People always say punk is just for the kids, but pop punk legends Plow United made their 15-year hiatus sound like a pilgrimage to the Fountain of Youth. The three high school band nerds left the game way back in the 90s, but have managed to simultaneously mature and stay fresh with their 2014 release Delco and their 2013 full length album Marching Band. They deliver a kind of ferocious adolescent roar that always speaks to you, even as you start to wrinkle.
Plow United vocalist and guitarist Brian McGee — who also has a great solo project, Ruin Creek — made this very surprising list for all of you to enjoy. And if you want to thrash your heart out this holiday season, Plow United have a show coming up in NYC this Saturday and another at the Acheron on 12/30.
The first time I saw/heard Northcote play was at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ. He was opening for Dave Hause and he grabbed my full attention with his first song. As a solo acoustic artist, he has the rare ability to separate himself from the rest of the acoustic dudes with super catchy, simple songs, awesome singing and a big Canadian bear-hug presence. His 2013 self-titled album is a full band recording with lots of gang vocal “whoas,” some horns here and there and songs that cross punk, indie and singer/songwriter borders easily. Once you’ve listened through that, get the free download of his Invisible Diamonds EP to hear the songs he left off the full-length.
Listen to: “Hope the Good Things Never Die”
Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy
This is one of the best records the band has ever put out. It feels weird to say that since this is their first album without one of the founding members, Willie Watson. Remedy is a first class country romp from start to finish. The fast songs find the band playing as quickly as they did when they were barely old enough to play the small North Carolina bars I saw them in 13 years ago. The slow songs are sweetened with spot-on three-part harmonies that could also fit nicely on any pop country radio station, and I mean that in the best way possible. In a genre where bands rely on recording or rehashing traditional material, it’s refreshing to hear an album knowing that every song is penned by the band. Except for “Sweet Amarillo,” which Bob Dylan asked them to finish for him.
Listen to: “Sweet Amarillo”
Lifetime, Hello Bastards
No doubt, this is an amazing band with some great records. A lot of people I know say Jersey’s Best Dancers is their favorite and don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but Hello Bastards is the album that Plow United was in the room for in 1996 and it still floors me every time. This has also become my running album of choice at the gym. With 14 songs clocking in at 28 minutes, I do my damndest to get 2-3 miles in. Somehow, the track listing sets the pace so perfectly for running, I pretend that they did it on purpose as I’m gasping for air.
Listen to: “Hello Bastards”
The Dutchess and The Duke, She’s The Dutchess, He’s The Duke
I don’t where this band found the well to tap into for its sound, but they drank from it, stayed high off of it for two albums, and called it a day. Boohoo! But I did hear that they played a reunion show at Third Man Records in Nashville, so hooray! This album sounds like the record that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards overheard in the studio before they went and recorded Aftermath in 1966. Raw male/female vocals singing heart-breakingly honest songs played mostly on 6 string and 12 string acoustic guitar. The instrumentation is perfectly minimal and does not leave the songs lacking in oomph. I can only hope that the Baby Jesus of Reunion Bands will come down and make 2015 an awesome year for them.
Listen to: “Reservoir Park”
Sarah Shook & The Devil, Seven
There are a lot of country and Americana singer/songwriters who sing about whiskey, guns, lost love and such but it’s hard to believe if any of them have lived the tale they are telling while trying to write a timeless-sounding song. Sarah Shook is the exception. There is a conviction in her voice that is not like any I’ve heard in a while. t’s definitely part Pittsboro, NC (where she’s from) and part 60s folk that hangs in a lower register than most women in country. Her writing and performance hit harder on the slower songs, creating atmosphere. The band sounds like took notes from Hank Williams records with pedal steel and tick-tack guitar and bass. She has only given us seven songs here and I cannot wait to hear what comes next!
Listen to: “Bad for You”