t tell you how much your ongoing support means to this site and to me personally. Thank you for being part of this. Let’s keep it going.

All the best,
JJ Koczan

https://www.facebook.com/theobeliskdotnet/
https://twitter.com/hptaskmaster
https://www.instagram.com/hptaskmaster/

Tags: , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,