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A Year in Review: Staff Picks December 31st, 2020

A Year in Review: 2020

What follows is a list of my favorite releases of 2020 in no particular order. There was so much more great music than this in 2020, but rather than give you a 60-item list, I pared it down to the dozen (or so) most crucial. I did the same for reissues and also shared some personal milestones from this year. Everyone talks about how 2020 was a fucked year, but if you don’t think it was a great one for music, you weren’t paying attention.

Sirkka: Kuluttava Kone cassette (self-released)

Perfectly executed hardcore punk inspired by the Finnish greats of old. One of those releases that leaves your jaw on the floor every time you play it.

Physical media status: This had been sold out since it came out early in 2020, but after I wrote about Kuluttava Kone in my staff pick last week, the band got in touch to say they’ll be releasing a small repress of pro-duplicated tapes very soon. Sorry State will have copies!

Public Acid: Condemnation 7” (Beach Impediment)

Universally acknowledged as one of the most exciting bands in the hardcore punk underground, Public Acid proved why that’s the case with their new EP. Nasty and brutal with an artsy, progressive edge.

Physical media status: The first pressing sold out from the label within a couple of days, as did Sorry State’s distro copies. I see it’s still kicking around in a couple of online distros, though a patient person can wait for the imminent repress.

Straw Man Army: Age of Exile 12" (D4MT Labs)

To say that Straw Man Army emerged out of nowhere would show you’re not paying attention, because the creatively fertile D4MT Labs group has been pumping out hit after hit for several years now. However, this Straw Man Army LP is on another level, more melodic and song-oriented than most of that group’s output, but the streamlined style makes the cutting lyrics hit that much harder. Highly recommended for fans of Zounds and Crisis.

Physical media status: The first pressing appears to be gone, and it seems like most distro copies have been gobbled up as well. However, I hear there’s going to be a UK pressing on La Vida Es Un Mus, which Sorry State will carry if those are the only available copies.

Rigorous Institution: Survival 7" (Roach Leg)

Rigorous Institution’s previous 7” on Black Water blew me away, but Survival… fuck, what a record! I remember this hit the internet shortly into the plague days, when complete societal breakdown seemed like a real possibility. No one painted that picture more clearly than Rigorous Institution. One of the most epic things punk produced in 2020.

Physical media status: Sorry State still has copies!

Riki: S/T 12" (Dais)

California’s Riki released a cool 12” EP a couple of years ago (Sorry State still has copies in stock), but their debut full-length catapulted them to another level. This isn’t punk rock… it’s synth-pop, but the punks love it, me included. FFO Fatamorgana, Special Interest, Boy Harsher.

Physical media status: This LP has already been through a few pressings, each on different colors of vinyl. Sorry State is out of stock, but hopefully we can get more copies as early as next week.

The Annihilated: demo (self-released)

Another hardcore release that blew me away. The 80s US hardcore sound has always been close to my heart, and I don’t think anyone did it better than the UK’s the Annihilated (though they add a pretty big helping of their indigenous oi! music a la Negative Approach).

Physical media status: If you didn’t get one of these already, you’re fucked.

Romero: Honey 7" (Cool Death)

“Honey” is my most played song of 2020. Romero’s music is outside my normal wheelhouse, but something about this songs gets me, and I feel like I’m weightless every time I hear it. Everything about it is great, but I think my favorite part is the way the chord progression unfolds. This song is as solidly constructed as Egypt’s pyramids.

Physical media status: The 7” went through two pressings and both seem long gone. However, Romero has a new single on the way, also on Cool Death Records.

Humant Blod: Flykten Från Verkligheten 7” (Desolate / Havoc)

Looking for the most ripping record of 2020? I can’t think of anything that bests this one. A few New York punks (notably from Extended Hell) flew in a couple of Swedes (including Poffen from Totalitär) for the weekend to record this studio project. How much more ripping could it be? None. None more ripping.

Physical media status: While this record’s first pressing sold out and was briefly in high demand, the labels have done an outstanding job of keeping this available. Sorry State is out but hopefully we can get more soon.

Krigshoder: Krig I Hodet cassette (Suck Blood)

Another transatlantic project band, this one pairs folks from the Suck Blood Records / Blazing Eye / East LA scene with Daniel from Norwegian punks Negativ. A serious contender for the “most ripping” title, but with an added element of bouncy catchiness borrowed from the 80s Norwegian classics.

Physical media status: This is currently sold out, but Suck Blood represses their releases sporadically. Hopefully we can get more at some point.

Fried E/M: Modern World 12” (Lumpy)

Another pure USHC banger, St. Louis’s Fried E/M gave us that catchy, snotty, raging stuff we all crave. FFO Career Suicide, Circle Jerks, Sick Pleasure.

Physical media status: Still in stock at Sorry State!

The Cool Greenhouse: S/T 12" (Melodic) / Alexa 7" (Melodic)

The Cool Greenhouse’s song “Pets” was my favorite track of 2019, and the two records they released this year did not disappoint. While they’ve yet to release a bad song, “Alexa” is my pick for “can’t miss Cool Greenhouse track of 2020.”

Physical media status: Copies of the LP are scarce in the US as the label’s US distributor has been sold out for a while, but you might find a copy or two if you dig around. As far as I can tell, Alexa wasn’t distributed at all in the US, though there are still copies available at UK shops. Basically, you can get both pretty easily, but you’ll have to order from overseas.

ISS: Too Punk for Heavy Metal 7” (Total Punk) / Spikes cassette (self-released)

ISS continues to be one of the most innovative, exciting, and fun bands in punk rock. The a-side of their 7” on Total Punk is one of their best tracks, but they don’t release duds.

Physical media status: Too Punk for Heavy Metal is still in stock at Sorry State, but Spikes sold out in a matter of days and I don’t see a repress happening given how labor-intensive it was to make these.

Misanthropic Minds: Welcome to the Homeland 7” (Sewercide)

It feels weird putting a release that just came out a couple of weeks ago on the best of list, but this is one of 2020’s highlights. Another one that pushes the rage-o-meter into the red, this sounds like if you applied Urban Waste’s production values to Koro’s density and energy level. Not to be missed.

Physical media status: Both the label and Sorry State are sold out and I haven’t heard about whether there will be a repress. However, since this just came out, you should be able to find a copy at another store or distro.

Favorite Reissues of 2020:

United Mutation: Dark Self Image LP (Radio Raheem)

This underrated DC hardcore band gets the retrospective they deserve, done up with all of the class and style Radio Raheem is known for. So much great music and artwork in this package.

Physical media status: Just got a fresh repress; currently in stock at Sorry State.

Kalashnikov: S/T 7” (Adult Crash)

Catchy Euro HC banger gets a long overdue and beautifully executed official reissue.

Physical media status: Sold out, but a repress is coming.

The Times: Red with Purple Flashes 7” (Static Shock)

Perfect UKDIY pop from this project helmed by Ed Ball, whom you also know from Television Personalities, Teenage Filmstars, and O Level.

Physical media status: Currently in stock at Sorry State!

Newtown Neurotics: Kick Out! LP (Sealed)

This LP compiles the essential early singles from this UK punk band. This is the soundtrack to a documentary about the band that has been delayed because of COVID. Can’t wait to see that one.

Physical media status: In stock at Sorry State!

Hellhammer: Apocalyptic Raids LP (Noise)

An all-time metal classic gets a nicely done reissue featuring posters and a thick booklet. I own an original and I still sprung for one of these because the packaging is so awesome.

Physical media status: In stock at Sorry State!

Grave New World: The Last Sanctuary LP (Bitter Lake)

Crow’s project between iterations of his namesake band is one of the great undiscovered gems of Japanese hardcore. A deeply original record, this combines crust and hardcore with psychedelic and noise elements. A brilliant album and I’m happy to own a physical copy.

Physical media status: Sold out instantly, no repress planned as far as I know. You’re going to have to hit the second hand market for this one.

Nightmare: Give Notice of Nightmare LP (Farewell)

Give Notice of Nightmare is a top-tier classic of Japanese hardcore, and while this reissue is light on frills, it gets the music on your turntable, which is the most important part.

Physical media status: Repress coming, hopefully in January, distributed by Sorry State in the US.

T.S.O.L.: Beneath the Shadows LP (Dink)

T.S.O.L.’s 1982 masterpiece gets its first vinyl pressing since 1989. By this point TSOL sounded like an American version of the post-Brian James Damned. However, as much as I love The Black Album and Strawberries, Beneath the Shadows is way better than anything the Damned did after Machine Gun Etiquette.

Physical media status: In stock at Sorry State!

Favorite used pickup of the year: Government Issue: Legless Bull 7”

Being over 40 years old, having lived in the mid-Atlantic United States for my entire life, and having collected vinyl since I was a teenager, I’ve come across more Dischord originals than most people. While I picked up most of the label’s catalog before prices got astronomical, the one that eluded me was Government Issue’s first EP, Legless Bull. I had a few chances in the past, but it was always more than I wanted to pay. This year one came in to the shop and I knew it was going home with me. The early Dischord catalog is so important to me, shaping not only my tastes in music but also my ethics and values.

Favorite addition to my household: Patti Pancake

This year I did something I never thought I’d do: I got a dog. It happened unexpectedly, but I’m so glad it did. She’s still only 9 months old, so she has a ton of fun puppy energy, but now she’s house trained and as well behaved as a dog could be (thanks to my partner Jet).

A Year in Review: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters? I went a bit long, so read as far as you care to…

I believe it was Ian MacKaye who said, “It’s the end of a fucked up year, but there’s another one coming.” Well, thank fucking lord for that, because I am sure as hell ready for this shitshow to be over. Hopefully we can all look forward to things getting a lot better in 2021. Fingers crossed…

Typically, when we get close to the end of the year, Daniel has us make a list of our “top 10 records of the year” or some sort of list along those lines. But this time he’s letting us write something more freeform and approach our prompt as “2020: a year in review.” I froze for a second and thought to myself—what am I gonna say besides, “Shit, I dunno man, it sucked!” As I’m sitting here to reflect on 2020, the year felt like a whirlwind that washed over me in a blur, but also the slowest, most grueling year of my life. I’ve divided periods of the year into different chapters, each represented by particular sequence of events along with a uniquely uncomfortable headspace. I’m wary of talking too much about a bunch of negative shit, but if my stream of consciousness goes there then sorry. Just bear with me.

It’s funny, I remember the beginning of this year feeling exciting and full of hope. So weird for me to think about how Scarecrow put out our first EP on January 1st and we were planning to go on tour in March. Seems strange to say the pandemic was well-timed, but if lockdown had gone into effect a week later, we would’ve already been on the road. Early on, I remember getting the impression that people were adapting and had energy circulating while dealing with living in quarantine. I found circumstances leading me to reach out to friends who live far away in other cities and see what they were up to. There was a lot of activity on social media, and I remember even thinking to myself that I would get super productive working on recording projects. Slowly but surely, that positive energy faded for me and a lot of other people. Honestly, working at Sorry State and having a sense of structure on a day-to-day basis helped keep my head straight. Daniel could have had us stop working if things got tight, so I’m thankful that he kept us on. We worked hard to adjust to our new reality. It’s surreal to think back now to the end of spring. While Sorry State was closed to the public, we took that time to paint the walls and redecorate. Looking out our storefront window, it was around this time that people began protesting because of the horrible racist police violence. Maybe foolishly, I remember my frame of mind being that the pandemic didn’t even seem that concerning while all of that was going on. It still feels so intense to me that these two world-shaking things were happening at the same time.

Hard to transition smoothly out of that thought… but on a less intense and I guess more personal note, what I miss more than anything due to circumstances in 2020 is punk gigs. Not only because of drinking 20 beers and seeing all these killer bands roll through town, but also because I miss the sense of gathering and seeing friends come together around something rad we all did together. The last gig I played in 2020 was when Vittna drove up to Richmond to play with Lux from Barcelona. That was on March 11th, right before shit hit the fan. I remember talking to Louis from Lux on the street while all the bands were loading out gear and he said they were concerned about being able to get back into the country when they flew home. Crazy.

I’m not sure how much I talked about this when it happened, but one of the bigger bummers of 2020 was when Usman, all of our housemates, and I got booted out of where we lived by our landlord. Our house, which we called The Bunker, was a regular spot where shows took place in Raleigh for a few years. I’ll try not to be too sappy about it, but I get sad when I take the time to think about that even when the world slowly goes back to normal, we won’t have our show house to return to and keep things going. But it was gonna end at some point—covid or no covid. I don’t think I’ve processed that yet. The unofficial last show at our house was on March 8th, with Armor from Florida, my band Vittna, and the first show of this killer “new” band Pioneers Disappear, which Usman plays guitar in. From what I remember, that was a pretty great show. Bye bye, Bunker.

Okay, now let’s get to records. I can safely say that this year is the most amount of money I’ve ever spent on records. I wish I could say that buying records is my only vice, but I’m pretty sure I’ve drunk more Hamm’s this year than any other. Usman has me beat on rare and rad Scandinavian hardcore this year, but I went pretty hard on the US hardcore stuff. I’ve picked up quite a few hardcore records that I’ve been stoked on, but my big score was getting a first pressing of the Negative Approach 7”. Top 3 greatest hardcore records ever? It’s the most money I’ve ever spent on a single record, but I still would say I got it for a pretty damn good deal. Don’t ask.

It seems like my “best of” section is shaping up to be the shortest part of my ramblings for this epic I’m writing. Granted, 2020 was a difficult year to release a record in any capacity. But for me, 2020 was the “year of cassettes.” Most of my favorite releases from this year were released on tape. Top mentions include Sirkka, Krigshoder, The Annihilated, Violent Christians, Tower 7, Vivisected Numbskulls—DAMN, so much killer shit. That said, there were a few undeniable vinyl releases this year. If you made a formal list of your top records and the new Public Acid 7” wasn’t on it, you’re a complete moron. Humant Blod was also a collision of people from one the best current bands and people from some of my favs overseas. Also, late to the game, but I love that new White Stains record. The band has a good chunk of peeps from the Loose Nukes camp, but It’s not quite as ripping fast. I gotta say though, it’s got that vibe of mean and irreverent hardcore that I’ve been craving lately. I wrote this somewhere else, but it’s like Sick Pleasure meets Amdi Petersens’ Arme. Maybe with a bit of Lucky Lehrer type drumming? I dunno. Alright, I’ll keep it simple because I’m sick of typing. Here are some other records I liked this year: Secretors flexi, Lux 7”, Muro: Pacificar 12”, Sial 12”, Stray Bullet 7”, Regimen De Terror 7”, Rigorous Institution: Survival 7”, Reek Minds 7”, Kaleidoscope 7”, Straw Man Army 12”, Xylitol 7” with the long ass title, Milk 7”, Subdued 12”, Fried E/M 12”, Sabre 7”, Nutrition 7”, and Riki was my synth-laden guilty pleasure all year long.

That’s it, ya filthy animals. See ya next year, I hope.

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

A Year in Review: Eric

How bout it! The year 2020 has come and gone. Daniel has given us permission to go off the cuff and talk about our year in review, both in terms of great punk, and in terms of what went down for us personally. I’ll try my best to spare y’all from what we all see and hear in the media we consume (“2020!!?!?!??!! wHaT A dUMpSteR fIRe AMIRITE”). We can all agree that none of us had the year we thought we were going to have. I remember the last show I played (or attended for that matter) was Vittna playing In Richmond with Lux on March 11th. I have a vivid memory of my Mom texting me something to the effect of: “This is getting bad!! Stay home!! Please don’t go to any shows or parties!!” Meanwhile, I was surrounded by strangers drinking draft beer and cutting up with old friends. It became even more real when Lux was saying they were worried they would not get back to Spain. It was only a few days later that stay at home ordinances were in place and our worlds were turned upside down.

Public Acid had lots of plans to tour and stay busy, I had made some personal travel plans, and I had plans to move to Richmond to be closer to some close friends and family (I did still end up doing that, but I’ll get to that later). I had typed out a long rant about what happened instead and how much it fucking sucked, but then I decided not to. We’re all having a rough time. No need to compete over who suffered more. Plus, the only way to move is forward! Lemme tell you about some highlights from my year:

-I’ve been finding some solace in calling this year, “the year of the homie.” By that I mean I could probably count the new people I’ve met on my hands, and I have had so much time to spend with people in my chosen circle(s). No strangers, no outsiders, no awkward interactions at social gatherings or shows… just connecting with people I want to. Sure, there are so many people I wish I could have connected with this year, but I guess that’s why the overlords gave us instagram. I feel like some relationships I had with certain friends are stronger than ever if for no other reason than we were quarantining in the same circles, and for that I’m grateful if I’m being real!

-A big development for me this year was relocating to Richmond after being in North Carolina for almost 9 years (the last 3 of which were in Raleigh). That was a decision I made before the shit hit the fan that didn’t come to fruition until July. I have a lot of very close friends and family here and I am so glad I can hunker down here amongst good company. I was soooo sad to leave all my friends and regulars at Sorry State, but I feel lucky that Daniel kept me on staff and has me buying records for the store from afar. SSR #1 4evr.

-Public Acid recorded in February and our 7” finally came out last month on Beach Impediment. Thanks to everyone who picked one up or shared some kind words! That was something that made this year feel alright, even if we had to cancel so many other things we were looking forward to.

-With nothing but time on our hands, my roommate, a close friend, and myself have been working out in my backyard on a very regular basis. We had gotten so into it we hired a covid friendly personal trainer to show us the way of the meathead. I don’t think I look different (you can pry the Miller Lite and pepperoni pizza from my cold, dead hands) but I am feeling stronger in mind and body. If I didn’t have that outlet, my mental health would likely have spiraled out of control.

-I have laid down tracks for 4 different projects over the course of the year that will hopefully see the light of day in 2021. I guess if nothing else there has been plenty of time to try new creative things and branch out, even if nothing ever comes of it.

-I got my very first pro tattoos at age 27! One is Green Day album art (I regret nothing) and another is a cute lil Poison Idea tattoo my dear friend Jim gave me.

-This past month or so I have picked up a couple different part time gigs, including working a few days a week at Vinyl Conflict here in Richmond. Now I have two record gigs! Things could be worse.

This all feels very strange, and I realize I haven’t mentioned my favorite records of 2020 yet. I guess my point in saying all that is that I hope all of you can find your personal silver lining after such a traumatic year. I’ve had a few white claws and I have been rambling and reminiscing about the past 12 months, and I gotta tell ya, it feels good to write down the things you’re thankful for.

This New Year I plan to drink my weight in champagne, watch Green Day do some stupid shit on live television, and hopefully score a midnight smooch from a special lady I’m sweet on. As for 2021, I ain’t placing any bets.

Here are some of my favorite releases from 2020 (in no particular order):

Laffing Gas - It’s A Beautiful Day In The Gulch 12”

Fried E/M - S/T 12”

Sweeping Promises - Hunger For A Way Out 12”

Muro / Orden Mundial - Sonido De La Negacion 12”

White Stains: Make Me Sick 12”

Kaleidoscope - Decolonization 7”

Bootlicker - How To Love Life 7”

Romero - Honey 7”

Scarecrow - Revenge 7”

The Annihilated - Demo cassette

DeStructos - Blast! Cassette

That’s it for me. I’m sure the moment I submit this I will remember another release that kicks ass but oh well. Hope everyone has a pleasant New Year and has time to count their blessings. ACAB.

A Year in Review: Dominic

Happy New Year Sorry Staters. Cheers to all of you out there who read our newsletter and support the store. Thank you, it means a lot.

So, 2020 has finally come to an end. What a year indeed. We can only hope that this next year dials back the pain and suffering just a smidge. Perhaps see the end of the pandemic and a return to some sort of normalcy where we can socialize with each other again? That would be nice, right? Maybe go see some bands play, hang out with each other, travel, all the good stuff that makes life tolerable. Fingers crossed. Despite all the bad stuff that went down this past year, a lot of great things still happened. Liverpool FC won the English Premier League, for instance. Oh, and a ton of great music was released. Music, that’s our business here at Sorry State and thanks to your support we put a lot of cool records into your hands and onto your turntables. We look forward to more of the same in 2021.

It’s at this time of the year that every magazine, store and person with an internet connection puts out “Best Of” lists and we are no exception. A quick read through the past year’s newsletters proves that there truly was a big stack of cool records (and tapes) that came out. You probably bought several from us. Cheers for that. One thing about best of lists is that they are subjective. We all have our different tastes and preferences. With so much music being created each year, it’s near impossible to keep up with it all. I work in a record store and live and breathe music all day every day, yet reading other people’s lists I realize just how much I don’t know about and have missed. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to listen to everything nor finances to pay for it all, but I managed to take a few releases home with me this year and also scored some cool old shit I have spent years hoping to find.

My list then is almost exclusively things that I bought and took home rather than trying to be an actual best of the year. To simplify things, I have picked four or five records that were a new single, new album, a reissue or a compilation, the last category being my personal scores.

First up then are a handful of singles that impressed me. The Renaldo Domino track is an awesome new soul track from a performer from the original golden era of soul music. Here he is backed by a top notch crew of some of the brightest talents in the soul and funk world working today. The Colemine label outdid themselves with this one. It’s a great uptempo, authentic sounding tune and I was happy to get to spin it at the one DJ gig I had this past summer. ISS are our hometown heroes and keep raising the bar with each release. This single combines post-punk sounds with a knowing wink and a little humour and is ace. They almost topped themselves with their late year entry called Spikes, which came out as a limited cassette, but the 45 wins by a nose. Working Men’s Club is a new outfit from the UK signed to Heavenly and all I can say is that single Valleys sounds like the hit single New Order never made. You can almost imagine yourself in the Hacienda to this one. Although not technically a single, more of an EP, the four tracks from Cry Out represent the unfinished work of sadly departed artist Rosie Davis. Last cut, Garden Song, is my favourite. It’s great and should please anyone who likes upbeat, 80s sounding, slightly Goth post punk music. Even though these recording are uncompleted, I think they sound terrific and encourage you to seek this one out. The track Deeper Love from the UK’s Stone Foundation features Modfather Paul Weller on vocals and is a highlight from the group’s album Is Love Enough. These guys have been building an impressive body of work over the past dozen years and do not seem ready to stop here.

Favorite Singles

  1. Renaldo Domino: No Lagging and Dragging (Colemine)
  2. ISS: Too Punk For Heavy Metal (Total Punk)
  3. Working Men’s Club: Valleys (Heavenly Recordings)
  4. Cry Out More Echoes Of A Question Never Answered Why? (La Vida Es Un Mus)
  5. Stone Foundation: Deeper Love (100% Records)

Lots of top full lengths out this year, too. I was particularly excited to get the LP from The Cool Greenhouse. We at SSR are big fans. From the UK, they deliver droll tongue-in-cheek missives on modern life in a post punk, DIY sort of fashion and are totally ace. Try and find some of the singles too if you can but definitely check the LP. Track, Smile, Love! Is a highlight for me. God knows we needed a laugh in 2020, and although not trying to be a comedy band, they certainly made me smile. Sounding like they could also be from England are American band Naked Roomate. They combine post punk moves with an electronic sound but also have humour in their lyrics. Certainly giving a nod to the past but an interesting debut, I thought. I’ve been a fan of guitar slinger Little Barrie for some years now and this collaboration with drummer Malcom Catto is absolutely top. It just came out and I haven’t picked up the vinyl yet but have been playing it a lot online. The record sounds like space-age psychedelic funk music, and that’s a good thing. Morwan are a Ukranian post punk band that combine Arabic influences into their sound, and this record came as a surprise to me. I had no idea what to expect when we got it in, but have to say it was a highlight of the year. Dark and mysterious sounds that ear-wormed their way into my brain. Cool.

Favorite Album

  1. The Cool Greenhouse: S/T (Melodic)
  2. Naked Roommate: Do The Duvet (Trouble In Mind)
  3. Little Barrie & Malcom Catto: Quatermass Seven (Madlib Invasion)
  4. Morwan: Zola-Zemlya (Feel It Records)

Every year the record industry reissues a ton of classic old albums and singles and this year was no exception. I was totally psyched to see the Kennélmus album get a reissue as it has been a Holy Grail 60s psych record on my radar for many years. Super nice job on the package too. Imagine a mash up of Zappa, Beefheart and The Ventures produced by Ennio Morricone and you’ll have an idea of what to expect. The Specials had a cool Record Store Day release this year. A nice 10” of dub instrumentals of Gangsters and personal fave, Why?

Two cool 45s from Australian punkers Z-Cars and England’s The Times were welcome additions to my collection, both being pretty hard finds as originals.

Favorite Resissue-Single or Album

  1. Kennélmus: Folkstone Prism (Modern Harmonic)
  2. The Specials: Gangsters Dubs 10” (2 Tone)
  3. Z-Cars: This Is Z-Cars 7” (Meanbean Records)
  4. The Times: Red With Purple Flashes (Static Shock Records)

Some killer comps out this year and I am all about a good compilation. The jazz head in me was excited to hear some new jazz sounds and the contemporary artists on the Blue Note Re: Imagined all brought the heat. Two other cool Record Store Day releases were the Sharon Jones collection of cover versions they did and Double Whammy comp of 60s garage which had some unreleased cuts and a lot of tough to find singles. Lastly, a collection of more obscure bands that recorded sessions for the late and great Sir John Peel. Really good.

Favorite Compilation

  1. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (Daptone Records )
  2. Blue Note Re:imagined 2020 (Blue Note)
  3. Double Whammy! A 1960s Garage Rock Rave-Up (Craft Recordings)
  4. Killed By John Peel (Vatican Radio Records)

And to end things out, a quick clutch of 45s and an LP that I managed to score this year. The Moon LP had been on my want list for a while and funnily we had a Taiwanese pressing come through the store and then I found a US original the next week. It’s great 60s pop-psych album worth it for track Got To Be On My Way alone. The Throb were an Australian freakbeat band from the 60s and Believe In Me is a great moody garage style cut. The Ognir And The Nite People 45 is a cool two-sider and a great US garage record. Very pleased to get a copy finally. The Hodges, James, Smith & Caulfield tune is a fine piece of sister funk that I was introduced to by Irish DJ David Holmes many years ago and so finding a copy was very nice. Lastly, as we have been living with a fascist dictator for the last four years, it seemed a perfect time to snag a copy of The Cortinas record that came through the store. A classic slice of UK punk featuring future Clash Mk. II member Nick Sheppard.

Personal Scores

  1. Hodges, James, Smith & Caulfield: Nobody 7” (Mpingo)
  2. The Moon: Without Earth LP (Imperial)
  3. The Throb: Believe In Me 7” (Parlophone)
  4. Ognir And The Nite People: I Found A New Love 7” (Warner Bros. Records)
  5. The Cortinas: Fascist Dictator 7” (Step Forward Records)

And so there you have it. From me at least. Let’s thank Jah that we made it through this year. Many of us sadly didn’t and so let’s raise a glass to them. As we enter the Age of Aquarius together we have to put this mess behind us and although not forgetting it, try to remember that there were many great moments and that out of great adversity often comes great art and endeavors. Happy New Year Punk Motherfuckers!!!

Peace-Dom.

A Year in Review: Usman

2020 Started off pretty cool. I went to some sick shows, I started a new band where I tried to play guitar and we played our first (and last) gig. My label with Jeff released an EP of our own band we have together with Daniel, and it sold way faster than anticipated. A label in Sweden who I have looked up to for years offered to release that same EP to get copies into Europe. We booked a two-week tour up the East coast and into the Midwest, and it was easier to book than any tour I had ever experienced. The promoters seemed excited to have us, rather than it being a chore haha. And then we got hit hard with Covid-19 in the States. We “postponed” the tour. Jeff and I got kicked outta our house, which also hosted 90% of the shows we booked. It got a lot worse as the months unfolded with the passing of family and friends. But to keep it real, I have had it a lot easier than most who have suffered through this pandemic. I have kept a warm place to sleep, kept smoking weed, was still able to buy some dank records, and scored my DREAM job here at Sorry State. Not many people can say any of the above. This pandemic has brought (and continues to bring) living hell to the most oppressed demographics in the States. Most people reading this are probably pretty far removed from such demographics. There’s a lot of things I want to say about all the people I saw on social media partying and not social distancing, but I dunno, I don’t feel right laying into people like that. I have done things in my life where I didn’t see the harm I was bringing onto others. It just hurts to see people partying while others die, literally, as a result of people not taking the responsibility to distance. I dunno, I guess the government is to blame the most for not taking care of its citizens by giving us what we need to stay home. Instead, thousands of people have to go into the outside world to earn money just to survive. I’m sure it wasn’t just assholes partying, but workplaces spreading Covid-19 at high rates. It’s not fair for me to condemn those who had no choice but to work to keep a roof over their families’ heads. Yeah, I dunno, I didn’t even mention George Floyd and the HUNDREDS of black, brown, and disabled people shot and killed by the pigs this year alone. What a world we live in. Who knows, maybe a global pandemic is the Earth’s response to thousands of years of rape it has been subjected to at the sake of human “progress.” Anyway, this is about my top records of 2020... so I’ll stop ranting and get on with it.

There were a lot of great records released this year. Here are my top picks:

Sirkka: Kuluttava Kone_ (self-released) _This is my favorite release of the year, I think. I wish it was on a record but I am happy for whatever format this shit is on cos it KILLS!!!! If you love Riistetyt or other Finnish ‘83 shit and have not checked this out, do it right now. The songs are so well written it’s insane. The guitar tones sound so good to my ears. The vocals are icing on the cake. It’s unbelievably good. I can’t express how good I think this is, aside from saying it’s my favorite release of the year, whatever that’s worth. If you missed out on grabbing this, I heard they are doing another run of cassettes. Eyes peeled.

Krigshoder: Krig I Hodet (Suckblood) It’s hard for me to say Sirkka was my favorite release of 2020 with this Krigshoder cassette also being released this year haha. This band, like Sirkka, is an American band with a vocalist from overseas singing in their native language. Apparently the combination is straight up lethal cos both these tapes fucking kill. The band sounds like it has more influences aside from Norwegian HC; some parts remind me of US hardcore and some elements sound a bit Italian (probably cos it rips so hard haha). But who the fuck cares if I can’t box it into a direct “influence.” Actually, that’s probably a good thing. God damn AND they cover the best song (in my opinion) off the Siste Dagers Helvete LP! It’s crazy how natural it sounds for them to play it, too. Top-notch release. I’m not sure if the label still has copies, but you can download it from their bandcamp page and make yer own cassette version.

Destruct: Echoes of Life (Grave Mistake) This band is so good live. So good. Some elements come off as “tough,” which is usually a turn off for me, but I love this record through-and-through. I can listen to it non-stop, flipping it repeatedly, and it doesn’t get old. The guitar tone is perfect, and the riffs are excellent. The bass and drums are so locked in, it’s fucked up. Having a record I can flip constantly and not get tired of is what I look for in a release, and I genuinely found that with this record. There are represses still in circulation, so if you were living under a rock and missed out on this, yer still in luck.

And of course, here are my “honorable” mentions:

Kohti Tuhoa: Elä Totuudesta (La Vida Es Un Mus) This EP is absolutely KILLER, and probably should have been in the picture, but I fucked up. Really cool to hear a modern Finnish band play an old style. So well-executed, not relying on layers of noise or distortion like most bands who worship Finland ‘83 shit. Sounds fucking classic. Sorry State still has a handful of copies of this release if you missed out.

Vivisected Numbskulls: 4 Track demo (Chaotic Uprising Productions) To me, this sounds like it’s influenced by UK82 with hints of Swedish HC. The recording sounds like it’s legit from the ‘80s. I instantly fell in love with this tape, and it stuck with me throughout the year. I think these are sold out, but they have an awesome follow-up cassette available from the label still!

Public Acid: Condemnation (Beach Impediment) Im not sure if I need to explain this one? Can’t fuck with North Carolina! Repress on the way, or check out mailorders who still have copies floating around.

For the hell of it, here are my top reissues of 2020:

Disfear: Soul Scars (La Familia/Havoc/Disfear Records)

Bombanfall: Åsiktsfrihet (D-Takt & Råpunk)

Kalashnikov: Self-titled (Adult Crash)

So I’ve included two extra photos. The first one is of what I consider my most played LPs of the year. One Struggle, One Fight is my favorite Varukers album. (Prepare for the Attack is equally as good to me, but I’m not sure if I can call that a proper album?) I was so happy to finally get an original copy of this! It is exactly one of those records I can listen to on repeat all day without getting bored. I think Rat’s vocals are my favorite on this record over any other release they did. I actually love to full-on sing along with him on this shit haha. Tsjernobilly Boogie was a Norwegian compilation I had never heard of. There were bands on it who I also did not know, but soon came to love! My friend Michael Hardy (WHAT UP, if yer blind ass can read this) told me he came across the LP knowing nothing about it but saw “Norsk Hardcore” on the cover and was sold. He talked about it non stop for a while, so I kept my eye out for a copy. I found one at a good price and I am so happy to have gotten my copy to blast!! Kuknacke is a compilation of Moderat Livkidation, one of the greatest fucking Swedish HC bands. I literally cannot get enough of this shit. I was beyond stoked to land one of these so I can listen to all their tracks back to back, with only one flip haha. Their OGs go for a lot of money, so I think this will be my baby for many, many years to come.

Speaking of a lot of money... with some contemplation, I have shared a photo of my “top scores” of the year. I’m not sharing this to show off. I just thought I would share cos these records mean a lot to me; there is a reason I consider them my top scores of the year. I would cherish them regardless of how rare they have become. I am lucky to have these, and I will have them until I die. The Anarkist Attack EP was an insane score. The cover is uncut; from my understanding this is pretty rare? Tampere SS and Pohjasakka were among the first Finnish HC bands I ever heard. Each band released one cassette and one EP. Both cassettes are nearly impossible to find. I saw a discogs seller “list” the Sotaa EP over the summer, but they would only accept a trade. It was a German who was after USHC. Lucky for both of us, we had some hot shit in the store at the time (per usual haha)... So I traded early represses of the first two Minor Threat EPs and an original Necros IQ32, and in return in received the Tampere SS EP alongside a few hundred bucks. Maybe one day I will regret trading those hot USHC slabs... but knowing there were only 200 copies of the Tampere SS EP ever made (all with handmade center labels, pasted on by the band), I think I made the right decision. The Tampere SS goes for a lot more money than the Pohjasakka EP, but to me they are both priceless. Alright, I think that sums it up. So grateful for Sorry State, and even more grateful to all the punks who support us. Without you, we couldn’t do this. So thank you. Happy New Year, y’all. I hope 2021 will bring us some light at the end of the tunnel. ‘Til next year...

A Year in Review: Rachel

I usually don’t keep up with new releases; that’s changing now that I work at Sorry State though. I haven’t been here long enough to give an accurate top ten new releases of the year; besides, I think my coworkers do a much better job. Packing up my records for this move gave me an excuse to go through them and think about what I’ve bought this year, so top ten purchases seemed more appropriate for me.

Despite not being able to go digging, for obvious reasons, what I have been able to pick up this year are some of my new favorites in my entire (meager) collection. After pulling this list, I noticed it gives a good cross section of my collection. Lil bit of this, lil bit of that. I love catching a new release on vinyl, but my bread and butter is digging because nothing is better than finding something you didn’t know you needed. I picked up some new releases, but most of this list didn’t come out this year.

In (mostly) the order of buying:

  1. Gouge Away - Consider 7” (2020)

I’d been looking forward to a new Gouge Away release and while I’m stoked I got this variant, it was supposed to be a tour exclusive. I think this release marks the moment in the year I realized how much the pandemic was impacting everything. This band, like so many others, took it in stride and released this record online with a cute lil’ quarantine activity book. While the world started to shut down, I got to hole up in my room and listen to more of my collection than I ever have before. This release didn’t disappoint; it’s my favorite of theirs so far. The band seems more focused on their sound and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.

  1. Czarface - The Odd Czar Against Us! 12” (2019)

I’m not well versed in rap at all, but I know what I like and this release was a pleasant surprise. I’d never heard of Czarface until my boyfriend worked with him earlier this year. He scored the intro to the Holy Mountain Printing podcast, and I loved it so much I was stoked to see this record appear in my mailbox. Turns out, Boyfriend’s boss had a copy sent to us because he knew we were huge fans of what we’d heard. We all know this year was weird as fuck. Being able to have a physical item attached to something that made me smile this year is something I’m going to carry with me for a while. The music on this release is sick, but it also just makes me happy to see on my shelf.

  1. Charles Manson - Live at San Quentin 1983 12” (2019 reissue)

Another record I didn’t know I was going to be getting this year! My previous boss and I are still friends and he loves to enable people’s collecting, so for my birthday he got me a gift card to the online store Two Headed Dog. They have a great selection filled with movie soundtracks and oddball stuff right up my alley. This record completes the Spahn Ranch Records discography in my collection: a whopping two releases! I was so, so excited to find it on that site and knew it had to go on my shelf. I’m a fan of true crime and I’m a fan of experimental folk and all that weird stuff they were doing in the 60s/70s, so Charles Manson records are chefs kiss something I love. Especially this album because out of all of his released music, this is some of his more listenable stuff.

  1. David Lynch ft. Jack Cruz - The Flame of Love 7” (2020)

I will get behind anything David Lynch does. And, FUCK his music is so good. I love his other releases and this one was too weird not to get! Another Two Headed Dog purchase and I’m so happy I got it. If you haven’t seen Lynch’s short film “What Did Jack Do?” On Netflix, I recommend the 15ish minute surreal train ride. I don’t know why a monkey with a poorly CGI’d mouth is so compelling, but if anyone could do it, it’s David Lynch. I never, ever go for crooner type music but I think I’d get behind any genre if David Lynch was singing. I love that man and everything he does, UGH.

  1. Xibalba - En La Oscuridad 7” Flexi (2020)

This band just rips, dude. Holy Mountain Printing put out this single on a flexi towards the middle of the year and I’ve been biting my nails waiting for the full album to come out. Did not disappoint AT ALL. This song is still my top for that album, though.

  1. Flatt & Scruggs - The Best from Pet Milk Vol. 1 12” (1959)

The rest of my list marks the significant change of when I started working at Sorry State! This job is better than I could’ve imagined but I keep finding records I need. Double-edged sword. One of the first ones was found by Dominic and put on when we found out we were both fans of music like this. I have a lot of Flatt & Scruggs records already but nothing quite like this. The Grand Ole Opry is an integral part of country history and listening to a record with the ads and intros included was something I didn’t have in my collection. I amassed a lot of bluegrass and banjo music when I worked at another record store; it was the PERFECT music to blast at the end of the night to get people out so I could go home. But then I grew to love and appreciate this genre. It’s a release that hits multiple reasons I collect records- it’s an old ad for a product that no longer exists, a segment of American history, and has really, really good music. I listen to this record more than I’d like to admit.

  1. My Chemical Romance - Life on a Murder Scene 12” (2020 reissue)

I don’t mean to be aggressive but I would die for My Chemical Romance. I’m 26, the exact demographic MCR hit in the mid 2000s and I’m more than okay with it. I had this CD until it broke in my CD player. I watched the accompanying DVD so many times I could speak along with it. I loved My Chemical Romance to an embarrassing extent. Now, they aren’t in my usual rotation but if it “Mysteriously” gets queued up, I revert right back to that fan girl. I don’t pay much attention to Record Store Day releases but I had to pick this one up. The packaging makes my 12 year old heart sing. And honestly, their music still holds up and I will STAND BY THAT. I’ve joked that I would get fired the second I put this band in my staff pick but I’ll go out on this one if I have to! (Daniel is too nice to even participate in me roasting myself for my emo phase; I think my job is secure enough to include this in my top ten.)

  1. Star Trek - Passage to Moauv/In Vino Veritas/The Crier in Emptiness 12” (1979)

I will also forever stand by Star Trek. Except the Original Series. Kirk can go suffocate in space for all I care, The Next Generation is where it’s at. But, of course, most of the vinyl Star Trek releases are from the original series so I suck it up because I love the covers, movie soundtracks, and other stuff I’ve found (like Trek bloopers, Gene Roddenberry interviews, I mean come on, so good). I picked this record up without even thinking so I didn’t know what to expect when I put it on. It’s super fun and has so many examples why I hate Captain Kirk. Most notably, how much he complains about a mind controlling alien cat. I don’t even need to say anything else- obviously this record rocks because it has mind controlling alien cats.

  1. Ralph M. Lewis - The Science of Mysticism 12” (1967)

I found this record when I was digging for something for a customer. That keeps happening. Occult history is something I’ve been interested in but didn’t even think about what vinyl releases were lurking around the world. This is an old Rosicrucian Recordings record, and I’d be lying if I said I understood most (if any?) of it. It’s super fascinating to listen to, and the packaging is perfect (red vinyl!!). It’s another weird part of history pressed into vinyl.

  1. Mutant Strain - S/T 12” (2020)

This is hands down my favorite release and purchase of the year. I mentioned in my last staff pick I’ve been friends with Alex and Maryssa since college. After graduating they moved to Charlotte and whenever we saw each other, conversation always came back to being in a band and releasing music through Sorry State. It happened! Icing on the cake is me starting right as the release came out so I could see in real time that not only did Alex and Maryssa hit their goal, they were making music that people liked. I have to wax poetic about how amazing this release is to make up for sharing Alex’s college band with everyone that reads this newsletter. But really, it’s so easy to do with Mutant Strain. I’m so beyond proud of the work they and the other band members put into this monster of a release. The packaging is perfect, the sound is unreal, and the whole thing just RIPS. The energy seeps through the speakers when I put this on. Mutant Strain is a beast of a band.

2020 was fucked. COVID will still exist in 2021, but hopefully we can emerge from this craziness new and improved. I can’t wait to go to shows and smell everyone’s BO again. I can’t wait to walk into a record store and browse without thinking of where my hands have been. I can’t wait to work at Sorry State when we can ease our social distancing restrictions. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year! I’m never one for the symbolic New Years bullshit, but I think I kind of need it this year. I think most people are ready to shed 2020 and look forward to something different, even if it is just a calendar year.

I hope everyone reading this doesn’t hate me after I admit my love for My Chemical Romance and have a safe and happy new year!


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