Rock Super Group Takes Top Honors In Phil’s Picks’ 2020 Best New EPs

Courtesy: Wiretap Records

Another year has come and another year is almost gone.  Only a handful of weeks remain in this year, which means many record companies have already turned their focus to 2021.  Even with the record labels turning their attention to the new year, there is still work to be done this year.  The work in question is a look back at the best of the year’s new music.  For this critic, that look back starts at the smallest level, EPs.  Those who have followed this critic’s daily ramblings year in and year out know that the year-enders have always started with the smallest records, the EPs, and this year is no different.  This year has seen a variety of interesting EPs released from across the musical universe.  They include records released by labels and independently by the acts in question. 

Featured in this critic’s list of this year’s are new offerings from Hell or Highwater (which is fronted by Atreyu’s Brandon Saller), Another Day Dawns, and even independent artist Vast Caldera among others.  Topping this year’s list is an offering from the “super group” In Parallel.

As with every year past, this critic’s list features not 10, but 15 titles.  The top 10 titles are the primary titles, while the next five are honorable mention titles.  With everything noted, here with out any further ado, is Phil’s Picks Top 10 New EPs of 2020.


  1. In Parallel – Fashioner
  2. Mark Morton – Ether
  3. Killswitch Engage – Atonement II: B-Sides For Charity
  4. Vast Caldera – Vast Caldera I
  5. Another Day Dawns – Stranger
  6. Hell or Highwater – Lost at Sonic Ranch
  7. Stabbing Westward – Dead and Gone
  8. Lord—Chaos Raining
  9. KB & The Idyllwilde – I Just Wanna Love You, I Just Wanna Let You
  10. The Run Around – Bombs Away
  11. Morgan Rose – Controlled Chaos
  12. Zero Theorum – The Killing: Part I
  13. Hold On Hollywood – Love Stories
  14. South of Eden – Talk
  15. The Jacks – Remember You

Next up from Phil’s Picks is the list of the year’s top new independent albums.  This year has produced some impressive new independent albums.  Stay tuned for that.

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Audiences, Critics Alike Will “Remember” The Jacks’ New EP By Year’s End

Courtesy: EDGEOUT Records/UMG

Up-and-coming rock band The Jacks is a hard working unit.  Not even a year after the band released its debut self-titled album last year, the band has released its second EP (and second overall studio recording), Remember You.  The five-song record is another presentation from the band that, given the right support, could help break the band into the mainstream.  That is due in part to the record’s musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical themes that accompany the accessible musical arrangements adds to that appeal.  They will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements, and will be addressed later, too.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of Remember You.  All things considered, the noted elements make Remember You a work that will prove memorable in its own right.

The Jacks’ new EP Remember You is a work that is not easily forgettable.  That is due in part to the EP’s featured musical arrangements.  The record’s opening song and lead single ‘Threw It All Away’ instantly lends itself to comparisons to the best works of bands, such as Royal Blood, Queens of the Stone Age and Jet, all of which boast a similar garage/stoner rock sound in their works.  The band doesn’t rest easily on that comparison, though.  After the fiery, up-tempo, drum-driven arrangement at the center of ‘Threw It All Away,’ audiences are immediately treated to a starkly different style arrangement in ‘We Were Only Young.’  This introspective, ballad-esque work is akin to works from so many 90s rock bands, such as Fuel, Oasis, and The Verve Pipe, only better.  ‘Olivia,’ which immediately follows ‘We Were Only Young’ goes back even farther with a light, almost 1960s style work with its minimalist, acoustic approach.  One could even argue it to be perhaps a bit of a neo-folk approach.  That continued stylistic change ensures even more, listeners’ maintained engagement.  AS the EP progresses into its fourth entry, ‘The Only One,’ the band’s approach turns back to that familiar garage/stoner sound that was present in the EP’s opener.  It continues into the EP’s closer, ‘Just A Little Bit.’  What’s important to note here is that even with that familiarity in the EP’s last two arrangements, the band did not just phone it in and rehash the record’s opener time and again.  Rather, these two songs boast their own identity within the bigger picture of the EP, showing their own positives to listeners.  When the EP’s more garage/stoner sounds are couple with the more mainstream and neo-folk sounds also presented in the record, the whole of the presentation is a musical show that itself displays the EP’s appeal.  The musical portion of the EP is important in its own way, as has been made clear here.  It is just one of the record’s most important elements.  Its central lyrical theme adds to that appeal.

The central lyrical theme of Remember You is that of relationships.  It is an all-too familiar topic that, because of that familiarity, does even more to give the record mainstream accessibility.  What is important to note is that the different approach to the topic in each song joins with the arrangements to prevent the topic from becoming trite in any case.  Case in point is the EP’s opener, ‘Threw It Away.’  Here, front man Johnny Stanback sings about someone who had a good thing not realizing that good thing that he/she had.  He makes no bones about that as he sings in the song’s lead verse, “Well now you got another case of inconsistency/But you keep wasting all your time/You keep on searching for somewhere that you can sink your teeth/But don’t you know it’s hard to find/And how knew/You’d be chasin’ something better/And who knew/That you wanted to move on/And who knew/That you want to live forever/And you want to know/I know you want it but you’re never gonna figure it out/’Cause now you got it and you threw it all away.”  The second verse follows in similar fashion with Stanback singing about that person needing “a piece of mind” and “talking a walk on the edge of” his/her “insanity.”  This is pretty straight forward.  This is someone who needs to figure out his/her life.  What is important to note here is that while this song focuses on the matter of a relationship that involves someone who has got some very real baggage to deal with, it does not necessarily mean the matter is a romantic relationship.  It can be just a general personal relationship.  The more romantic matter comes in ‘We Were Only Young.”

That song presents its subject looking back on that past relationship, trying to recall why it ended.  Stanback sings in the song’s chorus, “We were only young/Just for a moment/We’ll never find our way back home/We were only young/Just for a moment/Forever lost in the unknown.”  That pretty much tells the story right there.  If doubt is left at this point, it is eliminated as Stanback sings in the song’s lead verse, “You sold your paper heart/Sooner than you should/You never gave me a chance/You loved to play the part/Better than I ever could/You never said your goodbyes.”  That pretty much tells the tale here.  This is a broken relationship that perhaps the subject is feeling some sadness over, as the song’s arrangement would hint, too.  That lyrical approach will connect with listeners easily, and may even resonate quite a bit with just as much with them.  To that end, such presentation gives this song even more of its own identity from the EP’s other works, not only musically, but lyrically, too.

‘The Only One’ shows once more why the varied approaches to the EP’s familiar lyrical content adds to the record’s appeal.  This is another song whose lyrical theme is that of a relationship, but takes another different take.  This time, Stanback sings, “Long nights/When you told me that I’d be the only one/And it would be enough/Yeah, wild nights/never show your love/And I’d be wondering/Is there another one/I don’t know what to say/Well, are you listening/’Cause I need you to explain/’Cause now it’s killin’ me/Can you tell me that you get enough/There’s no other love/Baby, I got to know/Am I the only one.”  There’s really no need here to address the song’s second verse here, as this lead verse leaves no doubt about the song’s topic.  This is a song about someone questioning the fidelity of his/her partner.  What’s even more interesting is that considering this lyrical topic, the upbeat musical arrangement certainly does not match.  But because it doesn’t match, it make the song stand out. Usually, songs whose lyrical  themes are such as this, they are usually those typical oh-woe-is-me type works from one genre to the next.  So to have such a fun, infectious vibe coupled with such a topic as this, it makes the song in whole that much more accessible to listeners.  Once more, here is an example of why the EP’s lyrical content is so important to its overall presentation.  When all of this content is considered along with that of the EP’s other two songs, the whole of that content leaves no doubt why the overall lyrical theme is so accessible and important to the record.  When it is considered with the record’s overall musical content, the whole of that content makes the record’s overall content more than enough reason for audiences to check out this disc.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is still one last aspect of the CD to examine, its sequencing.

The sequencing of Remember You is important to note as clearly, much time and thought was put into this item.  As already noted, the EP opens on a very high-energy note in ‘Threw It All Away.’  The infectious groove established by drummer Josh Roossin couples with Thomas Hunter’s work on guitar and Scott Stone’s bass line to make the arrangement a strong start for the record.  From there, the record very noticeably pulls its energy back in the next two songs, ‘We Were Only Young’ and ‘Olivia’ before gradually picking back up in ‘The Only One’ and even more in the record’s finale, ‘Just A Little Bit.’  Simply put, the EP’s energy rises and falls at precisely the right points and precisely long enough to ensure listeners’ engagement, just as much as the EP’s content does.  In other words, the time and thought put into the EP’s sequencing paid off just as much as the time and work put into the EP’s content.  All things considered, they come together to make Remember You a presentation that is certain to be memorable in its own right among this year’s crop of new EPs.

The Jacks’ new EP Remember You is a record that is worth at least one listen among rock fans.  That is due in part to its musical content, which will appeal to a wide range of listeners.  From fans of stoner rock to those who enjoy neo-folk to those who enjoy “old school” 90s mainstream pop rock, there is something here for a variety of listeners.  The arrangements also are radio ready from start to end.  The lyrical content featured throughout the record is all centered on the matter of relationships, but is presented in five different fashions.  The lyrics’ ability to connect with listeners makes that aspect another important piece of the EP’s whole, and more worthy of mainstream attention, as it will help the EP easily integrate into any mainstream rock radio playlist.  The sequencing puts the last touch to the record.  Each item addressed here is clearly important to the whole of Remember You. All things considered, the record proves itself deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new EPs and a piece that will certainly be remembered by year’s end.  More information on Remember You is available online along with all of the Jacks’ latest news at:










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Nooky Jones’ New EP Is The “Sweetest” Of 2019’s New EPs

Courtesy: Press Junkie PR

EPs are some of the most under- and unappreciated records in the music industry.  Composed sometimes of no more than three songs, others as many as six or seven songs, they are often overlooked by audiences simply because they are not full-length recordings.  Given, sometimes they are little more than space-fillers to tide fans over between albums, but in other cases, they are chances for new, up-and-coming acts to get their feet in the door.  Whether one is the case or the other, the fact of the matter is that EPs deserve just as much credit as their full-length counterparts.  That is something that this critic has preached for years.  Keeping that in mind, they deserve a year-ender “Best Of” list as those records, and that is exactly what is presented here.

From Sister Hazel’s latest EPs Fire and Earth to underground rockers Charm City Devils’ latest offering 1904 to indie artist Denim’s new EP Endless Summer and more, this year has provided a lot to appreciate in the way of EPs.  There’s some rock here, some r&b and even some reggae, so this list is not limited to just one genre.  As with every list, this list features the Top 10 titles plus five honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles.  Those honorable mentions are not bad titles.  Everything was based on general content overall and the records’ separate lyrical and musical content.  Without further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2019 Top 10 New EPs.



  1. Nooky Jones — Like Candy
  2. Sister Hazel — Fire
  3. Sister Hazel — Earth
  4. Santana — In Search of Mona Lisa
  5. Denim — Endless Summer
  6. Joyous Wolf — Place in Time
  7. Lakou Mizik & The 79ers Gang — Iko Kreyol
  8. ZFG — ZFG
  9. Hot 8 Brass Band — Take Cover
  10. Charm City Devils — 1904
  11. The Jacks — The Jacks
  12. Wake Hate — Deep Sleep
  13. 18th & Addison — Old Blues / Modern Love
  14. The Crash Republic — HomewreckersSweet Apathy
  15. August Burns Red — Phantom Sessions


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Monster Energy Aftershock Festival Lineup Announced; Tickets On Sale Now

Courtesy: Danny Wimmer Presents

The Monster Energy Aftershock Festival is coming back to California this year.

The annual festival is scheduled to be held October 13 and 14 at Sacramento’s Discovery Park.  Now in its seventh year, the festival will be headlined this year by System of a Down, Alice in Chains and Deftones.  This year marks the first time that System of a Down has performed at the festival.

Along with being the band’s first year at the festival, System of a Down’s performance at the Aftershock Festival will also be the band’s first announced U.S. appearance in three years.  It is also part of the band’s 20th anniversary celebration of its landmark self-titled album’s release.

While System of a Down, Alice in Chains and Deftones are the two-day festival’s planned headliners, they are not the only bands on the bill.  Also scheduled for the performance are Godsmack (which is currently touring in support of its brand new album When Legends Rise), Incubus, Seether, Jonathan Davis (whose latest solo album Black Labyrinth is scheduled for release May 25), At The Drive-In and Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (who are currently working on their latest album) as well as Bullet For my Valentine (whose new album Gravity is scheduled to be released June 29), Sevendust (whose album All I See Is War is out now) and many more.  The full lineup for this year’s festival is noted below.

The current band lineup for Monster Energy Aftershock is as follows: System Of A Down, Deftones, Alice In Chains, Incubus, Godsmack, Shinedown, 311, Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators, At The Drive-In, Seether, Jonathan Davis, Bullet For My Valentine, Underoath, Black Veil Brides, Hellyeah, Asking Alexandria, Sevendust, Everlast, GWAR, Emmure, Stick To Your Guns, Dance Gavin Dance, Monster Magnet, Red Sun Rising, Bad Wolves, The Fever 333, Dorothy, Wage War, Plague Vendor, Hyro The Hero, Amigo The Devil, All Them Witches, Slothrust, The Dose, Viza, The Jacks and more to be announced.

Providing food for this year’s festival will be a variety of vendors including: Southern Hospitality Concessions LLC, Danny Wimmer Presents’ affiliate concessionaire.  Food trucks will also be on hand, providing savory and sweet treats from: Angry Bird Grill, Bacon Mania, Barrett’s Burgers, Barrett’s Sliders, Big Joe’s BBQ, Bubba’s BBQ, Cousins Maine Lobster, Dippin Dots Ice Cream, Dogtown, Drewski’s Hot Rod Sandwiches, Florez Bar & Grill, La Mex Taqueria, Mac Attack, Mount Olympus, Sausage King, Smokin’ Hot Pizza, Spicy Pie and Xochimilco Mexican Restaurant.

Beverages will be available from a variety of vendors, including vendors for festival-goers 21 and older.  Those vendors include: Caduceus Vellars & Merkin Vineyards Wine Garden (owned by Tool/A Perfect Circle/ Puscifer front man Maynard James Keenan) and the Belching Beaver Bar (featuring drafts from the Vista, CA brewer including the Phantom Bride IPA, a collaboration with the Defones).  Mrkt N Jolt will also be on site, offering hot coffee, cold brew and other items.

As if the music, food and drink isn’t enough for festival-goers, this year’s festival will also offer lots of entertainment options.  Those options include the Monster Energy Experience, which gives audiences the chance to meet and greet the bands while also sampling the festival’s various offered drinks, The Music Experience, which is an interactive exhibit and music instrument retailer.  Non-profit animal rescue organization Take Me Home will also be on-site along with Dyin 2 Live/FXck Cancer, a wish-granting organization.  Fans can buy music from the festival’s bands on site at the f.y.e. Fan Experience.

Festival-goers can win prizes and check out the latest products from Zippo Lighters at Zippo Encore and charge their phones at SWFTCharge.

Tickets and VIP packages for this year’s festival are on-sale now.  Prices are listed below.  Service fees on all ticket purchases include a $0.50 charity fee for the T.J. Martell Foundation, a foundation aimed at researching and fighting cancer.  Active military personnel get discounts on their tickets through GovX.

Initial ticket prices will be as follows:

  • 2-Day Weekend General Admission: starting at $149.50 + fees
  • 2-Day Weekend VIP: starting at $299.50 + fees
  • Single Day General Admission: starting at $89.50 + fees
  • Single Day VIP: starting at $179.50 + fees

VIP tickets include: VIP entrance lanes to the venue, shaded VIP hang area with seating for dining, a VIP-only viewing area of main stage, video screens featuring a live feed of main stage inside the VIP hang area, upgraded food and drink selections, dedicated VIP restrooms and commemorative VIP Monster Energy Aftershock laminate.

A park & ride shuttle is being offered again for this year’s festival as parking at Discovery park is very limited.  Every ticket includes parking at Sleep Train Arena and non-stop shuttle directly to the festival site.

The Monster Energy Aftershock Festival is produced by Danny Wimmer Presents and fueled by Monster Energy.  It is sponsored by f.y.e., Coors Light, Jack Daniels, Zippo Encore, The Music Experience, SWFTCharge, Fxck Cancer, Ace of Spades, Take Me Home and Belching Beaver.  More sponsors will be announced later.

More information on this year’s Monster Energy Aftershock Festival is available online now at:






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