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SSR Picks: Jeff - 2021 Year in Review

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Well, here we are at the end of another fucked up year. Everyone say goodbye to the year 2021. Prepare for a year-end wrap up with lots of over-indulgent ramblings:

It’s kind of a trip to think about how we’re all now living in the year 2022. That doesn’t even seem like an actual year that humans should be living in. That sounds like a made up year in the plot of a science fiction movie where people time travel to the future. So weird. Every year, when we get close to New Years Eve, all of us folks who work at the good ol’ Sorry State start thinking about our Top 10s for the whole shebang. I went back and read my “year in review” from our newsletter this time last year, and boy, was it depressing to read. I guess what I wrote just reflects the frame of mind I was living with at the time. As I’m writing this, rather than simply thinking about 2021 as its own series of unique events, I can’t help but compare this past year to how gnarly 2020 felt. In some ways, 2021 was a lot better, but it still had this lingering feeling of an alternate reality.

One of the major joyful differences is that once we got to the summer of 2021, punk happened again. At first, all gigs took place outside, which was fine by me. At that point, I’d take what I could get. I remember discussions where people were rightfully hesitant, like, “Is this a good idea?” The first show back in Richmond was under a bridge right underneath an I-95 overpass, and there were easily a few hundred people there. I remember feeling overwhelmed but so exhilarated. The feeling in the air was that everyone had busted out of isolation, just waiting for this moment where they could explode with energy. That was a gratifying moment. With both Scarecrow and Public Acid, I even got to travel a bit to go and play shows. But now, at the end of this year, new covid variants have slowed things down once again. I’m hopeful there will still be energy around making cool punk stuff happen in 2022.

Before I ramble too much, I’ll go ahead and get to records that I enjoyed this year. In all honesty, SO MANY great records came out in 2021. While I’ll surely be leaving out some key releases that I jammed this year, the records I chose for my Top 10 all feel like total no brainers. I decided to not include any Sorry State releases, but Golpe surely would’ve been in my top 10. I’m gonna keep my little explanations about each record super brief. Also, I’ve numbered these, but they are not ranked in any particular order. Heavy on the hardcore. Would you expect any less? Here we go:

  1. Electric Chair: Social Capital 7” - Easily one of my favorite records to come out this year, or really, in the last 10 years. This feels like the band that is preserving and flying the flag for true hardcore punk. When Public Acid was in LA, I saw Electric Chair 3 nights in a row and it was so energetic and powerful every single time. This band rules. End of story.
  2. Yleiset Syyt: Umpikujamekanismi 7" - I remember when Daniel first sent us the link to this band’s new EP. Instantly, this thing blew my, Usman’s, and every other punk freak’s socks off. A new crop of Finnish hardcore at its finest.
  3. Personal Damage: Demo 7" flexi - Another USHC-fueled punk banger that totally caught me off guard this year. Taking cues from some of my favorite classic California hardcore like Wasted Youth (among others), these dudes play snotty but super catchy hardcore perfectly. We stayed at a house in LA where Bungee the guitar player/singer lives. Out of his room, he was just blasting Gang Green super loud. I was like, it all makes sense now. “Mwah,” chef’s kiss.
  4. Quarantine: Agony 12” – One of the most mind-blowing records I had heard in a long time. These Philly rippers get to the meat of the issue with their hardcore, but also incorporate some inventive and surprising moments on this record. Electronic dance mixes and all. The band was kind enough to invite Scarecrow to play their record release gig for this LP. I remember watching Quarantine play and just thinking that these dudes were like machines. It sounded exactly like the record.
  5. Nervous SS / Rat Cage: Split 12" - Sometimes, I just get sick of everyone talking about Discharge all the time. Don’t get me wrong, they’re maybe the best punk band ever. Still, for all the d-beat or whatever you wanna call it out there, there’s just something so special about that Swedish flavor of hardcore. This LP contains two bands that crush this style, and neither is even from Sweden! Macedonia vs UK. Who wins? There’s no telling. Such a ripper that got many spins this year. If you want ripping käng/mängel (kängel? Imagine LL Cool J raging to Swedish hardcore), then look no further.
  6. Alambrada: Muerte Preventiva 7" - What a vicious record. After first hearing Muro, and then losing my shit to this Alambrada 7” when it came out, it’s clear that Bogota has an amazing hardcore scene. Alambrada is so fast, nasty and mean. One of my favorites this year for sure.
  7. Psico Galera: Le Stanze Della Mente 12" - Definitely the most unique sounding record I have on my list. For lack of a better term, Psico Galera has that type of “weirdo” or “spooky” hardcore sound that is right up my alley. In my mind, the sound falls somewhere between the dissonance of Die Kreuzen (or maybe more accurately Wretched) and the fuming rage of Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers. This thing just kicks ass.
  8. Fairytale: S/T 7” - A record from early on in 2021 that has really stuck with me. NY’s Fairytale really stood out to me with this record because they take that Swedish käng hardcore, but mix it with these psychedelic, out of control guitar freak outs. It’s insane. I also think the singer Lulu’s vocals totally make the record. Ripping.
  9. Tower 7: Peace On Earth? 12" - Now here’s a record that squeezed into the running right at the end of 2021. I think that it would be criminal to not include in this list. If you paid any attention to our distro in December, you’re probably aware that Sorry State sold out of our copies in like an hour. Pretty wild. People might crucify me for this, but I think I might still prefer Tower 7’s demo over this LP. Just by a hair. And that’s not to say this LP isn’t amazing -- it’s like a total evolution of their sound. I just love how the demo sounds like a gnarly, unhinged hardcore record. This LP so clearly takes more influence from metal, which is totally cool. It’s like an Eye For An Eye vs. Animosity kinda situation. Personally, I’m happy to have both.
  10. Morbo: ¿A Quién Le Echamos La Culpa? 12" - My final pick on this list is the least hardcore-related of the bunch. Somehow, I’ve managed to evade having any awareness of this band, which is crazy, because Lima, Peru’s Morbo has been active since 2001. This LP is an amazing collection of tuneful punk songs, and was first released on cassette a couple years back. The songs are so good that, for my money, it definitely deserved a proper LP release. The packaging instantly stood out with the recycled paper jackets and super cartoony, punk as fuck artwork. When listening to this, it feels too classic to be a brand new punk record coming out in this fucked up time. Check this out if you slept on it.

There’s also a ton of reissues that I spent a lot of time with this year. I guess I was a little Duff McKagan obsessed because I was listening to the Living: 1984 12” and the Vains: You May Not Believe… 7” constantly. I jammed that Assault and Battery 12” on Alona’s Dream a whole bunch. Can’t forget the Meathouse camp’s killer reissues this year like the Nog Watt 7” and the Artistic Decline 7”, but most importantly, all those Hated 7” reissues.

Another top 10 list of stuff that happened in 2021…

  1. Best food. In California, I ate so much Mexican food it was ridiculous. But honestly, my fondest memories are of this one burrito spot right down the street from where we stayed. We went to Sam’s Tacos so many times. While it wasn’t the “fanciest” spot, it’s open 24 hours, and the food was so good. Local folks just cranking out burritos all day. If you wanted no meat or cheese like me, you’d have a hard time ordering if your Spanish speaking is weak. Part of what made it so awesome is just rolling up with our big homie Irfaun who lived at the house we stayed at. Our first late-night visit based purely on his recommendation.
  2. Best record score. I don’t think any year will top 2020 as far as my cleaning up on killer records. Still, I got some pretty cool records in 2021. There’s several I could mention, but my big score this year was a copy of Minor Threat: In My Eyes 7”. It’s a 2nd press with yellow labels. I’d love to have a red vinyl copy one day, but the likelihood of that seems less and less all the time. This copy will do me just fine I think. I worked out the deal for this a couple days before New Year’s Eve, and it only arrived this past Wednesday, but I’m still counting it haha. Shout out to my dude Alejandro. I’m stoked. I’m sure I’ll be posting about all my other record scores on social media like a total dork in the next day or so.
  3. New band. One of the biggest things that happened this year is that I joined Public Acid. I’ve been friends with everyone in the band for years, and I feel so lucky to play in a sick band with my homies. In the short time I’ve been playing with Acid, we’ve already done some really exciting things. Look forward to playing guitar on a new Public Acid record in the near future.
  4. Bunker Punk stuff. As much as it’s been difficult to stay active with music projects with the current state of the world, Usman and I have continued to work and plan stuff for our label. I was very excited to release the Fatal cassette this year, a project that Usman and I played on with Kevin Mertens singing. Would be rad if Fatal turned from a recording project into a band that actually played shows. Also, Scarecrow released a few songs for upcoming and long-awaited 2nd EP. It’s been over a year since we recorded the songs for the EP, so hopefully Bunker Punks will finally release it in early 2022.
  5. Traveling. Both Public Acid and Scarecrow played killer gigs in Philly. Public Acid got to go play in New York and LA, which is nuts. The notion of visiting anywhere but my bedroom in the year 2020 would not even have occurred to me. Even still living in a pandemic in 2021, I was on an airplane for the first time since I was a teenager. Kinda crazy. I really feel like it was good for my headspace and mental health to get away and take a break from my normal routine.
  6. Moving. I’m not sure how much I’ve talked about this in our newsletter, but after we were forced to move out of our old punk house (The Bunker) in 2020, I ended up crashing with my mom for a few months. Earlier in 2021, I finally moved into my own apartment. Adjusting to living alone has been pretty weird, but I think I like it. I hope when shows get super active again that some young punks will get another show house going. Then I won’t have to be the one hounding drunk people for money!
  7. This might sound kinda funny, but I think a big thing for me this year was actually SEEING PEOPLE. I distinctly remember a period last year where I felt super isolated. Spending time in person with homies really feels like a major change -- especially visiting people that live in other cities! The fact that I got to chill hard with Amy and Jim from Dark Thoughts multiple times, not only in Philly but also out in LA, is so rad. Also, through my travels playing gigs, I got to meet so many cool people. Sasha in NY was so cool to let us Acid dummies crash on the floor of her studio. I had a blast in Santa Ana meeting Kevin and Corrina, drinking in parking lots and nerding out about Bad Religion. Planning on having more rad times spent with homies in 2022.
  8. Uuuuhhh, I changed my hair a bunch? I was Vince Neil blonde for a while, and now I’m full Agnew. No one cares. Why am I putting this in here? haha
  9. Call it a New Year’s resolution if you want, but while I was quarantining I decided to take a break from drinking. Also, I’ve been veg for a while, but I’m going to actively try to eat a cleaner diet, eating more fresh food and less processed junk. I gotta keep this vessel lean and mean. I already feel so much better so far.
  10. Getting covid and isolating during Christmas! Just kidding, that SUCKED.

Alright ya filthy animals, that’s all I’ve got. Here’s hoping 2022 is a good one. As always, thanks for reading, especially this odyssey of a “staff pick.”

‘Til next week,

-Jeff


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