Sam Goblin currently lives in Maryland. He formerly played music with Two Inch Astronaut, and currently performs as Mister Goblin. He hopes to never, ever, ever become a music writer.
It’s maybe harder than ever to have a full perspective on the present moment, and the energy it’d take to hoist yourself up to the lip of the ditch might not feel quite worth the bird’s eye view. Who could blame you, champ? It’s been (another) tricky year, no doubt, and though bookending a particular clutch of days feels more and more arbitrary, it is our sworn duty as consumers to honor the things that happened within a length of time. I plan to hold up my end of the bargain.
Quick disclaimer: a lot of these records are by friends or people I know. Part of my motivation here is of course to Shout Out the Squad, but I also think it’s common that people we are drawn to often (but not always) channel the things we like about them into their art. In other words, this list is surely biased, but also, I wouldn’t lie to you, baby. Off we go, in no particular order, let the trumpets blow:
World of Pleasure — World of Pleasure & Friends
Not sure there’s much I could say that would be illuminating other than this EP basically kicks your ass relentlessly for eight minutes. The very last line is, “you lived like you’ll die/A fucking gutless piece of shit,” and you feel like you have to run it back immediately just to prove that line wrong. But you never quite do, do you? Gutless piece of shit.
Extra Life — Secular Works Vol. 2
I’m always a little skeptical about reunion albums, particular ones with a “spiritual sequel to most beloved album in a band’s discography” narrative, but DAMNED if Extra Life didn’t come through with the sauce. True to the band’s philosophy of excess (detailed here if you want to check out an interview I did with principal songwriter Charlie Looker) the band’s only choice here was to go extra-er, and after a decade the band sounds more powerful and insane than ever.
Meat Wave — Malign Hex
The worst band name in the history of rock music is back with another truly excellent punk record. I think this band is the closest we have to a modern day Wipers — biting and caustic but with a real tenderness underneath. They’re a little bit more restrained here, which spotlights some unexpectedly gorgeous melodies (see: “Waveless”). Very glad to have them back.
Kenny Mason — RUFFS
I’ve been pulling for Kenny Mason ever since I first heard him wash JID (who I love) and IDK on the excellent “Cereal” a few years back. RUFFS initially felt a little too restrained to me but it’s really grown on me in the past month. He raps so effortlessly and his ear for melody is incredible, and the whole sonic vision feels like someone in the year 2000’s weirdo impression of what music might sound like in 2022 (complimentary). Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s a Hoobastank sample on here, but I don’t want to look it up in case I’m wrong.
Signals Midwest — DENT
I liked this album from the moment I heard it, but I’ll admit my first thought was “maybe a few too many harmonized guitar solos, fellas.” However! The songs are so hooky and well-written that after repeated listens, the more exuberant arrangements just become an added thrill. It’s a tough thing to capture “whoa-oh” youthfulness and the weariness of capital-A Adulthood on a single record, but here we are. Classy shit.
Spring Silver — I Could Get Used to This
Perhaps the most biased item on this list since I sang a little bit on this, but I really do think it’s a crime that this album isn’t more popular. It’s ambitious, tuneful, creative, harmonically interesting — in other words, pretty much the opposite of whatever plodding Montessori school indie folk is topping the DIY charts at the moment. Get with it, folks.
Callous Daoboys — Celebrity Therapist
I avoided this band for a while because I unfairly assumed that based on their name, I wouldn’t like it, but as it happens this record goes absolutely dummy. I could guess around reference points for this stuff (Botch? The Paper Chase? Irony is a Dead Scene? Stravinsky? I dunno) but it’s so frenetic and out there that I really can’t say I’ve heard anything quite like it before. Refreshing to hear music that’s willing to be annoying, too. Respect.
Options — Swimming Feeling
There’s a line in the song “Shortsight” where Seth says “Anything I do I can do it alone.” In the context of the song, it probably means something else, but it also strikes me as a fitting humble brag for the whole Options project. It’s a little disturbing that these songs, arrangements, and performances all came from one individual. It’s a restless and unpredictable record that’s still somehow inviting and cozy, like all the best Options stuff but even better. Beast mode, etc.
Johanna Warren — Lessons For Mutants
Johanna has been dropping unnaturally consistent heat for many years, and this record contains some of my favorite tunes she’s put out yet. She ventures further out into the Rock Zone and the whole thing feels a bit angrier than a lot of her previous stuff, which adds fun new wrinkles to what she already does so well. If you only check out one song, “Tooth For A Tooth” is a classic.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bunny by Mister Goblin.
(Photo Credit: Sarah Edmands Martin)